Thursday, April 11, 2013

So who is gonna kick Mother Jones' ass over this?

Politics is and has always been a dirty business, a bloodsport, because of what is often at stake. People will go to all kinds of extremes when seeking or attempting to retain power. And other people will do the same in opposition to or in support of those seeking elected office. How far a candidate and his/her campaign is willing to go is always an open question in every election. And in this regard, candidates for elected office have a lot of strategy meetings, to discuss their tactics, both with regard to themselves and their opponents or potential opponents. Politics 101.

Mother Jones got hold of a secret audio recording of just such a strategy meeting made in the offices of Senator Mitch McConnell. The meeting took place over two months ago--February 2nd--and it concerned the potential challenge of filmstar Ashley Judd to McConnell's seat (Judd later decided not to run). In the recording, McConnell's people--not so much McConnell--talk about potential ways of campaigning against Judd, they review actual statements spoken or written by Judd and how the ideas expressed in the same could be used against her in a campaign.

That's really all there is. Once again, Politics 101. Because don't kid yourself, Obama and his team had the same sorts of meetings about Romney, Perry, Santorum, and others. Aides were tasked with digging up information on these people that could be used in a campaign and those aides reported back to Obama (or others) with that information. Obviously, the stuff compiled about those candidates Obama never faced--like Perry and Santorum--was never used. The stuff on Romney? Pick and choose, pick and choose. And like any media-savvy campaign, bits of info were likely leaked to various media sources who then proceeded to run with their own stories.

All of the above is no less true of the Romney campaign, of the McCain campaign in 2008, and of pretty much ever other campaign across the land, at local, state, and national levels.

So what makes the McConnell meeting so noteworthy? Well, there's a tape of it. That's about it. Here's the full transcript of the meeting. Read it. Listen to it. McConnell's people simply talk about Judd, her views, and her baggage as potential campaign issues. They decide nothing. And what they discuss is all drawn from the public record, from Judd's own words, not from any nefarious or inside sources. All in all, it's rather blah.

Why then all the hullabaloo over the story? Mostly, I think, it's because Judd is a major Hollywood celebrity and thus a story about her automatically has legs (pardon the pun). Also, there's stuff in there about her problems with depression and her mental state, which is being spun to make McConnell's people look cruel (never mind the fact that a candidates's mental state is very much a valid and important issue).

What there's very little hullabaloo about is the illegal nature of the recording and why Mother Jones (in the person of David Corn) decided to actually run the story, given that Judd is no longer a candidate and given that there really isn't anything out of the ordinary taking place in the meeting. But after the story was released, Mother Jones insisted it was valid:
We are still waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell to comment on the substance of the article. Before posting, we contacted his Senate office and his campaign office—in particular, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton—and no one responded. As the story makes clear, we were recently provided with the tape by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. We published the article on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness.
"Obvious newsworthiness"? In what way? Again, there's nothing here, no smoking gun, no outrageous comments, no revelations of any sort, just politics as usual.

For her part, Ashley Judd--or more precisely her publicist--responded to the story thusly:
This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch Mcconnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C. We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis and turn it into a laughing matter.
If one listens to the full tape, there's no laughing going on about Judd's struggles with depression, so Judd's people are obviously not being honest. But beyond that, there was no "politics of personal destruction," because Judd is not running for office and the McConnell campaign never used any of the information discussed in the meeting against Judd. If Judd had run, would he have used some of the ideas discussed? Possibly. Even probably. But which ones and in what context? We can't say because it never happened.

If Ms. Judd is upset by what's in the audio tape, she ought to be looking at Mother Jones and David Corn, because that's who is responsible for bringing her struggles with depression back into to public eye (Ms. Judd put them there first, though, by discussing them in her autobiography).

I like Ashley Judd as an actor, I really do. As a thinker, as a potential politician, not so much. And her response here underscores this: she's too wrapped up in herself, in believing that she's special and has something significant to say and offer. It's good that she chose not to run, in my opinion.

But what about Mother Jones? I have to admit to being a frequent reader--and an occasional critic--of the website. It has offered many interesting pieces, no matter where one's politics lie. But this article? Calling it a "naked hit piece" would be giving it too much credit. Let's review the facts again:
  1. The story is about a typical strategy meeting, nothing more.
  2. The story is the product of an illegal recording of that meeting.
  3. There nothing incriminating that occurs during the meeting; all discussions are about material already in the public record.
  4. The meeting happened over two months ago.
  5. It concerns a potential candidate who is no longer even that.
  6. No actions--not a single one--were taken by the McConnell campaign as a result of what was discussed in the meeting.
So how is it a story at all? What makes it "newsworthy"? Nothing. It's crap. It's not poor journalism because it's not even journalism. Mother Jones claims it is awaiting a response from McConnell to the "substance" of the article, but there is no substance there that needs a response. What can McConnell say, other than "yes this meeting took place, so what?"

It's really a rather pathetic display on the part of Corn and company, especially from a magazine whose tagline is "smart, fearless journalism." Because this is none of the above.

Cheers, all.

No comments:

Post a Comment