Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Luck of the Draw

with 9 comments

I am embarked, at the moment, on a long series of revisions for a book, longer than the ones I’m usually asked to do.  We won’t go into that.

But since I’m not usually asked for anything this extensive, I hadn’t (until today) checked out the possibility of listening to music while I worked.

I know I can’t listen to music, even classical instrumental music, when I write for real.  Revising on this level seems to be to be halfway between writing and something else. 

Well, this morning I tried it, with Mozart’s Posthorn Serenade–okay, I have no idea if I’m spelling that correctly–and it turns out that all is well.  I can in fact revise with music.

So I’m a fairly happy camper at the moment.

Except, you know, for my usual neuroses and paranoia.

I am also finding myself in a rather odd position in terms of the coming election.

Let’s forget Romney and Obama for the moment.  I never took Romney seriously as a candidate.  I never thought he could win the election, no matter what he did.  He’s the ultimate dinosaur, extinct even if he doesn’t know it.  He’s a vision out of the Republican past and that past is not coming back. 

Look at it this way.  The membership of the Republican Party is now thoroughly split between the people who wanted to bail out the banks and the people who didn’t want to and did want to see a lot of bankers bankrupted and jailed.  That last group includes the Tea Party, the Evangelicals and the libertarians. 

I never did believe the line about how people only voted Republican because they were being hoodwinked by the capitalists.  And right now, there’s a good demonstration of why that line was never accurate.

But it’s not the Presidential race I want to talk about here. It’s the race for the Senate in my own state.

There’s a Senate seat open in Connecticut because Joe Lieberman–the guy who ran for VP with Gore–has decided to retire.  The Democrats have put up a guy named Chris Murphy.  Murphy happens to be my own Congressman.  The Republicans had a primary race, and ended up nominating a woman named Linda McMahon.

This was depressing from off, because there was a guy I would have been interested in voting for in the Republican field.  That was Chris Shays, who had also been a Congressman from Connecticut until redistricting plowed him under.

Shays was plowed under a second time by McMahon’s money machine, and she had lots of money–her own.  McMahon is the female half of the couple that made professional wrestling a cash machine, and she put mostly her own funds into the race and hammered until she got the nomination.

It was, in fact, the second time she’d done that.  She also ran against Richard Blumenthal for the open seat after Chris Dodd retired.

And she got creamed. 

At the time Blumenthal ran, he was probably the most popular State Attorney General in Connecticut’s history.  His constituent service was outstanding.  He had a clear record and he ran on it.

This time, something very odd is going on.

Murphy has been a Congressman for a while now, so I’ve got to assume he has a record somewhere. 

But his ads have said nothing at all about that record, one way or the other.

They have been, virtually exclusively, attacks on McMahon.

And in every single case in which I know the basis for the attack, they have been either outright lies, or misleading to the point where they might as well be outright lies.

There is, for instance, the story of the ads that accused McMahon of “not paying social security” for her “employees,” and denying them “health care coverage and disability benefits.”

This was so absurd–and so easily disproved by the public record–that those ads disappeared after a while, to be replaced by nearly identical ones that claimed all the same things but about her “wrestlers.”

The problem?

Professional wrestlers are actors.  And like other arts workers–writers, musicians, illustrators–they are not usually classified as “employees” but as “freelancers.”  Even long term standard contracts for most of these people do not result in the guy buying your services paying half your social security taxes or giving you health care or other benefits.

This has been the standard in arts professions for decades–a lot of decades.

There is a case to be made that this is not how the arts industries should operate.  And in some cases particular arrangements have been made to get arts workers one or another of the benefits involved.

But the fact is that McMahon was not only doing nothing wrong by paying her wrestlers in the way she did, she was following standard industry practice.

And the ad relies on the assumption that most of the people listening to it will be bone ignorant of that practice. 

Then there is the ad–filmed oddly in black and white, with only women speaking–that declares that Linda McMahon’s business “demeans women” and that she forced violent images on children and sold violent toys to them.

In other words:  that Linda McMahon was one of the founders and owners of the world’s largest professional wrestling companies. 

As if they think their viewers will not know what professional wrestling is.

This is also the ad that includes the statement that McMahon wants to abolish the Department of Education, which would wipe out “early childhood education” funding and Pell Grants.

But that’s simply not true.  Abolishing the Department would not necessarily abolish any program.  Pell Grants existed before the Department existed.  The Department didn’t establish them.  It just administers them.

I won’t go into the rest of this nonsense–Linda McMahon supports a “radical Republican” proposal that would allow employers to deny women coverage for contraception!

Yes, she does, and so do I.  It’s not radical at all.  It’s the free exercise of religion, and the Constitution guarantees it. 

