New York Times Turns Vital School Re-Openings Into Cynical Republican ‘Seizure’

February 13th, 2021 10:52 PM

The New York Times included in its Saturday coverage of the school re-opening debate a story by congressional reporter Carl Hulse: “Republicans Seize on Shuttered Schools as a Political Rallying Cry.”

Does “seize” sound familiar? Democrats rarely “seize” or “pounce” on Republicans in headlines, but the paper makes sure to underline the partisanship when it’s Republicans supposedly seeking mere cynical political advantage.

Hulse’s favorite kind of story is Democrats putting the GOP on the defensive, but here he allows a little of the reverse, showing Republicans pressing an advantage on the topic. Yet the veteran reporter still allowed the Democrats to frame the debate, while taking the tone of that cynical, partisan headline.

When Senate Republicans sought recently to wall off some federal education aid from schools that decline to reopen once teachers can be vaccinated, a top Democrat accused them of staging a “political show.” If it was, it was a show Republicans were more than happy to put on.

Sensing a potent political opportunity amid parental angst across the country, leading congressional Republicans have begun to hammer relentlessly on President Biden, Democrats and teachers’ unions to open schools quickly. They say doing so is a crucial and long overdue step to keep school-age Americans from falling too far behind amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Republicans say the effort was not coordinated, but happened organically as senators saw the emergence of a driving concern among voters. They argue that they have an advantage on the issue over Democrats, who are politically allied with unions representing teachers who have reservations about returning to school grounds while the pandemic persists.

Hulse avidly offered weak defenses of the Democrat-teachers union axis.

Democrats contend that Republicans have only recently begun agitating for schools to be reopened and never put similar pressure on the Trump administration to do so, reluctant to undermine their own party’s president. And they say that a major reason it has been so difficult for schools to return to normal is that former President Donald J. Trump did a poor job managing the pandemic.

They say the issue will ultimately play to their party’s advantage if Mr. Biden can deliver on his school reopening pledge – a promise the White House has been redefining as it confronts the difficulty of the task and pushback from a key constituency in organized labor.


For now, Democrats argue that Republicans are actually making the job harder by proposing to impose conditions on schools that could complicate reopening, rather than ease it.


[Sen. Patty] Murray was the one who accused Mr. Blunt and other Republicans who tried to alter the budget blueprint with such a condition of mounting a political show.

Republicans may have good reason to do so.

“School closures have radicalized suburban mothers for the last six months,” said John Feehery, a former top House Republican official who has been clamoring for in-person learning to resume. “Republicans are smart to focus on this issue.”

More pouncing:

Like their counterparts in the Senate, House Republicans have tried to capitalize on the issue. As an array of House panels worked this week to solidify the details of Mr. Biden’s pandemic aid package….

Even when Hulse is letting pro-Republican talking points, he can’t avoid the “pounce” style wording.

Given the administration’s focus on experts, Republicans such as Mr. McConnell eagerly jumped on comments by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, that schools could safely reopen even if teachers were not yet vaccinated.

Hulse painted it all in the end as cynical politics, not genuine concern about a lost year of learning and socialization suffered by American’s children.

Republicans have made it clear they do not intend to let go of the issue.