Reform -- or vacation? Josh Marshall notes that the NYT seems to have relented on the Kissinger question -- i.e. whether he should be classified as a Bush dissenter or Bush supporter. ... Hmmm. A good front-page welfare story. A good front-page disability story. Fairer coverage of the Iraq debate. Evidence of reform on the Times' part is beginning to pile up. (Andrew Sullivan has noticed the change too.)... Two main theories seem plausible: 1) Someone important at the NYT has realized that the paper's marked, error-inducing politicization is rather quickly undermining its credibility and embarrassing it within the profession. Bill Keller's bold op-ed rebuke is the most obvious candidate for change-inducing agent here. 2) The NYT editors and reporters who are responsible for the paper's marked, error-inducing politicization have been on holiday, and the Times will revert to form when they return. ...Which theory is right? Only time will tell! ...12:34 A.M.
Monday, September 2, 2002
Rauch vs. Reich -- Don't Burn the Toast! Jonathan Rauch's Slate expose of Robert Reich's "memoir" has become an issue in Reich's campaign for Massachusetts governor. One of Reich's Democratic primary opponents, Warren Tolman, is running ads charging, accurately, that Reich was ''forced to rewrite his book after the media exposed numerous untruths." Reich has responded by accusing Tolman of ''gutter politics," adding ( according to the Boston Globe):
''I'm frankly surprised that he would stoop to this. ...This is the worst form of old-style dirty politics. Shame on him.''
I suppose Reich himself can't be fairly accused of actually believing that.... Probably the biggest objection to the former Labor secretary, among those who know him, isn't that he's not smart. (He's very smart.) It isn't that he's not a leader. (He's a born leader.) It isn't that he doesn't care. It's that he's a bull______r. How is it "gutter politcs" for Tolman to bring up this most salient aspect of Reich's character? If Ken Lay ran for office, would it be "dirty politics" to bring up Enron?... According to the polls, Reich is in second place, but instead of being able to focus his attack on the candidate in first place, state treasurer Shannon O'Brien, he's coming under fire from the fast-rising #3 or #4 candidate, Tolman. This isn't a good position to be in, two weeks out... P.S.: Reich recently claimed credit as a Clinton-administration deficit-fighter, a boast that will cause peals of laughter in Washington. As Scott Lehigh points out (in a Globe op-ed piece you can read if, unlike me, you can somehow get past the paper's annoying registration form) Reich was actually on the opposite side of that intra-administration debate. ... P.P.S.: Here is a general overview of the race as it stands. ... 9:41 P.M.
Everybody Hates 'Homeland': Alert kf reader A.C. emails to claim, correctly, that Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist, made the basic arguments against the word "Homeland" on NPR's "Fresh Air" back in October, 2001, before either Peggy Noonan or kausfiles. ... At the end of a piece criticizing the song "America the Beautiful," Nunberg said:
Granted, we all love our purple mountains, not to mention the deserts, wetlands ... But it's reductive to make our landscape the focus of our national anthem. Any country can do that. The Swiss sing about the Alps going bright with splendor; the Czechs sing about water bubbling across the meadows and pinewoods rustling amongst the crags ...
Anthems like those are appropriate for nations that have no essential commitment to a particular form of government: landscapes don't have any politics, after all. But the American experiment was supposed to be different ...
There's a curious parallel between the swelling popularity of "America the Beautiful" and the Administration's choice of the phrase "homeland security" rather than "domestic security" ... It's easy to understand what they were getting at, given the shock of an attack on American soil. But even though "homeland" is a perfectly good English word, up to now we've never used it to describe our own country. It has an alien sound, like the German word Heimat ... it's the word we use for peoples who feel an ancestral connection to a particular plot of ground. Whereas the idea of America isn't that it's a place that people come from but a place that they come to. The Germans and Palestinians and Kurds and Ukrainians have homelands; we just have a nation and a flag.
Well, and tactfully, put! ... But the NYT, in its recent piece, still should have mentioned Noonan's opposition, at least on the Scowcroft-Bites-Man principle (that prominent Bush-affiliated dissenters from Bush policies are more newsworthy than the usual dissenters). ... 2:46 P.M.
Here's another argument against the current employer-based health care system, one even Republicans should appreciate: When laid-off veteran workers with chronic bad backs or stress problems can't find new jobs -- because potential employers, understandably, don't want to foot the bill for their health care -- they go on Social Security disability and become dependent on the state. ... Louis Uchitelle's excellent article really belongs where it's been put -- on Page A1. Column 6. This isn't one of those Robert Pear slow-weekend sneak jobs. Whichever NYT editors are now on vacation should stay on vacation! ... Uchitelle's piece is also a warning to Tipper Gore types about the potential costs of mental health "parity," since many of the new disability claims involve vague hard-to-disprove claims of stress and depression. ... 1:48 P.M.
Sunday, September 1, 2002
Retiring GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey is experiencing "strange new respect," the well-documented phenomenon in which the press detects growth, statesmanship and character in formerly-vilified Republicans who take stands Democrats agree with. Armey opposes invading Iraq, and gets a nice farewell interview with Jake Tapper in the Times magazine. ... 9:35 A.M.
Saturday, August 31, 2002