lying in ponds
The absurdity of partisanship
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Pundit Boxscore for Wednesday 1 January 2003

PARTISAN PUNDITRY 2002: After evaluating all 2,129 columns written by our 37 pundits in 2002, it's time to draw some conclusions. I've stressed all along that Lying in Ponds is attempting to make a distinction between ordinary party preference (there's nothing wrong with being opinionated or having a political ideology) and excessive partisanship ("blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance"). While it's obviously difficult to draw a definitive line, the top three pundits in the rankings clearly revealed excessive partisanship by the remarkable consistency of their extremely one-sided commentary throughout the year. The New York Times' Paul Krugman took the partisanship lead early and lapped the field. In a year in which Mr. Krugman generated lots of buzz and won an award, his 18:1 ratio of negative to positive Republican references and 99 columns without a single substantive deviation from the party line were unmatched in the Lying in Ponds portion of the punditocracy. During the course of the year, I've discussed Mr. Krugman's view of partisanship, his thoughts on "balance", his treatment of the Enron scandal, and his columns in 2000.

From the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, Collin Levey and Claudia Rosett earned their high rankings by following a very simple formula -- all Democrats are bad. While Ms. Levey avoided making a single positive Democratic reference in her 26 columns, Ms. Rosett did manage to praise Franklin Roosevelt -- perhaps the statute of limitations was somehow involved.

While the rest of the Top Ten pundits often wrote very partisan columns, each showed at least flickers of intellectual independence by finding that some issues were more complex than RNC or DNC propaganda might indicate. Robert L. Bartley and Michael Kelly generally avoided writing about issues uncomfortable for Republicans (Enron, Trent Lott), or wrote about them in a way which deflected the blame. Both also pummeled Bill Clinton with regularity, but each found a few reasons to criticize their own party,

Mary McGrory and Frank Rich thrashed Republicans with enthusiasm, but were also capable of very sharp criticism of Democrats. Mr. Rich's attention to the bipartisan aspects of Enron and other corporate scandals was particulary impressive; his coverage constrasted sharply with the exhaustive but blinkered treatment of Mr. Krugman. Daniel Henninger and Michael Kinsley spent enough column space on non-partisan topics to hold down their partisanship scores. Pete du Pont demonstrated independence by writing two columns of substantive criticism of the Bush administration over the issue of steel tariffs.

ON TO 2003: Starting today, a revised roster of pundits will appear in the daily boxscores, but the final 2002 statistics will be left up for a week or two. Stay tuned to see if any of the new faces (Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, Ann Coulter, Molly Ivins, Thomas Oliphant, Clarence Page, Robert Scheer, Thomas Sowell, Cal Thomas, and Walter Williams) will be able to challenge Mr. Krugman for the 2003 partisanship title.



Author/
Affiliation
Title/
Date
words PI Partisan References
Michael Kelly
Washington Post
2003, Through the Looking Glass
1 January 2003
1018 76 14D-: Democratic, Kerry, Democratic, Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, Carter, Jimmy Carter, Carter, Clinton, Clinton
1R-: Lott
2D=
George F. Will
Washington Post
Happy (Pestilent) New Year
1 January 2003
941 67 2R-: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Powell
1R=
Linda Chavez
Creators Syndicate
Deception in North Korea
1 January 2003
840 44 4D-: former president Jimmy Carter, president Bill Clinton, Carter, Bill Clinton
1R+: Powell
1R-: administration
3R=
Clarence Page
Chicago Tribune
Feeling a draft coming on
1 January 2003
1019 44 6D+: Charles B. Rangel, Democrat, Rangel, Rangel, Rangel, Rangel
4R+: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Bush
6R-: President Bush, Bush administration, Bush administration, administration, administration, Bush
2D=
Robert Scheer
Los Angeles Times
FOREIGN POLICY LOSES ITS LOGIC
1 January 2003
1080 36 4R+: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Powell, Powell, Bush
9R-: administration, Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, Bush, Bush administration, administration, Bush administration, administration
1R=
David S. Broder
Washington Post
Don't Bet on Bipartisan Niceties
1 January 2003
973 3 1R-: Republicans
14D=, 16R=
Bob Herbert
Inactive
Out the Door
1 January 2003
863 0
Cal Thomas
Tribune Media Services
Why not cloning?
1 January 2003
738 0
Walter Williams
Creators Syndicate
Celebrating multiculturalism and diversity
1 January 2003
690 0