Doing pretty good for all the wrong reasons

The Wisconsin State Journal stumbles today into a rare “Type II Surprisingly Correct Editorial” lambasting Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp.

As we’ve noted before, a Type II Surprisingly Correct Editorial needs not simply to be correct, it also requires a “surprise”. If the State Journal were to editorialize that ‘the sky is blue, and we heartily approve,’ that would be correct enough, but there’s no zing, there’s no surprise. Lacking the surprise, such an editorial would probably be a “Type III Filler” or the “Type IV Distractor”.

A ‘surprise’ for the State Journal is going against their Republican friends, and that’s exactly what they try to do today in “Stepp’s DNR deserved scrutiny“.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say that today’s editorial was motivated by the State Journal’s sense of right and wrong? You could imagine that was the case, because DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp (pictured at left) has been doing a miserable job for Wisconsin’s environment, evident in the recent work of the newspaper’s own reporter, Ron Seely. For example, here and here. But alas, the editorial appears to be motivated not by Stepp’s work but by Stepp criticizing the State Journal’s work (well, actually Ron Seely’s work).

In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp is accusing the Wisconsin State Journal of “sensational” reporting on her agency’s weak actions against a polluter in Jefferson County.

Yes, only after Stepp criticized the newspaper’s reporting did the newspaper’s editorial page say boo. Even when criticized, it’s very, very difficult for the editorial page to be harsh with their Republican friends. Even before the editorial was done, it was back to sort of praising Stepp’s DNR:

The DNR has gone overboard with enforcement at times in the past. And the DNR under Stepp has been smart to try to prevent violations through a less combative posture and better communication of expectations with key business sectors.

In the end no one can be surprised by what Seely reports or by how the State Journal editorial board sees it. It is in the end “as expected.”

In 2011, when Walker succeeded in converting the DNR into a “charter agency” with “new ways to measure success”, none of the 5 measures concerned protecting the environment or citizen health. It’s obvious that Stepp was selected by Gov. Walker to run the DNR in a new way with less enforcement, easier permits, fewer penalties, greater harm (although not headline calamity) to Wisconsin’s environment, and stronger support from all the people who like all that.