Progress Endorses Bush: Why?

In 2000, the Daily Progress endorsed George Bush for president. Four years later, Bush has failed to live up to a single one of the promises on which they based their endorsement. Yet the Progress endorsed him again yesterday, in their biggest stretch of an endorsement since their endorsement of Ann Reineke and Kenneth Jackson for Council earlier this year. Why did they do this? And what does it say for the Progress’ editorial staff and our ability, as readers, to divine meaning or guidance from their positions on matters local and national?

In 2000, Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, a publication owned by media conglomerate Media General, endorsed George Bush for president. Here is the text of their November 5 endorsement. I have emphasized the particularly ludicrous sections:

After eight years of Clinton-Gore scandals, it’s time for a fresh start.

George W. Bush offers that fresh start. In both substance and style, he promises superior leadership to that of Al Gore. It is a leadership that will help America retain its heritage of individual freedom with individual responsibility.

A keystone to that philosophy in action is Mr. Bush’s proposal to partially privatize Social Security. He pledges to sustain promised benefits and would not change the program for those at or near retirement. But for younger workers, he would offer the option of using a portion of their Social Security taxes for individual investment. But several realities weigh against that risk:

  • Federally managed Social Security funds have a far longer history of dismal return on investment, barely keeping up with inflation. Even if market conditions resume the slower growth we once knew, private investors have an excellent chance to better Social Security’s rate of return.
  • The Bush alternative would be voluntary. If workers don’t feel comfortable with private investment, they may leave their Social Security money with the government until retirement.
  • To stay solvent, the fund will need a boost from additional revenue sources — or a cut in future benefits — and this pending crisis calls for some sort of reform.

Mr. Bush also promises to take the current Social Security surplus and sequester it for Social Security use. Previously, Congress has raided this and other trust funds to pay for current programs, leaving IOUs instead. This practice must stop, and a “lock box” for Social Security is a good start.

Mr. Bush also would promote policies that encourage personal freedom in education, giving parents and local school districts more control; in senior citizen health care, by offering elders the option to choose Medicare or their own health plan, and in many other areas.

His policies would boost business, entrepreneurship and research and development investment, creating jobs for Americans.

One downside: Although Mr. Bush has said he would push for more R&D support for alternative energy, he has also said he would open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Not only for environmental reasons should this be avoided. This country recently experienced an energy scare, but not an energy crisis. If a true crisis develops we will need these reserves; in the meanwhile we should retain them in the same way most of us keep a savings account for emergencies.

In style, George W. Bush is less like his father than like the previous Republican president, Ronald Reagan. He is described as a decision-maker who briskly sets policy directions and expects his staff to implement them. This style will work as long as he lives up to his pledge to surround himself with an experienced support group; his selection of the extremely knowledgeable Dick Cheney as vice presidential running mate and his hope of recruiting Colin Powell as secretary of state show — along with other astute personnel choices — that he is capable of wise decisions.

Mr. Bush also has a reputation in Texas politics for inclusion and working well across party lines. He promises to do the same in Washington, easing the sometimes vicious partisanship of recent years.

For these reasons and more, we endorse George W. Bush.

To recap, here are the reasons why the Progress endorsed Bush in 2000:

  • privatizing Social Security seemed like a good idea at the time
  • he would not raid Social Security to fund other government activities
  • he would give parents and local school districts more control
  • he would create more jobs
  • he would hire good staff and hold them to exacting standards
  • he can make wise decisions
  • he would unite the Republican and Democratic parties

I feel a bit silly even pointing it out, but Bush has, of course, done none of these things. We now know that privatization of Social Security would be disastrous; Leave No Child Behind has removed nearly all educational control from localities; the economy is in the toilet; no matter how horribly that his staff has screwed up (September 11, no WMDs in Iraq, the Plame affair, etc., etc.), none of them have ever been fired or in any way held accountable; “wise” is a word that I have never, ever seen used to describe a single one of George Bush’s decisions by anybody; Bush has worked hard to drive a wedge between the parties, both in the congress and throughout the country.

It is obvious that President George Bush has let down The Daily Progress. He promised to do all of those things, and the Progress believed him. It’s understandable that they would expect him to tell the truth. President Bush once spoke about getting tricked like this, saying: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me…you can’t get fooled again.”

Only, it seems, Charlottesville’s daily newspaper can get fooled again. Despite batting .000 in their endorsement of George Bush four years ago, they’ve gone and done it again.

In War, Bush Better Choice

October 31, 2004

For many Americans this will be the most taxing presidential election they have ever experienced — one that has generated the most passion, caused the most soul-searching.

It is also the most crucial election in many decades. On it may depend the course of history for the rest of the century, perhaps even the fate of civilization as we know it.

The course of recent history has led us to this moment.

When the dark tides of fascism, communism and other forms of despotism began devouring liberty in Europe and hopes of liberty in Asia in the last century, the United States took up the defense of these ideals. Our heroism, our manpower, our military materiel turned back the tides.

When communism became entrenched in the Soviet Union, it was the United States that led the steadfast opposition. America worked through NATO, but there was no doubt that America was the senior partner. It was U.S. resolve to stand toe-to-toe, missile-to-missile with Russia that finally broke the Soviet Union’s power — and broke the Soviet Union.

