Tarkanian Admits He Was Wrong About “S” Word in Robo Calls, Lowden Answers Controversial TARP Question

The Hill picked up on a point of conflict that emerged from the Tarkanian v. Lowden debate on KXNT yesterday morning and which I reported on here.  Here’s the short Hill piece followed by a comment or three from me:

Nevada businessman Danny Tarkanian’s Senate campaign admits its candidate was wrong when he denied using the word “socialism” in a robocall against his Republican opponent.

In a joint appearance with former state GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden on KXNT-AM radio, Tarkanian was challenged by the host on his campaign tactics. Tarkanian claimed he never used the word “socialism” in the robocall. But a recording of the call contradicts Tarkanian.

“There was no ‘socialism’ word in there – you’re wrong on that,” Tarkanian said Wednesday. “I guarantee you.”

A recording of the robocall, though, makes clear that Tarkanian tied Lowden to the Wall Street bailout and then described the bailouts as “socialism.”

“With respect, I must disagree with my Republican opponent Sue Lowden when she and the establishment defended the Wall Street bailout,” Tarkanian said, adding later, of the bailout: “That’s not freedom. Let’s call it what it is: socialism.”

Tarkanian spokesman James Fisfis notes that Tarkanian had been accused by the host of calling Lowden a “socialist.” At no point during the robocall, though, does he directly use the word to describe her.

“Danny was wrong that the word ‘socialism’ wasn’t in there,” Fisfis said. “He was asked if he had called her a socialist, and he didn’t.”

Two things:

First, if Tarkanian had stated yesterday that he had never called Lowden a socialist, he would have won the point both then and in any follow-up stories today.  Instead, he overstated and claimed (guaranteed!) the word “socialism” was not used in his robo call — a claim that was subsequently proven false — so today the narrative was that Tarkanian had to admit he was wrong.  This is a classic example of how a candidate can flub an opportunity to both correct his opponent and score political points.  Had Tarkanian remembered what he had said on his own robo call and stated it accurately, he could have accomplished both.

Second, this issue of how Lowden would or would not have voted on that initial TARP bill in 2008 — the whole basis for Tarkanian’s use of the “socialism” word — really has not been put to bed in my mind since it first came up.  Team Tark has been saying (and re-saying, every chance they get) that Lowden admitted she would have voted for the Wall Street bailout.  Here is the Lowden line to which they keep pointing (which she gave in answer to a question about the TARP vote by the Nevada Appeal):

“I would like to say I would have voted ‘no’, but I can’t do that.”

Team Tark contends that sentence means Lowden would have voted “yes.”  But my own estimation was and has been that you cannot intuit a clear “yes” or “no” from it.  By any reasonable standard of textbook logic, the statement “I cannot say I would not have” does not have the same meaning as the statement “I would have.”  The fairest thing one could glean from Lowden’s statement — without making assumptions, intuiting or having any other context with which to work — is that she didn’t know, or would or could not say, how she would have voted.  And I think this is so even when the remark is taken in full context:

“It’s easy to say, no, I wouldn’t have voted for it. But people were panicked, we were facing collapse – that’s what they were saying. It’s easy to say from a distance I would have voted no, but I can’t do that.”

Yesterday on KXNT, Lowden said that conversation with the Appeal reporter was an “intellectual” discussion about the difficulty and complexity of the economic situation in 2008 and included her feelings of sympathy for Republicans who had to make a call on the TARP bill in the midst of nationwide financial panic.  A couple of weeks ago, Lowden had told me in an interview that her statements to the Appeal were not intended to be evasive but were instead “a thoughtful response to a difficult question.”  I asked her then how she thought she might have voted, and she said, “Probably against it, but again, I want to emphasize my understanding for those who made a different choice.”

This afternoon, I called Lowden’s office and asked for a “yes” or “no” once-and-for-all answer on the TARP vote issue. Spokesman Robert Uithoven spoke to Lowden and then provided this comment:

“Sue would not have voted for the TARP or any of the other bailout bills in Congress…period.”

If you, Dear Reader (and Team Tark), believed Lowden’s “I can’t say” meant “yes,” you will no doubt feel justified in claiming Lowden has changed her position.  If, on the other hand, you thought “I can’t say” meant “I can’t say,” Lowden has now Said — and you may make of that what you will.