Thursday, December 01, 2005

Neil Goldschmidt

The Portland Tribune reported that a lawyer who practices law in San Jose is on a jihad to warn Republican voters that Ron Saxton has ties to Neil Goldschmidt.

I was quoted in the article, saying “For the Republican rank and file, Neil Goldschmidt symbolizes everything that has gone wrong in Oregon for the past 30 years.”

The quote was accurate, and I believe it is very true. I didn't say it, however, in the context like the article framed it, essentially supporting the notion that it is legitimate to try to smear Saxton with the stench of Goldschmidt. I don't think it is.

That is, Ron Saxton is no Neil Goldschmidt clone. I know Ron, and I've discussed with him many times the problems of this state and how to solve them. (For the record, I have not decided who I will support in the Republican primary. It may be Ron. I don't know yet.) Ron understands that Oregon has a public employee union problem, and he wants to take them on.

That said, I do believe that the Mannix campaign will play the Goldschmidt card relentlessly throughout the campaign, and it will probably be effective. It doesn't matter whether or not it's a legitimate issue or just a trumped up tempest in a teapot. Mannix knows if he can get the Republican rank and file to buy the narrative that Saxton is a Goldschmidt crony, he'll win. So he'll do it.

The obvious suspicion about this lawyer, Mark Foster, and his efforts to taint Saxton, is that the Mannix campaign is secretly behind the whole thing. He denies it.

Do I believe that? No.

Here's why: If you want to attack an opponent in a political campaign on an issue that is somewhat controversial, in that it might cause a backlash or bring criticism on you for bringing it up, it is best to have someone else do it for you.

As a candidate, you can just stay on your message and let the hit squad do the dirty work. Kind of like how Tonya Harding eliminated Nancy Kerrigan.

An enterprising campaign manager will set the whole thing up. He'll protect the candidate by keeping him several steps removed from the scheme. The candidate will give the nod, but will have no dirt on his hands. He'll have plausible deniability. Nobody can criticise him for the smear.

I'm guessing that is what is going on here. My take: (and I stress - this is a guess)

This has the smell of a Loren Parks/Gregg Clapper project. Clapper goes to Jack Kane, Mannix's campaign advisor, and pitches the idea: Loren Parks will fund the new group, "Worried Oregonians," find a spokesperson who doesn't have ties to Mannix, and pay for some direct mail hit pieces talking about all the times Saxton crossed paths with Goldschmidt.

They know the media will pick up on it, and write stories that push the message: Saxton has ties to Goldschmidt. The newpaper stories are the real goal; the mail is just a way to get the media to write about it. They want everybody discussing the issue - talk radio, editorial boards, blogs, office chatter. The more discussion there is about whether it is a legitimate issue the better, even if the conclusion is that it is not, because the indelible impression gets left behind - that Ron Saxton is a Goldschmidt crony.

Mannix can stay above the fray, honestly say that he's not behind it; that Mark Foster is acting on his own, so none of the criticism falls on him.

That's my guess.

So, is it fair? Is it a legitimate issue? It doesn't matter!

This is politics. Short of outright bald-faced lying, in the rough and tumble world of campaign politics, this is hardly over the line.

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