'Fun Facts' from Barbara Shelly on Wacky, Ignorant Missouri

The Kansas City Star, the city's main newspaper, has a strange business model -- i.e., insulting large swaths of Missouri readers.  In an op-ed on August 23, "Todd Akin is the legitimate face of Missouri Republicans," columnist Barbara Shelly writes:

Missouri Republicans, aghast at the idea of Democrat Claire McCaskill winning a second term in the Senate, are now treating Akin like a pariah.

In truth, he is their native son, nurtured in the bosom of a party that tolerates wackiness and outright ignorance as long as one is sufficiently pro-life, anti-tax and suspicious of Washington.

Ms. Shelly begins her column with "fun things to know about the Show-Me State," where she bashes Missourians and, in particular, the Missouri GOP.  Her bill of particulars gives a "fun" window into Shelly's mind.  But when accusing large groups of folks -- potential subscribers, no less -- of being wacky and even ignorant, it's best to be careful with one's "fun facts":

Always the trendsetter, Missouri was the first state to pass a "Health Care Freedom Act," in 2010. Basically, it says Missourians cannot be forced to purchase health insurance, never mind that U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In taking a swipe at 2010's Prop C, aka the Missouri Health Care Freedom Act, Ms. Shelly blithely offends the 71.1 percent of Missouri voters who voted for it.  That this stunning victory was due to the Tea Party may explain Shelly's dyspepsia.

When going on the offensive, one had better have all one's facts right.  Shelly errs in the above quote with her last clause: "never mind that U.S. Supreme Court ruling."  Not being entirely ignorant about this, I sent Shelly a quick e-mail which consisted of the above quote and this: "Question: To what Supreme Court ruling do you refer?"

Ms. Shelly immediately e-mailed me this answer: "National Federation of Independent Business vs. Sebelius. The one decided by a 5-4 decision in August."  Of course, the Court aired their ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius on June 28, not in August.  But the larger matter is that the Court ruled exactly opposite of how Shelly suggests they did.  She has committed hit-and-run journalism.  I again e-mailed the columnist informing her of her mistake and suggested she issue a correction.  So far, I have noticed no correction in print. (Ms. Shelly can learn about whether Missourians and other Americans can "be forced to purchase health insurance" here.)

What's disappointing here is not just that a major city newspaper columnist gets recent events wrong, but that it gets past her editor.  And when the ignorance is displayed in a sly, oblique manner, it's even more lamentable.

After Shelly goes through her list of grievances, she finally comes around to the subject at hand: the Missouri Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Todd Akin.  Out of eight primary candidates (including two serious ones, Brunner and Steelman, who had polled better than Akin), Claire McCaskill, the incumbent, ran TV ads against Akin, hoping to get Akin elected.  McCaskill got her wish:

Only the McCaskill campaign saw fit to tell voters that Akin was "too conservative." Why, he even called Obama "a complete menace to our civilization," her ad pointed out.

On the last point, Akin is right: Obama is a menace.  And that's why the Missouri GOP is trying to replace Akin, so that they have a better shot at defeating Obama.  This election is the most important of our lives, and we must run our most viable candidates.  If one believes that these are trying times and that each party should run its best candidate in order to deal with the challenges facing the nation, then what McCaskill did (by intruding into her opposition's primary to get the weakest of the top contenders elected) is immoral.  After all, Akin might win.  Even Barb Shelly might grasp that.

The problem that Missouri is reeling from is the primary system.  A party's insiders should select their candidate, not the public.  If folks don't like those selections, they can form their own party and run a candidate of their own choosing.  Nonetheless, Claire McCaskill would probably want to meddle in any new selection process, too.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.

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