More than 30 years ago, I was editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper on the Gulf Coast that was owned by Gannett. A prominent citizen and former mayor, who had lost his re-election bid, died. I had to write the customary obituary editorial for the late mayor. I was never his fan. He was often nasty and mostly rude to the city aldermen that served with him. I decided not to be a hypocrite and the best I could say in my editorial was that he was a man who very much cared for the city of Ocean Springs. Earlier this week I recalled the mayor when I learned Bill Minor had passed at the age of 93. I was sad to hear of his death, and there is no question Minor made many contributions to Mississippi during his long career. After someone texted me Tuesday morning about Minor’s death, I went to the Clarion-Ledger online edition where I saw the headline on reporter Jerry Mitchell’s story. The headline was, “Bill Minor remembered as a model for journalists.” From my perspective, I would never consider Minor as a “model for journalists.” His left-wing politics was one thing, but I objected far more to his liberal bias and his frequent carelessness with the facts. During my days as an editor and syndicated political columnist, I was once on a panel at Ole Miss with Minor, the late Norma Fields of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and a TV anchor from Jackson. Every member of the panel was asked who they were supporting in the race for governor that was taking place at the time. I went last, but Minor and the two other journalists righteously wrapped themselves in a self-serving cloak of objective journalism. They refused to tell the students who they would vote for in the upcoming election. When it was my time to answer, I told the students not only would I tell them the name of the candidate for whom I would vote, I proceeded to tell them, correctly, who each of the other journalists supported. An outraged Minor then chased me across campus after the panel ended and demanded to know why I answered how I did.
A bitter man
Following another speaking appearance before a large group of students at Ole Miss, I was approached by a young black student. She told me she had heard Minor speak a few weeks
The Clarion.Ledger’s “Public Office – Private Gain”
I have never hesitated to criticize journalists and since I started writing again I have taken a number of shots at The Clarion.Ledger. However, let’s give credit where a lot of credit is due. Last Sunday a special investigation by that newspaper’s political editor, Geoff Pender, and reporters Mollie Bryant and Kate Royals, contained an in-depth story entitled “Public Office Private Gain.” That and more is available in the CL’s online edition and we should expect more print stories about the issue next Sunday. It should be a must read by every taxpayer in our state. I’ll have more comments about this in a future post, but for now, congratulations to the newspaper and the three writers who are writing the series. Elected officials using their campaign contributions for personal use is nothing less than a complete disgrace.
Gil Carmichael, R.I.P.
I had met Gil Carmichael several times prior to his race against Mississippi’s political godfather, longtime and powerful Sen. James O. Eastland. I got to know him better when he spent most of one Sunday afternoon in 1972 at my home in Ocean Springs talking politics. At one point during that Sunday afternoon I told the Meridian Volkswagen dealer he should be spending his time campaigning on the Gulf Coast rather than chatting with me about politics. Little did I know in just a few weeks I would become Carmichael’s state campaign manager in his seemingly hopeless and longshot campaign against the powerful Eastland. Initially, Carmichael was kind of a throw away candidate for Mississippi Republicans. In the GOP primary for Eastland’s senate seat, Carmichael’s opponent was James Meredith. Yes, that James Meredith – the same Meredith who almost 10 years earlier had become the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss amidst riots, violence, and one of this state’s ugliest moments. In 1972 Republican leaders in Mississippi cringed at the thought of Meredith being the GOP nominee against Eastland. Thus Carmichael was drafted to run against Meredith. After polishing off Meredith in the
Prominent Mississippi Republicans support Bush and Kasich, but they are stuck in reverse
There’s a lot of anger in America. Especially among Republicans, there is a lot of anger. A lot of this anger explains why Donald Trump is leading in polls among candidates for the Republican nomination for president. In turn, Democrats should not feel any anger. The Republican circus should make Democrats feel joyful about their prospects in 2016, even with a polarizing candidate such as Hillary Clinton. In Mississippi, most prominent Republican leaders have signed on to support either Jeb Bush or John Kasich. Sen. Thad Cochran headlines the Bush supporters and Congressman Gregg Harper and former senator Trent Lott, although now a resident of Florida, headline the leaders supporting Kasich. The problem for Bush and Kasich is nationally, both are stuck in reverse. Republican majorities in the House and Senate will be wasted if the GOP can’t take back the White House. They won’t take the White House if Trump is the nominee. The opportunity for a win must not be wasted when the 2016 Republican nominee won’t be facing an incumbent and the probable Democrat nominee, Clinton, has a lot of baggage of her own. There is an even more important reason Republicans need to win the presidency – future vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. I think this is just as important as not having a Democrat in the White House who can veto Republican legislation. If Trump is the nominee, the GOP can prepare to lose next November. In a way, the Trump candidacy, without the racism, reminds me of when Alabama Gov. George Wallace ran for president three times and made an especially strong race for the Democrat nomination in 1972 before being shot. Wallace also took advantage of voter anger and frustrations. Some are suggesting if Trump fades, the nomination could be a battle between Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio. Cruz is a tea party darling and his poll numbers are moving higher. Cruz battles his Republican colleagues in the Senate almost as much as he takes on Democrats. As a senator he has favored disastrous government shutdowns versus responsible governing. Cruz would not only lose against Clinton, his nomination would also bring GOP losses in both the House and Senate. On the other hand, Rubio would have a good chance to win the presidency. A lot can and probably will happen between now and the Republican National Convention. Let’s hope Republicans don’t take the route of a death wish and blow a great opportunity to take back the White House.
