Beinart Got It Right About the NY Times

In response to Beinart: Second Look at Sexting?:

Beinart is probably correct that Weiner is being treated differently because the “tawdry details” are available for public consideration in a way that they were not  when Clinton was the subject of similar stories. Of course the technology to record phone sex has been available for a long time, it just required a little more effort. Texts are easier to save, as Weiner seems unable to learn.

However, there is another point Beinart makes which I think comes closer to the truth of his central question: Why did the NY Times ask Weiner to quit the race but not Clinton?

A second explanation for the
Clinton-Weiner discrepancy is that, from the beginning, liberals
suspected, with some justification, that conservatives were using the
Clinton scandals to try to drive a talented liberal from public life. In
the New York mayoral race, by contrast, conservatives are irrelevant.
The Times need not worry that by ending Weiner’s candidacy it
will harm the liberal causes it cares about because Weiner’s chief
mayoral opponents all believe basically the same things he does.

The Times chose to protect the strongest contender in the ’92 race, whereas with Weiner it makes little difference who wins since all the candidates are liberals. But then Beinart attempts to shove his own insight aside. He writes:

But
even this doesn’t get to the heart of it. In the spring of 1992, after
all, the alternative to Bill Clinton was not yet George H.W. Bush. It
was Paul Tsongas. Yet the Times still overlooked allegations whose seriousness it would have recognized had it peered closer.

Beinart’s timeline is off a bit. Paul Tsongas did win a primary in New Hampshire in February 1992 but Clinton came in a strong 2nd place and, as the Times noted, that put Clinton “in a position to take his resilient candidacy on to the string of primaries in his native South.” Three weeks later on March 10, Tsongas “took a beating in the Southern primaries held on Super Tuesday.” He officially suspended his campaign on March 19, 1992.

In other words, just six weeks after Gennifer Flowers released her audio tapes Tsongas was done. It’s no wonder then that the April 5, 1992 NY Times editorial Beinart links is eager to gloss over Clinton’s lying and philandering. Indeed, just four days earlier the Times reported “With only one Democratic opponent remaining on the field [Jerry Brown], Gov. Bill
Clinton has gained the support of a bare majority of Democrats
nationwide…”

The Times had a few weeks when it could have chosen to pursue allegation about Clinton with vigor but by March 10 that window had closed. The Times backed the strongest remaining horse on the Democratic side and ignored or downplayed stories that might hurt his chances.

But as Beinart points out, the Times does not have to do that in New York because there are plenty of other progressive candidates who can fill the same space and, more importantly, no danger the country will be handed to the Republicans if they take the allegations seriously.

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