Paul Craig Roberts And The Decline And Fall Of The Washington Times
June 01, 2010
decision to drop his column, announced March 24, was his
valedictory, he described, among other things,
how he and other old-school conservatives (that is,
conservatives who actually advocated conserving
the things that made America America, such as the
rule of law,
opposition to nation-building, the welfare-warfare state
and, of course, who had the temerity to even mention the
mortal danger posed by the
tsunami of "immigration"
have been systematically marginalized, then excised,
from the pages, not merely of the establishment press,
but also from the opinion pages of
ostensibly "conservative" publications—including
the Washington Times.
Roberts is not imagining things—at least insofar as the
Washington Times was concerned. I know, because I
was there—as a young (and initially, naive)
I had a front-row seat for what turned out to be the
neoconservative takeover of this once-upon-a-time
legitimately conservative newspaper. It was a creepy
experience. And I still can`t tell you whether it was a
conscious process deliberately undertaken; or whether it
just sort of happened as a result of inertia and
staffing changes that brought in
who by dint of inclination and association brought in
more of their own.
What I can tell you is the following:
When I joined the Washington Times in 1992,
was still on staff and the paper regularly carried Joe
Sobran`s columns as well as
Paul Craig Roberts (or "PCR" as we called him,
in-house) was another well-known conservative
The WT was still very much contrarian, at least
relative to the orthodox agit-prop of the Washington
Post. Its editorials frequently criticized Big
Government, not just leftist Big Government.
Moonie ownership was easy enough for enemies to cite as
a way to delegitimize everything about the paper. But
the fact of the matter is that the ownership really did
leave the editorial and news side alone.
And many of the people working there were honest, even
courageous newspaperpeople. Among these were Commentary
Editor Mary Lou Forbes, an old Washington Star
reporter and editor who had a
to her credit (for
Civil Rights movement)
and editorial writer
Kirkwood. Kirkwood was old school, a Reaganite/Libertarian sort of conservative, a believer in and advocate of the
“old things”—the sort of things that Sam, Pat and Craig also believed in and advocated. Country, kith and kin.
was in the air.
after the succession to the imperial throne of Bush the
Tony Snow as editorial page editor.
Sam had served as an interim editor while Wes Pruden, the paper`s managing editor, searched for Tony`s replacement. The writers wanted Sam; Pruden wanted somebody else. That somebody was Lindberg.
Unlike Francis and Kirkwood, Lindberg, on the other hand, was a Bushie—which meant, a
neocon. He did not believe in the "old
things"—and it was clear, even to new/junior
staffers like me, that there was tension in the office
between the older Timesers and the new crowd.
Someone—maybe Lindberg, perhaps someone higher up—was
without doubt gunning for Sam, who circa `92-`93 was
still both an editorial writer and a staff columnist.
You could feel it in the air. People upstairs were
waiting for their moment. It came when Sam wrote his
infamous (to detractors) column on slavery. It was
seized upon as the first of several pretexts to shove
him out the door. First, Sam lost his staff columnist
title—and soon thereafter, everything else.
[VDARE.com note: Sam Francis`s column on the
Baptists` decision to "apologize" for slavery
was All those
things to apologize for,
Times, June 27, 1995, not online, but you can
see highlights from it here.]
In typical Beltway Conservative fashion, the WT
management fell all over itself to placate the outrage
of critics who are the mortal enemies of real
conservatism by throwing Sam to the wolves—for daring to
speak his piece and (worse) for daring to espouse
authentic conservative views, which it was clear were
Of course, they didn`t put it that way. What they did
say was that same was "insensitive" and (no
editorial pages began to echo the Bushie/GOP
establishment line. It was becoming a
paper—unless you still believed in Reagan-ish
conservatism, in which case you could feel a cold chill
wafting through the building.
The national interest was out; internationalism was in.
The diversity cult was taking hold, even to the extent
that grossly incompetent "African American"
writers were promoted to positions for which they were
I began to notice something else around this time, too.
As an early morning person, I usually got to the office
before anyone else. The fax machine would be overflowing
with "memos" from Bill Kristol, the
Obergruppenfuhrer of DC neoconservatism. These
amounted to Talking Points on various issues of the day.
And lo and behold, the WT`s editorial positions
began to echo (if not outright repeat) these Talking
noticed that certain writers were sacrosanct. No matter
how awfully and even incoherently written their stuff
was, it would always be published—often, after having
been completely reconstructed by one of the tireless
most egregious example of this: the old
Cord Meyer—who at the time was constantly producing
turgid rants urging
in Kosovo on behalf of the Muslims there—and everywhere
else besides. Cord`s columns were often literally
unreadable. But they got in, every time. Ditto the stuff
produced by Ken Adelman, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney
and a slew of like-minded Beltway neocon chickenhawks
columns were still used also. By this time his writing
into prolix-for-its-own-sake dreck, published chiefly
because Buckley was "a
supposedly, this would entrance readers, even if they
couldn`t make heads or tails of the columns themselves.
