Monday, December 8, 2008

Anatomy Of A Sneer

The LA Times continues its federophilic coverage of the Nixon Library with this ungenerous reflection by Karin Klein.

Last Thursday, her colleague Christopher Goffard left readers with the misleading impression that the transfer of the library to the National Archives has resulted in the opening of more Presidential records than would otherwise have been the case.

Klein called us later in the day to ask some follow-up questions. As she recounts it,

“What kind of changes to the library did you want to ask about?” a spokesman for the foundation inquired guardedly when I called for information Wednesday. And then, sardonically, “Oh, yes, I would expect the L.A. Times to be asking about Watergate.”

Well, considering that the archives had just released notes and recordings detailing Nixon’s attempts to smear perceived “enemies” — anyone who disagreed about the Vietnam War — that would seem the natural question.

My colleague couldn’t possibly have been more sardonic than Klein was in her piece. As a matter of fact, his question was natural precisely because her questions were coming from the LA Times — which, for instance, last year falsely attributed to reporter-hating Nixonians a famous scholar’s quote about the the Washington Post’s Watergate ethics.

Klein says she visited the Nixon Library to observe our old Watergate gallery. She evidently observed poorly:

When I first visited the library nearly five years ago, its greatest quirk was the Watergate exhibit, which asserted that the break-in and coverup that ushered in an era of mistrust of government were actually caused by the zeal of two unethical Washington Post reporters “to create a Watergate story.”

That’s an image — zealous Carl and Bob dressed up as zealous Hunt and Liddy. Actually, neither we nor anyone else on the planet ever claimed that “the break-in and coverup…were actually caused” by newspaper reporters. But at the LA Times, you can write whatever you want about Nixon Foundation folks, no matter how fanciful or confusing, and it gets past editors and copy editors and goes right into the first draft of history. Why? Because we’re a small band of people — or, as Klein says in her article, “cronies” — who believe that notwithstanding his sins and omissions the 37th President deserves a balanced portrayal in view of his course-changing policies as a statesman and wartime commander-in-chief. For whatever reason, our perspective is evidently inconvenient to the LA Times.

Our old Watergate exhibit did include a quotation about “Woodward and Bernstein’s failure to address any of the ethical deficiencies of their investigative reporting, including offering of bribes, illegally gaining access to telephone numbers, and talking to members of the grand jury.”

We admit it. We definitely had that quote in the gallery. And it was taken word for word from Stanley Kutler’s widely praised book The Wars Of Watergate.

Klein does seem to have intuited that we had something against Woodstein. Goffard was more clear if not more accurate. In an article last year in which he accused us of despising poor Mr. Bernstein just on the evidence of the Kutler quote being in our gallery, Goffard went so far as to proclaim that our charges against the reporters were false.

Goffard and Klein should have taken it up with the person who had actually made the charges. But Kutler is one of the most respected scholars in the country. So the LA Times wraps his inconvenient statements around our necks. If it were you, you'd be sardonic, too.

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