By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Before I enter shark-infested waters and make some election endorsements, let me give you some context — about what goes on behind the scenes at The Chronicle and about how I see myself, the world and my role in it.
Friday at 3:06 p.m. a “Letter to the Editor” arrived in The Chronicle e-mail box. The woman who wrote the letter subsequently withdrew it, but I’ll excerpt it leaving her name out.
It began: “Mark,
“I thought by now we would see your interview with Stefanik, but then again, I thought no, The Chronicle will not publish that interview until the last paper before the election, with your usual softball questions.
“After reading Mr. Johnson’s letter, from Lake Luzerne, I struggled with the same view of your interview with Tedra Cobb. Your very first question to her seemed so aggressive and apparently by Tedra’s answer she was quite surprised, too.”
As I’m sure you’ve forgotten, here is the first question I asked Tedra Cobb — Q: Why should you be the Congresswoman instead of Elise Stefanik?
So what was the first question I asked Congresswoman Stefanik when we published a verbatim interview with her last Feb. 22? Q: Why are you opposed to health care for everybody?
You tell me — which candidate was asked the aggressive question? Which was asked the “softball” question that most candidates would knock out of the park?
Do you think the lady’s letter to the editor irked me? You bet it did, in part because it shows her bias, not mine. I don’t like having my integrity impugned. More important, nastiness doesn’t narrow what divides us.
Fate smiles on me. That day’s real mail brought a postcard from a Tedra Cobb supporter in Shushan thanking me for “your excellent, well-thought-out Q&A column with Tedra Cobb.” (We publish the letter on page 1.)
At The Chronicle we honestly try to play it straight. We attempt to do news stories that are unbiased. In interviews we ask the hardest questions we can think of.
And when the time comes to express an opinion, we do it as strongly, as constructively, as humbly, as we can.
I search for signals of conciliation when I look at political candidates, and at anyone in position to help bridge America’s differences and find common ground. On Oct. 19, Jim Ryan, the new president of the University of Virginia — where our son Max went — delivered his inaugural address. I read it avidly — looking to see what signals he sent, hoping for signs he knows and aims to bridge the divide. I came away excited, exhilarated.
He said UVA has “unfinished work” and that it “requires that we acknowledge the sins of our past, including, for example, the fact that slaves built these Grounds. That we recognize, with requisite humility, both Jefferson’s brilliance and his brutality. That we acknowledge this university’s role in promoting eugenics and the fact that African-Americans weren’t fully welcome here until the 1950s, and women not until the 1970s….”
At the same time he pledged to lead “a university that lives its values; that embraces honor and acts honorably; that studies sustainability and practices it; that promotes justice and is just; that endorses free speech and academic freedom and protects them robustly.”
That commitment to “free speech and academic freedom” and “protect[ing] them robustly” matters mightily to me. I’m mindful that at Middlebury College author Charles Murray was thwarted from speaking and the professor with him was violently attacked. I don’t take free speech for granted. President Ryan gives me hope.
Common ground is re-established a little bit at a time.
I support Elise Stefanik for Congress. Tedra Cobb came across to me as a doctrinaire spend-and-tax Democrat not particularly attuned to people who don’t already agree with her. I asked, are you looking for votes from Trump supporters? She replied, “I have been very clear from the beginning I am running against Elise Stefanik,” and she never did answer my question.
I asked how she’ll pay for Medicare for all. She said if everybody is in it, “it becomes cheaper” and “when people get preventive care, the cost of health care goes down.” Yes, but I’m not quite believing a huge tax hike doesn’t have to be a significant part of the package.
Same thing on the environment. Does she favor a gas tax? “I think more people are looking at the [carbon] dividend because that gives them something back.” I had to ask: What is that? “The carbon dividend is that when the companies, as we save money, that money gets paid to you and me.” That sounds like pie in the sky to me.
I think Elise Stefanik is very intelligent, on top of the issues, and in tune overall with the district. Yes I wish she’d do more town halls and more grass roots politicking, but she’s capable and has her head in the game.
I support Betty Little for State Senate. During the Congressional Democratic forum at the Saratoga Middle School, I thought Emily Martz came across best, as down to earth and not an ideologue. But I admire Betty Little, marvel at how she shows up everywhere in the district and gets things done even with Gov. Cuomo.
I support Carrie Woerner for 113th District Assembly. I think she’s a Democrat who really puts constituents before partisanship. People that I respect respect her.
I support Dan Stec for 114th Assembly. As with Betty Little, I’m proud to have him representing us.
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