Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hiller Fires O'Shea, 3rd Editor To Go In 30 Months

BULLETIN -- James O'Shea today became the third editor in two and a half years to be forced out at the Los Angeles Times after reportedly resisting cutbacks at the paper. The person doing the firing was that dirty stinker, David Hiller, the dishonorable publisher. A friend of mine this afternoon with much experience at the Times described Hiller as "a pain in the ass," and "fatuous." I told him these terms did not catch the full depravity of the man.

The firing of O'Shea came after he resisted Hiller's demand that he cut both the news hole and $4 million from the editorial budget. Hiller reportedly felt the Times coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign was too extensive, (or at least his friend Ken Starr may have.)

Ironically, the firing came soon after the issuing of a new company employees' handbook in which the new Tribune Co. CEO, Sam Zell, called for employees to speak out on management issues.

O'Shea declined comment Sunday evening, saying he wished to consult his attorney first.

But one expense that Hiller may well find justified would be the erection of a guillotine in the city room. In the future, that would save time.

Now, back to the original subject of this blog, the race for the Republican presidential nomination:

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is so scrambled that former Gov. Mitt Romney, the man virtually counted out after his second straight loss in New Hampshire, may yet have a good chance.

The reason is the growing importance of the economy as an issue. Romney is the only one of the four principal Republican candidates with the experience to capitalize on that issue, and the one place where economic issues that were dominant to vote so far, the state of Michigan, went for Romney.

Remember that Romney was not only the governor of Massachusetts, a Northeastern industrialized state, but he was the successful manager of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, in fact rescued those Olympics after a scandal.

Coming out of the South Carolina primary yesterday, where Sen. John McCain won a narrow victory over former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Romney actually ran fourth, the next major GOP contest is in the populous and politically fractured state of Florida, which will be the first state to be seriously contested by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani has performed very badly thus far, not getting many votes anywhere, and even running in most instances behind the mavarick Rep. Ron Paul. But there are large pockets of retired people transplanted from the Northeast in Florida, and a sizable Jewish community. Giuliani may have prospects there.

Taking it candidate by candidate, coming out of South Carolina, this is what we see:

McCain. The senator from Arizona has obviously crept back into the limelight of the GOP contest after initially losing much of his strength and even being strapped for cash. But he has two big problems. One, he is a security based candidate, has little economic experience or even interest, and terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his strengths, have faded as issues. They could come back at any time, should there be some big terrorist attack, but for the time being it's the economy. Second, McCain draws much of his strength from independent voters who admire his honesty and strength of character. In both New Hampshire and South Carolina, both of which he won, his winning margins were derived from the independents. But in most of the states whose primaries lie just ahead, independents are not permitted to vote in the Republican primaries. This could put McCain at a disadvantage. Despite the fact that every GOP candidate who has won the South Carolina primary since 1980 has gone ahead to win the Republican nomination, South Carolina may not be so typical a GOP state this time. The fact that McCain has not clinched front-runner status even with his two primary victories can be seen in the decision reported this morning of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger not to endorse anyone in the Feb. 5 California Republican primary. Earlier, Schwarzenegger had been reported to be close to endorsing McCain.

Huckabee. The former governor from Arkansas had a clear plurality over McCain among evangelical voters in South Carolina, although he did not win all the evangelicals. But he has not demonstrated any capacity thus far for gaining many votes at all outside the evangelical communities. He may do well in some Southern primaries, he could even win many evangelicals in Florida, but evangelical voters are not sufficiently numerous or united in most states to give him the majority needed to nominate. Even if former Sen. Fred Thompson drops out of the race, as is now expected, Huckabee, caught in a four-man contest -- McCain, Huckabee, Romney and Giuliani -- probably cannot win the nomination. And some observers last night were saying he is not wearing particularly well in the campaign thus far.

Romney. He has won three states thus far -- Michigan, Wyoming and Nevada. But he was a disappoiinting second in both Iowa and New Hampshire, where he had done a lot of campaigning early and spent much money. He has acquired a reputation for flip-flopping on several issues, and his personality and his Mormon religion are in most places not assets. Despite all this, he has strength in a self-financed effort, he has shown staying power, and, as I remarked earlier, he is the only GOP candidate with much economic experience. For all these reasons, Romney must be considered still in the race and having much potential. He will pick up delegates in nearly every big state, and, since it is by no means clear that the GOP contest will be settled by the time of the convention, he would certainly be in the convention mix, if it comes to that. There may come a time, if the economy continues to tank and the stock market hit new lows, where Romney may look like the best candidate in the Republican field.

Giuliani. He is now handicapped by the submergence of the security issue in the campaign, and he has not been an impressive candidate thus far in any event. For months, he was the front-running GOP candidate in the polls. But he lost that position by the end of 2007, and he has, as said above, performed miserably in the states that have voted thus far. Even considering that security is not the issue it once was, Giuliani has not waged an imaginative campaign, and certain personal problems -- his three marriages, his estrangement from his children, and questions that have arisen even about his management of 9-11 -- are working against him. If he doesn't do well in Florida, his campaign may be on its last legs. But even so, Giuliani could pick up blocs of delegates in New York and New Jersey, and perhaps even fare well in California. He too could come to the convention with substantial delegate strength, assuming he remains in the race.

Thompson and Paul. Thompson has not proved to be a very hard working candidate, and, without stamina, presidential contests are not worth undertaking. He will not be in the race long. Paul is a maverick among Republican circles who may not have the sense to quit, but clearly can neither win nor be much of a factor at the convention.

Who will come out on top? I once would have said McCain, who at least is respected for his character. But now, it appears much too early to consider him the favorite.

The fact is that coming out of South Carolina, the GOP has no favorite.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton for now has the momentum, but Sen. Barack Obama is not out of it yet, and could buttress his chances in a number oif states should he win South Carolina's Democratic primary, which will be held next Saturday. (However, I note that the able columnist David Broder gives Clinton for now a racial edge in South Carolina). Former Sen. John Edwards could help Obama, if he left the race and endorsed him, but there is, as yet, no clear sign he will do this. Clinton has fared well since nearly crying in New Hampshire, but if her husband, former President Bill Clinton, continues to lose his temper and say silly things that make him sound like a power-grabber, Hillary Clinton could yet stumble.

Today is Jan. 20. One year from today, George W. Bush's presidency will come to an end, according to the present schedule. For many Americans, that day cannot come too soon.



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