Reed blows it in debate with Harkin

When you step up to challenge a safe and popular incumbent, you have two options.

You can make a straightforward case for your party and against your opponent’s record. Doing so will earn you the goodwill of your political allies who are grateful to have someone on the ballot they can feel proud voting for (like David Osterberg, who ran against Chuck Grassley in 1998).

If you are young, running a hopeless race with dignity will increase your name recognition and bring useful campaign experience for a future bid for public office.

Alternatively, a candidate with no chance of winning can lash out at his popular opponent in an over-the-top way, while bitterly complaining about his own party not helping him enough. This path will energize partisans who hate the incumbent but will probably limit future political options.

Christopher Reed chose door number 2 in a joint forum with Senator Tom Harkin yesterday. Iowa Public Television will broadcast the debate tonight at 7 pm. Judging from initial reports, I don’t think we need to worry about Reed becoming a rising star for Iowa Republicans.

Radio Iowa had the liveblog first yesterday, and the phrase that leapt out at everyone was “Tokyo Rose.”

The headline of the Des Moines Register’s piece was “Reed Says Harkin Gives Aid to Enemy.” Excerpt:

“We’re taking advice from somebody who has an eight-year history of becoming the Tokyo Rose of al-Qaida and Middle East terrorism,” Reed said, referring to his Democrat opponent. […]

Reed, seeking his first public office, said Harkin’s support for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq on a scheduled timetable was the same as “providing aid and comfort to the enemy.”

“The white flag of surrender, accusing our Marines of torture, voting to defund our troops while they are in harm’s way, those are all records of having an anti-American policy,” said Reed, a Marion businessman.

Opponents of a timetable for withdrawing troops contend that announcing the time frame would allow Iraqi insurgents and Islamic terrorist groups in Iraq to go underground, only to return when the United States is gone.

Reed stopped short of accusing Harkin of treason, when asked by moderator David Yepsen, the Register’s political columnist, to clarify his remarks. “No. I’m accusing him of giving our enemies the playbook,” Reed said.

John Deeth nailed it by calling Reed’s comment “a sure entry” in Keith Olbermann’s nightly Worst Person In The World contest. Deeth also passed along this tidbit from the comments at the blog of Polk County Republican Party Chairman Ted Sporer (UPDATE and clarification: the commenter at Sporer’s place pulled it from this blog post by David Yepsen):

After the cameras were turned off, Harkin calmly told Reed: “you’re a nice young man and I thought you had a political future ahead of you but that just ended your political career right there” and walked away. Reed said nothing.

Harkin’s campaign has already sent an e-mail to supporters denouncing Reed’s “vile” attack. Throwing around words like “Tokyo Rose” against a Navy veteran is the kind of mistake that will haunt Reed if he wants journalists to take him seriously in the future. Yepsen observed, “I’ve covered politics in Iowa for 34 years and I’ve never heard a candidate make that kind of serious charge about an opponent.”

When I watch the debate, I’ll be listening closely for different comments alluded to at The Real Sporer blog. Apparently Reed criticized the Republican Party of Iowa for not supporting him enough. Deeth wrote a good piece recently on the controversy within Republican circles over the party’s support for Reed. Some claim Republican officials have even sabotaged his campaign. During John McCain’s Davenport rally this month, Reed was not invited to speak and not mentioned from the podium. According to Deeth, there weren’t even Reed signs visible at the rally. (I have seen exactly one Reed yard sign in the Des Moines area this year.)

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for Reed to have party officials ignoring his campaign and perhaps even undermining it. However, a televised debate is not the place to air that dirty laundry. Depending on what Reed said, that’s the kind of comment that could deter leading Republicans from supporting his future political efforts.

All in all, not a successful debate for the rookie. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but I don’t think Reed helped himself yesterday.

Speaking of debates, I forgot to mention a few days ago that Congressman Dave Loebsack debated his Republican challenger, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, in Cedar Rapids. Here is Essential Estrogen’s liveblog. Deeth liveblogged here and published this write-up later. It was the second debate between Loebsack and Miller-Meeks, but the first included Green candidate Wendy Barth and independent Brian White and had a very restrictive format limiting answers to 45 seconds.

