Editor's Desk

Extremism in the Defense of Nothing

Echoes from California and Nightline -- until we get to Sir Charles.

By 3.7.02

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GOING FOR THE GOLDEN STATE: Now everyone is writing about the California gubernatorial campaign. Strangest was the New York Times' report, which quoted DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe predictably enough trashing the White House for having put its money on Richard Riordan. "The White House wined and dined him and got him all teed up and he went down in flames. California is not for extreme right-wing candidates." After a statement like that, the reader might think McAuliffe had been drinking extra-heavily election night. After all, no one ever mistook Riordan for an extreme right-winger. But after the Washington Post's version of a quote from McAuliffe, one might just as easily conclude that it was the Times' reporter who'd been doing the drinking. Here's the Post: "McAuliffe called the result 'a major embarrassment for the White House. They wined and dined Riordan... and inserted themselves in the primary, but when Republicans vote, the right wing takes over."

Glad that's clear now. Now according to Gray Davis's people, "If you are an extreme conservative you cannot win in California," Gerald Parsky told the Times. Oops. A correction is in order. The Times identifies Parsky as "Mr. Bush's closest adviser in California." It's all coming back now. Parsky is the fellow who ran Bush's disastrous California campaign in 2000, and as his reward was tasked with the "restructuring" of the California GOP last year, which led to a candidate like Riordan essentially trying to read conservatives out of their own party. So has Parsky learned anything? Only that Bill Simon can win only "'if he is prepared to adopt the formula I describe' to broaden the party." So this election is all about Parsky?

It's worth noting that Parsky and Simon's late father were once close business partners who had a most unpleasant falling out. One can imagine there's no love lost between the tightly wound Parsky and the affable Simon, Jr. Just another thing for the White House to bear in mind if it continues to prop up Parsky. Even the Texas Rangers had a better record for George W. Bush.

The California GOP's likable chairman, Shawn Steel, who kept his mouth shut during the entire contretemps with Parsky last year, deservedly now has the last word. According to the Times, he "questioned the White House involvement" in California. As he put it: "They really need to stay out of it. And they're going to have to ask their local guys to be more astute [about picking candidates]."

Gerald Parsky, local guy? Sounds about right

EXPRESSIONS OF EXCELLENT CONCERN:The Big Guns continue to fire away in defense of Emperor of TV Emperors Ted Koppel and his shrinking "Nightline" domain. Yesterday the Washington Post gave major op-ed play to a piece entitled "Why We Need Nightline." And who might the "we" be? For starters, the op-ed's coauthors, who respectively head outfits called the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists. I kid you not, though it only goes to show that journalism today really is an entertainment medium.

The New York Times, meanwhile, ran a host of letters about Koppel, all supportive. The first one yesterday was from -- who else -- Dan Rather. "Everyone who knows Ted Koppel, and that's just about everybody in this business," he began, knows that Koppel is a man "with the highest standards." The second letter was from the taxpayer-subsidized folk at Public Broadcasting. Signed by Bob Edwards and Susan Stamberg and co-signed by 11 unlisted NPR journalists, this letter called Koppel "brilliant and incisive" and trashed Disney for putting profit ahead of quality journalism and for evidently not remembering who Edward R. Murrow was.

A little too late to save his career, former Speaker Gingrich also posted a letter to the Times, but as befits his diminished stature it didn't run until today. Newt praised Nightline's "tradition of excellence" and "genuine pursuit of knowledge and truth" and willingness "to explore complex issues" and provide "insight and understanding." Newton Minow, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, weighed in as well. As if still in power, he noted that "we license free use of television channels for service to the public interest, not the private interest." All fine and good -- but none of it explains why an icon's humanism and public-spiritedness is worth $10 million a year.

For an altogether sobering look at Koppel, check out today's Media Research Center CyberAlert, in which Brent Baker and his MRC colleagues catalogue some of Ted's greatest moments of liberal bias, whether in promoting the anti-Reagan October Surprise big lie or defending Bill Clinton against charges of draft dodging. Now at least we know why in some circles Koppel is worth all that big money and what makes him the god that he is.

YES, SIR CHARLES:The greatest NBA Republican since Wilt Chamberlain had to have been Charles Barkley. His commentary on TNT remains the only reason to watch pro basketball some nights. "Sports Illustrated" has now posted some choice remarks not included in a profile the magazine is releasing. Nothing political about them really, unless you count Barkley's directness and disappointment with the way modern life is going:

"ESPN has made the game a highlight reel, and it's been a detriment. If you make three spectacular dunks that's all the fans see. Dunks or flashy plays -- that's what kids today think of as good basketball because ESPN tells them that. Kids have no fundamentals, and, worse than that, they have no coaching. Any kid who becomes the star of his AAU team gets no instruction because the coach is afraid to coach him. That is screwed up."

"During my last couple of years in Houston, I tried to lead some of the young guys. But they just looked at me like I was an old man in the way. Players like Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley didn't want to listen to me. I guess they figured, 'Hey, we're better players at this stage than he was.' It's that way in society, too. Kids don't look at their parents the way they used to. It's not just in the NBA. It's a society problem. When Doctor J., Moses Malone and Bobby Jones spoke to me, it was gospel."

Through it all, he's never lost perspective:

"Bird was a better player than me, but I always felt when I was in the game I could do things against him. But McHale? Best damn player I ever played against man-to-man. He gave me fits with those damn long arms and his agility. He could score on me and he could guard me.

"I tried hard to concentrate on defense once, but all I did was hurt myself. I was terrible. But I was as good as Larry. That man couldn't guard a chair. I loved Larry. I made the mistake of going drinking with him one time. He did nothing but drink Budweiser the whole night. Any man who drinks Bud the whole night can drink."

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.