Bush Man

With a hat tip to James Taranto, here’s a story you didn’t see in the New York Times: Bob Geldof, the noted social activist, former Boomtown Rat, and star of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb video, praised George Bush for his commitment to fighting disease and poverty in Africa.

Geldof, who joined the president in Rwanda, is quoted in the Washington Times’s Fishwrap blog:

Mr. Bush, said Mr. Geldof, “has done more than any other president so far.”
“This is the triumph of American policy really,” he said. “It was probably unexpected of the man. It was expected of the nation, but not of the man, but both rose to the occasion.”
“What’s in it for [Mr. Bush]? Absolutely nothing,” Mr. Geldof said.

Mr. Geldof said that the president has failed “to articulate this to Americans” but said he is also “pissed off” at the press for their failure to report on this good news story.

“You guys didn’t pay attention,” Geldof said to a group of reporters from all the major newspapers.

Well, this doesn’t let him off the hook for resisting the distribution of condoms for AIDS prevention, but you’d think it might have made the papers. Read the story here.


  1. the one eyed man says

    You didn’t see it in the New York Times?

    “Although President Bush’s best-known role has been as a conservative hawk — and everything he has done in that role has been a disaster — he has also aspired to fight poverty and help Africa. And Mr. Bush has genuinely scored some major accomplishments as a humanitarian.
    O.K., pick yourself off the floor: It’s true. In the world of foreign aid, Mr. Bush has done better than almost anyone realizes — or gives him credit for.”


    “President Bush’s five-day, five-nation visit, starting today, marks a significant step in America’s deepening relations with the continent. For too long, Washington and other Western capitals treated Africa as if it were condemned to war, poverty and preventable epidemics. Mr. Bush understands that Africans are entitled to a better future, and that America can help them achieve it.”


    You may disagree with the Times’s editorial positions, but it’s churlish to assume that they are so anti-Bush that they do not give him credit on the few occasions where he truly deserves it.

    Posted February 20, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Peter, when I wrote that post, I originally ended it with “Fire away, Pete.”

    No, I missed the paper on Sunday; I was traipsing around Chinatown. But OK, I stand corrected. (Well, sort of. As I said above, the Times had nothing to say about the Geldof story, which you might think would have been worth a mention. If it had been Jimmy Carter, I think it’s fair to say it would have been there.)

    Look, I think the Times is a great paper; I subscribe to it myself, and they are welcome to take whatever editorial postions they like. Am I being “churlish”? Hardly. The Times’s left-leaning bias is no secret; its own Public Editor has acknowledged it in print. (I like the way you had to go all the way back to 2003 to find another shred of praise.)

    Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    Actually I just took the first two cites in the pile – they have acknowledged what he’s done consistently and often – these two are from 2005:

    “But the fact is that Mr. Bush has done much more for Africa than Bill Clinton ever did, increasing the money actually spent for aid there by two-thirds so far, and setting in motion an eventual tripling of aid for Africa. Mr. Bush’s crowning achievement was ending one war in Sudan, between north and south.”


    “To his great credit, Mr. Bush has been more attentive to the problems of Africa than his recent predecessors. He has increased overall assistance, stepped up spending on H.I.V./AIDS programs and created the Millennium Challenge Account to reward Africa’s best-governed countries. Last week he promised further increases, including a program to fight malaria, and new teacher training and scholarship money to help girls attend school.”


    If your statement that “The Times’s bias is no secret” refers to the news side of the house, then I think that it is unsupported by the facts, although I have no idea how one would prove or disprove it. I can’t find any discernable bias in their news reporting, but this could be an eye of the beholder thing. If you think that their reporting favors Democrats and slights Republicans, then ask Bill Clinton what he thinks (or Hillary, for that matter). The Times broke the Whitewater story and ran it ad nauseum, and has run plenty of unflattering coverage about both Bill and Hillary.

    If your statement refers to the editorial side of the house, then sure: their editors are polemicists who are paid to express their opinions. However, the implication that they are so blinded by their prejudices that they refuse to acknowledge the (few) positive things about Bush’s legacy is both unfair and untrue, as the cites above (all from the editorial pages) suggest.

    Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  4. the one eyed man says

    Moreover, the Times gives frequent and prominent editorial space to those who oppose the “house” positions: Bill Kristol, David Brooks, and lots of guest writers. When was the last time you saw a non-reactionary editorial in the Wall Street Journal?

    Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Well, Pete, it’s late, and I haven’t the time to go fishing around at the moment. But over and over again through the years, as I’ve read the paper from my conservative-on-more-than-a-few-issues perspective, I’ve read stories that have seemed blatantly slanted. As you say, it may be an eye-of-the-beholder thing. I think that maybe if one if tilted strongly to the left oneself, one simply might not notice; it just seems like “news”. Tell you what, I’ll point instances out as they come up.

