New York Times Is Too Defensive About Its National Security Articles
We see that in the New York Times this Sunday morning with two long articles in its Week in Review section extolling the paper's infinite virtues in going after the Bush Administration's national security policies and procedures in the wake of President Bush's attack on the newspaper for publishing classified details of the Treasury Department's surveillance of the terrorists' financial transactions.
Thank goodness, the L.A. Times didn't engage in such an exercise this morning. It appropriately felt that after it published the Op-Ed piece by L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet and NYT executive editor Bill Keller yesterday, which I thought was quite good, it had had enough to say on the topic. The LAT's Current section does run a piece by Daniel Hernandez today unjustly accusing the paper of going too easily on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, but that's its only exercise in media articles.
Not so the New York Times. First, there is a long column by Frank Rich, whining again about the Bush Administration criticism. Then, there's an article by the public editor, Byron Calame, shilling for the paper's editors on their decision to print the financial transactions article. Calame occasionally has been critical of the Times' editors, but not when it involves unfairness to the Administration.
One of the worst habits of the press establishment is its tendency to want to dish it out constantly to those in authority, but complain loudly when Administration officials criticize the press in return.
It is a one-way street as far as any admission that the press, like the government, occasionally makes mistakes.
A little humility here might go a long way. It would show a healthy awareness that government officials have hard decisions to make, and that policies adopted often represent a choice between bad alternatives. And it just might help press credibility, engendering some public understanding of the press and its faults, whereas the defensiveness often engaged in has generated a great deal of cynicism about the press amongst the public.
I was critical yesterday of Baquet's comment in an Op-Ed piece earlier in the week, "We are not out to get the President." And a psychologist told me last night that I was right on the money. She said Freud often used to point out that such statements as "We are not out to get the President" and "I am not a crook," almost always represent a subconscious admission that the exact reverse is true.
Anyone who has read the New York Times and Los Angeles Times in the last few years realizes the papers are indeed out to get the President, and not all the statements made to the contrary can negate that fact.
Lincoln once said, apropos of the press sniping at his Civil War policies, that if he read all the criticism being made in the papers about him, he'd have no time for anything else. Bush isn't quite so turn-the-other-cheek, but that's all right. The President, like the Israelis, believes in returning blow for blow and sometimes that's a healthy thing.