Saturday, August 10, 2002

Jackson Half-Bakered

In his weekly oratorical windiness, the Politics column, Jackson Baker, our namesake doesn't commit real atrocity, but sure does blow the winds something fierce. For example:
Various observers had theorized that Thompson's belated
announcement left the relatively unknown Bryant insufficient
time to establish a statewide identity to compete with the
well-known Alexander. But the congressman himself confided
last week, on the eve of the election, that he disagreed. "I
doubt that I could have kept this up for much longer than four
months," Bryant said of the grueling campaign ordeal.
You can boil this down to: "Bryant was late to get into a campaign, especially for an unknown. But Bryant himself said he couldn't have kept up the pace any longer." Yeesh.

War Metaphor Alert This week's war metaphor was "take no prisoners."

The first section is a mostly harmless, though wordy, summary of post election nice-making by Republicans. He seems mildly amused that former harsh rivals can bury that rivalry for party good.

One line caught my eye:
Conspicuously missing from the fly-around, both in Memphis
and in the other five venues (the tour had begun in the
Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee) had been Governor
Don Sundquist, a circumstance which had led state
Democratic chairman Bill Farmer to issue a press release
charging the Republicans with an "out and out snub-fest."
That "snub-fest" sounds awfully close to the title of the CA's story on this: "Republican 'unity' tour spurns Sundquist." I wonder if one influenced the other.

The second section details the bizarreness that Tennessee's Democrats have become. On their own "unity tour," the Democrats played up the following themes: war service, military support, security, and fiscal responsibility! Only US Senate candidate Bob Clement struck a traditional Democratic theme of anti-corporate, CEO bashing.

Two good sound bites. Clement calls himself a "liberator, not a liberal." What?! And gubernatorial candidte Phil Bredesen called the entire Income Tax War and resulting Legislatorial retirements and defeats a "referendum by stages." He also renewed his anti-income tax stance, but why is it so many still find him hard to believe?

Next, Baker does a very, very brief local election round-up, entirely centered on Wharton's win and Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun's loss. Talking about the odd movement of votes noted in my post below, Baker writes:
First totals, which seemed to come mainly from inner-city
Memphis, had made it appear that Wharton might head a
ticket sweep by the Democrats, most of whose candidates
took an early lead that was consistent with a measurably
stronger Democratic showing during the two weeks of early

During the heady early evening period for Democrats, when
the disproportionate reporting of inner-city votes put all of
them ahead of their GOP opponents, victory seemed more
than possible...
Which sounds like more gloss.

In the final section, where Baker writes about the Seventh District race to replace Ed Bryant, I love this: was clear that all three [candidates: Norris, Kustoff and Taylor]
underestimated the districtwide popularity of anti-tax activist [Senator Marsha]
They must have been reading too many newspapers, eh? For many Tennesseans, Blackburn is a hero.

My last note is on Baker's heavy, to the point of interfering with reading, use of journalistic obfuscations. The entire column is larded with such reporter phrases as "according to observers," "many observers noted," "seemed to observers," "everyone else," etc. Most of these translate to "people I talk to" and "what the guy next to me said." While I've noted my own tendency to couch my analysis in terms like "seem" and "apparently," which I'm trying to erase, in someone like Baker's case it looks like laziness, or an unwillingness to name names. WREC's Mike Fleming is even worse in this regard, but he genuinely is sloppy, playing at "I know something you don't know." Why Baker relies on this so much, most observers don't seem to know.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

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