Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes first met Bill and Hillary Clinton decades ago, through the close friendship between their families. Young Alison heard stories about politics from both Clintons, and as the girl became a young woman -- and now a candidate for the Senate -- the Clintons became an inspiration for her political style and career.
The hotly contested Kentucky Senate battle pits Grimes against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). The race has more subplots than a Shakespearean drama, including control of the Senate, the unsavory negativity of political campaigns, attacks by Republicans that blame President Obama for every ill in the world, attempts by the GOP to tarnish every Democrat with guilt by association with the president, the valiant and somewhat successful efforts by red-state Democrats to distinguish themselves from Obama, and questions about the appropriate role of the press in fairly reporting the campaigns.
One recent poll found McConnell leading Grimes by 4 percentage points. Another found Grimes leading by 2 points. As of noon Tuesday, the summary of polling by RealClearPolitics finds McConnell ahead by 3 points, within the margin of error, in a race either candidate could win.
Last week during an editorial board interview, Grimes described herself as a Clinton Democrat and noted that she was a Hillary Clinton delegate in 2008. She also declined to say whether she voted for Obama.
Almost immediately, Chuck Todd, the moderator of Meet the Press, said on Morning Joe, an MSNBC show that offers daily derision of President Obama and leading Democrats, that Grimes should be "disqualified" from the race. The derision of Grimes was repeated by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who also falsely described Obama as "intellectually lazy." It was repeated again in the New Republic, which called Grimes the worst candidate in 2014, a ludicrous insult of a strong candidate running a virtually even race against the Republican leader in the Senate.
I have great respect for Todd, who could someday be the heir to the late David Broder of The Washington Post, who was called the dean of political reporters. I will cut Todd a little slack. Even Derek Jeter occasionally struck out. But his cheap shot against Grimes was more appropriate for a GOP attack dog than a respected journalist analyzing the news. Predictably, McConnell made Todd the star of a negative ad attacking Grimes.
When Grimes says she is a Clinton Democrat, she is telling the truth, and when McConnell labels Grimes an Obama Democrat rather than a Clinton Democrat, he is bearing false witness. Shouldn't allegedly liberal-friendly media outlets such as MSNBC and the New Republic report this? Shouldn't all media report it? Isn't this why cable news ratings are dropping like a rock, and why Gallup finds that public confidence in television news has fallen to historic lows?
When Grimes charges McConnell with fomenting gridlock in Washington, objective reporters should report that McConnell indeed held meetings to undermine the Obama presidency even before his first inaugural; publicly stated his first priority was not creating jobs for Kentucky but destroying the Obama presidency; and pioneered the ultimate gridlock tactic of threatening to filibuster virtually all legislation, a GOP obstruction unprecedented in Senate history.
The Kentucky scenario is playing out in races across the nation. In the only narrative Republicans offer, voters should be frightened by Ebola and terrorism and angered by Washington, and it is all Obama's fault! And all Democrats are like Obama! The media should challenge the dishonesty of this narrative in every race and ask why Republicans offer no better plans to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, combat Ebola, increase wages, or improve healthcare.
Voters get it even if the media don't. Southern and red-state Democrats remain standing in tight races even after rightist billionaires and GOP partisans spend millions of dollars promoting dishonest attacks.
Alison Lundergan Grimes is the true, ultimate Clinton Democrat who believes in governing across the aisles. This is why the Clintons champion her so passionately. This is what Hillary Clinton will repeat with force in Kentucky Wednesday night. This is a big truth. Any statement to the contrary is a big lie. It is high time the media report it.