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10/26/2005

Sirota a liar?

Yesterday, David Sirota wrote a post entitled "Hackett attacks Brown for being liberal." Today, someone at the Daily Kos accuses him of lying:
Sirota made the mistake of including the links to the articles he was misquoting. And if you read them, you find out that Hackett didn't say that at all ... As the very first commenter said in the comments thread:

David you put "too liberal" in quotes as if Hackett were the one who said it. But Jim Provance is the one who says it. In fact, of all the quotes Provance provides from Hackett, none of them even mention Brown. Contrast that with the Brown quotes, which specifically single out Hackett for ridicule.

The only thing I get out of this Toledo Blade piece is that Hackett thinks he'll do a better job of winning over independent and conservative voters. While that doesn't exactly comfort me, it's hardly an attack on Brown.
Sirota's response:
Hackett Had Already Attacked Brown for Being "Liberal" Before

Some have accused me of "lying" about Hackett's attacks on Sherrod Brown for Brown's progressive convictions because I put "too liberal" in quotes in this previous post - that's really hilarious. I mean, come on folks - this is getting ridiculous and you look REALLY desperate. First and foremost, the quotes quoted a story in the Toledo Blade, and provided a link to it. If I was trying to "trick" people or "lie," I wouldn't have included a link - and that's what you do when you cite a publication - you quote it. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, let's remember - this isn't the first time Hackett has attacked Brown for being "liberal."

You may recall that in the first week of the primary campaign, Hackett attacked Brown's candidacy in Mother Jones, saying Brown is a "very liberal Democrat" - it was Hackett's desperate attempt to say Brown supposedly wasn't a viable candidate, even though Brown has won two statewide races. So please Hackett folks - let's get real. Your guy is running a Democratic primary attacking Democrats and progressives. There's no two ways around that. So stop your crying. Paraphrasing Harry Truman, "I don't give 'em hell - I just tell the truth and they call it hell."
So who's right? Well, here's the relevant portion of the article Sirota linked to:
Some argue Mr. Hackett, with his pro-gun rights position, is too conservative to win a Democratic primary in Ohio

Mr. Hackett counters that his likely primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain), is too liberal to beat Mr. DeWine in November, 2006.

"I believe in the core values of the Democratic Party," Mr. Hackett said. "I'm not afraid to fight for them and my values. Some of them are conservative, including on Second Amendment rights.

"A Democrat in Ohio can get all of the Democratic votes in the northeastern and central parts of the state and still not get elected," he said. "It's got to be somebody who believes in the values of all Ohioans, and that takes winning over independents and conservatives."
This seems like a judgment call to me. The article doesn't make it clear that the words "too liberal" actually escaped from Hackett's mouth, so to the degree that Sirota's original post implied that, it was misleading, and I myself owe an apology if anyone feels misled by the post (which I quoted from and linked to).

But the sentence in bold above does indeed state that Hackett makes the argument that Brown is too liberal. In other words, the article reported that Hackett did, as Sirota put it, attack Brown for being too liberal (with the possible caveat that "attack" might be a bit of an overstatement, but that doesn't seem to be the bone of contention here). Now, if that is a mischaracterization of what Hackett said, then fair enough, but in that case, it's the Toledo Blade that's lying, not Sirota. But newspapers often use headlines like "So-and-so says X" without including an actual quote ("So-and-so says, 'X' "). This is called paraphrasing, and that's clearly what the Blade writer was doing. Now, one could argue that it was an incorrect paraphrase, but I haven't seen anyone make this argument. The complaint seems to be with the very fact that Hackett was being paraphrased - which, okay, but this is hardly uncommon.

At any rate, it's clear that the substance of Sirota's post is correct. Even if Hackett didn't literally say the words "too liberal," that is clearly the upshot of his comments about Brown, and Hackett has made similar noises before, as Sirota notes:
"To me, a race between two professional politicians is a no-brainer win for DeWine. You’re not gonna throw out a sitting senator in a Republican state with a very liberal Democratic longstanding US congressman.” If Democrats want to start winning races, he adds, they might need a dose of boot-camp discipline: “How come this doesn’t happen in the Republican Party? It’s because they sit down guys like Sherrod and put him in a corner and make him wear the dunce cap.”
Bottom line: Sirota's post was arguably ambiguous, and a clarification was probably necessary. But I don't think it's true that Sirota was "caught lying," and I think it's obvious that part and parcel of Hackett's strategy is the claim that Brown is too liberal. But whatever one thinks of this mini-controversy, it doesn't really affect the overall question of which candidate, Brown or Hackett, is preferable as the Democratic nominee.

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