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Pinch's New York Times

From the Rocky Mountain News' Vincent Carroll on New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain

But of course it is not easy to keep your mouth closed when you are publisher of The New York Times and the son of the previous publisher. You are a very important person and have known this your entire life. Speaking is largely what you do, even if you happen to embody the very worst characteristics of your generation - a tendency toward moral preening, self-inflation and historical amnesia.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has been publisher of the Times since 1992 and his shallowness has been on display for years. But never more so than in a commencement address he delivered last month at State University of New York at New Paltz.

"When I graduated from college in 1974," Sulzberger declared to much applause, "my fellow students and I . . . were determined not to repeat the mistakes of our predecessors. We had seen the horrors and futility of war and smelled the stench of corruption in government.

"Our children, we vowed, would never know that.

So, well, sorry. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life, the right of gays to marry or the rights of women to choose.

You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drives policy and environmentalists have to relentlessly fight for every gain.

You weren't. But you are. And for that I'm sorry."

The breathtaking arrogance of this litany lies not in its politics, which are what you'd expect, but in its sheer childishness.

What serious adult could possibly anticipate a world in which environmentalists - or any other interest group - are given free rein to define national policy, and in which U.S. leaders are indifferent to safeguarding a commodity crucial to their economy?

What serious adult would expect consensus over efforts to redefine marriage or how to treat millions of people who entered this country without permission? It seems Sulzberger graduated from college anticipating a world in which no one ever disagreed with The New York Times. How revealing to make such a confession.

The crowning touch of these passages, however, is their false contrition - the apology for a state of affairs that he and his audience both know Sulzberger had nothing to do with creating. He is sorry that the world has not lived up to his standards for Utopia. It's a 12-year-old's lament delivered by the publisher of the most powerful newspaper in the land to an audience that in some cases sounds, based on the cheering, almost as immature as he is.

This provides an insight into why the New York Times has fallen so far in the last decade, particularly the last 5 years. The Times' article on John Kerry that ran over Memorial Day which prompted Thomas Lipscomb's "The Truth, John Kerry, and The New York Times" on RealClearPolitics today would not have run in the New York Times of 20 years ago.