Monday, April 7, 2008

McIlheran Leaves Out The Facts

The Journal Sentinel's in-house conservative columnist, Patrick McIlheran, wades back into the State Supreme Court race in his Sunday op-ed page column.

"Thought that Supreme Court business was over?" he ledes. "No! The sour-grapes harvest goes on."

So he does his own bit to keep the election post-mortems alive, demonstrating that it's hard to be a good winner, and worse, tossing what can only be charitably described as an incomplete offering into the mix.

McIlheran is in full Righty righteous indignation, claiming that critics of the winning Gableman were "insinuating racism," as the columnist puts it.

Say what?

This all began when Gableman aired his now infamous television advertisement pairing a photo (and not surprisingly an unflattering picture, to boot) of Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, who is African-American, side-by-side with the mug-shot photo of an African-American rape defendant whom Butler had represented as a public defender.

The ad falsely went on to say that Butler - - at the time a defense attorney, not a local judge or Supreme Court Justice - - had gotten the rapist released through a loophole, only to rape again - - thus the quite accurate complaint that Gableman had introduced a Willie Horton-type race-baiting ad into the campaign.

McIlheran says the critics are "dishonest" in their allegations that the ad was racist because "no one making the claim can explain it other than to say it's racist to show a criminal's face if he's black."

McIlheran says the ad was "wrong-headed." There's a light rap on the knuckles. He also says it was "a dirtball ad." That's closer to the truth, because the ad was misleading, but McIlheran leaves out the heart of the racial issue that the critics have correctly identified.

The point absent from the McIlheran piece is that pairing the photos was designed to make a negative racial connection in the ad.

Thirty-four Wisconsin judges pointed this out in an unprecedented statement prior to the election.

Did McIlheran miss it, or choose to parse his way past it in his op-ed?

Even a short Madison television station editorial summing up the controversy didn't miss the racial import of this ad - - the first commercial by Gableman, and not one sponsored by a so-called outside interest group.

Believe me, that bit of commercial footage chosen and aired by Gableman's people, "authorized and paid for" by the candidate's committee, was no accident, no mere cinematic coincidence.

I certainly do not believe that a vote for Gableman was a racist vote. Maybe some votes were. I hope few to none.

But I do believe the ad was a deliberate appeal to racism, and that Gableman deserves to be denounced for taking that route to a seat on the state's highest court.

To deny that the ad had racist content and intentions is to live in a very naive world, and to demonstrate a pretty uninformed view of what political attack ads are all about.

But to leave such key information out of a lengthy post-election op-ed, yet call your philosophical and political adversaries "dishonest and reflexive," is a pretty big omission and one big fat act of projection.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for focusing on this important point, James.

Anonymous said...

Someone could start a blog simply called "Mcllheran Watch"