Political Animal


September 12, 2011 8:00 AM Winning ugly

By Steve Benen

By all appearances, Republicans are poised to win tomorrow’s special election in New York’s 9th, a seat left vacant by Anthony Weiner’s resignation. It’s generally a Democratic stronghold, making the likely GOP victory quite surprising.

There are plenty of factors at play, including President Obama’s slipping support in the congressional district, but it’s worth appreciating the kind of campaign Republicans are running. They’re pretty confident of success, but not confident enough to avoid trashy tactics like these.

In anticipation of this somber day [the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks], the New York GOP sent out “a kitchen-sink mailer in the hotly-contested Queens congressional special election depicting a mosque superimposed over the scarred Ground Zero site on one side, and Democrat David Weprin alongside President Barack Obama on the other.”

The incendiary flier was sent out on behalf of Republican businessman Bob Turner who is seeking to take former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D) seat…. [T]he front of the flier features a gold-domed mosque rising out of the ruins of the World Trade Center site with a quote from Weprin stating “I support the right of the mosque to build.” The other side places Weprin next to Obama and reads “Weprin stands with Obama — and they stand together in support of the mosque at Ground Zero.”

In case anyone’s forgotten the relevant details, the attack is, among other things, a lie. The Park51 project isn’t a mosque and it’s not at Ground Zero. David Weprin and President Obama, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and plenty of Republicans, were talking about a community center in Lower Manhattan, spearheaded by a Bush administration ally.

But that doesn’t sound scary, and it certainly doesn’t win votes. What Turner and the GOP need is to make voters feel frightened and angry, so this mailing follows on the heels of a Turner television ad accusing “some” of wanting to “commemorate” 9/11 “by building a mosque on Ground Zero.”

This is the politics of bigotry and hysteria. It’s ugly, it’s divisive, and it plays voters for fools. And apparently, if the polls are right, it’s going to win.

Making matters slightly worse, while both Turner and Weprin stopped campaigning on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks yesterday, Republicans spent the day leaking the details of a 25-year old child custody hearing casting Weprin in a negative light.

Come Wednesday morning, I suspect many of these details will be largely ignored. The pundits will obsess over “Democrats in disarray” and “voters send Obama a message,” because ultimately, a win is a win, and this is a district where the GOP seemingly had no chance.

But when it comes to decency and honor in public service — or in this case, the lack thereof — I hope some folks will remember what Republicans had to do to flip this seat.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • j on September 12, 2011 8:09 AM:

    I get more discouraged at the shallowness of the American people every day.

  • DAY on September 12, 2011 8:09 AM:

    It seems that the Republicans read my comment this weekend, that Politics is War.
    And they take no prisoners!
    Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to follow the Geneva Conventions. . .

  • c u n d gulag on September 12, 2011 8:10 AM:

    First, I'd like to apologize to everyone for my petulant snit-fit over CAPTCHA yesterday on the 9/11 thread.

    I was an a$$.


    I used to live in, or near, that district, and can't believe that it will fall into Republican hands.

    Many thanks, Anthony Weiner.

  • June on September 12, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Voters could not be played for fools if voters did not want to be played for fools. But having one's bigotry indulged is still apparently the #1 deal-winner for too many voters. They'd rather have an official who makes them feel good about their xenophobia, and keeps their boot on their throat, than one who would go to the mat for them.

    They will deserve every world of hurt Turner -- and by extension -- Cantor, Kyl and McConnell, have in store for them. Then they'll whine about why Democrats don't work harder for them. You can't make this stuff up.

  • stormskies on September 12, 2011 8:22 AM:

    United Stupid America .............

    USA ........ USA ............. USA

  • K in VA on September 12, 2011 8:24 AM:

    And don't forget that Weprin voted for marriage equality in New York! The christianists of NOM and their allies, from orthodox rabbis to black and hispanic clergy, have banded together to send out mailers and run ads just as vicious.

  • toowearyforoutrage on September 12, 2011 8:25 AM:

    Not thick enough.
    In a reliably blue Democratic district such transparent fear mongering should fall with a thud.

