Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

The New York Times Corrects ACORN Reporting

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Well it’s nice that they got that in before ACORN close up shop:

Several articles since September about the troubles of the community organizing group Acorn referred incorrectly or imprecisely to one aspect of videotaped encounters between Acorn workers and two conservative activists that contributed to the group’s problems.

In the encounters, the activists posed as a prostitute and a pimp and discussed prostitution with the workers. But while footage shot away from the offices shows one activist, James O’Keefe, in a flamboyant pimp costume, there is no indication that he was wearing the costume while talking to the Acorn workers.

The errors occurred in articles on Sept. 16 and Sept. 19, 2009, and on Jan. 31 of this year. Because of an editing error, the mistake was repeated in an article in some copies on Saturday

Of course, that’s not really right either, and it’s incredibly galling that the Times continues to underplay how atrocious their “journalistic” work was on this story. While it is true that James O’Keefe didn’t wear his ridiculous “pimp suit” when he was in an ACORN office, is also true that in the most inflammatory videos, O’Keefe did not present himself as a pimp at all, but rather as someone trying to help a prostitute escape an abusive pimp. This fact compeltely alters the nature of the interaction ACORN had with O’Keefe and Giles, as everyone who has investigated the unedited film O’Keefe refused to release to news organizations has concluded (and one would think that the fact that O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart refused to release the raw video would have sent up red flags with professional journalists). Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and ACORN is beng forced to shut down their operation due to an inability to raise funds.

Freedom of the press is obviously a very important thing, and as a general rule a large degree of latitude should be given to media outlets to report information. That said, there needs to be some consequence for media outlets/reporters who traffic inaccurate information and cause real damage to organizations or individuals. In this case, the “reproting” the Times did was so unbelievably credulous it basically constitutes professional malpractice. I’m not sure whether ACORN could demonstrate damages or not, but it seems hard to believe that the inaccurate reporting of the Times didn’t damage ACORN, or that accurate reporting wouldn’t have helped them. Either way, ACORN ought to have to ability to attempt to prove their case, and if they can show that the Times caused them damages, and that their reporting was especially sloppy, the Times ought to be required to pay damages to ACORN.

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Douthat Confirms He’s an Overachiever

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

When we one day look back at the death of The New York Times, I hope we can all agree that the decision to pay Ross Douthat for the priviledge of publishing his bullshit Very Serious Columns was a disastrous decision that, couple with the idea to precede him in that spot by Bill Kristol, absolutely destroyed the credibility of the entire enterprise. His column on Sarah Palin this week probably isn’t the worst column he’s written yet, and really, that’s probably the worst thing about it. There’s a lot of stupid to wade through here, but this is the part that stuck out to me, and a lot of other people:

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

As someone who doesn’t have an Ivy League degree, and probably isn’t going to have one, let me just say; this is complete bullshit. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t really plan to instill my kids with the belief that if they want to do something, they’re entitled to be a success at it despite how much ability or effort they may lack, and I never had anyone tell me that either. I had a lot of people tell me that if I worked really hard, I’d be able to achieve anything I wanted, but that’s a rather crucial difference, and Douthat’s exclusion of it rather changes the “ideal” he’s describing entirely. To say nothing of the absurdity of arguing that, on the basis of lacking a degree from an elite East Coast university, you’ve naturally achieved more, or overcome a more substantial hurdle, than Barack Obama. I’ll outsource this critique to Conor Friedersdorf:

It is true that she isn’t an elite in the sense that George W. Bush and John McCain were — they came from families with political connections — but it is hard to see how she embodies the up-by-the-bootstraps narrative more than Barack Obama (or Joe Biden, for that matter).

In Ross’s telling, what separates the meritocratic ideal from the democratic ideal is whether you can be a success story without having attended Columbia or Harvard. Okay. Well Joe Biden was born into a middle class family to a father who had a long spell of unemployment, and later found work as a used car salesman. He made a success of himself having graduated from the University of Delaware in Newark and the Syracuse University College of Law. Why isn’t he the embodiment of the democratic ideal?

