The New York Times' hyped-up Enron coverage.

Political commentary and more.
Jan. 28 2002 6:09 AM

Enron's Got Nothing on Rick Berke!

The New York Times' hyped-up poll story.

(Continued from Page 1)

In a demonstration of how the public's concerns have shifted in recent weeks, the economy has now supplanted battling terrorism—albeit by a slight margin—as the issue people want their elected officials to make a top priority. [Emphasis added.]

Advertisement

There are a number of things wrong with this sentence. The first is that it's false. The full results of the survey, which were linked to in the Times story on Sunday but have now (suspiciously!) disappeared, don't show the economy supplanting terrorism as a concern because the economy never ranked below terrorism as a concern. In fact, "terrorism" was listed only on the last two surveys, for an obvious reason. Before Christmas, the economy (according to my annotated printout of the now-vaporized charts) was picked by 21 percent of those surveyed, while terrorism was picked by 13 percent. In last week's poll, 20 percent picked the economy while 14 percent picked terrorism. If anything, that signals a small shift away from concern about the economy, toward battling terrorism—the opposite of the trend Berke and Elder dramatically announce.

Concerns about Enron, specifically, don't make the survey at all. Berke and Elder would clearly like their readers to think that concern over the "economy" can be equated with concern over the failed Houston energy company. After their false assertion about terrorism, and a reference to public opposition to deficits, they blithely assert that, despite Bush's high popularity,

"… it is unmistakable from the survey that he must also contend with the twin political predicaments posed by Enron and the economy." [Emphasis added.]

As they say, the wish fathers the lie. There is no evidence in the poll that Enron is a "predicament" for Bush on a par with the state of the economy (including the general rise in unemployment). It's certainly not "unmistakable."

Berke's not a very insightful reporter, but he doesn't usually get things completely wrong, so this smells like editor-induced error—specifically, error introduced by an editor rewriting Berke and Elder's piece so it meshes with the Enron-promotion campaign sanctioned at the paper's highest levels! You might say it is unmistakable from the story that the Times must contend with the twin journalistic predicaments posed by ideological bias and institutional self-interest. Members of the Raines Administration are mostly telling the truth but hyping something!

P.S.: Berke and Elder also say:

[T]he poll found that the Republicans' drive to make a high-profile villain of the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, has not succeeded. He is still a virtual unknown.

Huh? As noted, Daschle's "unfavorable" rating more than doubled, from 7 to 15 percent, and is now higher than his "favorable" rating, which is stuck at 11 percent. Though Daschle's not well-known, that's the sort of shift in "favorable-unfavorable ratio" that terrifies a potential presidential candidate (and makes him compromise on stimulus packages). If I were running the Daschle Demonization Campaign, I'd look at this poll and ask for a raise.

Update: It turns out that  Andrew Sullivan  is also on Berke's case, making many of these arguments and some of his own. Plus his site showed me a way to get to those elusive complete poll results. (They're  here.)

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 21 2014 1:36 PM Single Quotes or Double Quotes? It's Really Quite Simple.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM George Tiller's Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Doctor, Claims Right of Free Speech
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 21 2014 12:05 PM Same-Sex Couples at Home With Themselves in 1980s America
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.