Thursday June 4, 2020
Oct-20-2006 10:04TweetFollow @OregonNews
By Henry Clay Ruark for Salem-News
(SALEM) - There comes a time in the affairs of men and women when those shaping the situation via their reports and their Editorial Page declarations must STAND and be held accountable for all published reports.
That’s surely what the Founders had in mind when they made sure the First Amendment, that FIRST ONE --in a world-shaping pattern the envy of the earth ever since.
It has become completely obvious to all concerned --including every Oregon newspaper reader and tv-news viewer-- that Ron Saxton’s gubernatorial campaign has built evasion, obfuscation; distortion, misdirection, canny misstatement; and every other characteristic of media/message-preparation into a memorable demonstration of malign manipulation.
Even The OREGONIAN’S own Edit Page columnist recently characterized that Saxton demonstration in these surely-accurate and unavoidably biting words: “...what may be the most dishonest media campaign in Oregon memory.” (“Truth in advertising ?”, David Sarasohn, OREGONIAN Edit Page 10/13 “See also” several Steve Duin columns over the past months).
Numerous deeply-probing, highly professional reports, many starting on Page One, and much exceptionally revealing graphic art, in wide variety, exceptionally well-prepared and documented, have now made the case the only way it can possibly be made, in all observable reality, over a time-line of at least six months -- in its own pages, by The OREGONIAN.
The various components of that precisely-planned, carefully-composed, and completely encompassing set of singular journalistic efforts is firmly --and irrevocably-- on the public record.
Such continuing effort cannot be mounted without such plan and procedure. Such continued columnist-statement does not happen by pure coincidence.
Such coverage in depth, quality, firmness, and full dedication to broad journalistic principles has drawn attention nationally; with mention of its possible nomination for some topmost professional awards already made.
Given the professional reputations and records of those involved and the accompanying Edit Page notations in full support; also on the public record, thus also irrevocable; it is intriguing to consider what could conceivably bring about that just-reported- Sunday Edit Page “leap of faith”; endorsing a candidate so carefully and completely shorn of proper political clothing, and thus left quite publicly naked to rational and reasonable evaluation.
It makes one to wonder whether newspaper political endorsement can possibly, any longer, remain meaningful except to those who must sign off on the sentiments involved -- for whatever reasons.
Their professional names-and-titles are shown on that same Edit Page, thus irrevocably establishing what is reasonable to assume is longtime and unavoidable professional responsibility.
How can anyone reconcile the two obviously-opposing forces thus mounted upon the attention of every reader anywhere in the State and across the entire nation when --almost simultaneously-- one encounters professional reporting negated by complex and contradictory conclusion opting for: “...a leap of faith to endorse a former school board chairman over a sitting governor”.
Ostensibly, the reason-gtven is “CHANGE BEGINS AT THE TOP” -- the title with which this strange Editorial is introduced, presenting its own contradictions in rational points leading to a clearly UN-rational conclusion. But historically that simply is a misunderstanding.
Or a chosen misnomer.
Take your choice.
The memory of many readers will make it immediately clear that our own American Revolution surely did NOT start at the top: That historic occasion demanded the determined and dangerous dunking of British taxable-tea into a Colonial harbor by a motley crowd of patriots, far from “the top” in their own society OR city.
That action by those motley-ones triggered a variety of other actions far from “the top”; in fact forcing fast leadership from many of the Founders. (“See with own eyes” at various places in Franklin autobiography.) The then-occupant of the British throne continued in command of that Empire for some further long-time, too.
Historical review relevant to this process is available in nearly everyone's memories from common-school; starting with the earliest Colonial-history process involving the move from early-agreement on basic principles in several situations and contexts; through the formation of our national Constitution, and on through many other historical examples.
Perhaps the most striking is the Civil War, taking literally more than a century, before hostilities involving millions on both sides of a fundamental issue; and resulting in our extremely painful historical pursuit of racial equality even yet spcially and economically incomplete.
