Some Advice for the Herald from Thomas Jefferson

In 1807 Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend who asked his opinion of newspapers and answered: “I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors.”

I thought of Jefferson’s words yesterday upon reading a column by Joe Battenfeld in the Boston Herald. According to Battenfeld, Ed Markey Needs to Step Up His Game . . . or Else.

The thesis is not that Markey could lose to his Democratic primary opponent Congressman Stephen Lynch, but that if Markey doesn’t show – what? — charisma? Or don’t gurgle out something about the nuclear freeze I guess – that Markey is in big trouble against a Republican in 2013. Or against Bill Weld in 2014. So let’s look at the arguments offered by Battenfeld.

First, Markey has been lackluster so far. Well perhaps, but there is no evidence that has hurt him with the electorate; in fact he seems to be consolidating his support. Battenfeld adds that “Lynch cleaned his clock” in the first debate? Really? Did any numbers move after that debate? I thought Markey had his way early and Lynch late in the first debate, but my opinion is as much opinion as that of Battenfeld, and equally unsupported by any numbers. We all have opinions.

Nonetheless according to Battenfeld, Markey’s poor performance is “making Republicans salivate at the prospect of beating him in a general election.” If they are salivating a tetanus shot may be in order. As my colleague Professor Duquette has pointed out on numerous occasions, the fundamentals in this state overwhelmingly favor a Democrat in a U.S. senate race, Scott Brown notwithstanding. I’m always on the lookout for known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns (which may not occur anyway) but I have to agree with Professor Duquette, the known-knowns favor Ed Markey (and would favor Lynch if he defeats Markey).

Things could turn around tonight though because the debate is being live streamed on bostonherald.com and will be “watched by voters who are now starting to pay attention to this race.” I have my doubts this is going to have the impact of Romney-Obama I.

Battenfeld concedes that the three Republicans haven’t looked very good either, but perhaps Markey’s lassitude will embolden them. Reminds me of the occasion when heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner was about to fight Muhammad Ali and told his wife “Tonight, you’ll be sleeping with the heavyweight champion of the world.” To which she replied “Should I head over to Ali’s room or is he coming here?”

But there is always Weld in 2014, fresh off his most recent appearance on a ballot, the 1996 loss to John Kerry. We have no idea how the Red Sox will do today but Bill Weld will win in 2014.

Jefferson also wrote in his 1807 letter to John Norvell that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” He even advocated that an honest editor “Divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2d, Probabilities. 3d, Possibilities. 4th, Lies.”

I’d never go that far; I love newspapers and depend on them. But please, more dull accuracy and less fanciful bombast please.

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2 Responses to Some Advice for the Herald from Thomas Jefferson

  1. Brad Lovoi says:

    I cannot disagree with your analysis. The fundementals in Massachusetts will favor any Democrat for national office for the foreseeable future. This crop of GOP candidates does nothing to dispell this. The national GOP continues to be an anchor that keeps even moderate Republicans form gaining much traction here. Fundementally, Massachusetts is a state that is very socially progressive and moderate to liberal on fiscal issues.

    Unless and until the GOP in Massachusetts gives up the strict social conservatism (and it seems as though the most socially conservative candidate Sullivan will get the nomination) it will continue to be an political afterthought that may occasionally win the odd statewide race, but any chance at national office just are not in the offing anytime soon.

  2. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Brad,

    I do think the primary process itself can provide one small boost to rebuilding the party, if only through the process of energizing activists behind the three candidates. The GOP needs that. Should Sullivan get the nomination and do badly against the Democrat it may help persuade social conservatives that emphasizing those issues is just a non-starter here and they should try to attain other goals, such as fiscal conservatism. That is my sunny outlook.

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