Friday, August 06, 2004

Updated August 6, 2004 at 4:30 pm, revised on August 7, 2004 at 3:00 pm

Hardballing with Chris Matthews, The Tribune’s Jim Warren, the Sun-Times Lynn Sweet, the Tribune Editorial Board, Barack Obama, Alan Keyes, Jim [last elected in ‘86] Thompson, Jim [last elected in ‘94] Edgar, General Borling, Dr. Barthwell, Don Wycliff, Ann Marie Lipinski and of course, the State GOP Chairman, Judy Baar Topinka

Tribune tribbies, talking points and journalistic homogeneity. Ideological Diversity, anyone? So many questions, so few answers. Here a few questions that Chris Matthews forgot to ask, a few statements that the Chicago Tribune's Jim Warren forgot to include [disclose?] in his discussion, a few issues neglected by the Tribune Editorial Board and a few points Lynn Sweet forgot to comment on. Perhaps next time.

From last night’s MSNBC’s Hardball [August 5, 2004] with Chris Matthews. Fair and balanced host and guests?
Chris Matthews: Tell me about that guy whose wife said in divorce papers that he liked to take her to sex clubs and wanted her to perform in public, or something?

James Warren, Deputy Managing Editor, Features, Chicago Tribune: Well, the scandal [Warren referring to his prior point that the Republican Party in Illinois imploded previously due to former Governor George Ryan’s scandal] involved the Governor who is now out of power and has been indicted- that’s a real important point. The reason the Republicans are scurrying around is because this very attractive candidate [Jack Ryan] who could have self financed his campaign, which I think was a real lure to the Republicans has taken himself out [of the Illinois U. S. Senate race], leaving the field at this moment open to a very solid, distinctly liberal, pragmatic legislator [Democrat Barack Obama] from the south side of Chicago with an also Kennedy, uh I should say, Harvard [Law School] roots, but someone who is anti- Death penalty, anti- NAFTA, anti- War in Iraq, but because of a very engaging personality, I think, [Obama] has somewhat effectively papered over what could be positions and ideology which an effective moderate Republican, I think, could exploit.
Warren: It is a fool’s errand. I do hope he [Ambassador Keyes] runs because I am a journalist who would be grateful. It would be wonderful to see if Obama were willing to debate Alan Keyes, who is quite an effective debater, but Illinois ain’t the state. The Republicans there like moderates. The party now [has] sort of been highjacked by [the] conservative wing, which is real interested in Alan Keyes- how big an ego does he have? He may take it. As history also suggests, if there is a way to figure out how to make money out of running as he did—

Chris Matthews: You are talking about Alan Keyes?

Lynn Sweet: He took a salary when he ran--

Warren: He took a salary when he ran in Maryland-- a disastrous campaign.

Chris Matthews: You know what I like. Five years ago, five years from now, a liberal African American guy, same credentials, would have gotten blown away. This year, he is unbeatable. I love the way things change.

From last night’s MSNBC’s Hardball [August 5, 2004] with Chris Matthews.
We will come back to the above discussion from “Hardball,” as we add additional entries to this blog. For now, let’s focus on a few errors and omissions from last night’s Hardball and today’s Chicago Tribune editorial.

(1) Jim Warren’s comments on Hardball bear a greater resemblance to talking points from the Tribune Editorial Board than a fair and thoughtful analysis. That is, Mr. Warren, says, “[Jack Ryan] has taken himself out [of the race], leaving the field at this moment open to a very solid, distinctly liberal, pragmatic legislator.” What is interesting is that Jim Warren [a Deputy Managing Editor at the Chicago Tribune] forgot to mention the Tribune’s million dollar, or so, lawsuit to unseal child custody records and the five column Chicago Tribune headlines heralding a bombshell from the Jack Ryan unsealed records. Those five column headlines were subsequently criticized by the Tribune’s own Managing Editor and Public Editor, Ann Marie Lipinski and Don Wycliff, respectively (Leaving one to wonder who is responsible for approving the above the fold headlines at the Chicago Tribune, as it appears not to be Tribune Managing Editor Lipinski, or anybody for whom Lipinski seems to be responsible). [See Don Wycliff's columns, Chicago Tribune, June 24, 2004 and July 30, 2004].

