On Sunday of this week, the Kansas City Star ran a lengthy article on Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, the only Democrat holding statewide office in a state Trump carried by 19 points.
The length of the article is not surprising. The Star has been protecting McCaskill since she successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006. What is surprising is the content, especially given that McCaskill is up for re-election in 2018.
The article is a flat-out hit piece. The reporters detail McCaskill's relationship with a dubious nursing home operator named Rick DeStefane.
The article begins with a tweet McCaskill sent last year showing her holding a watermelon mojito on the deck of the luxurious Lake of the Ozarks home she and her husband share with DeStefane.
The article details DeStafane's legal problems, including a Medicare fraud case he and his company, Reliant Care Group, settled for $8.3 million.
He and his company had been accused of "knowingly" submitting false claims for unnecessary therapies over a period of several years, and they got busted.
The article also explores the bizarre habit patients have of falling out the windows of Reliant facilities. The Star cites three such cases in recent years, including a fatal defenestration in November 2016.
Just as troubling, the Star documents DeStefane's donations to McCaskill and her supportive PACs, more than $60,000 worth in recent years. Although McCaskill has returned some recent donations judged impolitic in Missouri – Rosie O'Donnell's, for instance – she has not returned DeStefane's.
Going in for the kill, the Star contrasts McCaskill's shady relationship with DeStefane with her noble proclamations on senior health.
Once the top Democrat on the Special Committee on Aging, McCaskill is now a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid spending.
The reporters highlight McCaskill's seeming hypocrisy with a quote from a Senate hearing she co-chaired last year: "Elder abuse and exploitation of any kind is a tragedy, but it is particularly painful when abuse is being perpetrated by those who have been entrusted to protect the victims." Ouch!
Like most monopoly media in America, even those in solidly red states like Missouri, the Star makes little attempt to conceal its Democratic bias.
Given that bias, the hit on McCaskill seems totally out of character, at least to those not following a parallel narrative being advanced by Democratic media nationwide.
That narrative centers on new progressive wunderkind, Jason Kander. In a feature Politico article this summer, reporter Bridget Mulcahy gushed about the 30-something Iraq veteran.
"To hear Democrats from Barack Obama on down tell it," wrote Mulcahy, "Kander is the future of the party: young, energetic, an insistently progressive lawyer from a red state, a devoutly anti-Trump military veteran … and, like the Democratic Party, not currently anywhere near power."
A week before the Star hit on McCaskill, the ubiquitous Kander keynoted the Kansas City Progressive Conference, one of many conferences, rallies, campaign kick-offs and CNN shows he has graced with his presence since losing narrowly in the 2016 U.S. Senate race to Republican Roy Blunt.
There is, however, one major obstacle to Kander's rise. As a Missouri Dem told Politico, "He's a winning commodity – but there's no elected position for him."
The Republicans swept the statewide offices in 2016. Only McCaskill's job comes available in 2018. As Mulcahy notes, some Missouri Democrats are hoping "he'd run instead of top GOP target Claire McCaskill."
Kander has made himself popular nationally by feeding the left-wing fantasies of the Democratic base. McCaskill has been doing the opposite to hang on to her seat, in the process fooling almost no one in the Show Me State.
It is highly unlikely that Star editors are colluding with Democratic operatives to dump McCaskill, but they are partisan enough to read the tea leaves. And the tea leaves are not that hard to read.