Bernero vs. Snyder

To my surprise, I was happy with the way the primary election turned out, even though one of the candidates I recommended didn't win. 

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon had the better credentials. He was the only one of all the candidates to take a firm position supporting the Detroit International River Crossing, the proposed international bridge over the Detroit River.

But he ran a terrible campaign; at times it seemed he subconsciously wanted to lose. He gave the appearance of someone who had magnanimously agreed to allow people to elect him to an office that was just slightly beneath him.

And just in case the peasants needed convincing, why, he had Important Persons like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing endorse him. Dillon also attempted to subtly indicate he was Not Really All That Much of a Democrat. That might have a certain appeal in Birmingham in November, but is not brilliant in a primary in August. That's when people who like lukewarm candidates go to the beach, not the polls.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, on the other hand, bellowed and roared and poured passion out of his pores, passion of a circa 1948 variety. This Democrat wasn't going to let the bosses trample the union, by God! By the end of the campaign, it was clear that if we elect him, Dodge Main will start up the line again! Oldsmobiles will roll off the lines, and Gladys will be packing your lunch pail again as you start off for the third shift.

Well, shucks, works for me.

Republican Rick Snyder, on the other hand, promised an economic future where the full lunch pail would be replaced by the full in-basket for our entrepreneurial economy. Politically, he came across like the first crushes we had in our youth. We could imagine he was anything we wanted, just as we could daydream anything we wanted, back in the day, about Annette Funicello or Fabian, and believe you'd be perfect for each other. More analytical sorts coolly calculated that Snyder was better than the other Republicans — Nixon-style cynics, knuckle-draggers, religious nuts, or all of those.

In the final days, thousands of independents who might have voted for Dillon deserted him once it was clear that a) Dillon was losing and b) Snyder had a real chance of winning.

What happens now? My crystal ball says it will be Snyder 56 percent, Bernero 44 percent. And I think that's what it would look like, if the election were held today.

But I'm not entirely sure about November. That's three months away, and, two months ago, almost nobody thought these two would be the nominees. The best Lansing reporter I know thinks it could be a much bigger Snyder landslide.

I can, however, imagine a scenario where Virg Bernero actually wins. Remember, Rick Snyder has never run for office before. That makes it almost certain that he will screw up on the campaign trail in ways we can't predict. First-time candidates almost always do.

Bernero has been running for office since he was about 5, and is often sneered at by sophisticated journalists. The reporters on Tim Skubick's show Off the Record were all but jeering when he said he'd run for governor. But then Bernero usually wins. He's taken six out of the last seven elections he's been in, counting this primary.

If Snyder seems to be running for governor of Ann Arbor, Bernero has a shot. Last week, the press hyped the fact that Andy Dillon wasn't endorsing Virg, at least not yet. They missed the real story, which was that the four GOP candidates Snyder defeated weren't exactly jumping up and down to get on his team. Conservative Republicans are bitter. Many think their nomination was hijacked. If they sit on their hands, Snyder has trouble. The self-proclaimed nerd has another problem: If he does move clearly to the right, he risks losing some of the moderates and independents who voted for him in the primary.

There are lots of questions we need to be asking both these candidates, starting with why the supposedly liberal Bernero is in bed with slumlord Matty Moroun, takes his money, and opposes the international bridge that is so clearly necessary.

This should be a damned exciting campaign.

Enough nonsense about Helen Thomas:
For more than a half-century, Helen Thomas was a pioneering force in journalism, proving women could write on deadline as well as any man, and blasting open the previously closed doors of institutions like the Gridiron Club and the National Press Club. Then, she lost it all.

This spring, some rabbi with a blog stuck a camera in her face and recorded her saying the Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go back to Germany, Poland and America.

That ended her career; caused her to be ousted by Hearst Newspapers, for whom she had been a syndicated columnist for a decade, after she quit UPI on principle when the Moonies bought it.

Now, some group called "The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust survivors and Their Descendants" is attacking the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn because they are trying to raise money to finish a long-planned statue of Helen Thomas.

They say that she shouldn't he honored because she uttered "profoundly anti-American words of hate." In fact, some people have been demonizing her as the moral equivalent of Hitler. You would think, from some of the so-called mainstream commentary, that Thomas had suggested firing up the crematoria again, and that she wanted to apply for Ilse Koch's old job. Give me a break.

What Helen Thomas said was ill tempered, nasty, off-the-cuff and disastrous. She has been more than punished for it, however, and it is important to remember what she did not say.

She didn't say that Israel has no right to exist. It isn't clear what she meant by "Palestine," and she's never clarified that. But from talking to her over the years, I think she meant all the territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war. Believing that certainly isn't a hanging offense. Suggesting that Jews return to Germany, and especially Poland, might best be described as unpardonably stupid.

But get a grip! A people who outlasted Hitler and a nation that has repeatedly beaten vast armies just might be able to survive one outburst of stupid by a cantankerous old lady.

Helen Thomas's career more than outweighs her sad finale. The director of the Arab-American Museum put it best last week. He said he disagreed with her "uncalled for" comments, and added, "it was unfair to scratch a whole history because of a statement."

That's absolutely right. Think, people: Comerica Park erected a large statue of Ty Cobb, who was a nasty, virulent racist. And this whole community is filled with memorials to Henry Ford, an open anti-Semite. 

The American Arab community — especially in Thomas' native Detroit — has every right to be proud of what Helen accomplished over her long career, and if they see fit to honor that career with a statue they have every right to do so.

There are lots of bigger things to worry about, and plenty of monuments to others who deserve them less.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]
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