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No Duh: Candidates Not Eager for Thune, GOP to Assassinate Their Character

Lacking any real news to discuss, Pat Powers recycles the fact that no Democrat has entered next year’s U.S. Senate race into another gleeful chortling over Senator John Thune’s huge war chest and potential second free pass. Pretending to tell us something new (which is the point of useful blogging), Powers says anyone who challenges Thune will face scrutiny:

Candidates for constitutional office contests don’t face 1/4 of the scrutiny that candidates for US Congress or US Senate face. Whoever runs can expect to have their life paraded on a statewide stage and used as fodder, including their driving recordcriminal history, and any legal entangementsAny current or former employees will be spoken with for dirt to be dug up.

And it’s not a threat directed at anyone in particular. In the 24 hour news cycle, that’s just the environment candidates are going to have to be aware of and to compete in, even in ‘nice’ South Dakota.

Any candidate chose by Democrats to represent their party aren’t just going to have to contend with facing a popular opponent who has 10.3 million in the bank. They’re also going to be facing themselves, and whatever feet of clay they might have [Pat Powers, “Thune Faces Possibility of Historic 2nd Free Pass. But Then Again, Who Wants to Put Themselves up for the Scrutiny?”Dakota War College, 2015.07.30].

Beyond triteness, this passage carries two important flaws. First, click on the examples of “life-parading fodder” Powers gives. He mentions Kristi Noem’s poor driving record. That’s the only example of a serious candidate on his list. The other two are a nowheresville Libertarian candidate from Kansas and South Dakota’s scandalous and now convicted Senate pretender Annette Bosworth. Criminal records and abusive employment practices aren’t just “fodder” or “dirt”—they are valid indictments of a candidate’s character and ability to uphold the public trust.

More importantly, notice how Powers portrays this “dirt-digging” as a product of the media, the 24-hour news cycle, and “not a threat.” Notice which mudslingers he does not mention: John Thune and the South Dakota Republican Party. Cue Dr. Newquist:

When Thune challenged Tom Daschle in 2004, he hired Dick Wadhams as the campaign manager and dutifully recited the  scripts Wadham supplied him with. Wadhams returned to the state as a campaign advisor to Mike Rounds and is now employed by the state Republican Party.  Thune had acquired a record in the House of Representatives that was feckless and lacking in accomplishment.  To challenge Tom Daschle, who is a highly accomplished legislator, he could not afford a comparison of records or stances on the issues.

The strategy was to avoid issues, policies, and legislative record and accomplishment and attack Daschle personally.  A most successful ploy was to play to the resentment among South Dakotans of anyone who has accrued success and recognition outside the boundaries of the state.  The Thune campaign played up Tom Daschle’s attaining the majority leader of the Senate as an abandonment of the people of the state for the culture of Washington, D.C ., and declared it as his major residence.  He still owned and returned to his house Aberdeen, where his mother lived when he returned to the state.  The campaign also attacked the press for the coverage it gave to the Senator and Senate majority and played up the assumption the press had liberal leanings and gave Tom Daschle partial treatment.  Then it attacked Daschle because his wife who was a successful [lobbyist] for the airline industry had once been a beauty queen for whom, the campaign implied, he abandoned his first wife.  The Thune campaign also knew that Daschle is of a principled character that would not engage these personal assaults in kind.

The  Thune campaign hired a history professor of the neocon bias at South Dakota State to write a blog dedicated to the character assassination of Tom Daschle,  In 2004, blogs were a recent development and very few people in the general public were aware of or read them.  The anti-Daschle blog gave voice to the campaign strategy that Thune and his surrogates were covering the state with.  The character assassination went so far that during a television debate show Thune accused Daschle of giving aid and comfort to the enemy for his opposition to the war in Iraq.  Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is how  the Constitution defines treason.  The Thune campaign also portrayed Daschle’s opposition to a Constituional amendment forbidding flag desecration as limiting free speech and because laws were already on the books dealing with the matter as an unpatriotic betrayal.  This imposed on a man who served in the Air Force as an intelligence officer from a man who had no military service [David Newquist, “A State That Gave up Politics for Character Assassination and Petty Hatred,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.07.10].

The fault here is not in our feet of clay but in the mud John Thune and the SDGOP choose to throw to bog down any candidate who rises to what should be the easy challenge of pointing out the utter non-performance of South Dakota’s entire Republican Congressional delegation. Democrats can run candidates of sterling character, talent, and achievement, and the South Dakota Republican Party will use Wadhams, Powers, and all other available tools to fabricate assaults.

