Let’s Match Up the Records of ‘War Liar’ Blumenthal and ‘Panderer’ McMahon

I think everyone will agree that I have sucked up quite enough to Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal Inquirer. His latest column, “Which will hurt more: ‘war liar’ or ‘panderer’?”, http://www.journalinquirer.com/articles/2010/05/27/chris_powell/doc4bfd8a5a6c0d5972894794.txt, has the Richard Blumenthal vs. Linda McMahon dynamic only half-right.

There’s no quarrel with this thought: “Here’s betting that while they make this year’s U.S. Senate campaign in Connecticut the most poisonous in history, [the two mud-slinging points] largely cancel each other out.”

Nor with this: “With such tempting material for character assassination, the Senate campaign is sure to be waged mainly through sneering commercials on TV and radio, a stimulus plan for broadcasters, who are given their licenses on the public’s airwaves for free and then allowed to charge the country to have a democracy.”

But Powell stumbles into the same sound-bite simplicity he deplores when he lets McMahon’s business off the hook by calling it “grotesque,” and leaving it at that.

The problem with World Wrestling Entertainment isn’t that it’s grotesque, overly violent, or overly sexed. The problem with WWE — and with the Senate candidate made by it — isn’t that it’s “borderline-pornographic.” That’s the phrase used today by New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a variation on Powell’s “grotesque,” echoing that of Chris Hedges’ awful book, Empire of Illusion (see my review here). What’s with this “borderline” stuff, anyway? And who cares?

I’d like to hear a little talk about the structure, not the TV content, of McMahon’s business. More than a little talk — a little reporting. Her WWE’s jobs in Connecticut (which also come and go by the grace of corporate expansion and contraction, and without reference to the McMahon family’s windfall stock dividends, enabled by tax breaks) are a function of a no-benefits independent contractor work force of performers who drop dead in impossible numbers — proportions far exceeding those of rock stars or football or baseball players. But thanks to Vince and Linda McMahon’s money and political connections in both parties, and both inside Connecticut and inside the Washington Beltway, a Congressional investigation following the 2007 Chris Benoit murder-suicide fizzled.

The McMahons also arguably obstructed justice — engaged, if you will, in “borderline criminality” — decades after Blumenthal, like many others of his generation (including, apparently, Vince McMahon) used deferments to avoid military service in Vietnam. To his discredit, Blumenthal has played fast and loose with the truth about his military service. For Vince, his lack of any military service seems to be an almost uniquely untouched subject for lying.

This year, unless Connecticut journalists (including those supervised by Journal Inquirer managing editor Powell) get on the stick, another opportunity to clean up that sleazy industry will fizzle.

I say, let’s put up Richard Blumenthal’s record as state attorney general against Linda McMahon’s record as CEO of a publicly traded corporation with a billion-dollar market cap. I hold no brief for Blumenthal; that his record includes its quota, or more, of manipulation and grandstanding is a given.

But what we need here isn’t smackdown, folks. It’s straight-up.

Irv Muchnick

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