    Anyway, it’s really not as if the suggestion that the Times has a liberal bias is breaking news; even the paper itself acknowledges it. As I said, it’s a great paper, and every paper has a place on the political spectrum — but the Times’s editors, and every one of its prominent staff reporters that I have ever seen interviewed on the political shows, are far from centrist, and far from shy about it (with the exception of Michael Gordon, who got in trouble with the editors for saying, on the Charlie Rose show, that he wanted the US to persevere in Iraq).

    But don’t take my word for it: read this, by Daniel Okrent, the first person to occupy the “Public Editor” position.

    And then have a look at this: a study done at UCLA. Surprisingly, it found that even the news pages of the WSJ were pretty liberally tilted, even though the editorial page obviously slants right.

    We read:

    Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

    Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

    The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were a close second and third.

    I was also amused by the Nick Kristof piece you cited, which basically said: “George Bush did something decent for once; I’m as amazed as you are.” Anyway, if you are going to pull stuff from the Op-Ed pages, you know you are going to get hosed here; for every nice thing they have said about conservatives in an opinion piece every few years or so, you know I could find you a hundred polemics. But I don’t expect them to be balanced on the opinion pages; that’s fine. I just thought they might have mentioned the Geldof speech in the news, and I think they didn’t because they didn’t like it. It seemed newsworthy enough to me.

    I’ll keep posting examples as I notice them.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:32 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says


    Posted February 21, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink
  7. the one eyed man says

    1) Re Okrent: the Times put themselves in a lose-lose situation when they created the Public Editor space. If the guy they put in writes that the Times has a liberal bias, then the Right would howl “look: even someone employed in the Evil Empire says it’s liberal.” On the other hand, if the guy writes that “I’ve conducted a careful study and there is no bias in the Times,” then it would be dismissed as a whitewash which lacks credibility. I would give them credit for giving prominent space to someone who takes up the cause of their critics and leave it at that. Are you aware of another newspaper which does this?

    Even so, he has a pretty flaccid argument. He doesn’t spend much time on whether there is a leftist bias in political coverage – whether Democrats are favored over Republicans, for example – but says there is a leftist bias in coverage of social issues because not all viewpoints are given equal weight. He doesn’t give many examples besides gay marriage, and it’s a little unclear what remedy he suggests (more coverage to homophobes?). It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of substance supporting the claims he makes – even if he is correct that the Times has a pro-gay agenda, it’s not much to hang your hat on. Nor does it support the contention that the Times supports liberals over conservatives, Democrats over Republicans, or skews reporting to diminish the (meager) achievements of our current President, which is the issue here.

    2) Re the UCLA study: this is the screwiest methodology I have ever seen. They got college students to tally “the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.” Let me make sure I have this right. A black church gets bombed in Alabama. The Times quotes the local NAACP head. They don’t get a quote from the KKK. Ergo they are left-leaning?

    3) I’m not here to bang a drum for the Times, but as the paper of record, it is under intense scrutiny from all sides who passionately feel that they are not getting a fair break. There is a tendency on the Right, dating back to Dan Rather’s coverage of the VietNam war, to insist that the media twist coverage to suit their partisan interests. We’re not losing in VietNam: it’s only the media coverage which shows it in the worst possible light. And on up to the present coverage of Iraq. When things don’t go well on the field for the Right, they blame the umpire, which in this case resides on 44th Street. I get into this argument a lot on another right-leaning site (www.decision08.net) and I’ve always ended it by asking this question: can you name another newspaper that has better news reporting than the Times? I’ve yet to get an answer.

    4) Much of the complaints against the “liberal” media concern fairness, defined as equivalence of coverage. This forms much of Okrent’s complaint. If a scientist reports that the moon is not made of green cheese, then somehow the media are bound to get someone from the Green Cheese Society to provide the other side. Okrent sort of says that (we don’t have to give equal time to Creationists). So somehow if the Times incessantly criticizes George Bush on the editorial side without a countervailing amount of praise, there must be bias. By now, I think any sentient being would concede that if Bush is not the Worst President Ever, then he sure is a top contender. I am unaware of any truly significant achievement of the Bush administration outside of Africa. (Are you?) If this is the case, then why shouldn’t their editorial pages reflect that? And if they didn’t acknowledge his work in Africa, that would be cause for criticism – but it’s clearly not the case.

    5) I was a little surprised at the front page article on McCain today, but I haven’t had time to read it yet past the first few paragraphs. However it did remind me of when Lyndon Johnson was ascending his political career and he wanted to spread a rumor that his electoral opponent had sex with pigs. His campaign manager said “you can’t do that Lyndon, you know that he isn’t a pig f—–r.” LBJ said “I know that, but I just want to see him deny it.”

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Pete, I think this is one of those harangues that we could continue ad infinitum without getting anywhere.

