For The Star: Two rare praises and one not-so-rare damn

by David Safier

Today's Star has strong, informative articles by two of their best reporters along with one piece of veiled partisanship by one of those same two reporters.

Rhonda Bodfield — who I've always maintained is an excellent reporter, one of the top at the Star when she's writing serious, in depth articles — has a strong front page piece, GOP will have to see how shift to right plays in Nov.

The article is factual and even handed. The fact is, right wing GOP candidates are dominating in Arizona and elsewhere, and some of them are knocking out their less right wing (I won't say more moderate, because that's not true) opposition in the primaries. The question is, will this hurt GOP chances in November, or will it result in more right wingers in power? Bodfield addresses the question intelligently without trying to arrive at an answer. Good stuff.

Tim Steller has been doing some excellent, research-based articles lately. Today's on private prisons — Escape slows prison privatization — lays out the arguments for and against private prisons accurately and even-handedly. I stand on the anti-privatization side, so I would have liked to see the article leaning in that direction, but that's by no means a criticism of Steller's work. Anyone who reads it will come away more educated on the topic.

Now for the damn. Once again, it's the Political Notebook, where Bodfield is definitely not at her best, nor is Andrea Kelly. I never know whether the blame lies with the two of them, with their editors or some combination. But for the reader, that's a distinction without a difference. The Political Notebook once again gives McCain a big, sloppy kiss while most others, including the Arizona Democratic Party, take it on the chin.

Today's Notebook is supposed to be an equal opportunity, snarky look back at the primary. The Sore Loser Award goes to Hayworth (which makes McCain look like the better man), the Best Imitation of Hamlet goes to Paton, the Blow-Hard Award goes to John Dougherty. Deserved or undeserved, it's pretty typical stuff.

Now, if you're going to give McCain an award in a similar vein, the most likely snark would be on his race to the right, which Colbert parodied so beautifully. Not a bad title: The Race To The Right Award.

Or there's McCain's denial he ever called himself a maverick, even though that was the theme of his presidential run and he has a book with "Maverick" in the title. Maybe that could have been the I Never Said That Award.

So what does McCain get chosen for? The Worth Every Penny Award, about Brian Rogers, one of McCain's campaign staffers who bombarded the media with emails. There's not even a jab thrown in, like, "At $20 million, it was the best run primary campaign money could buy." In the Star, never is heard a discouraging word about McCain (and his skies are not cloudy in the Daily).

While the Notebook praises McCain for getting out his message successfully, the AZ Democratic Party gets The Sticking a Finger in Someone Else's Pie Award for running a successful anti-Paton campaign. Pardon me, but isn't that the Dems showing their smarts and strength by influencing the outcome of a Republican election so the weaker candidate faces Giffords? "Payday Paton" is a pretty damn good term, don't you think? It may be the best labeling of any primary candidate in Arizona, and it came from the Dems. But in the Notebook, the Dems sound like a naughty kid stealing someone else's dessert.

Two good, genuinely nonpartisan articles. Yet another slanted political grab bag. I guess that's better than usual . . . but there I go again, damning the Star with faint praise. Faint praise, sadly, is the best they deserve.

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