But I actually don’t want to concede Ross’s premise. Given the history of race in America, the election of a mixed race black man to the presidency — Columbia and Harvard or not — ought to have as much a claim to fulfilling the democratic ideal as the nomination of a woman who didn’t attend an Ivy League college. We’ve had our Andrew Jacksons and our Jimmy Carters. Despite the frequency of Ivy League presidents, no one doubts that a candidate from a less elite educational pedigree can be elected. Which candidate caused more Americans to reconsider the kind of person who might be elected to the presidency, Barack Obama or Sarah Palin?

I’d add that it just seems strange to imagine this supposed split occuring between people with Ivy League degrees and people with degrees from non-Ivy League schools, especially considering that only about 1/3 of all Americans have a college degree at all. And while I can see Palin, as an individual, may seem like the great affront to meritocracy, being that she was totally ignorant of more or less everything and still got nominated by a major political party to be Vice-President of the United States of America and all, it would seem to me that the real enemies of some meritocratic ideal would be the George W. Bushes and John McCains of the world, who have each spent a lifetime trading on their fathers and grandfathers despite an obvious lack of any abilities on their own part, not Barack Obama, who elevated mhimself from a decidedly middle class upbringing to excel at elite universities and become President of the United States. I will, however, grant that Douthat’s perspective could be somewhat clouded, given that his profession is one of the few areas I can think of off the top of my head where the major cultural split really is between people with Ivy League degrees and everyone else, and that non-Ivy Leaguers do have a scandalously hard time getting ahead there. But that’s hardly an excuse for someone writing in a publication that fancies itself the gold-standard of journalism, particularly given the overall shoddiness of basically everything Douthat has written for the Times so far. Worse, this really isn’t anything new for Douthat, so the Times should have known in advance they were getting this kind of garbage. Then again, looking at the other people they’re paying for this stuff, you have to wonder if they even care.

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Does the New York Times Have Standards?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Clark Hoyt is the omsbudman at The New York Times, a fact which may explain why the intellectual standards of that paper have slipped so badly. Given the recent criticism and scandals surrounding the paper, it was inevitable that Hoyt would weigh in, and his effort is both infuriating, but at the same time telling of the way elite media thinks about both itself and its critics, as Hoyt strikes a dismissive tone right from the beginning. This is the column’s opening:

IT has been a busy week or two for the ethics police — those within The Times trying to protect the paper’s integrity, and those outside, ready to pounce on transgressions by Times journalists.

Did you catch that? If your concerned about the intellectual standards of prominent writers and the influential corporations that publish them, you’re the “ethics police,” which I suppose is sort of like the grammar police. It’s an incredibly dismissive way to treat critics that more than implies that you don’t really take them, or their criticism, seriously. And the rest of the column flows in essntially the same manner, as Hoyt is arrogant, dismissive, defensive, and downright misleading throughout. Here’s how Hoyt addresses McMegan’s recent reporting that Times business writer Edmund Andrews omitted the very relevant facts of his wife’s poor financial history and his own prior tenuous footing from his book detailing his struggle with subprime mortages:

Andrews is an excellent reporter who explains complex issues clearly. There are plenty of them to cover without assigning him to those that could directly affect whether he keeps his own house. He is too close to that story.

He can’t be too cautious. On Thursday, he came under attack from a blogger for The Atlantic for not mentioning in his book that his wife had twice filed for bankruptcy — the second time while they were married, though Andrews said it involved an old loan from a family member. He said he had wanted to spare his wife any more embarrassment. The blogger said the omission undercut Andrews’s story, but I think it was clear that he and his wife could not manage their finances, bankruptcies or no. Still, he should have revealed the second one, if only to head off the criticism.

Here’s Brad Delong’s response, which I basically agree with 110%:

