Open Letter to David Sirota From a (Former) Fan

by Karoli on September 14, 2009 · 6 comments

Dear David Sirota,

The heady rush of your own celebrity, combined with a clear agenda to sell more books appears to have distorted your reaction to a fairly ordinary, commonplace question posed by me on Friday directly to you.

You wrote this post, entitled UnitedHealth Lobbyist Announces Pelosi Fundraiser As She Begins Backing Off Pub Option. Within that post, you included a text version of an email invitation from Steve Elmendorf at Elmendorf Strategies, subject line “event with Speaker Pelosi at my home”.

The invitation’s RSVP/contact point was Carmela Clendening at the DCCC.

I asked you a simple question: Was it confirmed that Speaker Pelosi was actually attending the event? I followed up that question with a hypothesis: If someone wanted to create embarrassment and pressure for Pelosi, it would be quite effective to pepper some strategic email boxes with an ‘invitation’ such as this one. It’s not a secret that left-leaning bloggers are unhappy and quite negative about what they perceive as a weakening position on the public option part of the health care reform bill, and would love to jump on Pelosi as a sellout, which is, of course, exactly what you did.

Never mind that it was a golden opportunity to pimp your book, too. I’ll overlook that for the moment and focus solely on how you reacted to my question and hypothesis.

Instead of answering me reasonably, you first point out that the DCCC is, in your words, sponsoring the event. Beyond the DCCC contact named in the invitation, I could find nothing supporting sponsorship. To me, sponsorship suggests that the event is held with some form of support, either publicity or money. In fact, what the invitation suggested to me was that it was raising funds on behalf of the DCCC, not sponsored by them.

Yet, in your post, you conclude the following:

The sequencing here is important: Pelosi makes her announcement and then just hours later, the fundraising invitation goes out. Coincidental? I’m guessing no – these things rarely ever are.

I wrote a book a few years ago called Hostile Takeover whose premise was that corruption and legalized bribery has become so widespread that nobody in Washington even tries to hide it. This is about as good an example of that truism as I’ve ever seen.

You have a barely-disguised accusation that Pelosi has sold out the public option in exchange for a fundraising opportunity with the lobbying firm that represents United Health influence. We can dicker over whether the fundraising is for Pelosi or the DCCC (I would argue the latter; you imply the former) all day long, but still, my question was unanswered.

You see, if Pelosi was confirmed to be in attendance, then she should be slammed hard by all of us in the progressive blogosphere. On the other hand, if she was not attending, or if the invitation was simply invented (or spoofed), then it was a clear effort to embarrass her. This isn’t tinfoil hat invention. Tricks like this happen all the time, not just in national politics, but across the board. It’s a fair question to ask, and had you actually bothered to ask or check, your accusation would have carried more weight.

Instead, you chose to engage in a war of words with me, obfuscating the issue by insisting that the presence of a DCCC contact point was all the confirmation anyone needed to know you were on the side of truth, justice and the American Way.

Here are some of your more choice remarks, made to me directly. Some verge on slander, but mostly, they appear to be the attempt of a bully to slap down someone who he views as less than worthy of a straight answer.


The last post was the very first reply to my question here. From there, you escalated the ‘discussion’ to the namecalling phase before blocking me.

I’m not one that gets all that insulted over being blocked. I think everyone has the right to control what they do and do not see in their twitter stream. In these days of heated health care debates, I’ve blocked my share and don’t mind being blocked by others.

However, I do mind being blocked in order for someone to continue to slander me and assume I won’t see it. Rule number one of social media is to be aware of what others are saying about you. It’s not all that difficult to discern, and your escalation and attempt to depict me as a crazy, insane, off my meds, sycophantic, Obama-worshipping, stalking, hysterical bitch are not only unappreciated, but viewed by me as an effort to bully, silence, and discredit.

The thing is, there’s quite a lot of work to do to get this health care bill passed. You and I have entirely different approaches. You like to tear people down, shame them, expose them. It makes great headlines, especially when you’re hailed as a hero for doing it to folks on ‘your side’ of things.

I, on the other hand, believe in a more supportive approach. I begin with the premise that while imperfect, the people we have working in Congress right now are the ones with the best chance of actually getting something done. Cutting them off at the knees with criticism doesn’t strike me as particularly productive, so I choose to look at the strategies, consider the odds of success, and then support with my voice and my contributions those who advance the ball down the field.

I also clearly understand that Obama is, was, and always will be a centrist who looks to craft compromise wherever he is able. I neither expect, nor do I necessarily want him to throw himself behind measures with a fail probability of 100% because the ideal is better than the real.

