In May, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told The Dartmouth, the student newspaper of Dartmouth College, that the party's 2012 campaign theme will be “returning civility to government.” Someone forgot to tell gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan, it seems.
At a recent campaign event, Hassan was asked how she can beat Republicans this fall. Someone standing near the back of the room shouted, “You can beat them with a bat; you can beat them with your hands; you can beat them with your feet.” Hassan responded: “That's a good answer.”
Judging by a video of the exchange, posted online by the Republican PAC 4RG, both the man who made the “you can beat them” comments and Hassan appear to be joking. Yet that does not make the comments benign. Hassan is experienced enough to know that she should never condone violence against political rivals, even in jest. The correct — and obvious — response was to condemn the remarks as completely inappropriate.
Alas, Hassan lightheartedly endorsed the idea that her political opponents should be physically beaten. We all can picture exactly how this blunder would play out if the partisan roles were reversed. Had a Republican gubernatorial candidate endorsed beating Democrats with bats, it would be national news. Had a Tea Party leader done so, it would be international news. But Maggie Hassan, an establishment Democrat endorsed by Bill Clinton, gets a pass.
For their part, the two Republican candidates for governor refused to make hay of Hassan's poor decision. Ovide Lamontagne said through a spokesman that Hassan made an “an ill-conceived, off-hand comment.” Kevin Smith said “I think it was clear that Maggie was kidding, at least I took it that way.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what it looks like to take the high road, not the high horse. Remember that (and the New Hampshire Democratic Party's failure to comment on Hassan's remarks) the next time a Republican makes the same mistake Hassan made.