WashPost Grouses David Brat Avoiding Media Scrutiny, But So Is Dem Rival for Whom Post Devoted Style Blog Feature

June 20th, 2014 12:28 PM

The Washington Post has assigned reporter Jenna Portnoy to follow Republican nominee David Brat's campaign for the U.S. House seat for the 7th District of Virginia. In Portnoy's latest story, published in Friday's paper on page B4, the staff writer slammed Brat for having "largely ducked media exposure since his [primary] win," noting that after a brief press statement on Thursday which lasted eight minutes, he "retreated inside" his campaign headquarters, "ignoring questions shouted by reporters." A few days earlier, Portnoy insisted that an unprepared Brat had "stumbled" during a phone interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd

Of course, as Politico's Sarah Wheaton has noted, Brat's Democratic opponent, fellow Randolph-Macon College professor Jack Trammell, "offered few policy specifics during his first public appearance as a candidate on Saturday." Last Friday, Wheaton reported that "Trammell has declined multiple interview requests" and that "[l]ike Brat, who virtually no one thought had a shot at toppling Cantor, he’s gone into something of a lockdown." Yet a search for "Jack Trammel" on the Washington Post website reveals no such critical reporting about the Democrat's unwillingness to have free-wheeling interactions with reporters. What's more, Trammel received fawning coverage in, of all places, a June 16 Style blog entry by book reviewer Ron Charles. The topic was Trammel's yet-unfinished vampire novel (excerpt below, emphasis mine):

As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor moves through Washington like the living dead, it’s weirdly appropriate that the Democrat vying for his Congressional seat has a side-line interest in vampires.

Jack Trammell will have to debate plenty of weighty questions during his campaign against Republican David Brat in Virginia’s 7th district, but I want to sink my teeth into this surprisingly line in his curriculum vitae: “Current projects include a vampire novel.”

That sounds like good preparation for work on Capital [sic] Hill.

“It was actually intended to be a little more complicated than a standard vampire novel,” Trammell tells me. “The world has quite a few of those right now. In fact, it was supposed to be in the guise of a vampire novel, but actually turn into a medical type of thriller.”

Like, say, Obamacare?

Trammell’s working title is “A Shape I Wist.” But the blood has drained from this project for now.

“Alas, it is a manuscript that is only half done,” Trammell says, “with various chapters, some complete and some half-formed. One might speculate that I won’t be doing much work on it until after November.”

Till then, interested fiction readers may want to check out his YA novel, “Return to Treasure Island”; his historical novel, “The Saints Departed”; or even his romance novel, “Sarah’s Last Secret.” In these bitterly partisan times, Congress surely could use a little romance.

Trammell, who, like his Republican opponent David Brat, works at Randolph-Macon College, has published a number of scholarly articles related to his interest in history and sociology, but genre novels demand a different kind of creativity and reach a different kind of audience.

“I like to write for fun, as some of my credits no doubt suggest,” Trammell says. “But at a deeper level, I try to write to make people think. If you make people think, you’ve accomplished something.”

Speaking of Democratic politicians with book projects who avoid media questions, as my colleague Tim Graham pointed out, there wasn't exactly much concern by the Post when Hillary Clinton walked away from reporters shouting questions at a recent Costco book-signing event in northern Virginia. Indeed, the Post awarded Clinton with a gauzy, 17-paragraph Monica Hesse feature, "Hillary Clinton signs ‘Hard Choices’ at Costco, with a faint scent of canned chicken in the air."