Campaign2008

This blog features information about the political campaign nationally and in the state of Pennsylvania. it will discuss congressional races western PA, but it won't restrict comments to those jurisdictions. On many occasions, it will feature humor, but its main purpose is to "cut the legs off" political jihad. This is a site for political grown-ups of all ages.

Name:
Location: Ambridge, Pennsylvania, United States

I have a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester (English and American Literature). I taught for 10 years at various educational institutions (Univ. of Rochester, my alma mater, College of William and Mary, and University of Georgia, where I was also Asst. Ed. of the Georgia Review. Later, I worked as a speechwriter and "thinker" at various large companies, including Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, Aetna, Merck (consultant), and Eli Lilly (consultant), among many others. I'm a full-time writer and political commentator/analyst. Favorite company: AudioTech Business Books. Favorite female: my wife, Patricia Ann Maloney. Favorite politcal candidate: Diana Lynn Irey (PA's 12th congressional district)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Campaign 2008: Coming Events (Education, Energy, Pharmaceuticals

In this blog, I want to write mainly on issues that reflect my background.

I taught literature and writing courses for 10 years -- at the University of Rochester, The College of William and Mary, and the University of Georgia ("Go Dawgs!"). Later, I spent eight years writing speeches and evaluating issues in the petroleum and chemical industries (Phillips Petroleum and Gulf Oil). After that, I wrote speeches and other materials on health and pharmaceuticals (Aetna, Merck, Eli Lilly, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and others).

Many important developments are taking place in higher education, energy, and pharmaceuticals. Some of the changes underway you'll read about here first.

At colleges and universities, costs are rising much more rapidly than the wages of those who have to pay the toll. The new Democratic majority will propose to transfer more money to the parents of students, but if the past is a guide, the college and universities will consume those dollars faster than the government can distribute them.

The good news is that there are technologies available that can reduce college costs sharply. I'm keying in this blog message on one of those technologies, and it makes less and less sense to send the kids off to college when they can get an equal education spending much of their time at home.

The bad news is that colleges and universities don't want to change and are only marginally interested in making significant use of new technologies. If cost-inefficient campuses and unsustainable teacher-to-student ratios were good enough for grandpa, they're good enough for cash-strapped junior. .

In terms of energy, there's massive confusion at the political level. When the price of gasoline "went up" to $3.00 per gallon, commentators generally responded with a "woe is us" refrain. Makers of gas-guzzling SUVs saw their sales go like a boulder pitched in the ocean. .

But what really happened? Even at $3.00 per gallon, gasoline consumption DID NOT GO DOWN. Then, when gasoline prices floated lower to a mere $2.20 per gallon, sales of SUVs shot up as Americans hit the road in record numbers.

In 1984, when I left Gulf Oil, I checked out the prices for regular gas at a local Amoco station, and they were $1.149. Now, 22 years later, the prices for the same fuel are about $2.259, less than double.

I have a secret: adjusted for inflation, GAS PRICES HAVEN'T GONE UP AT ALL. Don't tell that to your local Democratic congressman or TV media anchor, because you'll ruin their day.

In pharmaceuticals, something truly amazing is underway. Specifically, in an industry which absolutely hates competition, that's exactly what's breaking out.

Pharmaceutical pricing is an oxymoron. For example, you can get a 60-day's worth of 20 mg. Simvastatin (generic Zocor, an anti-cholesterol medicine) for roughly the same price as a 30-day supply. A 120-day supply (80 mg.) from Costco goes for less than a 60-day supply.

You accomplish this miracle by splitting tablets in half -- or in the case of 80 mg. Simvastatin, into quarters.

The best recent sign of competition coming to pharamceuticals is the explosion of $4 generic drugs at outlets like Wal-Mart, Target, and the Giant Eagle pharmacies in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In fact, at Giant Eagle pharmacies, you can get various generic antibiotics for nothing -- zero dollars, zero cents.

Where did the $4 prices come from? In part they may reflect the the Medicare Plan D (Medicare-related prescription drug plan for seniors), where most generic drugs require a $5 co-payment.

Many prescription drug plans obtained through companies or labor unions also require small co-payments for generics. It turns out most company employees, union members, and senior would much rather pay $4 for a drug than $5, which would not come as a surprise to market economists.

In many states, one or more of the $4 outlets offers some surprising drugs, including Pravastatin, a highly regarded anti-cholesterol medicine. In some states, you can get Paroxetine (generic Paxil, an anti-depressant) for $4.

A few years ago, before Paxil "went generic," it cost about $3 a pill. Now, at the $4 places, it costs roughly 13 cents per pill.

Have you hugged your pharmaceutical manufacturer today?

The Medicare Part D Plan, of which I'm a member, is also encouraging competition. After I discovered I had Type II diabetes, I took Avandia, which costs about $168 a month.

That over-priced cost drug was taking me over the insurance limit, meaning I had to pay more out of my pocket.

My doctor (Kathleen Osten, an air-force veteran and a superb physician) came up with a solution. She said I might be able to get the same glucose-lowering results from Metformin (Glucophage). She was right.

The cost of Metformin? I'm paying $8 for a month's supply, but you can get it at Wal-Mart, Target, and Giant Eagle for $4.

Of course, a lot of "new" Democrats are going to Congress with the idea of sticking it to the pharmaceutical companies, but they don't really need to waste their time because the "invisible hand" of the marketplace is doing the work for them.

These developments are monumental, and you'll hear more about them later.







The Military and the Politicians: An Emerging Constitutional Issue

A reporter to Norman Schwartzkopf just before the First Gulf War: "General, what would you regard as an 'acceptable' number of casualties?"

Schwartzkopf: "I would regard an 'acceptable' number of casualties as zero."
------------

General Robert E. Lee to his generals after the Confederacy's great victory at Fredericksburg, Virginia: "It is a good thing war is so terrible, else we should love it too much."


This will be one of many columns that will deal with emerging issues of great political significance. Today, I'll look at a "settled" issue that shows signs of becoming unsettled: civilian control of the military.

Let's start with some truth in blogging: I recently told a few friends that I found myself wishing that General John Abizaid, rather than President Bush and the loony congressional Democrats, was in charge of this nation's War on Terror. My heretical view reflected my belief that the civilian leadership of the U.S. is failing badly in its efforts to keep the country secure from its enemies.

I don't mean this as a form of disrespect to George W. Bush, whom I regard as a great man -- even if he's not exactly a great (i.e., successful) President. At times, Bush 43 resembles Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, buttonholing everyone who might listen to his sad story.

As John Abizaid's recent appearance before House and Senate committee shows, being a general allows him to speak frankly, a luxury most politicians don't have. Abizaid doesn't suffer fools gladly, even when its his constitutional obligation to answer their questions.

The U.S. constitution establishes -- in somewhat less than clear, compelling language -- that the military should be under the control of elected leaders. The President serves as a hybrid, an elected official who's also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

The media and most politicians react to the clarity of an Abizaid with a mixture of what we might call shock and awe. Most of today's politicos and nearly all the media have no military experience -- and no points of reference other than the political. So, there isn't much real dialogue with the generals, especially someone as tough and principled as Abizaid.

Inside the Beltway, a "battle royal" isn't the U.S. versus the Japanese at Iwo Jima or the U.S. versus Al Qaeda in Al Anbar Province. Instead, it's the Pelosi-Harman catfight or the Murtha-Hoyer blowout.

The best person to "interpret" what a general is saying is another senior officer. Consider one of the country's most interesting military figures, Lt. Gen.Daniel W. Christman, who served as superintendent at West Point and now in military retirement is a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

An occasional military analyst for CNN, Christman is a member of the Democratic Leadership Conference (DCL) -- the "moderate" group that served as a launching pad for Bill Clinton's run for the presidency. Christman was one of 12 retired general officers who endorsed John Kerry for President in 2004.

As readers of this blog will have observed, I usually don't have much tolerance for garden-variety Democrats, especially backers of John Kerry types. However, I do like some tough-minded members of that party, including Rep. Jane Harman and, especially, Christman.

He's not afraid to lay the wood to his fellow Democrats when they deserve it. In an October 21, 2005, article in the DLC publication, he condemned a Baker's Dozen Democrats who habitually refused to nominate anyone from their districts for the service academies.

Recently, on CNN, Christman was thinking the unthinkable and saying the usually inexpressible: he foresaw a coming conflict between Abizaid and those who think like him against the country's political powers.

He indicated Abizaid believes it's possible for the U.S. to prevail in Iraq, to fulfill the mission. Many of the political class, along with a majority of the electorate, are more interested in getting American troops out, no matter the consequences.

Frankly, Abizaid hates the ideas of timetables and "phased redeployments" as much as all terrorists -- and many Democrats -- like them.

He apparently believes that a redeployment puts U.S. troops in a position where they'd be sitting ducks for terrorist raiders. His related fear is that the "redeployed" soldiers would sooner rather than later have to fight a much bigger war in the Middle East.

A quick redeployment ensures a Viet Nam like situation, where hundreds of thousands of people who sided with America and a democratic Iraq, are at the mercy of mass-murderers.

America's rapid departure from Iraq would embolden countries like Iran and Syria, and it would give them control over much of the world's oil supplies. Faced with a hostile Iran, Syria, and Iraq, countries like Kuwait, the UAE, and even Saudi Arabia would be very much at risk.

The U.S. and its Western allies would lose all their leverage to block Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Also, a country like North Korea would determine that bin Laden was right: that America's liberal politicians flee the scene when they see the sight of blood.

In short, today's dangerous world would become tomorrow's nightmare.

General Abizaid and others with similar responsibilities should continue to oppose cut-and-run proposals, whether they come from addled Democrats or the aging worthies of Jim Baker's "Study Group."