“Not a threat directed at anyone in particular”? You’ve got that right. John Thune and the South Dakota Republican Party promise to wage all-out character warfare and distraction theater against anyone who challenges the party line. Decent, honest, capable individuals generally don’t want to put up with such unconstructive insult and injury; they don’t want to be part of the “game” that Republicans play to make politics a dirty word and discourage people from participating in their democracy. Good candidates want to serve their state and their country.

But we’re working on it. And there’s no rush. Be patient; there’s no rush.


  1. Porter Lansing 2015-07-31 07:17

    South Dakota voters aren’t mean spirited. There’s a “disconnect” between the personality of the people and the Conservative Party that can’t last much longer. (sorry, I posted this in the above article by mistake)

  2. Loren 2015-07-31 09:13

    This is NOT your father’s GOP! It’s just taking a little while to sink in, here in the we-don’t-accept-change country! Maybe, one of these days…

  3. mike from iowa 2015-07-31 09:25

    Doesn’t Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution point out how congress and senators are elected? Wouldn’t that make them “constitutional” offices?

  4. Porter Lansing 2015-07-31 09:29

    One political party has an intense aversion to change. Is it fear? Is it tradition? Does it help the citizens? Is it selfishness? Is it responsible for the problems in the Pasque Flower State? Is it just laziness? If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. USA is growing and it’s so much better than it’s ever been. Thank-you President Obama for your courage in the face of those so averse to change.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-31 09:58

    Porter, Dr. Newquist might disagree. He sees a certain mean-spirited gossipiness in small-town culture on which he says the GOP character assassination tactics play.

    I don’t fully agree with Dr. Newquist. As I circulate petitions, I find people who seem able to see through the nasty personal stuff and focus on real policy issues. But then I’m circulating ballot issues that aren’t focused on specific candidates… which is another reason to take as much advantage as we can of ballot measures, to make political progress without offering opponents easy targets for character assassination. Candidates, if you are afraid to face the scrutiny and scurrilous attacks of the GOP machine, come circulate initiative petitions!

  6. bearcreekbat 2015-07-31 10:39

    Perhaps it is time to shed some public light on Thune’s connection with the infamous Family at C street.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2015-07-31 15:12

    Exactly Bear, Thune has gotten so many passes it should be embarrassing to the republican party that their pretty boy is good at photo-ops and not much else.
    Democrats don’t need to get in the mud with Powers, they need to tell the truth about Thune.
    Exactly what has he accomplished all those years in the senate beside voting 50 sometimes against Obamacare. What if any major legislation bares his name?
    If there are those in the Democratic Party that want to get dirt on Thune, or Noem for that matter, a complete and thorough examination of their D.C. lifestyle would be in order.
    Start digging Democrats and when you’re through, dig some more.
    No politician is above reproach.

  8. Roger Elgersma 2015-07-31 15:45

    In the beginning Thune said that he would not be for any pork, not even for South Dakota and then he agreed to a water project in California so they would vote for a water project in South Dakota.
    Thune was on audit committee for Meta Bank in worst bankruptcy in South Dakota history when Dan Nelson went broke when the audit committee should have been looking at it and evaded his mistake by saying that he was not on the loan committee.
    Thune said that sanctions against Iran worked when they did not.
    Thune said that the water was to high when the corps of engineers said it was when Montana had to much rain in the spring when they always get their rain in the spring.
    Thune voted to raise arsenic levels in the water by ten times without knowing it would be a problem so had to vote it back down again.
    Well having a record to try to defend is a problem as well.

  9. jerry 2015-08-01 09:10

    Cory, I think the doctor is more spot on than what you would want to believe about small towns and their vindictive bullshit. The only way to beat these two crooks and liars is to wrestle them like the pigs they are, get dirty with them. Make it like the one between the pretty boy and the attorney general that got EB Rounds elected. Get a whisper campaign going. Cities and towns across South Dakota loves them some dirty gossip that they can embellish even further. 12 million buckeroos is a lot of moolah, but it cannot stand up to a lie. Time to see if he really has it and then make him spend it, that would be way funny. Last man standing should be the one sitting in the Independent aisle waiting to clean up the mess. Clean up on aisle three… Even ole Kurt would be a better choice than to leave Tehran John in for another 6.

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