Daniel W. Drezner

The one-paragraph takedown of New York Times columnists

Since I’m apparently picking on the New York Times op-ed page today, it’s worth linking and quoting from George Packer’s one-paragraph evisceration of how the Times’ columnists have weathered the financial crisis:  These days, it’s striking that the Times’s columnists seem unable to contend with the earthquake rolling under our feet. With the whole world ...

Since I’m apparently picking on the New York Times op-ed page today, it’s worth linking and quoting from George Packer’s one-paragraph evisceration of how the Times’ columnists have weathered the financial crisis: 

These days, it’s striking that the Times’s columnists seem unable to contend with the earthquake rolling under our feet. With the whole world undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime upheaval, the stars of the Op-Ed page have almost without exception fallen back on the comfort of well-worn stances and personality tics, which are the habitual danger of publishing one’s thoughts every week for years. Friedman, who knows a lot about economics but has too much faith in elites, calls for a summit of “the country’s 20 leading bankers, 20 leading industrialists, 20 top market economists and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate,” as if these very individuals are not the main agents of the catastrophe. Dowd publishes a column of inadvertent self-parody whose subject is Michelle Obama’s arms, and whose sum total of reporting is a conversation in a Washington taxi with her fellow columnist David Brooks. Kristof continues to call necessary attention to chronic, less-noticed disasters, but he does it more and more by making himself the hero of a moral drama and, in a recent series of columns from Darfur, insulting his readers with the suggestion that they’re too shallow to read on unless he bribes them with celebrity gossip. Rich never challenges his own side, and the result is a weekly display of rhetorical bravura and cheap shots. Bob Herbert has one tone of voice, and as often as outrage is called for, it’s also tiresome. Only Brooks and Krugman seem to be registering the earthquake in a meaningful way, asking themselves difficult questions on a regular basis and struggling out in the open with the answers, which is why the page is at its best on Friday.

Indeed. 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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