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December 10, 2002

Thurmond v. Wellstone Memorial

Tamara Baker at the American Politics Journal has this incisive comparison:

A little over a month ago, at Paul Wellstone's memorial service, Rick Kahn urged the Republican friends of the late Senator Wellstone to honor his memory by fighting for the things Paul fought for: aiding the poor and the average Joe/Jane, strengthening our health care system, caring for our veterans, and fighting racism.

This innocuous message so offended one Republican, Trent Lott, that not only did he walk up and leave, he talked Jesse Ventura and his wife into doing the same.

It is a bizarre thing-- wishing to honor a dead man like Wellstone by keeping his seat in Democratic hands was considered an overwhelming national scandal by the media, but wishing that Thurmond had defeated Truman to preserve segregation is considered almost a non-story by the same media.

How anyone can refer to the "liberal media" with a straight face at this point is beyond me.

Posted by Nathan at December 10, 2002 04:38 PM

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No, what was offensive was the call for republicans to honor a dead friend by abandoning their principles. Forget your life's work, do what Paul wanted. Oh please, if you were told to support a GOP platform because a dead friend would've voted that way, you'd be either offended, or laugh out loud.

"Liberal Media" with a straight face,...sorry, couldn't resist.

Posted by: puggs at December 10, 2002 07:20 PM

If I go to a memorial, I actually expect to keep my mouth shut, neither being offended or laughing.

Since I would never have attended the memorial for a person whose life's work I repudiated, I have little sympathy for conservatives if they felt a little left out in a crowd honoring Paul's work.

But the point is that the media was giving Trent Lott a pass until Al Gore and the Congressional Black Caucus rose up against the silence.

Compare that to the attacks on the grieving children of their dead father, who should have had far more right to be excused for politically wayward comments. But they were trashed by media pundits. That is the disgrace.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at December 10, 2002 07:31 PM

The memorial of someone whose life work you repudiated? Don't you have one friend who isn't a democrat? No uncle, or cousin, someone with whom you hugely disagree with but still like? If you do, then that situation is possible, if you don't, not very tolerant are you?

As for the grieving children, yes I have some sympathy, but that got a little tattered after seeing some of the taped speechs. Look, the man wasn't even dead two days when accusations of a conspiracy involving Bush having him killed were making the rounds on the web. I get a Hell of a lot more offended by that, than something written by a pundit could make me. I'm sorry Wellstone died with everyone on that plane. But some people turned a memorial into a rally. Much as you may be loathe to admit it, Wellstone had friends all over the spectrum. Do you really believe he would have wanted them booed and taunted at his funeral?

Posted by: puggs at December 10, 2002 08:03 PM

Sorry, posted reply too soon. Lott should go, I haven't had a nice thought about him in years. I would love it if I could choose who gets to call themselves a republican, but I can't. So like you I can only call for him to shut up and leave. On this one thing we can agree Nathan.

Posted by: puggs at December 10, 2002 08:10 PM

I was at the Wellstone memorial. About 5 minutes of one speech was a little over the top-out of a 3.5 hour event. But you would never have known that from the media coverage. Lott got booed-briefly and by probably several hundred people out of 20,000 that were there. And this was all done a little over 96 hours after the tragic accident.

The Dems have a long way to go to be able to get anywhere near the equality the right-wing has over the media in this country. If it were even close you would have no Bush in the White House and at least one if not both houses of Congress in Dem hands

Posted by: tomtom at December 11, 2002 01:04 AM

Yes, the right-wing "echo-chamber" was in full gear and it cost the Dems. a Senate seat, and maybe the Senate, since Chafee might have bolted at 50-50. The mainstream media acted shamelessly in lapping that shit up.

How did they react to Lott? The New York Times did not print word one on it until Tuesday. CNN interviewed Lott after the remarks and did not ask him a question about it. If it weren't for the blog world, the story probably would have died.

Posted by: Paleo at December 11, 2002 10:38 AM

Which aside from the substance of the charge is interesting. This may be the first story that the blogosphere "made." We may be coming into our own like talk radio in being able to generate the energy to keep a story alive even when the mainstream media wants it to die.

Of course, the real problem was that the Dem leadership was so weak. The rightwing jumped on the Wellstone story and the media went for the ride. Until Gore -- with Jackson a lonely voice slightly earlier-- came out publicly, the Dem leadership was missing the chance to pound the GOP.

So I blame the media, but I blame Daschle and the other silent Dems even more.

