THE SMELL OF TOTAL WAR: The Times examines non-candidate Bush!


Part 4—A certain odor is gone:
The non-candidacy of Candidate Bush is discussed in today’s New York Times.

To read that report, click here.

Let’s be clear—Jeb Bush hasn’t declared himself a candidate yet. He has said he’ll make a major announcement on June 15. It’s always possible that he’ll say he isn’t running for president.

Given the fact that it’s early June of the year before, none of this actually matters. Except for the fund-raising edge non-candidacy confers.

Under our complicated fund-raising laws, a person who wants to win the White House can actually raise more money as a non-candidate. As long as non-candidate Bush keeps saying he hasn’t decided, he can raise money in large amounts—amounts which will become illegal the instant he declares.

Serious people have said that Bush is breaking the spirit, and even the letter, of our fund-raising laws. Two major watchdog groups have even “called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Bush had broken election law,” the Times reports today.

Which groups have called for a special counsel? The Times doesn’t spend much time on this question, so we incomparably will:

One of the groups, Democracy 21, is directed by Fred Wertheimer, the long-standing Olympian god of fund-raising watchdogs. Within the press corps, Wertheimer’s word is treated as law, depending on who he’s challenging.

The other group, the Campaign Legal Center, is run by Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the FEC who served as general counsel to Candidate McCain in Campaign 2008.

These are major non-partisan groups. They’ve called for a special counsel to investigate non-candidate Bush.

Such charges have led to this morning’s report, which runs 1155 words and appears on page A18.

That’s right! This morning’s report appears on page A18 of our hard-copy Times. It doesn’t appear on the paper’s front page. It’s good-humored, fair and quite balanced.

We don’t have a problem with the tone or the placement of this morning’s report. That said, it does remind us of the way the Times covered Campaign 2000.

Can you recall the horrific journalism of that history-changing campaign? The Times assigned the young Frank Bruni to cover that season’s Candidate Bush. As almost everyone has noted by now, Panchito’s reporting of Candidate Bush tilted toward rather soft.

By way of contrast, Katharine Seelye was assigned as the newspaper’s Gore reporter. Her reporting was so poisonous that some journalists actually noticed the problem and mentioned it in real time, if in a rather low voice.

For our money, the Times’ reporting of Candidate Bush tilted toward soft in that campaign, but it stayed within the boundaries of acceptable journalism. By way of contrast, the paper’s reporting of Candidate Gore went crazily over the line—in the opposite direction!

We recalled that unfortunate pattern when we read this morning’s report.

We don’t have a problem with the amiable tone of the piece, or with its attempt to be fair and balanced in its treatment of non-candidate Bush. That said, the fairness and balance of the report contrasts with the New York Times’ Clinton reporting, which has been making an ugly joke of the paper’s front page.

Go ahead! Compare the tone of today’s report with the front-page poison delivered by Deborah Sontag last weekend. With the 2200 words of poison dumped on the Times front page.

We detected the smell of total war in that ludicrous front-page report. As we perused its puzzling contents, we recalled the 4400 words of poison in the Times’ earlier front-page report—in the so-called “bombshell report” about the scary, Cold War-inflected, frightening uranium deal.

It’s easy to see what non-candidate Bush is accused of doing. For ourselves, we don’t hugely care about such matters. But Wertheimer and Potter are major players—and such allegations produce loud screeching at the Times, depending on where they are aimed.

It’s easy to see what Bush is accused of. In the case of the Clinton Foundation’s partnering with the Happy Hearts Fund, it’s very, very hard to see what is supposed to be wrong.


The Happy Hearts matter went to page one. Sontag delivered 2200 words of incoherent insinuation and general all-around poison. There was even some sexy-time talk!

By way of contrast, the Bush situation was assigned to page A18. It received 1100 words of fair and balanced treatment, as would be completely appropriate if not for the weird journalistic imbalance involved.

The earlier, endless “bombshell report” remains the most striking report of the so-called campaign. But uh-oh!

As with the Happy Hearts matter, it’s hard to see what the allegation turns out to be in that endlessly tricked-out report. That said, the 4400-word opus was clogged with insinuation; its sprawling layout and seven photos conveyed a clear impression. A reader had to proceed with great care to see that the Times had produced a journalistic chimera—a report which produces no indication that any offense occurred.

We detected the smell of total war in Sontag’s front-page report. No such odor emanates from this morning’s report.

We still want to follow up on the earlier bombshell report. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the slippery report about alleged disclosure problems which appeared in the Times one week later. We’ll also engage in a very rare act:

We’ll ask public editor Margaret Sullivan to clarify a seven-year old alleged fact.
In the end, isn’t it time that we start getting basic facts right?

We’ve seen this very bad movie before. We’ll suggest that you start fighting back hard, and that you do so right now.

Tomorrow: How to read the New York Times

This afternoon: The front page of today’s Post


  1. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    1. These comments suggest there are not a lot of readers, period. Casual or otherwise.

      Take the current "Series" and its supplements started on June 1.

      1) 9 main comments, 2 of which were by DinC, and 2 by spammers.

      The remaining 61 were responses to 7 unmoderated offerings

      2) 9 main comments, 2 by spammers.

      The remaining 17 were responses to 7 unmoderated offerings.

      3) 9 main comments, 3 by spammers and 1 Disclaimer

      The remaining 15 were responses to the 6 unmoderated offerings.

      4) 5 main comments, 4 by spammers

      The remaining 8 were responses to the one unmoderated offering.

      6) 5 main comments

      The remaining 18 were responses to these unmoderated offerings.

      7) 4 main comments.

      3 of the main comments and all remaining 11 responses about abortion or abortion comments.

      My personal favorite is the most recent post about Hillary the Sunday School student.

