Saturday, January 3, 2009

Today In Times Kennedy-Bashing, Nicholas Confessore Compares Caroline To Lehman Bros.

In its daily dose of anti-Kennedy coverage, today's Times now contends that "conventional wisdom" dictates that Caroline Kennedy will get the Senate seat -- thus opening the door for the Times to defy that wisdom by finding new flaws.

Yes, the Times now sees the Kennedy candidacy as a foregone conclusion -- the same candidacy yesterday's paper suggested may have been harmed by her "seeming to lack confidence and polish."

Nicholas Confessore opens his account today by reporting what he feels is a consensus of political chit-chat:

It has somehow been concluded — with delight in some quarters and aggravation in others — that Gov. David A. Paterson has little choice but to appoint Caroline Kennedy, she of the royal political lineage, fund-raising prowess and pure star power, to the United States Senate.

That snide, passive voice -- "it has somehow been concluded" -- allows Confessore to conjecture basically whatever he wants, without attribution. No mention is made of the source of his supposition.

But why bother with attribution or information? Confessore and the Times have a different agenda. They want her gone.

First, Confessore quotes a political consultant to corroborate his "conventional wisdom" assessment:

“I’ve heard this a hundred times: ‘He has to pick her,’ ” said Erick C. Mullen, a Democratic political consultant who has worked extensively in New York. “Or what? If he doesn’t pick her, what happens?”

Which leads Confessore to conclude:

That question has not yet received much of an airing during Ms. Kennedy’s audition for the Senate. Not unlike an overleveraged but venerable investment house, Ms. Kennedy is considered by many to be too big to fail.

So, in three paragraphs, Confessore has managed to manipulate readers into a) believing that they are being force-fed Kennedy by politicians; b) getting angry about it, and c) associating Kennedy, through an overblown and unnecessary metaphor, with a symbol of 2008 wretched excess and greed.

With those sort of subliminal references, Confessore has considerably sharpened his weapons in the weeks since Kennedy first surprised the media with her interest in the Senate seat. After a few days of sychophantic reporting, the Times -- with Confessore leading the charge -- has gone after her with every weapon in its arsenal.

For readers still harboring doubts, Today's story helpfully debunks all the reasons for thinking a Kennedy candidacy might actually be a good idea -- followed by a handy clip-'n'-save summary (by fellow Kennedy-basher David M. Halbfinger) of five candidates waiting in the wings, in case Paterson can be convinced to avoid making the mistake of choosing her.

1. Some say Kennedy would be good for New York because of her friendship with President-elect Obama.

The Confessore counter-argument:

Yet it is hard to calculate the size of his debt to Ms. Kennedy, or where it ranks among his many other obligations, from preventing a conflagration in the Middle East to passing a national economic stimulus package.

Moreover, New York’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, is no slouch when it comes to delivering for his New York constituents. And some say it is difficult to imagine Mr. Obama somehow punishing Mr. Paterson or New York, fiscally or otherwise, if the Senate job goes to someone else.

“That’s inconceivable,” said Judith Hope, the former state Democratic Party chairwoman. “It would not be in his self-interest,” she said of Mr. Obama.

2. Some say choosing Kennedy would allow Paterson to avoid alienating other politicians who want the job.

The Confessore counter-argument:

But Ms. Kennedy, by almost every account, has stumbled a bit during her entrance onto the New York political stage. Mr. Paterson would not be immune from upset, even among allies, were he to go ahead and appoint her.

“She was an out,” said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. “But the initial few salvos did not go her way.”

3. Kennedy could raise considerable money for her 2010 and 2012 campaigns, and help Paterson in the process.

The Confessore counter-argument:

Nothing. No one can dispute Kennedy's wealth and fundraising skills.

4. Kennedy could provide gender and religious balance to the ticket, which could be helpful against the Republicans.

The Confessore counter-argument:

But so could other candidates, including [Representative Carolyn] Maloney and Representative Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who represents a large, mostly rural upstate district along New York’s eastern border. There is no evidence yet that women voters have any particular affinity for Ms. Kennedy over other women up for the seat. Moreover, Mr. Paterson will have another chance to balance the 2010 ticket, when he picks his running mate for lieutenant governor.

When political historians deconstruct this odd, brief episode in years to come, it will be impossible not to weigh the impact of the Times's coverage on the Paterson choice.

Just as Kennedy's campaign is being waged at one man, so too is the Confessore campaign to combat her efforts. It's as though the Times wants to communicate directly with Paterson through its coverage, and remind him that sending Caroline Kennedy to the Senate will result in reams of negative stories in the state's most powerful newspaper.

Governor Paterson, be warned: Confessore and his colleagues want to see Kennedy go down -- a denouement that will show everyone just how powerful they are in shaping the state's political agenda. If you pick her, better be prepared to do battle with Times reporters hungry for a brawl.


Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention that yesterday's story completely contradicted today's. That one said, "Even among those who speak regulsrly to Mr. Paterson about the appointment, there are different views about who is likely to get it."

Then today they say it's a foregone conclusion. WTF????

Anonymous said...

This must be driving Sulzberger crazy.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised they didn't put this piece under "News Analysis" or "Albany Memo" or something like that.