Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Brent Larkin Finally Mellows on Kucinich

Plain Dealer editorial page director Brent Larkin has had something of a part-time job for nearly a year: serving as a source for a blizzard of stories about presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. It's a role for which he's particularly well-suited, having covered Dennis the Menace for his entire political career. For Larkin, that began at the Cleveland Press, where he got a job covering politics on a lark after admittedly barely graduating from Ohio University.

Larkin has been tough, even brutal, on Kucinich for years (often deservingly so). He wrote this devastating piece in Cleveland Magazine while he was still at the Press. And only this May, Larkin pointedly suggested in his PD column that ought to drop his "I-think-I'll-run-for-president-idea," as he put it, citing the dismissive coverage from the Washington Post's David Broder and George Will, among others (and that was before even more devastating brush-offs the pint-sized wonder boy got later in the year from Tim Russert and Chris Matthews).

Last week, Larkin appeared briefly on NPR's afternoon Talk of the Nation program, and suddenly seemed to go all soft and gooey on Dennis. My ears perked up when I heard him observe of the infamous Cleveland Public Power debacle, which led to default: "I've always said he was largely right on the substance, but his style didn't lend itself to" a resolution. Huh? I wasn't aware that Larkin has always, or even ever, said or thought that. I didn't find anything like that opinion expressed in his PD pieces, nor in recent Kucinich profiles in the Des Moines Register or the Chicago Tribune (the latter a particularly good piece of work). Finally, however, I found a piece in February's LA Weekly in which Larkin had this to say of Kucinich: "...the passage of time has shown that Kucinich may have been more right than he was wrong." So I stand corrected...

After Half a Century, Still Flacking for JFK. Even heroes have flaws, and Ben Bradlee's is his old pal John F. Kennedy. On the 40th anniversary of the assassination, the otherwise great one writes this embarrassing drek in the current Newsweek (think of it as the male version of Tina Brown's new Washington Post column). It would be difficult to pick out the worst part, but for my money, it's this passage: "But why do we have to pick JFK apart and say he slept with a gangster's girlfriend? It was awful, yes it was awful, but it doesn't have anything to do with who he truly was." Huh? You want to run that by me again, Ben? On second thought, maybe not. We'll simply chalk it up to his lone historical blind spot, made increasingly worse as he grows more distant from the newsroom and more an animal of historical celebrity. But do read the piece, will you? It may remind you, in all its awkwardness, of the old saying that editors tend to write poorly...

The Van Brothers' Hideaway Up for Grabs. And speaking of history, an impressive slice of Cleveland real estate history will soon be up for grabs, when the fine mid-sized Cleveland law firm Walter & Haverfield moves from the Terminal Tower (sorry, but I refuse to call it Tower City) to the Erieview Tower on December 1st. It's all part of the shuffling of chairs touched off by the recent change in ownership of the Erieview building, formerly owned by Dick Jacobs. As I've noted before, former signature Erieview tenants Dix & Eaton and McKinsey & Co. are moving to the BP Building, and those and other moves have opened space there for new tenants. No word yet on who might be lucky enough to inherit Walter & Haverfield's unique spot in the Tower...

Our Man in Vegas. We told our boy Dan Hanson to send back some juicy tidbits if he gets a moment from Las Vegas, where this week he's attending perhaps his 20'th consecutive Comdex show. No word yet (Dan the Man has been known to be otherwise diverted at these giant geekfest events). But we did note that Microsoft's Bill Gates gave his usual interminable, boring, only scantly illuminating keynote talk. If you have the patience to pore through it, you can read it here. He talks about his pet things: "seamless computing," which is codeword for computer code that Microsoft can use to get into everyone's wallets and try to grab a slice of every transaction in the universe. And of course he talks about security, Microsoft's great Achilles Heel. The most interesting tidbit: improved anti-spam detection software now being built into all MSFT email products. We'll see how that works...

Finally, here's one Seattle custom that we hope never reaches the midwest. Call it the newest form of performance art, or the indoor equivalent of the town's famous outdoor fish market. But please, just don't call it dinner. The mind reels when imagining what California's Groper-in-Chief, Arnold, might make of a place such as this.

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