The Star Tribune’s putrid verbiage

In 1993 the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an editorial in the bullying style that is a kind of trademark; the Star Tribune editorial board is long on argument by adjective, invective, and banging the fist on the table. In 1993, the Star Tribune condemned the Senate filibuster as “the putrid flood of verbiage known as the filibuster.” In 1994 it lauded efforts to abolish the filibuster. On April 24 of this year, however, the Star Tribune praised the virtues of the filibuster and condemned Republican efforts to end it in connection with judicial nominations.
We wrote about the Star Tribune’s “down the memory hole” approach to opinion journalism here in “1994 was so long ago” and in related posts including “That was then, this is now” and “Walter Mondale hits bottom.” We also wrote about the Star Tribune on the filibuster for the Daily Standard in “They were against it, before they were for it.”
The first of our posts on the Star Tribune and the filibuster included full text images of the Star Tribune’s 1993 and 1994 editorials in a reduced format that could be blown up by clicking on the image (as John explained in the post). The post nevertheless prompted this mind-boggling message from deputy editorial page editor Jim Boyd — the same guy who called us fraudulent smear artists for a column of ours that the Star Tribune publised last August on John Kerry’s bogus journey to Cambodia — challenging the factual basis of our charge of editorial inconsistency:

Waiting for the citation from the Star Tribune where we called for a change in Senate rules to outlaw the filibuster on either policy issues or judicial candidates. Sure, we sometimes didn’t like them, but can you find a place where we ever called for a rule change?
Me thinks not; as usual, you are just changing the subject. And unlike us, you don’t even print responses to your views.

Later that day Boyd wrote:

The main point is that we’ve never urged Democrats in the Senate to abolish the filibuster, let alone use a point of order maneuver to get around a filibuster on a rules change in order to make a rules change. Nor have we ever urged a Democratic president to make recess appointments of rejected judges, or to bring back rejected judges for a second try.
Nor did your original post deal with the substance of the Sunday editorial; you just said we were being hypocrites. That’s not true, but even if it were, it wouldn’t speak to the arguments in the Sunday editorial. They stand on their own merit.

Two days later, Boyd wrote:

Re. the filibuster: I was looking only at the one 1993 editorial about filibusters. There was a second editorial in 1994, in which we endorsed a Don Fraser proposal for revising senate rules. We’d missed the second one in a search we did before running our Sunday editorial. We found it about half an hour ago. I think you actually have caught us in a contradiction. We can change our mind, as we did on light rail, but in this case, we really didn’t. We simply missed the precedent and, like a court, if we make such a shift, we owe readers an explanation for why we did it.

When we posted this message from Boyd, John commented:

I really do wonder: is the Star Tribune’s editorial board actually going to try to explain why it advocated terminating the filibuster when the Republicans were in the minority, but considers it a bulwark of democracy now that the Democrats are using it? If so, it should be interesting.

Since then, the Star Tribune has run Walter Mondale’s Orwellian column on the virtues of the filibuster. Today the Star Tribune reiterates its support of the filibuster: “Senate showdown/Protect the filibuster.” We’re still waiting for the editorial explanation that the Star Tribune acknowledges it owes its readers. Until that time its editorials should themselves be deemed putrid verbiage.
Today’s editorial is worthy of note in one additional respect. The editorial asserts, Star Tribune-style:

Priscilla Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, holds procorporate and antiabortion views so extreme that Alberto Gonzales, now Bush’s attorney general, once described one of her opinions as “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.”

This is a standard Democratic talking point, the kind that the Star Tribune appears routinely to take off its fax machine and insert into its editorials. John conclusively refuted this canard about Alberto Gonzales and Justice Owen here and revisited the subject with a comment from appellate lawyer Mark Arnold here. The Star Tribune’s repetition of this canard today is the kind of malicious hooey a fraudulent smear artist would spout. It’s also journalistic malpractice.


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