Tuesday, February 7th | 16 Shevat 5783

September 10, 2017 8:43 pm

New York Times Columnist Recycles Advice From James ‘[Expletive Deleted] the Jews’ Baker

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avatar by Ira Stoll


Former Secretary of State James Baker is pictured here arriving in Kuwait in 1991. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen’s Rosh Hashana present to the Jewish state is a column that violates his Times colleague Bret Stephens’ recent rules on how to write a good op-ed piece.

Cohen writes:

There are those criminal investigations of possible bribery and fraud in which Netanyahu is a suspect. One is a favors-for-pink-Champagne-and-cigars affair involving wealthy friends, including an Israeli Hollywood producer. Another involves an apparent attempt to secure favorable coverage in one newspaper in exchange for curtailing the circulation of another.

Both these may pale beside the submarine affair, an investigation in which Netanyahu is not a suspect but his former chief of staff, and his second cousin, and a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council are. At the center of the affair lie submarine and missile ships from a German company. Netanyahu has dismissed the whole thing as “foam.” It’s sure bubbling up and just might wash him away. [Emphasis added]

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Stephens had written:

Write declarative sentences. Delete useless or weasel words such as “apparently”…

Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? If these so-called scandals turn out to be just hype — a possibility that Cohen’s “possible…apparent…may…might” weasel words certainly allow — is the Times columnist going to issue an apology? Or are even unproven charges worthy of being hurled at Netanyahu, merely because he represents the Israeli public in their skepticism about the Cohen plan of immediately creating a Palestinian terrorist state alongside Israel’s border and in half of the Israeli capital?

Cohen concludes his column by writing:

James Baker, as United States secretary of state, once gave the number of the White House switchboard and told the Israelis: “When you’re serious about peace, call us.” Trump should give his alter ego the same treatment — and wait for those investigations to run their course.

Yet Cohen doesn’t report that Baker’s “call us” tactic did not work. One might claim that it produced the Madrid Conference, but even the Madrid Conference didn’t produce much; the Oslo breakthrough, such as it was, had to wait for a Clinton administration that was perceived as more Israel-friendly than Baker had been.

Cohen also neglected to mention what another New York Times columnist, William Safire, did report in 1992:

Mr. Bush’s unprecedented rejection of humanitarian aid to a democratic ally — while continuing loan guarantees to dictatorships with no strings attached — followed the revelation that his Secretary of State said, “[ Expletive deleted ] the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.”

At a Bush speech the other night, a White House aide sought me out to say, “You know, Baker never said that.”

Though constrained by the rules of deep background, I can confirm that Mr. Baker did say that, with the same vulgarism that made it so memorable, to two high officials on two different occasions. President Bush and his top staff know he did; it has been agreed that everybody would deny it was ever said. But James Baker said it — twice — and meant it.

Cohen quoting Baker’s advice is just the latest example of recent Times veneration of the man notorious for his “[ Expletive deleted ] the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway” comment. On July 30, a former Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Peter Baker, who is now the Times chief White House correspondent, claimed that James A. Baker III “is widely considered to be the gold standard” when it comes to that job.

The Times, by publishing Cohen, is following James Baker’s vulgar advice.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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