Arthur Brisbane has often been too much of a fan of the New York Times to cause all that much trouble during his two-year tenure as its public editor. That comes through even in his swan song column published today. But give Brisbane credit for the ability to recognize the paper’s obvious liberal bias. That is praiseworthy but though the column is another benchmark in the confirmation of the Times’s ideological tilt, it is probably even more interesting that those who are in charge of the institution are still in a state of denial about it.
Even before copies of the paper with Brisbane’s column in it were delivered to newsstands, Times executive editor Jill Abramson was publicly disputing Brisbane’s unexceptionable statement to the media claiming that the paper’s coverage of issues was as “straight” as her predecessor Abe Rosenthal demanded of his staff in the past. If anything, Abramson’s claim tells us all we needed to know about the smug, self-satisfied culture of the Times that Brisbane wrote about. There is no hope of correcting the corrosive and all-pervasive liberal bias in the Grey Lady on her watch. Indeed, if Abramson’s comments about her expectations for Brisbane’s successor to Politico’s Dylan Byers are any indication, Times editors and reporters should expect even less guff from new public editor Margaret Sullivan than they got from Brisbane.
The latest report being prepared by the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran appears to be a sobering retort to those who have spent the summer trying to claim that Israel’s warnings about the need to act should be ignored. The report, which has not yet been released but whose contents have been leaked, says that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges in recent months and is devoting its efforts to refining uranium to a level of greater than 20 percent, a sign that it is working on a nuclear bomb and not, as it disingenuously contends, on medical research. Of equal concern is that all of this new equipment has been installed in facilities near the holy city of Qum and buried so far under underground that they may be invulnerable to attack.
This evidence would mean the alarms being sounded in Israel in recent months were entirely justified. If the Iranians have dramatically increased their stockpile of refined uranium and are now transferring more of their work into hardened bunkers, they may be close to what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have called a “zone of immunity”: the point at which their program can no longer be halted by force. But rather than taking this as a sign that their complacent attitude toward Iran needs to be revised, the Obama administration remains in denial. Despite the obvious failure of the P5+1 talks and Iran’s determination to run out the clock on its nuclear program before the West acts, a White House spokesman said Friday there is still “time and space” for a diplomatic solution to the standoff. Indeed, as the New York Times noted, the administration seemed more intent on trying to undermine Israel’s stance on the nuclear peril than it was on actually doing anything about the problem.
One of the standing assumptions of most political pundits is that each party will emerge from its national convention these next two weeks with a “bump” in the poll numbers for their candidates. Gallup reports that the post convention fluctuations in its survey numbers give candidates a typical bounce of about five percentage points. Given the close nature of the current presidential contest and the fact that he has been trailing President Obama all year, Mitt Romney would certainly be happy with that kind of boost. It would be enough to put him into the lead at a time when he needs a momentum change.
But while pundits are also cautioning both the candidates and their supporters to remember that convention bounces tend to flatten out by the time the voters have their say in November, there are good reasons to believe the traditional bump may not be as strong in 2012 as it has been in the past.
Everyone old enough to have witnessed on television the moon landing on July 20, 1969, will never forget it. The next day the New York Times used, I believe for the first time, war type to announce the news. It has used that size type only a few times since (Nixon’s resignation, Clinton’s impeachment, 9/11).
I was 25 that year and watched the landing with my grandfather, who was then 87. Ever the historian, I was deeply aware of the changes he had seen in his lifetime. Born in 1881 into a world of gas light and horses, a world without movies or even amateur still photography, without telephones or phonographs (although both had been invented), it was a world where Chester Arthur was president and Queen Victoria’s reign had twenty years to run. Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon had been published only 16 years earlier and its astronauts had used a giant cannon to get to the moon (the g forces would have killed them instantly on take off). The back of the moon was the very epitome of the unknowable.