Hitting From the Left, NY Times Sells Klobuchar as ‘Centrist,’ Harris as ‘Principled’

There was a consistency in stories from The New York Times on Monday, with reporters taking left-wing jabs against two Democratic senators who have launched 2020 presidential campaigns

The profile of Minnesota’s Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar launch in the snow by Mitch Smith and Lisa Lerer falsely tried to pose her as a non-threatening moderate: “Klobuchar Enters Race With Appeal to Center.” The text box: “Testing to see whether ‘Minnesota nice’ resonates nationally.”

That reference to “center” appeal ignores that Klobuchar, while not having the fiery persona of some Democrats, has a safely liberal lifetime voting rating of 4.71, according to the American Conservative Union (100 being the most conservative):

Amy Klobuchar, the third-term Minnesota senator, entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, hopeful that her moderate politics, Midwestern roots and carefully cultivated history of bipartisanship can appeal to a broad swath of voters in contentious times.

While proclaiming she represented the famous “Minnesota nice,” The Times tiptoed through the controversy of the senator's temperament (something the paper was very concerned about when it came to Judge Brett Kavanaugh).

Despite Ms. Klobuchar’s friendly public persona, she’s said to be a difficult boss....

They quickly covered for Klobuchar:

Her popularity at home, however, was hard to dispute. Despite the distinctly Minnesota weather, supporters turned out by the thousands on Sunday, cramming into a riverfront park wearing snow pants, ski goggles and parkas. Some arrived on cross-country skis or brought dogs wearing coats.

Asha Harris, 37, of Minneapolis, said the criticisms of the senator’s management style were plainly sexist.

Give the paper points for the phrase “liberal orthodoxy” (it’s almost always “conservative orthodoxy”), but here breaking with it is seen as dangerous:

While her approach may appeal to centrists and moderate Republicans in her home state, her breaks with liberal orthodoxy risk alienating the ascendant progressive wing of her party....

The 5,000-word Kamala Harris profile by Kate Zernike on Monday’s front page was consistent ideologically with The Times’s previous “The Long Run” series of pieces on Republican candidates from 2012, profiling President Obama’s potential Republican opponents. In all cases, the subjects were attacked from the left by Times reporters, though Harris, being closer to the hard-left, got off easier in “Harris Resists Easy Definition -- Treading Lightly on the Issues as a Top Lawyer.”

Zernike questioned Harris’s sincerity in her opposition to the death penalty, while noting several times she faced skepticism from the left (which conveniently helps to center the liberal Harris):

Now Ms. Harris is running for president as a “progressive prosecutor.” She says she sees no contradiction in the term, arguing that a tough prosecutor can also be a force for reforming the criminal-justice system. But already, mere weeks into her candidacy, she is facing a chorus of skepticism, especially from the left. The death penalty episode shows the tricky crosscurrents that she has had to weather -- and that are likely to intensify as she tries to square that circle.

Zernike put forward some radical ideas on law enforcement:

Ms. Harris began her career at a time when many African-American law enforcement officials were joining, even amplifying, law-and-order calls for stricter prosecution, to stop the drugs and violence victimizing their communities. When she became attorney general in 2011, crime was falling and the debate was evolving. Now, in the era of Black Lives Matter, many in the black community argue that the biggest law-enforcement problem is law enforcement itself, and her record is being assessed against calls for a wholesale reimagination of the criminal justice system -- who should go to prison and for how long; indeed, should any but the most heinous criminals go to prison at all?

Even while she was mildly correcting Harris for her deviations, Zernike maintained a friendly tone:

Ms. Harris scorns what she calls false choices, and says her critics are imposing them on her record. Those who have worked for her call her disciplined, a characterization she prefers to “cautious.” ....

She does not like to be boxed in.

(....)

Almost immediately, her decision on the death penalty in the officer’s killing inflamed tensions with the police. But it was pragmatic as well as principled: She knew that San Francisco jurors rarely if ever returned death sentences. And despite the protests, polling showed that the public supported her.

(....)

Once again, she said, her critics were framing a false choice: She could defend the death penalty for a client and still be opposed to it personally.

Just as a prosecutor can be tough but also progressive.

Republicans would have loved such a relatively neutral account when they launched their campaigns against President Obama in 2012. Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry received condescension, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was greeted with alarm, and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was chided for his “aloof manner.”


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2020 Presidential Double Standards Labeling New York Times Kate Zernike Lisa Lerer Amy Klobuchar Kamala Harris
Clay Waters's picture