One of my regulars said on a previous post, and not for the first time:
But I’m sure the endorsement is ready to go…
Since I responded at length to that assertion, I’m turning it into a separate post, for the edification (or something) of all…
No, the endorsement is not "ready to go." I wish. That is, I wish it was done and behind me. In fact, I haven’t even set the meeting to discuss it. We have scrupulously avoided discussing it, but that will be at an end soon. Sometime in the next week to 10 days, we will sit down and do that. (On Monday, we had a brief discussion about HAVING the discussion, but even that was inconclusive.)
It promises to be a difficult decision, and however we end up, we’ll be somewhat divided by it — as we were in both 2000 and 2004, both in the primaries and the general. Endorsements by their very nature — you’re choosing one or the other, and there’s no room for compromise on that point, although there’s lots of room for compromise on the explanation — strain the consensus that we try to achieve on all issues. The presidential endorsement tends to do so more than usual. It’s why some newspapers don’t do presidential endorsements. Or rather, it’s related to why some newspapers say they don’t do presidential endorsements. Personally, I think they’re copping out and trying to rationalize it.
I had my break from that in January. It was wonderful. We were completely unanimous in our support for both McCain and Obama. But I knew then, as I know now, that IF we got our way and they won their respective nominations, our decision in the fall would be far more difficult. It will be.
I appreciate that y’all think you know me and my mind. The purpose of the blog is to help you do so, so it’s nice in a way that you feel comfortable extrapolating my decisions from what I’ve written in the past. But you ignore something very important: I’m the only person on the editorial board who blogs. And even the person you know through the blog has a very serious responsibility to lead a group of people you DON’T know as well through a very delicate decision-making process.
Hopefully, those of you who actually READ THE PAPER know Warren and Cindi better than you would know the board members at most newspapers. That’s the result of a deliberate policy that I instituted when I became editorial page editor in 1997 — we started writing fewer editorials (the unsigned pieces that speak for the full board) to give people time to write signed columns, so that you could get to know the people who participate in setting editorial policy. My blog is a continuation of that, taking the transparency thing to the nth power.
I don’t know how much management experience you have — "you" referring to those of you who believe our endorsement is set and everyone knows what it will be — but even if you’re the greatest manager in the world, it’s highly unlikely you’ve ever been in the situation that I deal with every day: Bringing a group of people with a variety of opinions and life experiences — very opinionated people — together in a consensus around controversial issues. Sometimes legislative leaders cry the blues to me about how hard it is to bring their members together around a piece of legislation over the course of a session, and I have little sympathy. I have to bring people together around definite positions, on deadline, every day. (Add to that the fact that it involves managing up as well as down, since the publisher is always a member of the board. The publisher stays out of most of our decisions, but he or she always participates to some degree in the presidential ones.) It’s not easy. And the presidential endorsement carries with it such baggage that it’s one of the toughest. And it’s a decision that is never gone. If y’all out there remember it (and you do), rest assured that we remember these internal struggles very vividly. And we’re very conscious of the tension going into the next such discussion.