If You Ask Me

Lessons learned in how to cover demagogues, from one era to another

I’ve been professionally involved in the news — reporting, editing, opining — since the June day in 1955 when I went to work for The Intelligencer, the morning paper in Wheeling, West Virginia.

That first newspaper is in the history books today because it assigned a reporter to cover the annual meeting of the Ohio County Women’s Republican Club on a February evening in 1950. The speaker, an obscure junior senator from Wisconsin, informed the women that he had in his hand the names of 205 communists currently employed by the U.S. Department of State.

Have no fear, voters, the Democratic centrists are coming

Yes, voters, there is more to the Democratic Party than 29-year-old lefties going nowhere who would eliminate cows and airline travel to save the environment and ensure economic security for those who don’t want to work.

They are moderate or centrist or conservative Democrats — pick your own designation — for whom socialism doesn’t go beyond the kind that gave us Social Security and Medicare and not, as the Trumpsters would have you believe, the variety espoused by the late Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Will Democrats nominate a candidate who will scare voters?

“Only Democrats can save this president. They can do so by nominating someone loopy enough to panic voters who are asking only for someone cheerful, intelligent and tethered to reality.”


These 30 words, written last week by George Will, should get the attention of those who want to see the reign of Donald Trump limited to a single term. To do it, the Democrats must nominate someone very different from the incumbent. 

Hartford Courant in dire need of a white knight

When I worked for the Hartford Courant in the late 1950s, Connecticut’s capital was a two-paper town and the larger of the two papers was the afternoon Hartford Times.

The Courant, founded in 1764 and the nation’s oldest, continuously published newspaper, wouldn’t become the circulation leader until 1965 when it attracted 136,000 readers, 2,000 more than the Times.  

In the next decade, television news replaced the afternoon paper in many homes and in 1976, the Times, its circulation down to 69,000, ceased publication after 159 years.

‘If true’ doesn’t make an unconfirmed news story right

One story had the president ordering a subordinate to lie to the Congress about his private business dealings with a hostile foreign state. The other, an incident involving a hate group, Catholic high school boys and a drum-thumping Native American, required the consumer to judge whether he saw a 14-year-old kid smiling or smirking.  

Both stories gave the public reason to question the integrity of the news they read and watch and both broke a basic rule of journalism: being right is more important than being first.  

It isn’t a wall. It’s a great, big boondoggle

Question: When is a wall not a wall?

Answer:  When it’s a boondoggle.

And what, exactly, is a boondoggle?  My dictionary defines a boondoggle as “a work or activity that is wasteful or pointless but gives the appearance of having value.”

Then, there’s this definition, even more applicable to the boondoggle at hand:

Remembering when the state was rich and Republican

Once upon a time, Connecticut was two things it hasn’t been for a very long time — rich and Republican.

The state could boast it was Republican from the start, having joined the other New England states, along with New York, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin in supporting John C. Fremont, the first presidential candidate of the two-year-old, anti-slavery party. Fremont lost that 1856 election to the man who is perhaps our worst president ever, James Buchanan.  

Happy New Year, possibly?

Happy 2019, but don’t count on it.

Don’t count on the new year being an especially happy one because it’s the year before a presidential election year. Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished in an election year and next to nothing is accomplished in the year before. 

That doesn’t mean the year won’t be eventful. Donald Trump’s many problems may be resolved and there are signs the resolutions will not be happy ones for the president.

They could lead to his impeachment, his resignation or his reelection.

Our ancestors came here through open borders

How many times have you heard someone crow that his or her ancestors came here legally, unlike those caravans of diseased rapists, murderers and drug smugglers preparing to invade San Diego?

Actually, coming here legally wasn’t anything to brag about for most of our ancestors because immigration wasn’t against the law. Laws covered naturalization — becoming a citizen — but not immigration.

Lamont has high praise for Bush, but the wrong one

Governor-to-be Ned Lamont remembered the late President George H.W. Bush as he said, “We will miss our native son. New York boasts seven presidents, Ohio five and Connecticut boasts George Bush.”

It was a nice sentiment, but Lamont was talking about the wrong George Bush.

George H.W. Bush, who died in his Houston home Nov. 30, was raised in Connecticut and educated in Greenwich and New Haven but he isn’t “our native son.”