If It Can’t Be Used Against Bush, It’s Not News.

Walking Out on the Job

TODAY the New York Times expressed its opinion about Richard Clarke and the 9/11 commission. In an editorial this morning, the paper hunkered down to the tough job of assigning blame for underestimating the threat of terrorism. It will be little surprise in whose direction the gray finger points.

“There are still plenty of questions to be answered about what happened, particularly about the apparent lack of urgency in the Bush administration’s antiterrorism efforts before 9/11,” the paper declares. The Times goes on to note that “there was at least no question about the Clinton administration’s commitment to combat terrorism .

PERHAPS THIS IS SO. But a story from the November / December 2001 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review suggests that the New York Times is at least as guilty of the charge they level against the Bush administration.

In his remarkable report, Harold Evans tells of the Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Gary Hart and Warren Rudman. The United States Commission on National Security was created in a joint effort by President Clinton and Newt Gingrich. In its first public statement in September 1999, the committee warned that “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.”

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal did not carry a line, either of the report or the press conference. Boyd told me: “I won’t ever forget that day in Senate Room 207.” He watched in disbelief as the Times reporter left before the presentation was over, saying it was not much of a story.

. . . the commissioners were particularly bewildered by the blackout at the New York Times; they pitched an op-ed article signed by Hart and Rudman in the hope that it would induce the Times to take a proper look at the commission’s work. The article was rejected.