Monday, July 23, 2007

Why isn’t more of America reading Tom Teepen’s stuff?

It’s hard to square an official portrait of the guy – he’s made to look something like Colonel Sanders suspiciously interviewing a bad actor in a chicken suit – with the young reporter I remember from 1961.

At the time, Tom Teepen’s beat was Greene County, an outlying circulation district of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. He had a wife, a tract house, a cheap car and if I recall correctly a couple of young kids, and made his living running from Xenia to Goes to Yellow Springs to Fairborn covering police stories and miscellaneous newsworthy whatnots.

These days, at the age of – I’m guessing here – 70-something, I gather he’s living somewhere in the Atlanta area, an eminence grise of punditry for the Cox newspaper chain.

As such, he’s probably quite well known wherever a Cox newspaper circulates. That’s great news – whether they like him there or not – for places like Lufkin, Texas and Palm Beach, Florida among others, to which he brings a voice of sane and reasoned liberalism via their respective Cox publications.

But it’s a damn shame Teepen’s name rarely elicits more than a puzzled shrug here in New York among us so-called informed liberals. Same goes for other major news markets, such as Chicago and Washington, DC.

Teepen’s trademark is commonsense liberalism, as opposed to the doctrinaire kind. For example, when the right wing decries Jimmy Carter as an ineffective fool, a good many of the underinformed liberal establishment simply mumble something unintelligible and try to change the subject. We’re too busy gnashing our teeth at the Bush administration to know or care. Too often, we buy the conservative opinion that Carter must have been something between a wet noodle and a hibernating sloth. Teepen, however, offers a spirited defense of Carter, in part, this:

In addition to the Camp David Accords, Carter negotiated the SALT II arms treaty with the Soviets. He initiated diplomatic relations with China, consolidating Richard Nixon’s breakthrough. His emphasis on human rights brought a literally refreshing purpose to U.S. foreign policy, especially effective in democratizing Latin American politics.

More successful at federal deregulation than any other president—in energy, communications, and transportation—his very success put him athwart his party’s liberal wing. Ted Kennedy became a particular pain in the neck because of Carter’s apostasies.

To which I happily add a point that Teepen also raises: Carter managed to get an American embassy-full of hostages out of Teheran without igniting a war. Imagine the conflagration if the same embassy takeover had occurred during George W. Bush’s watch. How many Americans would have died if someone the likes of Boy George had taken another “bring ‘em on” stance?

Or consider Teepen’s point-of-view on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

An OK transitional policy, "don't ask" is becoming an anachronism, and more counterproductive as well, almost by the minute. Some 11,000 gays and lesbians have been discharged under it, typically for an inadvertence rather than for flagrant defiance of the policy. And it is outright lunacy that since we started the Iraq war, 50 experts in Arabic and Farsi have been thrown out. Didn't President Bush say he wanted to win this thing?

We are increasingly out of step with the rest of the world, at least with the parts we generally identify with. Most of our NATO allies, for instance, allow gays to serve openly in their militaries. The armed forces of Iran, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen do not. We're all but in bed — excuse me, all but in league — with the Axis of Evil and a lot of its gear train.
Yet in the same piece in which he expressed reasoned outraged at the policy, he refused to take a gratuitous whack at Marine General Peter Pace, who espoused Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because he believes homosexuality is immoral. Teepen declares,

From what I read, even mere spear carriers like me in the "liberal elite" are expected to be dutifully scandalized and demand at least his rehab if not the head of Marine Gen. Peter Pace…

Sorry. I can't quite work up enough steam to blow any off. Left-right, up-down, whatever, we really do need to stop being so quick off the mark to go baying after every public figure who rolls a verbal gutter ball.

Go Tom, go!

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