Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Price of Truth

Aftermath Of Last Week’s
Editorial Endorsement

The Iconoclast received considerable criticism this past week
after its editors endorsed John Kerry for President. Several subscriptions and advertisements were canceled after the newspaper hit the stands Tuesday morning.
The editorial, co-authored by the newspaper’s publisher, W. Leon Smith, and writers Don Fisher and Nathan Diebenow, expressed the opinion that Kerry would take the country in a better direction. There have been both positive and negative comments.
We expected that perhaps a few readers might cancel subscriptions, and maybe even ads, but have been amazed at a few of the more intense communications, some of which bordered on outright personal attacks and uncalled-for harassment.

We have been told by several avid Bush supporters that the days when newspapers publish editorials without personal repercussions are over. As publishers, we have printed editorials for decades, and have endorsed candidates, both Republican and Democrat. When Bush was endorsed four years ago, the Gore supporters did not respond with threats, nor did Democrats when we endorsed Reagan twice. Republicans did not threaten us personally or our business when we endorsed Carter and Clinton for their first terms.

In the past, when individuals disagreed with an editorial, they would write a letter to the editor politely expressing a different point of view in contrast to the views of the publishers, which we have usually published. Occasionally someone would cancel a subscription or an ad, but this was rare.
The goal of the editorial page has been to provide an arena for the expression of a variety of thoughtful opinions, some by the publishers, some by columnists, and some by our readers.

The new mode of operation, I am told, is that when a newspaper prints an editorial of which some sectors might disagree, the focus is now upon how to run the newspaper out of business. Out the window are the contributions the newspaper has made to the community in the past and the newspaper’s extensive investment in the community.
We do understand peoples’ rights to pull subscriptions and ads, and to express a differing opinion, but we have some trouble understanding threats and payback since in politics there are often a variety of options. For the publishers to herald one of the options should be no cause for persecution.

When you think about it, editorials are often displayed in people’s yards with campaign signs. These are endorsements by residents. Is it proper to persecute them for stating their opinions in this manner if you disagree with their choices? Should they be harassed and threatened? We don’t think so.

Unfortunately, for the Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats — big ones including physical harm.

Too, some individuals are threatening innocent commercial concerns, claiming that if they advertise in The Iconoclast, they will be run out of business. We consider this improper in a democracy.

Several young members of our staff covering Tonkawa Traditions this past weekend were angrily harassed and threatened that they must leave, which cut short their ability to fully do their jobs and instilled in them considerable fear for their safety. These reporters had nothing to do with that editorial. They were part-time college students working to pay their way through school and better themselves.
Although several members of the community are upset at the newspaper, there are still those who want us to continue with local coverage as we have in the past. We do have concern for the safety of our staff, however, and find it troubling when they are bullied and cannot do their jobs.

From the period of Tuesday through noon Saturday of this past week, The Iconoclast has received over 700 letters to the editor related to the editorial which received more attention than we had expected. Some of the dispatches are very critical and some are very supportive of the editorial. And a few do offer a thoughtful, differing point of view on the issues, which we do appreciate.

Since The Iconoclast has a very small staff, it has been impossible for us to verify each and every signature as is our normal procedure prior to publication, but to provide the letters for the public to read, we are posting them on our website with the names of the authors listed as initials.

We have been told that some letters e-mailed to us did not get through, perhaps since our internet system became overloaded at times this past week. The letters posted are the ones we received that pertained to the editorial (as opposed to being simply questions or other correspondence).

A few have been edited slightly due to offensive language or the writer’s identity being revealed in the body of the letter, but we have attempted to publish them, with few exceptions, just as we received them.

To publish them in the print edition would require substantially too much space (about 30 pages, in our estimation). So go to if you want to peruse the letters.

Nearly a hundred individuals (including some Crawford residents) have purchased new subscriptions to help replace those lost, and a few have expressed a desire to become new advertising clients. For this, we are thankful.

The publisher has read every e-mail and letter received and sends appreciation to each and every letter-writer for expressing an opinion, pro or con, as this shows a passion for their positions and a keen interest in the upcoming election.
Whether readers agree or disagree with the recommendation rendered by the publishers, we do encourage them to vote in the upcoming election. We consider it more than a privilege, but a duty.
— W. Leon Smith

The Scary Little Man

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 08 October 2004

"He had a feeling that the answer was quite different and that he ought to know it, but he could not think of it. He began to get frightened, and that is bad for thinking."
- J.R.R. Tolkien

George W. Bush, still smarting from his embarrassing performance in the Florida debate, decided on Friday night in St. Louis that volume was a good substitute for strength, that yelling would be mistaken for gravitas. The result was an ugly, disturbing, genuinely frightening show.

