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The attack machine

I guess I really “struck a nerve,” as one reader commented on Tuesday’s column about Steve Landes’ anti-Obama tirade at an Augusta County Republican picnic.

How I know is that I’ve become the target of the Republican attack machine.

“I think quite a few people would like to know what kind of journalist you really are,” a reader named Bill Alexander e-mailed me this morning after taking several potshots at me for raising issue with the Landes comments.

On the surface, it’s good strategy. There’s no way the Landes campaign wants to actually answer for what the seven-term state delegate had to say at the picnic about Obama and Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The context had Landes addressing concerns raised by some Republicans at the picnic that they were scared to put campaign signs in their front yards or bumper stickers on their vehicles because the Obama administration is reputed to be taking names – a reference to the reporting in the right-wing media on the administration’s efforts to debunk the myths being spread by the health-insurance lobby in chain e-mails as being akin to Richard Nixon’s famous enemies lists from the 1970s, though of course the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity and Beck wouldn’t bring up the Nixon reference, because Nixon was, of course, a Republican, and the skillful architect of modern-day attack politics.

“They’re afraid because they’re afraid their neighbors are going to tell on them,” Landes said, according to a report published last week in the Washington Post. “When you’ve got a White House that’s keeping names of people that don’t agree with them, that reminds me of what went on the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany.”

The comments are revealing, as I wrote yesterday, in that Landes has efforted over his tenure in elected politics to portray himself as a moderate voice in the Republican Party who can reach out to Democrats and swing voters amongst the undecideds and work with people from all parts of the political spectrum. The moderate Steve Landes that we’ve known for years is not the same person who was clearly throwing red meat to the party base at this GOP picnic.

Voters need to consider that as they look at Landes’ record in the General Assembly that backs up the image of Landes playing partisan politics to this extreme degree with the comments about the Obama administration.

For raising the issue, I’ve earned myself the enmity of the likes of Mr. Alexander, who raised the spectre of me having a “vendetta” against Landes because he didn’t support me in my run for Waynesboro City Council last year, and a person who not-all-that-cleverly signed his name “Jack” “Meoff.”

I have Alexander sending e-mails to folks telling them “what kind of journalist” I really am. My thinking on that is that I’m the “kind of journalist” who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. Because I know I’m not the only member of the local news media who saw the comments from Landes in the Post article, and I know I’m not the only one to see that Landes had really backed himself into a corner given the careful cultivation he had done to his image over the many years he has been in the public spotlight.

I’m also the “kind of journalist” to offer Landes the opportunity to defend what he said – and the “kind of journalist” who won’t be offended if he turns me down on that. I realize that Landes is caught between a rock and a hard place. The old political saw has it that if you’re explainin’, you’re losin’. There’s no explainin’ putting the Obama administration, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in the light that he put them in and not offending a whole host of moderate and potential swing Democratic voters in the process.

I’d still like to think that the Steve Landes who wants to be seen as a political moderate could find a way to apologize for the comments given their incendiary nature. I’d think a lot more of him if he did that. Right now, with his supporters doing what they can to shoot the messenger for simply telling people what he said and the context of why he said it, I don’t know that I could think any less.

 

– Column by Chris Graham


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