  1. “a weblogger” has a name: Megan McArdle of the Atlantic Monthly. She deserves credit for her work.
  2. “a weblogger” has a reputation–a considerably better reputation at this point than Clark Hoyt or the New York Times, I believe. When something appears attached to Megan McArdle, I know that she is smart, has worked hard, and is trying her best to get the story right. Readers deserve to know who Clark Hoyt is pitting himself and his organization against so that they can make their own assessments of credibility. I know that Megan McArdle tries (if not always succeeds). I don’t know about the reporters and editors of the New York Times–indeed, I know that at times they work hard to get the story wrong, witness Elizabeth Bumiller, “1 in 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad”.
  3. At the time when Hoyt wrote he knew or ought to have known that Patrica Berreiro’s second bankruptcy discharged $29,000 in family loans, $7997.25 in lawyers’ bills, $3604 in telecommunications bills, $9065 in medical bills, $5377 in credit-card debt, $188 in veterinary bills, and $83 in fines from the Los Angeles Public Library. To write that it “involved an old loan from a family member” is remarkably incomplete.
  4. Megan McArdle’s point is that dysfunctions in mortgage lending have next to nothing to do with Edmund Andrews’s personal financial crisis. The crisis comes from the radical disjunction between the style of life Andrews and his wife expect and Andrews’s income–$10,000 a month, $3,500 in taxes, $4,000 (in the book; $5,000 in the bankruptcy filing) in alimony and child support, leaving $2,500 a month to live on for all expenses. If Andrews hadn’t bought his house in Silver Spring he would, McArdle believes, be in a worse financial position right now–for one thing, his landlord would have evicted him. I think she is probably right, and that Patricia Berreiro’s second bankruptcy is telling evidence for McArdle’s position. Hoyt’s claim that “I think it was clear that [Andrews] and his wife could not manage their finances, bankruptcies or no” appears to me to be a deliberate attempt to miss the entire point.

I would just highlight the way in which Hoyt defers to what Andrews claims to be the case, without so much as noting that his claims have been disputed. You only do that if you’re trying to mislead your readers. Period.

Hoyt then moves on to the Maureen Dowd plagiarism issue:

I do not think Dowd plagiarized, but I also do not think what she did was right.

Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, said journalists collaborate and take feeds from each other all the time. That is true with news articles, but readers have a right to expect that even if an opinion columnist like Dowd tosses around ideas with a friend, her column will be her own words. If the words are not hers, she must give credit.

Let’s unpack that for a second; Hoyt thinks writers must give credit for words that are not their own, which Dowd did not, but he doesn’t “think” that Maureen Dowd plagiarized Josh Marshall. But of course, passing off someone else’s words as your own without citation is the very definition of plagiarism. This is nothing more than an instance of argument-by-denying-English, a rather strange thing for a print journalist to do. It’s entirely possible that Dowd unintentionally plagiarized Marshall, but unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism, and to make such an assumption you have to concede that Dowd plagiarized Marshall by definition.

The larger point here is simply to note that, in addressing some legitimate issues that have come up recently, Hoyt does the reading public a great service. Not because he’s keeping journalists honest or looking out for the ethical and intellectual standards of the paper, but because it’s plainly obvious that the point of the column is to dismiss, denigrate, and white-wash the criticisms leveled at the Times, and to “defend” the corporation by sheer spin.

Very Serious People these are.

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The Real Problem With MoDo

Monday, May 18th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

To start out on a fair note, I do not think that Maureen Dowd intentionally plagiarized Josh Marshall, if for no other reason than that TPM is not an obscure website. Josh Marshall has won a Polk Award for his work at TPM, writers at TPM are professional journalists, and the site has become a major news source that lots and lots of people read. I just don’t believe that anyone would think they could get away with so blatantly stealing material from the site. I tend to think Brad Delong is probably on the right track here:

You want my guess as to what happened with Maureen Dowd? Last Friday night Maureen Dowd was running out of steam on her column. So she went and grabbed a paragraph from Josh Marshall: this one:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq…

She pasted it at the bottom of her unfinished draft. She began editing it to make it her own “writing”. She replaced “we were” with “the Bush crowd,” producing:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq…

Then something called her away. Later she came back to the column. But she had forgotten that she had not yet made enough changes to make it her own “writing.” So she double-spaced. She typed out a final paragraph. And she sent the column off.

That’s pretty plausible, and pretty reasonable, but I’m still pretty burnt up about the thing anyway, for a couple of reasons. First of all, MoDo isn’t copping to it. Her explanation both brings the required derision of bloggers (“who, me? No, I don’t read blogs. I just have friends who do behind my back.), and is just very implausible. Even if you give it the most charitable reading plausible, she’d still be guilty of shamelessly passing off her friend’s thoughts as her own.

