Interesting how the L.A. Times portrays Ronnie Earle this morning. A cynic might even call it “spin.” (And, judging from the headline of this post, I’m a cynic.)
The profile of Earle is titled Prosecutor Takes Aim at Both Sides of Aisle. The deck headline reads: “Although DeLay calls Ronnie Earle an ‘unabashed partisan zealot,’ others say the Austin district attorney shows no favoritism.” And, although you can’t read it online, there is a picture in the print edition with this caption:
Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronnie Earle may be a Democrat, but so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted.
The story starts out telling the story of how Earle prosecuted Jim Mattox, a prominent former Texas Democrat. It then says:
When he indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Wednesday, the Texas Republican lashed out at Earle, calling him an “unabashed partisan zealot.”
Just one hitch: Earle may be a Democrat, but, he said, so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted over the years, including Mattox.
Do you get it yet? Have they beaten it into you? Earle is no partisan Democrat! I mean, he may be a Democrat, but — did we mention? — so were 12 of the 15 politicians he has indicted! He is an even-handed prosecutor! He prosecutes both sides of the aisle! He shows no favoritism!
You have to dig 12 paragraphs down to read this little nugget:
Earle has taken pains to project a squeaky-clean image, at one point even accusing himself of a misdemeanor when he discovered that his campaign finance reports had been filed late. Still, he has not always remained above the political fray.
Earle recently said that being called partisan by DeLay was akin to “being called ugly by a frog.” At a Democratic fundraiser in May, he called DeLay a “bully.”
Now, I’ll give the paper credit for printing this — but it deserves a little more prominent treatment. What do you think the L.A. Times would have done if Ken Starr had mocked Bill Clinton at a Republican fundraiser while he was investigating Clinton? I can see the caption now:
Special prosecutor Ken Starr called Bill Clinton a “bully” at a Republican fundraiser.
At a minimum, it’s a serious lapse in judgment for a prosecutor who is investigating a prominent political figure from the other political party to go to a fundraiser for his own party and criticize that political figure. If the L.A. Times weren’t predisposed to dislike DeLay, I strongly suspect that little tidbit would be more prominent — just like you know damn well it would be if the prosecutor were Ken Starr instead of Ronnie Earle.
There were a couple of other things about Earle that the paper left out entirely. For example, why did prosecutor Earle write an op-ed piece in the New York Times criticizing a proposed rule change that would allow DeLay to keep his leadership position even if he were indicted? What difference would that make to Earle’s criminal investigation of DeLay? The answer is: none. It was a purely political point. When you put that together with Earle’s public criticism of DeLay at a Democrat fund-raiser, you begin to see where Earle’s critics are coming from. But that piece is nowhere mentioned in today’s article.
I would have also liked to see some mention in the article of Earle’s suspect decision to condition plea bargains on the defendants’ making large donations to one of Earle’s pet causes. A bit odd, and something that casts a little dirt on that “squeaky-clean image.”
When you look at what was omitted — and the lack of prominence to the negative facts about Earle that were included — it’s hard not to view the article as anything but what I call it in the title: spin.
P.S. I’m not eager to jump on the Republican bandwagon and openly declare Earle’s indictment an obviously partisan act by an obviously partisan D.A. I don’t know what evidence he has, and I’m not a huge fan of Tom DeLay. Maybe he is dirty — and if he is, he should go. I’m just saying, there were a few facts left out today.
P.P.S. Many Republicans have leapt on the example of Earle’s dropped prosecution of Kay Bailey Hutchison (also mentioned in today’s Times article, at the very end) as evidence that Earle is a partisan. I’m not making that argument, because I don’t know all the facts of that case. Prosecutions get dropped for all sorts of reasons, and a dropped prosecution doesn’t necessarily indicate that the prosecution was bogus to begin with, or that the D.A. is a partisan.
Let’s keep a close eye on this — but for crying out loud, don’t trust the paper for all your facts.