Friday, July 24, 2009
Bradley Rees True Colors: He's Just Another Typical Politician
In a comment on this blog submitted earlier this week, Bradley Rees’ campaign manager, Michael Ernette, tried to put to rest the growing issue of the hateful extremist language used by Tea Partiers in the Fifth District and, more generally, in the Commonwealth, at least with respect to his candidate.
Indeed, what we are seeing in the Fifth District seems to reflect the growing nationwide trend of anger directed at President Obama and Democrats from some of the darker corners of the Republican Party, whether it is the absurd arguments of the so-called “Birthers” who contend the President was born outside the U.S., or the characterization today of the president as an “angry black man” by one of the GOP’s ideological leaders, Rush Limbaugh.
Meanwhile, more and more, elected Republican officials and candidates are finding it tougher and tougher to walk the fine line between being a responsible, if vigorous, opposition party, and embracing the positions of some core elements of the Party that can only be considered extreme.
So, on a more local level, walking this fine line was Ernette’s task, as well. He failed, however, to do so, refusing on either his own or on Mr. Rees’ behalf to condemn the incendiary language of Tea Partiers recently directed at Congressman Tom Perriello, even as Ernette said neither he nor Mr. Rees agreed with the Tea Partiers on this particular score.
Mr. Ernette’s rhetorical futility aside, this is not the position of a new and truly independent-thinking candidate that Mr. Rees holds himself out as. Rather, Bradley Rees is trying to have it both ways – pandering to the extremist Tea Partiers who are an important core constituency of the RPV while trying at the same time to appear “reasonable” to the vast majority of mainstream Virginians who reject the group’s excessive, dishonest and confrontational anti-government rhetoric.
In doing so, Mr. Rees exposes himself as just another politician.
In an earlier post on the recent Tea Party protests held outside Tom’s office on July 2, I commented on some of the signs containing over-the-top rhetoric, specifically the many references to Tom as a “traitor” and “coward.” While there was certainly plenty of room for debate over Cap and Trade -- the issue directly precipitating the protest, incidentally -- I wrote that the level of vitriol at the protest was excessive and was not warranted in the context of a discussion concerning disagreement over one, largely technical, proposed piece of legislation to address global warming.
My post also wondered why Mr. Rees and other members of the RPV had not rejected the language of the protesters and condemned the speakers who had called our congressman a “traitor.”
Ernette wrote a comment to my post, saying he disagreed that Tom was a traitor (although Ernette sought to ridiculously argue that Tom was a coward because he refused to meet with the Tea Partiers). In any event, it wasn’t clear if he was speaking for himself or the Rees campaign, so I put the question directly to him in a response comment.
In the meantime, Catherine Crabill, Republican candidate for the House of Delegates in the 99th District, made her infamous “Bullet Box” speech warning of armed rebellion against the United States unless the government pursued policies favored by the Tea Partiers. I also wondered whether Rees, Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell and other Virginia Republicans would condemn her remarks.
On Tuesday, Ernette wrote in a second comment on The Virginia Democrat, “I have stated before and will reiterate, Bradley Rees and his campaign do not consider Rep. Perriello to be traitor to his country.”
Whew! Glad we got that out of the way.
But neither Ernette nor, apparently, Rees, could quite bring themselves to take the next step and condemn the use of rhetoric that they themselves are now on record as saying was inappropriate. “In the Rees camp,” Ernette wrote, “we respect the dissent and we respect why they [the Tea Partiers] are angry, even if we do not completely agree with every sign or sentiment that is expressed. … I would hope that most progressives do not concur with the attitudes expressed with signs that likened Bush and Cheney to Adolph Hitler and I am sure that they don’t.”
Ernette also asked why I “want the Rees campaign to throw peaceful protesters under the bus for [my] amusement.” He also asks, “Can I expect you to disavow every freak show protester that claims to speak for the left, as a sign of good faith?”
Ernette’s equivalence argument, however, is entirely misplaced. First, here at the Virginia Democrat, I also respect the dissent and anger of the Tea Partiers and of all people, for that matter. What I object to is the level of vitriol and the incendiary name-calling these folks are utilizing in pursuing their political objectives.
Second, there is no valid comparison to the use of Hitler imagery in protests of Bush and Cheney to the Tea Partiers. Yes, some “liberal” protesters did make those Nazi comparisons, but they were a clear minority in every crowd. The signs in question about Tom, in contrast, dominated and defined this protest, there were not merely a few of them on the fringes.
Third, Ernette asks whether I should disavow “every freak show protester that claims to speak for the left,” but this argument fails because, first, Mr. Rees specifically cited this protest in an approving manner. So, I am not suggesting that Mr. Rees account for “every freak show protester that claims to speak” for Conservatives, only the freak show protesters about whose actions Mr. Rees has spoken in an approving manner.
Similarly, Mr. Rees holds himself out as a Tea Party leader, and he has spoken at Tea Party gatherings at least four times of which I am aware.
In other words, Mr. Rees is not merely an innocent Conservative bystander being unjustifiably called to account for the words of third parties solely because of his ideology.
Finally, with respect to Catherine Crabill’s, and lets not split hairs, crazy comments, she is, as Mr. Rees is, a member of the RPV. Asking him whether he agrees with a fellow member of his party on this issue and why, is a perfectly reasonable question.
The fact is, I understand why Mr. Rees doesn’t want to answer these questions plainly. He is running for office as a Conservative, and the Tea Partiers are a core part of the GOP base. Rees wants their votes, and perhaps more importantly, their enthusiasm and energy.
The problem is, he also wants the votes of the many more numerous mainstream Conservative and moderate Republicans who rightly view the statements and positions of the Tea Partiers and Crabill as extremist.
So, Mr. Rees winds up talking out of both sides of his mouth, trying to sound reasonable to the moderates, but delivering a verbal wink and nudge to the Tea Partiers. When pressed on some of the more extreme comments from Tea Partiers, such as calling a sitting U.S. Congressman a “traitor,” he disagrees with the appellation, but refuses to condemn it. And for goodness sakes, Mr. Rees cannot even bring himself to simply and plainly condemn Crabill’s remarks advocating armed resistance to the democratically-elected government of the United States.
As noted above, Mr. Rees predicament mirrors that of Republicans on local, state and national levels throughout the U.S. The core of the party to which they are beholden has become more vocal and their rhetoric more extremist as electoral losses have piled up and as moderates have abandoned the party. This vicious circle has reinforced itself over time.
But in the meantime, does all of this make Bradley Rees a bad person? No, it doesn’t.
But it does expose him as a typical politician, the very kind of politician that he professes to despise; the very kind of politician to which Mr. Rees continually asserts his own moral and ethical superiority.
Brad Rees. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
x-posted to Blue Virginia.