Writing Editorials
Jude Wanniski
August 30, 2000


To: Howell Raines, NYT editorial page editor
Robert Bartley, WSJ editorial page editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Serving People or Party?

Back when I was writing editorials for The Wall Street Journal on most topics of economic, political and social policy (1972-78), it never occurred to me to be partisan. The New York Times was expected to be inclined toward more liberal positions on any given list of issues and we were inclined toward more conservative positions. That is, the NYT leaned toward government solutions to public problems and we leaned toward private solutions. Perhaps because I had been a lifelong Democrat and still was a registered Democrat until I changed parties in 1978, I never felt a partisan commitment in my editorial-writing days. It was never in my mind that my job included advancing the interests of the Republican Party or of impeding the interests of the Democrats. My responsibility was to make sense of the issues confronting the nation by getting as much information as I could in a reasonable amount of time, laying out the problem as clearly as I could, and offering suggestions on how to deal with them.

Why mention this now? It is because I fear both of you fellows have steadily slid down the slippery slope into blatant partisanship. Bob, you have been editing the Journal’s page since January 1972, and I honestly believe your Republican partisanship never has been as evident as it is now, perhaps because you decided to challenge the legitimacy of the Clinton presidency from its earliest days. Howell, you’ve been editing the NYT editpage for less than 10 years, and perhaps because you find yourself reacting to the Journal’s partisanship, you have increasingly been addressing national or international problems to suit the Democratic party line.

What got me started on this memo, Howell, was your editorial Monday, “Protecting the Earth.” Of course you well know that I believe man-made global warming is a preposterous idea, but that is only because I’ve taken the trouble to take every new wrinkle the global warming crowd comes up with and have it easily demolished by scientists who are not in the business of trying to prove the case. The Times never has done that fundamental work. Your environmental editorial writers ONLY talk to climatologists who have a vested interest in the existence of man-made global warming. Your editorial yesterday, for example, begins with the news that “scientists spotted a patch of open ocean about a mile wide at the North Pole, where the ice is normally six to nine feet deep.” Hey, global warming! This is great for Al Gore! “Global warming, of course, is Mr. Gore’s signature issue, and he is likely to give it a kind of prominence that Mr. Clinton did not. He has already unveiled an ambitious and fairly detailed menu of subsidies and market incentives aimed at helping industry achieve dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases.”

With no attempt to test the argument that there is a patch of open ocean at the North Pole (in the summertime, by the way), your readers -- especially Vice President Gore -- are more firmly persuaded than ever that something must be done, even if it costs a zillion dollars. That is, unless they read the WSJournal yesterday, where atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer pointed out that “No one from the National Ice Center in Suitland MD has been quoted in the press. Why? Because they would have told that it is normal to see open water in the Arctic Ocean.” Singer is no partisan, Howell, but a true scientist, emeritus professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. He earlier served as the director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and as the chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Transportation. If you did not see it in the WSJ, you can read it at http://www.sepp.org/NewSEPP/polaricecap.htm.

For almost 20 years, since James Hansen of the Goddard Space Flight Center wrote a paper saying the earth was being warmed by carbon dioxide, Dr. Singer has been disputing Hansen’s basic scientific theory and his methodology. Now, Hansen concludes that Singer has probably been right. Guess what? Carbon dioxide -- which is not uniquely man-made -- is not the chief culprit after all. Hansen has found at the South Pole -- which hasn't melted yet -- teeny-tiny quantities of a uniquely man-made substance, SF5 CF3, which he claims is a zillion times worse as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide from any source, natural or man-made. So in today's NYT, we see an op-ed by Gregg Easterbrook, a science writer who works for Al Gore's house organ, The New Republic, who makes the deft argument that Gore no longer has to shut down global economic growth with the Kyoto Treaty, because he can now go after "the easy greenhouse gases first," i.e., SF5 CF3. As Easterbrook puts it: "A Kyoto treaty that is fixated on reducing fossil fuel use may never be ratified, but one that goes after methane and SF5 CF3, seems eminently practical, politically."

You must appreciate, Howell, that Hansen’s substitution of SF5 CF3 for carbon dioxide should end the nonsense about man-made warming. SF5 CF3 is the tiniest of figleafs which Hansen provides the Vice President by way of apology. What is this stuff and where did they find it? As best I can tell, researchers find a spot in the polar ice cap that contains several parts per million of the never-before-heard-of industrial chemical. They cranked up their computers and multiplied the several parts per million by the entire atmosphere and sure enough, there is a lot of it! Now, if Al Gore is prepared to shift his stance to fighting SF5 CF3, instead of CO2, I could even think of voting for him. Global warming is a deal-breaker for me. My point, Howell, is that you should have been slicing and dicing this issue all along, serving the interests of the nation, not the environmental wing of the Democratic Party. If you had, Gore would not have gotten so far out on the limb with his “signature issue.”

As for the WSJ editpage, Bob, I have the same concerns about George W. Bush, getting out on the limb with a commitment to build a national anti-ballistic missile system. If you were thinking through this issue yourself -- or having a subordinate do it for you -- it is far more likely that Governor Bush would realize the project would be a gold-plated rathole for taxpayer funds. Instead, you allow Bush advisors Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz to essentially write your editorials on the subject. Yes, they are old friends and Cold Warrior comrades, but they are as obsolete as the Marxism-Leninism they battled. The only reason I can seriously think of voting for Bush is his selection of Dick Cheney as Veep and promise to name Colin Powell as his secretary of state. They would surely find ways to talk President Bush from climbing out on a limb even more treacherous than Kyoto.

You know how fervent I was in supporting a “Star Wars” ABM defense during the Cold War, when it made sense to confuse Soviet military planners and drive up their costs when they were going bankrupt in maintaining their 10,000 missiles and 30,000 warheads. The idea is ludicrous: spending hundreds of billions of dollars to now build an ABM shield over the country, to protect every inch of it from some tinpot dictator who would never dream of building and launching a nuclear missile when he could have it delivered by suitcase. Because Perle and Wolfowitz have you trotting alongside their obsolete path, there is no independent judgment available for the American people. President Clinton and Vice President Gore simply will continue triangulating, promising to only silver-plate the rathole and using the money saved for prescription drugs.

Worse, you have totally missed the end-run, the threats to our fleets as Russia and China react to our bullying threats, not by building up their nuclear capabilities, but by teaming up to develop conventional sea-skimming missiles against which our aircraft carriers cannot defend. Both of you fellows should make a bookmark at Gordon Prather’s twice-weekly column at WorldNetDaily.com. He has the only independent, educated voice in this realm in the national press corps. Start with today’s, which explains where the Russkies are going with their Kursk subs and how it happened that the Clinton/Gore team got us to this pretty pass.


Your editorial pages are too important to serve party interests, Howell and Bob. It’s a good time to go back to Old Fashioned editorials that divide philosophically, not politically.