The Priest Scandal
How Old News Became a National Story... And Why
It Took So Long
By Carl M. Cannon
These days, I am president-elect of the White House Correspondents'
Association, an organization known primarily for our spring dinner
honoring the president of the United States. But 13 years ago I
attended the annual black-tie event for the first time as a guest
to receive one of the organization's journalism awards.
Then-President Bush handed out the plaques, and as he worked his
way down the line, the names of the award winners -- along with
their stories -- were read aloud to the president. Bill Dedman of
the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a project on redlining in Atlanta's
minority community; Mark Thompson of Knight Ridder for detailing
flaws in the UH-60 helicopter; Carl Cannon of the San Jose Mercury
News for detailing efforts by Catholic Church officials to cover
up sexual molestation by priests.
"Aaagh!" Bush muttered at hearing this. He actually recoiled
physically, taking a half-step backwards. I was used to this reaction,
but Bush swiftly recovered his good manners, perhaps thinking he
had hurt my feelings.
"Do you have kids of your own?" he inquired gently.
"Yes, Mr. President, I do," I replied.
"My son is the same age of some of these boys who were molested."
"Did you interview victims?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir," I replied. "Some of them are older now
-- and they wanted to talk."
"That must have been very difficult to hear," Bush said.
"But what you do is important. Keep up the good work."
And with that he shook my hand firmly and patted me on the shoulder.
The last few months have been bittersweet for the handful of journalists,
led by the incomparable Louisiana writer Jason Berry, who reported
extensively in the mid-1980s on the widespread problem of sexual
abuse by priests -- and the cover-up by the church hierarchy. At
the time, our stories attracted some measure of attention: Berry
was interviewed by radio and television outlets around the country,
wrote op-ed pieces for numerous big-city dailies and won a Catholic
Press Association award. Karen Henderson of Cleveland's Plain Dealer,
who wrote about problems in her diocese and beyond, won a public
service award from the Associated Press.
All three of us were nominated for a Pulitzer: Berry for his 1985
reporting; Henderson and I two years later. The zenith of media
attention probably came on St. Patrick's Day, 1988, when Berry and
I were featured guests on a dramatic hour-long look at this issue
on "The Phil Donahue Show." Berry also wrote a powerful
and superbly documented book, "Lead Us Not Into Temptation:
Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children," published
to critical acclaim in 1992.
Yet, as any of the journalists who covered this issue concedes,
this scandal did not explode full-blown into the public consciousness
as we thought it might. The attention it received then is nothing
like what has happened this year. The reasons perplex, even haunt,
us: Did we give up on this issue too early, thereby letting the
victims down? Did we naïvely conclude that the institutional
problems within the church had been addressed? Did we skip off to
other endeavors -- in my case the 1988 presidential campaign --
when our real obligation was to keep turning over rocks on the better,
albeit more unpleasant, story? Or is the problem that the news business
was not up to the task 15 years ago of dealing with a story this
sordid? Finally, what transforms a scandal into a major national
news story, and are there lessons to be learned for investigative
reporters and journalism as a whole?
To journalists, the story behind the story has become well known
in the past few months: A Catholic priest in Boston named John J.
Geoghan serially molested young boys for years while his superiors
responded by periodically shipping him off for therapy, then recycling
him into new parishes without warning parents there. A crusading
alternative paper, the Boston Phoenix, documented this pattern;
a powerful establishment daily, the Boston Globe, fought successfully
for open access of court records, and in the process, revealed that
the primary concern of church authorities in the Boston diocese
was not the welfare of the child victims, but how to keep a lid
on the scandal (see "Taking Command," April). That's the
plot line, and it's essentially true (although the Boston Herald
has aggressively covered this story as well). But for a few of us,
it has an all-too-familiar ring. It's not too much to say that this
story sounds like a remake of a horror movie.
In 1984, the Geoghan role was played by a Cajun priest named Gilbert
Gauthe. The diocese was not Boston, but Lafayette, Louisiana; the
beleaguered bishop not Bernard F. Law, but Gerard Frey. The crusading
alternative weekly was the Times of Acadiana; the establishment
news outlet that broadened the story was the National Catholic Reporter.