This is not sycophantic behavior. It’s pragmatic. Nor does it pose any danger to you, Mr. Sirota. Yet, instead of answering my question with a yes or a no, you continued your crusade throughout this day, playing yourself as the high, mighty victimized long-suffering crusader. (To refresh your memory, see your posts here, here, here, here and here. Oh, and don’t forget here. There are others, but they are simply repeats of what I linked to, sent out to anyone who dared to enter the fray.)

For all of your sound and fury, you cast no light. Only heat. My question remains unanswered: Is it confirmed that Nancy Pelosi is attending this event?

Sadly, I will not expect you to confirm it. Clearly it would create an issue with your insinuations to discover she was not. On the other hand, if she is, then the next question is who the fundraiser is intended to benefit. Since history shows that DCCC has been a beneficiary of previous Elmendorf fundraisers, it is altogether possible that this is yet another.

Further, DCCC is not “Pelosi’s Fundraising Outfit”, as you suggest. It is the fundraising and support arm for Democrats running for Congress nationwide. Pelosi is not the chairman nor is she “in control” of the DCCC. Further, according to someone at the DCCC, they do not “sponsor” events like this unless they are given on behalf of specific committees within the DCCC.

The larger question of the role of fundraising to politics is one that I have long followed. I have supported ChangeCongress.org with financial contributions when I have the funds, and agree that the lobbyist/politician ties should be severed for all.

However, I seriously doubt that you and I will ever find ourselves on the same side of any issue again as long as you believe you are right to turn a question relating to fact into a personal crusade to destroy and bully another person.

If your particular style of interaction is considered worthy of allies, then we should all pay homage to the dead grass roots of American politics left in the swath of your scorched-earth attitude.

Be well, Mr. Sirota. My best wishes to you and your best-sellers. I won’t be buying them, or reading them until I receive a formal apology for the personal attacks, but I’m sure you’ll find enough readers not to have to worry about me.

After all, in your world, sycophants only matter when they’re YOUR sycophants.

Update:
Just saw your post on Salon: “On being hated in a nation of assholes“. As I said last night on Twitter, receiving death threats sucks. Receiving hate mail sucks. No matter what you may have said to or about me, I don’t support that kind of behavior and for the most part, view it as an ugly indicator of what Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are doing to the nature of discourse in this country. I only wish you could see your own part in how these things play out. Perhaps you are so used to the wingnut attacks that anything other than straight praise feels like one. If that’s the case, please…do take a vacation. I mean that. You’ll feel better, more willing to honestly consider how your words sound to others. Don’t become what you despise because others wear you down. It’s not worth it.

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  • http://twitter.com/avivagabriel avivagabriel

    Amazing piece of writing. Every point I could have wished to make, you've made–and then some. The writing is stellar. Your points are rock solid. I wish none of us had to waste time “setting the record straight” with a bully like David Sirota. His ego has swept him away down the muddy Nile. He's lost to the causes we care about, because he has made himself his principle “cause.”

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/ Karoli

    I can't remember a time where anyone on the *same side* of an issue chose to use such angry, loaded, nasty terms in response to a simple yes or no question. He may well be right, but his message got lost to me in the first insult.

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  • http://twitter.com/avivagabriel avivagabriel

    You know that Salon piece I sent you? David Sirota's “On Being Hated in a Nation of Assholes”? It's pretty revealing. Sirota seems to rage, spew vitriol, at progressives as well as ultraconservatives.

    I'm not interested right now in taking sides on Sirota's idealist progressivism vs the pragmatic progressivism Sirota seems to revile.

    What I'm really concerned with is this: His language has become “FOXnewsian,” and it's being directed at folks he could have a reasonable, edifying debate with. Instead, he spews insults, filth, and cheap shots.

    Some of his accusations against you and others would be laughable if they weren't tragic.

    He seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or a burned-out meltdown. Hope he takes a break from all this, and comes back with some ability to honor the responsible, civil critiques of his writing.

  • http://twitter.com/avivao Aviva

    You know that Salon piece I sent you? David Sirota's “On Being Hated in a Nation of Assholes”? It's pretty revealing. Sirota seems to rage, spew vitriol, at progressives as well as ultraconservatives.

    I'm not interested right now in taking sides on Sirota's idealist progressivism vs the pragmatic progressivism Sirota seems to revile.

    What I'm really concerned with is this: His language has become “FOXnewsian,” and it's being directed at folks he could have a reasonable, edifying debate with. Instead, he spews insults, filth, and cheap shots.

    Some of his accusations against you and others would be laughable if they weren't tragic.

    He seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or a burned-out meltdown. Hope he takes a break from all this, and comes back with some ability to honor the responsible, civil critiques of his writing.

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