Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dems Finally on the Offensive

The Democrats have finally, at long last, decided to stop being doormats and to instead get into the ring. Too bad it took a disastrous botched war (based on a series of historic, bald-faced presidential lies), gaping deficits that will haunt your children's children and a sad loss of American goodwill and influence around the world in order to accomplish it. But let's just be happy anyway, and leave it at that.

The proof is not merely in the backbone-inducing entrance of Wes Clark to the race for the White House. He's too new and untested in politics for most of us to have much of a reaction to him, but surely it can't hurt that fellow Arkansan and Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton is behind him, raising heart palpitations from those who would love to re-elect Slick Willy if they could, but who would settle for him being a close advisor to the next president. And while you might be outraged that party elders have conspired to put this latest obstacle in the way of people's candidate Howard Dean, whom they're sure is unelectable, I sense a positive either way. Clark can't help but further sharpen Dean's tactics and strategy in ways that the rest of the field hasn't and won't, preparation which he'll need against Bush. And of course the dream team would be for a Dean-Clark pairing (perhaps in reverse order) in the general election, and nothing about Clark's entry into the race makes that less likely.

Conservatives are now completely on the defensive. Here are just two telling examples. This hilarious Fox network story, full of loaded words from the "fair and balanced" folks says all you need to know about how the Bush forces feel about having to take on a real warrior, not one who has to strike a pose by donning a flak jacket aboard an aircraft carrier. See if you can spot the words I mean (hint: using "cabal," to describe his supporters in a news story is a pretty good start). Item #2: Conservative bully boy columnist Bob "Prince of Darkness" Novak is now whining about the kind of hatred for Bush "that I have never seen in 44 years of campaign watching." He may be right, but he invites snickers for a partisan short memory about similar abuse Clinton got from Novak's side in '92 and '96, and for sins that can't hold a candle to Bush's.

Even the Democratic National Committee has gotten into the act of taking the offensive, debuting a new blog it calls "Kicking Ass." It notes, by the way, that AG John Ashcroft has privately held out the olive branch to America's librarians after having publicly blasted them for resisting being enlisted as auxilary gestapo, which I wrote about on Tuesday. Even the Missouri Mule decided that when it comes to setting yourself up as a moral arbiter, taking on hallowed figures like librarians is a loser's game.

Passionate Alex. If you have $40 to burn (assuming, as I do, that you're not a member), then you wouldn't think of missing this luncheon of the Sales & Marketing Executives of Cleveland next Monday. PD Publisher Alex Machaskee, generally considered a lame duck who will soon be forced to face mandatory age-related retirement (though never rule out a curve ball from the crafty Newhouses) will speak on the topic of Passion for Excellence. That pairing of speaker and subject might cause many longtime observers of the Cleveland media scene to choke on their lunches. But then, the kind of people who will come to this event aren't so much focused on Alex's excellence as they are on his penchant for exercising raw market power. To begin to grasp that power, which has humbled Cleveland mayors and far lesser lights, there's simply no substitution for visiting the publisher's office in the sparkling new PD building on Superior Ave., as I was fortunate enough to do last year.

To call it palatial is an understatement. I've interviewed lots of corporate CEO's over the years, but I can't recall any that had nearly as grand and cushy surroundings as this, nor any that seemed so consciously designed to impress and even intimidate. Machaskee has an entire floor to himself, with a giant banquet-style dining room facility just off his office for his frequent business meals. His office, which is so silent as to cause me to wonder if it had been especially outfitted so as to ward off noise from the street, seems large enough to fit a basketball court. The furnishings are so tastefully selected that they barely draw attention to themselves, not at all like the bold and garish effect once achieved in another unique Cleveland power den, the Climaco law firm offices, which Machaskee's favorite columnist Brent Larkin once memorably described (in perhaps the most vivid sentence he ever wrote) as "Ethan Allen meets Holy Roman Empire."

Somehow, through those uniquely murky Cleveland intersections of white and blue collar interests, Machaskee neatly carved a path which helped pay for all of these splendid surroundings: a negotiated labor peace that has become the envy of his industry. After more than 40 years of slowly biding his time, waiting his turn as he climbed the PD's organizational ladder, this Serbian-American son of Warren, Ohio, who got his start writing sports for the Warren Tribune, is obviously enjoying his twilight days. He's noticably mellowed just a bit, as he's inundated with recognition (click here, here & here) and invitations to White House dinners. It's been a decade-plus (since the Newhouses shoved out poor old Tom Vail, who sold the paper for $54 million way back in 1967, and who has a new Diana Tittle-midwifed book on his remembrance of nine U.S. presidents) that he's been this region's most powerful individual, and for now I'll let history judge how well he's wielded the baton. Let's only hope that whomever follows him as publisher grasps the tiller with at least a modicum of respect for the idea of operating in the public's trust. The chair is too important to do otherwise.


Post a Comment

<< Home