Washington Babylon — October 8, 2008, 2:41 pm

When Challenged on Ethics, Sen. Coleman and Rep. Keller Blame the Bloggers

October 8: In a stellar display of political weaselry, Cullen Sheehan, campaign manager for Senator Norm Coleman, tells reporters that he will not “respond to unnamed sources on a blog,” then refuses to answer direct questions asking him whether another man paid for Senator Coleman’s suits—repeating “the Senator has reported every gift he has ever received” at least eight times.

Two of my stories for this blog have become issues in current congressional campaigns. One story was about Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman and his close relationship with political donors, including a businessman named Nasser Kazeminy. The story raised the possibility, based on two confidential sources, that Kazeminy has helped underwrite Coleman’s wardrobe, specifically with purchases at Neiman Marcus.

The second story, which ran last November, reported that “Family Values” Congressman Ric Keller of Florida had, after winning office,

divorced his wife and married a young woman who worked on his congressional staff. I spoke with four people, each of whom would only speak with me on condition of anonymity, and each of whom told me that Keller’s relationship with the staffer began while he was still married.

I reported then that House disclosure records showed that Keller and his staffer (and future bride) traveled together on his campaign’s dime, during the same month in 2002 that he separated from his wife, and that she was his only staffer that year to receive a year-end bonus. Now Keller’s opponent has apparently sent out my story as a campaign flyer.

Both Coleman and Keller have denounced the stories–apparently because I published them online in this weblog. “There are very awful things that are said about people on the blogs,” Coleman told one reporter. And Keller issued a statement saying that the story I had written was all “innuendo” and that I was a “discredited blogger” who had previously reported that Hillary Clinton was a lesbian. That is, very simply, a lie, as anyone can see if they bother to read postings I wrote earlier this year making fun of the dumb rumors about Hillary’s alleged “Sapphic excursions.”

In other words, neither Coleman nor Keller wants to discuss the issues raised by the stories; both prefer instead to shift the topic and rail against “bloggers.” What’s particularly striking is that I gave both Coleman and Keller ample opportunity to comment before the stories were published. Both posts were based on interviews, public documents, and published accounts, and were reviewed by an editor before publication. Keller’s office refused to comment at all, whereas Coleman’s office refused to provide a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question about his clothing purchases. (I reproduced those emails in my post.)

Politicians do this all the time: instead of answering questions, no matter how specific and direct, they hope a “no comment” or dissembling will kill a story. And it often works. I spent significant time on both the Coleman and Keller stories, and I reported what I knew to be true. I made clear in the specific case of Coleman’s wardrobe that I did not have all the details confirmed, but that the accounts I had were highly detailed and credible. And instead of replying, Coleman was, and remains, evasive. If he ever gives a straight answer, I’ll be happy to report it. But blaming “bloggers” should not be a substitute for elected officials replying to specific, detailed questions.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2018

The Bodies in The Forest

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Minds of Others

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Modern Despots

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before the Deluge

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Notes to Self

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Within Reach

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Minds of Others·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Progress is impossible without change,” George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, “and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve. Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide. On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise. Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews. The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs — and with those who share them. The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.

Yet we know that people do change their minds. We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. In the essays that follow, seven writers explore the ways that persuasion operates in our lives, from the intimate to the far-reaching. Some consider the ethics and mechanics of persuasion itself — in religion, politics, and foreign policy — and others turn their attention to the channels through which it acts, such as music, protest, and technology. How, they ask, can we persuade others to join our cause or see things the way we do? And when it comes to our own openness to change, how do we decide when to compromise and when to resist?

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
Article
Within Reach·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On a balmy day last spring, Connor Chase sat on a red couch in the waiting room of a medical clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and watched the traffic on the street. His bleached-blond hair fell into his eyes as he scrolled through his phone to distract himself. Waiting to see Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner, was making Chase nervous: it would be the first time he would tell a medical professional that he was transgender.

By the time he arrived at the Equitas Health clinic, Chase was eighteen, and had long since come to dread doctors and hospitals. As a child, he’d had asthma, migraines, two surgeries for a tumor that had caused deafness in one ear, and gangrene from an infected bug bite. Doctors had always assumed he was a girl. After puberty, Chase said, he avoided looking in the mirror because his chest and hips “didn’t feel like my body.” He liked it when strangers saw him as male, but his voice was high-pitched, so he rarely spoke in public. Then, when Chase was fourteen, he watched a video on YouTube in which a twentysomething trans man described taking testosterone to lower his voice and appear more masculine. Suddenly, Chase had an explanation for how he felt — and what he wanted.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Before the Deluge·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the summer of 2016, when Congress installed a financial control board to address Puerto Rico’s crippling debt, I traveled to San Juan, the capital. The island owed some $120 billion, and Wall Street was demanding action. On the news, President Obama announced his appointments to the Junta de Supervisión y Administración Financiera. “The task ahead for Puerto Rico is not an easy one,” he said. “But I am confident Puerto Rico is up to the challenge of stabilizing the fiscal situation, restoring growth, and building a better future for all Puerto Ricans.” Among locals, however, the control board was widely viewed as a transparent effort to satisfy mainland creditors — just the latest tool of colonialist plundering that went back generations.

Photograph from Puerto Rico by Christopher Gregory
Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner

Amount American Airlines saved in 1987 by eliminating one olive from each salad served in first class:

$40,000

A daddy longlegs preserved in amber 99 million years ago was found to have an erection.

Trump tweeted that he had created “jobs, jobs, jobs” since becoming president, and it was reported that Trump plans to bolster job creation by loosening regulations on the global sale of US-made artillery, warships, fighter jets, and drones.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today