Pssst to conservatives. Liberals spend as much energy as you bashing the New York Times, but they prefer to do it at dinner parties rather than at press conferences. From Brookline to Georgetown to San Francisco, lefties bemoan the decline of the Times, express outrage at their coverage of WMDs and decry their timidity when under attack.
Times Editor Bill Keller's closing remarks on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday are an example of what drives libs crazy. In a comfortable interview Keller gave an extremely cogent explanation for why the paper reported on the surveillance program which tapped banking records to detect how terrorist groups were getting their money. He said it was their duty to inform the public about how the government was conducting the war on terror and that the story wasn't news to the terrorists and wasn't even as big a bombshell as the NSA eavesdropping story. Then, Bob Schieffer gave him a chance to hit a home run. "If you had something to say to people in America on this Fourth of July weekend about all this, what would it be, Mr. Keller?"
Instead of an all out celebration of freedom and democracy, Keller asked for mercy. "I guess I would say if you're under the impression that the press is neutral in this war on terror, or that we're agnostic -- and you could get that impression from some of the criticism -- that couldn't be more wrong. We have people traveling on the front lines with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've had people who've been murdered in trying to figure out the terrorist threat. You know, we live in cities that are targets, proven targets, for the terrorists. So we -- we're not neutral in this."
On Meet the Press, former Times columnist and Nixon speechwriter Bill Safire showed Keller a few tricks about knocking things out of the ballpark. Safire, a conservative who typically disagrees with the Times editorial positions, happens to agree with this decision. Here's his take: "Here we are on Independence Day weekend, 230 years ago, celebrating what was the resistance to a king who said 'We're going to hang you for treason.' And here we have a Long Island congressman, happens to be named King, who's saying 'treason' and 'put these reporters in jail.' I think there's a big fundamental thing going on here now, and across the board, of 'get the press, get the media.' And, look, I used to write speeches for Spiro Agnew, I'm hip to this stuff, and, and I can say that it gives you a blip; it gives you a chance to get on the offensive against the, the darned media. But in the long view of history, it's a big mistake."