January 07. 2013 7:33PM

Chastised: Portsmouth paper gets called out

Scoring cheap political points by impugning the motives of Republicans in general and conservatives in particular is a tried and true method of "argument" among so many on the left (even those who decry a loss of civility in politics these days). As the highest-ranking Republican office-holder in New Hampshire, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte has found herself on the receiving end of such attacks since her election in 2010. Usually, though, they come from partisan Democrats, not from New Hampshire newspapers.

On Dec. 21, the Portsmouth Herald published an editorial on the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. The paper called for more gun control, in particular for the reinstatement of the 1994 assault weapons ban. It was hardly a display of originality or nuanced thinking. The editorial might have received little attention but for this sentence criticizing Ayotte for not letting her emotions overwhelm her judgment in the immediate aftermath of a national tragedy: "By being silent, Ayotte is failing to show she cares more about preventing 6-year-olds from being shot in the face than she does about being a rising star in the Republican Party."

And there is the left's dictatorial impulse we all know and love so much. Who needs argument and persuasion when bullying and character assassination work so well?

After a flood of letters from angry readers, many from noted Republicans in the area, the Herald surprised everyone by doing what the letter writers demanded. It apologized.

"We apologize both to our readers and Ayotte for our unfair characterization of her views," the Herald wrote. "We'd like to see Ayotte join the rest of the Maine and New Hampshire congressional delegation and reconsider her position on assault rifles and other gun-control measures, but our arguments need to be calm, rational and fact-based. We fell short of that standard Dec. 21."

Calm, rational and fact-based? If gun-control proponents stick to those standards, they will have to abandon many of their own policies. But maybe if more folks do as the Herald's readers did and call the anti-gun zealots on their nonsense, the more reflective ones will actually stop to think about what they are saying.