It seems odd, but lately I spend quite a bit of time following political races in state far away from where I actually live and vote. On the plus side, I get to read some rather well written stuff from a lot of sources. (I also get to read some badly written stuff, but that's another topic). One paper I check in with fairly often these days is the Hartford Courant, because of the Lieberman-Lamont race. I've been following that one for a long time now. But today, I read something not on Lieberman-Lamont that really caught my eye for two reasons. It reported a body slam on Ted Kennedy, one of my least favorite people in politics. It also did some very insightful analysis of the Foley matter and the overplaying of hands.
WASHINGTON — When the congressional page scandal broke last month, Democrats across the country saw a chance to lambaste Republican leadership – including Diane Farrell, who called on House Speaker Dennis Hastert to step down.
But when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy came to Connecticut last week to help her campaign, Rep. Christopher Shays hit back.
"I know the speaker didn't go over a bridge and leave a young person in the water, and then have a press conference the next day," said Shays, R-4th District, referring to the 1969 incident in which the Massachusetts Democrat drove a car that plunged into the water and a young campaign worker died.
"Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody," he added.
That would be the body slam. Which is quite entertaining, but this is the one that really caught me:
But so far, the Democrats' idea to make Hastert the villain has not worked.
An ABC News/Washington Post survey taken Oct. 5 to 8 found that three of every four respondents did not think Democrats would have handled the Foley matter any better, and roughly two in three thought Democrats were pursuing the matter for political gain, not to raise legitimate concerns.
"The Foley scandal has not earned the Republican leadership any goodwill, but neither does it look like a point of differentiation for the Democrats," poll director Gary Langer said.
A Pew Research Center survey taken Sept. 21 to Oct. 4 had similar findings. Before the Foley scandal broke, voters preferred Democrats to Republicans by 13 percentage points – and after the congressman resigned Sept. 29, the margin was the same.
Job approval of Republican leaders, 33 percent before Foley quit, went up 1 percentage point afterward.
In the days ahead, said some analysts, Democrats need to be careful they do not appear to be leading a lynch mob.
"It could look to some people like they're not interested in due process," said Richard F. Fenno Jr., professor emeritus of political science at the University of Rochester.
Which is, of course, what I have been saying all along. Now we all like to quote others who agree with us, but sometimes it really helps when bona fide experts in a field issue a warning rather than a pundit. But damn, that body slam tickles me.