South Dakota Politics
A University of South Dakota law student's blog dedicated primarily to shining light (either a harsh, unyielding spotlight or a soft, warm glow) on figures and institutions in South Dakota.

Saturday, August 02, 2003  

WILL DASCHLE VISIT STURGIS? Don't miss the second installment of Kim du Toit's parody of Tom Daschle's blog. Daschle will be starting out his roadtrip in Rapid City. I wonder if Daschle will meander over to Sturgis for the Motorcycle Rally that will be going on this coming week? He could go gladhand Sonny Barger's Hell's Angels. I don't know if Sonny will be in Sturgis this year, but I saw him there last year in One Eyed Jack's Saloon. Anyway, imagine Tom Daschle amongst the leather chaps and vests, the scantily clad women with boa constrictors around their necks, and all of those fuel-wasting, tympanum-shattering Harleys. It would be a hoot!

posted by Jason | 10:53 AM

"BLOG IT IS AND BLOG I'LL DO:" From the Huron Plainsman: Daschle says the blog is on. Excerpt:

"This year, I learned what a blog is," the South Dakota Democrat said Thursday in a conference call.

Of course, the story doesn't reveal that the reason Tom Daschle learned about blogging is because the Dakota Alliance of bloggers has been taking him to task for months. The failure to report that fact is yet another sad outcome of the stale monopoly of local reporting in South Dakota. Tom Daschle wouldn't be venturing into the blogosphere today if the Dakota Alliance did not exist.

posted by Jason | 10:17 AM

Friday, August 01, 2003  

THANKS TOM: Tom Daschle starts a blog, and as a direct result SDP gets linked by the biggest blog in the world, allowing hundreds of new readers to discover SDP. Life is good. For all of you new readers, check out the rest of the Dakota Alliance of bloggers: High Plains Observer, Greg Belfrage and Sibby Online.

UPDATE: Be sure to check the links at the right side of this blog, and also for a primer on Tom Daschle's intimidation tactics in the state of South Dakota, read this report by Jeff Gannon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: While Tom Daschle has started a blog, his mentor, Senator Jim Abourezk, is trying to stifle speech by suing a website for $5 million.

posted by Jason | 5:58 PM

DASCHLE BLOG UPDATE: I had to snicker at a quote from Tom Daschle in Mike Madden's report on Daschle becoming a blogger:

"My staff told me a while back about a blog," Daschle said.

Yeah, I'll bet they did. Do you suppose SDP came up in that conversation?

Anyway, the blogosphere has latched on to this story. Below is a list of posts from various blogs about Daschle blogging:

Hit & Run
Rex Stetson
Croooow Blog
Betsy's Page
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Southern Conservative
Jessica's Well
Student Life

posted by Jason | 12:58 PM

KIND WORDS: Greg Belfrage has me blushing with his latest post.

posted by Jason | 7:20 AM

JEFF GANNON RIDES AGAIN: Former Senator Jim Abourezk, who has been subjected to very harsh criticism by SDP in the past, sued a website a few months ago for $5 million. This week, the defendant, Jeff Marino of filed a motion to dismiss. Jeff Gannon, who made a big splash in South Dakota with his reporting on bias in the Argus Leader, has a thorough report. You can read Abourezk's complaint by clicking here. Interestingly, some nutbar sent me a hate e-mail last May and signed Jim Abourezk's name to it.

posted by Jason | 7:14 AM

Thursday, July 31, 2003  

DASCHLE BECOMES A BLOGGER: In a curious new development, Tom Daschle has decided keep a weblog as he does his August recess roadtrip around South Dakota, according to a report from Mike Madden of the Argus Leader. Could it be in response to the blogging phenomenon that has swept the plains of this state for the last seven months? We will be able to access Daschle's blog from his official Senate website. However, you will not be able to access Tom Daschle's voting record at his official Senate website, something Ralph Nader requested that Daschle do in a recent open letter published in the Rapid City Journal. Many state legislators around the country are taking advantage of the blogging opportunity, as seen by this Minnesota state legislator. Hopefully, South Dakota state legislators will soon follow suit. At any rate, SDP welcomes Tom Daschle to the blogosphere.

posted by Jason | 1:02 PM

Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

ARGUS OVERDUE FOR OMBUDSMAN: Today, the executive editor of the New York Times announced he would soon hire an ombudsman, or readers' representative, who would "have license to write about issues of our coverage, and to have those independent, uncensored commentaries published in our pages." I would think that what's good enough for the Times is good enough for the Argus Leader. Argus Leader executive editor Randell Beck constantly tells us what makes a great newspaper and a great editor in his columns, and below are a few recent examples:

- A very good newspaper is a full-length mirror, reflecting a unique checkerboard of attitudes, voices, faces and places. Published 7-27-03.