    I quite agree that the Times offers the most intelligent and in-depth coverage of any of the newspapers I know about; I have been a subscriber for over thirty years, and read it every day. It is an excellent, literate, intelligent, adult publication. But if you honestly don’t think that there is a left-leaning bias at the paper, from top to bottom, I think you are being wilfully obtuse. The editors are openly, unabashedly liberal (as they have every right to be), and those among its staff reporters that I have ever seen interviewed, or who have written books, have shown the same political orientation. I do believe that as the paper of record they make an honest effort, most of the time at least, to seem neutral in their coverage, and they do make a point of keeping a token conservative columnist or two around (they even hired Bill Kristol, to a firestorm of outrage), but it is simply inevitable that the political sympathies of their editors and writers are going to creep in in a thousand little ways (and, occasionally, in big ways as well, as I think we are seeing in this creepy, oddly timed assault on McCain).

    If you refuse to acknowledge that the overt political sympathies of the people who own and work at the paper are going to influence the way the news gets covered (I’m not talking about the opinion pages – they’re for opinions, after all, and polemics are to be expected), I have to say I think you have your head in the sand. (And arguments of the form “Anyway, why should they say anything good about the Right? Everything they do sucks!” don’t exactly burnish your credentials as a bias-detector.)

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    I do “refuse to acknowledge that the overt political sympathies of the people who own and work at the paper are going to influence the way the news gets covered” because I think they bend over backwards to provide the other side: in fact, I think they go too far and end up tilting right. My guess is that Bill Clinton and John Kerry would agree with me. The Times has been widely criticized for not being sufficiently aggressive in challenging the Bush administration in the march to war in Iraq. You can go to mediamatters.org most days to find examples of what they consider to be right-leaning bias. Regardless of whether they tilt right or left, I don’t see any inevitability that someone with a liberal or conservative bias would report the news to suit their ideology – the proof comes in what is on the page, and that is where I find these arguments to be lacking. They are long on supposition and short on examples.

    I don’t think that everything done by the Right sucks – just everything (or almost everything) done by the Bush administration. Quite a difference. I have a lot of respect for conservatives and the conservative ideology. However I think that George Bush is anything but a conservative.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    So now you’re accusing the Times of a right-leaning bias? Man, I guess perspective is everything.

    Anyway, the point of my post was about what wasn’t “on the page”, namely Geldof’s getting on stage with Bush in Rwanda to offer him a little praise. If it had been Bono endorsing Obama, they’d have been all over it.

    And as for what’s “on the page”, what is on Page 1 today looks an awful lot like a hatchet job to a lot of folks. The Times is going to be in the news a lot over the next few days.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink
  11. the one eyed man says

    “Advocates for combating poverty and disease in Africa say Mr. Bush has reason to be proud. The Irish singer Bob Geldof, who along with the rock star Bono has made a cause of aid to Africa, will accompany Mr. Bush in Rwanda and Ghana.

    In a statement, Bono said he hoped ‘the next president will build on Mr. Bush’s accomplishments.’”


    Posted February 21, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  12. bob koepp says

    Pete – I’ll avoid the question of liberal bias in the NYT, since just one offhand remark from you is more deserving of attention, and maybe castigation. You tell me which.

    What I’m talking about is your suggestion that the sole alternative viewpoint to the pro-gay marriage position of the Times is homophobia.

    Please understand that I think homophobia is a bad, bad thing. I also think that bestowing privileges on people based on their having “paired up” is unjust — hence, also a bad, bad thing. It’s good and proper that gays demand equality. But if what’s being demanded is to receive preferential treatment relative to some other group, for instance those who remain unattached, then what’s really being demanded is to be allowed into the ranks of the specially privileged, i.e., the oppressors.

    At least that’s how it looks from the perspective of a singleton who objects to subsidizing those who have made what are simply different lifestyle choices.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Well, I’m abashed, Pete. I did miss that story you linked to. Let’s have a look at it together:

    Mr. Bush’s presence is intended to celebrate each country’s political and economic progress, while sending a not-so-subtle reminder of the role the United States has played. [We know this is what was intended, because… well, we just do, OK?]

    But … it had become increasingly clear that Mr. Bush could not take what analysts have dubbed “a victory lap” in Africa while steering clear of troubles on the continent — especially in Kenya, where more than 1,000 have died in the recent violence… [Ha! No “mission accomplished” here, Chimpy!]

    (On Thursday, Mr. Bush suggested that he might postpone the trip if Congress failed to quickly revise and extend a law governing communications surveillance counterterrorism investigations, a top White House priority.) [Yup, destroying our civil liberties is foremost in his “mind”, as always.]

    … the White House had hoped to burnish Mr. Bush’s legacy … [Nobody actually told us that was what the White House hoped, of course, or we’d have mentioned a source. But we just know it.]

