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Is Mark Belling running for something? Pretty soon, they will start asking him some "gotcha" questions, and he’ll be opening a campaign office in Iowa ...
You’d almost think that was the case with all of the attention he’s been getting lately.
First, the Journal Sentinel’s resident gossip columnist went after Belling in a lengthy piece for referring to a female TV reporter as a bimbo because she reported facts incorrectly about Right to Work. My reaction: Seriously? This is what they’re using their finite media resources on? And can’t Belling find a more modern insult? It sounds so '80s (I don’t support calling people names, although you should see my inbox because I’ve been called more than my fair share of them).
But Belling is routinely hyperbolic. Anyone who listens to him knows this. He calls lots of people outlandish names. He’s supported me on some key things in the past; he also once called me a name. I laughed when I heard it. I didn’t run to Dan Bice to complain. But my key point here is: This is news?
Then, uber liberal state Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley started running a nasty radio ad in the state Supreme Court race that featured ... Belling. Strange bedfellows, indeed. It’s roughly the equivalent of Scott Walker basing a campaign advertisement on the fact that Joel McNally or Sly Sylvester trashed someone. As if that should make us less likely to vote for someone (if McNally or Sylvester trash someone, I am more likely to vote for them. And don’t get me started on some of Sylvester’s comments about women).
Thus, one must ponder what Walsh Bradley thinks she is accomplishing. Usually candidates run endorsement advertisements by people who think they’re great. This is a "non-endorsement" advertisement highlighting someone who thinks an opponent isn’t great but who can’t stand Walsh Bradley either.
Granted Belling trashed Judge Jim Daley pretty hard over a sentence he handed down as Rock County judge (he gave a man who beat a young boy a year in jail). However, Belling is obviously not a fan of Walsh Bradley, either. He called her awful. In fact, I’ve heard him refer to her as a battle ax on the air (or maybe it was Abrahamson). Maybe Daley can run an ad quoting Belling saying he thinks Walsh Bradley is an awful battle ax (again, not defending name calling, including women. And not trying to give Dan Bice ideas. I am sure there will now be another 1,000 word column coming our way about Belling calling Walsh Bradley a battle ax).
How about focusing instead on the issues that matter to the Court and state, though? What Belling thinks of Jim Daley isn’t among them. It’s hard to imagine a single Walsh Bradley supporter being swayed by anything Belling says; it’s also hard to imagine a single Belling listener or fan ever voting for Walsh Bradley, who is firmly ensconced in the ever shrinking liberal wing of the court. Daley’s ads have been focusing on Walsh Bradley’s rulings relating to signature conservative issues like Act 10 and Voter ID. Now those things really matter.
It strikes me that Bradley is trying to run the "he let a molester off easy" conservative theme against Daley using Belling as a proxy. Liberal judges or justices don’t usually run on that message because they often have similar cases in their backgrounds or maybe they just don’t think it’s bad to go soft on people (conservative media are already dredging up some of Bradley’s cases where she went light on a sex offender).
Daley responded that Bradley was exploiting a victim; I don’t agree with that. His sentencings are fair game. I just don’t think one case matters as much as the slew of out-of-step rulings Bradley’s made on the court.
Bradley is basically stealing the winning theme that allowed conservatives to defeat Susan Happ for attorney general and got several conservatives elected to the highest court. She’s just using Belling to do it. Maybe she thinks she should tag her opponent with the stuff they’ll nail her with first, to neutralize it.
However, Belling bashing Daley might make Bradley supporters like Daley more.
You have to give Belling credit, by the way. He is a conservative pundit who will go just as hard at the side perceived to be his own when he feel it’s deserved. He advances a set of principles, not party loyalty (I can’t wait to hear what he says about Scott Walker’s shifting stance on ethanol).
Was the Daley sentence too light? Sounds like it, but I’d have to see all the evidence. Could there be a better candidate? Perhaps. But he’s what we’ve got.
I’m far more concerned by the ultra-left stances that Walsh Bradley consistently takes on the Court, often adjoining with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. She’s not even close to the mainstream. That’s a pattern. For all we know, the Daley case might be an aberration.
I’m also troubled by the rancor on the Court. Walsh Bradley thinks she’s the victim, but she’s no shrinking violet herself. She’s whipped out nastygrams before. When it comes to rancor and dysfunction on the court, she’s an active participant in that dynamic. Maybe it’s time for new blood on the court. Either way, with the balance of the court not in play here, I doubt this election will be as heated as others were.
I don’t want to hear any more complaining from the liberal wing of the court about "negative campaigning" or how poisonous Supreme Court races have become. Maybe Bradley should look in the mirror next time she starts blasting away about that.
Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.
She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.
Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including Patch.com, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and Wispolitics.com. She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media Milwaukee.com, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.
Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.