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Lumps of Coal for Time and the New York Times

December 25, 2009

Judging by two articles which appeared in their publications this holiday week, Time and the New York Times won't be getting a visit from Santa. Time's Amy Sullivan predictably stirred up right-wing rage with her just-in-time for the holidays, "No Churchgoing Christmas for the First Family." Meanwhile, David Herszenhorn described the Senate's "new partisan vitriol" in an account which conveniently omitted noting which party was responsible for it.
Helping to resurrecting conservative mythmaking about President Obama's faith, Sullivan alerted readers:

But there's one common Christmas practice not on the First Family's schedule: a visit to Christmas Eve church services.

Ignoring virtually everything which followed, including the Obamas' frequent attendance at the church at Camp David, one prominent right-wing blog warned "real church to Obama is like the silver cross to Dracula." Reanimating the "Obama is a secret Muslim" fraud still accepted by 17% of Republicans and 19% of evangelicals, the author asked, "Who is taking odds on when he comes out?"
Of course, it might have been helpful if Ronald Reagan's acolytes continued reading - and if Time's headline reflected what followed. For example:

The Bush family spent eight straight Christmases at Camp David, in large part because of the retreat's privacy, and were regular attenders of the chapel's candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Other Presidents and their families have opted to stay in Washington for the holiday. The Clintons traditionally went to midnight mass at the Washington National Cathedral and woke up in the White House on Christmas morning before heading south for vacation. President Reagan also remained in Washington over Christmas -- reportedly so members of the Secret Service could be near their families -- although Reagan didn't venture out to a local church service.

Meanwhile, the New York Times on Wednesday captured the intensely partisan atmosphere surrounding the health care debate in the Senate. But predictably, the "both sides are to blame" meme was again at work, as quotes from Democrats Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Max Baucus and Chris Dodd were balanced out by Republicans Olympia Snowe and Orrin Hatch.
Hatch was a particularly curious choice, given his promise to wage a "holy war" to block health care reform which he admitted he feared would lead to a permanent Democratic majority. Nevertheless, Hatch told the Times:

"Both parties have become very polarized," Mr. Hatch said. "A lot of that is because of the stupid ethics rules. We can't get together at various events. A lot of people complain about taking foreign trips, which are really critical for us to understand foreign policy. The Internet is constantly badgering everybody. In the process, it's gotten pretty doggone partisan, both ways. It's bad."

But as the history and data show, "the process" does not go both ways. As I documented this week, bipartisanship is dead, but it is the Republican Party which killed it.
The numbers don't lie. For over a generation, Democrats have acquiesced in the GOP's budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while Republicans instead presented a unified rejectionist front on the economic programs of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Worse still, the Republicans' record-breaking use of the filibuster since being relegated to the minority in 2006 has made the 60 vote threshold a permanent fixture of the Senate. As for the nostalgia for the political parties that passed Social Security and Medicare with bipartisan majorities, they simply don't exist anymore.

Ironically, Herszenhorn's description of the Senate GOP's obstructionism this week echoed almost exactly his paper's shock after the party-line passage of the Clinton economic package in 1993. 16 years ago, the New York Times remarked:

"Historians believe that no other important legislation, at least since World War II, has been enacted without at least one vote in either house from each major party."

This week, after the Republicans' scorched-earth gambit to block health care (again), the Times concluded:

The health care legislation was approved Thursday morning, with the Senate divided on party lines -- something that has not happened in modern times on so important a shift in domestic policy, or on major legislation of any kind, lawmakers and Congressional historians said.

And so it goes this Christman season. For the mainstream media, there are two - and only two - sides to an issue. In any political conflict, each side is equally culpable. Meanwhile, tantalizing headlines that needlessly fuel the fury get top billing.
Naughty, indeed.

4 comments on “Lumps of Coal for Time and the New York Times”

  1. The NY Times political writers are closet Republicans, especially that closet queen, Adama Nagourney. We need a whole new crop of reporters and media-types in America -- the current crop are rotten to the core.
    Merry Christmas to all.
    - Keeta Byrd

  2. There's blame enough to go around. Start with the 40 Republicans, not one of whom was willing to break out of the mold of negative conformity and offer a sustained working partnership in serious legislative effort.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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