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Is The Gray Lady Losing It?

Over the past several years the editorial page of The New York Times has taken on an increasingly desperate tone. There is no doubt that the advent of the Internet and conservative talk radio came at great cost to the Gray Lady, which for some time now has seemed incapable of framing issues in the methodical – if wrongheaded – manner it once did. But the level of shrillness in recent days is completely off the charts. Consider:

Fast and Furious

In a June 21 editorial the Times, addressing the current controversy between Congress and Attorney General Eric Holder, said:

The political feud between the White House and congressional Republicans has now culminated in a House oversight committee vote to cite Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for criminal contempt. His supposed crime is failing to hand over some documents in an investigation of a botched gunrunning sting operation known as “Fast and Furious.”The Republicans shamelessly turned what should be a routine matter into a pointless constitutional confrontation. And the White House responded as most administrations do at some point: it invoked executive privilege to make a political problem go away.

Self-evidently a “pointless” political assault? Not really. As even the Times itself noted,

The House committee’s contempt resolution focuses largely on internal Justice Department documents that relate to a February 4, 2011 letter sent by the department to Sen. Charles Grassley. That letter falsely denied that the ATF had engaged in a gunrunning strategy that sent weapons across the border.

Nor was the White House invocation of executive privilege all that routine. Most legal observers appear to agree that executive privilege has generally been invoked only in cases where White House involvement was an issue – though of course the Obama White House adamantly denies any such involvement here.

The shrill reaction by the Times seems way out of line. Unless, of course, it fears possible revelation of a White House connection.

Union Dues

In a June 23 editorial on “The Anti-Union Roberts Court,” the Times said:

The Supreme Court’s ruling this week in Knox v. Service Employees International Union is one of the most brazen of the Roberts court. It shows how defiantly the five justices act in advancing the aggressive conservatism of their majority on the court.The court’s moderate liberals were rightly dismayed by the majority’s willingness to breach court rules in pursuit of its agenda….The court’s five conservatives ruled that in 2005, Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union should have sent a notice to all nonmembers it represented when it imposed a temporary 25 percent increase in union dues for public-sector employees in California to fight to anti-union ballot measures.

The court said the union infringed on the free-speech rights of the nonmembers by not giving them the chance to prevent use of their dues to support expressions of political views unrelated to collective bargaining. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with this narrow judgment only. This produced a 7 to 2 ruling on that specific question.

The Knox case was a complicated one and went beyond “that specific question.” But the Times seemed apoplectic over the Supreme Court’s simply acknowledging the right of individuals who are non-union member employees in a union shop to object to the use of their dues for partisan political purposes. Perhaps what got the Times so exercised was that heretofore reliably liberal justices voted the other way.

Sheldon Adelson

On June 24 the Times took to savaging businessman Sheldon Adelson, whom it views as being a sinister force on the other side of the political divide. When one searches the Times’s website for material on George Soros, the billionaire financier who throws around vast sums of money in support of left-wing and anti-Israel causes, one finds the following biographical note:

George Soros is the famed investor who broke the Bank of England and came to represent the swashbuckling style of hedge fund managers and their entry into the world of global affairs. Mr. Soros, one of the world’s richest men, has plunged deeply into the worlds of politics, philanthropy and economic prophecy.

To be sure, the Times does note some of the ethical and legal challenges to Mr. Soros that have surfaced over the years. But all in all, the paper’s biographical snippet portrays Mr. Soros as something of a dashing figure on the world stage.

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