We can speculate what's going on Abizaid's mind: that precipitous withdrawal -- even with the fig leaf of phased redeployment -- will result over time in the death of many U.S. servicemen and servicewomen.

He probably suspects that the Murtha, Rangel, and Pelosi types calling for a pullout will someday be the first people calling for the military to save their sorry skins

Abizaid knows he has an obligation to respect the U.S. Consitution. However, he has perhaps a greater duty to ensure that not one more flag-draped coffin comes home than is absolutely necessary.

If this all leads to a constiutional crisis, perhaps it's one the country needs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pennsyvania's Lady Di: Diana Lynn Irey

"A Battle has been lost.... we wait for the next battle...in the meantime, we will cling to her unending support of our troops and veterans." (A post-election comment on the home page of Vets4Irey.com)

During Diana Lynn Irey's remarkable campaign against John Murtha, I exchanged perhaps 30 e-mails with her, trying to sustain her emotionally and spiritually as she waged her uphill battle. The e-mails probably helped me a lot more than they did her.

I worked at Diana's headquarters in Monongahela, PA, a 70-minute drive from my home in Ambridge, PA. I saw her many times on TV, initially on the Hannity and Colmes program on Fox.

I contributed what's me a significant amount of money to her campaign -- and ecouraged many other people to do the same. To me, this beautiful and charismatic young woman -- a devout Christian and a dedicated wife and mother -- represents everything that her cynical and corrupt opponent does not.

Diana e-mailed me several times to make sure I was coming to her election eve Victory Party. I was there on November 7, 2006, election eve. I followed the lead of Diana's staffer Tammy, who told me, "I just know I'm going to cry tonight."

She knew, and I knew that Diana was not going to win the election against a competitor whose campaign war chest was engorged with huge contributions from grateful lobbyists.

The election party demonstrated the diversity of the coalition Diana had built. At one point, I was sitting with three members of the "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle group, Viet Nam vets and bikers, as well as a couple of evangelical Christians, a salesman, and an older woman who was about as likely to ride a motorcylce as she was a unicycle.

Diana isn't one of those candidates who waits, holed-up in a room with advisors, as returns come in. Just before 9 p.m., she entered the hall dedicated that night to the victory she would not have.

Accompanied by her husband, she wore white slacks and a dark top. The audience of about 150 people gave her a standing ovation.

I walked up to Diana and said, "Hi, I'm Steve." She hugged me, and I hugged her.

Diana is about 60 inches tall and weighs perhaps 99 pounds. It's hard for a petite person to convey a sense of grandeur and gravitas, but she does just that.

As a public speaker, she's quite amazing. She's highly animated and powerful, but the key is her absolute sincerity.

(If you want to see her speaking, visit the Vets4Irey.com site, where she has a 3 1/2 minute video.)

As the quote from the "Vets4" at the start of this piece indicates, Diana had a powerful effect on veterans, who supported her vigorously -- online and offline. If the 21st century has a Joan of Arc, this tiny Washington, PA County Commissioner is that person.

I told one woman who worked tirelessly for Diana that the Republican Party needed a lot more candidates like her -- good candidates. The woman, a political veteran, said, "For some reason, they don't want good candidates."

I had to admit she was right. This was the year when we found out to our sadness that many Republican congressmen -- California's "Duke" Cunningham, Ohio's Robert Ney, Pennsylvania's Don Sherwood and Florida's Mark Foley -- were morally defective.

They were either crooks (Cunningham and Ney), or adulterers and abusers (Sherwood), or pedophiliacs (Foley).

The disgusting behavior of such Republicans made the mountain Diana was climbing so much higher. They gave Republicanism an odor of seaminess, and their actions probably led to the defeat of otherwise strong candidates like Melissa Hart of PA's 4th District.

Before their fall, the Neys of the political world had no trouble raising money -- or getting party funds from the Republican Congressional Committee.At the time of Foley's political collapse, his campaign funds totalled $2 million.

If the Republican Party is to have a future, it must recruit candidates like Diana Irey (and I'd add Melissa Hart). At the same time, the party must exclude people like Foley.

For all her attractiveness and oratorical skills, Diana has even more important qualities. Most significantly, she scrupulously honest

Admittedly, we can't ask Diana or any human being to be "perfect." As St. Paul says in Corinthians, "For all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God."

If we don't need perfect people, we do need good people. Beyond that, we need individuals who will inspire others, as Diana has done with a multitude of veterans.

Ultimately, we should avoid those, like Cunningham and Ney, who excel at schmoozing with lobbyists. Today's self-servers and dealmakers are no better than their earlier counterparts throwing their weight around in smoke-filled rooms.

If America's veterans continue to "cling to her" (Diana), the Republican Party needs to follow suit. In her campaign, she "gave not less than everything," and those of us who believe in her principles should do the same.

Because of her skills and character, Diana has a chance to transform not only Pennsylvania, but also our nation. I look forward in the years ahead to seeing her do just that.


Note: In my communications with Diana, I mentioned to her Newt Gingrich's progress in Georgia during the 1970s, when I worked on his campaigns. In 1974, he ran against one of the most-entrenched of Democrats, John Flynt, and garned 48% of the vote. In 1976, with Jimmy Carter heading the national ticket, the "yellowdog" Democrats came out in great numbers -- and Newt again got 48% of the vote. In 1978, Gingrich found John Flynt not wanting another campaign, and Newt won easily, later going on to be a great leader of the Republican Party.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Remembrances of Politics Past: Georgia, 1972

Steve Maloney lived in Athens, Georgia from 1970 to 1976 and taught English Literature and writing at the University of Georia, where he was also editor of the Georgia Review. He was a member of the local Republican Committee and participated in voter registration and several statewide, district, and local campaigns. He seriously considered running for Congress against Democrat Robert J. Stephens, a great-grandson of Alexander Stephens, the (hand-wringing) Vice President of the Confederacy. Maloney then seriously unconsidered it.

The 1972 campaign for the presidency between George McGovern and Richard M. Nixon truly was a turning point in American politics. As I recall, McGovern won South Dakota, and Nixon won the other 49 states.

Except for Watergate (a sad phrase), it could have been earthshaking. It might have led to what Kevin Phillips suggested and Karl Rove more recently predicted: something that looked a lot like a permanent Republican majority.

In the Georgia of 1972, the Republican majority hadn't yet emerged. In fact, Republicans had been mostly invisible since the Civil War.

Democrats controlled nearly ever office at the state and federal levels, from the Senate (Herman Talmadge and Richard Russell) to the governorship (snarly-faced Lester Maddox followed by smiley-faced Jimmy Carter) to congressional seats, where only two of the then-10 representatives were Republican: Fletcher Thompson and Ben Blackburn.

They were the only congressional Republicans since the Civil War, and Thompson of Atlanta was stepping down to battle against Sam Nunn of middle-Georgia Perry. I was extremely active in the Thompson campaign, although I realized Nunn as a "conservative" (sorta) Democrat was formidable.

On the presidential level, the main stream media (MSM) were emphasizing McGovern's appeal to young people. That was an exaggeration, as the final results showed, because the South Dakotan's appeal was restricted mainly to his homestate voters and the Democratic inner-city core.

In states like Georgia, McGovern came across as pompous, feckless, and disloyal. Otherwise, I guess he was fine.

At the University of Georgia, the new 18-year-old vote was very much in force, and many students wanted to support Richard Nixon. McGovern's campus support mainly centered in student government, which represented a left-wing, anti-war agenda more than it did Georgia students.

I helped organize University of Georgia Students for Nixon (and Thompson). It was one of the most effective student groups ever launched on that or any campus.

Somehow, I thought I'd play a big hands-on role in "running" the group. I didn't, because the students seized control of their organization.

With help from Thompson's paid staffers -- one in particular, a Georgia graduate student named Richard -- they built a group consisting of more than 250 students willing to canvass the campus.

Led by future Marine Dale Perry of rural Danielsville, the UGA group identified and listed nearly ever student who favored Nixon and/or Thompson. They helped many students (in the hundreds) register in Athens or get absentee ballots to vote in their home counties.

After they completely canvassed the University of Georgia area, they expanded into the rest of Athens and Clarke County. Late in the campaign, they expanded into other counties.

Traditionally, the student government had held on-campus "straw votes." That didn't happen in 1972, because the marginally pro-McGovern student group blocked it.

They knew Nixon would win such a straw vote by a huge margin. They didn't want to "embarrass" McGovern, who was doing such a good job embarrassing himself.

Nixon won Georgia, traditionally a "Democratic" state. Now, a generation later, the governor of Georgia (Sonny Perdue) is a Republican, as are both senators (Saxy Chambliss and Jonny Isaacson) and seven-out-of-11 congressional representatives.

Fletcher Thompson lost in a relatively close race to Sam Nunn. But Thompson established the foundation for the later defeat of Herman Talmadge and the eventual control by Republicans of both Senate seats, as well as both houses of the state legislature.

The 1972 election turned things around politically in Georgia -- and in the Deep South generally. Watergate reduced the magnitude of the turnaround somewhat, but it didn't block it.

How did University of Georgia students get so involved and have such a positive effect? One of the slogans of the time went this way: Question: "How do you get people to support Nixon?" Answer: "You ASK them to."

Note that the Thompson campaign had a full-time staffer whose only job was to go to campuses throughout the state and attempt to replicate what was going on in Athens. He had success just about everywhere he went.

Of course, the myth -- then as now -- is that students are (1) lazy; (2) liberals. Some students, like some adults, are one or both, but many do want to participate in conservative politics, and they can be extremely effective.

In the Irey campaign of 2006, I worked for a day with two high school students, Amanda, age 14, and her brother, age 16. In one long afternoon, they made 400 phone calls in support of Diana.

