Saturday, May 03, 2008

A tale of two opinions on Marc Dann

During the 2006 election, both the Toledo Blade and the Dayton Daily News endorsed Marc Dann for Attorney General.

Today, these two papers take opposing views of the latest revelations of Dann and the operations of his office.

Toledo Blade:

On Friday, investigators painted a disturbing picture of an Animal House atmosphere at the highest level of the attorney general's office, in which Mr. Dann turned a blind eye toward sexual harassment and improper fraternization with a small group of lower-level employees, all stoked by profanity-laced e-mails and heavy drinking.

The result: three officials lost their jobs, and Mr. Dann was forced to admit publicly that he had an affair with an unnamed subordinate.

The attorney general vowed to remain in office, saying the personal embarrassment of the scandal was punishment enough. But by the end of the day, there were growing calls for his resignation. Even Gov. Ted Strickland joined those questioning whether Mr. Dann should stay.

Mr. Strickland should not be smug, as he also has developed a dismaying amnesia about what he owes those who helped get him to office. Otherwise, the Seneca County courthouse wouldn't be facing the wrecking ball.

At the least, the scandal surrounding Mr. Dann has wiped the shine off any sense of entitlement Ohio Democrats felt with their hold on state government, and it's given Republicans a political opportunity they don't deserve.

Dayton Daily News:

Mr. Dann has become a laughingstock. He deserves to be. This time, the image is the reality. He has made his own reputation.

Ohio cannot be represented in legal disputes outside the state — or inside — by a laughingstock or representatives of one.

Mr. Dann's 15 months in office have resulted in a long list of indefensible, unprofessional incidents. The last straw is not a straw, but a great big bundle of hay:

He has been discredited by an investigation done by his own office, an investigation Mr. Dann had no choice but to order.

Two top employees have had to be fired and a third has had to resign. Their leaving stems from allegations of sexual harassment and involve events at a condo that Dann shared with the two who've been fired. In short, one of his own guys was using a pad the three shared — and the power Mr. Dann gave him — to his sexual advantage.

As if that were not tawdry enough, the attorney general has had to admit to an extramarital affair with a close employee. At one stage, they were planning to go to a conference together in Turkey, before a staff person killed that idea.

Even before now, the two fired employees have caused all manner of embarrassments. One — whose domain included the office cars — kept getting in trouble as a driver.

As for other embarrassments: Mr. Dann has had to fire his "top cop," who was still working for the Youngstown Police Department while working for the AG. The AG also had to fire his driver, who turned out to have served time for manslaughter.

Mr. Dann found himself on YouTube shouting an expletive across a street at a reporter. He also used a state plane for a political trip and a state SUV to go to campaign events.

There was more.

As to policy issues, he seemed bent on making a headline a day for a while. He nurtured a populist — Spitzer-like — image. But sometimes he went decidedly astray. He found a role for his office in a dubious battle against charter schools, a role theretofore unseen by others.

Now, in discussing his problems (outside the realm of policy), he says, "I was not as well prepared for this office as I should have been."


His hiring decisions — right at the heart of the responsibility of any elected official — were ludicrous, sloppy, indefensible.

In arguing against resignation, Mr. Dann points first to the fact that he was elected. That's an important point, to be sure. In truth, if he were appointed, he'd be long gone.

Respect for elections — for the voters as the heart of the democratic process — requires tolerance of a lot. But even for elected officials, there comes a time.
This time there's just a guy who demonstrated his lack of fitness for his job over and over.

One paper sees this scandal in the context of state politics - as an opportunity for Republicans, but one they don't deserve. The other sees the actions for what they are and condemns them and the individual responsible.

I can't help but wonder if the approach these two papers took has a larger implication for their readers, regions and the message they send to elected officials.

One of the biggest obstacles our area has in terms of growth is the one-party rule dominated by cookie-cutter politicians who present the same-old philosophies year after year. The politicians know they will never be held accountable because The Blade washes everything through the filter of partisan politics. If what politicians present is in line with the philosophy of the paper, it will never receive criticism. And when an idea receives criticism on the editorial page, it becomes an excuse for not considering it.

Quite some time ago, when a commissioner, I suggested that if Lucas County was ever going to reduce its sales tax in order to be more competitive, the time to start the planning was now. Within a couple of days, there was an editorial calling a reduction in sales tax the worst idea ever presented - didn't I know that sales tax is what funds government and government always need MORE money - not less? Interestingly, all the other elected officials in the county used the editorial as a reason for refusing to even discuss the idea.

If Dann is like our local officials, he will interpret this Blade editorial as political cover. Thankfully, there is more than one editorial he'll have to worry about.


RaggedClaws said...

This story has something for everyone - from partisan politics to family values. In addition to the obvious implication that Dann is a complete ninny and way out of his league as AG, there is the apparent indication that our young women of today - and college grads no less - are woefully unprepared for political life and dare I say life in general. I'm no rocket scientist but I'm pretty darn sure I would've smelled something rotten with all of them and high-tailed it immediately. Drinking, suspicious wives,, overly familiar texting, jeans and sweatshirts in the wk place, drooling middleaged mouth-breathers...the writing was on the walls, ladies. Is this what they mean by the dumbing down of America ?

Utovich had her pic splashed all over Wonkette yesterday, with some pretty crude comments. And I just can't feel sorry for her.

Not sure who the most qualified Republican is for AG, but I like Subodh Chandra as a replacement. Honesty and qualifications should be the criteria at this point. Time to leave the parties out of it.

Tim Higgins said...


I am sure that the Blade thought that it had exercised fairness when it mentioned that Dann was a Democrat. This is something that it failed to the previous day when discussing that President Bush was trying to hold down costs in the farm bill, while fighting Congress to do so.

Sooner or later, the Blade will have to reap the seeds of journalistic bias which it has shown.

Ben said...

I still cant believe he admitted what most of us already know - he was unqualified and not prepared to be AG in the first place.

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