While toiling for Gov. Tommy Thompson in the East Wing of the State Capitol, I thought it wise to inform his chief of staff of what had just occurred in the communications office.
“I just kicked Matt Pommer out of the office.”
The chief of staff, John Matthews (not to be confused with the MTI union boss), gave a silent thumbs up and then went back to his work.
This was in 1998 and Pommer, chief political writer for The Capital Times, had just bylined a Page One article headlined “Taxin’ and Spendin’ Tommy Thompson,” complete with a chart showing that the Republican had increased spending. (And mocking Tommy’s very-Wisconsin syntax.) The article was completely dishonest because it made no mention of a landmark achievement of Tommy’s governance: the State of Wisconsin had just picked up two-thirds of the cost of K-12 education, thereby giving real relief to over-burdened local property tax payers.
But that was The Capital Times. Its idea of presenting both sides of an issue was to headline Democrats’ dismay over Republican legislation — usually accompanied by wild allegations of devil worship — then, buried deep in the jump, disclaim: “Republicans denied the charges.”
Tommy would say, “I could walk across Lake Mendota from the governor’s residence to the Capitol and The Capital Times would write ‘Governor can’t swim.'”
(We remember editor Dave Zweifel chortling as he stood over the late Dan Allegretti, who was pounding out a hit piece on Judge Ralph Adam Fine, then running for state supreme court. Fine, a conservative jurist, was an egomaniac, the “news” story posited. The proof: the jurist decorated his courthouse office with photographs he took himself. Yes, the judge was an amateur photographer!)
In other words, nothing has changed.
Now, Matt Pommer (a genial man, happily still with us) was never excluded from a press conference; Matt kept his desk in the Capitol Press Room. It was only from our working space in the governor’s office from which he had been booted. In fact, few reporters ventured there, deep within the bowels of the Capitol.
So, we sympathize with Donald Trump getting tough on “the press.” They’ve never been fair to conservatives.
(Well do we remember the New York Times hit piece on George Bush Sr. Supposedly, Bush One was gobsmacked by a supermarket checkout scanner. Proof of how out of touch this son of Wall Street was with the common man. Written by a reporter who wasn’t even there; he ran with a pool account.
(The message from this 1992 “news story”? Vote for Bill Clinton! Perhaps Bush Senior should have stifled a yawn. He infamously did check his watch during a debate.)
That said, a few pointed jabs from Trump at last week’s press conference would have sufficed. But, it must be noted, Trump took tough questions from all comers, even from CNN. Which IS crazy biased. There is no excuse for Jake Tapper or Don Lemon.
Then again, there is no excuse for Sean Hannity except that the New York Times and the Washington Post and Dan Rather and Brian Williams made Hannity and Rush, Breitbart and Coulter.
In praise of adversaries
There is nothing wrong with an adversarial relationship between the President and the institutional news media (aka “The Press”). What is wrong is the institutional bias in favor of Big Gummint, its disdain for religion, traditional values, gun rights, etc.
What is new is that the President is fighting back. Maybe harder than he needs to. But he is fighting back.
And the news media landscape has changed. No longer does his message need be filtered through the Big Three networks. Print is disappearing, whether at The Capital Times or its big city cousins, whether in Milwaukee or New York. It is why Trump tweets (though we wish he would not).
Back to my story, set in 1998. Tommy was up for election that year. As he walked through the hallway a week or two later, he stuck his head into the communications office.
“David, you never kick a reporter out of the office the week before an election.” Then he was off to a speech or ribbon cutting somewhere in Wisconsin. Probably accompanied by an over-sized check.
That was Tommy Thompson, who would go on to be an early endorser of Donald Trump, who has decidedly different views of the “press.”
Blaska — on the other hand — was Never Hillary/Never Trump and expects fairness from the news media. There’s irony for you!