[Originally posted 2:51 p.m., Sunday, 2/26]
This line in Sunday's Journal Sentinel editorial on the GOP redistricting now before a three-judge panel should have been backed up with facts, edited or deleted:
For all the sanctimonious whining about the way the Republicans have operated, Democrats would have done everything in their power to ensure their success at the ballot box - just like the GOP did."Everything in their [Democrats'] power...just like the GOP did."
The line follows this unsubstantiated remark to the judges by assistant attorney general Maria Lazar, as the editorial recounts it after saying "poor Lazar" had to defend her GOP clients with a straight face:
Noting that the last time legislators and the governor approved maps, Democrats controlled the Capitol, she said: "Had the Democratic Party held the majority and the governor's office (last year), a similar legislative process would have been implemented, as it was in 1983."C'mon - - toss Lazar or the GOP legislators a bone, but don't go so far overboard.
I got to the newspaper in 1983, and I'll acknowledge it if I am wrong, but I don't recall reporting or disclosures then about Democratic legislators who were made to sign confidentiality oaths at private attorney offices in order to see their district maps, or about records forced into public view by judges and court orders, etc., because so much of the GOP's recent effort was not just carried out in secret - - it was meant to stay that way.
One of the GOP legislators' attorneys last week was even required by the court to give a deposition about the redistricting process: what does that tell you about how far from business-as-usual this redistricting procedure had strayed?
The editorial correctly slaps the GOP for its scuzzy process - - as did the judges (see the chief judge's strong statement, here) - - so the point stands on its own.
In ordering GOP legislators to turn over documents to a group of Democrats, the judges (two of whom were appointed by Republican presidents) wrote:And I'm not taking issue with the word "sanctimonious" aimed at the Dems: that's a fair perspective if you want to make that subjective judgement - - but there was no need to try and balance the editorial's criticism with a hypothetical, unsubstantiated assumption aimed the other way - - even if you want to argue, as does the editorial, that a neutral process is needed to replace the current partisan process.
"Without a doubt, the Legislature made a conscious choice to involve private lawyers in what gives every appearance of an attempt - albeit poorly disguised - to cloak the private machinations of Wisconsin's Republican legislators in the shroud of attorney-client privilege. What could have - indeed, should have - been accomplished publicly instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny."
A process to which the GOP objectively added unique debasement - - and again, look no further than what Judge J. P. Stadtmueller had to say in just one of his public remarks about what the GOP had done and was continuing in pre-trial activities:
...we have had enough of the charade and mischaracterization. I don't mean to impugn either you or anyone associated with this case, but as they say, the facts are the facts. What has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency, secrecy, and at the end of the day, as the court has commented earlier, it may not have anything to do with the price of tea in China, but appearances are everything, and Wisconsin has prided itself for one generation after another on openness and fairness and doing the right thing.I appreciate the need for fairness and balance in reporting, and editorial writers are free to pile on all the adjectives they want - - after all, they are writing an opinion piece - - but editorials don't need to artificially create middle ground without facts to fill it in.