David Corn reported this morning on a strategy session for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which the Kentucky Republican’s aides discussed some unusually sleazy lines of attack they intended to use against Ashley Judd. And since the Mother Jones piece was published online this morning, I think it’s fair to say McConnell and his team have been a little agitated.
In fact, I’m inclined to summarize their reaction in just eight seconds.
Look, I’ve followed enough campaigns to know how the game is played. McConnell doesn’t want to talk about his opposition-research team digging up dirt, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about his willingness to use the suicidal thoughts of a sixth-grader as a legitimate line of attack in a Senate campaign, so instead he and his aides are trying a misdirection strategy – the recordings aren’t important, the argument goes; it’s how the recordings were obtained that matters.
It’s all rather transparent, predicated on the assumption – which is probably a rather safe one – that the political world is easily distracted by smoke and mirrors.
But the hysterical reaction isn’t helping McConnell’s case. The Republican senator’s office initially blamed “the Left” for “bugging” McConnell’s campaign headquarters. Then McConnell aides blamed Mother Jones magazine. Then Team McConnell blamed a local liberal group called ProgressKY. Then McConnell sent out a fundraising letter arguing that “the liberal media” is responsible. The begging-for-cash email included this attention-getting graphic:
It’s certainly possible Republican donors will fall for this, but with Team McConnell pointing at a new culprit every hour or so, they’re starting to sound a little unhinged. When Brick Tamland shouts, “Loud noises,” it’s hilarious, but when the Senate Minority Leader’s office does it, it’s kind of pathetic.
To be sure, if there’s any evidence that a journalist was involved with, in McConnell’s words, a “Watergate-style” bugging operation of a senator’s office, it would certainly deserve to be a huge controversy, but there’ no evidence that anyone – Mother Jones, ProgressKY, Bigfoot, the Illuminati, et al – bugged McConnell’s office.
In fact, here’s a press statement from Mother Jones:
“As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that.”
Any speculation about the source is just that – speculation. Given what we know, the recording could have just as easily come from a disgruntled McConnell staffer as anyone else. At this point, we just don’t know.
But “we just don’t know” doesn’t get right-wing activists worked up.
So the National Republican Senatorial Committee is demanding that Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, the DNC, the DSCC, American Bridge, ThinkProgress, Organizing for Action denounce the leak. Why? Because the National Republican Senatorial Committee wants to shout “loud noises,” too.
Update: One more quick thought on this: if nefarious liberals had secretly bugged McConnell’s office, I have a hunch they wouldn’t have used their secret information on this story. Judd, after all, isn’t even a candidate.