Backroom Battles

David Goodman’s article missed a good bit of the reality that we witnessed here in Ohio. It wasn’t just a matter of political big wigs forcing him out. Hackett lost support because of his angry and unfair attacks on Sherrod Brown. I met Mr. Hackett and said that I was inclined to support Brown because of his excellent service in the House, including his staunch opposition to the Iraq War, along with his support for women’s rights, the environment, and progressive issues in general.

But I also wanted to hear Hackett’s views as well. Instead of telling me anything about where he stood on the war in Iraq, or any of the other matters of concern to Ohio voters, he launched into a tirade against Brown—maybe he was angered by my support for Brown, or my statement that I too wished Hackett would run for the House so we could support both him and Brown. Whatever his motivation, he talked about Brown having been in office too long and being a part of what’s wrong in Washington. He said that Brown could not win in the fall, but he could — based on nothing more than self-serving conjecture.

I went away from my talk with Hackett quite disappointed, though not totally surprised. I have had some questions from the beginning about why, if he opposed the war, did he lead men into combat? And why did he return to it? Most of the progressive people I know, Democrats and others, would not voluntarily go to Iraq and fight in Bush’s illegal, immoral war. But Hackett did, and we wonder why.

A few days at a meeting in Columbus of about 300 activist Democrats, Brown made a strong, polished speech in which he never mentioned his Democratic opponent. Hackett’s first words, by contrast, attacked Brown as having been in politics, government and Congress too long, thus becoming part of the problem. When he made the remark about Brown being in government all his life someone in the audience said, audibly but not disruptively, “So?” Then someone else said, “Attack the Republicans, not your opponent!” He seemed to get angrier than usual and began berating the “hecklers” in the audience. When question time came, I stood and told him we were not hecklers, but did not like him attacking a fellow Democrat who had devoted his life to serving progressive causes in Ohio and in the Congress, and that we hoped he would tell us about his views on the various issues.

Suffice to say, I still do not know where he stands on labor issues, the environment, women’s rights, how to end the war and so on. In a word, Mr. Hackett was not quite ready for prime time, and it’s lucky we all found out about it. And it’s a sad commentary that we are so desperate for progressive leadership that many of us would abandon a strong and tested leader who opposed the Iraq war. What are our values? What do we believe in?

Chillicothe, Ohio

Michael Brautigam responds:

Mr. Burgess is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he is not entitled to present a fictionalized version of events to your readers masquerading as fact (“Mr. Hackett was not quite ready for prime time, and it’s lucky we all found out about it,” Mother Jones letters). As the person who initially suggested to Paul Hackett that he run for Congress—literally at the airport upon his return from Iraq– and who served as a Senior Advisor in both his Congressional and Senate campaigns I am not unbiased, but I did attend the same meeting in Columbus, Ohio that Mr. Burgess references and I can state unequivocally that Mr. Burgess is incorrect when he says “Hackett’s first words, by contrast, attacked Brown as having been in politics, government and Congress too long, thus becoming part of the problem.” and that “He launched into a tirade against Brown….” “He [Hackett] seemed to get angrier than usual and began berating the ‘hecklers’ in the audience.”

Fortunately, Mr. Burgess’s distortions and outright falsehoods can be shown to be untrue. Your readers can decide for themselves whether or not Hackett attacked Sherrod Brown by [clicking here] and listening for themselves. Mr. Burgess is heard in the audio as the second questioner, who makes generally positive comments (“We like you. We want to like you.”), essentially apologizing for the heckling, and at one point, Paul asked Mr. Burgess to “join my team.” Far from “berating the hecklers,” as Mr. Burgess falsely alleges, Hackett even defended the hecklers, stating “That’s all right. That’s America.” Again, your readers can decide for themselves whether or not Hackett is ready for prime time.

In fact, Mr. Hackett gave his standard stump speech, which first explained who Paul is and what he represents, and then shifted gears to explain why he is a better choice than his primary opponent. Hackett’s words, when he shifted gears, were to the effect of “As you know, I have a primary opponent, Sherrod Brown. He told me he wasn’t going to run—in fact he said he would support me. That’s life. Sherrod Brown has been an elected official since he was 21 years old.” Is this a personal attack or fair political commentary?

And isn’t it interesting that Brown’s supporters interpret a recitation of Brown’s being involved in elective politics since the age of 21 as an attack? One would think that Brown and those who support him would be proud of his record of service, and willing to stand by it and run on it. Apparently the mere mention of Brown’s being a “career politician” (what has he accomplished?) is enough to throw his supporters into a tizzy. Is Brown so fragile that the mere mention of his involvement in politics is considered an ad hominem attack? Mr. Burgess also steals a page from the Republican playbook by attempting to paint Paul as an “angry” candidate. I have known Paul both personally and professionally for 14 years. I would not describe him as “angry,” and he did not appear so on the campaign trail. Paul is passionate about service, commitment, and leadership, and he is passionate about what he believes is wrong with America today. Mr. Burgess echoes the exact word that Mike DeWine used in an early letter to Republican fundraisers, describing Paul as “angry.” It seems Democrats are using the tactics of Republicans on their fellow Democrats, hardly something to be proud of.

