The NYT Rededicates itself to Reporting the News Fairly

Remember Pinch Sulzberger’s pledge after the election to cover Mr. Trump’s “policies and his agenda fairly”? Well, here we are, just a week on, and the Newspaper of Record is breathlessly giving a run-down on the likely candidates for the top posts in the Trump administration. Somehow, I doubt that the Times has the best access to the inner workings of the transition team, but they plunge ahead as if they had been in the room.

CIA Director: “The new C.I.A. director will have to decide whether to undo a C.I.A. ‘modernization’ plan put in place this year by Director John O. Brennan.” But aren’t we all for “modernization”? Who wants to be retrograde? Brennan is the CIA director whom many suspect of having converted to Islam while stationed in Saudi Arabia. Even Snopes, that redoubt of progressive right-thinking, labels that rumor “unproven.” Worse, the Times labels Mike Pompeo, Trump’s appointee, “a sharp critic of Hillary Clinton during the congressional investigation into the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.” Anyone critical of Hillary’s Benghazi adventure must be a racist, sexist, nativist, nationalist, Islamophobic Neanderthal, far outside the mainstream, so divisive.

Attorney General: “The nation's top law enforcement official will have the authority for carrying out Mr. Trump's ‘law and order’ platform.” Thus does the Times’ patronize its readers, spoon-feeding civics lessons to the kiddies who were not taught government in high school. And here’s the really dangerous part of an AG Sessions: “The nominee can change how civil rights laws are enforced.” Indeed. Much as AG Holder and AG Lynch “change[d] how civil rights laws are enforced.”

National Security Advisor: This position is a “critical gatekeeper… a function that takes on more importance given Mr. Trump's lack of experience in elective office.” So now “experience in elective office” is important. Seems like I recall a junior senator from Illinois who had zero foreign policy experience, but that was a breath of fresh air, turning the page and all that. He sidestepped that deficiency by appointing a really, really smart and really, really experienced Secretary of State to do the heavy lifting. “General Flynn has been outspoken about his view of the threat posed by Islamist militancy and was an ardent supporter of Mr. Trump during the campaign.” “His view” shows that he is out of the mainstream. And “outspoken” and “ardent.” Does the Times expect those who work on political campaigns to be lukewarm about their candidate? The WSJ (Nov. 19-20, A10) quotes retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who said Flynn is “the best intelligence officer of his generation.” Sounds sufficient to me.

Chief of Staff: “The role will take on outsize importance in a White House run by Mr. Trump, who has no experience in policy making.” Apparently the only experience that counts for the Times is working in government.

Chief Strategist: Steve Bannon is “a right-wing media executive.” What could be more sinister? Plenty: “Many have denounced the move, warning that Mr. Bannon represents racist views.” Curious as to who the “many” were, I clicked the link, expecting to be redirected to a news source, but got another Times article instead, which identifies Bannon’s critics as including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Just for a refresher, CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. The HLF’s leaders received lengthy prison terms for laundering millions of dollars for Hamas. Another organization aghast at Bannon’s appointment is the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC has completely eradicated poverty -- for themselves. It sits on an endowment of $300 million and brags that “approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services” in 2015. That’s appalling. Legit charities spend over 90% on program services, though the SPLC is way ahead of the Clinton Foundation. Another critic is one John Weaver, sometime strategist for John Kasich’s campaign and previously an adviser to Sen. McCain. With a track record like that, we should listen to him because? Oh, there is a rabbi who accuses Mr. Bannon of being anti-Semitic. As the WSJ points out (Nov. 19-20, A9), the article on Breitbart News that called William Kristol a “renegade Jew” was written by David Horowitz, who is Jewish. Horowitz has taken credit for writing the headline himself.

Secretary of State: “Whether Mr. Trump picks an ideologue or a seasoned foreign policy hand from past Republican administrations, his challenge will be that the State Department is the centerpiece of the post-1945 experiment of alliance-building and globalism, which Mr. Trump said he would dismantle.” In the Times’ binary world, a diplomat is either an “ideologue” or a “seasoned hand.” Talk about black-and-white thinking. The seven in the running (Bolton, Corker, Giuliani, Haley, Khalilzad, McChrystal, Romney) all look to me to be “seasoned hands,” so we should be okay no matter who gets the post. Wait -- I just noticed that this article has no bylines. But I’m sure the reporters are all “seasoned.”

Treasury Secretary: “The Treasury Department also carries out or lifts financial sanctions against foreign enemies -- which are key to President Obama’s Iran deal and rapprochement with Cuba.” What exquisite choice of words! The “deal” and “rapprochement” were just that, not treaties, not ratified by the Senate, merely promulgated with a pen and phone call. Maybe there is reason for a president preening for history to process his aspirations through the Congress. Seems like the Constitution points in that direction.

Veteran’s Affairs: “The secretary will face the task of improving the image of a department Mr. Trump has widely criticized.” Two points: 1) The incoming secretary's remit will be to improve the department, i.e., the actual delivery of health care to vets, not just the department’s image. 2) Others “widely criticized” the VA as well, including Democrats. And maybe a new secretary of the VA would not pay $142 million in bonuses to VA executives who, among other things, “managed construction of a facility in Denver, a disastrous project years overdue and more than $1 billion over budget.” A spokesman for the Obama VA says such bonuses are necessary “to attract and retain the best talent.” What would a VA missing such “talent” look like?

DHS: “If Mr. Trump makes good on his promises of widespread deportations and building walls, this secretary will have to carry them out.” The Times tees this one up nicely as a win-win for the paper: if Trump carries through he will be deplorable; if he does not the Times can tsk-tsk over a broken promise. And notice that “this secretary will have to carry them out.” Sounds like s/he is being set up as a fall guy, because no right-thinking person would ever wish to carry out such racist, sexist, nativist, nationalist, Islamophobic policies.

It is gratifying to see Pinch Sulzberger making good on his commitment to “going after the biggest stories in the world, and telling them as ambitiously as possible.”

Henry Percy is the nom de guerre of a writer in Arizona. He may be reached at saler.50d[at]

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