MMFA 's Poor Taste Watch: James Taranto

In his August 31 "Best of the Web Today" column, The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto joked about the October 2000 plane crash that killed Missouri's Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan. At a convention-week “bash” held by Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist at the New York Yacht Club on August 30, Taranto chatted up the Republican candidate for Missouri's third congressional district, Bill Federer. Federer's challenger is Russ Carnahan, son of the late governor.

From Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column in the August 31 edition of, the website of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page:

We spent some time chatting with Bill Federer of Missouri, the Republican candidate for the seat currently held by Dick “Miserable Failure” Gephardt. Federer challenged Gephardt in 2000 and lost, 58% to 40%, but Gephardt is now retiring after his own miserable failure of a presidential campaign. Federer told us his opponent is Russ Carnahan, “the son of the governor who was killed in a plane crash.”

“If he was killed in a plane crash, how can he be running for Congress?” we asked.

It turns out the subordinate clause referred to the governor; this son was not on board the plane when it crashed. But it occurred to us that we were silly to ask the question anyway. After all, if the son who did die in the plane crash were to be elected in Congress, he would only follow in the footsteps of his dad, who won his 2000 Senate race three weeks after his death. In fact, Missouri hasn't elected a live Democrat to the Senate since 1980, so a pulse may well be a political liability.

Although he died in a plane crash before Election Day, Mel Carnahan was elected to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate -- defeating the incumbent Republican senator, John Ashcroft, who was appointed the following month by President George W. Bush to be U.S. attorney general.

To read Taranto's “Best of the Web” ruminations on the death of another American politician killed in a plane crash, see MMFA's item "Taranto, Limbaugh, and Goldberg distorted Teresa Heinz Kerry's comments about late husband."