    “The focus of this trip is legacy, legacy, legacy,” said J. Anthony Holmes, an Africa expert at the Council on Foreign Relations and former ambassador to the West African nation of Burkina Faso under Mr. Bush. “They clearly want to highlight and enshrine what the president has accomplished, as well as to get some political points.” … [I mean, it’s not as if he really cares about the poor folks in Africa, or anything.]

    Mr. Bush concluded early in his tenure that Africa, a continent rich with natural resources but also fraught with poverty and the potential for crisis, was too important to ignore… [He would have loved to “ignore” it, of course, but he couldn’t. Yay!]

    Africa remains one corner of the world where, despite the war in Iraq, the United States is viewed relatively favorably. [Not that Iraq has anything whatsoever to do with this story, we just thought we’d mention it. Iraq!! Iraq!!] Even so, Mr. Bush may face suspicion about his intentions… [Of course he will, that lying prick.]

    The United States is increasingly interested in Africa’s substantial oil reserves… [See? It’s all about the oil! Did we mention Iraq yet?]

    The trip will be Mr. Bush’s second visit to Africa. His wife, Laura, who has already visited Africa four times as first lady, will accompany him. Their itinerary is carefully arranged to spotlight what Mr. Bush described as his administration’s efforts… [Asshole.]

    Mr. Bush spent the entire trip [in 2003]dogged by questions about why the United States had not intervened [in Liberia]. Eventually, he sent a small contingent of troops, and Mr. Taylor was pushed out… just the kind of story the White House likes to tell.

    Yep, guess you’re right, Pete – just the facts. No bias here!

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says


    I don’t really follow the Times’s coverage of gay issues and for all I know Okrent may be right. Also I’m not sure if the fashion coverage he refers to is included in the skinny copies of the newspaper we get here on the West Coast.

    My position on gay rights is simple: if these pillow-biters can handle the guilt feelings their disgusting habits must inevitably cause, then more power to them. Just kidding. I think they deserve the same rights as everyone else. These include things like the right of survivorship, child custody rights, etc. There should be some kind of legal arrangement which permits this, and I’m agnostic as to whether it is a civil union or a marriage. I don’t see this as giving gays any special preference – I view it as giving them equality. As a married breeder, I don’t see how gays getting marriage threatens my marriage, but I can see the validity in the “marriage is between a man and a woman” meme.

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that anyone who opposes gay marriage is a homophobe. There is a legitimate position against it which I respect. Whether the Times gives proper attention to this position is something I’m not qualified to say. My only point is that saying that the Times has a liberal bias and then using its coverage of gay issues as evidence is pretty thin.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says


    Perhaps you read a little too much into this article. We have the right to send “a not-so-subtle reminder of the role the United States has played.” Nothing wrong with that. We do it all the time: did the front page pictures of US aid being sent to tsunami victims labeled “from the USA” imply that we did something wrong?

    All Presidents look to burnish their reputations towards the end of their terms. How many times did Reagan meet with Gorbachev towards the end of his term? Nothing wrong with that either. Implying that Bush doesn’t “really care about the poor people in Africa” would be like saying that Reagan didn’t really care about ending the Cold War. Moreover, I’m sure you would find similar coverage of Clinton’s efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the end of his term in office. You certainly didn’t have to look very hard in the Times to find coverage of the Marc Rich pardon.

    Is Iraq relevant? Of course it is. We are in a situation where we are disliked (or worse) pretty much throughout the world, principally because of the invasion of Iraq. Africa is the sole exception. You don’t think this is worth mentioning?

    There is no insinuation I can find that Bush “would have loved to ignore” Africa, is only there because of oil, or wanted to jettison the trip to “destroy our civil liberties.” He did, in fact, suggest postponing the trip if the bill wasn’t extended. That is factual: if the upcoming trip you are writing about is subject to cancellation, do you also think it is not worth mentioning?

    I think we can all agree that this is the end of a failed Presidency whose Middle East policies have had repercussions around the world. I don’t think you can write about foreign events in isolation of this. To quote Roger Clemens: it is what it is. I don’t see any distortion or bias in this reporter’s attempt to describe what it is.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    “I don’t see any distortion or bias in this reporter’s attempt to describe what it is.”

    Well, if that’s really the case, we’re probably not going to get much further here. We’ll leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.

    Posted February 21, 2008 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says


    Posted February 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  18. John Z says

    Malcolm – seems a bit like the angels on the head of a pin thing going on here…thanks for the comments on Bush and Africa. jz

    Posted February 25, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink
  19. Malcolm says

    Hi John! Nice to hear from you.

    Yes, we have pins of all kinds around here. And when it’s a political pin, I can always count on monsieur Kranzler to get the angels dancing!

    Posted February 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

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