THE BLOG

The NY Times: Carrying Republican Water

05/25/2011 12:05 pm ET

The story by Christopher Drew and Eric Lipton on the front page of Sunday's NY Times about the firing of the US Attorneys begins this way:

"The first whiff of something suspicious came when a 15-year-old boy received a voter registration card in the mail. Soon a second one arrived. Then his 13-year-old neighbor got one too."

In paragraph two we are told that "local authorities traced the problems to ... a liberal group."

Then, in paragraph three, Republican leaders demanded an investigation and the Federal Prosecutor promised one.

And in paragraph four, Republicans frustrated when no one was charged, began to complain.

The story could have began this way:

"It began in 2000, when Florida Governor Jeb Bush mounted an extraordinary campaign to get rid of tens of thousands of minority voters who were likely to vote Democratic. The campaign was mounted as an attack on 'voter fraud.' The program was so successful that it allowed his brother, George Bush, to come within a virtual tie in the election with Al Gore, and eventually win the presidency."

Paragraph two could then have said: The innovation was so successful that the Republicans decided to employ it nationwide. It is widely credited with Bush's victory in Ohio in 2004, that resulted in his re-election.

Paragraph three would have followed as: In New Mexico Republicans tried to get an investigation launched over an incident as trivial as someone under the age to vote receiving a voter registration card. This is the equivalent of someone underage being sent a credit card application or an offer to buy a car with no finance charges, the result of a bad mailing list. It was not an actual fraud. Nonetheless, the federal prosecutor agreed to look into it.

Paragraph four: When the federal prosecutor reasonably determined that there wasn't much to the hyped up story, he didn't file charges. Since this was a significant part of the Republicans' election strategy, locally and nationally, they became virulently upset and began complaining about the prosecutor all the way up to the White House. Eventually getting him fired.

This is not to say the story had to have been reported that way. But the information in the 2nd (and to my mind more accurate) version is readily available and the narrative in the 2nd version is both more dramatic and more significant.

In the story as actually written the Times has served as a delivery system for the Republican PR machine.

We should all know better by now, the reporters at the Times who let themselves be used like________ (feel free to put in your own metaphor), and the Democrats who didn't have their counter narrative ready to feed to reporters who clearly cannot be expected to think for themselves, but only parrot the lines they're given.