How Low Can Richard Pombo Go?
I’ve debated about whether to post on this topic because the whole thing just seems remarkably foolish to me. But I think this is an issue that’s not going to go away on its own and needs to be addressed head-on in the CA-11 race. Tom Benigno referred to it yesterday in the comments section:
[A]s for the Tracy Press, they keep directing attention to Ben Rose and his issue with Pete [McCloskey] being an Anti-Semite. Tell Mr. Rose to write to his Congressman and waste his time. McCloskey is not his Congressman. The papers should be directing that attention to McNerney and Pombo race. Wake up folks.By now, many of you are used to Mr. Benigno’s comments on this blog; you know that sometimes they can be a little inscrutable.
Well, this particular story goes back to the Republican primary. In that race, Richard Pombo ran against Pete McCloskey not on the issues or his record, but on an unfortunate appearance that McCloskey made in front of a convention of the Institute for Historical Review held in May of 2000 and McCloskey’s alleged comments at that meeting. Now, the IHR is a group of holocaust deniers, and they are a singularly nasty piece of work. Should Pete McCloskey have even made an appearance at their convention? Probably not. But the reports of his statement (“I don’t know if you’re right or wrong”) at this meeting have been widely misrepresented throughout the media. Mark Hertsgaard of The Nation analyzed footage of McCloskey’s appearance before the IHR and had this to say:
McCloskey did speak at the 2000 IHR convention, but he appears not to have said what Rafael Medoff and others allege, apparently basing their charge on an IHR newsletter report. But when I viewed a videotape of McCloskey's speech, I found no such wording. He told the delegates, "I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today," before he reiterated a core point of his speech -- that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. "I may not agree with you" is very different from "I don't know if you're right or wrong." McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.Okay. Right about now, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the Pombo/McNerney race in the general election. Well, Richard Pombo is at it again. He is so desperate to undermine Jerry McNerney’s surging candidacy that he has embarked on a whisper campaign that Jerry McNerney is somehow an anti-Semite. Call it guilt by association. Here’s how the allegation works: “Pete McCloskey is an anti-Semite; Pete McCloskey endorsed Jerry McNerney; ergo, Jerry McNerney is an anti-Semite.”
Obviously, there is a logical fallacy at work here. Try inserting this language into the formula above: “Pete McCloskey is 78 years old; Pete McCloskey endorsed Jerry McNerney; ergo, Jerry McNerney is 78 years old.” You can see the problem. So you might wonder what the pay-off is for Richard Pombo in promoting such a complete non sequitur. Well, try reading Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s blogpost on this from last week:
It’s the underside of the McCloskey-McNerney alliance […]Now, this campaign of innuendo and guilt by association is being waged mostly under the radar, in letters to the editor in the Contra Costa Times and a series of letters and articles published in the Tracy Press. But the pot is obviously being stirred by a cadre of Pombo supporters who are acting in concert to try to smear Jerry McNerney.
[F]or Democrats Michael Grossman and his wife, Deborah, the former congressman’s [McCloskey’s] actions speak louder than his words.
Their only remaining question is this: What to do about McNerney?
Deborah has volunteered in the past for McNerney’s campaign but the couple says they can’t vote for him unless he publicly denounces McCloskey’s Middle East politics.
“I want to hear it from McNerney that he will not be influenced by McCloskey’s views on this subject,” Michael said during a telephone interview at his home today.
And they have friends who agree, people who voted for President George Bush in 2002 rather than Democratic candidate John Kerry because they felt Bush more strongly supported Israel.
Does that mean the Grossmans will vote for Pombo?
No. They aren’t ready to go that far.
But they may skip McNerney and cast no vote at all.
Here are the facts: Richard Pombo quite simply cannot run on his record in CA-11. So he’s happy to try to sling mud at Jerry McNerney in any way possible. If that means making up slurs out of thin air, well, he’s not proud. After all, I guess almost anything would be better for Richard Pombo than actually having to stand up and explain himself to his constituents.
[UPDATE, Wednesday, 8/30: When that Über-Republican mouthpiece, the Flash Report, starts pushing this meme, you know that there is an organized campaign by Pombo to swiftboat McNerney. Pushback, anyone?]