All incumbents should agree to debate challengers, like Harkin and Loebsack did this week. Unfortunately, Leonard Boswell and Steve King have declined all invitations to debate this year. (CORRECTION: Boswell ducked all invitations to debate his primary challenger Ed Fallon but will debate Republican Kim Schmett on Iowa Public Radio on October 29.) Chickens have shown up from time to time at King’s events urging him to debate Rob Hubler.

Tom Latham debated Becky Greenwald twice on the radio but has declined to reschedule a planned joint forum on Iowa Public Television. That forum was postponed while Congress was considering the bailout.

Bruce Braley will debate his Republican challenger, David Hartsuch, on KUNI radio from noon to 1 p.m. on October 27.

  • Has Reed been taking lessons from Steve King?

    That was truly awful.  When Yepsen makes those kind of comments, one knows when the coffin has been nailed.  

  • Leonard Boswell Is Debating

    Leonard Boswell is debating Kim Schmett at 10 AM on October 29 at 10 AM on Iowa Public Radio. You should take the time to check the facts more carefully next time before comparing a Democratic Congressman to Steve King on a “progressive” blog.

    • I will correct the piece

      I did not know about that debate, and he has an established history of ducking debates.

      The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner.

      You people still nursing a grudge because I would like to have better representation in Congress are pathetic.

      • ......

        You are the one obviously still holding a grudge with your repeated jabs at Boswell.  

        If you think that Ed Fallon and his “partner” Lynn could have seriously beat a credible republican, then I want whatever you are smoking.

        • when Boswell stops voting

          for bad legislation like the FISA bill (after deceptively promising in March that he would vote against it), I will stop taking jabs at him.

          If you look through my archives for the summer, you will see that I have written very little about Boswell. I have been focused on the competitive House races, which we’d have a better chance of winning if safe incumbents like Boswell were paying their fair share to the DCCC.

          I have mentioned several times that I will vote for Boswell in the general, but if you are unable to recognize what a mediocrity he is as a representative, I feel sorry for you.

          I loyally voted for Boswell and donated to his campaigns several election cycles in a row, even while he voted with Republicans on some of the most important issues to me.

          If Democrats were still in the House minority, I would have opposed a primary contest in the 3rd CD. However, now that the Democrats have a comfortable and growing majority, I see no reason why a D+1 district has to settle for a Blue Dog. If he doesn’t retire and some Democrat steps up to challenge him in 2010, I will in all likelihood support the challenger.

          Yes, I believe that any Democrat would have carried the third district in this presidential year, during which there have been massive Democratic voter registration gains in the district, particularly in light of Obama’s enormous lead over McCain here and ground game advantage.

    • by the way

      It would be easier for me to know what Boswell is up to if his staff would add me to the list of those who receive press releases (hint, hint).

      My previous request to receive this information has been ignored. I’m not going to waste my time searching for and publicizing information about his upcoming events if they don’t care to send me press releases.

      • Why would they?

        Why would they?  You are not a journalist.  You are clearly biased against them.  hint hint Maybe this is why they don’t see fit to include you on a list with credible journalists that don’t play make believe on the internet.

        • oh no! blogger has opinions

          Right, I am so “biased” in favor of progressive Democratic policies and not selling out our party to corporate interests. I am so “biased” against Democrats who vote with Republicans and against the majority of their own caucus when the chips are down.

          I don’t feel a deep need to help Boswell’s office publicize their events. It’s time-consuming for me to put together my event calendars, and if they don’t care to be included, that is fine by me.

          For your information, most elected officials do put bloggers on their press release lists these days. But if Boswell’s staff want to hold a grudge, that’s their problem and people like you shouldn’t complain if I don’t mention a Boswell event I didn’t know about.

          If you don’t like this blog, there are about 50 million other blogs out there that may be more to your taste. Or, you could start your own blog.

          I don’t work for the party or any candidate, and I’ll keep criticizing Democrats when I think they are wrong.  

        • In all fairness

          Many of the journalists on TV aren’t real journalists, but gained credibility out of good reporting.  She is very fair, like Rachel Maddow is to most guests who have differing opinions from her.  

          Desmoinesdem gets FP at the most prominent progressive blogs, and she is very respected in the progressive blogger community.  Her emotional literacy in blogging skills are a model for children and adults alike.  

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