Last updated on 2012.06.08
I listened to the "Political Junkies" on Dakota Midday during my lunch break yesterday. SDPB's Paul Guggenheimer introduced Rapid City Journal reporter David Montgomery and Madison Daily Leader publisher Jon Hunter, and perked up in my chair. "Hey!" I shouted. "I know both of those guys!" South Dakota really is one small town.
While Montgomery offered some useful insights, our man Hunter let me down. In the opening discussion of Bill Janklow's announcement of his imminent death, Hunter played doctor and said the poignant emotion Janklow expressed was probably just a product of his brain cancer. Hunter then said Janklow doesn't have to be contrite to the whole world for killing Randy Scott with his reckless driving. After all, said Hunter, it was an accident, not intentional, and not everyone gets charged with manslaughter for a traffic accident.
Right, Jon, they don't. They only get charged with and convicted of manslaughter when they make arrogant and irresponsible choices like not taking their meds and then getting behind the wheel and driving like crazy people.
Montgomery, thankfully, carefully responded that Janklow's behavior contributed to the 2003 accident that ended his political career. Montgomery also declined to assert his medical credentials and called Janklow's emotion a "pure" moment in Friday's press conference and perhaps mild compensation for the fact that Janklow didn't express remorse a few months ago when news came out about his continued speeding.
Hunter continued to Janklow slobbering, calling Janklow "a transcendent figure... a legend regardless of party." Montgomery has the journalistic cool to note that folks can't agree on where to place Janklow in the political spectrum. Janklow occupied his own space in politics, so people all along spectrum can find something to admire in him. Montgomery provided balance by noting that even on death's edge, Janklow draws something far from universal admiration right now. Montgomery cited comments on Mount Blogmore showing a lot of people still don't like Janklow and still have grudges.
(Memo to Jon Hunter: Mount Blogmore is the Rapid City Journal's political blog, an online forum where reporters express opinions, link to other articles and research, and proivide readers with a public forum for debate and discussion of the news. You might try something like it sometime on the very quiet Madison Daily Leader website.)
Guggenheimer then turns the discussion to the South Dakota Republican Party's straw poll, which absurdly gave first and second places to Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. The only observation Hunter could manage was the weakly generic observation that "these are unreliable methods." Even that comment was a bit strong for Hunter: he felt the need to assure his Republican advertisers that he didn't mean that in a bad way. Hunter said that each new candidate that enters instantly rises, then falls back, and that if we take the same poll months from now, we'll get different results.
Hunter's observation here is irrelevant. Sure, new entrants have seen initial surges in GOP polls, but Cain and Gingrich aren't new entrants. Hunter's non-observation thus tells us nothing about why South Dakota's $75-per-plate Republicans voted the way they did Saturday.
Hunter at least as the good sense to label Newt Gingrich "a non-factor... bit of a cartoon character... just not a legitimate candidate." But remarkably, he says no such thing about Herman Cain, who actually won the poll.
For a "political junkie," Hunter isn't giving us much of a fix here. Paul Guggenheimer, stick with Montgomery, and replace Hunter with some deeper thinkers... and some folks who don't make apologies for Bill Janklow.