A curiosity: twice recently The New York Times has devoted copious space to two huge, sprawling take-outs or investigative pieces on two subjects that their regular readers already know or couldn’t care less about:
- A remarkable book-length analysis in three articles over two days into the racist and deeply reactionary views of Tucker Carlson.
- A page-one opus yesterday entitled: “The Secrets Ed Koch Carried,” with the subhead: “Friends Open Up About the Private Strain of the Former Mayor’s Life as a Gay Man.”
Excuse me, but Tucker Carlson is a widely-known manipulator of hapless Fox viewers and Trump supporters who can’t seem to separate fact from fiction or don’t try; while the vast majority of New York Times readers have long regarded the late Mayor Koch as gay. The man died in 2013, an era when a politician’s sexual orientation was a bigger issue than today.
Both projects were deeply researched and smoothly written, but what, exactly, is new here? OK, I didn’t realize how relentless Carlson has been in pushing his twisted ideas on his popular Fox broadcast, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Point taken. Seems some three million feckless souls tune in most nights and actually believe his nonsense. But multiple full pages of copy when Ukraine, Supreme Court leaks and a teetering economy are competing for our attention?
Ed Kock was gay? Hello? That’s news? The multi-page article did support its subhead, by detailing the toll his homosexuality had taken on the former Mayor back in the day when this was a problem for elected officials. Truly sad. But news? Relevant to exactly what?
Taken together, the two projects suggest that an executive decision has been taken at The Grey Lady to commit staff and resources and space to the kind of deep background pieces long featured in The New Yorker and Atlantic magazines.
It’s the subjects that are curious.
True confession: I actually watched most of Donald Trump’s rambling, repetitious parody of himself before the CPAC conference yesterday afternoon. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion: dreadful, but impossible to look away as it is happening.
I had to search to find it live. Neither CNN nor MSNBC carried it in real time, showing more news judgement than they did during Trump’s 2016 campaign, when his self-indulgent rallies consistently boosted their ratings. Fox, of course, featured it yesterday, along with C-SPAN, Newsmax TV, BBC News 24, BBC World and the Murdochian Sky News.
The New York Times had a straight-ahead report of the speech on page A14 of this morning’s print edition, along with a sidebar noting that Trump had won the support of “only 68%” of the slavishly loyal CPAC attendees for another run for the brass ring in 2024.
The Washington Post led its Monday edition with a one-column “news” story noting that Trump had ruled out a third party, sought to cement control of the GOP and – surprise – hinted at a 2024 comeback. As for the speech itself, the estimable E.J. Dionne Jr. got it right when he wrote: “The act was old. The self-involvement was as intense as ever.”
Even more so, I’d say. The obvious purpose of the speech was to generate contributions to the two new PACs Trump has created ostensibly to finance his political reincarnation (and cover his day-to-day expenses,) and to remind the Fox News regulars that he is not going away. The 45th president showed up an hour late and went on for nearly two hours reading from a teleprompter and ad-libbing his golden oldies.
It was a pathetic performance, as you might expect. CNN and MSNBC got it exactly right with their measured, arms-length treatment. As did The Post’s editorial page headline over E.J. Dionne’s column: “The GOP: Trapped in Trump’s Rendezvous with Yesterday.”