Hot Air

NYT: We endorse Warren. And Klobuchar! But pretty much anyone but Trump; Update: “Gifted storyteller”?

“In a break with tradition,” reads the intro to this, er, unique editorial, “the editorial board has chosen to endorse two separate Democratic candidates for president.” True enough; usually the New York Times only cheerleads for one Democratic candidate for president. However, the gag here is that the New York Times apparently forgot along the way that an endorsement means a choice.

Even more hilariously, the Gray Lady can’t even choose a direction (via Instapundit):

American voters must choose between three sharply divergent visions of the future.

The incumbent president, Donald Trump, is clear about where he is guiding the Republican Party — white nativism at home and America First unilateralism abroad, brazen corruption, escalating culture wars, a judiciary stacked with ideologues and the veneration of a mythological past where the hierarchy in American society was defined and unchallenged.

On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation. Some in the party view President Trump as an aberration and believe that a return to a more sensible America is possible. Then there are those who believe that President Trump was the product of political and economic systems so rotten that they must be replaced.

Great! So which one direction should we actually choose? Cue Meat Loaf’s Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad:

Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

Uhhh … the editors of the Paper of Record know you can’t cast two votes for president, right? Outside of Chicago, that is? Maybe someone should explain to the editors that endorsing multiple candidates for the same race isn’t actually an endorsement at all, except as an endorsement of indecision and impotence.

Most ironically, the paper set up their standard as the best chance to beat Trump, and then chose two candidates who can’t even come within ten points of winning the primaries. Warren’s been declining into the second tier for the last three months, and Klobuchar never got a bump out of it in the first place — which means they’re not even Democrats’ choices to represent either of the two directions for the party. If they had picked one of the two, they could have made a principled argument for why that didn’t matter to their endorsement, but this non-choice tosses that out the window.

The hilarity doesn’t end there. The NYT chose this year to open its endorsement process to the world as a reality TV series, and the big reveal in the FX show The Weekly got a lot of promotion this week as a must-see event. The Paper of Record tried for transparency, and they got it — and a lot more of it than they bargained for, as Ashley Feinberg writes at Slate:

After weeks of buildup, a slow trickle of candidate Q&A transcripts, and no less than four separate New York Times pieces about the process of a Times endorsement itself, we finally have an answer to the question the paper of record desperately wants to be on everyone’s mind: Who is the New York Times endorsing in the 2020 Democratic primary? That answer, revealed in a special edition of the paper’s FX show, The Weekly, mostly boils down to, uh, Warren, maybe? Unless you don’t like that. In which case, Klobuchar, I guess?

This marks the first time in its 160-year endorsement history that the Times has tried to give readers (or in tonight’s case, viewers) a sense of what actually goes into the process of a presidential endorsement. Rather than opening the paper to read an opaque verdict of authority, we got to watch as a room full of NYT reporters laugh a little too loudly at Andrew Yang’s jokes and express concern at Klobuchar’s lack of charisma. And then, in the end, they delivered a verdict that undermined itself and both candidates involved: “May the best woman win.” …

And yet, as much as the rollout of the Very Special Episode has been about the Democratic primary, it has also very much been about the New York Times and The Role of the New York Times in the Democratic primary. And in this state of hyper-self-awareness and inflated ego, the Times has done what the Times does best: choke. Not unlike a few years ago when the Times’ endorsement of Andrew Cuomo for governor consisted almost exclusively of reasons not to vote for him, the paper’s editorial board has decided that, in lieu of any sort of cleareyed, moral direction, it will offer readers throat clearing, ambivalence, and a vague gesture at who might possibly be OK.

The NYT’s editors make it clear that their only real concern is defeating Donald Trump in 2020. The direction of the Democratic Party doesn’t mean much to them except to the extent that it can deliver on their first priority. It matters so little to them that they can’t be bothered to choose one of the two directions they lay out in their own article, and instead choose both. Or neither. Whatever works.

Rarely has so much hype been lavished on so very little, and rarely has such a self-important project failed so utterly at the task laid out for it by its own designers. Geraldo Rivera’s live special on Al Capone’s vault may be the best parallel, but in fairness to Rivera, that was always supposed to be cheesy and insubstantial.

The importance of newspaper endorsements has been dying a slow death ever since the Internet allowed people to break out of their local monopoly. The New York Times might have driven a stake through the heart of newspaper endorsements with this reality-TV clown show.

Update: In my haste to scoff at the New York Times, I inadvertently missed one of its most scoffable claims, emphasis mine:

Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller. She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans, and of “our chance to rewrite the rules of power in our country,” as she put it in a speech last month. In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country.

Ahem. At the very least, she’s proven to be a storyteller — when it comes to her ethnicity, her departure from teaching, and whether her son went to private school. Outside of the NYT’s offices, we’d call that lying, but YMMV.

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