Ten Question Tuesday – June 11, 2013

As I noted in my original coverage last Wednesday, I received the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with gubernatorial candidate David Craig after he concluded his public remarks. Rather than ask him strictly about his stump speech, I wanted to ask about some of the topics which may be more important to my fellow Eastern Shore residents.

**********

monoblogue: Just to ask you the first question, I know we’re the seventh stop or so on this tour…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …so how’s your reception been?

Craig: It’s been very good. Started out good – a little rainy when we started out…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …but good crowds everywhere we’ve been, the people who showed up have been very receptive (and) very happy about what was happening. Very impressive in Hagerstown, we got out there and did the walking tour of downtown and went in to see several businesses, went by the schools…a lot of people saw the bus, they saw me, and they started walking with us. Got a little reception afterward where people could just come in and talk about stuff.

We went to Silver Spring – how many Republicans are going to go to Montgomery County? But we drive through the neighborhoods and I think, “Why are these people voting for Democrats?” These people have their nice little homes, they obviously have nice jobs and stuff like that, paying income taxes

monoblogue: Well, the problem is they may have government jobs that depend on the government being large.

Craig: Well, they may depend on the federal government being large but not us. Anyway, it’s nice neighborhoods and things like that. The one in Prince Frederick was very good, Annapolis was Annapolis (laughs)…that was fun. So they’ve all been very interesting, you see the differences –  everybody says one Maryland, but there are slight differences.

monoblogue: Yeah, well, for example I come from a rural perspective – I grew up in a rural area – and I know you talked in your speech about the lost balance between environmentalism and that. How’s that going to affect our “outhouse” out here?

Craig: (laughs) You tell people that farmers were the first environmentalists that we ever saw. Farmers are usually pretty fiduciary – they usually don’t waste money.

monoblogue: No, they’re trying to make money.

Craig: They’re trying to make money, so they’re not going to do things that are bad. What I’ve found in doing this in Harford County is I do have an executive – I have an Agricultural Economic Advisory Board and I have an Agricultural Preservation Board that I work with, and one of my deputy chiefs of staff is the agricultural deputy chief of staff. What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.

But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out.

monoblogue: Well, that’s reassuring. After they passed the septic bill and they can’t tell you that? I know there was a bill – and it was one of our Delegates (Mike McDermott) put it up – to rescind that entire septic bill. Now, if it does somehow get through the General Assembly would you consider signing that bill rescinding the law?

Craig: I think there are many things that have been done over the last 20 years that ought to be rescinded, particularly when it comes – what was the one Parris Glendening did? I can’t remember, it was some kind of infectious disease thing…

monoblogue: I don’t know, it was before my time.

Craig: Anyway, they came up with all these ideas – for them it’s always about what’s the headline, what’s the media going to report in the next 90 days – after it gets done, do they ever go back and evaluate what the bill did, and whether it was effective? You know, William Donald Schaefer was the one who put the Critical Areas section in – I was the mayor, I had to adopt Critical Areas legislation in the city of Harve de Grace or no building was going to be permitted. I had to actually impose a tax, I was the first one to pay it because I was the first one to go for a building permit. And they kept saying, we need 1,000 feet from the bay to be doing this. And I would say we’re not the only ones polluting this, you think it’s just us, why are you doing this to us? And does it actually solve things? If I have someone who rebuilds something and fixes it up, isn’t that better than just letting it sit there the way it is? Let’s come up with real solutions for what needs to be done. Did the critical area and the critical area tax solve the Chesapeake Bay problem?

monoblogue: No. And the problem is they keep moving the goalposts…

Craig: Yes! And they’re made up – that’s the thing, the numbers are made up. Who came up with the idea a football field had to be 100 yards? Why couldn’t it be 120 yards, why couldn’t it be 90 yards? You know, it’s like – first they make a number up, I’ll give you this example. I was the mayor of Havre de Grace, we get hit with this issue with our sewage treatment plant that we have to do this change – $9 million it costs us to upgrade the sewage treatment plant.

A week later, the rules and regulations were changed. They came back and said, this is no longer functioning the way we need it to function, now you need to do this – $47 million. Here’s the problem, the analogy I use. Let’s say you decided to redo your kitchen – new refrigerator, new stove, new microwave, you buy new ones, you put them in there, spend $4,000 – and then you come back home, no I think we need to rip the whole kitchen out and you throw away those appliances. None of that $9 million was good enough to maintain the $47 million, so we wasted the $9 million. We’re still paying – the people of Havre de Grace are still paying…

monoblogue: Salisbury has the same problem, they’re messing around with their sewer treatment plant.

Craig: Yeah, so they keep changing the concept of what’s going on, and they don’t really look at real solutions. And if someone comes up with a real solution that’s not what the government wanted, then they ignore it.

**********

At this point, we were interrupted by a well-wisher. When we got back to the conversation, I changed the subject.

**********

monoblogue: You also talked about the – all the tax increases we had. I love how you used all the Change Maryland numbers, that’s great. I said I could tell Jim Pettit’s on his staff now…

Craig: Well, we’ve got them for a variety of things but when Larry Hogan started Change Maryland we talked about it and said, you know, I might run, I might not run, but if I don’t run Change Maryland’s going to go with you. And I’d like to admit that Larry’s done a good job getting that information out…

monoblogue: He does.

Craig: …and persuading people. I think in the long run Larry realizes that he’s making more money (laughs) being a private worker…

monoblogue: Oh yeah.

Craig: …and I think ultimately he stays there. But he can he huge in helping us reform the state party.

monoblogue: Right. But is there any chance we’re going to see some of that stuff rolled back if you’re elected?

Craig: I will look at all of them. But if somebody says “which tax first?” I’m going to look at all of them. There are certain taxes that probably haven’t been on the table that people said, would you ever get rid of this? If the state says that we’re going to make – we have a Public Service Commission to keep your BG&E rate as low as possible, why do we tax it? Why do we tax it? If we got rid of that, it gets rid of $5 on your BG&E bill every – well, it would save you 60 bucks. And guess what? You’re probably going to spend it somewhere else.

monoblogue: Well, that’s the idea. It’s where YOU want to spend it, not where the state wants to spend it.

