When we ran our little explainer last week on the current mess that surrounds Kathleen Kane, two things had not yet happened: One, she’d not yet hired Richard Sprague (the longtime, super-powerful go-to lawyer for Philly’s potentially libeled elite) and two, said hiring had not thus poked the media hornet’s net that now has Philly’s old guard media doubling down on a story that seems to have trouble gaining traction with actual humans — i.e., people outside Philly’s media/politics bubble. There’s no doubt that the Inquirer believed, and continues to believe, that it had a white hot story when it uncovered a political sting operation Kane walked away from, and there’s a growing sense this week from the columnists of anger — less about the corruption itself, but more a kind of shrill anger demanding Kane’s head. It’s an anger that also may be, at root, kind of sexist.
But let’s back up for a minute and talk about the sting itself, and what it reveals. This post on Sunday from Will Bunch summarizes the matter succinctly:
The bottom line, as I wrote on Day One, is the moral poverty of the Philadelphia Democratic machine, and one-party rule in a city that has the highest rate of deep poverty in America, where middle-class folks need tireless defenders of a social safety net, expanded Medicaid, voting rights and common sense gun laws — and instead get political hacks on the prowl for white envelopes full of cash. The four lawmakers accused of taking money from the so-called lobbyist Tyron Ali need to be investigated by their House colleagues, and, if necessary, expelled. Then lawmakers need to pass the nation’s toughest ban on all gifts to elected officials. if they can’t do those things, they should ALL be voted out.
Here is the problem, though: As he (and any good analysis of this mess) points out, this case seems to have been handed to Kane from her predecessors in the State’s Attorney General office, so laden with snares and flaws as to be nearly unprosecutable. And as we go into week two of its coverage, could it also be that the scandal itself and the act of covering it is also so laden with snares and flaws as to be nearly… impossible to sell to the public? Seemingly just like everything else the Inky/DN mindfunk tries to do? Something like that, maybe. And between the Bunch post and this particularly shrill offering from Tom Ferrick, this whole call for Kane’s head feels a little sexist, too. In his column, Bunch posits that Kane’s hiring of Sprague is “an attorney general who on Sunday says that criticism of her is ‘the Good Ol’ Boys club playing political games,’ then on Thursday lets the CEO of that boys’ club, Sprague, do 100 percent of the talking for her”; implicit in that claim is that she is somehow betraying her own feminist principles — a charge that either takes a lot of balls or no balls at all, we’re not sure. Meanwhile, Ferrick is laying it on thick with the “talons” nonsense, and like Bunch, pursuing a scorched-earth policy towards Kane who, let us not forget, is also on the right side of plenty of issues. A lot of this stems from, as we said, poking the Philly media hornet’s nest with a dose of Dick Sprague; local media’s resentments against the man are longstanding and well-documented. (Or, perhaps, not as well-documented as the Pen & Pencil Club membership would like.) But it’s also distinctly redolent of decades and decades of sexism pouring out the Inky/DN compound. And like so much of this, it increasingly has little to do with Kane and everything to do Philly’s various and sundry failures on some basic human levels.