New salvos on the Facebook word war; photo inspires satire

COLUMBIA, 2/19/13 (Op Ed) -- Two of Columbia's most outspoken establishment leaders are riled up about Barbara Hoppe.
"Who does she think she is to say Feb. 5 'was a sad day for Columbia'?" former Columbia Mayor and MBS Books CEO Bob Pugh writes in the Columbia Daily Tribune. "What she thinks about the results does not amount to a hill of beans. No one gives a damn."
The 6th Ward Councilwoman joined a chorus of condemnation on Facebook against 5th Ward Council candidate Mark Jones and Laura Nauser, who won a February 5 special election that included Jones and fellow challenger Tootie Burns. Liberty advocacy group Keep Columbia Free grabbed a screen capture of the warring words, using it in an editorial about messed up political alliances.

The Heart Beat picked up the story a few days later.
Calling the Facebook discussion "a spiteful attack on Jones and those who endorsed him," Columbia attorney and downtown leader Skip Walther decried Hoppe and company's "lack of dignity," in the Saturday Tribune.
"Hoppe wrote that Jones was 'egotistical and delusional' for running for the council," Walther reminded. "Others were piling on [Democrat State Representative] Stephen Webber for endorsing Jones and suggesting that they would punish Webber politically for doing so. Does the word 'dignified' come to mind when considering these comments?"
Calling out Mrs. Hoppe, husband Mike Sleadd, and other Facebook-conversing Progressives who favored Burns over Nauser and Jones, "Shame on them," wrote Pugh.

"In all my years following municipal elections, I have never read such vicious rhetoric," Pugh explained. "For the first time, Hoppe and her buddies have injected partisan politics into Columbia's nonpartisan city council elections. It is amusing that instead of Democrat versus Republican, they have chosen to tee off on Democrats under the cover name of progressives."
The Walther editorial asked similar questions. "Exactly why does Webber deserve such insolent treatment for endorsing Jones?" Walther wrote. "Webber has been close friends with Jones for 12 years and speaks to him regularly about political issues.
Filled with characteristic blast and bombast, Pugh's editorial is engaging because it is hard-hitting, especially for readers bored with non-committal columns that walk a line between balance and, well -- bombast.   It does suffer a few misfires, however, most notably Pugh's suggestion that Keep Columbia Free (KCF) is an "incredibly presumptuous progressive" group; and an unfortunate photo of Pugh (above) inspiring satire on social media.
KCF -- more Libertarian than Liberal -- praised Mrs. Nauser during the campaign, and if it weren't for their sharp eyes, the Heart Beat and the Trib wouldn't have such grist for the editorial mill. KCF also criticized progressive Hoppe for her initial support of blight and EEZ, and her vote to fund downtown surveillance cameras after repeatedly condemning the concept.
As a leading supplier of expensive land for city parks and Columbia Public Schools, Pugh might also be considered "incredibly presumptuous" by some observers.

Walther's editorial is more subdued, and given his association with more left-leaning politics, may be more credible in some readers' eyes. Regardless, to have establishment leaders on the right and left of the political aisle fire off two public blastings in two days is noteworthy.
"Councilwoman Hoppe, the weight of your bad decisions rests on your egotistical and delusional shoulders," Pugh concluded.