McGrory named metro editor

The Herald’s Jesse Noyes has the news, and Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin has the link. All I’ve got are the leftovers, but what the heck.

Globe metro columnist Brian McGrory has been named the paper’s new metro editor, replacing Carolyn Ryan, who recently left for a job at the New York Times. According to editor Marty Baron’s memo to the staff, McGrory will be replaced. So much for my theory that, with Pulitzer-winner Eileen McNamara already gone, Baron would find a new home for remaining metro columnist Adrian Walker and let the position wither away.

Gee, this won’t short-circuit McGrory’s sideline as a restaurant critic, will it? Check out his review today of Mamma Maria. The first reference to the food comes in, yes, the 10th graf.


The Obama difference

To quote Alex Beam, I write this with my head, not my heart. I don’t have a dog in the 2008 presidential hunt. But I’m mystified by Beam’s assertion in today’s Globe that Barack Obama is this year’s version of Howard Dean, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley and Bruce Babbitt.

Dean, Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt were all utterly without charisma; Dean and Bradley came across as rather unpleasant fellows to boot. Tsongas, Bradley and Babbitt got a big boost from media types who were suckers for their cerebral, moderate politics. (Yes, Bradley ran as a liberal in 2000, but that wasn’t his reputation as a senator.) Dean was the darling of the netroots, but actual voters never warmed up to him.

By contrast, Obama oozes charisma. His campaign’s biggest asset, by far, is himself. Members of the Beam Quartet were small-timers trying to break into the the big time. Obama is a big-timer who may not quite be ready.

Obama may or may not be chosen as the Democratic presidential nominee. But if he’s not, it certainly won’t be because he’s suffering from Howard Dean syndrome. And unlike the Beam Quartet, if Obama falls short, I suspect he’ll get another chance somewhere down the line.

McCain and abortion rights

Scott Helman’s story in today’s Globe about Republican flip-floppers only provides a hint of Sen. John McCain’s tortured history with respect to abortion rights. Helman, whose intent is to show that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is not the only GOP flip-flopper, writes this about McCain:

McCain has also made conflicting comments about whether he believes Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, should be overturned. He told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999 that he did not support a repeal. But earlier this year, speaking to about 800 people in Spartanburg, S.C., he sought to assure conservatives that he did.

“I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned,” McCain said, according to the Associated Press.

That’s true, as far as it goes. But McCain did not wait eight years to renounce his 1999 remarks about Roe v. Wade, as you might be led to believe from Helman’s article; in fact, he started backpeddling almost immediately. Yet even though McCain had been a pro-life conservative for his entire political career, he was never quite able to reassure the right during the 2000 presidential campaign. Every time he opened his mouth about abortion, he committed a gaffe, defined by Michael Kinsley as when a politician accidentally tells the truth.

Consider, for example, a Robert Novak column from Aug. 26, 1999, shortly after the Chronicle reported McCain’s seeming change of heart. (I couldn’t find the original Chronicle article.) Novak began thusly:

Perhaps spending the day with rich, liberal northern California Republicans, who cannot win elections but contribute lots of money, had its impact on Sen. John McCain. That is the only plausible explanation for his telling the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board last week that “certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade.”

“It was a mistake, a terrible mistake,” a McCain adviser told me, contradicting his presidential campaign’s official line that the senator’s opposition to abortion had not diminished (using the old saw that his remarks were taken out of context). McCain spent the weekend trying to straighten out his position, and was still sculpting his language Tuesday, five days after his first remarks.

McCain’s mistake was explained privately by supporters as common to Republican politicians who don’t care much or know much about abortion. They try to please both grass roots, pro-life activists and the well-heeled, pro-choice campaign contributors, in abundance last Thursday when McCain addressed San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. But it is a special problem for McCain. Waffling on abortion confirms his developing image as the most liberal Republican candidate, which might give him momentary pleasure as runner-up, but deny him ultimate satisfaction as the nominee.

McCain’s abortion problem was no mere slip in San Francisco. His staff knew he blundered and sought quick correction. Appearing Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” he no longer mentioned “the long term,” but still opposed getting rid of Roe v. Wade “immediately.” That didn’t work either. Later that day, he issued a written statement: “I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe v. Wade, and as president I would work toward its repeal.”

But in both Sunday’s CNN interview and his written statement he repeated the canard that immediate repeal “would force thousands of young women to undergo dangerous and illegal operations.”

After much polishing by his staff, McCain sent a letter to the Right to Life Committee on Tuesday, affirming his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, with not one word about “dangerous and illegal operations.”

I caught a glimpse of McCain’s attempts to have it both ways in February 2000, when I spent several days following McCain and George W. Bush around South Carolina in the run-up to their pivotal primary. Among other things, McCain was desperately trying to stress his conservative credentials after allowing himself to be portrayed as a moderate in libertarian New Hampshire, where he had handily defeated Bush.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quote McCain on abortion rights, so I can’t report exactly what he said. But I did write this, about an appearance McCain made on MSNBC’s “Hardball” at Clemson University: “McCain stressed his archconservative stand on social issues including gay marriage (‘it’s crazy’), abortion rights (he hopes the Supreme Court will someday overturn Roe v. Wade), and affirmative action (he’s staunchly against quotas).”

As I also wrote at the time, McCain was in trouble with the right for answering a hypothetical question about his 15-year-old daughter’s becoming pregnant by saying it would be her decision whether to have an abortion. He later “corrected” it by saying it would be a family decision.

