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Rory O'Connor Headshot

Everybody Knows Times Op-Ed Columnists are Lazy

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Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

- Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson

Everybody knows Op-Ed columns in the New York Times are, for all the obvious reasons, considered prime editorial real estate. But how many are aware they are apparently also unedited, poorly managed sinecures for lazy thinkers proffering unsupported assertions and analysis on both the left and the right side of the political opinion aisle?

Two cases in point: recent entries by conservative wunderkind Ross Douthat and liberal favorite Frank Rich - each of which backed up the authors' wrongheaded point of view by claiming simply that "everybody knows" it to be true.

Douthat, makes his god-awful predecessor William Kristol look better everyday, opined last week on the topic of the Pledge to America recently unveiled by House Republicans. His piece, entitled "The Seduction of the Tea Partiers," noted that "House Republicans have adopted the atmospherics of the Tea Party movement, but they've evaded its most admirable substance." As Douthat explained, "their fiscal vision practices the same kind of free-lunchism that the Tea Party supposedly abhors: it promotes low taxes without coming close to identifying the spending cuts required to pay for them."

Reducing spending is always difficult, Douthat reasoned - and then offered the kicker: "And as everybody knows, (italics mine) the only way to really bring the budget into balance is to reform (i.e., cut) Medicare and Social Security..."

"Everybody knows no such thing!" as I jokingly wrote in a letter to the Times editor. "I just spoke to everybody, and they suggested we start instead by slashing the defense budget."

Sure, "reporting" that his unsupported argument was unopposed (after all, "everybody knows" it's true!) was lazy in the extreme, but it did enable the putative Paper of Record's House Conservative to conclude, "a little more extremism in the defense of fiscal responsibility is exactly what the Republican Party needs."

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Douthat's pipeline to everyone and everybody is apparently not unique to Times bloviators, however. A few days later his Op-Ed mirror image Frank Rich compounded Douthat's error while also relying on "everyone" to buttress his equally unsupported assertions. In a piece entitled "The Very Useful Idiocy of Christine O'Donnell," Rich too weighed in on the new "Pledge to America," which he said "promises the $3.8 trillion addition to the deficit and says nothing about serious budget cuts or governmental reforms that might remotely offset it."

Why mar it with the same lazy and untrue assertion that Douthat made? Nonetheless, here's Rich: "Everyone knows that tax cuts for the G.O.P.'s wealthiest patrons must come out of Social Security and Medicare payments for everybody else."

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two

Is anybody editing the Times columnists - or is that just a silly question? Am I the only one who thinks that it's bad enough to pollute America's top editorial real estate with lazy thinking, reporting and writing -- but even worse to do so in support on unsubstantiated conclusions with large implications for the lives of millions of Americans?

Doesn't "everybody" know that?

Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows