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Kraske Column Sucks Up to Schlozman, Again Gives GOP Shelter From the Storm

­If there is a bigger GOP sycophant in Missouri's political press than Steve Kraske he'd be hard pressed to prove it after Kraske's column in today's Kansas City Star.

Kraske, right on the heels of his involvement in the Star's butchering of a McClatchy piece on Republican efforts to hype "voter fraud" in Missouri, uses today's space to minimize violations of voting rig­hts, repeat shamelessly self-serving off-the-record spin from his GOP pals, and to lick the boots of DOJ political hack Brad Schlozman.­­ Though hardly surprising --as Kraske has recently become increasingly susceptible to the repitition of Republican lies-- the decision to print this column is no less unnerving, as it represents another step in an apparent editorial campaign by the KC Star to play down the severity and source of Missouri's involvement in a story of tremendous national importance.

It doesn't take a linguist to parse the themes that Kraske is pushing in his piece today on former U.S. Attorney Brad Schlozman.  From the outset, Kraske suggests that any questions about the propriety or legality of anything Schlozman did while working as U.S. Attorney or while running the Civil Rights division are the mere product of partisanship.  Kraske writes (emphasis added):

The name to watch: Bradley Schlozman.

As the
volume over the U.S. attorney scandal in Washington ratchets up,
western Missouri’s former U.S. attorney looms as an increasingly
intriguing figure.

In short, he’s the guy Democrats might want to grill.

In so many words, Kraske is suggesting that any oversight given, at long last, to the political hacks and wingnut-welfare cases who spent years unchecked turning the Department of Justice into an RNC political desk to be staffed by graduates of fraudulent "evangelical" law schools is merely an outgrowth of pure partisanship.  The "Democrats" are the ones who ­"want to grill" Schlozman, Kraske seems to be saying, as though that were enough to dismiss the entire enterprise out of hand. 

Kraske then goes into defense attorney mode, crafting a quick apologia for several of the black marks on Schlozman's curriculum vitae...

Working in the Civil Rights Division, Schlozman ruffled feathers when
he overruled a Justice Department staff decision to challenge a voter
ID law in Georgia. (Democrats don’t like those laws because they say
that poor voters, many of whom are Democrats, are unfairly targeted.)

Schlozman "ruffled feathers." That's one way to put it, I guess.  A more accurate depiction might include the fact that having an inexperienced political appointee like Schlozman riding herd over DOJ Voting Rights attorneys who'd served for decades caused a mass exodus of experienced career attorneys from the department.  Seems more like a plucking of the bird than a ruffling of feathers.

And then there's Kraske's parenthetical, which suggests once again that it's just those pesky Democrats who have a beef with Schlozman's actions.  "Democrats don't like [voter ID] laws," Kraske states, while carefully neglecting to mention that at least one other group doesn't like voter ID laws.  That group?  The Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, which ruled overwhelmingly last fall that such laws contravene the rights of Missourians under the state constitution.  Someone who read Kraske's piece with no knowledge of the history of the issue might think that Democrats were the only ones opposed to the restrictions on voters however.  That doesn't seem to bother the author.

Then Kraske runs out some more jive, again using the favorite tactic of transforming every fact into an "accusation" or "allegation":

Schlozman also faced accusations that he was involved in redistricting work in the South that hurt minority voters.

This is plainly revisionist.  That Schlozman was responsible for signing off on approval of Tom DeLay's mid-decade redistricting in Texas is not in dispute, so suggesting his reponsibility cannot be accurately described as an "accusation."  Accusations are untested; once proven they become simply fact.

Kraske's next two grafs again demonstrate his underlying goal --a strenuous push to report every facet of Brad Schlozman's involvement in partisan DOJ schemes as the creations of hyper-partisan Democratic imaginations. (emphasis added)

About a year before the 2006 midterm elections, Schlozman authorized
a lawsuit that accused Missouri of failing to maintain voter rolls
around the state. That lawsuit was tossed out last month, but not
before Democrats accused Schlozman of pushing the suit
as a way to
discourage voters and dampen Democratic turnout.

Then there are
questions about his hiring practices in the division. Was he focusing
on political credentials rather than legal credentials in the lawyers
that he hired? Schlozman says no, but Democrats aren’t so sure.

Forget for a moment that Kraske's assertions are factually incorrect (the individuals and groups calling into question the motivations of Schlozman and the DOJ both in the Missouri NVRA lawsuit and in DOJ hiring practices have long since expanded into a group that includes both non-partisans in the media and Republican inquirors in Congress) and focus on the recurring touchstone of his column.  Each bit is aimed laserlike at portraying all the many incidents connected with the specious GOP "voter fraud" campaign and the crass politicization of the DOJ and its consequences in Missouri as run-of-the-mill partisan disputes, with Democrats on one side lobbing uncorroborated claims at Republicans on the other.

But why?  Perhaps because doing so allows Kraske and the Star to continue to tout the self-serving claims of Republican insiders who use Kraske to move their message in the mainstream media.  Kraske and the Star have invested so much equity in the fool's pension of credulous reportage on the neverending and evidence-free Republican claims of "voter fraud" that the prospect of having to accept the falsehood of those claims would be devastating to them.  Therefore it's just easier to pretend that each side has its own opinion and the facts can never and will never bear out either position as true.

