To The Union Tribune Editorial Board: Moderation In The Pursuit Of Liberty Is No Virtue

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From today’s FlashReport

(Published in full with permission)

by Jon Fleischman

Since I am in the business of aggregating relevant California political news and opinion, I spend more time that any sane person should scanning the opinion pages of California’s major daily newspapers. As it does on every day that I am putting together the links for the FlashReport’s main page, yesterday I found myself reading the editorial page of the San Diego Union Tribune. To be honest, I have been disappointed to see what I would consider a significant move to the political center, and sometimes behind, from a paper that was one reliably center-right, and on some issues, even more so to the right… With no further lead-in, here is a column I have penned in response to the lead editorial in the Union Tribune that ran yesterday, on the 10th Anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks on our nation…

The lead editorial in the San Diego Union Tribune yesterday, entitled The Tragedy After 9/11, was a lamentation piece expressing sorrow for the increased partisan divide in America over the last 25 years, taking note of how the country came together to go after those responsible for the terrorist attacks – in essence pining for that kind of unity of resolve in tackling the public policy challenges facing America.

Here is a key excerpt from the piece, “Something has happened over the past quarter-century that has poisoned our politics. The increasing ideological purity of each political party has made each side far less interested in pragmatic compromise and far more eager to impugn the motives and character of those with differing views.”

It’s not easy for me to get inside of the head of liberal politicians to explain why act how they do. But I believe I can speak from authority about the conservative course charted by Republicans – especially since the end of the Reagan Era – marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall and an end to the Cold War that had been fought by America, led by conservatives, for so very long. The fall of the Soviet Union meant that Republicans could focus more of their energy and attention to domestic policy – and to the fact that over an extended period of time (generations, actually) we have seen a significant growth in the size and scope of the central government at every level. With this growth, of course, has been a corresponding assault on individual liberty and freedom. Thus you have seen a focus of Republicans towards trying to stop the advance of bigger government, and more and more talk about the need to actually reverse course. (For all of our talk, Republicans have yet to make significant strides towards this focus.)

I would challenge the Union Tribune Editorial Board to show me where “bipartisan compromise” has ever lead to the shrinking of government spending, the elimination of programs, and a return of rights and responsibilities away from the state and back to individuals, and to families. On the contrary, “compromise” in the modern political era has typically meant growing government with bipartisan support. I look forward to a follow up column in the Union Tribune that highlights all of the instances where Democrats and Republicans have worked together to meaningfully shrink government – times when such a retreat was not required due simply to a state or local government running out of available funds.

As so many liberals and moderates like to do, the Union Tribune Editorial Board holds up Ronald Reagan as their favorite example of the kind of compromise-prone politician that we need to emulate. They say in their editorial, “Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon who often compromised on big issues with Democrats as California governor and U.S. president, would be a pariah in the present GOP.” (they also go on to say that John F. Kennedy would be a pariah in today’s Democrat Party).

To this I would actually turn to the opinion of one of Ronald Reagan’s closest friends and political advisers – Ed Meese. Meese served as Chief of Staff to then-Governor Reagan, headed up Reagan’s Presidential Transition Team, and for three years served as the 75th Attorney General of the United States, appointed by then-President Reagan. I had a chance to sit down with Meese last year at a Heritage Foundation conference, and was able to ask him his opinion about what Reagan would have thought about the things going on in American in 2010 versus when he was President. Meese was unequivocal that while Reagan’s style and demeanor would have remained unflagging in its grace and optimism, he felt strongly that Reagan would have an increased resolve for the need to pursue conservative solutions to the challenges facing the country. “Ronald Reagan would absolutely embrace and be a leader of today’s Tea Party movement – of that I have no doubt,” Meese told me. “Reagan’s alarm at the quickening pace of the advance of domestic socialism would have given him no choice.”

The Union Tribune Editorial Board needs to think long and hard about whether they are comfortable with the consistent advance of Progressivism in American, the most significant gain being the massive shift of GDP from the private to the public sector with the implementation of Obamacare. Then perhaps their next column can be more nuanced – calling for bipartisan cooperation – but towards a return to a more limited central government and respect for individual liberty and freedom.


Comments 2

  1. Hi Jon,

    That editorial, known in the trade as a “thumbsucker,” is about what one would expect for its why-can’t-we-all-get-along pseudo-profundity. Newspapers feel they have to run such editorials for such a solemn commemoration, even if they have nothing to say. So don’t be surprised that the U-T editorial is a muddled waste of space. It’s a newspaper industry problem.

    (As a reporter, I wish newspapers would take the money/space that goes toward such superfluous opinionating and redirect it toward news. But that’s another story.)

    If there were no 9/11 editorial, the U-T would be condemned for insensitivity. Newspapers don’t earn praise for not adding to the opinion clutter. Better to butcher the facts in search of false equivalence.

    The partisan press was at least as vicious two centuries ago as today, so citing the Internet as a contributing factor for today’s polarization is dubious. Likewise, the unsupported statements about JFK and Reagan as being party pariahs if they were around today. But the editorial is opinion. Just like a Paul Krugman column, it’s not required to be strictly factual. (Okay, that was a little harsh on the U-T!)

    And the U-T’s move to the center is to be expected. Its conservative editorial stance was purely a reflection of the Copley family’s politics. This shift is merely the logical consequence of the end of a newspaper dynasty. There’s no larger message.

  2. Remarkable how Ronald Reagan has suddenly become
    a moderate Republican in the MSM now!

    From his election as Governor in 1966 through his last
    day as President in 1989, the MSM vilified him as a
    Nut, extremist, Cowboy, threat to World Peace, racist,
    blockhead and a Phony.

    NOW suddenly he is a thoughtful middle-of-the-roader,
    as the MSM rolls out the same tired insults for today’s
    cast of conservative leaders.

    Nice try …. but No Sale.

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