Times up

Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash

The New York Times op-ed editor, James Bennet, resigned yesterday after a controversy over a Tom “Tommy Polyester” Cotton op-ed calling for Trump to use the military to suppress violent protests caused an uproar among his staff and colleagues.

First there were a lot of explanations and alternative realities about an editor not reading it before it ran, etc. Then it turned out that Bennet actually solicited a piece from Cotton on the topic, and the resulting uproar mean his resignation or firing was only a matter of time.

And then he admitted he never read the piece before it ran — after noting publicly what a “brave” piece it was.

Bennet is also the brother of Sen. Michael Bennet, and according to this former Atlantic Monthly editor, there was some unethical interference by James Bennet with this Washington Post piece about the senator.

Now, here’s the thing. For better or for worse, the New York Times holds a unique place in the body politic. They are expected to set the standard to which news organizations are held. But they often fail.

And letting Cotton run his fascist manifesto in the Times was the same as giving it their imprimatur. Which opened another whole can of worms.

The Post story revealed the problem in a nutshell:

“He’s trying to create a politics that doesn’t really exist, with civil debate among Democrats and a kind of respectable conservative that only exists on an op-ed page,” said Alex Pareene, a staff writer at the New Republic. “It’s comforting, but it’s a fantasy.” His boss, Sulzberger, on the other hand, seems to appreciate the mission.

“It’s increasingly hard to find places where diverse voices debate ideas respectfully and thoughtfully. But that’s exactly what James believes is needed and it’s what he’s building,” Sulzberger said.

And how he did that? By hiring Bret Stephens, the unctuous conservative who poo-poohed climate change. And by inviting Tom Cotton to submit a piece in which he advocates suspending the civil rights of protesters, and using the U.S. military to beat them down.

People rightly praise Bennet for great hires like Ta-Nahisi Coates, Michelle Goldberg, Kara Swisher, and Jamelle Bouie.

But letting a U.S. senator advocate what is basically fascism-lite? Letting Bennet resign seems like a gift. Still, it’s the “civil” way to handle it, and we know how the Times loves civility.

I thought this was the best comment on Twitter:

At times, history rhymes

trump bible
Looks like he’s starring in a new sequel to “The Omen”

“When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’” Halford E. Luccock, 1938

The “how low can he go” question came up again yesterday. This time Dear Leader had the cops use tear gas to chase peaceful protesters so he could pose with a Bible for a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, not far from the White House.

Swamp Rabbit was reading over my shoulder. “What’s up with the Bible?” he said. “Everybody knows Trump don’t read no holy books. He don’t even read them morning briefings from his cronies.”

“His base likes when he uses props — Bibles, flags, churches, whatever,” I explained. “It makes them feel all warm and hateful inside.”

“But that’s such an old trick,” Swamp Rabbit said. “You’d think the peeps would get sick of evil guys waving flags and Bibles by now.”

I shrugged. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, rabbit. Especially if the old tricks still work for him.”