Neither of them was old enough to vote, but I told them they were having the effect of people who had many votes. I added that many individuals feel helpless in the face of current events, but they were making a change -- even if it was a small one -- in the world they inhabit.

I told myself, with a touch -- but just a touch -- of hyperbole: "Give me 50 people like these two, and maybe we win this (supposedly unwinnable) election.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rick Santorum: Retail Politics and Missed Opportunities

I sent part of the column below as a letter to Paul Kengor, associate professor of political science at Grove City College (GCC), an institution that has done a wonderful job of resisting government control of its operations. Kengor, author of a superb book on Ronald Reagan, wrote a remarkable article ("A Guy Called Santorum") that appeared in the November 19, 2006, "Forum" section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His point was that Rick Satorum is a man of principle, particularly in his opposition to abominations like partial-birth abortion. He noted that in the 2006 election secularists supported the supposedly pro-life Bob Casey, Jr. by a margin of nearly four-to-one. In contrast, regular churchgoers voted for Santorum by an even higher ratio.

Kengor's article brought several critical letters-to-the-editor from people committed to the culture-of-death. My column directs itself mainly to how candidates can target their resources to increase their vote totals.

From the letters in the "Forum" section, I guess your [Paul Kengor's] Santorum piece struck a nerve. I'd consider writing a letter about some of your critics if the Post-Gazette would publish my offerings, which it won't anymore.

One critic tiptoes around with the issue of infanticide [perhaps a better term than partial-brith abortion]. I've always thought the ancient Greeks, who practiced infanticide, may have been more honest than their modern counterparts.

Although the magnitude of Santorum's defeat (59% to 41%) still mystifies me, I think that in the campaign he failed to reveal the "impressive Rick" side of himself that you identified.

When the Penn Hills "residency problem" came out, however unfair it might have been, I thought it would be very harmful to Rick, which apparently it was. (Note: Santorum paid taxes and had a house in the Penn Hills suburb of Pittsburgh, but he and his family lived together in Virginia, where Penn Hills paid for their "cyber education.")

Another factor in his defeat was his heavy reliance on very expensive TV advertising. (Something similar happened with the Tallent senatorial campaign in Missouri.)

For candidates like Rick and Diana Irey, 12th District opponent of John Murtha, the "ground war" is critical. That is, they need to have a ton of people (some of whom they will have to to pay) knocking on doors and making phone calls.

These people shouldn't be mere"hired guns." They should be individuals who believe in what the candidate stands for.

One thing Rick forgot was how he won his first campaign for federal office -- against congressional incumbent Democrat Doug Walgren in 1990.

In that effort, Rick engaged in a lot of "retail" politics, having face-to-face contact and knocking on doors. In contrast, Walgren relied on name recognition and abundant advertising and brochure sending.

To the amazement of just about everyone, the newcomer Santorum defeated the supposedly bullet-proof Walgren. It was a campaign reminscent of this year's Irey-Murtha battle, although one with a happier ending.

In Rick's 2006 campaign, he had a big advantage in money, with his $27 million-plus against Bob Casey's approximately $16 million. But Santorum's big spending campaign didn't translate into nearly enough votes.

He started with a core vote of about 40%, and by election day he had increased to a disappointing 41%.

Rick paid top dollar for his consultants and advertising spots, but he didn't get his money's worth. His opponent, Bob Casey, also spent a great deal on political ads, mostly playing it safe by saying little -- aside from the usual Democratic demagoguery ("tax cuts for the wealthy . . . sending American jobs overseas," etc.)

Yes, it's necessary to appear in TV ads to establish yourself as a credible candidate. But much of the estimated $11 million or so Rick spent on ads, many of them not very complelling, should have been directed to more productive activities.

In one ad, Rick talked about how he'd "worked with Hillary Clinton" and "Barbara Boxer" on a couple of minor issues. Did he really believe that approach would earn him any votes?

People who vote for Senators Clinton and Boxer aren't going to vote for Rick unless perhaps they're at the point of a gun. An important rule in politics is to avoid being disingenuous.

He also had an unsuccessful ad featuring his six children. That particular spot dealt with Rick's controversial action of having the town of Penn Hills, PA, pay for his kids' online home schooling in Virginia. In political commercials, it's best if children are seen and not heard.

How could Rick have spent his money better? Admittedly, it wouldn't have been possible for him to go door-to-door throughout a large state, something that would take a lifetime to accomplish.

However, what if he'd hired an additional 200 or more fired-up political organizers and had at least one such person in every PA county?

Also, he could have provided the organizers with good regional leadership. The paid staffers would vouch for Rick in every key community and build substantial groups of committed volunteers to work in their neighborhoods.

Finally, the paid organizers could have cooperated with local Republican leaders to build party participation at the grassroots level. That approach has lasting benefits not found in the usual "one-short" political campaign, where organizations built with great efforts tend to fade away quickly after election day.

In the last days of the recent election, the Santorum campaign boasted that it had 40,000 volunteers statewide. Obviously, they needed perhaps 80,000, a number that was at least theoretically achievable.

For Santorum, such an organizational effort woulld have cost (very roughly) $3,500,00 -- about $17,500 per paid organizer, including expenses. In other words, somewhat less on TV advertising (wholesale politics), somewhat more on organizatio (retail politics).

By the way, such efforts done very well, can be almost self-financing, mainly through sparking relatively small contributions ($200 or less). In the political world, you can never go wrong by asking people for their vote or their financial contribution (whatever they feel they can afford).

In fact, if you can get someone to contribute something as small as a dollar, you can be almost certain you'll get not only their vote but their enthusiastic support.

Would Rick have won with the approach I suggest? Maybe not, but he certainly would have done significantly better.

For a candidate, having a big campaign war chest -- as Rick did -- can provide a false sense of security. As the Santorum campaign shows, attempting to drown your opponent in a sea of advertising certainly isn't always a winning strategy.


Stephen R. Maloney has political experience tracing back to the Nixon-McGovern campaign (1972) and the first Gingrich campaign for Congress (1974). He wrote most of the grassroots organizing material for the Pharmaceutical Manufactuers Organization (now called PhRMA) in the 1980s and 1990s. His most recent activity was as a volunteer in Diana Lynn Irey's campaign against (the odious) John Murtha in PA's 12th Congressional District.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Iran and Syria: Meet Monica Crowley

When Alexander the Great lay near death, one of his followers asked him what was the main law of life. Alexander replied, "The weak give what they must, the strong take what they wish."


Monica Crowley is not just your average "MSNBC Blonde." She's intense, informed, and extremely bright. Also, she used to co-host a program with former ballet dancer Ronald Reagan, Jr., so she must have a high tolerance for pain.

Recently, Monica was on with one of the more typical -- that is, intellectually challenged -- MSNBC blondes. The subject was the popular one of whether the U.S. should have high-level discussions with Iran and Syria, the ever-popular sources of mayhem in the Middle East.

Jimmy Carter, whose incompetency on Iran may have cost him the presidency in 1980, thinks we should talk with his former tormenter and with Syria. James Baker and his mysterious group reportedly feel the same way.

Monica Crowley begs to differ. She says there's no purpose in talking to the two countries, and she's dead solid perfect in that assessment.

Her point is that negotiations only work when each side has something the other wants.
Crowley asks: exactly why should they negotiate with the U.S. when we have nothing to offer them?

Granted, they have something have something we want: the ability to tone down the Shiite-led part of the violence in Iraq (and, for that matter, in Lebanon). However, we don't really have anything to offer in return.

However, couldn't we offer them "better relations with the West?" They've shown absolutely no signs of wanting such relations.

The liberal Democrats notion seems to be that the Iranians may want to save us from the mental distress caused by viewing the nightly carnage on TV. But since they're major sources of such bloody events, why should they care a whit about American sensibilities?

Basically, the same holds true for Syria, a conduit for terrorists heading for Iraq.

A country can negotiate from a position of power -- or at least from one of equality. However, no such balance exists in relationships with Iran and Syria.

Of course, Iran also wants to proceed merrily with its efforts to develop a nuclear bomb. That rightly scares the U.S. because we believe two bad things could happen: either the Iranians would use it, perhaps against Israel, or they would sell a nuclear device to Al Qaeda types.

Both Iran and Syria want to keep exporting terrorism. We want them to stop, but we seemingly have no way of pressuring them to do so.

It's not precise to say we have no way. We could look back 16 years to way James Baker communicated with Tariq Aziz about what would have happen if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the First Gulf War.

There was no question then if Saddam had WMD. He had them in abundance and he'd used them vigorously against the rebellious Kurds and the Iranians

Essentially, Baker told Aziz the U.S. would respond to a biological or chemical attack with the use of nuclear weapons against Saddam Hussein's homeland.

How is Mr. Baker's spine holding up these days? Intellectually, he knows exactly how to get Iran and Syria to negotiate seriously -- and to make compromises.

As Don Corleone might have put it, to negotiate with the Devil, you need to make him an offer he can't refuse.

Iran and Syria assume the U.S. is a pitiful, helpless giant. It would be highly instructive for both countries to find out that we're not.

As Alexander knew, it's time not for the U.S. to give what it must, but rather to take what it wishes.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nancy Pelosi, Alcee Hastings: The Politics of Megalomania

A "Thanksgiving" post will appear later today.

The emerging news this week is that Nancy Pelosi plans to appoint disgraced former federal judge Alcee Hastings (D, FL) as head of the House Intelligence Committee. She is bypassing the universally respected Jane Harman (D, CA), whom Mrs. Pelosi dislikes as a result of the new speaker's political paranoia and obsessive grudge-holding.

