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CSotD: Personal reflections on public matters

Starting today with a meme instead of a cartoon, but one in which I quote myself from a CSotD of about a year ago which seems particularly apt.

 

My response to Greg Kearney‘s cartoon is personal, but that illuminates the point about journalism and friends.

When I was editor of a small paper in western Maine, I referred to Susan Collins as the senator from “Moose Maine,” as opposed to Olympia Snowe, the senator from “Lobster Maine.” Snowe stayed mostly on the seacoast, and I only had one very pleasant occasion to spend any serious time with her, but Collins was in and out of town frequently and we had an extremely congenial relationship.

 

For instance, I took this picture of her addressing an elementary school, and it remains a favorite because I appreciated how she hunkered down to talk to the kids on their own level.

I also appreciated her warmth and availability. I particularly remember once when she came to town for a very quick speech to veterans, but had no time for a sit down with me.

Instead, she called me on her cell phone to conduct the interview as she went to her next stop. Western Maine being what it was, the call kept cutting out and she kept calling me back, an effort not everybody would have made.

But at some point she began shifting to the right, and I was glad it was after I had left the paper because it would have made our relationship more problematic. Still, my residual affection made me tend to view her more in sorrow than in anger, until the Kavanaugh vote, at which point journalistic instinct had to replace personal feelings.

And if there were any doubt, her recent endorsement of former Gov. Jay LePage for a new run is the moment when I have to admit our relationship was, as the phrase goes, “only business.”

 

LePage — one of whose initial acts in his first administration was to take down a mural honoring workers at the Department of Labor — will be running against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, one of the first people I met when I came to town and another of those political friends.

That’s her in a golf cart at the Blueberry Festival in Wilton, Maine, and you might notice that her driver, Tom Saviello, is also in the photo I took of Collins. He was a Republican state rep whom I also got to know well, and one of the last people I saw in Maine because he invited me over to his house for a drink before I left.

Now, as that previously linked article says, Saviello’s also looking to run for governor on an independent ticket, against Mills and LePage.

The old saying “Politics make strange bedfellows” refers to the pragmatic partnerships forged when nominal rivals share a particular goal, but that’s the easy part. Any damn fools can cooperate when they’ll both get something out of it.

The tough part is when Sal asks “Can you get me off the hook, for old times’ sake?” and you have to respond, “Can’t do it, Solly.”

I’m grateful I don’t cover Collins anymore, but, if I did, things wouldn’t — couldn’t — be so rosy. I’m also grateful I live in New Hampshire and won’t have to choose between Janet and Tom in November.

It’s important to judge journalists by their ability to know the difference between genuine friendship and a good working relationship, which is why I make sarcastic references to the White House Concubines Association Dinner.

As they say: If you want a friend in Washington — or Augusta — get a dog.

 

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Hassan Bliebel — CartoonArtsInt’l)

 

(Steve Breen — Creators)

To switch from local politics into the international venue, Lebanese cartoonist Hassan Bleibel comments on the gap in the EU as Angela Merkel steps down, while Steve Breen comments on the GOP’s inability and unwillingness to move on after Donald Trump.

 

I don’t know that Merkel was able to act as much of a sea-anchor on Trump, but this photo from a 2018 G7 summit is illustrative of how she at least tried, and every face in it carries an explanation of what was going on.

Her pragmatic brilliance will be missed not only in Germany and in the EU but globally, while his cross-armed stubborn attitude also speaks volumes.

Experience again offers some insight, since I spent several years covering real estate development and met more than my share of commercial real estate tyros who pursued “The Art of the Deal” with a monomania that made them successful but often clashed with how other people operate.

For several years, I wrote for a publication that went to residential Realtors, giving them information on what was being built and what it cost, including charts of data to help sort through size, style, price and location.

My boss and I were talking about the commercial market, and she suggested launching a similar publication that would track commercial vacancy rates and leasing prices, so I went to a developer I knew to sound him out.

He laughed and told me that nobody in that arm of the business wanted any charts drawn up, that, while the residential market is regulated to protect amateur homebuyers, it is assumed, in the commercial world, that everyone knows how to play the game, which is a high-speed, full-contact game with no rules.

And so, having covered that side of the market, I had no problem understanding Donald Trump, and, just as I needed to recognize that there are no friends in journalism or politics, I had also learned to recognize that some people are strictly in pursuit of power, not of justice and certainly not of some idealistic notion of public service.

To which I would add that it’s why country clubs should admit women and minorities: When it comes to commercial real estate deals, if you can’t get on the golf course, you can’t get in the game.

The fact to face right now is that losing Merkel without shaking off Trump will likely reveal how much our moral compasses can be thrown off by a magnetic personality.

 

Community Comments

#1 Mary McNeil
September/26/2021
@ 5:38 pm

Yes, when we needed a “Leader of the Free World” Angela was there.

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