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Irreconcilable Differences

It’s a good thing that the editorial pages of the N.Y. Times and Wall Street Journal aren’t people, and that they aren’t married to each other. Can you imagine the fights the two of them would have? One would want the housekeeper to come on Mondays and Fridays; the other would insist on Wednesdays only. One would want to keep the fruit in the refrigerator; the other would insist that cold fruit is a travesty. One would cheer to the skies when John Bolton resigned as U.S. envoy to the United Nations; and the other would curse like a sailor.

That last example is pretty much what happened in today’s papers. Here’s how the two editorial pages commented upon the Bolton resignation:

“John Bolton’s decision to resign as America’s envoy to the United Nations was a wise move …. Mr. Bolton has always been hostile to the U.N., and to the whole spirit of consensus-seeking diplomacy it embodies.”


“Mr. Bolton served with exemplary tact at Turtle Bay, notwithstanding critics who said he wouldn’t. More important, he has stood forcefully for American interests despite the leaks and sniping from the office of Secretary General Kofi Annan.”

I will not insult anyone’s intelligence by assuming you don’t know which paper wrote which commentary.

There have been quite a few calls lately for newspapers to get rid of their editorial pages (like this one and this one), and in theory I find that idea quite appealing. It strikes me as a fairly archaic, paternalistic, and wasteful practice for a separate section of any newspaper to tell its readers how to think about the news that another section just reported. But if the editorial pages were abolished, we’d all be deprived of the daily thrill of watching how a pair of bickering spouses like the Times and Journal choose to bicker about a particular topic.

So forget about the civic value of the editorial page; maybe the entertainment value is enough.