But more than that, it’s really annoying that this comes all of one day after The Washington Post published another Op-Ed complaining about how Teh Google And Teh Bloggerz are unfairly using their content. Aside from the fact that the column made little sense on its own merits, what it didn’t feel like mentioning was exactly what MoDo just laid bare; these elite outlets lift people’s material all of the time. They lift from bloggers, less known journalistic entities, and even from each other. You change the words a bit, maybe add a smidgeon of new material, then pass it off without credit or citation, as though it were your own, original work. And, for the most part, that’s perfectly fine. That’s how the industry works. The blogosphere isn’t that much different, aside from the fact that the ability to link makes it much easier to credit other people for their work. But still, arguments are lifted all the time, and in perfectly good faith. There’s only so many ways to make the same point after all.

But in the bizarro-world of elite journalism, taking a story, changing the wording, and reprinting it as if it were your own is standard operating procedure, but excerpting someone’s story on line, citing your source, and linking back to the original work is stealing. That’s the real problem here.

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Jeffrey Goldberg’s Continuing Netanyahu Hagiography

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

From today’s New York Times:

Nevertheless, the prime minister’s preoccupation with the Iranian nuclear program seems sincere and deeply felt. I recently asked one of his advisers to gauge for me the depth of Mr. Netanyahu’s anxiety about Iran. His answer: “Think Amalek.”

“Amalek,” in essence, is Hebrew for “existential threat.” Tradition holds that the Amalekites are the undying enemy of the Jews. They appear in Deuteronomy, attacking the rear columns of the Israelites on their escape from Egypt. The rabbis teach that successive generations of Jews have been forced to confront the Amalekites: Nebuchadnezzar, the Crusaders, Torquemada, Hitler and Stalin are all manifestations of Amalek’s malevolent spirit.

If Iran’s nuclear program is, metaphorically, Amalek’s arsenal, then an Israeli prime minister is bound by Jewish history to seek its destruction, regardless of what his allies think. In our recent conversation, Mr. Netanyahu avoided metaphysics and biblical exegesis, but said that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons represented a “hinge of history.”

So let me get this straight; Netanyahu’s fixation with Iran is the result of a belief that the Iranians are the latest manifestation of an ancient malevolent spirit that, according to religious tradition, has been tormenting the Jewish people since the days of Moses, and is responsible for Babylonian conquests, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and Hitler and Stalin…but Iran is the “apocalyptic messianic cult?” Seriously?

Snark aside, this is to be expected from Goldberg, who ultimately is nothing but an AIPAC hack who will shamelessly shill for whatever Israeli policy is at the moment. Some people have taken to referring to the AIPAC wing of the American “Israel debate” as the “Likud lobby,” but this strikes me as being wrong. AIPAC, Goldberg, and company will mostly shill for whatever Israeli policy is at the moment, regardless of who is leading the government at the time. This is, in no small part, because on the question of the Palestinian conflict, there’s really no difference, beyond superficial optics, between the major three parties in Israel.

The real shame here lies with the Times for accepting a submission from Goldberg. Jeffrey Goldberg is the writer who not only savaged Jon Mearshimer and Stephen Walt in one of the most unprofessional, unserious “book reviews” ever printed by a major media publication (eventhulibrul New Republic), he’s the “journalist” who was most loudly running around in “mainstream” outlets trumpeting the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the run up to the Iraq War. You would think that being that spectacularly wrong about such a critical piece of information, and his obvious lack of objectivity in matters regarding the Middle East, and Israel in particular, would largely disqualify him from getting any further warmongering published in “respectable” outlets, let alone in the week when we’re getting quite a bit of knowledge about the ways in which torture was employed to produce “evidence” of the arguments Goldberg was advancing prior to Iraq.

But that’s not how American journalism works anymore, is it?

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On Douthat

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I know I’m late to the game on commenting on Ross Douthat’s new gig writing for The New York Times Op-Ed page, but to be honest I just haven’t known what to say about it. I’m not particularly a fan of Douthat’s writing, or his intellect for that matter, but it seems that I’m in the minority so far as left of center males go. Douthat’s main claim to fame thus far is his book Grand New Party, which is frankly quite over rated. The most heralded argument of the book is that the GOP needs to reorient its focus towards the working class, but Douthat’s means to do that is somewhere between out of touch right-wing is downright offensive. In short, Douthat’s contention is that what the working class needs isn’t more unionization or workplace protections or a more progressive tax system or even better social services, but a more traditional, patriarchal, family structure reinforced by government policy. It is, in other words, pretty boilerplate conservatism dressed up as contrarian re-examination.

