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Old 02-18-2004, 04:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: Chicago
Super-influential Columbus Dispatch may endorse Democrat in '04

The links usually only work for about a week, so if you click on this after Thursday, 2/19, you may get a different story, but anyways, here it is.


For the first time in 88 years, the Big D is poised to endorse a Democrat for president

By Dan Williamson / February 12, 2004

Dan Trittschuh

"TOTALLY RECKLESS": The Dispatch editorial page has hammered the president

Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election in 1916 on the inelegant but to-the-point slogan of "He kept us out of war." The Republican nominee was Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a former governor of New York. Hughes assailed the president for failing to assert American interests in the European war and was favored to win the election.

But The Columbus Dispatch endorsed Wilson just as it had four years earlier against an incumbent president from Ohio, William Howard Taft.

"This newspaper has supported President Wilson," the Dispatch declared on Nov. 5, 1916. "It believes he has fought a knightly fight and that right will win."

With the help of such poetic support, the president carried the state and defeated Hughes by just 23 electoral votes.

In the 88 years since then, the Dispatch hasn't endorsed a single Democrat for president.

Democratic candidates have won the presidency 10 times in that span, carrying Ohio in eight of those wins. The Dispatch, though, turned up its nose at all of them and stayed steadfastly loyal to the Republicans.

Until now.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts appears poised to join President Wilson this October on the list of Dispatch-endorsed Democrats.

Kerry's positions on health care, private-school vouchers and a host of other issues position the likely Democratic nominee well to the left of the Dispatch editorial board. But he's got one big thing going for him: He's running against President Bush. And as the Dispatch made clear last week with three scathing editorials in eight days, it doesn't like President Bush.

"TOTALLY RECKLESS" was the headline of Sunday's lead editorial, in which the Dispatch disapprovingly linked the Bush administration's domestic and military policies.

"Having misled the nation on the drug benefit and Iraq, the president now asks the nation to believe that he is sincere about reducing the massive deficits he has run up. Unveiling his $2.4 trillion budget for 2005, he promises to cut the deficit in half by 2009," the editorial said. "But even here, Bush is not being forthright. The 2005 budget proposal doesn't even include the estimated $50 billion needed to continue military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to have any confidence in the fiscal policy of this administration."

The Dispatch editorial page often disagrees with the actions of favored public officials such as Mayor Mike Coleman and Gov. Bob Taft, but will soften its criticism by depersonalizing it or citing the misdeed as a rare lapse.

What's notable about its treatment of the Bush administration is how squarely and personally the editorial page lays its perceived failures at the president's feet—in an election year, no less.

It did the same thing two Sundays ago, on Feb. 1, referring to the decision to invade Iraq:

"A president, like any chief executive, is charged foremost with making judgments after gathering solid, up-to-date information from all sides. Bush clearly relied on incomplete or inaccurate information to do this and now must accept the fact acknowledged by one of his predecessors, Harry S. Truman, that 'the buck stops here.'"

Incidentally, the president to whom Bush was unfavorably compared in that editorial got passed over by the Dispatch in 1948 in favor of Republican Thomas Dewey.

On Oct. 22 of 2000, the Dispatch surprised absolutely no one by endorsing the Republican candidate for president. "Bush is better-equipped to smooth over the bitter partisanship and frequent gridlock that have characterized the eight years of the Clinton administration and stymied efforts to come to grips with looming fiscal crises in Social Security and Medicare," the Dispatch declared.

"As governor of Texas, Bush has won praise from Republicans and Democrats for a political style that builds consensus and cooperation across party lines. Only that kind of political skill can bring an end to the poisonous climate of distrust that exists between Congress and the White House."

The newspaper criticized what it saw as Bill Clinton's—and, by extension, Al Gore's—haphazard use of military power:

"While Gore promises essentially more of the same, Bush has expressed deep misgivings about the way the U.S. military has been stretched thin in nation-building and open-ended deployments around the world. Though he is no isolationist, Bush would require much more concrete and compelling threats to U.S. security and interests before committing U.S. forces overseas."

Since then, the Dispatch's opinion of Bush has steadily deteriorated, becoming more and more critical of his domestic and foreign policies.

Saturday's editorial—which criticized the president for delaying the deadline for his newly appointed Iraq-intelligence commission report until after the election—was as harsh as any to date.

"More than 500 Americans have been killed, and U.S. taxpayers are funding Iraq's security and reconstruction to the tune of about $1 billion a week," the editorial said.

"The public needs to know why the scenario put out by Bush a year ago was so far off base. The matter of whether White House officials overstated the threat or simply were misled by inaccurate information should be known before the voters select their next president."

