Sunday, April 01, 2012

Star Finds Humorous Daniels Tie To Lugar's False Attack Ad Against Mourdock

The Indianapolis Star's coverage of the difficult race Sen. Richard Lugar faces against Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has always been short on facts and long on sympathy for Lugar. The reporters and editors at the Star have a love affair with Lugar. That's because none of them were around when the newspaper was covering the beginning of Lugar's political career when he was still Indianapolis mayor and only dreaming of becoming a U.S. Senator. The young Lugar was far from the statesman he is portrayed by the newspaper today. Back then, he was a down in the trenches, win-at-all costs politician with no moral compass who ran a very corrupt city government during his two terms as mayor. Today's editors and reporters wouldn't have to be schooled in that fact if they simply researched their own newspaper's archives, but they're more interested in writing fiction than non-fiction these days, at least where Lugar is concerned.

For example, there's the matter of the attack Lugar has against Mourdock taking place on the TV and radio airwaves, as well as voters' mailboxes. The central attack argument against Mourdock is that he supposedly doesn't show up to do his job. The analysis upon which the attack ad was based was contrived by Brian Howey, a Lugar partisan who doesn't even feign objectivity when it comes to Lugar's re-election campaign. It uses the percentage of the number of state board meetings Mourdock attends where the State Treasurer is an official member. According to this analysis, Mourdock has missed 66% of the state board meetings. Nowhere is their an acknowledgement that state elected officials like Mourdock and Gov. Daniels traditionally send a representative of their office to attend these meetings. Using that benchmark, Mourdock's participation rate is nearly 100%. Using the Howey analysis as the benchmark, even Gov. Daniels gets a failing grade for attendance because he always sends a representative in his place. Would it be fair to say Gov. Daniels fails to show up for work because he sends a representative to these board meetings instead of attending them in person? Absolutely not, and the Star would be the first to stand up and defend Gov. Daniels from such a phony attack.

Despite the complete phoniness of the issue Lugar is using to attack Mourdock, the media, particularly the Star, has turned a blind eye to the attack. Today, the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column includes an item noting the apparently humorous link of the attack ad Lugar is using against Mourdock to one that Daniels contrived as Lugar's campaign manager during his 1982 re-election campaign against U.S. Rep. Floyd Fithian:

The ad shows an empty chair, as someone calling roll intones: "Mr. Mourdock? Has anybody seen Mr. Mourdock? Mr. Mourdock is absent."
If you've been around Indiana politics a long time, that has a familiar ring to it.
In fact, it's very similar to an ad Lugar ran in 1982 when he was running for re-election against U.S. Rep. Floyd Fithian.
And the man who came up with that ad?
Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Daniels at the time was Lugar's chief of staff and his "de facto campaign manager," and not only hasn't forgotten the ad, he hasn't forgotten where he was when the idea came to him.
"I was sitting at my little cubbyhole," Daniels said. "I remember I sort of had the idea because here you had two members (of Congress), and Lugar has always been so faithful, almost 100 percent sort of thing, and the opponent had missed a lot of votes, was missing more and more because of campaigning.
"And, I'll never forget this, I thought, 'What if we had sort of a mock roll call and he wasn't there?' "
Daniels said he had an aide get him a copy of the Congressional Record to look up a roll call.
"I couldn't believe the luck," he said. "It went, 'Congressman Fish, Congressman Fithian, Congressman Flippo.' Right there in a row. I said, 'Life is not this kind.' "
Having names like Fish and Flippo in the ad helped make it memorable.
So memorable, in fact, that Daniels said that while he hasn't seen Lugar's new ad on Mourdock, others who have immediately recalled that 1982 ad.
"What astonished me is people immediately knew what it was patterned after, and it's been 30 years," Daniels said. "I don't remember the ad I saw last night."
What is astonishing is that Fithian's campaign didn't pick up on the fact that Lugar had already given up his home in Indiana and moved to McLean, Virginia. If Fithian had seized on that issue in the 1982 race, he may have defeated Lugar, who received only 54% of the vote despite out-spending Fithian by a more than 3-1 margin. It is more astonishing of the ignorance today's Star shows towards the role Daniels played in Lugar's earlier campaigns, which was cut more from the Karl Rove Machiavellian approach to politics than any bright-eyed idealist. In a separate story, the Star's Mary Beth Schneider does a lot of teeth gnashing trying to explain how it is possible that someone as great as Lugar could possibly be in danger of losing re-election to someone like Mourdock, who is obviously no match to Lugar in her eyes. Schneider totally glosses over the fact that Lugar on Friday repaid more than $14,000 to the U.S. Treasury that he had illegally billed for return trips to Indiana, more than three times what he earlier admitted he overbilled taxpayers after he learned that the issue was about to be raised by his political opponents. There's also no mention in her story that former Sen. David Durenberger faced censure and criminal charges for doing essentially the same thing back in the 1990s.

