Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011 | 3:41 p.m.
Within a day of the state Republican Party filing an ethics complaint in Washington, D.C., against Rep. Shelley Berkley -- first reported elsewhere on this blog -- state Democrats unleashed their 2012 rapid response machine with a web video, news releases and a kidney transplant patient trotted out for sympathetic effect.
It was at once impressive and grotesque. But it also showed that the Democrats believe the issues raised in the New York Times story are serious and also that they will stand behind Berkley with the full force of the machine erected last year to help Harry Reid batter Sharron Angle. They don't just hew to the "an attack unanswered is an attack accepted" maxim; they do "an attack accepted without a nuclear response is an attack accepted."
Today’s timeline of rapid Reid machine response:
8:12 AM – Democratic Party release decries “partisan, hypocritical stunt” by GOP in fling ethics claim, releases this YouTube video tying Sen. Dean Heller to (you guessed it) Big Oil:
11:26 AM – The Berkley campaign, under the headline, “UMC KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT POLITICALLY MOTIVATED GOP STUNT AT 1PM PT,” announces conference call for media.
11:28 AM – Democrats, under headline, “NV Journalist Debunks Partisan, Hypocritical Stunt Complaint Against Berkley,” link to this blog post by RJ columnist Steve Sebelius, who trashed the GOP complaint.
1 PM – Conference call with transplant patient, who is sickeningly used as prop to deflect subject of ethics. He tells story of how he was saved when UMC’s program was saved, but he will not give his party affiliation or whether he is a Berkley supporter.
1:12 PM – After the RJ posted a story with Heller campaign manager Mike Slanker dismissing the video, the Democrats sent out a release repeating the allegations under the headline, “Heller Campaign Adviser Calls New Dem Ad "Untrue"...Oh Yeah? Which Charges?”
That’s a lot of activity in five hours. And the day is far from over.
A couple of comments – and I am going to do much more on this story as time goes on:
1. The GOP complaint – and this will not shock you – was not written by Amy Tarkanian, the GOP chair who signed it. It is a lawyerly document, and I am not quite as dismissive as my friend, Steve Sebelius. Although there is no evidence Berkley had anything to do with getting her husband the transplant contract, and while it’s true all the delegation members helped save the very troubled transplant program, and while Dr. Larry Lehrner and his partner, Dr. Marvin Bernstein (my post-transplant doc!) are superb physicians, read the House rules of conduct. They are broadly written and if – IF – they wanted to take action, they have latitude based on what Berkley did.
2. Although some Democrats inside the echo chamber are going wobbly on Berkley – anyone have Secretary of State Ross Miller’s number? – they are in the minority. This is a sign that Democrats – read Reid – are all in with the congresswoman and believe this, too, shall pass. The purpose of the GOP complaint is to see that it doesn’t. But today’s furious fusillade shows the Democrats are well oiled at an early juncture and that everyone better fasten their seat belts from now until November 2012: It is going to be a very bumpy 14-plus months.