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Nelson Attacks Rounds on Deficit, Votes; GOP Puts Clothes in Spin Cycle

Last updated on 2013.10.25

...with Extra False-Quote Fabric-ation Softener!

I think we all got a little distracted in the discussion of Rep. Stace Nelson's speech at the Lincoln County Republicans' dinner Saturday. I think Team Wadhams-Rounds wanted us to get distracted. Let's put that just-about-nine-minute speech up right now:

Rep. Nelson didn't say anything new on Saturday, but the big news is that, for the first time, I think, he said it in front of his primary target, Marion Michael Rounds. In front of a couple hundred of Rounds's South Sioux Falls fans and potential donors, Nelson had the gall to gall to go negative—i.e., to remind them of the big negative sign that Governor Rounds left on the South Dakota state budget. Nelson made sure Rounds and everyone else had flyers on their dinner tables comparing the voting records of Rounds, Nelson, and fellow GOP challenger Sen. Larry Rhoden. Nelson concluded with this shot aimed straight at the front-running insurance salesman:

Look at the records. Don't pick the great smile, because that's not what's going to fix the problems in D.C. What's going to fix the problems in D.C. is someone who will go there and not compromise your future and not compromise my grandson's future, but someone who will toe the line and who will be a conservative Republican, just as my record indicates [Rep. Stace Nelson, speech to Lincoln County Republican dinner, 2013.09.21].

That should have been the lead of every blog story on Nelson's speech: Nelson Attacks Rounds on Deficit and Voting Record.

But former GOP chairman Joel Rosenthal didn't go there. He started the spin cycle with a discussion of what the candidates wore:

In terms of wardrobe though I give Rounds and Rhoden (along with the well groomed Krebs and Jamison) the Oscar for wardrobe. Elected officials should remember their physical appearance is important. They must project an image reflective that they represent others. Citizens will not support someone as their representative who doesn’t present well. I scribe this because of the disheveled appearance of Rep. Stace Nelson who looked like he just got out of bed with his wrinkled shirt and sleeves rolled up above the elbow [Joel Rosenthal, "Political Speeches," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2013.09.22].

Let's look at what Nelson wore, alongside GOP candidate Annette Bosworth's ensemble:

Rep. Stace Nelson and Annette Bosworth in jeans at Lincoln County GOP dinner, 2013.09.21. (Nelson pic from YouTube; Bosworth pic from Dusty Johnson's Twitter.
Rep. Stace Nelson and Annette Bosworth in jeans at Lincoln County GOP dinner, 2013.09.21. (Nelson pic from YouTube; Bosworth pic from Dusty Johnson's Twitter.

Disheveled? Nelson's (wrinkled?) shirt is tucked in, his hair is combed, he's more cleanly shaven than I ever am. He looks about as presentable in his blue jeans and rolled-up sleeves as Bosworth does in hers. Yet at Bosworth Rosenthal shouts "Cowgirls rule!" and deems her speech (without any policy details) one of the two best of the night.

Pat Powers joins in that chorus. Donning his smug "I'm a campaign expert; listen to me" voice, Powers too chastises Nelson, declaring the state representative to be in "sloppy" sartorial decline while finding a way to praise Annette Bosworth for taking his lordly campaign advice.

Rosenthal and Powers team up gin up an even greater and more malicious distraction: a completely false accusation that Rep. Nelson wants no one but Christians in the Republican Party. Rosenthal, who is no doddering old fool with bad hearing aids, put words Nelson did not say in quotation marks and said Nelson "unequivocally" said them. I fell for it, blogged it, then had to take it back when David Montgomery's audio and Stace Nelson's video proved Rosenthal was wrong.

Rosenthal did not take it back. He did not apologize. He chose to keep the meme alive with this "correction" (which word I put in Rosenthalesque quotation marks, meaning it's not really what he says it is):

David Montgomery at Political Smokeout at the Argus Leader calls me out on my listening skills.

Rather than what I “thought” I heard candidate Nelson say. Following is what Montgomery says his recording of the event shows what Nelson actually said,

“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order, and I’ll be the latter as long as it supports the first two.”

It is an important distinction if Nelson is exclusively referring to himself.

My reaction, as Montgomery suggests is different when I read the words, but that does not alter my reaction to what my mind heard [Rosenthal addendum, 2013.09.23].

