The New York Times on Thursday ran a slew of pieces by its full-time columnists wherein they purported to offer a confession of sorts about something each of them had gotten wrong in the past.
Each headline began, “I was wrong about…,” when they should have more accurately begun, “It’s safe now to profess that I was dishonest about this thing because it’s no longer a factor in my political pursuits.”
Michelle Goldberg’s column,”I was wrong about Al Franken,” is about how she regrets having called for the shunning and resignation of the former senator, who was credibly and accurately accused of sexual assault, an allegation replete with photographic evidence, multiple witnesses, and an apology from Franken himself. Goldberg writes that today she believes it was wrong of her to call for him to lose his job without first there being a Senate investigation.
What she really means is that Franken was sacrificed so that Democrats and liberals could further use the so-often-absurd #MeToo movement as a political weapon against their opponents, but unfortunately it backfired.
Gail Collins’ piece, headlined, “I was wrong about Mitt Romney (and his dog),” is her apology for so gleefully mocking and attacking the Republican senator when he ran for president in 2012. What she really means is now that Romney attacks the head of his own party, he’s good.
But the most awe-inspiring of the whole series is Bret Stephens, the former Wall Street Journal writer who identifies as a conservative despite calling for Republicans to lose every election of the past decade. His column, “I was wrong about Trump voters,” is hysterical in its blatant dishonesty wrapped up nicely in a shocking degree of self-regard.
“When I looked at Trump, I saw a bigoted blowhard making one ignorant argument after another,” he wrote. “What Trump’s supporters saw was a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger at a self-satisfied elite that had produced a failing status quo. I was blind to this.”
Stephens went on to use the opportunity to brag about how nice his life is. “I belonged to a social class that my friend Peggy Noonan called ‘the protected,'” he said. “My family lived in a safe and pleasant neighborhood. Our kids went to an excellent public school. I was well paid, fully insured, insulated against life’s harsh edges. Trump’s appeal, according to Noonan, was largely to people she called ‘the unprotected.'”
Definitely sounds like a man with his tail between his legs.
Nobody buys for a second that Stephens is in any way genuinely reflecting on his contempt for the people who dared support Trump. (He literally says in the piece that he believed Trump’s voters were “moral ignoramuses.”) I can promise you this is not something he would have written had Trump won reelection in 2020.
Stephens even admits it. “Would I be wrong to lambaste Trump’s current supporters,” he says, “the ones who want him back in the White House despite his refusal to accept his electoral defeat and the historic outrage of Jan. 6? Morally speaking, no.”
What Stephens is really trying to say is that it’s one thing for him to tell you that it’s too bad you’re not doing as well as he is, after he’s fought in every way to keep it that way. It’s another for him to do anything that would actually have changed that.
But in the same spirit of that Times series, I have my own confession: There was a period when I believed journalists in the national media were honest and decent people who were imperfect but always trying. I was wrong about all of that.