Josh Mandel has become a Saturday Night Live skit. Asked whether he would abandon statements deemed “pants on fire” by the respected Politifact column of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate has said he will not — without a trace of embarrassment, even telling reporters at one point that it is their job to “do the grunt work.”
Mandel trades in hyperbole, hurling such words as “ridiculous,” “outrageous,” “radical,” “over our dead bodies.” During a session with reporters and editors of the Columbus Dispatch last week, the state treasurer (for all of 20 months) labeled his opponent “un-American,” and Sherrod Brown, the Democratic incumbent, was sitting in the room. Will Ferrell would be hard pressed to play the part better. The dismaying thing is, Mandel is serious.
What did Mandel find “un-American” about the senator? According to the Dispatch, he faulted Brown for “stripping” Delphi employees of their pensions. Of course, the Delphi action was part of the larger federal rescue of the auto industry, which Mandel opposes even now, arguing that management of General Motors and Chrysler should have been permitted to go down the road “they thought was feasible.”
What Mandel overlooks is that there was no alternative road, other than likely liquidation. There was no private financing available. The Obama White House and Congress put up the money to help the automakers through bankruptcy. A presidential task force aided the companies and organized labor in making the tough, necessary choices they had dodged for too long.
Mandel argues that Ford and Honda plants still would be open in Ohio. Yet both automakers urged federal officials to act, knowing what the loss of GM and Chrysler would do to supply chains and the industry as a whole. Worth noting is that Paul Ryan recognized the value of the rescue.
For much of the campaign, Mandel has resisted taking positions on prominent issues. The Dispatch cited his flights into empty generalities. Speaking with the Plain Dealer on Monday, he proved more forthcoming. For instance, he expressed doubts about global warming, calling the science “inconclusive and riddled with fraud,” the latter, especially, now part of the Mandelian excess. He replayed the distortion of the president’s Medicare savings, which will not narrow benefits.
On occasion, Mandel laments how the Brown campaign has been outspending his effort. What he doesn’t say is that outside groups have spent roughly $15 million on his behalf, the money undisclosed and devoted to tearing down the senator. Arguably, this onslaught has kept Mandel close in the polls, distracting from his puny record as treasurer, his short stay in the state legislature. In this way, too, his candidacy seems more parody — until you recall the stakes.