Question: does the New York Times op ed page have any quality control mechanisms? At all?
Okay, we all know that there are major problems with some of their op ed columnists. First off, there’s David Brooks, that shallow, insufferably smug propagandist for the 1 percenters whose only interesting moments occur when he drops the genial nice-guy pose and shows us his snarling, viciously punitive, anti-working people side. Then there’s Maureen Dowd who, half the time, reads like she has the emotional maturity of Paris Hilton (though I will say that Modo’s recent columns about Jerry Sandusky and the Catholic Church have been spot-on). Finally, there’s Ross Douthat, a know-nothing hack with serial killer eyes whose creepy, misogynist sexual politics are positively medieval, and whose column has become one of my favorite hate-reads ever.
But their op-eds also frequently have that same head-shaking, did-I-actually-read-that? quality to them as well. Case in point: today’s op-ed by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown. A couple of things to note about Brown. First of all, she just had an op-ed in the Times last month — the previous one was a piece of garbage about how President Obama is allegedly condescending to women. I can’t remember, in all my years of Times-reading, another person getting two op-eds in the Times within a 5-week period. And it’s not like Brown is displaying brilliant wit or erudition or or irrefutable logic or sparkling prose style or any other outstanding quality.
Secondly, Brown is married to Dan Senor, one of Mitt Romney’s top advisers. This is not mentioned anywhere in the op ed. It damn well out to be.
About the op-ed itself: it is one of those sleazy, totally disingenuous “I’m a pro-choicer but” arguments by someone who is trying to concern troll Planned Parenthood out of existence. Brown, never one to back down from a clichÃ©, claims she wants abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare.” She also claims to be a Planned Parenthood supporter, but attacks the organization for very sensibly refusing to support certain so-called moderate Republican politicians who do not support their goals. One such politician is Senator Susan Collins, who Planned Parenthood declined to endorse because, among other things, she made the indefensible decision to support the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Another of the allegedly moderate Republicans that Campbell Brown wants to force Planned Parenthood to support instead of a far more ideologically friendly Democrat is Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois. To give you an idea of what a lying piece of crap this op-ed is, Brown refers to Dold as “pro-choice.” Well, it’s true that he calls himself pro-choice, but that label is completely misleading. In 2010, Dold was back by the anti-choice Right to Life PAC; among other things, Dold
opposes government assistance for women who cannot afford abortions, he supports the ban on late-term abortions, he supports parental involvement laws, and he supports the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (which requires that a script be read to women before an abortion). Dold also supported the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which would have resulted in women losing health benefits related to abortions that they have today.
In fact, Dold is so anti-choice that in 2010 he actually won the endorsement of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right Eagle Forum. At Dold’s request, however, they rescinded the endorsement.
Sounding like an uptight schoolmarm, Campbell Brown also says she has a problem with Planned Parenthood’s “attitude”:
an attitude that doesn’t ever seem to take into account that abortion is a morally complicated matter or that those on the anti-abortion side are often decent and well-intentioned people.
Unsurprisingly, this is a straw man. First of all, there is absolutely no contradiction between acknowledging that, for individuals, abortion can be an extremely morally complex matter, while at the same time insisting politically that safe, legal, affordable, readily accessible abortions must be available to all women who seek them for any reason. The moral issues are strictly between the woman, her own conscience, and her God (if she has one) to sort out, and are no one else’s business whatsoever — least of all wingnut politicians, religious zealots, or fading former television personalities of no particular field of expertise.
Secondly, I haven’t heard anyone from Planned Parenthood ever say that the anti-choicers were not decent or well-intentioned. Now, I don’t think the Right to Life organizations (as opposed to individuals who have right to life views) are especially decent or well intentioned when it comes to abortion rights. In fact, I think they are a menace to women’s freedom who want to deprive us of control over our sexual and reproductive lives, and in fact, to rob us of our basic humanity. But I’m just a blogger who tends to mouth off and say stuff like that. I have never heard Planned Parenthood spokespeople say anything like that.
The rest of the op ed goes on in this vein. It paints a picture of Planned Parenthood that in no way resembles reality. This is not an organization “driven by blind partisanship, electing to burn bridges instead of building them” or one that “sees ideological purity as so paramount that it permeates every aspect of its strategic planning.” It is, rather, an organization that does vitally important work in serving women’s health needs, that is being smeared with vicious lies, that has been under brutal assault for years now, and that is fighting for its life. It makes total sense for them to not support Republicans, because to the extent that the Republican Party, particularly in its current lunatic incarnation, is empowered, Planned Parenthood’s existential survival is threatened.
Campbell Brown’s op-ed is such a shameless piece of hackwork that I have to wonder what the Times was thinking when they decided to publish it. Especially because, as I mentioned, they published another op-ed by her only a month ago! It’s a piece that would make a lot more sense at a place like Townhall.com than the New York Times.