- [This column] is a place to explain what we do and why here at the Argus Leader; to fess up when we fall short; to defend, if necessary; to speak clearly and a little passionately about your expectations, and mine, for a great newspaper. Published 7-20-03.

- Great editors teach, mentor, lead, inspire. But great editors, at all levels, represent the reader as well, maintaining a dispassionate distance - not just from the men and women who gather the news, but also from the intricate and high-energy process that distills millions of pieces of information into a newspaper that shows up at your house in the morning. Published 6-7-03.

Clearly, Randell Beck has assigned to himself the role of ombudsman for the Argus Leader, as seen by the second quote above. The fact that Beck is the executive editor AND the ombudsman presents an egregious conflict of interest. How can we legitimately rely on Randell Beck to hold his newspaper "conspicuously accountable to both readers and the public" especially in light of his argument on Greg Belfrage's radio show recently that his newspaper shouldn't be held to the same scrutiny as government officials because the Argus "isn't on the public dole?" Or when he can't bring himself to admit he goofed last January when he created the Argus' own "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment? Obviously, the Argus Leader is overdue for an ombudsman who could provide independent, uncensored commentary on its coverage. As the Times' report quotes, "a pair of professional eyes, familiar with us but independent of the day-to-day production of the paper, can make us more sensitive on matters of fairness and accuracy, and enhance our credibility." Would that the executive editor of the Argus Leader was this introspective and farsighted.

posted by Jason | 8:03 PM

DASCHLE ROAD TRIP: Tom Daschle's annual road trip through South Dakota will be an opportunity for him to discuss people's fears about health care. Last year, Daschle's road trip was on C-Span, which showed him driving on I-90 west of the river between Rapid City and Chamberlain. Watching Daschle drive Kennebec's new fire truck was a hoot!

posted by Jason | 7:41 AM

THE GOLDEN AGE OF NEPOTISM: Jonathon Turley, law professor at George Washington University, discusses the Daschle family business--lobbying--as one example among many of nepotism run rampant: Don't let jobs grow on family trees.

posted by Jason | 7:34 AM

Monday, July 28, 2003  

BAD PRESS: Tom Daschle has taken a few missiles today from the editorial pages of two national papers and one local paper

1) The Washington Post takes Daschle to task for having lobbyist family members: All in the Family.
2) The New York Times excoriates Daschle for backtracking on campaign finance reform: Fresh Hope for Fat Cats.
- On this issue, liberal commentator Mark Shields has also excoriated Daschle.
- The Washington Post, in a past editorial, has excoriated Daschle for looking for ways to get around the new campaign finance law.
3) The Oregonian berates Daschle for "playing politics" with the issue of forest fires: A fire deal simmers in the Senate.

posted by Jason | 8:48 PM

ARGUS BEATS THE POST: Kudos to the Argus Leader for beating the Washington Post to the punch by weeks in publishing an editorial on the issue of lawmakers' family members being lobbyists. The Post finally gets around to editorializing about it today, although the Post piece is less muddled than the Argus' was. Unfortunately, I can't link to the Argus editorial because they have a nasty habit of erasing their editorials after a week or so.

REMINDER: Jeff Gannon was the first to break the story on the lobbying activities of Tom Daschle's daughter-in-law, well before the LA Times report, and, for that matter, Mike Madden's follow-up report on the LA Times article in the Argus Leader.

posted by Jason | 12:59 PM

BEWARE THE MISQUOTE: Today's edition of the New York Times had this quote from Representative Bill Thomas regarding Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt:

Once, in a political scuffle over a tax package, Mr. Thomas told reporters that it would be easier to get inside the head of Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Democrat of Missouri, than the head of Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota and the minority leader, because at least "you bump into things" in Mr. Gephardt's head.

And yesterday's edition of the Washington Post contains the following:

Or the time -- during a period of relative bipartisanship after Sept. 11 -- when Thomas explained to the news media that it's easier to know what's going on in Sen. Tom Daschle's head than Rep. Richard Gephardt's, "because you'd bump into things" in Gephardt's head.

