Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate this year went at each other this week in Cleveland, site of the cleveland.com and Plain Dealer [PD] endorsement interview. The three candidates in the race were in one room, and in close proximity to each other.
Ted Strickland, Kelli Prather and PG Sittenfeld showed up Tuesday for a sometimes heated exchange that lasted more than one hour. Watch the video on the Web.
Isn’t it nice that the PD has taken such an interest in the race to determine which of the three Democrats will take on incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman? And isn’t it a blow for democracy that the discussion among and between the troika of candidates is there for all the world to watch? Thanks Plain Dealer.
Sadly, the PD didn’t strike a blow for democracy two years ago when another big race was unfolding that involved not just one political party but three. That race for Governor of Ohio in 2014 was likewise captured on video at another gathering of three candidates who wanted to lead Ohio with three distinct agendas.
For those who care to recall, the three candidates for governor who only met once in one place for one interview session included first-term Gov. John Kasich, his Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, and Green Party candidate Anita Rios.
The video of that meeting captured a nasty, petulant and dismissive John Kasich acting more like a teenager who wasn’t happy to be sitting in the Principal’s office, especially with two people who wanted his job and to whom he showed little respect or professional courtesy. As the leader of a great state who says he knows how to bring people together to solve problems, his performance on that video should have earned him a Hasty Pudding Club award for worst performance by a sitting governor when no one was watching.
But John Kasich has dreamed of being president since he was in congress, and two years ago he was hatching his second run for president, deploying all his resources to make sure that opportunity wasn’t foreclosed on prematurely.
Camp Kasich showed to what lengths it would go to make his re-election run free of obstacles. Among it’s most brazen moves was the orchestration of a scheme to knock Libertarian Party of Ohio candidate Charlie Earl off the primary ballot. In spite of Earl’s many flaws, even though Kasich let the winds of Tea Party fever push him over the finish line, once he won he jettisoned them like a paratrooper ditches his parachute once he lands safely. Kasich wanted to show his strength by having no one to challenge him.
Hence, with polling showing that Earl could consume as much as six percent or more of GOP primary voters, Camp Kasich hatched a plan that would involve long-time friends and political operatives of Kasich. Earl never made it to the ballot, and Kasich won handily over FitzGerald with a 2-1 margin in what turned out to be the lowest voter turnout elections since World War II. With just 36.2 percent of registered voters turning out to vote two years ago, Gov. Kasich got fewer than 25 percent of Ohio’s registered voters. The governor’s big 2-1 win margin remains the number national media can’t see past.
The video of Kasich, FitzGerald and Rios at the editorial meeting was taken down just days after it was put up. The move by the Cleveland newspaper was brazen and showed exactly which candidate the paper was working for. Once it was up for all to see, Camp Kasich couldn’t explain away John Kasich’s natural state of grumpiness and condescension. So the governor’s PR handlers howled for it to be removed. The answer to why is simple, actually. It showed what a mean and miserable performance Kasich is capable of when he thinks no one is watching. Now that everyone is watching, he likes to call himself the “adult in the room.”
Hiding the video roiled the PD for a while, with Plunderbund being front and center in the important dispute. The PD and cleveland.com offered pitiful excuses for what it did, but the video is gone, never to be seen again. Not a blow for democracy or transparency or even good journalism.
Put Kasich’s Video Back Up
Which brings us full circle to the video showing Strickland, Sittenfeld and Prather at this year’s editorial board interview. If the Plain Dealer continues to sell itself as one of Ohio’s leading newspapers, it can refurbish that claim by reposting the video of Kasich, FitzGerald and Rios. Or it can take down the current video showing Dems pounding on each to true up with their readers and the voters of Ohio. Why is is alright to show Democrats arguing with each but it’s not alright to show candidates from three different parties trying to engage each other? The disparity in treatment is shameful and must be called out. Unfortunately, Plunderbund will be the only new-media source to note this and call for remediation.
If The Cleveland Plain Dealer and cleveland.com cannot honor their First Amendment responsibilities to the citizenry, the paper’s reputation will continue to sport a black eye for what it did two years ago.