Let me begin with the obligatory “Good!” Frank Bruni, one of the New York Times’ stable of irresponsible left-biased op-ed writers, filed his final column in today’s Sunday Times. How bad is the Times’ opinion-writing team? This bad: I wouldn’t put Bruni in the same circle of Pundit Hell as his colleagues like Charles M. Blow, Thomas Freidman, Michelle Goldberg, Ezra Klein, David Leonhardt and Paul Krugman, and yet he has a substantial dossier at Ethics Alarms, including a well-deserved Ethics Dunce in 2015. He had had authored a near parody of a “this guy is conservative, so we know he’s stupid” rant about then Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had just dropped out of the GOP race for President. I wrote to conclude that post (this is long, but I forgot I had written it, and it’s good):
“Bruni clearly thinks Walker is stupid and evil. You can tell from various hints in his column that he had a slew of veiled slurs based on Walker’s lack of a college degree loaded and ready should Walker become a viable candidate, and of course opposing unions is evil. Actually, it’s nearly evil to pretend a public union is the same as a union, which Bruni does by not making the distinction. (This is the progressive way: immigrants and illegal immigrants are also the same thing, unworthy of distinction.) Public unions embody inherent conflicts of interest and a quid pro quo scam, which Walker, miraculously for a man with the intellect of a sea sponge, somehow grasps while brilliant progressives like Bruni do not.
“Biases—which make all people stupi, but do not necessarily make them Republicans, which is a puzzlement––lead Bruni to an embarrassing display of confirmation bias. Today Walker-kickers all over the web were mocking him for an incident years ago in which he intended to write “mazel tov” in a letter to a Jewish constituent, and instead wrote: “Thank you again and Molotov.” Bruni, like the other Republican haters I have among my Facebook friends, see this as smoking gun proof that Walker is a moron. When someone you respect says something equally stupid, of course, it’s a meaningless gaffe. Joe Biden says more idiotic things in a week than Walker has in a lifetime, and Bruni will never cherry pick one of his verbal meltdowns. Obama, infamously, pronounces the “ps” in corps, a trust-busting error for a Commander in Chief, and not funny like using Molotov for “mazel tov.” Well, never mind: we all know Obama’s brilliant, so it doesn’t count. And we all know Bruni has never had an equally embarrassing howler caught by an editor or an intern. Imagine a world where your worst typo or “speak-o” would be held against you for the rest of your life. In my case, I think I’d have to head for the woodchipper.
“Total lack of awareness of one’s own flaws, biases and blatant inconsistencies is the true mark of intellectual deficiency. Walker realized when he couldn’t cut it as a Presidential candidate: what’s Bruni’s excuse for not reading his own tripe and realizing, ‘Gee, maybe it’s time to open that sex toy shop?’ He writes, ‘I’m weary and wary of politicians whose ambitions precede and eclipse any serious, necessary preparation for the office they seek. Walker is a perfect example.‘
Walker is a perfect example? Scott Walker has served as a governor of a large industrial state for five years before running for President. Barack Obama had no leadership preparation whatsoever, domestic or foreign, before daring to call himself Presidential timber. Ah, but you see, being prepared isn’t required if you are intelligent, which is defined as “agreeing with Frank Bruni.”
Interestingly, Bruni’s last column suggests that maybe he did realize that much of his product was the aforementioned “tripe.” It’s in the form of a mea culpa for past excesses that he chooses to own up to when it’s too late to reform. Nice. I call this a “McCain,” an honor Sen. John McCain earned when he lost the South Carolina Presidential primary and then announced that it was wrong for the state to still fly the Confederate flag, a position he conveniently never expressed when it might lose him some votes. To say I detest such conduct is an understatement. The conveniently late apology is not accepted: it has been delivered to make the miscreant feel unburdoned by his guilty conscience, but is a telling ethics breach on its own.
Here are some of Bruni’s final admissions….and as you read them, consider this: the New York Times employed this hack and gave him a regular platform for 10 years.
- Reflecting on his many cheap shots, Bruni regrets not engaging in illumination rather than invective, writing, “I just swam with the snide tide. I did that too often. Many columnists do.” “Too often, ” in Bruni’s case, means “almost always.” But never mind, he says, “everybody does it.”
- “I worried, and continue to worry, about the degree to which I and other journalists — opinion writers, especially — have contributed to the dynamics we decry: the toxic tenor of American discourse, the furious pitch of American politics, the volume and vitriol of it all.” Yeah? If that worried you, Frank, why didn’t you do something about it?
- “I worry, too, about how frequently we shove ambivalence and ambiguity aside…But they don’t make for bold sentences or tidy talking points. So we pundits are merchants of certitude in a world where much is in doubt and many questions don’t have one right answer. As such, we may be encouraging arrogance and unyieldingness in our readers, viewers and listeners. And those attributes need no encouragement in America today.”
Gee, ya think, Frank?
- “I don’t want to understate my overarching regard for journalists. The “fake news” that Donald Trump so incessantly and conveniently howled about wasn’t fake at all. It was enterprising and infinitely more truthful than Trump himself. I remain wowed not only by the reporting on his administration but also by reporters’ ability to weather the crude attacks on them.” Wow, nice suck-up, Frank. The fake news wasn’t fake at all, eh? If that isn’t signature significance for an unscrupulous and untrustworthy partisan hack, nothing is.
The New York Times literally trafficked in fake news during the Trump years, particularly with regard to the “evidence” of Trump’s Russian collusion, but so much more. Let’s see—I’ll check the “fake news” tag…here’s the first one that comes up, from February, when the Times planted the story that Officer Brian Sicknick was killed in the line of duty during the January 6 riot at the Capitol, and published it just in time to be used against President Trump during his Senate impeachment trial. I wrote, “It was being said so the public would believe it, and so Donald Trump would be convicted…based on false evidence and based on assertions the House managers either knew was untrue or had an ethical obligation to find out wasn’t true. The Times, meanwhile, left its story unchanged…until February 12, the day the Senate trial ended in an acquittal.”
I’m “wowed” about Times journalists too, but not for the reasons Frank is.
- “And I feel no ambivalence when it comes to Trump and almost no regret about my denunciations of him. He’s an amoral, dangerous man who was unfit to be president. That needed to be said, even if saying it had no effect on his loyalists.” That’s a smoking gun statement from an Axis of Unethical Conduct soft coup agent. Once the electorate decided he should be President, Trump was by definition “fit to be President” ‘ Bruni could express his disagreement, but the “resistance” plot was far more than that: to keep telling the public that he was unfit every day, over and over, without regard to what he did. That’s what Bruni and his pals at the Times and the mainstream media engaged in, treating this President unlike every other President in our history. (Here, incidentally, is my list of Presidents since 1960 that I would deem “unfit” by my standards of leadership and character: Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and, yes, Trump. But all deserved at least a good faith opportunity to succeed, and only in the case of Trump did pundits and journalists ally with partisan opposition to make that as difficult as possible.
- “We notice that we’re received best for certain perspectives; maybe television bookers put us on camera expecting particular bromides and broadsides; possibly we get paid for speaking engagements that are premised, at least tacitly, on our delivery of the same fare we’ve served before. So we keep serving it, until we’ve stopped re investigating and confirming the merit of it. It’s a profitable brand. But it’s also a trap.”
It’s only a trap if you have no integrity. I can honestly say that while I may have written essays that I felt later were excessive, or mistaken, or wrong, I never cut my opinions to conform with anyone’s favor or taste. Never. It’s grand that Bruni finally admits that he did that, but an opinion columnist who does it is untrustworthy and unethical.