How difficult it must be to be a liberal who has double standards to explain and hypocrisies to defend. Take Bill Keller of the New York Times. Last August the former executive editor of the Times wrote a piece in which he prodded his colleagues in journalism to ask candidates “tougher questions about faith.” If the Republican candidates didn’t answer Keller’s questions, “let’s keep on asking,” Keller said. “Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”
Of course, there was the inconvenient fact that the Times showed a notable lack of interest when it came to Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright, a minister whose views are racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. And for those Times readers who might have forgotten – and given the paucity of coverage by the Times, who could blame them? — the Reverend Wright was referred to by Obama as his “spiritual mentor,” Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s first autobiography.
Yet in 2008, the Times found all of this singularly uninteresting. It looked the other way.
When this was pointed out to Keller in the aftermath of his newfound interest in asking tough question about the faith of GOP candidates, Keller (via Twitter) admitted, “Yes, Dems should be asked about their faith (and influences) too. We were late to Rev. Wright in ’08, but we got there, and did it well.”
How convenient to admit this three years after the election. And in fact, the Times got there much later than they would have if John McCain had been a member of a church whose pastor was spouting white supremacist views from the pulpit – and once its reporters eventually got there, they actually didn’t do it so well.
In any event, Jeremiah Wright is once again in the news – this time because of a Times story that was clearly designed to keep a super PAC from injecting Wright into the 2012 race. (The detailed advertising plan that was obtained by the Times came through a person not connected to the proposal but “who was alarmed by its tone.”) I guess we’re back into the “asking tough questions about a political candidate’s faith is wrong and inappropriate” mode.
Once again, the New York Times is using its influence to discourage a close examination of the Obama-Wright relationship. And just to be sure the point wasn’t lost on us, a Times editorial, with the subtle title “Racial Politics, 2012-Style,” praises John McCain for refusing “to make this divisive tactic part of his campaign against Mr. Obama.” But, we’re told, “in a more coarsened political atmosphere, the rise of unlimited money has made it possible for a wealthy person to broadcast any attack while keeping a distance from it.” This is all part of a general effort by those on the right to “pollute the campaign.” And so forth and so on.
I can hardly wait for Bill Keller to show his objectivity and independent judgment by writing another long article on why it’s absolutely essential for journalists to ask tough questions about faith. And this time we can look forward to him and the Times exploring — with newly discovered depth, intensity, and a commitment to “afflict the powerful” – Barack Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright, the essential elements of black liberation theology, and a plausible explanation for how Obama could have spent 20 years in Wright’s church and held him up as a “spiritual mentor” without sharing, or at least being comfortable with, Wright’s noxious views and hate-filled sentiments. Because if such an article doesn’t appear, many of us will be tempted to draw the conclusion that Bill Keller is not much more than a political hypocrite dressed up as a Serious Journalist.