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Daily Howler: Pundits said that Steele was brilliant. So he deceived us again
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LOVE CHILD OF TIM AND MARA! Pundits said that Steele was brilliant. So he deceived us again: // link // print // previous // next //

ONE FINAL NAIL IN THE TIRES: Harold Ford came amazingly close. And yes, that famous, brainless ad actually may have beaten him. But speaking of brainless, the Hardball gang took one last turn at that ad’s punishing claims Monday night. First, Pat Buchanan explained what the ad was actually trying to tell us:
BUCHANAN (11/6/06): I think [Bob] Corker...has raised all these doubts about Harold Ford down the line. I don`t consider that thing so much a racial ad, as it was one attacking Ford. This isn’t the guy he says he is. This isn’t the church-going guy. This guy like Playboy parties. This is a guy who gets money form pornographers, undercutting him with that religious base.
Say what? Is Harold Ford “a guy who gets money from pornographers?” Once again, voters heard the punishing claim—and once again, no one on the Hardball panel addressed what Buchanan had said. Bob Shrum rose up in racial indignation about the ad, helping us see how high-minded he is. But once again, the “porn money” claim went undiscussed, unexplained, unrebutted.

Is Harold Ford “a guy who gets money form pornographers?” In the last month, voters heard this claim repeated, again and again, by pundits who were too dumb and uncaring to address it. The Chattanooga Times called this claim a “lie” (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/30/06). But so what? If you watch Hardball every night, you heard the claim repeated so often that you know it’s the god’s-honest truth.

Yep! If you watch Hardball, you knew two things by Tuesday. You knew that Bob Shrum was a high-minded man. And you knew that Harold Ford wasn’t.

LOVE CHILD OF TIM AND MARA: Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Michael Steele was crying hard once again about all the racism he’d been exposed to! He addressed the subject on last Tuesday’s Tucker. And this time it wasn’t the cookies:
STEELE (10/30/06): I don’t think there has been another candidate in this country who has had to go through what I’ve gone through just to stand here right now as a Senate nominee of my party. From the Senate—you know, from House leader Steny Hoyer calling me a slave and a token when I ran two years—four years ago, to the Oreo cookies, to the name-calling, to the ugly blogs, you know, party trumps race and all this other nonsense, I think it’s important to put to bed once and for all that—you know, people are all upset about the Harold Ford ad and whether or not it’s racism. Well, racism for me in this race has been being called names, being called, you know, not black enough and all this other craziness.
Except, Hoyer hadn’t called Steele a slave—and he’s been dissembling about those cookies for years (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/15/05). But that had always been Steele’s whole campaign. Simply put, Steele’s campaign had two basic planks. He’d cry about phony racial slights. And omigod! He’d try to make unsophisticated voters think that he was a Democrat.

Steele wasn’t a Democrat, of course; he was the (Republican) lieutenant governor of Maryland. His previous post had been as chairman of the state’s (Republican) party. But Steele, an African-American, was constantly trying to make gullible folk think different. How laughable did his efforts get? In September, he unveiled new signs and bumper stickers. Here’s what the new placards said:
Yes, that’s right! Maybe voters would see his face—and see his signs—and think that he was a Democrat! Has any candidate ever made a more laughable attempt to mislead voters? Why, you’d think the dude would become a big joke. And you’d be thinking wrong.

Steele was running a laughable campaign—but the national press corps adored him. When he appeared on Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked one semi-chuckling question about the bumper sticker—and then let the topic slide (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/30/06). By last weekend, all the pundits had absorbed a great script. On Fox News Sunday, Mara recited it:
LIASSON (11/5/06): Well, I'll give two positive awards to Michael Steele and Harold Ford. They both happen to be African-Americans, but that aside, they were clearly the most talented Senate candidates out there. What they did was pretty amazing...I think Michael Steele, a Republican running in a pretty liberal state, has also made that race a lot closer than anybody expected.
Mara knew what the whole gang was saying—so she stepped up and said it too. Along with Ford, Steele was “clearly the most talented Senate candidate out there.” Steele had made the Maryland race “a lot closer than anybody expected.”

