FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2021
Letters regarding the stalemate: We're often amazed by the letters the New York Times chooses to publish.
We're sometimes amazed by the way the Times chooses to package these letters. Consider the letters in yesterday's Times about the current stalemate in Congress.
The Times published two such letters. (They were accompanied by a third letter about the federal debt limit.) The first of these letters made no sense at all, and yet the Times chose to fashion this condescending headline from it:
Memo to Democrats: ‘Grow Up. Do Your Job.’
That sneering headline sat above the package of three letters. The headline had been fashioned from this, the first letter in the bunch:
To the Editor:
How is it that Republicans can remain united on almost all issues, even a treasonous assault on national elections, and still win elections, and Democrats can’t compromise with themselves to get their bills passed?
Democrats seem to think that having “guts” means taking your ball and going home if you don’t get everything you want. Two words: Grow up.
Do your job. Which means you must compromise and play well with others (as you should have learned in kindergarten).
Give and take and get the best you can for the American people. You remember, the people who elected you!
Under the circumstances, does the sneering tone of that headline (and of that letter) actually make sense? Consider:
In the current circumstance, Democrats have only fifty senators. In the matter which is still in dispute, they must acquire the votes of all fifty to get anything passed under reconciliation rules.
Any one senator can completely scuttle the process. Given that circumstance, does it really make sense to scold "Democrats" (plural) for not knowing how to play well with others, something they should have learned in kindergarten?
We can't see why a newspaper would even want to publish this letter. Inevitably, the Times took things one step farther, fashioning a sneering headline from the letter's tenuous logic.
We have a somewhat difficult time following the logic of the second letter too. Consider:
In that letter, the writer says the $3.5 trillion proposal "is long overdue." Beyond that, he correctly notes that F.D.R. and L.B.J. were able to pass bold programs "because both had whopping big majorities in Congress," while today's Democrats are stuck with a 50-50 Senate.
From there, he goes on to say that "progressive Democrats will have to make a deal with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema." That's (obviously) true as far as it goes, but what if one of the two solons he names refuses to agree to any deal? This second writer doesn't seem to have considered that possibility.
Hypothetically, if Sinema refuses to make a deal, the Democrats won't be able to pass a reconciliation bill at all! How are progressive Democrats supposed to "make a deal" then? Meanwhile, how are the other Democrats, in the Senate and in the House, supposed to "grow up" and "do their job" in a circumstance like that?
Surely, the New York Times received various letters which made cogent points concerning the current stalemate. In this instance, the paper chose to publish a pair of letters which didn't exactly make sense, and they chose to fashion a stereotypical, scolding headline from the first letter's bungled logic.
The Times does this sort of thing remarkably often. It brands itself as a very bright newspaper. The reality is often quite different.