"0ne of those pathetic bloggers who tries to make a living out of attacking other bloggers and media folk in an effort to illicit a reaction and draw traffic to his site." -- Owen Robinson of Boots and Sabers
If Rick Esenberg really wants to be seen as a thinker who explores ideas rather than just another guy trying to entertain his side, he really ought to take a long, hard look at this post.
It begins humorously with a spectacular, Fatty Arbuckle-worthy, pratfall:
Patrick Mclheran suggests that, once a Republican gets caught in an embarrassing situation, he becomes a "former" leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Charlie Sykes speculates that the only way that he can survive is to become a Democrat.
Or he could become a Senate Republican prostitute aficionado from Louisiana. Or, shucks, he could become a thrice married talk show host who bemoans the loss of authority of dads in today's world and points to feminism or the "culture" as a cause for family breakdown.
He goes on:
Some argue that this means that Republicans ought to drop the emphasis on family values. The reason, presumably, is because conservatives hang on to some notion that these things are wrong. If you can find someone who did not live up to his principles, that means the principles are wrong.
The mind reels at this logical leap. Personally, I don''t think the value of the family is dependent upon whether ostensibly Christian Republicans are capable of keeping it in their pants. How about this: Some say Republicans-- particularly Republicans who have trouble staying married like Charlie Sykes, Rush Limbaugh, Leah Vukmir and Newt Gingrich -- should stop talking about family values because the commitment of prominent party leaders and representatives to the "traditional" family has been dubious.
If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen don't call yourself a chef!
If they want to say they're opposed to gays getting married -- fine, say it. But don't wave the flag of family values. It's offensive to family guys like myself, who, despite being quite a bit younger than Charlie Sykes, has been with his wife longer than Sykes has been with any of his (and hopes that will continue).
And let's take another look at this sentence:
If you can find someone who did not live up to his principles, that means the principles are wrong.
How does Esenberg know that "family values" -- let's say by that he means commitment to family -- is a principle of "Republicans" rather than a talking point or rhetorical red meat? It is for some, sure. But when it becomes a ready-made talking point rather than a "value" borne out of experience, it's a bit hollow, innit? Are family values, for instance, really important to Charlie Sykes? To wit: in both "50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School" (2007) and "A Nation of Victims" (1993), Sykes is said to be married with three children. It's just that he had different wife when each book was published. Isn't that a tad misleading?
Just in: John Foust makes excellent points in comments.
Michael Horne thinks Jessica McBride made a mistake when she said she liased with Ed Flynn as an academic, not a journalist. The Brawler tends to agree that her self-destructive streak couldn't help but manifest itself in her statement.
With Jessica McBride describing herself as an "academic" when she fell for the chief at Brocach, it gives the impression she is somehow relating her adultery to her position as an Instructor at the university. This may be of more consequence to the faculty evaluators of UWM than is her affair with the chief.
The Brawler has long admired Milwaukee Magazine Editor Bruce Murphy's journalism. Indeed, it's ironic that Murphy got his start there under Sykes, given that he has far surpassed his boss in accomplishment.
So, the Brawler was looking forward to seeing what Murphy would say regarding the disclosure that Jessica McBride had an affair with Milwaukee police chief Ed Flynn. Murphy published it today. A few thoughts.
If the timeline as Murphy presents is correct (i.e., no affair until after the story ran, big questions the the MJS as to when it happened) -- and the Brawler has no reason to question it -- then Dan Bice did Milwaukee Magazine and Murphy a great disservice in his characterization of the magazine's response in his original story. (Jessica McBride could have clarified to the JS when the affair first started -- i.e., after the story was published -- but she chose not to. Which didn't do Murphy any favors.)
I don't see a compelling reason for Milwaukee Magazine to distance itself from the story if in fact the affair started after the story was written and published.
I don't think Murphy had any compelling reason to believe that anything untoward was going on (though I think he puts undue weight on her pushing him to include "negative" quotes as proof she wasn't smitten at the time of writing. Jessica has shown a willingness to compartmentalize over the years. Trying to make a story stronger by including negative quotes doesn't contradict having a crush on the object of the story. She could be trying to overcompensate. Or she could think the attacks make him seem more noble, etc.(And this assumes there was no communication going on between Flynn & McBride that Murphy doesn't know about.)
That said, I think Murphy's response falls short on some counts.