Some saw the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet hegemony as “the end of history” and dawning of a new millennium of peace and prosperity. Others warned that into the vacuum would rush, not another superpower, but rather a conglomeration of ethnic rivalries, stateless splinter groups, small wars, borderless conflicts.

And that’s exactly what’s happened. We saw the first iterations of this new geopolitical reality in the 1990s in such conflicts as Somalia and Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. And the United States responded with measured, incremental actions.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. We were attacked, not by another country, but rather by a group of affiliated terrorists with outposts, as we later discovered, in some 60 nations. They used tactics never before encountered in war. They are, in fact, an entity never before encountered in war.

But make no mistake: This IS war. And all the old rules of nation-state fighting nation-state have gone out the window.

The United States may still be feeling its way through this new reality. We might be making mistakes from time to time.

But the bottom line — the solemn, shattering bottom line — is that we must fight. We have been given no choice, by an enemy that is determined to destroy us and everything we believe in.

The United States has long been the world’s standard-bearer of liberty. We have protected our own freedoms, fought to save democracy for others and battled to give liberty to those enslaved.

We must continue to do so. In order to survive, we must not only protect our own freedoms as always, but strive to extend them throughout the world.

We fight now as the world’s last remaining superpower. That position carries with it added responsibilities; it also makes us a heightened target for those who disagree with us.

In another era, it might be argued that either John Kerry or George Bush could adequately run this country. But today, the right leader is Mr. Bush. His solid commitment to liberty is undeniable. No one, including our enemies, can doubt his steadfast determination to save America and extend democracy to others.

Issues such as saving Social Security and improving health care are important.

But they will be moot if the United States is defeated in this war.

Hard choices must be made, including by voters. And George Bush is not afraid to take the hard steps necessary to fight a war that is unconventional in virtually every sense. His leadership has the best chance of preserving our great nation.

Again, emphasis is mine.

Some quick statistics. First, this endorsement is 605 words in length. Of those, only 120 words have anything to do with the current election — the opening 485 are just space-filling blather. Of those 120 words, 67 words — 5 sentences — actually speak to why the Progress is endorsing George Bush. Those reasons are:

  • He is committed to liberty.
  • He is determined to “save” and “preserve” the United States.
  • He believes in promoting democratic values globally.
  • The implication is, of course, that John Kerry is not committed to liberty, and that if he is elected, the United States will crumble while democracy recedes globally.

    This editorial is entirely about war, presenting America as a nation on the brink of extinction (“save America,” “preserving our great nation”), with important issues like “saving Social Security and improving health care” dismissed in a single sentence: “But they will be moot if the United States is defeated in this war.” Their willingness to editorialize on matters non-September 11-related in the past three years make clear that the Progress is well aware that there are other important issues in this world. Otherwise, they would write about September 11 seven days a week.

    This editorial is fear-mongering, plain and simple. The Progress, run by smart people, knows this.

    After their 2000 endorsement of Bush, the Progress knows that they cannot trust President Bush to fulfill his promises. Since yesterday’s endorsement makes no mention of their disappointment after their endorsement four years ago, it seems that their sense of accountability is as poor as President Bush’s.

    At a loss for how to explain this endorsement, I looked into Media General’s newspapers and their presidential endorsement pattern. With endorsements of Kerry leading endorsements of Bush by a huge margin of 5:3, it seems reasonable to expect that Media General’s 27 daily newspapers would have a similar split — perhaps 17 for Kerry and 10 for Bush. Upon comparing their publication list to Editor & Publisher’s endorsement list, I was surprised to find that not a single one of their newspapers had endorsed Kerry. Two of them, in fact, have refused to endorse any candidate: The Tampa Tribune and The Winston-Salem Journal. This refusal was widely noted and discussed among those who follows the media, as it demonstrates a highly-unusual reluctance on their part. Presumably, what’s going on here is that Media General is exercising their right as publisher to veto endorsements of Kerry. But why?

    All that I can come up with is Media General’s work in the past few years to get federal antitrust regulations overturned. Existing standards prevent companies from creating regional monopolies, placing caps on the number and percentage of various types of media outlets that a single company can own within a particular market. Media General doesn’t like these limitations — they have filed over 600 pages of documents demanding that media monopoly regulations be limited. They have not, notably, reported about this in any of their newspapers or on any of their television stations.

    Kerry would surely return to Clinton-era crackdowns on monopolies, whereas Bush has shut down just about every antitrust case that he inherited (Microsoft being a prime example), and would continue with policies that are very favorable to big business.

    Did the Progress endorse Bush as a naked power grab on the part of Media General? I surely don’t know enough to say. But given how illogical that their endorsement is, in light of the political leanings of Charlottesville and the failure of Bush to live up to their 2000 endorsement, the simpler explanations simply don’t stand to reason.

    The Progress recent endorsement pattern has demonstrated that, if nothing else, their editorial staff is out of touch with Charlottesville values and, in fact, reality, at least George Bush’s version of reality, circa 2000. If this continues, they run the risk of no longer being taken seriously by their readers. We need to be able to trust our daily paper to represent our interests and hold itself accountable for its past editorial errors. It’s getting increasingly difficult to do so with the Progress. If it is eventually found that Media General is their editorial puppetmaster, it won’t be surprising, but it will be disappointing. The Worrell days look better and better.

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