In response to MJ Rosenberg’s letter about the rightward drift of the Washington Post editorial board under Fred Hiatt (The Mail, 10/22), I’d like to point out a few things.
First of all, yes, that rightward drift is very real, and it has led the paper into the wonderful irony pointed out by the Washington City Paper (Dept. of Media, “Fire in the Belli,” 10/15) that it basically had no choice but to endorse George Bush. Though it found a way to endorse John Kerry instead, that endorsement is essentially meaningless, because it isn’t even intellectually honest on the face of it.
Second, while Fred Hiatt is the editorial-page editor, the Post remains very much under the control of Don Graham. The newspaper is his baby, and its editorial policy very much matches his thinking. Graham, scion of the Washington Post publishing empire, sits in regularly on editorial-board meetings. It is very doubtful anyone else on the board is going to take a position he is against, for reasons I hardly need to enumerate. This is especially true of something as big as supporting a “pre-emptive” war of choice on the part of the United States.
Of that editorial board, in addition to Hiatt, there is Jackson Diehl, a deputy editorial-page editor and the foreign-affairs writer who was (and remains) unabashedly supportive of Bush’s Iraq Mess. There is Sebastian Mallaby, the economics writer whose zeal for “free trade”—regardless of what that means—borders on religious devotion. He is also another big supporter of Bush’s Iraq Quagmire. There is Anne Applebaum, a former writer for the Economist (a very pro-business magazine) and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph (the most conservative of Britain’s major daily newspapers). Her occasional op-ed pieces don’t reveal anything particularly noteworthy, left or right. Then there is Ben Wittes. Speaking as the legal-affairs voice of the paper, Wittes is at his best when he is standing up for powerless folks who are being punished by an increasingly ruthless justice system. But he was also one of the biggest Ken Starr defenders and undoubtedly contributed to the page’s anti– President Clinton tone.
Only Colbert I. King, the deputy editorial-page editor, could really be described as traditionally liberal in an economic sense, to judge by his Saturday op-ed columns; but his voice seldom gets into any of the editorials, at least that I can tell. Ruth Marcus, the cultural-affairs writer, may be liberal in the sense that most young people are liberal, meaning tolerant of other people’s differences. But she merely reflects the culturally tolerant workplace attitude at the Post. And as for local-affairs writer Robert Asher, he is just that—a local-affairs writer. Ideology tends to play less of a role at the local level, at least in this area.
My point is that the Washington Post has indeed gone way over to the right, but that is because of, not despite, Don Graham.
Silver Spring, Md.