And that is, I think, more or less the essence of Douthat’s writing. Ross is very good at giving the impression in his writing that he’s seriously grappling with questions, fulminating over them and pondering his own inconsistencies and mistakes when he’s really not. You can really see this when he has to address the truly dubious aspects of his right-wing Catholicism, notably his opposition to stem cell research or his opposition to contraception. When forced to deal with these more indefensible positions, Douthat manages to fall back on his pre-existing belief system, but the need to present the front of a reasoned opinion leads his to say really bizarre things.

With all of that said, I think I agree with Katha Pollit here; if the Times is going to reserve a certain amount of column space for the right-of-center viewpoint (and contra Pollit, I think that’s a fair position, in so much as the Times clearly doesn’t have designs on being a “liberal” publication), then they ought to give those spots, or at least one of them, to someone who truly represents common right-of-center thought in today’s political environment. And, for whatever his flaws, Kristol was certainly emblematic of modern conservatism, and someone in a similar vein (although with a little more gumption for his writing) would serve Times readers the best. There’s no reason they ought to be led to believe David Brooks represents the mainstream of Republican politics.

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Better Editing Please

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I don’t really understand the logic of Op-Ed pages. Apparently they seek out people who are so wise that their writing must never be edited, even though it’s going to reflect on the paper publishing it. Any attempt to maintain some sort of quality standards would amount to “stifling viewpoints,” or something like that. And, ultimately, I think it’s this attitude as much as anything else that’s led to the post-modernism of our political discourse. The Washington Post’s refusal to correct a glaring factual error in a George Will column is a now-classic example of this tendency, as is the various misinformation that percolated through the nation’s Op-Ed pages in the run up to the Iraq war. And even though it’s likely to be met much more approvingly by progressives, today’s Nicholas Kristof column is another, quite egregious, example of the lax standards of editing our “elite” Op-Ed pages. The takeaway:

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) sometimes arouses terrifying headlines as a “superbug” or “flesh-eating bacteria.” The best-known strain is found in hospitals, where it has been seen regularly since the 1990s, but more recently different strains also have been passed among high school and college athletes. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that by 2005, MRSA was killing more than 18,000 Americans a year, more than AIDS.

Dr. Anderson at first couldn’t figure out why he was seeing patient after patient with MRSA in a small Indiana town. And then he began to wonder about all the hog farms outside of town. Could the pigs be incubating and spreading the disease?

That’s an obvious conjecture to make, I suppose, if you’re a writer who has long been writing columns taking a dim view of American swine production, but the basic structure of the column would flunk any high school logic class. The problem with the progression of the column is that at no point does Kristol ever actually present an evidentiary case that the MSRA outbreak is linked to the hog farms. Yes there have been some studies suggesting hogs can carry the MSRA bacteria, but that doesn’t really explain why it seems to be isolated to this town. It’s not as if there are onlya dozen or so hog farms around the country and so there isn’t a large body of evidence to go on. There are literally thousands upon thousands of similar farms all over the country, many undoubtedly larger than the operation in question. Are there MSRA outbreaks in towns neighboring any other hog farm in the country? Did Kristol look for any before he wrote this column? Did Kristol pursue any other possible causes of the MSRA outbreak in this town before jumping to the conclusion that hog farms cause widespread cases of MSRA infections based on what appears to be a clear outlying case? Or did Kristol let the conclusion dictate the facts? It’s pretty clear that that seems to be what happened.

I’m not necessarily faulting Kristol for this. After all, we all have issues we have deep seated beliefs about, and for many of us that causes us to do sloppy work at times when writing about those issues. The real question, then, is why the New York Times would run such a shoddy piece of writing. Why is their no editing process to reject a piece so clearly lacking in both evidence and logical argument building? Why isn’t there anyone to point out that Kristof is letting his desired conclusion affect how he is presenting the evidence, or lack thereof? It may seem like a small matter, because the topic doesn’t seem all that important in this case, but this is how misinformation regarding truly monumental issues makes its way into the public discourse. This is how newspapers can allow the claim that there is no scientific consensus on global climate change to be published under their banner. This is how major newspapers wind up publishing claims that Saddam Hussein was allied with al Qaeda prior to our invasion of Iraq. It’s the idea that, certain people at least, are above the editing process, and much be allowed to publish more or less anything they submit, no matter how poor of quality, lest “the media” put their thumb on the scale of the “debate.”

