AR-02: New Motto For The Dem-Gaz Opinion Page — “Like Fox News, Only With A Much Smaller Audience”

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    I finally got around to reading the pro-Timmy! Griffin op-ed that appeared in the “Democrat”-Gazette a few days ago.  Even by that paper’s standards, the column was disgusting.  Let’s get right to dissecting this thing.

    LITTLE ROCK — WITH THE possible exception of weddings and funerals, nothing tests character under stress like how candidates behave in a political debate.

    Other things that test character under stress far more than debate: war, birth of a child, illness of a loved one, unemployment.

    There’s the free-swinging, anything goes approach, which is much favored by the desperate or just willful.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who refuse to lower themselves to the mudslinging level-as much as they would love to have the approval of the crowd/mob/electorate.

    “Willful?” What does being obstinately determined to have one’s own way have to do with this? Are you suggesting that there are people who are free-swinging in a debate simply because they want to be free-swinging? That wouldn’t really be a result of their being tested under stress, either; it would just be a character trait, and it would not fit your thesis.  (Spoiler alert: Oh, how I wish Greenberg’s use of irrelevant examples was his only flaw.)

    [***]

    Politicians’ appetite for office has scarcely lessened since the days of the Founding Fathers. And there is still nothing so revealing about a politician as how much of his simple human dignity he’s willing to sacrifice in order to win public approval-or at least incite voters against his opponent.

    Today’s case in point is the debate last Friday between Joyce Elliott, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Second District, and her Republican opponent, Tim Griffin.

    Ms. Elliott, a long-time legislator, took advantage of the occasion to demonstrate that she’s definitely of the anything-goes school when it comes to waging a political campaign. She called Tim Griffin “one of the most crooked candidates for Congress” around. Or rather she let an outfit called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics do her name-calling for her.

    If I were looking for the most crooked congressional candidate in 2010, I would be hard-pressed to find someone whose track record included systematic and widespread disenfranchisement of minority voters and a role in the shady back-room-style firing of a sitting U.S. Attorney. I mean, maybe I could find someone worse — it’s theoretically possible that Jesse Kelly (AZ-08) stole Monet’s “Poppies Near Vetheuil” from the Buehrle Foundation museum a few years back.  Even if that were true, however, Elliott said that Griffin was “one of the most crooked” candidates, so finding a couple who are worse wouldn’t really refute her point.

    Quick question for Mr. Greenberg, though: if those actions by Griffin, both of which are fully documented, do not qualify him as “crooked,” what would a politician have to do to get that label from you? (Assumed answer: Have the audacity to talk about those incidents!)

    It’s been our experience that the more noble-sounding a lobby’s name, the lower its tactics, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics seldom fails to disappoint our lowest expectations when it comes to political races in Arkansas. First it made unsubstantiated charges (bribery! fraud!) against the Democratic incumbent in the Fourth District, Mike Ross, and now it’s assailed Tim Griffin as “crooked.” When it comes to responsibility and ethics, this bunch shows no great respect for either. Naturally it operates out of Washington, D.C.

    CREW is no great shakes as far as I am concerned, but that’s really neither here nor there.  What is relevant here is that Griffin’s “crooked” label was earned by him based on his past actions. CREW may be biased and shady and possessed of a specific agenda; none of that, even if proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, erases Griffin’s past actions or makes those actions any less “crooked.” To suggest otherwise is the tu quoque fallacy, and we all know how passe that is.

    As a state senator, Joyce Elliott has never shown any great interest in going after the questionable conduct of Democratic officeholders who abuse their privileges-like driving statesupplied cars without paying taxes on them. At least not until they’re exposed in the paper.

    So you are saying that Elliott’s failure to actively pursue Democrats both within and outside the State Senate who were abusing state car privileges — which you have in no way established that Elliott was even aware of prior to the story gaining public attention — is somehow equal to Griffin purposefully preventing hundreds of minority and low-income voters from casting ballots for President of the United States? Really? Because, I have to be honest with you, that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard since the last time I read the D-G’s opinion page.

    Additionally — and I hate to keep going back to this, but you keep ignoring it — even if Elliott should have been keeping tabs on Mark Wilcox’s automobile use, which is a ludicrous position to take, it still doesn’t make Griffin’s actions less wrong. I’m not sure if you really don’t understand this fact or if you are just being obtuse and intentionally misleading because you know that a decent-sized group of people will overlook your fallacious arguments and buy what you are selling. I assume it’s the latter.