Instead of apologizing, Rosenthal treats his misquotation as something still worthy of our attention in discussing the Nelson campaign. Rosenthal leaves his vitriolic dismissal of the "unenlightened" and "xenophobic" words he put in Nelson's mouth unedited.

Rep. Nelson responded with predictable and justifiable umbrage, calling Rosenthal's post a "dishonest & contrived political gutter attack."

Powers then responds with this incredible exercise in distractive moral relativism:

Representative Nelson is entitled to his own opinion, believing he was unfairly attacked, as is Rosenthal believing he heard Nelson’s words gave the impression one needed to be Christian to be a Republican. As a practitioner of the Hebrew faith, and a former State GOP Chair, if that’s what Rosenthal thought he heard, I can understand why he didn’t appreciate it [Pat Powers, "US Sen Candidate Nelson calls complaint about Christian reference 'corrupt political gutter atttack [sic]'," Dakota War College, 2013.09.23].

We have here a classic example of entitlement to one's own opinion but not to one's own facts. The record establishes clearly that Rep. Stace Nelson did not say what Joel Rosenthal said he said. Being accused of saying something that one did not say is an unequivocal example of an unfair attack, not just a matter of opinion. Neither Rosenthal, Powers, nor anyone else is entitled to say that Rosenthal issued a fair attack. Rosenthal's not entitled to have us discuss his lack of appreciation for a figment of his political imagination. Nelson is entitled to an apology.

But because Stace Nelson crapped on Mike Rounds's royal table in front of a bunch of Republicans, the GOP spin machine makes Nelson a shabbily dressed Shrek...

...and we don't discuss the substance of Nelson's challenge to the GOP frontrunner's record, because the frontrunner's machine knows the discussion of that substance is its greatest threat.

That's the Wadhams-Rounds-Rosenthal game. That's why we praise the fluff-bunnies and demonize the one Republican in the GOP Senate primary talking even a shred of sense.

Update 2013.09.25 22:50 CDT: By the way, Rounds wore jeans to the Lincoln County GOP dinner, too. Yet his buttoned-down sleeves are apparently all the difference between Rosenthal shouting "disheveled" and "Oscar!" for wardrobe.


  1. jana 2013.09.24

    If Rounds will mislead/lie to South Dakota about this, what else will he mislead/lie about?

    If he's that afraid of Stace, I can only guess that the real scary issues will bring the same response.

  2. interested party 2013.09.24

    What Wadhams, SDGOP and the NRSC are pulling off by diluting Stace's impact in the earth hater primary is pure genius. It would be interesting to know how the quid pro quo was negotiated.

    What are the chances of Bosworth and Rhoden suspending their campaigns late in the season?

  3. TG 2013.09.24

    Nelson is far more likely to suspend. Rhoden is in it for the long haul.

  4. Brother Beaker 2013.09.24

    Is it wrong that I still find fault, since it should be "I will be the LAST as long as it supports the first two." A little disappointed CH didn't catch that one. I suppose there were other details that were more compelling . . . to most people.

    On the more serious note, I would say that Rosenthal's point as made is entirely bogus, largely for the reasons that you enumerate, but there is still a point: Nelson's statement (as actually given) does endorse the proposition that the Republican party "supports" Christianity. I can see a person a another faith finding that disconcerting, though not as exclusionary as the original, fictitious version.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.24

    "Last" vs. "latter"—good call, Bro! But note that David Montgomery transcribes "last" from his recording. The video above also shows Nelson himself spoke the proper "last." So Rosenthal can't even get his "correction" right. (Now don't tell me that Rosenthal is so smart that he's trying to impute bad grammar to Nelson on top of everything else. ;-) )

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.24

    On the more central point, Bro, Stace has caught so much unjust crap from Rosenthal and Powers that I feel obliged to stick up for him here.

    I can see the danger in saying that being a Republican supports being a Christian. I can see people of other faiths being disconcerted by too much mingling of piety and partisanship. I don't want a theocracy, but I can see a community working better under a conscientious application of Jesus's principles than of the Tea Party's or of Mike Rounds's (the last phrase commits another error, assuming that Mike Rounds has principles).