But in New England, it seems, events move slowly. Geoghan was not
even the first priest in the Boston circulation area to be convicted
of serially molesting boys. In 1993, a priest named John R. Porter
admitted to molesting 28 boys in Fall River, Massachusetts, 50 miles
to the south. Also, Geoghan was not defrocked until 1998, even though
his crimes were first reported to church authorities as early as
1972 -- and the archdiocese was reeling from his lawsuits by 1993.
Geoghan was first charged with molestation in Waltham, Massachusetts,
on December 19, 1995, but the Globe's first story didn't run until
July 1996 when a parishioner sued, saying that Geoghan had molested
her three sons. In the ensuing five years, a close reading of the
Boston media reveals little evidence that the furor generated by
this episode would be any different than that surrounding the hundreds
of other Catholic priests arrested or sued in the previous two decades.
By the year 2000, the story seemed out of gas. The Globe, for one,
mentioned Geoghan only five times that year.
In March 2001, however, Kristen Lombardi of the Boston Phoenix
published a 7,000-word blockbuster that put together the scope of
Geoghan's abuse and the extent to which the local church hierarchy,
including Cardinal Bernard F. Law, was complicit in allowing it
to continue. She followed that with a hard-hitting piece in August
called "Cutthroat Tactics" detailing how the church --
instead of ministering to the victims of sexual abuse by priests
-- confronts, intimidates and bullies families when they come forward
to report it. By then, the Globe was hard at work on the story,
as was the Herald. The Globe struck gold when it fought successfully
for access to the previously sealed court records in the civil suits
against Geoghan. The paper published an initial story in July 2001
documenting how Cardinal Law had conceded under oath that he knew
about Geoghan's activities as long ago as September 1984. It followed
that up with a lengthy two-day special report in January that put
the entire Geoghan saga on the record. That piece broke the bank.
Since then, the Boston media have reported on the scandal every
day. Who hasn't?
Feeding frenzy is too mild a phrase to describe this year's coverage
of the issue. The story cannot be escaped. It's on local television
news, network news and cable news. Fox News did a March special
on it; so did CNN. PBS did two. The headline on the cover of the
April 1 issue of Time magazine asks: "Can the Catholic Church
save itself?" By April the New York Times, Los Angeles Times
and Washington Post were running stories every day. The April 12
Los Angeles Times featured five separate stories on the scandal,
including one on an accused priest attacking a news photographer
in the halls of the Santa Rosa, California, courthouse. These aren't
incremental stories, either. Their tenor can be summed up by the
March headline of an L.A. Times piece: "Scandal Shaking Catholicism
The scandal is on the front page of the USA Today delivered to your
hotel room, and in unlikely places: The conservative, pro-Catholic
National Review did a cover on THE SCANDAL; Sports Illustrated ran
an item on a former major league ballplayer, Tom Paciorek, who came
forward (originally in the Detroit Free Press) to say he and his
brothers were molested by their parish priest as teenagers. The
tabloids informed us that three books are in the offing, including
one by Jimmy Breslin. The apex may have come at Easter, Christianity's
holiest time. This very fact might be a hint of how the times have
changed. When I wrote about this subject 15 years ago, my editors
were so sensitive to the exigencies of the Christian calendar that
they waited until after Christmas to launch our series. No one has
any such compunctions today. Here is a sampling from the eight days
on either side of Holy Week:
* March 29: It's Good Friday, but the New York Times, Los Angeles
Times and Boston Globe find room for stories on the resignation
of a Polish archbishop accused of abuse.
* March 30: The Boston Herald reports that several hundred protesters
against Cardinal Law's handling of abuse cases demonstrated during
Good Friday services. Cleveland's Plain Dealer, unimpressed that
Bishop Anthony Padilla celebrated Holy Thursday by washing the feet
of an abuse victim, publishes three pieces on abuse, including one
headlined, "Priests' victims can have the power now."
* March 31: An Associated Press Easter Sunday piece from Los Angeles
is anything but traditional: "Church confronts abuse scandal
as Catholics celebrate Easter," it reads. In Chicago, the Tribune
runs four pieces on the scandal, including one in Sports.
* April 1: The AP budgets seven stories on sexual abuse by priests.
These include news that the diocese in Orange County, California,
settled a lawsuit for $1.2 million because priest John Lenihan got
a teenage girl pregnant two decades ago; that a New York priest
was arrested on child rape charges; and that in Dublin, an Irish
bishop resigned over allegations he covered up molestations by a
* April 2: The Buffalo News publishes an exposé on how the
local diocese treated six credible cases of child-molesting priests.
