Letters on national politics are a staple on our Editorial Page, and, as those who are unhappy with the administration in power are more likely to write, it should be no surprise that an anti-Republican sentiment dominated for the last eight years. Also no surprise – in the month that Barack Obama has been president, the incoming letters have shifted sharply to the right.
We welcome debate on the issues, as long as it is based on facts. However, we received a couple of problematic letters this week from writers who apparently relied on “talking points” without bothering to look further into the situation.
One letter-writer claimed that Obama’s nomination of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as Commerce secretary (who later withdrew) was part of an insidious plot to replace a Republican senator with a Democratic one and achieve a filibuster-proof majority: “. . .if Gregg accepts the job, NH Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, would appoint his replacement. Understandably, Lynch would appoint a Democrat.” Not so fast. According to published reports, Gregg had initially agreed to the nomination on condition that a Republican be appointed to his Senate seat. (Gregg’s former chief of staff, Republican Bonnie Newman, was believed to have been Lynch’s pick). A little more research would have prevented the writer from jumping to conclusions.
A second letter-writer opens with “Obama, together with his henchmen in Congress, Pelosi and Reed (sic), are about to propose new insidious legislation . . . What they advocate is that for every hour a patriotic, conservative radio talk show host broadcasts, that station must provide comparable time to a host with left wing credentials.” The writer is apparently referring to the “Fairness Doctrine” that was in effect for several decades until being abolished by the FCC in 1987. The doctrine required broadcasters to provide contrasting viewpoints on controversial public issues (not necessarily “equal time”). While some Democrats (including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and progressive radio hosts have recently spoken out in favor of restoring the Fairness Doctrine, Obama has stated publicly that he opposes its revival, most recently in a report on FOXNews.com on Wednesday. (It should also be noted that no imminent legislation regarding restoration of the Fairness Doctrine, or any “new” proposed regulations, has been announced.) Since the Fairness Doctrine has been brought up for public discussion, the writer certainly has the right to express his opinion on it, but his factual errors will be corrected before publication.
Such misstatement of fact isn’t unique to conservatives – we’ve also received wild overestimations of the number of dead in Iraq from anti-war writers, for example. So we ask letter-writers of all political stripes to please double-check your facts with a reliable news source or two – don’t rely solely on blogs, talk radio, your next-door neighbor or e-mail campaigns for your information.