Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wisconsin State Journal: wrong to call Feingold mudslinger

Originally published at Dane101.com

The Wisconsin State Journal this week ran an editorial about the slew of campaign ads hitting Wisconsin as of late, particularly the ads pitting Incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold against businessman and sometimes-Tea-Party-endorsed-sometimes-not-so-much Republican candidate Ron Johnson.

The editorial attempts to appeal with the fatigue we all feel when campaign season rolls around in the Badger state: sometimes we're just so fed up with all the ads that November "can't come soon enough."

Using the Senate race as the prime example, the Wisconsin State Journal tries to paint both candidates as overstepping their bounds when it comes to commercials they recently released. The Feingold campaign, the State Journal said, ran an ad stating that Johnson would support drilling for oil in the Great Lakes, while the Johnson campaign alleged that Feingold was no environmental champion, having voted against a bill that would have extended the ban on such drilling in the Great Lakes region.

The Wisconsin State Journal rightly points out that Johnson's ad was a clear manipulation of facts. Feingold did indeed vote against such a bill, but it was only because the ban extension was part of a larger bill that Feingold opposed. One look at Feingold's Senate website shows that Feingold is a champion of environmental issues in the state of Wisconsin.

But the Wisconsin State Journal wrongly chastises Feingold for stating that Johnson would allow drilling in the Great Lakes.

"The premise of the ad was a somewhat vague response from Johnson when he was asked about his preferences on where to drill for oil," the State Journal wrote. "[Johnson] never said, 'Yes, I think we should drill in the Great Lakes.'"

The suggestion that the Wisconsin State Journal is leaving us with is that Feingold is spinning Johnson's words somehow. In fact, Johnson was asked point-blank this year if he would support drilling in the Great Lakes region: "I think we have to just be realistic...we have to get the oil where it is," he said.

So no, Johnson didn't say "We should drill in the Great Lakes." But he didn't answer "No" when asked if we should drill there either. Essentially, his answer was, "If there's oil there, we should drill there."

The characterization of Feingold as a mudslinger is unfair, if you define slinging mud as being a baseless attack on another candidate. Feingold's accusations against Johnson are definitely merited, given the fact that Johnson said he would support drilling for oil where the oil is (alongside the fact that Johnson has strong economic ties to BP and believes the oil giant is being treated unfairly).

The Wisconsin State Journal is wrongly labeling Feingold a mudslinger for bringing up facts that are...well, facts. And those facts couldn't be any clearer: Ron Johnson supports drilling where the oil is, even when asked if that includes the Great Lakes region. It's not slinging mud when it's the truth, and the Wisconsin State Journal should appreciate that fact, not deride Feingold for bringing it to the voters' attention.

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