Now, I think I've seen it all. The absolutely most mystifying and at the same time obvious gibberish from my former employer, the New York Times. This once mighty newspaper ran a story on page one on Wednesday, May 25, 2011, about the totally, unimaginably trivial fact that Newt Gingrich has bought his wife certain pieces of jewelry that some people consider lavish and has a charge account at Tiffany. This, strongly insinuates the Times, shows that Newt is a hypocrite in calling for budgetary discipline and restraint in the federal government.
What? How does that go again? What does the nature and cost of a politician's wife's jewelry have to do with anything at all about policy? Accompanying the story is an immense photo of a simply beautiful Mrs. Gingrich wearing what the Times purports to be an expensive diamond necklace. What does that have to do with anything at all?
Who cares what his wife's jewelry looks like? Who cares what it cost unless he paid for it illegally, which no one says he did? Who cares what his wife looks like? What does any of this have to do with taxation or expenditure of the federal government?
Why is this in any way whatsoever relevant to the national debate over debt and taxes?
Franklin Roosevelt's family ate off gold (yes, gold, not gold-colored) plates with gold utensils. That had nothing to do with his fiscal policies. John F. Kennedy's wife wore designer outfits that were mind-bogglingly expensive for the day. What did that have to do with anything at all?
Pat Nixon wore a "good Republican cloth coat," not a fur. I didn't notice the Times cutting Richard M. Nixon any slack for that.
Abe Lincoln was one of the most highly paid lawyers (mostly for railroads) in the nation in 1860. His wife was mocked for her lavish spending on furniture at the White House. What did that have to do with anything?
The New York Times story might just as well have said, "We don't really have anything smart to say about Republicans today, so we'll just try to generate some hostile envy from our readers by insinuating that a Republican candidate for President is rich and extravagant. Then we'll have a 'Two Minute Hate' right out of 1984 for Republicans generally. We'll ignore the billionaire liberals like George Soros and the dozens of others, and we'll just concentrate on mocking and humiliating the wife of a Republican politician who wanted to please his lovely wife."
A few inches away, there is an affectionate story of a billionaire heiress, obviously as nutty as a fruit cake, who died recently. No mockery there because she's not a candidate for anything. If it's old, non-Republican money, we at the Times worship it.
Then we'll bury a story about a standing ovation for Netanyahu in Congress on page six, because unless he's a Palestinian, the Times cannot pay much attention to anyone from Israel. Then we'll have what is actually a darned good story about wealth and the nation's universities by David Leonhardt, and then we'll call it a day.
I was a columnist for the Times for several years and never set foot in the building. I wonder what it would have been like.
I imagine immense posters of Che Guevara, but then I could be wrong. Now, I have to swim.