Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Charleston, West Virginia

It must already be desperation time for the Charleston Gazette's drive to oust Representative Shelley Moore Capito from office.

Columnist Jim Haught last week produced a long and rambling column, more like a list, of alleged Moore misdeeds. Some of these came to light as a result of the paper's undying obsession with the popular Republican governor. The column raises interesting questions about journalism in West Virginia.

The obvious pride shown by Haught and his employer in taking down Arch Moore should raise a question in anyone's mind (anyone who does not live in a cave or who is not a non thinking left wing liberal) about the other side. Journalists pay lip service to objectivity, but when has the Gazette ever written an expose of a Democratic politician? If you read the pages of the Charleston morning paper, GOP misdeeds happen every day, but Democrats are merely victims of Republican vendettas.

What about the Gazette's undying love affair with John F. Kennedy? Interestingly, as a side note, Kennedy's policies look much more like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush than Obama or Kerry, but the Gazette does not often deal in inconvenient facts. Put a (D) after Reagan or Bush and they'd be heroes worthy of beatification in the Gazette's partisan eyes. While Kennedy's foreign and economic policies often made sense, his West Virginia record was fairly mixed. He brought in the Appalachian corridor system, but to become president had to lie, cheat, and corrup[t his way into office. If you read Dr. Allen Loughry's account of the 1960 presidential primary, you'd probably figure that at the very least, Ted Kennedy (who led the campaign in Southern West Virginia) should have spent some time in a federal prison instead of the US Senate. Loughry, by the way, was a Caperton administration official, not a GOP hatchet man.

If you do not believe him, read Raymond Chafin's Just Good Politics. This autobiography of a Democratic boss in Logan County was written with the help of liberal writer Topper Sherwood. A subsequent and more detailed account written later by Keith Davis was forwarded by Earl Ray Tomblin. They discuss shenanigans that make Moore's alleged offenses look fairly petty, but presented them in a nostalgic, back home sort of manner. Of course Sherwood recently wrote a fawning commentary for the Gazette about Obama. The gist of the book is that Chafin was just helping the folks who helped him like good politicians always do. In reality, Chafin accepted thousands of dollars to buy precincts for John F. Kennedy in his primary campaign. He also used the State Road Commission as a place to reward the politically faithful. Loughry blames this campaign for introducing a whole new scale of corruption to the state political system.

As for Governor Moore, the Gazette never balanced the equation of his political career with his achievements as they certainly have with Democratic politicians who ended up in jail. Moore fought for and got an expanded interstate highway system, for example. During the Flood of 1985 he acted aggressively to secure federal funds, to help the afflicted, and got people's lives back to normal as quickly as possible. Instead of wringing his hands waiting for the president to act (like the Democratic governor of Louisiana during Katrina) Moore did everything the law allowed and then some.

It is time for state GOP press outlets to start shining the lights a little more closely on Democratic politicians and their past. It would only be fair. Questions and rumors about unfair elections have surrounded a few Democrats for years. The people are probably kind of curious to see what would come up.

We won't see this from the Gazette. They are too busy trying to use the problems of twenty and thirty years ago to unseat a popular and effective congresswoman guilty of nothing. It is typical of the Charleston paper to apply this kind of guilt by association tactic, especially since it looks like Capito will cruise to yet another strong victory in November.

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