Saturday, August 28, 2004

Hen in the Fox House

Just days before the November 1992 election, the California Senate race was a tossup - - that is, until sleazy Democrat operative Bob Mulholland disrupted a campaign event for Republican candidate Bruce Herschensohn, announcing that Herschensohn visited a strip club. Never mind that Herschensohn, his lady, and their friends Ken Minyard, long-time Los Angeles radio personality, and his wife had gone there on a “double date.” The late hit effectively ended Herschensohn’s chances of winning.

As someone who proudly volunteered in both of Herschensohn’s Senate campaigns, I was disappointed, disheartened and disgusted that the reputation and ambitions of a fine man were casualties of the politics of personal destruction. Bruce Herschensohn was and is exactly the sort of rare, principled, dignified, thoughtful statesman we need in government at all levels. Mulholland got his hand mildly slapped by the California Democrat party and then promptly returned to his role as muck merchant in every successive presidential campaign, including Clinton’s 1998 impeachment battle and the Florida post-election ground war in 2000. Now he is polluting the blogosphere, too.

On election night 1992, Susan Estrich provided commentary for a Los Angeles TV station. As I recall clearly, she was a partisan Democrat who most definitely was not celebrating Barbara Boxer’s first Senate victory. In the strongest terms, Estrich defended Herschensohn and denounced Mulholland. This, I thought, was an independent, unscripted Democrat that I could respect.

Since then, Estrich became a national pundit and my appreciation for her has grown commensurately. She has been fair, frank and feisty in her opinions, often criticizing the Clintons for “sucking the oxygen” out of the party that she loves. She helped to coordinate a group of influential Democrats who supported the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of Richard Riordan, the former "moderate" Republican Mayor of Los Angeles. I was delighted when my favorite channel, Fox News, signed Estrich as a recurring contributor in time for the 2004 election.

I am not sure what her new job description requires, but Estrich now seems to be little more than a partisan shill for Kerry. When an opposing panelist cites a fact that reflects poorly on Kerry, Estrich says with a shrug, “Oh, that’s not true,” and then follows the familiar Kerry defense:

1. Make an accusation about a Republican/conservative.
2. Do not address accusations made by Republicans/conservatives.
3. Change the subject.
4. Repeat steps 1-3 more loudly as necessary.

To her credit, she is not as strident as her CNN and MSNBC counterparts. Then again, I never thought I would be comparing her to Chris Matthews, Paul Begala and Eleanor Clift. During today's broadcast of At Large with Geraldo Rivera, Estrich accused the Swift Boat Vets of the worst smear tactics she has ever witnessed, although they documented their claims exhaustively and held themselves accountable to the public by granting numerous print and television interviews. In part, they are responding to allegations made about them by Senator John Kerry and his biographer, Douglas Brinkley, neither of whom have been available to the general media since the Swift Boat controversy arose. Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported that Democrats are employing Mulholland-style dirty tricks, compiling personal dossiers on Swift Boat Vets.

So I ask: The worst smear tactics ever? Really, Susan?

Whether she is taking marching orders from the DNC or FNC, Susan Estrich is contradicting her own record of more than a decade and I am sorry for the loss of a refreshingly honest voice on the other side.

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