Craig: You know, sales tax…I go back to that Calvin Coolidge thing with lowering the income tax, if you lower the sales tax more people would buy stuff here and it increases what gets sold. My wife’s not dumb – we live 17 miles from Delaware. You’re going to buy $4,000 worth of appliances times 6 – you do the math…

monoblogue: And seven miles from Delmar – if you go up 13 you’ll notice all the big-ticket items, furniture stores…

Craig: Yeah, look at the ads, look at the ads. I mean, I was looking at ads this morning on the TV when I was here and it was like – I forget what the particular issue was they were selling, and they go “in Delaware, no tax.” You know, it’s like – and how far away are you? Cecil County last month, in May, had twelve liquor stores give up their licenses…

monoblogue: Yes.

Craig: …and close. And they did it because, if you live in Elkton in five minutes you could be in (Delaware), you can buy your liquor, you can buy your gasoline, you can buy your cigarettes. All that tax is lower or non-existent and we got nothing. And so, I don’t know how many people but say each had three business people – so 36 to 40 jobs gone?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: And all because “oh, it’s an alcohol tax, it’s okay to raise it.”

monoblogue: And the same thing is true (for cigarettes), because I go to Virginia for my job every week and driving back into Maryland the last convenience store I see – “Last Chance for Cheap Smokes.”

Craig: That’s right.

monoblogue: Because Virginia’s tax is, like, thirty cents and ours is two bucks.

Craig: And if I throw out the issue of the corporate income tax, people are like “oh, you’re only for the rich people.” All right, I’ll throw out other issues: Harford County, a lot of military people stationed there, when they get done they retire. They move to Pennsylvania because their military pension is taxed. We shouldn’t tax a military person’s pension, they already made their sacrifices. So let them live here in the state of Maryland.

monoblogue: I think they have tried to do that a few times, and the legislature just doesn’t go anywhere.

Craig: Well, they haven’t gone with it because they haven’t been told to go with it. If the governor had said go with it, they would have gone with it.

monoblogue: That’s true, it’s usually Republicans who bring it up.

Craig: Well, you know, I think if enough veterans were showing up and saying – what was this whole thing about the governor pointing out and bragging about what he was doing about creating jobs for veterans, about a month ago? Remember he was changing some policies, it was going to make it easier for them to get a job?

monoblogue: Right.

Craig: Why would they want to come here and get a job and pay a higher tax on their pension that they also get and then a higher tax on their income tax? So, we need to change the income tax…(also) the death tax is ridiculous, somebody in your family passes away, they pay taxes on that money for their entire life – why are you paying a tax to inherit it? If they were smart I guess they should sell everything and give you the money before they pass away. But people leave the state all the time, go to Florida, no tax, go to Pennsylvania, don’t have to pay that tax.

The gas tax – I do tell people I have to be cautious to (not) say I’m going to get rid of this tax or lower this right away because – I’ll have to use the septic tax for an example – when Ehrlich was governor the septics were all done through PAYGO, so he didn’t have capital projects. This governor turned it to bonding, so if I’m stuck with paying off a bond I’ve got to do that first before I can get rid of the tax.

monoblogue: Right, exactly. I’m sure he’s created a few mousetraps for his successor to deal with if they want to change things. It’s going to be harder to undo this Gordian knot then most people would think.

Craig: And then they brag about, oh, we’re going to do this private-public partnership, this 3P thing, it’s like – most likely that’s not going to work. If you look at something that’s going to be a good financial thing with some private company coming in and doing something, they probably could have done it if they didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, if they didn’t have to pay the union fee, if they didn’t have to deal with the minority business stuff – you could probably lower the prices of those projects by 35 percent. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just gets a billion dollars for school construction, well, $300 million of that is going to be wasted and she could have had it – that would have done how many more schools for her?

monoblogue: Exactly.

Craig: So which is better? Is it better to have a good school for the kid, or you created this “fake” job?

monoblogue: Right. I remember, being from Ohio, when Ohio built all its schools they actually eliminated the prevailing wage for schools just to get more bang for the buck.

Craig: Yeah, that’s what you should do. Period.

monoblogue: Speaking of education, I liked how you tied in the lack of – lack of academic achievement with our so-called “number one” ranking. Now where do you – where do you prioritize your spending to bring up the actual achievement and not necessarily worry about being “number one” in the country?

Craig: A couple things. There’s a lot of duplication that we could…a lot of duplication. Here’s the situation in Harford County. Since I’ve been County Executive, the size of the school board employees has increased by 650 employees. The school population has declined by 2,500 students. Why didn’t the size of the working staff decline?

Now, if they had had 2,300 new students move in they would have come to me and said, “we need 100 new teachers.” But when 2,000 went down they didn’t say, “well, we didn’t need 100 teachers anymore.”

monoblogue: No.

Craig: So we have that situation, and I get teachers complaining to me all the time, “well, you know, the size of the class has gone up.” If you’re a good teacher, it doesn’t matter how many kids you’re sitting in the class. The first year I taught, 39 kids in the class. Second year, 42 kids in the class. Forty-two. I didn’t even have enough desks for the kids; one of them had to sit at my desk and one of them had to sit at a table. So when they say there’s 23 kids, the fact is, studies have been shown that the change does not occur until the size of the class falls below 15. So that’s what you’re going to do, if you say we’re reducing the size, we’re going from 24 to 23 – so what? If you’re a teacher, you can’t teach 24, can’t teach 25? That’s one thing.

But there’s duplication, so much duplication, in government – county government and school board government. I have a capital projects committee, they have a capital projects committee – why do we need both? I have the same guys that do the investigations, the inspections and all that stuff, I have a procurement department. I don’t buy chalk and all that stuff, but they have a procurement department. That’s duplication. I have a lawyer, a law department, they have a law department – duplication. They have a human resource department, I have a human resource department, duplication. Now, do I get rid of all those employees? No, but at least get rid of the top person. The person who’s making $150,ooo, instead of having two of them, you only have one. And you can probably merge a lot of things together and only have office – and none of that takes place in the classroom.

monoblogue: You need to think about that at the state level, and not necessarily the county level – I mean, if a county wants to do that, that’s fine and dandy, that’s their money. At the state level is where you’ll be concentrating…

Craig: Yes.

monoblogue: …I would think we need to rightsize the state Department of Education…

Craig: I agree.

monoblogue: …because the localities should control anyway.

