Thomas Sowell

This was the stance of Howell Raines when addressing the view that, because Jayson Blair is black, he was the beneficiary of a double standard that allowed him to continue messing up for years.

"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines told his staffers.

How can this be "by all accounts" when one of the editors bluntly urged that Blair be fired immediately -- more than a year ago?

Whether or not Blair was "promising" when he was hired, for how many years can you remain promising as the record of your failures and deceptions keeps piling up?

Managing editor Raines admits now that he may have given Jayson Blair "one chance too many" when he let his promotion go through. But that sounds like very poor arithmetic in light of the record. And the fundamental problem was not that Blair was promoted but that he was allowed to keep the job that he was botching.

Howell Raines and the New York Times are not nearly as important as the mindset they represent. And it is not nearly as important that they learn lessons from this as that the rest of us learn the implications of their mindset and the kinds of things that it can lead to, not just in journalism but in the larger world.

The worst that Howell Raines can do is ruin the reputation of a once-great newspaper. But when the mindset that he represents takes hold in the seats of power, including judicial power, we can look for the same blind arrogance of the self-righteous -- and far worse consequences for this nation and its people.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate