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Monday, February 17, 2014

David Brooks, "The Prodigal Sons": The Prodigious Sins of The New York Times

A New York Observer article entitled "The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page" (http://observer.com/2014/02/the-tyranny-and-lethargy-of-the-times-editorial-page/#axzz2su9y1r4t) by Ken Kurson, recently caused something of a sensation by highlighting the dichotomy between the excellent newsroom reporting of the Times versus the irrelevance, stupidity and lack of originality of its editorial page. Well, Kurson was right. Compare today's New York Times op-eds with The Washington Post's opinion pieces.

In his latest Times op-ed entitled "The Prodigal Sons" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/opinion/brooks-the-prodigal-sons.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks smugly begins by telling us, "We take as our text today the parable of the prodigal sons." Brooks's conclusion:

"The father’s lesson for us is that if you live in a society that is coming apart on class lines, the best remedies are oblique. They are projects that bring the elder and younger brothers together for some third goal: national service projects, infrastructure-building, strengthening a company or a congregation."

So is Brooks right, left or center, or, as I suggested in an earlier blog entry (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.co.il/2014/02/david-brooks-refiners-fire-case-in.html), an alien from the Planet Balderdash who weaseled his way onto the op-ed staff of the Times?

And then we have Frank Bruni, in a Times op-ed entitled "Hillary’s Secrets" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/opinion/bruni-hillarys-secrets.html?ref=opinion&_r=0), bewailing the unmasking of Hillary's narcissism and her Lady MacBeth-like ambition in a Washington Free Beacon article entitled "The Hillary Papers" (http://freebeacon.com/the-hillary-papers/) by Alana Goodman. Bruni writes:

"Blair’s journals are the kind of material from which biographies and histories have long been woven. But it doesn’t always surface so soon, and it is now augmented by the eavesdropping and tattling of cabinet secretaries (see “Duty,” by Robert Gates) and political allies and handlers eager to make themselves look better, even at a benefactor’s expense (see “Game Change” and the robust genre to which it belongs).

Frenzied media feed on this, to a degree that arguably goes beyond our obligation to keep politicians honest, and it’s troubling in two regards. How many decent, gifted people who contemplate public office look at what someone like Hillary endures and step away? And the people who aren’t scared off: How cold and hard are they, or how cold and hard do they become?"

Oh, poor, poor Hillary, who will always be remembered for her declaration regarding the reasons for the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi, "What difference at this point does it make?" We should also never forget Hillary's infamous embrace of Syrian mass murderer Bashar al-Assad on "Face the Nation" in March 2011:

"There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer."

Syria and Assad? Oh, that's right: There is a savage civil war there, in which the Assad regime is attempting to starve its opponents into submission. As we are told today by Michael Gerson, writing from Al Hadalat, Jordan, in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Syria’s refugees despair while the world is indifferent" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-gerson-the-despair-of-syrias-refugees/2014/02/17/43294b50-97fd-11e3-afce-3e7c922ef31e_story.html?hpid=z3):

"President Obama has described this as 'someone else’s civil war' and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dismissed the conflict as 'baddies vs. baddies.' Such characterizations are simply inaccurate. The killing of civilians in Syria is not the unfortunate byproduct of a civil war; it is a main objective of one side in that civil war. Some 40 districts , including about a quarter of a million people, are currently under siege by Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The goal is to surround these targets, lay them waste, kill everyone who poses a possible threat and prevent the return of suspect civilians. Both sides in the conflict commit atrocities. One side commits them on a massive scale as a matter of strategy.

This is what brought me to Jordan on a trip hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has, as part of its mission, the goal of calling attention to modern atrocities and crimes against humanity. Syria has joined an infamous historical list including Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda. And the course of the Syrian conflict is currently demonstrating the utility of mass atrocities and the relative indifference of the rest of the world.

. . . .

These developments should mean something to Mr. Obama, the author of an executive directive (Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities ) declaring the prevention of mass atrocities a 'core national security interest and a core moral responsibility.' At the moment, he stands judged by his own standard."

We also have Richard Cohen, in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Obama’s failure to act on Syria" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-obamas-failure-to-act-on-syria/2014/02/17/badddd00-981b-11e3-8461-8a24c7bf0653_story.html?hpid=z3), writing:

"Six million people have been displaced. Three million have fled to neighboring countries. Polio has broken out in refugee camps (see a recent account in the New York Review of Books). The world does little to stop the fighting. The United States does next to nothing. Children die for lack of food or medicine. There is more than enough shame here to go around.

. . . .

Washington’s dawdling has become the hallmark of Obama’s foreign policy. He can make all the speeches he wants, but his confusion and indecision is what other leaders notice and what history will remember. Now, so very late, he has asked for options. Here’s one: Do something!"

So, do you prefer moralizing over the parable of the prodigal sons and Hillary's need for privacy, or, are you willing to be reminded of the moral failings of Obama, Hillary and Kerry (Assad is "my dear friend"), who have refused to combat genocide in Syria?

An inconsequential matter of individual taste? I don't want to think so.

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