Democrats Cursed With Flawed Candidates

On Thursday, Montana Sen. John Walsh announced he was dropping out of the race to succeed former Democrat Sen. Max Baucus. Walsh, the state's former Lieutenant Governor, was appointed to complete Baucus' term and was viewed as the Democrat's best chance to retain the seat. An unfolding plagiarism scandal, however, had doomed his chances in November. His saga is the latest candidate implosion to hurt the Democrat's already tough fight to retain their Senate majority.  

If the allegations against Sen. Walsh are true, then we need a new word to describe his alleged malfeasance. Plagiarism is simply too soft a word to describe his actions. Pursuing a master's degree from the United States Army War College, Walsh competed a "strategy research project" on American Middle East policy. The New York Times reports that around a quarter of the paper was lifted from works by other authors. Even more disturbing, though, is the fact that:

the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.

Walsh's conclusions, i.e. the raison d'etre for all his work, were stolen from another source. Moreover, this source, the Carnegie Endowment, isn't exactly an obscure organization, especially in the national security arena. One would imagine that its "recommendations" for policy in the most sensitive geopolitical region on the planet would be well-known by policy makers. The fact that this alleged plagiarism went unnoticed for 7 years says something either about the academic standards at the War College or the attention given to the Endowment's policy prescriptions. 

On its own, the Walsh drama warrants mild amusement. It is part of an emerging pattern, though, of Democrat candidates not being ready for the national attention of critical Senate races. In May, Iowa Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, running to replacing retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, warned donors that a Democrat loss in November could, potentially, give a "farmer who never went to law school," i.e. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Chairman's gavel of the Judiciary Committee. 

The remark displays a callous elitism. Presumably, Braley would block legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow, who never graduated law school, from serving on the Judiciary Committee. Should Braley himself be precluded from serving on the health care committee, since he is not in the medical field? Moreover, Braley aspires to represent Iowa, a state of farmers, in the U.S. Senate. Are their other positions in the Senate where farmers are unequal to the policy challenges? Why does Braley want to represent a chunk of voters for whom he has such disdain?

Braley is now immersed in a controversy over a dispute he had involving a neighbor's chickens. During the government shutdown last year, Braley tried to commiserate with those affected by the shutdown by lamenting that there was "no towel service" at the House gym. 

In Kentucky, Democrat challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes remarked how Israel's "Iron Dome" had helped protect the country from terrorist tunnels. As suggested by its name, the program is actually a missile-defense system whose protection doesn't extend underground. Were she not a Democrat, Grimes' misstatement would be considered a serious "gaffe." 

Michelle Nunn, the Democrat candidate for Senate in Georgia, has stumbled to deal with the fallout over the leaking of an internal campaign memo. The memo, written by Nunn's own consultants, describes the candidate has "too liberal" and "not a real Georgian." The document also warns about the political consequences of a non-profit run by Nunn giving a grant to a group with ties to the terrorist organization Hamas. 

These are not obscure Democrat politicians running for down-ballot races. All four Democrat candidates were top recruits of national Democrats in their existential battle for control of the Senate. They represent the party's appointed standard-bearers in November.  

For four years, the political and media classes have hyperventilated over a small number of Republican candidates making unfortunate statements in premeditated situations. These gaffes, we are told, are symptomatic of deep problems within the Republican party. An isolated inane statement is somehow emblematic of an entire political party. Unfortunately, many Republican leaders have bought into this false narrative. 

If we allow that these concerns about the Republican party are valid, what does the serial missteps of high-profile recruits say about the Democrat party? Are the actions and statements of Walsh, Braley, Grimes and Nunn symptomatic of larger problems for Democrats? 

In the end, these flawed candidates are simply emblematic of the rot in the political and media classes. The political narrative, like Walsh's "strategy paper", was already written by someone else. The conclusions were set before the paper, or news articles, was written. All that was left to do was a cut-and-paste job.


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