bret stephens

In 1974, as Richard Nixon’s presidency was collapsing, he was drinking heavily and aides worried that he was becoming unstable. Fearing what might go wrong, Nixon’s defense secretary, James Schlesinger, secretly instructed the military not to carry out any White House order to use nuclear weapons unless confirmed by him or Henry Kissinger. This was unconstitutional. And wise. Schlesinger also prepared secret plans to deploy troops in Washington in the event of problems with the presidential succession.
Nicholas Kristof, NYT, May 17 2017

Why did the NYT hire neocon columnist Bret Stephens?
Tom Hall, WSWS, May 31 2017

Last month, the NYT announced that it had hired Bret Stephens, the former WSJ columnist. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Stephens, whose position at the WSJ was deputy editor supervising international relations, emerged as one of the most prominent critics within the Thug right of Donald Trump. Stephens declared in several columns in the lead-up to the election that he would be voting for Hillary Clinton. Clinton for her part actively courted opponents of Trump from the Thug right. Her campaign sent out press releases circulating endorsements of her from these quarters. Stephens’ opposition to Trump stood in marked contrast to the generally favorable reporting he received from the WSJ as a whole, although the newspaper declined to make an official endorsement of him. While there is no evidence that Stephens himself was forced out at the newspaper, The Atlantic published an anonymous report in February that WSJ op-ed editor Mark Lasswell was quietly “phased out” for his critical columns on Trump. Stephens first joined the WSJ in 1998 as an op-ed editor and columnist. After a brief stint away from the newspaper in which he served as editor-in-chief of the JPost in Israel from 2002 to 2004, Stephens returned to the WSJ as a columnist specializing in international affairs, eventually becoming deputy editor in 2009.

The NYT has long functioned as a journalistic mouthpiece for the military – intelligence apparatus. In recent months, it has given voice to the bitter factional struggle by layers within the deep state against the Trump administration. The opposition to Trump within the editorial pages of the NYT, the organ of what passes for Pindo “liberalism,” is without any democratic or progressive content. It is centered primarily on questions of foreign policy, particularly demands for a more confrontational stance towards Russia and for direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war (which the CIA is losing – RB). The Demagogs and the NYT have waged this campaign in a de facto alliance with right-wing neocon factions of the Thug Party including Stephens himself who oppose the Trump administration on essentially the same pro-war, anti-Russia basis. This is why the NYT made the decision to hire him. The basic theme that runs through Stephens’ editorials is his endorsement of imperialist violence in defense of Pindostan’s position as world hegemon. He was an ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has called for an escalation of the war in Syria through direct intervention. A WSJ editorial from Sep 2016, The Only Syrian Solution, called the bombing of the Balkans in the 1990s a model for Syria. In 2014, Stephens authored a book, Pindostan in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, which denounced the supposed reluctance of the Obama administration to use military force. In fact, Obama was the first Pindosi president to spend two full terms at war. The book called for the continuation and expansion of Pindostan’s role as “world policeman.” Stephens wrote:

No great power can treat foreign policy as a spectator sport and hope to remain a great power. A world in which the leading liberal-democratic nation does not assume its role as the world policeman will become a world in which dictatorships contend, or unite, to fill the breach.

Stephens is also a staunch defender of Israel. In a NYT editorial last week reviewing Trump’s state visit to the Middle East, Stephens, while generally positive, singled out for criticism Trump’s delaying of his highly inflammatory pledge to move the Pindo embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. His opinion pieces on Israel also often reveal an anti-Arab bigotry. Last year he published an editorial about an incident at the Olympics in Brazil between an Egyptian and Israeli athlete that spurred outrage for referring to “the disease of the Arab mind.” None of these stances would appear out of place in the columns written by the NYT’s other opinion writers, who specialize in providing “democratic” and “human rights” justifications for Pindostan’s imperialist adventures, have supported every war launched by Pindostan since the end of the Cold War and are among the most vocal supporters of direct intervention in Syria and confrontation with Russia. The NYT’s columnists share close connections to the military-intelligence apparatus. This is exemplified by the newspaper’s opinion editor James Bennet, whose father is a former diplomat and head of USAID, the CIA front group implicated in regime-change operations worldwide & whose brother is the senior senator from Colorado.

In recent months, NYT editorial pages have played host to numerous columns appealing to the military and the cabal of ex-generals and corporate executives in Trump’s cabinet to intervene against Trump and if necessary remove him from power. Earlier this month, columnist Nicholas Kristof penned an op-ed approvingly citing plans by former president Richard Nixon’s secretary of state’s secret plans to deploy the military to the streets of Washington during the Watergate crisis (sic, but see quotation above – RB). In March, Thomas Friedman wrote an open letter to Masterson, Mattis, Kelly, Pompeo and Tillerson that floated a proposal for a palace coup. The paper’s news section has long served as a clearing-house for unsubstantiated and politically-motivated claims by anonymous government boxtops, from its uncritical reporting as fact of Bush 43 administration claims of Iraqi WMDs to the present campaign over alleged Russian election hacking. While they publish as fact any claim against an official adversary, the newspaper’s editors routinely withhold or downplay stories about crimes committed by the government itself. This was immortalized in a statement by former executive editor Bill Keller, who declared in 2008:

Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity.

The hiring of Stephens is not the first rapprochement with the Thug right by the NYT. In 2008, the paper hired Bill Kristol. The arrangement lasted only one year, after backlash from readers and colleagues. Stephens provoked similar outrage with his first column for the NYT, an attack on the academic consensus behind climate change. Public editor Liz Spayd wrote a defensive response to the public indignation, accusing readers and critics of intolerance and of rummaging through his columns for proof that Stephens is a right-wing ideologue. Stephens’ hiring further clarifies the right-wing character of the newspaper and the “liberal” Demagog Party milieu for which it speaks. It demonstrates the closeness of the Demagogs’ foreign policy to that of the neocon Thug right, and illustrates the thoroughly right-wing content of their opposition to Trump.

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