Every once in awhile, good ol' boy and Union-Tribune columnist Neil Morgan demonstrates an uncanny, Forrest Gump-like ability to write something so dead-on, you wonder if maybe he's been nipping a bit too hard on the Viagra.
A good example came a few weeks ago when Morgan led his column with this lil' nugget of socio-economic analysis:
“There simply is no doubt, despite all that changes in San Diego every week, that we remain, at our core, a Navy town.”
That is enough to make every San Diegan born after World War II upchuck in their Wheaties, but it contains a strong whiff of truth. It is certainly true for Morgan and his pals, vanguards of the good ol' boys who run San Diego. For them, San Diego is still a small-time Navy town, where they can all get together over hot dogs and beer nuts and decide the future of the city.
Morgan is the official publicist of the good ol' boys. Even though he's in a state of semi-retirement, Morgan is more than happy to gush over an ethically challenged politico, especially if a free lunch is involved.
When it comes to butt-smooching, Morgan is a true Olympian when he is on the trail of a big scoop.
“Chasing San Diego politicians after chasing Rail Europe's high-speed trains, I find Mayor Dick Murphy and Steve Peace, the retiring state senator, seated amiably around a luncheon table,” Morgan wrote in his Oct. 18 column. “Antennae shoot up when a powerful lawmaker is at liberty.”
That type of gripping lead immediately signals that Morgan is working up a sweat. Moving beyond the “what I did on my summer vacation” reference, Morgan moves right into an athletic display of butt-smooching, the type of butt smooching that scores 10s from butt-smooching judges.
The subject was the new airport authority, which was created by legislation sponsored by Peace, who parlayed his expertise in creating Killer Tomato movies into a role as a big time Sacramento operator. Most people are aghast that three government appointees will be paid $139,500 a year each to run this huge bureaucratic monstrosity. And they are even more revolted that Peace, who is looking for a job, is considered a lock for one of those jobs if he decides he wants one.
Morgan might have asked Peace about this little taxpayer-funded setup, but he was too busy breathlessly reporting, “Since his long-ago years as a UCSD political science major, Peace has thought of becoming governor.” Of course, that dream is toast, thanks, to among things, Peace's role in sending California into an energy crisis, which Morgan noted as “a political setback.”
Moving on, Morgan executed an impressive triple-smooch-with-a-half-gainer, breaking the news that Murphy thinks Peace is a swell guy.
Peace will be “sorely missed in the Legislature,” the Mayor confided to Morgan, who was busily scribbling notes.
Beyond the airport legislation, the only Peace accomplishment Morgan was able to cite was a move to consolidate SANDAG with the local transit authorities.
“It would have been good to do more,” Peace told Morgan, “but you don't want to shove things down people's throats.”
Most editors would shit-can this type of dribble, but Morgan is a sort of amiable legacy at the paper. For years he was the tidbit columnist of the San Diego Evening-Tribune, hammering out a career doing lunch.
Staffers were shocked when Morgan was named the editor of the Tribune, which, even by the Copley Press standards, seemed like a giant leap into mediocrity.
When the afternoon paper got the bullet to the brain, Morgan was passed over for the editor job at the Union. Instead he faded into the grandfatherly columnist role, writing the sage and homey discourses that went out of style when Tricky Dick got busted.
A few years ago he had a lil' slip when he devoted a column to expressing his anger at KPBS radio for pulling his favorite classical music show off the air. He went on and on about the demise of public broadcasting. One wee problem: The show wasn't on KPBS, it was on another station.
An intern would get fired for that type of goof, but at the U-T they just chuckle about that darn Neil.
Morgan has been in rare form on the airport authority, finding innovative and clever ways to smooch butts. He didn't miss a beat when, just a week after his Peace column, Mayor Murphy appointed that dynamo of activism councilman Byron Wear to the airport authority. Wear often appears ethically challenged, but he needed a job-thanks to term limits-and now Murphy knows that if he ever needs his car washed Wear will be ready and willing.
Meanwhile, Morgan was right there to smooch the mayor's choice. Nailing the rare trifecta of butt-smooching, he devoted his column to quoting from a letter of reference sent to Murphy by 88-year-old former Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin on Wear's behalf. Morgan passed on the news that Van Deerlin wrote the mayor, “I have never witnessed a more concerted campaign of personal vilification than the smear currently leveled at Byron Wear.”
In his rush to gush, keen-eyed Morgan missed just one lil' detail: Van Deerlin's son is Wear's chief of staff.
But hey, what's a little conflict of interest among the good ol' boys?