Thursday, August 17, 2006

One for the Blackwell Files

CityBeat, Cincinnati's alt weekly, puts J. Ken Blackwell on the cover this week for a jigsaw puzzle profile necessitated by his refusal to do interviews. The article serves up plenty of red meat for Blackwell opponents, though I found a couple bones to pick as well.

You have to wade through quite a bit of material to get to the good stuff. You get a pretty hilarious rundown of Blackwell hiding from the press, including refusing CityBeat's requests for interview of he and his wife (Rosa's refusal to be interviewed came via the campaign.)

Then we go through what is known about Blackwell's history including his conversion to the Republican party. Anyone who knows the street buzz -- that Blackwell's Reagan-era conversion was a matter of expedience rather than conviction -- will be looking for confirmation and will find it, though the writers fall short of making an ironclad case. The bit is this quote from a veteran civil rights activist:

    I'm 86 and I have thought about a lot of things over the years, and I don't need a lot of time to think about Ken," Spencer says at the get-go. "I've been around long enough to see all the changes in his life, and they have been so varied. I see him -- and this is very harsh -- but I see him as the ultimate opportunist. It's that word I'll give you again in capital letters -- it's OPPORTUNISM.
The real fun comes when they start reading his book. Here's a representative bit:
    [Blackwell and his co-author] start early, on page 34, with a nod to McCarthyism: "In today's world of cultural relativism, many on the political left attack families, arguing (as in earlier decades true socialists or communists did) that families are simply historical human structures that came into existence to socialize children into the class ideology of a bourgeois capitalist economic structure."

    And this, on page 57: "Again, as we have noted, the political left has been attacking the family since the early days of communism."


    They continue: "In the thinking of extreme socialists, the family is an artificial structure, man-made, designed to imprint traditional thoughts of political and social control on the young."

The article also culls some nutty bits about Blackwell arguments that abortion is "indiscriminant" genocide against blacks (in fact, abortion providers are very careful to discriminate between women who willingly enter their clinics and request abortions and those who do not. It’s a fairly easy distinction to draw.)

All in all a must read. But a couple of quibbles

First, ya gotta love this gratuitous anti-blog line about Blackwell's blog entries on Open: "Of course, it's just a blog and given to superficiality." That screams to me Lazy Journalist – someone who has heard the party line on blogs, but doesn’t actually read them. In fact, Blackwell’s blog was a quite thorough – and I’ve argued, useful – explication of his political philosophy. It is far more thorough than most campaign communication. Imagine “Unlike a campaign flier the blog lacks detail. . . This was a blog entry and thus less pithy than a radio ad.”

Second, I’m weary of Blackwell getting credit for being a small government conservative. For me the most obvious evidence that the man is an OPPORTUNIST is the disconnect between his anti-government rhetoric and his Great Deal/New Society JOBS program, to be funded by selling off the turnpike. Spending four billion dollars to kick-start the economy may or may not be a bad thing, but it isn’t a small government conservative thing, regardless of how he plans to pay for it.

I’m especially intrigued by the gap between JOBS and the policy prescriptions in his book. He apparently claims in the book that the only path to eliminating poverty is establishing strong families, but his JOBS programs are, well, jobs programs. Of course, working to protect marriage quickly reaches a point of diminishing political returns. After you are done bashing gays for wanting to form stable families, you are left with the millions of people whose personal frailties have led them to divorce or unwed parenthood. Those millions of people vote, and have a limited tolerance for moral hectoring when it’s aimed at them.

And never mind that all the JOBS spending would have been impossible under his beloved TEL amendment.

Don’t expect Blackwell to resolve the tension anytime soon. His campaign is based on segmented messages – bash the hated minority group and promise goodies to Christian audiences, then assure the supply-siders that it’s all about slashing taxes. Why doesn’t he do interviews? Because he doesn’t want anyone to see all of Ken Blackwell in one place.


Jill said...

Nice job, Scott. Thanks for bringing the piece to attention. Good ole Gay Talese and his Sinatra piece strike again.

Pho said...


Thanks. I had to Google "Gay Talese Sinatra" to get the reference.

By the way, the reference to Blackwell's blog was about J.Ken's response to your questions. Kudos again.