And this, too, is based on the assumption of voter ignorance.  The voters these ads are going after mostly approve of the religious exemption to the contraception mandate, and Murphy’s people must know it.

But the biggest and most bewildering aspect of all this is the fact that Murphy’s ads consistently call her “CEO Linda McMahon.”

I mean, really?

The woman started a successful company and ran it.   I think that’s the good news.  Does Murphy honestly think that voters will reject a candidate solely because she’s been a success?  They’re not coming out w ith any wrongdoing, or with scandals, or anything else.  Linda McMahon and her company pulled themselves up out of bankruptcy and founded a successful company.  In my book, that’s a good thing.

McMahon’s ads have, of course, also slammed Murphy for various things.  The difference is that the charges they make against Murphy are entirely verifiable–that he took campaign cash from a bank and then voted (from his seat on the banking committee) to hand that bank a bailout, and the bank later gave him a great rate on a new mortgage, in spite of the fact that his last mortgage company had to sue him for nonpayment; that he missed something like two thirds of his committee meetings.

Whenever McMahon’s people put out one of these ads, Murphy’s throw out ads about how she’s “lying.”  Then the local press–newspapers and even the local NPR station–check into it and verify her facts, and she puts out an ad quoting them.

And McMahon also puts out ads that outline what she wants to do and what her political philosophy his. 

After a while, the skew of the Murphy campaign became so bizarre that the press began to comment on it.  The local NPR station  did a story where they tried to figure out why Murphy wasn’t running on his record–why there hadn’t been any mention of that record, or of his political philosophy, for all the months the campaign had been ongoing.

Murphy responded with what I think of as a “kittens and puppies” ad–lots of fuzzy happy children and small things and an urgent message to preserve the future for them, without anything like the details of how Murphy expected to do that.

Those ads correspond to the very first one the Murphy campaign put out, where he and his wife are shown walking through a grocery store and his wife talks about  how they can’t stop because constituents always have so much to say to them.

There was, in those ads, once again nothing about what in particular Chris Murphy has done or intends to do.

The only think that makes sense to me in all this is that the Murphy campaign must be completely and utterly panicked that he’s going to lose the election.

But I can’t understand why.

This is Connecticut.  It’s one of the bluest states in the Union.  We don’t usually vote Republican.

And this is Connecticut in another way, too.  Ann Coulter put it crudely when she was opposing McMahon in the primary–this is prep school and Ivy League central.  Connecticut voters are not going to get behind somebody whose claim to fame is as low rent as professional wrestling.

Chris Murphy may do what nobody else could. 

The ads are so bad and so relentlessly dishonest, he’s probably doing McMahon more good than her own campaign could even if it always ran on optimal.

Written by janeh

September 29th, 2012 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses to 'Luck of the Draw'

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  1. What can I say? Backed into the present corner, I’ll vote for the Diplodocus, with deep regret that he isn’t a T-Rex. Sadly, he’s not the only person running for President on the basis of an outdated, discredited and unworkable ideology, and say what you will for Romney, at least HE isn’t sincere.

    No, I don’t expect him to win. 2014 and 2016 will be great conservative/libertarian years, but the nation will have paid too high a price for be looking forward to them.

    Murphy. I refuse to spend a nice Saturday looking for voting records. If he stayed in the Democratic mainstream, he voted for a health care bill written by industry insiders which, when applied in Massachusetts raised the cost of private insurance 40% each year. He voted for a banking “reform” which says, in efect, “we’ll decide what’s illegal later–probably after you’ve done it.” And he voted for an eye-popping “stimulus” about 4% of which went for the roads, bridges and airports the President (sometimes) says are urgently needed. I believe even in Connecticut I’d run against my opponent rather than on my record at that stage.

    And it doesn’t need to be an opponent in a “low rent” business. Someting very like those attacks could be contrived against just about anyone who engaged in a for-profit business, which–unless it’s a “public-private partnership” seems increadingly to be an un-Democratic thing to do.

    Things will get better–but they’ll get a lot worse first.


    29 Sep 12 at 3:41 pm

  2. I’m doing my best to ignore the US election. I treat US politics as natural disasters on the order of earthquakes and hurricanes.

    And I tend to ignore all political advertisements in Australia. Neither party tells the truth and neither keeps their election promises.


    29 Sep 12 at 7:06 pm

  3. JD, US politics does damage an order of magnitude higher than a mere hurricane or earthquake. It’s a highly UNnatural disaster.

    I’d agree, though, and not just in the US and Australia: watch the politician’s track record and not his promises. But there’s one important exception. If a politician promises to do something you don’t want him to do, that you can make book on.