As I've said, Gore has practically earned renomination on this issue alone. Either the other contenders have to show some dramatic leadership or they should step out of the way.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at December 11, 2002 10:49 AM

Let's clear up a myth that Tamara Baker appears to be perpetuating. From the incomparable Daily Howler:

For the record, Conway went on to imply what many have said—that Lott left early because he was jeered. That turns out to be untrue too (and it wasn’t reported in the Star-Tribune). In today’s Star-Trib, Rochelle Olson reports:

OLSON: Daschle dismissed reports that Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., left because the memorial turned political. “It had nothing to do with it,” said Daschle. “He made a point of emphasizing that to me before he left.”
Daschle said Lott had a flight to catch, which was confirmed by a Lott aide Wednesday.

--Link: http://www.dailyhowler.com/dh103102.shtml

The whole Wellstone memorial flap has been blown way the hell out of proportion in the name of naked political gain. Would that the Democrats and, aheh, liberal media could blow something into proportion in the name of setting the record straight and flushing some ugly notions out into the light. (And political gain, too. I'm not going to stand on principle on this one. I'll take what I can get.)

Posted by: --k. at December 11, 2002 11:49 AM

Nathan's point about this perhaps being the first instance of a "blog-driven" story is a good one. Maybe this is the way "we" can get "our" issues across to the media. By banging on the doors of the castle and screaming our lungs out. Once the media hears and is aware, it will be easier to get "our" stories out.

So here's a toast to the blog world!

Posted by: Paleo at December 12, 2002 10:48 AM

The Wellstone camp relied on using sympathy to stifle the campaign until the scientists could thaw out Fritz, and they used moments of indignation about a time of grieving whenever Norm Coleman was quoted in the press. But by relying on an atmosphere of quiet respect to stifle an election debate, it was only proper and fitting that they get doubly burned when they turn a memorial service into an election pep rally, even if only briefly. Remember how George Bush got burned in his debate with Bill by taking 2 seconds to look at his watch. The only thing that they could have done worse was pull a "Weekend at Bernie's" with Paul and have him waving to the crowd.

Posted by: Grant at December 12, 2002 04:31 PM

That's a bunch of crap. Republicans like Gingrich were attacking Mondale days before the memorial. And the "Wellstone camp" was in mourning. It was the DFL that was doing the strategizing.

If the organizers were guilty of anything, it was being naive in not realizing that the right-wing echo chamber would make hay out of the type of commemoration they planned. They should have realized that, and kept it low key. But that was the sons' choice. And who could fault them given what they were going through.

The right could not beat Wellstone in life, no matter how many dirty tricks they threw at him. So they beat him in death, using dirty tricks.

Posted by: Paleo at December 13, 2002 09:44 AM

Actually, Fritz beat himself. He was still polling ahead of Norm on Monday - its was his off-putting performance in the final debate that reminded voters that you vote for the best living candidate, which turned out to be Mr. Coleman.

And who could fault them? Well, only the voters did, but that was who mattered. No matter how much you despise the free speech that powers the right wing echo chamber, people still have the free will to study and issue and make a choice. Perhaps if you take the majority back you can try to legislate that away.

But you should feel happy - the Democrats are 2 for 3 on last minute candidate substitutions - you had Senator Carnahan for two years, and Senator Lautenberg saved the party's tail in New Jersey.

Posted by: Grant at December 14, 2002 03:11 PM

His debate performance had nothing to do with it. Most concluded that Mondale did well. The die was already cast. Once Ventura and the GOP network got into action, Mondale was in trouble.

Free speech is not the issue. Opportunity to be heard is.

As for your two out of three comment, yeah right. The Dems whole plan was to have their candidates die in plane crashes so that they could take advantage of the resulting sympathy. Well, it worked in one case, but not in the other. Of course, Wellstone was winning so it made no sense for the Democrats to tamper with the plane.

Posted by: Paleo at December 14, 2002 03:53 PM

Free speech is what you are given..you have to earn the rest. If you can't make it work, then maybe you might want to consider a poor message (or the absence of one) as part of the problem. You can use Mr. Wellstone in his first senate race - an underfunded underdog candidate winning, in good part due to his ability to effectively communicate.

And "well" is subjective.. while Mondale did hang even with Coleman in the debates, he came across as much more aggressive and partisan than Coleman. Perhaps that turned voters off...

Whatever each of us feels, its unlikely we'll ever agree. Hone your arguments for 2008 when Norm comes up for re-election - you have to convince a bunch of Minnesotans, not me.

Posted by: Grant at December 14, 2002 05:56 PM

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