The San Diego Union-Tribune has been a “conservative” newspaper for just about all of my life. That construction isn’t really accurate. The Union-Tribune editorial page has been conservative for all my life. The newsroom, like just about every American newsroom was overwhelmingly liberal. That run has ended. The paper is no longer conservative.
When the Opinion Page designer left the paper during my time at the Union-Tribune, my boss called me to her desk and told me that she would be sending me up to the fourth floor (the newsroom was on the third, editorial offices on the fourth) temporarily and that she was sorry that she had to put me up there with those conservatives. I told her not to worry about it, I was one of them.
For nearly four decades, the paper was owned by Helen Copley and run by Herb Klein, once President Richard Nixon’s communications director. Shortly after Helen Copley’s death, her son, David, sold the paper to a venture capital group that had a relatively hands-off policy when it came to the news and editorial content. San Diego developer Doug Manchester, a conservative, then bought the paper and the paper continued to take conservative editorial positions. The paper endorsed Romney in 2012 and Republican Neel Kashkari over Jerry Brown for California governor. Last May, the paper was purchased by Tribune Publishing, owners of the liberal Los Angeles Times.
Less than a year later, the transformation is complete—the Union-Tribune is no longer a conservative newspaper.
No longer conservative
The evidence is this Monday editorial headlined: “Leaving Justice Scalia’s seat vacant insults him, America.”
Scalia was a conservative lion on the court. A role model for a generation of bright minds on the right side of the political spectrum, a brilliant and incisive justice for 30 years. He is part of Ronald Reagan’s legacy, one of three Reagan appointees, along with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. To leave his seat vacant is to insult him and America.
Worth noting, Kennedy was nominated in November 1987 and confirmed in February 1988 — an election year. Also worth noting? The last Supreme Court justice to die in office was William Rehnquist in 2005. Within a month, the Senate had confirmed President George W. Bush’s replacement, John Roberts.
A few things to note: Any argument that argues Justice Kennedy’s nomination as an exemplar and fails to acknowledge that he was Reagan’s third choice—after Democrats had coined a new term: “Borking”—is inherently dishonest. The vacancy Kennedy ended up filling in 1988 came open in June 1987. If Democrats hadn’t done a hatchet job on Judge Robert Bork, it would’ve been filled before 1987 ended, i.e. not an election year.
Would Scalia be insulted by GOP efforts to keep the seat open in the hope that a Republican president might be able to appoint a conservative successor next year? Let’s find out.
Here’s the pertinent exchange from a 2012 Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: You are 76 years old. Will you time your retirement so that a more conservative president can appoint a like-minded justice?
SCALIA: I don’t know. I haven’t decided when to retire.
WALLACE: But I mean, does it go through your mind, if I retire, I’d like to see, since you talk about Republicans appointing one kind of justice and Democrats another, that you would want somebody who would adhere to your view, as in your book “Reading Law”?
SCALIA: No, of course, I would not like to be replaced by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years, 26 years, sure. I mean, I shouldn’t have to tell you that. Unless you think I’m a fool.
The Union-Tribune editorial page apparently thinks Scalia a fool—or thought this sounded like a good argument and was too lazy to do any research. This is not a position any conservative, center-right or otherwise, would take.
The Union-Tribune is no longer conservative.