Category Archives: National

Sizing up the 26th

In a seismic political event, the shock waves of which were felt around the nation, our once-powerful local Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds announced last week that he will not be seeking re-election. As a certified political junkie, I have been watching the coverage of the scramble to find a replacement candidate, and although I do not have any inside information, here are a few of my educated guesses about what’s been going on.

First, why did Tom quit? Tom had been dogged by negative press in 2006 in the wake of allegations that he was involved in covering up the Foley scandal. Although he managed to narrowly win against eccentric industrialist Jack Davis, that election was a disaster for Republicans in general, as they lost control of the House.

The prospects for regaining a majority this year, with an unpopular war dragging into its sixth year and a record number of Republican retirements, look dim. Tom was also in danger of being tarnished by the investigation of missing funds from the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee that he headed through the 2006 disaster. Apparently a long-time employee that Tom promoted from within embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars (or maybe more!)

Although there is no implication that Tom knew, it doesn’t reflect well on his management of the organization. Even worse news, however, is that the NRCCC is practically broke. Apparently it is not as easy to raise money when you are in the minority, and with the country apparently headed into a recession, pocketbooks are tight.

Tom was actively raising money for re-election and reportedly had amassed a cool $1 million, but he may have realized that it was going to be difficult to raise the rest of the $5 million that he needed to win in 2006. On top of that, Democrat Jon Powers, an aggressive young Iraq War veteran, was starting to gain traction to challenge him. Tom probably took a hard look at his chances and decided to go out a winner.

What has happened on the Republican side in the week since has been fascinating. First, three incumbent state legislators whose districts are included in the sprawling 26th, all initially declared interest and then backed away from the race. Sen. George Maziarz of Niagara County, Assemblyman James Hayes of Erie County and our own Assemblyman Dan Burling all decided that they had important business that they wanted to stay with in Albany.

I had personally urged my friend Dan to make the race. As a Vietnam veteran of the Marine Corp and with soaring popularity in his own district, I thought he would be an ideal candidate to counter Powers. Dan took a hard look at it, and for reasons that I am not quite sure of, decided to stay where he was.

I suspect that, although there may have been personal factors, two of the major reasons were geography and again, money. Although the rural GLOW counties of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming make up close to 30 per cent of the district, the seat is generally considered to be a Buffalo (Erie County) seat, even though it sprawls into the western half of Monroe County for another 20 per cent.

This will also be a problem for the last remaining incumbent legislator who has expressed interest, Assemblyman Steve Hawley of Batavia. The feeling is that Erie County Republicans will not tolerate a candidate from anywhere east of the Buffalo suburbs.

This could also be a stumbling block for Iraq War hero David Bellavia of Batavia. Bellavia has a compelling personal story of his valor in fighting “House to House” (the title of his book) in Falluja. He received a Bronze Star and was nominated for a Medal of Honor. That’s a pretty good start, but his political experience is nil.

That lack of political know-how was demonstrated last night when it was announced on WHEC TV-10 in Rochester, where his wife Deanna King is a reporter, that he would be a candidate. The report said that he would be coming back to town soon to “file papers” in the race, and that next month he would be meeting with John McCain.

First of all, the only papers he would need to file to get into this race are nominating petitions with 1,250 signatures in July, and in the mean time, he might better spend his time talking to the seven county GOP Chairman and other Republicans who actually vote in the district.

Although new names (including former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly) keep getting thrown into the hopper, there is one Erie County candidate who appears to have the inside track. Buffalo attorney Michael Powers is also vice-chair of the Erie County Republican Committee.

As a partner in the powerful Phillips Lytle law firm and with a resume that bespeaks fundraising prowess, Powers looks like a tough competitor. Could we be looking at a Powers vs. Powers showdown in the fall? Not so fast!

Although Jon Powers had racked up four county endorsements, all bets are now officially off on the Democratic nomination, as Reynold’s withdrawal has scrambled the other side of the race as well. Jack Davis is reportedly willing to commit another $3 million of his own money if he decides to make a third attempt at the office, and Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul may be tempted into the race.

