Two objects that have made a big difference in New Hampshire’s presidential primary: newsprint and ink – especially in the hands of the man who published the New Hampshire Union Leader for decades, William Loeb.
William Loeb was perhaps the only newspaper publisher in America who could have appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and been asked, “Do you still believe to this day that the President of the United States is a jerk?
“I think that’s a strong descriptive word designed to make our readers stop and think,” Loeb replied, and then added, “I think the total sum of his incompetency, his failure to lead, and to a certain extent, his deviousness, would in the vernacular sum up to that phrase, yes.”
Keep in mind that on that Meet the Press appearance in January 1976, Loeb, a staunch conservative, was describing President Gerald Ford, a Republican!
He could - and was - even more scathing, toward presidents and would-be presidents alike. A famous example came in 1972, when Loeb called Ed Muskie, Maine U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful, “Moscow Muskie,” and printed personal attacks against Muskie and his wife just days before the primary.
The incensed candidate took to a flatbed truck outside the paper’s offices in Manchester to excoriate Loeb. “By attacking me, by attacking my wife,” Muskie growled, “he has proved himself to be a gutless coward.”
Muskie won the New Hampshire primary, but just months later he was out of the race, and the feud reinforced Loeb’s reputation as a primary power player – a reputation that would last until his death in 1981.
Or maybe beyond: Michael Dupre of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics says in many ways, Loeb’s outspoken and controversial editorials on politics and politicians served as a harbinger for many of today’s talk voices.
“You look at Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Chris Matthews – these people are out there, they’re colorful, they have their positions whether you like them or not, and Loeb basically started that.”
It continues today. When Republican Donald Trump came to New Hampshire this week, he wasn’t focusing his criticism on his fellow candidates, but on a newspaper publisher and his sharply-worded editorials against the Trump campaign. That, of course, would be Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the Union Leader.