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Why take stock when you can kill the messenger?

| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

We increasingly live in a world in which fatuity (as in smug stupidity) prevails.

Think of the unionistas' cries for more and/or “more equitable” state funding for public schools. Never mind that so many of these “equalized” poorer districts, with higher and higher per pupil spending, produce abysmal education results.

Or think of the laughably amateur clandestine attempts to discredit tried, true and proven conservative economic theories. Just last month, Laura Brandon, a senior associate of the leftist BerlinRosen public relations firm, tried to smear the Employment Policies Institute in a two-page email that failed to openly identify that her firm was behind the attack.

But fatuity is especially prevalent in politics. And it discriminates against neither party nor ideology.

To wit, last Sunday's Trib editorial on the policy misfortunes of the Corbett administration and the Republican-controlled Legislature — and how they might play into the governor's re-election effort (likely not well) — appears to have set off a poop storm through the GOP establishment. The crux of the editorial referred to a beautifully succinct and stinging assessment of the administration's nonperformance and leadership vacuum by Wall Street Journal scribe Allysia Finley. Sometimes it really does take an outsider looking in to clear the fog, we noted.

The halls of the state Capitol and the hack-flack-pol-lawyer cocktail party circuit were abuzz with attempts to divine the fallout. After all, an incumbent Republican governor having so much trouble with even his neglected base — What did he really expect? — appeared to have lost the support of a leading conservative media voice.

It took two days for the administration to address the matter. But when it did, Mr. Corbett unfortunately chose to adopt what appears to have been an arrogant and ignorant staff-generated talking point that was nothing less than an attempt to smear and kill the messenger.

“Obviously it's wrong,” the governor told reporters who asked for his reaction to the editorial assessment. “Frankly, aren't you all embarrassed that somebody writes a blog like that, they haven't done their research?”

Never mind that Ms. Finley is one of the most astute and respected rising conservative opinion writers of the day, from economics to public policy to politics. Now in her fifth year with The Journal, she's the assistant opinion editor of the highly regarded website and also writes editorials for the paper (when she's not nailing some intellectually bereft folly to the wall in her frequent TV appearances, that is).

Ms. Finley is a Stanford graduate who edited the opinion section of the highly regarded Stanford Review. And her Journal commentaries — in print or in the blog form that Corbett appears to deride — have a long history of being spot-on.

The eminently fair and measured Journal/Trib slap heard 'round the state was damaging enough. But the gubernatorial slap back — one in which the delivery of a smear stood in for the need to take stock — is not playing well with the remnants of a base teetering ever more on a cracking foundation whose footer is being undercut by the currents of abject tone deafness.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or

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