It looks like the Democrats may be headed for a divisive primary in September, something Republicans traditionally try to avoid. This year, as has already been indicated by events in the last week, however, things may well be different. Stay tuned!

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5 years in

It’s an article of faith among the left-wing of the Democratic Party, and a growing number of Republicans, that the Iraq War has been an unmitigated disaster. Although the five years of war that we commemorate today have been difficult, I am one of the dwindling number of Americans who continue to support our government and the goals we have tried to accomplish in the Mideast.

That doesn’t mean, however, that mistakes in strategy and execution have not been made. Clearly, faulty intelligence, and an attempt to save money and political capital caused our leaders to underestimate the number of troops needed to accomplish the task. Fortunately, the surge advocated by Sen. McCain was adopted and is turning the tide, something that opponents of the war seem blind to.

I said when this all started five years ago that we might not know for 500 years whether our intervention in this volatile region was a success. I don’t believe, however, that we really had any other choice but to challenge Islamic extremism in a direct and forceful way.

That extremism, and the terroism it employs, are the result of a fundamentally failed culture. The hatred that is loosed on Israel on a daily basis and that came to our shores on 9/11 has its origin in the self-loathing of the Arab world. Simply put, their lives are miserable. They have no economy, besides oil, no real education system or technolocy, no civil rights for women or anybody else.

Worst of all they have no freedom, and life under Saddam was the textbook example of that. Iraq before the invasion was a state in which a megalomaniac enforced absolute power by terrorizing the masses. Mass murder and torture were Saddam’s favorite pastimes.

Sure, there are other such states in the world, but none of them are sitting in such a strategic location in the middle of the world’s biggest oil fields. It is simply naive to think that doing anything other than protecting our vital economic interests in that part of the world is in our long-term best interest. Saddam had already invaded Iran and Kuwait, and if he was not poised to try again, eventually his sons would have.

It is for this reason that I will be unable to vote for Sen. Barack Obama, despite his many other charms. His candidacy is a welcome sign of hope for a post-racial society, but his international views are overly simplistic and unrealistic.

On the other hand, I deplore the right-wing “swift-boating” of his candidacy over the views of  his pastor, just as I deplore the racist campaign that Hillary’s surrogates have tried to gin up. In his brave speech yesterday, Obama has challenged all Americans to face the prejudice and racism that still thrives in our culture.

Having Obama serve as a major party nominee will send a great message to the world and to our own children. In a less dangerous world, it would be good for him to win. In the real world in which we live, however, with the real enemies that we face, we need a leader who is willing to stay the course in Iraq, even if it takes 5 more years.

If for nothing else, we owe that to all those who have sacrificed so much and even laid down their lives to bring us this far.

Ad hominem

I went down to the college last week to catch Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Farewell Tour on Wednesday. Of course nobody knew it would be his last visit at the time. What a monster!

Oh, I forgot. We’re not allowed to use that term in politics anymore, after Obama adviser Samantha Powers was forced to resign last week after she called Hillary “a monster” during a Scottish newspaper interview.

That seemed a little harsh to me, but I guess Barack is trying to avoid the ad hominem stuff. Not a bad idea really –I’m getting kind of tired of it myself at the local level.

As students of logic will remember, an ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy in which a person tries to win an argument by resorting to a personal attack on the person holding the opposite position, rather than responding to the argument itself.

Some examples of that might be, “Bill is wrong about Lowe’s because:
a. He is a pointed-headed college professor, or
b. He is a socialist, or
c. He is only in it to write a book about the experience.”

If the Bill in this example is my friend Bill Lofquist, then I can say that a. and b. are probably true, and c. is not true, but regardless of any of that, it doesn’t prove whether Bill is right or wrong about Lowe’s.

Of course, there is no totally right or wrong position on Lowe’s. It all depends on your goals for the community. If you want to turn Geneseo into a retail center for the county, jam it with traffic and destroy our small-town character, then building a Lowe’s, and more importantly, setting the precedent that the town is using with the PDD law, is the right thing to do.

