Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New York Times Vastly Outshines LAT This Morning In War News

Under the klutz-headed direction of David Hiller and James O'Shea, we have to expect that, compared to the New York Times, the L.A. Times will simply not display sound news judgement. These guys are not up to it. If they were, they wouldn't be working for the Tribune Co. in its present form.

But today the disparity between the New York Times and L.A. Times is extreme. On a day that President Bush was scheduled to meet in Amman, Jordan, with the Iraqi premier, Noury al-Maliki, the New York Times has three stories on Page 1 that unfortunately the L.A. Times doesn't touch on Page 1, or, in two cases, at all. (Maliki, in an apparent snub of Bush, later did not show up for the meeting today. One, however, is still scheduled for tomorrow.

One NYT story ignored in the L.A. Times is the lead piece by Michael Gordon, reporting the leak of a classified memo by White House National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley expressing serious doubts whether Maliki has the capacity to control sectarian violence in Iraq. The second is a grim analysis of falling U.S. clout in Iraq by the paper's Iraq correspondents, John Burns and Kirk Semple. The third is the report by Mark Mazzetti and Kate Zernike that House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has decided not to take the former impeached judge, Alcee Hastings, as head of the House Intelligence Committee. The last did run in the Times way back in Section A, Page 28 to be exact.

It used to be when Shelby Coffey was editor of the Times that major New York Times stories were at least briefed in that morning's L.A. Times, although seldom were there two separate stories receiving such attention.

But today, the L.A. Times has two far less important stories related to Iraq, one relating to Pentagon spending plans and another saying that Maliki wants more control over his military.

The emphasis in the L.A. Times is, once again, on what the Iraqis want, when the concern should be over what the U.S. wants and needs to go on with the war effort.

The L.A. Times meanwhile has had some discussion in recent days on the choice facing Pelosi on the intelligence committee post. All the more necessary, then, that when she makes her decision about Hastings that it be reported prominently.

The New York Times also plays more prominently than the L.A. Times this morning the Pope's trip to Turkey, with a front page headline on his change of position from negative to positive on Turkey joining the European Union. In the L.A. Times, that story is played inside.

The Washington Post this morning also is focused in a Page 1 story on the U.S. view -- not the Iraqi view -- of the war situation.

Under Hiller and O'Shea there has been some determination to move more local stories onto page one, and the LAT story this morning on whether a black fireman ought to be paid a $2.7 million settlement for some hazing is probably worth the space. But the Times had plenty of room for other stories on Page 1, such as the Turkish statements by the Pope. and a better focus on Iraq.

To return to a subject mentioned above, the editors of the L.A. Times seem to be under the misprision that what the Iraqis want is important.

I confess to having a different view. The Iraqis have proved themselves so incapable over the centuries in managing their own affairs that what they want need mean nothing to us. If we are going to prevail in Iraq, we have to lower the boom over this misguided people and force them to accept our will for them, otherwise we are bound to fail there.

This is not a time for gracious understanding for Maliki's problems, such as his perceived need to kowtow to the blood-drenched Mahdi leader, Moktada al-Sadr. No, we should send the B-52s over Sadr City and crush the Mahdi with devastating air strikes. If Maliki doesn't like that, we should bomb him too.

What counts in Iraq at present is that the contending Iraqi factions be subdued with brute force. When they are forced to knuckle under, it will be time enough to win their hearts and minds. In World War II, the German and Japanese people came around when they were bombed mercilessly.

The New York Times, while perhaps not sharing that view, at least has its attention focused this morning on the right subject, what we want, not what the Iraqis want.

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