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Daily Howler: Congratulations to the Post for pushing ahead with this story
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HE’S STEELE THE ONE! Congratulations to the Post for pushing ahead with this story // link // print // previous // next //

HAPLESS IS AS HAPLESS DOES: How inept is the major press corps? Kevin Drum was right to call attention to this hapless Post report about the shrinking “God gap” in last week’s elections. (To see Kevin’s post, click here.) As part of the general excitement, Alan Cooperman notes that 74 percent of white evangelicals voted for Republicans in the 2004 House races. That rate shrank all the way down to 70 percent in last week’s House races, Cooperman reports. But nowhere in his lengthy report does Cooperman cite the most basic statistic—the overall drop in Republican votes among the electorate as a whole. It’s hard to evaluate anything Cooperman says in the absence of this basic statistic—but it’s AWOL from his report. Did this occur to Cooperman? To his editor? On a simple technical basis, it’s hard to be much more inept.

But then, how about this report by the Times’ Robin Toner about those newly-elected Dems? According to Toner, these people aren’t “liberal” or “ideological”—they’re just “populist” instead! Before long, here’s how Toner tries to maintain this utterly haire-brained distinction:
TONER (11/12/06): That economic populism extends, for many candidates, to a new emphasis on expanding health coverage. Congressional Democrats who lived through the Clinton administration's failed effort to create a national health insurance plan, which many believe was a crucial factor in the Democrats' losses in 1994, have been wary of broad health legislation for years. (And being in the minority, they were unable to do much about it, regardless.) But the class of '06 is adamant that something major can, and will, be done.

Dave Loebsack, a political science professor in Iowa who unseated the veteran Republican moderate, Representative Jim Leach, said he intended to sign on to proposed legislation to create a single-payer, national health insurance program ''as one of the first things I will do when I get to Congress.''
Loesback supports a “single-payer, national health insurance program.” For some reason, this is supposed to show that he isn’t a “liberal.” No, he’s a “populist” instead.

Toner’s distinctions are massively meaningless. But the Times has to fill its front page somehow. This way’s just as good as the rest.

THE LATEST GUN LAW: While we’re on this general subject, it has now become Hard Pundit Law: Whenever you mention Heath Shuler or Jon Tester, you have to call them “pro-gun.” Timothy Egan does the deed in this morning’s Times, describing Tester as “a pro-gun, anti-big-business prairie pragmatist whose life is defined by the treeless patch of hard Montana dirt that has been in the family since 1916.” But what does it mean when Egan calls this farmer-turned-solon “pro-gun?” Here’s the best he can muster:
EGAN (11/13/06): Republicans have kept their hold on the intermountain West in part by promoting issues known as the three G's: gays, guns and God.

On gays, Mr. Tester says the ''sacred document'' of the Constitution should not be amended to outlaw same-sex marriage, though he favored a state ban that voters passed in 2004. On guns, Mr. Tester is quite proficient in their use, and says anyone—Republican or Democrat—who tries to take his away will run into trouble. On God, Mr. Tester says simply that he is a churchgoer, and notes that he met his wife when he spotted her in a pew.
But what major Democrat has proposed “taking guns away” from Montana farmers? In Campaign 2000, for example, Candidate Gore endlessly stressed—quite correctly—that he was proposing no such thing. On the national level, Democrats gave up on “gun control” laws after that. They judged the issue to be a big loser, largely because of the way it gets spun by the GOP—and by the press.

So what is Egan trying to say when he calls Tester “pro-gun?” We’d guess he’s saying this, and no more: He knows his cohort’s latest gun law—and he’s prepared to obey it.

HE’S STEELE THE ONE: Congratulations to the Washington Post for persisting with the Ehrlich-Steele story. This morning, Matthew Mosk pens a lengthy account of the pair’s phony Election Day fliers. Mosk’s report details these points:

1) Ehrlich and Steele used similar deceptive fliers in minority neighborhoods in 2002. In 2002, the fliers were designed to make voters believe that Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, had endorsed the Republican pair. As in 02, so in 06—Ehrlich and Steele used baldly deceptive fliers to try to fool black voters.

2) Ehrlich and Steele used the homeless in 2002 just as they did this year. Their apparent motto? Use the homeless; fool the blacks! Unfortunately, Mosk omits one part of the story from 2002. In that day, the Ehrlich-Steele campaign bussed homeless people from DC shelters to Maryland’s Prince Georges County, where they spent Election Day distributing materials. But uh-oh! At day’s end, some of the homeless were simply abandoned. Busses didn’t appear to return them to their shelters. And it took a near-riot the next day to get them their pay—pay which was believed to be illegal at the time. (A state law barring such payments was later declared unconstitutional.)

3) An Ehrlich aide describes the strategy. At one point, Mosk quotes an anonymous Ehrlich aide who explains the thinking behind this year’s gambit. According to Mosk, this aide “said the purpose of the fliers was to peel away one or two percentage points in jurisdictions where the governor would be running behind. No one inside the campaign expected a strong reaction.”

4) One unfortunate omission. Unfortunately, Mosk didn’t quote the brilliant Steele, who gave his own absurd explanation this Sunday, on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. During the program, Donna Brazile cited the misleading fliers—fliers designed to make voters think that Steele had been endorsed by several major black Democrats. (The fliers also suggested that Ehrlich and Steele were Democrats themselves.) “I have to laugh at that,” Steele responded, “because that’s the same tactic that the Democrats have used in previous campaigns against each other. And I borrowed from that.” A few moments later, he expounded further. Remember, he’s talking about fliers which falsely suggested that he’d been endorsed by two major black Dems—Jack Johnson and Kweisi Mfume. Johnson and Mfume had actually endorsed Steele’s opponent, Ben Cardin:
STEELE (11/12/06): I think again, we used information to try to convey a perception or to create a perception. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t...Wayne Curry did endorse me. Jack and Kweisi are friends. Certainly we’ve worked with them over the last four years. And I think the thinking was that these were Democrats that we’ve worked with and we’ve supported, have supported the [Ehrlich-Steele] administration. It just didn’t translate well.
Poor Steele! He was just “us[ing] information to try to create a perception!” But again, no one who has followed Steele’s career would be surprised by his slippery dissembling. Oh sorry—one major group would be surprised! That would be our fatuous pundit corps, who were uniformly praising Steele by the last week of this campaign. For one standard testimonial to the man’s massive “talent,” see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/8/06.

For the record, why do slippery fellows like Steele try to “create” such bogus “perceptions?” Simple! They know it’s permitted! They know that people like Mara Liasson will praise them to the skies all the same! With that in mind, congratulations to the Washington Post for persisting with this slick, grimy story.

Final note: At one point, Mosk quotes Terry Lierman, Maryland’s Democratic Party Chairman. “This was so offensive, to so many people, they're not about to let this go," Lierman says. We hope that Lierman’s statement is accurate. And we hope the Post will let readers see the laughable way Steele explained his own conduct. He was just trying to create a perception, this magnificent new “talent” said. But then, what do you expect from a Republican whose signs and bumper stickers said this:
Truly, it doesn’t get more absurd. So once again, congrats to the Post. It’s time to let the public know all about Steele’s inspiring “talent.”