On most days, I wouldn’t give a second thought to an email from a reader who believes that I and my corrupt colleagues are in cahoots with other news agencies in an attempt to destroy
Especially when the message ends with this line:
"Thank God for Fox News."
But Dana Martin of Temecula said he'd been reading The Times for more than 30 years, which I greatly appreciate. The least I could do was meet the guy and hear him out.
Even though ....
All right, sure. I am biased.
Nobody tells me what to write, and there is no collusion with colleagues or other news agencies, but I am unapologetically biased against a presidential candidate who's a sophomoric bully and braggart.
I'm biased against a candidate whose policy plans could fit on a postage stamp, lies like it's a sport, boasts about not paying taxes, insults foes, debases women and exploits bigotry under the guise of being brave enough to challenge political correctness.
Not that Clinton bowls me over. She's shady and evasive, and the best read I've heard is that she seems more a creature of political calculation than personal conviction.
So I understand why Clinton leaves some people cold, but I don't understand how Trump looks good to anyone.
Maybe Martin could shine a light.
We met in Redondo Beach. Martin, 62, is a wholesale hardware salesman for a big national distributor. He was on business in the area and suggested we have a cup of coffee at the Denny's restaurant on Aviation Boulevard.
We slid into a booth, ordered our joe, and Martin explained why he canceled his subscription to The Times on Wednesday.
"I opened it up and it was pro-Hillary on every page, and I got so sick I couldn't read it," said Martin, who told me that he tunes in to Fox News for what he considers fair and balanced reporting.
I have to say something here. If you took a scale of justice and put Sean Hannity on one tray, and an Easter Peep on the other, the scale would be more balanced than Fox News.
As for Martin's claim about Wednesday's pro-Hillary edition, he's exaggerating a little. The Times carried a story on Trump attacking Republicans who have abandoned him, and a Doyle McManus column said a Clinton victory is a foregone conclusion but the political makeup of Congress is harder to predict.
Martin said he wanted to see a story on the latest release of emails, posted by Wikileaks, that critics have seized on as evidence that Clinton is duplicitous if not corrupt. The Times had run an online story the day before, and although I didn't see any blockbuster revelations in there, maybe Martin is right. Maybe there should have been a story in print, too.
Trump's rise is a spectacle in so many ways that his very existence demands constant coverage. But aggressively vetting all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, is not just our job, it's our duty. Dana Martin is absolutely right about that.
So who is he?
He's a family man who was born in Georgia but lived in Orange County for many years before moving to Temecula. He and his wife, a volunteer for a local charity, raised three sons who are out of the house and doing well.
Martin, I learned during a long cup of coffee, is a man whose politics can't be easily labeled. He's left, right and center, all at once.
He said he supports gay marriage, reasonable gun control and a woman's right to choose (a right that could come under threat if Trump wins). He said he voted for President Obama eight years ago, he believes in tax relief but not necessarily less government, he doesn't want to see families broken up by deportations, and he states with pride that one of his sons married a Latina.
If you heard a smack, it was me slapping my forehead as I wondered how all of this can possibly add up to a vote for Trump.
The answer begins with Martin's deep distrust of Clinton because of her Wall Street connections, her private email server controversy, and the shadowy intersection between campaign donors, the Clinton family charity, and her role as secretary of State.
"She has bad judgment," said Martin, who added that his healthcare premiums have jumped in recent years, and he doesn't expect Clinton to offer any relief.
Martin doesn't like everything about Trump, but he likes a lot. Trump isn't for sale because he's largely self-financed. Trump isn't shy about taking on a political establishment that has largely disavowed him. And when Trump speaks about immigration, the economy, foreign trade and national security, he expresses Martin's hopes and fears.
"Yes, the wall does appeal to me because I believe we're a nation of laws," said Martin, who believes in a pathway to legal status for current residents, but also in cutting off the flow into the country. "We can't afford to give away free education and healthcare. It's got to come from somewhere, and it comes from working stiffs like me."
At the center of Martin's support for Trump is his belief that the candidate will be good for the economy. That's a subjective take, given that Trump has offered so few details. And many analysts believe Trump's tax plan — which would offer the biggest breaks to businesses and the wealthiest individuals, despite the largely debunked trickle-down theory of economics — would blow huge holes in the budget.
Martin said some of the hardware he sells used to be produced in the United States, but manufacturers relocated overseas to take advantage of cheap labor. He believes companies would come back home if business taxes were lower in the U.S., and if Trump imposes a stiff tariff on imports.
Martin and I are miles apart on this election, but he's a solid guy and I'd be happy to have another cup of coffee with him.
Especially after he sent me this text later in the day:
"I reinstated my subscription."