Blog Wars

Being busy doing newspaper stuff, I only watched the hoo-hah this week over Romney operatives trying to torpedo Thompson via a stealth Web site out of the corner of one eye. But what I saw was fascinating. The synopsis, from The Washington Post:

WASHINGTON — A top adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be behind the launch of a new Web site attacking GOP presidential rival Fred Thompson during his first week on the trail.
    Nowhere on the site was any indication of who was responsible. But a series of inquiries led to “Under the Power Lines,” the Web site of the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, Romney’s lead consultant in South Carolina. Tompkins could not be reached for comment.
    The site,, painted an unflattering picture of Thompson, dubbing the former TV star and senator: Fancy Fred, Five O’clock Fred, Flip-Flop Fred, McCain Fred, Moron Fred, Playboy Fred, Pro-Choice Fred, Son-of-a-Fred and Trial Lawyer Fred. Shortly after inquiries about the site were made to the Romney campaign, it was taken down.

Here’s the full original Washington Post blog item that started it all, and here’s an AP story about Romney trying to distance himself the mess, and here’s another from The Greenville News, in which such key S.C. figures as Jim DeMint and Katon Dawson in turn tried to distance themselves from Warren Tompkins, who has been cast in this tale as the evil (sort of) genius who tried to be so clever, but got caught.

Various blogs have weighed in on this, from "The 7-10: Palmer on Politics" to Jay Carney on TIME magazine’s "Swampland." Chris Matthews has fulminated about it on "Hardball." But the one who seems to have really taken this and run with it is Adam Fogle over at "The Palmetto Scoop," which has endeared itself to me via its e-mailed "TPS reports." Here are some of his posts:

What all this has done is call attention to Tompkins’ supposed role in the inexcusable shenanigans that destroyed John McCain’s candidacy in 2000, and frankly, that matters more to me than what’s happened to Fred Thompson. The history of the United States — and of Iraq, and of the world — would have been far different, and far better, if dirty tricks hadn’t boosted Bush over McCain nearly eight years ago. The fact that this latest tawdry drama played out as the nation was commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks underlines the stakes with bitter emphasis.

This is a subject to which I will return.

6 thoughts on “Blog Wars

  1. Doug Ross

    This is where The State’s editorial page could be a very effective tool to change the way politics is played in South Carolina.
    Shine the light and the cockroaches will scurry for the darkest corners.
    I am behind you 100% on this one.

  2. mikeVA

    I agree whole heartedly on McCain. Though, the problem goes deeper than the consultants and communication firms. No dark conspiracy, only profit motivation and personal irrationalization.
    For nearly two decades, sizable groups, primarily men have hammered any candidate that does not meet thier irrational whims. Good people, good leaders like McCain have been hammered for no good reason.
    We can see a history of it archived in news forums like freerepublic.
    These people called McCain crazy and not a real Republican. Why? Because he opposed a tax cut to hedge funds? He was right. Those funds did not need more incentive, and now the force of those funds is in question. They have more flexiblity than any of the traditional mechanisms of the financial economy. The tradeoff is securitization–the explosion of risk with unknown levels and in unknown places. The gain is little to no empirical evidence of growth in the financial nexus because of tax policy.
    McCain was one of the main leaders for a change of policy on Iraq. He was critical of Rumsfled. And HE GOT HAMMERED in the media channels of Republicans. Again it is archived in news groups like freerepublic.
    Now, over the summer, those same folks in those channels hammered the three top tier nominations. The bloggers, radio and forums hammered three good people, Romney, McCain and Giuliani, three really exceptional leaders.
    Who are those incentivised to electioneer and to profit? At the lowest common level Geraghty, Martin-Politico, RedState, Freerepublic, Levin, and many more. Who do they primarily support? Fred Thompson.
    Now, two points. Fred is a mirror image of John McCain–without the War Hero, without the fight for spending, without the fight of sensible Iraq change. Fred is a lesser leader than all of the major candidates.
    The second point Fred hired Walt Whetsell.
    What’s not in dispute is that Walt Whetsell’s Starboard Communications will be involved in the campaign. Whetsell is a veteran S.C. Republican operative best known for his direct-mail operation.
    It’s an operation that has caused controversy in the past, however, and could cost Thompson any chance at landing Gov. Mark Sanford’s endorsement.
    In the 2002 Republican gubernatorial runoff between Sanford and then-Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, Whetsell’s firm produced an anonymous direct-mail letter that attacked Sanford’s record and called him a liberal.
    The letter accused Sanford of not having a conservative record on abortion, “the homosexual agenda” and gambling. It also said he has “liberal” friends, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). It showed a picture of McCain hugging Sanford’s son.
    A Sanford aide produced a 50-page dossier that proved Whetsell, who was working for Peeler’s campaign, produced the mail piece, despite it not having Starboard’s mail stamp.

  3. weldon VII

    Gosh, Brad, you certainly do have a Jones for McCain. How can you be so sure the world would have been better had he beaten Bush? Tea leaves? Astrology?
    Sorry, but there’s just no way you could know, any more than y’all had a clue what would happen when you endorsed Ravenel for treasurer. The paper that endorsed Lieberman the day before he withdrew can’t lay claim to having a crystal ball at its disposal, either, unless its playing for nothing but irony.

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