As I think I’ve discussed quite a bit in this space, I’ve always thought the Journal Sentinel coverage of the race for governor this year was slanted – as much as it could be in a race between an accomplished governor (Doyle) and an empty-suited GOP robot (Green) – in favor of the hapless Green. This played out on the pages mostly in terms of headlines and story placement, with buried bad-for-Green stories on the obituary page and Green press releases on his ludicrous stem cell position and other issues with big, favorable play on the front pages.
However, reading veteran state-house reporter Steve Walters’ open letter to state leaders in today’s Crossroads section, it appears the key writers reporting on the race were also drinking the Republican Kool-Aid.
In the brief section of the letter directed to the reelected governor, Walters, without any basis that I’m aware of, accuses Doyle of the sin of ambition. He claims that a second term is something Doyle "desperately wanted since January 2003, when you stood in the Capitol rotunda, with your proud and smiling mother looking on from her wheelchair, and took your first oath of office as governor." He advises the governor to spend the next four years "creating a legacy instead of being obsessed with having to raise another $12 million to seek a third term." So he "desperately wanted" a second term before the first one ever started and he was "obsessed" with raising money for his campaigns. Gee, Steve, anything else? Oh, yeah – he says, since Doyle has now had five successful statewide campaigns: "That's not a bad public service record to retire on."
Well, alrighty, then. Doyle was supposedly in a big hurry to get to his second term and Walters is already encouraging him to pull the plug after this one. Well, I mean, if you are Doyle, why bother? His first term was supposedly meaningless without the second and the chief political writer for the Journal Sentinel is already hoping to treat him like a lame duck.
This is the same GOP-inspired game that the national media buys into regarding any successful Democrat. Bill Clinton, you’ll remember, was declared "obsessed" with his legacy right up to the end. His wife, Hillary, is now and has always been "obsessed" with getting back into the White House, this time as president. Of course, even with the various insider books by friend and foe, no one has ever found either of the Clintons saying any such thing. But, like Doyle, conniving to win a second term even while his poor mother in the wheelchair sat and watched him getting sworn in at his first, we just know he’s like that, don’t we? Wink, wink.
I don’t mind cynicism about the motives of politicians – a grain of salt is essential to good political reporting. For instance, we can say that the Republican Assembly and Senate in Madison kept running red-meat bills on non-starter issues like concealed-carry and TABOR up to Doyle for a guaranteed veto not because they really cared about those issues, but to make Doyle look obstructionist. You could tell this not only because it was obvious on its face – especially when they passed the same vetoed legislation more than once – but also because honest Republicans (I know, an oxymoron) would actually say that was the strategy.
But it’s another thing just to make things up out of thin air, as Walters does with Doyle.