Time is on their side

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Time magazine has an incredibly slanted article on Joe Lieberman's upcoming czara hearings:

There has been a lot of talk - and some hyperbole - in recent weeks surrounding the Obama Administration's growing stable of imperial "czars."

"Imperial"? What, exactly, is "imperial" about it? There's nothing "imperial" about it -- but that word nicely reinforces the crazy rantings of people like Glenn Beck (who, by the way, is cited in the article and who was the topic of a recent deeply-flawed Time profile.)

More Time:

"The use of so-called czars in the White House certainly didn't begin with President Obama," says Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and the committee's chairman. "But it has grown over the years..."

Oh, really? So President Obama uses more "so-called czars" than previous presidents, according to Lieberman. Is that true? Time doesn't bother to say, but does (eventually) quote White House counsel Greg Craig saying the Bush administration had more czars. Is Lieberman right, or is Craig? Time won't tell you. So why does it bother running an article about the subject?


There is a danger that Congress's constitutional duty of oversight is being skirted, Lee Casey, a partner at the law firm Baker Hostetler and a former adviser to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, is expected to tell the committee, according to his written testimony, a copy of which was obtained by TIME.

That would be former Reagan and Bush administration official Lee Casey. Time neglected to mention that little detail.


[Sen. Susan] Collins is asking that the Administration make all czars available to Congress to testify and that the President submit a semi-annual report on their activities. Lieberman, while sharing her concerns, does not support forcing the Administration to make the czars available or to report back to Congress - at least not yet. That, after all, is what the hearing is about: to find out how concerned Congress should be.

Well, no. That is presumably what Lieberman says the hearing is about. But for all Time knows, it's about political grandstanding. They shouldn't be taking Lieberman's characterization of the purpose of the hearing as gospel. Particularly given that -- if Craig is right -- Lieberman isn't telling the truth about the relative numbers of czars in the Obama and Bush administrations. And particularly given that Lieberman could have held such a hearing while Bush was president -- but didn't.

UPDATE: Atrios points to a response from Time's Jay Newton-Small:

I presented both sides of the story. I'll leave it to columnists and readers to draw their own conclusions on who had the best case.

That is simply absurd. This isn't a situation where one side says chocolate ice cream is best and the other says vanilla is superior. Lieberman says the Obama administration has more czars than previous administrations. Craig says it has fewer. One of those things must be true, and one must be false. it is -- or should be -- Newton-Small's job to tell us which is true, and which is false. Otherwise ... well, her article is kind of pointless, isn't it? "Maybe 2+2 = 4, and maybe 2+2 = 14. I dunno. You figure it out."

This, by the way, is exactly the kind of nonsense that marked Time's Beck profile. Some say 2 million people were at a rally; others say 70,000. We gave you both sides. You figure it out.

I'd love for Newton-Small or anyone else at Time to explain exactly what value they think they're providing to readers when they report two statements, one of which must be false, but refuse to say which.

UPDATE 2: This just keeps getting better. More from Newton-Small, defending her refusal to indicate which claim is true:

I believe quite firmly that the proliferation of Huffington Posts, Matt Drudges and other slanted news is what's killing our profession. If you are looking for news with an opinion, that's great. But I think news should be about representing both sides; striving for balance and fairness. Unfortunately, reliably unbiased news is harder and harder to come by these days because news agencies are trying to cater to people like you: people who prefer to view the world through one lens or another but rarely both.

The basic problem here seems to be that Jay Newton-Small has no idea what "opinion" means. Lieberman says use of czars has increased. Craig says they have decreased. One is right, the other is wrong. Opinion has nothing to do with it. It's a simple matter of counting.

But to Time magazine's Jay Newton-Small, "fairness" requires treating true statements and false statements as precisely equally likely to be true. She comes right out and says it! She actually thinks that's "fair," and reporting what the truth is would be unfair. Incredible.

Again: This is not a what's-the-best-ice-cream question. This is a simple matter of two competing factual claims. They aren't simply two different "lenses," one is true, the other is false.

Time Magazine
Jay Newton-Small
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