"It’s always tempting to publish something like this – if there is a public policy issue at stake. Bice, however, offered no evidence the affair has in any way detracted from Flynn's performance as police chief." That's true, but that doesn't make it less newsworthy. At a minimum the affair made him a blackmail risk (paging Archbishop Weakland). Given the job of cops is to find stuff out and it's a gossipy bunch, it's quite likely the dalliance could have come to light internally and become a sort of wink-wink nod-nod bit of gossip that corroded his moral authority. And the fact that someone was aggressively pushing news of the affair likely suggested to the MJS that this was going to be a story, one way or another. this revelation surely meant that someone was trying to actively undermine him -- something the JS no doubt had to weigh. A month-old affair may not have detracted from his performance, but it ultimately and quite realistically could have (not that Bice tried to make that argument.) Or should journalists ignore stuff like this until it completely blows up with wide-ranging implications.
"Typically, once Milwaukee Magazine does an in-depth story on someone like Flynn, we’re unlikely to ever feature him again. McBride, of course, would have been honor-bound to disclose her relationship with Flynn had we ever asked her to cover him again. That’s when the issue of a conflict of interest would have arisen." This doesn't pass muster. While MM may have been unlikely to "feature" Flynn, it quite likely would cover a crime issue in the future in which the chief or the MPD would play a role or have a stake. And McBride would potentially be given that story. And, as the Brawler noted earlier, McBride's May 30 column for the Waukesha Freeman denounced legislation requiring the collection and reporting of traffic stop information -- I'm betting Flynn's not a fan of that. As for "honor-bound," I don't think that enters the picture.
"Back when I started running McBride’s stories, I heard from liberals who were upset, as McBride is a conservative commentator. My only concern, I told them, is how good a reporter she is." When McBride did a story about Gary George's connections to a Hmong group charged with planning terrorist attacks in Laos, my concern was that McBride had publicly advocated for the plotters on her blog and in her Waukesha Freeman column (not disclosed in her story). My concern was that she whitewashed Vang Pao, the anticommunist Hmong leader who was charged in the case, as some noble hero when there's more than credible evidence suggesting he was a war criminal,a drug trafficker and a scam artist -- shoot, Murphy just had to ask his buddy Marc Eisen about that! My concern was that she smeared the reporting (as opposed to honestly contest and engage) of Arthur McCoy, who risked life and limb during the Vietnam War to report on Vang Pao's connection to the heroin trade. None of these concerns had anything to do with the fact she was a "conservative." They had to do with my concern that she was an unethical journalist. (Yes,the Brawler realizes Murphy may be talking about other "liberals."
Murphy asks readers whether he should cross her off his list. I'm suspecting he's already made a decision.
Unlike Flynn, she offered no apologies for the liaison, though she said she has "addressed the relationship with those who need to know the details." She is married to former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, an unsuccessful candidate for attorney general in 2006.
Overall, the tone of Flynn's statement was contrite, whereas McBride's was combative.
McBride is trying to cover her journalistic ethics bonafides by maintaining that the story was written and published before the affair began. So how could the affair have tainted her coverage? So how can Jessica be unethical?
Now, having feelings for Flynn as she wrote the story surely isn't an ethical violation. If signals were being sent and received of the possibility of a future relationship, that's a different matter.
And while Jessica says she only met with and interviewed Flynn once, that doesn't preclude communication by phone or email that may have encouraged such a future relatonship. Indeed, in an embarrassing email from Flynn that McBride includes in her statement, Flynn says "let's schedule that coffee!" (Jessica doesn't do Ed Flynn any favors in disclosing that email.) The note suggests some previous communication with the intent of a future meeting.
But all that's parsing. The real reason that Jessica fails as an ethical journalist is found in these lines from her statement:
"At the time of the Brocach's meeting in May," her statement says, "I was an academic who no longer covered Flynn and would not ever do so again."
Jessica can't say categorically that she never again would have covered Flynn (she won't now, obviously) or cover someone whose interests conflicted with Flynn's. Indeed, given the prominence of her Milwaukee Magazine piece, she would be seen as an expert on all things Flynn.
As Charlie Sykes noted on his show, if you're covering the circus you don't blank the elephants. That's a fairly clear rule that one would expect a journalism teacher to know.
When the Brawler read Jessica McBride's profile of Ed Flynn, it reminded him of something.
Then he remembered what it was: A 14-year-old profile of Paul Bucher. By one Jessica McBride. Headline: "Oswald prosecutor has reputation of being aggressive, hardworking." (Headline for the Milwaukee Magazine piece: The Cop Who Can't Stop.)