In my report on the first debate, I described Bush as, "Shrill. Defensive. Muddled. Angry, very angry. Repetitive. Uninformed. Outmatched. Unprepared. Hesitant." As bad as that display was, it honestly paled in comparison to the frenzied hectoring Bush sprayed at 140 Missouri citizens who had the ill fortune of watching the man come unglued before their eyes.

John Kerry, by comparison, was every inch the controlled prosecutor pressing his case to the jury. It was, perhaps, that calm delineation of Bush's myriad errors which caused the Republican candidate to blow his stack. Exactly 30 minutes into the debate, Bush became so agitated by Kerry's description of the "back-door draft," which is literally bleeding the life out of our National Guard and Reserve forces, that he lunged out of his chair and shrieked over moderator Charles Gibson, who was trying to maintain some semblance of decorum.

"You tell Tony Blair we're going alone," Bush roared. "Tell Tony Blair we're going alone!" The disturbed murmur from the crowd was audible. Bush, simply, frightened them.

More unsettling than Bush's demonstrable agitation was his almost uncanny disconnect from reality.

The voluminous report released by Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group, compiled by 1,625 U.N. and U.S. weapons inspectors after two years of searching some 1,700 sites in Iraq at a cost of more than $1 billion, stated flatly that no weapons of mass destruction exist in that nation, that no weapons of mass destruction have existed in that nation for years, and that any capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction within that nation has been crumbling for the same amount of years.

"My opponent said that America must pass a global test before we used force to protect ourselves," said Bush during the Iraq phase of the debate. "That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working. That's the kind of mindset that said, 'Let's keep it at the United Nations and hope things go well.' Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working."

What? First of all, the Duelfer Report proves beyond any question that sanctions had worked incredibly well. The stuff wasn't there, because Scott Ritter and the UNSCOM inspectors destroyed it all during the 1990s, along with any and all equipment and facilities to make it. The stuff wasn't there because the sanctions put into place against Hussein prevented him from getting any material to develop weapons. The stuff wasn't there because Hussein stopped making it years ago, because the sanctions were breaking his back. The sanctions worked.

When Bush made the statement about Hussein giving weapons of mass destruction to "terrorist enemies," the needle edged over from 'Dumb' to 'Deranged.' How many different ways must one say "The stuff wasn't there" before George picks up the clue phone? How does someone give away something he doesn't have?

Bush continued in this appalling vein when he said, "He keeps talking about, 'Let the inspectors do their job.' It's naive and dangerous to say that. That's what the Duelfer report showed." Welcome to Bush World, where everything is upside down and two plus two equals a bag of hammers. It is naive and dangerous to point out that the inspectors got the job done in the 1990s, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever? No, George. It is simply the truth.

The mental disconnect reared its shouting head repeatedly throughout the evening. Bush somehow lost track of where he was at one point and called his opponent, "Senator Kennedy." He told one questioner that he would control the deficit by stopping Congress from spending, only a few minutes after defending the fact that he had never, not once, vetoed a spending bill from Congress.

He made an accountant crack about "Battling green eyeshades," a statement that immediately became a first-ballot nominee for the Gibberish Hall of Fame. When asked what kind of Supreme Court Justice he would nominate if given an opportunity, he wandered off along a free-association rant about Dred Scott. Clearly, this President will make sure to nominate people to the bench who are opposed to chattel slavery.

Perhaps the most telling moment came when questioner Linda Grabel asked Bush, "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it."

As with his April prime time press conference, in which he was asked a very similar question, Bush absolutely refused to admit to any errors in judgment, beyond a cryptic quip about mistakes in personnel appointments which he would not elaborate upon. He opened himself up to the judgment of history, a sad straddle given the simple fact that no President can avoid such a judgment. That was all he was willing to offer. Ms. Grabel did not hear about three mistakes. She did not even hear about one.

Bush was every inch the angry man on Friday night, which is dangerous enough. But to witness anger combined with belligerent ignorance, with a willful denial of basic facts, to witness a man utterly incapable of admitting to any mistakes while his clear errors in judgment are costing his country in blood, to see that combination roiling within the man who is in charge of the most awesome military arsenal in the history of the planet, is more than dangerous.

It is flatly terrifying.