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Midday: The Grey Lady’s Kiss of Death

Readers come to expect self-importance in campaign endorsements from the New York Times. Now that the paper has backed Clinton and McCain, Michael Weiss asks if this will help or hurt two candidates who are still tough sells in the red states?

by
Michael Weiss

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January 25, 2008 - 12:45 pm

Rudolph Giuliani’s candidacy for president must have evaporated in the minds of many on the day that Pat Robertson supported it. The preacher who thinks the terrorist attacks of September 11 were caused by abortionists, gays and lesbians, allying divine providence with the pro-choice, cross-dressing Atlas of that dark day? And be honest: how many of you realized “Barack Obama ’12″ was more likely after John Kerry declared for the Illinois senator in ’08?

When political endorsements aren’t banal and predictable, they’re disastrous. The New York Times has been a reliable Vesuvius every four years. The paper of record with all the opinions fit to have demands unity but stands a towering object lesson in polarization. Indeed, right now, across the American Middle West and South, there are campaign workers for John McCain and Hillary Clinton wondering how they’re going to cope with seismic levels of damage control.

The more enjoyable of the two endorsement essays is the Clinton one because of its orgasmic account of the senator’s managerial style and its very mild rebuking of her cynical electioneering:

Her ideas, her comeback in New Hampshire and strong showing in Nevada, her new openness to explaining herself and not just her programs, and her abiding, powerful intellect show she is fully capable of doing just that.

In other words, her on-demand waterworks, her implausibly deniable lawsuit against a Vegas trade union, and her willingness to evade responsibility for the Tammany-like actions of her underlings and husband – all this has conferred on Clinton the mantle of the executive. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

As for John McCain, his viability as the GOP candidate has more to do with his not being Rudy Giuliani than anything else. Try to avoid dizziness when reading off the impressive slate of credentials of this “genuine war hero among Republicans,” who, the Times editorial board reminds us, can’t quite “see clearly past the temporary victories produced by Mr. Bush’s unsustainable escalation.” As a practical architect of that escalation, he would have that problem, wouldn’t he?

Remarking on the Times’s hilariously condescending view of John Edwards and his “fiery oratory” as a kind of raucous traveling bumpkin roadshow, Capitoilette writes: “Thank heavens for small favors, right? I mean, at least Edwards has enlivened the race for the enjoyment of the board. Why ruin a good diversion with a few minutes spent actually looking up the facts?”

NRO‘s Jonah Goldberg says: “Brian Williams actually seems to think condemnation from the New York Times is a handicap for Rudy Giuliani and an endorsement from the Times for McCain is good for McCain. This is a Republican primary. He should have said, ‘Senator McCain, the New York Times says you are the best and most qualified of the Republican field, how can you hope to win the Republican nomination with friends like that?’”

Goldberg’s definitely on to something. Daniel Cassidy, an uberconservative from South Carolina, snarls at his Sunlit Uplands blog: “The New York Times endorsement of John McCain has left me feeling so warm and fuzzy I want to hug a tree, buy some Birkenstocks, read Jimmy Carter’s memoirs, and workout with a Jane Fonda video.”

Conspiracy Squirrels lives up to half its name by asking the second question: “Is the Times endorsing McCain because he is the one that would govern the way that the NYT would like the country to be governed? Or does the Times view McCain as the best bet on the Republican side to beat Hillary Clinton, whom they also endorse, and they cynically feel that their endorsement will kill McCain’s primary candidacy and get him out of the way for their girl? Probably a bit of both.”

Sure enough, Giuliani and Romney have tried to lay golden eggs with their bad press. As Shushannah Walshe at Fox News’s Embed Producers blog observes: “It’s not a surprise given the GOP hatred for the Gray Lady that the Rudy and Romney camps would jump on the New York Times endorsement of John McCain. But, the Giuliani campaign beat the Romney camp in sending out the ‘In Case You Missed It’ highlighting the endorsement. While walking into the debate the Romney camp chuckled learning of the endorsement saying THEY were going to put out an ‘In Case You Missed It’ on it.

Vote Mitt for President
already did: “Let me say it again in cased you missed it: If John McCain had actually been a conservative senator, the New York Times would have hated his guts like they hate Giuliani’s and Mitt’s. That would have left the New York Times in the predicament of having to endorse Huckabee, whose stance on social issues would normally make the NYT going running screaming in the other direction, but whose stance on spending, taxing, and immigration is so similar to Democrats as to almost be a complete match. I’m surprised they didn’t give Huckabee a Runner Up nod, to be honest.”

“The Times has gone over the professional line in its assaults on Giuliani and should not be regarded as a fair arbiter on a man it gratuitously trashes,” submits Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News. “To read The Times on a regular basis is to forget that Giuliani was the mayor who cleaned up New York and helped guide the nation out of the chaos and fear of 9/11… It would be the height of irony if The Times’ political hit job resurrected a campaign that has cratered.”

Michael Weiss is the New York Editor of PJ Media. His blog is Snarksmith.

Michael Weiss is a senior editor of Tablet Magazine and a culture blogger for The New Criterion. He also writes occasionally for Slate, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The New York Daily News and Standpoint.
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