Politics & Policy

Credit to Kaine

Rejecting race-laced dirty politics.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine has attempted to sell his gubernatorial campaign as the heir to popular outgoing Democratic Governor Mark Warner. While Warner succeeded in portraying himself as a moderate, Kaine has found more difficulty doing so. Being a self-described “proud liberal,” receiving an “F” rating from the NRA, and opposing the death penalty have done little to help his efforts. However, Kaine may have won the respect of some by rejecting a racially inflammatory posting on a popular liberal website.

When Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele announced last week that he is running for the Senate, the popular, leftist “News Blog” responded by altering a Washington Post photo of Steele into a demeaning and racially charged “Simple Sambo” caricature. News Blog author Steve Gilliard created the photo. Posting racially inflammatory material is a mainstay of Gilliard’s website. Gilliard is black and devotes a significant portion of his posts to accusing Republicans of being racially prejudiced. However, he reserves particular venom for black conservatives. Gilliard claims Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich is racist for attending a campaign fundraising event at the Elkridge Country Club. Elkridge has no black members and Steele did not attend the event. However, Elkridge claims that although it does not have any African-American club members, it has actively sought to add members of all races to its ranks. In fact, several Democratic politicians have hosted fundraising events at Elkridge over the years including the brother of Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Steele next year.

It’s not the first time Steele has been targeted for the intersection of his race and political leanings. During a 2002 campaign event, Democrat opponents threw Oreo cookies at Steele and called him an “Uncle Tom.” Steele also had his credit report obtained by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He was the only Republican candidate targeted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A campaign spokesman for the Senate campaign of former NAACP President Kweisi Mfumi told the Washington Times Gilliard’s attack was justified, “There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names.”

Previously, the Kaine campaign purchased a month’s worth of advertising on News Blog. However, once he became aware of Gilliard’s post, Kaine’s Internet Director John Rohrbach promptly sent the following e-mail:

Mr. Gilliard:

Please remove all advertising for Kaine for Governor from News Blog immediately.

If you have any questions, please contact me at 202-465-4238 or at john@kaine2005.org.

John Rohrbach

Internet Director

Kaine for Governor

Gilliard’s response? He uploaded a photo of Kaine with the headline, “Tim Kaine is a coward.” Below the photo, Gilliard claimed the move was racist.

The Kaine campaign reportedly learned of Gilliard’s post through Andrew Sullivan’s website. Sullivan was one of the first critics of the post. Falling back on his signature rebuttal, Gilliard accused Sullivan of being racist for having the audacity to criticize his content.

Steve Gilliard got his start in the blogosphere contributing to the Daily Kos website. Moulitsas’s website. The Daily Kos community helped create a large enough readership for Gilliard’s musings that he was able to successfully launch his own site. Daily Kos operator Markos Moulitsas was quick to side with Gilliard and attack Kaine. In a post published last week, Moulitsas wrote: “I hate Democrats scared of their own shadows. And apparently Virginia’s Tim Kaine (or those running his campaign) is one of them.”

The left-wing “Swing State Project” blog added, “Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine is finishing his campaign as he started it: as a disgrace to Democrats.”

Despite the apparent support from fellow left-wing bloggers, Gilliard has since removed the photo of Steele and replaced it with a less inflammatory image.

It might seem odd to find conservatives praising Kaine during a week that saw multiple campaign polls placing him in a slight lead over Republican Jerry Kilgore. Nonetheless, several conservative blogs commended him for his response. Michelle Malkin said Kaine “did the right thing,” while conservative Robert A. George took Gilliard to task. Gilliard has defended his racially charged attacks by arguing that since he’s black he has the moral authority to use whatever language or imagery against fellow blacks he sees fit. George, also black, has previously been a target of Gilliard’s rancor. However, George responded on his blog: “I know full well that Jewish comics can get away with making jokes that might otherwise be considered anti-Semitic. Black folks can crack jokes–often crudely–about one another, without being considered racist. But those comments invariably come out in a setting where their ultimate benign nature is understood. There is nothing benign about Mr. Gilliard’s image–or view–of Steele.”

Kaine’s move might be a good move on more than common-decency grounds. The Daily Kos electoral track record isn’t too successful. During the 2004 campaign, Kos supporters contributed more than $500,000 to 15 Democratic candidates for office: Samara Barend, Brad Carson, Nancy Farmer, Tony Knowles, Ben Konop, Stan Matsunaka, Tony Miller, Dan Mongiardo, Richard Morrison, Lois Murphy, Jim Newberry, Richard Romero, Jan Schneider, Ginny Schrader and Jeff Seemann. All fifteen lost. Kos and his colleagues also backed the presidential campaign of Howard Dean and the Ohio 2nd District special-election bid by Democrat Paul Hackett.

For conservatives, there is much fault to find in Tim Kaine the candidate. However, this is one time he has shown himself to be on the right side of the debate.

Eric Pfeiffer reports for National Review Online.

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