So whose head is it easier to get inside of or know what's going on inside? One of these papers has misquoted Bill Thomas, or maybe even both of them have. Whoever pitched this story to the Times and Post sure got the quote tangled.

posted by Jason | 12:53 PM

Sunday, July 27, 2003  

SUNDAY ARGUS ROUNDUP: It's Sunday, so that means it's time once again to endure preacher/executive editor Randell Beck's weekly sermon/column. I don't know. I want to try to understand and like Mr. Beck, but the tone of his sermons is usually so silly, but at the same time so patronizing and sanctimonious, that I usually have the dry heaves by the time I'm finished reading. I mean, is it ever possible in Randell Beck's world that he and his newspaper could be wrong sometimes? Recall that when the Argus Leader goofed on announcing that Daschle was running for president, Beck couldn't bring himself to admit that he had goofed when he talked to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. Kurtz even talked about Beck's goof on his CNN show. Excerpt from Kurtz's January 13, 2003 report in the Washington Post:

The Scoop That Wasn't

"He's Running," blared the headline in South Dakota's largest paper, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Within hours, though, Tom Daschle announced that he wasn't running for president.

How does the senator's home-state paper feel about its "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment? "I have mixed feelings because I never want any reader to think we were careless with the facts or in any way misled them," Editor Randell Beck says. But he insists the story was right -- at the time.

The lead in last Tuesday's story: "Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is telling confidants and friends he will run for president and could
make an announcement in South Dakota as early as this weekend, Gannett News Service and the Argus Leader learned Monday. . . . Interviews with nearly a dozen people . . . indicated that Daschle had decided to seek the nation's highest office."

Not much wiggle room there.

"I'm not sure, frankly, that I would do it differently because I don't think we did anything wrong," Beck says. "I trusted and still trust the
reporters who gathered the information.

"If I don't sound properly self-flagellating, it's because I'm not. The story was dead-on correct and I slept like a baby. Yes, when you read it
it was wrong. I understand people being upset with us. Damn, we're human."

But other humans, called politicians, change their minds, which is why journalists should be careful about crawling too far out on a limb.

Does Randell Beck ever admit to making a mistake? Does it ever occur to him that the Argus Leader has a lot of room for improvement? I could try not reading his column, but I care too much about what's going on in this state to risk it. As executive editor of the state's newspaper of record (or at least the newspaper with the most subscribers), Randell Beck is a force to be reckoned with. The following, from Beck's contribution today, is a typical passage:

A very good newspaper is a full-length mirror, reflecting a unique checkerboard of attitudes, voices, faces and places.

If it's hitting on all cylinders, that newspaper reveals to a reader both confirmation of, and direct challenge to, his or her own cherished view of the world. Making you - all of us - a little uncomfortable is part of what we aim to do each day.

But heaven forfend that Randell Beck and the Argus Leader should ever be uncomfortable. He "sleeps like a baby." It brings to mind Beck's assertion on Greg Belfrage's radio show saying that the Argus Leader shouldn't be held to the same scrutiny as government officials and institutions.

In today's column it's hard to tell whether Beck is talking about the editorial page, in which case I agree with the sentiment, or if he's talking about the newsgathering side, in which case I would disagree with the sentiment. A very good South Dakota newspaper merely has to publish all the news that's fit to print regarding South Dakota. I have often pointed out where the Argus Leader has failed to do precisely that, the latest item they're ignoring being Tom Daschle's speech at the annual convention of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, in the wake of Daschle's filibuster of malpractice reform. The Argus Leader has also never reported on Tom Daschle's trip to Hollywood two months ago to talk to the members of the movie industry about the issue of runaway film and television production. Both the movie industry and trial lawyers contribute substantial amounts of money to Tom Daschle. These items are facts, and they are facts that South Dakotans deserve to know about, indeed would be interested to know about. But the Argus Leader doesn't report these facts.

I hasten to add that the Argus Leader has reported thoroughly on the issue of Linda Daschle's lobbying, but only after substantial prodding from persistent critics. Mike Madden, the Argus Leader's Washington bureau chief, did an excellent job in reporting this story, and I believe that Mike Madden is a fair reporter.

Which brings me to the final item to discuss, namely, today's column by David Kranz, the dean of South Dakota political reporters. Much to my surprise, he has reported on the poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates this past week, but unsurprisingly has failed to report on Tom Daschle's speech to the trial lawyers after filibustering malpractice reform. I am smarter today than I was yesterday due to Kranz's column, though. I hadn't realized before that there are two polling groups that contain the name "McLaughlin." One is McLaughlin & Associates, the other is Fabrizio McLaughlin.

posted by Jason | 6:31 PM
Ungarnered Praise
Talon News Series on Argus Leader Bias