“Simon Aide May Cause Rift in GOP,” the San Francisco Chronicle headlined its tendentious Simon-bashing front-page story on Sunday.
Unable to portray the genial and temperate Bill Simon as a wild-eyed extremist, the Chronicle had to ransack his staff for evidence of extremism. It found — brace yourself, this is scary — an actual Reaganite on the Simon payroll. His name Steve Frank, his title deputy political director.
The proper translation of the Chronicle‘s headline above is: “After our biased reporting on Steve Frank, we at the Chronicle hope to cause a rift in GOP.”
The Chronicle uses the standard ploy of quoting anti-Republican Republicans to advance its agenda. “Moderates” in the party, the Chronicle omnisciently tells us, fear that Simon’s “association” with Frank, and “with the issues he represents, could cost the party the election.”
What are Frank’s sins as tabulated by the Chronicle? Among other ghoulish deeds, he wants unborn children shown respect, opposes gun control, “helped elect a slate of born-again Christians to a Southern California school board,” and resists attempts to turn the Republican Party into a clone of the Democrats.
“Critics worry that Frank’s presence on the campaign team could undercut Simon’s efforts to attract moderate voters in his race against Democrat Gray Davis,” intones the all-knowing Chronicle. Notice how the Chronicle hides behind the authoritative-sounding phrase “critics worry” to camouflage its own worry that Simon may win.
The Chronicle‘s attempt to smear Simon through a smear of Steve Frank is typical of the clumsy and clownish coverage it supplies whenever an even remotely traditional Republican appears within striking distance of victory. But Californians can expect these desperate journalistic stretches to continue. The California media are determined, by hook or by crook, to cast Simon as an extremist, and since he won’t conform to their script, tangential forms of extremism must be faked up to keep the plot brewing.
Toward this end, the California media deploy the tendentious tactic of attributing to Simon the agenda of any group which happens to endorse him, no matter how little Simon did to garner the endorsement. Gray Davis, of course, could receive (and, come to think of it, probably will) the endorsement of the Man-Boy Love Association and the media would suddenly see no significance in endorsements.
The Los Angeles Times thought it fair to run a cartoon of Simon on Monday depicting him as a sputtering, anti-Marxist conservative in the midst of losing it over questions about his tax return. Flip back to the front page and you will find a Los Angeles Times wish presented as a new story: “Simon Camp Fears Loss of Momentum.”
Simon Camp? The Times can only get away with this disingenuous description by including in the “Simon camp” liberal Republicans who appear on reporter Mark Barabak’s rolodex.
Without any hard evidence — like, say, dropping poll numbers — Barabak has to fall back on anonymous quotes from Republicans who didn’t want Simon to win in the first place to prove his point: “There’s a sense among Republicans that this is winnable, but there’s a ‘but’ attached,” said one Republican, who is prominent in Sacramento and wished to remain unidentified for the sake of party unity. “It’s winnable, but it will still take a very good campaign and I don’t think there’s any assurance yet that’s going to happen.”
So on the basis of this blind quote and a few other scraps of evidence asserted not shown, such as unnamed “continued tensions with the White House,” the Times confidently declares “momentum on wane” for Simon.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times just dropped the charade and ran front-page editorials belittling Simon and endorsing Davis? Little-league smears and cowardly reliance on quotes from like-minded sources — all wrapped up in quasi-objective prose and called “news coverage” — is beneath the high dignity of a press pioneered by William Randolph Hearst.