Friday, November 24, 2017
Politics

One of Bob Haa's beliefs I agree with: the right to opinions

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In more than 20 years in Hernando County, I've listened to maybe 20 minutes of Bob Haa's Haa-Wire morning talk show on Brooksville's WWJB-AM 1450.

I didn't consciously boycott the show. I just heard enough of it, and enough about it, to know it wasn't for me.

Before his death last week at age 65, Haa hosted his show for 23 years. For part of that time, he was a paid staffer of the county Republican Executive Committee. For all of it, he stuck to the party line — or so people tell me.

"It was Republicans good, Democrats bad. Republicans wear the white hats, Democrats the black," said Craig Bolton of Weeki Wachee, a regular listener.

President George W. Bush could do no wrong; Barack Obama could do no right, Bolton said. And Haa was all for using the shutdown and the debt ceiling to try to sabotage Obama­care.

Of course he was. It was a Republican idea. And that's one problem with nonstop partisanship, one reason I didn't listen to the show. Too predictable.

And on this issue, so was the party's position. Obamacare is big government, and by now we all know how Republicans feel about that.

Which brings us to another reason I didn't listen: It was often hard to tell whether Haa was against big government or just government.

Haa, several listeners have told me, dogged county administrators to the point that Hernando's habit of casually discarding these leaders is part of his legacy.

And I've often wondered why Citrus County, with many more Republican voters than Hernando — voters presumably in favor of limited government — seems much more willing to spend money on mass transit, parks and libraries. Maybe, at least a little bit, it was because of Haa.

In several interviews, Haa said that some of his more militant views were for effect, for entertainment. I disagree with that approach as much as I disagree with his politics.

If you talk seriously about serious issues, you don't get to squeeze out of tight spots by saying that you shouldn't be taken too seriously.

For one thing, provocation is the path to extremism. It was starting to be a problem in talk radio about the time Haa launched his show. It's a much bigger problem now. Who among us didn't think, when the government came to a standstill last month, that it sure would help if we all still got our news from Walter Cronkite?

Hypocritical, right — me complaining about media bias? There are differences. I don't think I'm as hard-line as Haa was. I'm also one of a few subjective voices at a paper with many reporters who play it right down the middle.

Still, I understand this objection. It might even bring us to a point where Haa and I could have agreed. We need to be free to express opinion — columnists and radio show hosts, readers and listeners.

Opinion — hearing it, sharing it — is why people tuned in to the show. For all its divisiveness, it brought listeners together. It was a forum for people who usually agreed with Haa, such as Brooksville business owners Doug Davis and Anna Liisa Covell, and people, like Bolton, who almost never did.

This is America, Haa once told a Times reporter. It's a place where good ideas compete with bad ones and even in partisan times, I think, the good ones eventually win.

Who knows? In 20 more years, a few of these winning ideas might even turn out to be Haa's.

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