Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kiss of Death

It's the kind of fawning media treatment any politician would die for -- in any normal election year. But it might just be the kiss of death for Sen. Michael Bennet, given the angry, anti-Washington mood that prevails.

I'm talking about the swooning coverage Bennet recently received not from one, but from two Washington Post columnists; first from Dana Milbank, then from Richard Cohen. True, Milbank's column was as much an attack on Andrew Romanoff as a valentine to Bennet (Milbank seems to be holding some grudge against Romanoff, dating back to their days as Yalies, sniff, sniff), and Cohen's piece was also a pompous elegiac to the golden days when "elites" (like Cohen, presumably) ruled Washington. But no matter. Given the distance most members of Congress are trying to put between themselves and the Potomac River, having columnists at the capital city's company paper singing your praises might as well be a funeral dirge.

Especially damning is Cohen's scolding of Bennet for the senator's attempt to pass himself off in campaign ads as a commoner, when he's really one of the chosen people, according to Cohen -- and thus someone who belongs among the "elite" in Washington. Don't be afraid to put yourself up on a pedestal, Cohen tells Bennet; stop trying to pass yourself off as a yahoo. All this slumming with the stooges is unseemly.

Here's an excerpt from a column so insufferably arrogant -- so typically Washington -- that it has to be read to be believed:

"Bennet's reticence about his stellar qualifications represents something sad: the collapse of the elite. People who should know better -- who, in fact, do know better -- slum with political primitives, thinking they can be wallflowers at the tea party and still go home with their integrity intact. The elite -- often wrong, often unwise -- are scorned not for their mistakes but for their very credentials. It is somehow better to know a little than a lot. In this way, the average person gets a government in his own image -- a standard no one would seek in a dentist."

What fun campaign ads a smart challenger could turn this into. Let's call the following spot "Love Affair":

Voice over:

"Michael Bennet wants you to think he's a Washington outsider. But for an outsider, Michael Bennet sure has a lot of fans at the ultimate insider newspaper, The Washington Post. One liberal Post writer calls Michael Bennet "one of the good guys." Another says he's "the perfect senatorial candidate." If the liberal Washington Post thinks so highly of Michael Bennet, how much of a Washington outsider can Bennet be? If the liberal media elite want to keep Michael Bennet in Washington, isn't that one more reason why we in Colorado shouldn't?"

Not bad for an old political hand, if I may say so. I'll sell any Bennet rival the rights for $45.00 and a lotto ticket.

But here's the point: If Michael Bennet really is friendly with folks at The Washington Post, he ought to call them up and tell them to knock it off. Any more damning praise from that newspaper will be the kiss of death for his political career.

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