Disease spreads to the University of Maryland
Byrd Stadium is the name the 50,000 seat football facility at the University of Maryland. Last Friday, the school’s board of Regents, following the recommendation of Maryland President Wallace Lob, voted to change the name of the stadium. Harry “Curley” Byrd was president of the University of Maryland from 1936 to 1954, a pretty long tenure for most
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on June 30, 1988 as part of Wayne Weidie’s syndicated column series, “The Political Scene,” which ran through 43 newspapers in the state of Mississippi and spanned from 1970 to 1990. Political Scene columns will be periodically republished on The Weidie Report.
The latest poll on the U.S. Senate race gives very similar numbers to a poll taken during April. What may puzzle some people is that the Mason-Dixon Opinion and Research Poll released last week was assessed in an Associated Press story as a “whopping” lead for Republican Trent Lott. Lott’s margin in the Mason-Dixon poll was 11 points. The April poll of Mississippi State University political science professor Stephen Shaffer had Lott leading by 10 points over Democrat Wayne Dowdy. Yet the news release from MSU giving Shaffer’s results termed the 10 point margin a “narrow lead” for Lott.
At this stage of the campaign the two polls only confirm what everyone knows. The race will be very close.
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Dec. 16, 1976 as part of Wayne Weidie’s syndicated column series, “The Political Scene,” which ran through 43 newspapers in the state of Mississippi and spanned from 1970 to 1990. Political Scene columns will be periodically republished on The Weidie Report.
On slow weeks, a political columnist can always play the “name game” for the next major political contest. In 1978 James O. Eastland’s current term in the U.S. Senate is due to expire. A number of us have been writing under the assumption that the powerful senior senator from Mississippi will retire and the state will see a real donnybrook for his successor.
Age is considered a factor, as Eastland will be 74 shortly after the 1978 election and a new six-year term would push Eastland up to 80. Recently, however, several political writers decided that any speculation regarding retirement by Eastland may be premature. The age thing doesn’t even hold much water since junior Sen. John Stennis found no major opposition for another term which will end when Stennis is 81.
Not everyone who wanted Dan Jones removed as chancellor at Ole Miss wants to wave Rebel flags, bring back Colonel Reb, or sing Dixie. From the drum beating on the left you wouldn’t know that. There are three quick assumptions that can be made about the Dan Jones situation at Ole Miss: 1.) With the lopsided college board vote of 9-2 not to renew Jones’ contract as chancellor, there must be a strong justification for the vote. 2.) Jones did not make a graceful exit after the board voted not to renew his contract. His statement and actions since then have done nothing but harm the University of Mississippi and add fuel to the fire of the messy divorce. 3.) The coverage by the press, especially The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, has had a lopsided, pro-Jones bias and has also been harmful to the school.
In most cases it should not matter if a college president is liberal or conservative. In the case of Chancellor Dan Jones it does matter. Jones is an avowed liberal and those on the political left in Mississippi have rushed to support Jones. His support has not been just from those left-of-center, but liberals have certainly been leading the pro-Jones charge.
Clear pro-Jones press bias
An interesting point was made to me Friday morning. After the Mississippi Department of Corrections scandal and other state contracting problems, there was a lot of outrage at The Clarion-Ledger and other newspapers. Why haven’t we seen similar outrage about the contracting problems at UMMC?
The Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), the state’s chamber of commerce, held its annual Hobnob on October 29. As usual, a large crowd estimated at about 1,800 people attended. The format was about the same as in previous years. The eight statewide elected officials and House Speaker Philip Gunn each spoke for about 10 minutes except for Gov. Phil Bryant, properly so, was given 15 minutes. Because of the U.S. Senate contest, longtime incumbent Republican Thad Cochran and his Democrat opponent, former congressman Travis Childers, were also allocated time. MEC officials gave each speaker a lavish introduction that would probably equal those given for a George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. In their brief allocated time each elected official gave an equally glowing report of the wonderful things they have done during their term in office. A few other impressions:
Much larger crowds on Thursday – On Wednesday, the first of two days of political speaking at this year’s Neshoba County Fair, the crowds were much smaller than the turnout on Thursday. Besides local candidates on Wednesday the headline were Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, Attorney General Jim Hood, and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves. Reeves by far pulled the largest audience at Founders Square. Pickering proved again that he is one of the best stump speakers among statewide elected officials. The larger crowds Thursday were probably because of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, his Democrat opponent Travis Childers, and Governor Phil Bryant. I expect the spectators also swelled because of the possible protest/demonstration by tea party supporters of Chris McDaniel and people didn’t want to miss the fun. The other speakers Thursday were Ag Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, Treasurer Lynn Fitch, former governor William Winter, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, and House Speaker Philip Gunn.