Normally I don’t do this.
My usual custom is to discuss the Wicomico County Republican Club meetings but not Central Committee meetings, mainly because we talk shop there and I like to keep the opposition guessing. Judging by recent election results around these parts, that strategy works pretty well.
But we had a special guest tonight as newly committed U.S. Senate candidate Rich Douglas came a-callin’. So I’ll discuss a little bit about what he said.
Rich introduced himself by telling us it was a “privilege” to see us and that running for Senate “is no sacrifice at all.” He also opined that the “Senate is on the wrong track,” and he spoke like a man who has experience with that body because he does, having spent three years working for former Senator Jesse Helms. There he learned that “principle…is a rare commodity.”
The Navy veteran talked about four things which needed to be brought to the table: duty, purpose, leadership, and vision. On leadership particularly, he chided the current Senate for forming a committee to deal with the debt ceiling – then going on vacation. For this and other reasons, Rich told us “we need to change the cast.”
He also said that Ben Cardin was “vulnerable.” But that wasn’t his words; this was the assessment of political strategist Dick Morris, who called Maryland one of five Democratic states in play. Douglas even mentioned the possibility of a strong primary challenge to Ben Cardin from the left.
But Rich’s larger strength (by far) lay in foreign affairs. Having spent time professionally in several of the world’s hotspots like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Columbia tracking the drug trade, Douglas knew what he was talking about. Rich believed that much more could be learned about foreign affairs from a member of the Maryland National Guard who’s been deployed in places like Iraq or Afghanistan than any graduate of a foreign affairs program in any prestigious school.
To show his foreign affairs chops, Douglas spent quite a bit of time talking about the Law of the Sea Treaty, which he was quite familiar with thanks to his role in Senator Helms’ office as a Chief Counsel.
We asked him a number of questions. Regarding the financing of his campaign, he knew Ben Cardin was sitting on $2 million; his “job is to make (Cardin) spend every penny.”
But he showed an unconventional streak as well. We shouldn’t blame China for our economic woes, Rich said, for “hammering China has provided an excuse (for us not to improve our competitive position)…that’s a copout.” Free trade is good for the country, he added, if agreements aren’t “suicide pacts.”
Another area where he ran afoul of orthodoxy was his opposition to a balanced budget amendment. But Rich explained that he didn’t want a court setting the budget, since that’s most likely the result of a BBA.
Similarly, he didn’t completely dismiss the idea of maintaining the EPA, Department of Education, and so forth if they were populated with better people. He was also open to defunding them, though. And energy conservation items which “made sense” were similarly okay with him.
Perhaps you may think Rich is not a TEA Party supporter. But he asserted that he had been reaching out to the TEA Party and said he’d been in a precursor organization to them, called Jesse Helms’s Senate staff.
Yet it seems like Rich understands the role of the Senate, in which part is dealing with the House and the executive branch. He saw the presidency envisioned by the Founding Fathers as having a “lesser role” than Congress, although the opposite is more true today.
Senators today, Douglas said, seem to spend more time rationalizing and justifying their votes after the fact than thinking about them beforehand. “They hate to vote,” said Rich repeatedly, pointing out the frequent use of unanimous consent.
“I can get things done, starting with the first day,” concluded Rich.
In all, we spent a little under an hour speaking with him. While he’s a little late to the party in terms of getting into the race (since a number of hopefuls are already in), the race really doesn’t have a clear favorite because 2010 nominee Eric Wargotz is also considering his options and Delegate Pat McDonough, who arguably has the lead in name recognition among GOP activists, is still up in the air regarding whether he’ll run for the U.S. House or Senate because he hasn’t seen how the districts are drawn. (More on that tomorrow.) Daniel Bongino has likely attracted the most notice thus far, though.
And at a time when the political outsider is in vogue, Douglas is sort of a contrarian in that respect – even though he’s never held elective office – because he’s worked for a long time in Washington. There’s also the idea that foreign affairs may be his strong suit in an election where domestic issues likely take precedence.
Obviously I can sit here all night and work out reasons he can’t win, but there’s no real reason he can’t overcome the odds. We just have to look at the rubber-stamp record of the incumbent, who couldn’t be bothered for leadership as the nation faced issues both domestically and abroad, to see what poor representation looks like.
It’s time for a change in Maryland, and perhaps Rich Douglas is the guy to get it done.