Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Negative Attack Dogs of August

UPDATE: Brian Kirwin pointed out to me on Vivian Paige's site that by titling my piece "attack dogs" I was implying that he was a dog. That was never, never my intention. Frankly, I just thought it was a snappy title. But I guess because of the proximity of the title to Brian's name in the post, you could make that connection. So, I am sorry Brian. You are not a dog. I'd never call you that. AIAW

Or just a reasoned, vigorous debate?

Brian Kirwin, on Bearing Drift, challenged Creigh Deeds to condemn a new Democratic Website for going negative and attacking Republican candidates. For some background, at last month’s Blogs United conference in Hampton Roads, Deeds said this in a speech:

Whether it’s in Washington or in Richmond, we have to change the tone of the debate and put a stop to the endless bickering and gamesmanship that has come to define politics.

We have to reject the poisonous language that is used to describe the other side and hold up as an example those people who believe, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
So, Kirwin, whose favorite part-time hobby is to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy, thinks that Deeds should publicly disavow TheyDon’

Of course, turn around is fair play so let me point out that he thinks it’s perfectly fine for him or his cohorts, like Squeaky Wheel, to call Hillary Clinton a utopian socialist here.

First of all she’s no such thing. She is a moderate centrist Democrat who believes the government does have some role to play in solving social problems like health care. She also believes in public education, a socialist scheme that came over from England on the Mayflower. And her husband was the president who got NAFTA and other free trade agreements passed in Congress. There are real liberals who actually have trouble with her candidacy. But that doesn’t stop these two from misrepresenting and stereotyping her.

Or from whining when indeed there is turnabout. Somehow, Democrats are always the ones with the double standard when they retaliate against attacks. All schoolyard bullies love it when their victims are too cowed to fight back.

Unfortunately for them, Democrats are more and more refusing to be cowed and are fighting back. Something I heartily recommend, as long as they do so fairly and with integrity.

So, I went to the Website that’s causing these two conservatives such profound distress because of its patent unfairness - or so they allege. I decided to check it out for myself and here's what I found.

It’s neither unfairly negative nor an attack site. It’s a challenge.

The Democrats who put up the site do indeed claim they think some conservative Republicans are out of touch with most Virginians. And they back it up with fact-based evidence for their position.

For example, they point out that Tricia Stall signed a petition and made statements that she does not support public education. I’ve been to the anti-public education Website and seen her signature there (you do have to scroll down to see it) and read her subsequent statement.

So, what TheyDon' alleges is true. In fact, you can even argue that if others agree with Stall’s position, then this site would help her by publicizing it. It’s only if you disagree with her public position on education and think it is extreme that you would call this is a negative attack.

The site also illustrates Jeannemarie Devolites Davis' less than sterling attendance record at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Committee. JMDD claims credit for her clout, expertise and dedication to solving the transportation problems in Northern Virginia. If she’s not attending the meetings of boards she is on that address this issue, it’s fair game to mention it.

In fact, anything that challenges a candidate on either a public position they’ve taken or their performance on the job is perfectly fair. Without debating differences or scrutinizing competence and dedication, how is the public supposed to make an informed decision in November?

What’s unfair and negative is to make a personal attack on a candidate for things that are irrelevant to his performance, competence or public positions. It’s wrong to demonize people, stereotype or slander them. Telling outright lies is wrong. So far, this site has done none of that. It’s promoting fair and vigorous debate.

Not only does Creigh Deeds have nothing to apologize for, I invite Republicans to put up a site as balanced, fact-based and temperate as this one. Go ahead. We can stand the heat in the kitchen.


Brian Kirwin said...

Hillary thinks government has "some role to play" in health care? Do you think oxygen has "some role to play" in breathing? You must've deleted Hillary's government takeover of health care proposal that decided what doctors we see and what kind of medicine they're "allowed" to practice.

As far as your "analysis" of the Democratic attack page, you left out how they tell, if we're lucky, half the story. They attack John Welch for voting for HB1650 and by doing raising his per diem.

HB 1650 was the BUDGET. Every Democrat voted for it. Don't you think it's a tad misleading to attack a Republican for a vote that every single Democrat voted exactly the same way?

Creigh stood up and called for the end of "bickering and gamesmanship" and to me, that's all this website looks like.

Criegh said to "hold elected leaders to what they say." That's what I'm doing to him. Creigh said we should "promote discussion and debate, not argument." So, is a site called "they don't get VA" promoting discussion or argument?

linda said...

and brian keeps bickering. don't you have something to do in life but be unhappy? geez/

Anonymous said...

Them Republicans don't have nothing to complain about when nobody criticizes that there John Welch. If you don't want your candidate to be called an idiot, don't put an idiot up for public office.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Brian, first of all thank you for coming by my site. And welcome – it’s the first time you’ve posted a comment here.

As I promised, here’s my answer. I doubt you will like it. But it’s as honest as I can get in my assessment.

To start with, I think you are misrepresenting Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan badly. She never called for a government takeover or a single payer system where doctors work for the government, which decides the type of medicine they are allowed to practice. In fact, that is how managed care in corporate owned, insurance company based HMOs operate. So we have a profit-based system that hamstrings doctors and limits consumers’ choice, and it has all the drawbacks that you would ascribe to socialized medicine right now. And it has less accountability than the government has because you can’t sue your HMO and you certainly can’t vote them out of their jobs if they fail to deliver adequate healthcare to you. Profit-based corporations are already rationing our healthcare.

