Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 6, 2004
POLITICS: Beyond The Pale
The NY Daily News reports that an independent pro-Bush group, "MoveOnForAmerica[, ]led by GOP political consultant Stephen Marks", is preparing to run two controversial ads. The first targets the Democrats' embrace of Al Sharpton:
Fair enough - it's one thing for a party to put a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Robertson on stage, but giving Sharpton a prime-time slot and a nod in Kerry's acceptance speech . . . well, if the GOP did the same for David Duke, they'd deserve what they got. Of course, this is of dubious political wisdom, since the media will want to spin this as playing the race card (as opposed to the racist card) in ways they didn't when the NAACP ran those infamous ads against Bush in 2000. Which is bad; Bush has gone out of his way to avoid racial division, and is banking on Kerry having problems matching Al Gore's turnout of black voters in 2000.
The second ad is just bad:
Which might be a fair point, except the Horton-furlough case didn't happen while Kerry was Dukakis' Lieutenant Governor. Instead, the 'hook' is this:
When Reissfelder was captured three years later, he tried to grab a cop's gun. The ad says he tried to shoot a police officer and pleaded guilty to that, but didn't serve his 15-year sentence.
His sentence, however, had nothing to do with the case that Kerry worked on with his law partner, Roanne Sragow, who was the lead attorney.
Sragow had been assigned by a judge to look into Reissfeld's '67 murder conviction - which turned out to be wrongful.
The ad admits he was cleared but calls him a "would-be cop killer," and points out Kerry was Dukakis' lieutenant governor.
This is precisely the sort of thing that Judge Frank Easterbrook has rightly decried when the Democrats have done it in judicial confirmation hearings:
It is bad enough to assume that a scholar who writes an article opposing rent control would automatically think as a judge that rent control is unconstitutional--the subjects are unrelated--but terrible to assume that a lawyer who (say) represents persons accused of committing securities fraud would then favor securities fraud while on the bench. Nonsense. Ex-prosecutors on the bench acquit defendants; former defense lawyers appointed to the bench convict defendants; proponents of public support for religious instruction still apply the Establishment Clause after appointment; and so on. There is a nasty side effect of condemning the lawyer on the client's account: ambitious lawyers will shy away from representing controversial clients. And as almost any cause or client can be depicted as controversial from some perspective... Do we really want this?
It's true that some clients are so vile they don't deserve a distinguished attorney's best efforts; I could imagine people I would refuse to represent. But the fact is, we shouldn't punish Kerry for representing a criminal defendant - especially when the guy may have been innocent and especially when it was his partner's client. And, of course, invocation of Horton's name will blunt the effect of the first ad, which at least seeks to make a legitimate issue of someone the Democrats should have denounced a long time ago.