    It must be nice to be able to rely on the public’s general malaise and idiocy rather than be forced to provide cogent analysis.

    Ah, but Ms. Elliott is quick to raise doubts about the ethics of a politician if he’s a Republican and she’s running against him. Asked how she could justify her charges against Mr. Griffin, she told our Michael Wickline: “What is said about politicians is fair game, and if it’s not true and you can disprove it, then you disprove it.”

    So that’s how the game is played. Now we understand. It’s not up to her to prove the accusations she makes; it’s up to the candidate she smeared to disprove them. All she did was repeat them, like any malicious gossip. If this is Joyce Elliott’s idea of ethics and responsibility, she ought to fit right in at the nation’s capital.

    Elliott asking Griffin to prove a negative would be a problem but for the fact that there is already ample proof of the proposition. Elliott does not need to further prove something that is already firmly established by all available known evidence.

    In essence (and I don’t pretend to speak for her, so this is just my interpretation), Elliott was saying that Griffin should go ahead and explain why the evidence of his voter caging and attorney scandal involvement do not accurately describe what happened.  That is, if he has some sort of evidence or rationale that would undermine the facts as we know them to be, then Griffin should be the one to proffer those.  Until that happens, describing him as crooked is fair.

    Side note: Elliott would not have to remind voters that Griffin is, in fact, “crooked” if certain traditional media outlets in the second congressional district would report such things in sufficient detail that the voters were actually informed. Of course, that would require that those same media outlets not have a Griffin sycophant in charge.

    As for “Elliott’s idea of ethics and responsibility,” you do realize that you are still suggesting that referencing things that Griffin did is somehow worse than what Griffin did, don’t you? Heaven forbid we might send someone to Washington who was willing to point out that someone engaged in mass disenfranchisement! We’d be much better served sending the person who disenfranchised people!

    Joyce Elliott was just warming up when she called her opponent “crooked.” Her campaign flier also claims he “wants a new 23 [percent] sales tax on everything we buy, including groceries, gas and medicine . . .” This must be a reference to the Fair Tax proposal that both Mike Huckabee , the former governor, and John Boozman , the GOP’s candidate for the U.S. Senate, would use to replace the income tax, among others. Actually, her opponent in this race doesn’t support it, and makes that much clear on his website. (If only Messrs. Huckabee and Boozman would see the light, too.)

    Nice bait-and-switch, Greenberg. I thought we were talking about Elliott’s actions at the debate and how that was a true test of her character. Elliott’s push card — it was not a “flier” as you suggest or a “mailer” as Wickline wrote — is not germane to that conversation, especially since it was printed and available prior to the debate.

    3/29/10 — Griffin tells KARN, “I am absolutely committed to the Fair Tax.” [Listen here]

    Late July/Early August 2010 — Elliott’s push card goes to the printer. (Source: Elliott campaign)

    9/17/10 — The push card is available to people coming to the Pulaski County Bar Association candidate forum (i.e. the debate you referenced at the beginning) and is circulated prior to the event beginning.

    9/17/10 — During that candidate forum, Griffin tells listeners that he does not support the Fair Tax.

    Translation: The push card was printed before Griffin changed his tune. It was completely accurate insofar as it matched Griffin’s own public statement on the issue. [Again, you can listen here.] You, however, intentionally make it sound as if Elliott sent out a flier subsequent to the debate. Instead, Elliott issued a press release subsequent to the debate, in which she pointed out Griffin’s change of tune on the issue of the fair tax.

    As for whether Griffin “makes that much clear on his website,” I have to wonder just when he felt the need to edit the website and put that language in. After all, the answers he gave to Project Vote Smart do not voice his opposition.

    Nor did the keyhouseraces.com website mention his opposition.

    Mr. Griffin does indeed support “some sort of flat tax” that would simplify the massive and inefficient Internal Revenue Code with all its loopholes and inefficiencies. If one could ever be devised that would largely exempt the poorest taxpayers while retaining the principle of a graduated, progressive income tax for all of us, we’d support it, too. We just haven’t seen it yet. This much we’re sure of-to say that TimGriffin supports a 23 percent national sales tax is neither factual nor fair.