Rep. Hastings was impeached in 1989 by a Democratic Congress (with Mrs. Pelosi as a member) and convicted by a Democratic Senate. One cause of his impeachment related to his taking a $150,000 bribe.

He resurfaced as a House candidate in a primarily Black district that presumably still doesn't believe that O. J. "didn't do it." He wins reelection easily every two years, and he gratefully accepts truckloads of campaign contributions, not to be confused with bribes of course.

Pelosi has talked constantly about her commitment to ethics, a claim that appears to be entirely bogus, given her affection for ethically challenged types such as John Murtha and Alcee Hastings.

Something else that seems "disingenuous" -- this week's word in the closed world of the Beltway -- is her supposed support of the War on Terrorism. Unfortunately, Pelosi wouldn't know a terrorist if he (or she) jammed a pipe bomb in her mouth.

People like her -- married to what one writer called a California "gazillionaire" -- don't see many terrorists and apparently don't like to think about them. "Out of sight, out of mind" appears to be the operative principle.

Since they apparently see George W. Bush as the focus of evil in the modern world, to coin a phrase, they may wonder what all the fuss is about bin Laden, Khalid Sheik Muhammed, and the like. They focus on the big issues, like seizing the opportunity for a northern Californian (Pelosi) to shaft a southern Californian (Harman).

Surely, the message will not be lost on the much-touted "Bluedog" Democrats, the fiscally and socially conservative House members who provide the Democrats their majority -- and Pelosi her speakership.

They'll discover that if you vote against Pelosi at any point in your career, she will not forget it -- and she will punish you. The situation is so pathetic that her unwanted "number 2" person, Steni Hoyer, is asking that she not retaliate against members who voted against her choice, Jack Murtha, himself a symbol of corruption.

Murtha, who called ethic reform "total crap," will be one of the floor leaders of the proposed legislation supposedly -- but not really -- designed to reform House ethics.

When the American people voted the Democrats in, they did so -- according to polls -- largely because of concerns about ethics. Somehow I don't think they were voting for leading roles for people like Murtha, Hastings, the brain-dead Dennis Kucinich, and Pelosi herself.

As the saying goes, "be careful what you wish for." Stay tuned as the political landfill in DC emits an evermore more disgusting stink.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Health Care: It's Fallen and It Can't Get Up

Back in the early 90s, I was talking to a young, idealistic physician about doctors and nurses I'd seen in a program about Somalia. They were from an Irish Catholic organization providing help to some of the world's sickest, poorest people. I noted the doctors were bearded, dissheveled, and nearly as emaciated as the Somalis they were treating. The young physician's eyes gleamed as she said, "Oh, you mean they were REAL doctors."


As I noted previously, I'm a Republican. Among other things, I believe in the private enterprise system and oppose socialized health care, also known as the "single-payer-system."

At the same time, I try never to avoid reality, and the truth is our health care system is broken -- and likely to remain so. To paraphrase the old woman in the "Alert" commercial, it has fallen, and it can't get up.

Hospitals, many of them, aren't very good at what they're supposed to do: keeping people healthy.

In today's (November 21, 2006) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there's a story by Jerome Sherman and Joe Fahy, two very good reporters. The headline is, "Hospitals Blamed for Many Infections" and deals with three studies describing how patients contact new illnesses while supposedly receiving care.

Sherman and Fahy quote Mark Volavka, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Containment Council, who said: "The simple fact is that every patient who enters a hospital in Pennsylvania and in this country is at risk for a hospital-acquired infection."

Volavka notes that as many as 150 American die each day from such infections -- roughly 55,000 people annually. He adds that hospitals lose about $26,000 per patient for certain bloodstream infections.

Who pays that $26,000 per hospital-caused bloodstream illnesses? Ultimately, you do -- unless perhaps you believe in the myth that hospitals absorb the costs out of the goodness of their hearts.

Hospital costs -- and medical costs generally -- are completely out-of-control. Only two segments of society aren't aware of this: (1) the diminishing number of people who have very good insurance; (2) the large number of impoverished people who basically get "free" care that ends up getting paid for by the government (through the Medicaid program for the poor).

Since the government essentially has no money other than what it gets from taxpayers, we pay for number 2: the impoverished in need of health care.

As the Sherman-Fahy piece demonstrates, infections contracted in hospitals add substantially to costs. But some hospital costs are mysteries.

Remember the line in "Field of Dreams" that said, "If you build it, they will come?" The hospital version is: if we charge it -- no matter how high -- someone, somehow will pay it.

Consider the following sad but true story: My brother (in his 60s with a long history of substance abuse and low wage jobs) had a stroke in Febuary, 2005 and subsequently lived with my wife and me for a year.

One day at physical therapy, he experienced faintness and low blood pressure. The ambulance came and took him the 10 miles to a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospital.

My brother had no health insurance at the time. We had been using his small Social Security payment, supplemented with our own money, to pay for his medicines ($450-plus per month) and therapy (twice a week, $110 per session).

The ten-mile trip to the hospital in the ambulance cost $850.00. Why so much? Well, like most people in health care, the ambulance service has a "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to charges.

My brother spent 28 hours at UPMC (first in the emergency room and later in a regular room). He had various tests, which didn't tell the doctors much.

Then, they released him.

The first bill I saw from the hospital was $22,600, but for reasons that remained unclear, it got reduced to a mere $17,600.

When we told the hospital it might as well be $1,176,000.00, they say basically, "Not to worry." They have a retained firm that helps people get on Medicaid.

(Earlier, a social worker at the same hospital had told us my brother was not eligible for Medicaid, which he'd earlier had in New Jersey. She said PA Medicaid would disqualify him because it would factor in his small amount of income with ours.)

UPMC did help get him on Medicaid, but that agency wouldn't pay the entire amount due. It paid about $11,000, which of course comes out of tax money and goes in the hospital's pocket.

The hospital wanted him to pay an additional $4500.00, which he didn't have. At that point, irritated by the absurdly high bills, I dug my hells in and told them the money they wanted was "uncollectible."

But hadn't my brother received real services from the hospital? Judge for yourself.

After a day of medical tests, the doctors proclaimed that he had "syncope." That is med-speak for a person feeling faint and having temporary low blood pressure.

Of course that's exactly what we told them he had when he went into emergency. Don't get us wrong; we were glad to learn a new word: sycope. However . . .

The $17,600 for syncope is about the same as the cost for a small, but decent new car, or for a month in a four-star hotel in Hawaii.

No society is rich enough to pay those kinds of costs. In the next decade, one of every $5 of GDP will go to health care, with no end in sight.

Did I ever find out what caused my brother's syncope? Yes, months later I took a stress test, and I described the event to a young man with a background in nuclear medicine.

This non-doctor said it happened often with the stress tests. Essentially, fear affects the vagus nerve and cuts off -- temporarily -- the blood supply to the brain, resulting in a person's feeling faint and having his or her blood pressure go down.

He said my brother's therapist was having him do something, walk up a few steps, that caused him to be fearful. That made the vagus nerve kick in and cause the syncope.

The stress-test man gave me the diagnosis free-of-charge.

I submit that the $22,600 -- or $17,600 -- costs for someone feeling faint are unsustainable. What if he'd had something truly wrong with him?

No society can absorb this kind of costs for a multitude of patients in thousands of hospitals.

Won't the new Democratic leadership in Congress do something about this situation? Don't be on it.

Take my new congressman, Jason Altmire. His previously job was as a lobbyist for . . . UPMC.

Or what about Rep. Jack Murtha, against whom I worked so hard this year? Well, Murtha, one of Nancy Pelosi's key allies, received $100,000 from UPMC's political action committee (PAC).

Apparently, he got additional tens of thousands of personal contributions from grateful doctors and administrators at the hospital. (Go to opensecrets.org to see for yourself.)

Thus, I wouldn't look for Altmire and Murtha to be advocates for reforming the bizarre system at UPMC -- or any other hospital.

Stephen R. Maloney has worked on health care issues for Aetna, The Hartford Insurance Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield (GA & PA), Deloitte-Touche, Merck, Eli Lilly, and PhRMA.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Christopher Hitchens: Iraq as a Noble Cause

In the November 19, 2006 "Forum" (OpEd) section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there was a remarkable article ("Rushing for the Exit") by Christopher Hitchens . It originally appeared in Slate.com.


Hitchens' piece deals with the incessant calls for withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq. Accompanying the article is a picture of an Iraqi woman with the riveting purple dye on her finger, showing she voted in a real election, an amazing event in the history of the Middle East.

Under the photo is this text: "U.S. forces in Iraq defend those who want to live in a secular, democratic country but have no militias to protect them."

In his article, Hitchens says: "I am glad that all previous demands for withdrawal or disengagement from Iraq were unheeded, because otherwise we would not be able to celebrate the arrest and trial of Saddam Hussein; the removal from the planet of his two sadistic kids and putative successors; the certified disarmament of a former WMD- and gangster-sponsoring rogue state; the recuperation of the marshes and their ecology and society; the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan (currently advertising for tourists and investors on American television); the killing of Al Qaeda's most dangerous and wicked leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and many of his associates."

Hitchens also celebrates "the opening of dozens of newspapers and radio and TV stations; the holding of elections for an assembly and to approve a constitution, and the introduction of the idea of federal democracy as the only solution for Iraq short of outright partition and/or civil war."

Then, he says about the Bush Administration's concept of going into Iraq: "If this cause is now to be considered defeated, by the sheer staggering persistence in murder and sabotage of the clerico-fascist forces and the sectarian militias, then it will always count as a noble one."

In regard to Hitchens' article, let me -- as a former President put it -- make one thing perfectly clear: I agree completely with him. He may be a British citizen, but he certainly qualifies as part of what former Senator Moynihan called America's "warrior society."

