Would a sternly worded letter help? Maybe a (figurative) slap upside the head? At this point, I don't even know what to do, given that the person who needs to be upbraided is the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, Ed Rendell.
This past Sunday, Face the Nation (CBS) with Bob Schieffer featured a panel of four politicians: Rendell, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).
Schieffer, as members of the mainstream media are wont to do, lamented the negative tone of the presidential campaign. He didn't mention anything specific, or call out one side or the other. Schieffer didn't mention that Mitt Romney and his surrogates have essentially called the President of the United States "not American,' and that Mr. Romney characterized Obama's ideas as "extraordinarily foreign." By omission, Schieffer incredibly equated one campaign trying to paint its opponent as hostile to the interests of the middle class with the other campaign painting its opponent as being a foreigner, and didn't mention the obvious racial overtones of such a dog-whistle in the era of birtherism.
But my main complaint today isn't even with Schieffer. I've criticized the media for saying "both campaigns are doing it" before. Today, I direct my criticisms at Mr. Rendell. Take a look and you'll see why (I've compiled this transcript myself from the video). The remarks I've transcribed start at just about 3:30 in:
Schieffer: [This year's presidential campaign] is more negative than any campaign I can remember, and I can remember a few... What concerns me is... we may be destroying the credibility of everybody in politics.
Rendell: I think you're dead right, Bob. If the campaign continues careening down this track that it's on... Hopefully the debates and other things will... raise the level of the campaign. I believe we basically have two good men running and they should say the things that they've done and they're proud of and the things that they want to do.
So, we have Schieffer's "both sides do it and isn't it just awful" pearl-clutching, and Governor Rendell, his party's former chairman, goes right along with it. Does Rendell mention Romney calling Obama "foreign" or any of the other divisive, beyond the bounds things the Romney campaign or even other Republicans have said about the 44th President? Does he mention that a Romney ad has literally sliced and diced an Obama quote to change its meaning? If you've read this far, you know the answer.
When will some Democrats learn that the goal is not to be seen as "nice" or "reasonable" by going along with a middle of the road "balanced" take on things that ignores the truth? Are the Republicans on the panel going to take the same path and lament what both sides are doing and hope things get better? Again, if you've read this far, you know the answer.
Rep. Diaz-Balart began his reply by ever so-briefly acknowledging Schieffer's lamentation:
I agree. I think the campaign has gotten very aggressive.
OK, Mr. Diaz-Balart, let's hear who's the culprit:
The very, very aggressive negative campaigning from President Obama. And unfortunately we're not hearing a lot from the president as to what he wants to do if he got elected for another four years.
Then, Diaz-Balart offered a litany of terrible things the president has done and the terrible things that will result in the future due to the long-term impact of his terrible policies. Finally, Diaz-Balart went back to attacking Obama for making the campaign a negative one:
If [Obama]... stops bashing his opponent I think that would be good not only for the country but... it would probably help him... All [the American people] are seeing from the President is negative, nasty campaigning.
Schieffer says: Both sides are doing it; Rendell says: Yep. The Republican...; Diaz-Balart, says: I agree, and Obama's the one doing it and he's a bad president too.
Ed Rendell thought he was giving an answer in a political science seminar. Mario Diaz-Balart got in a half-dozen unanswered shots at the president.
Gov. Strickland, by the way, did just fine in his remarks. After Diaz-Balart and then McDonnell (who hit Obama for supposedly dividing people based on class) filibustered, Schieffer gave Strickland the last 20 seconds. All he really had time to do was say that the country is polarized but that it's clear to voters that the president is on the side of the middle class.
The lesson is clear. Politics ain't beanbag. Every appearance on radio, TV, an Internet broadcast, etc. that a Democratic official makes is part of the campaign, part of the fight. In order to win, we Democrats have to fight every time we step in the ring, otherwise we'll just get punched. For the most part, I do think Democrats get this, and they definitely get it far more than they did in the days of Mike Dukakis or even John Kerry. I know the Obama campaign gets it, otherwise they wouldn't be where they are now, running ahead of their opponent for a second term in the White House. For that I'm thankful.
But today we learned that there are still some Democrats who don't get it. I just hope Mr. Rendell watches that tape a few times. Maybe then he will.