Friday, September 7, 2018

NYT Opinion as News

The NYT frequently inverts news articles and opinion pieces these days. The recent story "Some of the Democrats grilling Judge Kavanaugh have their eye on the White House" by Sheryl Gay Stolberg (also running under "Democrats Grilling Kavanaugh Have Their Eyes on 2020").

The alternate headlines frame the piece quite nicely. The times has been running articles calling the Kavanaugh nomination approval by the Senate basically a done deal. So the Times logic goes something like this:

Republicans have control of the Senate and will approve Kavanaugh without question. (This despite the narrow 51-49 margin by party.)
Since Kavanaugh is a done deal, any visible attempts to derail the nomination are a sham.
As for Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, they can not stop Kavanaugh, so they are just showboating.

If Senators just give up, their failure is a certainty. If there is any hope at all, don't they need to do everything they can to stop Kavanaugh. And doesn't it make more sense to frame their effort as a big victory if they succeed, but if they fail, then they have highlighted the concerns about Republican Supreme Court (and lower courts) nominees effectively for the 2018 Congressional elections?

But at the Times, where forced balance is established doctrine, politicians can always be presumed looking out for themselves. Besides, presidential races are exciting! All of these other races are so boring. I really don't care, do u?

The Times story which they present at a news item, rather than opinion is actually an opinion piece pretending to be a news story. It stems from a bias at the Times to see the world through a self imposed prism which is almost as bad in some ways at the Fox worldview.

A very different story could have been written. For me, the big news was the Cory Booker found a way to deflect the best efforts of John Cornyn, chair of the committee, to read him the "riot act" about Senate expulsion for his release of a handful of Kavanaugh documents. Cornyn's threat was actually an empty threat, but a framing tactic to label Booker as almost criminally out-of-order, in fact, so terrible that he could be punished and expelled from the Senate.  Booker's open and immediate defiance was likely unexpected because team Cornyn's empty threat was shown to be a charade. So Cornyn was left to apparently falsely deny that the documents were still confidential and therefore there was no basis to expell Booker. But of course he had openly stated that Booker's actions could lead to expulsion, which had Cornyn simultaneously holding contradictory positions.

And so we continue to see Republicans threaten and attack democratic institutions as Democrats and some Republicans who do not hold elective office fight back. Republican officeholders continue to act in bad faith, often with lies and obfuscation, as they consolidate their hold on power with Trump at the center of the Party.

Not surprisingly, Paul Waldman provides his rebuttal in a WaPo opinion column, from a slightly different perspective, to wit:
"But thinking about politics — including how Democratic presidential primary voters might respond to the Kavanaugh nomination and the Supreme Court, in general — is exactly what these politicians ought to be doing. Politics is how we settle the most vital questions that confront us as a nation. And if the process of choosing and confirming Supreme Court justices was ever removed from politics, it certainly isn’t now. What’s wrong with Democrats, or Republicans for that matter, raising the issues they think their constituents care about?"

The main point here is that the Times sorting of articles into news and opinion categories is not working any more and has not worked for a long time. This Stolberg alleged news piece is clearly an opinion piece by any objective measure, but it is labeled news solely because the opinions of the author are forced into the newsy frame that "both sides" really only care about running for president in 2020.

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