Sam was long
gone by now.
columns had been dumped and PCR and Buchanan were on
deck for erasure.
After 9/11, the only reason the WT continued to
publish Buchanan and PCR at all was the stalwart
presence of Mary Lou Forbes, who ran the
still-independent Commentary Pages. Her status as a sort
of eminence grise and the fact that she
apparently had an ironclad contract guaranteeing her
independent editorial control (a condition, rumor had
it, of her going to work for the Moonies) made her
But in time
even Mary Lou began to feel the pressure.
I was in her office with others on several occasions
when the subject of a PCR or Buchanan column came up. It
was clear—though never made explicit—that "higher
ups" didn`t want to see either writer published
whom most of us almost never saw, particularly loathed
Buchanan and wanted him gone).
It was only because of Mary Lou`s commendable defense of
what she called "her regulars" that they
eventually got slotted in. But they became less and less
“regular"—and when their columns did run, they
were slotted in only after much hemming and hawing and
usually on the second or back pages, or on the weekend,
when circulation was much lower—away from the limelight
as far as was possible.
brought in more like-minded people to form the nucleus
of his staff, including Helle Bering, a
national, as deputy editorial page editor.
For Helle-Bering, U.S. citizenship and the notion of an
American people seemed to be incidentals, if not
anachronisms. Any strong attachment to either suggested
a sinister nativism that might be hiding the Worst Thing
Possible—"racism". Accordingly, if you said
anything negative about unrestricted immigration—or,
even worse, dared to suggest that perhaps different
racial and ethnic groups have diverging interests and
thus, political agendas—you could expect
point include the
and Peter Brimelow and the way both
were painted as "anti-Semitic" and many other
things besides. This in spite of the fact that such men
(Sam in particular) were without question some of the
best prose stylists the paper ever had—without even
getting into the content of their columns, which was
uniformly excellent. Such things mattered far less than
toeing the Party Line.
now included neocon
(reportedly a cousin/kin to the Pods) and a
fellow-traveler by the name of
who appeared to have some connection to the Jerusalem
Post, or at least, used Jerusalem Post
editorials as the basis for his own. I personally
witnessed conversations to this effect between Himelfarb
and Helle Bering, who on one occasion told him in so
many words to "rewrite" the JP`s
And he did. [VDARE.com note:
Readers who doubt this are invited to compare
by Caroline Glick,
The Jerusalem Post, April 4, 2006 and
by Joel Himelfarb,
The Washington Times, April 24, 2006]
By the time of the ascension of Bush the Younger, the
paper was a thoroughly corrupted and immensely cynical.
For all practical purposes, it had morphed into a vanity
press for the "mainstream" Republican Party. That
is, intellectually, for the neocons. The columns were,
to borrow a phrase, as predictable as
the Brezhnev Era.
the war drums were beaten relentlessly. And woe betide
anyone who questioned any aspect of the flowering War on
Terra (as the magnificent
also a former Timeser, styles it). Every jot and tittle of W`s agenda was
lovingly approved of on the WT`s editorial
pages—often to a tortured and ludicrous extent.
Few authentic conservatives—writers like PCR—remained.
The occasional column by Roberts was almost shockingly
at odds with the new tone of the WT. It was
obvious things could not go on much longer.
nail in the coffin was probably the ascension to the
editorial page editor`s job of former Newt Gingrich PR
man who had never been a newspaperman in any capacity
and whose chief qualification for the position seemed to
be his status as a Republican Party sachem.
I bugged out
shortly thereafter—allegedly over a conflict about my
writing outside the paper, though I have no doubt a
contributing factor was Blankley sniffed me out as a
Bering, meanwhile, settled into comfortable sinecures at
Forbes held on for awhile longer, but by 2008 she was
well into her 80s and not well physically. She succumbed
to cancer last year. Her once-formidable Commentary
section was immediately taken over by the editorial
If you`ve followed the progress of the Washington
Times since then, you know The End (or a close
facsimile thereof) came soon after. The disastrously
brief tenure of former WSJ writer
as editorial page editor (he and the WT—or,
rather, what`s left of it—are currently
litigation) came and went like a Spring Break debauch,
followed by the
wholesale firing of roughly 60 percent of The
Times news staff.
The paper is
now a burnt-out husk of its former self. The print
version is for all purposes shut down. An online version
continues, but if it lasts beyond the lifetime of the
I`d be very surprised.
Of course, the
Washington Times has been hit by the internet, like
the rest of the dinosaurs. But being the vanity press
for a defeated and discredited regime didn`t help.
So I feel
Paul Craig Roberts` pain.
understand his despair.
If conservatives are persona non grata even at
the Washington Times, where else is there to
I abandoned DC in 2004 and haven`t missed it a bit. I
suspect PCR`s blood pressure is lower now, too.
Eric Peters (email
him), an automotive columnist and former
editorial writer for
The Washington Times, is the author of
His website is
His next book,
Road Hogs, will be published this fall.