by Ann Driscoll, Sat Feb 04, 2006 at 07:56:03 PM EST
Paul Hackett received jeers and boos at a candidate forum in Columbus today. Apparently, Brown supporters booed Hackett for his uncompromising, personal attacks against Sherrod Brown. I don't care how volatile the audience is nor how intensely in favor of your opponent they are, you don't incite that kind of response. This political tone-deafness is indefensible. Think Hillary Clinton making the plantation comment.
Two weeks ago, Paul Hackett compared the religious right to Osama bin Laden, a huge rhetorical mishap. First rule of politics: never make Nazi analogies. Second rule of politics: never make bin Laden analogies. Here we have a left-wing blogosphere going justifiably ape-shit over Chris Matthews comparing Michael Moore to bin Laden and not a peep about Hackett's comparison. The hypocrisy in the response doesn't help the Hackett campaign; it signifies desperation.
The problem is that Paul Hackett seems to think that pissing people off is candor, and furthermrore, that this is a virtue. But tough-talk or candor in of itself is never virtuous. It is a political trick- an appeal to the mythic personae which our current popular political culture deifies: the straight-shooting common man, the rugged individualist, the folk hero. Candor is a means to an end, not a genuine pinciple. When, instead of accomplishing an objective goal, candor alienates and embarrasses, then it ceases to be virtuous. And the quicker Paul Hackett learns that, the better.
My admiration for Paul Hackett is deeply felt. To put it this way, the prospect of him winning this Senate seat occasionally brings idealistic tears to my eyes, and hopefully, if you've felt that way about a leader, that admission will lessen in embarrassment. Hackett is simply a warm-hearted, intelligent, and an inspiring leader. From observing his run against Jean Schmidt, a woman who lacks all the qualities Hackett embodies, I gained a greater appreciation for the sacrifices of military service, and the possibility of democracy. Most critically, Hackett "gets it." He understands the importance of profile and personality in politics, and he possesses both. He comprehends the wrong in the dull Democratic Establishment way of inoffensively propounding the issues of jobs, economy, and healthcare while neglecting basic voter psychology.
So, these qualities add up to a candidate who has the innate, intangible characteristics effortlessly bestowed upon him to beat Mike DeWine, and furthermore who has the heart and the brain to deserve to beat Mike DeWine. A Hackett victory could singlehandedly help the Democrats take control over the Congress, and rebrand Democratic politics in Ohio as we know it, helping the Democrats win the presidency in 2008. This kind of opportunity is at Paul Hackett's fingertips, and it cannot be taken lightly.
The stakes are even higher because the alternative, Sherrod Brown, is unacceptable. Brown may be a good man, and the more I read about him, the more I think that he is. But a Brown victory in the primary is a guaranteed DeWine victory in the general. We, as democrats, cannot afford to have Brown as our candidate because Paul Hackett let the pressure get to him. We simply cannot afford for Paul Hackett to fizzle out because he felt like being impulsive one day or received careless direction from his campaign aides.
Paul Hackett often talks about his basic desire to serve the country on any capacity. As a wealthy lawyer, he could have sat comfortably on the sidelines rather than put himself out here in the damaging political landscape, subject to judgment and punditry, such as the kind I am delivering right now. But he is running for Senate because he knows that he has the skills and the qualities that could spur change in our government and serve the public. I genuinely believe that those are his intentions. Hackett simply needs to better grasp the enormity of the stakes and the enormity of his potential and let that understanding closely guide his decisions. Time is running out, and, whether or not it is actively articulated by Hackett supporters, I suspect that concern is crystalizing.