Joe Conason's Journal

Will Harkin dodge scandal, or won't he? Plus: Brit Hume, "newsman."

By Salon Staff

Published September 26, 2002 3:40PM (EDT)

Will that Iowa worm turn again?
The Harkin taping story isn't as dead as it seemed yesterday evening, according to's The Note. Its authors suggest today that Iowa Republicans are "getting ready for this story to explode in this news cycle in a way that will, they hope, lead to a 'the cover-up is always worse than the crime' problem for Harkin." The Note goes on to say that "some Republicans believe they know" the identity of the individual who recorded Ganske's fundraising meeting -- and that said person "just MIGHT, hypothetically, have long and deep ties to Harkin (maybe even things like an employment history, a yard sign, and a recent letter to the editor of a certain Midwestern paper)." How damaging that information would be to Harkin will depend on how his campaign handles the situation going forward. So far, its performance has been poor, starting with a false denial of any involvement in disseminating the tape transcript.

But there is another aspect to this unsavory tale that shouldn't be ignored. How private was this Ganske gathering? Previous statements from the state GOP and the Ganske campaign claimed that the meeting must have been bugged or wiretapped, because it had been a small gathering of key supporters. Now, however, Ganske's campaign manager says he doesn't know how many people were invited -- and admits that donors who had given as little as $50 might have been among them. That hardly sounds like a confidential meeting of campaign insiders. In the statement released to the press, the still-anonymous taper said he (or she?) had received a mailing with a label identical to those sent out by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a local civic group to which he belongs.

They distort, then deride
Without the Daily Howler, Fox News would enjoy the same unchallenged capacity to lie as an Orwellian Ministry of Truth. Today the Howler exposes the outrageously deceptive editing of Al Gore's San Francisco speech by Brit Hume (and the Pavlovian response of the journalists who discussed the speech with him). Hume has turned into the kind of dissembling political operative he used to expose when he worked for Jack Anderson, a long time ago.
[2:35 p.m. PDT, Sept. 26, 2002]

Worm turns in cornfield
Iowa Republicans demanding state and federal investigations of Tom Harkin's Senate campaign were elated when the Democratic senator admitted that one of his staffers had leaked an audiotape transcript of Greg Ganske's remarks to a private meeting of his supporters. Hoping to stoke a ruinous scandal, Ganske's campaign abruptly rejected Harkin's apology. Moreover, Harkin's people had not only lied about their involvement in disseminating the transcript, but were suspected of illicitly taping their opponents, a potential criminal offense. It was a Democratic debacle that must have excited White House political strategists Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, who consider an Iowa turnover crucial to Republican chances of regaining the Senate.

But then yesterday afternoon, a Ganske contributor confessed to having taped the meeting. The contributor -- who remains anonymous and is communicating with the press and local authorities through an attorney -- issued a brief statement that included this explanation:

"Congressman Ganske arrived late and in his speech stated that, as for Senator Harkin, 'You've never seen a campaign where anyone will attack him like we're going to attack him, with a smile on our face...' I was incensed by Congressman Ganske's attitude and provided the tape to a Harkin staffer."

So much for the cornfield Watergate.
[8:44 a.m. PDT, Sept. 26, 2002]

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