    29 Sep 12 at 7:55 pm

  4. Sitting at this distance, I’m just amazed that Americans wouldn’t vote en masse for anyone (anything – Godzilla even) _but_ Obama and his bunch of incompetent thugs if only to avoid having to listen to another word from the blatant fraud. While I’m happy to accept the judgment of those closer to the action that Romney is an empty vessel, I simply cannot imagine how, given the string of such empty vessels that have disgraced the White House during my longish lifetime, that this is considered a disqualifying handicap in Romney’s particular case.

    Given the sorry state of the US economy, exacerbated if not caused by Obama’s incompetence, and the rapid rise of China (and India) as competitors for everything the US needs to continue to maintain its standard of living, this election may well be the last chance the US population gets to elect a President with at least some knowledge and understanding of how the real world works before the US is relegated to the minor leagues in all but nuclear weaponry.

    But if you can believe the Obama groupies in the media, they are about to compound their 2008 errors by re-electing a President (and his thuggish hangers on such as Eric Holder) who is objectively even a worse drivelling dolt than Jimmy Carter.

    I think Americans need to ask themselves why it is that a nation of 320 million people, hitherto the richest and most innovative in the world, has reached such a pass when the two “best” candidates they can field for the world’s most prestigious, if not the most powerful, office are of such pathetically poor quality as those currently competing office or, for that matter, for most presidential campaigns since World War II.

    Is it something in the water there?


    29 Sep 12 at 10:16 pm

  5. If Murphy’s record is as Robert suggests, he should be the most popular politician in the state. Connecticut is an OVERWHELMINGLY blue state. Voters here are in favor of Obamacare, they liked the stimulus and want to see more, they’re pro-teachers unions and gay marriage. And come November, they’ll vote for Obama over Romney in landslide proportions.

    In Connecticut, such a record would make Murphy a shoo in.

    Which is why this campaign has everybody bewildered.


    29 Sep 12 at 10:29 pm

  6. Do you mean to tell us that with so much at stake in national and international affairs that the electorate can think of nothing more important than teacher unions and gay marriage, or even “Obamacare”.

    I never thought that “blue state” meant stupid. Economically, the US is sleepwalking off the same precipice as the European PIGS.

    Even they are pulling in their belts and that necessarily means putting peripheral and self-indulgent social issues like gay marriage and civil service union politics into a more appropriate place in the order of priority.

    State or Federal, to paraphrase Bill Clinton’s famous epithet, first in that order of priority is (or ought to be) the economy, stupid.


    29 Sep 12 at 11:00 pm

  7. Mique, putting our fiscal house in order would involve telling the voters there’s no Santa Claus–that the average voter will pay more in taxes and receive fewer benefits. Our politicians no more want to say this than our voters want to hear it. Getting our economy rolling would involve clear comprehensible regulations and no special deals for special people. At that point, the politicians lose their $10,000 an evening “speaking fees” and consultant contracts, and could even be reduced to living on their salaries. This is Fifth Century Rome here: no one’s prepared to put the nation over personal advantage. They all think they can collect their own loot and depart before the system collapses.

    As for choosing candidates, the Democrats only have one acceptable curiculum vitae–Political Science at one of about 20 schools, followed by a Yale or Harvard law degree followed by politics. It doesn’t matter much which one we elect because they only have one set of thought processes. The Republicans are a little more flexible about background, but always nominate either the current vice President or whoever came in second in the previous nomination contest. The problem with a bad promotion system is that the people with the power to change it think it’s working well. After all, it got them to the top. But I think the current systems are about due to change. In four or eight years there will be something on the order of the election of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln or FDR–but we could take a lot of damage in another four or eight years.

    Jane, you’re the local expert, but I was thinking each of those deals had enough unsavory aspects to have potential. The Republican ad (in Connecticut) wouldn’t say “Murphy voted for ObamaCare” but “Murphy gave billions to Big Pharma.” It wouldn’t say “Murphy voted for the stimulus” but “Murphy borrowed money from China to start a car company in Finland and stuck you with the bill.” But the Murphy campaign you describe sounds much like Obama’s–lies and half-truths about the opponent and a positive side that resembles the late John Wintergreen’s efforts.

    Of course, Wintergreen won. We get this sort of campaigning for the same reason we get shoddy products in our stores–because we put up with them.


    30 Sep 12 at 12:35 am

  8. Mique, re the quality of candidates. Why would any intelligent person want to be President of the US?


    30 Sep 12 at 6:04 am

  9. Anyone who wants to be President is clearly unsuitable for the job.


    30 Sep 12 at 8:54 am

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