A prime illustration of Kraske's embarassing proclivity for repeating whatever dreck Republicans feed him appears in the story's bit about the resignation of U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.  Of Graves he writes:

We now know that Schlozman rode into town after Graves was targeted for
removal along with 11 other U.S. attorneys around the country. The
motive for Graves’ removal remains a mystery, although some have
suggested that he somehow wasn’t loyal enough to the Bush

Want to know who the "some" is in the "some have suggested"?  How about Jeff Roe, Todd Graves, and the rest of Kraske's GOP sources, all of whom have a personal interest in seeing their own spin presented without their names attached.  Here, Kraske allows himself to be used by Graves, who tells him off the record that he got "forced out" by Bush.  In a public relations two-fer, this allows Graves to tamp down speculation that his dismissal had anything to do with his own complicity in the Blunt fee office scheme while simultaneously not having to take the politically difficult step of publicly blaming powerful national Republicans for his ouster.  And Kraske gets to tell himself that what Graves is saying must be true because, "hey, he's pointing the finger at a fellow Republican."  

And Kraske's piece only gets worse and more detached from reality as it moves along. Consider these grafs, which read like a narrative created by Thor Hearne... (emphasis added)

About a year before the 2006 midterm elections, Schlozman authorized a
lawsuit that accused Missouri of failing to maintain voter rolls around
the state. That lawsuit was tossed out last month, but not before
Democrats accused Schlozman of pushing the suit as a way to discourage
voters and dampen Democratic turnout. [...]

Once here, Schlozman continued his pursuit of the voter rolls case — a
decision that makes some sense given the sorry state of those rolls in

This is where it gets nasty, folks.  Here Kraske ventures even further from sanity's handrail and drifts ever-closer to the sheer, unguarded cliff of Republican wingnuttery.  First off, Kraske opines about the "sense" of a suit which was ignominiously dispatched from by the federal courts as without merit.  Nearly simultaneously, he repeats as fact a factually vague yet self-reinforcing GOP talking point about the "sorry state of [voter] rolls" in the state.  Nevermind what the legal minds and judges say --if Steve Kraske thinks a lawsuit that wastes taxpayer dollars on both the federal and state levels at the same time, who are any of us to argue?

For a final bit of GOP alarmism, Kraske focuses in on Schlozman's unprecedented and counter-to-policy announcement of indictments for voter registration fraud just days in advance of 2006's election.  He writes (emphasis added):

Then, five days before the 2006 election, he obtained indictments on
four workers involved in a voter registration drive for ACORN, a
Democratic-leaning group. Even ACORN admitted that it had a problem.
After all, flooding the system with bogus registrations made it
difficult for the election board to verify legitimate registrations
this heavily Democratic city.

By this point, Kraske's column has devolved into pure regurgitation of the dumbest of Republican fear-mongering and stupidity.  The suggestion that the handful of fraudulent registrations submitted by four ACORN employees who were promptly fired resulted in a "flooding of the system with bogus registrations" is among the most irresponsible things that Kraske could have written.  The reason why --as Kraske recognizes-- that the "volume over the U.S. attorney scandal in Washington" has ratcheted up is that impartial observers have begun recognizing and reporting that the years of claims by Republicans about "voter fraud" have been overblown and orchestrated for political effect.  For Kraske to join in the same game that national Republicans are now being investigated for is beyond idiotic.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Kraske's column is the wildly disparate luster of credibility his writing attributes to players in the unfolding drama.  Consider how, in writing about the various incidents of Schlozman's involvement in stoking the concocted flames of "voter fraud" controversy, Kraske is very careful to always include the disclaimer about how "Democrats" are claiming one or the other of these things about Schlozman.  On the other hand, Kraske seemingly feels no such need to disclaim any of the easily-identifiable (and oft-falsifiable) Republican claims. 

Kraske doesn't write the "Republicans claim" ACORN "flooded the system with bogus registrations."  He just says that they did it.  He doesn't include the important prefix that "Republicans say" Missouri's voter rolls are in "sorry shape," preferring just to state it as fact.  Kraske doesn't say that "Republicans think" the federal lawsuit against Robin Carnahan "makes sense," but rather suggests that such thinking is self-evident.

All of which tends to make one feel as though Kraske is writing from the perspective of a Republican flag-waver.  And maybe that's what he is.  But if so, I'd suggest some action by the Star's managament, as it is journalistically improper for him to wear the hat of a partisan columnist while simultaneously working as a neutral political reporter. 

It's possible that Steve Kraske and the KC Star are taking every opportunity to try to minimize the importance of the GOP's DOJ malfeasance in the state because they are ashamed about how badly they were beaten on the story by out-of-state reporters like Greg Gordon.  Maybe they feel like the best way to get back at those who beat them is to try to paint Schlozman as a "good guy" in contrast with the reporting being done by every other national outlet at this point.  Or maybe Kraske and the Star are just loathe to torque off the Republicans who still, for a short while longer, hold the reigns of power in the state. 

Whatever.  Kraske and the Star should simply stop it.  When "news organizations" start to get cute with rewriting some facts and playing dumb about others, it is the quality of the product and the readership that suffers.  That is too high a price to pay for Steve Kraske and the Star editorial board to avoid having to swallow some harsh facts about the rampant criminality of Republicans involved in the U.S. Attorney purge and the "voter fraud" scheme. 

Report or don't report, but don't try to split the difference.  It makes a reporter look foolish.



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