January 3, 2001
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The New York Times today gives President-elect Bush's choice for labor secretary, Linda Chavez, the same nasty treatment it has given to other Bush nominees such as John Ashcroft and Tommy Thompson. A front-page news analysis refers to Ms. Chavez as a "polarizing figure," and a profile claims she "has taken polarizing positions in the debates about affirmative action, bilingual education and immigration."
But Ms. Chavez's positions on affirmative action (she's for outreach, but against racial preferences or quotas); on bilingual education (she thinks public schools should teach English), and immigration (she favors it) aren't polarizing; they are unifying. She's not a "polarizing figure"; she's a unifying figure. The true polarizing figures are the ones who have, as the Times profile reports, "vilified" Ms. Chavez, physically threatened her and termed her, as the Times puts it, "a traitor to her people." Of course, the Times doesn't call those critics of Ms. Chavez "polarizing" figures or polarizing groups. No, the Times article describes those critics -- the real polarizers -- as "civil rights groups."
Sexual Diversity: A front-page news article in today's New York Times reports that President-elect Bush has assembled a government "notable for its sexual and ethnic diversity." A lot of Times readers will no doubt be puzzling this morning over what the Times means by sexual diversity. The guess here is that it is just a somewhat awkward way of saying there are more women in Mr. Bush's team than in the usual administration.
Highly Partisan: A profile in today's New York Times of Mr. Bush's pick to be commerce secretary makes a glancing reference to Rep. Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich, the article says, was "later known as a highly partisan Republican speaker of the House." Watch out when the Times slips into that passive voice. Known by whom? By highly partisan Democrats editing the New York Times, who can hardly ever be seen referring to Democrats as "highly partisan"?
Republican Orthodoxy: A profile in today's New York Times of Mr. Bush's pick to be energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, reports that he has "occasionally challenged the Republican orthodoxy, particularly in successfully fighting Republican colleagues' efforts to restrict legal immigration." This portrays the Republicans as the anti-immigrant party and Mr. Abraham as a maverick on the immigration issue. That's just not true. Mr. Abraham was the chairman of the immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Republican business interests have long been pro-immigrant because they want to increase the pool of available labor. It's true that some Republicans like Senator Alan Simpson and Rep. Lamar Smith have been anti-immigrant, but so have some Democratic constituencies such as blacks and labor unions. The Republicans, like the Democrats, are split on the immigration issue. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is for open borders, while the National Review wants to shut the gates. There's no "orthodoxy" to challenge.
Tax Cut: A front-page "News Analysis" in today's New York Times reports that Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut is "a sum that even many Republicans on Capitol Hill have called too large." This is just false. Unless the Times definition of "many Republicans on Capitol Hill " is two aides to Senator McCain speaking off the record, the facts just don't support that claim. Even Speaker Hastert's much ballyhooed remarks calling for movement on the estate tax and marriage penalty before going ahead with rate reductions never called the entire Bush package too large.
Norman Siegel: The New York Times can't seem to figure out this morning the status of Norman Siegel, one of Mayor Giuliani's most relentless and automatic critics. A brief item in today's metro section reports that Mr. Siegel, "the longtime executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, has temporarily stepped down from the group to consider running for the public advocate post being vacated by Mark Green." Another story, elsewhere in today's metro section, reports, "Norman Siegel, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the mayor was 'legally incorrect in his analysis.'" Well, folks, is he "the executive director," or is it true that he "has temporarily stepped down"? The New York Times seems content to let readers make up their own minds.
Michael Stanley Dukakis: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton's new Senate chief of staff has experience that "includes work on the presidential campaigns of Michael M. Dukakis and Walter F. Mondale." If the Times feels the need to include Mr. Dukakis's middle initial, it could at least take the trouble to get it right. It is "S," for Stanley.
Times Tower: The NYC column in today's New York Times metro section pushes the envelope about as far as a columnist can get away with, and it is worth reading. The column defends Mrs. Clinton's book deal, as Smartertimes.com has also been doing. Particularly amusing is the sentence, "Reports have it that a New York newspaper will need city and state help to build its new headquarters. Yet no one has seriously suggested that because of this it will inevitably pull its punches in assessing the mayor or the governor." The reference is to the enormous special tax break that the New York Times Company is seeking for its Manhattan headquarters tower -- at the same time the newspaper is opposing across-the board tax relief for average New Yorkers.
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