Home 2013 races WaPo’s Virginia Editorial Writer Fails Yet Again

WaPo’s Virginia Editorial Writer Fails Yet Again

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(UPDATE: Ha, they must have read this, as they just updated with endorsements in the two districts they’d missed earlier. Bizarre, nonsensical endorsement in the 50th; good endorsement in the 51st. – promoted by lowkell)

I’ve written repeatedly that the Washington Post’s Virginia editorial writer, long-time international correspondent Lee Hockstader, has little if any knowledge of Virginia politics (e.g., lives in DC to my knowledge and almost never – ever? – crosses the Potomac Ocean River to check it out, let alone attend political events). For instance, in January 2010 I pointed out Hockstader’s editorial to the effect that since Democrats won a crucial victory, increasing their majority to 22-18 in the state Senate, so obviously now Democrats are “in deep trouble” (according to Hockstader, the margin was “wafer-thin,” hence his absurd conclusion). He claimed in the same editorial that all 40 Virginia Senate seats would be up THAT November (of 2010), which of course was off by a year. Details details.

Anyway, I bring all this up today because Hockstader’s been a busy beaver, churning out the Post’s endorsements for Northern Virginia House of Delegates races. There are just a few problems with them you might want to be aware of.

1. For some strange reason, Hockstader completely missed two important districts with contested races – the   50th (Democrat Richard Cabellos vs. Republican Jackson Miller) and the 51st (Democrat Reed Heddleston vs. Republican Rich Anderson)- even though he claimed to be doing “endorsements in Northern Virginia’s contested House races.” Well, those two are most certainly contested, and they’re both certainly in Northern Virginia (Prince William County to be exact; wonder if Hockstader’s ever been there). Also note that Tim Kaine won the 50th last year by 9 points over George Allen (as did Barack Obama over Mitt Romney), so this is definitely a competitive district. Kaine also won the 51st last year (as did President Obama), making this district competitive as well. Meanwhile, Democrat Reed Heddleston has nearly matched Anderson in fundraising, and Jeff Schapiro report that Anderson is being targeted by Democrats for a possible pickup in 10 days. Yet for whatever reason (cluelessness?), neither the 50th nor the 51st district merits Hockstader’s fine “analysis.”

2. As Catherine S. Read writes in the comments section to Hockstader’s final endorsements, the “over-the-top” endorsement of Republican Tom Rust, “while relegating his challenger {Democrat Jennifer Boysko} to not even a full sentence – a label actually – shows a glaring bias in favor of the status quo.” Read adds that Hockstader’s “slanted and dismissive endorsement [of Rust] is so reflective of exactly what is wrong in Virginia…back-slapping backroom old boy BS,” and that it completely ignores Rust’s vote for anti-women’s-health-clinic legislation “that is closing clinics around Virginia.” Great, huh?

3. As commenter “terje1” writes, the Post/Hockstader “seems to have decided that the only test they have for Republican incumbents is having supported the transportation bill – as if backing one piece of reasonable legislation overrides every other extremist bill pursued by the Republicans in the legislature.” This commenter adds:

Virtually every one of the Republicans being endorsed for re-election by the Post also voted in lockstep for every far right Republican social and economic proposal. They do not deserve to be rewarded for supporting transvaginal probes, closing women’s health clinics or blocking a qualified gay judge. This history is too important to overlook in making endorsements and voters’ decisions…Republicans don’t deserve to be rewarded for their extremism. Voting Democratic for House of Delegates is the only way to send a clear message about the direction the Commonwealth should head in.

So true. Yet over and over again, Lee Hockstader breezily dismisses examples of that “extremism.” For instance, Hockstader argues that right-wingnut Mark Dudenhefer “was one of a handful of lawmakers to speak out against an otherwise highly qualified judicial nominee who happened to be gay,” which should alone disqualify him from an endorsement. Yet Hockstader waves his hand and blows that one off, claiming that it’s overridden by – wait for it – Dudenhefer’s “pragmatic” and even “courag[ous]” “vote in favor of the transportation funding bill.” Seriously? So it’s ok to be a bigot, as long as you vote for a (flawed) transportation bill? Gotcha.

Likewise, Hockstader endorses right wingnut Jim LeMunyon, again based on his vote for the transportation bill (which Hockstader says “bucked right-wing orthodoxy”), even though LeMunyon is a Tea Partier through and through, voting for – among other things – the infamous “trans-vaginal ultrasound” mandate. Yeah, that one really “bucked right-wing orthodoxy!” Heh.

It basically goes on and on like this, where Republicans are given a pass on all their other sins, as long as they voted for the transportation bill. Whether you like the transportation bill, dislike it, or have mixed feelings about it (as I do), I simply don’t see how it’s a well-thought-out endorsement when all you’re doing is repeatedly citing that one bill as significant enough to override everything else.

Yet that’s exactly what Hockstader does, again and again. Of course, this guy has a long history of weird endorsements. One of my first disagreements with him wasn’t so much THAT he endorsed Harris Miller over Jim Webb, but the mush-brained thinking as to WHY he did – because supposedly Webb’s “somewhat strident populism on trade policy tends toward xenophobic sloganeering and business-bashing,” and that Webb supposedly had “given scant time and attention to issues ranging from education to tax policy to immigration.” WTF? I’m sorry, but I know Jim Webb, and whatever else you think about him, he doesn’t give “scant time and attention” to issues. Hockstader also completely overlooked the fact that Webb was a stronger candidate, purely from an electoral point of view, to go up against George Allen. Why is it that a bunch of grassroots activists, who I’m sure Hockstader holds in utter contempt, were able to figure that one out, but that he wasn’t? Uhhhh.

Finally, I’d just add that although I understand why Democrats – particularly challengers – like to tout the “Washington Post endorsement” (even though there’s not much evidence, other than perhaps Creigh Deeds in 2009, that it has any “juice” in general elections), I really wish that at least Democratic incumbents would stop giving any credence to Lee Hockstader’s uninformed, clueless drivel. All you’re doing is encouraging him, when we all should be doing the exact opposite.

  • TBill

    I never understood WaPo’s ardent and over-the-top support for the Transport Bill (to me it’s the NOVA taxation bill). WaPo then followed-up with harshest possible condemnation of the brave folks who opposed the bill, and endorsements of those who supported the bill.  In the case of Rust, I can only assume his immediate district stands to benefit greatly from the Transport Bill and Metro Expansion to Dulles.  However, Rust has also recently come out strongly anti-hybrid fee, so that is a big plus in my book. But I finally decided to send my $64 donation to a brave delegate who opposed both the transport bill and the hybrid fees.                

  • truthteller

    Especially since they sent a reporter into the 51st to  cover the sour mood of voters in Anderson’s district and correctly pointed out that it is a bellweather district, skipping the endorsement in the Heddleston-Anderson race is pretty much inexcusable. I tweeted at Ros Helderman, Bob Kunkle and Amy Gardner seeking an answer. Still no reply… at all.

    And to ignore atrocious votes on forced ultrasounds or gay rights because the Post considers the transportation bill the north star of pragmatic government is WEAK to say the least. Views on Medicaid expansion, women’s rights and gay rights matter at least as much to me and it seems like if the GOP member votes for transportation, the Post forgives them their extremist trespasses. Would we have been stuck with a Ligamfelter endorsement despite all his polemic right wing votes if he had deigned to vote for McDonnell’s transportation bill?