THE RIGHTEOUS STUFF

IN THE MID-'80S, ASU WAS THE LAUNCHING PAD FOR THEIR CONSERVATIVE VITRIOL. NOW THEY'VE GRADUATED TO THE REAL WORLD.

Heiler masterminded the formulation of Symington's own crime package, and wrote the speech unveiling it at last week's Arizona Town Hall at the Grand Canyon. The governor's message--in which he pronounced that "American society is locked in a fight for its soul"--was cast in rhetoric reminiscent of the young Jay Heiler.

Heiler, who doesn't welcome reminders of his days as a student editor, refused to speak to New Times for this story. Shortly after he joined Symington's staff, Heiler complained to the Arizona Republic, "I think there ought to be a statute of limitations on what a guy writes in college editorials. It's not stuff I would write today."

No matter, for old schoolmates such as Jay Thorne--a partner and vice president of Jameson and Gutierrez, a Democratic political consulting firm--still recall reading Heiler's columns with "amazement." Now Thorne is amazed that Symington is embracing someone with Heiler's political leanings.

"He is the Nazi of the week up there, the fascist of choice, and is growing more and more influential," Thorne says.

He says the Symington administration has undergone "this evolution to the right that I don't quite understand, because the right wing is who Fife came into the [1990 Republican] primary fighting. . . . He's always been sort of a moderate kind of middle-of-the-road guy."

No more. Political observers say Heiler has been influential in recruiting other conservatives such as Wes Gullett and Kurt Davis to the Symington camp.

More curious than Symington's pick of Heiler, perhaps, is Heiler's decision to work for Symington. It's conceivable that the governor's alleged trysts with Annette Alvarez and tangles with the Resolution Trust Corporation would have soured Heiler's desire to serve, given the younger man's position--way up there on high moral ground. Then again, for the last decade or so, the members of the State Press' holy triumvirate have cozied up to a cast of characters noted for their extreme politics, their questionable ethics--or both. The playbill includes former vice presidents Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle, Republic columnist Bill Cheshire, impeached Arizona governor Evan Mecham, Iran-contra conspirator Edwin Meese III and the champion of conservative social values himself, Charles Keating Jr.

@rule:
@body:The State Press' veer to the right actually predated Heiler, Scully and Munsil. It began in the early days of the Reagan administration with two like-minded women named Ellen Haggerty and Vivian Warner. Haggerty was a city editor with conservative politics. Warner, a transfer student, was formulating her own personal political agenda. She had already experienced what she calls "moral bankruptcy." Haggerty hired Warner as a reporter; both eventually rose through the ranks to serve as editor.

"My search for the answers, if you will, played out on the pages of the State Press," says Warner (Vivian Dudro by marriage, she lives in California, raising three children and writing for publications including the National Catholic Register).

Her quest for the truth led her, in one memorable State Press column, to compare homosexuality to alcoholism--an addiction that could be overcome through therapy. But even the most liberal of reporters recalls that Warner encouraged others to express divergent opinions.

That ended in the fall of 1982, when Warner's opinion editor, Jay Heiler, was appointed editor. Phil Daschner quit his job as a reporter for the State Press at that time, but kept in touch with those who stayed.

He says, "The newsroom was a much different place then [under Warner and Haggerty]. There were these debates out on the newsroom floor. When Jay became editor, those stopped, for whatever reasons. I think people realized that . . . if you expressed an opinion that dissented from his, maybe your stories weren't going to get as good play, maybe your assignments wouldn't be that good." @rule:

@body:One of Heiler's most memorable staff picks as editor was Matthew Scully, whom he hired to edit the opinion page. Scully didn't have any editing experience, but Heiler had noticed that Mike Phillips, the other candidate for the slot, had an unsavory bumper sticker on his car.

(Phillips, now city editor of the Scottsdale Progress Tribune, doesn't recall the message on the sticker. He does remember it lost him the job; he spent that semester editing the entertainment section.)

Scully doesn't credit any person or institution with anointing him a conservative; it's just a philosophy he picked up along the way. He chose ASU because he thought the university would have him, and because it was one state over from California, where he had been working at the loading dock of a department store.

Now a resident of Virginia, Scully gives Heiler full credit for introducing him to the joys of pontification. Casting aside campus politics for discussions of ideology, Scully amused and infuriated his readers by suggesting that Abbie Hoffman and Hunter S. Thompson were not suitable speakers for a school-sponsored program, and by comparing political science professor Patrick McCowan to a rat. Nonetheless, Scully is an affable guy. He speaks fondly of Heiler, as he does of many of his other former bosses--including former vice president Dan Quayle and former governor Evan Mecham. According to the Scully vernacular (delivered in patrician tones reminiscent of his current boss, the National Review's William F. Buckley Jr.), Heiler, Quayle and Mecham are "principled fellows."

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1 comments
ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

You know that Keating had the largest collection of porn in the world - he used to show it off at his private parties.  I'm guessing he passed that on to Scully.

 
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