Jewish World Review Nov. 4, 2005/ 2 Mar-Cheshvan 5766
Sulzberger's fraudulence: He needs a Karl Rove
Kurt Andersen's "Imperial City" column in the October 31 issue of New York was on the money in comparing George W. Bush and Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., but it stopped short of speculating upon a key historical question: A decade from nowand later in the century when both men are deadwill Bush or Sulzberger be judged as more successful?
Andersen says that Sulzberger, who's had an alternately exhilarating and bumpy ride since inheriting the position from his father in 1992Jayson Blair, Howell Raines, Judith Miller, layoffs, Wen Ho Lee, building a new headquarters by employing eminent domain, crummy earnings and stock prices are just some blemishescan't, or won't, fire himself. While it is unlikely that the prickly Boomer would actually do the deed himself, if the company's fortunes continue to decline, in terms of both money and prestige, I imagine there will be any number of family stockholders who'll be happy to kick the middle-aged scion upstairs.
The elite media says his presidency is "reeling," and maybe, at least for now, it is. Still, these are many of the some writers who predicted Bill Clinton would have to resign after Monica became a celebrity in 1998.
Say, for example, that by January, 2009, Iraq is a struggling but stable democracy, the Republicans have retained control of Congress and elected another president, the economy is strong and Iran's mad rulers are deposed, would it be surprising for Newsweek's Howard Finemanjust to pick one chameleon out of a hatto grandly put Bush in the same tier as Ronald Reagan?
On the other hand, is there anyone in the media industry, if shielded by the anonymity that Times reporters too often grant their sources, who would deny that Sulzberger's reign at the daily is increasingly becoming an embarrassment to his family? Blair can be excused, at least by Times partisans, as an isolated but well-intentioned excess of affirmative action, and if the self-aggrandizing Raines had to walk the plank, so much the better. After all, The Washington Post, which replaced the Times early in this decade as the liberal establishment's primary counterpunch to The Wall Street Journal, survived the Janet Cooke scandal in 1981.
Sulzberger certainly appears to be a creep. After allowing editorial-page editor Gail Collinsanother disastrous hireto print one self-righteous defense of Miller after another and then celebrating the reporter's release from jail with steak, drinks and a massage, the Jann Wenner of daily journalism has publicly withdrawn his support. Sort of like in 1972 when George McGovernundoubtedly a nicer person than middle-aged Arthurbacked Thomas Eagleton as his vice presidential nominee 1000 percent, until he didn't.
Andersen considers Sulzberger a "slippier, yuppier" version of Bush: "The symmetry of the Plamegate's simultaneous damage to both lobes of the Establishment has a novelistic ironythe neoconservative Bush administration and the flagship of old-line liberalism are suffering disproportionately from the same, fundamentally trivial piece of Washington business-as-usual.…Both [Bush and Sulzberger] are the preppy baby-boom sons of distinguished, understated preppy fathers, Punch and Poppy, from whom they inherited their given names and positions of power. Both are big outdoor-exercise buffs, both are insecure but cocky, both have a bratty streak, both are prone to inappropriate jocularity. And each presides from within an insular management bubble."
It's not a far-fetched analogy, but there are holes. It's interesting, for example, that Andersen echoed the current left-leaning consensus that Bush's father is "distinguished,"the Times' op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman, who'd be wise to move on to the Post, is positively nostalgic for "Poppy"a view that was as likely as a Pat Buchanan column championing Israel back when the president's father was in office. Also, Andersen is mistaken when he describes the Times as the "flagship of old-line liberalism."
Sulzberger's father was probably an "old-line" liberal, but his son has overseen the Times move to a new position that closely resembles The Nation. Yes, John Tierney and David Brooks appear on the op-ed page, but they're symbolictokens to the bogus presumption of "diversity." The marquee pundits at the Times are Frank Rich, Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd.
One can only imagine the disgust that James Reston would have, at least privately, for the columns from former theater critic Rich, who, in his zeal to denigrate any politician or citizen whose cultural views don't conform with his own, promotes more conspiracy theories than the kids who still insist Kurt Cobain was murdered.
Rich really stretched the limits of credulity on October 30 with his essay "One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada," a screwy attempt to compare the "outing" of Valerie Plame to Watergate. Perhaps Rich is dreaming of producing a blockbuster Broadway show a few years from nowhey, who couldn't use a few more bucksstarring Nathan Lane as Dick Cheney and Matthew Broderick as the Alfred E. Neuman version of George Bush.
Rich wrote: "To believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in.…In our current imperial presidency, as in its antecedent, what may look like a narrow case involving a second banana with a child's name contains the DNA of the White House, and that DNA offers a road map to the duplicitous culture of the whole. The coming prosecution of Lewis (Scooter) Libby in the Wilson affair is hardly the end of the story."
Maybe Rich ought to stop watching all three CSIs and accept that Karl Rove wasn't indicted.
Krugman, of course, is worse. While Ariel Levy's gooey, you-go-girl profile of Dowd in the current New York calls her "the most dangerous columnist in America," that title really belongs to the Princeton economics professor who's morphed into a cleaned-up, obscenity-free version of Michael Moore and the goofballs at MoveOn.org.
On October 31, Krugman tells his Times audience to rejoice, that the "long political nightmare" which has been Bush's administration, is coming to an end, because its "fraudulence stands exposed." Krugman's been re-writing this column since he first appeared in the Times, and, given his track record, there's no reason to believe he's less delusional today. A year ago, on October 22, Krugman wrote: "If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won't be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome."
On election day last fall, Krugman was more optimistic: "Regular readers won't be in any doubt who I want to win, though New York Times rules prevent me from giving any explicit endorsement. (Hint: It's the side that benefits from large turnout.) Above all, though, I want to see democracy vindicated, and the stain of 2000 eradicated, by a clean election in which as many people as possible get to cast their votes, and have those votes counted. And all the evidence say that's what the American people want, too. May all of us get our wish."
Krugman is part of Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s shameful legacy. It's one thing to be a lousy presidentyou only get eight years at the maximum, as Bill Clinton knowsbut quite another to be the architect of a century-old institution's tumble from national prominence to an applause line for a second-rate comedian.
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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- was the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.