A few weeks back I was looking through an edition of one of San Diego’s myriad neighborhood papers (in this case the March 28th edition of the Coronado Eagle & Journal. There use to be both an Eagle and Journal in Coronado but the same media consolidation that is happening nationally is also happening locally). On the letters to the editor page a cartoon caught my eye because of its glaring inaccuracies. This prompted me to write a letter to the Editor of the Eagle & Journal, protesting this lapse of journalistic ethics. To date, my letter hasn’t been published. So, having my own world of digital vanity, I publish it here. (Dear Editor, Coronado Eagle & Journal: Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah.)
March 29, 2007
Dean Eckenroth Jr., Editor
The Coronado Eagle & Journal
1116 Tenth Street
Coronado, CA 92118
Dear Mr. Eckenroth:
I must take exception to the political cartoon published on page 8 of the March 28th, 2007 edition of the Eagle & Journal. The cartoon in question portrayed George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sitting before a “Fired US Attorney’s Scoreboard.” Behind each a tally is given; Bush: eight, Clinton: ninety-three. The caption has Clinton leaning to Bush saying, “Amateur. The cartoon is both factually erroneous and misleading. As such, it reflects poorly on the journalistic integrity of your newspaper.
The facts, which a perusal of the public record shows, is that Bill Clinton did, indeed, fire all ninety-three Federal attorneys when he assumed office in 1993. This is an expected action of incoming Presidents, especially those following a President of the other party. Ronald Reagan did as much in 1981. George W. Bush likewise fired all but two of the Federal Attorneys appointed by Clinton when he took office in 2001. Clinton, meanwhile, fired two Federal attorneys during the remainder of his two terms in office, both for cause. (One attorney attempted to strangle a reporter, the other was found to have “bit” an exotic dancer—and got caught.) Thus to be accurate the cartoon should have the score being Bush: ninety-nine to Clinton’s ninety-five.
This is not a nitpicking detail. Clinton’s firing of Federal attorneys was well within the established precedent of modern presidents. In the last quarter century only five sitting Federal attorneys have been fired during (as opposed to at the beginning) of a Presidents term of office, all for clearly established, non-political causes. President Bush’s firing of eight US attorneys during his second term of office for political reasons is, therefore, markedly unprecedented.
The deliberate message of the cartoon is that these firings are not only usual but that they pale, in some way, in comparison, to the actions taken by President Clinton. Again, this message demonstrates either a profound ignorance of recent Presidential history and established precedent by its author—and this paper, for publishing it—or constitutes a deliberate effort on the parts of both author and paper to misinform and manipulate the reader.
Editorial opinion is expected on an editorial page, as is partisanship. But neither partisanship nor opinion can be allowed to eclipse established facts, either in the news pages or the editorial pages any publication which claims the mantle and privilege of being a newspaper. I believe a retraction on the part of the Eagle & Journal is demanded in this matter.
Carl J. Luna
Heavens, I sound professorially pompous in letters! Gotta work on that. Point is, it seems partisan political posturing as perforated our public places down to even our local papers. What’s next: “Why Hilary is a Whore” articles in Girl Scout Newsletters? At some point we have to recognize that there is a line in political debate (I think they call it “reality”) which everyone of everyone partisan stripe needs to respect, least our public debate degenerate into delusion delerium.
Or perhaps we are already beyond that stage.
Oh well, as the famous Roman orator Cicero said, “Mimsy were the borogoves….”