Somewhere, over the rainbow, a blog is born. A blog for Kansas. A blog for America. A blog by a reporter with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. But most importantly, a blog that is AMERICA'S ONLY PLACE dedicated to the vital intersection of politics and Sunflowers. The Heartland gods nod in wise approval.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Milton's message

See, here's what's fascinating about how politics works in the Internet age: A few minutes ago I get an e-mail from a guy only identified by the name "Milton." The e-mail, in part, says this:

John Kerry, billionaire wife, Teresa tax return - Lines 55 and 59 on Form 1040 are Social Security and Medicare taxes paid to Household employees, ie: nannies; housekeepers; gardeners; etc. ... What Heinz-Kerry is claiming on her tax return for Household 'wages' extrapolates to approximately $7,500 - $8,000/year.

$8,000 a year paid to small army from five estates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The implication, of course, is of a "nannygate" -- starvation wages paid to illegal immigrants, the sort of thing that brought down Linda Chavez when she was nominated to become Bush's Labor Secretary. It's hard to believe that a situation like that, even were it to exist, wouldn't have either A. Been addressed by the Kerrys earlier or B. Been brought out by somebody like Wes Clark or Howard Dean during the primaries.

But stranger things have happened, so you can't just dismiss the e-mail out of hand. But that's not the fascinating part. Milton's message isn't just interesting for what the e-mail says, it's for who received it. Just for fun, I hit the "reply-all" key to see who else got this. Basically, everyone at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the major broadcast and cable networks, and a smattering of regional correspondents like myself all did. "I am Milton, and I approve this message," basically. Now, we'll see if/how the rumor percolates. Drudge hasn't picked it up yet. Haven't seen it on any right-wing blogs or news sites yet -- but these things gather their own steam.

I'm not saying this is a good or bad thing. Sometimes, the smoke does indeed show a fire. If it hadn't been for similar efforts, we may never have known that those CBS Bush National Guard docs were fake. But it's also a tactic that's very, very susceptible to smear -- like the John Kerry "intern scandal" that went nowhere last spring.

That's my biggest fear for this election -- that in the last couple days, some allegation's going to surface, some trick's going to be played, that, true or not, will swing just enough voters to tip the election even though the "news" didn't pan out. It wouldn't take much -- just something that grabs headlines immediately, but can't be sorted out until later. Something that, if it's proven false the day after the election, well, too bad, voters -- guess you'll have to live with the best info you had on Nov. 2 for the next four years.

Lots of frayed nerves right now, and plenty of folks who have Internet access but don't have any scruples. We'll see if John Kerry's nannygate gathers any steam the next few days, or if this is the only media outlet where you see it published. Frankly, I can't tell you which way I'd like to see it play out.

After all, I don't know if what I just reported is actually true.