Friday, January 18, 2008

Calling, Crawling Shots in S.C.

Way downtown, even below Dorchester, John McCain has boosters that Mitt Romney does not — the editorial board of South Carolina's largest newspaper. Over at The State, the endorsement for the GOP primary certainly doesn't decide the election, but doesn't hurt.

As amusing background, be aware that this paper:
  • has a reputation as liberal, much as the Boston Globe does here
  • has reporters and editors who use the nickname I PS'ed into the logo above
  • is only moderately influential in directing voters
Not only have newspapers withered from the colossal opinion-makers they once were, what with cable TV, that Internet thing, and Lord knows how much more to do, but this particular one is taking a broom to the tide. While its editorial writers may be one sliver left of center sometimes, there's plenty of Limbaugh lovers out there. Plus, the number two S.C. paper, the Charleston Post and Courier, more typifies S.C. voters.

In this case, it also endorsed McCain. This agreement is not surprising, as no one was making them choose between a Dem and a Republican nominee. To the Post, McCain is still that straight talker, he listens to fellow Americans, and he can even make jokes about himself (with the example of the foot-stomping hilarity of his pretending to nap when the subject was aging). Moreover, the Lowcountry paper reminds us that they endorsed him eight years ago and have waited for the rest of the world to catch up.

The State, on the hand, mentions other GOP'ers, to slice 'em:

First Rudy Giuliani, then Mitt Romney looked at political realities and fled the Palmetto State, deciding their priorities lay elsewhere. Fred Thompson seems to be running in this first-in-the-South primary just to say he did. Ron Paul keeps on being Ron Paul, former nominee of the Libertarian Party.

The two remaining contenders here happen to be the two strongest candidates — Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Gov. Huckabee is an exciting newcomer who shows a wonderful ability to connect with voters’ concerns, and Republicans could do far worse than to choose him. But his utter lack of knowledge of foreign affairs is unsettling.

Its board concludes that their guy is candid, honorable, and hey, he was a brave POW.

It's looking good for McCain in polls as well as in papers. Of course, for the latter, the bifurcation and perhaps quixotic endorsements will come when it's time to pick a party for November.

I recall in the last century hearing from just such contrasting editors in J-school at the University of South Carolina. Way back then, journalism classes were still on the old horseshoe of the original 1801 campus and classes were 25 or fewer. In an introductory course, Prof. George Crutchfield brought in two relative celebrities, editors-in-chief — Bill Workman of The State and Harry Ashmore of the Arkansas Gazette.

This was 1967, when much of the South had not conceded that the '64 Civil Rights Act would change everything for them. Workman and Ashmore seemed like they couldn't have been more opposite. In fact, Ashmore had won a Pulitzer a decade earlier for articles on integration. He wrote numerous books on civil rights and went head to head with Gov. Orvel Faubus who so bitterly fought school integration in Little Rock.

Workman was an extreme right winger and state-rights advocate. Yet he and Ashmore sang harmony of separation of editorial and business, and of the freedom of reporters to write the truth.

What I recall was not how differently they spoke of their terribly divergent politics. Rather, they had been great friends for many decades. They were both from South Carolina and had worked papers in the area. They often visited, stayed with each other and had a generally great time together.

It was more than the effects of the great Southern leveler and lubricant, bourbon. They admired each other's intellect and reveled in their differently thinking friend's passions.

There were a step above my mother and me in this. She raised me as a liberal sort, but she aged into change. Toward the end of her life, it got to the point that we differed pointedly on politics, economics, and all the -ics. One day, she said, "Let's just not talk about this."

As far as I know, Bill and Harry continued to talk about such differences, likely until Bill died in 1990.

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