Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Nasty liberal bloggers

Well, Lanny Davis isn't the only ostensible "centrist" Democrat out there worrying about the effects of those nasty liberal bloggers on the national discourse -- alongside, of course, a whole batch of right-wingers who are themselves known to have to wipe the flecks of foam from the corners of their mouths. Unsurprisingly, most of their alleged evidence of a problem is itself highly problematic.

As the folks at Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting have documented, the hand-wringing is reaching epic proportions.

And the funny thing is, those "nasty" bloggers just happen to be more popular because they reflect a broad public consensus -- which is to say, they are far more mainstream than they are "leftist":
In fact, you can find the kind of Democrats Diehl likes on the Internet—at sites like Bull Moose, for example. It’s just that they tend to be much less popular than the sites of Democratic bloggers who—like the overwhelming majority of Democrats—oppose the war in Iraq.

What's especially amusing is the way these political reporters have internalized right-wing talking points -- which are part of a specific political propaganda strategy based on projection -- about the alleged nastiness of liberal bloggers, a la the latest Malkin-O'Reilly teamup.

That is, all that "joking" talk about killing off liberals and rounding up ragheads is just "normal politics," but if liberal bloggers use some swear words or hardball political tactics, then gosh almighty, they've just come unhinged!

There was a local permutation of this recently from P-I columnist Joel Connelly, an ostensible "centrist" Democrat (he also coauthored the autobiography of one of my political mentors, Cecil Andrus) who waxed wroth on behalf of GOP senatorial candidate Mike McGavick, who he deemed the "victim" of "poisonous politics."

Mind you, as Goldy explains, McGavick is facing a shareholder lawsuit for entirely legitimate reasons, soime which ostensible "Democrats" should find disquieting as well:
Further adding to the outrage is the fact that McGavick had already made millions at SAFECO, and had a generous termination package in place. By rewriting his termination agreement after he announced his voluntary retirement, handing McGavick many millions more than he was contractually due, SAFECO has potentially performed an end-run around our campaign finance laws, indirectly dumping truckloads of cash into this Senate race via McGavick’s own unlimited, personal contributions.

Worst of all, Connelly concludes that the problem, again, is those nasty liberal bloggers:
The anti-McGavick campaign has been a mean, low-down attack on a stand-up guy.

On the horsesass.org Web site, which helped spawn the lawsuit, founder David Goldstein held forth last Thursday: "McGavick's midlife conversion to 'civility' is a joke to anyone who remembers the vicious campaign he ran on behalf of Slade Gorton."

Not true, Goldie, and you didn't even live here then.

Well, Goldy is more than capable of defending himself, and he does so here. But I'd like to add a word or two to this; perhaps Goldy didn't live here then, but many of us who did, and who were in fact covering politics back then, had exactly the same assessment of Gorton's campaigns.

The truth is that Gorton, in his final two campaigns in 1994 and 2000, developed a singularly nasty and divisive style of politics that deliberately pitted the rest of the state against those awful "Seattle liberals." It worked to perfection in 1994, but not so well in 2000.

The 1994 campaign had a genuinely ugly underside to it that was little reported on at the time but no less real. I had an up-close view of it, since I was on the editorial board of the Bellevue Journal American back then and monitored the race closely. I also participated in the board's simultaneous interview of Gorton and his opponent, then-King County Councilman (and now county executive) Ron Sims.

In the interview, Gorton repeatedly referred to Sims as representing "inner city" interests; he must have said "inner city" or "urban" a dozen times or more. It didn't take a genius to figure out he was doing this precisely because Sims was a black Seattleite. It was the kind of pitch -- carrying an unstated racial charge, but one that the candidate could deny -- that would work especially well on the far more conservative Dry Side of the state, though he obviously was trying it out in GOP-leaning suburban Bellevue, too.

It was a kind of subtle nastiness, but nasty nonetheless, and certainly divisive. And it worked so well in 1994, he obviously thought he'd try it again in 2000. That time, against a white suburban tech-firm executive named Maria Cantwell, it didn't work so well.

McGavick's plea for civility, in reality, is just as certain a way of evading the issues as if he went after his opponent, Cantwell, personally -- a strategy that the McGavick people probably realized would come up dry anyway. Now all McGavick is running on is how uncivil and nasty the Cantwell people are.

In the meantime, how does McGavick stand on those endangered orcas whose ESA status is under assault from his financial supporters at the Building Industry Association of Washington? I've e-mailed McGavick's office asking for his position on the orca listing, but have not heard back from them. But, judging from the anti-ESA position he stakes out on his Web site, I'd have to guess that he opposes protecting those killer whales.

You know, if political reporters were genuinely concerned about nasty personal politics obscuring the debate over serious issues, they would be asking Republicans like McGavick these kinds of issue-oriented questions -- instead of regurgitating right-wing talking points about the alleged nastiness of liberal bloggers and making that the story.

[Daryl at Hominid Views has more.]

UPDATE: Connelly, in an e-mail, points out that McGavick was not involved in the '94 and '00 campaigns. My point was that Gorton had a history of running nasty campaigns. Moreover, as Daryl details, Connelly's recollection of the '88 campaign is somewhat at odds with the record.

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