I am not one to editorialize.
But today I will make an exception because I can’t stand silently by while the state’s newspaper of record tries to jump off the Donald Trump bandwagon as it careens toward the February 9 New Hampshire Primary.
I’m compelled by a front-page editorial published Dec. 28 by my former boss, Joseph McQuaid, known for his pithy point of view on New Hampshire politics.
Long before McQuaid was steering the ship, The Union Leader’s reputation was steeped in a vintage conservatism far more potent than anything the Tea-Partiers are serving up these days.
Much has changed. The Granite State’s shiny red cloak of conservatism has been splattered with enough die-hard liberal policy that it is now a purple cape of bi-partisanship flapping around wildly with the winds of change.
In the last 10 presidential elections, New Hampshire’s electorate chose a Democrat as many times as it chose a Republican.
I don’t disagree with McQuaid’s assessment of Trump. I even appreciate his astute anecdotal mention that the creator of “Back to the Future II” modeled bully Biff Tannen after Trump. Of course, that movie came out more than 30 years ago, and of all the things that have changed in this world, apparently, Trump isn’t one of them.
In 337 pithy words, McQuaid today tried to reframe Trump as someone who has publicly descended into being a bully and a blowhard. That would require Trump to have previously been standing on some higher ground being something other than a blowhard.
McQuaid knows better than that.
If there is nothing more powerful than truth, then here’s a powerful observation for you:
On November 12, 2014, I attended the Union Leader’s annual First Amendment Awards celebration where Trump was invited by McQuaid as keynote speaker. I snapped some photos of McQuaid handing Trump some kind of “thank you” statue with an American Eagle on top. I can’t remember what exactly McQuaid said to Trump just before the hand-off, but I do remember McQuaid exercised his usual wit to elicit some laughs from the packed house, and a big smile from Trump.
Trump generously donated his speaking services. Perhaps he was angling, in return, for a future Union Leader endorsement, which never came.
I’m sure, back then, using Trump to sell tickets for a celebration of freedom of speech and to support the Nackey Loeb School, which owns the Union Leader, seemed like a good marketing idea. Tickets were $75 each, or $150 if you wanted a little face time with the Donald. Multiplied by the sell-out crowd, I’d say that makes Trump a real cash cow.
Today, badmouthing Trump to sell newspapers to people who are buying everything Trump is selling is a desperate grab by McQuaid at the last shred of his newspaper’s dignity. If he is trying to salvage his own political bully pulpit – and relevance – in time for the NH Primary, I’m afraid it’s too little, too late.
If he’s afraid Trump is insulting the intelligence of New Hampshire voters, then he should boycott Trump’s town hall, happening tonight in Nashua, by not sending a reporter.
But that won’t happen. Trump sells newspapers.
Today’s editorial by McQuaid underscores that the game of New Hampshire politics is only a game until a guy like Trump passes go with the help of a sputtering newspaper publisher who, one year ago, encouraged Trump to keep speaking freely by giving him a statuette, an audience, and a bully pulpit.
And, by default, his blessing.
Postscript 3 p.m: After the Union Leader’s front-page editorial circulated Monday, Donald Trump immediately retaliated by calling Publisher Joe McQuaid names and accusing him of being Chris Christie’s puppet.