Hard on the heels of Grazergate . . . it’s Rummygate!
Summary: one of the other names mentioned for a guest editor spot for Sunday Current was Donald Rumsfeld — the former squash partner of publisher David Hiller.
And Hiller is rumored to have suggested Rummy’s name.
It doesn’t really sound like some earth-shaking ethical violation . . . but it does add weight to the personal connections angle of Grazergate. The connection to Rumsfeld has fewer degrees of separation than the Grazer connection did (at least as far as Hiller is concerned). It makes it look more and more like guest spots were being handed out to pals like candy.
On the other hand, I am aware of no reason to believe that Nick Goldberg (the editor of the Current section) had any objections to Rumsfeld as a guest editor. And Kevin Roderick — a former L.A. Times guy whose opinions often reflect the general ethos of the institution — seems to think that the problems associated with Rumsfeld go beyond his personal connection, and extend to his politics:
It’s not just that Rummy doesn’t lack for forums to express his views, has already had his ideas repudiated by half of America and would mark the Current section with a partisan stamp while undermining its efforts to foster an image as a forum for cutting-edge and provocative pieces. The main reason not to touch Rumsfeld is his connection to Publisher David Hiller, the guy who killed this weekend’s Current. They were racquetball buddies in Chicago [squash buddies, actually — Ed.] and colleagues in the Tribune fold, close enough that when Rumsfeld left the Pentagon, Hiller wrote a piece in Current about his friend. They are partisan fellow travelers: as recently as 2003, Hiller was donating cash to Republican campaigns. During the Reagan Administration Hiller was an assistant to Attorney General William French Smith.
Somehow, I just knew that references to Hiller’s Republican background were going to come to the fore as this controversy unfolded. I think you’ll see a lot more quotes like that in coming days.
I love the idea that we shouldn’t hear opinions that in any way are affected by Rumsfeld because he “has already had his ideas repudiated by half of America.” That sounds so much like something someone at The Times would say. I have a feeling Roderick is not the only guy saying it.
Don’t put that popcorn away just yet. And take a plate of bonbons to Cathy Seipp’s gravesite.
P.S. Didn’t Tim Rutten sanctimoniously assure us that publisher Hiller “had no trouble at all recognizing an ethical train wreck when he saw it coming”?
Not if he suggested Rummy, he didn’t.
Further evidence to buttress my skepticism of Rutten’s little tale.