Craig: Yes they should. Yes they should. And it has grown exponentially. And if you look at higher education, when I was in the House I was always assigned the higher education budget and you look at a college that’s got nine vice-Presidents – why? We only have one Vice-President in the country, yet nine in a college? Come on! And are they teaching? No. You know, all these different people, you have all these professors that are teaching one class, maybe two classes. I had someone, when I was doing a debate one time, who said “what are you going to do about the cost of higher – you know, how much my education’s going to cost?” We need to reduce it on our size – on our side, for one thing. We’re forced to spend this money on that, it doesn’t need to be spent.

So there’s a lot of duplication in both higher ed and elementary through high school at the state level that I agree we could change.

monoblogue: Okay, I appreciate it.

Craig: Thank you.

**********

Ideally, I wanted to come in about 15 minutes and with the interruption that’s about where I ended up. Hopefully this establishes some of where David Craig stands on various issues.

Ten Question Tuesday – April 9, 2013

I gave her somewhat short notice, but this week’s guest came through like the trooper she is and provided me with an enlightening TQT chapter. She’s Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group I was happy to do a little volunteer work for during the recently-completed General Assembly session. I had the pleasure of meeting her at MDCAN in January as well.

**********

monoblogue: My interviewee today is Elizabeth Myers of MD Legislative Watch, a group which tried to make sense of this year’s General Assembly session. I believe this is the first year you have undertaken this venture, is that correct? What have you learned from the experience?

Myers: Yes, this is the first year (and) I learned quite a bit. First, this year before an election year saw the oppression of liberties and extraction of wealth from the people of Maryland at its peak. Of course, having a governor with eyes on the White House does not help matters and likely made this session one of the worst.

Second, I learned that some politicians respond to being called out publicly for not responding to e-mails.

Third, Assembly members don’t have consistent answers on how bond bills get into the budget – one Delegate voted for the operating budget because she wanted a “bond bill” for a pet project – these “bond bills” are in the capital budget, though. Bond bills in Maryland are similar to earmarks at the federal level. In order for one to find out how his or her Delegate voted on bond bills, one must hound the Delegate and county delegation chair since the delegations meet to prioritize the bond bill requests; that prioritization list is sent on for inclusion in the capital budget. While a Delegate may vote against the capital budget, (the question is) did he/she vote for the prioritization list?

Most Assembly members don’t receive emails from the people on bills that don’t make the news. For instance, many people sent emails about the proposed regulation of process servers, a bill which may have forced some of the smaller firms out of the industry. Delegate Smigiel said that when committee members receive a dozen or so emails about a bill, they start asking questions and pay attention. Emailing the committees is a very powerful and easy method of participating in and influencing the legislative process – once the bills are on the floor, it’s very hard to kill them.

Finally, it was confirmed that often, the rhetoric of most Republicans doesn’t match their actions – they vote for bills that increase the size and scope of government. Voting for bills that increase the size and scope of government, yet voting against the operating budget, is disingenuous. In Maryland, Republicans can vote their conscience – if the vote is to increase the size and scope of government, that is his or her conscience.

monoblogue: Having worked as part of the MDLW team and read a few of the bills, ones to which I was assigned, I know you tried to approach this from a pro-liberty perspective. How would you define your philosophy on this for my readers?

Myers: My perspective in this project is one of a Constitutionalist. We, the people, confer select powers to the government. We retain the rest. From the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Article 45: “This enumeration of Rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the People.”

I highly recommend the Institute on the Constitution – they teach courses on the U.S. and Maryland Constitutions and the proper role of the jury. The Maryland Constitution and the U.S. Constitution are not perfect documents, which is why both of them leave room for amendment.

monoblogue: And where did you get the idea to do such a study in Maryland? Was it based on something done in another state, or did you just decide to start this because you were fed up with the process?

Myers: Pure “fed up.” I got an email on October 1 about all of the new laws that were in effect that day and the idea was born. Originally, the idea was to recruit some volunteers to read legislation and alert those with mailing lists – when no one with a mailing list responded, the website was started.

I’ve long said that while most citizens are focused on one or two stories, few are watching what the other hand is doing. That is the focus of MLW – show the other bills that affect most Marylanders and extract our wealth, oppress our natural rights, or both. Tyranny does not typically march in wearing stormtrooper uniforms; tyranny creeps and creeps until it’s accepted as normal. We can’t fight some of the big stuff but we can fight much of the creeping tyranny – it’s the only way to reverse the tide.

monoblogue: I also noticed you did a triage of sorts on the bills, immediately eliminating the bond bills, for example. But what was the most egregiously bad bill to be introduced in this session? And what was the worst one which passed?

Myers: The easy answer is SB281 – begging government to exercise an inalienable, God-given right. However, more telling was HB1499, the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013. This act decreased transparency in candidate campaign finance reporting and enabled public campaign financing at the county level. This act was approved unanimously by the House of Delegates and only two Senators voted against it.

On the triage, that was born out of necessity – 1,500 bills were introduced in 2 weeks. There is no way I could ask people to read all of those in a short period of time, so I prioritized bills. This project was in its first year so I flew by the seat of my pants.

monoblogue: I also noticed you were a staple on local radio programs, such as Doug Gill’s WBAL show on Friday nights. Did you see the media as helpful to the cause?

Myers: Doug was exceptionally supportive and I’m so grateful for his time and the opportunity. As the Maryland Statehouse Examiner, Doug’s been fighting this fight for many years and he wanted to shed light on the legislation in Annapolis. By doing so, my website stats on Friday were better than those from most of the week. The aim of the project and my time on Doug’s show was to alert people to the legislation that might otherwise fly under the radar. Bills that increase regulations and fees on small businesses, bills that oppress liberties, and the few bills that reiterate our rights and interpose on unconstitutional federal legislation (e.g. anti-indefinite detention and anti-drone).

Through the session, it’s estimated that the website facilitated 15,000 – 22,000 emails to committee members about legislation. Many Assembly members complained about the volume of emails they received. I hope we were a good part of that.

monoblogue: Finally, now that the session is just about over, to where will you turn your activist energies during the next few months? And can we expect MD Legislative Watch 2.0, the sequel, next year?

