A Senator's Propaganda Campaign

Perusing the editorial pages

I browse through the Arizona Republic's editorial pages every morning. I feel obligated to undergo this test of concentration. The alarums of the editorials prepare me for any challenges General Noriega or General Motors might place before me the rest of the day.

Where else in American journalism would you encounter such spellbinding and exotic jingoism? These jewels of concision are daily packaged for us in a style that conjures memories of college lit classes, of Tobias Smollett and Cotton Mather.

Then, there are the signed personal columns written by the Republic's highly paid stable of editorial writers. These run along the bottom of the first editorial page and they are absolute gems. Nowhere else in American newspapers can you find gems like these.

As a newspaper reader, you haven't lived until you've read one of William Cheshire's efforts to humanize that swank, upscale church in north Phoenix that he attends.

You can know nothing of the comfortable American family life until you've encountered the continuing memoirs of Joel Nilsson.

Then, too, there's the piece de resistance. Richard Lessner is the Republic's self-appointed cosmic authority on the world and everything that grows or breathes upon it.

They are three men in search of the felicitous phrase and all poised so far to the right on the political spectrum they are about to fall off the edge of the Earth, which all of them no doubt still regard as being flat.

Sometimes, while reading one of Lessner's tracts on the threat of communism, I get the idea that he would do well as a foot doctor. Clearly a man with Lessner's certitude and impatience has the capacity to discover a cure for bunions.

During my time on daily newspapers, I was always fascinated by encounters with editorial writers. They wore beards before they were in fashion and they smoked pipes long after they went out of style. Often they wore ancient tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows.

And they routinely started out conversations in the newsroom with quotes from John Locke or Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Reporters would be clustered around the city desk talking about why the Cubs dropped a three-game series over the weekend. An editorial writer would sidle up and begin by saying: "I recall something John Locke said about modern man." Reporters' eyebrows would raise. The editorial writer would press on about Locke. The small band of reporters would quickly disperse. Only managing editors were ever equipped to listen to the kind of conversation that editorial writers regard as small talk.

It's only because I know from experience how obtuse editorial writers can be in their personal lives that I understand why and how the Republic has unwittingly allowed the forces of Senator Dennis DeConcini to play them for such suckers.

Perhaps you, too, have noticed the run of letters to the editor which have appeared in the paper defending Senator Dennis DeConcini, whom I have grown to regard as the Godfather of the Keating Five.

The letters appear at once innocent and outraged. They perhaps coincidentally all make the same point as one written by Michael Hawkins, the former United States attorney.

DeConcini is totally innocent of wrongdoing. He was only pursuing his proper role as a senator in pushing Keating's demands to federal regulators. This is what Hawkins and his gang hope to sell subliminally with their letters to the editor.

Hawkins is a numero uno Democrat who was fronted into his political job by DeConcini. He is now a politically connected lawyer who is a part of the DeConcini apparatus. He's also a close adviser to Rose Mofford, whose gall bladder has made it impossible to act like a governor for her first 21 months in office.

The evidence against DeConcini as the man who carried water for Keating is overwhelming. DeConcini took Keating's money. His top aide, Ron Ober, received $80 million in unsecured loans from Keating. All of them were in it together.

When everyone is finally placed under oath, we're going to learn that it was Ober (who was into Keating for all that money) who proposed the infamous meeting in DeConcini's office.

Until then, however, we are supposed to believe that all those millions were flowing to Ober and Earl Katz, another DeConcini insider, without the senator's knowledge.

Sure, that makes sense. Believe that and I'll tell you that DeConcini never knew anything about all those land deals that put millions into his pockets, either.

A lot of people are standing on the sidelines hoping this thing will go away. I've got news for you. It won't. DeConcini is a dead duck.

But what must DeConcini be thinking?
He now plans to run a series of paid political television advertisements to defend himself. They won't help. They will, instead, earn him renewed contempt from the voters.

They will watch the commercials as DeConcini protests his innocence and their reaction will be just what could be expected. They will laugh at DeConcini and then sit around telling each other what a terrible crook he has turned out to be.

For weeks now, DeConcini has gone into hiding. He has skulked about like a man under indictment. He is not under indictment; he is merely disgraced. DeConcini, Arizona's senior senator, is no longer a viable political candidate. He should face that fact and start preparing himself for private life. There is no way that he can ever win another race for elective office in this state.

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