The gang which couldn't endorse straight: It remains amazingly hard to learn who sits on the editorial board of the New York Times.
More on that puzzle this afternoon. We can tell you this:
Kathleen Kingsbury is deputy editorial page editor of the Times. She's only been with the Times since 2017, but she does seem to serve on the editorial board.
Rather plainly, Kingsbury seems to have been in charge of the process which recently issued in the paper's presidential endorsement(s). James Bennet, the editorial page editor who "oversees the editorial board," doesn't seem to have taken part in the process, a fact which has gone unexplained.
Briefly, let's be clear:
When we say that Kingsbury was in charge, we refer to Kathleen Kingsbury, not to Alex Kingsbury, who also seems to sit on the board.
These Kingsburys traveled to the Times from the Boston Globe in the past few years. Are they spouses? Siblings? Should it seem strange to see spouses or siblings serving together on an editorial board?
Despite the most transparent endorsement process in history, we can't answer such questions. We can't even tell you, with full certainty, who's on the aforementioned board.
Whatever! As is perfectly appropriate, Kathleen Kingsbury seems to have been in charge of the endorsement process. That fact seemed clear on the Sunday night's hour-long cable broadcast, in which the public was given an unfortunate look at the way the endorsement(s) were chosen—at the way the sausage was made.
The board is currently being mocked as the gang which couldn't endorse straight. The ridicule stems from the fact that the board decided to endorse two candidates in a Democratic nomination fight which only one hopeful can win.
That decision was quite unusual—"unprecedented," even! Arguably, the board made matters somewhat worse when it decided to endorse each of the female candidates who currently have a chance to prevail, then closed its editorial with the arguably unfortunate riposte, "May the best woman won."
Given the state of our failing culture, reactions were preordained. On the left, overwrought types quickly tweeted that the board was saying that it takes two women to do the job of one man.
On the right, a second reaction was preordained. The board is so tragically woke, pundits said, that it felt it had to endorse both possible women. The New York Times was willing to leave no woman behind!
Given the way the New York Times has been flirting with Death By Woke, that second interpretation did quickly pop into our own heads when we learned on the twin endorsements. That said, it may just be that this closely resembles the way the votes of the board members really came out.
Should the board have endorsed two people in a race only one can win? It seems like a slightly odd thing to do, but Moses presented no tablets establishing rules for such matters.
We'll suggest a different objection—though we'll also say that something important can be learned from this widely ridiculed endorsement event.
At the start of Sunday night's TV show—it aired at 10 PM Eastern on FX—(Kathleen) Kingsbury explained how the endorsement process works. A tiny suggestion of self-praise may have been in the air:
KINGSBURY (1/19/20): Every election year, we invite all the candidates to New York and we interview them.Those intrepid board members! They pose "tough questions" to the hopefuls, the questions they're not being asked!
We sit down and we ask them tough questions, questions that they're not being asked on the debate stage or on the campaign trail. And then finally, we make a decision.
Soon, we were treated to one example. It came from Kingsbury herself. She posed a tough one to Candidate Biden:
KINGSBURY: Sir, we’re running out of time and I want to get to some economic questions as well as foreign policy.She wanted to ask about the economy and of course about foreign affairs. But before she did, she wanted to know who has broken Joe's heart!
But before that, we have been asking every candidate the same question, which is, who’s someone who has broken your heart?
In a letter in this morning's Times, a writer says this question was cruel, given the well-known personal tragedies Candidate Biden has faced.
In fairness, though, Kingsbury wasn't joking when she said that this same question was being posed to every one of the candidates. Here she is, posing the same tough question to Candidate Warren, this time with a tough follow-up:
KINGSBURY: Well, one more personal question for you. Who has broken your heart?To her credit, Candidate Warren said that she did mind. Below, you see the deputy editorial board editor posing the tough one to Bernie:
WARREN: My first husband.
KINGSBURY: Why? Do you mind telling?
KINGSBURY: I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a couple of more personal questions. Can you give us an example of one person who’s broken your heart?Two leading candidates ducked the question. Only of the the pair got endorsed!
SANDERS: [AFTER A LONG PAUSE] What, on a personal level?
SANDERS: No. I won’t. Even candidates for president of the United States have a limited amount of privacy.
Deputy Kingsbury did indeed ask that question of every hopeful. Let us say this about that:
We'll assume that Kathleen Kingsbury is a good, decent, admirable person. Her official bio at the Times reads, in part, as follows:
NEW YORK TIMES: Kathleen Kingsbury is deputy editorial page editor of The New York Times. She joined The Times in 2017 from The Boston Globe, where she served as managing editor for digital.(Kathleen) Kingsbury may be the world's greatest person. But she, like so many others, is part of a fatuous, upper-end journalistic culture which long ago began leaving this nation for dead.
