Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Why is the New York Times like the Bourbons?

In Talleyrand's immortal aphorism, they have learned nothing and they have forgotten nothing.
Another Powell Departs

Michael Powell, the Federal Communications Commission chairman who rarely met a media merger he didn't like or an off-color broadcast he did, announced last week that he would resign. Mr. Powell's disappointing reign will be remembered for the extremes to which he went to punish what he called indecency, and for his abdication of responsibility for regulating the businesses that came before him. When President Bush appoints a new chairman, he should look for someone who can bring the commission to a more moderate position on both of these issues.

The two people being mentioned most prominently as possible successors to Mr. Powell come with some demerits. Kevin Martin, currently a Republican commissioner, has shown a welcome willingness to break with his party. But he has taken an even more extreme line on indecency than Mr. Powell. Becky Klein, a former chairwoman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, is coming off an unsuccessful run for Congress in which she accepted large contributions from telecommunications companies that seemed to be betting she might end up at the F.C.C. Ms. Klein's record underscores the third important job qualification, along with reasonable positions on media concentration and indecency: a demonstrated record of independence from the industries the F.C.C. regulates.
You'd think the Times would get it by now, don't you? You'd think they be past the point of timidly offering George W. Bush pious advice amidst their wan hope that he will, this time, listen (they're almost like an abused spouse, kind of).

It's long past time that they learned of what I might as well call "Beck's Axiom": "Anyone George W. Bush appoints for his second term (or who is appointed by someone appointed by Bush for his second term) will be worse than the person being replaced." So far, it's (unfortunately) working, and there's absolutely no reason or evidence to think it won't continue working. Anyone who really wants this country to move along the right path has one response to George W. Bush: No.

It will be hard to make it stick, given that pure negativism is a policy of despair. But we are desperate, given the reality of one-party government in Washington. Bush can probably name an armadillo to be FCC Chairman and get his Senate to approve it. But that doesn't mean Democrats have to give him a single yes vote, and it certainly doesn't mean the Times shouldn't learn the only applicable lesson: George W. Bush is not listening to you! Stop acting as if he is! Find yourself some guts and take a stand you can be proud of.
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