      After the second comment interjected the abortion issue, no one else chose to comment on anything in the post, until this morning, until a familiar voice offered this comment:

      "Once again, the fetus-obsessed fanatics try to hijack a thoughtful discussion about a serious issue. We get it. You don't like women's legal freedom of choice in reproductive health. Go away."

      No offense, but there was no thoughtful discussion about a serious issue.

    2. So then, why are you here? Is your post a "a thoughtful discussion about a serious issue"? If so, I have missed the point.

    3. I think it is nice that someone replies to the Disclaimer writer. Lack of comments often indicate nobody is reading the work you so painstakingly repeat day after day.

    4. The comment by @ 12:26 seems to be a thoughtful response to points made by @ 11:18. If you do not find 11:18's comments raise a serious issue, you should respond to that commenter or perhaps join in that commenter's implied call for moderation of the comments.

    5. You speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love. You are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal

    6. "His speech is a burning fire;
      With his lips he travaileth;
      In his heart is a blind desire,
      In his eyes foreknowledge of death;
      He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
      Sows, and he shall not reap;
      His life is a watch or a vision
      Between a sleep and a sleep."

      Before the Beginning of Years by A.C. Swinburne

  2. Tomorrow: Unexplained Haitian protesters!

  3. What is there to say about today's post. It is certainly true that the NY Times treats its favored candidates differently than any Clinton. That may be news to readers unfamiliar with the ongoing content of this blog. It is not new to regular readers.

    I find it depressing that the NY Times keeps up this BS approach to the presidential campaign. I don't think the Times should give the Republicans the Hillary treatment too -- that would just be more bad journalism. I wish they would report the serious policy statements being made by various candidates, with some analysis of the problems each candidate is trying to address. For example, today Hillary talked about voter suppression. Why isn't there coverage of her remarks and the problem more generally?

    I hope Bush does get investigated. He deserves it because his approach his dishonest. I hope other candidates will recognize that and attack him on it. Hillary Clinton probably won't, but Jeb is so stupid that she will win just by being coherent and well-informed during debates, expressing her ideas clearly as she always does.

    1. "For example, today Hillary talked about voter suppression. Why isn't there coverage of her remarks and the problem more generally?"

      Do you really have to ask that question?

      I read the most astounding story the other day. Do you know what these "journalists" spent their time doing? They all got together to meet and compare notes and grievances with the way they are being treated by the Hillary campaign.

      Monday's meeting, which included about 17 journalists from outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Time and McClatchy, was an attempt not only to discuss such concerns, but eventually to present them to the campaign in a unified way.

      Attendees discussed the feeling that the campaign hasn't provided enough notice for events, resulting in logistical difficulties for those trying to cover them. ...
      And it goes on and on and on like that, the poor dears. Mind you now, these are "journalists" all in competition with one another, supposedly.

      The story doesn't mention whether they agreed on the colors and graphic design for their team tea shirts.

    2. The big babies. Imagine for one second they were forced to cover their own campaign "journalism" from, say, the last two years. Its accuracy, its predictive value, its relevance to -- ha ha -- the lives of voters.

  4. Newspapers used to run the verbatim speeches of candidates. POTUS channel on Sirius/XM used to broadcast the speeches of candidates live (and repeated later in the day). Sort of like a c-span for the national election. I wish this were more readily available to voters. I don't want my exposure to candidates predigested by the NY Times, their 20-something and 30-something reporters or op-ed writers. I want to hear and decide for myself what each candidate is like and what he or she stands for.

    1. I am tired of comments from people on the downhill slope of life. Enough of their constant expressions of disdain for younger people. Based on test scores, these younger achievers obviously perform at levels two years higher on average than those running up health care costs and payroll taxes, flapping their soon to be toothless gums and tiptoeing around the grave.

      Get away from your keyboard and get some exercise. You'll be happier and cost the rest of us a lot less.

    2. Way to troll, dude!

  5. The whale is sound asleep in the woods dreaming of R-bombs.

    1. Talking in your sleep, ya poor dumb thing

  6. In a sane world, the undisclosed, unlimited contributions to candidate (or not!) Bush's Super Pac would be of more concern to journalists than disclosed donations to candidate Clinton's husband's highly ranked charity. Ergo, today's political reporting is not sane. .

  7. I just want my kids back.

  8. Has Bob written about black kids in a while? Please don't tell me their sole defender has lost interest.

    1. Bill Clinton once stood in an elevator next to someone who took a bribe 10 years earlier, so Hillary can't be president, dontcha know?

  9. Yesterday the Phoenix Arizona public radio station KJZZ aired a report about the June 2, 1976 car bombing of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles.

    The Arizona Republic would not continue Bolles’ investigation into Arizona mobs and political corruption. The AZ Republic even refused to investigate Bolle’s murder!

    “Thirty-eight journalists from 28 newspapers and television stations across the country descended on Arizona. Some came sponsored by their news organizations. Others used their vacation time. Some stayed for a month or longer. Others for just a week. Working under Bob Greene, they set out not to find Bolles' killer but to finish his work of exposing Arizona's tangled underworld.”

    Both the New York Times and the Washington Post, considered the most reliable news sources in the nation, refused to do an investigation unless they alone were in charge.
    The NYT said a bunch of crusading reporters would be at each other’s throats in a few days.

    “The team-produced series made its debut on March 13, 1977, amid continuing controversy. Among those publishing the series: Newsday, The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Boston Globe, The Indianapolis Star, and The Denver Post. The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson was the sole newspaper in Arizona to publish the series. Many others carried reports from the Associated Press that began on March 18, five days after the first stories started.”

    Are the NYT and WaPo better newspapers than they were 50 years ago?
    I think not.
    That’s why I read TDH.
    And that’s why I ignore the trolls that post on his blog.
    If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself.


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