Saturday, September 20, 2008

Puddinghead Union

The Twain never met

In the 1970s and 1980s, I used to see the Sacramento Union among the newspapers stacked in the lobbies of most legislative offices in the State Capitol and on the desks of most bureaucrats. In those days one used to read the Sacramento Bee to get a moderately liberal perspective on state government and the Sacramento Union for the moderately conservative alternative. The handwriting, however, was already on the newsprint.

The Union was devolving into a propaganda organ for the most conservative elements of the Republican Party. When Richard Mellon Scaife purchased the paper from the Copley News Service, the Union became less and less like the pioneering journal that once published the dispatches of a roving reporter named Mark Twain (whose bronze bust once dominated the entryway of the Union building on Capitol Mall). The news articles became more and more difficult to distinguish from the hectoring editorials on the opinion page. Scaife lost money as Union circulation suffered in head-to-head competition with McClatchy's Bee, which had switched to morning publication.

Scaife finally bailed out at the end of the 1980s and the new owners delivered the coup de grace by installing the wacky Joseph Farah as editor. (Farah now presides over the on-line dispenser of right-wing talking points known as WorldNetDaily—though referred to fondly as WorldNutDaily by its admirers.) The Union never recovered either its senses or its circulation. By 1994 the newspaper was dead.

While the state capital had effectively been a one-newspaper town for a few years before the Union officially expired, its formal demise had a bad impact on its rival. The Sacramento Bee lost its editorial focus now that it was the region's only major daily newspaper, trying to be all things to all people. California's conservatives, however, bereft of their steady diet of Union rants, were in no mood to accept a pallid substitute that dutifully published conservative columnists as a sop to their sensibilities. To this day they continue to decry what they call the Bee's left-wing bias. It's a figment of their imagination. In its declining years, the Bee is just another struggling middle-of-the-road rag owned by a media corporation. A little red-meat liberalism would do the paper good.

Since its tragic death, there have been several attempts to revive the Sacramento Union, perhaps in hopes of saving California's capital from the forces of tepid Sacramento Bee liberalism-lite. The current Union revenant is a mewling Voldemortian weekly tabloid that occasionally appears in the free-to-take newsracks next to its much more robust rival, the leftist Sacramento News & Review. Both newspapers have Web editions that permit those of us who live outside the capital's immediate sphere of influence to enjoy their reports and editorials. But be wary. You'll never get back those minutes that you devote to reading a Union editorial, and brain damage is definitely a risk.

An editorial featured in the September 19, 2008, edition of the Sacramento Union gives us a good sample of what passes for thoughtful opinion in today's neocon press. Please pick up your shotgun and approach the barrel of fish. This isn't going to be pretty.
Sarah Unmasks the Democrats

Democrats believe that some people are poor because others are rich. They propagate the notion that theirs is the party of the average working man and woman and that the GOP empowers only elite, wealthy males.

Ha! They forgot “white”!
This is an enormous lie, exposed in excruciating relief by John McCain’s selection of a working-class running mate.
That's gutsy: a right-wing publication criticizing lying in political campaigns. Did John McCain approve this message?
In election after election, the Democrats have nominated for president the elite, wealthy males they pretend to disdain. Al Gore was a U.S. senator’s son raised in the Fairfax Hotel on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. and educated at the exclusive St. Albans prep school and Harvard University. He became a newspaper reporter after starting, then quitting, both divinity school and law school. John Kerry, a wind-surfing Yale University graduate, worked briefly as an attorney before entering politics. His first wife was wealthy, and his second, Theresa Heinz, is said to be worth over $1 billion.
Truly it is outrageous when presidential candidates are cushioned by the vast wealth of their spouses. These shamefully “kept men” should refrain from inflicting their spoiled lifestyles on the public and be content to lounge about in the many, many houses that their wives buy for them.
The latest in this chain of easy-life Democratic presidential nominees is Barack Obama, a graduate of Punahou, the top prep school in Hawaii. Later, he graduated from Columbia and Harvard. A one-time associate in a law firm, and a one-time college lecturer, Obama identified himself as a “community organizer” before his election to the U.S. Senate. His salary as a U.S. senator is $169,300, but last year the Obamas reported an income of $4.2 million.
Certainly it's embarrassing to the entitled Republican establishment to find themselves challenged by a young man who was raised in the absence of his birth father (and sometimes without his mother) and parlayed hard work and scholarship into an Ivy League education, enabling him to become uppity. Shocking! And then he dares to write bestselling books that earn him millions of dollars. It's just offensive when Democrats make money, you know. Money belongs to Republicans, who are more deserving of it.
Obama is a member of Chicago’s political nobility. He could afford to buy a 96-year-old South Side home with four fireplaces, a wine cellar, and bookcases made of Honduran mahogany because a since-indicted campaign contributor, Tony Rezko, helped him meet the $1.95 million asking price by purchasing a $625,000 side yard. Exclusive connections also helped the Obamas snag a mortgage at a discounted interest rate no working man or woman could ever obtain.
As previously noted, Sen. Obama is a bestselling author. Your average working man or woman cannot qualify for a mortgage that a bank would eagerly offer to a wealthy writer. (Did the Union forget that they just criticized him for being rich? Guess what? Rich people are courted by banks and financial institutions. Surprise!) As for the gibe about Rezko: I know it's cruel to take away one of the GOP's favorite teddy bears, but this plush toy is full of sawdust. Obama clearly did not need any special favors from Rezko to help him purchase his home in Chicago.
Just when it seemed that the Democrats might continue to get away with feigning a connection to working people while choosing another white-bread, millionaire candidate, the Republicans nominated for vice president a woman without elite roots or family or political connections who has had to work for everything she’s gotten.
Yeah, I saw that, too. They just called Barack Obama a “white-bread millionaire candidate.” The Union editorial writer must have had a completely successful shame-bypass operation. I presume that John McCain feels slighted by the assignment of this descriptor to Obama, when surely it should belong to the senior senator from Arizona, the Wonder Bread of U.S. politicians. And is the Union suggesting that Palin had to “work for” the nomination that was handed to her by McCain's caprice? Gee, what did she do?
The embarrassing contrast between Palin and Obama has left Democrats sputtering. Palin graduated from rural public schools and the University of Idaho. Her husband, Todd, is a member of the United Steelworkers union. She is a former commercial fisherman, one of the toughest jobs in the world. The salary of this full-time governor and part-time mother of five is $125,000 per year.
The Union continues to manifest the tin ear that made its editorials so hilarious during its death throes in the nineties. (They're slaves to tradition, they are.) Does Gov. Palin want to be described as a “part-time mother”? This would seem to be inconsistent with the Republican position on family values.
Palin has unmasked the Democrats as poseurs and they hate her for it. Sacramento News and Review columnist R.V. Scheide called Palin’s selection “insane.” He dismissed her as “little known,” someone who “looks pretty and eats moose meat.” The paper carried a cartoon claiming that Palin’s only foreign policy experience is having eaten once “at the International House of Pancakes.” Accompanying it was a blog by Melinda Walsh that belittled Palin as someone with “minor-league experience and smarts.”

