Monday, November 30, 2009

Just Say No

Todd Book (at right ) welcomes Bill to “Strickland Country” 2/25/09

Portsmouth Daily Times coverage of Todd Book’s withdrawal from the race for the U.S. House of Representatives 2nd Congressional District is just one example of why anyone concerned about the future of Portsmouth should make a New Year’s resolution not to buy a single copy of that newspaper in the year ahead. “Just Say No to the Daily Times” is as good a slogan for the war against political corruption in Portsmouth as “Just Say No to Drugs” is in the war against drugs.

Functioning as both a reporter and editor of the incredibly shrinking
Daily Times, Frank Lewis has tried not only to turn Abraham Lincoln into a teabagging wingnut but he has tried to turn Todd Book into General William Tecumseh Sherman, who is remembered by Northerners at least for steadfastly refusing to capitalize on his status as a Civil War hero to run for President of the United States. In response to efforts to get him to run as the presidential candidate in 1884, Sherman responded, in words to this effect: “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.” Lewis reports Book saying he will not run for the U.S. House of Representatives “because of his current workload in Columbus.” That is not the reason Book is not running. He is not running, as I see it, because he would very likely lose to Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt. Whatever chances Book may have had of defeating Schmidt when he first announced his candidacy have since evaporated. Since Book stood next to Clinton at that February rally at Shawnee State, he has less reason to smile. The political tide is turning against Democrats at all levels, local, state, and national, and Book is not a strong enough candidate to be able to swim against that tide, and he cannot run again for the office he currently holds because of term limits.

But there was probably an even more compelling reason for Book’s withdrawal from the race for the seat in the U.S. Congress. According to Geoffrey Sea, who is a supporter of Book’s rival for the Democratic nomination and a blogger on DailyKos and, Book’s withdrawal was almost inevitable because on November 17th the Tri-State Building and Construction Trades Council rescinded its endorsement of Book. Sea says the Tri-State Council rescinded its endorsement after it was learned that Book’s law firm was the legal agent for a non-union shop in Georgia. Book was claiming to be a friend of labor while privately profiting from being the lawyer representing a business that opposed unions. Sea quotes an unidentified union source as saying that, because of legal ties to the non-union company, Book
has lost all of his union and labor support.” Didn’t Lewis know about this, or is his surfing of the Internet confined to those wingnut websites where the Great Emancipator is recast in the image of a teabagger?

Why didn’t Lewis ask Book about the Tri-State Council, which is based in Ashland? Could it be because any news that is unflattering to the bipartisan local political machine is considered unfit to print in the
Daily Times? In what Lewis billed as an “exclusive interview,” he allowed Book to portray his withdrawal from the Congressional race as a noble gesture, like General Sherman’s refusal to run for president. “It came down to a decision,” Book told Lewis, “between do I want to spend all of my time campaigning or do I want to spend time working for the people who elected me to do a job, and I take that seriously, and that is what I decided to do. You have to make decisions in life, and it’s not always easy, and with a limited amount of time, if it’s between campaigning or taking care of the job that I have, I’m going to take care of the job that I have, because the people elected me to do that . . .” Do I understand this correctly? As he begins his eighth and last year in the Ohio House of Representatives, Book finally realizes his highest obligation is to the people of Ohio's 89th District, who elected him? It is only then that he resolves to do the job he was elected to do?

Book withdrew only when it appeared he could not beat Schmidt in the general election and only after it appeared he might not even get his party’s nomination. How much credit should he be given for declining something that he was not going to get anyway? No credit at all, I would say.

“I’m going to take care of the job that I have, because the people elected me to do that” is the reason Book gives for his withdrawal in the “exclusive interview” in the
Portsmouth Daily Times. In giving that as his reason, Book insults the intelligence of the public as he previously insulted the public’s intelligence when he proposed that the stolen Indian Head Rock be used to teach schoolchildren about local history. What the children need to learn, in addition to “ Just Say No to Drugs,” is “Just Say No to the Portsmouth Daily Times.” That is what adults need to learn as well.