Additionally, Mr. Burgess does not explain why he feels Paul should go back on his word and run for Congress in the Second Congressional District. On this point Mr. Burgess is perhaps confused: had he been paying attention Mr. Burgess would have known that Paul Hackett is the guy whose trademark is “I said it. I meant it. I stand by it.” On the other hand, it was Sherrod Brown who looked Paul in the eye, shook his hand, and told Paul that he would not run for Senate in 2006 and that he (Brown) would support Hackett in the race.

When Brown loses in the fall (and he will) because he is especially susceptible to the Karl Rove playbook, can Brown’s supporters truly be proud that Brown drove out a new and dynamic candidate by “swiftboating” him, attacking Hackett’s service in Iraq with a whisper campaign of alleged war crimes?

Hackett had the courage to speak out on what he believes in. Brown, by contrast, engaged in a repugnant, underhanded, and vile whisper campaign attacking Paul’s service in Iraq with completely false allegations. Is this the way Democrats support the troops? Hackett got out with his dignity intact. Brown will be unrecognizable and unelectable even to the position of dogcatcher when the Republicans are done with him, and perhaps he deserves this for his “swiftboating” Paul Hackett. At the end of the day, Hackett was ready for prime time; but the body politic was not ready for Hackett, because he represented a real and dramatic departure from entrenched, inside-the-Beltway interests, whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans.

Respectfully Submitted,

Cincinnati, Ohio

The writer worked on Paul Hackett’s campaign.

Thank you for getting this story out. As a lifelong Democrat from Minnesota, and current precinct chair in my county, I am appalled by the actions of the national party. Hackett was truly a breath of fresh air, and I personally would have sent him a check if he ran. As an old anti-war liberal and small business person, I am sick and tired of my party trying to be everything to everybody. It’s time we had some fighters in the Senate. We all miss Wellstone here in Minnesota, and I don’t see anyone filling his shoes soon.


Hackett is one of the most promising candidates I’ve seen from either party in a long time. He should tell both parties to go to hell and run as an independent in the same Senate race he was pushed out of. If he ended up “Nadering” Sherrod Brown and the Democratic Party, it would serve them right and hopefully serve as a wakeup call to the unbelievably obtuse powers-that-be in the Democratic Party.

Hackett is exactly the type of politician we need in America today, someone who is not afraid to call it like he sees it. Notwithstanding the fact he was sabotaged by his own party, he should fight back and not take this betrayal lying down. C’mon Paul, you made your reputation as a fighter — don’t quit just because ignorance, hubris, and deception are no longer monopolized by the current Republican administration.

Good Luck. Me and the rest of Americans with their heads not firmly planted in the sand hope to see more of you in the future.


Just How Addicted to Oil Are We?

Fascinating article and I greatly appreciate it. I have a question though. Mr. Klare and so many other experts say it will be decades before alternative energies make a dent. That strikes me as overly pessimistic, but maybe I’m naive. I’ve read the explanations and the reasons for the delay in alternatives, but are we over-thinking this thing, or have we just lost that American can-do attitude? I’m just a guy (no special interest affiliations or personal financial stakes, I promise) who’s read some stuff. But I have an idea, and I wonder if somebody could tell me why it won’t work.

Everybody knows the technology for hydrogen fuel cell cars exists. And everybody seems to believe the big hang-ups are a lack of fueling stations and the fact that it takes the burning of a lot of fossil fuels to produce hydrogen fuel. Why not install a lot more wind turbines and solar cells and dedicate them to producing hydrogen fuel? At the same time, why couldn’t Congress tell the oil companies either to start installing hydrogen fueling stations, or start expecting serious taxes on profit? And why can’t the President tell auto companies it’s time they show results from hydrogen vehicle research that was paid for with federal money? It’s time that they started putting hydrogen cars on the road.

Sure, I understand the political hurdles and realities. But if we had the political leadership and public support for such a plan, tell me, please, why this can’t happen — and soon?

Prairie Village, KS

Vengeance is Mom’s

It would have been instructive had Mr. Beiser had asked Dianne Clements her thoughts about the rights of family members who oppose execution for those who have killed their loved ones. Typically, advocates of “victim’s rights” who support the death penalty dismiss such people as “misguided,” as they did when addressing the Lastrapes family of Houston, who argued passionately against the death penalty for Dominique Green [who had killed Andrew Lastrapes] in October, 2004. But to Clements and others, “justice for all” apparently only applies to those who want vengeance.