Monday, November 07, 2005

Grace, use and being used 

I seldom participate in these battles about what appears in the STrib because I don't read it. If a MOB blogger finds it necessary to discuss some piece of tripe on its editorial page, or a non-Monkey column, I'll click through to read it, but I take most of it with the same grain of salt wise sports column readers take Sid Hartman.

But Saturday on NARN, Saint Paul brought up a column that day from Sarah Janacek that takes Katherine Kersten to task for her column that "commemorates" the anniversary of the Wellstone memorial service (Paulapalooza to some.) I thought it weird, and pulled up both articles.

What I saw was a train wreck, on several levels. Before I could finish both pieces, Janacek had already called the show to explain what she'd written and why. And her explanation was even less satisfying than the editorial.

Here are two levels. First, it is no secret that Kersten and Janacek were "finalists" for the slot of "conservative columnist" at the STrib. And, as Craig Westover notes in the link, they aren't from the same side of the conservative bell curve. So it's quite possible that these two would not see eye-to-eye on every issue. If Janacek still thinks of herself as a Republican and conservative, does she not realize that this column would be taken with glee by the Boydulent staff at the STrib, to be used against Kersten? "Look at them, they can't get along, why have these amateurs on our pages?" So message one to Sarah: You're being used. And your act is utterly graceless, appearing to be a sore loser.

Second, the appearance of her confession about appearing in Al Franken's book makes the remainder of her column almost maudlin. It reads as if she were using it as an apology for a comment she'd made (that she'd mistaken closed captioning for a teleprompter). If that was the use of this, it does a lousy job for it only serves to remind of an error I hadn't noticed (having made the decision that other books crowded out the time I would have taken to read Franken.)

And yet had she just stopped there -- "no, the memorial was spontaneous not staged" and her half-apology for confusing the texting of the speeches, that would be enough. But she decides to go further, as if she had a word limit to reach for a full column. To do so, she builds up to a single sentence to finish her piece. The crescendo begins here:

Wellstone curbed his combativeness and learned to argue respectfully with his political adversaries. He became one of the Senate's most elegant and passionate members, admired and respected by friends and foes alike. Paul Wellstone moved on.
That's not the Wellstone I remember. This is Pablo, after all. Elegant he was not. Passionate is fine, but it's not necessarily a virtue. Shouting "Stella!" is passionate, but makes for irate neighbors at 3am. Beria was principled.

To Kersten -- and others from both the right and the left -- who still obsess over what happened that night, do Minnesotans hungry for civility in our politics a favor. Accept what happened. Take that final step in the grieving process. Move on.
Does Janacek take the subway? We'd love to move on, but muttonheads at the Fair still wear their green shirts, and WWWD bumper stickers still appear on rusted Saabs near Mitch's house. Civility? Should we all just "move on" from Jim Boyd? Disarm if you like, but to me that sounds like appeasement. And it all builds so she can get off the one sentence:
As the bumper sticker says, "What would Wellstone do?"
...which is utterly sickening, a combination of treacle and sanctimony. Why Janacek would want to go the Chamberlain route is beyond me.

Conclusion: Turns out the STrib made the right choice of columnist.