One of the most interesting and talented public officials I covered during my years at The Star was William L. Kimsey, who was Jackson County revenue director for several years in the mid-1970s.
Kimsey was a young, up-and-coming accountant, and I was a young and up-and-coming (well, young, anyway) reporter, assigned to the courthouse from 1971 to 1978.
Kimsey had a lot more ambition and brains than I did. He went on to become chief operating officer at the world-wide accounting firm, Ernst & Young. Meanwhile, I went on to ascend, after 26 years of reporting, to the dizzying position of assignment editor and KCK bureau chief.
Anyway, Kimsey, who well understood the warp and woof of politics and its requisite demands of people whose jobs depended on impressing the voters, had a stock saying whenever bad news broke at the courthouse.
With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, he would declare, “I’m shocked and appalled.”
You couldnt’ go wrong, he knew, with “shocked and appalled.” It captured the appropriate reaction when things were falling apart.
With that long lead-in, readers, I’ve got to tell you that I’m absolutely, devastatingly shocked and appalled at two things:
:: The way The Star is (not) handling the spiral of the Kansas City Royals and the imploding presidency of Barack Obama.
First, the Royals. They’ve lost five of their last six games and are a game below .500 and four games out of first-place. Only two players in the lineup are significant threats to opposing pitchers — Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.
It looks like the same old story for the Royals: Sliding backward into Memorial Day and headed for oblivion by July 4. And yet, at The Star, only Royals’ beat writer Bob Dutton seems to realize how dire the situation is.
In his Tuesday morning report on Monday’s game, Dutton wrote: “The Royals, right now, are flat-lining after Monday’s depressing 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. This makes four straight one-run losses; 10 losses overall in the last 14 games…”
But the beat writer can’t swing the cudgel by himself…He needs the heavy lifters — the columnists — to bring proper urgency and impact to bear.
That’s where The Star’s only current sports columnist comes in. Except that Sam Mellinger, who early on showed signs of carrying a sharp knife, is looking like a very dull blade.
Today’s column, for instance, was a treatise explaining how Kauffman Stadium actually is a hitter’s park instead of a pitcher’s park. His column before that, on Monday, was a feature about a T-Bones bullpen catcher who survived cancer. Nice piece, but it came the day after the Oakland A’s completed a three-game sweep of the Royals.
Couldn’t the T-Bones feature have held a few days? And shouldn’t Mellinger have had his eye on the balls that Royals hitters were swinging at but not hitting?
Maybe sports editor Jeff Rosen has told Mellinger he wants him to be more feature oriented and that the much-heralded, new-columnist hire from St. Louis — Vahe Gregorian — will take up the role of “hard hitter” after he goes to work (can’t be soon enough). If that’s the case, a big audience of frustrated Royals’ fans awaits, and Vaghe, with his vast sportswriting experience at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, could easily leapfrog Mellinger.
If Gregorian comes in timid, however, the Royals could well go slipping down that old familiar tube with little more than a protesting whimper from 18th and Grand.
I doubt that this has ever happened before: liberal columnist Maureen Dowd and conservative columnist George Will writing about the same subject and taking the same line of attack, on the same day.
That’s the case, though, on the Op-Ed page of today’s Star.
The headline on Will’s column is “Obama’s Incredibly Shrinking Presidency.”
The headline on Dowd’s is “From One-Time Messiah to Sad Sack.”
Will wrote about Obama’s “trifecta” of scandals — Benghazi, the IRS and the seizure of Associated Press phone records. Another situation threatening to join the scandal ranks, he suggested, is “Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius soliciting, from corporations in industries HHS regulates, funds…to educate Americans about…Obamacare.”
(It takes a lot of ellipses to quote Will because he writes kind of like a buzzard — circling, circling, before arriving at his destination.)
As usual, though, Will compromises his credibility by baring one of his wacky ideas. Today, it’s the mirage, in his opinion, of global warming. Will contends that global-warming believers have no way of accounting for an “inexplicable 16-year pause” in its effects. What a scientist, that guy…
Dowd takes a different tack. She says that as a candidate, Obama “was romanticized as the pristine relief from Clinton scandals.” But as president, she adds, Obama’s “pure personal life did not exempt him from running a government awash in old-school screw-ups.”
She contrasts Obama’s dilemma with past scandals that enveloped Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“The Clintons have emerged stronger on the back end of their scandals,” Dowd wrote. “…Americans have already priced in the imperfections of the Clintons.”
“Who knows?” she said. “If Washington keeps imploding, Hillary may run in 2016 on restoring honor to the White House.”
A wicked line, wouldn’t you agree, from the woman whom President George Bush II dubbed “The Cobra”?