    The seat being replaced due to scandal plays in. Why not punish the party for having supplied their district with a knucklehead like Weiner?

    How hard did Weprin work at reminding people that a Republican Congress is trying desperately to end Medicare and a vote for Turner makes their job easier?

    Are no uninsured voters interested in seeing Obamacare actually get a chance to work in 2014? Vote Turner and kiss it goodbye. (I find it plausible uninsured people fail to vote reliably, though.

    Anyone have word whether the Dems figured this would be a cake-walk and slacked off like the way Scott Brown landed Massachusetts?

  • MsJoanne on September 12, 2011 8:25 AM:

    Dems damn well better get used to this type of campaigning because that is typical GOP behavior (and it's not like they haven't done it time and time again). The GOP has no honor, not in campaigning, not in governing. And the Dems know that and do nothing.

  • chi res on September 12, 2011 8:25 AM:

    Surprise! A GOP candidate and the people who work for him are bigots and jerks.

    But from the polls I've been reading, Weprin was losing this race long before this weekend. Sounds to me like we needed a better candidate.

  • c u n d gulag on September 12, 2011 8:27 AM:

    chi res,
    I agree. It seems like MA and Brown all over again.

  • August J. Pollak on September 12, 2011 8:29 AM:

    "I hope some folks will remember what Republicans had to do to flip this seat."

    Umm... they had to have a sitting Democrat resign in disgrace after tweeting pictures of his penis while the Democratic president has a 30% approval rating.

    The campaign tactics in NY-9 has been abhorrent but let's face reality here.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 12, 2011 8:32 AM:

    None of the shittiness going on in America could happen if its citizens weren't irresponsible about their citizenship and either willfully or congenitally stupid.

  • bobby vop on September 12, 2011 8:45 AM:

    didn't obama do something similar in his first bid for the state senate?

  • nycweboy on September 12, 2011 8:47 AM:

    I don't think the flyer is particularly a surprise, and that's one reason why there's been such political skittishness about the Islamic Cultural Center. In a heavily Jewish district, which is not necessarily that liberal, two things are bound to come up: Obama and Israel, and issues with Islam, terrorism and mosques.

    The underlying story here, I suspect, is that New York's Democratic machine, especially in the city, is actually in considerable disarray. From their inability to rein in Charlie Rangel, to their inability to develop city-wide candidates for Mayor, the NYC Dems have been struggling for some time. Anthony Weiner, long before the problems of his inappropriate behavior towards women, was part of the problem, not the solution. I think the Queens Democratic machine just assumed that the seat was an easy hold, even with Weiner's scandal, and part of the reason I think this is because Weprin really wasn't much of a political star prior to this run. If they'd thought the seat was a fight, I suspect they'd have chosen someone stronger.

    Complaining, now, that all of this is "so unfair" is really sour grapes. Democrats deserve to squirm for thinking, here and elsewhere, that seats in urban areas where old line Dems get reelected with easy majorities don't deserve the respect of candidates actually fighting for their votes. The old voting bloc lines - whether it's assumptions about Jewish voters, blacks, other ethnic constituencies or recent immigrants - are blurring and plenty of voters are frustrated with what we all perceive as a alack of decent choices. Voting for Bob Turner will, after all, send a message to Democrats not to take voters for granted. The question is, who will hear it and who will change because of it?

    Finally, Democrats have got to stop assuming that voters who flip seats from d to R are "stupid", prejudiced, or otherwise worth denigrating. Nobody's going to win voter support by thinking badly of the electorate. What wins is a political message that appeals to voters, and Democrats have really lost sight of what actual voters are actually looking for in candidates. Which makes it easy for a Bob Turner to play on people's fears and misgivings. It's a mistake to blame voters for what, clearly, is a failure of Democrats on many levels to do the work of actually winning this election.

  • chi res on September 12, 2011 9:04 AM:

    didn't obama do something similar in his first bid for the state senate?