    Unless, you know, you are basing that accusation on Griffin’s own statement to KARN and the fact that, until just the other day, no one had heard Griffin say otherwise. I suppose then it would be both factual and fair.  It just wouldn’t fit the ridiculousness that you wanted to write.

    THIS CAMPAIGN is still young yet, and many another low blow may yet be struck, but it’s important to note each one, rather than sit back and accept this kind of indifference to the truth as just par for the course in politics.

    Call it the Elliott Rule: “What is said about politicians is fair game, and if it’s not true and you can disprove it, then you disprove it.” That is, when it comes to the truth or falsity of the accusations she makes, well, that’s not her look-out but her opponent’s.

    The “Elliott Rule?” Holy irony, Batman! You are defending a Karl Rove protege who worked in the same administration that lied about and smeared almost anyone who opposed them, and you are calling this the “Elliott Rule” because she pointed out factually substantiated wrongdoings in Griffin’s past? When does “op-ed” become “opinion proffered by horribly biased hack with a penchant for distorting facts and reality to their breaking points?”

    We’ve seldom seen quite so concise, or brazen, a defense for smearing an opponent by repeating unproven, and unprovable, assertions.

    Again (and again and again) I say: Tim Griffin engaged in voter caging with the intent to prevent minority and low-income voters from casting ballots in key states. He also played a major role in the firing of Bud Cummins and other U.S. Attorneys whose only reason for being fired was that the Bush administration wanted to put loyal lapdogs like Griffin in those seats. All of this is backed up by a substantial amount of evidence, much of it written by Griffin himself, and it is not undercut by any evidence to the contrary save for Griffin’s own lukewarm assertions. If anyone here is being indifferent to the truth, it is you and the others who would lie on behalf of Griffin.

    As election day approaches, there’ll doubtless be even more heat and less light offered the voters. That’s how campaigns go. As the hubbub mounts, voters lost in the volley of charge and counter-charge that marks a political campaign might ask themselves just one question:

    Which of the candidates has raised the level of public discourse?

    Follow-up question: Which of the candidates has a track record of underhanded, likely illegal, tactics designed to rig a national election?

    With that guide in hand, it becomes clearer which candidates deserve to win, and which to lose.

    I’ll choose “Not The Criminal.”

    The object of this particular election, lest we forget, is to select a successor to Vic Snyder as congressman from the Second District. Whatever one thought of Dr. Snyder’s politics, and there were times when we didn’t think much of them, he was always a gentleman; he came by the nickname Saint Vic honestly. It’s hard to imagine him trying to smear an opponent. He set a high standard in debate, remaining temperate even in the face of provocation. Which of these two candidates to succeed him has upheld that standard? It hasn’t been Joyce Elliott.

    It’s always revealing, if regularly dismaying, to see how low a candidate will stoop to inflame the voters, and how much of her own personal dignity she’s willing to sacrifice in order to tar her opponent. In that sense, every election is a test of character. And at this point, Ms. Elliott is failing the test. It would be nice to see her improve her performance, starting with a sincere apology. That would be one way to clear the air and raise the level of public discourse.

    Elliott is showing “how low [she] will stoop” by informing voters of issues that any decent newspaper would be digging into rather than devoting inches to the 283 press conferences Jim Keet has every week?  Heck, forget the lack of decent coverage by the Dem-Gaz and other media; I fail to see how Elliott is stooping low by reminding voters of these facts. Period. End of story.  For all of the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington, anti-corrupt-politician vitriol that is being spouted in the press and in the public discourse, the willingness of people to vote for a Bush-era Washington insider with a track-record of corrupt behavior at the behest of Karl Rove suggests either that (a) they don’t know about Griffin’s misdeeds or (b) there is rampant hypocrisy afoot.  Assuming that it is the former, Elliott is doing the right thing by informing the voters; if it’s the latter, then at least Elliott is spotlighting that hypocrisy for all the rest of the state and the country to see.  Either way, she is in the right here, and no amount of distorted facts, fallacious logic, or willingness to lie to readers in order to support your candidate is going to change that.

    To recap: Mentioning that your crooked opponent has done crooked things in the past = bad; doing those things in the past and then playing the martyr when they are thrown back in your face down the road = good.  Call it the “Greenberg Rule.”  One hears frequently that newspapers are dying; if this is the level of integrity we can expect, be it in an op-ed or not, that death can’t come soon enough for my taste.