Whatever happened to sustained outrage at The Gazette?

I know I’ve been out of the loop of West Virginia politics for awhile and I’ll admit I haven’t been reading The Gazette editorial page all that closely, but I had a true WTF moment when I saw this headline on a Gazette editorial this morning: “Election: Tomblin endorsed.” Really? Earl Ray? The Earl Ray whose mom has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars through the state greyhound breeding fund? Whose wife was appointed as the first college president in the state lacking a doctoral degree? (Mrs. Tomblin didn’t need a Dr. before that last name, did she?) The same Tomblin whose family ran one of the state’s largest distributors of “grey machines” before video slots were legalized?

This slimiest of politicians really rises to the top in an incredibly crowded field? (Side note: It would help me out here if anyone who is not running for governor would raise his or her hand. Thanks.)

This endorsement has the feel – and I say this from personal experience – of an editorial position dictated from the owner’s office that the writer – almost certainly Jim Haught, bless him – struggled mightily to justify. The editorial says of Tomblin that “no blemish has touched his four-decade career in public life.” Ahem. See paragraph one above. True, Tomblin never was investigated or imprisoned – which can’t be said for every West Virginia Senate president – but to say his political career has been free of blemishes is just embarrassingly wrong.

The main rationale the editorial gives for picking Tomblin is also embarrassing: If anyone else wins, West Virginia would have had three governors in office in one year: “first Joe Manchin, then Tomblin, then the winner of the Oct. 4 general election. That’s too much rapid turnover.” That’s what’s suppose to happen when you have an acting governor, who should be nothing more than a temporary placeholder. The editorial quotes statehouse columnist Phil Kabler as saying: “If anyone else wins, the new administration will have barely six weeks to assemble itself and prepare for the 2012 legislative session, a recipe for a disastrous session.”

I can’t find where Phil wrote this in a column, so perhaps this was an off-the-cuff remark. But it’s pretty silly. How would that be any different from any year when a new governor is elected? In fact, the new governor will have longer to prepare for the session, since he or she will take office after the special election in October rather than being sworn in just before the new session starts in January.

A newspaper that prides itself on upholding Ned Chilton’s legacy of sustained outrage ought to be embarrassed by this endorsement of the worst kind of West Virginia politician.

Addendum: Though I remain appalled by the endorsement itself, I thought I should make clear that my criticism is directed at what I assume was a directive to endorse Tomlin, and not at the good reporters and editors at the Gazette who do great work daily that would make Ned Chilton proud. If I painted with too broad a brush in my criticism of that decision, I apologize.

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