Man Without Qualities

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Torricelli and the New York Times

The New York Times has now produced it's Torricelli editorial, and it's a beaut. There is the obligatory editorial handwringing over the Senator's apparent lies, probable bribe-taking and continued defiance.

But that all seems to be pretty small beer for the Times editors, who urgently - and irrelevantly - point out that it is now just "a few months before fall elections in which control of the Senate may hinge on whether Mr. Torricelli can win re-election." Thank God the Times has it's priorities straight. Better a louse in the cabbage than no meat at all!

The rest of the editorial amounts to a collection of helpful suggestions to the Senator as to what he must do to win re-election and, presumably, an endorsement from the Times! Unsurprisingly, the Senator is instructed to start with a big media pandering event:

"If he wants to put the Chang episode behind him, the first thing he should do is hold a press conference in which he answers any and all questions about his behavior."

Federal prosecutors appointed by the Clinton Administration, and the Senate ethics committee itself, have squarely and repeatedly asked the Senator every single one of the questions the Times editorial says the voters have a right to an answer to now. But the Senate letter of admonishment also squarely says the Senator has dissembled in reply. But, now, with just a press conference all will be forgiven! The Times says, for example:

The voters have a right to know, for instance, why Mr. Torricelli brought Mr. Chang along to a meeting with the South Korean prime minister, and to hear him answer charges by a former American ambassador that Mr. Torricelli embarrassed the embassy by lobbying hard for Mr. Chang's business interests.

So let's see. The Senator holds his press conference. He says he brought Mr. Chang along on that trip because he liked the guy, especially his ribald jokes that surely can't be repeated at the press conference. He apologizes for his crude sense of humor and "bad judgment" at enjoying such jokes - but notes that many men do even though the "puritans" don't approve. Then he says that he respectfully disagrees with the Embassy folks about how his favorable comments regarding Mr. Chang's business interests were construed. He also apologizes for not being sufficiently clear or for inadvertently giving the impression that he was strongly lobbying the ambassador. Mistakes will happen! That being taken care of, we can all just move on!

Oh, the Senator does have to give meaningful assurances that "he will steer clear of these conflicts in the future." And let's not forget that "there is something wrong somewhere, and so far Mr. Torricelli has done nothing to identify exactly what it is." So Mr. Torricelli will have to "identify exactly what it is" before he can get back to the business of helping to run the country.

The Times is so nice. Saint Francis couldn't have done any better. But, somehow, one doesn't pick up the suggestion elsewhere in the Times that, say, a crooked CEO or director of a public company should be returned to his or her position after identifying exactly what it is that was wrong with the accounting practices and then providing assurances that he or she "will steer clear of these conflicts in the future."

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