The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Patterico’s Latest Gambit: Trying to Pit Michelle Malkin Against Mark Levin?

Posted on | November 10, 2010 | 20 Comments

More unfortunate fallout today from the Delaware Senate campaign, a subject about which I know a lot but have said relatively little in recent weeks. To explain my side of the story:

From early October onward, I tried to turn my attention (and readers’ attention) to House races. The Senate campaigns were getting plenty of coverage on Fox News, talk radio and other media, and I thought it a far more valuable service to highlight GOP House candidates. Certainly there were plenty of people — pro-Christine, anti-Christine and otherwise – covering the Delaware Senate campaign after the primary, and it didn’t seem like a wise investment of my time to keep adding my two cents’ worth merely for the sake of being “part of the discussion.”

So I shut up about it, even though I had O’Donnell’s campaign manager, Matt Moran, on speed-dial and could have been all-Christine-all-the-time 24/7 if I wanted to. After a couple of weeks of post-primary coverage, my main contribution was to feature two O’Donnell campaign mailers:

And, after she debuted her first “I Am Not a Witch” TV ad, I made one complaint:

It seemed to me that the O’Donnell campaign was making a strategic error. Being strictly a neutral and objective journalistic observer (nudge, nudge), I’m not in the business of running people’s campaigns for them. Nevertheless, while talking to Matt Moran the day after the Delaware primary — when O’Donnell’s upset victory over Mike Castle had opened the floodgate of online donations — I suggested that the first order of business was to get on air as quickly as possible with TV ads attacking Coons for his tax-hiking record. 

Maybe I used the phrase “sc0rched earth” and alluded to the fire-bombing of Dresden.

But this was a neutral objective fact, you see: It was already apparent that the media was trying to make the campaign about Christine O’Donnell’s personal biography — every wacky thing she’d ever said or done — and what she needed to do was to change the subject. Make the campaign about Chris Coons and his record in public office.

Chris Coons raised taxes three times in four years.

Anybody who couldn’t turn that nine-word sentence into a brutally effective attack ad has no business in politics. As I wrote on Oct. 5:

Having some relevant experience with video production, I bet it wouldn’t take 48 hours for anyone with access to Final Cut Pro to turn those basic facts into a hard-hitting 30-second ad. And had I been in charge of the O’Donnell campaign, saturating the Delaware TV market with that attack ad would have been Priority One. Yet here we are three weeks after the primary, and it hasn’t been done yet.

It wasn’t that the “I’m You” ads by Fred Davis were bad, you see, it was just that those ads were the opposite of what the O’Donnell campaign needed, strategically. To hell with trying to improve her “image” — make the campaign about the opponent’s vulnerabilities.

OK, so that’s a long preamble intended to show that there is at least one valid alternative hypothesis to the now widely held view that O’Donnell was doomed to defeat from Day One.

Maybe it is true that Delaware is such a deeply “Blue” state that a worthless RINO like Mike Castle was the only hope for a Republican to get elected there. Or maybe O’Donnell was so intrinsically flawed as a candidate that, regardless of ideological issues, she would have lost no matter what. But I think we need to consider the possibility that O’Donnell could have won — or at least run a much more competitive race — had her campaign adopted the Fire-Bombing-of-Dresden strategy.

Having established that alternative view, now let’s look at the latest eruption of Patterico’s weeks-long jihad against Mark Levin. Patterico:

I see commenters on sites like mine saying that we need to move past the whole O’Donnell/Castle controversy. And, it does seem to be getting a little old, huh? Yet there are demagogues like Levin, together with certain bloggers who are desperate to get Levin’s attention, who seem content to pick at this scab, with no signs of letting up. Do their readers and listeners tell them to move on? I see little evidence of that. . . .

But then there’s this:

Conservatives ought to be able to disagree without being at each other’s throats. And it is possible. Michelle Malkin, for example, endorsed O’Donnell, but explicitly said that she was not throwing conservatives overboard for disagreeing with her. I felt the same way about Michelle: I thought the candidate she was endorsing was dishonest and highly unlikely to win, but I also know that Michelle is no dummy. She knew the flaws of her candidate going in, and chose to endorse her despite the fact that the candidate wasn’t perfect — because she thought there were sound reasons to do so. Michelle and I can emerge from something like that respecting each other. Someone like Mark Levin, who twists the facts and plays the authenticity game? Not so much.

Wait: Using Michelle Malkin as a stick to beat Mark Levin? Suggesting that Malkin “knew the flaws” of Christine O’Donnell, thereby inviting the reader to assume that Levin didn’t?

Patterico’s absolutely right about one thing: Malkin almost never does “Red-on-Red” action. She’ll criticize elected Republicans, yes, but she very seldom engages in fights with other pundits on the Right, instead focusing her fire on liberals to the exclusion of almost everything else.

So why is Patterico trying to drag Malkin into his feud with Levin? Cui bono?

In doing this, Patterico links a Stephen Hayes article about the Marco Rubio campaign, calling Levin “petty” and accusing him of unjustly claiming credit for being the first talk-radio host to endorse Rubio.

Does Mark Levin feel that he gets insufficient credit for his work? Yes, I’m sure he does. Dubbed “F. Lee Levin” by Rush Limbaugh and called “The Great One” by Sean Hannity, Levin was a conservative activist serving in the Reagan administration back when I was still a long-haired rock-and-roller partying my way through college.

Since then, as head of the Landmark Legal Foundation and subsequently as a talk-radio host, Levin’s influence has expanded enormously. Because of his long friendship with Limbaugh and Hannity, Levin often functions as a sort of conservative radar, and Levin attracts an activism-oriented audience. This was why, during the 2010 campaign cycle, many Republican candidates were vying for Levin’s attention, knowing that if they could get a mention — or, ideally, an interview — on his show, they’d get a fund-raising boost and were also likely to get picked up by Limbaugh, Hannity and other conservative New Media.

So if Levin occasionally unleashes his sarcasm at those he views as Johnny-Come-Lately ingrates, is his wrath without justification? And, BTW, the larger point of Levin’s Facebook post — the one that provoked Stephen Hayes — was exactly right: It is incoherent to celebrate Rubio’s defeat of Charlie Crist while lamenting the defeat of Mike Castle.

Jeffrey Lord wrote a great article about the influence of Levin’s book Liberty and Tyranny, which ought to be the last word here.

But as O’Donnell supporter Jerry Wilson has pointed out, the “Last Word Syndrome” is a big part of Patterico’s problem.

UPDATE: Longtime Patterico nemesis Jeff Goldstein picks a bone over the Alaska Senate election, another situation where I know a lot but haven’t said much lately.

UPDATE II: You’ve got to admire Sam Foster’s strategy: Pop some popcorn, sit on the sidelines and collect the traffic.

UPDATE III: Linked at Mark Levin’s Facebook page.

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