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November 11, 2005

Shakeup at the Times

Seems my hometown paper is ridding itself of its two op-ed page firebrands. The LA Times has decided to junk both Robert Scheer, the unreconstructed, populist lefty who represents progressivism on KCRW's Left, Right and Center, and Michael Ramirez, their crypto-conservative editorial cartoonist. Can't say I'm sad to see the latter exiting, ahem, stage right, but the former will be a loss. Say what you will about Scheer, but he had a different perspective than the rest of the media, he was a pre-Clinton liberal, a labor-liberal, and he combined it with an intellectual bent. From his most recent column:

WHO IN THE White House knew about DITSUM No. 044-02 and when did they know it?

That's the newly declassified smoking-gun document, originally prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency in February 2002 but ignored by President Bush. Its declassification this weekend blows another huge hole in Bush's claim that he was acting on the best intelligence available when he pitched the invasion of Iraq as a way to prevent an Al Qaeda terror attack using weapons of mass destruction.

The report demolished the credibility of the key Al Qaeda informant the administration relied on to make its claim that a working alliance existed between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It was circulated widely within the U.S. government a full eight months before Bush used the prisoner's lies to argue for an invasion of Iraq because "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases."

Did you know about DITSUM? Cause I didn't. And what was nice about Bob Scheer was that he'd routinely tell me about it. For now, it'll be interesting to see where the op-ed page goes. It's currently got a couple neocon intellectuals (Boot and Ferguson), some fluff (Morrison and Stein), and Jon Chait. What it needs, however, are idiosyncratic, strong voices. I guess Ramirez's replacement, Jonah Goldberg, might count. Scheer's putative stand-in, Eric Aubry Kaplan from The LA Weekly, is not one of the Weekly's strongest political forces, but given the bent of the publication, I've got hope. He is, however, an LA specialist, not a national commentator like Scheer or Goldberg. Gregory Rodriguez, from the New America Foundation, is coming to focus on Latino and immigration issues, and NPR commentator Meghan Daum will hopefully offer some worthwhile cultural-political comentary.

Maybe it'll work. But for now, I count Boot, Ferguson, and Goldberg as nationally focused political voices from the right, and only Chait as a similarly macro-oriented critic from the left. The move strikes me as a swing right. We'll see.

Update: Here's Marc Cooper:

A couple of noteworthy trends jump out from the list. You’d think with circulation slumping and now a couple of years into futzing with the editorial pages, the mighty Times would pony up to purchase a couple of nationally-known powerhouses.

Unlike the NYTimes or even the WashPo, the LATimes has lacked a signature set of opinion writers. That omission will now continue. With Scheer’s departure, the Times line-up is now bereft of a single, muscular journalist with veteran national and international reporting experience– the sort of experience,by the way, that is pre-requisite for strong local columnizing in a place like L.A.

They didn’t even steal some proven commodity from another paper. The new list is full of wonks and magazine editors along with a self-obsessed comedy writer and a Gen X autobiographer and memoirist. The only hard-core political writers are conservatives: the extremely dull and excessively ideological Max Boot and the terribly annoying and gossamer-weight propagandist Jonah Goldberg (who by contrast, makes David Brooks seem one of the towering intellects of the modern era).

November 11, 2005 | Permalink


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The only political cartoonist worse than Ramirez is Glenn McCoy. Too bad Ramirez will probably find work elsewhere.

Jonah Goldberg draws cartoons? WTF?

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 11, 2005 11:33:55 AM

fucking a. our univ. newspaper recently picked up ramirez instead of luckovich and i've been writing them admonishing letters ever since. terrible terrible cartooning, and i hope he vanishes into freeperland where he seems most comfortable.

and i too hope that you are not talking about jonah "doughy pantload" goldberg.

Posted by: almostinfamous | Nov 11, 2005 1:29:48 PM

Ramirez's cartoons will continue to appear in The Times through December. After that, he said, his cartoons will continue to be syndicated by Copley News Service, which has distributed them since 1988.

Dammit. That means they'll still stink up the Houston Chronicle's pages on a way-too-frequent basis.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner | Nov 11, 2005 5:36:01 PM

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