I really like James Taranto, who writes at the WSJ’s Opinion Journal. I think he’s wise and witty, but even the wisest and wittiest can sometimes be wrong — as I think he is this time.
Taranto takes exception to Charles Johnson’s belief that the LA Times is lying when it says that it can’t release the Khalidi/Obama videotape because it made a promise to its source not to do so. Andrew McCarthy thinks the same, but Taranto’s not buying. This is because Taranto thinks the LA Times’ excuse sounds valid. I think he misses the larger point. I actually sat down and wrote Taranto a letter:
You express surprise that Charles Johnson, among others, finds incredible the LA Times latest excuse for refusing to release the Khalidi/Obama videotape. To your mind, the excuse is a valid one, because you can readily envision realistic scenarios that would support this kind of excuse. You’re correct.
However, Johnson’s incredulity (and mine, I might add) arises, not because of the actual merits of the excuse, but because of the fact that it took the Times three or four tries to come up with this one. In other words, it’s probably not the truth because, had it been the truth, the Times would have advanced it immediately. Instead, the Times spun like crazy until it finally came up with something that would satisfy media professionals.
In this regard, I should say that the Times‘ behavior is strongly reminiscent of Jon Lovitz’s famous pathological liar, a fixture of late-1980s Saturday Night television. You remember him: lie, after lie, after lie, until he finally hit upon one that sounded credible, at which point he’d rub his hands together and say, “Yeah, that’s the ticket.” I think you just bought the Times’ ticket on this one.