Yes, America is a divided society, with the warriors on one side and the worriers on the other. As Hitchens notes, "Many of those advocating withdrawal" -- one thinks of the cowardly Minister of Corruption, John Murtha -- "have been 'war-weary' ever since the midafternoon of September 11, 2001...." So true.

Admittedly, a significant number of Americans fear the war in Iraq might consume their husbands, siblings, and children. But with some exceptions, that fear is misguided, because this is a volunteer army, and the ones feared for by the war-weary will never enlist -- and thus are in no danger in the Middle East.

In particular, the sons and daughters of the Nancy Pelosis, Carl Levins, and Ted Kennedys of this country don't fight wars. They don't defend the country, partly because of their privileged status, partly because they have no real understanding of what America means.

General John Abizaid, a hero and a patriot, put it well when we said if we don't fight them there we will surely end up fighting them here -- in U.S. streets. Anyone who doubts that rather obvious point must have slept soundly through September 11, 2001.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Democrats and the Economic Philosophy of Homer Simpson

We just fought a campaign in an idea-free zone.” (A Republican congressman, November 16, 2006)

"Ideas have consequences." (Richard Weaver)

A possible solution to one cost problem? In a town with only one undertaker, people disliked him so much they absolutely refused to die.


Why am I a Republican?

In modern times – say, post John F. Kennedy – Republicans have had only a few ideas: low taxation, a reliance on individuals and families making their own decisions, a respect for life at all its stages – start to finish, and strong national defense.

Modern Democrats essentially have one idea: the redistribution of income from people who generally vote Republican to those who generally (or always) vote Democratic.

The Republicans’ few ideas are very good ones. The Democrats’ one idea may sound good in theory, but it’s bad in practice – bad economics, bad public policy.

It’s not for no reason that some call economics the “dismal science.” Most people – voters – are as up on economics as they are on astrophysics and that definitely includes politicians.

Redistribution goes up against a major force of nature, Pareto’s Law. Named after an Italian economist, the Law says that in any given economy – at any given time – roughly 20% of the people will hold roughly 80% of the wealth.

That was true in Renaissance Italy, and it holds in modern America, and even in Communist China. It was true before the Democrats regained control of Congress, and it will be true when that control slips from their hands.

For those of us not in the 20% -- and for people like me who don’t really like most rich people – there’s some good news. The 20% also pay approximately 80% -- the figures are close, but not exact in every decade – of the taxes.

At times, the figures may be 10% and 90%, or even 30% and 70%, but in general, the 80/20 Principle holds true. If there are laws of nature, and presumably there are, this is a major one.

Some politicians believe we should be able to adjust this system, basically giving the affluent 20% less – and the less-well-off 80% more. But economics turns out to be a cruel taskmaster, something like Mother Nature in a bad mood.

Consider higher education. It’s not exactly news that the costs of educating people at colleges and universities has been rising like the sales of the new Sony Play Station 3.

By the way, how do we explain the fact that some people are paying $3,000 to $9,000 (!!!) for a PS 3 that retails for $500-$600? We explain it by saying that they really, really want one and the supplies of the new product are tight.

When many are buying and few are selling, it's a great sellers' market.

For similar reasons, people will pay a lot for a college education. That's because they really want their children to have the economic and social benefits of college degrees.

Finite resources – think education at a good college or think a petroleum product like gasoline –balance supply with demand through price. Economists call it the price elasticity of demand, a fancy phrase meaning that when prices go up for a product, demand goes down.

If you raise the cost of a Harvard education from today’s $45,000 annually to $300,000 a year – or a Sony Play Station to say $20,000 – you’ll notice demand drying up, although not disappearing.

So, what do federal legislators do when the rising cost of a college education begins to hurt the pocketbooks of their constituents? They authorize more government spending on higher education, doling out more money to college students and academic institutions.

Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College – a rare institution that accepts NO federal aid -- recently noted that federal spending on higher education had gone up since September 11, 2006, by 133%.

In the exact same period, spending on national defense, fuelled by two wars, had gone up only 47%.

In other words, the federal government is flooding higher education with money, but that’s not stopping the costs from rising rapidly.

(By the way, we see the same kind of thing happening in health care – lots more federal spending coupled with fewer people able to afford the care.)

How can this be? Systems such as education and health care are like huge buckets with big -- and growing -- holes in them. The more money you pour in, the more that drains out.

If you as an individual have more money, you’ll probably find the costs of things you value going up. That especially holds true for those heading off to college.

It’s an economic variation on the old Parkinson’s Law: that work expands to fulfill the time allotted for completion. Maloney’s Law is that costs increase to consume the amount of money available to make purchases.

President Arnn of Hillsdale points out the irony: in trying to help students and their parents, the government actually is hurting them.

Colleges can increase the amounts they charge faster than the government can throw money in their direction. People who run educational institutions know that their price increases will result in more government expenditures for higher education.

Parents and governments become like the racing greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit. Hard as they try, they never catch up.

The situation is bizarre. The government is trying hard to help, but instead of gratitude it’s getting hostility and demands that are impossible to meet.

Thus, we now have Wall Street lawyers making $175,000 to $200,000 a year demanding financial “aid” for their childrens’ educations, and in some cases they’re getting it.

What that leads to a bus driver or fireperson from Pittsburgh helping pay for a Philadelphia lawyer’s kid to go to Princeton or Bryn Mawr.

People like, say, Pennsylvania's new Senator Robert Casey, Jr. think the solution is more federal spending on education. In other words, they have the problem confused with the solution.

Do the bright-eyed new Democrats in Washington understand this basic economic principle? They don’t seem to, and neither do a lot of their Republican colleagues.

------------------------

Economic issues have special importance for Pennsylvania, especially the western part of the state. We've recently elected two people, Casey to the Senate and Jason Altmire to the House of Representatives.

Both men have economic views compatible with those of Homer Simpson.

A well-regarded Pittsburgh economist told me he's especially concerned about Casey's protectionism -- and the "anti-foreigner" bias of many Pennsylvania voters. The economist points out that the state's economy increasingly depends on foreign-based companies like Sony, Bayer, Glaxosmithkline, Erriccson, and many others.

He adds that such companies provide tens of thousands of good high-tech jobs.

By the way, Pennsylvania company Westinghouse is now chasing a nuclear power plant contract in China that is worth $8 billion -- and would produce 5,000 new jobs. According to Dan Fitzpatrick of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, most of those jobs would end up in Pittsburgh.

I wonder if Senator-elect Casey believes this deal with China "makes no sense," ond of his favorite sayings. I wonder if the Bush Administration is offering (shudder) "tax breaks" -- another pet hate of Casey -- to Westinghouse?

In close to home issues like higher education and health care, people like Casey and Altmire go to Washington with the hopes of "reforming" such matters. The reforms I fear will throw federal money at such issues, and somehow the costs will continue their relentless rise.


Note: It's true that I consider Bob Casey and Jason Altmire to be almost total dunces, and in that regard I'll have more to say about these men. My main problem with them is their running of "Hate Campaigns" against Rick Santorum and Melissa Hart. Unfortunately, in politics the "Big Lie" sometimes works. However, as the Bible suggests, what does it profit a man (or woman) if they gain the world (a seat in Congress) and lose their immortal soul? Rick and Melissa kept their souls.

Tomorrow (Saturday), the ever-popular Joe Biden. His problems go far beyond economics.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Money is the Root of All Incumbency

"Many of our politicians have it backwards these days. It's NOT a shame to lose an election. But it IS a shame to serve a wrong idea . . . ." (Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, "The Crisis and Politics of Higher Education," Imprimis, November, 2006)

"Self-control is the most exhilarating of pleasures." (Wm. F. Buckley)


The Buckley quote is one of my favorites, although as a person with a closet respect for epicureans, I've never been sure whether I fully agree. Another favorite is from the lovesick poet William Butler Yeats, who said, "Sometimes all of life seems a preparation for something that never happens."

If you stick with this blog, you may see Yeats and Buckley again. I used to teach and occasionally write about Yeats, and Buckley's sister, Priscilla, was a major force behind my writing career.

One of my favorite journalists recently wrote me -- we write each other regularly -- and basically said, "Hold! Enough!" on my calling Jack Murtha and some similar folks corrupt. I had used a line -- shamelessly stolen from the aforesaid Bill Buckley -- saying that Jack Murtha was to corruption as Typhoid Mary was to typhoid.

My friend's point was that I had assumed my Mary Poppins persona, which admittedly I've been known to do.

My mother warned the world about me when I was age 7, saying, "Stephen has very high expectations for people, and so I fear he's likely to suffer many disappointments in life." As time has shown, she was right.

My journalist friend tells me that politics by its nature involvez the making of deals. Elected officials, he insists, won't usually take your money in exchange for a vote, which would be illegal.

Instead, they do things in politics the way most of do things in life, with "a wink and a nod." Unlike, say, angels, politicians -- being people -- do things with mixed motives.

Specifically, political candidates won't vote for measures that turn their stomachs. However, they need money to conduct campaigns and pay all those phone bills, purchase the bumper stickers, "vote for me" buttons, and the like.

If elected officials take positions on issues, they appreciate gratitude (maybe rarer in politics than in life generally). They have a right to expect people who agree with them and who benefit from their votes to support them in various ways, including financially.

Suprise! I don't disagree with the views expressed. However, when it comes down to American politics as it has evolved, the system no longer works.

Every two years or so, we hear all sorts of righteous concern about Americans who have given up on politics -- especially, those people who don't vote. We wag our collective finger at those individuals who don't live up to one of their basic obligations of citizenship.

Well, the non-voters have a good point.

Frankly, American elections -- particularly at the federal level -- are largely a sham. They're a case of people, voters, waiting for something that never happens: a truly free and FAIR election.

