The special election for Senate in Massachusetts has become a petri dish of Soccer Injury Politics—the calculated fakery of pain, meant to get the refs to stop the game and stop anybody attacking you. Here's the pattern:
1) Republicans attack Ed Markey, the Democrat who's been in Congress since the 1970s, for something he did or didn't do.
2) Markey attacks Gabriel Gomez, the GOP novice with the golden resume (Navy SEAL-businessman-father-patriot), for something he did, in fact, do.
3) Gomez calls for the ref, accusing Markey of a fiendish smear on his character and patriotism.
This week, for example, began with the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacking Markey for nixing a Confederate Flag defender from a campaign event. On May 14, the Boston Globe reported that Markey was fundraising in D.C. but had asked Dukes of Hazzard star Ben "Cooter" Jones (a former congressman) not to come "after learning of Jones’s ringing defense of the Confederate flag." The NRSC blasted the story out to reporters with the headline Democrat Ed Markey caught in Confederate flag problem back home at his DC fundraiser—which was one way of putting it, I guess, but didn't really get across that Markey's problem was that he'd told Jones to skip the event. When I hear "Confederate flag problem," I think of someone defending the flag and pissing off his voters. Don't you?
Anyway: On May 16, the NRSC tried another tack and attempted to tie Markey to scandals. All of the scandals. An NRSC missive to the press (which not many people picked up on) was titled: "ScandalizED Markey’s Washington: A Boozy Affair Chalk Full of Scandals, Fueled by Special Interest Money, Where the Party Never Ends." Boozy! Scandals! And yet the release was just a list of scandals not related to Markey, but that had happened while Markey was in Congress, like the Anthony Weiner scandal. (I mention that because the NRSC missed a chance to knock Markey on his proud credit-taking for smartphone innovation—he paved the way for Weiner's destruction!)
That takes us to today. Markey releases a contrast ad: He's for lots of gun restrictions that play well in Massachussetts, and Gomez isn't.
Within minutes, Gomez called for the ref:
Really, reader: Did you see that ad and think, "they're blaming this guy Gomez for the Newtown shootings?" The ad didn't even use footage from Newtown, opting for some stock photos of bullets. Yet Gomez was joined on the field by NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring. Read this in your best Nancy Grace impersonation:
Ed Markey first compared Gabriel Gomez, former navy SEAL and father of four children, to Osama Bin Laden and now Markey is blaming him for horrific murders in Newtown. It’s disgusting, deplorable and desperate, but that’s par for the course for Ed Markey who will do just about anything to avoid talking about the issues that voters care about.
Who's the audience for this? I cover politics, and I don't believe for a second that Gomez is constantly offended by everything Markey's ads say about him. Republicans are obviously trying to build the narrative that Gomez is a stolid public servant who's above all those Washington games that people in Washington play. But it's a little on the nose. You can't call out your opponent as often as Gomez calls out Markey, then do this when he mentions your actual issue stances.