While reading the transcript of a New York Times staff meeting, a Lily Tomlin line came to mind: “No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.”
In this case, it is also impossible not to be disheartened and furious. The transcript shows that the rot of bias at the Times is far beyond the pale and there is no hope of recovery. Yet not a single person there declared the obvious — that the paper is betraying its principles.
Rigor in reporting and restraint in judgment once made the Gray Lady noble. Now she is dead, her homicide an inside job.
The transcript, leaked to Slate, reveals a confederacy of ignorance and bigotry involving hundreds of people. The ringleader is executive editor Dean Baquet, who fires the fatal shot into the credibility of his paper.
By giving reporters and editors license to try to stop Donald Trump from becoming president, then letting them peddle the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax, Baquet helped unleash the hatred that is tearing America apart. Never before has a single media institution played such a destructive role in the nation’s life.
But Baquet is not finished. The 75-minute meeting shows he is now determined to destroy the president by painting him as a racist.
“I think that we’ve got to change,” Baquet tells his assembled staff after acknowledging that the paper was “a little tiny bit flat-footed” when special counsel Robert Mueller performed so poorly before Congress.
In other words, Baquet had swallowed hook, line and sinker Hillary Clinton’s fiction that Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to steal the election.
Then again, this is the same editor whose paper was certain Clinton would win in 2016. Quite a track record.
Which leads to Baquet’s newest idea for stopping Trump.
“How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world’s reaction to him? How do we cover America, that’s become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage . . . for the rest of the next two years.”
This isn’t journalism. It’s political activism aligned with the talking points of Democrats. And to liken race relations today to those in the 1960s, as Baquet does, is beyond ignorant.
The Aug. 12 meeting was held after an uproar over a headline deemed too friendly to Trump. “Trump Urges Unity vs Racism” didn’t convey a sufficient dose of Trump hatred, so Baquet had it rewritten to criticize the president’s sober remarks after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Even that wasn’t enough to sate the monster he created, so Baquet assembled the newsroom to hear the grievances and explain his thinking.
Though none of those asking questions are identified, they are indistinguishable in wanting the paper to regularly call Trump a racist and a liar. These are supposedly straight news reporters and editors, yet are unrestrained in demanding that their partisan opinions dictate coverage.
One staffer asks Baquet, “Could you explain your decision not to more regularly use the word racist in reference to the president’s actions?”
Another wonders, “You mentioned that there could be situations when we would use the word racist. What is that standard?”
A third sees “racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country” and wants those topics front and center. “I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting.”
Another asks, “What is the overall strategy here for getting us through this administration?”
Sometimes Baquet gently disagrees — up to a point. He says the best way to make the case is by showing instead of telling and cites examples from the 1960s, as if they are relevant.
Not once does he express any doubt that Trump is guilty as charged, or say that reporters should not be expressing partisan opinions. He’s only quibbling over how to present the agreed-upon conclusions.
Indeed, there is zero evidence in the transcript that anyone in the room objects. Even allowing that some might have doubts about an entire news organization speaking with one scripted voice, the silence shows nobody felt secure enough to say so. No safe spaces for dissenters there.
The failure of anyone to recognize that the approach violates the paper’s historic standards of fairness and the strict separation of news from opinion speaks volumes about how low the Times has sunk.
If there is a silver lining, it is that the public has been warned. Readers who want straight facts and fair play won’t find it in the Times. All they will get is a biased agenda and a guaranteed conclusion.
Life, liberty and Justice Thomas
There is no shortage of smart books about the rise of the administrative state. But it’s hard to imagine a more creative approach than juxtaposing this disturbing development against the life and judicial opinions of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
In “Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution,” author Myron Magnet weaves together two distinct worlds. One is Thomas’ coming of age in segregated Georgia and the hard-knock lessons he learned from his grandfather.
We also see Thomas’ brief descent into youthful rage and his evolving embrace of the patriotic liberty enshrined in America’s founding documents.
The other world is the vast expansion of the liberty-crushing federal agencies that effectively make laws without the bother of legislation and enforce them without the bother of federal courts. The progressive visions of Presidents Woodrow Wilson and FDR claim center stage, aided by a Congress that even now cedes too much power to unaccountable bureaucrats.
These two worlds collide when Thomas joins the court. In an efficient 168 hardcover pages, Magnet, a friend, demonstrates how Thomas, through his opinions, speeches and writings, wages war against this unholy power grab with the aim of restoring the Founders’ idea of limited government.
My first impression was that the book was too ambitious, but Magnet is in complete command of his material and has produced a very readable gem.
The feat is all the more remarkable because he did not interview Thomas. Instead, Magnet uses available biographical material to show how Thomas arrived at his understanding of the Constitution, one shaped by the unique abuses inflicted on African-Americans by excessive government power.
With Thomas now one of five conservative justices on the court, there is a chance to limit the bureaucrats’ reach. Whatever the outcome, this book is a brilliant road map.
Two more years?! Lamenting the Putz
Reader Charlie Morris calls Mayor de Blasio the WME — worst mayor ever, and adds: “We will have a very challenging time over the next 2-plus years with a mayor who dislikes his job and the people who put him in office. Too bad we can’t impeach the Putz!”