How can that be? It's because the playing field in elections is not level, but rather sharply tilted in favor of whatever political party holds a seat.

Consider the following from the Center for Responsive Politics (the link is www.opensecrets.org):

In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 67 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 9, [2006] the candidate who spent the most money won, according to a post-election analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The findings are based on candidates' spending through Oct. 18, as reported to the Federal Election Commission.

The biggest spender was victorious in 398 of 428 decided House races and 22 of 33 decided Senate races. On Election Day 2004, top spenders won 98 percent of House races and 88 percent of Senate races.

Overall, 94 percent of House incumbents and 79 percent of senators have won re-election, below incumbents' re-election rates over the past few cycles. (This includes incumbents who lost their primaries.)


For people who believe in representative government, these are devastating numbers. It means candidates who are in office almost always stay in, while those who are out -- not incumbents -- might as well turn their attention to ping pong in lieu of politics.

I'm not saying all those hours volunteers spend making phone calls, holding coffees, and handing out yard signs don't have an effect. But phone calls, coffee, and yard signs cost money -- although not nearly as many dollars as the ubiquitous TV commercials and the high-paid consultants and pollsters.

As a VERY low-paid consultant, I'm trying to keep costs down!

If you want to be a serious political candidate and lack funds, you'll learn the truth of the college student's (and his father's) exchange.

Son: "Dad. No mon. No fun. Your Son"

Father: "So sad. Too bad. Your Dad."

Here's the way our sad, bad system works.

If you're an incumbent, political action committees (PACS) and wealthy individuals will shower you with campaign donations. If you're a challenger, you will have to scrap, struggle, and nearly beg for money.

You may be one of the best candidates in the history of the Republic and have great stands on issues, but if you aren't an incumbent and don't have a ton of campaign money, you will lose. Just ask Diana Lynn Irey of Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district.

If you're an awful person with a terrible record, but have a great deal of money and the benefit of incumbency, you'll probably win. Just ask John Murtha of Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district.

In the future I'll talk more about money in politics and suggest some ways certain candidates (Bob Casey, Jason Altmire, PA state representative Jim Marshall, and others) overcome the built-in advantages of incumbents. However, tomorrow's column will deal with one of America's biggest windbags and airheads, Senator Joe Biden, who seems to have no problems accumulating cash and getting re-elected. Biden speaks like someone for whom English is at best his fourth language. Later, I'll write about points made by Larry Arnn (quoted above), who reminded me of an economic concept, "the price elasticity of demand." That means when something costs more, we buy less. Profound, huh?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Culture of Corruption Again: Murtha Watch

Last night (November 14, 2006) John Murtha struck a blow for idealism by telling the “Bluedog Democrats” (44 fiscally conservative Dems), many of them newly elected, that ethics reform was “total crap.” For some new congresspeople, this must have been something like Murtha taking them into a secret room in Rayburn Building and showing them something so nasty that it raised the hair on the back of their necks.

Conservative as I am, I don't accept the "Saturday Night Live" version that Pelosi had to select Murtha because John Gotti was no longer available.


Of course, Murtha’s friend and colleague Nancy Pelosi ran the Democratic campaign on the basis that ethics reform was not, well, total crap. Exit polls showed that voters cared more about corruption in Congress than they did the long, hard slog in Iraq.

As we know, Jack Murtha has almost never met a poll he didn’t like, but those exit surveys about corruption aren’t likely to become part of his stump speech.

Much of the “culture of corruption” involves “earmarks,” money directed toward projects in specific congressional districts. Because of his work on the appropriations related to defense Murtha is a major dispenser of said earmarks – including the $120 million in such funds he brought in 2006 to Pennsylvania.

Tonight (November 15, 2006) Chris Matthews will interview Murtha on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” I’m afraid this encounter will be somewhat reminiscent of Britney Spears’s and Madonna’s last encounter, where they gave each other a big, sloppy kiss.

Chris Matthews is famous for two things: (1) holding 16 PhDs, all of them honorary – i.e., none of them earned; (2) having been challenged to a duel by Senator Zell Miller; (3) having served for six years as the top aide to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Matthews is largely the political creation of Tip O’Neill, the consummate bully. For Matthews, like his mentor, things aren’t right or wrong, but rather doable or undoable.

Murtha is a lot like Chris Matthews, in that he owes his political career to Speaker O’Neill. You can read that story in John Fund’s piece in today’s (November 15, 2006) Wall Street Journal Online (“Meet the New Boss: John Murtha and Congress’s ‘Culture of Corruption’”)

In 1981, Murtha was under heavy criticism for his participation in the ABSCAM scandal. His career depended on the decisions made by House Ethics Committee, and O’Neill thought Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas should join the Committee to save Murtha.

Of course, corruption was a part of O’Neill’s character much the same as that purple birthmark is a part of Mikhail Gorbachev’s face.

As Fund explains it, O’Neill called Wilson into his office and told him to get on the Ethics Committee – pronto. The Texan said he would if O’Neill got him a lifetime seat on the board of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, which Wilson called “the best perk in town.”

The Speaker provided the seat, and Wilson did his bidding, which involved taking care of the Murtha matter. “Taking care” meant making the charges go bye-bye.

Before the House investigators could move fully on the Murtha case, they found out “that the committee had concluded there was no justification for an investigation.” The Ethics Committee chairman, Louis Stokes of Ohio, suddenly declared, “The matter is closed.”

Don’t look for such information to be a source of tonight’s “Hardball” questions. In fact, look for a steady stream of softballs – and perhaps some anecdotes about “good ole Tip.”

O’Neill jump-started Matthews’s career, and he just may have kept Murtha out of jail – or at least a lifetime exile in Johnstown, PA.

Over the year, Rep. Murtha has been a major roadblock to ethics reform. In that effort, he worked closely with his friend Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, who was forced from his Ethics Committee seat for under-reporting personal assets and directing earmarks to political allies.

Of course, Murtha has many conservative critics, including yours truly. But what’s interesting is the way many liberals have responded.

For instance, Gary Ruskin, director of the liberal Congressional Accountability Project, told the publication Roll Call that "when it comes to institutional policing of corruption in Congress, John Murtha is a one-man wrecking crew."

Earlier, left-leaning Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called Murtha “one of the most unethical members of Congress.”

She asked, "How can Americans believe that the Democrats will return integrity to the House when future Speaker Pelosi has endorsed an ethically-challenged member for a leadership position? Rep. Murtha is the wrong choice for this job."

Melanie Sloan asks some very good questions. I wouldn’t suggest you stay up late waiting for good answers.

Stephen R. Maloney, author this piece, is no longer on Jack Murtha’s Christmas card list.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nancy Pelosi: Wicked Witch of the West?

Since I'm talking about leadership in the Democrat-controlled House, I'll bypass the usual joke.

That leadership is going to look roughly similar to the residents of the holding cell at your local jail. Some of the strangest souls in American political history will be in power.

Consider the party's stars, leaving out Nancy Pelosi, the Madame Defarge of modern politics. Let's look instead at other stellar members of the group, including Jack Murtha, Alcee Hastings, William Jefferson, and Dennis Kucinich.

Mrs. Pelosi, who orchestrated the campaign against the Culture of Corruption, wants Congressman Jack Murtha as her number-two man (person?). Residents of PA's 12th congressional district know that Murtha's relationship to corruption is something like Typhoid Mary's relationship to typhoid.

Here's what Melanie Sloan, head of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, had to say about Pelosi's decision:

"Future House Speaker Pelosi's endorsement of Rep. Murtha, one of the most unethical members of Congress, shows that she may have prioritized ethics reform merely to win votes with no real commitment to changing the culture of corruption."

Sloan added that not only is Rep. Murtha beset by a history of receiving and giving hefty "donations," but the New York Times reported Oct. 2 he has consistently opposed congressional reform of ethical issues and pork-barrel politics.

Now, we turn to Congressman Alcee Hastings, "representing" Florida's 23d district. Running basically unopposed, Hastings took no chances, raising and spending nearly $1 million on his "campaign."

Who is Alcee Hastings and why should you care? Well, in his previous role as a federal judge, he was one of only six men in American history impeached by the House -- where he now serves -- and convicted by the Senate.

The federal legislators determined Hastings had just possibly disgraced his judgeship by taking a $150,000 bribe to influence a decision. They further determined he had lied about the situation at his criminal trial and manufactured evidence.

Obviously in deep shame at having his judgeship stripped, Hastings perked up his spirits by running for and winning a seat in Congress and has "served" there for a decade-and-a-half. What committee will he presumably head?

Unless Pelosi undergoes an unexpected episode of sanity, Hastings will head the House Intelligence Committee. (The other candidate is Jane Harmon, of California, whom Pelosi despises, presumably because Harmon actually knows something about intelligence.)

Then, there's Dennis Kucinich, former candidate for President and apparently an eternal congressman from the Cleveland area. Alternately known as Dennis-the-Menace and Congressman Moonbeam, he despises President Bush and doesn't feel much better about the USA.

Recently, he called on America not to be too hasty in criticizing the Hezbollah terrorists. Instead, he proposed "a recognition that connects us to a common humanity and from that draw a flicker of hope to enkindle the warm glow of peace."

Somehow I'm not feeling a warm glow at the thought of Kucinich becoming -- as he probably will -- chairman of the subcommittee on national security. Somehow that's a little like making Michael Jackson supervisor of a day-care-center.

And what about William Jennings Jefferson, the Louisiana congressman famous for having $90,000 (stuffed in $10,000) in "cold cash" in his freezer?

Well, the good people of Louisiana's 2d district gave him a plurality (30%) in the general election, and he'll be in a runoff against Democratic state senator Karen Carter (22%) on Dec. 9.

