Times Watch Quotes of Note 2010 Worst Quotes of the Year

Welcome to Times Watch's end-of-year awards issue, celebrating the best of the worst quotes that appeared in the paper or were uttered by Times reporters and columnists during 2010. It was a year in which the Times reacted badly to challenges to President Obama, seeing racial hostility behind every attack on our wise, hope-bringing, moderate president. This year the biased quotes come in three categories: Poisoned Tea Party, Obama Adoration, and Just Plain Bizarre.
Welcome to Times Watch's end-of-year awards issue, celebrating the best of the worst quotes that appeared in the paper or were uttered by Times reporters and columnists during 2010.

While the New York Times spent much of 2009 celebrating President Obama, the paper's slant took a turn toward the nasty in 2010. From the surging Tea Party movement to a bipartisan backlash against his brand of big-government health "reform," Obama was challenged on many fronts. The Times reacted badly, seeing racial hostility behind every attack on our wise, hope-bringing, moderate president.

This year the biased quotes come in three categories: Poisoned Tea Party, Obama Adoration, and Just Plain Bizarre. Below, two distinguished outside Times critics, William McGowan and Thomas Lifson, offer their take on some of the "best" quotes from the Times during the past year.

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William McGowan is author of the new book "Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America."

For the Poisoned Tea Party category, McGowan chose this quote from Kate Zernike's book on the Tea Party claiming "it was little wonder" that some people felt the movement was motivated by racism:

To talk about states' rights in the way some Tea Partiers did was to pretend that the twentieth century and the latter half of the nineteenth century had never happened, that the country had not rejected this doctrine over and over. It was little wonder that people heard the echo of the slave era and decided that the movement had to be motivated by racism.

McGowan argued: "Zernike's historical understanding of states' rights is limited to racial issues and racial issues only. For better or worse, the concept has also motivated many non-racial issues: taxation policy, educational policy and unfunded mandates for starters."

His favorite in the Obama Adoration category came from reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, 'a new beginning.' But his 'new beginning' has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents."

McGowan responded: "You couldn't put a better compendium of Obama hagiography and Times boosterism than this...Stolberg seems to not see that you can honorably disagree with Obama on many of his policies, such as his chosen form of outreach to the Islamic world as well as counterterrorism, and that this does not mean discomfort with a more pluralistic, secular America."

For Just Plain Bizarre, McGowan chided both the paper's former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse and columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Greenhouse fulminated against Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants with a Nazi comparison (excerpt):

I'm glad I've already seen the Grand Canyon. Because I'm not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into....Here's a modest proposal. Everyone remembers the wartime Danish king who drove through Copenhagen wearing a Star of David in support of his Jewish subjects. It's an apocryphal story, actually, but an inspiring one.

McGowan called Greenhouse's quote "an offense against history, especially the legacy of the Holocaust, to equate enforcing immigration laws against those here illegally with an act of sympathy toward Jews who were the focus of the largest and most lethal genocide in modern human history."

Kristof equated critics of a mosque at Ground Zero to witch-burners:

Suspicion of outsiders, of people who behave or worship differently, may be an ingrained element of the human condition, a survival instinct from our cave-man days. But we should also recognize that historically this distrust has led us to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.

McGowan responded that Kristof's "thinking abounds with the same shallow historical analogies, offered up with a thick spread of punitive liberalism. Whatever you think of the opposition to the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, equating opposition to it, as Kristof does, to witch-burning, interning Japanese during World War II and turning away refugees from the Holocaust is both far from fair and historically inaccurate. Not to go unnoted is that this was one of four columns which Kristof directly devoted to the mosque controversy."

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Thomas Lifson is a recovering academic and editor at American Thinker.

For Poisoned Tea Party, Lifson picked the paper's revealing photo caption that lumped peaceful Tea Party protesters in with the terrorist Weathermen of the late-60s:

VARYING DEGREES OF RAGE: The Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, second from right, during the Days of Rage in 1969, and anti-health reform protesters in Washington on Sunday.

Lifson responded: "Likening the Weathermen, who built bombs and smashed windows with peaceable ObamaCare protestors reflects the left wing desire that conservatives be understood as violent, even when they are not."

In Obama Adoration, Lifson rolled his eyes at reporter Eric Wilson's take on Michelle Obama as fashion plate (excerpted):

First Lady Michelle Obama is now officially a fashion plate....Often called the First Lady of Fashion, Mrs. Obama has a sense of style, as we all know by now, that rivals Jackie Kennedy's.

Lifson writes: "Wilson, who avers that there were never any doubts about her status as a fashion plate, takes on the character of a cultist....The comparison to Jacqueline Kennedy is so ludicrous on its face that one must wonder if Wilson is practicing postmodern irony."

Lifson found his "favorite" quote in Just Plain Bizarre from peripatetic columnist Thomas Friedman's disturbing declaration on Meet the Press (excerpted):

I've been saying for awhile Tom, there's only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, the Chinese form of government, and that's one-party democracy. You know, in China, if the leadership can get around to an enlightened decision it can order it from the top down, OK.

