Friday, September 16, 2005

The mistake was by a different beginner

Looks like the poll-visiting kerfluffle threatening to sour Cherelle Parker's win this week (see here) was less a result of her first-timer mis-steps than of over-zealousness by the new head of the Committee of Seventy, Zach Stalberg (see background here):
The committee announced on Wednesday that it had asked the District Attorney's Office to investigate whether Parker's multiple visits inside several polling places Tuesday were against the state code.
. . .
The committee learned yesterday that the City Commissioners' Office had issued Parker a poll watcher's certificate, which allowed her to enter any polling place.
Oops! Then I guess that all those suspicious visits to polling places were, um, pre-approved! Guess if he wants to change local practices at the who-provides-lunch level, Stalberg should start by suggesting a better system, rather than trying to get somebody taken to court.


Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

You are absolutely right that changing the system is much better done by straight-forward advocacy of change rather than falsely charging people with crimes for failing to meet a vision of change.

It used to be that the business of political smears consisted of fabricating facts. As the whole Whitewater saga demonstrated, today's preferred method of political smear is to fabricate legal interpretations of real facts.

Long before the Internet, long before search engines, the legal profession developed comprehensive systems of case indexing. An important question to ask, when someone alleges that a given fact is a violation of Pennsylvania law, is what are the precedents? Further questions would ask the facts of the cases of the alleged precedents, what the judges ruled, and what reasons they gave for ruling that way.

That the Committee of Seventy did not cite a single precedent is telling. That the the attack on Cherelle Parker was made in the name of the Committee of Seventy--without the name of Zachary Stalberg or any other official listed--is even more telling. They knew they were skating on very thin ground from the very beginning.

The House Un-American Activities Committee was an early practicioner of the game of attributing false criminality to real facts. The Committee of Seventy should not be following in these footsteps. Doing something that smears innocent people is worse than doing nothing at all.

1:32 PM  

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