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The ConWeb Ignores A Republican

There's a Republican running against Joe Lieberman -- why is the ConWeb so reluctant to acknowledge his existence? And will Christopher Ruddy's endorsement of Lieberman mean a slew of fawning NewsMax articles about him?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/16/2006

The results of the Aug. 8 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut -- in which challenger Ned Lamont beat incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman -- set up a new dynamic on the ConWeb: It caused them to express support for a Democrat over a Republican.

What, you didn't know there was a Republican in the race? That may be because the ConWeb has barely acknowledged Alan Schlesinger's existence.

At WorldNetDaily, the only mention of Schlesinger appears in an Aug. 1 column by Les Kinsolving. At NewsMax, he pops up in several wire articles, but the only mention in a non-wire article came in an Aug. 10 column by Dick Morris. A search for Schlesinger's name returns just three articles (plus a column by Robert Novak). Even NewsBusters has mentioned him only twice.

And in those scant mentions, there's even scanter evidence as to why he is being ignored by his fellow conservatives. NewsBusters' Michael Rule called Schlesinger "no threat" even as he was taking CBS' Harry Smith to task for not being aware there even was a Republican candidate in the race, which seems to put him at the same level as much of the ConWeb. Fellow NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein wrote that Schlesinger was "perceived as a less-than-A-list candidate."

Only Morris hinted at the actual problem by calling Schlesinger "scandal-plagued." Indeed, he is. Schlesinger appears to have a bit of a gambling problem -- gambling under assumed names, being kicked out of a casino for card-counting, and being sued by other casinos over unpaid gambling debts.

One can see why ConWeb conservatives would be loath to admit to such a candidate being in their favorite political party. But why have they rushed to lend their support to a Democrat instead?

Part of the answer is the ability to play politics (even though they're not Democrats) by painting Lamont's victory as a sign that Democrats are being pulled to the left -- or, as Frank Salvato put it in an Aug. 11 column, "the anti-war left, backed by big money progressive operatives, has made its move to take control of the party." That wing, according to Salvato, includes "Michael Moore, Ward Churchill and Ted Rall," not to mention those wacky pro-child-sex folks at NAMBLA. (Not that he has any evidence that NAMBLA votes Democratic, of course; Salvato is a bit prone to bizarre, fact-free rantings.)

Among others similarly tsk-tsking at the state of the Democratic Party (despite, for the most part, not being actual Democrats) include Christopher Adamo and Rich Galen at, David Limbaugh, Star Parker, and Kevin McCullough at WorldNetDaily, Dick Morris and Ed Koch at NewsMax, and Jeff Golstein, Clay Waters and Mark Finkelstein at NewsBusters.

(The above post was Goldstein's first for NewsBusters. A longtime consrvative blogger, Goldstein is perhaps best known for his phallic obsession -- which makes him a strange fit at an organization with an entire subsidiary dedicated to keeping obsessions such as Goldstein's off the public airwaves.)

While in the past the ConWeb has embraced the purported Democratic credentials of those who really weren't that at all -- such as Zell Miller and Tammy Bruce -- Lieberman is, stance on the war aside, unambiguously a Democrat. The National Journal ranks Lieberman more liberal than two-thirds of the Senate on key 2005 votes. And in an August 2000 column, the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell took offense to the idea that Lieberman was a "conservative Democrat": "How you can be a fiscal conservative by being one of the biggest spenders in Congress is an interesting quandary. How you can be touted as a 'social conservative' and be loved by [then-NARAL Pro-Choice America leader] Kate Michelman is another intriguing question."

Yet one major player in the ConWeb has openly endorsed Lieberman. That would be NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy, who declared in an Aug. 9 column that -- even though "Lieberman is a solid Democrat" who "voted with Democrats 90 percent of the time on key votes" -- he was "making a donation to his independent campaign." If history is any indication, this will mean more pro-Lieberman, anti-Lamont coverage on NewsMax in the months ahead. Ruddy has, after all, put his website where his campaign donations went -- as ConWebWatch documented, NewsMax provided favorable coverage of Florida Rep. Mark Foley's prospects for a later-aborted Senate campaign while failing to disclose that Ruddy had donated to Foley's campaign.

All of this brings up another question: What are we to make of a House race in Michigan in which another incumbent lost? In that race, one-term Rep. Joe Schwarz, described as a moderate Republican, was beaten in the primary by a conservative challenger, Tim Walberg. Or, as Warner Todd Huston summed up in an Aug. 11 NewsBusters post:

So, for a quick recap, we have Lieberman, the claimed moderate, being ousted by his party over a win by a more ideologically extreme opponent in Connecticut. In Michigan, a moderate representative is being told he is not going back to Washington by his party due to the better showing of a more conservative opponent in the Primary there.

Note that Huston declined to describe the conservatives who supported Walberg as "ideologically extreme," the way he did the liberals who supported Lamont. Huston went on to muse: "Why did the MSM treat the Lamont win as a 'message' that all should heed, but the Walberg win was apparently not a 'message' and is seemingly nothing to get all worked up over?"

Well, for one thing, if the Michigan election sent such an important message, why isn't the ConWeb trumpeting Walberg's victory? The only non-wire-story mention of it on the ConWeb, aside from Huston's post, was an Aug. 10 column by Hans Zeiger, who has attacked Schwarz twice before. Zeiger, a student at the very conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan (which made news for a sex scandal a few years back involving the college president and the wife of his son), countered what he described as Schwarz's "fear that the Republican Party was going further and further to the right" by claiming that [w]hether the GOP is going right is doubtable at times."

If even conservatives like Zeiger aren't treating Walberg's victory as a sea change, why should the rest of the media?

But a Lieberman backlash appears to be surfacing. Two Aug. 15 columns at CNS pointed that direction -- Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch claimed that "Lieberman has demonstrated a willingness to shed his morality if it suits him politically" and that his 1998 speech criticizing President Clinton's intern problems was "so weak" that Clinton "agreed with every word" (though we fail to see how Clinton's agreement with what Lieberman said damns the speech as "weak"), and Paul Weyrich asserted that Lieberman "votes with the liberals all the way" and that perhaps Republicans might be better off finding a Republican candidate who isn't a "sacrificial lamb." Neither Weyrich nor Fitton identify Schlesinger by name, though Fitton notes that the "Republican nominee" is "embroiled in a gambling scandal."

Like a 12-step program, the first step to dealing with a Republican candidate is admitting that you have one -- which the ConWeb is only now grudgingly starting to do. Now, if they would just say his name in public...

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