The Times Sets Out To Make Us Look Bad, And Generally Succeeds

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The New York Times has an article in tomorrow’s paper about our own little nine-ring circus here in CD8. Being the Times, it’s often too precious for words, but in the end, nobody really comes off very well.

What happens when a coveted House seat opens up a quick subway ride from the Capitol? A hugely expensive free-for-all, studded with celebrities (or what passes for celebrities in Washington) — with a whiff of dirty tricks.

This affluent D.C. suburb, along with surrounding Montgomery County, is home to countless politicos, journalists, lobbyists and policy wonks — not to mention cabinet secretaries, White House officials, retired members of Congress and the chief justice of the Supreme Court — who bump into each other at grocery stores and on the sidelines of their children’s soccer games.
But the raucous nine-candidate race for the Democratic nomination to replace Representative Chris Van Hollen in the Eighth District — likely to become the costliest House primary in the nation — is holding up a mirror to life inside the Beltway. The reflection is not pretty.

As usual, I agree with Josh Kurtz.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Josh Kurtz, a journalist who writes a weekly political column for Center Maryland, a news website. “It’s just obscene amounts of money, and it’s all in the shadows of the nation’s capital.

“Even the political novices are political insiders; it shows how many would-be, wannabe politicians are here.”

The article traces the now-familiar arc of a two person race – between Jamie Raskin and Kathleen Matthews – turning into a three way fight, with the late entry of free spending businessman David Trone.

For months, the race seemed a neck-and-neck contest between Mr. Raskin, 53, a full-time constitutional law professor at American University backed by many in Maryland’s Democratic establishment, and Ms. Matthews, 62, who left TV reporting a decade ago to join Marriott, the hotel chain. He has a string of legislative accomplishments in Annapolis; she is well known from her 25 years on air at the ABC affiliate here.

Between them, they have raised nearly $3 million. Mr. Raskin’s donor list is heavy with lawyers and professors; Ms. Matthews’s includes an array of Washington movers and shakers (including some, Raskin backers grumble, who have appeared as guests on her husband’s show.)
Then last month, one week before the filing deadline for candidates, in waltzed Mr. Trone.

* * *

But as to strategy, Mr. Trone, who does not accept donations over $10, is taking a page from Mr. Trump’s book. He calls himself the “outside-the-Beltway, big-time underdog” (“I’ve never seen such a well-financed underdog,” Ms. Matthews said) and dismisses Mr. Raskin as a “career politician.”

Whether that approach will work in a district where politics is the local business remains to be seen. Mr. Raskin called Mr. Trone’s assertion “comical,” and sniffed: “I can’t think of two bigger insiders in the world than David Trone or Kathleen Matthews. They regularly appear at parties I’ve never been invited to.”

The Times falls into the same trap I noted recently – being appalled by all the money but nevertheless ranking the candidates by how much they’ve raised. Which is still bad and lazy and two-faced journalism that I’m determined to call out when I see it.

This is also one of the rare times that Kathleen Matthews has expressed public annoyance with the Trone campaign. One of the others was over Trone’s use of comments by President Obama in a campaign TV ad. She’s generally kept quiet – a generally good course of action.

Jamie Raskin, however, is a huge fan of saying something, anything – even when he shouldn’t. And this article brought it out again. The comments above express resentment, petulance, and even a sense of envy. They do not reflect well on the candidate, and they suggest, despite the moderately amusing humor in them, that he’s more focused on what Trone and Matthews are doing than on his own campaign. Sometimes the best thing to say is precisely nothing.

None of the supposedly “leading” candidates come across all that well in this article, which isn’t all that surprising considering the Times’  general disdain for all things Washington. But self-inflicted wounds should be avoided at all costs.

Lost in all of this is the Montgomery County that doesn’t at all look like the Times’ snooty portrayal. The diversity, the inequities in income and education, the infrastructure needs, none of that gets shown because Sheryl Gay Stolberg only knows the old line, wealthy Montgomery County that was never really that dominant in any event, but is all that snotty New York Times reporters ever get to know. It’s a shame that none of the candidates was able to communicate the real Montgomery County, which would have made for a far more interesting story.

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