In the pandemic that currently has our society in a mental and financial bind, we see the shortcomings erupt in the passing of personal biases as “fact” and reports based on “I was told” replacing any intent to offer any real sources of misinformation.
As a newspaperman who has written hundreds of thousands of news and opinion articles over more than half a century, I find myself a victim of too many who judge someone’s intent on the last dozen or so pieces written in a short span of time rather than comprehensive research.
Case in point: My columns critical columns (opinion by definition) of Donald Trump bring charges that I am a partisan Democrat. A little research would reveal that Democrats considered me a “right-wring Republican after reading columns I wrote about what I felt were the shortcomings failures of Barack Obama, a first-term Senator with little preparation for what is required as a president.
Same when I was writing about the trysts of Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky or his many other failures as president.
As a newspaperman, I approach most elected officials with a cynical eye. I’ve found over more than five decades that such doubts about their abilities are well deserved. During my “sabbatical” as a political operative for the national Republican Party, I found its leadership dominated by white supremacists, bigots, anti-gay fanatics and political sellouts. Democrats have their own extremist leaders. Neither party has a high ground.
I worked for two presidents: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Didn’t vote for either one. In fact, I didn’t vote for any candidate for president during that period because I didn’t feel any were qualified. I did my job for them because I was well-paid for my efforts but I have never been a member of any political party or philosophical organization.
I wasn’t alone. Many of the so-called “political professionals” have little or no beliefs in the issues. We did it for the money.
Politics is a natural haven for quick-buck artists, con men (and women) and religious zealots who use their personal biases to twist any attempts at true faith. On rare occasions, you find an honest individual who wants to serve the public trust, but that idealism is soon overwhelmed by the corruption of the system.
I walked away from politics the same year I quit drinking and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Coincidence? Not at all. I returned to what I felt was my true calling: A newspaperman who, as legendary Chicago newsman Finley Peter Dunne once said, “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
I have no pretense of being an honorable or good man. My transgressions are many and my faults provide more than one closet packed with skeletons. What I do have is an obsession with exposing the corrupt, the dishonest and the con artists among us in positions of leadership, be they Democrat, Republican, independent or some other shyster wrapped in a false coat of claims.
When I joined the staff of The Roanoke Times in 1965, city editor Jim Echols said he would judge my performance by whether both sides of an issue got mad. “In six months, if you piss off both sides, that tells me you’re doing your job,” he said. “If you don’t, I’ll get rid of you and find someone who will.”
Six months later, I still had the job.
(Updated with additional information.)