Examiner Swims Against Local Tide

Categories: Breaking News

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By John Geluardi

The editorial managers at San Francisco’s plucky free tabloid, the Examiner, demonstrated just how out of touch they are with their predominately Democratic readership today by endorsing Sen. John McCain for president.

The endorsement was instantly controversial. Within hours of the posting it online, there were nearly 900 comments most from locals who expressed confusion and a feeling they had been betrayed. Examiner's managers put a gag order on reporters and editors. A brusk managing editor, Deirdre Hussey, would only say "I'm not going on record with you. You have to contact the publisher, John Wilcox." Hussey, however, did not offer to provide Wilcox's contact information.

One switchboard operator says the calls were coming in fast and furious on Thursday when the endorsement was posted online. “We got a lot of calls and people were coming to the door,” she says. “There was a great deal of displeasure and people wanted to know if we were crazy. But one good thing, nobody swore at me.”

No doubt the endorsement reflects the values of the newspaper’s right wing, evangelizing owner Phil Anschutz, whose company Clarity Media Group has owned the tabloid since 2004. The controversial endorsement seems to be not only out of touch with its readership, but also contemporary writing styles. The seven-paragraph endorsement is gilded with maudlin language that bespeaks the brocaded newspaper writing of a bygone era.

In the endorsement, the Examiner, which claims a weekday circulation of 190,000, gives the impression that the United States is in the grips of morale decay and the only hope is an experienced man like McCain who can “restore for future generations of Middle Americans the enduring virtues – nurturing the energy and innovation inspired by individual liberty, preserving the life-giving bonds of faith, family and fellow citizens, raising up a new generation of public servants who speak the truth to the American people, appointing judges bound by the actual words of the Constitution, and finally, never forgetting that, for all her faults, American remains for billions of people around the world the light of freedom, the shining city on a hill that must be defended and preserved.”

Whew! Makes me want to paint myself red, white and blue, climb a flagpole and tearfully decant from the Jefferson Papers. By the way, who are these “Middle Americans,” I keep hearing about? Do they live in the middle of the country? Are they the middle class? Or are they the victims of the fat epidemic that has deposited itself in the middles of so many Americans? Cheeseburger anyone?

As a reporter, I’ve learned that anytime someone, particularly politicians, start talking about “the truth,” you should politely check if you still have your wallet. And if you want have some fun, ask them to define “the truth.” Objective truth is one of those elusive things everybody thinks they know, but nobody can really describe.

The endorsement goes onto do a bit of war mongering and suggests that McCain is the only candidate “to wage and win the war against al-Qaeda.” The endorsement touts McCain’s military experience and his support of President Ronald Reagan’s leadership in winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union and his “courageous,” early advocacy of “the successful U.S. military surge in Iraq.”

I wonder if the Examiner knows that military defense contractors are contributing twice as much money to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign as they are to McCain’s? And why wouldn’t they? I know it's hard for most Bay Area Democrats, who have a tradition of being on the left of the left to accept, but Obama’s acceptance speech at this year’s Democratic Convention bore a great many similarities to Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1980 Republican Convention especially in regards to the military – containing the threat in Afghanistan, reeling in those crazy Iranians and the need to build up the American military ($$$$$).

The endorsement hedges a bit about McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin by admitting she’s inexperienced though she “possess magnificent political gifts.” Yikes. There is also a suggestion that McCain learn to contain his legendary temper (right, guys in their 70s are famous for changing personality traits).

I’d hate to be a rank and file Examiner reporter today while making rounds of reporting calls to locals who are fed up with eight years of Republican rule. How do you tactfully distinguish your politics from the big boss' without putting your job in jeopardy? – “Ahhhh, it was an interesting endorsement, and no, I don’t stomp puppies to death on my day off.”

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