(None was prosecuted.)
* April 3: ABC News airs an hour-long special on the issue, narrated
by Peter Jennings, called: "Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned:
The Catholic Church in Crisis," detailing how the church recycles
priests who have molested kids.
* April 4: The Washington Post runs a front-page piece, "Catholics:
Church in Midst of a 'Crisis,' " with a Post poll showing that
seven in 10 Catholics believe sexual abuse by priests is a problem
that demands "immediate attention" by the hierarchy.
* April 5: The lead story in the Philadelphia Inquirer -- eclipsing
President Bush's dramatic Rose Garden speech on the Middle East
-- is headlined: "Cardinal, prosecutors speak out on scandal."
The New York Times publishes a comprehensive piece about prosecutors'
efforts against priests around the country. CBS relates the story
of an Ohio priest who committed suicide after being accused of abuse.
Down in New Orleans, Jason Berry watched all of this unfold with
more than an academic interest. So did I, along with others who'd
covered this issue before. Although the details were familiar, such
stuff never loses its power to shock. I couldn't help but wonder
what Gilbert Gauthe's many victims, now grown men, thought of all
this. At the same time John Geoghan was engaging in oral sex with
boys while instructing them to close their eyes and repetitively
recite "Hail Marys," Gauthe was forcing altar boys in
Louisiana to repeatedly submit to and perform anal or oral intercourse
with him -- often molesting several boys in one family. Estimates
of the number of his victims, some of whom were as young as 7, ranged
upwards of 100. Geoghan swore boys to secrecy by telling them what
they did was "confessional"; Gauthe, who often carried
firearms, warned at least one boy that if he said anything Gauthe
would harm his parents.
Inevitably, though, some of these boys did tell their parents.
Diocesan authorities simply transferred him to another parish --
and another, and another. The string ran out in a bayou village
called Henry, Louisiana, in 1983. Church officials responded by
refusing to tell parishioners -- even the parents of boys suspected
of being molested -- why Gauthe was sent away. They advised parents
who did come forward to keep silent. No priest or vicar from the
Lafayette diocese ever called the cops. After Gauthe was arrested,
the parents sued the diocese. In the course of litigation Frey admitted
there was a second pedophile priest in his diocese.
"When I read the civil deposition of Bishop Gerard Frey admitting
there was a second pedophile priest I thought, 'This is Watergate!
-- the bishop covering up' " Berry recalls. He wrote about
it for Lafayette's Times of Acadiana only after being rebuffed by
Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and the New York Times
Sunday Magazine. Berry also contacted Thomas C. Fox, then the editor
of the National Catholic Reporter, who agreed to run his stories.
Berry's last piece for the Lafayette paper in January 1986 revealed
that Frey had recycled seven sexual offender priests over the years.
In that issue, Times of Acadiana Editor Richard Baudouin ran an
editorial calling for the removal of the bishop and the local vicar-general,
prompting the diocese to organize an advertising boycott.
In those years, I was a Washington correspondent for the San Jose
Mercury News. One day in the spring of 1987, I was on home leave
when National Editor Bob Ryan asked if I had any ideas for in-depth
stories or investigative projects. I said that I was convinced that
the situation in the Lafayette diocese was not isolated -- that
it was part of a national pattern, and that a day of reckoning was
coming for the Catholic Church.
Ryan was an honest, hard-nosed newsman who backed up his reporters,
but he was skeptical of what I was telling him. And why not? It
was shocking then; it's shocking now. Ryan repeated the word "pattern"
slowly, then asked how many examples I believed made a pattern --
and how many I could document. I wasn't sure, but I did know about
Berry's work. I also knew that a former colleague, Jon Standefer,
had been investigating financial chicanery in the San Diego diocese
for the San Diego Union and had come across cases in which sexual
abuse had been hushed up there; I knew that a friend wanted me to
look into allegations about a priest in Woodside, California --
and how no one in the local hierarchy would take the claims seriously.
So I told Ryan I thought I could find half a dozen dioceses where
cover-ups of sexual molestation had gone on. He said evenly that
if I found six instances where diocesan authorities had covered
up sexual abuse of children, it was definitely a pattern -- and
a national story. Before I did my first interview, I did a Lexis-Nexis
search. The tool was somewhat new, and reporters didn't use it much.
