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Disappointing shill for Traylor eats crow, won't admit it

If you want to see a stupendous exercise in eating political crow and trying to pretend you aren’t throughout, look no further than the latest column in the Ouachita Citizen (among other newspapers) from its publisher, Sam Hanna, Jr.

When former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor made his surprise, last-minute into the Republican Senate primary, those with good political instincts immediately knew something was fishy. Apparently there had been little in the way of planning and fundraising just six weeks out from the election against incumbent Sen. David Vitter with whom he shared most views riding high in the polls with millions in funding to draw upon. What made this decision more curious than a longing to engage some quixotic, longshot attempt was Traylor himself was carrying around some questionable ethical baggage that, even if legally it got resolved in his favor, this would not occur until well after the election and the unfavorable publicity that would result gave him no chance to win. To the world, it looked like Traylor was presenting himself as a stalking horse for Vitter’s assumed Democrat opponent Rep. Charlie Melancon, with the goal of having Traylor sling as much mud as possible in the interval to allow Melancon to do the same later. (Subsequent campaign filings have added more confirmation to this hypothesis.)

But Hanna’s newspapers seemingly disregarded the obvious and, for whatever reason, went all in with Traylor, endorsing him in part because they called Vitter a liability and lauded Traylor’s personal comportment. Then the legal troubles of Traylor – which surely were known by Hanna as many connected to the political world in that part of the state knew – surfaced to a wider audience and all independent polls showed Traylor massively behind Vitter. This did not discourage the Hanna newspapers; on the contrary, they doubled down by publishing results from a Traylor campaign push poll (reminiscent of what Gannett News Services allowed from the Melancon campaign earlier) showing Traylor within striking distance.

Nonetheless, Hanna finally threw in the towel in his latest effort. However, instead of running a column retracting the endorsement, or apologizing for becoming a spokesman of the Traylor campaign, or just saying they let themselves get taken for a ride and should have known better and promised to exercise better judgment in the future, Hanna wrote – that various political movers and shakers who he asserted promised to support Traylor and then didn’t, that they “lied” to Traylor, which seems an implicit attempt to excuse the Hanna’s newspapers’ editorial and news assistance to Traylor’s doomed candidacy.

In a word, the Hanna newspapers’ coverage of all of this has been embarrassing, and handled irresponsibly. Most disappointing is that Hanna, in his papers’ coverage and his editorials about politics, had shown his enterprise to be one of the most independent and reform-minded media in the state, often going against the unthinking orthodoxy typifying Louisiana’s largest newspapers. It’s truly a shame to see a source often perspicacious and incisive abandon journalistic integrity to try to compensate for poor judgment and then blame others for his own mistake. With this display of immaturity that makes readers cringe, it’s safe to say Hanna lost a lot of reader respect over this which for the agenda of making Louisiana a better place to live won’t do much good.

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