The point of Helman’s story in today’s Globe is certainly valid: McCain and Rudy Giuliani, no less than Romney, have changed their minds on key issues as they seek the Republican nomination for president. Romney himself went after his two chief rivals earlier this week; Helman cites an Associated Press report in which Romney criticized McCain’s one-time opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade. The former governor said:

Senator McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts. Now he’s for them. He was opposed to ethanol. Now he’s for it. He said he was opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. Now he’s for overturning Roe v. Wade…. That suggests that he has learned from experience.

So why does the flip-flopper charge seem to stick to Romney more than it does to his rivals? Republican operative Roger Stone tells Helman:

I think you can certainly move your political positions within a career and even within a campaign, but when you trade in your old philosophy for a new one, and you did it overnight across the board, it smacks of opportunism.

Well, yeah. I don’t think I can recall a politician who has so conveniently and quickly done a 180 on a whole range of social and cultural issues in order to repackage himself for a different audience and a different audience. Yes, they all do it to some degree, but Romney is unique in his thoroughness, moving from socially moderate — even liberal — to ultraconservative virtually overnight.

McCain is another matter. Eight years ago he failed in his attempts simultaneously to appease conservatives and moderates. This time, he’s falling short in his efforts to move to the right and stay there. Of course, as McCain himself has said repeatedly, he probably has no chance unless the war in Iraq — his main issue — starts to look like a winner. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of that.

Talking (and talking) politics

Globe North today has a nice feature by Steven Rosenberg on the indomitable Michael Goldman, the political consultant turned talk-show host turned political consultant. And here’s the sidebar. Yes, Goldman lives in Marblehead and grew up in Malden, but this should have run throughout the paper.

The Northeastern Globe

Congratulations to Michael Naughton and Hailey Heinz, two Northeastern journalism students whose investigative report on a dubious anti-gun initiative by Boston Mayor Tom Menino appears on the front page of today’s Boston Globe.The mayor has proposed suspending the driver’s licenses of gun offenders; but Naughton and Heinz found that few gun criminals even have licenses.

Naughton and Heinz did their work as part of an investigative-reporting class led by my NU colleague Walter Robinson, the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning retired Spotlight Team editor.

A Pulitzer for the Globe

Congratulations to the Boston Globe and Washington-bureau reporter Charlie Savage, who’ve won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Savage was honored for his series on President Bush’s use and abuse of presidential signing statements, which he’s employed to sign legislation into law even while signaling that he intends to ignore it.

The prize comes at an interesting moment for the Globe, which has been downsizing its way into an almost entirely local paper. While I think that makes a lot of sense in an era when national and international news sites are just a click away, Savage’s award demonstrates that it’s important for the paper to look beyond Route 495 as well.

The Globe’s other finalist, the Spotlight Team’s “Debtor’s Hell” series (helmed by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson), didn’t win. Last week, though, it won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Public Service Award, itself a significant honor.

Science, religion and global warming

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby leans heavily on MIT scientist Richard Lindzen — and not for the first time — in arguing that global warming is nothing to worry about. Lindzen has a commentary in the current Newsweek suggesting that we should all calm down, a sentiment that Jacoby heartily endorses.

To their credit, Lindzen and Jacoby are too intellectually honest to assert something they know to be false. Neither is willing to deny that global warming is real, or that human activity is at least partly responsible. Indeed, this is how Lindzen opens his piece:

Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it?

Both Lindzen and Jacoby go on to say that we should relax because global warming might be good for us. True, Lindzen does say that global warming might prove not to be as bad as current models predict. But his essential view is contained in this sentence: “A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now.”

This is religion, not science — not far removed from Frosty Hardison, the guy who likes global warming because he believes it will hasten Jesus’ return to earth.

Jacoby and other conservative commentators should be careful about invoking Lindzen. The fact is that Lindzen accepts the science of human-caused global warming. Thus we are under no more obligation to accept Lindzen’s value judgments than we are those of Frosty Hardison.

Globe bites Times Co.

Kudos to the Boston Globe this morning, which runs an op-ed piece blasting the New York Times Co. for outsourcing 45 Globe jobs to Bangalore, India.

The column, by Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes and journalist-turned-PR-consultant Jeremy Crockford, makes the point that the Times Co. is shipping jobs overseas just as the leaders of more-enlightened companies are beginning to realize that’s incompatible with quality customer service. They write:

If it doesn’t make sense for Comcast or Dell, it certainly doesn’t make sense for The Boston Globe. Bad business decisions have dogged the Globe over the last 10 years and helped push circulation and revenues steadily downward. It’s time the paper’s owners turned to their own business pages and followed the lead of more savvy corporate thinkers. It’s time to give local people back the jobs they are sending to Bangalore.

Here is an earlier piece, on the AFL-CIO Web site, about the labor group’s efforts to stop the Times Co. from outsourcing Globe jobs.

Welch takes no for an answer

Jack Welch now says it’s obvious that the New York Times Co. isn’t going to sell the Globe to him and advertising honcho Jack Connors. “There was a time when it would have been right,” Welch said in a speech at MIT, according to an account by Reuters. “Management has made it very clear to us that they have no interest in selling the Globe.”

This is not a big surprise. The Times Co. hasn’t budged since last fall, when Welch first made his interest known. (In keeping with the theme of the day, I’ll point out that Mike Barnicle somehow figured into all of this.) Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. apparently believes there are better days ahead for the Globe. As a reader, I hope he’s right. (Via Romenesko.)

Carolyn Ryan is N.Y.-bound

Scratch Globe metro editor Carolyn Ryan from the list of possible replacements for columnist Eileen McNamara. The New York Observer reports that she’s accepted a job as deputy metro editor for government and politics at the New York Times.

I’ve known Ryan since the early 1990s, when she was covering Beacon Hill for The Patriot Ledger of Quincy. As a media reporter, I always found her to be accessible and a straight shooter, and I wish her well in New York. (Via Romenesko.)