THE UNION LEADER TRIES TO MAKE MISCHIEF, AS USUAL
Hi, I'm back -- thanks, Kathy, Libby, Crank, and Yellow Dog, for keeping the discussion flowing while I was gone.
On Tuesday I saw that, during the Republican debate, Newt Gingrich expressed a less-than-extreme position on immigration. I assumed that would be the end of his presidential run (and it still may be preciselythat), which saddened me because the Mitt Romney coronation all the smart insiders are counting on will just postpone the day when we fully comprehend, to our horror, that we sat by and did nothing as one of our major political parties went stark staring mad, and threatened to destroy the country with its madness.
But now I see that the Union Leader in New Hampshire has endorsed Newt Gingrich for president. I'm not sure how seriously to take this, given the fact that the Union Leader's endorsee often loses the GOP nomination:
The conservative Union Leader editorial page has a history of passing over the front-runner in its selections. The paper endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980, Deleware Gov. Pete DuPont in 1988, Reagan aide Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, businessman Steve Forbes in 2000, and Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008.
The paper didn't even endorse incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972, preferring Senator John Ashbrook of Ohio, a movement conservative. (In '68 the paper endorsed both Nixon and Reagan, in no particular order, for the GOP ticket.)
Decades ago, the paper was right-wing and often contrarian -- a favorite word for journalists outside the state to use was "flinty" -- under William and Nackey Loeb, the husband and wife who ran the paper until the current publisher, Joseph McQuaid, took over. (McQuaid became editor in chief in 1982 and publisher in 1999; he wrote the editorial endorsing Gingrich.) McQuaid, as portrayed in a 1999 Washington Post article, is rather full of himself:
Joseph McQuaid, the curmudgeonly publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, doesn't think much of the current crop of GOP presidential candidates, as he made clear in his office Wednesday afternoon.
George W. Bush? "Empty suit," he barks. John McCain? "The most liberal guy on the Republican side." Gary Bauer? "He'd make a nice secretary of education if he'd abolish the place."
And Steve Forbes? "About as inspiring as my little Groucho here," McQuaid says, slapping the Groucho Marx figurine on his desk and launching a dead-on imitation of the cigar-chomping one.
Twenty-four hours later, though, McQuaid decided the time had come for the famously conservative Union Leader to make its endorsement in the Republican primary. Soon after meeting with Forbes, he wrote an editorial for today's paper backing the millionaire publisher, even while allowing that Forbes is something of a "geek."
Asked for an explanation, McQuaid says simply: "He's the best of the lot."
But the paper has a history of being full of itself:
The Loebs were famous for excoriating their enemies in front-page editorials, assailing Nelson Rockefeller as a "wife swapper," calling Gerald Ford "Jerry the Jerk" and deriding future president George Bush as a "wimp."
This endorsement would seem to help Gingrich only about as much as a Union Leader endorsement helped Pat Buchanan or Steve Forbes (or, for that matter, John Ashbrook) in the past. But please note that the paper did endorse Goldwater in '64 and Reagan in '80. When the party's voters aren't in the mood to go Establishment -- when, in other words, they're in the mood to go radical -- the Union Leader's choice can be the voters' choice as well. Maybe that's the scenario we're looking at this year.
(And let me add that I'm jealous of hardcore Republicans for this -- every so often they really do get to go to the polls and vote for someone who really believes what they believe on the hot-button issues. Who's fallen into that category for Democrats in the past 60 years -- McGovern? One guy? At most? Republicans get this all the time. That's my main criticism of Jonathan Chait's much-discussed New York magazine article about Democratic voters and our complaints concerning Democratic presidents. Republican presidents -- even the ones who don't seem right-wing enough for the Union Leader when they're running -- give Republican voters just what they want: Tax cuts. Deregulation. Crusading wars against demonized evildoers. Bible-thumping. Loosened gun laws. Stricter abortion laws. Nasty partisan attacks on Democrats, liberals, the media, and the academy. What do Democratic voters want? Less economic inequality. Fewer wars. Real health care reform. A curtailment of the nastiest excesses of capitalism. Good jobs at good wages. How often do we get any of that from our modern presidents? So, why are we wrong to complain?)