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Bill Ballenger and The Press: Michigan's Dirtiest Love Affair

by: mr. willis

Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 12:42:38 PM EDT

(... - promoted by Jon Koller)

Bill Ballenger, the "undisputed crown prince of pundits," is heralded by news sources across the state as the go-to source for insight on Michigan politics. Understandable... he's a stand up guy; served in the Michigan House and Senate; he's the Griffin Endowed Chair of Government at Central Michigan; he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Safety, and Welfare under the Ford Administration, and he publishes "Inside Michigan Politics," a bi-weekly commentary that cites many, scratch that, one source: Bill himself.

Much has been said about Bill. According to his own website, everyone from John Engler,

Bill Ballenger is a great source for those who want to brush up on the inside news
to Senator Carl Levin,
Ballenger's access and analyses are among the best. What he has to say is a 'must' for me and my top staffers
have recognized Bill's brilliance. The one thing no one has said about him? The one piece of research reporters have refused to share? You got it - the dirty "R" word; Bill's a Republican.

I'll be honest, the fact that our "crown prince" is a Republican is not the end of the world. To each their own, right? And honestly, the fact that Bill is a Republican really shouldn't effect his ability to comment on political happenings in Michigan.

I guess my real problem comes from the fact that NO news sources cite this little tidbit about Bill. Why would they? On a slow day, your favorite Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Kalamazoo Gazette, Grand Rapids Press, Midland Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Times Online, (need I continue?) reporter can give ol' Bill a ring and get the prince's best "punditry."

I understand that our Michigan news staff are busy. The likes of David Josar, Paul Egan, and Mike Wilkinson at the Detroit News are constantly struggling to meet deadlines. That said, it takes all of 20 seconds to type the line, "Bill Ballenger, former Republican lawmaker." Up the road at the Free Press, Todd Spangler and Kathleen Gray can't seem to get it straight either. Am I asking too much? Is it a ridiculous request to be provided with all the pertinent information regarding the sources our media constantly cite?

mr. willis :: Bill Ballenger and The Press: Michigan's Dirtiest Love Affair

No, it's not. To give proper credit where it's due two newspapers got it right: the Michigan Daily, a student-run newspaper, and the Jackson Citizen-Patriot. Both of these articles correctly acknowledge the partisan history of Bill Ballenger. Two newspapers, in the entire State of Michigan, can take the time to type "former republican lawmaker."

The fact that Bill is a Republican is only the beginning of the unasked questions though. How about his actual "punditry" skillz? The obvious answer to this: they are perfect. Why? Because Bill knows everything. He even said it himself. In a New York Times article from the 2000 election cycle, when asked about his popularity as a pundit, Bill is quoted as responding

I just know everybody, I know everything.
That solves the mystery, we don't question Bill because Bill knows everything

But does he?

In the above Times article, Bill predicts Spencer Abraham over Senator Stabenow in the 2000 election. Oops. He also predicts Diane Byrum over Mike Rogers in the 2000 8th Congressional race. Don't we wish? More recently, when the National Review Online asked Bill for his 2008 Michigan Republican Primary prediction, Bill gave the slight edge to McCain. Not quite.

Obviously, no "pundit" can predict 'em all. I would never assume such a thing. This post isn't about Bill's shortcomings really, rather, the media's. They neglect to identify his partisanship, instead assuming his unbiased perspective. They herald him as a "crown prince," instead of acknowledging the impossibility of knowing it all.  Instead of taking the time to collect commentary from a wide-array of diverse sources, they seek the political commentary of a man described by the New York Times as someone who

sits at home, wearing a burgundy 'Male Chauvinist Pig' tie and fleece-lined slippers, gazing at the Grand River.

Why is it that Michigan's reporters chose not to share all the details about their favorite little source?

I would've thought better.

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so true mr. willis. Would anyone other than reporters take Bill Ballenger or Tim Scooby-Doo Skubick seriously?  

What would Eleanor Roosevelt do?

There is no such thing as a good republican
but keep in mind that Ballenger was at war with the Engler faction during Ballenger's time as a State Senator. When Ballenger ran for Congress, Spence Abraham was the opponent's campaign manager.

A cup of coffee to the person who remembers who Ballengers opponent was.

Proud member of the Whatley Posse

Well, nobody is guessing
and the only clue I have is from Grebner's post below. It couldn't possibly  have been Taylor could it?

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.

 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

[ Parent ]
Cliff Taylor - Citizen for Congress
Just before he re-made himself as rightwing jerk, Taylor had a shtick of being "an ordinary person" running for Congress with everyday ideas, not a partisan agenda.  It was fake, but he spent a lot of money promoting the idea.  He was even associated with a weird neologism, "Citizitician" or something like that.  It didn't catch on.

[ Parent ]
I've talked politics with Ballenger many time.
I've probably discussed his private views on candidates and issues fifty times over the past 20 years.  I'd say he's slightly more Republican than Bill Milliken, but only slightly more warmly welcomed by them.

I've never directly asked, but my guess is he votes for more Democrats than Republicans these days.  But if you blow a little onto his GOP embers they can burst into flame.  Let's just say he never showed much love for Geoff Fieger, for example.

And keep in mind the reason he left electoral politics was the combined efforts of Spence Abraham and Cliff Taylor, who knifed him in the 1974 Republican primary for Congress.

does anyone get their news from the MSM anymore?
i've lived in michigan all my life and know ballengers name but that's all. i couldn't tell you one thing he ever reported on. same with skubic and lessenberry.

as for the freep and news, i've maybe bought about ten since the strike. and really only check their websites for lottery numbers. one of the papaers have been throwing papers in my driveway for the last two weeks. they must be trying to raise circulation numbers. but it goes straight to the trash can without ever leaving the plastic bag

I think the younger generation especially tunes out the all these mainstream yahoos.  

Ah, what happened to the left-wing media bias?
Skubick and Ballenger right of center?

Next you'll tell me that there's no Easter Bunny, or horrors, no Santa Claus.

Where is the outrage in this Britney-centric universe?

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