As a classical liberal Democrat I have been a daily reader of The New
York Times for more than half a century. On Jan. 9, 1999, I read with
sadness an article by James Reston Jr. titled “Failing the 1868 Test.”
James Jr. is the son of my friend, the late James “Scotty” Reston.
Failing to aspire to the high
standards of James Sr. (one of this century’s greatest journalists)
“Junior” has descended to muckraking and mud slinging.
The young Reston, a staunch defender of Clinton, is apparently a
“new” Democrat of the slick-tongued likes of Alan Dershowitz, Alec
Baldwin and James Carville. He suggests frivolously, if not rancidly,
that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde is a racist — who
according to James Jr. does not even “aspire … to the stature of
Thaddeus Stevens, who as leader of the Radical Republicans pushed the
hardest for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (and) was a
champion of abolition and an advocate for black suffrage.”
I believe that if “Scotty” were alive he would agree: Racism is
despicable — and a false accusation of racism is equally despicable.
Sadly, descending even deeper into diatribe, James Jr. now describes
Mr. Hyde and all Republicans who voted for impeachment as “Radical” –
the very word that Senator Joe McCarthy used to denounce “Scotty” and
the New York Times. After reading James Jr’s article of Jan. 9, I wrote
promptly to the editors of the New York Times, commending them “for
giving James Reston Jr. a right to speak freely — and for affording
(their) readers the
chance to compare him with his father.”
Ironically, the very next day (Jan. 10) the Sunday Times ran a
front-page story titled “How Henry Hyde’s Resolve Was Shaped Against
Clinton. ” Written by Melinda Henneberger (another “new” Democrat even
slicker than James Reston Jr.) her “spin” story attributed the normally
“genteel” Hyde’s resolve in part to his being “a devout Roman Catholic.”
The same story also reprinted the following text of a recent TV attack
on Mr. Hyde by a Clinton
defender, the actor Alec Baldwin:
- “If we were in other countries, we would all right
now, all of us together would go down to Washington and
we would stone Henry Hyde to death and we’d go to the
homes (of impeachment advocates) and we’d kill their
wives and children.”
For the amusement of her “new” Democrat readers Ms. Hennenberger
then quoted Republican F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin:
- “Mr. Hyde, who has received death threats and travels
with four security guards, has been worried about his
family’s safety ever since.”
To further amuse what I call the new “unreasoning” left. Ms.
Hennenberger then quotes two Judiciary Committee Democrats: Jerrold
Nadler of New York and Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Although she did
not shy from identifying Mr. Hyde as a Roman Catholic who had confessed
to adultery, she did not identify Mr. Nadler and Mr. Frank as Jewish (as
am I). Nor does she or other reporters of the New York Times ever remind
their readers that Mr. Frank first came out from his gay closet when he
was censured by the House for fixing parking tickets for his male
prostitute live-in lover.
As reported by Ms. Hennenberger, Mr. Frank now mocks Mr. Hyde,
- “(I see) signs of the ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai syndrome.’
After a while pride of craft takes over and you just want to build the
When it comes to mocking Mr. Hyde there no member of the New
York congressional delegation who is more of a tragic comedian than Mr.
Nadler — whom Ms. Hennenberger describes as “happy to acknowledge
getting under Chairman Henry Hyde’s skin.” As further described in the
same article Nadler said laughing: “Henry is a very determined guy and I
think he was
exasperated at Democrats not going along. … We’re not going to make
his job any easier.” I now sadly suspect that the “new” New York Times
will unflinchingly support Mr. Nailer’s re-election next year.
On the morning of Jan. 11 I am now writing the conclusion of this
article, which I began last night. Today, a happy New York Times
- Thousands of New York Democrats assembled at Lincoln
Center Sunday to whoop and cheer as Charles E. Schumer
was sworn in — for a second time — as New York
State’s new junior Senator.
And Schumer, speaking to an audience that clearly was
unhappy with events in Washington — Rep. Jerrold
Nadler, among President Clinton’s most public defenders
on the House Judiciary Committee, received a standing
ovation as he walked into the room — warned against
what he described as a “corrosive partisanship” that he
said was making young voters cynical.
“What began 25 years ago with Watergate as a solemn and
necessary endeavor to restore the public trust has now
grown beyond our control,” Schumer said. “We are in
danger of … using scandal and innuendo to win at the
gavel what we can not settle at the ballot box. Instead
of great debates about the future of our Republic we
have new politics of fear and smear. ”
I would ask my former friend Chuck Schumer to look at himself in
a mirror. Having just taken an oath to be impartial he will see
a broadly smiling face that thoroughly enjoys the new
unreasoning efforts to smear Henry Hyde with false accusations of
racism and religious intolerance. If “Chuck” looks more
closely he will see a shy tragi-comic face that does not even
dare to speak out against the smear tactics of Larry Flynt and
As some of the older readers of the New York Times may recall, at
the time of the Rodino Committee’s Nixon impeachment inquiry I
served as the Committee’s chief counsel. As such I had daily
dealings with both Republican and Democratic committee members.
At that time Trent Lott, the current Senate Majority Leader, was
a freshman Committee member who was among President Nixon’s
staunchest defenders. Yet, neither in public nor in private have
I ever heard Mr. Lott (with whom I still disagree on many
ideological and political matters) utter an uncivil word to
Mr. Rodino, to me, or any other Democratic advocate of the
impeachment of President Nixon. Nor have I ever heard Mr.
Lott denounce the New York Times as “left-wing radical.”
However, despite its current opposition to the removal from
office of President Clinton, I intend to go on reading the New
York Times daily. I enjoy the wit of Maureen Dowd and Bill
Safire. Also, appreciate the wisdom of Abe Rosenthal — whom
after the recent retirement of Russell Baker I now see as the
only “Scotty” Reston-type Democrat left on the Times.
I agree with Ms. Dowd’s recent column describing the “the clowns”
at the White House Christmas party — and citing the roles of
Clinton defenders Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Geraldine
Ferraro as heralding “the death of feminism.”
I also commend the new New York Times for publishing two of Mr.
Rosenthal’s recent articles in particular. In one, he has called
on President Clinton to resign. In another he has criticized the
Clinton failure to speak out strongly against the persecution of
Christians by the governments of China and other countries in
which Christians are a minority.
Now facing my own declining years I take comfort from being an
old line “New Deal” Democrat — who looks back on the war against
Nazism as our finest hours. Yet I have also learned of the new
advantages of computers and the internet — and have changed my
traditional ways in at least two respects. In the old days I
enjoyed reading the on-paper edition of the New York Times with
my breakfast. These days I avoid reading anything in the morning
that will diminish my appetite.
I now first read the New York Times after breakfast — and on the
Internet. To remove the bad taste of the new Democrats who
dominate the New York Times I then call up WorldNetDaily.com.
Jerome Zeifman, the former chief counsel of the House Judiciary
Committee during the Watergate investigation is the author of “Without
Honor: Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of President Nixon.” He
recently published a series of six articles on the Clinton impeachment
crisis in Insight Magazine, reachable through their website or at 1-800-356-3588.