Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thanks, GOP!

As a long-time political observer and activist, I have seen a great many actions by the GOP that I thought foolhardy, at best. I literally could fill an entire blog post with “why did they do that” questions, and perhaps one day I shall, but not today. Today’s question is really quite simple: Has the Republican Party lost it’s collective mind or are they simply so arrogant, based simply on something as fickle and troublesome as polling data, that they feel they cannot lose this year? The GOP voters have made some decisions this year that defy all logic. So much so that it has led me to excoriate them for their own stupidity. This blog entry is about the two biggest debacles that the GOP has perpetuated upon itself this year.


In Florida, my home for thirty years, the GOP primary voters had what seemed like a very simple choice, Attorney General Bill McCollum or “entrepreneur” Rick Scott, as their party’s nominee for Governor. The voters picked Mr. Scott, 46% - 43%, after a nasty, expensive campaign. Bill McCollum is not a name that excites people; he is a banal, tedious, mild politician with little charisma - this guy’s speeches couldn’t excite a crowd of ADHD kids pre-loaded with Milky Way bars. Nevertheless, he has been a steady, if unspectacular, Attorney General and served the people of Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives for twenty years (1981 – 2001.) McCollum’s only big problem was that he has run three statewide campaigns, and only come out on top once (in 2006, when he was elected Attorney General.) He twice sought a seat in the U.S. Senate, losing the 2000 general election in a squeaker to a somehow reincarnated Bill Nelson and the 2004 GOP nomination to Bush buddy Mel Martinez.

Prior to the launch of a late, self-financed campaign, Rick Scott was not well known to most Floridians. Facing a better opponent, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush or current Gov. Charlie Crist, Scott’s candidacy would have been taken seriously only because of his immense personal wealth. Scott, a former CEO of what was once the nation’s largest chain of private hospitals, Columbia/HCA, narrowly escaped indictment in the largest Medicare fraud ever perpetuated. After throwing Scott out in 1997, Columbia/HCA agreed to a plea bargain “allowing” them to avoid criminal charges in exchange for what would ultimately become a $1.7 billion settlement. By asserting his 5th Amendment rights more than fifteen (!!!) times during his depositions, Scott was able to avoid being charged with a crime. The aforementioned depositions are still sealed and cannot be obtained without permission from Scott, whom has steadfastly declined to shed light on his malfeasance.

Bill McCollum may be the unluckiest Republican politician in recent Florida history. After all, in the past forty years Florida has elected some real crowd-pleasers to statewide office. We’re talking about a state that elected odorless, colorless, tasteless, charm-less former Tampa Mayor Bob Martinez as Governor in 1986 and the brain-less Paula Hawkins to the U.S. Senate in 1980.(1) The hapless, aforementioned Mel Martinez (no relation to the former Governor,) is yet another example of this phenomenon. Also amusingly clueless are former Secretary of State Katharine Harris (the GOP nominee for Senate against Nelson in 2006,) and former one-term Governor Claude R. Kirk, Jr.

As a stalwart member of the opposing party, it is a rare occasion, indeed, that I feel the need to thank Republicans. But, I do. I thank you folks for nominating a de facto criminal to run the state at such a crucial juncture in its history. You see, Floridians pay no income tax and the state has a difficult time balancing its books (as its’ Constitution mandates,) every year. Most political observers will agree that a Governorship is not an entry-level position. The U.S. Congress, where members usually spend a few years learning their way around before wading into deeper waters, is such a place – a Governor needs to be able to lead from Day One.

The Democratic nominee, state CFO Alex Sink, also is a former business executive with a nice personal fortune, a big fund-raising network, and a résumé that does not have the word “fraud” all over it. Ms. Sink is not charismatic, either, and she may not excite anyone, but she should easily best Mr. Scott on November 2nd. So, I thank you, Republicans, and I laugh at your stupidity, blindness, and arrogance under my breath as I walk away.


The mention of Delaware always brings me back to my childhood. In my teenage years, I lived next door to a family of Delawareans that can only be described as some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were kind, gracious, industrious, and inclusive – the kind of people everyone should have living next door. I was invited to dine or play video games at their home many times and have great memories that will last forever. You couldn’t dislike these people if you tried! Husband and wife were former childhood sweethearts, successful in their respective fields (both worked for government,) well-educated at state schools, and their son was a great student, Boy Scout, athlete, and a nice kid. Nearly every day, father and son would practice baseball in the neighborhood and invite me to play whenever they saw me. I can’t remember husband and wife ever arguing or even using blue language. The strongest epithet the wife ever used was “ding-bat.” The husband’s strongest was “idiot,” and that was typically reserved for a football player that made a mistake on the field.

