THE BLOG
02/27/2007 10:42 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Window Into the Soul of the New York Times

Bob Herbert is a columnist for the New York Times. He is generally a liberal. He usually makes sense. I usually like his columns a lot. He just wrote one attacking both Bill and Hillary Clinton. I am not a fan of Ms. Clinton. I disagree with her on the issues and worked on Jonathon Tasini's underfunded campaign against her in the New York primary for Senate. She had forty million dollars for her most recent Senate race and that also bothered me. But Herbert's attack barely mentions issues. It doesn't deal with the problem of money in politics. It's a foaming at the mouth attack on an image that he has of them:

If Bill and Hillary Clinton were the stars of a reality TV show, it would be a weekly series called "The Connivers." The Clintons, the most powerful of power couples, are always scheming at something, and they're good at it.

What I found interesting was that no one questioned whether the Clintons would be willing to get down in the muck and start flinging it around. That was a given.

... the relentlessly vicious, sleazy, mendacious politics that have plagued the country throughout the Bush-Clinton years.

... fed up with just the sort of mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners politics that the Clintons and the Bush crowd represent.

I remember Bill Clinton in the primaries and then in his two presidential races, first against Bush I, and then against Bob Dole. I defy anyone to describe any of those campaigns as "vicious, sleazy, mendacious ... mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners." Herbert lumps in Clinton with Bush, but in comparison to the president who had John Kerry swift boated and spread rumors about John McCain's black love child, Clinton's campaigns were models of decency, rectitude and relevance. Indeed, as I recall, and as most of us remember it, the Clintons were the victims of relentless right-wing attacks, a hysterical eight year campaign to dig up any kind of dirt that could be found - it didn't matter if it was provable, or false, or trivial, or irrelevant - and fling it at them. So why does Bob Herbert remember those years so differently? The explanation that comes to mind is that he is at the New York Times. One of the political mysteries of recent years is the vitriolic anti-Bill Clinton mud-slinging from the Times -- which lead the charge on Whitewater -- and the pass they gave the Bush crowd, (and how the Washington Bureau of the Times continues to act as a PR conduit for the administration even after the editorial pages have awakened). This is, perhaps, how the corporate climate at the Times thought of Bill. In Herbert's column you can hear them muttering and gossiping down the halls and in their emails, full of anger, but empty of facts. There is something seriously wrong with someone -- with a sub-culture -- that can't distinguish between the Clinton years and the Bush years, that can't distinguish between the politics that Clinton practiced and that Bush practices, that can't tell the difference between lying about personal sex acts and lying about public policies that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, murder, chaos, rampant rapes, and the rule of gangs, that doesn't remember that one administration increased open government and the other has kept secret how many staff the vice president has. The list of differences is so long that it could go on for pages. And they are such significant differences. Bob Herbert's column -- full of slander and empty of facts, like a good, old-fashioned Rush Limbaugh assault on the Clintons -- says little about the Clintons, but a great deal about Bob Herbert and the culture of his world, the NY Times. The NY Times is the flagship of the mainstream media. Editors everywhere else, in every newspaper, radio and TV newsroom, look to the NY Times. For good reason. It is our best newspaper and it is dedicated to being the best. So when the Times is wrong, it matters. When the Times is wrong -- as they were in the coverage of the Clinton, Bush, WMDs, Iraq, and now Iran -- it matters. It's worth calling them out on.