Myers: I will continue the project. I and a few friends will meet, discuss lessons learned, how we can improve and automate things, and we’ll be back stronger next year. I’m undecided on my activist energies for the coming months but it is likely they will be directed at a more local level.

monoblogue: I appreciate the time, particularly since I gave you such short notice. Thanks, and I hope this keeps you in mind for new volunteers next year.

Myers: Michael, I appreciate your activism and very much appreciate your volunteer time on and promotion of the (MDLW) project. Your monoblogue Accountability Project is wonderful; at a minimum, this is something that all Marylanders should read before they vote.

**********

Obviously my goal in doing the mAP was for voters to learn how their legislators represented them and soon I will start working on the 2013 version. But speaking of seat of the pants, I haven’t nailed down my guest for next week. Be assured I’m working on him.

Ten Question Tuesday: February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013 · Posted in Delmarva items, National politics, Politics, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: February 19, 2013 

This week I had the opportunity to speak to Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch, about a number of topics affecting both Maryland and the nation at large. We also spoke a little bit about Tom’s book, The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government during our conversation.

**********

monoblogue: The reason I wanted to talk to you – and I briefly got to talk to you at Turning the Tides, and got a copy of your book – what interested me in talking to you was your statement that you work as much in Maryland as you do any other state, based on all the petition drives and other political items we have – at the conference you talked about illegal immigration. Given that you’ve already been involved in our petition process, and knowing that the illegal immigration issue is off the table but that there will be more petitions on issues such as gun control – do you think you’ll be getting more involved in Maryland politics as time goes on?

Fitton: Well, some of these issues are off the table. Illegal immigration continues to be a debate on the law that was passed and upheld via referendum, (but) whether it’s legal or Constitutional I think is a question which could be further litigated. The Left in Maryland is upset with the use of the initiative process to challenge the legislation – some of which was very radical – that came out of the Maryland legislature and was signed by the Governor. They’re seeking to restrict the ability of Marylanders to have a say in their laws through this referendum process.

Obviously, with gun control most publicly on the agenda, that’s something the Left – if gun control is to be passed, there’s going to be heightened interest by the Left in restricting people’s ability to challenge and have a say on that law, or those gun restrictions.

monoblogue: Do you find Maryland is more of a “problem child” state than any other, or is it that it just so happens that it’s our turn in the cycle and maybe this time next year Illinois will be a problem, or New York, or what have you?

Fitton: Maryland doesn’t have any vibrant opposition; it’s a one-party state. That results in legislation and policies which aren’t as smart… in states where you have the vigorous back-and-forth between parties and philosophies, you get policies and legislation that is more commonsense and down the middle of the road. But Maryland seems to be a laboratory for the far left and, as a result, you get policies that are way out there, not only in terms of being bad policy, but even being good law in terms of being valid under the law.

monoblogue: So you’ll be more busy in our state than, say, an Alabama or Oklahoma – states that tend to be more conservative.

Fitton: Well, we are busy. In Maryland we’ve been extremely active, there’s been a lot of bad policy. I don’t want to attribute it to a political party, but certainly liberals are implementing their policies and the rule of law seems to be a secondary consideration in some of their implementations.

monoblogue: Yes, as you said at the conference, “bad policy is usually corrupt,” and Maryland does seem to take the cake – having lived here for several years I know this. You can also extrapolate that on a national level – you wrote The Corruption Chronicles, and that’s 350 pages of Obama’s misdeeds in just three years. (laughs) I don’t know if you’re going to write a second book on the second term, or do you think you have the point made already?

Fitton: Well, the book only touched the surface. We talked about the Clinton years’ corruption, corruption during the Bush years, and obviously the current crisis. This President represents a challenge to those of us who value Constitutional government and the rule of law; a challenge that we haven’t seen in recent memory.

monoblogue: True; like I said, you could write a second book for the second term – that’s not a problem. But I do want to point out that…

Fitton: Well, we could write a second book for the first term.

monoblogue: (laughs) That’s true.

Fitton: The government has grown by about a third, but oversight has actually decreased – Congress used to have five – well, you see this quoted in the book – five thousand oversight hearings a year, more or less, and now it’s down to about three thousand. So our government has increased by a third, but the oversight, at least Congressional oversight, has decreased by an even greater amount. Our government is really truly out of control in the sense that it’s not accountable to Congress and, frankly, if not for independent watchdogs like Judicial Watch and independent, enterprising media, you wonder what would be going on in Washington but for our activities given the lawlessness of so much of what the government’s doing.

monoblogue: Right. And I know from previously knowing a little bit about Judicial Watch (that) you guys are equal-opportunity; if a conservative President does something that you feel is unwise, you’re going to be on them, too. There were a few things you opposed President Bush on, so it’s not – you’re considered a conservative organization, but it’s very much a good-government organization.

Fitton: That’s right. And given the size of government, it’s always hard for it to be good. President Bush was, unfortunately, too much on the side of secrecy and lack of accountability. President Obama was elected, initially, in part as a reaction to that. And there’s good reason President Obama is always talking about transparency, because he understands the American people demanded it of their government. What we found is that his promises of transparency, his promotion of it, is completely at odds with actual policies.

monoblogue: Exactly, but that’s true of a lot of other things.

Fitton: That is true, but when it comes to issues of ethics, transparency, and accountability in government this administration presents challenges to us that we haven’t historically seen before, at least in recent times.

monoblogue: They don’t seem to be letting crises go to waste, that’s for sure. If you look at the problem as a whole, you oversee a large group that is obviously a watchdog, but maybe the better question – and something that could have been covered a little bit better in our brief time listening to you – is what can we do as a citizen about pointing out these things and getting the word out and helping to maybe rein in some of the excesses of government?

Fitton: Well, there are several things – obviously number one, if I can be provincial, is to support Judicial Watch. Secondly, you write letters to the editor to your media and elsewhere and alert your friends and family to these issues, about the importance of government accountability, transparency, and combating corruption, and you pressure Congress to do their job to oversee government activities and to make sure that they, themselves, in Congress are behaving appropriately, too. We see so many Congressional ethics scandals where the ethical transgressions are whisked away with a slap of the wrist – that’s got to end.

