FCP was fascinated to learn from that same column that Times reporter Scott Shane actually tried to describe the methods used inside the CIA’s network of secret prisons as practices “widely denounced as illegal torture.” Unfortunately, Shane was overruled by his editor, Doug Jehl, who changed that to the “harshest interrogation methods” since the September 11 attacks.

Sinner: Garrison Keillor, for joining the chorus led by David Broder against the prosecution of the people responsible for American torture in Salon:

Rather than square off in a bloody battle over war crimes, let’s return decent train service to the Midwest and test out the German maglev (magnetic levitation) system—the 360 mph trains—and connect Chicago and St. Paul-Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit, Omaha, Kansas City. Let’s restore education to the public schools so that our kids get a chance to hear Mozart and learn French.

Winners: Frank Rich and Diane McWhorter, who actually understand this issue.

Rich in The New York Times:

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

McWhorter in USA Today:

An African American “smeared” as an Islamic alien should be acutely aware of how America’s old color line has been reanimated against Muslims and Arabs. For the mechanism by which the country largely condoned the torture of suspects in the “war on terror”—as a prerogative of American purity and superiority—mirrors the way that white supremacy justified the dehumanization of American blacks.

Winner: Jonathan Chait, for reminding us in The New Republic that while the Wall Street Journal editorial page is a fierce opponent of the prosecution of Bush administration officials—on the grounds that such prosecution would represent tawdry political retribution—it had a strikingly different point of view in 2001:

Remember the Rule of Law? In the late 1990s, it was all the rage in conservative circles. Having maneuvered Bill Clinton into a position where he could either lie under oath or suffer massive personal and political embarrassment, conservatives reasoned that Clinton must be held accountable for perjury or the basic underpinnings of democracy would be shattered. The Republican sensibility was best reflected by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which not only crusaded for impeachment but demanded, in 2001, that Bill Clinton be indicted even after leaving office. The Journal rejected the logic of promoting healing and insisted that a post-presidency indictment would uphold “the principle that even Presidents and ex-Presidents are not above the law.

Because lying about fellatio is so much worse than committing a war crime.

Sinners: New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and the editors of Time magazine, who selected Sulzberger to write 237 fawning words about Carlos Slim for Time’s issue about the hundred most important people in the world. Slim, of course, has just thrown Sulzberger a lifesaver in the form of a $250 million loan—at 14 percent interest.

Sulzberger’s oh-so-objective reaction to Slim’s generosity:

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Carlos Slim. He had decided to invest in the New York Times Co. and thought it would be a good idea to get to know me and my senior colleagues. It was obvious from the moment we met that he was a true Times loyalist.

Presumably, Sulzberger felt obliged to write this to make up for the far more accurate profile of Slim written last winter by New York Times reporter Marc Lacey, who noted, “when the news media focus their spotlight on him, he sometimes gives the impression that he wants to be left alone to make more money in peace.”

However, this wasn’t nearly as offensive as Time’s decision to get the great Glenn Beck to celebrate his hero, Rush Limbaugh, in the same issue. “His consistency, insight and honesty have earned him a level of trust with his listeners that politicians can only dream of.”

If only Time could have gotten Mussolini to make a similar contribution to its Man of the Year cover story in 1938:

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.


Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.