Jefferson raised nearly three-quarters-of-a-million for his campaign, all of it one assumes from people committed to good government.

In American politics, don't count anybody named Jefferson -- be it Thomas, William, or George -- out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Coming Attractions in Campaign2008 Blog

Perhaps my favorite political joke is the first one I ever heard, back in the 1960s: An older woman is walking outside a polling place and a reporter asks her what candidates got her vote.

She gives him a stare and says, "Vote? I NEVER vote. It only ENCOURAGES them."

Of course, if good candidates -- good people -- run and don't get votes, it discourages them, which isn't something we want to happen.

In the days ahead, I'm going to write about several things. They'll include (I hope) the following:

  • Interviews with political candidates Diana Lynn Irey and Melissa Hart;
  • Discussions of subjects I know well, including energy companies and pharmaceutical companies -- especially in the light of predictable Democratic hostility to those sectors;
  • Thoughts on how candidates of similar views -- attention Melissa and Diana! -- can and should work together to raise money and share ideas;
  • Insights into how the 2006 election was closer in many ways than you might have been led to believe -- for example, a shift of less than 15,000 votes in VA and MT, out of roughly 2.7 million cast in the two states -- would have left the Republicans in solid control of the Senate;
  • Analyses of modern candidates' tendencies to over-rely on TV ads and ignore some of the basics of grassroots organization; and,
  • Thoughts on how Diana Irey could defeat Jack Murtha in 2008 -- and Melissa Hart could do the same to Jason Altmire in 2008.

One important thing political activists must do is to learn from candidates who are improbable winners. A great example is Big Beaver councilman Jim Marshall, who won a state representative's seat in Beaver County by defeating the number two Democrat in the PA House, Mike Veon.

Marshall was lucky in that his opponent had taken a very unpopular stance on a pay raise for state legislators, but he did some other important things that made him a surprise winner. I'll deal with Marshall's campaign in the next post.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Democrats and Their Al Qaeda "Problem"

One jihadist in the hereafter to another: "Why didn't bin Laden tell us that all those virgins waiting for us in heaven would weigh more than 300 pounds?"

"Being in the U.S. Congress is like trying to get yourself heard in a pre-school where nobody's had a nap." (Karen Tumulty)


One of the big stories on cable news this weekend after the election is the celebration by Jihadists of the Democratic victory. That doesn't mean the Islamo-fascists have embraced democracy, which of course they despise, but they do see the Democratic Party as more compatible with their worldview.

Here's the way one international news outlet reported the terrorists' comments:

"The leader of Iraq's Al Qaeda wing on Friday gloated over forcing outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to flee the Iraqi battlefield and said his group would not rest until it blew up the White House."

"Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, said in a purported audio recording posted on the Internet that the group has 12,000 armed fighters and 10,000 others waiting to be equipped to fight U.S. troops in Iraq. 'I swear by God we shall not rest from jihad until we ... blow up the filthiest house known as the White House,' he said."

The Democrats' victory at U.S. Congressional elections on Tuesday were a step in the right direction, the speaker said. 'I tell the lame duck (U.S. administration) do not rush to escape as did your defence minister ... stay on the battleground,' the speaker said. "

"[He added] 'The American people have taken a step in the right path to come out of their predicament ... they voted for a level of reason.'"

Somehow, I don't think Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid are going to send thank-you notes to Mr. al-Masri. Postal delivery is so unreliable in Al Qaeda strongholds.

No less an authority than President Bush tells us that Democrats like Pelosi are just as patriotic as Republicans. To be charitable, I'd say the Democrats' problem is one more of perception than of patriotism.

I've seen no evidence that Democrats generally (with occasional exceptions, like Joe Lieberman) comprehend the nature of terrorism or terrorists. As the recent election rhetoric demonstrated, a lot of Democrats of the liberal stripe think the greatest threat to the world comes not from bin Laden and the terrorists but rather from George W. Bush.

Terrorists aren't really "insurgents," or proponents of national liberation, or manifestations of some righteous grievance. Terrosists are people who like to kill people they believe stand in their way.

To understand terrorists, it helps to see them as like serial killers. They murder people they don't like -- men, women, and children, preferably unarmed civilians.

The brilliant scholar of Islam, Prof. Bernard Lewis (Islam and the West), has offered some explanations why some Muslims delight in killing infidels, that is, people like us. Lewis' argument goes like this:

Muslims, particulary in the Arab nations, see their countries as technologically backward and economically impoverished. Further, they see themselves as lacking the most basic kinds of personal autonomy, with the rulers having much and the people very little.

At the same time, they see themselves as adherents to the one true religion, Islam. Because of their faith, they play a special role in the eyes of Allah, the one true God.

However, if Allah loves them so much, then why are they so depressed economically, politically, and technologically? Well, it's not for nothing that they call the U.S. and the West generally "the devil."

They believe the bad condition of their nations and the failure of the world to adopt Islam are the fault of people like you, me, and George Bush. They regard the success of Western nations as a continuing assault on their faith.

"If Allah loves us so much, why are we so miserable?"

Is this view of Islam an extreme one? Consider the recent situation in Afghanistan, where a Muslim man had converted to Christianity.

For that act, Afghani courts sentenced him not to spiritual re-education but rather to death by hanging. In that country, one with 25 million people, converting from Islam to Christianity is a capital offense.

Did U. S. ally Hamid Karzai commute this draconian sentence? No, he "solved" the problem by exiling the man to Itay, where his life presumably continues to be in danger from Muslim militants.

Back to the Democrats in the U.S. Of course, a goodly number of liberal Democrats think religion of any sort is little more than superstition. They're grateful for the votes of evangelical Christians, but they don't want them living next door.

Unfortunately, the terrorists don't make exceptions for agnostics, atheists, Wiccans, nature worshippers, or Unitarians. Our religiously diverse society is an offense to Muslims and, they believe, to God (Allah).

Asking why terrorists want to kill us is like asking why Ted Bundy wanted to murder coeds -- or Jeffrey Dahmer wanted to do in homeless people. Essentially, they did so because it satisfied some twisted need.

I doubt many Democrats will grasp such motivations. I also doubt they have the spiritual resolve or political courage to confront the terrorists.

They'll find it much easier to go on blaming GWB. If "Bush" is not only a four-letter word but also the man responsible for all ills, then the solution is a simple one.

By the way, I'd take very seriously Al Qaeda's threat to torch the White House. That presumably was where Flight 93 was heading on September 11.

Al Qaeda may be a deceitful organization, but it tends not to make idle threats.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Questions for Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews is the host of MSNBC’s nightly show called “Hardball.” He’s the guy that former Senator Zell Miller wanted to challenge to a duel, after Matthews verbally abused a young woman supporter of President Bush.

MSNBC is trying to portray itself as the liberal alternative to Fox, but basically it’s the network for stupid people. One of their main news readers – Alex Witt – presents real news at time, but her heart isn’t in it.

She once confessed that her favorite part of the news was “celebrity gossip.”

In the case of lightweight Chris Matthews, he usually asks hard questions only when he has an occasional conservative on the show. However, when he has the usual cast of leftists, Chris turns pussycat and the show changes into “Softball” or “Nerfball.”

He’s a Boston Irishman and a diehard liberal, a devotee of his former boss, Tip O’Neill.

Although I despise Chris for his bullying manner, I’d like to offer him my services by providing some “hard questions” to ask various liberals. Here they are.


For former-President Bill Clinton: “What do you recall as the single most memorable thing that ever happened to you in the Oval Office?”

For Rep. John Murtha: “Just for kicks, how were you going to spend the $50,000?”

For Senator John Kerry: “Head any good jokes lately?”

For Ted Kennedy: “Well, I guess you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it?”

For The-Moneys-in-the-Freezer Congressman Howard Jefferson: “Is that what they mean when they talk about ‘cold cash’?”

For Congressman Harold Ford: “Well, DID you call her?”

For Senator Barack Obama: “Do you think the country is ready for a President who smokes cigarettes?”

For Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “What kinds of outfits do you wear at the Gay Pride Parades?”

For Democratic Chairman Howard Dean: “What was that primal scream thing really all about?”

For Senator Bob Casey: “Is that your real hair, or do you shave half your head?”


I promise to have political jokes every day, except when nothing seems funny. With the Democrats in power, that should never happen. I don’t promise the jokes will be great, only that they’ll be original and will be here.

Kerry and Murtha: Brothers Under the Skin

Kerry and Murtha: Brothers Under the Skin

Late in the recent election, John Kerry made what he later called a “botched joke.” His exact words strongly indicated that American servicemen and servicewomen had “ended up’ in Iraq because they didn’t study hard enough and hadn’t learned from history.

Later, he said – implausibly in the minds of many – that he was referring to George W. Bush, a graduate of Yale and Harvard. However, more people might believe the “joke” and “Bush” explanations if Kerry’s words didn’t reflect attitudes he’s expressed over nearly 40 years.

In the late 1960s, Kerry – fresh from his abbreviated service on a swift boat -- testified before Congress that American soldiers in Viet Nam were “raping” and “murdering” civilians. He offered no evidence.

Those comments put him in Hanoi’s version of the “Hall of Fame,” not far from where John McCain and other Americans were being tortured. Kerry’s statements reflected what would be a continuing distaste for American troops’ morality and character.

In Viet Nam, Lt. Kerry did serve and got three “wounds,” one of which may have been significant, with the other two apparently being of the band-aid variety. We’ll never know precisely what the wounds were, because Kerry won’t release his full medical records (in military terms, his “180”).

We do know that Kerry left Viet Nam with a real aversion to Americans engaged in warfare. That position advanced his political career in dovish Massachusetts.

