OK, we don't have a poll function with typepad, so you will have to commnt to give us your answer.
The question: Choose the biggest Democratic bonehead(s) of the day
A. Howard Dean
B. The research staff at the Democratic National Committee
C. The press staff at the Democratic National Committee
D. The perennial favorite, all of the above
Earlier I asked if Chris Matthews was spreading disinformation about supposed Alito/mafia charges against Democrats. The answer is yes...and no. DKos diarist Susan S had been on this story since this afternoon, and had even made calls to the DNC to alert them to Matthews' spin throughout the day. Thus, it was strange and exasperating to see Howard Dean appear so befuddled at Mathews' charge when the chairman appeared on Hardball much later in the day. Mathews, who had characterized supposed not-for-attribution talking points as coming from "the Democrats," teed off on Dean about what Matthews alleged was an unfair and distasteful attack on Alito--obviously an Italian-American--for supposedly being ineffective in prosecuting mobsters. Mathews implication was that "the Democrats" had launched an attack based on negative stereotypes about Alito's ethnicity.
Well, the memo Matthews cited has surfaced, and it's clear that Mathews was full of crap. Here's the beginning of the memo:
SAMUEL A. ALITO, Jr.: A Brief Biography
Born: 1950 in Trenton, NJ. [Federal Judicial Center]
Current Position: U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit: Nominated by George H.W. Bush on February 20, 1990, to a seat vacated by John Joseph Gibbons; Confirmed by the Senate on April 27, 1990, and received commission on April 30, 1990.
Previous Positions: U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, 1987-1990; Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Washington, DC, 1985-1987; Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 1981-1985; Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey, 1977-1981; Law clerk, Hon. Leonard I. Garth, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 1976-1977. [Federal Judicial Center]
Education: Yale Law School, J.D., 1975; Princeton University, A.B., 1972. [Federal Judicial Center]
Net Worth: $308,400 as of 1991. [Connecticut Law Tribune, 2/4/91]
Family: Married, Martha B. Alito.
Alito Is One of Bush’s Most Likely Nominees
Samuel “Scalito” Alito Is on Bush’s Short-List for Supreme Court, And Has Strong Ties to the Bush Administration. “Another leading ultra-conservative candidate is Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit, known by some as “Scalito” for his similarity to Scalia in temperament and ideology. A former federal prosecutor and U.S. attorney, Alito, 54, has strong ties to the administration, including to a number of former clerks who have worked for Bush.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “Another rumored short-lister, Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, is considered a quiet and retiring member of one of the less-influential federal appeals courts. Still, his opinions have attracted notice, including a 1991 vote to uphold all restrictions to abortion in a Pennsylvania law, including a requirement that a woman inform her husband that she is seeking an abortion.” [American Prospect, 1/12/05; Wall Street Journal, 6/23/05]
Alito Embarrassed Government by Failing to Obtain Crucial Mafia Conviction
U.S. Attorney Alito Failed to Obtain Conviction of 20 Mobsters, Saying “You Can’t Win Them All.” Federal law enforcement agencies sustained a major rebuff in their anti-mafia campaign with the August 1988 acquittal of all 20 defendants accused of making up the entire membership of the Lucchese family in the New Jersey suburbs of New York. The verdict ended what was believed to be the nation’s longest federal criminal trial and according to the Chicago Tribune, dealt the government a “stunning defeat.” Samuel Alito, the US Attorney on the case, said, “Obviously we are disappointed but you realize you can’t win them all.” Alito also said he had no regrets about the prosecution but in the future would try to keep cases “as short and simple as possible.” Alito continued, “I certainly don’t feel embarrassed and I don’t think we should feel embarrassed.” [Guardian, 8/29/88; Chicago Tribune, 8/27/88; UPI, 8/26/88]
Hardly the yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst, that's a fairly straightforward beginning to a talking points memo. No way is that beating on Alito because of his ethnicity. So, for a different reason than the one I invoked earlier, regarding Matthews attempt to paint "the Democrats" as engaging in Italian bashing, I still call bullshit.
But now that the document has surfaced, it raises other issues. Just seeing the supposed document wasn't enough for me to accept that it was being accurately attributed to "the Democrats." But apparently it was from "the Democrats," as AdamB, a commenter on Susan S' diary, discovered by looking over at RedState. It seems that the document was an MS Word document sent as an email attachment. The Redstaters got a copy of the Word document, which allows one to track the changes and sometimes, if the sender is sloppy, figure out the original source of the document. And sure enough, that's what they did, showing that it likely came from the DNC, and even figuring out three (!) DNC staffers in the research department who had modifed the document.
So, back to our question: choose the biggest DNC bonehead of the day. Was it the research staff that allowed a Word document to float around the internet, supposedly as a document not for attribution, without scrubbing their cyber-prints from the document? (Doesn't anyone there know not to send Word documents with identifying info on them?)
