Friday, February 6, 2004

This happens a lot, where I become a defender of someone I don't particularly care for but think is getting an unfair shake. Recently, I've found myself defending Al Sharpton, someone I don't always agree with but whose presence in the Democratic primaries I think is important. Like Kucinich, it's not so much because I think he can win - 24 is the closest America will get to a black President for a long time - but because I believe he forces issues on the table that would otherwise be ignored. And not just issues involving race; he's been an outspoken critic of the war, and has spoken intelligently on health care and trade. He may not know the difference between the IMF and the Federal Reserve but, like Jesse Jackson, Jr. endorsing Howard Dean - or even more cynically, Gephardt endorsing the free-trading Kerry - I'm sure he could find someone to co-sign for him if necessary.

This week, the Village Voice published an entertaining smear piece on Sharpton, Sleeping With the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton's Campaign, that I hadn't paid any attention to until this morning when my fellow political junkie Phil West linked to it in his journal.

I responded:

While the Reverend certainly has his faults, the Voice is about as objective a source on him as Fox News is on...well, just about anything. Beyond the very legitimate questions of how he's financing his campaign - and I mean that in the logistical sense, not the philosophical one they're aiming for - two of the most interesting things in the article are:

1. In his 2002 book, Al on America, Sharpton wrote that he felt the city's Democratic Party "had to be taught a lesson" in 2001—insisting that Mark Green, who defeated the Sharpton-backed Fernando Ferrer in a bitter runoff, had disrespected him and minorities. Adding that the party "still has to be taught one nationally," he warned: "A lot of 2004 will be about what happened in New York in 2001. It's about dignity." In 2001, Sharpton engaged in a behind-the-scenes dialogue with campaign aides to Republican Mike Bloomberg while publicly disparaging Green.

2. Credico said Stone explained his interest in working with Sharpton by saying that they had "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic Party." Stone told Credico that he "would have some fun with Sharpton's campaign" and "bring Terry McAuliffe to his knees." Stone, Credico, and Sheinkopf walked to Stone's apartment after the lunch, and Stone was elated with the tenor of the meeting.
That Sharpton might have an anti-Party agenda as part of his campaign is neither surprising nor, in my opinion, a bad thing. The Democrats have taken the "black vote" for granted for years and deserve a good kick in the ass, even if some of the backers are from the Republican side. Mark Green's 2001 mayoral campaign was one of the most disgusting, divisive and "insidious" campaigns I've ever witnessed, playing on racial fears better than Giuliani ever did, in his bid to beat Ferrer in the runoff. Sharpton's undercutting him was justifiable retribution.

Overall, this article is an entertaining smear job with a lot of innuendo and not much meat, and is indicative of why the Voice isn't nearly as respected as it used to be. They've got an axe to grind.

Ironic, though, how the "marginal" candidates aren't worth covering unless it's something negative. I'm sure it wouldn't take much digging [Big Digging, perhaps?] to find similarly questionable stuff in Kerry's campaign. Or Edwards. Or Clark.
I should have also noted that the Voice, fishwrap that it is, endorsed Green in his failed campaign in 2001. To this day, I hope he rots in the political graveyard for how he ran against Ferrer. Recent polls show they'd both beat Bloomberg next time around but Ferrer enjoys the better margin - 46%-39%, vs. Green's statistical tie of 45%-42%. If it's not Ferrer, though, I'll stick with Bloomberg.

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