In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, wrote he is “pretty sure most journalists would recoil in horror from the idea” of voting for Sarah Palin; he doubts she would get 10 percent of the vote in the newsrooms of America. One might wonder why someone who has so little support among such smart people merited a column from among the highest ranks of the Times. Fortunately, Keller told us:
I was struck by the gratuitous quality of one remark she tossed off during that Rolling Thunder rally in Washington the Sunday before Memorial Day. When an NPR reporter asked what had brought her to the event, she replied, “It is our vets who we owe our freedom — not the politician, not the reporter — it is our vets, so that’s why we’re here.”
Keller thought Palin’s remark “was automatic, like acid reflux,” and reflected a disdain for the media emanating from her “intellectual insecurity, or a trace of impostor syndrome.” He felt the need to stand up for reporters. But unknown to the intellectually secure Keller, Palin’s remark was a reference to Charles M. Province’s poem, “It is the Soldier,” which Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) recited during his 2004 keynote address at the Republican Convention:
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press. …
It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.
Anyone who heard Miller’s 2004 speech – which was itself a newsworthy event, since he had been the 1992 keynoter at the Democratic convention that nominated Bill Clinton – would have recognized Palin’s allusion.
Perhaps we should be more charitable to Keller than he was to Palin. The Times covered the keynote speech in 2004 but did not mention the poem, so Keller had no way of knowing about it. He may suffer from a disability common among journalists of the Times— what medical experts refer to as paper-of-record imposter syndrome; it is a malady particularly striking editors who replaced religion with the Times — an opiate causing automatic reactions, like acid reflux.