All over America, Democratic congressional incumbents are struggling to stave off the tide that threatens to sweep them out of office and out of power. There’s a flailing quality to their efforts, as they search for a winning message or, at least a suitable bogeyman.
But Rep. Alan Grayson knows exactly how he intends to approach this election. He will stand or fall on the same kind of deranged and dishonest attacks that have made his brief congressional career such an embarrassment.
It was Grayson, readers may recall, who characterized “the Republican health care plan” as: “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.” Grayson then apologized “to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust [the absence of Obamacare] in America.”
Recognizing that he has already exposed himself as a smear-artist and a demagogue, Grayson is doubling down on this image in his campaign against Republican challenger Dan Webster. Thus, Grayson has attacked Webster as a draft dodger, claiming that he “refused a call to service.” But, as FactCheck.org has demonstrated, the accusation is false. In reality, “Webster was given deferments from the military in order to complete high school and college — common during the Vietnam War — then upon graduation reported for service and was ultimately disqualified because he failed the physical examination.”
The ad’s display of the Grayson touch extends beyond merely lying about Webster – it attacks Webster’s patriotism via this statement by the announcer: “It breaks an old soldier’s heart to think that Daniel Webster could ever be elected to Congress; he doesn’t love this country the way I do, Daniel Webster doesn’t care about us.”
FactCheck.org notes that the announcer is never identified, so the viewer has no way of knowing if he is really an “old soldier.” A spokesman for Grayson claimed that that the announcer is a four-year military veteran, but it would not release the announcer’s identity.
Grayson’s ad also insinuates that he has the support of the Marine Corps League. At least that’s what the League thinks, based on the fact that the ad features a still shot of a smiling Grayson alongside a veteran wearing Marine Corps League attire. The Florida commandant of the League was not amused. In a letter to Grayson, he stated:
What the Marine Corps League finds offensive is that you, Congressman Grayson, used these pictures in political and TV ads to further your campaign for reelection, thereby subconsciously saying to the public that the Marine Corps League supports Alan Grayson. This is what the Marines of the Marine Corps League find inexcusable and despicable.
But Grayson’s latest attack on Webster may be even worse. In a new ad, Grayson refers to his opponent as “Taliban Dan Webster.” It claims, among other things, that Webster “tried to prohibit alimony to an ‘adulterous wife’ but not an adulterous husband,” and that he “wants to force women to stay in abusive marriages.”
I’ll await the full fact-checking of this ad before passing judgment on its veracity. But to compare Webster to the Taliban, a terrorist organization and enemy of the U.S. that brutalizes and even kills those who don’t adhere to its moral views, is inexcusable and despicable in any case.
To some extent, there is a method to Grayson’s madness. Democrats are losing the economic debate this year. In addition, male voters have turned against them and, by all accounts, are eager to make their feelings known. Female voters still tend to support Democratic candidates, but only tepidly, it seems. This is an element of what is known as the “enthusiasm gap.”
Under these circumstances, it probably makes sense for Democrats in centrist districts to focus on any flaws in a candidate’s biography, to stress social issues, and to attempt to scare women. There are limits to this strategy – it didn’t work against Bob McDonnell in the Virginia gubernatorial campaign last year. Still, it’s easy to see why Grayson wants to give it a try.
But attacks as rabid and dishonest as Grayson’s are liable to backfire, if exposed as unfair and untrue. Here, Grayson may be relying on the fact that Webster’s campaign has only about $100,000 in its bank account, compared to Grayson’s war chest of $1.3 million. Webster has been using his funds to run what Politico calls a “mostly positive spot” about reducing the nation’s deficit. This leaves Webster in a difficult position when it comes to defending himself against Grayson’s malicious slurs.
You can help Webster deal with Grayson’s onslaught, and contribute to the possible defeat of perhaps Congress’ most deplorable member, here.