Planet Madison

There's a gubernatorial race in Wisconsin this year, and the incumbent Democrat, James Doyle, is facing a challenge from Republican Congressman Mark Green. The race is starting to heat up now that it's finally 2006, and Green has decided that in order to get a job in Madison, he's going to try something novel.

Insult Madison.

Okay, so it's not that novel. Wisconsin Republicans and anti-intellectualists have been trotting out that old chestnut for decades. Since expertise and higher learning became undesirable traits in American politics (thank you, Ronald Reagan), Madison has borne the brunt of conservative booger-flicking in my state. Green's fresh attack on this long-deceased horse is not so much surprising as it is pathetic.

Green's specific comment referred to the case of the Madison grade school teacher who had her students write letters against the occupation of Iraq to officials in Washington. This was, as it should be, fairly universally derided as a good idea gone too far. No one, even on the far left, is taking the position that this was a good thing. Yet, Green felt he just had to ask, "On what planet would it be OK to use students as political pawns? Planet Madison. And it would be entirely humorous except — the bad news is — Planet Madison is running the state".

Again, I have to restate that I could not find one defense of this assignment. I have, however, seen Green's good buddy George W using firemen, rescue workers, soldiers, levee repairmen, the city of New York and the American flag as political pawns. When W gave his speech in front of the levees in New Orleans, to highlight their rebuilding, it made most people feel hopeful and good. Few people heard that as soon as he left, and the media turned away, all but one crane were removed from the repair work. It was theater, created for political benefit. Same thing with the New York (ahem) firemen who were kept from doing relief work to walk around with W and Brownie with their rolled-up sleeves. Where is Mark Green's indignation at this manipulation?

And, it should be pointed out, that Green's decision to slam Madison when he's running for governor is not just pathetic, but (as the Mayor of Madison points out in a letter to Green) probably self-defeating. I would compare it to trying to buy a new house, but not liking the paint colors inside, so you throw a Molitov cocktail through the living room window. Mark Green is aware that, should he win, he'll have to live and work on "Planet Madison"?

Isn't he?