There’s just a week to go before Election Day arrives and candidates in hundreds of political campaigns are taking off the gloves and going toe-to-toe, many resorting to vicious attack ads, brutal mudslinging, and even name-calling. In Alaska’s hotly contested senatorial race, Republican and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller has been running either a point or two ahead of Republican challenger (and incumbent) Lisa Murkowski, or he is dead even in the polls. But Murkowski flat-out stated in Sunday’s debate that Joe Miller was unfit to lead. Ben Stein, noted actor and political analyst, agreed in an op-ed piece in the Alaska Dispatch Monday, going so far as to ridicule Miller’s Yale education and call him a “dangerous, stupid clown.”
Murkowski, who is running a write-in campaign (because she lost to Miller in the Republican Primary), said during the Alaska Senate debate in Anchorage Sunday evening, “Scott [McAdams] is not ready to lead. Joe [Miller] is not fit to lead.” But she was booed by a hostile crowd when she said she had been leading Alaska for the last eight years.
Supporters of Miller are quick to point out that the attorney is a Gulf War veteran and winner of a Bronze Star. But does that make him a leader or even a good senator?
Ben Stein thinks not. In a scathing commentary in the Alaska Dispatch Monday, the usually inoffensive and generous political analyst ripped into Joe Miller, continuously referring to Miller and his actions and statements as “stupid.” Stein cited two instances in particular.
In mid-October, Alaska Dispatch founder and editor Tony Hopfinger was detained and handcuffed by private security personnel who were working for Miller at a town hall meeting. Hopfinger had been attempting to ask Miller questions about alleged campaign misconduct in 2008. After being told to stop asking questions and leave, Hopfinger ignored the demands, continued videotaping and questioning. He was then told he would be arrested for trespassing and when Hopfinger asked how he could be trespassing at an event on public property (Central Middle School in Anchorage), he was put in an arm-bar, handcuffed, and detained at the end of a hallway for at least 30 minutes. After Anchorage police arrived, Hopfinger was released.
Stein, who — like Miller — is a Yale graduate, took issue with the treatment of a member of the press. He questioned whether Miller actually attended the touted school, writing that Miller must have “slipped” in “while they weren’t looking.” Noting that the Tea Party, members of which have heavily backed Miller’s Alaska Senate campaign, were “all about curbing abuses of power,” Miller and his security exemplified just the opposite. Stein said that perhaps Miller thought himself the “boss of some kind of third world country and his mirrored sunglass-wearing Tontons Macoutes can just bully anyone who gets in his way.”
Stein went on: “That is not what the Tea Party is all about. It is certainly not what the GOP is about. It isn’t even what the Democratic Party is about.”
Having insinuated that Miller was a bit thuggish, Stein’s then made it clear that it was part of Miller’s more oppressive worldview. He cited Miller’s example of how he would effectively seal the border with Mexico to combat the illegal immigration issue. Miller suggested that it could be done the way East Germany sealed their border against the West.
Stein quickly pointed out that the communist East German regime effectively sealed their border with armed guards, land mines, and electrified fencing. “Can a GOP candidate actually be suggesting,” he asked, “such brutal means of border control — which took the lives of hundreds of East Germans seeking freedom — as a model for the United States?
“Yes, he can and he did.”
Of course, Miller’s extreme fencing solution isn’t that much different from Kentucky senatorial hopeful Rand Paul, who has also suggested an underground electric border with Mexico (but later, after much criticism, changed his wording to “electronic”).
But curtailing First Amendment rights and establishing inhumane controls along the southern U. S. border speaks to the larger issue of someone being unfit to govern. Stein only too adroitly pointed out that Joe Miller’s statements and actions were indicative of one who considers himself above public scrutiny, especially when he cited Miller’s comments that he would no longer talk about his past life with the media. Stein questioned both Miller’s character and his intelligence.
Stein ended his commentary by telling his audience to start writing “Murkowski.” He also left off with a parting shot that someone had been listening to “Send In The Clowns” a little too often and noted that the clowns were already here. He suggested Miller, whom he described as a “dangerous, stupid clown,” be sent home.
Some might consider the piece a bit heavy-handed. But it shows the passion with which Ben Stein views politics and where they are generally headed, a path that he would rather see shaped in a conservative, intelligent manner. He apparently sees something far out of kilter in the Joe Miller ascendancy in the Alaskan Republican Party. He also finds Miller divergent from the core tenets of the Tea Party movement.
Question is: Can attacking Joe Miller’s intelligence and his seeming restrictive and oppressive worldviews sway enough votes in the tight race to get Lisa Murkowski re-elected?