Those of you Firepuppers who were reading my contributions during the Franken-Coleman recount may recall the occasional appearances of a lady named Sara. Sara’s input, grounded in her many years as a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party — Minnesota’s local wing of the national Democratic Party — was always welcomed.
Recently, she made another appearance at FDL, in which she, among other things, mentioned a particular Minnesota Republican ratbleeper’s exiting the sinking ship that is Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign:
By the way PW — did you notice that Tom Mason walked out on the Emmer Campaign? I always laugh at the mention of Tom Mason’s name, it reminds me of that fantastic 1990 Wellstone ad, where he taps the BMW in the Boschwitz staff parking area, and says “nice car” — that was Tom Mason’s car. Just the name makes me laugh. For those not into ancient DFL symbols and all — Tom Mason managed Rudy Boschwitz’s campaigns in 84 and 1990 and again when Boschwitz got a return match against Wellstone in 1996 — and he ran Coleman’s campaigns in 2002 and 2008. Mason is the author of the strategy of turning Paul’s Memorial Service against the DFL in 2002 in the wake of the plane crash. Nothing I like more than hearing on MPR that Mason, who was running Emmer’s campaign this year, has decided to sit this one out.
There are two (2) things you should take from this:
#1: Emmer’s really in big trouble — a fact emphasized by his bad showing against Mark Dayton in even the latest Rasmussen poll (Dayton 45%, Emmer 36%, Horner 10%) — and Mason likely wants to bail early so the stink of Emmer’s failure doesn’t permanently adhere to him, thus hindering his future political-consultant prospects.
#2: Tom Mason is quite likely one of the reasons you’re reading this right now. But to show this requires me to go back nearly eight years, back to the birth of the progressive side of the blogosphere.
Back in October of 2002, Paul Wellstone was enjoying a decent lead over Norm Coleman in his bid for re-election to the United States Senate when his bid, and his life as well as that of his wife Sheila and daughter Marcia, was cut short in a plane crash in northern Minnesota little more a week before the election.
A grieving Wellstone family, bereft of a mother, father and sister at one stroke, still had to keep the upcoming election in mind. Former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale was asked to come out of retirement to take Wellstone’s place on the ballot. In the meantime, a memorial event was planned and held for the late Senator and his wife and daughter at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
You remember that memorial event, right? Or at least the incredibly distorted view of it that was spoonfed by Republicans to the press, who then dutifully ran with it even as the event was still happening? You know, the whole “they booed and threw rocks and garbage at Trent Lott when the ‘applause signs’ ordered it” thing?
As Sara mentions, Tom Mason — along with former Republican congressman Vin Weber — was a key architect of that smear scheme, a scheme that won Paul Wellstone’s Senate seat for Norm Coleman and helped give control of the Senate back, after a year’s hiatus, to the Republicans.
Fast-forward a few weeks, to Senator Strom Thurmond’s one hundredth birthday party.
Remember how Atrios, Kos and the rest of the first generation of progressive bloggers got their first big recognition in the mainstream press? It was when, a few bare weeks after Tom Mason and Vin Weber got the media to lie about and crap all over the Wellstone memorial event, Strom Thurmond had his one hundredth birthday celebrated on the Senate floor. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott — the same guy who the press, following Mason-orchestrated talking points, held up as a martyr at the Wellstone service because he may or may not have got a few scattered boos that didn’t make it onto TV microphones — talked about how much better off America would have been if Thurmond had beat Truman in the 1948 presidential race:
“I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”
What of course went unsaid by Lott — but was perfectly understood by Lott’s target group of racist listeners — was that Thurmond ran on a segregationist ticket.
And the same news media that, a few weeks earlier, had erupted in a coast-to-coast, Mason-orchestrated, lie-packed firestorm against the Wellstone memorial almost before it even happened, either said nothing about Lott’s remarks or essentially nodded in tacit approval.
“I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.”
Atrios in particular was on fire, continually pointing out the decided lack of reaction of the mainstream press compared to their eager quickness to push scandals (real or not) involving Democrats. He posted pictures of the 1948 Democratic sample ballot in Trent Lott’s home state of Missisissppi, back before the racist Dixiecrats hadn’t all jumped ship as Thurmond would and join the Republican Party. Atrios also passed along commentary from Digby and a link from the ADL documenting Lott’s connection to the racist group the Council of Conservative Citizens, and castigated the conservative bloggers tying themselves in knots defending Lott.
Eventually, the mainstream press finally did start to give the story some of the firestorm-like coverage it had instantly given the smears of the Wellstone memorial event. But that happened only after Karl Rove (who himself was tutored in the art of ratbleeping from none other than Donald Segretti when both men worked for Richard Nixon) decided that this would be a good way to oust Lott as Senate Majority Leader and replace him with Bill Frist, who was much more willing to be a Bush/Cheney/Rove rubber stamp than was Lott. (Though a loyal Republican, Lott stubbornly kept insisting that the Senate wasn’t under the direct control of the White House, and therefore he had to go.) In the meantime, millions of people were exposed to the infant version of the progressive wing of the blogosphere, and its growth mushroomed as a result, signaling the rise of the progressive blogs as a political and media force.
And we owe it all to the ratbleeping skills of Tom Mason. Thanks, Tom!
Oh, almost forgot: The Republican smears of the Wellstone memorial event, smears that led to Norm Coleman’s victory barely a week later, ticked off Al Franken so much that he resolved to move back to Minnesota and run against Norm in the 2008 Senate race. This is why we have now have Senator Al Franken — who was sworn in as a US Senator on the Wellstone family’s Bible — on Capitol Hill. Thanks again, Tom!
And this just in: Yet another key operative is bailing on the Emmer campaign — or the Ship of Tools, as Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie calls it. The latest escapee: Bill Walsh, scampering back to the safety of his Department of Education job.