Or was it the folks in the press operation? Howard Dean went on Mathews' show without a decent response to an issue Mathews had been harping on all damn day. Dean said he didn't know where the document came from, but then accepted responsibility for it! Maybe Dean was blindsided, which would be inexcusable; Susan S had alerted the DNC about Mathews' rantings, and even if she hadn't called them, someone should have been monitoring Mathews throughout the day to brief Dean on what to expect when he went on air. If Dean wasn't blindsided, his response was equally bad, because he didn't rebut Mathews' claim that the document was a bigoted screed exploiting Alito's ethnicity, which Dean could only do if he had seen the document. And if Mathews wasn't giving up the document, the only way Dean could have pushed back was to acknowledge the memo had come from the DNC; thus, Dean lied about knowing the origins of the docuement, therefore sacrificing the opportunity to counter-attack Mathews for misrepresenting the memo and implying the DNC was trading on ethnic stereotypes when in fact the document doesn't support such a claim. The press operation either left Dean hanging by not informing him of Matthews' rants, or they failed in crafting an effective response.
The other possible bonehead was Howard Dean himself. If he didn't know the document had come from the DNC, why did he take responsibility? And if he did know it had come from the DNC, why didn't he have a better answer? For instance, why not this:
Chris, I just learned about this memo a little while ago. I looked into it, and in fact it was a research document intended for internal use that an overzealous staffer sent out this morning to MSNBC and maybe some other news outlets. I don't approve of such methods, but I take responsibility for it. But the memo is nothing like what you describe, and it definitely does not draw unnecessary attention to Judge Alito's ethnicity. But folks shouldn't just take my word or yours, they should be able to look at the memo themselves, which is why we've posted the memo on our website at wwwyadayadayada. I urge your viewers to look at the document and judge for themselves what the document says, and I'm certain that many will also be convinced upon reading it that the president's nominee for the Supreme Court is unfit and too extreme to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.
Had he said something like that, Matthews would have looked stupid for playing keep-away with the damn document. Dean would have been shown to be taking responsibility. It would have gotten more eyes to the DNC website, where they would have seen the talking points we want circulating anyway. It would have put the lie to the claim that "the Democrats" were attacking Alito for any reason other than his record and his suitability for the Supreme Court. And it would have pivoted the discussion around back to what Dean should want to be talking about, that Alito is too damn extreme for the Supreme Court.
So, now that you've had some time to think about it, let's hear your choice for biggest DNC bonehead(s).
UPDATE (November 1, 11:05 AM)
The correct answer for boneheads of the day is:
E. DHinMI and the DNC Research and/or Press Departments
This post is an example of another lesson everyone should learn if you ever do campaigns: never put anything out for public consumption without at least one person not involved in the writing of the document looking it over. Thanks to a comment by billmon, I realized that I someone missed part of the original memo. The beginning of the memo. In fact, the very part of the memo that Matthews ranted about for hours and hours before Dean's appearance.
Judge “Scalito” Has Long History of States Rights,
Anti-Civil Rights, And Anti-Immigrant Rulings
Samuel Alito is a judge on U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Appointed to this position by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Alito is often referred to as “Judge Scalito” because of his adherence to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s right-wing judicial philosophy. While serving as a U.S. Attorney, Alito failed to obtain a key conviction, releasing nearly two dozen mobsters back into society. Based on his Third Circuit opinions, Alito has established himself as a potential foe to immigrants, reproductive rights, and civil liberties.
In pointing out my boneheaded omission, Billmon asked:
Doesn't it strike you as a little odd that the memo's very first substantive point about a judge who's been on the bench for 15 years is an 18-year-old mob case he prosecuted in his previous job? Or how about that Willie Hortonish "released back into society" riff? Or the fact that the document has no attribution on it whatsoever? None of this strikes you as a little, well, slimy?
I'm not sure. Maybe it was intended to be slimy. Or maybe, as I suggested in the previous post, it's just gross incompetence on the part of the people who put together the document; they are, after all, the same people who put out a Word document that was easily traced back to them. It's the kind of incompetence that's usually easily detected (unless the Bush administration is the trecipient, and it comes on stolen stationary from the Republic of Niger's embassy in Rome.) Most likely, it's again that perennial favorite, all of the above.
So, in this instance, there wasn't an easy way for Dean to pivot around and redirect the conversation back on Alito's awful judicial record. And the reason for that was some bonehead(s) who took what may have been an unfinished document, or one intended only for internal dissemination, didn't convert it into PDF format (as TenThousandThings rightly advises in the comments), and clumsily put it out as a not-for-attribution hit piece against Alito without scrubbing the document of their fingerprints and focusing it on relevant facts that the American public is more likely to care about, such as his judicial record, and not insinuations that he's soft on the mafia because his last name ends with an O.