It’s a trick question. As alert New York Times readers will recognize, the answer, according to that august publication, is all of the above.
From the start the Times has been harshly critical of President Trump’s selection of Steve Bannon as a senior advisor. Now, in an editorial titled, “President Bannon,” the Times “suggests Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president.”
(This comes scarcely a week into President Trump’s first term. Interestingly, at no time during the last eight years did the Times criticize the outsized role of Valerie Jarrett in the Obama Administration, despite the considerably greater evidence that she was Obama’s Svengali and de facto president. To the contrary, the Times gave Jarrett fawning coverage.)
But the Times is having difficulty deciding: Is Bannon more like Adolph Hitler? Or Joseph Stalin? Or Mao Zedong? Undecided, it included in its attack on Bannon language it has used in covering each of these world-historic tyrants.
For example, the Times rails at “Mr. Bannon’s jingoism,” calling it “damaging” — compare its 1933 criticism of “Hitler’s jingoism,” which it found “disturbing”:
Or take the Times‘s observation that “we’ve never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly” as Bannon. In the view of the Times, only tyrants and other bad people act “brazenly” (quick action by liberal political operatives, of course, is good; they act “decisively“). For example, the Times‘s 1939 criticism of Hitler and Stalin for playing power politics “so brazenly that its nakedness shocks us.”
And what, according to the Times, is Bannon moving so “brazenly” to do? Well, “to consolidate power.” That’s language the Times uses to describe political moves by bad people — for example, in a 1968 article speculating on the precise way in which Chairman Mao would move “to consolidate his power in the party . . . .” Liberals and other good people never move to “consolidate power” — in the Times lexicon, they merely move to “firm up support.”
It would be funny, if it were not so sad, that only one week into the Trump Administration this formerly great, but now rapidly failing, newspaper has beclowned itself by criticizing one of the President’s top advisers with the same language it used to criticize Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.