2008 Drama in the Burner-Reichert Race
posted by October 23 at 10:00 AMon
First, there’s a new SurveyUSA poll that shows Democrat Darcy Burner four points ahead of Republican Dave Reichert. That’s the first independent poll I’ve seen showing Burner ahead in this race—ever—and if her lead sticks that’s a huge change in the political dynamics of the contest for the eastside’s congressional seat.
Second, and far more explosive, is a controversial Seattle Times report that says Burner has been exaggerating the truth about her Harvard degree:
In recent weeks, congressional candidate Darcy Burner has touted her Harvard degree in economics when talking about the nation’s financial crisis and her opposition to the bailout package passed by Congress.
At two debates this month, she brought up her academic background in her opening statement.
“I loved economics so much that I got a degree in it from Harvard,” the Democrat said at an Oct. 10 debate at KCTS-TV. “Now everywhere I go in this district, the only thing people want to talk to me about is the economy.”
She made an almost identical statement at a debate on Oct. 8.
But while Burner studied economics at Harvard, she doesn’t have a degree in the subject.
This has touched off a furious response in the liberal blogosphere—including this and this from OpenLeft’s Matt Stoller, who went to Harvard and says Seattle Times reporter Emily Heffter doesn’t understand how the degree system there works. (Stoller also notes, with some satisfaction, that the Seattle Times decided to change its headline from “Darcy Burner’s claims of a Harvard degree in economics aren’t true” to “Darcy Burner’s Harvard econ degree an exaggeration” after the campaign and people like him started complaining.)
Heffter does note in her current piece that “Questions about Burner’s degree originated with the National Republican Congressional Committee.” Which strongly supports the idea that there was a political motive (the committee’s, not necessarily Heffter’s) involved in the genesis of this story.
Here’s one problem, though, with all the pushback against this news story. Yes, the timing of the story, and the fact that it was planted by the NRCC, is more about politics than anything else. But the fact is, Burner did say that she had a degree in economics from Harvard. You can watch video of the statement here.
This is the Republicans’ attempt at finding a “Maccaca moment” for the Burner-Reichert race. And, you know, since one of the raps against Burner is that she has a confidence in her abilities that’s not rooted in actual public service experience, it has the potential to stick. It’s on tape. It fits with the Republican theme—true or not—that Burner isn’t as qualified as she claims. And, to repeat, it’s on tape.
You can be certain that if the shoe were on the other foot, and Reichert had misstated or exaggerated or clumsily described his Bachelor’s degree, on tape, that Democrats would be having a field day. Every blog that’s now pushing back on the Seattle Times story would be posting a YouTube video of Reichert’s “lie.”
Which is simply to say that this kind of political “gotcha” is completely standard, completely predictable, and completely avoidable. That was one of the things about Sen. George Allen and his Macacca moment. It showed that beyond perhaps being racist, he was also a sloppy campaigner who didn’t get that the world had changed and everything was now on tape and YouTubable in an instant.
Burner, the darling of the Netroots who worked at Microsoft and understands the power of the internet better than most candidates, should get this. She should know that if she misstates, or exaggerates, or clumsily describes her Harvard degree it will eventually be caught on tape and she will eventually have a moment like the one she’s having now. To not protect herself against that possibility was just plain sloppy campaigning.