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Jewish World Review July 24, 2000 / 21 Tamuz, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Silencing Jeff Jacoby -- BACK IN THE 19TH CENTURY, when "liberal" meant open-minded, there was a vigorous intellectual movement to protect individuals against what John Stuart Mill called the "tyranny of prevailing opinion and feeling." Two centuries later, classical liberalism has been stood on its head. Modern-day liberals now dedicate their efforts to suppressing the free expression for which their predecessors fought.

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is a casualty of this illiberal war on free and diverse speech. Jacoby made a mistake. Now he is paying a ridiculously unjust price - four months' suspension without pay -- for failing to note that a July 3 column about the signers of the Declaration of Independence was based on a well-worn tale. Demonstrating the class which has won him so many fans, Jacoby declined to publicly blame his plight on newsroom politics.

Some of Jacoby's left-leaning Globe colleagues are not so civil. This week, Globe ombudsman Jack Thomas penned a snide attack on the newspaper's lone conservative columnist. Thomas made a specious accusation of plagiarism and wrote that Jacoby should be assigned "to the city desk as a reporter...It would make him a better columnist because he'd learn something about the newspaper business. And he might learn something about life."

That sentiment reeks of ideologically-based resentment. Rather than engage Jacoby on the strength or weaknesses of his ideas, Thomas mocks his credentials as a journalist. Thomas, like many of his liberal detractors at the Globe, seems hopelessly blinded by his longstanding intolerance of Jacoby's conservatism. He refuses to acknowledge that the columnist - a veteran, award-winning newspaper editorial writer for more than a dozen years -- has given the Globe years of original reporting and invaluable insights that stem from his keen political perspective.

Three years ago, for example, Jacoby broke news with a devastating column on Dr. Patrick Chavis, a longtime poster boy for affirmative action supporters. The column quoted Senator Edward Kennedy referring to Chavis as a "perfect example" of the need for racial preferences. Chavis was the black doctor who took the slot of Allan Bakke, the white applicant to the University of California-Davis medical school who challenged affirmative action admissions before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978.

Chavis, Kennedy claimed, was a successful gynecologist "making a difference in the lives of scores of poor families." Depends on what you mean by "difference." As Jacoby reported, the Medical Board of California had suspended Chavis' license, warning of his "inability to perform some of the most basic duties required of a physician." An administrative law judge found Chavis guilty of gross negligence and incompetence in the treatment of three patients - one of whom died at his hands while he performed fly-by-night liposuction.

"Minority communities and poor families don't need black doctors. They need good doctors," Jacoby argued. "And when universities admit medical students on grounds other than academic ability, they will turn out fewer doctors who are good. The cost of medical affirmative action isn't theoretical. It is paid in human suffering - sometimes in human lives."

Only after Jacoby's column was published and widely discussed did the Los Angeles Times see fit to scrutinize Chavis' appalling and deadly record. Few others in the news media, which blindly champions the affirmative action agenda, dared to touch the story.

Jacoby also has a knack for debunking Beltway blowhardism that other journalists sloppily accept as gospel. In a recent critique of "Democracy Derailed," Washington Post reporter David Broder's book attacking the initiative and referendum process, Jacoby exposed Broder's factual flaws - and underlying elitism. Broder argues that initiatives are flooding American ballots. Jacoby plainly points out that "initiatives aren't even allowed in 26 states...Most never make it to the ballot; of those that do, most usually go down to defeat."

Broder whines about rampant abuse of the process by deep-pocketed "special interests." Jacoby counters with information from a survey of 168 ballot campaigns in eight states. It showed that "[o]nly 31 percent of initiatives backed chiefly by special interests passed, while those put forward by broad-based citizen groups succeeded 50 percent of the time." Jacoby tells a truth that Broder and other Beltway journalism fossils can no longer discern from their lofty perches: "Representative government is not always representative. When legislatures refuse to heed the voters, initiatives can set them straight."

Scrupulously fair, Jacoby targets Democrats and Republicans alike for their excesses and hypocrisies. He has assailed Clinton, irritated Al Gore and castigated the GOP Congress for failing to control spending. "Outlays in fiscal 2000 will add up to roughly $1.74 trillion. In the space of six years, the bloated federal government will have grown by nearly one-fifth," Jacoby noted in a column blasting the "grand old spending party."

Jacoby is also one of the few prominent major metro daily op-ed columnists (as opposed to nationally syndicated columnists) who protests sports stadium subsidies. That's no small feat given that every major newspaper publisher supports these scams. "When taxpayers are forced to subsidize sports teams and stadiums, the chief beneficiaries are nearly always the millionaire players and their multimillionaire owners. This is corporate welfare at its most egregious," Jacoby wrote in opposing tax subsidies for the New England Patriots.

These are just of the few of the principled dissents – backed by thorough reporting – that Jacoby has taken over the years. As classical liberals once argued, prevailing opinion and feeling are strengthened by clashes with opposing views. This open conflict is essential in a healthy democracy -- and on a healthy editorial page. Jacoby's alleged transgression is a thin excuse to quell an effective and unapologetically conservative voice.

It's a sad day for journalism when illiberal media guardians embrace the notion that the only way to win a debate is to eliminate it.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate