If you’re interested, Missouri GOP Chair John Hancock is now issuing the expected and inevitable statements denying Tom Schweich’s posthumous accusations that he spearheaded an anti-Semitic whisper campaign in order to derail Schweich’s gubernatorial candidacy in favor of the Rex Sinquefield-blessed Catherine Hanaway. Not a surprising move, although his terminology in an email sent to folks identified as “party-leaders” is interesting:
Many of you on this committee are aware of the issue, as it came up in several of our conversations during the past few months,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the Post-Dispatch. “While those who know me understand I would never denigrate anyone’s faith, Tom had mistakenly believed that I had attacked his religion.”
This left me scratching my head. Nothing that I’ve read implied that Hancock had ever attacked Schweich’s religion. According to reports, Schweich was an Episcopalian and nobody to my knowledge is accusing Hancock of slandering Episcopalians. What folks are saying is that Hancock was falsely asserting that Schweich, who had a Jewish grandfather, was himself Jewish. And that Hancock was doing it in those Republican circles where that might make Schweich persona non grata – at least as far as raising money to finance his race against Hanaway.
There’s a difference. Maybe Hancock doesn’t understand that, or maybe he’s just a sloppy kind of guy when it comes to explaining himself. But what Schweich accused him of wasn’t attacking his religion, but of practicing the dirtiest type of very dirty politics. An accusation that derives a certain credibility from the fact that we all know Republicans are good at doing just that – as I pointed out earlier.
That impression is reinforced by Hancock’s efforts to discredit the motives of Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger who had been made privy to what was on Schweich’s mind during his last weeks of life:
“Now, some political opponents-particularly liberal Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger-are using this tragic incident as an opportunity to criticize me and to smear the Missouri Republican Party,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the newspaper. “These attacks are not only disgusting; they are wrong.”
Hoowee! Hancock evidentaly belongs to that school of conservative thought that seeks to answer any accusation of wrongdoing by evoking that rightwing bugaboo – those damn “liberals.” Count on them to be “disgusting and wrong.”
Wrong in what sense, though? Does wrong here mean inaccurate or morally culpable? Does Hancock think Messenger made up Schweich’s claims? By his own admission, lots of folks knew that Schweich was getting hot under the collar about what he considered an underhanded and nasty effort to knock him out of the race for the governor’s mansion. So what’s disgusting and wrong, in either sense, about telling folks about the beliefs that had been driving Schweich prior to his death, especially since Messenger correctly ensured that his account of what Schweich said neither affirmed or denied the accusations. If, based on past experience, we’re inclined to take Schweich seriously, the onus should fall on those of Mr. Hancock’s partisans who paved the way for us.
By many accounts Schweich was a highly-strung individual; maybe he was magnifying a few garden-variety incidents of who knows what. But by all the same accounts, he was also a man of integrity who refused to countenance what he considered bad behavior; it is probably undeniable that if he had not taken an even more decisive action yesterday, he would have been making those accusations public himself. How is it wrong – or even “liberal” – for Tony Messenger to act as Schweich’s proxy? Wasn’t Messenger just practicing honest journalism? Doesn’t Tom Schweich, whose last phone call seems to have been an effort to arrange an interview on the subject, deserve a little respectful and honest journalism on the day of his death?