The Star-Ledger came to the defense of political pundit Matt Friedman today. Friedman, for a time, worked at the Star-Ledger, but that's not how he became a member of New Jersey's political punditry. Friedman started with David "Wally Edge" Wildstein, creator and editor of the political pundit website that became PolitickerNJ.com, and later the mastermind behind the Bridgegate scandal.
Remember the cold indifference Wildstein exhibited towards school children caught in traffic on that bridge? Something worthy of an Ernst Roehm, was it not?
As editor Wally Edge, Wildstein inculcated his apprentice pundits with his peculiar take on New Jersey politics. He hated a lot of people, a lot of them were Republicans, and at every opportunity, he made them feel his hate. This was the training that Friedman and other future pundits picked up from the notorious Wally Edge.
Pundits are different from journalists. While journalists report the news, pundits try to mold the news to fit a particular agenda. Wally is not around anymore -- but his acolytes are -- and they have bent the way political news is reported in New Jersey.
Take today's Star-Ledger editorial as an example. The "crimes" it reports on are "crimes" of thought. This candidate thought about something and wrote something that we disagree with. Instead of debating it -- of addressing words with words -- we want to criminalize it. We demand that these ideas, these words, be "denounced" and that the offenders be made to recant such thoughts and words or be denied their civil right to run for public office.
In the case of one candidate, he stands accused of the high crime of comedy. This fellow wrote a book many years ago, marketed as "satire", that was nonetheless treated like a position paper freshly released from his campaign. They even targeted his marriage, accusing him of being "anti-Asian" when they full-well knew that his wife is Korean, and he is not anti-her or anti-their children. This is the madness of punditry as practiced by Wally's acolytes.
It's not like there isn't plenty to write about in New Jersey. There's a seemingly never-ending saga of crime and corruption. But pundits aren't equal opportunity writers. They have an agenda and that agenda has targets. Those targets get the business and everyone else gets a pass. So you have to take everything one of these pundits writes with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Unfortunately however, a lot of regular reporters get caught up in the crap spewed by pundits. Go back and read the last month of political reporting in this state and you would be led to believe that the only candidates running for the Legislature who have anything remotely objectionable in their pasts are three or four Republicans who made the mistake of thinking the wrong thoughts or writing satirical prose.
It's pretty darned sad -- and a gross misrepresentation of the truth.
Here's an example -- just one, of many, many, many. Back around the time our Republican comedian was writing his book, a young up-and-coming Democrat lobbyist was being accused of stalking women, breaking into their home, and so on. Accused, mind you, only accused. He is rich, connected, and powerful. Well, here's the headline:
Lobbyist accused of stalking pleads guilty to trespassing
Additional charges dropped as part of deal
A 22-year-old business whiz and lobbyist from Fanwood faces a probationary term after pleading guilty yesterday to a count of trespassing, admitting he was intoxicated when he entered a home where, police say, a young woman and her boyfriend were sleeping... avoided a trial on charges of stalking two women under a plea agreement reached as jury selection was about to begin in Middlesex County.
Today this Democrat is an incumbent member of the Assembly and is on the ballot for re-election this November 3rd. Now Matt Friedman should know all about this because, like him, the Assemblyman was an associate of Wally Edge and his operation. But trespassing isn't the only thing this guy got up to.
Around the time a certain Republican candidate for Assembly was committing the unforgivable crime of thought, aka "the tweet", the Democrat Assemblyman was, well, let's just say he was violating federal law. Here is a copy of the federal indictment:
This guy had a masterful defense team and they played out the clock, seemingly waiting for United States Attorney Chris Christie to leave office. In the end, he got a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to one count and five others were dropped. Among the terms of his probation were: "...the defendant shall notify third parties of risks that may be occasioned by the defendant's criminal record or personal history or characteristics..."
Like those Republicans targeted because of their thoughts and opinions, this Democrat is on the ballot on November 3rd. The difference is, what is documented here is a bit more serious than expressing an opinion. So why isn't it worthy of a mention?
Why does the "readers' right to know" begin with opinion and end with satire -- and leave out criminal case records?
And this is by no means the worst incidence by the punditry. A few years ago the arrest and conviction of a candidate was brought to a newspaper in this state. It involved violent assault on the part of this candidate against a woman. The editor of that newspaper so wanted to defeat the Republican that he shrugged his shoulders, claimed that it was not newsworthy, and ignored actual violence. The Republican won but the defeated candidate might be a candidate again, only next time there will be no presentation of the evidence to the press. Next time it will be on cable.
And that's because New Jersey's political pundits are only interested in pursuing candidates who commit thought crime, not real crime.