Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other winners in Tuesday’s primary all deserve a nod, but Dr. Monica Wehby in Oregon gets special kudos for claiming the “war on women” banner as her own and showing fellow Republicans how to turn tables on Democrats seeking to scare women voters. (The only dirty trick that backfired more dramatically than this was the Chris McDaniel supporters who thought it was a good idea to sneak into the room of Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) invalid wife.)
Shortly before her huge primary victory, leaks from the Democratic side started spreading, framing her as a lovelorn basket case. Kim Strassel recounts:
A Politico story about Dr. Wehby in 2013 visiting the house (to which she had a key) of a boyfriend who wasn’t returning her calls was run under the headline: “Oregon Senate Hopeful Accused of Stalking Boyfriend.” Never mind that the story (at the end) quoted the boyfriend, a businessman, as saying he had been “emotional,” regretted calling the police, and that they remain friends.
A story about how the man she was divorcing, Jim Grant, called in 2007 to complain that she had “slapped” him with a note pad (she denied it and police acknowledged that the “slight red dot” on his face might have been a “zit”) was run under headlines in numerous papers about Dr. Wehby’s “harassment” of Mr. Grant. Never mind (again) that Mr. Grant now lives four doors from her, donated to her campaign, and calls her a “good friend.”
Wehby’s team, rather than going on defense, went after her opponent with justifiable and righteous anger. In her victory speech Wehby slammed Merkley. The local press reported:
In her victory speech, Wehby thanked Republican voters for seeing through “all the negativity” and said, “I do have a message for those national Democrats who were willing to shred my family for their own political gain: People are tired of your dirty tricks.”
She added, “Tonight, we’re sending the message that this Senate race will not be decided by the kind of ugly politics that people in Oregon and across the country are so sick of.”
She ended by reciting her nationally noted slogan: “Keep your doctor, change your senator.”
She vowed to take on the dirty tricksters: “The best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”
The mainstream media, after going to town when the White House started its “war on women” pay equity, felt obliged to rap Merkley. Women reporters were especially vehement in their denunciation of Merkely’s tactics. (Ironically a couple right-wing male bloggers weighed in to fan the anti-Wehby flames, oblivious as to the ugliness of Merkley’s attacks.)
On Friday her camp continued the counterattacks, sending out an email blast with Strassel’s piece. The National Republican Senatorial Committee weighed in as well, blasting the Merkley campaign in its own emails: “For the last week, Democrats have tried their best to smear Dr. Monica Wehby, a widely respected pediatric neurosurgeon and first time political candidate. In fact, Jeff Merkley even rewarded the political operative responsible for the vicious attacks against Dr. Wehby, hiring him to a senior position on the campaign.”
“Jeff Merkley is desperately trying to run away from his failed record by resorting to dirty tricks to smear Dr. Wehby, who has dedicated her life to helping children and their families and has firsthand experience in dealing with Oregonians’ health care needs,” said NRSC Press Secretary Brook Hougesen. “Oregonians are tired of Jeff Merkley and Washington Democrats’ dirty tricks. Oregonians are excited to elect a Senator that puts Oregon first, and that isn’t Jeff Merkley.”
Republicans should follow Wehby’s lead (and that of Terri Lynn Land in Michigan who mocked her opponents claim that she was waging war on her own gender). Unless there is a price to be paid for their misogynistic attacks, Democrats will keep on launching them. Merkley’s whisper campaign demonstrated just how phony is their concern for women, putting a face on the double standard that has enraged conservatives for years. For all that, an impressive primary win and putting the race at least somewhat in play we can say, well done Dr. Wehby.