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.


  1. PART I


    I guess I have to go through this post piece by piece, but I will endeavour to do the best that I can, and forgive me if I have not quite addressed everything. The language in this blog is to say the least spurious, and I will of course be referring to exactly what I said, as well as making some new points to make this clear.

    To begin, I would like to note that at no time in this or any other blog post up until now has the writer ever addressed one plank in the Rees campaign platform. This is typical though, and I had to retrieve my copy of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to make sure that I quote him proper. Since Alan chooses not to dwell in the facts, I will put them out here one last time in an effort to be reasonable.

    The first thing Alan does in this post is immediately change the subject. The inital post, dated 07/10, spent 9 paragraphs and said, "But there, outside Tom’s office, were my neighbors calling their Congressman 'traitor' and 'coward,' and as far as I could tell, not a word of condemnation from any local leaders of the Republican party." If this were the current argument, I would be addressing it. However, the writer chooses instead now to reference the "Birthers" and phrases attributed to Rush Limbaugh. Of course, the campaign has not said anything about these things, we haven't had to defend ourselves against them. This sounds a great deal like Alinsky's Tactic #8 which says, "Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."

    Second, and I'll quote you on this, "He failed, however, to do so, refusing on either his own or on Mr. Rees’ behalf to condemn the incendiary language of Tea Partiers...even as Ernette said neither he nor Mr. Rees agreed with the Tea Partiers on this particular score." Frankly, WTF??!?! Neither Bradley nor I speak for individual members of the Tea Party community, we speak for ourselves and this campaign. I said the campaign did not agree with that particular language, that's my job. Am I next supposed to condemn my brother James flipping someone off this afternoon in traffic? More Alinsky tactics (nos. 4 and 10). We haven't accounted for every person attending a rally we never attended, so we aren't being aghast enough for you.

  2. PART II

    Third, if you must quote me, please do so completely. In my second comment, I said, " have stated before and will reiterate, Bradley Rees and his campaign do not consider Rep. perriello to be a traitor to his country. We respect and applaud those in the TEA party movement and agree with most of what they are trying to accomplish. We do not, nor have we ever, condone or sanction the use of force in armed revolution against the government of the United States." Your piece makes it appear as though I did not condemn Ms. Crabill, as you can see, I did in no uncertain terms.

    Finally, I spent the evening placing together a collage of photos from previous leftist protests. Since I cannot post them to this comment section I have put them in a flickr account available here, You suggest that the equivalence argument is moot because the people I spoke of were fringe elements of your movement. Based on the pictures, the fringe is a wide expanse. I can get more pictures if you need me to...close ups of children with signs referring to Bush as a war criminal, and will if you ask. Also, I noticed that you refused to entertain my argument about the violence that has ensued from leftist riots. How many people again have been arrested in TEA party violence?

    In conclusion, I hardly find it fair that you castigate Bradley as a typical politician, when I have taken time to sit and speak with you about your concerns and addressed them to the best of my ability. You choose to work not on the merits of his platform, but rather erect strawmen that I continually have to break down in arguments that have no bearing expect that you were offended by the first amendment rights of private citizens that you don't agree with. If you wish to continue with the meaningful rhetorical dialogue that you so loftily extoll to your readers, put away the ad hominem attacks and talk about something substantive.

    My Best to You,
    Michael Ernette
    Campaign Manager, Rees for Congress