Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Uncomfortable parallels


It’s been a rough week in the JB Van Hollen damage control department. Van Hollen’s statement that there are terrorists training and raising money in Wisconsin did not go as planned, to put it mildly. It completely overshadowed the rest of the Van Hollen campaign’s themes and was attacked and ridiculed on all sides. When your best defense comes from Bill Christofferson, looking forward to the weekend may be the best you can do.

So imagine the Van Hollen team’s frustration when they saw the first two items of the WisPolitics weekly report under Falling:

Russ Feingold: In advance of Feingold’s campaign trip to Iowa, a non-partisan group gives a thumb’s down to his PAC web ad. says the Progressive Patriots Fund’s ad, entitled “W,” implies that President Bush illegally wiretapped political opponents alongside suspected terrorists. According to’s analysis, Feingold’s spokesman says the ad is supposed to be a parody. “We’re not sure everybody will get the joke,” write FactCheck’s Brooks Jackson and Justin Bank. “It’s based on an accusation for which no proof exists.”

*See the analysis:
*Watch the ad:

JB Van Hollen: After a campaign re-org, the GOP candidate for AG kicks off a tour of the state proclaiming a “new vision,” often a sign to politicos that a candidate is trying to infuse life into flagging campaign and get some name recognition. But the former U.S. attorney for the western district of Wisconsin gets the wrong kind of publicity when he says there are terrorist cells in the state without offering specific proof. He does damage control the next day, adding context to his remarks, and goes on the offensive, arguing his GOP opponent wrongly believes terrorism preparedness is not a concern for the attorney general. Still, AG race observers said, the examples he gives fall well short of the public’s perception of a terrorist cell, leading to ridicule from pundits and opponents alike.

When you look at the two candidates’ situations, they’re pretty similar. Both candidates made tremendous over-reaching statements they could not back up. Which is why I commented the other day,

What the Van Hollen people need to do is regroup, figure out what terrorism cases they can discuss publicly (perhaps Van Hollen prosecuted a terrorism related case he can discuss), and stop throwing wild statements about terrorists without backing those statements with substance.

Otherwise they sound like hysterics desperate for attention. Wisconsin already has a US Senator like that. We don’t need another hysteric as this state’s top cop.

Feingold, to his credit as a politician, backed away from his television ad labeling it a “parody” (although nobody took him credibly when he said it).

Van Hollen has tried and tried to clarify his statement without admitting the original statement was an over-reach. The result was getting bounced like a red rubber ball in this interview with Mark Belling. (Note to politicians: When in trouble on Mark Belling’s program, do not try a lame joke.) Fortunately for Van Hollen, Brett Favre decided to return to Green Bay the same day Van Hollen made his statement concerning terrorists in Wisconsin.

Van Hollen may catch another break Monday, when every Packer fan will be discussing who the Packers drafted over the weekend. The campaign might get a fresh start and be able to shift onto other topics for a few days. But if Leaning Blue is any indication of the long-term ridicule Van Hollen faces, it’s going to be a long summer.

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