From the 5/29/95 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Waukesha Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher does not want his career defined by the James and Theodore Oswald case. For the time being, he has no choice. 'Bucher's face has been on the nightly news, day in and day out since James Oswald's trial on murder and bank robbery charges began April 24. More often than not, the sound bites show the defendant calling Bucher names pencil-necked geek, "Adolf" Bucher, clown.
Sometimes Bucher responds with a sharp retort or writes a message in large letters on his personal computer screen outside the jury's view. "I am not a pencil neck," he'll write, showing a sly humor under his serious demeanor.
Sometimes, he says nothing or simply smiles, because this is something he's been living with for more than a year.
It is 'Bucher's aggressive, take-no-hostages (huh? I always thought it was take-no-prisoners--BCB)prosecutorial style that has raisedOswald'ss ire. In that way, this case is no different from Bucher's others.
Intense, intelligent, tenacious, aggressive those are the words that pop up again and again when you ask people about him.
Bucher is 39; a small man with glasses, a young face, neatly trimmed hair. He is always busy, brimming with energy, driven, on the move. (From the Milwaukee Magazine piece: "Flynn is also a compelling physical presence: tall, iron-haired, fit (he once rode a bicycle 233 miles) and energetic. He has what one observer calls “command bearing.” " I guess they both have the energy thing.)
Some say he is the highest- profile district attorney the county has ever had, a position he has held since 1988 (Wow! The highest-profile district attorney evah in Waukesha County!).
Then, some ruminating about his destiny:
Just how highly Bucher is regarded in many circles is clear from predictions about his future.
"I would see Paul Bucher running for the position of attorney general in the state of Wisconsin after his family gets a little older," said Don Taylor, longtime chairman of the county's Republican Party. Bucher is first vice chairman of the party.
After that, Taylor says, a governorship.
"I think he's got that kind of ambition and that capability," he said.
He loves his job and said that he does not anticipate leaving it anytime soon, although he admits higher ambitions. He said he knew he could not continue to do this forever, because he had watched the prosecutorial field change, become "more taxing" with more violent crime, higher costs.
He said that he can't remember the last time he worked less than a 10-hour day.
Then there's stuff about what a great guy he is, how he has a heart of gold, how he has the courtroom demeanor of "a sledgehammer." In short, the content of the story may be different but the form and trajectory are similar. I suppose you could call this a "media template."
Questions still linger about Flynn’s past. And his commitment to Milwaukee. The Music Man always left town – until he fell in love. More than one year after taking the job, Flynn’s wife still lives in Virginia, while he lives alone in a Downtown condo. Could he finally settle down here?
Milwaukee Lieutenant of Detectives John Hagen loves the new chief, but has no doubt Flynn’s star shines too brightly for a long marriage to Milwaukee. “It’s like Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie,” Hagen says. “Eventually, she leaves him, and is anyone really surprised? I mean, she’s Angelina Jolie and he’s Billy Bob Thornton.”
Something like that.
Making it more bizarre, Jessica quotes Flynn's wife and son at length. Including this bit:
Besides, she says, noting the 12-hour days he keeps, “I’d just get mad at him anyway.” On some weekends when she comes to Milwaukee to visit, her husband ends up going into work part of the time.
Just in: He actually uses the word magnitude in a rather unfortunate context:
But will that be enough to keep him here? “I want to be wanted back,” Flynn says. “I’ve been looking my whole life for a challenge of this magnitude. The stars all aligned here.”
Just in: Here's Dan Bice's story, including tales of how she was yanked from covering Paul Bucher while covering him for the Journal when it was revealed they were dating. Sordid.
McBride has taught ethics as part of her journalism classes at UWM. The Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics says reporters should "remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility."
Paul Brewer, the head of UWM's Journalism and Mass Communications Department, declined to comment on the situation, saying he knew nothing about it.
"Perceived you instantly - knew you were a good person who does things for the right reason," reads one signed Jessica. "As a result, I began to struggle with the story - having to give time to vitriolic baseless attacks."
For those of you young uns out there, Jessica's metier was vitriolic, baseless attacks.
Just in: In the Waukesha Freeman, Jessica denounces collection of traffic stop data, says give cops a break:
I don’t want police having to second-guess whether their stops will result in them being unfairly called racists. I just want them to get violent offenders, who prey on communities, off the streets. I want them to use their law enforcement judgment about stops. I don’t want to deter good police instinct.
Just in: Jessica sends Charlie and Jeff an email saying the affair didn't start until May, after the story was written and published.