Saturday, June 10, 2006

Front page flier story

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch featured a front page, over-the-fold story about a comic strip on a flier, a tidbit of campaign mischief that has grown some long legs. Art from the strip itself served as an illustration for what was ostensibly political news.

That’s the sort of notoriety most solitary cartoonists, doodling their way through life never get. So, as a fellow cartoonist, a person who discovered the power of caricaturing in the second grade, I’m happy for the artist. I wish I could say the same for Virginia’s Democratic Party. Sadly, this story is about the biggest news that’s come out of this spring’s senatorial primary campaign -- a short-on-ideas contest between Harris Miller and Jim Webb that will culminate on Tuesday.

Yes, ever since the second grade I’ve known that if you can provoke someone into whining, “He’s drawing mean pictures of me,” you’ve boosted them into amplifying the cartoon’s ability to make other people laugh at it.

Apparently Harris Miller, who I’m told is 55 years old, still needs to learn that lesson. “Webb flier draws anger of rival Miller” was penned by Tyler Whitley and Peter Hardin. It recounts some of what the two candidates had to say yesterday during a radio debate.

“‘...Apparently, [the flier] was distributed only in certain parts of Virginia, as if people there would fall for that imagery,' Miller said. ‘One of the things I hoped we would keep out of this campaign. . . is my religion and my background,’ Miller added.

“...Miller said, ‘I'm not accusing [Webb] personally of being anti-Semitic. I don’t believe that for one second. Jim Webb is a good man. The caricature has been ‘quite upsetting to me and my family, to most of my friends, and to a lot of people across this country, frankly,’ Miller said.”


Yes, given the chance to say “no comment” to a question about the offending flier Miller whimpered to enlarge the story. It seems the Miller camp believes that pointing an accusatory finger at Webb’s camp over this rather juvenile piece of propaganda, in order to extend its life as a concocted issue, is benefiting their candidate. They don’t mind if someone sees that stance as similar to the position of the Muslim zealots who called for the death of any cartoonist who draws a picture of The Prophet.

We’ve seen the word “jewbaiting” hurled from blog to blog in recent weeks. It’s been a while since I heard that term, an expression with a lot more hair on it than some of its young users may know about. If you Google “jewbaiting” you’ll see how much it has appeared in commentary about this campaign.

Of course the Webb backers behind the flier have been laughing their donkey butts off. Beyond that, the Webb camp seems to think the story of the flier’s supposed anti-Semitism is helping them, too. I can’t see how, other than to just get attention for the primary any way you can. That's any, I say, any way.

Well, it seems to me that it might work for them, or against them. So, I sense desperation from both sides. It’s like they both have suddenly agreed that the public has been totally ignoring the Miller vs. Webb race, so let’s get in the newspapers with this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the two camps have worked together, behind closed doors, to promote the fluffy flier flap into a front page story.

Who knows? Maybe it really will make Democrats read more about the campaign. Maybe it will make some Democrats mad and vote to punish one side or the other. Or, maybe it will make Democrats give up on the possibility of beating George Allen this time, and they will go to the beach on Tuesday, or a bar, or anywhere but the polls.

Sorry I can’t give the cartoonist credit, I can’t read the name on the art.

Updates: AP's Bob Lewis writes "Accusations Fly in Primary"
Mark Fisher (Washington Post): “Virginia Senate: Low Blows and the Hook (nose)


The Richmond Democrat said...

When the comic first came out I thought it was childish and poorly done. I still feel that way, but it does communicate something about Harris Miller and how he made his money: by outsourcing American jobs.

If the RTD thought this would help Miller they are mistaken. All they've down is to post the slogan "Miller the Job Killer" above the fold on the front page. "Jpb Killer," kinda sticks with you, ya know.

Miller's outsourcing and union breaking are what lost him this election, in my humble opinion. Webb has many great qualities, but a skillful campaign could have defeated Webb if weren't for the giant albatross around Miller's neck.

The simple fact is that most Americans do not believe, and never will be induced to believe, that sending American jobs overseas was a good idea. The fact that Miller profited immensely from his advocacy of outsourcing killed Miller's candidacy before Jim Webb ever announced he was running.

F.T. Rea said...


Miller’s lobbyist history and his connection to outsourcing, such as it is, doesn’t set well with me. It’s some part of why I favor Webb. My support of Webb has always been based on several angles. It’s never been based on his “rock star” factor.

No doubt, if Miller wins Allen’s spinners will try to crush him with that lobbyist image. And, calling Allen a "lobbyist-baiter" won’t do Miller any good then.

I’ve just not been willing to pretend Miller’s weaknesses are some sort of poison. While I haven’t liked Miller’s campaign much, in my view it’s not been extraordinarily negative. The Webb bloggers’ consistent overreaction to everything Miller did, as if it was evil, has been tedious.

And, I’ve said so. Frankly, at this point the Raising Kaine crowd has little credibility with me, as a group. They remind me of an old Luis Bunuel film, “Exterminating Angel.” In the flick a houseful of people convince themselves they can’t leave the house. In a dark way it’s a rather funny movie. But group hysteria, as a mindset to promote a candidate, is not attractive to most citizens.

Yes, I wish Webb had been smart enough to realize that if he had stayed totally high road in this race it would have made him into -- good copy -- a major story for doing it. Moreover, it would have underlined his unusual resume. Such a strategy, if you really stuck to it, would have said “balls,” without having to scream it over and over.

Too late now; an opportunity lost.

Unless, he wins. If Webb does win my advice to him would be to think seriously about the “high road strategy,” in his effort to unseat Allen. The national media would throw a spotlight on such a sly maneuver.

Thus, my approach to helping Webb win has been to show someone, maybe one of my SLANTblog readers who feels somewhat the same way I do about the campaign, that they should stick with Webb.

Your comments are always welcome here. Good luck on Tuesday.

-- Terry