Tee Up The Puppets

Brian Sweeney Jr.

In 1988 a Dartmouth Review columnist, James Garrett, wrote a piece comparing the attempted silencing of conservatives on campus to tactics used in Nazi Germany. A few weeks after publication the Dartmouth faculty decided they were offended and made it a national story. An easy thing when they had an ally on the New York Times education page. The Review was under immediate fire for being anti-Semitic. 

It was a political move by the faculty. In previous years a professor had failed in attempt to sue the paper for libel. The paper had also won lawsuits against the college in the past when it disciplined staffers in ways found to be unjust. The faculty was always looking for a way to strike back.

I was a writer for the Review at the time. It was a brilliantly written piece although the analogy is one that is overused and intellectually lazy. I am certain there was never any anti-Semitic intent. The staff was uniformly pro Israel and I never heard anything discriminatory in the office. The incident stuck with me and I am always cautious to avoid analogies that people could turn into ways to avoid the issue.

It is why when Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, used a Nazi analogy I immediately called him out on it. Over the years, I have done the same thing to other editorial staff in the comments section of the Anchorage Daily News. It happens more than people think and has almost always been a writer leaning left. None of them has ever acknowledged any kind of problem and often the response has been a belligerent defense of the comments.

Mayor Dan Sullivan recently made a comment at a Lieutenant Governor debate comparing mandatory union membership in the workplace to slavery. I immediately saw the smug grin on Lesil McGuire's face when he said it. She knew exactly what would happen. The union political machine was put in high gear. Nearly overnight The Huffington Post and Daily Kos cared about a candidate in a race for a meaningless office in terms of national impact.

One of the leaders of the charge? The aforementioned Mr. Beltrami. He has been plastered all over the news getting after Mr. Sullivan. After all, Mr. Sullivan was the one who dared to try and address the environment that led to the previous sweetheart Anchorage labor deal. That was crafted by union friend Mark Begich. Sullivan is also running against another politician willing to play friend to the unions, at least for now, in Ms. McGuire.  

Beltrami is a fire breather. He is not afraid to make his arguments and generally takes no prisoners. He has no need to be a politician since he has a solid base in his union position. It is a refreshing quality because you never have to wonder what he is thinking. This is a far cry from politicians, especially conservative ones, who must always tread carefully in a world of political correctness.

The latest salvo fired by Beltrami is an APOC complaint that the mayor's office has responded when the statement was made by candidate Sullivan. If, as Sullivan claims, the NAACP sent a letter to the mayor's office it becomes an unclear area. The other night Beltrami was on television claiming the complaint was not political. Really? This whole thing has been political from the time McGuire grinned. 

Is it legitimate to be hypocritical in the pursuit of political agenda?

It is more than the fact that Beltrami has used a similar analogy in the past. His organization has filed legal cases in other states comparing right-to-work legislation to slavery. Evidently working next to people who choose not to join your union is equivalent to slavery in the eyes of the AFL-CIO.

The problem with using over the top analogies is it allows those who disagree with you to make it about your analogy instead of the issue. It is doubtful that Beltrami thinks I am a Nazi. It is doubtful that Sullivan thinks that any employee in the United States is actually a slave. 

The odd part about this story is the unions might actually benefit from a Sullivan win. If Sullivan leaves the mayor's office for Juneau union friend Patrick Flynn would become mayor. It is also likely that the romance with McGuire will end when the general election comes and she is up against union friendly Democrats. This is something my current state senator does not seem to understand.

Beltrami understood the political gamesmanship when the Republicans tried to get the minimum wage off the ballot in November. He understood that the move might hurt union friendly candidates including his darling Mark Begich. It led to McGuire helping out to squash the Republican effort. It put Beltrami in the uncomfortable position of not wanting a bill to raise the minimum wage. In this convoluted world cannot Vince see that a Sullivan win might actually be better for him? As an added bonus he still gets to pull strings on McGuire in the legislature. 

As a taxpayer Anchorage's financial situation matters a lot to me. I have seen what has happened under Begich and Sullivan. I want the unions to get a fair shake. I get why they do not like AO 37. That said, they should understand why many of us want to see some leveling of the field in labor negotiations.

The situation almost has me ready to vote for McGuire so Sullivan can stay in office a little longer. Why not channel my inner Beltrami and play political games. I actually appreciate the guy's haircut. 

As for coverage by the media? They, as usual, have played right into the hands of the hype. They have given the Sullivan story all the legs it needs to distract away from the right-to-work debate. They have given Vince and his agenda driven friends all the help they need to push the story.

Get ready. They are just waiting for a chance to do the same thing to the other Dan Sullivan. It may be necessary to defend their loyal soldier Mark Begich who is in a fight earlier than he expected. The simple truth is if you are a loyal soldier you get a pass. If you want to oppose the agenda, not so much.


Satire by Dartmouth Publication Under Heavy Fire as Anti-Semitic
WOW! I'm a friggin' blogger!
Brian F. Sweeney, Jr.
Anchorage Daily News Bloggers