Before I turn my attention completely to writing for Sunday’s paper, I’ll respond briefly to some of the comments offered this morning with regard to our McCain endorsement. I’ll start with something Phillip said (actually, his was the last comment when I started this response; several others have come in since then, but I’ll have to read them later):
P.S. Since Editor and Publisher’s latest count has not included the State, the State now becomes the 50th newspaper in the US to endorse McCain. 127 have endorsed Obama. In 2004 the count was virtually even between Kerry and Bush, and now nearly 30 papers that endorsed Bush in 2004 have endorsed Obama, whereas only a handful that endorsed Kerry 2004 have endorsed McCain. Again, more evidence that Obama’s appeal is broader across party and ideological lines and holds the greater promise of bipartisan leadership and unity.
Posted by: Phillip | Oct 24, 2008 9:10:17 AM
I should have added "the State’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that reality notwithstanding" to that last sentence.
Posted by: Phillip | Oct 24, 2008 9:12:46 AM
Phillip, I don’t understand why you would say that last part. Scroll to the lower part of this original post. The "reality" you say we "stubbornly refuse to acknowledge" is something I have cited over and over. It’s THE biggest reason why we strongly preferred Obama over Hillary Clinton. It’s what we mean in the endorsement you read today when we say, "Barack Obama is an inspiring and even transformational figure." What did you think that referred to?
And yes, I’m perfectly aware that most newspapers are endorsing Obama. In the rough draft of the editorial (before I cut it down to fit the space awaiting it on the Sunday page), I wrote "Like the many newspapers that have endorsed him, we, too, find him to be an inspiring…" But that was one of the more superfluous lines among the many that had to go in cutting out four inches from the piece. What other newspapers are doing is neither here nor there.
I do find it amusing that someone commenting on the previous post thinks it would have been more "courageous" to endorse Obama. Hardly. Going along with the crowd, particularly when they’re lining up behind someone you like very much, and who you fully believe is going to WIN, is the path of least resistance. Just think of all the very nice people, people whom I would love to please, who would be singing our praises now, while a few trolls under the bridge mutter inaudibly about how they knew we were "socialists" all along, and what do you expect from the "liberal media." We’d be praised for being "bold," for making an "historic break with the past," etc. Never mind that there would be nothing bold about it; it would just feel that way to a lot of people.
Add to this the fact that I gave up something very tangible and palpable, to me. Ever since I became editorial page editor in 1997, I have longed for the day that I could break the pattern of endorsing Republicans for president, if only because in some people’s minds, that makes us a "Republican newspaper," and I find it deeply distasteful to be called such names. Yes, I have been able to comfort myself by pointing to the substantial, documented falsehood of the label — most notably the fact that if you consider all of our endorsements (and we spend vastly more of our time on state and local races than we do on the presidential), more than half of them are for Democrats. But people attach an inordinate amount of importance to the presidential endorsement — so many people don’t pay attention to anything else — and there we have been trapped. We like SOUTH CAROLINA Democrats, not the national kind. People like John Kerry and even Al Gore, in running for national office, define themselves in ways that put them far to the left of the consensus of our editorial board, which is generally reflective of the political center in our state. (Ironically, in Gore’s case, he had earlier been a far more centrist politician, to the point that I enthusiastically supported an endorsement of him when he ran for the Senate in Tennessee.)
But Obama presented the chance I had awaited for so long. Here was a Democrat we could happily endorse, something we unquestionable would have done had he been up against Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, or Mike Huckabee — and certainly if he’d been facing the current president (something he likes to pretend he’s doing as we speak).
But he was up against the one Republican who happens to be the national political figure I respect and admire most, and have wanted to see in the White House for at least a decade. So his timing couldn’t have been worse.
Now, as to those of you who find it unthinkable that we didn’t write about the current economic situation, or that we DID spend a long paragraph on the Colombian Free Trade agreement, let me see if I can help you understand: First, I don’t give either candidate a leg up on the economic crisis. I haven’t been impressed that either of them has a better idea than I do of what to do going forward. Both of them backed the $700 billion rescue plan, and while I think they were right to do so, I just haven’t seen much to jump up and down about either way on this. Frankly, I worry that neither of them is up to the challenge, but that worry is poorly defined in my own mind. While economic policy was discussed in our board debate of this endorsement, it did not occur in a way that caused us to coalesce around a position. In other words, I could have spent precious words on the economy, but it would have been a digression from the points that actually contributed to our endorsement, and everyone would have found it unhelpful. Yes, I understand that people who favor Obama are somewhat more eager to discuss the economy than those of us who end up where I do on the question. Democrats love talking about the economy. And they will. But we endorsed McCain neither because of nor in spite of the candidates’ positions on the economy.
On the contrary, the Colombian Free Trade Agreement — which required a certain number of words even to explain to the reader, since it’s gained so little attention — had the virtue of being a sort of microcosmic way of explaining the sort of differences between the candidates that DID contribute to our endorsement. We were able to tell readers something they didn’t know, to examine the contrast between the candidates in terms of a subject that hasn’t been done to death. And for me, the moment when that came up in the third debate was a critical moment, a sort of epiphany, one in which my preference for McCain over Obama was clarified. As an explanation of an important difference between the candidate, one that bears upon their governing philosophies with regard to the global economy and their relative devotion to party orthodoxies, the portion of the editorial dealing with Colombian trade was far more explanatory than spending a comparable number of words rehashing the economic crisis, only to say in the end that on that issue, for us, it’s a wash.
If you haven’t figured this out about me and my leadership of the editorial board, let me state it overtly now: I see little point in telling you things you already know. To the extent that I am able, I wish to ADD to the conversation, not parrot what others are saying. Hence this countercultural blog, in which I fight against the tide of the Blogosphere as a place where polar opposites shout at each other. Similarly, my exploration of Colombian trade as opposed to platitudes on the economy sought to explore uncovered ground, to give people something additional to think about.
As for whether I should have cut something out of the editorial to make room for a digression about Sarah Palin (the omission of which Phillip found to be "astonishing" and "shoddy journalism") — well, I can perfectly understand why someone who thinks we should have endorsed Obama would want to bring that up. But since Sarah Palin did NOT contribute to the decision to endorse McCain, it’s hard for me to see why I would bring that up, explore the problems that she brings to the ticket, and then explain why we would endorse McCain anyway for those of you who don’t get it (and even after doing that at the expense of not giving you the reasons why we did endorse McCain, those of you who disagree would remain unsatisfied). Besides, it would have been a departure to say we’re endorsing someone because of, or in spite of, the vice presidential pick. I can’t think of when we’ve done that before (if you can, please point it out). Sarah Palin looms very large in the minds of two sets of people — the conservative Republican base that loves her, and the people who despise her and see her as sufficient reason NOT to vote for McCain. We are in neither category.
And by "we," I mean the official position that we ended up with as a board. As I write this, Warren Bolton is working (at my behest) on his column for Sunday expressing his dissenting opinion. He may explore the economy or go into the failings of Sarah Palin at length. I don’t know. But a column saying we SHOULD have endorsed Obama seems to me like a better part of the overall package in which to explore those avenues. The endorsement of McCain explores one part of the overall subject. Warren’s column explores another. My column — which I need to go write — will explore yet another.
In the end, the overall goal is to provoke thought — hopefully, thoughts you might not otherwise have had — among our readers regarding the presidential election. That’s what we strive for.