Home 2014 Races Damning with Faint Praise: Washington Post’s Manipulative article on Don Beyer

Damning with Faint Praise: Washington Post’s Manipulative article on Don Beyer


Yesterday’s Washington Post (WAPO) article by Paul Schwartzman on Don Beyer’s candidacy really begs for commentary because it is illustrative of what is wrong with today’s so-called journalism.  

Here we have a candidate from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, an honorable man, who has long engaged in dedicated public service. He’s served as Virginia’s Lt. Governor, as Ambassador to Switzerland and in two Virginia administrations. He’s also been a successful businessman. Both public service and running a business are supposed to be positive things in our country, even according to most Republicans. But here the writer acts as if they are not. Oh, but the dealership ads were cute and well-written.

The writer goes on to pretend that Beyer runs for office now to check off something on a bucket list, a suggestion so unfair it defies imagination. How about the fact that there has never been a greater need for good qualified, experienced Democratic candidates to challenge the ruinous policies of the GOP?

Additionally, the writer pretends Beyer is on some sort of labor toward redemption, as if that were necessary. Would that the writer had ever accomplished as much.  

Related to Beyer’s obvious intelligence, the author grudgingly adds mention of the near-perfect scores Beyer scored on the SAT, but then goes on to portray a brilliant candidate as a flake, which Beyer clearly is not. And the author continues down this road despite also admitting Beyer’s outstanding grasp of public policy.  

Schwartzman outright questions why the voters of the 8th have embraced Beyer (“It’s less clear why voters have embraced him.”) As the author points out, Beyer isn’t a member of a minority or gay. And Schwartzman gives away his own stereotypical views by presuming progressives only vote for candidates of color or who are LGBT. Yes we do proudly vote for people of color and for those who are LGBT. And, yes, local Democrats had a long list of good candidates in the 8th race, but Beyer’s record, and yes, his name recognition, stood out. It is that simple.  Beyer also has many long-term supporters who were ready to turn out the vote for him, something successful candidates in both primaries and general elections need.

For a view on Beyer’s loss to Gilmore in 1997, Schwartzman goes to (of all people) Chris LaCivita, one of the most vicious campaigners ever (remember the Swift Boaters?) to work for GOP candidates. Seriously? And not surprisingly, LaCivita pronounced Beyer’s’ last “foray into politics cataclysmic.”  Well, what was cataclysmic was the effect on Virginia’s budget of the Gilmore car-tax cut, and LaCivita’s malicious Swift Boating in campaign politics.  This use of LaCivita by Schwartzman shows his intent more clearly than any other passage.

The article is filled with examples of damning with faint praise, trivializing, turning good qualities into questionable ones. In portions where Don talked about liking to create healing in the face of conflict (a good thing), the author makes Beyer seem New Agey, which, as far as I can tell, he is not.

The article also does a disservice to Meagan Beyer, a smart, accomplished, beautiful, energetic woman. Instead of those descriptors he makes her seem goofy, laughing too much, even smirking. He also makes her sound over-involved and controlling, but uses scant evidence to illustrate that. I doubt most of those knowing Meagan find the article a fair portrayal. One also wonders why the writer took such pains to side-track on the candidate’s wife.

A factual error in the article is Schwartzman’s claim that Beyer was the national treasurer for Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign to run as an “independent.” Of course, Howard Dean ran a progressive Democratic campaign on getting out of Iraq, health care for all, protecting the safety net, creating jobs, protecting civil liberties and general fairness to the 99%. Again: Howard Dean ran as a Democrat, running ahead of all other Democratic candidates until CNN manufactured the Dean “scream” and played the doctored footage hundreds (more than 600) of times in a single week. [It used sound-engineered footage pretending Dean was screaming in a quiet room making him look “off.” Yet the fact is there were thousands of screaming supporters and Dean had to yell to be heard above the din and beyond the limits of his own laryngitis.]  

I can’t help but think Schwartzman received his marching orders. Meanwhile, a very worthy candidate deserves Democrats’ support. The 8th will be lucky to have Don Beyer in Congress. And Beyer is far from done contributing. He’ll make his District and Virginia proud. Much more  on this race will follow.  

  • are screaming for a profile too. All I can say is, be careful what you wish for, you might end up getting it! LOL

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I was one of many Democrats who met and got to know Don Beyer during the Howard Dean Democratic run for the presidential nomination in 2004. The article in the Post was trivial “journalism” at its worst. Many of us are sick and tired of cutsy writers with little or nothing to offer in the way of substantive political discussion, turning political writing into something that shows how they pine for a chance to write for Saturday Night Live.

    Our nation faces severe problems with our political discourse degenerating into angry diatribes and our political system being bought by the highest bidder. We do not need people like Schwartzman treating voters as if all they are waiting for is the next helping of bread and circuses.

    Don Beyer is a highly qualified candidate for the House of Representatives. He also is a very successful businessman, a dedicated family man, and a person with a grasp of the need for political compromise in any democratic system of governance. He is a man of integrity. That should have been what the Post writer focused on, not on his own preconceived notions of what is cute writing. Schwartzman has missed his calling. He is definitely qualified to write for People magazine. That way, he could interview such luminaries as Justin Beiber and Beyonce. But, then, perhaps that is what the new WP is striving to become…a daily helping of People.

  • OrangeDem

    I couldn’t even read to the jump of the profile. What I saw on the front page was indicative enough of the idiotic approach the author took to the story. Ironically, there was also an example of real journalism on the front page of the Post yesterday. An account of a man retreating into mental illness and his family’s inability to help him.

    I think it is important that we continue to hold the media accountable for both the good and the bad of their product. I might be biased as someone who grew up in a family of journalists, but I feel there is still a role in the 21st Century for solid reporting and writing coming from daily publications.