Ms. Kingsbury joined The Globe’s editorial board in 2013 and later edited Ideas, the paper's Sunday section aimed at tackling the new thinking, intellectual trends and big ideas that shape our world. In this role, Ms. Kingsbury was also a deputy managing editor and the deputy editorial page editor.
She was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished editorial writing for a series on low wages and the mistreatment of workers in the restaurant industry. The same eight-part series, “Service Not Included,” also received the Scripps Howard Foundation’s 2014 Walker Stone Award for editorial writing and the Burl Osborne Award for editorial leadership from the American Society of News Editors.
As far as we know, no one has ever explained why the final decision on these endorsements was hers. But just for the record, Kingbury is shown saying this to the rest of the board after their final discussion of the candidates:
KINGSBURY: I feel very torn. I don't know. I don't know what the answer is, but I actually—like, there's part of me that leaves this room like being a little bit terrified by the idea of choosing just one of them.Why was the final decision hers? On what basis was it finally made?
I have a few questions I want to ask to call the candidates specifically about and then I'll use that to make my final decision.
In this most transparent process of all time, no explanations were given. For ourselves, we find it less than impressive to see Kingsbury saying she feels terrified by such a decision—when she says how much she "hemmed and hawed" before she reached that decision.
Even for us, what we saw in that TV hour was less impressive than what we would have imagined. In fairness, no one is known to have died in the filming of the Times' TV show. Also, no one was asked what kind of tree they would be if they could be a tree.
That said, anyone watching Sunday's embarrassing TV show might well come away with a valuable lesson. For our money, Kurt Andersen captured it with this invaluable tweet:
ANDERSEN (1/20/20): Most mortifying self-own of the Times TV show (as opposed to the good hours of interviews) was when they discuss each candidate. Not just undignified reality-show-judge-ish, but the total demystification—they’re no smarter or more knowing or wiser than somebody at a dinner party.They’re no smarter or more knowing than somebody at a dinner party? Based simply on the TV hour, we'd have to say that Andersen is possibly being too kind.
Andersen's tweet suggests that the actual interviews with the candidates were less dumb than one might think from watching the TV program. That would almost have to be true—but on balance, the TV hour was an embarrassment, as many others have said.
One such observer is New York magazine's Raymond. Before posting Andersen's tweet, he made these accurate comments:
RAYMOND (1/20/20): Nine candidates, one prize, loads of drama—for the first time since handing out its first presidential endorsement to Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the Times’s process of announcing its pick for the next commander-in-chief drew comparisons to The Apprentice and LeBron James’s “The Decision.” What was billed by Kathleen Kingsbury, the deputy editor of the editorial page, as the “most transparent endorsement process to date” was instead a self-indulgent spectacle that seemed less transparent than performative.Even Feinberg got it right! Can Schwedel be far behind?
“The promised inside look at how the Times made one of its most ostensibly important decisions of the year turned out to mean viewers spent an hour watching the paper crumble under the weight of its own self-importance,” Ashley Feinberg wrote for Slate.
The whole show was a contrived bit of drama meant to satisfy the demands of a TV show, which meant keeping viewers hooked until the end to find out who the paper would choose. While some took issue with treating an important election with such frivolity, others noted the irony of the Times criticizing Trump’s reality TV presidency while turning its own endorsement into reality TV.
Dating to the days of earth tones and "invented the Internet;" dating to the days when mainstream reporters hid in the bushes, late at night, to see if Candidate Hart had a girl friend;
Dating to the days when Maureen Dowd sent America to the polls with visions of Candidate Gore singing "I Feel Pretty" in their heads; dating to the evening when Bernie Shaw asked Candidate Dukakis what he'd do if his wife was raped and murdered;
Dating through all those pre-Trump years, this nation has been afflicted with the viral intellectual sickness which is known as upper-end press corps culture.
That culture has dropped a remarkably stable type of dumbness on the heads of our failing nation. If you watch Sunday's TV show, you'll see that culture in action, if only in the fact that the Times was so dumb that they didn't understand how dumb that show would seem.
Who's so dumb that they couldn't see how dumb that show would seem? How much it would look like the dumbest kind of reality TV? How much it would resemble the televised dumbness which once came from an earlier version of Trump? How it would seem to reek of the self-indulgent self-importance Raymond thought he spotted?
Kingsbury wanted to talk about serious issues, but she kept popping her really tough question instead. No candidate was asked what tree they would be, but based upon other televised manifestations, surely some members were wondering.
How do people from normal backgrounds become so dumb and so fatuous? Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves are working on that question today, despondently seeking an answer.
Who has broken your heart? Might a sensible person start by naming the a certain newspaper?
This afternoon: Who actually sits on that board?
Tomorrow: Even younger than Mayor Pete!