Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens died in a plane crash Monday afternoon. I was never a big fan of Stevens, his penchant for pork represented the worst of the Republican Party. Stevens also held the distinction of being the only senator I ever pissed off in my previous life as a reporter. An article I wrote for the Lompoc Record in the mid-90s about Stevens’ plans to open a competing spaceport in Alaska angered him according to his then-press secretary. However, I must give him kudos for even granting an interview from an 8,000 circulation paper 2,000 miles from his home state.
Having noted all that, when you sum up Stevens’ life, at least he didn’t leave a young staffer to drown at the bottom of a river.
I point this small fact out to note what passes as one of those “unbiased journalists” nowadays. (via James Taranto) Zachary Roth, who now apparently writes for the Columbia Journalism Review, wanted to make sure that all journalists were on the same page when it came to writing about the departed Stevens. Without the Journo-List, he had to do it in public.
You can expect to see a gaggle of Washington figures competing over the coming days to outdo one another in praising the eighty-six-year old ex-legislator—and whitewashing his record in the process. And since you can also expect the Beltway press to play right along, it’s worth getting out ahead of this impending train wreck.
First, a little back-story: Stevens, a Republican who had served in the Senate since 1968, was voted out of office in 2008, after being convicted that fall on corruption charges. But last year, the conviction was thrown out, after serious misconduct by federal prosecutors came to light.
That prompted a raging Beltway pity party in Stevens’s honor. The former senator was portrayed as having had his reputation unfairly blackened by baseless charges, only to be exonerated after losing his seat. “How does he get his reputation back?” asked an outraged Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in one typical response.
OK, fair enough, we should note the good and the bad when writing political obituaries.
Now flash back to Ted Kennedy’s death courtesy of Taranto.
Then again, as we noted in the preceding item, Ted Kennedy, who died a year ago this month, was widely lionized despite his foul behavior. An example is this story from TalkingPointsMemo.com, published the day after his death:
Ted Kennedy's greatest legacy was as a legislator in the U.S. Senate. Over 300 bills bearing his name became law, most dealing with the day-to-day social and economic needs of children, families, or the elderly. What made him such an effective legislator?
The author, who does not even mention that Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment, is one Zachary Roth.
He’s no journalist. He’s a hack.