It sure looks like it.
The Times columnist is catching flack this week for saying one thing about Sarah Palin while speaking to media elite swells (her VP candidacy is joke), and another in his Times column (she is the rising star of the GOP).
But critics have it all wrong, claims Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. Brooks isn't being dishonest or a hypocrite, by toasting her debate performance last Friday in the Times and then on Monday calling her a "cancer" on the Republican Party.
Brooks wasn't being duplicitous, says media elite Goldberg, he was just being honest; he just "wrestles" with tough issues in public. And you know what, we ought to toast him for it.
For the record, both Goldberg and Brooks were loud cheerleaders for the war in Iraq and now say well, it wasn't the best idea. Are we supposed to thank them for wrestling with that issue as well?
Beltway journalists -- so long in love with John McCain -- seem to have trouble accepting this, but John McCain owns his campaign. He's responsible for it. Its actions are his actions. It is him. You can like it, dislike it, whatever. But it's his campaign. Journalists and pundits shouldn't give him credit for leaving the extra-nasty lines to his minions.
But that's just what David Gergen did on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:
ANDERSON COOPER: David, "The New York Times" published a scathing editorial about the McCain campaign today and saying in part "They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent's record into the dark territory of race baiting and xenophobia."
McCain campaign says, "Look this is just standard fair from 'The New York Times' what else do you expect?" Do you think the "Times" is on to something?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think "The New York Times" has a serious point and it should be considered.
The good news, Anderson, is that over the past 24 hours or so there have been very encouraging signs from John McCain himself.
He did not bring out Bill Ayers last night. He has put Reverend Wright off limits for his campaign. And after the debate last night his top aides told "Politico" that he did not intend to bring up Bill Ayers. He wasn't going to go down that road. And he wanted to keep Reverend Wright off the -- out of the campaign.
The issue has been what's been going on at Sarah Palin's rallies. That's where the real trouble is because it's the combination of her rhetoric, which is whipping up these crowds, and these ugly scenes that have occurred in these rallies.
And when Obama's name has been used it not only brought these boos, but we've had reports now of somebody yelling out "terrorist," about Obama. And at another rally somebody yelling out "kill him, kill him." At another rally people shouting racial epitaphs --
COOPER: You can't control though what people say in a crowd though, can you, David?
GERGEN: Yes, you can.
MADISON: Oh yes.
GERGEN: And it is up to Sarah Palin at her rally and for John McCain to tell her if she doesn't start doing this, to stop right there and take issue with what's been said and say this has no place in our campaign and we do not condone this and please let's show more respect.
COOPER: That's a fair point.
GERGEN: I think it's up to her.
GERGEN: Again, I think we should give credit to John McCain for not going down this road himself last night in the debate. And for making it clear he does not want to go down the road in the next few days.
Last night, Gergen seemed to stop giving McCain credit:
COOPER: There's also the question of ruling after this, and bringing the country together. It's going to be all the more harder to do that whoever wins with all this anger out there.
GERGEN: This -- I think one of the most striking things we've seen now in the last few day. We've seen it in a Palin rally. We saw it at the McCain rally today. And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that.
GERGEN: I think it's so -- well, I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now. I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down. And that's why I've argued not only because of the question of the ugliness of it.
But I think McCain ought to get his campaign off the road and look at the -- and get the best economic minds in the country together and come back Monday, Tuesday, with a really serious speech. He's the one who ought to be buying TV time, talking to the country.
It's actually very important that journalists recognize that John McCain is personally responsible for what he and his campaign are doing, for better or worse. Journalists who think John McCain's campaign is honorable and virtuous and honest should recognize that campaign is McCain's doing, and their reporting should reflect that. But journalists who think McCain's campaign is behaving dishonorably or recklessly but let McCain himself off the hook (by insisting this isn't the real McCain, and he's better than this, and claiming that he isn't personally "going down this road") are, in effect, excusing these tactics. They're sending a signal to future candidates that they won't be held responsible for their campaign tactics.
One of the key incentives to run a clean campaign is the desire to avoid being thought of as sleazy. But if the media insists that candidates who run sleazy campaigns are not themselves sleazy, that incentive disappears.
Politico's Ben Smith notices a problem with WND's claims to have found "proof" that Barack Obama "backed" Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga. WND's evidence is a screenshot of emails that Jerome Corsi claims Obama personally sent. But, Smith explains:
A small glitch: These emails, above, appear not to have been written by a native English speaker, unless "I will kindly wish..." is a phrase I'm just unfamiliar with. They have the unmistakable flavor of solicitations from dying African princes, who need only your bank account details to make you wealthy beyond measure.
