EDITORIAL: Who bugged the senator?

A Democratic echo of the Watergate scandal

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Some Democrats with time on their hands are attempting to convert garden-variety political opposition research, the kind of research that all politicians pay big bucks for, into the “anatomy of a smear.” Almost nobody is watching or listening.

Ashley Judd, actress, Kentucky native and Tennessee resident, had toyed with the idea of challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky and leader of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Naturally, Mr. McConnell’s campaign chiefs got together to review their options. A surreptitious recording of the reviewing session was slipped to Mother Jones, a San Francisco magazine so far left that it has to beware of falling into the Pacific. The magazine proceeded to paint the campaign’s plan of attack as unseemly enough to overshadow the effects of the recording. The Los Angeles Times obliged with a column headlined “Secret tape of McConnell bashing Ashley Judd: Anatomy of a smear.” Some anatomy. Some smear.

Excerpts of the conversation revealed the McConnell team considering whether and how to use Miss Judd’s disclosures of mental health issues against her if she decided to run. Miss Judd had laid it all out in a 2011 autobiography, “All That is Bitter & Sweet.” An unidentified McConnell aide is heard on the tape describing Miss Judd as “clearly emotionally unbalanced.” He says: “I mean, it’s been documented. [McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton] can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ‘90s.”

The same Democrats trying to manufacture this as a Republican war on mental illness are screaming for the federal government to strip Second Amendment rights from anyone who’s ever thought melancholy thoughts or taken an aspirin to ease pain.

Miss Judd has already said she won’t run, and if she had, it’s not clear that the campaign would have felt a need to play the mental health card. President Obama lost Kentucky by nearly 23 percentage points last year. A candidate like Miss Judd, who backs Mr. Obama, abortion on demand, same-sex marriage and banning coal is just not going to run very well, celebrity or not. A campaign based solely on the issues is a winning campaign for Mr. McConnell. So the Democrats called in the dirty-tricks squad early. They’ve done it before.

In December 1996, a Florida couple intercepted a high-level Republican conference call and gave a recording to Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, who in turn shared it with reporters for The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who used it as fodder for unflattering stories about Republicans. Rep. John A. Boehner, one of the participants in the taped call, sued Mr. McDermott for what he characterized as violations of his First Amendment rights. More than a decade later, after lengthy litigation, Mr. Boehner finally won damages and legal fees from Mr. McDermott, who got a rebuke from the House Ethics Committee for leaking the tape.

If the FBI determines who recorded the session, Mr. McConnell should follow Mr. Boehner’s lead and use the legal system to fight back.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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