    Don't be shy. Just come right out and tell us what you mean, Bobby.

  • ComradeAnon on September 12, 2011 9:09 AM:

    C'mon Steve, this is politics as usual. Does anyone bring up the disgusting way Saxby Chambliss got elected? S.O.P.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on September 12, 2011 9:22 AM:

    It is entirely appropriate to continue our usage of 9/11 to commemorate fear and hate!

    If we republicans had to fight elections on policies and issues, we would be in trouble. As we have completely instilled the Amerikan Sheeple with deep seated fear and hate, that is not the case. Keep up the good work republicans!

  • Mike on September 12, 2011 9:23 AM:

    Does EVERYTHING have to be about Obama?


    So Anthony couldn't keep his mind on being a lawmaker (what he was elected to do), decided to make a fool of himself and his family, had to resign in disgrace ... but somehow the focus is on Obama?

    There has to be a psychological term for this "obsession" with Obama.

  • curmudgeonly troll on September 12, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Democrats deserve to lose for dumping Weiner unnecessarily, then parachuting in a crony who was someone's relative and not seen as legitimate instead of holding a competitive primary. Unforced self-inflicted error.

  • kevo on September 12, 2011 9:30 AM:

    All politics is local - it's just now we have a national microscope upon them all!

    Absent Anthony Weiner, I get the feeling this NY-9 district is pissed off they have to come out and vote during a month usually not known for polling. Punish the weak candidate of the party that brought us this inconvenience, perhaps, is the total sum of the politics behind the morrow's vote in the great city of NY! -Kevo

  • dualdiagnosis on September 12, 2011 9:34 AM:

    This is kind of a big deal- "...rooted in deep unhappiness with Obama on this issue- only 30% of voters overall approve of how he's handling Israel to 54% who disapprove and with Jewish voters his approval on Israel is 22% with 68 of voters disapproving."


  • Alli on September 12, 2011 10:20 AM:

    @MSJOANE: what do you mean Dems better get used to this? THIS is what the GOP has been doing for decades.

  • Josef K on September 12, 2011 10:34 AM:

    And so NY-09 will get "Congressman Bob Turner" for a few years. Standards will consequently decline, and with them goes any hope of greater public involvement in politics as they become more and more disgusted. Of course the public will be equally at fault for giving this clown the keys to political office, but who likes being reminded of their own failings?

    I think this speaks to a larger malady within our nation's politics: that for all the talk of 'for the people, etc.', the electorate has come to see politics and political office as purely the providence of the rich and already-powerful. Monied interests hold sway as never before, the many fires consuming the nation and the world ignored or dismissed. The electorate is all but cut out of the process entirely, and they're perceptive enough to see this and note there appear no viable alternatives.

    Small wonder the Tea Party is so nuts. That they're the useful idiots of the GOP is a rather vicious irony.

  • June on September 12, 2011 10:44 AM:

    Re: "nycweboy"'s comment: "Finally, Democrats have got to stop assuming that voters who flip seats from d to R are "stupid", prejudiced, or otherwise worth denigrating. Nobody's going to win voter support by thinking badly of the electorate. What wins is a political message that appeals to voters, and Democrats have really lost sight of what actual voters are actually looking for in candidates. Which makes it easy for a Bob Turner to play on people's fears and misgivings. It's a mistake to blame voters for what, clearly, is a failure of Democrats on many levels to do the work of actually winning this election."

    I take your point, and have already deemed Weprin the "Martha Coakley of 2011," however -- Republicans are not offering a strong candidate either - the only thing Turner is running on, apparently, is the same old GOP playbook of bigotry, fear and lies. Voters in that district would apparently rather vote in someone aligned with a party that has, in every case, aggressively voted against the best interests of folks in that district. So what are they eager to buy from Turner? Apparently the only things he has to offer -- bigotry, fear and lies. I don't think it's a stretch to think of them as "stupid" and "prejudiced" if they really believe that this President, who has accomplished the capture of bin Laden and more terrorists in under three years, than Bush did in eight, is still somehow a terrorist sympathizer, as Turner's flyer suggests.

