That’s the logic of the latest campaign by the newspaper, begun on this Sunday’s editorial page. Not only was there a sanctimonious lead editorial bemoaning the purported fact that each campaign "seems to be predicated on convincing Wisconsinites to vote against the other guy rather than for its own candidate" and that "it's time to call a truce" , the Crossroads section also front-pages an incredibly over-heated and factually-unfounded column by a former editorial page editor saying the same thing and claiming "neither major-party candidate for governor is fit for public office", simply because of the supposedly jointly-negative advertising.
Indeed, there are "deliberate distortions, even lies" in the campaign for governor of Wisconsin and legitimate acts are "exaggerated into unscrupulous misdeed". But almost all such poisonous spinning occurs in the official and the real campaign of Mark Green. Jim Doyle does not have nearly the number of wild distortions and flat-out lies in his campaign as Green and his surrogates have in his.
One thing I was waiting for as I poured through the ponderous prose in both articles was any recitation of facts that would cause the paper to tar both candidates with the same brush. If the J-S would or could leave its convenient preconceptions behind and bothered to look the actual record, it would find that there really is no factual or moral equivalence between Doyle and Green.
The Doyle campaign has run the following ads during the campaign, and you can see them all on his web-site:
- "Promise", a completely positive and factually accurate review of his record as governor;
- "Six Times", a stem-cell issue ad, correctly explaining the "extreme" Green position on the research from the perspective of the mother of a child with diabetes.
- "Surprise", another positive ad about Doyle’s successful effort to balance the state budget.
- "Stands", an honest ad that reviews Green’s 92% pro-Bush voting record.
- "News", an honest review of news coverage of Green’s illegal $467,000 problem.
- "Moving Froward", a positive ad about Doyle’s record on job preservation and creation.
- "Give It Back", another honest ad about the Green illegal money (does the Journal Sentinel really not think he should give it back?).
- "Over", another review of the illegal money issue and Green’s refusal to give it back. All honest, all Green’s fault.
- "No Way", an honest response to Green’s false immigration claims in his ad (see below). If Doyle didn’t respond, the J-S would have criticized him for not responding, a la Kerry and the pathetic swift-boaters.
So, that’s three completely positive, accurate ads about his record that don’t even mention Green; three about Green’s refusal to return the illegal money (any campaign that did not highlight this kind of in-your-face intransigence by an opponent would be sued for incompetence); an honest review of Green’s pro-Bush record and a response to an irresponsibly false ad by Green on immigration.
Green on the other hand, has used his official campaign air time to play wedge issues and lie about Doyle’s record. Here are the official Green ads:
- "Extreme Family", a defense of Doyle’s characterization of Green’s record as extreme in the stem-cell ad, through Green’s family members. I actually thought this ad was kind of humanizing and clever, although it deliberately fails to understand the difference between an extreme record and an extreme person.
- "Stay", an unsupported claim that young people are leaving Wisconsin due to "high taxes" and a false accusation that Doyle has made it worse.
- "Football", a series of lies about out-of-state vs. in-state tuition levels, featuring a bleacher-full of actors acting like constituents.
- "Pattern," a smear ad if there ever was one, tying campaigns from tribes to gambling compacts, a state bureaucrat’s actions to campaign contributions, and claiming that the Elections Board ruling was "rigged" by Doyle. All phony, all lies.
- "Priorities", the ad full of immigration lies.
- "Facts", a false take on the Menard’s distribution center, featuring a repeat of the immigration lies.
That’s one pro-Green comedy ad featuring his family and five anti-Doyle ads featuring outright lies and phony connections that don’t exist.
I don’t see how anyone can look at both sets of ads side-by-side and say that both campaigns are equally negative or dissembling. In tone and content, Doyle’s ads are positive, fact-based and often uplifting. Green’s ads are universally anti-Doyle, drawing conclusions that are insupportable and worst – that do nothing but stretch and spin.
And that’s just Green’s official campaign.
The primary vehicle for Green’s Real Campaign is right-wing talk radio. On the radio, wing-nuts big and small, always too-willing to follow GOP scripts and talking points, provide 24/7 free advertising for the Green campaign. They talk for hours about Green points like the Menard’s non-controversy and virtually anything that they think make Doyle look bad. They will repeat "Doyle is corrupt" until they think they have convinced everyone but themselves. With no proof or reason to believe, they will repeat that Doyle is "the most corrupt governor in Wisconsin history" and will say that Doyle will end up in federal prison by the end of his second term. They, and the radio stations that feature them, have no interest in the truth and no shame. We have all become too accepting and comfortable with this daily poisoning of the public discourse, both nationally and locally.
And then there are the viciously false ads run by Republican out-of-state facilitators like the laughably-named All Children Mater (ACM) and the notorious gun-industry tool, the NRA. For instance, the NRA has a billboard and TV campaign that is based only on convenient alliteration. We are encouraged, for no particular reason, to "Dump Doyle". It is said, quickly, that Doyle is somehow anti-freedom and anti-hunting. No facts, and who needs them? ACM, the Amway/Wal-Mart funded front-group out of Michigan and Virginia, is now running their second anti-Doyle ad, with no content about education, much less children. There is nothing on the Doyle-independent side to match these richly-funded and co-ordinated Republican efforts. The only one to make any significant noise has been the Greater Wisconsin Committee, which have put out ads that at least have the benefit of being both honest and local.
Finally, if the Journal Sentinel was really interested in calling a "truce", it would stop feeding the Green beast by printing every half-assed investigation by Spivak and Bice of three-year-old meetings in Chicago steakhouses between Doyle aides and the much-later indicted, as it did two days ago. The paper also wouldn’t praise a Green ad, casting unproven aspersions on Doyle’s contributions from tribal leaders, as "pack[ing] a punch"; nor would it matter-of-factly report the various false charges in a Green immigration ad – including one whopper that misrepresented what the J-S itself said in an editorial – without drawing any conclusions at all.
If a truce is called for, Jim Doyle would certainly agree to it. Green may or may not. If he does, he has his surrogates to do his dirty work for him. It would just be another lie.