Monday, September 11, 2006

Not EXACTLY the whole story--UPDATED

In Sunday's Washington Post, the top-of-the-page headline is as follows:

Millions to Go to DIgging Up Dirt on Democrats

And I think to myself: great, now the GOP is taking the lower rung on the public debate ladder.

But I know that headlines are meant to mislead, so I read on. . .

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall. The first round of attacks includes an ad that labeled a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin "Dr. Millionaire" and noted that he has sued 80 patients.

And again, I think to myself, what are these guys doing? That paragraph above makes it sound like there's some team of GOP-supporting Special Forces guys--these "operatives" that use this neat "parlance"--that are looking to do character assassinations on every aspect of these Dems' lives: their family, their dog, even their childhood friends. How much more sinister can you get than that?

ALAS. . .it really isn't that bad. In the 12th paragraph you find a little more clarity:

Republicans plan to attack Democratic candidates over their voting records, business dealings, and legal tussles, the GOP officials said.

Okay, now we get it. These "operatives" are going to have the audacity to point out the opposition candidates' voting records--really, the NERVE! Advertising about how a politician actually practices his/her politics, with information that would be readily available on the public record--truly, that's going too low.

And these attacks on business dealings and legal tussles. . .well, if I'm not mistaken, the "culture of corruption" theme is one that the Dems created, thinking that it would be a major point for their people. IF there are questionable business games with unacceptable business players and shady legal issues in a candidate's background, it's the Dems who paved the way for those things to see the light. I, personally, only care about the truly egregious lapses in personal judgement or the continued over-exercise of privelege--but that's just me. I do, however, agree with one old adage: you can tell a lot about a person by who they call their friends. Pointing out that a candidate has close PROFESSIONAL ties with Jack Abramoff AND THAT THOSE TIES LED TO QUESTIONABLE DEALS BENEFICIAL TO BOTH PARTIES, for example, would be a totally legitimate bit of information for EITHER side to put in the public debate.

SO it really isn't all that the headline makes it to read. The GOP is going to put the Dems' words in that Dems' mouth--and that seems just about fair to me.

NOW the one specific story they highlight, this "Dr. Millionaire" guy from Wisconsin's 8th district, seems like a real "who cares" to me. The article describes it thusly:

Wisonsin's 8th District offers an example. Earlier this summer, the NRCC sent a young staff member to the district for one week to look through court records, government and medical documents, and local newspapers to find embarrassing information about physician Steve Kagen, one of the the leading Democratic candidates in an important swing district, and NRCC aide said. The researcher discovered that Kagen's allergy clinic has sued more than 80 patients, mostly for failing to pay their bills.

A new NRCC ad airing in the Green Bay area, the didstrict's main media market, warns: "What Dr. Millionaire doesn't want you to know is his clinic left more than 80 paitients behind -- suing them. That's right, suing more than 80 patients."

Again, AT FIRST GLANCE, this looks rather childish. Kagen's business sued patients in order to collect on the bills for services rendered--that seems fairly above-board to me. And I'm not a fan of attaching monickers to any politicians--it just doesn't add to the level of discourse. But Kagen can easily defend these actions: his campaign puts out the public record on these lawsuits, with all the beautiful information like "client was XX number of months behind on payment", etc. It clears Kagen's record, and rightly makes the GOP look like bottom-dwellers for telling only half of a not-very-important story.

And let me get this straight: this young staffer went to Wisconsin to delve all available information about this guy and all the staffer came up with was a (seemingly) legitimate business pursuit? Kagen sounds pretty darn respectable to me, then. . .as a businessman. Heck, Kagen couldn't have made me respect him more AS A BUSINESSMAN if he tried!

How about sending that same staffer to delve all the available "quotes" and "policy papers" that Kagen has issued in his candidacy, eh? THAT would be a truly worthwhile enterprise for the RNCC's staffers to entertain.

UPDATE: I didn't realize Hugh Hewitt had posted on the same article. His writing, of course, is much better.


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