Walt Minnick is at it again.
This isn't the first time the Idaho congressman has used carefully crafted language to fit within a technical definition of the truth while leaving a different impression. Embroiled in a brouhaha with FactCheck.org over his first television ad of the campaign season, Minnick and his campaign staff would have you believe that he has always opposed bailouts, but that isn't really so. In fact he lambasted then-Congressman Bill Sali, his opponent in September of 2008, for taking the exact position that he is now touting as his.
The issue here is a television ad that author, journalist and long time Idaho political observer Randy Stapilus described as, "One of the smoothest Republican campaign videos of the year." Not bad, except Minnick is an incumbent Democrat.
In the ad Congressman Minnick says, "I've had to say 'no' far more often than I've said 'yes.' I've said 'no' to more government spending; 'no' to President Obama's big health-care plan; 'no' to Wall Street bailouts."
This quickly drew the attention of FactCheck because, of course, Minnick was not in office in the fall of 2008 and couldn't have voted against the bailouts. Minnick spokesman John Foster objected, getting FactCheck to run a correction:
"We originally reported that Minnick’s ad said he 'voted' against the bailout. His campaign manager John Foster objected, pointing out that what Minnick says in the ad is: 'I’ve said no' to Wall Street bailouts. "It’s true that, as a candidate in 2008, he did denounce passage of the bill. He would have been more accurate to say in his ad that he 'spoke out against' the bailouts."
The Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey reports that "Foster had preemptively defended the ad, the first of the campaign, telling the Statesman on Tuesday, 'We were very careful with the language,'" and including FactCheck Director Brooks Jackson's email response, "We posted a correction. We still think it's pretty cheeky to say you 'said no' to something you had no say in at the time. But as Minnick's campaign manager says, language matters."
Popkey's piece also included a statement John Foster said he provided to FactCheck that wasn't published:
Walt has a consistent and clear record against Wall Street bailouts, even going so far as to publicly denounce them in a statement to the Treasury Secretary during a hearing of the Financial Services Committee. For Walt this is about more than just a vote. It is about making it clear to the people of Idaho that he has always stood against these kinds of bailouts. His record has always been clear on the issue, and the ad properly reflects that.
"Always" is a tough word, but if "language matters," and it does, perhaps this should have been more carefully crafted because it isn't true to say that Walt has "always stood against these kinds of bailouts."
In an Idaho Statesman article published September 20, 2008 entitled "Simpson rips Sali for stance on economic crisis," Dan Popkey reported on the positions taken by Idaho's all Republican congressional delegation on the economic crisis, and specifically those of Representatives Mike Simpson and Bill Sali, Minnick's opponent in 2008.
But Sali, a freshman, called for a halt on federal bailouts, which have already reached more than $600 billion. Sali on Thursday sent a letter to Bush's point men in the crisis, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Co-signed by 30 other members of the conservative Republican Study Group, the letter was sent as Paulson and Bernanke and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox were meeting with congressional leaders about their plan to buy mortgage assets that can't be sold by banks and other institutions.
"...we urge you in the strongest terms possible to refrain from conducting any additional government-financed bailouts for large financial firms," wrote Sali and his colleagues. "Regardless of precautions taken, the risk to taxpayers and to the long-term future health of our economy remain just too great to justify."
No more bailouts, period. That was Sali's position at the time. A position so extreme it elicited this scathing response from his colleague, Rep. Mike Simpson, "What's his answer: to let the economy go down?" Simpson said. "Sometimes Bill puts himself in a philosophical position that's untenable that he can't get off of."
Two days later, a giddy Minnick campaign released a statement attaching themselves to Simpson's statement and lambasting Sali for his "no bailouts" position.
Here's the full press release:
Congressman Minnick would like you to believe that he's "always" been against bailouts, but it isn't exactly true and lambasting your opponent for the very position that you are now touting as yours is indeed "cheeky."
Why release an ad that required carefully crafted language and a preemptive defense? Why not just tell the plain truth? Isn't that what Idahoans are clamoring for?