With Friends Like These
October 20, 2000
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The New York Times today unleashes a top-of-the-front-page report on the relationship between President Clinton and Vice President Gore. The article quotes "Mr. Gore's close friend Martin Peretz, one of his Harvard mentors, who now owns The New Republic." Mr. Peretz is quoted as saying of the Gore-Clinton relationship, "I don't think this was a real friendship." The Times itself says that news of the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky "essentially ended whatever friendship had existed with his vice president." This all appears on page A26 of my New York edition of the Times, where the story continues from page one. And it just so happens that on page A25 of the Times today, there is a story that runs under the headline "Gore Intensifies Attacks on Bush Tax Plan." That article reports on a television appearance on Thursday by Mr. Gore in which Mr. Gore said of Mr. Clinton, "He's my friend." So, Mr. Peretz says Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore are not really friends; the Times says any friendship that did exist is now over; but candidate Gore himself is out on the campaign trail proclaiming that he and Mr. Clinton are friends. Does this count as another Gore whopper? And if so, why doesn't the Times bother to include Mr. Gore's ritualistic, if perhaps false, claim of friendship in the long article on the relationship, rather than relegating the quote to the end of a news story on the day's campaign developments?
Hillary and Gore: The same front-page report on the Clinton-Gore non-friendship says that Hillary Clinton listens to Mr. Clinton's campaign advice -- "and not coincidentally, in the view of several Clinton aides, seems to be doing better in her race than the vice president is in his." The Times lets this slide unchallenged, but it is a claim of Clintonesque chutzpah. As the Times itself reports in its metro section today, Mr. Gore was in New York yesterday, and Mrs. Clinton "leapt at the chance to campaign . . . with a politician who polls show is significantly more popular among New Yorkers than she is." The Clinton aides may claim that Mrs. Clinton is "doing better" than the vice president, but they -- and the Times -- seem to have neglected the fact that in the only state where Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gore are both on the ballot, New York, Mr. Gore is "significantly more popular" than Mrs. Clinton.
Soak the Rich: Another front-page news story in today's Times tells readers that the federal budget surplus was the result of "higher tax rates on the rich," particularly an increase in the highest income tax rate, to 39 percent from 28 percent a decade ago. There's a lively political and economic debate about the effect of tax increases on federal revenues, and the Times article only gives one side of the story. It fails to even consider the argument that tax cuts increase federal revenues by creating economic growth. In the Reagan years, for instance, federal revenues increased after the income tax rates were reduced. So while the Times and the experts it quotes attribute the surpluses to "higher tax rates on the rich," it's quite possible that if the tax rates were kept at 28 percent, or if there were additional reductions -- like a further reduction in the capital-gains tax rate, a tax reduction whose revenue-producing effects the Times article also ignores -- the surpluses would be even bigger than they are now.
Keep the Public in the Dark: A New York Times editorial today objects to the timing of the release of the independent counsel's report on the firings in the White House travel office. The Times writes that the investigators "could and should have avoided dropping reports during the September-October campaign season." This is weird -- a newspaper suggesting that voters would be better off going to the polls with less information. Is the Times prepared to call all of its investigative reporting to a halt "during the September-October campaign season?" As a column on ABCNews.com asked about a similar recent Times editorial, if a draft of the independent counsel's report were leaked to the Times, would the newspaper refrain from publishing an article about it until after the election? The idea that voters aren't smart enough to take the independent counsel's report into account and weigh it with everything else in making a decision is of a piece with the Times' efforts to restrict political commercials under the guise of campaign finance "reform."
Facts and Fantasies: In an editorial today that runs under the headline "Campaign Facts and Fantasies," the Times adopts a standard of "percentage of national income" to make Mr. Gore's federal spending plans look small. Fair enough. But it's funny how the Times rarely used that standard in the Reagan years to describe the size of the federal budget deficit, and it's funny how it rarely uses that standard to describe the tax burden. When the Times talks about government spending, it uses percentages to make the numbers look small; when the Times talks about deficits and tax cuts, it uses absolute figures to make the numbers look large.
Electricity Regulation: An article in the metro section of today's Times informs readers that "electricity generation is no longer regulated, though its distribution is." Only the Times could claim that the massive conglomeration of government bureaucracies that still bear down on electric companies don't qualify as regulation. As the Times story itself notes later on in the article, a business deal that the electric company is in the middle of doing requires the approval of seven states. Connecticut alone is requiring the company to "take measures that would reduce residential nonheating prices by about 1 percent," and to impose a two-year ban on "involuntary layoffs of Connecticut workers." The business deal must also meet the approval of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Well, if the industry is "no longer regulated," we wonder why the company is going through the trouble of seeking the approval of seven states and four federal agencies for its business deal. Just for the fun of it?
King Abdullah: Times columnist Thomas Friedman today continues the newspaper's love affair with the Hashemite King, referring to "Jordan's visionary young King Abdullah." As Smartertimes.com noted on Monday, King Abdullah and Muammar Gadhafi, the Libyan terrorist tyrant, issued a joint communique after Gadhafi's official visit to Jordan from October 3 to October 7. That communique said that "the talks held by the two leaders reflected an identity of views on various issues of common interest," and it stressed "that Arab Jerusalem was an indivisible part of the occupied Palestinian lands, thus the Israelis must withdraw from it and from all the Palestinian and Arab occupied lands." Soon, no doubt, Mr. Friedman will be praising "Libya's visionary Colonel Gadhafi." Mr. Friedman's column today also makes the unfounded claim that "The Arab peace process with Israel has always been part of a larger embrace of modernization, gradual democratization and integration with the West." Gradual, indeed. Just ask Hosni Mubarak's political opponents (you might have to visit them in prison) or check the Jordan-Israel peace pact for a reference to the end of the monarchy (it's not there.) Or look closely at the track of the "peace process" that is Mr. Friedman's favorite, the one between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, and you'll find that its very underlying idea, as enunciated by none other than Yitzhak Rabin, was that Yasser Arafat's PLO would, by being exempt from monitoring by Western-style human-rights groups, be able to crack down more ruthlessly on terrorists than Israel, with its democratic system and due process, ever could.
Lazio and the Mets: A story in the metro section of today's Times reports that television personality Barbara Walters "shrieked in mock horror" after Rep. Rick Lazio, Mrs. Clinton's opponent, "revealed he is a Mets fan." "Reveal" is probably the wrong word for what Mr. Lazio did in the interview with Ms. Walters; it's well known that Mr. Lazio is a Mets fan. The Times itself has written about the fact in the past few days.
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