Vast right-wing conspiracy, redux

Is there a "secret war" against Tom Daschle?

Published July 9, 2001 8:22PM (EDT)

Anger management

Is there an underground war against Tom Daschle? The folks at the American Prospect seem to think so. In a recent article titled "The Secret War on Tom Daschle," by Chris Mooney, the Prospect charges Rush Limbaugh, the Free Republic and the Washington Times with a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Most of the Prospect's charges are buttressed by evidence from, which has monitored the right's attempts to knock down the man who is arguably the most powerful Democrat in America.

"It's not surprising that Republicans are intensifying their attacks on Tom Daschle -- Democrats did the same thing to Newt Gingrich with ruthless effectiveness after the 1994 election," the folks at Spinsanity write. "But it is noteworthy that GOP sources have already admitted to Dave Boyer of the Washington Times that the 'effort is coordinated' and designed to '[focus] on one Democratic bogeyman.'"

The Prospect alleges that folks at the Free Republic are also involved, citing a post in this thread.

"Please help me flesh out various scandals that Daschle is involved in," writes one Freeper. "There is something about his wife's employment I think that might be a conflict of interest. Maybe not," suggests another. (Daschle's wife, Linda, the Prospect notes, is a transportation lobbyist for the firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell.)

The Prospect also points the finger at Limbaugh, who has glossed the South Dakota senator "Puff Daschle," further evidence, he says, of character assassination. "From a spin perspective, Limbaugh's coinage is brilliant, equating Daschle with 'Puff Daddy,' the singer recently acquitted on weapons charges relating to a 1999 nightclub shooting," Mooney writes.

Of course, the Freepers' name of choice for the Senate majority leader is "Senator Dasshole." In both instances, "brilliant" is probably a stretch.

Both Limbaugh and the Free Republic responded to the Mooney piece promptly. The article was posted at the Free Republic with a "hurl alert," and the usual brand of colorful commentary.

"After reading about all the things said about Daschle by FR, Newsmax, Safire, etc. I guess I'm supposed to be outraged," writes one poster. "Nope. True, a lot of people call him 'Puff.' Is that out of bounds? Is that better or worse than nicknaming someone 'the smirking monkey'?"

For the record, that's Smirking Chimp.

Limbaugh has discussed the article on the air, and even posted a response on his Web site. "There's an article in The American Prospect, an outlet you've probably never heard of, but which I want to address today," Limbaugh writes."The American Prospect carries a story by Chris Mooney titled: The Secret War on Tom Daschle. It may as well say after that, and in parentheses, "Led by Rush Limbaugh.

"This article mentions me over and over, and accuses me of 'starting' a war against Tom Daschle from behind the scenes," Limbaugh writes. "Now, what is so secret about the fact that I am a conservative and Tom Daschle is a partisan liberal with whom I disagree in the arena of ideas? Do I not have the most-listened-to radio talk show in America? I do. How is anything I do, therefore, secret? ... This is the kind of mindless hypocrisy we're up against, my friends."

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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