09 April 2013
The McConnell Tape: let's change the subject
The idea that Hollywood glamor could counter the entrenched incumbency of Senator McConnell of Kentucky never seemed very plausible, so it ought to be a matter for relief that the actress Ashley Judd has decided not to run against the Minority Leader. Nevertheless, McConnell and his staff took Judd seriously enough to do some preliminary strategizing in the event of her candidacy. David Corn of Mother Jones magazine is shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that the McConnell team considered using some ad hominem tactics against Judd. How he learned this has become a bigger story than what he learned. Writer and publisher clearly hope for a repeat of their takedown of Mitt Romney via a clandestine recording. Again, they've received a recording from an anonymous source, but this time McConnell is crying foul. There are two ways that the recording can exist. One way is for one of McConnell's own aides to be a spy, whether for concealed ideological reasons or simply for money. The other way is for the Senator's office to be bugged -- and that would be against the law. McConnell has turned to the FBI to investigate the possibility, and he's definitely within his rights to do so. The recorded discussion has no "smoking gun" of the sort that might tempt us to weigh ends against means in favor of Mother Jones. None of this qualifies as whistle-blowing. To be shocked or angered by it is pure naivete. The most it will do, on its own, is give MSNBC talking points for a night. Expect the stunning revelation that Mitch McConnell is insensitive and intolerant, as if the network's audience might be surprised by that news. Expect also, perhaps, that McConnell's recourse to the FBI will be interpreted as an attack on investigative journalism or free speech itself. The real question is whether Corn's source, if he has one, outs himself or is thrown under the bus by Corn to draw attention away from his own ethics. It's possible that some freelance operative bugged McConnell's office on spec, so to speak, and that Mother Jones acquired the recording without having conspired in illegal wiretapping. But until the facts emerge, let's note with the appropriate irony the judgmental tone of Corn's article as he takes McConnell to task for planning personal attacks on a potential opponent after implicitly promising a more principled campaign. Corn may have preferred a campaign of ideas, but his own contribution to the 2014 campaign boils down to calling McConnell a meanie. Nice work.