Nick Coleman - SwanBlog's Father Time 2004
In addition to the SwanBlog Man of the Year, we have been awarding the Father Time award since the late 1950s. This year's recipient is very deserving. In recent months, he has been caught fudging the difference between the Minneapolis Park Police and ordinary city police patrols (implying that street cops were wasting their time arresting skinny dippers in the park), as well as the difference between "textbooks" and books "in the classroom" that were the "right mix" of "subject matters" and "reading levels." In both cases, Coleman was purposely vague. In the former case, he was vague because he couldn't be bothered to find out the answer. In the latter, he wanted to support his narrative that a school was in crisis, and blame it on Republicans. If the public wrongly assumed that the school did not have proper textbooks, then so be it. Both times, it was the blogosphere that busted Coleman. Given his combined tenure at the daily newspapers of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is unlikely that this is the first time Coleman has done this. This is just the first (and second) time that he has been caught. The fact that he can no longer get away with it makes Coleman an excellent choice for the Father Time award.
By the way, Nick, the origin of my non de cyber, Lawdog, does not require any Freudian analysis. [I know that Nick will read this because he is conceited and thin-skinned.] A Special Forces colonel at Fort Benning was walking past me and saw from the insignia on my collar that I am a lawyer. He responded to my "Hello, sir" with, "What's up, Lawdog?" I thought it was pretty funny. So I use it as a username, in a somewhat self-mocking way. You see, Nick, most bloggers have a sense of humor about themselves. For example, I am sure that many people mispronounce Hinderaker like it was a sequel to Ian Fleming's Moonraker. I bet the schoolkids John grew up with in rural South Dakota had fun with that name, unless members of the Wilfahrt family went to the same school. "Hindrocket" (the 'i' is short) is probably one of the nicer nicknames John has had over the years. Scott Johnson's nickname is even more innocent. While at a Republican fundraiser, they were looking for cute names for each table. Scott suggested "The Big Trunk."
Oops. I let the cat out of the bag. Scott's a Republican. This is yet another link for the six degrees of separation game that Coleman likes to play. According to Nick, if you have any affiliation with a conservative organization, then any other activity you pursue in life must be coordinated by that same organization. If I had majored in philosophy, I might say something about the fallacy of guilt by association or post hoc, ergo propter hoc. But Coleman is not even consistent in his smears. If Powerline is controlled and funded by Conservative High Command, why do they sell advertising on their site? Any regular reader of Powerline knows that they did not sell advertising until Matt Drudge linked to their site during Memogate and greatly increased the cost of bandwith.
Coleman's take on religion is also muddled. I won't comment on his "Judge not, lest ye be judged" quote because that would be too easy. But what are we to take from his delight at sitting next to a Muslim man at Catholic Mass? It is possible that the man was a Christian of Arab descent and Nick was just fudging the terminology as he did with "textbooks." Assuming that he spoke to the man and found out that the man was actually Muslim, did that mean that Coleman hoped to convert him, just as his grandfather's brother converted Lutherans to Catholicism? Or is he just so obsessed with diversity that seeing people who look different is more important than the distraction at the altar or in the pulpit? Make no mistake, it is a very nice thing to invite people of different faiths to your own church, or to visit someone else's house of worship. However, if this is Coleman's point, he undermines it by taking a swipe at James Lileks and others who contend that Christians should not be shy about wishing others "Merry Christmas."
There was a time when Nick Coleman was the irreverant Star Tribune media critic who once speculated whether local "Weatherboy" Paul Douglas wore a toupee. Now, Coleman chastises Powerline for mentioning the fact that Senator Mark Dayton talks so openly about his therapy issues. For the record, any fair observer would conclude that Powerline was not criticizing Dayton for seeking professional help, but for revealing that fact to complete strangers in a Christmas card.
Nick Coleman is the latest member of the Formerly Funny Club. FFC members all have talent, but have lost their way. I can remember a Star Tribune columnist whose college-age son was killed in a tragic accident. This personal tragedy inspired him to write about his understandable opposition to the First Gulf War. Similarly, the death of Senator Paul Wellstone was a personal tragedy to many, given the Wellstone's unique ability to make everyone feel like they were Wellstone's best friend. The shrill partisanship of Al Franken and Garrison Keillor can be traced back to the plane crash that killed the Senator. I am unaware of a particular personal tragedy that has caused Coleman to go off the deep end. In fact, he recently married Pioneer Press columnist Laura Billings.
The marriage of the Newspaper Newlyweds sheds a humorous light on one of Coleman's complaints about Powerline. Unable to marginalize Powerline as losers who sit around in their underwear, Coleman complains that the time stamp on one post indicates that Scott Johnson was blogging when he should have been working. Of course, Nick Coleman never takes coffee breaks or makes personal telephone calls during work hours. One would think that the courtship of the Newspaper Newlyweds must have been very complicated if their personal and professional lives never intersect.
Finally, it is true that Coleman has had his share of Sister Soulja moments. The fact that he is sometimes able to make a powerful point (liberal, conservative, or apolitical) without ad hominems shows how bad the majority of his columns are. This is not someone who is unable to use humor and subtlety to make a point. He just chooses not to. And that is why he is SwanBlog's Father Time 2004.