by Scoobie Davis
Robert Bartley's Legacy of Shame
It's not nice to speak ill of the dead. However, in the case of the Wall Street Journal's Robert Bartley--whom former colleagues James Taranto and Peggy Noonan respectively called "a journalistic giant" and "freedom's best friend"--it is appropriate. The only difference between Bartley--who headed the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages--and Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, is that Blair and Glass lied to help their careers--Bartley lied to undermine democracy and smear political opponents. It was fitting that George W. Bush gave Bartley the Presidential Medal of Freedom; a fraudulent president gave a fraudulent journalist this award because the fraudulent president's idea of a patriot is someone who helps him out--and Bartley's fraudulent journalism aided Bush big time.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page under Bartley was the most scurrilous editorial page of any newspaper not owned by a South Korean businessman who thinks he's God. It was fitting that when Bartley stepped down, Paul Gigot took over (Gigot, if you'll remember, applauded the GOP-led operatives who violently prevented vote-counting in Miami-Dade County in 2000--Gigot called the anti-democratic thugs "bourgeois rioters"). During Bill Clinton's presidency, the WSJ editorial page printed every nutball conspiracy theory out there--such as the notorious Mena conspiracy; at least bottom-feeders like Joseph Farah and Christopher Ruddy could say that they were motivated by a paranoid billionaire's money to prostitute their journalistic integrity. What was Bartley's excuse? I could go on about the editorial page under Bartley; one anecdote amused me: on the same day the Journal's editorial page applauded Bill Sammon's book, Sammon was being exposed as a journalistic fraud.
Bartley was a man who didn't care about the destruction he caused to journalism or to American institutions. When David Brock--at long last--came clean and told the truth about the smear campaign of which he was a party, Bartley dismissed him as "the John Walker Lindh of contemporary conservatism" rather than engaging in any self-reflection. This lack of self-reflection is what has mystified me about the older members of the right's smear machine: when you get to the point in your life in which the years you have lived are longer than the years you have to live, you usually decide that life is too short to be an asshole. Not true for Robert Bartley. What a waste of talent.