It’s no secret that the level of political discourse in America these days involves some wallowing around in the mud. Evidence of that comes to my email inbox quite often, with some of the harsher stuff coming from party-linked political organizations attacking opposing candidates.

It’s no secret that the level of political discourse in America these days involves some wallowing around in the mud. Evidence of that comes to my email inbox quite often, with some of the harsher stuff coming from party-linked political organizations attacking opposing candidates.

Sometimes their broadsides are backed up by a list of public statements or votes taken or positions staked out, and the dire consequences they pose for a favored program or personal freedom.

The problem is, as has always been evident in my time covering politics, that often-legitimate nuanced explanations can be lost in these attacks.

So I usually note for myself what is being said, but I don’t inject much of such communications into this column.

I’ll make an exception for something sent out Friday by the National Republican Campaign Committee. The headline included some asterisks to hint at a bad word that was actually used by Vice President JOE BIDEN when he introduced President BARACK OBAMA at the signing of the health-care law on March 23, 2010. He whispered in the president’s ear, saying it was a “big (bleepin’) deal,” with a different word for “bleepin’.” Hot microphones overheard.

So the NRCC took off on last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate to buy health insurance is constitutional under the tax code in issuing a broadside at Democrat DAVID GILL of Bloomington, who is running for Congress in the new 13th District.

“Confirmed: Gill’s Party’s Healthcare Takeover is a ‘Big (Bleepin’) Tax,” said the headline. The bad word in the headline is spelled in part with asterisks.

The text of the news release calls the law “David Gill’s party’s massive government takeover” and asks if he will support “another weight on his constituents.”

I can’t say I shun salty language in personal conversations. But, speaking from atop a high horse, I’ll go with my thoughts about public speech, which includes what’s in a family newspaper: It was wrong for Biden to whisper it in front of microphones, but he didn’t intend it for public consumption. For a political committee to headline the same words, hoping to have someone like me pass it along, shows bad taste. I think it’s the kind of thing that makes people dislike politicians more.

KATIE PRILL, Midwest regional press secretary for the NRCC, responded to me by saying the question about the use of raunchy language is “a query for Vice President Biden.” I also asked about the use of the “tax” argument after MITT ROMNEY strategist ERIC FEHRNSTROM said this week that Romney agrees with the Obama administration that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is a penalty, not a tax.

“It didn’t take the Supreme Court to rule for the American people to know that this law is full of tax increases,” Prill said.

Gill’s statement following the Supreme Court’s ruling called it  “an important first step.” However, he still favors a “Medicare for all” single-payer plan. He said he would not have voted for the law in the form it came before Congress.

The NRCC’s candidate for the U.S. House in the new 13th is Gill’s Republican opponent, RODNEY DAVIS of Taylorville. The release states it is not authorized by any candidate, and it doesn’t mention Davis’ name.

PATRICK PFINGSTEN, spokesman for Davis, said if I hold Davis responsible for what the NRCC wrote, then Gill should be held responsible for a tweet, following the ruling, from PATRICK GASPARD, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Gaspard’s three words were “it’s constitutional” and a b-word that rhymes with “witches.”

Point taken, but Gaspard didn’t send out a 13th-specific press release, and he also kind-of apologized later with a tweet, “I let my scotus (Supreme Court) excitement get the better of me. In all seriousness, this is an important moment in improving the lives of all Americans.”
Also in the running in the 13th, unless an objection to his petitions is successful, is independent JOHN HARTMAN of Edwardsville.

Ex-court reporter files suit
A former court reporter who worked for Sangamon County judges has filed a lawsuit claiming her firing two years ago was retaliation for her telling police two co-workers stole some of her property.

ROBBIN STERR, 56, of Springfield made the allegations in a complaint filed June 20 in Sangamon County Circuit Court. She is serving as her own lawyer.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney JOHN MILHISER said no charges were filed as a result of the theft allegation.

“There was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges,” he said.

BARBARA MABIE, who oversees Sangamon County’s court reporters — the people who take down verbatim records of court proceedings — was one of the people Sterr accused of taking the items. Mabie called the lawsuit frivolous.

“I believe this accusation is completely false, and quite frankly, it offends me,” Mabie said.

The incident took place in June 2010. According to county documents and a police report, Sterr said Mabie and another employee at the time, MEGAN HIRSTEIN, had taken a box containing two unopened bottles of perfume, four flowerpot covers and other goods, all together worth more than $150, out of a drawer in a lawyers’ lounge.

Mabie told court security she was looking for something to prop up a broken desk and ended up looking in the box.

Hirstein, then a librarian at the court, said in a statement that the box had been in the lounge for about a year.

Mabie handed her one of the perfume bottles and a shipping label when the box was first discovered, Sterr told police. She said she retrieved the other bottle later in the day.

Mabie’s statement said she later found Sterr crying and saying she was resigning.

Several days later, presiding Circuit Judge LESLIE GRAVES sent Sterr a letter confirming the “verbal notice of your resignation.” Sterr wrote back that she didn’t resign and that she was being “harassed by Ms. Mabie.”

“She resigned and then she tried to unresign,” Graves told me.

A retired court reporter who was a colleague of Sterr’s, LYNN CALLAHAN RIDDLEY, lauded Sterr’s filing of the suit. “The work environment since 2005 has been appalling,” Riddley said.

“The atmosphere in the courthouse,” Graves said in response, “has been friendly and everyone has been working very well together … since some of the drama ended.”

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or follow him via twitter.com/bschoenburg. His email address is
bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.