Liberals said the same thing 30 years ago about another governor who grew up in a small town and graduated from an undistinguished college. But Ronald Reagan proved to be the greatest president of our times.
I'm not inclined to defend Ronald Reagan's political record, although the U.S. Treasury was looted at a much more modest rate during his tenure than during those of his Republican successors. I will, however, point out that Reagan had completed two terms as governor of California before he was elected president in 1980. Palin is the half-term governor of Alaska. Alaskan politics may be as bizarre as in California, but the 49th state is large only in terms of land area. Fifteen of California's fifty-eight counties have more people than Palin's entire state. Alaska has about as many people as Kern county, whose county seat is Bakersfield. Palin is not quite on the same level as even Bakersfield mayor Harvey Hall when it comes to being a national candidate, let alone Ronald Reagan.
What really bothers these critics is that Palin does not measure up to the exacting royalist bona fides the Democrats expect of a presidential or vice presidential contender. She did not attend an exclusive prep school, let alone an Ivy League university. No family fortune financed her career-surfing, as it did for Gore. She did not marry into money. Unlike the Obamas, the Palins could not afford a mansion—with or without the help of a crooked campaign donor—nor could they score a discounted mortgage rate.

The Yellow Pages show that there actually is an IHOP in Wasilla, Alaska. The Palins probably eat there a lot.
Can you see Russia from the Wasilla IHOP?
Palin's road, like most of ours, has been rough. Obama's has not. That alone could cost the Democrats this election.
Obama has obviously had it easy, especially since Harvard is known as the “safety school” of the Ivy League, a refuge for legacies and layabouts (I'm looking at you, George W. Bush, MBA) who want gentlemen's Cs as their due reward for merely existing and blessing the world with their wonderfulness. Barack probably just had to check a box on his graduation petition to get that magna cum laude from Harvard Law. Lazy bastard couldn't be bothered to get a summa.

I told you it wasn't going to be pretty.


Sili said...

Shouldn't that be "bonae fides"? Or would that be elitist?

Sad, sad, sad. But how many people will read this without suffering cognitive dissonance? Too many, I fear.

The Ridger, FCD said...

"No family fortune financed her career-surfing, as it did for Gore. She did not marry into money. Unlike the Obamas, the Palins could not afford a mansion"

While I'm glad they didn't say "as did Kerry", how many of them think about Cindy McCain? It's mind-boggling.

Anonymous said...

Sili, I'm not sure on the Latin, but I do know that if you're right it would be "bonæ fides". :D

Interrobang said...

Yeah, it's not like $125K salary makes you wealthy in a state where the median income for a family of four is $59,393. In a state as small as Alaska, a few millionaire outliers could skew that figure all by themselves...

I notice none of them mentioned George W. Bush, son of a President, grandson of a senator and international financier, scion of a family that has produced generations of American dynastic gentry... Hrrrm...

Michael W said...

If the entire state of Alaska was a county, its population rank would be number 87, just behind Jackson County, Missouri and just above Snohomish County, Washington.