Hillary, on the other hand, proposed government subsidized healthcare, much like the program that federal workers have. They are all insured and have a wide variety of choices from pay for service to HMOs, with the government (who is their employer) paying 75 to 80 percent. It is by no means socialized medicine. The government helps subsidize a private health plan. Very different concepts. I’m not sure this is so different from the public-private partnerships that Pam from BD was talking about. And while the government would kick in some money, it’s market based and doesn’t eliminate insurance companies or employ doctors in government run clinics.

Now as for my analysis of the Democratic attack page, as you refer to TheyDon', here’s my take on it.

What you call argument, I truly do call debate. As long as this sites sticks to issues and candidates’ qualifications and job performance, as it’s relevant to the office they hold or seek, the criticism is fair.

When Creigh Deeds called for less argument and grandstanding, I think what he wanted was to see a civil tone and respect in the debate. Of course, I can’t read his mind so that’s only a guess on my part. But I still don’t think he has anything to apologize for from this site. In fact, I don’t think he’s responsible for it being put up in the first place. But there is nothing for him to condemn either.

As for your point about John Welch’s vote for HB 1650, the Budget, there are two relevant points. One is that according to the article in the Virginian Pilot of 9/29/03, he complained about losing money when he went to Richmond for the session.

And two is that he voted for the entire budget this year with the raise in the per diem rate for himself. If he had opposed a raise in per diem rates, which a true conservative might have because it is taxpayers’ money, he could have added an amendment to strike that from the budget bill. But if he voted for it and made a statement about the previous amount of per diem not being enough for him, one would have to assume that he meant to give himself the raise while opposing a raise in the minimum wage for poor people.

If that’s not true, he should call TheyDon’ on it. It’s his right to do that if it’s not an accurate portrayal. But it’s a point worth bringing up for discussion and not an unfair attack. You are the first person to call Democrats on a double standard. That’s all this site is doing to Republican candidates. If it’s not true, they should simply say so.

As for every Democrat voting for the budget, so did every Republican. Since the Republicans are the majority party and hold the leadership, it really is their budget. Democrats will probably run against the budget by saying that although they didn’t like it, it was the best they could get. They will also say that if they have a majority next time, it will be a better budget. And let’s face it; if all the Democrats had voted along party lines against the budget, you and your guys would be labeling the Democrats the party of obstructionists. And that’s the label they wanted to avoid. I think they were right to vote for the best deal they could get, and their argument that they would have had different priorities and a different budget if they were in power is a legitimate point to run on.

I suspect my answers won’t satisfy you and we will have to agree to disagree on it. But feel free to post your objections anytime – discussion makes this a more interesting site.

Brian Kirwin said...

It really is their budget? There's this guy called the Governor. He has a little to do with budgets in Richmond.

Here's where your logic falls apart. You castigate Welch for not creating an amendment for something this Democratic site complains about, but neither did any Democrat. To follow your line of thinking, shouldn't the Democrats be held accountable for not putting an amendment up for something they now think is so outrageous that they make a campaign issue about it.

No democrat offered an amendment, and they all voted for it. That's nothing but attack politics, and it drives people away from voting, which was Deeds' whole point.

Notice how you hold Republicans accountable while excusing Democrats for their votes. It's your right to be unfair. It's my right to point it out, too.

As it is, that website has nothing to do with anything but attacking Republicans with half-truths and misleading smears on votes.

You want me to think that's what Deeds meant by improving the tone of politics? I truly doubt it.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I don't think this site was criticizing Republicans for passing the budget. They were pointing out Welch's double standard in opposing a minimum wage bill, which would raise the salaries of the poorest of workers, while voting for a per diem increase for himself.

So, the budget wasn't the issue. It was the discrepancy between denying a raise to workers and voting for one for himself.

Since the Democrats supported the miniumn wage bill and did not take a "no new taxes' pledge, regardless of the needs of the state, it was not a double standard for them to vote for the budget bill, even with that section in it.

And as for the civility of that site, it's far more civil than your very vivid and effective language in many of your own posts on Bearing Drift (it's a compliment Brian - you are good with language, if not always logic)

And as I said, you are more than welcome to question, challenge, and condemn, even in strong language, complete with hyperbole and unfair analogies. We can stand the heat in the kitchen!

Brian Kirwin said...

The budget wasn't the issue? The budget was the vote they cited! And they purposely omit that.

And Welch didn't vote against a minimum wage, either. The bill was sent to the Appropriations committee - a good idea when it would've impacted the state budget.

An honest post would be "John Welch voted to raise his per diem just like every Republican and Democrat in the General Assembly did, and he voted to send the minimum wage bill to the Appropriations committee. We Democrats don't care about impacting the budget when it comes to minimum wages, and think skipping Appropriations would've been fine."

But, no. They say "he voted to up his per diem" and he "voted against passing a minimum wage."
The first is misleading, and the second is outright untrue.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I believe sending it to appropriations helped kill it. I also don't think Welch did it to support a minimum wage bill. Parliamentary tactics to kill a bill do count as opposing it. So, no it's not dishonest.

And, Brian, we just aren't going to unilaterally disarm ourselves while Republicans continue to attack us. But we're also not going to whine about it. We will fight back. Get over it already.

Brian Kirwin said...

"disarm" "fight" more words contrary to Creigh Deeds message.

So, when a bill is going to have a budget impact, you think it shouldn't go to the budget committee?

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Brian, do something useful, like go defend Ken Cuccinelli by posting something nasty on my post carrying Janet Oleszek's open letter.

In other words, go defend and fight back for somebody on your side and quit whining here.


Brian Kirwin said...

...just like a liberal...

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

What, I want you defend the Cooch and you take offense?

I promise the next thing you say, you get the last word :)

Brian Kirwin said...

No, you want to avoid my question and call it "whining"