You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? ... Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to?”
Any movie fan who’s ever paid – as I did last weekend – $15 for a tub of almost-fresh popcorn and a bucket of soda with which to wash it down knows that’s what Robert DeNiro said in “Taxi Driver.”
It’s also the line most of us here at The News & Observer have been thinking since seeing the bumper stickers put out by Gov. Pat McCrory’s re-election committee. The bumper stickers say “I don’t believe the Raleigh News & Observer.”
It seems that McCrory’s minions are less than enthralled with some of the meticulously reported stories from this paper and the Charlotte Observer questioning, among other things, whether McCrory has been using his bully pulpit to bully state agencies into supporting his friends’ efforts to get or retain state contracts. There was, for instance, that meeting in Charlotte last year at which Keith Corp. president Graeme Keith Sr. told a group of state officials that since he’d been supporting them with contributions, it was now time for the Big Payback.
Say, how come McCrory didn’t tell people not to believe the Charlotte Observer, too?
The McCrory campaign certainly didn’t like those stories, but its intended insult to your beloved fishwrapper missed the mark for two reasons. For one, the governor has shown no hesitancy in accepting the wisdom of the local paper when it agrees with his actions or when it endorsed him for election in 2008.
Second, and most importantly, what the heck is the Raleigh News & Observer? You talkin’ to me? indeed.
Perusing the paper’s archives shows that it hasn’t been officially called the Raleigh News & Observer since EVER!
Could his campaign consiglieres possibly have been referring to the “News & Observer” newspaper located in Raleigh but which serves the entire region?
The main intent of the bumper stickers is to raise money for McCrory’s re-election campaign and, perhaps, to provide psychic nourishment for his supporters when they see thousands – OK, hundreds ... would you believe dozens? – of automobiles tooling around with “I don’t believe the Raleigh News & Observer” on their bumpers. In its cynical online solicitation, the McCrory campaign wrote:
Here’s your chance to let your neighbors know where you stand.
For a donation of $5 or more, we will send you your very own “I don’t believe the Raleigh News & Observer” bumper sticker!
The liberal media, radical left and professional protesters have been attacking the governor since Day 1. Just yesterday, the N&O launched another attack on the governor. Act now and get your very own limited edition bumper sticker, and let your neighbors know where you stand.
Raising moolah, though, is probably just one of “Team McCrory’s” goals: just as H.L. Mencken noted that nobody ever went broke under-estimating the American public’s intelligence, McCrory knows that nobody ever lost an election by attacking newspapers.
Perhaps they should, though.
In 1787, when this fledgling country was too young to even cross the street by itself, founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote “(W)ere it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Jefferson, nobody’s idea of a media-loving “libruhl,” recognized, as most people who are not being righteously roto-rootered by newspapers do, that government and politicians need a watchdog.
Bow wow. Without newspapers indefatigably doing their duty, more politicians might be inclined to adopt the position of New York’s transcendently crooked pol George Washington Plunkitt, who preached the virtues of “honest graft” and, when caught, said candidly “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”
I’m guessing more pols don’t take their opportunities because most go into public life to serve others, not themselves, and none want to see themselves in print trying to convince voters, as McCrory did recently, that he didn’t hear donor and pal Graeme Keith say it was time for him to make some money in return for all the money he’d bestowed upon politicians. This occurred at a meeting set up and attended by McCrory.
As Executive Editor John Drescher noted in a column last month, McCrory had no problem with the newspaper’s so-called liberal views when it was taking a bite out of the butts of misbehaving Democrats – such as former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, House Speaker Jim Black and Gov. Mike Easley. All eventually were convicted of felonies.
As Drescher wrote, “When Pat McCrory was running for governor in 2012, it was as if he had developed his campaign message by reading the front page of The News & Observer.”
McCrory read those stories and pledged to rid the state of the taint of scandal. His administration is now the subject of two federal investigations.
What he meant
You know what? As an avowed reformer, ol’ Pat is probably still a fan of The News & Observer, but the printer inadvertently cut off the full text of the bumper sticker:
“I don’t believe The News & Observer actually caught me trying to ensure that my good pal continued suckling at the public teat even though the state could’ve done the job for less money. Good job protecting the public’s interest, guys.”
There: Fixed it for ya’, governor.
Saunders: 919-836-2811 or firstname.lastname@example.org