Deval Patrick said something stupid yesterday, as you may have heard. In response to a question at a Suffolk Law forum, he replied that he has no problem with the level of oppositional political discourse here in state politics, adding: "It seems like child’s play compared to what’s going on in Washington, where
it is almost at the level of sedition, it feels like to me."
A "rhetorical flourish," as Patrick put it later -- and a stupid one, because in lamenting overwrought, unhelpful political posturing, he was guilty of the exact same sin.
This deserves to be mocked; I would approach it like so:
Deval Patrick complained yesterday that Republicans' negative political rhetoric "is almost at the level of sedition." He went on to say that their hyperbole is the gravest threat to ever face American Democracy; that their ad hominem attacks are just what he'd expect from those obese lard-asses; and that their misuse of historical analogy is right out of the Nazi propaganda playbook.
But of course the way things so often work today -- on the right and left -- is to take a comment out of context, pretend that it was meant literally, and insist that the speaker must also believe the most extreme possible extrapolation from it. No great surprise that the rabble-rousers like Michael Graham and Drudge are doing that. But one of the first out of the gate was the Massachusetts GOP, and its chair Jennifer Nassour, who sent out this absurd statement:
Apparently our First Amendment rights are only guaranteed if we agree with the
tax-and-spend policies of Deval Patrick and Barack Obama. So according to
Patrick, are the 55% of Bay Staters who think he should not be re-elected
bordering on ‘sedition?’
Yeesh -- It's as if Nassour is trying to prove that Massachusetts Republicans can be just as blindly, willfully, ignorantly oppositional as their DC counterparts.
This is exactly the kind of thing that I've occasionally praised the MassGOP for NOT doing under Nassour's leadership. Aside from the blatant disregard for truth in public discourse, this is just dumb political strategy. First of all, it puts the state Republicans squarely on the side of defending the Washington Republican obstructionists who Patrick was decrying -- perhaps the least popular group among Massachusetts voters short of the Cavaliers' starting five. It also directly opens up discussion about how much negative rhetoric is too much in politics -- a conversation the Patrick campaign has been trying to have, so as to box Baker in from running the negative campaign he must run. Meanwhile, it completely distracts from actual stuff in the news -- probation scandal, for instance -- that Republicans really should be making hay out of.
Four years ago, Kerry Healey ran her campaign like this -- constantly feigning outrage over manufactured scandals they clearly didn't even believe themselves, but would keep the phones ringing at the conservative call-in shows. It's the Karl Rove strategy, and it's pretty consistently counterproductive here in Massachusetts. Plus, in case they care, it makes journos like me take the state party a lot less seriously.
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