Things have not been easy for liberals ever since they began to lose their ascendancy in the 1980s, and particularly so in recent years. Through thick and thin, however, liberals have taken solace in their domination of elite media outlets like the New York Times. Indeed, some liberals view the Times as their private preserve. This explains the outrage of so many readers, and disapproval of Times “public editor” Clark Hoyt, over the paper’s decision to allow Bill Kristol onto its editorial page.
It also explains the over-the-top reaction to Ed Whelan after he called to the Times’ attention the conflict of interest inherent in having Linda Greenhouse, its Supreme Court reporter, cover cases in which her husband has participated as a lawyer. In fact, Ed’s report brought into play two institutions that liberals have counted on to weather the conservative storm — the Times and (far less reliably) the Supreme Court. Greenhouse sits at the intersection of the two.
Thus, liberal legal commentators have been unwilling to let the matter of Greenhouse’s conflict end with the Times’ concession of the obvious — that (at a minimum) its readers should have been informed that Greenhouse’s husband participated on the side of terrorist detainees in certain cases she was covering. Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick weighed in here, criticizing the Times for not sticking up for the precious liberal asset that is Greenhouse. And Walter Dellinger, the Solicitor General of the United States during the Clinton administration, took up their cause here.
Ed answered Bazelon and Lithwick here. He pointed out, among other things, the inability of the two to distinguish between criticism on the merits, including asking for evidence to support one’s positions, and “being slimed.” Bazelon then confirmed Ed’s critique by calling him a “hatchet man.”
Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru has responded to Dellinger and (twice) to Bazelon-Lithwick. As to the “hatchet man” claim, Ponnuru wrote: “Whelan is really mean, a ‘hatchet man.’ He called one of Lithwick’s attacks on John Roberts ‘baseless.’ How awful.”
But, from the Lithwick-Bazelon-Dellinger perspective it really is awful not to be exempt from criticism when using one’s post at the primary liberal enclave to engage in battle over matters at the enclave liberals covet the most.
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