Schneider mentions Daniels role in Lugar's '76 and '82 campaigns but noticeably leaves out his role in Lugar's '74 losing race against Birch Bayh. As I've written before, Lugar ran a very negative campaign against Bayh in which he accused him of being a liar whose vote could be bought. The '74 Lugar campaign also attacked Bayh as being out of touch with Hoosier values. They even had a Republican poll worker challenge Bayh's right to vote at the Shirkieville precinct in Vigo County where the family's farm was located when Bayh showed up in person to vote at the firehouse to vote on election day. Talk about deja vu. As the Star reported at the time:

Bayh, running a fast schedule, ran into GOP opposition when he arrived to vote in the New Goshen firehouse near Shirkieville in Vigo County. He finally was allowed to vote after being challenged by a Republican poll official, based on a residency requirement. Vigo County GOP Chairman Thomas H. Hicks said Bayh is not a legal resident of the house on the family farm at Shirkieville. He contended neither Bayh nor any member of his family ever lived there. He said the house is now occupied under a tenant relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Poff. The Election inspector at the New Goshen firehouse at Shirkieville, Frank E. Smith, ruled that the senator was eligible to cast his vote.
The media had been tipped off in advance that the challenge would take place because it had been pre-planned by Lugar's campaign of which Daniels and Gordon Durnil were a part. If the Star had checked its archives, it would have known Daniels worked in that '74 campaign that had no shortage of false attacks against Bayh, including even a charge in a letter mailed to veterans that claimed Bayh, unlike Lugar, had never served in the military. As the Star reported at the time:

Krupa, former Lake County Democratic chairman charged: 'They (Lugar campaign workers) know that Birch Bayh served in the United States Army from 1946-1948, including a tour of duty in Germany…Mitchell Daniels, a staff member of Campaign Communicators, responded to the charge: 'It was a mistake…an honest mistake and we admit it.' Daniels said about 600 letters went out to Indiana military veterans by a campaign volunteer…"
Daniels, of course, sat out the Vietnam War like Karl Rove, relying on a student deferment. As a student at Princeton, Daniels had joined the anti-war movement and was arrested, along with his two roommates, for dealing drugs out of his dorm room. I'm sure it also didn't occur to anyone at the Star that Daniels' fond remembrance of his role in Lugar's '82 re-election campaign was basically an admission that he was doing political work on government time as Lugar's chief of staff. That was nothing new to Lugar, who often had city workers perform political work on city time when he was mayor, including requiring city workers to enforce mandatory campaign contributions from their fellow employees to his campaign, and to cull the list of city vendors to solicit campaign contributions from them as well.


patriot paul said...

In a similar article by the Star's Tully, 'Lugar is fighting to show his worth', Tully's usually slanted bias questions the viewpoint in whether 'it's time' for Lugar, approaching 80, to retire, as really a credible question, claiming "at a time of overwhelming dysfunction in Washington, is it really sensible to replace Lugar, who has served as an antidote to that dysfunction?"

An 'antidote'? Congress is in the worse shape ever with each succeeding Congressional polling at all time low approval and members bailing out from D.C. as too divisive to deal with. Trillions in debt, foreign policy a disaster, the U.N. a joke, and a quid pro quo philosophy of repayment of political debs via earmarks Lugar so much defends, Tully claims Lugar is the 'antidote'? I haven't laughed this hard since the last Lugar mailing.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Tully drinks the Kool-Aid. What more is there to say. The problem in Washington only gets worse under the watch of the permanent establishment folks like Lugar, but it isn't Lugar's fault. It's always the guy behind the tree that's to blame for everything.