When I first read that my Williams classmate David Shipley had taken over as Op-Ed editor of the New York Times, I saw it as a sign of improvement on the editorial page of the Old Gray Lady. Even though David had worked in the Clinton Administration, I had always known him as an even-handed, level-headed kind of guy. Â At college, he never showed any particular disdain for conservative ideas — and this in the heyday of the Reagan Revolution.
Indeed, I assumed it was David’s doing when the Times tapped such thoughtful conservatives as David Brooks and William Kristol to write regular columns for its Op-Ed page. Â He is the kind of guy who would welcome diverse viewpoints, including conservative ideas intelligently expressed.
At Williams, David was well-liked among his classmates, at least those of us who knew him. He kept a pretty low profile on campus. I recall he was soft-spoken. We rowed together freshman year.
But, David wasn’t one of those angry left-wingers (yes, we even had them on college campi even in my day), railing against the latest action by the Gipper. He may have had left-of-center political views, but he kept them pretty much to himself, at least in his conversations with me. And I was a pretty outspoken undergraduate, particularly during my sophomore and junior years.
Actually, I was kind of surprised when I learned that David had taken a job in the Clinton Administration. I knew he leaned left when we had lunch in the summer of 1993 when we both worked in Washington, D.C. But, he didn’t seem the partisan sort. Â
We discussed politics and life since college, he recalling my leadership roles on campus, I recalling his English major and interest in writing. He seemed curious about my date (two years prior to that lunch) with his then-boss, Andrew Sullivan.
Most of all, I recalled that David listened, as he had listened in class and listened to our classmates when we discussed whatever it was we discussed in the now lost (alas, alas) snack bar in Baxter Hall.
Thus, I was surprised to learn that he had personally rejected (or at least written the e-mail rejecting) presumptive Republican nominee John McCain’s column for the New York Times.
The David Shipley who so readily listened to his Williams peers was now dictating how one party’s candidate should write about our nation’s Iraq policy. I want to believe David’s distinction between accepting Obama’s piece and rejecting that of his Republican rival, that the Obama essay “offered new information.” Â Given the increasingly biased record of the Times, I am skeptical, even of a man whose even-handedness I have long respected.
It’s sad that David who clearly had a hand in bringing two thoughtful conservatives to his paper’s editorial page would so readily reject the essay of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Is the David who once got along so well with his Williams’ peers now especially eager to get along well with the liberal New York media Ã©lite?
I hope David still shows the same respect for conservatives he did at Williams and in our 1993 lunch.
His failure to publish this editorial shows the decline of the paper whose Op-Eds he now edits. Given the controversy this rejection generated, the essay will likely get wider attention than it would had the paper printed it.
It may well be that the bias shown in this rejection accounts for the 82% drop in the paper’s profits.
- B. Daniel Blatt