In a bizarre college commencement speech on May 21, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. urged protection for his reporters and photographers “in war-torn Iraq” so they can bring back stories about a “misbegotten war” and help undermine the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. Strangely, he quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “never give in,” but Sulzberger urged the U.S. to raise the white flag in Iraq and suggested that George Bush be kicked out of office in the same way Richard Nixon was forced to resign. Sulzberger, who also serves as chairman of the Times company, defended the paper’s disclosure of national security information that makes it easier for the terrorists to target and kill Americans. And this from a publisher based in New York City, site of Ground Zero on 9/11.
While Sulzberger had no words of praise for the U.S. Armed Forces, he did express concern about losing “our reporters and photographers in war-torn areas such as Iraq?” He called Iraq “a misbegotten war in a foreign land.” So, apparently, he wants his personnel protected just so they can help undermine the war effort and force an American withdrawal.
The address, which sounded like something out of the mouth of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, comes at a time when major investors are questioning Sulzberger’s ability to lead the company into the new media age. Those investors made headlines when they withheld their votes for a slate of Sulzberger-approved directors at the April 18 annual meeting.
In the speech, delivered to the State University of New York at New Palz, where he was honored with a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Sulzberger argued that students should do the right thing when it comes to “small decisions,” such as picking up an overturned trash can or helping a stranded motorist. But he said, in effect, that on big matters such as peace, freedom and security for our nation, the U.S. should throw in the towel. He suggested abandoning the war on terrorism and concentrating on more important things like adopting special rights for homosexuals and illegal aliens.
Tooting his own horn, Sulzberger also declared that “?it’s important that those of us at The New York Times have the courage of our own convictions and defend the rights of our journalists to protect their sources or, after much debate and discussion, publish the news that our government is bypassing its own legal systems to tap into phone calls made to and from the United States.”
He was referring to the Judith Miller case, in which a Times reporter served 85 days in jail rather than testify before a grand jury about a possible crime, and the Times story about a classified NSA program to monitor al-Qaeda communications here and abroad. Miller, however, became a pariah at the paper for using Bush officials as sources, and she was forced to resign in a deal that left her with a financial severance package that Sulzberger still won’t explain in any detail.
Sulzberger quoted Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s Daily Show and went on to declare his belief in the “butterfly effect,” which “holds that the smallest of actions?say, the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the mountains of Bolivia?can lead over time to enormous consequences?say, a hurricane in Africa.”
But doesn’t that apply to the Times? His head in the clouds, he doesn’t seem to realize that the immediate consequence of the Times disclosing classified information is that the terrorists have a much easier time of plotting to kill us. But Sulzberger, at least in his speech, exhibited no concern at all about what the terrorists might do.
The speech was much worse than the initial reports indicated. When I read on the blogs that Sulzberger had delivered a left-wing rant as a college commencement speech, I was skeptical. As someone who has had many exchanges with Sulzberger at Times annual meetings, where he tries to come across as reasonable and measured, I didn’t think he would have gone out on a limb like that. After I called the communications office of the Times company for comment on what the blogs were saying about Sulzberger, I didn’t get my call returned. I had no film of the speech or the transcript, only a local paper’s account of what he reportedly said.
Then, on May 27, C-SPAN came to the rescue with the actual film of Sulzberger’s speech. Sulzberger came across as a left-wing true believer who thinks the Times is on a mission to transform the domestic and foreign policies of the U.S. The paper’s immediate objective, he made clear, is to destroy the Bush Administration and force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq for failing to hew to the Times editorial line.
Leaving aside his typical banter about the cost of a college education and the challenges faced by parents, Sulzberger talked about the time when he graduated from college and compared it to today’s political atmosphere. He said:
“When I graduated from college in 1974, my fellow students and I had just ended the war in Vietnam and ousted President Nixon. Okay, that’s not quite true. Yes, the war did end and yes, Nixon did resign in disgrace?but maybe there were larger forces at play.
“Either way, we entered the real world committed to making it a better, safer, cleaner, more equal place. We were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. We had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.
“Our children, we vowed, would never know that.
“So, well, sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
“You weren’t supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land.
“You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life; the rights of gays to marry; or the rights of women to choose.
“You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drives policy and environmentalists have to relentlessly fight for every gain.
“You weren’t. But you are. And for that I’m sorry.”
This arrogant display demonstrated Sulzberger’s belief that he and his paper have somehow failed to prevent a Nixon-like disaster from currently occupying the oval office. Sulzberger simply ignored the heroism and sacrifice of U.S. military personnel trying to bring freedom and democracy and fundamental human rights to Iraq. His remarks sounded like something scribbled from the pen of William Blum, the left-wing writer favorably cited by Osama bin Laden in one of his tapes.
Sulzberger’s speech, of course, is consistent with the paper’s liberal editorial policy on issues like homosexuals, rights for illegal aliens, abortion, environmentalism, and the war. But it was something else for Sulzberger, the chairman and publisher of the paper, to say these things publicly and put them on the record.
If we are to believe Sulzberger, we will all be better off if the U.S. (1) withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan and leaves bin Laden alone, (2) legalizes homosexual marriages, (3) gives rights to illegal aliens, (4) keeps abortion legal under all circumstances, and (5) gives the environmentalists some more legislative victories, so that we are further restricted from exploiting our own sources of energy.
On the oil issue, he talked about a U.S. foreign policy being driven by oil, when his friends in the environmental movement have helped make the U.S. more dependent on foreign sources of oil, including in the Middle East. The environmentalists are the best friends of the Arab-dominated OPEC oil cartel.
In the end, it is helpful to have Sulzberger on the record like this. Liberal media critics usually try to claim that media “owners” are conservative and exercise influence or even control over their admittedly liberal editors and reporters. The Sulzberger speech proves that there is no division between the ownership of this paper and its left-wing editors and reporters. Still, Times editors and reporters must have been embarrassed by his rant. With the business community already losing confidence in him, developing a reputation as a dangerous eccentric on political matters and current events could spell doom for Sulzberger’s position at the company.