NYT Opinion Editor Recuses Himself After Democratic Senator Brother Joins 2020 Race

Finally, the New York Times opinion section has acknowledged it has a political conflict of interest. All it took was the brother of its top editor to run for president.

That's right. New York Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet, formerly a top editor at the Atlantic who was credited with turning around the magazine, has, according to a statement, recused himself from coverage of the 2020 presidential election now that his brother, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, has entered the race.

Bennet said Thursday he’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, offering himself as a centrist alternative to the increasingly leftward tilt of the Democrats vyng to challenge Trump in 2020.

NYT

The senator's announcement made him the 21st Democrat  - and seventh sitting senator - to announce his candidacy for the 2020 nomination. Put another way, a full 15% of sitting Democrats in the Senate are now running for president - an unprecedented total, which could create problems for the party's efforts to, you know, actually legislate during the campaign, with so many members expected to be out on the trail. 

According to the NYT's statement, Bennet "will not discuss, assign or edit any editorials, Op-Eds, columns or other opinion pieces focused on candidates or major issues in the campaign."

Of course, the fact that the brother of the NYT's Opinion pages was a powerful sitting Democratic senator wasn't a conflict for him, right?

However difficult it might be to believe that, the paper said James, who has been in charge of the NYT's opinion coverage since 2016, hasn't been involved with any decisions relating to his brother in the past, either. Deputy editors Kathleen Kingsbury and James Dao will take handle political coverage so long as Michael's campaign is active (so probably through the Iowa Caucuses, but not much longer).

For those who are unfamiliar with Michael (as most readers probably are), here's a rundown of his policy platform, courtesy of - who else? - the New York Times.

Immigration

Mr. Bennet may be best known for being part of the so-called Gang of Eight: four Democratic and four Republican senators who negotiated a comprehensive immigration proposal in 2013. The bill, which passed the Senate but not the House, included:

  • A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who passed a background check, paid a fine and back taxes, and learned English.
  • An expanded visa program for agricultural workers and an expedited path to permanent residency for student visa holders who earned advanced STEM degrees.
  • A 700-mile border fence, new border-monitoring technologies and about 20,000 more Border Patrol agents.
  • A stronger system for companies to verify employees’ immigration status.

More recently, Mr. Bennet was co-author of a proposal that would have prevented the government shutdown in December by giving President Trump $25 billion for a border wall in exchange for protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Education

Mr. Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver school system, has focused heavily on education policy in the Senate. “I think we need an education president,” he told The Des Moines Register this year. "There’s no public good that’s more important than education."

In 2015, he helped write legislation that overhauled the No Child Left Behind Act, transferring some authority from the federal government to the states and reducing the use of standardized tests to evaluate students and teachers.

He has supported expanding Pell Grants and is a co-sponsor of the Finish Act, which would provide funding for colleges and universities to "increase access to higher education for high-need students, increase degree attainment and improve efficiency in our higher education systems."

In materials provided to The New York Times, his campaign did not make any concrete education proposals but said Mr. Bennet would work to ensure that "college students can pursue their studies without incurring the crushing burden of debt; more people seeking an alternative to college can pursue high-quality apprenticeships and job training; and Americans throughout their lives can advance their careers by improving their existing job skills or learning new ones."

Climate change

Mr. Bennet is in line with the rest of the Democratic field in calling for recommitting to the Paris Agreement and preserving Obama-era climate regulations that Mr. Trump is reversing. He has also supported regulating methane emissions and creating a standardized metric for the federal government to measure the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.

In March, he helped create the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, and last month, he was co-sponsor of a bipartisan billthat would provide tax incentives for energy storage.

In other areas, though, he has diverged from the party’s left wing. In a USA Today op-ed essay in 2017, he said some Democrats had played into Republicans’ portrait of them as “job killers fundamentally out of touch with most Americans."

"It is not enough to call for less coal or oil without having meaningful work to replace lost jobs," he wrote, and "when Democrats oppose natural gas, we fail to appreciate both its importance to small-town economies and its pivotal role in reducing coal production."

He also suggested that instead of opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, Democrats should have negotiated a deal that approved the pipeline in exchange for emission reduction measures.

Economics and health care

Mr. Bennet is a co-sponsor of the American Family Act, a Senate proposal that would give every family with children a refundable tax credit of $250 to $300 per month. He also supports expanding the earned-income tax credit.

And his campaign outlined the broad strokes of an economic platform involving infrastructure improvements, high-speed broadband in rural areas, and investments in “advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, superconductors and quantum computing.”

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