The bizarre cat fight among NYT opiners has a new combatant. Today, Bob Herbert argues that Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign launch was, in fact, all about the race baiting. This is, of course, a direct poke at David Brooks (Herbert's fellow Tuesday columnist), whose Friday column contended that Reagan's Philadelphia, Miss, appearance had nothing to do with racial politics and that those who persist in peddling such "calumny" are ignorant partisans--a slap that was itself directed at Paul Krugman (who shares the Friday pages with Brooks), who has been happily peddling such "agitprop" in his recent book.
In keeping with whatever bizarre Times law or tradition, none of these guys ever refers to his target by name, making the ongoing squabble slightly disorienting for those not paying close attention. Why does Herbert suddenly feel compelled to "set the record straight" on something that happened nearly thirty years ago? Why does Brooks feel he needed to address an enduring "slur" nowhere near the center of today's political debate? Since Herbert can't cite his specific grievance with Brooks and Brooks can't cite his with Krugman, both of their columns seem to come weirdly out of left field.
When I first mentioned this, my colleague Jon Chait noted that such no-name squabbles are not uncommon on the Times op-ed pages, and he rightly suggested that such a practice lowers the level of intellectual debate. It also makes these guys look downright flaky.
Either stop being coy, boys, or suck it up and suffer in silence. Don't make the rest of us endure your oblique in-house pissing matches.