“Liberal media,” or ill-prepared candidate?

What do you think would happen if a candidate for a political office were unable to answer questions about the local community’s issues?

Take a moment to think about that.

You likely thought that the candidate in question would be judged as not being worthy of electing to office. That is a sensible response. Who would want to have someone who doesn’t know about local issues to represent them in office?

Let’s say it happened here in Milwaukee County. If someone is running for the county board, they should probably know about the local highway rebuilding projects, the closure of 27th Street, economic issues, and so on. If the candidate serious stumbled in response to those questions, it would make sense

Something like this happened in upstate New York. That’s where Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has made a big splash in recent days. He’s been endorsed by Glenn Beck, Rush Lmbaugh, and former Alska Governor Sarah Palin. to a newspaper editorial board meeting, Hoffman was unable to answer questions about important local issues in northern New York state.

Here are some of the “parochial” issues that Mr. Hoffman was silent about:

■ How do they feel about federal attempts to widen and deepen the St. Lawrence Seaway to accommodate larger oceangoing ships?

■ Do they support winter navigation in the Seaway?

■ How would they help protect the waterway from encroachment of invasive species?

■ How do they stand on border issues? Should security override citizens’ desire to travel freely between Northern New York and Canada and the need for smooth commercial travel? Should the federal government interrupt fishing trips, picnics and boating excursions in the name of protecting the border?

According to the Watertown Daily Times, whose editorial board posed those questions,

“A flustered and ill-at-ease Mr. Hoffman objected to the heated questioning, saying he should have been provided a list of questions he might be asked. He was, if he had taken the time to read the Thursday morning Times editorial raising the very same questions.”

Suddenly, Hoffman was out of the limelight of being the oddball candidate and thrust under the pressure of actual issues. If only he’d taken the time to read the paper, or even look on their web site. That’s where I found the questions. It wasn’t at all hard. This reminds me of a basic lesson I got in the Boy Scouts. It was our motto: “BE PREPARED.” Mr. Hoffman appears to have failed at that basic task.

While those questions were posed by the editorial board of the Watertown Daily Times, they’re not strictly local. They effect us here in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. We’re are on the southern end of the waterway that runs from Lake Michigan through the other Great Lakes and out to the St. Lawrence Seaway. The zebra mussels that are mucking up the lake water most likely came in via the aforementioned seaway. These things effects us, too, and we don’t live in New York state.

It should come as little surprise that Mr. Hoffman’s most avid defenders would soon swoop to his side. Former Congressman and tea party funder Dick Armey dismissed the paper for being “parochial,” and said that such issues “would not determine the outcome of the election.”

That is one of the most insulting things I’ve heard come from anyone’s mouth in quite some time.

His bravest defenders are those who commented on the Watertown Daily Times web site with accusations of the paper being a leftist rag not worthy of publication. Liberal media! Liberal media that was unfairly slamming Hoffman! Bad liberals, bad!

Really? Could it be that Marxist sleeper cells have penetrated the backwoods of upstate New York?

No. The editorial board of the Watertown Daily Times were doing their job.

Newspapers (remember them?) once helped people filter the mass of information that assaults them each day. They help voters to decide who’s worth that most precious American commodity, the vote. It is sad that for some people, the of discovering which candidates are best prepared for the job earns the tired denigration of “liberal media.” It’s very likely that the two other candidates in the race were asked the same questions.

The newspaper was doing the right thing. They were trying to find out about matters that effect their community. Their political affiliation or leanings had no bearing on what was asked.

Bravo to the staff of the Watertown Daily Times for doing their job.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.