Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Controversy That Isn't

I'm sure everyone is getting tired of hearing this, but the transcript of my conversation with Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer is coming soon. Labor Day weekend and today were busy for me. But soon, I promise! Really!

Last week, the following appeared in Susan Demas' weekly column:

Here in the 7th District, fundraising is a way of life for Walberg, R-Tipton, who used to drum up dough for the Moody Bible Institute. If all else fails, he always has his steadfast sugar daddy, Washington anti-tax lobby Club for Growth.

Democratic state Sen. Mark Schauer is psyched to take him on, vowing to amass $3 million by next year. His chief of staff, Ken Brock, seemed to channel the odiousness of Karl Rove earlier this month, bragging that only Schauer can raise that kind of money, unlike "liberal, Jewish trial lawyer" David Nacht or "lazy" Jim Berryman, for whom Brock twice worked.

(Emphasis added.)

It's that last sentence that caught a lot of people's attention-- particularly, the bit about David Nacht. At best, this was a poor choice of words when describing the state of the race. At worst, it was a borderline anti-Semitic comment, which has absolutely no place in political discourse or in the America of the 21st century.

So which was it? From the sounds of it, it wasn't meant to be quite as "odious" as Demas says:
Brock said today he already had apologized to Nacht, and he has no intentions of resigning his post over the comment.

“The moment I saw it in the paper, I knew I had to call him,” he said. “I knew I was wrong the moment I said those words. I was further saddened they were printed in the paper, and I apologize to anyone else who may have been offended.”
And what about Nacht? He was, after all, the target of the comments.
Nacht said he knows Brock isn’t anti-Semitic. He said he believes Brock was using religion, profession and political orientation in a political analysis, not as a personal attack.

“It’s a tricky thing to talk about a candidate’s religion in an analytical way without being accused of being prejudiced,” Nacht said. “I don’t think my work as a lawyer nor my religion would have been a barrier to my being elected. So I disagree with the substantive aspect of the comment that it was something negative, but I think he was trying to legitimately point out weaknesses in my campaign.”
(Emphasis added.)

In another twist on Tuesday, Nacht said he’s endorsing Schauer in his congressional run against U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. Schauer first will have to beat two other Democrats, former state Sen. Jim Berryman of Adrian and organic farmer Sharon Renier of Munith, in the August 2008 primary
None of this has stopped Republicans from making it an issue:
Calhoun County Republican Party Chairman Scott Durham called Brock’s comments a “negative and vicious” attack and called for him to retract his statement.
So, let's recap. Mark Schauer's chief of staff Ken Brock was giving his thoughts on the Democratic primary, and said something stupid. He says that it wasn't meant to be offensive, and apologized to David Nacht and everyone else. David Nacht says he wasn't offended, and has endorsed Brock's boss.

I, personally, think that this district could have elected a trial lawyer, and it could have elected someone with liberal values. And, yes, I think it could have elected someone that was Jewish, too. That said, I can see how some might see that as a potential political liability-- not that there's anything wrong with being Jewish, but this is still a conservative district, where some folks aren't as tolerant as others. I don't think those biases would have been a factor, but I suppose Ken Brock did.

Don't get me wrong, it was still a stupid thing to say. Ken Brock has been working in politics for years, and he should have known better. But he says he didn't mean it in an offensive way, and the guy he was supposedly insulting wasn't offended.

To me, that ends the controversy right there.

Now, it's your turn to tell me why I'm wrong in the comments.

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I see eye to eye with Fitzy 90% of the time, but this time I disagree.

Mr. Brock is playing a game here. He says, in effect, "Well, putting my political analyst's cap on ..." and then calls him a "liberal, Jewish trial lawyer."

But see, Nacht's supposed liability as a Jewish candidate is only a liability if his religion becomes part of the discussion. Who brought religion into the discussion? Ken Brock. It's a self-serving Catch-22.
I can see that point of view, Francis, and it's certainly a possibility. But I'm not sure that I can buy the idea that he said it intentionally. If he was trying to get religion into the electability debate, I would think he'd do it in a more subtle way.

But that's just me.
Maybe Brock has not mastered the art of the sublte. And I don't know how you can sugar-coat "Jewish."

It was a crass comment which makes people squeamish because it is so offensive. Hell, Schauer just went on a trip to Israel and within a few weeks his Chief of Staff is saying there is no way a Jew can be elected in the 7th district. (or, there is no way a liberal, blood-sucking lawyer / Jew can beat All-American Mark Schauer--at least not in the fundraising side of a campaign.)

Has anyone considered how these comments will affect Schauer's ability to raise money within the Jewish community? Will he send Ken Brock to meet with his potential Jewish supporters? Or are most Jewish people ready to accept a little more persecution as long as Schauer wins?
Your analysis is 100 percent correct. It seems ridiculous that the person who the remark was about has accepted the apology and understands the context it was made in, but Republicans are still trying to make political points with it. One rightwing blogger posted the column on Friday, but even though the story on the apology also ran the same day it took him until today to post that story. This is just scared Republicans looking for something to attack Schauer with.
Fitzy, I think you're dead on here. Ken said something stupid, and apologized immediately. End of story.

