Deregulation; Voters' Fears; Quote of the Week

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Good morning. It’s Friday, May 22, 2020, the day of the week when I reprise a quotation intended to be instructive or inspirational. Today’s comes from a legendary newspaper editor, a man I was fortunate enough to work for while covering the White House in the 1990s for the Baltimore Sun.

His name was John S. Carroll and he was old school all the way. I mean that in the best sense of the word. John believed that journalists, out of fealty to their craft and respect for their fellow human beings, were obliged to strive for fairness and objectivity even while covering the most difficult and emotional public policy issues.

On this date in 2003, he sent a pointed memo to the section editors of the Los Angeles Times informing them that the paper had fallen short of that standard -- and must do better. I wrote about this incident in the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency, perhaps hoping to nudge my brothers and sisters in the Fourth Estate to keep their wits about them. I can’t say that my columns on this topic, or John Carroll’s blunt admonishment to his own staff, were heeded, either in the news media writ large or even at his old papers. Quite the contrary, actually. But I will keep trying. First, though, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a nice array original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors this morning, including the following:

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Trump Is Having a Deregulatory Moment. The pandemic has opened a whole new field of federal regulations for the president to clear, Philip Wegmann explains

For at-Risk GOP Senate, Trump Is an Albatross. A.B. Stoddard writes that the president’s actions are adding to imperiled incumbents’ campaign concerns, and putting Republicans’ control of the upper chamber next year in doubt.

A Snapshot of Voter Fears About the Election. Prompted by a university survey of “American fears,” Myra Adams conducted a mini-focus group to drill deeper into concerns expressed by Democrats and Republicans.

Susan Rice Makes New Claim; Media Rolls Over. Journalists cover the former Obama adviser uncritically, despite her strained history with the truth, Mark Hemingway complains.

A Timeline of Slow-to-Shift Messaging on Mask-Wearing. Kalev Leetaru lays out the pronouncements from public health officials, which may have contributed to mask-wearing resistance among some segments of the population.

Hospitals Are Gaming the 340B Program. RealClearHealth editor Jerry Rogers details complications in the initiative to reduce drug prices.

Parkinson’s Law Proves Government Growth Has Just Begun. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny writes that the pandemic is feeding a beast whose hunger for greater spending is never satisfied.

Schools Need to Stop Batch-Processing Kids. In RealClearEducation, David Osborne warns of end-of-year promotion issues made worse by the coronavirus crisis.

Dems Must Back “America First” Trade Policy to Win in Fall. Evan Bayh argues voters will demand protections for U.S. manufacturing workers against subsidized foreign goods. 

2020 Election: No Comparison as to Who Is Tough on China. Marc Lotter examines the two candidates’ records.

Trade Barriers Stand in the Way of Defeating COVID-19. In RealClearPolicy, Philip Stevens urges all countries to exempt medical supplies from import duties and taxes.

Next Challenge to U.S.-Israeli Ties: China. In RealClearDefense, Ilan Berman explains how Chinese investment in Israel’s high-tech sector is raising concerns in the Trump administration.

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John Carroll passed away in 2015, so I can’t project how he would have felt about the singular challenge President Trump’s behavior poses to journalism’s traditional rules of the road. The son of a venerated journalist Wallace Carroll, John had covered the Vietnam War for the Baltimore Sun and the White House for the New York Times before becoming an editor. At a succession of newspapers -- the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lexington Herald-Leader, The Sun and, finally, in Los Angeles -- he became the most respected and acclaimed editor of his generation.

On this date in 2003, however, John was displeased by a piece in his own newspaper. The subject line to his memo simply said “credibility/abortion.” In it, he wrote bluntly to his top lieutenants about the blatant political bias on this topic that had manifested itself in a front page L.A. Times article. “I’m concerned about the perception -- and the occasional reality -- that the Times is a liberal, ‘politically correct’ newspaper,” he began. “Generally speaking, this is an inaccurate view, but occasionally we prove our critics right. We did so today.”

Carroll then pointed out specific examples revealing the bias of the writer and the editors who handled the article about anti-abortion legislation, including characterizing one component of a bill in the Texas legislature as requiring “so-called counseling of patients.

In one sense, this memo seems quaint, a relic from another era. The myriad cheap shots taken before sunrise each day in our nation’s newspapers and on cable news shows today would make that 2003 L.A. Times story a shining example of impartiality.

In all our time together, John Carroll and I never discussed his own views -- or mine -- on the array of topics that the Catholic bishops call “life” issues: abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war. That said, if I had to guess, I would have pegged him as pro-choice on abortion. Yet John would have considered that irrelevant to how the issue should be covered by honest reporters and editors. He was also comfortable with the idea that he could disagree with people without questioning their motives or intellect. Most importantly, he thought it imperative for democracy that in one-newspaper cities, readers who were liberal, conservative, or moderate could all consider their newspaper an honest broker that didn't sneer at their views or values.

“The reason I’m sending this note to all section editors is that I want everyone to understand how serious I am about purging all political bias from our coverage,” he wrote.

“I’m no expert on abortion, but I know enough to believe that it presents a profound philosophical, religious and scientific question, and I respect people on both sides of the debate,” he added. “A newspaper that is intelligent and fair-minded will do the same.”

And that’s your quote of the week. 

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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