Whether you’re Democrat or Republican you care about these transparency and corruption issues; it’s most important that Democrats go after Democrat corruption or Republicans after Republican corruption, because, obviously, Republicans and Democrats have an interest in going after corruption in the other guy’s party, but they don’t look at the speck in their own eyes. It’s up to everyday Americans who are members of these parties and who have influence to say we’ve got to make sure we don’t have any corruption on our side of the table. We have to take partisanship out of policing corruption.

monoblogue: That sounds like a good plan, because many people I know, mostly Republicans but a few Democrats, they’re as interested in good government as I am. Yes, we disagree on the extent of government, but they would like to see clean government that’s efficient, does what it says it’s going to do, and is transparent. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the higher people are in power, the more they want to obfuscate.

Fitton: I agree, and we need the expectation – we have to have the understanding that we’re just not going to tolerate this anymore. Zero tolerance – I hate that phrase…

monoblogue: I do too.

Fitton: …but we have to have a much lower level of toleration for corruption in public office.

monoblogue: So, unfortunately, it seems like you have a neverending job taking care of the mess in both Annapolis and Washington. (laughs) And other state capitals, too.

Fitton: Well, it’s a – oversight and making sure our systems of government run well and are free of corruption certainly is an obligation to anyone who wants to be part of a society that purports to govern itself.  I think it’s an obligation, and government has to be managed by its citizens, and be held accountable all the time. So we can never cease the vigilance; it’s the price of citizenship in some ways – citizenship properly understood in areas of making sure the government’s held to account if you really, truly believe in self-government.

monoblogue: We have to be as watchful as you are, is basically what you’re saying.

Fitton: Everyone needs to ask questions, demand accountability, demand information, and demand transparency. I think it comes with the territory for a republican form of government, with a small “r.”

monoblogue: Yes, with a small “r.” But I appreciate this, and it sounds like a good place to stop.

Fitton: Well, thanks Michael. I appreciate your interest in our work, and thanks for promoting it.

monoblogue: I appreciate the time.

**********

While I have a guest in mind for next week, the arrangements haven’t been finalized. Stay tuned.

Ten Question Tuesday: February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: February 12, 2013 

Today’s guest is a rising star in the new media, in part because she’s an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to get involved. And while I have not met her in person, I wanted to get her insight on the new media and her part in it.

I first heard of The Brenner Brief around the time my friend Jackie Wellfonder became one of her contributors, a point just after Sara Marie greatly expanded and relaunched her website as a new entry into the media wars. Given her goal is “working to render the mainstream media useless,” I believe she’s well on her way to doing just that.

**********

monoblogue: I wanted to introduce my readers to you as an example of how to grow a conservative media outlet, as I learned of you through a good friend of mine who happens to be a Brenner Brief contributor, Jackie Wellfonder. So let me ask you first: what inspired you to create The Brenner Brief? Was it based on any particular model, or did you come up with a new idea all your own?

Brenner: I come from an entrepreneurial background, so I’m always creating new things – especially when they deal with my passion for politics. TheBrennerBrief.com (TBB) is a right-of-center, conservative news and opinion platform. However, we do it in a way that it can be attractive for moderates to read, as well. In my opinion, unless we expand the conservative base – not by thumping people over the head, but by slowly convincing them that the conservative principles are best for this nation – we will not win future elections. TBB is meant to be a place where conservatives and right-leaning moderates can get their news, read opinion and hopefully come to believe what we do.

monoblogue: Another thing I’ve noticed is that you are both creating your own intertwined entities (PolitiGal Network, The Brenner Brief, etc.) and running them across multiple platforms (the website, radio show, membership drives, in-person events, and so forth.) Obviously you want all of them to succeed, but which venue do you think has the highest ceiling?

Brenner: TBB is accessible to everyone, so that one will always have more followers and readers, I believe. We had 800,000 web site hits in January and thousands of people listen to the radio show each week. However, PolitiGal Network (PGN) has nearly 20,000 members, and there we are geared toward working with women on messaging, education, support, campaign assistance, and networking. They are two very different entities.

monoblogue: On the idea of contributors: I have written for a number of sites as one over my time on the internet – some have succeeded and grown (PJ Media, for one) while many others have withered and died due to lack of interest from either (or both) organizers and/or contributors. How will you motivate contributors to keep on going?

Brenner: We do our best to work as a team, and really make sure that all of the contributors are a part of something exciting. We share site stats with contributors, we highlight different contributors on the radio show, and we are always coming up with new ideas as a group and discussing those options together. For example, several of us will be attending CPAC this year with media passes to cover the events and speakers. For some of the contributors, this is their first time having such an opportunity, and they’ll be doing it with TBB. It’s really just about implementing basic team motivation concepts.

monoblogue: And because most contributors have other interests, will the day come when you branch out into professional writers doing the bulk of the work with a few others added in?

Brenner: We launched TBB with its current format on Nov. 26, 2012. After another month or two, we will begin branching out to gain revenue sources. However, right now, we’re just focusing on content, the contributors, and getting our system perfected.

monoblogue: I’d also like to know your thoughts on where “white knight” financial supporters can play a role for the conservative alternative media. I ask this because a number of those on our side has always held the suspicion that far-left power brokers, particularly George Soros, are financially backing left-wing bloggers.

Brenner: Venture capitalists have the ability to support whomever they wish – left or right. Soros has built an enormous web of businesses and outlets to serve his interests, more so than any conservative. We don’t think of taking over the world, because we believe in freedom and liberty – not tyranny. So, the concept is foreign to our intrinsic core beliefs. However, I do believe that there has to be a separation in the media between the source of the money and the reporting; otherwise, the reporting will be swayed from what the “white knight” wants to have covered.

monoblogue: Let’s look at another topic. You are an elected official (a city council member) and, as such, you could be considered as being in the “belly of the beast.” Where do you see that perspective as being most useful for the conservative political cause? And do you have any higher political ambitions? I think of Sarah Palin’s example when I ask this, and obviously creating a network like you’re seeking to can be of great assistance down the road if you take that route.

