The Lights Are Out! Say Something! - August 18, 2003

Times Watch for August 18, 2003

The Lights Are Out! Say Something!

In the Blackout section of Saturdays Times, Elisabeth Bumiller, whos traveling with the president, offers this lead on Bushs blackout response: When news of the Northeast blackout hit the West Coast on Thursday, President Bush and his staff seemed to go into a blackout of their own. For nearly four and a half hours, while Mr. Bush huddled with aides in San Diego to sort out the crisis, the White House was publicly silent on a power failure that put the most populous corner of the nation in the dark. Today Democrats said that Mr. Bush reacted slowly, just as they said he did on Sept. 11, 2001, while Republicans countered that the president was being thorough and prudent. But what exactly did Bumiller want Bush to say, before the facts were in?

The real kicker is the storys headline: Aides Say Bush Waited for Facts Before Commenting on Blackout. Scandalous!

For the rest of Elisabeth Bumillers story on Bush and the blackout, click here.

Blackout | Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush

Too Poor To Loot?

The Times new blackout specialist, Martin Gottlieb, offers a condescending profile on how various New York neighborhoods reacted. After praising the relative lack of looting in his Sunday piece, he pens this oddity: From the streets of poorer neighborhoods, even those like Harlem, which are now home to touchstones of prosperity like Old Navy and Starbucks, other reasons are offered for the peace. Among them are an overwhelming, debilitating poverty that has outlasted a near decade of prosperity, and [former NYC mayor] Giuliani's extraordinarily successful campaign to cut welfare rolls, which have fallen by more than 50 percent from their 1977 totals of close to a million. People are becoming accustomed to not having," said [Imani] Kuumba, an administrative assistant with the city's Office of Children and Family Services. They don't have it; the city's not giving it to them anymore; they're not going to have it and they never will. So come what may. There's just complacency.

Isnt there more than a bit of the soft bigotry of low expectations going on when the Times looks for reasons why a poor minority community isnt looting?

For the rest of Gottliebs story, click here.

Blackout | Marvin Gottlieb | Harlem | Race Issues

The Times Whistle-Stop Tour of Economic Woe

Mondays story by Michael Janofsky, For Bush, Loss of Jobs May Erode Support, is the latest example of an increasingly obvious Times push on behalf of Democratic candidates for president. Having seemingly given up on using the war as a campaign tool, the Times has taken to visiting economically struggling Red states and baiting unemployed citizens to blame the bad economy on Bush-while suggesting Democrats may do surprisingly well in upcoming elections there.

Just as reporter James Dao pumped up Democratic prospects in Kentucky, Janofsky finds economy-based trouble for the president in South Carolina. His story opens with stories from the Times favorite breed, anti-Bush Republicans: Lynn Mayson is an unemployed machine operator here. Roger Chastain is president of a textile company. While they travel in distinctively different circles, they have quite a bit in common. Both are Republicans. Both were part of the Solid South vote that helped George W. Bush win the White House in 2000. And, now, both say they are angry enough about job losses in the region to vote for someone else in 2004. Something's got to give," said Ms. Mayson, a mother of three, as she left a state-run jobs center the other day. "I'm not going to vote for Bush unless things change. The economy has got to get better, and it's only going to do that if someone makes something happen.

Janofsky admits economic frustrations have not reached such a critical mass that anyone is predicting that President Bush could lose the state next year. But the Republican wall of support here is indeed showing cracks, reflecting economic trends that Democrats say make Mr. Bush vulnerable. Since the president took office, more than 2.5 million jobs have been lost across the country, a downturn that administration officials contend is now turning around. Mr. Chastain said problems had reached such a point that he would consider voting for a Democrat, perhaps Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who is a persistent critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as Nafta. Ms. Mayson said she would vote for anyone with a plan to create more jobs.

Janofsky then tries to sound hopeful, while admitting South Carolina remains strongly pro-Bush: Does such talk signal a new South in the making? Probably not yet. But Bush-bashing among Republicans is almost unheard of in this part of South Carolina, one of the most conservative areas in the United States. In winning the region, Mr. Bush outpolled Al Gore by a ratio of almost two to one. Of course, if Bush did cave it to protectionism and move to protect the South Carolina textile industry, the Times editorial page (which supports free trade) would bash him. Bush cant win.

Janofsky then helpfully lists all the Democratic candidates and their free-trade positions, as if to entice South Carolina voters to the Democratic side of the buffet. After Rep. Gephardt, Janofsky notes that Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Bob Graham of Florida are strong supporters of free trade. Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina favor balanced approaches with stronger protections for American workers.

For the rest of Michael Janofskys story from South Carolina, click here.

The Times Corrects Unbiased Story

The New York Times did yeomens work (even if it does say so itself) putting out a newspaper during the citywide blackout. But theres at least one apparent disadvantage to working by diesel light-the final touches of bias are missed.

Kirk Semples Thursday night story on the afternoons blackout manages to identify Irwin Stelzer, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, without using an ideological label. But in their front-page story the following morning, David Firestone and Richard Perez-Pena correct that apparent oversight, using Semples quote of Stelzer but also informing readers that Hudson is a conservative research institute. Good to see the Times is back to normal after the blackout.

For the rest of the Times Friday blackout story, click here.

David Firestone | Labeling Bias | Richard Perez-Pena | Kirk Semple