Emerson fliers attack Parker on drug, terrorist stances

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fliers being distributed by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's campaign have called several key positions of GOP opponent Bob Parker into question, using language that suggests the Raymondville, Mo., rancher and two-time challenger is soft on terrorism and favors striking the federal drug laws from the books.

Parker calls the fliers a "smear campaign" made up of gross distortions and factual inaccuracies. Emerson's camp countered Thursday that they're simply trying to hold Parker accountable for policy positions he's made in public that they feel would set "dangerous" policy.

For weeks, the fliers and a direct mail piece that was crafted by Emerson's campaign staff have been sent to voters of the 8th Congressional District, who will decide Aug. 7 whether to send the 16-year incumbent or the challenger on to the Nov. 6 general election. The winner next month will face Democratic candidate Jack Rushin and Libertarian Rick Vandeven.

Parker says Emerson authorized the fliers because she's starting to worry about her chances in the primary.

"I think it's pretty clear I'm a viable candidate and they're pretty worried about the support I'm getting," Parker said. "It's just a smear campaign on my name because they realize if they don't do something, they're probably going to have a good chance of losing this election."

But Josh Haynes, a senior staffer with Emerson's campaign, said that's not true. The campaign simply wanted to hold Parker accountable for positions he's taken publicly and contrast them with Emerson's record.

The ambiguity issue

Now, Haynes said, their opponent wants to complain when his feet are held to the fire.

"If all he's going to do is whine every time he's held accountable for a position he takes, nobody is ever going to take him seriously," Haynes said. "Bob is ambiguous on all of these issues. Jo Ann is not. Voters need to know the difference."

Haynes was adamant that the statements on the flier are accurate and based on recorded statements Parker has made or posted on his Facebook page.

The content is drawn from Parker's June remarks on drug laws and his support of an amendment to the defense bill that would prohibit the government from indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists captured on U.S. soil.

The flier maintains Parker supports the decriminalization of the federal drug laws, an allegation that stems from statements Parker made at a Poplar Bluff for Liberty meeting in June. Parker acknowledges that he did say he believes that whether drugs should be illegal should be left to the states, but was emphatic again Thursday that he doesn't want drugs decriminalized at the federal level.

"I'm talking about getting back to the Constitution and the belief that it's up to the states to decide, not the federal government," Parker said. "But to label that as decriminalization, I just do not agree with that kind of terminology and that kind of label. I did not say those words and I'm not going to say those words."

Haynes said Parker's logic is flawed and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the federal government works. In order for the states to have the right to decide the criminality of drugs, the federal laws would have to be stricken from the books -- either by an act of Congress or the judicial system.

Parker admitted that he did not have a plan for getting the decision on the criminality of drugs back in the hands of the states. He said, if elected, he would have to study the matter further and consult legal experts. But he says he does not support decriminalizing drugs at any level. He said that if he were a member of the Missouri Legislature, he would not vote to make drugs legal in this state.

'Classic politics'

The campaign materials go on to say that Parker supported the drug legalization group NORML, which is followed by a quote from the executive director of the national organization thanking Parker for his "support." Those comments were based on an inaccurate media report from Poplar Bluff, Parker said. In fact, Parker produced a letter from executive director Allen St. Pierre. In the letter, St. Pierre says NORML has never endorsed Parker and that the Emerson campaign is incorrect to state so.

"Classic politics," St. Pierre said. "Hope that Emerson's attempted smear backfires."

Haynes said the materials never claim that NORML endorsed Parker and said the fact that NORML has come to Parker's defense says a lot about his campaign and "his attempts to run away from these issues."

Parker also, the flier continues, "sided with Nancy Pelosi" to ensure that those arrested for terrorism on U.S. soil receive jury trials. Emerson's side says aligns Parker's positions with those of the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on Islamic Relations. Emerson voted against the Smith-Amash amendment, which was part of the National Defense Authorization Act, but Parker said he would have voted for it.

Parker believes American citizens deserve a jury trial, a notion Parker notes is in the fiber of the U.S. Constitution. It's not an issue that makes him soft on terrorism, he said, just a believer in the U.S. Constitution.

"Now they're saying I support the terrorists," Parker said. "But I just think Americans should go through the process. If you're an American citizen in this country, you should have those protections."

Haynes, for his part, says the campaign is "definitely not" worried that Parker, who lost to Emerson in 2010, is a more credible threat than two years ago.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

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