Happy anniversary to me ... and thank you

I can hardly believe that 10 years have gone by since the Appeal published my first political column in June 1996. This experience only goes to show that time flies when you're having fun. To be more precise, I'm still having fun but I don't know about you, my loyal readers.

Today, I want to thank those of you who read my Sunday columns, whether you agree with me or not. I assure you that my purpose has never been to convert anyone to my way of thinking, but rather to generate comment and discussion on political issues that are important to our nation, our state and our capital city. If I get you thinking about these issues, I'm a happy camper.

In my very first column I called for more civility in politics and argued that it's actually possible to disagree with people without insulting them or their families (especially their mothers). But from the nasty comments I read on the Appeal's Web site, not everyone accepts my moderate message. Overheated rhetoric prevails on the Web site and Appeal readers insult the paper's editors and columnists, and each other, with predictable regularity. "YOU IDIOT!" they scream. "You don't know anything about (fill in the blank) and should be fired (at the very least) for publishing and/or writing such garbage."

Well, it must be reassuring to be right - in your own mind, at least - all the time. Apparently, some fervent right-wingers learn the "truth" directly from God or Rush Limbaugh (not necessarily in that order) while those on the far left look to political flame-throwers like Al Franken, Michael Moore and/or George Soros for the "true facts." Good luck! While I don't agree with those on the far-out fringes of American politics, I defend their First Amendment right to expound weird conspiracy theories as long as they don't advocate the violent overthrow of the government in violation of the Constitution.

I got a perverse kick out of a recent letter-to-the-editor in which the writer described an intricate conspiracy theory involving secret consultations among powerful journalists and political commentators behind the backs of the American people in pursuit of an equally secret political agenda. Believe me, if you've spent any time in newspaper or television newsrooms, you know that the tyranny of daily and hourly deadlines doesn't allow much time for plotting against the government or the people. In fact, the primary goal of newspaper editors and TV news directors is to attract as many readers and viewers as possible in order to keep their advertisers happy - which keeps the paychecks coming - rather than to turn the U.S. government over to the mostly impotent United Nations or a shadowy worldwide conspiracy directed by the Queen of England.

Although most journalists tend to lean to the left, the better ones usually manage to keep personal opinions out of their news stories, which is something they learn in Journalism 101. Here at the Appeal, I don't even know whether most of my newsroom friends and colleagues are Democrats or Republicans, nor do I care as long as their opinions are clearly labeled and a separation is maintained between straight news stories and opinion pieces, which is the job of the editors.

I'm pleased to report that at no time during the past 10 years have any of my editors or publishers interfered with anything I've written, even when I've disagreed with their editorials or made disparaging comments about Appeal advertisers, like casino owners or property developers. Here's where I thank publishers Jeff Ackerman, Peter Starren and John DiMambro and editors Barry Smith and Barry Ginter for their patience with, and support of, a crotchety (on occasion) old political columnist.

And to those of you who've labeled me as a right-wing Republican or a wimpy moderate, I simply refuse to be put into a political strait-jacket because my views vary depending upon the issue or the politician under discussion. For example, I was quite critical of former President Clinton and his outrageous sexual escapades in the Oval Office, and I've also come down hard on President Bush for his poorly planned Iraqi misadventure, his massive amnesty plan for illegal aliens and his support for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. In other words, as they say in baseball, I calls 'em the way I sees 'em without regard to party affiliation.

For the record, I've been a registered Democrat for more than 40 years - a moderately conservative, states' rights Nevada Democrat - and there aren't many of us left. When I was growing up in Seattle I admired our senator, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat who was compassionate on social issues and tough on Commies during the Cold War. The modern politician who most resembles Jackson is Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), a non-person in his own party because of his support for President Bush's hard-line defense and national security policies. In Nevada, my favorite politicians are former Democratic governors Grant Sawyer and Mike O'Callaghan, who showed political courage by standing up to special interests in the 1960s and '70s.

So that's where I'm coming from as I go into my 11th year as a political columnist. Thanks again for reading my columns, even when you don't agree with me. After all, that's the very essence of journalism and political commentary. See you next Sunday.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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