I found a dozen instances in the clips, usually small wire service
stories, in which priests had been accused of molesting children
or adolescent boys. I made phone calls to those places, usually
locating a cop or a helpful plaintiffs' attorney (lawyers are the
unsung heroes of this scandal) and discovered that, typically, parents
had called the police or hired a lawyer only after being stonewalled
by church authorities. I had found my pattern before leaving my
office. In time I would identify some 35 priests in more than two
dozen dioceses, not six, who'd been recycled after abuse allegations.
I spent three months on the story, traveling to dioceses all over
the country to nail it down. The Mercury News published my stories
on December 30 and December 31, 1987, and sent them out on the Knight
Ridder national wire. What I found was that church
* Sent offending priests away for therapy, but allowed them to
return to parish work or duty in a church school or hospital without
notifying parents or enacting safeguards to keep them away from
* Ignored complaints of abuse, often attempting to discredit the
parents, even in cases in which they knew of previous allegations
against the priest;
* Failed to inform civil authorities of allegations of child abuse,
although existing state law required them to do so in most states;
* Refused to seek out likely victims when a case surfaced and fought
to make sure settlements remained sealed.
My story described an internal report for U.S. bishops that estimated
the cost of paying damages to the victims would exceed $1 billion
in the coming decade. The report's authors -- priests Thomas Doyle
and Michael Peterson and a lawyer, F. Ray Mouton Jr. -- were seen
as alarmists inside the church, but their warnings were right, as
was my hunch about the church's day of reckoning. What I didn't
imagine is that it would take 15 years to occur.
The reasons the story took so long to gain traction are varied
and complex, and it takes awhile to sort them out. There isn't one
explanation, there are many, and they interact with each other in
a way that might serve as a cautionary tale to investigative reporters
First, the original problem with this story was simple skepticism
that anything so horrible could be condoned by the hierarchy of
a church that has done so much good in the world. The frontispiece
of Jason Berry's "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" is a quote
from the New Testament gospel of Mark: "Whosoever shall offend
one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him
that a millstone were hanged around his neck and he were cast into
the sea." The passage is meant to remind readers of the grotesque
nature of the violations -- and it does -- but it also underscores
the cognitive dissonance inherent in a book about men of the cloth
being allowed to prey on children with impunity. It seemed, back
then, almost impossible to believe -- not just to faithful Catholics,
but to secular journalists as well. When I explained the dimensions
of this problem to fellow Washington reporters -- reporters who
would believe anything about a politician -- I would often get dubious
Feeding into this skepticism was the fiasco of the 1993 accusations
against Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in Chicago. The abuse allegation
against Bernardin was the product of therapy-induced hypnosis delving
into the controversial area of "recovered memory." The
accuser's own lawyer must have initially been skeptical -- he polygraphed
his own client -- but he filed suit anyway while making an exclusive
arrangement for CNN to get the story first and timing it to coincide
with the national bishops' conference in Washington, D.C. Bernardin
denied the charges immediately and forcefully: "All my life,
I have lived a chaste and celibate life," he said. "Everything
that is in that suit about me, the allegations, are totally untrue,
they're totally false." His vehement denials threw up red flags
to journalists with experience reporting on the issue. Four months
later, the lawyer withdrew the suit.
It must be said that, by 1993, any editor who'd looked at the sexual
abuse issue squarely should have had no doubts about the scope of
the scandal. But for those who shied away from taking on a powerful
institution, for those who were looking for a reason not to have
to write about it, and for those in the church and in the press
who just couldn't believe such a thing could be widespread, the
Bernardin case gave them an out.
"Denial is a very strong coping mechanism that was well in
place years ago when victims first started to speak out and break
the silence surrounding abuse by clergy," recalls Mary Grant,
founder of the Southern California chapter of the Survivors Network
of Those Abused by Priests. "It was as if speaking the truth
was falling on deaf ears. Few rank-and-file Catholics wanted to
address the reality -- and victims were in the beginning stages
of finding each other [and] piecing together the horrific puzzle."