And it’s one reason I don’t count myself among the crowd lamenting the inevitable downfall of major national newspapers.

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Bye Bye Billy

Monday, January 26th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

There was actually something interesting in Bill Kristol’s New York Times column today, the last line.

This is William Kristol’s last column.

That’s right, our long national nightmare is really over. Well, sort of. In their continuing effort to overtake the Wall Street Journal’s perpetual hold on the “Worst Op-Ed page in the World” title, The Washington Post has picked Kristol up, although he’ll be writing monthly instead of weekly. And he’ll still be on Fox News, but that can be avoided.

Anyway, The Daily Beast has a round up of the process of deciding to can Kristol.

The problems that emerged were more fundamental. Kristol’s writing wasn’t compelling or even very careful. He either lacked a talent for solid opinion journalism or wasn’t putting his heart into it. A give-away came in the form of four corrections the newspaper was forced to run over factual mistakes in the columns, creating an impression that they were rushed out without due diligence or attention to factual claims. A senior writer at Time magazine recounted to me a similar experience with Kristol following his stint in 2006-07. “His conservative ideas were cutting edge and influential,” I was told. “But his sloppy writing and failure to fact check what he wrote made us queasy.”

Kristol also regularly commented on political developments in which he was personally engaged—without disclosing the depth of his engagement. The Daily Beast previously highlighted his deep involvement in selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate. In the campaign season that followed, boosterism about Sarah Palin became a staple of his writing, even at the expense of his relationship with McCain and leading figures in the McCain campaign. This conduct blurred the distinctions between being an actor on and observer of the political stage, raising some concern among the guardians of The Times’ credibility.

Tough as this was for Kristol’s promoters, he might still have survived as a columnist had it not been for an attitude of casual and reflexive disloyalty he publicly displayed towards The Times itself. A good example came in an appearance with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show on October 30. Here’s the way Editor and Publisher described it:

“Appearing once again on The Daily Show, Bill Kristol, Jon Stewart’s favorite whipping boy (‘Bill Kristol, aren’t you ever right?’), on Thursday night defended the McCain-Palin ticket, at one point informing the show’s host that he was getting his news from suspect sources. ‘You’re reading The New York Times too much,’ he declared. ‘Bill, you WORK for The New York Times!’ Stewart pointed out.”

That, apparently, was the last straw for the Gray Lady.

That’s good. Wrong as it may have been, supporting the Iraq war shouldn’t have disqualified anyone from much of anything, as long as you came to realize it was wrong. People are wrong about things, and lots of people were wrong about that. Some people got it right, of course, but those people have been wrong about plenty of other things. Being wrong about things would be a hard standard to use against a pundit, with exceptions for people (like Kristol) who are wrong about everything. And there’s certainly the sticky matter of figuring out where concerns about accuracy and prescience become arguments over opinion.

And that’s especially good considering there were lots of other problems with Kristol. TDB runs them down pretty well, but ultimately it boils down to one thing; Bill Kristol is a partisan hack. He’s not a conservaive intellectual who takes thinking and intellectual honesty seriously like a Brooks, Buckley, or Douthat, he’s a guy who got his start as a political operative for the GOP, wrote a memo arguing that it was imperative that the Republicans defeat healthcare in 1993 because if it passed Democrats would have a campaign issue to run on, and on down the list. The issues outline here, namely his conflict of interest in the Palin business and his utterly embarrassing run in with Jon Stewart, are fairly minor blips in Kristol’s career, and it’s for that reason that the Times never should have brought Kristol on in the first place. Whether or not I agree with them, there are plenty of writers on the right who are sincere, honest thinkers and who would be an asset to any Op-Ed page. And, for their part, the Times really ought to value the prime real estate they own more seriously. They’ve got, in my opinion the two best Op-Ed writers anywhere in Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman, and David Brooks is better than average. But employing people like Kristol, MoDo, and Tommy Suck On This ought to embarrass everyone else that writes under their banner, and they really ought to have more self-respect than that.

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