The family was the very embodiment of what is the American dream. They were Republicans, but they were my kind of Republicans. Not extremist, not wing-nutty, but good, old-fashioned decent Republicans who were hard to argue with because they were, in fact, right about a lot of things. They were not frothing-at-the-mouth, angry extremists that got dressed in purblind costumes and bother people, but the kind that come to opinions, practice them daily in their own lives, and only shared said opinions when queried. They worked hard, kept a perfectly orderly home, had a very well-behaved son, went to church regularly, and were a pleasure to have around in any situation. They are the kind of Republican that is fast disappearing and being replaced by Sarah Palin fanatics – a shame of the first order!!

Silly me, I assumed that most people from the great state of Delaware were just like them. Christine O’Donnell has proven me wrong on that score. Delaware is a very moderate state, neither liberal nor conservative. There is, however, a nice-sized patch of pragmatic conservatism in the southern part of the state. Republicans that are elected from Delaware are usually fairly moderate, in the Bill Roth/Pierre duPont mold. Delaware usually recycles its’ politicians, electing them in turn (though not necessarily in order) as Governor, U.S. Representative (they have just one,) and/or to the Senate. Current U.S. Senator Tom Carper is a perfect example of this trifecta, and current U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a former Governor, was attempting to follow in his footsteps.

Castle, who would have been a shoo-in against relatively unknown Democratic nominee Chris Coons, somehow lost this year’s primary against a political neophyte/lightweight named Christine O’Donnell, whom has never held elected office and now has a long trail of lies on her résumé to explain. O’Donnell is a sometime, self-described PR consultant and television commentator whom inexplicably earned just $5,800 last year. How Ms. O’Donnell managed to survive on such a meager sum is anyone’s guess; perhaps this explains why her home was foreclosed on by her lender and why her former campaign manager has accused her of (illegally) living off campaign donations. Furthermore, she did not officially become a college graduate until earlier this year when she finally completed her coursework at Farleigh Dickinson University. In 1994, the school sued her over $4,823 in unpaid fees, which she re-paid nine years later.

O’Donnell’s prior political experience comes in the form of having worked for right-wing groups (The RNC, Enough is Enough, and Concerned Women for America,) for short periods and having twice run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in Delaware. O’Donnell placed third in the 2006 GOP Primary and won the party’s 2008 nomination, but was defeated by Joe Biden by thirty points despite the fact that Biden did not campaign, having been tapped as his party’s Vice Presidential nominee.

O’Donnell won the primary handily (54% - 46%,) despite facing a powerful, well-known challenger, current U.S. Rep. Mike Castle. Castle is a former two-term Governor, and a nine-term veteran of Congress. O’Donnell is now down to Coons in nearly every poll, thanks to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of her doppelgänger. The so-called Tea Party’s misguided attempt at nominating one of their own has horribly backfired.

In closing, I say thank you to the GOP. As I said, it is not often that I thank them – but I think it is apropos here. Every major political rating group has changed the Delaware race from “Likely Republican” to “Likely Democrat.” Thank you, Mrs. Palin, to you and your flock (that’s right, I said it,) of followers whom are so hell bent on destroying yourselves that you nominated a would-be criminal and a ditz in two crucial races. When the Tea Party recedes into history, and it will, you folks will be especially remembered for these two deeds. Good show!

(Update - 11/06/2010)

Well, we Democrats lost the House. In fact, we lost at least 60 seats - a rout worse than 1994, 1980, and 1966!! Of course, in '66 we lost nearly 50 and still kept the House! Ah, the old days (not that I was alive.) My last remaining political hero, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, went down in a final blaze of glory against GOPlastic Magnate Ron Johnson. No Teddy, No Russ, no Joe Biden ... the Senate is just not as much observe as it once was. We managed to salvage Bobby Byrd's old seat, but also lost our sitting President's seat in a squeaker. Patty Murray pulled it out in Washington while Barbara Boxer held on in California. Jerry Brown won the Governorship of California, going from Gov. Moonbeam to Gov. Gray Beard (he'll now have the interesting distinction of being both the youngest and oldest man to ever lead our nation's largest state.)

(1) To be fair, the 1980 election of Hawkins was largely the result of Ronald Reagan’s coat-tails that year instead of her own viability. (Ms. Hawkins was later handily defeated for reelection by popular outgoing Gov. Bob Graham.) Bob Martinez’s election was at least somewhat a function of the Democratic Party having nominated the also less-than-exciting Steve Pajcic. He, too, met an ignominious end in 1990 at the hands of a rejuvenated Lawton Chiles.