Ed Driscoll

The Gray Lady And Country Club Politics: Then And Now

That was then: In the immediate period after 9/11, Howell Raines, then maximum editor of the New York Times puts coverage of the war in Afghanistan, fears of domestic terrorism, and other pressing national issues largely on the back burner to focus on his pet cause: the Augusta National Golf Club’s refusal to admit female members. He obsesses on the story, to the point where the Times runs 95 stories on the topic from late 2002 to mid-2003.

This is now: When faced with a potentially controversial country club story that involves a very prominent leftwing challenger to a moderate liberal senator who only six years ago was a vice presidential candidate, how does the Times react? Tom Maguire writes:

This is from some recent Times coverage of Ned Lamont:

Mr. Lamont wears moderately priced suits from Jos. A. Bank and, at 52, still uses words like heck and poppycock. He quit an exclusive country club in Greenwich this year, saying it was too white and too rich and he did not want it to become a campaign issue.

The country club was “Too white and too rich”? The club in question is the Round Hill Club, where George Bush 41 met Barbara and Sen. Prescott Bush was once president.

And here is another description from Kevin Rennie, writing in the Hartford Courant:

Lamont recently discovered, for example, that the oh-so-waspy Round Hill Club in Greenwich is, well, not terribly inclusive, Biff. Golly, candidates for the U.S. Senate must do a lot of reflecting on how to make this world a better place for you and me. And they often discover that the very white, very Protestant associations they have enjoyed for many years are just not right, now that the world is taking a closer look at them.

“Oh so wasp-y”. I bet if the Times reporters made a few phone calls they would find that the Round Hill Club did not rush to embrace Jewish members over the years (that is based in part on the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” history of the Fairfield County area, and in part on my own ear-to-the ground rumor-mongering); I bet if they poked around, they would find that even today, the Round Hill Club is viewed as a WASP bastion.

Or maybe not! But how can the Times just slide past this? Ned Lamont does not want it to be an issue, so the Times accepts that at face value? Don’t they even want to know just what the non-issue might have been? C’mon we are talking about a virtually unknown candidate for the US Senate here – if he happily hung about in a de facto WASP-only club for ten years and then quit as a matter of political expediency, shouldn’t the Times try to figure out why? Especially in a story about how Jewish voters perceive the two candidates?

My guess – the Times would love to cover a three-way Senate race this fall, so they are comfortable going into the tank for Lamont right now. The fact that he is anti-war and anti-Bush (now that he quit his club) is just gravy.

On the plus-side, I guess it’s safe to say that the Howell Raines era truly is dead and buried at the Times.