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At the same time, Harsanyi notes that these dividing lines are seldom as impenetrable as surveys make them seem. "I don't think all liberals are monolithic in their views, or conservatives, either," he says. For instance, he has no problem with gay marriage, and he opposes the constitutional amendment banning such matches that's being pushed by Representative Marilyn Musgrave, "which shows that it's more complicated than only being liberal or only being conservative. I don't think people are so one-dimensional. Plenty of people walk in lockstep, but I don't think most do."
Harsanyi's Hungarian parents had the biggest impact on his own beliefs. His father was a chemist by trade and an ardent anti-Communist by choice, and during a vacation to Italy in 1969, he and his wife defected from their native land, aided by organizations that specialized in helping members of the Jewish faith, like them, escape totalitarian rule. After living in Rome for a year, they relocated to the New York City borough of Queens, where David, the first of three sons, was born; later, the clan put down roots on Long Island. Unable to work as a chemist because of the language barrier, David's father supported his growing family by working as a diamond-setter. His mother subsequently went back to school and became an accountant, which helped keep the Harsanyis "in the middle of the middle class," David says.
During his teenage years, Harsanyi flirted with libertarianism before deciding that the system is "unworkable in this country." Strands of libertarian thought survived this conclusion, but he says he eventually embraced "Reagan conservatism: lower taxes, strong national defense, letting people make their own choices." He didn't immediately become a public proselytizer for these values, however. After graduating from Long Island University, where he focused on communications, he landed in the sports-journalism field, covering baseball and the like for SportsIllustrated.com and the Associated Press. But he says his political convictions made him an odd man out, anyhow.
"Because I worked in sports, it wasn't a main topic -- but people were extremely surprised any time they found out I wasn't a Democrat or a liberal," he allows. "I've lost friends over those kinds of things."
Nonetheless, Harsanyi didn't shy away from sharing his opinions. At the AP, he branched out into book reviewing, and his success in this arena inspired him to write some political columns on his own time. Papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard began picking up his efforts, and before long, he'd earned a reputation as a young conservative journalist on the rise. Meanwhile, his pro-Israel salvos brought him to the attention of the Jewish Republican Coalition, where he was hired to work as a press secretary. He'd only been in this role for a few months when the Post came calling at the behest of editor Greg Moore, who determined that a conservative columnist would make the daily more diverse.
"I feel very comfortable around liberals," Harsanyi contends, and that's fortunate, because he's been knee-deep in them for as long as he can remember. In lieu of quantifying the ratio of lefties to righties in New York newsrooms, he relates an anecdote shared with him by someone who worked at the New York Times in 2000: "Every time Al Gore won a state, the place exploded with applause." He maintains that bias of this sort often affects articles intended to be entirely objective. "I read stories by some reporters and I can't tell where they stand, and that's great," he says. "But most journalists are intelligent, and it's hard for intelligent people not to have an opinion on big issues -- and when they do, it's hard for their feelings not to bleed over."
In an impressive display of restraint, Harsanyi avoids accusing scribes at the Post of partisan hemophilia. He's read the paper since he was first approached about a job, but says too little time has passed to render a balanced judgment. Whatever the case, he's pleased about how welcoming everyone on staff has been -- among them Carman and Spencer, who've seen the placement of their columns switch on occasion since his arrival, and Rodriguez, whose move to features prevented a worse logjam. Neither is he bothered by the random co-worker who acts as if he's never had a Republican colleague before. "There's been a little bit of that," Harsanyi concedes. "Like, ŒYou're the conservative columnist?'"
Despite this label, Harsanyi hopes that readers with a multitude of perspectives will give his columns a try. Even wolf lovers are welcome. "I don't want to eradicate a species of animal," he stresses. "It's just that I don't want to meet a wolf in my back yard. I'm scared of any kind of predator."
Including the kind who write letters to the editor.
Obscene and not heard: When University of Colorado president Elizabeth "Betsy" Hoffman sat down to testify in a lawsuit alleging that CU used sex and alcohol to entice football recruits, she probably didn't know how much trouble she'd be making for the mainstream media.
A lawyer asked Hoffman about former CU placekicker Katie Hnida's allegation that a fellow player called her a "cunt." In reply, Hoffman insisted that she'd heard the vulgarism used as a "term of endearment." (She subsequently argued that she was thinking of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, not hard-core porn.) Of course, the Denver Post's Jim Hughes and Adam Schrager of the Post's TV partner, Channel 9, who first revealed this wacky exchange on June 15, couldn't use the word in question because of their status as family-friendly operations. They wound up calling it "a certain derisive term for women...often described as the 'c-word.'"