If the question is, however, what is the existing zoning and planning for our town and and what are the correct procedures for dealing with a proposal of this magnitude, then my money is on Bill. From my own personal experience, I can say that Bill is almost always right about such matters.

The problem is that no one is willing to really debate Bill on those issues directly, probably because they suspect he is right. It’s much easier just to call Bill a pointy-headed monster and dismiss his positions without taking the trouble to actually read or understand them.

Next week we are having elections and three new candidates are competing to take Bill’s seat on the Village Board. As Tony Soprano would say, with all due respect to my good friends, no one will be able to hold a candle to the record that Bill has made in his four years in office.

Of course, I was one of those who ran against Bill four years ago, and if it wasn’t for a third-party candidate and a freak snow storm, I might have beat him. At this point, although I disagreed violently with his position on the Rental Housing Law, I can say that, on balance, the best man won.

Now the “fun” begins!

Hillary Clinton’s “comeback” “victories” in Super Tuesday II now set the stage for an historic opportunity for the Republican Party. I put quotes around those two words because, first, Clinton had been ahead in both Texas and Ohio polls for most of the last year, and secondly, it remains to be seen whether she will actually pick up any net gain in delegates on the night due to the arcane rules of proportional representation.

Even conceding her Pennsylvania and a few of the other remaining states, it is clear that under the existing rules of the Democratic Party, Obama will end the primary season with a substantial lead in elected delegates. So what do you do if you are a Clinton and you have lost? Change the rules of course!

For some time, the Clinton camp has been beating the drum about allowing delegates from Florida and Michigan to be seated at the Democratic Convention, despite the fact that no candidates ran a campaign in those states and Obama wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan! One solution being proposed is to hold a do-over in those state, but the negotiations over whether to hold a primary or a caucus will be difficult.

Obama clearly prefers caucuses, which are also much less expensive because they are mostly run by the party. Primary elections in a large state can cost millions of dollars because of all the election workers and officials that must be paid by the taxpayers. As a Florida or Michigan taxpayer I would certainly object to paying for two primaries in the same election cycle!

Of course there are lots of other ways to steal a nomination involving skullduggery among the so-called Super Delegates. If that happens, it will create the most massive disillusion with the political process since the 1960s. All the young Obamadudes (and dudettes) will see their hopes and dreams swallowed whole by the cynical Clinton Machine.

What is making Republicans lick their chops, however, is the possibility of a historic realignment of the black vote. The Democrats headlock on this constituency has been the only thing keeping the battleground states competitive. Without black voters reliably breaking over 90 per cent for the Democratic candidate, the Republicans should be able to win Ohio, Missouri, Florida and others in a cakewalk, turning the Electoral College into the Red Sea.

McCain can cinch this deal simply by naming a black Republican for the V.P. slot. Condi or Colin will do, although there may be others. Of course, for this strategy to succeed Obama must also refuse the Dem’s V.P. nomination. That wouldn’t seem to be a problem considering the bad blood that is rapidly accumulating between the two camps.

Watching this historic showdown is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. It is clear that Hillary is willing to say or do anything in her pursuit of ultimate power, even destroy the historic Democratic coalition . It couldn’t happen to nicer people.

Shame on you Hillary Clinton!

I think it’s fair to say that as a white, middle-aged, male, heterosexual Republican, I don’t fit into any of the known Pander Zones of the so-called Hillary Clinton demographic. In fact, like many of my peers, I heartily despise her!

Of course, this is not a recent feeling. I’ve pretty much hated Hillary for all of the 20 years that she has been a national figure. I guess it started when she lied to us all on 60 Minutes about her husband’s philandering ways in 1988, and as far as I can tell, she has been lying about pretty much everything else ever since.

You can count me firmly in the 46% of our country in the ABC (Anybody But Clinton) Club, but I haven’t been very vocal about it lately. In the Good Old Days, back in Bill’s administration, I wrote a number of very negative columns about the Clintons. After a while, however, I figured out that all I was doing was pissing off my Democratic friends who had drunk the Clinton Kool-Aid.