Brenner: My husband is a State Representative in Ohio and we met in politics. I have been working on campaigns, running campaigns, and especially focusing on new media and communications in politics since college. I have learned more about government and the inner workings of government since 2009 (when I was elected) than during any other similar length of time in my life. I’ve also learned how to go up against the government giant, and win. For example, in 2010, our city placed on the ballot a measure that would have doubled our city income tax. The way it was structured, those who lived and worked in the city would have seen their taxes double, hurting the city’s businesses owned by residents. All others would not pay any more in taxes, including the other six members on city council (only I would have paid more in income taxes of the seven of us). Despite the city’s “educational” materials and the committee formed by those supporting the increase, we formed our own committee and defeated the measure with approximately 71% voting against. The polling originally showed that only 49% were against, so we moved 22% of the voters over the course of only a few months with simple, targeted messaging. While I do not know what my personal elected future may bring, my interest-area is helping conservatives with new media, political communication, running for office and strategically defeating the left. We are doing this both through TBB and PGN, just in different ways.

monoblogue: Finally, if you would, alert my readers on how to get involved with your organizations and listening to your show. Do you have any other words of encouragement for those who would like to get off the sidelines?

Brenner: The TBB site is TheBrennerBrief.com, and simply click on “Radio Show” in the menu for all of the show information. If you miss it live, we have iTunes podcasts and the show is on Stitcher Stream, as well as an online archive link. Our twitter handle is @TheBrennerBrief and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/TheBrennerBrief.

PGN is PolitiGalNetwork.com, and if you contact us through the site to let us know how we can assist you, someone will connect with you. We especially are looking for people who are interested in being a leader in their state or city, and you can contact us through the web site. Our twitter handle is @PolitiGalUSA and we are on Facebook at facebook.com/PolitiGalUSA.

My personal twitter handle is @saramarietweets, and I’m on Facebook at facebook.com/saramariebrenner and Tea Party Community at teapartycommunity.com/saramariebrenner.

If someone is wondering how to get involved, usually the most frequent comment I hear is that the individual contacted their local Republican party and never heard back. The party can sometimes be skeptical of new people coming into the fold, rather than encouraging their involvement and welcoming them with open arms. While that’s unfortunate, you don’t have to rely on your party to get involved. Anyone who would like to email me directly may do so at TheBrennerBrief.com/contact, and I will be happy to help you get involved in either one of our organizations, or guide you to the right place. You can also search meetup.com for events and groups in your area.

The first step to getting off the sidelines is to simply get off the sidelines! Sometimes, people just need a little bit of direction and encouragement, and we are happy to provide that. Our nation depends on it.

**********

I appreciate Sara Marie taking the time out of her schedule to do this interview, and look forward to seeing how her ventures develop over the coming months.

In the meantime, my guest for next week will be Tom Fitton, author of The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government, and President of Judicial Watch. We discussed a lot things about Maryland, the nation, and what you can do to help bring accountability.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 29, 2013

My guest today is Patrick McGrady, who wears two hats: he’s a member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee, but more importantly for our chat today he’s also the Chair of the Maryland Liberty Caucus. That and the affiliated Maryland Liberty PAC are pro-liberty groups taking their fight to the key issues affecting all of us in Maryland.

This edition was done a little differently than my previous TQT efforts and more like older incarnations of the concept. It was based on a series of e-mails exchanged between Patrick and I over the course of several days. Obviously this makes it easier on me, but the question will be whether you find it as informative. I believe you will.

Full disclosure aside, here’s what McGrady had to say.

**********

monoblogue: My first question regards the Turning the Tides 2013 event. Several conservative PACs were represented and it seemed to me like a natural fit for your PAC to attend. So why did you skip the event as a sponsor?

McGrady: Yes, the MDCAN group and the Turning the Tides 2013 are noble events and we appreciate the serious efforts undergone to make them successful. Our PAC was solicited for a sponsorship, but at the time we were not able to commit the financial and human resources required to make the event worth the cost of sponsorship to our donors and supporters.

I would like to have attended the conference, but I was giving an activism training in Prince George’s County to some
very excited conservative activists that Saturday. Perhaps next year.

We have been in communication with Tonya Tiffany and I hope to connect with her this week about how of our conservative and liberty-focused groups can work together on important projects going forward.

monoblogue: I think that is a key, working together. How do you feel you complement some of the other groups, and where do you expect to find your niche?

McGrady: The Maryland Liberty PAC has a focus on identifying and training supporters of liberty in how to win, how to govern, and how to rise through the ranks. We don’t believe that anybody should get off the couch and seek statewide or Congressional office – we don’t have the ground game to make that happen yet.

And so, we believe in the Major League Baseball strategy: start with the minor leagues, than work your way to the major league. This way, we have ample opportunity to discover how our candidates will govern at the Town Council or Council Commissioner level before they can advance to County Executive or State Senate. We strongly believe that having a strong farm team of candidates and supporters is much better than putting all the money, time and energy on the line every four years.

We can work together on limited government ideas, even when the goals look less than possible. I am more than willing to work with anybody who is trustworthy and principled. We can develop the knowledge and skills needed to win, but you can’t fix those two items – I have learned this the hard way.

I have never been accused of being a pragmatist on matters of liberty. For example, I don’t want to fix speed cameras, I want them eliminated from our state. I don’t want to fix SB236 (the Septic Bill from 2012), I want to repeal it. I don’t want Republican big government or Democratic big government – I want Constitutionally-limited government.

And when elected officials vote wrong, the Maryland Liberty PAC will be sure to cause political pain during the election season. If we have to (we will) replace the Republicans and Democrats who vote the wrong way with those who will vote the right way.

monoblogue: I can see the benefits of that strategy. But there’s still the process of finding the people to run for office in the first place. Are you recruiting candidates yourself or are they coming to you asking for the help?

McGrady: Both – we have been soliciting for people to run and they have been approaching us.

For endorsed candidates, we offer top-to-bottom campaign management services. We write the literature, we send the mail, order robocalls, and help with fundraising – at no cost to the candidates. We ask only that they govern as they promise they will. With each applicant, we have a serious weeding-out program, and we assure them that if they choose to govern opposite their commitment, we will exercise the same efforts to remove them from office.

monoblogue: So you’re a one-stop shop, and it sounds like you go beyond the simple function of a PAC in terms of backing candidates beyond the monetary. I know you had one successful candidate last November – is there a goal you have for 2013, a number of candidates who achieve victory you’d consider a success?

