The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto is an incredibly talented and witty daily journalist, as he regularly demonstrates in his Best of the Web Today column. He’s also a wonderful critic of the New York Times. Here, for example, is his “shorter Paul Krugman,” condensed version of Krugman’s Thursday column: “Uh-oh, Obama’s talking about me! ”
Taranto considered last week’s New York Times editorial Krugmania at greater length in “The authoritarian media.” He rendered this harsh judgment: “To describe the Tucson massacre as an act of ‘political violence,” as the Times editorial had done, “is, quite simply, a lie.”
Today Taranto turns his attention to New York Times reporter Kate Zernike and the Times at large. Taranto excuses Zernike for a weak article on which she shared a joint byline with Carl Hulse, but he holds the Times to account: “If yellow journalism appears under her byline in the Times, it is the fault of her editors and the paper’s corrupt culture. How corrupt? So corrupt that the Hulse-Zernike piece was, by the standards of the Times last week, a relatively minor case of journalistic malpractice.” Do read the whole invigorating thing.
In the January issue of Commentary Taranto reviews Zernike’s Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America. Taranto speaks well of the book; he finds that Zernike presents a largely fair and measured account of the populist rebellion against Obama’s aggressively liberal presidency. “This is not to say that Zernike is ideologically sympathetic to the Tea Partiers or even that she rejects the stereotypes altogether,” Taranto writes. At one point, she declares that “race certainly played some part in the opposition to Obama,” and Taranto quotes Zernike:
The fact that about 30 percent of the Tea Party supporters in the New York Times/CBS poll believed that Obama was not born in this country and therefore was not eligible to be president reflected that. So did the people who continued to insist, incorrectly, that he was a Muslim. You had to wonder, seeing the DON’T TAX ME, BRO signs at rallies, whether anyone would have waved the same warning at any other Democratic president.
This is a remarkably weak argument. All recent presidents have been the subject of fringe conspiracy theories and character attacks, and there is nothing particularly racial about the discreditable notions that Obama was born overseas and that he is a secret Muslim. The vast majority of black Americans, after all, are native-born Christians. As for “Don’t tax me, bro,” can Zernike really be unaware of the viral video from 2007 in which University of Florida undergraduate Andrew Meyer pleads with police arresting him at a John Kerry town-hall forum, “Don’t tase me, bro!”?
Taranto goes on to note that “the race argument is Zernike’s antithesis, not her thesis,” a factor downplayed in her overall judgment and otherwise absent in her evidence. It is, indeed, the big lie of 2010. It is not only Zernike’s antithesis; it is the unintentionally funny counterpoint to the Democrat/media smear of the year.