Wycliff went further and expressed his amazement, if not criticism, of the State GOP leaders for their “strongly negative reaction,” to the Tribune stories about U. S. Senate Candidate Jack Ryan [which Wycliff characterized as containing revelations of a "truly trivial nature." Of course, Wycliff waited until Jack Ryan officially withdrew before offering that implicit and mild rebuke of State GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka and former Governor Jim Edgar. [Similar in timing to the Chicago Tribune Editorials that criticized the ideas and platform of the opponent of reformer Chicago Teacher Union President Deborah Lynch AFTER, but not before, the opponent was elected].

Oddly, in light of the above referenced role of the Tribune in the Jack Ryan issue, Deputy Managing Editor Jim Warren appears oblivious to the above and spoke on Hardball as if the Tribune, whoever controls the Tribune's Editorial Board, the Tribune editorial board and the Tribune's editors did not play a significant role in bringing about the chaos in the Republican Party of the last 41 days. That is, Warren speaks as if the Tribune had not been a player that made news, as opposed to merely reported it. Simply put, the fact that the Chicago Tribune played a role in the above should have been disclosed by Jim Warren, if not by Matthews, before Warren started giving the country his view of the Keyes/Obama race.

(2) Then Warren notes that Obama’s “distinctly liberal,” positions and ideology could be exploited by “an effective moderate Republican,” but not by Keyes. Who does Warren have in mind as an effective moderate Republican? The pro-choice, in-state but not so Republican Dr. Barthwell? The pro-choice General Borling who walked away with 2 per cent of the Republican Primary vote? Come on Jim, we are waiting- more Tribbie talking points, please.

(3) Now, let’s go over to another segment of Team Tribune, i.e., today’s Tribune Editorial. After ridiculing Keyes for showing up 13 minutes late to a “rally,” which had been called, apparently, by a few supporters as a way to greet Keyes on the street as he entered the State Central Committee meeting, Team Tribune coins a new phrase for it’s Tribbies to use as they go out to spread their talking points to their readers. The Tribbies new phrase of the day is pragmatic, moderate conservative—which they use to describe Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and Judy Baar Topinka. Now the wing of the Republican Party in Illinois that is Edgar, Thompson and Topinka has some attributes that it can identify with, but conservative is not one of them. For example, what is it that we know to be conservative about Topinka. Her stance on Iraq? On Abortion? Gay rights? Guns? Supply side? School vouchers? State Spending? Pork? Member Initiatives? Federal Spending? Social Security? Free Trade? Go ahead, Tribbies, come one and come all and tell us. You say Topinka wanted to limit Rod’s bonding this year? That’s it- that makes Judy Baar Topinka a pragmatic, moderate conservative? Anything else?

(4) Oh yes, the editorial board wing of Team Tribune tells us that Keyes is from the Right wing of the Right wing of the Republican Party. Cute. Very Cute. On the other hand, the Warren wing of Team Tribune tells us that Barack Obama is a “very solid distinctly liberal, pragmatic legislator.” You might have thought a fair and balanced newspaper would say something like Barack Obama is an articulate liberal and Alan Keyes is an articulate conservative. But then who would call Team Tribune fair and balanced?

(5) Topping it off, there is Jim Warren on Hardball telling viewers across the country that the Republican Party in Illinois has been hijacked by the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Jim, how does that hijacking work? Inquiring minds want to know. For example, which of the Senate Candidates in the Republican Primary in 2004 came from the conservative wing of the Republican Party? Who were the pragmatic, moderate conservatives who were blocked from competing in the Primary?. If so, how so? If not, why didn’t the "pragmatic, moderate conservative" candidates compete? If they did compete, how did they do? Just a few questions for Team Tribune. Anyone from Team Tribune want to come on my show and take a crack at answering them? I didn’t think so.

Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at