I did make one of my rare Clarion formal endorsements in 2000 in favor of her opponent Rick Lazio when she first ran for the U.S. Senate, but even that was fairly mild. Re-reading that today, the toughest argument was: “Do we want our daughters to think that the way to get ahead in politics is to marry the right man and stick with him for political gain no matter how badly he disrespects and embarrasses you? As the father of three daughters, my answer is a resounding no!”

When you strip away all the class warfare rhetoric, the kooky liberal policy positions and the obnoxious campaign tactics, I think this remains the issue that will bring Hillary down. There were many who expected that as soon as Bill left the White House, and Hillary was safely ensconced in the Senate, that papers would be filed in Chappaqua. (As her idol Tammy Wynette spells it, D-I-V-O-R-C-E!)

If she had done that, at least she would have demonstrated a little self-respect. There is a fundamental conflict between Hillary’s posturing as an ardent feminist and her sticking with a proven Horn Dawg. I think it’s called living a lie.

That basic phoniness is something that the average person can pick up on when we see the two together faking marital bliss for the cameras, and its a big turn-off! Has the Clinton marriage always been one of convenience to cover Hillary’s different sexual preference, as some have suggested? I don’t know and I don’t really care, but it clearly has become one in recent years.

If Hillary wants to succeed at the highest level of our nation’s politics she needs to change her theme song. Get rid of “Stand by your man” once and for all, and try something like “I will survive!”

I guess this cartoon from the Financial Times of London (and the article it appeared with) pretty much sums it up:

Hillary

1852 deja vu?

After three different winners in the first three presidential contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and now Michigan, the fractures in the Republican coalition have never seemed more fragile. As stated before in this space, I am a McCain supporter, but I’m beginning to wonder if John is just too honest to win a modern political nomination.

Recently McCain ran his Straight Talk Express off the road in Michigan when he told voters there that jobs lost in the automotive industry “were gone and they’re not coming back.” Any economist could have confirmed this sad fact, but candidate Mitt Romney, in a bid to bring back the Glory Days of his 1950s Detroit youth, promised voters that he would raid the federal treasury for at least $20 billion to bail the auto industry out. As if that would be enough! And this is an economic conservative?

Meanwhile Mike Huckabee is down in South Carolina telling the faithful that the United States Constitution needs to be amended to conform with “God’s law.” Say what? This is something I would expect from the Taliban, not from a leading contender for a major American political party nomination.

Against this kind of craziness, Ron Paul is starting to look good! But before that happens I guess we’ll have to go through a Thompson and a Giuliani boom and bust. Can Fred revive himself long enough to win the South Carolina primary Saturday before he takes his next nap? Can Rudy scare the B’jesus out of enough retired New Yorkers to win Florida?

Will the guy with the most money or the best pandering abilities win Super Tuesday, or are we headed for a brokered convention? And most importantly, is this any way to run a party? All of which makes me wonder if we aren’t approaching the death of the modern Republican Party. Don’t think it can happen? Remember the Whigs?

The Whigs were formed in the 1830s in opposition to the policies of Democrat Andrew Jackson. By 1840 they rode “Old Tippecanoe,” Indian War Hero William Henry Harrison, to national victory. They won again in 1848 with another war hero, Zachary Taylor, but soon found themselves on the wrong side of history.

The 1848 election saw the first appearance of the Free Soil Party, which was dedicated to stopping the expansion of slavery. They nominated former Democratic President Martin Van Buren and took 10 per cent of the national vote, probably just enough to throw the election to the Whigs. After Taylor died in office, Western New York’s only President, Millard Fillmore, succeeded him.

At the 1852 Whig convention, northern delegates who felt the Compromise of 1850 was too favorable to the South dumped Fillmore in favor of Gen. Winfield Scott on the 53rd ballot. The badly-splinted party fell apart after losing the general election to Democrat Franklin Pierce and was never a national factor again. So much for brokered conventions!

