Monday night was warm, but thankfully not warm enough for a swimsuit competition.
When political candidates audition for endorsements, they often call the meeting a “beauty contest.” The Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee had their pageant just off McHenry Avenue as a parade of candidates for Superintendent of Schools, sheriff, Assembly and state senate made their elevator pitches. Such meetings are more for show and campaign dough than substance. Difficult questions are seldom ever asked.
Someone forgot to tell Barbara Jensen. The Central Committee’s person of the year in 2017 asked sheriff candidate Juan Alanis about the department’s “culture of disrespect.” It took him by surprise. It took a lot of people by surprise. It was a question worthy of any reporter. But the answer she got was mostly a bit of hemming and a lot of hawing.
Asked to explain, Jensen – who doesn’t look at all like a troublemaker – didn’t hesitate. She’s unhappy about all the, uh, darned lawsuits that have been brought against the department under Sheriff Adam Christianson (a Republican), and she wants to know exactly what would be done to change that dynamic.
The Bee has invited both sheriff candidates to meet with our editorial board soon. We haven’t yet crafted all our questions, but Jensen gave us a good start.
The meeting originally had been scheduled for a nearby office, but when word arrived that both front-running Republican candidates for governor were planning to drop by, it was quickly moved to the parking lot. About 65 people showed up, but only one of the gubernatorial candidates – Travis Allen. And he was an hour late. Even so, he got the committee’s nod along with Jeff Denham for Congress, Heath Flora for Assembly District 12, Birgit Fladager for district attorney and Terry Withrow for District 3 supervisor among others.
The problem with party endorsements, say some candidates, is that they often involve a “purity test.” If you don’t align with core positions on national issues, you won’t get the nod. Is rigid adherence to party doctrine a good criteria for endorsing a candidate for local office? Maybe. But a swimsuit competition would probably be a better indicator of who can actually win.
Spoke to a group of entirely engaging MJC students Wednesday morning (meaning they asked good questions). They wanted to talk about how to discern “real” from “fake news” as part of the critical thinking skills they’re learning in adjunct professor Nathaniel Lloyd’s composition class.
Fake news purveyors often share many of the same traits. They use bad data, say whatever comes into their heads and rarely admit they’re wrong.
Consider: The guy who invented the term “fake news” is the same guy who insists millions of non-voters in California voted against him (offering no proof because proof doesn’t exist); who won’t walk back the claim there are dozens of rapes occurring in the immigrant caravan now stalled in Mexico (reporters have debunked this fevered fantasy), and who needed years to finally admit he was fibbing about Barack Obama being born in Kenya.
Journalists are asked to explain “fake news” a lot these days. We’re also asked why Donald Trump thinks journalists are “enemies of the people” (a term popular with Emperor Nero and Vladimir Lenin). Perhaps it would be easier to simply say we’re only “enemies of people who spread fake news.”
Mike Dunbar is the editorial page editor of The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star. 209 578-2325.