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The New York Times versus “A Republic, If You Can Keep It”

by | Sep 19, 2019

By Dave Andrusko

A day late (in this case, two) but hopefully not a dollar short.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

On Tuesday, I had every intention to write about Constitution Day which is observed each September 17 to commemorate the signing of our Constitution in 1787.

But I had entirely forgotten until my wife emailed me to ask if I had any interest in attending, “A Conversation with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch,” which will take place September 26 at The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mt. Vernon.

Yes, indeed, I responded!

Justice Gorsuch is on a tour to discusses his new book, A Republic, If You Can Keep It. One blurb describes its contents this way:

In his book, Justice Gorsuch reflects on his journey to the Supreme Court, the role of the judge under our Constitution, and the vital responsibility of each American to keep our republic strong.

Since I have not read his book, or attended Justice Gorsuch’s presentation, let me make a detour that addresses the “vital responsibility of each American to keep our republic strong.” That responsibility includes monitoring an institutional media whose loathing for President Trump has warped its vision, truncated every notion of fair play, and eliminated what little capacity for self-criticism it ever possessed.

I have often argued that Big Media’s self-absorption and inability to accept (and learn from) honest criticism is short-circuiting the role it so typically touts as its calling card. Let me give a current example.

As is its wont, Big Media (like Hillary Clinton) turns everything into a discussion about itself. So USA Today runs a post Tuesday under the headline “Constitution Day underscores need for vigilant press.”

Here’s the self-flattering subhead:

In this ever changing news environment, what job does the Fourth Estate have in holding our government accountable and protecting the Constitution?

Turns out USA Today’s Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll was to discuss the “press’ role in upholding the rule of law” Tuesday at a town hall in Phoenix. So USA Today ran excerpts from her “prepared remarks in response to questions from moderator Homer Moyer, past chair of the International Bar Association’s Rule of Law Forum.” Here’s the first excerpt:

Moyer: Freedom of the press is something that is expressly protected by our Constitution, and, perhaps as a result, we in our country have not experienced government control of the media. What are some of the ways that freedom of the press and responsible journalism relate to the rule of law today?

Carroll: The rule of law says all people and institutions are held accountable under laws that that are widely known, fairly applied and enforced and independently adjudicated. The press is critical to all three.

I would agree, but does that accountability extend to institutions such as the New York Times whose latest frontal assault on Justice Brett Kavanaugh is both noxious and frightening not only to those of us who write for a living (even if not for the tony likes of the Times) but also to all fair-minded citizens.

Kathleen Parker, writing for the Washington Post Tuesday, described “The recent fiasco at the New York Times” as “a monument to hearsay and a travesty of journalistic ethics.”

True, but it’s much worse than that as Parker writes in her penultimate paragraph, extending far back than the latest hatchet job: “The truth is, Kavanaugh has been the target of a media siege since his name was announced for consideration for the high court.” Hold that thought.

So what is the role of the press, Moyer asks Carroll?

Our role is to spread truth, as we often say, without fear or favor. We hold the powerful accountable. We have the responsibility to report fairly and accurately. When we make mistakes, we must correct them quickly and transparently. We examine multiple sides of an issue. We solicit diverse opinions.

This is preposterously wrong-headed—not in its aspirations but in its execution. When it comes to the New York Times, at the risk of stating the superabundantly obvious, the Times, which likes to see itself as the very epitome of the best in journalism, has failed abysmally.

And that can only change if media big shots finally look candidly into the mirror and ask themselves (to quote legendary basketball coach John Wooden), “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?”

Categories: Supreme Court