A second, related reason the story did not have resonance 15 years
ago is that even those in the media who understood the dimensions
of the scandal were constrained by the very nature of the subject
matter. You were not just taking on a powerful and popular institution,
you were writing about a crime that seasoned police reporters often
My original Mercury News series ran in the middle of the week,
not on a Sunday, and below the fold in what is the deadest news
week in the year. My editors gave me time to report it, and they
published it. But it wasn't like we were proud of it. Bush's appalled
gut-level reaction was my paper's -- and, in a way, my own as well.
When my editors urged me to wrap up the follow stories by early
spring so I could cover the 1988 presidential campaign, I protested
only mildly. I wrote about the issue intermittently until 1990 --
additional victims kept calling me, but we acted as though we had
"done" the story. For his part, Jason Berry got a cool
reception at many of the magazines he approached. Karen Henderson's
editors moved her off the story and sent her to a suburban bureau.
Even after our appearance on the Donahue show, Berry's book proposal
was rejected 30 times before he won a contract. What's different
One factor, says National Journal media critic Bill Powers, is
the increased willingness in journalism to write about sexual issues,
even distasteful ones. "I think one reason this story is finally
taking off can be summed up in two words: Monica Lewinsky,"
Powers says. "Before that scandal, the news media were still
very chary about any stories with explicit sexual conduct.... It's
hard to remember this now, but 10 years ago it was strange and really
pretty shocking to see detailed discussions of sex acts in the newspaper.
In the post-Monica world, that sort of thing is business as usual,
and shocks nobody. This is a very significant cultural shift, one
that I think made it possible for pedophilia in the church to finally
go front page, above the fold, and become the enormous story it
always should have been."
It's instructive to recall the initial reaction of then-New York
Times Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple Jr. to Paula Corbin Jones'
sexual harassment suit against President Clinton. "I am not
interested in Bill Clinton's sex life as governor of Arkansas,"
Apple said. "I'm certain there are a lot of readers who are
interested in that, and there are lots of publications they can
turn to to slake that thirst." But this point leads to a third
reason the priest story finally caught fire: In 2002, this story
broke in news outlets with real power. Put simply, on issues pertaining
to the Catholic Church, the Boston Globe is a publication with the
clout to set the agenda for elite Eastern media outlets. Kristen
Lombardi herself, although she writes for the Boston Phoenix, is
quick to give credit to the competition.
"The Globe did a real service. It went to court and challenged
the confidentiality order sealing thousands of pages of discovery
material in the Geoghan case," she says. "After the Globe
won its legal action and the records were unsealed, no one could
possibly deny Cardinal Law's or his underlings' complicity in Geoghan's
dastardly acts.... And that meant that the reflexive Church defenders
who typically scream about 'anti-Catholic bias' and 'Catholic bashing'
in the press had no ground on which to stand."
Lombardi also believes that the fact that this happened in Boston,
the fourth largest archdiocese in the nation, made the story impossible
to ignore. No one understands this better than Tom Fox, now publisher
of the National Catholic Reporter, who has probably dealt with this
issue longer than any media executive in America. In a piece done
by religion writer Kelly McBride for the Poynter Institute's Web
site on this very point -- why this story is big now -- Fox observed:
"The light and the heat that comes from that kind of exposure
that the East Coast media gives to a subject is substantial and
feeds on itself." Fox adds that getting the secret deliberations
of a cardinal out in the open was a revelation. "It's like
the Nixon tapes," Fox says. "Anyone can see from the documents
the course [of the Church] was not pastoral, it was defensive and
To be sure, one can go too far with this argument. A search of
the database shows that the New York Times covered the issue continually,
if sporadically, starting as early as May 4, 1986. In my attic,
I found a dog-eared Times clip dated February 10, 1988, that cites
my original series -- and even quotes from it: "The church's
reluctance to address the problem is a time bomb waiting to detonate
with American Catholicism." This caveat, in turn, leads to
another explanation of why this story is so big now: the dearth
of institutional memory. Fox surely knows, but Kelly McBride may
not, that reading the depositions of church officials in molestation
lawsuits was a staple of the 1980s reporting. McBride asserts that
the Boston case was "the first time there is unequivocal evidence
of cover-up and a failure within the Roman Catholic Church."
But my reporting was based on reading depositions of priests and
church officials taken by plaintiffs' attorneys, and the Globe reporting,
while impressive, is similar to Jason Berry's 1985 stories documenting
the Lafayette bishop's prior knowledge of the Gauthe problem.