Kerry’s early hostility to American soldiers resurfaced in 1972. He said the following about the proposed volunteer military.

“I am convinced a volunteer army would be an army of the poor and the black and the brown . . . . I also fear having a professional army that views the perpetuation of war crimes as simply ‘doing its job.’”

Fast-forward 30 some years and we have Kerry criticizing soldiers for “terrorizing” the women and children of Iraq. (Presumably, the Al Qaeda fanatics and the bloodthirsty insurgents who are committing mass murder against tens of thousands of men, women, and children aren’t terrorizing the people.)

It’s instructive to compare Kerry’s comments in 1972 to Congressman John Murtha’s in 2006, when he accused Marines operating in Haditha, Iraq of engaging in the “cold-blooded killing” of Iraqi civilians.

The soldiers Murtha defamed had not been charged, indicted, or convicted of such killings. His statements about Haditha were made without regard to the safety of morale of the troops, and they served mainly to advance his standing with the Democratic Party's far-left wing.

As a high-ranking member of the legislative branch – now even higher ranking – Murtha clearly endangered the Haditha Marines' ability to get a fair trial. Like Kerry’s remarks about US soldiers, Murtha’s reflected cynicism and self-advancement rather than any clear knowledge.

Why are both John Kerry and John Murtha, Viet Nam veterans, hostile to American soldiers and veterans – and why may they become even more so in the future?

Kerry knows that opposition by soldiers, veterans, and military families in 2004 cost him the presidency. His intemperate comments about American troops in Iraq have removed any hope that he might yet become President.

Murtha knows soldiers and veterans strongly supported his pro-military congressional opponent, Diana Lynn Irey. But he also knows that his anti-military stance has elevated his standing in the Democratic Party.

In 2004 and 2006, George Bush and Diana Irey held Kerry and Murtha to account for their comments. However, where was the media in all this?

After Kerry’s statement, some media people called Kerry’s supposed joke at best “a three-day story.”

Yet in Virginia, George Allen’s silly – and jovially meant – identification of a political operative as “macaca” (a monkey) became a burning three-month issue. Kerry gets three days, and Allen gets three months, which doesn’t seem very fair-and-balanced does it?

Kerry’s recent statements reflect much more than a “botched joke.” As for Murtha, his accusations of murder reflect much more than a congressman notoriously careless with words.

People in Kerry’s Massachusetts and in Murtha’s district (Pennsylvania’s 12th) strongly want America to win the war against terrorism. They need to ask themselves if Kerry and Murtha are the kind of elected officials they need in that effort.


(The author of this piece, Stephen R. Maloney, lives in Ambridge, PA, near Pittsburgh. He has written for many national publications, including National Review and Fortune. He’s been active in politics since Newt Gingrich’s first campaign in 1974 and recently served as a volunteer in Diana Lynn Irey’s campaign for Congress. You may reprint this article without permission, as long as you forward a copy to Maloney at TalkTop65@aol.com and note Maloney’s blog at www. Camp2008com.blogspot.com.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Politics and the 80/20 Principle

In one episode of the “Roseanne” show, Dan (John Goodman) asks Roseanne to name one thing he does that irritates her. She says, “Well, you’re a compulsive list maker.”

Dan shoots back, “Name two!”

I’m a compulsive list maker. In politics, that’s not an occupational hazard, but rather an occupational virtue.

Alas, when political campaigns end, the lists tend to disappear, almost as if they were seized by aliens. A political activist’s list is among his or her most valuable possessions.

Like everything else in life, politics reflects the 80/20 Principle. Author Richard Koch (The 80/20 Principle and Living the 80/20 Way) has made a small fortune writing books about that Principle, which means in politics that 20% of people cause 80% of the significant happenings.

Of great significance, roughly 20% of a candidate’s financial contributors produce 80% of the money. In a congressional campaign, an individual can contribute up to $2150 for a primary effort and the same amount for a general election.

Obviously, it takes 215 donations of $10 to equal one of $2150. All contributions are important, but some – the larger ones – are more important than others.

As a candidate or activist, you should have a secure list of all contributors, especially the big ones. It’s not that you should love them more than smaller donors. It’s just that getting money from them is more efficient and less time-consuming.

So, save your lists of contributors, keeping records in two places in case fire or flood – or hitting the delete button at the wrong time – occurs. Also, keep in close touch with your contributors, telling them what you’re doing – and suggesting actions they might take.

There’s another list you should have, one that also reflects the 80/20 Principle: the names of the 20% of campaign staffers – and, especially, volunteers – that do 80% of the work.

In a campaign, you’ll never lack for hangers-on, the 80%. They show up at campaign headquarters to gab, to eat your food, and to distract you from doing real work.

They seem to think – wrongly – that a campaign consists mainly of sitting and talking.

Then, there’s the 20%. They may make only small financial contributions, although sometimes they’ll make big ones.

These people work like the proverbial dogs. They’ll answer phones, distribute yard signs, call prospective voters, lick envelopes, and solicit votes door-to-door.

They may contribute hundreds of hours of their time. In many cases, they’ll bring along friends who also qualify as worker bees.

These are people who will get out the vote. They’ll inspire others with their dedication and commitment to the candidate.

They’re “golden.” You need to have a list of them, because you want them to return for the next campaign.

As with the significant financial contributors, you should solicit the worker bees’ views on issues – and on the direction of your political career. Stay in close contact with these very important individuals.

Have their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. To the degree you can, know what they’re doing and thinking.

Humor moment: Abraham Lincoln used to tell the story of a corrupt politician who was tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

Later, someone asked the poor man what the experience was like. He reflected and said, “Well, if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I believe I’d rather have walked.”

In 2006, a Libertarian candidate in New York appeared in a commercial where he was lying down and speaking. Viewers could see only his shoulders, where he was getting his neck kneaded by a female pair of hands.

After finishing his pitch, the candidate gave his name and ended with these words: “. . . and I approved this MASSAGE.”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Money, Politics, and Curling Irons

In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, I will return to the subject of money and politics. Modern political campaigns require ungodly expenditures.

In Hillary Clinton's NY senate race, where she was basically unopposed, she spent nearly $30 million (and raised a whole lot more). In Rick Santorum's senate race in PA he spent about $27 million -- and gained only 41% of the vote.

In many campaigns, and Santorum's may be a classic, the money might as well be fed through a paper shredder. I know the thinking behind Rick's spending a hundred K on a statewide TV ad talking about how he worked with Hillary, but I doubt it won enough voters to fill one of those old telephone booths (remember them?).

Jack Murtha of PA's 12th District spent more than $2 million on his campaign, and it probably didn't add more than 2% to his final vote total. To paraphrase Churchill, "never in the course of human events has so much been spent to gain so little."

Incumbents start out with a great advantage in the forms of name recognition and voter inertia. The vast majority -- usually about 95%-plus -- of incumbents win. Bad incumbents win; good incumbents win; corrupt incumbents win; occasionally, deceased incumbents "win."

To beat an incumbent, you need money. If you're not on TV (and radio), people might wonder if you really exist. If they don't know your name, they won't vote for you.

It costs money to run for significant offices, state or federal. It costs money for campaign locations, for a few paid staffers, for telephone service, for materials to distribute, for a web site to establish and sustain. Frankly, it also costs money -- for fundraising -- to get enough money to wage a credible campaign.

To unlock the secrets of money in politics, go to opensecrets.org and click around. It will show you that an incumbent like Congressman Jack Murtha gets lots of money from PACs, political action committees.

You'll notice that he got a great deal of money from UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) PAC, not to mention a great deal more "green" from doctors. Did they give him the dough for his good government practices? Surely you jest.

He got the money for making a lot of rich doctors and administrators even richer. As the NY Times said of "good ole Jack," he "regularly trades favors for votes."

Check into the opensecrets.org section on Murtha's individual contributions. You'll see that he got MUCH more money from the DC area (Virginia and Maryland) than he did from PA, which he supposedly serves as congressman.

Who are all those people in VA and MD who admire Jack Murtha so much. Well, that's where all the lobbyists and federal employees live. Ugh.

One of Murtha's minions said the congressman's opponent, Diana Lynn Irey, was being backed by the dreaded "out-of-state-interests." But you'll notice that Diana got about one dollar in four from out-of-state contributors, most from PA (including from yours truly), and almost nothing from PACs.

Diana Lynn Irey -- I'm biased, but I'll merely call her wonderful, charismatic, and patriotic -- raised nearly $900,000 -- and ended up in debt. Her amazingly successful fundraising gave her only a small fraction of the money Murtha had.

Four in 10 voters in the 12th District voted for Diana. She needed 5 in 10, plus 1 voter to win.

If she runs again, and I vote a hearty yes to that possibility, she will need more money. Luckily, Murtha, if he chooses unwisely to seek reelection, is a wonderfully inefficient spender of campaign funds.

The moral is this: if we want more Diana Ireys, highly ethical and principled, in Washington, it is going to cost us.

We just have to decide how much it's worth to have the kind of America guided by people like Diana (and Melissa Hart of the 4th District) and how much it costs us to keep around the Jack Murthas.

Thousands of Americans stepped up to the plate -- financially speaking -- for Diana in the 2006 campaign. If she stands for office again and the same is true of Melissa Hart, I hope their financial supporters will return and bring with them many, many others.

Waging a campaign against an entrenched incumbent is a thankless task. Without money, it becomes a hopeless task.

Humor moment: Two hundred or so years ago, someone asked President John Adams what he thought about the bureaucracy, which then probably would have fit in a single building.

President Adams said, "Few die. NONE retire."

A beautiful campaign staffer preparing to get ready for a victory party: "Well, I have to go take off my clothes and curl my hair."

Me: "Well, I can't help you with the hair." (True story)