Into the mud

Michigan Truth Squad raises issues with campaign talk

Oct 20, 2010 at 12:00 am

With Election Day fast approaching, the watchdogs at the Michigan Truth Squad are up to their snouts in slime.

As News Hits previously noted, the squad is a project of the Center for Michigan, a nonpartisan "think and do" tank founded by former newspaper publisher Phil Power in 2006. Using veteran reporters to examine the veracity of political ads and mailers, the squad has been throwing more penalty flags than the refs at a Lions game.

Take, for example, the "technical foul" the squad called on the Michigan Democratic Party for its attack ad claiming that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder is hiding an "extreme agenda."

"Look closer, you'll see he'll make the government ban abortion," claim the Dems.

There are good reasons to have concern about Snyder's ability to run the state. Entrepreneurs who campaign for office under the rubric that government should be run like a business ignore the reality that a governor, mayor or legislator usually can't make sweeping changes by simply issuing orders. Politics is an art, and a lot of business executives never learned how to apply the right brush strokes. Besides that, we're seeing an awful lot of businesses declare bankruptcy these days.

That said, we, like the folks at the Truth Squad, think that everyone loses when campaigns and political parties turn elections into mud wrestling matches. And calling Snyder an extremist when it comes to the issue of abortion is an extreme distortion. In fact, the group Right to Life, which is extreme, attacked him for supporting embryonic stem cell research, which the group vehemently opposes.

Snyder is on record saying abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother's life is in danger. A real extremist would be saying no abortions, period. Democrats, looking at the possibility of a disastrous election, are resorting to unwarranted scare tactics in a desperate attempt to turn the tide.

We got a good chuckle, though, when reading a spokesman's response when asked by the Truth Squad how important the abortion issue would be in a Snyder administration:

"Rick believes that we can reduce the number of abortions performed in this state by implementing a strong and effective economic plan that will put people back to work and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders. It is critically important that we address these issues."

OK, aside from the fact that the campaign should be hit with a foul for flagrant sidestepping, if you look closely at what's being actually said, it seems to be this: If Rick gets to be governor, the unemployed who are spending all their free time screwing like crazy will go back to work, so there will be way less sex and, as a result, fewer unwanted pregnancies.

So, don't be surprised if, in coming weeks, you see a new attack ad depicting the Republican candidate wearing a chastity belt as an unseen announcer with an ominous voice warns: "Rick Snyder is so extreme he wants the government to keep you from ever having sex again."

On the other side of the political spectrum, we have the Michigan Republican Party attacking Democratic secretary of state candidate Jocelyn Benson for being — gasp! — well-educated. Just like those other damn liberals Jennifer Granholm and Barack Obama, Benson obtained her law degree from Harvard. She also obtained an undergraduate degree from Wellesley, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation (as well as the alma mater of Hillary Clinton), and a master's degree from Oxford, which might mean that she is actually a secret agent working for the British.

Writes the Truth Squad: "The Michigan Republican Party actually has done a good job laying out Benson's credentials, including graduating from two of the nation's most prestigious universities. It is unclear why that is a bad thing, other than an amateurish attempt at guilt by association, since other Democrats like Granholm, Obama and Clinton also did. Portraying academic achievement as a negative is a curious tactic."

Indeed. On the other hand, being blatantly less smart than his opponents worked well for George W. Bush, and look how far the lack of a top-notch education has taken Sarah Palin. And then there's Tea Partier Christine O'Donnell, a Republican Senate hopeful from Delaware who recently ran a campaign commercial touting the fact that she didn't go to Harvard.

So maybe the GOP is on to something here. We are expecting any day to see Republican ad campaigns declaring: "Vote for us, because we don't let thinking get in our way."

As for Benson — a Wayne State law professor who has shown concern for protecting people's voting rights long before seeking office — we think that, despite the albatross of several degrees from great universities hanging around her neck, she would make an excellent secretary of state.