    I do agree, however, that Democrats need a different gameplan to penetrate the fog that seems to surround these folks, and also that Democrats need to realize they cannot ever rest on their laurels. Weprin is not an impressive candidate - but then neither is Turner. But Turner does know what those voters really seem to want to buy.

  • zandru on September 12, 2011 12:50 PM:

    "And now, for something completely different..."

    I very much hope that New York voters haven't simply decided that want something really different - so, how's about a Republican. Wisconsin tried that in 2010, and has been paying the price and paying to roll back its little experiment/gamble ever since.

    Possibly, residents of The City have never even heard of Wisconsin. In that case, they may be in a position to repeat the lesson themselves.

  • KK on September 12, 2011 1:00 PM:

    A few points here, firstly the election is a toss up. Only Sienna has Turner ahead and it is within the margin of error. Fox may want people to think that Weprin will lose, perhaps demoralize his supporters.
    Weprin has represented the district in the NYS legislature, is an orthodox Jew, his father was Speaker of the NYS assembly- he is well connected to the Queens D machine and he is more then likely to win. If he does lose the district it will be horse traded out in redistricting. The Queeens machine knows this and will get out the vote.

  • John P. on September 12, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Barry and his corrupt Chicago thug friends had sealed divorce papers of Jack Ryan leaked before his state senate election in Chicago. Democrats wrote the book on corrupt elections.

  • Zorro on September 12, 2011 1:09 PM:

    I hope some folks will remember what Republicans had to do to flip this seat.

    I'm sure they will. And then, they'll re-elect the Republican in a landslide.

    good CAPTCHA this time: Rovedy Corrosive. A better description for politics such as practiced in this post could not be given.


  • j on September 12, 2011 1:42 PM:

    From what I hear, both candidates in the Weiner election are jews, previous mayor Koch, also a jew and a democrat, just for meanness put all his weight behind the republican jew to teach the dems a lesson, as he did not think they were doing enough for Israel.

  • ameshall on September 12, 2011 2:35 PM:

    This is a victory for the Republicans' strategy of painting the President as insufficiently supportive of Israel and insufficiently critical of Muslims. It is apparently not appreciated that the President sees Israel's hard-line policies regarding Palistinians as "unsustainable" long term. With a good economy, unqualified CUFI/right-wing GOP support, and the current ability to tamp down any meaningful uprising, the Israelis have little interest in working out a long term deal. Like a spoiled toddler, Netanyahu is lashing out at Obama for not allowing him to play in traffic, arguing in essence that if Obama really loved Israel, he'd let it do whatever it wants. The Republicans, ever eager for a good fight in the Middle East, are more than happy to let the Israelis continue to pursue self-destructive policies, such as building mega-settlements funded by America's fundamentalist Christians. Expect Israel to be a major factor in 2012. The GOP smells blood in Florida.

  • chi res on September 12, 2011 3:29 PM:

    Barry and his corrupt Chicago thug friends had sealed divorce papers of Jack Ryan leaked before his state senate election in Chicago.

    Ya gotta stop readin' and believin' them random emails, johnny-boy. If you don't, I hear your private parts turn green and shrivel up. Careful now!

    (Btw, it was the U.S. Senate seat that Ryan, who was found to have frequented--shall we say--"alternative sexually-themed clubs," lost.)

  • Fabien on September 12, 2011 6:08 PM:

    Just got this text:

    "nycd9@aicpac.org / Abandon / David Weprin will abandon Israel as an ally to America. Call to ask why ********** "

    Too bad I'm French I won't know why...

  • exlibra on September 12, 2011 7:03 PM:

    j, @1:42PM,

    Despite Koch's support, Turner is *not* Jewish; only Weprin is (Orthodox, at that!). Turner's "love of Israel" is a combination of Rapture-ism and neocon-ism. Weprin may be a weak candidate but he's a reasonable, not a rabid one, amid constituency that's often more attuned to AIPAC's aims than those of the US.