It's inconceivable to me that there could be any debate on the choice for president. I write, of course, as a representative of the media and of newspaper and broadcast station owners everywhere. Our man is without a doubt: George W. Bush. I could follow the example of extraordinary leadership shown by my man, hoist a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," and declare Bush president.
But, just for kicks, I'll explain why the media should unanimously endorse the president.
In the late 1960s, we had a collection of excellent Southern governors. I'm speaking, of course, of Alabama's George Wallace, Georgia's Lester Maddox and Claude Kirk, Florida's first Republican el jefe since the Ice Age.
My liberal colleagues in the endorsement business twitched in antipathy at those names. They would have bestowed their favor on almost anyone — Michael Corleone, Leonid Brezhnev or Elmer Fudd — other than our lovable Southerners.
At the time, my career more or less ping-ponged between Florida and Georgia. In Florida, I adored Kirk. How many governors show up at their inaugural ball with a mistress identified only as "Madame X"? Or hire private security thugs as a semi-official Gestapo to ferret out commies, homosexuals and other miscreants?
Ping to Georgia, where Maddox's Pickrick Restaurant ax-handle episode offered media slapstick. The law forbade Maddox a second term, but there was precedent for coup d'etat in Georgia — as when Herman Talmadge had himself illegally crowned governor after his pappy's death. So I thought maybe Maddox could just ignore the silly old law.
In Georgia, I had a brilliant, alcohol-induced idea: The Journalists for Lester Maddox Committee. My goal was to have him enshrined as gubna-for-life. I also proposed erecting a five-story gold ax handle atop the Georgia Capitol. Had I added a giant Confederate battle flag, the idea might have picked up steam.
Weeks later, I ponged back to Miami and reprised the effort with the Journalists for Claude Kirk Committee. I only regret that I never lived in Alabama, where a George Wallace committee could have stayed in business for decades.
Why were these gentlemen "excellent"? Because they made the best news copy, of course.
Take Florida. How could a sane journalist favor Kirk's upstart foe, Reubin Askew — who drank nothing stronger than orange juice, never uttered a swear word, and was anything but flamboyant — over the always-loopy incumbent?
And now we have the '04 presidential election. On the one hand, there's Kerry — eyes-glazing-over normal. He'd muddle along the political mainstream and screw up only infrequently. The rest of the world would rekindle its fondness for the lovable if sometimes irascible Americans. The economy would flourish, jobs would be created, our poorest would find some solace, and natural resources would be safeguarded. If we had to go to war, it would be reluctantly. Our young folks wouldn't be splattered on desert sand to boost Halliburton's profits.
In other words, boring, boring, boring.
But don't despair: Another four years with Bush promises sensational stories. "News" won't quite be the same, for a start, as the First Amendment is massaged to state: "The freedom of the press to support the Bush regime shall not be abridged."
If you have any question about that, the model is Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which will be airing unabashed pre-election propaganda — but calling it news — on its 62 NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and WB stations, including WTTA Channel 38 in Tampa. For other examples, tune to Fox or just about anywhere on the AM dial and listen to the voice of the future — never-ending Bushite spinning. Just last week, Cox, Time Warner and Comcast proved they were good Bushies by denying Michael Moore a chance to buy time on a cable network to air Fahrenheit 9/11.
The print media is hardly better. Bush will reward their fawning with more media deregulation. Some would say companies such as The Tampa Tribune's parent, Media General, and the rest of print and broadcast moguls are morally bankrupt for failing to report fully their own self-interest in playing footsie with the administration so that they'll be allowed unfettered media consolidation. I call it shrewd anticipation of our brave new world.
Turning off the brains of journalists — a process already underway — will ratify the quid pro quo. Thus, when 1,625 investigators search 1,700 Iraqi sites and conclude that no weapons of mass destruction had existed there for years and were incapable of being produced, the press smiles and nods when Bush proclaims in a presidential debate: "Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies."
We should all head for the bar, slap each other on the back and chortle, "Are we really stupid or what?"
W promises a level of madcap entertainment now available only on Three Stooges tapes. Can you name another recent president or presidential candidate who is widely believed to be so intellectually challenged that he needed to be wired so that his spin docs could prompt him during debates?
Or a guy who non-stop entertains us with the denial of objective reality? To wit, when Kerry quoted Bush as saying he wasn't concerned about Osama bin Laden, the prez sneered back: "Gosh, I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. That's kind of one of those exaggerations." Well, Bush on March 13, 2002, said of bin Laden: "I truly am not that concerned about him." What a card Bush is.
Let's face it, not since Dan Quayle delighted us with such gems as, "Not to have a mind is being very wasteful," have we had such levity in high office. Lester Maddox's Pickrick shenanigans or George Wallace's "line in the dust ... segregation forever" speech were just warm-up acts for the main attraction: George W. Bush.
He's the perfect president for a nation where the last vestiges of journalism are being transmuted into mindless entertainment.
Senior Editor John Sugg — who says, "Hey, this newspaper group is in tune with the times. You won't find any silly-old rabble-rousing corporate endorsement of John Kerry on our pages" — can be reached at [email protected].