So the big story around here today was the "great debate" over the Inquirer's hiring of John Yoo, between Brian Tierney, the Inquirer publisher and CEO of the parent company of the Daily News and Inquirer, and Your Blogger. It was held on WHYY's Radio Times and you can listen to the podcast of it here. One thing that was clear from the start is that we won't be taking our schtick to MSNBC or Fox -- as it was far too civil for prime time, with not enough crazed shouting and what not. Brian said some very kind things about me and about Attytood (much appreciated) and I expressed my gratitude for the climate that allows a journalist/employee to speak freely.
None of that, of course, swayed me from my stance from Day One, that the Inquirer's hiring of "torture memo" author Yoo as a monthly columnist was a mistake that should be undone, that the newspaper helps to normalize torture when it hands one of its limited supplies of megaphones to a man whose claim to fame is working to justfy such an abuse of basic human rights.
But I think the real news was buried deep in the show, and it came during a broader discussion of the Inquirer's lineup of op-ed columnists, which recently added not just Yoo but ex-Sen. Rick Santorum and other conservatives, which was done -- by the admission of Tierney and Inquirer editorial page editor Harold Jackson -- to counter a perception of liberal bias at the paper, or I should say a perception of a perception of liberal bias. I noted my sense that real liberals don't feel they have that kind of voice at the Inquirer, not someone who's a pit-bull kind of advocate for progressive causes the way that a Santorum or a Yoo fights for his conservative side. The Inquirer columnists that folks tend to lump in the liberal category -- like political columnist Dick Polman, to name one -- are career journalists who may tilt leftward on some issues but aren't really "movement liberals," either.
In the Interesting Timing Department, the Inquirer just this Sunday added a new op-ed columnist with a Democratic pedigree, the former political operative Susan Estrich. Eh... She was a major Hillary Clinton backer in 2008, for sure, but her recent work for conservative outlets like Fox News Channel and Newsmax makes her a little (understandably) suspect to people on the left, who I think would like to see their own kind of firebrand. So the news yesterday was that Tierney responded to all this by saying he'd love to hear the list of true, outspoken and unapologetic liberals deserving a regular op-ed voice in the Inquirer.
So...let's give him a list! I don't know if anything will really come of this (and I still think Yoo must go, regardless) but I think it will at the least be a fun exercise...especially when our conservative friends weigh in with their choices, as you'll surely read in the comments below. I'll even start with a couple of suggestions -- you'll see that I think having Philadelphia connections is a plus, not a necessity.
1) David Sirota. This one is literally too easy. Like John Yoo, Sirota is a product of the Philadelphia region (Montgomery County) who eventually moved to, literally, greener pastures -- the Mountain West, where he's been a political advisor, a blogger, and a best-selling author of books like The Uprising. In fact, David already writes a weekly syndicated column, so we know he's up to the task. His specialty is economic issues with a strong populist, working-class bent -- which would be a good thing in a city such as Philadelphia, don't you think?
2) A top Philly blogger. As I noted here last week, Philadelphia is one of the progressive blogging capitals of the Free World, which would be kind of cool for the largest newspaper here to recognize instead of telling "those bloggers" to get off its lawn. Susie Madrak is a true blue-collar voice, a product of rowhouse Philly who won awards for her political journalism in Delaware County. (I happen to know her life ambition is, or was, anyway, to columnize for us here at the Daily News, but she might settle for the Inquirer :-) ) Afro-netizen Chris Rabb is a top local voice who should be heard louder, a former Yale Daily News columnist (so we know he's up to the task) who's active in social causes and sometimes local Democratic politics when he's not blogging. Duncan "Atrios" Black is an Ivy League-educated economist who loves wonky issues like mass transit and urban/suburban development, although I seriously doubt he's bucking for the job.
3) A non-Philadelphian? Well, that broadens the list, doesn't it? Al Franken's going to be tied up for the next five and a half years, but when I think of a real liberal -- as opposed to traditional journalist with a liberal bent -- I think of someone like Jim Hightower, a former Texas agriculture commissioner who's a populist rabble-rouser and who's already been writing a syndicated column. And those are just a few names off the top of my head -- I'm sure people out there have some better ideas.
UPDATE: How could I forget this guy? (Did I mention that he knows Springsteen?)
Heck, if people are going to accuse the Inquirer and its op-ed page of "liberal bias," why not give them a good reason?