In Lifson's view, Friedman "unashamedly proclaims the motto of autocrats everywhere: democracy is too messy, so let a wise ruling class make the decision, and shut up."

Thanks to the judges, and enjoy the full collection of quotes below. - Clay Waters, Director of Times Watch.

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POISONED TEA PARTY AWARD FOR SMEARING CONSERVATIVES

"Still, [Rick Shenkman] and others argue that race and age are the biggest factors in shaping the mindset of Tea Party supporters. They tend to be white and male, with a disproportionate number above 45, and above 65. Their memories are of a different time, when the country was less diverse." - Reporter Kate Zernike in the April 18 Week in Review.


"From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, 'a new beginning.' But his 'new beginning' has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents." - Sheryl Gay Stolberg, August 15.


"How can conservatives win the youth vote that overwhelmingly went for Barack Obama in 2008? At the Conservative Political Action Conference, apparently, some are betting on using racial stereotypes....[Author] Jason Mattera...mocked what he described, with a Chris Rock voice, as "diversity," including, he said, college classes on 'cyber feminism' and 'what it means to be a feminist new black man.'....Offering up a slogan, he adopted the Chris Rock voice again: 'Get your government off my freedom!' Can we save our generation from Obama zombies, he asked. He answered himself by borrowing the president's campaign slogan: 'Yes, my brothahs and sistahs. Yes we can!'" - From a February 18 nytimes.com "Caucus" blog post by reporter Kate Zernike covering the Conservative Political Action Conference, headlined "CPAC Speaker Bashes Obama, in Racial Tones." Jason Mattera is from Brooklyn and used his own voice, not a "Chris Rock voice," when making his anti-Obama gibes.


"There's nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank....How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn't recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht." - Columnist Frank Rich, March 28.


"Even the civil rights hero John Lewis has been slimed by these vigilantes. Lewis was nearly beaten to death by state troopers bearing nightsticks and whips in Selma, Ala., just three weeks before Sherrod's father was murdered 200 miles away in 1965. This year, as a member of Congress, he was pelted with racial epithets while walking past protesters on the Capitol grounds during the final weekend of the health care debate. Breitbart charged Lewis with lying - never mind that the melee had hundreds of eyewitnesses - and tried to prove it with a video so manifestly bogus that even Fox didn't push it." - From Frank Rich's July 25 column on Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod. There's no evidence - certainly not from "hundreds of eyewitnesses" - that Lewis was "pelted with racial epithets" at the protests on Capitol Hill against Obama-care.


"To talk about states' rights in the way some Tea Partiers did was to pretend that the twentieth century and the latter half of the nineteenth century had never happened, that the country had not rejected this doctrine over and over. It was little wonder that people heard the echo of the slave era and decided that the movement had to be motivated by racism." - From the book "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America," by reporter Kate Zernike.


"VARYING DEGREES OF RAGE: The Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, second from right, during the Days of Rage in 1969, and anti-health reform protesters in Washington on Sunday." - Photo caption accompanying Benedict Carey's essay on political anger in the March 28 Week in Review.


"It seems the ultimate thumb in the eye: that Glenn Beck would summon the Tea Party faithful to a rally on the anniversary of the March on Washington, and address them from the very place where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his 'I have a dream' speech 47 years ago. After all, the Tea Party and its critics have been facing off for months over accusations of racism.... Still, the government programs that many Tea Party supporters call unconstitutional are the ones that have helped many black people emerge from poverty and discrimination....Even if Tea Party members are right that any racist signs are those of mischief-makers, even if Glenn Beck had chosen any other Saturday to hold his rally, it would be hard to quiet the argument about the Tea Party and race." - Reporter Kate Zernike, smearing the Tea Party again in her August 28 story on Glenn Beck's upcoming "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial.





THEY'RE TOO GOOD FOR US AWARD FOR ADORING THE OBAMAS


"Sometimes lost in the partisan clamor about the new health care law is the profound relief it is expected to bring to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been stricken first by disease and then by a Darwinian insurance system. On Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a number of its most central consumer protections take effect, just in time for the midterm elections." - Health reporter Kevin Sack in a story with the cheerleading headline "For Many Families, Health Care Relief Begins Today," September 23.


"On this much, President Obama's friends and foes could agree: He eludes simple labels....In a world that presents so many fast-moving and intractable problems, nuance, flexibility, pragmatism - even a full range of human emotions - are no doubt good things. But as Mr. Obama wrapped up his State of the Union address on Wednesday night with an appeal to transcend partisan gamesmanship, he was plaintively testing a broader proposition: Is it possible to embrace complexity in a political and media culture that demands simple themes and promotes conflict?" - Richard Stevenson in his January 31 Week in Review piece.



"Of the 168 promises where action has been completed, they judge Obama to have broken only 19. That's not bad, and it must be acknowledged. We have to stop waiting for him to be great and allow him to be good." - Columnist Charles Blow citing a promises-kept tally by PolitiFact.com, June 19.