In fact, Steele seems to have lost by about ten points, which isn’t closer than we had expected. For the past year, we thought this was a race the Dems might well lose; we think that margin is surprisingly large. But remember: The “talented” Steele had done two things in his campaign. He had cried about phony racial slights—and he had tried to fool people about his party. But so what? Mara and the rest of the gang praised his brilliance. Had he put out the most comical bumper sticker ever So what! He had made the race close!

But uh-oh! When the national press corps praises a hustler, he draws a clear lesson—he can hustle you more. Yesterday, when we went to vote, a disheveled fellow was on the corner, handing out a full-sized, full-color, four-page, glossy “voter’s guide.” The front-page headline? “Steele-Ehrlich Democrats.” (To see that astonishing cover, click here.) In this morning’s Baltimore Sun, Melissa Harris describes the problem. “Democrats [were] crying foul over literature distributed for the state's two top Republicans,” she writes:

HARRIS (11/8/06): In what some Democrats called the most egregious example of propaganda, one flier was headlined "Steele-Ehrlich Democrats," referring to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele—both of whom are Republicans. Another GOP flier suggested that U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume had endorsed Ehrlich when, in fact, the former congressman supported Democratic Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley [see link below]...

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the tactics were not widely used elsewhere during yesterday's midterm elections.

"That's basically a Maryland thing," Sabato said of the fliers, particularly the one featuring Mfume. "People can define it any way they want, but it's misleading. ... I just don't think that's appropriate."
Harris calls them “fliers,” but they were full-size, fill-color, four-page brochures. Indeed, our “Steele-Ehrlich Democrats” guide was a pip. Inside, we got our recommendations. Included among the “Steele-Ehrlich Democrats” were the following hopefuls:
The Republican candidate for governor
The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor
The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate
The Republican candidate for state comptroller
The guide did recommend several Democrats—Democrats who were running unopposed in our urban district. The guide recommended only one Dem who was opposed by a Republican—the Democratic candidate for Attorney General. And yes, the guide said it was paid for by the Steele and Ehrlich campaigns. In the Sun, Harris explains:
HARRIS: Republican officials confirmed that at least some of the "sample ballot" fliers were paid for by the Ehrlich and Steele campaigns, carrying the official campaign credit line. Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, said that the GOP—hoping to elect the state's first black senator—would need the support of disappointed Democrats.
For “disappointed,” just plug in “misled.”

For the record, the disheveled fellow who gave us our guide may have come from out of town. “In at least some cases, the fliers were distributed by ‘volunteers’ who had been bused in from Philadelphia,” Harris reports. Harris was being a bit polite; last night, WBAL radio was reporting the Democratic Party’s claim that these were homeless people from Philly who had been imported to handle this job. But then, the Ehrlich-Steele campaign ran a similar, apparently illegal, scam involving homeless folk from DC on Election Day 2002.

For the record, Steele seems to be an affable fellow—but he’s a bit of a hustler. He has been grossly dishonest about serious matters in the past, and he topped even himself this past month. In our view, those “Steele Democrat” signs and bumper stickers really did take the cake. You’d think they would have made Steele a big joke. You’d think that reporters might have complained. But to the Big Press, it was all simply brilliant. Mara recited sweetly on Sunday—and Michael knew he had the green light to mislead us rubes even more.

NOTE: Courtesy of the Daily Kos, here’s the voter’s guide from elsewhere in Maryland which tried to make the voters think that Mfume endorsed Steele. Quite plainly, this brochure is a gross deception. But so what? Michael Steele ran a great campaign, Mara said. To Mara and the rest of her crew, the man was just spilling with talent.

THEN THERE’S THIS: For another first-person account of Michael Steele’s talent, you know what to do—just click here.