Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Swiftboats Hit the Beach

The WMC/Federalist Society/Gableman campaign to undermine the good work of the State Bar’s Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee (WJCIC) continues apace.

The intent of this coordinated effort continues to be to impugn the integrity of the Integrity committee, so as to limit its effectiveness when it inevitably weighs in on the scorched-earth tactics soon to be employed by those who would replace a fine, historic justice on the Supreme Court – Louis Butler – with a job-hopping judge from Burnett County who attained his current position (almost) magically – with no application, no recommendation from the judge selection panel and with hefty contributions to the campaign of the Republican governor that appointed him. Knowing that their planned attacks on Butler will plow new ground in Wisconsin judicial races – thereby attracting predictable criticism by those who (rightly) do not want to see judicial races fought like garden-variety congressional street fights – the right-wing forces are trying to kill the independent WJCIC messenger.

Or, at least, the electoral version of "kill", which is – to swiftboat. One of the Federalist Society stalking horses for the WMC/Gableman campaign – Don Daugherty – comes right out and says how much he wants to swiftboat the WJCIC in a memo to the Democracy Campaign’s Mike McCabe (printed, Sykes-like, in a post by Federalist Society member, WMC video star and first-year law professor Rick Esenberg). "I guess we can be fairly accused of wanting to ‘swiftboat’ (or, as I prefer, to ‘bork’) the WJCIC," brags Daugherty in the memo that is hilariously designed to try to snow its readers into believing how non-partisan he is on the Butler-Gableman race.

This is an interesting admission, to say the least. I’m not sure it’s hit Webster’s yet, but the conventional wisdom definition of swiftboating is pretty clear – the distribution of lies for political advantage. Showing his hard-right political stripes, Daugherty says he prefers to say he wants to bork, a reference to the process where the worst Supreme Court nominee in fifty years – Robert Bork – was confronted with his own ridiculous positions in a Senate hearing and was therefore denied a seat on the Court (see any of Bork’s post-nomination writings to see how grateful we all should be that he was not confirmed). The difference is that Bork was doomed by the truth and John Kerry was beaten with well-paid lies, but if Daugherty wants to equate the two, that’s his problem. The bottom line is that he intends to do the WJCIC damage because it will interfere with WMC/Gableman campaign tactics.

Oh, wait – he denies that. "I am not publicly supporting either Justice Butler or Judge Gableman," he writes, with the emphasis, no doubt, on the word "publicly". "We are simply exercising our right to publicly question the wisdom behind the WJCIC." Oh, sure. It just happens to play in the hands of the WMC/Gableman campaign tactics. Just a coincidence. Nothing to see here. Move along.

I don’t mind being told things I know aren’t true during a political campaign, but I do resent having my intelligence insulted. Daugherty and three others got "publicly" involved in the WJCIC "issue" way back on January 18th, when they were allowed an op-ed piece in the Journal Sentinel (without a mention of their Federalist Society ties) to preemptively attack the work of the WJCIC. Now, a month-and-a-half later, the Federalist Society has sprung for CRC Public Relations – the PR firm from Alexandria, Virginia that handled the original swiftboat liars, to get Daugherty and the other signatories to the op-ed to go out and – I guess – read the op-ed in public or something. Again, just innocent, good-government advocates, with an honest disagreement with the State Bar’s WJCIC. Hiring the swiftboat PR firm. Saying that he wants to swiftboat or bork the WJCIC. Acting in concert with their friend Esenberg, who starred in a video for the WMC as part of their anti-Butler campaign.

Right. What would be so wrong with Daugherty and company just coming out and saying they are trying to pave the way for the WMC move to the gutter (coming soon to a television near you) and argue it on the merits? Why even pretend to not have an interest in the election or admit the benefits of not having a watchdog to WMC/Gableman?

In his memo, Daugherty refers to the e-mails between WJCIC members distributed by Club for Growth, another right-wing Republican third-party that has poked its nose into the supposedly-nonpartisan judicial election. The innocuous e-mails were treated like smoking guns by the usual suspects looking to knock off the WJCIC. In the most interesting ones, the members of the committee wonder out loud why Gableman was refusing to sign their clean-campaign pledge. This led to accurate descriptions of the roles of the Republican hack managing Gableman’s campaign ("Darrin [Schmitz] is the legitimate child of the demon RJ Johnson an advocate of wedge politics from whence all the trouble arises.") and Charlie Sykes ("Replying to Charlie is the equivalent of getting into a pissing contest with a skunk." Indeed...). As I've asked before, is the truth a defense? There is nothing wrong with the committee trying to figure out what the resistance is and how best to overcome it in light of who they are dealing with. The wing-nuts’ problem with these e-mails is not that the committee got it wrong, but that they got them too right.

This is all inside baseball at this point to most people. When WMC/Gableman finally drops the other shoe, we’ll see why it was so important for them to try to change the rules and the history of judicial elections in Wisconsin. Daugherty, Esenberg and the others simply seek to minimize the impact of the good judgements of the WJCIC, opening the door to the judicially-improper harsh attacks that they know is the only way for Justice Butler to lose.

Those unable to live with their inability to win fair elections try to change the playing field. They cheat. They lie. And, now -- they swiftboat.

BTW: Daugherty's memo to McCabe says that the Federalist Society is going to sponsor a "debate" about the WJCIC's role in the public education process. He says they don't know who might represent the "other side". As always, I'm available.

1 comment:

iT said...

[S]ee any of Bork’s post-nomination writings to see how grateful we all should be that he was not confirmed.

My personal favorite features Prof. Bork, lounging in a Manhattan hotel room, transfixed by the hard-core porn on cable teevee, in deep sociological and presumably scholarly contemplation.