[guest post by JVW]
The era of Andrew Rosenthal as editorial page editor of the New York Times is mercifully ending, not a moment too soon. Rosenthal, who has spent the last nine years in the role will be stepping down next month, to be replaced by James Bennett, the current editor-in-chief and president of The Atlantic. An article published earlier this week on the Times’ website and written by contributor David W. Dunlap traced the arc of the Rosenthal editorial page of the past decade. In typical fashion, the paper combines a smug elite leftism with a complete lack of self-awareness. Consider for instance the over-the-top lede paragraphs:
On the 13th floor of The New York Times building is a very exclusive portrait gallery.
It is more exclusive than the Pulitzer Prize gallery on the 15th floor. It is even more exclusive than the collection of signed presidential portraits in the 16th-floor boardroom.
The 13th-floor gallery honors the eight men and one woman who formerly ran The Times’s editorial page. Their combined tenures extended 123 years. There were more popes in the same period.
After that unseemly and unearned exercise in self-importance, the article naturally quotes Rosenthal as being especially proud of his front-page editorial “End the Gun Epidemic in America” (no link will be provided for such predictable Times editorial board twaddle; Google it if you really must subject yourself to crass leftist moral preening) which was the first time the Times had placed an editorial on the front page since the Wilson Administration. While the editorial no doubt cheered the hearts of a certain urban effete milksop crowd that now comprises the heart of the ever-dwindling NYT readership, at the end of the day it really seemed to be little more than a provocative marketing move designed to get people talking more about the newspaper than about the issue of gun control. Even some fellow-travelers in the media were left underwhelmed by Rosenthal’s supposedly bold move.
But hey, reader, don’t go thinking that the Rosenthal editorial board was just a rehash of whatever was being put out by the DNC. Dunlap makes sure to inform us that “Though critics would argue otherwise, Mr. Rosenthal’s editorial page was not captive to the Democratic Party or its elected officials.” He then goes on to lay this whopper on us:
The Times’s innate suspicion of government’s tendency to abuse power is, perhaps, one of the longest-running and most consistent of themes on its editorial page.
No, really: the cheerleading that the Times editorial page has done for the Obama stimulus, the Affordable Care Act, and just about any other big government program that rears its ugly head by no means undercuts their suspicion of government’s tendency to abuse power.
In fact, one of the uglier features of the rank partisanship of the Rosenthal editorial page has been how readily the editorials have relied upon situational ethics when it comes to protecting the progressive agenda. Nowhere was that more apparent than in summer 2014 when the sleazy Democrat governor Andrew Cuomo was trying to drag his cesspool of an administration to reelection. The Times editorial page attracted some attention that August when they refused to endorse Cuomo (whom they had happily endorsed four years earlier) in the Democrat primary, writing:
Why endorse no candidate in a major state primary? Here’s how we see it: Realistically, Governor Cuomo is likely to win the primary, thanks to vastly greater resources and name recognition. And he’ll probably win a second term in November against a conservative Republican opponent. In part, that’s because issues like campaign finance rarely have been a strong motivator for most voters. Nonetheless, those who want to register their disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s record on changing the culture of Albany may well decide that the best way to do that is to vote for [his primary opponent] Ms. Teachout. Despite our reservations about her, that impulse could send a powerful message to the governor and the many other entrenched incumbents in Albany that a shake-up is overdue.
There are plenty of reasons to oppose the thuggish and corrupt Cuomo, but the idea that he isn’t a Sanders-style absolutist on campaign finance reform is one of the more daft and self-serving ones for an editorial page to grasp. One reason there is so much money in politics is to diminish the influence of nitwit newspaper editors like Andrew Rosenthal. But, not to fear, by October all was forgiven and the paper was back to supporting four more years of Cuomo corruption:
For nearly four years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used his formidable political skills to achieve major advances for New York. He pressured and ultimately persuaded some Republican legislators to allow same-sex marriage in the state in 2011 [. . . . ]
He pushed through the strongest gun-control measure in the country [. . . .]
His budgets have been on time, and though his tax policies have favored the wealthy, he managed to get higher credit ratings for the state for the first time in decades.
There you have it, the governing philosophy of the Rosenthal editorial board: he may be corrupt and he may be an awful person, but he’s good on our pet issues and it looks like he won’t spend us into oblivion right away. It’s the affluent paternalistic urban progressive cynicism so obsessed with trendy social issues and maintaining their own order in the hierarchy that they are fine with their candidates cutting every corner and dragging the entire system into low repute as long as it is to accomplish their mutually-desired ends.
Like his boss, New York Times Company chairman Arthur Ochs “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr., Andrew Rosenthal essentially inherited his position at the paper from his more accomplished and less annoying father. Both Sulzberger and Rosenthal filii are of the generation which took their fathers’ patrician do-gooder liberalism and ran it through the toxic thresher of angry identity politics and disdain for tradition that characterized the pampered elite of their generation. What has come of all this is an even more insufferable and smug progressive ideology that now permeates education (especially higher education), entertainment, government bureaucracy, nonprofits, and the media. Even many left-leaning NYT reporters apparently find the Sulzberger/Rosenthal axis to be absolutely poisonous for the health of the paper’s culture. Andrew Rosenthal’s era as the editor of the New York Times editorial pages was an entirely negative one, and we should all lament that it ever came to pass.