NYT's Weisman Hints at Hypocrisy of Alleged 'Common-Man Conservatives' Running as Tea Party Candidates

May 17th, 2014 7:52 AM

Reporter Jonathan Weisman looked very hard to find hypocrisy among Tea Party candidates in his Saturday New York Times story "Ivy League Degrees, Elite Consulting Jobs, and Now Tea Party Candidacies."

The online subhead hinted at it: "Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are running for the Senate as common-man conservatives but share high-flying pedigrees." Weisman's article is sprinkled with "gotcha" attempts that don't stick:

Ben Sasse and Tom Cotton have a lot in common: Republican candidacies for the Senate, Ivy League advanced degrees -- a Yale Ph.D. for Mr. Sasse, a Harvard law degree for Mr. Cotton -- and a tour of duty in the white-shoe world of management consulting.

One more thing: They are running as common-man conservatives from the heartland under the banner of the Tea Party.

Gotcha! Of course, President George W. Bush had not one but two Ivy League degrees, which never stopped the Times from portraying him as incurious and wilfully uninformed about the world. The petty fault-finding continued:

The résumés of Mr. Sasse, who won the Republican primary in Nebraska on Tuesday, and Mr. Cotton, who is challenging Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, do not exactly fit the profile of populists. That is especially true for the lines dedicated to the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company, firms that advise corporations on strategy, efficiency and ways to increase profitability.

In Mr. Sasse’s case, he has used ties to McKinsey to burnish his private sector credentials, but in the process, he has stretched the point. He says on his campaign website that he “joined McKinsey & Company, advising leaders in times of crisis.” He was actually a “special adviser” to the firm, on an hourly contract -- never an employee.

“Ben did a variety of work for a cross-section of clients while he was an external adviser to McKinsey,” said Jordan Gehrke, a Sasse campaign official, who suggested that it was a distinction without a difference.

Mr. Sasse’s video biography is titled “The Outsider: Leaving the Influence Peddlers Behind,” though consulting firms like McKinsey have shown outsize influence in staffing the White House and doing studies for government agencies.

Mr. Sasse has spent most of his adult life either in doctoral study, working at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Bush administration, teaching at the University of Texas or serving as the president of Midland University in Nebraska.

Yet his campaign website features a March 20 appearance on The Blaze, a conservative television network, during which the host, Glenn Beck, asked him to identify himself. “I’m a 42-year-old nonpolitician,” Mr. Sasse responded. “Most of my background is in business turnaround projects. So I’ve worked for Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company.”

Yolande Daeninck, a spokeswoman for McKinsey, confirmed that Mr. Sasse served as an external adviser. She declined to comment further.

Most of Mr. Cotton’s adult life has been in academia and the military, and he has spent a year in Congress. His time at McKinsey was also barely more than a year, during which time his group leader, Bob Kocher, immersed him in the intricacies -- and the value -- of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Kocher, as a senior Obama White House official, was one of the law’s primary architects.

By contrast, Amy Chozick's Saturday front-page story on Wendy Davis, the Texas Democratic pro-abortion gubernatorial candidate and media darling, though critical of her candidacy for dragging down Texas Democratic hopes, did not even mention the autobiographical inconsistencies that may have hurt her poll numbers.