Thursday, July 01, 2004

Updated July 1, 2004, revised significantly 9:15 pm

Did the Chicago Tribune and the political and so-called civic Establishment, of which the Tribune is a part, target Jack Ryan and try to make an example of him? Did the Chicago Tribune tell him, "Hit the Road Jack and Don't you come back no more, no more." But, will he come back? The Tribune's worst nightmare.

Did the Chicago Tribune, powerful institution that it is, use its power to crush Jack Ryan's senate bid, for thinking he could run for the U. S. Senate as an independent thinker, without the blessing, guidance and direction of the Republican Establishment, including the Tribune Company? Jack ran on the empowerment theme, empowering individuals, especially low income minorities, to make individual choices about their education, about the school they attended, about their health care and about their jobs. In short, empowering individuals to be free to choose. The Tribune seems to prefer to keep the power where it is, with themselves and with the Institutions, politicians and party hacks [in both parties] the Tribune befriends. The Tribune apparently would rather keep the choice with institutions and hacks who have failed to deliver again and again, and which are rife with corruption.

Also, The Tribune power elite are by and large country club Republicans, if they are Republicans at all. Country club Republicans are all about absolutist support for positions that countenance little or no restraint on a woman's right to have an abortion, or on Gay Rights, or on the government's right to regulate gun purchase, sale or possession. This is the constant drumbeat of the Tribune Editorial page that R. Bruce Dold purportedly oversees. Yes, from time to time Dold, et al might deviate a bit-- they might perhaps, maybe, possibly, if they can somehow reconcile with Roe v. Wade and Gloria Steinem's progeny, consider a bit of a restraint on partial birth abortion, but really now, they will say, this will hardly play with the Country Club set.

Jack Ryan differed with the Tribune on these positions, as well. Jack may have gone to country clubs, I don't know. But I do know his positions on social issues, along with his empowerment beliefs, are not things that most country club Republicans are comfortable discussing, and certainly not accepting.

Did the Tribune want to deter anyone else in the future from doing what Jack did? From standing up for positions, ideas and individual empowerment themes that are a real threat to atrophied institutions like the Chicago Public Schools, like the federal progams on housing and health care, like the Pin- Striped corruption that characterizes the Daley Administration, like the "status quo," GOP Party Brass and like the protectors of the status quo at the Chicago Tribune. Is that why the Tribune is not following its "principles," to their logical conclusion?

One might argue that there are other Repubiicans who agree with Jack Ryan on many of the above referenced issues, and the Tribune has even endorsed some of those folks. Agreed. But, usually those Republicans are not a threat to the Tribune. Either the Tribune expects them to lose, so the Tribune can make a face serving endorsement. Or, those candiates need so much Establishment support to win in terms of money, backing, etc., that the Tribune is confident they will make the deals, either before or after they are elected, necessary to preserve the power of the Tribune and its political and civic cronies.

Jack was a threat to the power elite at and around the Tribune because he could win and keep his seat without cutting deals with the Establishment. Sad to say, looks are important in politics. And, Jack Ryan had the looks, the message, the convictions and the money to win the Senate race, without the support of the Party Brass, the Tribune and the rest of the Establishment. Or, so he thought.

And if I am right on the above, then there is no reason for the Tribune to be logical in its application of its "Public's Right to know," policy. The Tribune may eventually be embarrassed into trying to unseal Kerry, but the fact they had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to be consistent, should be pretty damning in itself.

Fox's Brit Hume and Company, see below, takes notes of the Chicago Tribune’s inconsistent application of it’s “Public’s Right to Know,” policy-- Unseal Jack Ryan, but seal John Kerry. If Fox is not right and I am not right, why would R. Bruce Dold [Editorial Page Editor] and his minions at the Tribune Editorial Board go to such lengths to articulate principles that the Tribune won't adhere to. This is my second public query on this matter to Bruce Dold. See entry, below, dated June 28, 1:30 am. And, I believe Dold and his Edit Board members have received a few other inquiries on this matter. Yet, they remain silent on this. Apparently, the "Public's Right to Know," stops at the doorsteps to 435 No. Michigan Avenue.

More than three months ago, the Chicago Tribune sought to unseal Jack Ryan’s child custody records. As discussed, below, on a national TV news and public policy show, it was argued that the Tribune’s stated basis for doing so dictates that it seek to unseal Presidential Candidate John Kerry’s divorce records. But, to this date, even after it's "successful," unsealing of Jack Ryan, the Tribune apparently has not moved the Court to unseal Senator Kerry, and has not announced that it will do so.

Drudge reports that the Tribune is mulling it over. Why is this such a tough decision for Bruce Dold [Tribune editorial page editor]? Isn’t a Presidential race as important as a Senate race? Is the Tribune trying to delay so it will not have time to get a court resolution? Is the Tribune, with all of those television licenses out there, afraid of upsetting a President Kerry? Or, was it, as I posited above, all about keeping Jack Ryan and anyone else who threatened the power of the power elite away from that Senate seat. Well, Mr. Dold, what is the answer? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oddly, the liberalstream media, which devoted a tremendous amount of resources to the Jack Ryan story, has no time, or stomach, to question the Tribune. But, Fox does. Read, below. Also, note the confusion as the Fox discussants find it difficult to keep using that word allegation. See the same problem in Eric Zorn’s notebook Blog entry of June 29[] reporting the email discussion between Tribune media critic Steve Johnson and Eric Zorn. Yes, Zorn deserves a lot of credit for correcting the ambiguous, misleading wording when I brought it to his attention.

