Monday, March 17, 2008

The Kristol Embarrasment

When William Kristol, the notoriously dishonest neo-conservative editor of the Weekly Standard, was hired to write a column for the New York Times, the news was met with stunned disbelief by many an admirer of the nation's most respected news source. I myself wondered, facetiously, whether Kristol would manage to singlehandedly drag the paper's reputation into the mud. His first column, in which he cited approvingly a statement that he attributed to the notoriously unethical right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin (she has a habit of publicizing the phone numbers and addressses of activists of whom she disapproves to invite the harassment of her legion of sycophantic and slightly psychotic followers), was embarrassing enough as it was. Little did it ameliorate Kristol's reputation for inaccuracy when it was revealed that the neo-conservative editor had erred even in this attribution. Seems the guy whose every prediction about the Iraq war turned out to be false can't get it right, even when he's citing material with which he agrees.

And Kristol still hasn't gotten any better, or shown that he can grow into the job. Today's New York Times column is classically Kristol. For one thing, it is typically light on substance. There are no ruminations on policy questions or issues related to the economy or even national security. Kristol's thesis today is simply that Barack Obama cannot be trusted because he lied about having been in attendance at his church on the Sunday that his pastor preached a fiery invective against our government's propensity to respond to social ills by building more prisons and jailing more young black men. And how does Kristol know that Obama was there? Apparently he read it from "Ronald Kessler, a journalist who has written about Wright’s ministry." What Kristol does not say is that Kessler is less a "journalist" than he is a foot soldier for the right-wing propaganda outlet Newsmax. And unfortunately, Kessler doesn't seem to be much better at getting the facts right than Kristol. For as Marc Ambinder has shown, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, Obama was in fact in Miami on the day that Kessler claims to have witnessed seeing the Illinois senator nodding along with his pastor's speech.

a simple Google search suggests that Obama spent most of the day in Miami. But a simple e-mail or telephone call to Obama's campaign might have cleared things up.
Ambinder provides a link to a video clip which shows Obama addressing the Council of La Raza on July 22, the date in question. To ensure that there was little likelyhood that Obama attended church in the morning and then took a flight to Miami and addressed the group later that evening, I googled the conference schedule. Here's what it shows:

Sunday, July 22
11:00 a.m. LATINAS BRUNCH, Una Charla Con Hillary – Hall B
  • Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  • Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Interview led by Monica Lozano, Publisher and CEO, La OpiniĆ³n
1:30 p.m. SPECIAL FORUM: Foro Del Pueblo Con Sen. Obama – Room D128-129, (Open to the public)
Featured Speaker: Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

It simply stretches the bounds of credulity to suggest that Obama could have attended church in Chicago, then given a speech at 1:30 pm that same day in Miami. So clearly, the story is in error and Kristol has, at the very least, served to propagate a calumnious falsehood. What is both sad and maddening is that the New York Times, through it's ill advised hiring of Kristol, has made itself complicit in this travesty.

So first with Michelle Malkin and now with Newsmax it appears that what the New York Times has done in hiring Kristol is to open up a little window, made a little space in its pages, for an alien world dishonest "reporting," where journalistic standards are completely subsumed to the larger goal of advancing a rabidly conservative political agenda.

Has WIlliam Kristol succeeded in dragging The New York Times into the mud all by himself? Not yet... but with the help of the right-wing blogosphere and mock-journalistic publications like Newsmax he may yet succeed.

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