Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A rant a day

One of the unmixed horrors of the early winter previous to a Presidential Election is renewing acquaintance with the New Hampshire Union Leader. It dropped the “Manchester”, its home-town, from the banner a decade or so after our dear, daffy Grauniad went national, and in recent years has claimed its state-wide relevance. The Union Leader has about the same circulation as the Camden New Journal, and in the city of Manchester had a "catchment area" not dissimilar in size to that the London Borough of Camden.

There the parallels end.

The Union Leader enjoys its peculiar position because, once every four years, the New Hampshire primary is "first in the nation" (not to be confused with the "First State": that's been Delaware since December 7th, 1787, as the vehicle registration plates remind us).

The paper's previous owner was William Loeb whose convoluted personal and business life is "explained" by wikipedia.

Malcolm prefers and recommends the Time magazine obituary of Loeb, which is better written and at least makes some sense:
Every four years, like a recurring nightmare, the cherubic visage and satanic fulminations of William Loeb, cantankerous, ultraconservative publisher of the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader, would turn up on the front pages of newspapers across the country. As aspiring Presidents trooped up to New Hampshire for the nation's earliest presidential primary, Loeb's relatively small daily ([1981] circ. 65,298) became an influential voice in American politics. That voice was Loeb's alone: petulant, scurrilous and unfailingly infuriating. For more than thirty years, Loeb put his splenetic opinions where no one could miss them: in boldface type on the front page of the Union Leader ... His editorials were often headlined in red and blue, but his beliefs were black and white. Said he: "Things are either right or they are wrong."
Loeb laid around him with enthusiasm, if with little justification. He denounced Harry Truman as "General Incompetence", Eisenhower was a "stinking hypocrite" (because he failed fully to support Loeb's anointed, Senator Joe McCarthy), and John Kennedy was "the number one liar in the nation". From there on it was all downhill: Nelson Rockefeller was "a wife-swapper" and Gerald Ford "Gerry the Jerk".

Then came the Muskie affair, which Malcolm believes should be brought to memory.

Loeb had berated Ed Muskie, then the Vice-Presidential candidate in 1968, as "Moscow Muskie" -- the poison in that being Muskie's Polish origins. By 1972 Senator Edward Muskie was the Democratic front-runner. Loeb published the "Cannuck letter":
... a curious document... with a front-page editorial, signed by Loeb and headlined, 'Senator Muskie Insults Franco-Americans.' With the bold-faced type and capital letters Loeb used to hammer home his message, the editorial concluded: "We have always known that Senator Muskie was a hypocrite. But we never expected to have it so clearly revealed as in this letter ...'

Along with the editorial was a photocopy of a hand-printed letter with many misspellings, in an almost childlike hand... It said the writer had encountered Muskie and his party in Florida, and that Muskie had been asked how he could know much about the problems of blacks, since there were so few of them in Maine. "A man with the senator said, "No, not blacks, but we have Cannocks'."
According to Bernstein and Woodward the letter, in fact, emanated from the 'plumbers' at CREEP, Richards Nixon's dirty-tricks department:
Washington Post staff writer Marilyn Berger reported that Ken W. Clawson, deputy director of White House communications, told her in a conversation on September 25th [1972] that, "I wrote the letter."
Alongside this Women's Wear Daily did a hatchet-job on Muskie's wife, Jane, which was recycled by Newsweek magazine, then by Loeb. That Time magazine piece again:
Standing on a flatbed truck in a snowstorm before the offices of the Manchester. N.H., Union Leader, Muskie defended his wife Jane against a snide bit of gossip about her in the newspaper. Its editor, the vitriolic, archconservative William Loeb, had reprinted a Newsweek item (itself a condensation of a story in Women's Wear Daily) detailing Mrs. Muskie's alleged penchant for predinner cocktails and an incident in which she supposedly asked reporters if they knew any dirty jokes. Muskie was particularly angered by the headline Loeb put on the Union Leader item: BIG DADDY'S JANE. As the Senator later complained: "It made her sound like a moll."

In a voice choked with emotion, Muskie began to weep as he announced the title to the crowd. "This man doesn't walk, he crawls," sobbed Muskie. He tried to regain his composure, then said loudly: "He's talking about my wife." Muskie calmed himself; unfortunately for him, however, his breakdown was caught by CBS-TV cameras and shown round the country.
Muskie's apparent show of emotional weakness (and at a moment when Nixon was facing down the Chinese) was seen as his defining moment. It was in the open air, in a New Hampshire winter. When Hunter S. Thompson implied that Muskie was under the influence of ibogaine, Muskie was finished.

The present editor of the Union Leader is curmudgeonly Joseph McQuaid, who maintains the Loeb tradition. Joe, alas for Malcolm's prejudices, is not known to be a relative of the late and unlamented John Charles ditto, the archiepiscopal admirer of J Edgar Hoover among his many other faults. However, Joe has had a suitable apotheosis in Leave Freeze or Die (see top of this blog-entry) Jeremy Yuenger's webcomic:
Joe is the publisher of the Union Leader, an ultraconservative newspaper that uses its undue influence to control the town's politics. He generally fails in his efforts to live up to the "evil" of his predecessor, Nackey Loeb [William Loeb's widow], despite receiving an injection of her DNA.
On tradition Joe has maintained is the ritual evisceration of politicians:
  • George Bush I was “a wimp”;
  • George Bush II ,“Junior Bush”, “lacks any passion for conservative beliefs”;
  • and Elizabeth Dole, former member of the Cabinet, President of the American Red Cross, and now Senator for North Carolina (and, in passing, wife of Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican Presidential Candidate) lacked any worth “except an X-chromosome”.
And all that, Malcolm begs us to note, is the Union Leader about its own chosen team.

The view of the State Republican Chairman in 2000 was: “Usually they pick a candidate early and either promote that candidate heavily or beat the stuffing out of the candidates they don’t like”.

McQuaid’s own version of that is: “The Union Leader’s style is we don’t just endorse once ... We endorse every damn day. We started endorsing Reagan in 1975 and never stopped.”

So, when Bob from Boston turns up on Slugger O'Toole, describing the Union Leader as:
Somewhat left of the Boston Globe
Malcolm went into melt-down.

If the Union Leader was or is “left” of anywhere, then Kublai Khan was cuddly and domesticated because he let up on grand-dad Genghiz's recipe for warming funeral guests: the immolation of forty virgins. Sphere: Related Content

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