ALLAN JEFFERYS: When You Think It's Over, New Scandal Rears Its Head
One of the hazards of writing a weekly column is lead time. You can't write it the day it is printed and be on top of breaking news.
Even a daily newspaper prefers opinion columns to be delivered far enough in front of publication day to ensure that the editors get a chance to vet it to see if anything libelous or patently untrue turns up. This is not to suggest that this approach always works, but the good intentions are there.
I have had a problem learning this since most of my efforts in journalism have been "right now." I would attend a Broadway opening and then turn in a review within a half-hour of the final curtain. The vast majority of some 2,000 interviews were live.
Not so the column. I try to submit that to The Pilot about a week ahead. Normally that works, but occasionally something comes out that puts a bit of egg on your face.
You come up with an idea and put it into 800 words. You feel slightly smug that no one else has touched the same theme. Then, about two days before your words find themselves into print, three writers tackle the same subject.
Have they stolen it from you? Hardly. But sometimes it seems like they have used your words as a springboard to their own tired approach. Or breaking news intervenes that changes the impact you had planned.
An example occurred last week when I conjured up a mild attack on Hillary and Barack for making shallow promises. Anyone reading that last Sunday could easily feel that I had missed the boat, because -- after I wrote it but before it was printed -- all hell broke loose in the Democratic Party.
First, that holier-than-thou crusader, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, got caught with his -- well, let's just say he got caught. The New York attorney general who took on Wall Street and bared fangs at any unscrupulous ne'er-do-well was suddenly backed into a corner of his own making.
What possessed him to think he could get away with it? Who does he think he is? Bill Clinton?
When are arrogant politicians going to learn the meaning of the phrase "public trust"? It is not so much what Bill Clinton did as it is where and when he did it. The Oval Office is not his, it is ours. And we should never tolerate anyone who besmirches it.
I will never understand why anyone pays that man even 38 cents to make a speech. I'll be even more shocked if Eliot Spitzer ever recovers from his wallow in the sty.
Just as we were trying to digest this, along comes Geraldine Ferraro with what some thought was a racist remark.
Personally, I did not take it to be a racist remark. Stupid, maybe, but not deliberately racist. Since Geraldine's claim to fame lies mostly in her being the first woman to be nominated for vice president of the United States, it is somewhat understandable that she would pounce on anything that was a first, such as Barack Obama being the first black nominee.
The stupid part of that is that there are too many people lying in ambush ready to leap at any perceived form of racism. Open a door, even innocently, and you will be under attack. I sometimes wonder if we will ever erase the color line. It should have been eliminated years ago, but people on both sides of that line continue to fan flames.
All of the above should have lifted Barack's cause immensely. After all, Hillary is from Spitzer's state, and Geraldine is in Hillary's camp.
But hold on. It is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's turn to muddy up the waters -- Jeremiah Wright, who admonished his flock not to say "God Bless America" but rather "God damn America." Jeremiah Wright, who married Michelle and Barack Obama and preached hate year after year with not a word of dissension from the Obamas.
Perhaps the Obamas did not have to stand up and storm out of the congregation during one of Wright's vitriolic diatribes, but they could quietly have taken a position by just not showing up for his sermons.
Now, of course, Barack is publicly denouncing the words. But then, he has to, just as Hillary has been forced to denounce the words of Geraldine Ferraro and condemn the actions of Eliot Spitzer. That is politics. That is the name of the game. But it ain't very honorable.
I am not withdrawing the "promises, promises" column I wrote last week, bland though it now may seem. I am simply reminding all of us that just when you think Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater is all there is, stand by. Another juicy scandal is just behind the door.
That, too, is politics. And that is also not very honorable.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. You can contact him at email@example.com
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