But, the below transcript and the Zorn initial misstep makes the point. It is so much easier for journalists just to drop the word allegation than to keep repeating it. When you include the word, the discussion loses all of its punch and the discussants sound foolish. As journalists, I would imagine the Edit Board and their bosses knew the monster they were creating. The Tribune knew that this is what happens when the Tribune goes fishing for allegations.

Also, note the confusion, below, between the choice of such words as ask, urge and force. Kondracke first alleges "force,"; then modifies his allegation to "urge." Sound familiar? Same kind of problem Mark Brown of the Sun-Times and Brown’s so-called conquering hero Rod McCulloch had. See June 28, 1:30 am blog entry, below. This illustrates the power of the press to compound and magnify errors, especially when they are not retracted.

And, finally, just think what the Tribune on this fishing expedition accomplished. It shifted the whole discussion in the Senate Race from domestic and foreign policy issues and true school choice to silly attempts by Daley to change the topic from his administration's corruption by Daley's vague suggestion of 100 new schools over how many years, 10, 15, who knows and who will remember what was said next year? Daley hinted at private management--indeed, in the same sense that "Hired Truck,' was private management. Of course, the Tribune bought that whole set of Daley distractions and false reforms completely. Sure, they will play with Daley. They give him this and he gives them that. Another win win for the Tribune and its Establishment cronies.

But Mayor Daley, as usual, was just a side show for the Establishment and the Tribune, to pat each other on the back. The Tribune's real accomplishment here was to change the public discourse from substantive public policy differences betweeen the Senate candidates to allegations about allegations as to whether one person asked his married partner to have sex and under what circumstance. And, to top it off, there was no sex. A sex scandal between a married couple that did not have sex. And, of course, both of the previously married partners had agreed to seal those discussions and the court had agreed to do so, until the Tribune decided that it, you and I had to know what was in the documents, presumably for the good of voters making choices between Barack Obama and Jack Ryan. Of course, only a fool would believe that. And, of course, that is what the Tribune expects of you, my gentle readers.

But the Tribune, on June 25, 2004, was, instead, quite happy it accomplished something else: regime change in terms of who is running for the Senate on the Republican Side. Outsiders, like Jack Ryan, might be a lot more reluctant, in the future, to take on the Establishment in the Republican Party. That, I think, was the goal of the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune, following its friends at the counry clubs, is sure that capital punishment does not deter murders, but it damn well believes that its power can deter Jack, or anyone else, from trying to follow in the footsteps of Senator Fitzgerald. The Country Club set was caught off guard and had to tolerate six years of Peter. No way they were going to tolerate six more years of that kind of independence and indigestion. So, the Edit Board, working with its bosses, and the rest of the Establishment power elite, said "Hit the Road, Jack and don't you come back, no more, no more." But, will he? The Tribune's worst nightmare.

Brit Hume [Fox Managing News Editor, Moderator and Anchor]: The Chicago Tribune went to court and successfully got open the divorce records of the Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate in Illinois, Jack Ryan… and the Chicago Tribune defends its doing that in this way, in part: “The Tribune did not seek to unseal the Ryan files because it knew what was in them, The newspaper sought the files because it didn’t know what was in them and neither did voters.” It should be noted by the way that so far [Democratic Presidential Candidate and Senator] John Kerry is saying that he will not unseal or agree to the unsealing of his divorce from his first wife and the Chicago Tribune has made no move in that direction although I guess other news organizations are trying to do that. Question: Is this a legitimate undertaking for news organizations to go into sealed divorce records:

Morton Kondracke: [very long pause]. Hmmm. I think, look, the Chicago Tribune went on a fishing expedition here and it caught a fish.

Brit Hume: What fish was that?

Kondracke [Roll Call Managing Editor]: Well, the disclosure that Jack Ryan had tried to get his wife, the allegation, wait—

Hume: The disclosure of the allegation

Kondracke: the allegation, but the wife, his wife, his ex-wife has not denied that part of the allegation. She said he is a good father but she did not say that he didn’t try to force her to have sex in public—

Mara Liasson [NPR Political Correspondent]: He denied it.

Kondracke: Or urge her to have sex

Liasson: He denied it

Kondracke: in public

Liasson: He denied it.

Hume: He denied it.

Kondracke: He denied it. He denied doing it, but she hasn’t backed him up.

Hume: Okay, is it a legitimate undertaking?

Kondracke: [another long pause]. Well, you know—I think it is the job of the press to go find out whatever the press can find out and especially about high level candidates. I mean if you are going to go after every county judge or you know—

Hume: Why, why—if that is a principle Mort, articulated here by the Chicago Tribune, why wouldn’t it apply to every public official?

Kondracke: Well, it would apply and the Tribune should be going after—the Tribune should be going after the Kerry records, too.

Liasson: they should be going after every single candidate that runs, if they are going to be consistent and they didn’t know what was in them—it is not like they had a tip or a good source that there was some kind of nefarious activity that needed to be uncovered. They just went in to get them because they didn’t know what was in them—[then] they should be doing this for every single candidate running for office

Morton Kondracke: I think it is the job of the press to go find out whatever the press can find out and especially about high-level candidates
Special Report [Fox News Channel Daily National News show], June 30, 2004.
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of Public Affairs, can be reached at