Monday, June 16, 2003
Glassman on the Times: There was a notable column posted last week over at TechCentralStation by James K. Glassman regarding the New York Times editorial page and its lack of gravitas.
Like many, Glassman doesn't particularly care for wunderkind Paul Krugman:
Look at the op-ed page of the Times itself. It deteriorated beyond recognition. Paul Krugman, once a respected economist, has become a shrill polemicist, a show-off and a bully. A good editor would try to guide Krugman, a non-journalist, toward writing in ways that might actually influence policy or attempt to change the minds of people who aren't already far to the left. Instead of explaining economic concepts and taking a well-reasoned position (as Robert Samuelson, a meticulous non-economist, does in the Washington Post), Krugman vilifies his opponents, calls them liars, heaps abuse on them and, in his posturing, doesn't bother to illuminate difficult intellectual issues. What a waste!
I've said much the same, and noted the occasional column where Krugman actually does do a good job -- a column explaining the techniques that Enron used to game the California energy market was probably the best one I've seen.
Glassman also outlines a larger problem with the Times.
Under the Raines regime, a single viewpoint has dominated among non-Times op-ed writers as well. Why doesn't the Times - unlike, say, the Washington Post - have the courage to display the other side's arguments? Is there a chance that the reader, hearing the case for tax cuts, might defect?
Earlier that same week, though not specifically noted by Glassman, was a trio of Op-Ed pieces on the federal judiciary and the Democrats' unprecedented use of the filibuster.
The first article is aimed at justifying the Schumer principle -- judicial ideology matters and the Senate is right to consider it.
The second article makes the case for both Democrats and Republicans to ignore the Constitution -- which gives the power to select judges to the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Luckily, there is a better model for judicial selection. Although the Constitution gives the president the power to pick all federal judges, senators have long had great influence in the choice of the federal trial judges who sit in their states. For decades, New York's Republican and Democratic senators have appointed judicial screening panels, composed of members of the community, not limited to lawyers, and charged them to recommend candidates for the federal trial courts in the state. Any lawyer can apply for a judgeship.
For each vacancy, the panels compile a list from which the senator can then recommend a nominee to the president. This tradition has given New York an excellent federal trial bench. Lawyers who would be excluded from consideration in a world that demanded political loyalty or ideological devotion have been willing to submit their names.
Putting aside the objection that this is a sneaky way to ignore the Constitution -- because the proponents know that trying to actually pass an amendment that would enact this process would fail, this system merely moves any ideological battle from a position of prominence -- the Senate -- to some obscure, low-level committee.
The final op-ed attempts to justify the Democrats' filibuster of some judicial nominees by arguing that the nation's founders made a mistake by not requiring a supermajority vote for confirming judges in the first place. The author, Yale Law School professor Judith Resnik, pegs the number (arbitrarily) for approving a judge at 60. I suspect that if the Republicans had 60 votes, the required number would jump to 66.
This trifecta of articles -- all appearing on the same day -- highlight Glassman's point. The Times had space for several thousand words on the issue of judicial confirmations -- but no room for the conservative viewpoint. In the Times' world conservatives just don't exist.
This kind of journalism is rare in the mainstream media. The San Diego Union-Tribune commonly addresses issues like this by soliciting pro and con pieces and running them opposite one another -- providing readers with arguments and information from both sides.
The Times needs to change.