A Register-ish Times? In O.C., You're Looking At It

Earlier this month, management of the Los Angeles Times' Orange County edition embarrassed itself again, and then had either the audacity or the stupidity to brag about it. Pretending its readers crave the musings of right-wing columnists and are somehow incapable of switching to the Register to satisfy the hankering, the Times recently ran ads touting the editorial-page addition of GOP propaganda-meister Kenneth L. Khachigian.

Despite the paper's suggestion that the move is groundbreaking, expect little more from Khachigian than the party line and trite personal attacks. Identifying him only as a "veteran political strategist and former White House speechwriter," the Times ad slyly omits any reference to Khachigian's long career as a hatchet man for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bob Dole and Pete Wilson. The cigar-chomping, whiskey-slamming campaign strategist from San Clemente is a product of the Dornan School of Public-Policy Debate. One of his contributions to local affairs was to call former Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg a "twerp."

In his May 25 debut column, Khachigian sided with the county's profit-at-any-cost ruling inner circle (what a surprise) in the debate over quasi-public toll roads and slammed those who tie environmental concerns to public policy as "tub-thumping modern nihilists." Practicing not what he preaches, Khachigian used the column to invent a new class of rights: the right to build and use a toll road without hearing criticism from "pretentious social nannies" and "mouthy activists."

This is the chatter the Times O.C. thinks its readers have been missing? "Look next for an aggrieved Kermit the Frog filing suit on the grounds, 'It isn't easy being green,'" wrote Khachigian, who must be saving his best stuff for the paid-speaking circuit.

No word from the Times about the political payrolls Khachigian may be on or if he will be simultaneously advising upcoming candidates, writing columns and spinning reporters. They're just happy to have him aboard.

Now, we're all for Khachigian getting his predictably tired spin out for public consideration, but what prompted the paper to make the move--and why gloat? Could the answer have something to do with Times O.C. editor William Nottingham reaching out with both hands to stroke the county's well-oiled, powerful Republican machine? Is this what Nottingham had in mind when he told a radio audience recently about his empathy for the media concerns of local Limbaugh ditto-heads?

Bank on it.

The Khachigian announcement came shortly after conservative celebrity Hugh Hewitt chucked pretense and publicly ridiculed the Times for not consistently bowing to the interests of wealthy, white-male Christian Republicans. A Times source says Hewitt privately lobbied them on and off for years. At one point, the Irvine corporate lawyer/rabid anti-environmentalist/co-host of KCET's Life & Times/perennial Republican mouthpiece tried to get the paper to hire Register editorial writer Harold Johnson, an unswerving GOP apologist. Hewitt seems to believe that conservative opinions are stifled in Orange County.

Show me the Times' "plan to increase circulation among moderate-conservative, middle- and upper-class families," Hewitt wrote in a December issue of OC Metro. Identify with "the heart of your demographics. . . . Find one conservative columnist."

Even though last year the Times published a near blemish-free, barf-inducing, weeklong series on the local GOP and consistently runs editorials by prominent right-wingers, Hewitt's whinings apparently found sympathy with Nottingham.

But the Times' newfound love connection with Hewitt extends beyond editorial comments. The Chandler clan--major stockholders in Times Mirror Co., which owns the Times--is using the law firm of Hewitt and McGuire (that's Hugh's practice) to battle the electorally expressed will of Dana Point's citizens over the Chandlers' controversial commercial Headlands development.


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