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Daily Howler: The New York Times knows what to do when the pig dares to make a complaint
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KILLING THE PIG! The New York Times knows what to do when the pig dares to make a complaint: // link // print // previous // next //

TOMORROW: Back to Bendixen! Killing the pig came first.

KILLING THE PIG: Was that speech chunk Obama shared with Deval Patrick worthy of a big press frenzy? No, we’d have to say it wasn’t—and it didn’t get one.

In our view, the matter was perhaps worth noting—little more. But in this morning’s New York Times, we get a lesson in killing the pig, courtesy of Sam Roberts.

Pre-adolescent boys know the rules: When Piggy lodges some sort of complaint, you quickly turn his words against him. That’s what Roberts (and his editors) do in today’s astounding “news report”—a report which focuses on “plagiarism” in 1993 by the deeply vile President Clinton.

What’s it like when boys “kill the pig?” This one deserves your attention.

LET’S GO BACK TO THE DAYS JUST BEFORE Clinton took his first oath of office. One day before his Inaugural Address, Gwen Ifill—then with the New York Times—previewed Clinton’s speech. Her report bore a sub-head: “Father Healy’s Guidance.” Here’s what came next:

IFILL (1/19/93): Father Healy’s Guidance

Mr. Clinton has received advice from aides and supporters in the form of memos. He said today that he is also drawing from a four-page outline that was discovered among the personal effects of the Rev. Timothy Healy, the head of the New York Public Library and former Georgetown University president who died three weeks ago.

"So, Tim's buried down the hill here, and I know he's looking down at us, and I want him to know that I have absorbed the instructions, and I have taken some and rejected some," Mr. Clinton said in remarks at Georgetown University. "That was always the case."

Mr. Clinton has been reviewing the inaugural speeches of past Presidents, paying special attention, his aides said, to Abraham Lincoln's second Inaugural Address, which was brief and dwelled on ruminations over the Civil War.

In his January 18 Georgetown speech, Clinton went into some detail about the suggestions he’d gotten from Healy. Many newspapers cited his comments. Two days later, he gave his address.

Let’s summarize: On January 18, Clinton gave a speech at his alma mater. He said that he’d be using suggestions received from his friend, Father Healy. Two days later, he gave his address—and used one of Healy’s suggestions.

But so what? Today, in the New York Times, this incident becomes an example of the way “Bill Clinton, in his Inaugural Address, borrowed references to springtime from two sources without crediting them at the time.” (Yes, Roberts actually says that. Meanwhile, he drags the word “plagiarism” all through his report.) And yes—Roberts knows that Clinton had cited Healy. He says so, right in his fourth paragraph.

But today, the Times is killing the pig—and pre-adolescents always know how to do it. Roberts’ piece is the work of a twelve-year-old boy—and of our greatest newspaper.

IN RECENT YEARS, WE IRISH HAVE often played key roles when work this dishonest is aimed at Big Dems (most often, at the Clintons and Gore). This morning, a big stupid loser named Jimmy Breslin is found smack-dab right in the middle of Roberts’ remarkable fraud.

Because uh-oh! A few days after Clinton’s inaugural, Breslin wrote a less-than-coherent Newsday column, rending his garments and tearing his hair and shrieking about Clinton’s “plagiarism.” (It isn’t available on-line.) This morning, Roberts weirdly cites part of that column. Here is the larger excerpt from the thing-in-itself:

BRESLIN (1/24/93): Clinton had a phrase in the speech that came from the late Rev. Timothy Healy, a gentle, scholarly Jesuit priest. When he died a few days before the inauguration, he lived in the splendor of books at the New York Public Library, which he ran.

Before he died, Healy sent by fax a phrase to Clinton which said, "Force the spring.”

Now I know these things. And believe me, when Healy sent Clinton that phrase it was with the idea that he would be alive and that he would hear Clinton say, "In the words of the Rev. Tim Healy..."

In fairness, it isn’t clear if Breslin knew that Clinton had discussed Healy’s contribution in his speech at Georgetown. (More good news: The Clinton “murder narrative” didn’t exist yet, so Breslin didn’t call Healy’s passing “another Clinton-related death.”) But Roberts does know about Clinton’s citation of Healy—he mentions it in today’s report—so his use of this non-incident is absurd, and repulsive, beyond compare. Simply put, the New York Times is “killing the pig”—and Sam Roberts got the assignment.

For the record, Roberts mentions a second charge made in Breslin’s column. In this highly murky passage, Roberts lodges a second claim of plagiarism against Vile Bill:

ROBERTS: Earlier on Inauguration Day [in 1993], Mr. Clinton attended a prayer service where another friend, the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, pastor emeritus of Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, delivered a sermon in which he said: ''On this fateful day, we enter a springtime, we believe, of a new beginnings. There may be spring rains and storms, but it is springtime in America.''

Mr. Breslin wrote at the time that Mr. Taylor in his morning sermon ''was unknowingly providing more thoughts and phrases for the speech.'' Somebody had announced that Mr. Clinton ''had finished his Inaugural Address at four in the morning,'' the column continued, ''which appears incorrect.''