By 1856 the remnants of the Whigs, the Free Soilers and anti-slavery Democrats were absorbed into the new Republican Party. While the Republicans lost their first national attempt behind John Fremont, just four years later they elected Abraham Lincoln, himself a former Whig. (BTW in 1856, Millard Fillmore re-emerged as the standard bearer of the anti-immigration American Party, known pejoratively as the Know Nothings, polling 21 per cent of the national vote.)

If you look at the states that Lincoln won in 1860, (everything north of the Mason-Dixon line, the upper Midwest, California and Oregon), it seems unlikely that the Republicans will win any of these states this fall behind anyone except McCain (or possibly Giuliani)–especially against Obama! In fact, with the exception of Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, none of those Lincoln Republican states were in George Bush’s column in 2004, and those three aren’t looking too promising for ’08!

I believe John McCain represents the last gasp of the Lincoln roots of the Grand Old Party. These days, however, he is finding much of his support among so-called “independents” because, increasingly, that is what former Republicans in the Lincoln states and beyond are calling themselves.

McCain’s moderate views on immigration may be on the right side of the historical tide, however, they are something that the modern “Know Nothings” of the Republican Right will never forgive him for. If this wing succeeds in taking over the Republican Party on a platform of God and throwing the illegals out, they will probably be about as successful as poor Millard in 1856.

Note: My ruminations on this subject were inspired by re-reading an article by Kirk House that was originally published in the Autumn 1996 issue of Genesee Country Magazine. I have recently posted more of that magazine’s Greatest Hits on line.

Presidential Follies

I was so busy with my own campaign for most of the year that I didn’t spend much time monitoring the national election. In fact, the first time I saw a Republican debate in October I didn’t even recognize half the candidates!

Now with the local elections over, and the weather turning nasty, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks catching up. I saw most of the Youtube Republican debate last week and could even recognize most of the candidates, although I still have trouble distinguishing between Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo, if there is a difference.

Last spring I signed up on the John McCain web site as a supporter and I’ve seen nothing since to change my conviction that he is the best qualified candidate. I understand that our state Republican Party has endorsed Giuliani and I can understand that having a Favorite Son may make sense from a local point of view.

Perhaps Rudy could make New York competitive, and that would help state Republicans in our bid to hold on to the State Senate and make inroads in the Assembly, but I’m not willing to play politics with our national future. That said, however, I certainly don’t find Giuliani to be anywhere near as objectionable as the demonic Mitt Romney who would probably make me take a hard look at Obama if they were both nominated.

And that has nothing to do with Mitt’s religion! I really don’t care what religion a candidate professes, in fact, I’d probably be more comfortable with an atheist. I don’t know much about Mormonism, but they must be on to something, because I’ve been to Utah many times and it would be hard to find a healthier or happier-looking population. Also, none of the local Mormons I’ve met have had horns, but there is something very insincere about Mitt that I fear would not wear well over the long run or with the national voters next year.

Of course, in the blogosphere Ron Paul looks like a shoe-in to win the Republican nomination, which probably just goes to show how far the blogging world is removed from reality. Take a look at the polls published at ElectionVine. Paul is leading on almost every web site that has a poll installed (even Facebook!) and overall he is pulling down about 3/4 of the online vote.

Granted these are not scientific surveys, but it is striking how different those results are from national polls that show Paul languishing in 6th place. The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Paul just 4.7 per cent of the national vote. Having just come through a four-way race, I now know how hard these multi-candidate races can be. The 16 per cent I got for town supervisor would put in me in 2nd place in this race trailing only the 25.2 per cent support for Rudy.
Some believe that the breakthrough for Paul’s libertarian philosophy will come in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire. I guess it’s then or never, but I’m still hoping that New Hampshire will give a bounce to McCain who was just endorsed by the influential Manchester Union Leader.

Although I am mainly interested in my Republican contest, it does make a world of difference who we will oppose next year. Personally, I would rather run against Hillary because I believe her negatives are so high that she is the most beatable Democrat. John Edwards scares me for the same reasons as Mitt, but I must admit that Obama intrigues me. Anybody who is as good a pick-up basketball player as he is reported to be, can’t be all bad!