McGrady: More than a specific number of candidates, we are planning to expand our level of influence across the state. We hope to find some candidates in Prince George’s, Frederick, Harford, Cecil, and Montgomery counties to start and build a foothold for freedom in Maryland.

We cannot afford to overlook any single local race. And party races either – it’s all on the table.

monoblogue: I’ve already seen evidence of that. You’re publicly backing the effort to repeal speed camera laws (“Repeal O’Malley’s War on Driving”) as well as last year’s SB236. When you add that to the post-Sandy Hook push for more gun laws, would you consider your plate already pretty full? And how do you think that will affect your group’s 2014 plans?

McGrady: We plan to achieve these legislative goals. We surely have a lot of work ahead of us.

We will find out which legislators represent the views of their constituents,  and then we will tell their constituents. There is a lot of room in primaries of both parties to impact who serves in the legislature. We will build over time, but I predict success for our model.

monoblogue: I noticed you made your first splash back at last fall’s MDGOP convention, and I know you serve on a central committee. Are you finding the MDGOP is being responsive to your goals, or is it a matter of educating them as well?

McGrady: As an organization, the Maryland Liberty PAC is non-partisan. With some projects, we are working within the Republican Party for change.

There has been some great response from the MDGOP, and some lukewarm. Maryland GOP elected officials don’t take kindly to having their records exposed, and that has caused some tension.

But the fact is that our motives are not biased toward or against any individuals or party affiliations. We care about freedom and respect for (both) the Constitution of the United States and of Maryland. On that front, there is always room for “education.”

monoblogue: I completely agree. Hopefully the “liberty” label isn’t giving people the impression that you’re way out on what they call the “Paulbot” wing of the party.

Then again, I took some time at the MDGOP convention and visited your Liberty PAC suite, finding that a good percentage of those there were younger faces I didn’t recognize from other traditional party events. Is this something you’ve done intentionally or are you finding the message just happens to resonate among that crowd?

McGrady: We are very reasonable and pragmatic people in the liberty movement. Our ideas are positive and will benefit society as a whole, instead of just pockets of either “rich” people or “poor” people. Under economic freedom, individuals can prosper and therefore society can prosper.

The future of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, for that matter, hinges on people who seek to be independent-minded. We are people who realize that our rights come from God, not government.

People don’t like to be fooled, and young people are drawn the ideas of liberty.

We put the call out to all of our membership, and that was who attended the GOP Convention. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that our Maryland Liberty PAC organization brought the most new people “under the tent” of the GOP.

monoblogue: Great! Anything else you’d like to add before we’re through: contact information, future events?

McGrady: We are excited to be working on so many projects and we hope people will visit our website at www.MarylandLiberty.org. If people have questions for me, I can be reached at 410.357.1234.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer these questions– and I hope to see everyone on February 6 in Annapolis for Testifying on the HB106 bill to repeal SB236 and against all the gun bills!

**********

I’d like to thank Patrick for agreeing to the interview. As I read it over, I found out I learned something and I thought I was already pretty familiar with the group. Yet they are one of many proactive groups in Maryland trying to save this once Free State.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013 · Posted in Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten Question Tuesday: January 22, 2013 

After several days of trying to nail this busy lady down, I finally had the chance to speak with writer and author Diana West. You may recall her from the recent Turning the Tides 2013 conference, although I’ve actually linked to her website for some time.

The Death Of The Grown UpShe is the author of The Death of the Grown Up: How America’s Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization (2007) and the forthcoming American Betrayal: The Secret Assault On Our Nation’s Character. Diana is also a syndicated columnist whose work appears in dozens of outlets around the country.

**********

monoblogue: We actually met last Saturday – I’m going to bring my readers up to speed – you and I met last Saturday at Turning the Tides and you did a talk on “Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy.” I noticed this morning that it’s now up on your website, which is very convenient for the readers. I guess the question I would start out with is that you’re more known as a cultural speaker, so how did you get put into talking about foreign policy?

West: Well, really it goes back to 9/11. That’s really when I started writing about how our culture was being changed by this conflict with Islam. And most writers, most thinkers, most pundits and politicians, (they) continued to look at the last decade as a decade of terrorism. Most of the voices you hear discussing how to keep America safe, defend American interests, and so on are really looking at this as how to combat attacks (such as) terrorist attacks (or) military attacks – and while those are, of course, important because no one wants to be attacked at an airport or a stadium – coming from a more cultural lens I started looking at this in terms of how we were being changed culturally by this conflict.

I guess the first part of my writing career definitely had a focus on culture, although I did cover politics as well, but again with a definite cultural emphasis. This past decade I have definitely been looking at the war as a cultural event, and that’s why I’m so interested in things like what’s known as “civilization jihad,” which is, again, the turning from within of our civilization.

monoblogue: Right. And as I read your book, which I did finish – it’s very good – I noticed in The Death of the Grown-Up you started out in the vein that you described, just talking about our culture, but then as the book wrapped up you interspersed a look at the Islamic effect on our culture. The book’s evolution mirrors what you just said…

West: Yes.

monoblogue: …where you started out as talking about culture but then wrapped in the element of Islamic terror after 9/11.

West: Yes. And there’s a backstory to that book, really, which I’m glad you brought up. It explains the way of thinking about some of these problems. I was actually thinking about that book and working on it before 9/11, and it would have been a very different book. It would have definitely outlined the cultural decline as I saw it in terms of this increasing emphasis on youth and this increasing fear and denial of adulthood, and what went with it.

After 9/11 – I was living outside New York at the time, in Westchester County about 45 minutes from Manhattan – after 9/11 happened I shelved the book because I thought ‘who cares, what does it matter?’ We’re in this terrible fight, we’ve been attacked, and trying to understand these new issues I put that project aside. A year or so later, it suddenly became very apparent to me that the cultural decline that I had been trying to work through had a terrifying application in the post 9/11 age. That was how the book became a description of where we had come in terms of an infantile culture and how dangerous that cultural development was for our chances in battling this totalitarian threat which, if you look back through Islamic history, the hallmark of non-Islamic populations living under Islamic law is really one you could describe as infantilized in the sense of not having full rights, not being allowed to speak out, being afraid – these are the hallmarks of non-Islamic populations across centuries, across cultures, across continents.

