If you want to understand why the New York Times jumped the shark during Howell Raines's tenure as executive editor, a solid clue is provided by a startling opinion piece Raines penned this week for the British newspaper the Guardian. After accusing President Bush of representing "the conservative, greedy wing of the Privilege party," after noting that he "looks like Goofy when he smirks," after alleging without evidence that "George W got into the Air National Guard when others couldn't through his father's political pull … got into flight school ahead of others due to his father's political pull… was allowed to skip his normal weekend drills and make them up without being punished because of his father's political pull," after insisting, again without evidence, that Vice President Cheney "used graduate-school deferments to beat the draft" -- and that the American people already know these things -- Raines predicts that John Kerry will nevertheless have a hard time beating Bush in November.
The problem, as Raines sees it, is that the voters are just not smart enough to know what's good for them: "Speeches that sound right at the Council [on Foreign Relations] don't necessarily work for an electorate schooled to respond to simple messages."
So Raines has a suggestion for Kerry, a recipe for an election win: Lie to the voters. Kerry has already told the Democratic Leadership Council that he is "not a redistributionist Democrat."
"Using that promise as disinformation," Raines says, " [Kerry] must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat.… Greed will make folks vote for Democrats if it's properly packaged, just as it now makes them vote Republican, and in terms of the kind of voters Kerry must win away from Bush, I think the pot-of-gold retirement strategy is a way to work. Forget a chicken in every pot. It's time for a Winnebago in every driveway."
Remember, Raines is the same guy who oversaw Jayson Blair's front page fictions at the Times and who took no action when the columnist Maureen Dowd doctored a presidential quote about the war on terror to make Bush appear out of touch with reality. The reason is now clear. Both Blair and Dowd were serving up noble lies, serving the greater cause of left-wing politics.
Besides, as Pontius Pilate once asked, "What is truth?"