    As a person of a different faith (i.e., the lack thereof), I can read Nelson's statement as about the best prioritization of worldviews we could ask of a Christian conservative Republican. He's acknowledging that Republicans and conservatives aren't automatically God's warriors, that they can get the Gospels wrong. Now whether Stace gets the Gospels right is a whole nother issue.

    Curious: what if Rick Weiland made a similar statement: I'm a Christian, a liberal, and a Democrat, in that order. I'll be the last as long as it supports the first two. Would Christians, Jews, atheists, or anyone else have cause for alarm?

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.24

    TG: Nelson suspend? Nelson appears to be investing more in making public appearances, organizing volunteers, and putting out signs than Rhoden. What makes you think the Rhoden campaign is somehow more durable?

  8. Roger Cornelius 2013.09.24

    Stace's claim of being a christian, conservative and Republican in that order seems to be isolating himself. There maybe an electorate that likes some of his political positions, but not his Christian view.

    In good conscience would Stace accept the "support and votes" of atheist, undecided voters and independents?

    I would expect a candidate that has such an adherence to a single ideology to also say "don't vote for me, you aren't a christian, conservative or Republican".

  9. grudznick 2013.09.24

    Mr. H, you supporting Mr. Nelson is about as effective as me supporting Mr. V. And I'm a big supporter of Mr. V.

    On points to agree with you on, I too think Mr. Nelson looks just fine maybe even just a bit too neat and orderly. And there is nothing wrong with that shirt. Heck, the young man looks far better than I did at that age and he's not even trying.

    And Dr. Bos, she is a very attractive young lady so you need to just get past that part and listen to her words. She has a sharp brain too.

    But Rhoden is as they say the man with the plan.

  10. grudznick 2013.09.24

    I don't mean that corndog Mr. V fellow. I mean the guy from Huron who runs for lots of stuff. Big fan.

  11. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.24

    Republicans just had too many vertical flag stripes for contrast.

  12. TG 2013.09.24

    Here's the problem "Nelson appears to be..." Appears being the keyword. I know he's out there pounding pavement, etc. and I know that because he tweets about everything. I actually commend him for that. However, the truth is that Rhoden is at MANY events and people's homes for fundraisers, etc. He just doesn't post all of his business on FB or tweet it out. I do realize that social media changes things a bit but just because one person is posting fake or true information does not mean that Rhoden, Rounds and Bosworth aren't equally out working just as hard or harder. It is a poor inference.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.25

    So, TG, can you show us that Rhoden is doing more campaigning than Nelson? I mean, if Rhoden is doing lots of events, and if Nelson is doing lots of events and publicizing them, doesn't Nelson still have the stronger campaign?

    [And check your e-mail, TG!]

  14. TG 2013.09.25

    Could I? Yes. Do I have the time? No. Is that my full time job? No. Is it my part time job? No. I have actually defended Nelson at least three times now on DWC because facts are facts regardless of who you're for in the end. Obviously, I'm a Rhoden fan but I felt a little bit sorry for Nelson on the whole dress thing and I defended him out of human decency. Do I have to oblige to every whim that is requested? No. But, I will check my email and thanks for pointing that out b/c I don't ever check the one registered unless I need a freqent flier number or hotel number...

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.25

    That's a pretty weak dodge, TG. If you're going to make time to make an argument, you've got to make time to defend it. This isn't my full-time or part-time job, either. I'm just trying to figure out what's really going on. The facts available suggest that Stace Nelson is running a more robust campaign than Larry Rhoden (and robustness in a campaign includes getting the word out). Only Fermat gets in the history books for claiming to have a proof but not having the time to share it with us.

  16. Bill Dithmer 2013.09.25

    I cant help it. When I saw the picture my mind went to a different place then a republican event. No it reminded me of something else. They looked like a redneck version of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie's My Endless Love.

    It must be the weather.

    The Blindman

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.25

    Someone check Bill's temperature—never in three years of having him on my blog radar has Stace Nelson caused me to think of Lionel Richie. :-)

  18. Brother Beaker 2013.09.25

    That's what I get for relying on someone else's research! Mea Culpa.

    I guess in the final analysis, CH, I don't blame Rosenthal for being jumpy or even for his "mishearing," but his refusal to acknowledge that the mistake was his says more about him than about Stace.

Comments are closed.