"France is home to five million to six million Muslims, Europe's largest Muslim population, and the banlieues [Paris slums] have long been considered potential incubators for religious extremism. But anti-American sentiment, once pervasive in these neighborhoods, seems to have been all but erased since the election of Mr. Obama, who has proved to be a powerful symbol of hope here and a powerful diplomatic tool. Many suggest the Americans' warm reception is a measure of these communities' sense of abandonment. Others say it is the presence of Mr. Obama in the White House. Whatever the case, the United States is now more popular in the banlieues than at any other time in recent memory, say French and American officials." - Paris-based reporter Scott Sayare, September 23.


In New York City last week to give a standing-room-only lecture about his forthcoming intellectual biography, Reading Obama: Dreams, Hopes, and the American Political Tradition,' [Harvard historian James] Kloppenberg explained that he sees Mr. Obama as a kind of philosopher president, a rare breed that can be found only a handful of times in American history." - Arts reporter Patricia Cohen, October 28.


"First Lady Michelle Obama is now officially a fashion plate. Not that there were any doubts before, mind you. Often called the First Lady of Fashion, Mrs. Obama has a sense of style, as we all know by now, that rivals Jackie Kennedy's. She has boosted the spirits of the American fashion industry with her unconventional mix of avant-garde newcomers and off-the-rack Talbots, and claimed a Council of Fashion Designers of America style-icon award along the way." - Fashion writer Eric Wilson, April 15.


"If I were one of the big corporate donors who bankrolled the Republican tide that carried into office more than 50 new Republicans in the House, I would be wary of what you just bought. For no matter your view of President Obama, he effectively saved capitalism. And for that, he paid a terrible political price." - Reporter turned nytimes.com blogger Timothy Egan in a November 2 posting.


"From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, 'a new beginning.' But his 'new beginning' has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents." - Sheryl Gay Stolberg, August 15.



JUST PLAIN BIZARRE



"I'm glad I've already seen the Grand Canyon. Because I'm not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into....So what to do in the meantime? Here's a modest proposal. Everyone remembers the wartime Danish king who drove through Copenhagen wearing a Star of David in support of his Jewish subjects. It's an apocryphal story, actually, but an inspiring one. Let the good people of Arizona - and anyone passing through - walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal." - Former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in an April 27 column on Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law.


"Suspicion of outsiders, of people who behave or worship differently, may be an ingrained element of the human condition, a survival instinct from our cave-man days. But we should also recognize that historically this distrust has led us to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust." - Columnist Nicholas Kristof criticizing opposition to the Ground Zero mosque, September 5.



"The Justice Department decided last week not to bring charges against Tom DeLay, whose unethical conduct represented a modern low among Congressional leaders...Mr. DeLay, the Texas Republican who had been the House majority leader, crowed that he had been 'found innocent.' But many of Mr. DeLay's actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them." - From an August 22 editorial.


"If communists have a reputation for anything, it is seriousness. (And if you have seen old photos of Karl Marx, you know that he did not smile much.) But at the Brecht Forum, a community center on West Street where revolutionaries and radicals gather daily to ponder and to pontificate, they also play. (Smiles abound.)....In a city known for cynicism, the Brecht, which survives on donations, is a surprisingly open and idealistic place." - From Channing Joseph's report in the November 7 Metropolitan section on a Communist community center in Manhattan.


"During 'South of the Border' [director Oliver] Stone schmoozes with several left-wing political leaders, including his good buddy the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez; he takes Mr. Stone to his childhood home, where Mr. Chavez mounts a children's bike that collapses under him. Mr. Chavez comes across as a rough-hewn but good-hearted man of the people whose bullheaded determination is softened by a sense of humor. At a corn-processing factory, he jokes: 'This is where we build the Iranian atomic bomb. A corn bomb.' Ho, ho, ho." - From movie critic Stephen Holden's June 25 review of Oliver Stone's left-wing documentary "South of the Border."


"Well this is what worries me. That, you know, I've been saying for awhile Tom, there's only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, the Chinese form of government, and that's one-party democracy. You know, in China, if the leadership can get around to an enlightened decision it can order it from the top down, OK. Here, when you have one-party democracy, one party ruling, basically the other party just basically saying no, every solution is sub-optimal." - Columnist Thomas Friedman on Meet the Press, March 14.


"You may have heard that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just liberal media propaganda. This Robin is no socialist bandit practicing freelance wealth redistribution, but rather a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles. Don't tread on him! So is 'Robin Hood' one big medieval tea party? Kind of, though that description makes the movie sound both more fun and more provocative than it actually is." - From chief movie critic A. O. Scott's May 14 review of the movie "Robin Hood."


"It appears that the price of access to Mr. Limbaugh for 'Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One' has been the purging of any details that might pique him. Quotations are truncated in ways that make them softer, and the boosterism has been boosted....Mr. Chafets shoos unwanted facts and individuals out of the way relentlessly, in accordance with what seems like a case of Stockholm syndrome." - From Janet Maslin's May 24 review of Zev Chafets' biography of Rush Limbaugh.