The Times' Travel Section Cruises With Far-Left Nation Magazine

Henry Alford gushed that "the diversity and intellectual accomplishments of the 460 were fairly staggering." Plus: disagraced anti-Bush CBS news producer Mary Mapes cracks jokes while killjoy Ralph Nader disinfects himself.

The front of Sunday's Travel section is dominated by "The Love Boat for Policy Wonks," Henry Alford's breezy rendition of an Alaskan cruise he took with the left-wing Nation magazine(last August).The paper even helpfully advertised the magazine's upcoming Caribbean cruise: "Among the scheduled speakers are Calvin Trillin and Joe Conason" and included a website. Be still my heart!

Although the piece was more left-friendly PR than journalism, a reading of Alford's piece did reveal some unflattering things about his port-leaning shipmates. His Jewish dance companion managed to offend two other Jewish couples to the point of calling her anti-Semitic (seemingly a hard thing to do among lefties). But Alford, a contributing editor to Travel and Leisure magazine and Vanity Fair, doesn't repeat what she said.

From the "Where Are They Now?" file, here's disgraced CBS news producer Mary Mapes of forged documents infamy:

When 460 of the more ardent readers of a 142-year-old leftist weekly get together on a cruise ship, things can be a little topsy-turvy. "It's like an S.D.S. reunion on the Love Boat," said a guest speaker, Mary Mapes, the former CBS news producer who helped break the Abu Ghraib story among others, before being fired over her involvement in a "60 Minutes" piece on George W. Bush's military record.

And this amusing anecdote confirmed every conservative stereotype about joyless busybody Ralph Nader:

("Do you think we'll ever see Ralph Nader in the hot tub?" I asked a fellow cruiser at one point. "I don't think so," he told me. "Every time I've seen him he's disinfecting himself at the Purell hand-sanitizer station.")

The 460 of us - about a fourth of the ship's passengers - were welcomed at a cocktail party held poolside on the Lido Deck. Two things quickly became clear here. First, the diversity and intellectual accomplishments of the 460 were fairly staggering - included among the Nation readers who paid $1,991 to $8,657 for the cruise were many academics, several judges, a founder of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, a retired Army major, a steel company vice president, a former drug trafficker, four granddaughters aged 15 to 22, State Representative Mike Boland of Illinois, the public health expert Dr. Quentin Young and the feminist author Marilyn French. Second, many of the so-called cruisers were unhappy that the 2000 election spoiler Ralph Nader was on board.

"If he's assigned to my table at dinner," a pixielike retired Californian in her 60s told me as she downed her third cocktail, "I'm going to switch tables."

Indeed, an hour later, the mixture of dinner and politics took an unexpected turn at my assigned table in the dining room, where I first met Charlotte. A discussion of Israel among five Jews - two couples traveling together and Charlotte, who was traveling alone - became heated, with the couples disagreeing with Charlotte. At one point Charlotte asked the woman sitting opposite her, "Are you stooping so low as to call me an anti-Semite?" The woman responded: "Yes. I am," and what Charlotte fired back was vehement, Anglo-Saxon and unprintable. (At least in this newspaper.)

This isn't the first time the Times has run the equivalent of a travel ad for the left-wing cruisers at The Nation. Back on December 11, 2000 reporter Alex Kuczynski filed a 1,400-word Business section article, "Supporting The Cause On a Cruise."

Even though the conservative National Review magazine inaugurated the tradition of "ideological cruising," a Lexis database search shows that an NR cruise has yet to be profiled in the Times. NR probably should be thankful for that; any profile from a Times reporter would probably be more in the line of the hostile "infiltrations" of National Review cruises done by The New Republic and The Nation (a year before it began doing its own cruises).