Friday, 31 July 2020 11:29

COLUMN: Newspaper editorial asking Cooper to get ‘heavy handed’ is irresponsible, shameful

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I’m tired. 

Tired of the lecturing from Gov. Roy Cooper and his cohorts. Tired of waiting for his edicts. Tired of his pedantic lecturing.

I’ve written about that. All of it. I’ve written about it probably way too much, as a colleague mentioned to me this week. “How often can you write about being tired?” he asked as he laid on my desk a proof page of the upcoming Carolina Journal. 

He was joking, but just a little.

I started thinking, and those thoughts led me to “Columbo,” the rumpled yet brilliant TV detective who never was quite finished. Until, well, he was finished.

One more thing.

The News & Observer of Raleigh last week scribbled an unsigned editorial that’s splattered with broken reasoning and is unapologetic in its pandering.

I’ve spent decades in newspapers and journalism. I’ve always been reluctant to criticize other writers, or media outlets. Some sort of band of brothers, we’re-all-in-this-together complex. 

An affliction, really.

I read the editorial as I sat on a Carolina beach, and I spit whatever I was drinking all over the hot sand near my toes.

The editorial talked about Cooper and his “bully pulpit.”

“[S]ermonizing about decency and the evils of selfishness won’t get the breadth of compliance needed. That’s where the bully in bully pulpit comes in,” someone wrote. “The governor needs to do more than talk tough, and he needs to do it with more than those who aren’t wearing masks.”

It gets worse from there, spouting rhetoric espousing state-supported suppression and the hammer of autocracy.

Fining gym owners who open for people without notes from their doctors. 

“If gyms can’t do so, they should be fined and possibly forced to close,” the editorial says. HIPAA health-privacy laws, anyone?

The drivel goes on, unfortunately.

Sending the state liquor police into private clubs “every night” demanding proof of membership. 

“If it’s a sham club, they should face the possibility of a suspended liquor license.”

Brilliant! Let’s send even more businesses — many now closed going on five months — into bankruptcy and oblivion. Let’s also cheer ourselves as we promote the nanny state, taking cruelty and suppression to new levels. Remember, too, these businesses — bars, mostly — already deal with arcane and draconian state rules governing alcohol.

Not yet sick enough?

The editorial writer talks about compelling state universities to comply with safety rules, proposed by the governor and state health secretary, based on foggy science sans analysis and context. Yay, team!

The writer panders to Cooper by lauding his response to the coronavirus before taking a decidedly left turn to praise him for vetoing Republican bills to reopen bars and gyms. The writer — or writers or whatever — failed to say Cooper issued his shutdown edicts without approval from the Council of State, mostly, I suppose, because he could.

Cooper, the editorial says, has gotten “shy” about law enforcement, even though he served 16 years as state attorney general. The piece urges Cooper to become more “heavy-handed,” to “punish” mask violators, for instance, with exorbitant fines. On Tuesday he issued new rules on alcohol, cutting off sales at restaurants at 11 p.m. It’s common knowledge the virus is infectious only from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., right?

The piece de resistance of this remarkable piece is a line commending Cooper for standing firm against the reopen protests, which he initially tried to quell until reminded of the First Amendment. These were what one would call “peaceful,” protests, as opposed to the disgusting violence that ensued in downtown Raleigh after George Floyd’s death. People were injured, statues were dragged through the streets and hung from light poles, and businesses — from drug stores to dentist offices — were vandalized and mutilated. Leaving a scarred, boarded up shell of a capital city.

Cooper watched, even as police walked away as “protesters” tossed a rope over a Confederate statue at the old Capitol. The editorial mentioned none of that.

“Being heavy-handed isn’t an easy role for Cooper,” the writer says. “By nature, he’s moderate and tolerant.”

Oh, is he now? Ask bar owners, or gym owners, or lawmakers who disagree with him — over the shutdowns, over school choice, over court appointments.

Ask reporters for Carolina Journal. Neither he nor his staff will even acknowledge, let alone answer, our calls or our emails, though he’s quick to bloviate about openness and transparency. 

North Carolina continues to be among a handful of states refusing to open gyms, which are now moving the heavy equipment outside so that people can work out when the temperature feels like 102 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Cooper tells us to take a walk, literally.

WRAL this week reported “3,150 heat-related hospital emergency department visits reported between May 1 to Aug. 10. A large number of those were men ages 25-64 who were working outdoors … Officials said prolonged exposure to heat can lead to dehydration, overheating, heat illness or even death.”

And, let me add, keeping gyms closed will eventually lead to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

But the governor is keeping us safe.

“North Carolina, like most of the world, is under siege from this virus,” the writer says. “Cooper is fighting it, but he should also call to account those who are ignoring it.”

And we’re here to help, the writer implies.

The N&O was once prominent and influential. Was once an important source for news in the Triangle. Now it’s just part of another media organization crawling out from under bankruptcy filings, owned by hedge fund managers who care as much about the news business as I do about maintaining my membership in this often irresponsible “band of brothers.”

These editors don’t need my help in climbing off their ivory towers. They’ve done a fine job of jumping down on their own.

John Trump is Carolina Journal managing editor.