Will voters respond to James Craig?
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig continues to make news by not making news.
The Democrats are howling that the chief has political media in his dust.
Yeah, the optics look bad, because it’s not nice to mess with the press.
But it’s a free country, and, if he doesn’t want to be cross-examined, so be it.
But, remember, the chief can run but he can’t hide, and, eventually — maybe later than sooner — he will have to take questions, and then that will be that.
He did make some legit news this past week with two events: the issuance of a statement and a video revealing the creation of a Craig for Governor Exploratory Committee.
Oh, yeah, the Democrats attacked him, saying there is no such thing in Michigan law as an exploratory committee, but others have noted that candidate Rick Snyder did the same thing and, somehow, he overcame it and became governor. So this is a flap that holds water, but not much.
The other news item was his appearance on Fox News to all but announce he is running, even though hours earlier he said he was only “thinking” about it.
So here’s a semi-deep dive on both stories and what they tell us about Mr. Chief.
Some of those more-seasoned politicians who have talked with the upcoming Republican candidate for governor have privately said he cannot win the governor’s job on the law-and-order issue. Yet, in his first “campaign” video — running 3 minutes and 39 seconds — the first two minutes are on just that. It is not until the 2:44 mark that he raises other issues, including fixing education. He says he knows what is going on with small businesses and he says “let’s solve the employment concern today.” There is no hint as to how he hopes to accomplish that.
There’s plenty of time to do that later, but some walked away from his video with the impression that he was a one-trick pony as he boasted to the electorate that “Detroit did not burn” in the aftermath of the George Floyd controversy, while other major cities did.
And, of course, he takes credit for the non-burning, but one has to wonder, how many voters are now ready to vote him in as governor because of that one accomplishment?
The answer is obvious, which is why some of his advisors urge him to broaden his appeal beyond the law-and-order thing.
Also in the video, he makes an indirect reference to the incumbent Democratic governor, but not by name or title, leaving it to the viewer to connect the dots.
“Our rules matter,” he said. “Following policy matters. How come politicians don’t get this?”
And then Mr. Craig’s zinger: “‘Rules for thee, not for me.’ Michigan has had enough of that.”
It’s an oft-mentioned Republican charge aimed at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for allegedly ordering everyone else to do this or that during the COVID-19 pandemic, but, the R’s contend, she sometimes did not follow the same rules.
But, again, you have to ponder: How many voters who do not watch the day-to-day back-and-forth on campaign issues will know what he was talking about? And, again, the question: If that is all he has against incumbent Whitmer, are the typical voters ready to boot her out of office for that?
He waxed on even more critically in a written release issued by his new exploratory committee, in which he comes after the governor and the first gentleman — but, again, not by name, but by inference. There is no way to tell how many average residents will make the connection.
“No more seeking favoritism for your boat … sneaking off to Florida while telling others to stay home … partying in a college bar during a partial shutdown,” he writes. “No more.”
So, did you get all that?
If so, good for him.
If you went, “What the heck is he talking about?,” bad for him.
“Lead from the front,” is what he promises in his efforts to “bring the state back,” and he points to his eight-year record as chief of the Detroit Police Department that he reports “was in shambles” when he came in, but he takes credit for turning that around. And the folks in outstate Michigan might be going, “So what?” And others might be saying, That does show leadership.”
After the video aired, later that night, the chief was front-and-center on Fox News, which is friendly territory, which is why he’s been on more than two dozen times and why he has done zero interviews with the Michigan Capitol press corps, where tougher questions await him.
During the exchange with Tucker Carlson, the chief said, “I’m running,” and then he did call out the governor by name but — imagine this — he mispronounced her name, calling her Gretchen WhitMORE.
Did he just have a senior moment?
Was it deliberate?
And will opponents accuse him of disrespecting the governor, and, even worse, accuse him of doing a Joe Biden on the air? Republicans made a point of repeating every malaprop that candidate Biden stumbled over during his run up to the presidency.
Either way, it was an odd mistake that doesn’t turn the election, but it was an unforced error, which he has accused the governor of also doing from time to time.
But, then, perhaps the weirdest moment of all, when Mr. Carlson asked if the chief was ready for all the attacks the other side would lob at him.
“They are already attacking me,” he rose to the softball question with his voice rising.
And then Mr. Carlson wonders out loud: “Wait until they call you a White Supremacist,” and he lets out an incredible laugh, and the chief joins in by laughing, too, while concluding, “I’m ready for it. Bring it.”