Sat, Jul

Inmates For Fetterman, Because We Can Somehow Always, Repulsively Go Lower


SAY WHAT? - High-minded, big-hearted, deeply substantive: We love the lofty tenor of our national political discourse. Just kidding. Aristotle's sanguine tenet, "They should rule who are able to rule best," is forcefully refuted by the Senate race in "the perennial battleground state" of Pennsylvania, where ill-equipped, pill-pushing, uber-rich clown and GOP candidate "Doc Oz in his Gucci loafers" has plunged ever deeper into the gutter with multiple debacles in his campaign against the "unapologetically progressive" John Fetterman. To wit: Oz' inflation-themed grocery shopping trip to "Wegner's" to make crudités - Fetterman: "In Pennsylvania, we call this a veggie tray" - got so badly burned it sparked a parody site. Then he mis-counted the houses he owns, claiming two when public records show it's 10; they include a Palm Beach mansion he calls "my 'chi' source" that just earned him a bigly tax exemption after a multi-million-dollar renovation paid for by years on TV hawking fake miracle cures, also hydroxychloroquine. After he crassly mocked Fetterman's May stroke - an "unconscionable" act that "goes against every tenet of medicine" - 100 doctors launched "Real Doctors Against Oz," blasting his slimy history of peddling "dangerous fad diets" and "using his medical degree (as) an ATM for personal gain," and declaring him "a major threat to public health" for his opposition to abortion. The final cringe factor: A re-surfaced interview in which he proclaimed incestuous, possibly under-age, sex between cousins "not a big problem...It's fine."

Trailing badly, Oz has now pivoted to pure, cruel fear-mongering on crime to attack Fetterman, who deems criminal justice reform a priority, cites the need to move away from mass incarceration toward “redemption (and) renewal,” and has long advocated for legalizing weed. As Lieutenant Governor, he also chaired Pennsylvania's Board of Pardons; in a state with the nation's second largest population of lifetime prisoners with no chance of parole, he proudly increased commutations of life sentences during his tenure. All that translates, in Oz' moronic book, into "dangerously soft on crime." Shrieking, "Inmates and criminals (are) lining up to support John Fetterman (who's) on the side of murderers, not victims," Oz has dubbed him "Free-Them-All Fetterman" and made a series of wildly inaccurate charges. Oz says Fetterman wants to "eliminate life sentences for murderers"; he only calls for eliminating mandatory life sentences for people convicted of 2nd-degree murder in one of just nine states that gives life without parole to anyone convicted of serving as a look-out or driver for a murderer. Oz says Fetterman wants to release a third of all prisoners; he only agreed with a former corrections head saying the state could release a third of its inmates with no effec;t on public safety. Oz says Fetterman wants to "legalize heroin"; he doesn't. And Oz says Fetterman "needs to start putting communities ahead of murderers and other criminals" (sigh) and can start by firing the two convicted murderers he’s employed.”

That would be brothers Lee and Dennis Horton, who in the early '90s gave a ride to a childhood friend who, unbeknownst to them, had just committed a murder. At the time, Lee was a father of four, and Dennis was engaged. Given life sentences, the men spent their prison time counselling other inmates and advocating for restorative justice; Fetterman became a champion of their cause, part of his broader efforts to reduce mass incarceration. (As part of that fight, in 2019 he was also instrumental in adding two former offenders to the parole board, a first, arguing, “No one is more suitable for these positions than two people who have gone through the process.") In 2021, after 28 years behind bars, the Horton brothers' sentences were unanimously commuted by the parole board - 13 years after the actual murderer was released. In a May interview, Fetterman said he told Lee and Dennis "we're gonna get you out" whatever the political cost to him; today, they work on Fetterman's campaign. "It was the right thing," he says. “I've had a long-standing belief that second chances are critical.” He calls Oz' smear of "two of the kindest, hardest-working people I know" "a sad and desperate attack from (a) shambolic campaign." “Does Dr. Oz believe that the wrongfully convicted should die in prison?" he asks. "Does this man have any compassion?"

It seems not. After Oz' attack, Fetterman released a somber video noting violent crime in his hometown of Braddock was why he first ran for mayor, and then worked with police to stop it. Oz, in turn, went full cartoon demagogue, announcing the launch of an "Inmates For Fetterman" initiative boasting the best graphics and purple prose you can buy from your neighborhood middle-schooler (no offense to middle-schoolers) topped by the ostensibly sinister Fetterman quote, "I want to get out as many folks as I can." The website features brief, skewered stories of a half-dozen scary former felons who won pardons or releases; they include the Hortons, who spent 28 years behind bars for giving a ride to the wrong guy but are still very bad people. This is some ugly stuff: Echoing every callous, stupid, mind-numbing, soul-killing, viciously stigmatizing trope by Repubs without a modicum of humanity, it trashes Fetterman's "tireless work releasing violent criminals back into communities." "Criminals know John Fetterman can be trusted to always put them first," it blares. "Are you a convicted felon looking for parole? John Fetterman is here for you." Upping the tasteless awful - where is George Carlin when we need him? - Oz hired "actors" to parade outside a recent "Dose of Reality" town hall in orange jumpsuits with fake balls and chains - so much for reality - with gaudy signs reading "Inmates for Fetterman" and "Another Convicted Felon for Fetterman." Sages on social media smelled desperation; some debated if it's "just embarrassing at this point" or "way past embarrassing." The consensus: "You already lost. Just stop." Please.

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])