A tale of two takes on the same news story …
To hear some people talk, you’d think every newspaper editor and television station manager in the country gets on a conference call every morning to get their marching orders and talking points from some nebulous, faceless left-wing mover and shaker, then join in singing The Internationale before marching off to their appointed rounds.
On Sunday The New York Times carried a front photo from 2002 of President Bush in front of a banner reading, “A Home of Your Own.” The headline read, “White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire.”
The story takes up a sizable chuck of the front page and jumps inside to two full pages of story, photos and graphics. It includes conclusions such as, “There are plenty of culprits, like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk.
“But the story of how we got here is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making, according to a review of his tenure that included interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials.”
The only mention of anything contributing to the current credit crunch and housing meltdown prior to the arrival of Bush on the scene was a single sentence, “Advocating homeownership is hardly novel; the Clinton administration did it, too.”
The theme of the piece could be summed up as: It is Bush’s fault.
Even when talking about Bush administration efforts to rein in toxic loans, the story seems to fault Bush not being willing to compromise.
“Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants,” the story says. “The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal.”
Well, not everyone sees it the same way. On Tuesday Investor’s Business Daily slapped the Gray Lady editorially under a headline reading, “Revision Run Amok.” The editorial accuses the Times of ignoring anything that happened prior to 2002 and of failing to interview any Clinton housing crusaders for its “one-sided story.”
In a really nice job of foisting the Times on its own petard, IBD quotes from a New York Times story from 1999.
“The paper’s reporters didn’t even bother to search their own archives,” the editorial stated. “Had they done so, they would have found a Sept. 20, 1999, article by Steven A. Holmes that reported:
“’Fannie Mae has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people.’"
That 1999 Times story quoted former Clinton Budget Director Franklin Raines, who went on to make millions as the head of Fannie Mae, as saying he had relaxed credit standards to increase loans to low-income borrowers.
IBD noted the story later quoted American Enterprise Institute fellow Peter Wallison saying of Fannie Mae, “If they fail, the government will have to step up and bail them out."
The editorial concludes: “It’s plain the New York Times is trying to litigate its case — without full discovery or a fair trial — on behalf of its client, the president-elect, who derided the Republican ‘Ownership Society’ during the campaign.
“Small wonder that Americans have lost faith in the media establishment.”
It is all Bush’s fault at the Times. Over at IBD it is mostly the fault of Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The press is not monolithic. Thank goodness.