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A small newspaper, a publisher, an agenda

The publisher, the president.
The publisher, the president.

You might have missed this one, but there’s a guy named David Jaques who serves as the publisher of the Roseburg Beacon, a newspaper in the town where, last week, 10 people were killed by a gunman at Umpqua Community College.

The Beacon is a far-right newspaper, and Jaques is predictably conservative. A few days ago he said President Obama should not visit Roseburg (as he plans on doing this Friday) because he “has no connection with this community,” it would be “very inappropriate and … disrespectful to the families” of the victims to make an appearance there that would politicize the event. Predictably, this made the nobody-before-a-few-days-ago newspaper man something of a hero among crazy Tea Party conspiracy theorists (Kim Davis’ 15 minutes having faded and all), and the Twitter love came in all shapes and character lengths (though, generally, less than 140). Of course, Jaques smelled blood (and attention), and followed up with more goodies when the handsome Bill O’Reilly invited him to Fox News and asked about the president saying that, in the name of public safety, we need to discuss gun violence in the wake of shootings.

“So, now (Obama) wants to come to our community, and stand on the corpses of our loved ones, to make some kind of a political point,” said Jaques, who insisted Obama is not welcome in the community. “It isn’t going to be well-received, not by our people, not by the families, and not by our elected officials.”

OK, so here’s the thing: Who the fuck is David Jaques? I don’t mean that literally—he’s a conservative publisher of a small newspaper. No, what I mean is, who the fuck is David Jaques to speak for the families of murder victims? Who is he to say the president of the United States shouldn’t visit in the wake of a tragedy—something presidents have done for, literally, centuries? Why is a newspaper publisher serving as a regional spokesperson? Is he supposed to be making news, or does he own the entity that covers it?

But, more to the point, what has happened to us? Seriously, what has happened? Not all that long ago, a visit from the president was an unambiguous honor. I vividly recall after 9.11, when George W. Bush came to New York City. Man, I hated Bush as a president. I mean, I could not have liked him any less. But I loved that he was in my city, because it’s what leaders do. They arrive, they talk, they try and help heal. Hell, I was at the World Series game between Arizona and the Yankees when Bush stepped to the mound and threw out the first pitch, and it remains one of the great moments of my adulthood. Was it political? Surely in some small way. But was it a healing and righteous moment for a wounded city? Absolutely. Whether you like a president or hate a president, he/she is your president. The, alone, means some respect should be offered. If not, specifically, to the person, than at least to the office. A commander in chief comes, you greet him. Warmly.

And while we’re on it, who’s being political here? Had Obama absorbed news of the shootings with calls for mental health reform, would Jaques be speaking out? What if Obama had said, “This tragedy is terrible, but we need to keep in mind the sanctity of the Second Amendment”? Would Jaques be screaming? Whining? Making the rounds? Of course not. But we’re a uniquely biased people when it comes to being offended and taken aback.

Ultimately, it matters not. Barack Obama will be in town on Friday.

As he should be.