At least the Bush National Guard documents were written in the right language.
But no mind. Fox & Friends has already been all over it this morning.
It seems the only remaining questions are whether Corsi is the dishonest perpetrator of an email hoax, or the victim -- and whether the WND/Corsi relationship reflects more poorly on WND or on Corsi.
According to Boston Globe TV critic Ed Siegel, who thinks folks should chill on the whole Fox-News-is-propaganda and just appreciate it the outlet for what it is--fun.
Note that Seigel doesn't disagree that FNC is pretty much an appendage to the RNC or that it, and especially Bill O'Reilly, spreads misinformation at will. It's just that he doesn't think it matters that much; that people should see Fox News for what it is, "pretty entertaining."
On Stephen Colbert's show this week and I'm sure his cable colleagues are not too happy.
The topic was the Bill Ayers story and the inordinate amount of time it has received on TV this week, considering there are no new facts to be discussed [emphasis added]:
We talk about it because it's not relevant. … We talk about it for a very long time and, we reveal, after the ratings come in to help us out, that we shouldn't be talking about it.
Glenn Greenwald eviscerates Washington Post reporter Dan Balz' bizarre and inaccurate portrayal of both campaigns as equally nasty. Balz' article was one of the worst examples of false equivalence in quite some time, as Greenwald demonstrates.
Mordant chuckles ensue.
Take a look at how Glenn Reynolds talked up the economy all year, while mocking those who raised concerns.
Of analyzing, in any kind of serious way, a White House campaign for The New York Times. He's just not. That became glaringly obvious from his almost uniformly awful, and trivial, coverage of Hillary Clinton during the primary season.
Now he's moved over to covering Obama and his work is just as bad. Healy's car-wreck effort today in the Times affirms that depressing fact.
Headlined, "Obama Wraps His Hopes Inside Economic Anxiety," the shaky premise is that Obama has been running on the message of hope but now, thanks to the economic meltdown, all the Wall Street news is depressing so there's a contradiction there.
Healy thinks is hugely important or jarring or significant or something that on the campaign trail the hope candidate acknowledges the country if facing a crisis and uses words like "anxiety," and "worse" and "crisis." So gloomy!
At the same campaign event, Healy reported, Obama "veered sharply" toward a more optimistic theme, stressing "there are better days ahead." Confused, Healy announced that represented a "disconnect," because the candidate had just claimed the country was facing a crisis.
Are you following this? Basically, Obama told supporters things are bad now and if you vote for him he'll make things better. That's what Healy thought was newsworthy about the candidate's appeal.
The reporter also stressed that Obama "continues to promise that everything will get better once he is president, but does not explain how his programs and governing philosophy will adjust to new economic realities." But has Obama's opponent explained how his programs would adjust to the new economic realities? Not that we've seen, which suggest Healy's entire premise--Obama talks hope and won't detail pain--is hollow.
In the end, the article itself is not especially damaging to Obama mostly because it makes no sense. (Healy appears to be a graduate from the Jeff Gerth school of writing.) And in that regard it's just frustrating to watch the Times publish dreadful articles like this.
And oh yeah, the opening and the closing of Healy's article are also senseless.
The opening [emphasis added]:
When Senator Barack Obama began speaking about the economy on Wednesday, it sounded, at first, as if ghastly news was coming. Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, told thousands of people at a rally here that America was "at a moment of great uncertainty."
What person at the campaign rally, aside from Healy, thought that when Obama began talking about the economic crisis he was unveiling "ghastly news"? Doesn't everyone in America already know about the meltdown? Yes. So it made no sense to suggest "ghastly news was coming" when Obama referenced current events.
The closing (quoting Obama):
"We will all need to sacrifice. We will need to work a little harder," he said. "We will need to work a little smarter; parents will need to turn off their TV sets and make sure their children are doing their homework." Some in the grandstand applauded. Others laughed. It was hard to tell which sentiment Mr. Obama was looking for.
To analyze Obama's speech, Healy turned to "some [unnamed people] in the grandstand" and found that some applauded and some "laughed." But why did they laugh? It made no sense, but that's all we know because Healy didn't interview any of the laughers. But because it made no sense that people would laugh, Healy's conclusion that Obama was "looking for" people to laugh at his mention of TV and homework was also nonsensical. And that's how the article mercifully ended.
The New York Times has a long, proud tradition of highlighting campaign reporters who are able to size up elections and write with grace and insight about unfolding events and help make the campaign more sensible for readers.
Patrick Healy pretty much does the opposite.