23 October 2006

IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE


TWO YEARS AGO, IN ONE OF THE MOST CRUCIAL ELECTIONS of recent years, my hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, declined to endorse a candidate in the 2004 Presidential elections. A few days later, news surfaced of a great divide between management and the editorial board; management, you see, was set to endorse President Bush; the majority of the editorial board backed Senator Kerry.

An employee of the Plain Dealer told me privately, “I am proud of my many colleagues who took a stand in the last few days against running an endorsement that would have ignored the vote of the majority on our editorial board. The most courageous were the board members themselves, who stood up even though they could have lost their jobs. Unlike columnists, reporters and the rest of the newspaper, they do not belong to the Newspaper Guild. They could have been fired on the spot, but they chose to speak up. There was no cowardice there.”

I understood and agreed that the Board had acted honorably, but it underscored that Big Media today has become a war between management and their corporate interest versus editorial integrity. Today, sadly, the Plain Dealer has committed another grievous faux pas by endorsing Republican Senator Mike DeWine over Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown. DeWine, is so wedded to the oil and drug companies that he deserves to thrown out of office, and Brown, a thoughtful an articulate advocate for the middle class, is the perfect choice to replace him.

I have no way of knowing as yet whether another management-editorial board battle occurred as the newspaper endorsed DeWine, but this much is clear: the Plain Dealer has proven once again that they are more interested in the views of the Chamber of Commerce than Main Street Ohioans. Their endorsement of DeWine was rife with suggestive language in handing the endorsement to the Senator who votes with President Bush 96% of the time. “DeWine nailed the difference between himself and his opponent,” the editorial stated. “When DeWine votes against his party, he leaves it to move to the center; when Brown does so, he moves to the Democrats' left.” What was more troubling than the ‘liberal’ tag, however, was what the P.D. said next: “Brown voted against President Clinton's trade agreements,” suggesting, of course, that fighting so-called ‘free trade agreements’ was a “leftist, liberal cause.”

In mid 2005, when President Bush was busy twisting arms and threatening Republicans who were contemplating voting against CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, many Ohio Congressional representatives buckled and fell in line with the President’s wishes. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH.), who represents an area populated by blue collar workers, first vowed to fight the President and “vote for the people of my district,” only to succumb to the orders of one employer, Kraft-Maid, over the wishes of the very people he represents. Sen. Mike DeWine carried the President’s water as well, telling a state which has lost millions of jobs overseas that CAFTA would help lift Ohio businesses to the promised land of economic prosperity.

The Plain Dealer further perpetuated that folly in an editorial just days before the CAFTA vote, which was decided by a mere two votes in the Congress. Their disappointing and woefully incomplete editorial endorsing CAFTA was yet another low point for the once-proud newspaper.

At the time, I was shocked that the P.D. actually published my letter to the editor on the subject, but they did. I wrote, “How can you write an editorial about CAFTA without even mentioning another supposed free trade deal — called NAFTA? Has that deal benefited American workers and their families? No. Do you think the Mexican people have prospered from NAFTA? No. Only the large multinational corporations — who care little about the lives they ruin or disrupt — have profited from NAFTA. And how do you dare to endorse CAFTA without telling people that millions of people throughout Central America have protested the trade deal (called TLC in Spanish-speaking countries) because they know it will only lead to more ruin — just as happened in Mexico?”

CAFTA was in political trouble, I continued, because people, and even many politicians, were beginning to see that these trade agreements are destructive one-way deals that benefit only the special interests and multinational companies. Rather than extremists protesting against CAFTA, as DeWine, the President, and the Plain Dealer claimed, there was “a growing bipartisan coalition against this awful trade deal, which would effectively create another “European Union” in our hemisphere. After the failure of the WTO and NAFTA, do we REALLY need any more information to recognize the pitfalls of this nonsense?”

So today, in slamming Congressman Sherrod Brown’s opposition to “free trade” as a “liberal” idea, the Plain Dealer has again genuflected before the Chamber of Commerce and big business. They ignored the crucial fact that Brown has led the charge to defend Ohio jobs, while DeWine twiddled and nodded, and accepted millions from the companies who benefited most. As evidenced by the vote in Congress, the opposition to CAFTA was wide and deep: Democrats and Republicans; small manufacturers and labor unions; family farmers and environmentalists; Catholic bishops in Central America and Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Jewish leaders in the United States.

But support for CAFTA came mostly from the pharmaceutical companies, insurance and bank interests and the oil industry.

Today’s endorsement of the flawed Senator from Ohio may improve the P.D.s prospects with advertisers, but does nothing to address the serious reality that Ohio is dying. With corrupt leadership that has been more concerned with advancing the Republican agenda than employment for its’ citizens, Ohio continues to atrophy.

It’s time for a change. You know it — and so do I. Hopefully, Ohio voters will see through the transparent agenda of “Ohio’s Largest Newspaper,” and send Sherrod Brown to the United States Senate. . .before it's too late for our state.

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