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Opening Arguments

No sale

Even New York Times reporters can't stand the newspaper's editorial page:

The fact of the matter is the Wall Street Journal editorial page just kicks our editorial page’s ass. I mean there’s just no contest, from top to bottom, and it’s disappointing.”

So said a New York Times reporter quoted in a much talked about New York Observer column Tuesday (“The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page“).  In the article, a passel of Timesmen vented anonymously about how embarrassingly dull their opinion pages were, dumping on the tired and windy Thomas Friedman as a particular repetitive offender and pointing fingers at opinion editor Andrew Rosenthal as the mini-despot responsible for the mess.

I certainly agree about the mind-bending banality of the Times opinion page and the windiness (at best) of Friedman. But I think the reporters are off the mark on the cause.  They can blame it on Rosenthal if they wish — I have no opinion, not working there — but the real problem is far greater than any one editor.

To adopt what is becoming a modern cliché — it’s the ideology, stupid.

The Times reporters complained of the page’s uniformly negative tone, but not even S.J. Perelman or P.G. Wodehouse could write with verve in the service of modern liberalism.  You can’t bring a dead horse to life.  No writer is that good — at least on a regular basis.

How, for example, do you write an eloquent defense of Obamacare or justify the administration’s actions in Benghazi without resorting to the kind of obfuscation that makes for convoluted, or at best tedious, writing? How do you advocate for yet more government programs in a country already so mired in debt it’s hard to see how it will ever get out?  It’s Keynesian economics itself that’s the problem, not Paul Krugman.

Although I admire many of the writers at the Wall Street Journal, let’s admit they have a lot more to work with, a plethora of easy targets for a man or woman with even a modicum of wit. We live in an era when readers  are distrusting big government more than ever.  Where does that leave the NYT, that great tribune of of ever-expanding government? With a bunch of grumps on their hands.

I suppose I shouldn't gloat too much. Since I've presided over conseervative/libertarian editorial pages and newsrooms are notoriously full of liberals, I've been surrouned for all of my professional commentating life by people who weren't crazy about the product I was turning out. And I think this observer overstates the death of liberalism. Politics goes in cycles, and big government has taken some hits lately. It will be back, rest assured.

Still, I think his underlying premise is valid. It's hard to be delightfully witty and creative when you're trying to sell something nobody wants to buy. In today's atmosphere more than ever, I'm tickled as I can be to writr here instead of at The Jouranl Gazette.