Saturday, September 11, 2010

David Clarke: Under The Bridge

Some internal polling must be giving Sheriff David Clarke the willies.  Apparently, his campaign is sensing that the mass of billboards and radio and TV ads bought with the generous donations of his rich Republican friends and his daily love-fests and free advertising on local right-wing radio shows might not be enough to pull him through the Democratic primary on Tuesday.

So they ripped the cowboy hat off his head, dressed him up in his sheriff's outfit and sent him out before the TV cameras to address an issue of burning concern in the community: Suicide attempts off the Hoan Bridge. 

In a sudden spurt of civic concern, Clarke supposedly dashed off a letter this past Thursday to the secretary of the state DOT, putting on his engineer hat and suggesting that the state might want to put up suicide-prevention barriers when it repaired the crumbling icon of the Milwaukee skyline. 

The letter itself is a six-page marvel of intricate research, complete with a chart showing the 16 "successful" jumps off the Hoan since 2001 (why he didn't just say "it's about two a year"...well, not nearly as impressive).  There are even footnotes relating to its deep thoughts about the psychological aspects of suicide-by-jumping and the efforts of other cities to deal with the scourge of jumpers. 

It's an amazing document, if only for the fact that it was could not possibly have been written by Clarke.  Clarke is too busy rolling marbles in his hand and yelling at his underlings about the strawberries; spending hours on the phone with radio wingnuts; attending fundraisers with rich Republicans; screwing up the House of Correction and wreaking havoc on other aspects of Milwaukee County that are really none of his business to whomp out six pages with footnotes and charts.  If he really did spend the hours it takes to produce a letter like this, the citizens of Milwaukee County have the every right to ask him what the hell he is doing with his time.

Nor was it written by anyone else in the sheriff's department.  They don't have time for this kind of footnoted posturing nonsense -- those in the department not acting as Clarke toadies are too busy picking up after their arrogant boss.  

The letter, on sheriff's letterhead, is a obviously a campaign document, probably drafted by a summer intern over at the WPRI. [UPDATE:  The right-wing propaganda operation WPRI has a lot on its plate these days.  Sadly, it is now setting the agenda for the Journal Sentinel opinion pages.]

But the transparently political essence of the letter didn't stop the Clarke defenders at the Journal Sentinel and local TV stations from treating it like an oh-so-serious and sincere concern by the sheriff.  Not only did the J-S cheerfully front-page the PR stunt; there was Clarke standing under the bridge on all the TV news shows on the Friday before the election, using his incumbency like a hammer to drive some gullible free-media nails. 

Isn't this what the tea-baggers are always complaining about -- entrenched incumbents using the pliant mainstream media to get fawning, unquestioning coverage?  I guess it depends on who the incumbent is, eh, Charlie? 

Interestingly, Clarke didn't seem too concerned about being hit by falling bodies as he posed for his holy pictures under the bridge.  Given the state of the Mental Health Complex, as run by his soulmate Scott Walker, perhaps he should have been.  The care and treatment of the mentally ill residents of Milwaukee County has deteriorated under gubernatorial-candidate-for-life Walker that the rate of suicide of all kinds is an issue that deserves the attention of our serious local officials.   If only we could find one in the county executive or sheriff's office.

David Clarke's cynical use of occassional bridge-jumping just to get his mug on TV just before the primary is the worst kind of abuse of his office for political gain.  And the media playing along as if he's serious is even worse.


Anonymous said...

I hadn't actually read the letter that prompted the curious JS article until your post. I think you're overly generous in crediting the WPRI intern or other ghost-writer (clearly, I agree, not Clarke) with a lot of research. The letter is essentially a link to someone else's old research. I agree that the JS not seeming all that curious about why, after however many years on the job (several of which, incidentally, include higher suicide rates), the sheriff has suddenly seen the urgency to make clear that he does 'NOT fall into the camp that accepts the position "...there's really not much that we can do about it.' One expects this is a recent conversion from the previously held position of "Hmmm. People jump off the Hoan bridge sometimes? That's interesting. How many? Oh, well you know that's FAR less than how many die from accidental shootings resulting from poorly store handguns in the home, so we should really make a point in this administration to change laws to address that. What? That wouldn't be good politics? Ok, what about some sort of Gun Reduction Interdiction Program (which is cool, by the way, guys, because you can call it G.R.I.P.! I can see the bumper stickers now!)?'

Personally, my favorite part of the JS article is Clarke assuring us that he is SO not about wasting money or anything 'cause he TOTALLY would not be proposing this if it had been, like, 10 people who jumped instead of 16. That would be one of those lame, expensive, liberal kind of ideas. 16 is the obvious breakpoint. It's in the Bible, Charlie. I don't make this stuff up.

For his next job, I think he would make a pretty good spokesmodel.

Julian S.

xoff said...

A week before the election, Rip Van Clarke to the rescue!