Bush has eight months to change the Dispatch's opinion of him, and it looks like it's going to be an uphill battle. Maybe he could charm the editorial board by stopping at 34 S. Third St. during a campaign swing and bestowing an affectionate nickname on Publisher John F. Wolfe. Unfortunately, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, has already claimed "Wolfie."

Dispatch President Mike Curtin said a presidential visit would be highly unlikely.

"I'm not aware of a candidate for president coming in to an editorial board during the general election campaign season," Curtin said. "I do remember Jimmy Carter coming in to interview with Gene Jordan, who was public affairs editor when Carter was running in the primary season of 1976."

Despite Carter's efforts, the Dispatch nod went to Republican President Gerald Ford that year.

The Dispatch was founded in 1871 by a company called Ten Printers, 34 years before it was purchased by the Wolfe family.

"They announced it as an independent paper, but it's been a Republican paper since then," Curtin said.

"In the post-Civil War era, Ohio was strongly Republican, and it didn't become a politically balanced state until the turn of the century, when you had a wave of immigrants who were more in tune with an activist government."

Back then, Curtin said, newspapers played to the views of their audiences and made no secret of their political biases.

"Most papers wore their politics on their sleeves well into the middle part of the century," Curtin said. "Everyone in town back in the early part of the 20th century knew what paper was a Republican paper, what paper was a Democratic paper, what paper was a Socialist rag, and so on and so on."

Since newspapers were viewed as "part of the political process," a Republican paper like the Dispatch would have no qualms about inserting its own unfavorable opinions about, say, FDR right there in the front-page story.

That began to change when weaker papers were forced to fold and surviving newspapers had to speak to an entire city.

"As more and more cities became one-newspaper towns—and that was really in the '50s and '60s and in the '70s—that's when papers got much more socially responsible about keeping their opinions on the editorial page," Curtin said.

That's where the Dispatch has stayed true to its Republican roots. While a local Democrat might get an occasional endorsement, presidential races have been foregone conclusions.

For example, Wolfe didn't think much of Bob Dole when he ran for president in 1996, but there was no thought of endorsing Clinton for re-election.

This year, though, seems different. With such visceral, personal attacks on Bush's credibility and job performance, it's almost impossible to imagine the comically contorted rationale the Dispatch would have to employ in calling for four more years.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett acknowledged the Dispatch has "become more independent."

And despite its frequent Bush-bashing, Bennett complimented the paper.

"They've become more of a regional paper," he said. "It all has more to do with the leadership of John Wolfe, Mike Curtin and Ben Marrison than anything else."

But Bennett doesn't sound too worried that the Dispatch will tip Ohio into Kerry's hands come November. He probably wouldn't have worried about Woodrow Wilson, either.

I do find this interesting. Not a single Democrat Party presidential candidate endorsement since 1916.

I am finding that even amongst conservatives (yeah, yeah, I know, liberal media yada yada yada) Bush is having difficulty finding support. Are there instances where you live in which the press is gearing up to not endorse George Bush this election?
"I can normally tell how intelligent a man is by how stupid he thinks I am" - Cormac McCarthy, All The Pretty Horses
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Old 02-18-2004, 09:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
The Northern Ward
Location: Columbus, Ohio
No shit, the Columbus Dispatch is run by a bunch of commies. I read the bastard every day.

Lately, they've got all kinds of snide cartoons and shit in the political comment section and a bunch of libral columnists, I don't see many conservative articles. They may have endorsed a lot of Republicans but you'd never know it from the politics paper.
"I went shopping last night at like 1am. The place was empty and this old woman just making polite conversation said to me, 'where is everyone??' I replied, 'In bed, same place you and I should be!' Took me ten minutes to figure out why she gave me a dirty look." --Some guy

Last edited by Phaenx; 02-18-2004 at 09:45 PM..
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Old 02-19-2004, 02:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
Location: VA
The best part of this article was the quote from the Dispatch's 2000 endorsement of Bush. It reads like some sort of Harry Turtledove alternate universe.

The article makes it out like Wilson won in '16 *because* of this, which may have been true back then, but I really wonder, though, how important the editorial page endorsement really is now.

Hey Phaenx, now are those the editorial pages, or are they from columnists, like Richard Cohen and E.J. Dionne?
"In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard. It's - and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work. We're making progress. It is hard work."
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Old 02-19-2004, 09:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
Scipio's Avatar
Location: College
The decision to endorse a Democrat wasn't the result of "liberal columnists," but rather that of the paper's own editorial board, which leans right.
"Erections lasting more than 4 hours, though rare, require immediate medical attention."
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