Thursday, July 7, 2011
Times Successively Hits ‘Mac,’ Holds Punches
By ROGER M. GRACE
“McLachlan could not be elected in 1896,” an Aug. 13, 1900 editorial in the Los Angeles Times sneers, pointing to the failure of James McLachlan’s bid for reelection to the House of Representatives four years earlier. The editorial, calculated to derail his nomination to a House seat at the upcoming Republican convention, warns:
“He cannot be elected in 1900.”
On Aug. 22, McLachlan—widely referred to as “Mac”—was nominated at the district convention by acclamation, and went on to win the Nov. 6 election, over three opponents, overwhelmingly.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Herald the morning after the election declares: “The most significant victory in Southern California is that achieved by James McLachlan in the Sixth congressional district.”
That district was comprised of Los Angeles, Ventura, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Cruz counties.
The editorial crows that “[d]espite all evil forebodings,” apparently referring to pessimism expressed in the Times as to his chances, McLachlan was ahead in the vote count by an impressive margin.
A news report in that day’s issue of the evening Express bears the headline “MAJORITY FOR M’LACHLAN WILL REACH 5,000.” It says of the winner:
“Though he had been confident from the beginning that he would receive a rousing majority, he had scarcely hoped that it would be of such astonishing proportions.”
The unofficial tally, reported in the Nov. 9 issue of the San Francisco Call, shows McLachlan with 23,052 votes and the next highest candidate, Democrat William Graves, with 17,789 votes.
Two years later, the Times, turned bashful, made no effort to thwart McLachlan’s renomination—which occurred at the district convention on Aug. 16, 1902, again by acclamation. Los Angeles was now in the Seventh congressional district, and McLachlan was elected to the seat from that district.
Two years passed, the politician sought another term, which he would win. The Times, re-energized, again undertook to block the selection of McLachlan by his party.
An Aug. 1, 1904 editorial (published on McLachlan’s 52nd birthday) remarks that it was up to the delegates “to do a wise act or commit a blunder.” The editorial says of McLachlan:
“He has given ample evidence that he lacks initiative, energy, force and influence in Washington. He has not the strength of his convictions….Certainly no one will be so bold as to claim that McLachlan is a statesman capable of grasping the import of events or of coping with the great questions that must be met in the halls of Congress….”
On Aug. 12, he was renominated, again unanimously. The Times’ report the next morning is followed by a section labeled “Remarks” in which it provides a rambling rebuttal to points raised by McLachlan in his address to the convention. It’s difficult to discern what the newspaper is rebutting since it doesn’t quote from the address. The discourse includes this:
“In his poor, weeping tirade yesterday McLachlan indulged in a covert threat—something about ‘drawing aside the veil’ in connection with something or other the effect of which, according to the Claimant, would be to ‘uncover the motives of The Times.’ or words to that effect. Very well. Let the ‘drawing’ process be begun forthwith. The Times is ready for the awful exposure, whatever it may be.”
More about the “weeping” in a moment.
1906. The Times barely covered McLachlan’s campaign. He was renominated and won reelection.
1908. Again recharged after four years, it railed against McLachlan’s renomination. An Aug. 4 editorial bellows:
“Why should thousands of Republicans, who notoriously have, over and over again, expressed themselves in private adversely to McLachlan, sit supine and suffer his nomination to, go by default term after term, when they have the power to work a reform for the good of the district, the party and the country?”
The 1908 race—a lively one in which the Democratic candidate meticulously put forth a strong case for putting “Mac” out to pasture—will be discussed in the next column.
And then there was the 1910 contest, in which a direct primary made its debut, in which the Times lambasted both McLachlan and his rival.
The Times’ reference to McLachlan’s “weeping tirade” points to the congressman’s apparent propensity for becoming teary eyed. A letter from McLachlan to Times Publisher Harrison Otis dated Sept. 8, 1894, the day after the Times endorsed him, says:
“You will pardon me for saying that I could not keep the tears back when I read the leading editorial.”
A Times editorial of July 27, 1904, makes reference to “poor, shifty, weeping Jim McLachlan.”
The Oct. 23, 1908 edition of the Los Angeles Herald reports that the previous evening, Jud Rush, McLachlan’s Democratic rival, referred in a campaign address to a “tearful speech, of thirty five words,” made by McLachlan on the floor of the House the previous year.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company