That’s the full excerpt from Roberts’ piece. If this second plagiarism charge seems a bit murky, that’s because the charge was extremely murky in Breslin’s barely-coherent column. Strange but true: Breslin said he watched Taylor’s sermon on C-SPAN—and he somehow got it into his head that Clinton “might have” used some of the minister’s words at the start of his own address, hours later. Why doesn’t Roberts quote the actual words Clinton spoke, so we can compare them with the words Taylor said? Simple: The two sets of words are quite dissimilar, as is apparent in Breslin’s weird column. In short, Breslin had his shorts in a very strange wad when he wrote his barely-coherent column. Fifteen years later, Roberts uses Breslin’s kooky old mess as he kills the pig.

(By the way, Clinton was so abusive of Rev. Taylor that he later gave him the Medal of Freedom. Taylor accepted.)

A few questions:

Who is Sam Roberts? We know what you’re thinking: Given this type of unvarnished deception, the gentleman must be some kin to Cokie. We find no sign that that’s true. But no, he isn’t an ingenue; he did fourteen years at the tabloid Daily News before joining the Times in 1983. In short, Roberts has been around since dirt. He knows how Piggy gets slaughtered.

What was Breslin’s problem? We have no idea, of course. But we’ve told you before that certain losers among We Irish persist in a stupid anti-southerner bias, sometimes verging on hatred. (We think of the late Mary McGrory, who made so little effort to hide it.) In 1988, Breslin wrote remarkably nasty columns about Candidate Gore—columns which focused on the bad character traits Gore had derived from his repulsive southern upbringing. By now, he seemed to hate Clinton too. And the column he wrote about Clinton’s “plagiarism” was weird, bizarre—barely coherent. (Did Newsday ever edit this loser?)

One last point about killing the pig. Roberts’ report is accompanied by a large, stupid graphic. (For which he may not be responsible. Click here, then click on “Multimedia.”) The graphic presents various instances in which Hillary Clinton and John McCain are said to have “used one anothers’ [sic] catch phrases” in the way Obama did with Patrick. The examples are remarkably silly, true to the mission of killing a pig. The comparison between Obama and Patrick’s words is buried in the lower right corner.

But even here, the Times is unable to present the facts as they really exist. In comparing two different sets of text, the paper highlights the words which were spoken in common. But in the chunk of text Obama shared with Patrick, the Times has failed to highlight one of the three joint phrases. Our guess? When you try to kill the pig, you help the pig’s adversary a tad. Or this may just be a mistake, of course. But frankly, the Times has seemed to be playing this game all week—and it extends right to this bungled graphic.

No, this shared speech chunk wasn’t worth flogging. But when the Times decided to turn the complaint against Piggy, they couldn’t even highlight correctly.

IN CLOSING, LET’S NOT MISS THE basic structure of Roberts’ remarkable piece. Here’s the background: Obama repeated a speech chunk by Patrick—and the Clinton campaign complained about it. But uh-oh! Down through the ages, the rules have been clear: Whenever the pig tries to lodge a complaint, her words must be turned against her! And so, in today’s amazing report, the Times crawls back some fifteen years to a major address in which Clinton used a phrase recommended by a friend—a friend whose contribution he had discussed in a public speech two days earlier. At the Times, this is Bill Clinton’s latest vile act. And yes, the Times is killing the pig—once again.

Children kill the pig all the time. As we’ve told you many times, your “press corps” is now run by children.

LIFE ON YOUR PLANET: Similar nonsense has already started among our brightest liberals. This post by Steve Clemons is so fucking stupid that it makes a sane person’s brain hurt.

We ran the phrase “holiday from history” on Nexis. We found many uses of the phrase predating the Krauthammer column cited by Clemons. In fact, George Will had used the phrase exactly five days before this Krauthammer piece, in the same newspaper, in the same context. But then, Will and Krauthammer had both used the phrase in earlier years; in fact, the phrase was (and remains) in widespread use, especially among conservatives. Sorry, but this isn’t a case of “stolen words” by McCain. Unless your IQ is 11.

(By the way: McCain and Fred Thompson both used this phrase at earlier points in the current campaign. But then, many other conservatives have used the phrase in the past year. Repeating: The phrase is in wide public use.)

Clemons is supposed to be one of our smart ones. With “intellectual leaders” like this on our side, do you see why our candidates and our ideas have been left for dead in the past sixteen years? But then, to see this giant at play inside Washington, you know what to do: Just click here.

Bottom line: Obama’s use of that Patrick speech chunk wasn’t worth a whole lot of comment. But instead of making that simple point, the Times decided to kill the pig, and Clemons decided to widen the claim—in the stupidest manner possible. As we’ve been saying on “Philosopher Fridays:” While alleged giants like Nozick and Rawls strode the planet, the American discourse fell into the hands of the dumbest people on earth. They will continue to shape our discourse—until we somehow get it back.

OH BY THE WAY: We got the phrase “kill the pig” from Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. We’ve often been told it’s a novel.