Saturday, August 22, 2009

Climbing Out of the Tank?

I read somewhere the other day a caustic comment about Jim Wallis by someone (I forget who) to the effect that it is one thing to be in the tank for Obama but it is another to swim down to the bottom of the tank and chain oneself to the grate until one drowns. Well, there are signs that The New York Times may be struggling to climb out of the Obama tank - or at least keep its head above water.

The gripping saga of the "How the Newspaper of Record's Faith in the Messiah Began to Waver Ever So Slightly" begins with a story by Jim Rutenberg on Aug. 13 headlined "False ‘Death Panel’ Rumor Has Some Familiar Roots." Written in the breathless style of an intrepid reporter uncovering the news that Hilary Clinton's "Vast Right-wing Conspiracy" has raised its ugly head again, it began:

"The stubborn yet false rumor that President Obama’s health care proposals would create government-sponsored “death panels” to decide which patients were worthy of living seemed to arise from nowhere in recent weeks.

Advanced even this week by Republican stalwarts including the party’s last vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and Charles E. Grassley, the veteran Iowa senator, the nature of the assertion nonetheless seemed reminiscent of the modern-day viral Internet campaigns that dogged Mr. Obama last year, falsely calling him a Muslim and questioning his nationality."

Now, the fact that this story was written by Jim Rutenberg is significant because, as Richard Baehr points out:

"There is perhaps no other Times "news writer" who has proven himself so willing and able to prostrate himself in service to the political agenda of the New York Times. Rutenberg was the lead author for another front page New York Times whopper in 2008 -- a fake story that slimed John McCain, insinuating that he had an affair with lobbyist Vicki Iselin, and was no more than your basic Congressional influence peddler."

The Aug. 13 Rutenberg story then accused the Washington Times of being anti-Obama in its reporting:

"The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times."

That questioning of their journalistic integrity did not sit too well with the editors of the Washington Times and they "complained" to the New York Times. Lo and behold, on Aug. 15, The Washington Times published this statement:

"A senior editor of the New York Times apologized to The Washington Times for publishing a front-page story Friday that accused The Washington Times of being "decidedly opposed" to President Barack Obama.

Dean Baquet, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times, telephoned Washington Times editors, offered an apology to the staff and said he would run a correction. "I would never say your paper has been anything but absolutely fair and objective to Obama," Mr. Baquet told The Washington Times' Managing Editor-Print David Jones.

"We agree and accept the Times' apology," Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon wrote to his staff. The New York Times story examines the genesis of the accusation by Obama critics that the pending health-care reform proposal in Congress includes "death panels."

The story asserted: "The specter of government-sponsored, forced euthanasia was raised as early as Nov. 23, just weeks after the election and long before any legislation had been drafted, by an outlet decidedly opposed to Mr. Obama, The Washington Times."

Mr. Solomon called that shorthand, "wrong, inaccurate, irresponsible and insulting." Mr. Baquet telephoned Washington Times editors after Mr. Solomon complained.

Then, on Aug. 20, we find a story on The New York Times headlined: "A Basis Is Seen for Some Health Plan Fears Among the Elderly." The story begins:

"White House officials and Democrats in Congress say the fears of older Americans about possible rationing of health care are based on myths and falsehoods. But Medicare beneficiaries and insurance counselors say the concerns are not entirely irrational.

Bills now in Congress would squeeze savings out of Medicare, a lifeline for the elderly, on the assumption that doctors and hospitals can be more efficient.

President Obama has sold health care legislation to Congress and the country as a way to slow the growth of federal health spending, no less than as a way to regulate the insurance market and cover the uninsured.

Mr. Obama has also said Medicare and private insurers could improve care and save money by following advice from a new federal panel of medical experts on “what treatments work best.”

The zeal for cutting health costs, combined with proposals to compare the effectiveness of various treatments and to counsel seniors on end-of-life care, may explain why some people think the legislation is about rationing, which could affect access to the most expensive services in the final months of life."

Read the rest here.

So in the space of a week, the Palin "Death Panel" accusation went from being a "stubborn yet false rumour" to "not entirely irrational." Quite an amazing turn around, that. In other words, "kindly disregard what we said the other day. Sarah Palin just might be right after all, though it is too painful for us to come right out and say so."

When even the New York Times begins to waver in its fervent worship of "The Messiah" you know the wheels are coming off the Obama bandwagon.

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