Normally I don't get involved in the ongoing controversies over David Blaska's commentaries on The Daily Page. Isthmus has given Blaska license to say pretty much whatever he wants and I usually don't feel the need to quarrel even if I disagree, as is often the case.
I'd like to make a rare exception, though, regarding Blaska's post from earlier this week, "Blaska's Blog is 'stupid' for voting for Scott Walker and Ron Johnson."
The column is mainly a response to the opinion column I wrote in Isthmus last week, which has drawn national attention, including a blog post on the Washington Examiner and a mention by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.
The focus of this commentary was not my column but the comments I quoted from UW-Madison political science Prof. Charles Franklin, which were actually first reported by Isthmus intern Alicia Yager in her coverage of a Nov. 8 discussion. These, of course, were seized on to vilify Franklin, who actually went on to defend the voters who voted for Ron Johnson, as he notes in a comment posted to my column.
The Washington Examiner writer, Byron York, also took this opportunity to casually misrepresent my remarks regarding Gov.-elect Scott Walker's determination to refuse federal funds for high-speed rail. He claimed I was saying the people who voted for Walker are stupid, when in fact the column quite clearly argues that they were duped. Walker repeatedly stated that he would take the federal government's $810 million handout and use it for other things, like fixing roads and bridges, when this was never a possibility.
But this Washington pundit's misrepresentation pales compared to that made by David Blaska on The Daily Page. After going on about the offensiveness of my column and Franklin's remark, he writes this:
"Understand, I am not criticizing Bill Lueders, especially since I have been warned not to do so on these pages."
There is a context for these remarks, but Blaska's representation is pure fiction, a manifestation of his apparent need to see himself as a victim.
In August, Blaska went after me in a column and I responded. The details are unimportant, but afterward he wrote an email to me and Isthmus web producer Jason Joyce, in which he explained why he made me the target of his attack:
"[H]e's a big boy. He's been dishing it out pretty hard for 20 years, I'm sure he can take it."
On Aug. 10, I sent Blaska an email in response, which read, in its entirety:
"I can take it but I don't especially feel good about your using your column on TheDailyPage to disparage me and Isthmus. I can honestly say that I have on numerous occasions defended you and the paper's decision to give you a forum, and I know Jason has too. That's why some of the things you say, especially recently, strike us as ... I dunno. Not nice. Mean. Spiteful. Hurtful even.
"There was a time when I considered people like you, and you in particular, as the enemy. That time has long passed. I don't think there's any reason for you not to show Isthmus and the people who work for it the same respect."
The next day, Aug. 11, Blaska replied:
"O.K., Bill. I'll ease up. But you and John Nichols are among the two leading journalists in this town and the most prominent Left of Center journalists. Both you and Jason have not hesitated to take on old D.B. I don't know that I have "disparaged" you so much as challenged some of your conclusions. And please scold me if I ever resort to the intellectually lazy habits of John Nichols of 'telling' and not 'showing.' (I.E. making the argument rather than impugning the motive.)"
I responded to this response, in relevant part:
"I guess I think your criticisms of Isthmus in general and me in particular have been harsher than my criticisms of you, and certainly have been interpreted by people here, who are busting their asses to keep this paper going, as hurtful. But it's not worth arguing over. I will try to be more respectful, and appreciate any similar gesture on your part."
This was the sum of our exchange on this issue. David Blaska was never warned that he should not use his column to criticize me. No one has ever stopped him from doing so or threatened consequences if he continued, as his claim implies. He is free to do so now, as often as he pleases.
I've known David Blaska for more than 20 years. As I told him in my email in August, there was a time when I honestly detested him for his politics. In recent years, though, I've regularly defended him and his right to his opinions. I've even grown to sort of like the guy, though he does make that difficult sometimes.
Why he chose to misrepresent what was said about his frequent attacks on Isthmus in general and me in particular -- to publicly claim that someone waved a finger in his face and told him to knock it off, or else -- doesn't exactly surprise me, but it does disappoint me.
Happy Thanksgiving, David. Keep on telling it like you see it, as we've always let you do. But your dishonesty in this instance is painful to behold.