The Editorial title itself --"CHANGE BEGINS AT THE TOP"-- is an anomaly, either unwittingly ignorant or intentionallY made to seem-so by the approach taken here from writer’s necessity.
The realistic political fact is that change always begins somewhere much lower than the top. Given the usual democratic delays inherent in the whole well-recognized process, action then proceeds in both directions (if not at lowest level to start), finally making its way up the scale step-by-step, until enough pressure “blows off the top” and constitutes the change.
The entire body of the Sunday-Edit then bewails the necessities which engulfed incumbent Governor Kulongoski when he staggered into office with a small, somewhat surprising vote; while at the same time bathing in resplendent white-light the less-than-really shining record and background of Ron Saxton’s public record as "a former school board chairman", with its own anomalies.
But then --surely somewhat surprisingly-- this peculiar Edit concludes that this false necessity of “change from the top” forces endorsement of his opponent "over a sitting governor" for whose unavoiable circumstances considerable commiseration was expressed, andwithout reference to deep and probing reporting re Saxton’s campaign; no matter whatsoever if he is callously and calculatingly distorting and perverting the issues and the public record.
That it is: ”a leap of faith”.
Enough-said on that one; Let "the Edit" speak for itself. Then there is that Civil War situation: Surely it is obvious this terrible, tragic “change” did NOT start at the top, with removal of Lincoln by other means than the assassination.
It took, literally, a full century from the start: with the Founders fashioning strong rationalizations to remain slave-owners while proclaiming human rights for others; to the final finish following bloody conflicts consuming more deaths than any other time in our history; (memory states 600,000 dead); and the final removal of Lincoln by definitely non-democratic means.
(See any standard American History text, school or college level.) Then there is the Nixon situation: The only President ever to resign, in the face of rapid and unavoidable impeachment-consequences.
Thus a unique situation very likely to stick-in-memory for any professional journalist. It can hardly be said that one "began at the top". If such claim was ever made there are redoubtable reporters then-on-record --and still writing!-- who would protest both rapidly and rather loudly and rightly so.
Surely it is ironic the Nixon situation is entirely overlooked in this context of “CHANGE FROM THE TOP” since it is in itself a journalistic legend, surely well known to all professional journalists concerned here.
It would be easy to go on-and-on, with many distressing other examples, but the point is clear and entirely obvious here. What reality tells us is that change comes from solid preparation of voters by realistic, honest, open and complete sharing of information and understandings, always demanded prior to that prime and potent promise of further democratic decision: The rightly-treasured vote.
It is on that principle that our Founders erected the edifice of representative governance on which our entire American history has been built ever since; now distorted and perverted nationally and in many states by the very forces strangely and disturbingly displayed openly here.
That’s why the Founders made the First Amendment what it is: The first and foremost requirement for continuing liberty. That’s why the First Amendment protects a free press given its sole and single means for being; and for commercial success as a foundation for establishment and continuance, too: As the Founders surely recognized, after controversial and continued deep and desperate search and development in the famous Federalist Papers, long recognized as the foundation documents of our continuing freedoms.
(“See with own eyes” via simple Google-search or the multiple continuing Op Eds in our Archives.) That’s why “STAND straight and tell it like it is” remains the ruling principle where support and strengthening of democratic dialog leading to rational and reasonable decision is demanded.
That’s why “disingenuous” becomes such an essential meaning for any such STAND as this one, here and now.
Do you doubt that is the situation in Oregon today?
If so, you are free to join in “the leap of faith”: For wherever it may take you and your beloved State of Oregon, when and where you may land. That’s what the First Amendment does for all of us. That’s why every daily newspaper and other media-channel should protect, preserve, strengthen, extend and support that key foundation principle of democratic dialog shaping decisive action.
No other factor or fear should ever be allowed to distort and pervert that fundamental responsibility to every citizen-served: Nothing even slightly “disingenuous” about it.