Journalists usually don't sweat this lack of institutional memory.
How many stories are truly new anyway? Or, as editor Dale Cockerill,
an old-timer at the Mercury News when I was there 20 years ago,
used to quip, "That story is so old it's new." This dynamic
applies to this story. And though that means that some of the coverage
can be jarring because it lacks context, the inverse is true as
well: This scandal is all the greater precisely because the story
has been around so long. In other words, there is simply no excuse
for a bishop to not have figured that when he gets one of these
cases, the only possible ethical response is to a) remove the priest
immediately; b) call the cops; c) make an honest effort to find
all the victims; d) deal with the problem publicly, even if that
means opening your diocese to further lawsuits; e) treat the kids
and the parents -- and all the other parishioners -- humanely. That
this wasn't being done 10 and 15 years after the 1985 Doyle/ Mouton/Peterson
report and half a dozen years after the bishops in the early 1990s
adopted guidelines for dealing with this problem made the story
more horrific, not less.
Lombardi put it this way: "As I was digging into this issue
last year, I often found myself pondering this one nagging question:
Why is this still happening in the Catholic Church? Why do we still
see victims come forward, only to experience a hostile reaction
from Church officials, only to then seek out a lawyer and then suffer
from the Church's aggressive legal tactics? Why are there still
cases of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church after all these
years? Isn't it time that the Church has wised up about clergy sexual
abuse? After all the knowledge that the Church has had and accumulated,
this problem should have been addressed -- if not eliminated --
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those
Abused by Priests, says evidence that the bishops hadn't cleaned
up their act enraged survivors all over again -- and emboldened
them. "First, some survivors feel hopeful. When survivors are
heard and validated in the courts and the media as we have been
in Boston, we gain the strength and courage to come forward to heal
ourselves and protect others," he says. "Second, some
survivors feel desperate. For a decade, bishops have reassured us
that they take abuse allegations seriously, investigate them thoroughly,
remove suspected priests, and no longer reassign molesters. The
revelations of the past few weeks prove that these reassurances
were largely untrue.
So, despite the risks of further pain, some survivors are now going
public because they feel compelled to do whatever they can to make
sure no other child suffers as they did." This point leads
to another: I certainly assumed the church had dealt with this issue.
I'm told today that some dioceses did and that others (such as Boston)
may have grudgingly improved their approach to dealing with new
allegations but never quite came clean with their old cases -- and
are now paying the price. To journalists who've come to this issue
recently, it may seem inconceivable that church officials would
put a premium on keeping this issue quiet instead of dealing with
it. But there is a context for that, too.
In the mid-1980s, theologically conservative church officials were
trying to avoid The Conversation: that is, a candid discussion of
the subculture of homosexuality in the priesthood and the related
issues of whether celibacy -- and an all-male priesthood, for that
matter -- are sustainable. For their part, liberals in the media
had a Conversation that they were avoiding as well: Why do the vast
majority of these priest molestation cases involve boys or male
teenagers? To admit this was, in some quarters of the press, tantamount
to giving ammunition to homophobes.
Well, the sheer magnitude of the scandal has overwhelmed both of
those taboos. One survivor, Terrie Light, coordinator of the Northern
California survivors network chapter, wonders if the traumatic events
of September 11 are what showed the media the importance of speaking
the truth. Whether they did or not, the bishops are now having The
Conversation -- like it or not. It is being led by none other than
Jason Berry, who confronted both sacred cows -- the bishops' and
the gays' -- in an April 3, New York Times op-ed headlined, "Secrets,
Celibacy and the Church."
If that means that this story has come full circle, it's all right
with me. It's also all right if the explanations for why this story
caught on now are not only intertwined, but cumulative. In his best-selling
book "The Tipping Point," Malcolm Gladwell explains how
"social epidemics" catch on. His book is full of passages
about the differences between "connectors" and "mavens"
and "salesmen" as well as the importance of context and
the alchemy of what he calls the "stickiness factor."
Ultimately, it seems, a handful of people can push an epidemic,
or an idea, past the tipping point -- if the groundwork has been
It's comforting to think that the work some of us did in the 1980s
laid a foundation. I'm not sure it's true, but I want it to be:
It was fun covering the 1988 campaign, and I guess my political
stories were all right.
But they didn't save any kids.
Carl M. Cannon covers the White House for National Journal.