Let's not overlook the fact that Francis Pepper has once again chosen to attack Mark Schauer here. Can someone remind me what exactly he adds to this site other than trashing Sen. Schauer at every opportunity? Francis isn't going to have much to write about if/when Schauer becomes the Democratic nominee.
I find it interesting that Mr. Brock apologized to the candidate who is no longer in the race. Why has no one taken exception with the comment about Jim Berryman. The notion that Jim Berryman is lazy was run up the flag pole when Jim first talked about running, where did that come from. I have talked with Democrats who served with Jim in the State Senate and they said there is nothing to it.

I am still looking for an apology to Jim.
An apology to Mr. Berryman? Yeah right. Schauer lied to him when he promised not to run and new his Chief of Staff calls Berryman "lazy." Jim Berryman has already taken the high road and pledged to campaign on his merits to challenge Tim Walberg. Schauer, by way of his highest staffer, has already taken the Democratic primary down into the gutter, where Tim Walberg rules the muck.

I'd much rather see a principled campaign than one which starts right off with negative insults to opponents.

The fact that Schauer has left this all unaddressed is poor form-- but might just be the kind of nasty partisanship which will match Walberg slur for slur.

Sad indeed, Doug. You are right to keep this issue in the light.
For the most part, I agree with Fitzy and those who say Ken Brock's apology to David, and his acceptance of, end the discussion.

But the point about his derisive dismissal of a man he used to work for is interesting to me for 2 points.

1) Having worked for Berryman, does that make Brock's claim of laziness more authentic or more indicitive of someone with an ax to grind?


2) Given his choice of words to a reporter in attempting to dismiss 2 fellow Democrats challenging his boss, he belies a certain character trait that is neither appealing nor likely to benefit a candidate who needs independent voters and moderate Republicans if he has any chance of kicking Walberg to the curb.

Suffice it to say that Ken Brock's performance to date does nothing to inspire. If he is going to be running this campaign, can someone tell me what campaigns he has been involved in the past and what kind of success he has.

It's a shame that I know nothing about this guy and this is the first introduction I have to him. But I am trying to keep an open mind.

--William Flynn
D. Murch & Anon,

Is there some sort of "inside the I-496 beltway" effect going on here? I keep up on politics, and I've only heard this mentioned here. The average voter doesn't care about this, but you are talking like it's a catestrophic failure.

American politics has never been terribly polite, and saying someone is "lazy" is pretty mild. It's any easy thing for Jim Berryman to fix by showing voters he is a hard worker.
I worked on the Berryman campaign years ago when he ran for Senate the fist time. No one in politics thought he would win, including Brock who worked for him. It made that win even better! It's so funny that people like Brock go from campaign to campaign, legislator to legislator and know nothing about their districts or the people living in them. I still live in Lenawee County and people here love Berryman. If you've met him once, he remembers you by name. He's got my vote over Shauer any day.
From what I have heard, Brock never worked for Berryman. He did work on his Senate campaign, but was assigned to the campaign by another organization(not sure who he was paid by).
Mr. Brock is a reflection on Mr. Schauer. If that is the kind of staff he surrounds himself with I will be voting for someone other than Walberg and Schauer. If those are my only two options, we are screwed either way and it will just go to prove how messed up both political parties are and how out of touch they are with us.
"D. Murch & Anon,

Is there some sort of "inside the I-496 beltway" effect going on here?...

September 5, 2007 1:56 PM"

This comment is funny as hell to me. I think Doug lives in Marshall and I also live near Marshall. I don't think either of us have any more experience in Lansing other than being involved as campaign volunteers. To think our thoughts on staffers insulting candidates is an "inside the beltway" mentality shows how out of touch you, Ken Brock and Mark Schauer are with the voters of south central Michigan.

We are a kind people, generally respectful of eachother and not prone to insulting others religions, ethnicity or otherwise. Maybe you, Brock and Schauer are having a hard time understanding how we think because you are spending too much time in Lansing and not enough time back here with me, Jim Berryman and Doug...

This is Francis Pepper. Response to your post:

1. "Can someone remind me what exactly he adds to this site other than trashing Sen. Schauer at every opportunity?"

Yes, I am very skeptical of the merits of a Schauer candidacy for Democrats. As of this point I am more enthused about Berryman (as I had been with Nacht). I think he is a better candidate than Schauer. If you don't agree with me, respond. That's what blogs are for. You don't see me foolishly questioning other's First Amendment rights.

2)"Francis isn't going to have much to write about if/when Schauer becomes the Democratic nominee."

Au contraire, I think Tim Walberg is a very ineffective congressman and any of the Democrats running could do better. I think Berryman (or Nacht when he was wronging) would have made a better Democratic nominee.

What you have to understand is that it's healthy for Democrats like us to have these kinds of discussions - evaluate the pros and cons, offer your own opinions and then eventually, the voting takes place.

They're just opinions. Unless you have a personal stake in this, I wouldn't take it personally. Breathe.
Anonymous near Marshall, look me and give me a call.
"In another twist on Tuesday, Nacht said he’s endorsing Schauer in his congressional run against U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton. Schauer first will have to beat two other Democrats, former state Sen. Jim Berryman of Adrian and organic farmer Sharon Renier of Munith, in the August 2008 primary."

Has Sharon officially filed yet, does anyone know?

--voter in Jackson County
Well now, THAT'S an interesting turn of events.

Don't know about Renier.
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