Man Without Qualities

Monday, January 13, 2003


The look and feel of the Democrats' handling of the re-appointment of Charles Pickering resembles in potentially key respects their handling of the catastrophic Paul Wellstone "Memorial." That's probably not a coincidence, since the leadership of the Democratic National Committee and Senate Democrats remains unchanged. And although the attack is nominally coming through Senator Schumer, the heavy hand of the Clintons - and their cat's paw Terry McAuliffe - is everywhere suggested in both cases.

In the Pickering case as with the Wellstone matter, the Democrats start from an apparently successful precedent: Jean Carnahan's election following the campaign aircraft death of her husband in one case, the demotion of Trent Lott and prior successful blockage of Pickering in current case. But here, as in the Wellstone case, the precedent appears flawed and, perhaps more important, the Democrats are probably greatly overexploiting what validity there is in the precedent while misjudging public (and interest group) sentiments.

The Democrats convinced themselves that Jean Carnahan had defeated John Ashcroft mostly through an unstoppable wave of public sympathy following the death of her husband - and concluded that the fulsome Wellstone "Memorial" would intensify that same effect in Minnesota. That interpretation of precedent almost willfully ignored that Jean Carnahan never joined the partisan fray, instead playing the role of the grieving widow until the Missouri governor appointed her to the Senate, and that John Ashcroft voluntarily stopped campaigning following the death of his opponent. The tone of the Wellstone "Memorial" and Democratic demands that Coleman stop campaigning in Minnesota accordingly grossly overplayed whatever validity there was in the already flawed interpretation of the Caranahan/Ashcroft precedent. The result was a catastrophe for the Democrats that probably put Coleman in the Senate and may have had a nationwide effect. Broad attempts by the Democrats and the mainstream liberal media to justify the "Memorial Service" and demands that Coleman cease his campaigning simply lacked credibility.

Top Democrats seem to have convinced themselves that Charles Pickering's prior nomination was defeated because the image of his career confected by the Democrats was accepted by the liberal media - who then persuaded the public. Top Democrats also seem to have convinced themselves that Democrat-friendly mainstream media could have convinced the public that Lott's racially insensitive comments justified his removal as Majority Leader - if only the media hadn't been completely insensitive to the significance of Lott's remarks. The resulting strategy places Senator Schumer to lead the charge against confirmation with the mainstream liberal media (and the liberal part of the Blogoshere) arguing the case to the public in hopes of stirring up an emotional response against Pickering and the President.

Of course, Trent Lott's history simply isn't parallel to that of Charles Pickering. Efforts by Democrats and their liberal media camp followers intended to establish a false parallel are more likely to result in public rejection of the evident excess - and long term loss of Democrat credibility among swing voters and many African-Americans who will resent the Democrats' attempts at fraudulent manipulation. Indeed, the liberal mainstream media were barely able to provide cover for the Senate judiciary committee's vote that refused to allow the full Senate to vote on the prior Pickering nomination. A committee vote comes and goes in a minute, but a filibuster has a much higher profile as it ties up the Senate - and the public finds filibustering intrinsically much more suspect than a committee vote. There is no indication that the mainstream liberal media have sufficient power or credibility to justify the Democrats' planned abuse of the filibuster tradition - any more than such media were able to justify the abusive Wellstone "Memorial."

Further, it took the credibility of the conservative part of the Blogosphere and the Wall Street Journal [Best of the Web] to get the ball rolling over Trent Lott. Some left wing bloggers provided helpful information, but Trent Lott was not removed because of pressure from left wing bloggers - or the mainstream liberal media. Those conservative media are mostly applying themselves against the Democrat efforts in the Pickering case - with the purpose of exposing those efforts as excessive and fraudulent - as they did with the fraudulent emotionalism and partisanship of the Wellstone Memorial.

In short, the outcome of Democrat excess in the Pickering case seems likely to resemble the outcome of Democrat excess in the Wellstone case.

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