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Surprise, Surprise

No earth-shaking commentary this week, just a couple of items that took the Monitor by surprise. The first was an amusing exchange in the Nov. 6 issue of The New York Review of Books (NYR) between Forward editor J.J. Goldberg and journalist Elizabeth Drew. Here is Goldberg’s letter to the editor complaining about Drew’s mischaracterization of the Forward:

“Elizabeth Drew’s report on “The Neocons in Power” [NYR, June 12] seriously misrepresents the editorial position of the Forward…. As Drew correctly notes, the Forward reported in our March 21 edition on the expected appointment of Jay Garner to head postwar reconstruction in Iraq. We did so, however, not to praise Garner or his views but to inform our readers of trends in the Bush administration. There was no hint of an endorsement. Drew’s suggestion that we published the piece ‘proudly’ is correct only in the sense that we’re proud of our reporters’ work. Our opinions are reserved for our editorial page, which has, except for a brief period, maintained a consistent and proud tradition of progressivism and social democracy for 106 years, first in Yiddish and now in English. Nobody who reads the Forward could mistake us for a ‘conservative’ publication.”

One can only imagine what went through poor Goldberg’s mind when his eyes first alighted on the words ‘conservative’ and ‘Forward’ in such uncomfortable proximity. He was, after all, brought in to replace Seth Lipsky (who now heads The New York Sun) when Lipsky’s independent cast of mind proved too vexing for the old lefties who sit on the politbureau that runs the Forward.

And now here was a respected reporter – writing in a left-wing journal, no less – describing the Forward as ‘conservative.’ Could the purges and reeducation camps be far behind? Would Goldberg be replaced by Tovarish Fein or perhaps Rabbi Waskow?

The answer, obviously, was no, because the idea that the Forward is anything but a left-wing organ – one that still casts longing eyes at Peres and Oslo and yearns for a restoration of the Clintonian dynasty barring the resurrection of Norman Thomas – is simply laughable.

Here now Drew’s reply to Goldberg, which exposes her as a colossal ignoramus:

“….I assumed Forward was proud of Garner’s appointment from the headline on the piece, which Mr. Goldberg doesn’t mention: “Pro-Israeli General Will Oversee Reconstruction of Postwar Iraq.” Was it not? As for Mr. Goldberg’s denial that it published the piece ‘proudly,’ the piece was about Garner, not the reporter. Forward is well known as a distinguished conservative paper. Why the denial?”

Why would Drew think a headline description of Garner as a ‘pro-Israel general’ somehow implied the newspaper was ‘proud’ of the fact? There’s something almost patronizing in that assumption. But Drew really hit bottom with her insistence that is it ‘well known’ that the Forward is a ‘distinguished conservative paper.’ (Of course, the possibility exists that Drew is not alone among the national press corps in her unfamiliarity with the Forward; the paper does, after all, have a minuscule circulation.)

The second surprise of the week came from the acclaimed mystery writer Roger L. Simon, a longtime liberal who left no doubt about where he stands with regard to next year’s presidential election. Referring on his blog (www.rogerlsimon.com) to the endorsement of President Bush by Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, Simon wrote:

“Let me begin by saying that there is not a great deal of domestic policy about which I agree with George Bush….Still, if the election were held today, like Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, I would vote for George W. Bush without a second’s hesitation. That’s how bad I think the Democrats are on foreign policy, by far the most important issue of our day. I will go further. They are one of the sleaziest collections of low-down opportunists I have ever seen on one stage together….”

There must have been someone, somewhere in the universe, who before last week said something along the lines of “I’ll believe the Forward is a conservative newspaper when a confirmed liberal like Roger L. Simon publicly supports George W. Bush.”

Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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