I looked at this and said, oh my gosh, we are ripe for this kind of takeover and indeed, I ask your readers to look at our speech codes that we willfully put on ourselves. We are afraid to discuss Islam in any kind of rational, logical, and truthful manner. I would ascribe that to this very infantilization that I tried to see in the culture. The book is an argument to see this development and understand how  we have to overcome it if we’re going to withstand this.

monoblogue: Well, 9/11 kind of synthesized and crystallized your thesis then is what you’re saying.

West: Yes, I’m glad I didn’t write the book beforehand because I really felt that application was much more compelling – for me, anyway – and certainly seemed to have more significance for our future.

monoblogue: The other thing that’s interesting, and it’s a matter of how they paired the speakers up at the Turning the Tides Conference, was that you spoke right after Pamela Geller, and Pamela got most of the attention – and she’s the lightning rod for…

West: Sure.

monoblogue: …for pro-Islamic protests. But your message is almost as powerful as hers in the fact that, yes, this Islamic influence is not a good thing for America.

West: Well, I suppose that’s true. Of course, Pamela is a well-known activist at this point, and I think that as an activist she is certainly going to draw the attention of the CAIR demonstrators and things like that. I work strictly as a writer, journalist, and author, so I move in a different track although I would say we have similar goals and very often discuss similar topics so there is a commonality of theme here, but we have different roles and different careers.

monoblogue: That’s fine, but it seemed interesting to me – they’re actually out there protesting her and not you for your message, which – you kind of get to fly under the radar in a way.

West: I suppose so (laughs.) I work, perhaps, in more of the journalistic milieu – maybe it just doesn’t rile them up quite as much.

monoblogue: That’s all right (laughs), sometimes it’s good to be stealth. I’ve found that out myself. But when we heard you last Saturday, I noticed that you were coming in and saying ‘this isn’t really my forte, I hadn’t been thinking about that sort of thing as a broad foreign policy.’ And like I started out, it was interesting to hear you talk about that when you’re more known for culture. So how long did you have to prepare for this speech?

West: Oh, I guess I worked it out over about a week. I mean, in terms of – if you go to my website and comb through some of the back archives I have not written on culture per se for, really since 9/11. And while I definitely examine the cultural impact of war, I have also been looking very minutely and intensively – for example, in war policy, in military doctrine, in examining the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – so I wasn’t quite the fish out of water that I may have made you think in terms of thinking about a foreign policy address.

What I was trying to say was, when I was asked to come up with a conservative foreign policy for the conference, I think I was asked because I’d been thinking through jihad, the Islamization of the United States military, which is something I write a great deal about (and) my sense of the futility, and indeed dangers, of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what I was trying to explain was that I had not put these things together in the sense of a comprehensive political policy.

I think with that address, I kind of wish that Mitt Romney had made such a foreign policy address as mine, in terms of putting these various cultural and national security concerns together because I don’t think you can talk about – you can successfully talk about and battle the threats to our country in terms of terrorist events, in terms of a bad man with a bomb getting into a building, what we tend to do – and this gets back to what Pam is so good at, and others in this field, is understand that these actions (like) bringing bombs to a building are the expression of an ideology, and this ideology goes back to classical mainstream Islam. It is jihad, it is Islamic law to the entire world, to the caliphate – which is something else that I write about a lot – it is jihad to exert Islamic law over the world and everyone in it, including non-Muslims. And this is where we come in, and I’ve always felt that Islam itself doesn’t interest me, except insofar as the nexus between expansionist Islam and our life.

Where you come in to understand this is the impact of jihad and something called dhimmitude. Dhimmitude is the condition of the dhimmi, which are Christians and Jews living under Islamic law, and it is in effect a third- or fourth-class degree of citizenship. That’s where I’ve become interested in Islam; it is a cultural interest but, again, it also becomes a national security interest. In trying to knot this all together in a talk for a whole foreign policy address, of course it also involves things like border security and the importance of Congress becoming more involved in foreign policy. At this point, I think we have a very dictatorial foreign policy that is set at the White House, mostly, and Congress is merely there to rubber-stamp funding for whatever it is the President wishes to do.

These were some of the things I was trying to bring together into a more macro sense than I was accustomed to doing as a weekly columnist and almost daily blogger.

monoblogue: Right. And that’s something – I just happened to look (yesterday) morning and here’s the speech that you happened to give at Turning the Tides, which is very convenient. The website, by the way, is dianawest.net – I’ll plug that for you – and you also have the syndicated column.

West: Yes. I have the syndicated column and the speech actually was published at American Thinker as well. But mostly I write my column, which runs in something around 100 papers at this point, and I also write books. I have my new book coming out in May, which is called American Betrayalwhich, again, is a foray into history, actually, and how we got into this condition we’re in. I think of it as a prequel to The Death of the Grown-Up, really; it goes deeper and back a little farther to kind of set things straight.

monoblogue: That’s good, I’ll be interested to see how that does when it comes out. Obviously you’ve been working hard on that because, I recall as I was getting this set up and talking to you for (this interview) that you originally had this coming out in April, but now it’s going to be May.

BetrayalWest: Yes. (laughs) It’s been done for quite awhile. It’s a long book, and in talking about the old-fashioned way of doing things (referring to our small talk prior to the interview) publishers are doing things somewhat old-fashioned. It turns out that getting everything straight, typeset, and properly footnoted and everything just simply takes more time, so we had to push it off to May. But I do not believe there will be any further delays.

It’s been done – actually it was turned in back in May of 2012, and we’ve been editing over the months and so on. Books just take time, especially a large book that is very heavily footnoted.

monoblogue: Chock full of information.

West: Yes it is! Definitely value for the dollar. (laughs) A heavily researched book; it’s no cut and paste job here.

monoblogue: And I would expect no less. It sounds like you’re a very thorough-type person, and that’s good. We need more of those on our side. We have to put up with a lot of lies from the other side, people who just make it up as they go along and don’t check their facts. It’s refreshing to see our side portrayed in that way. You’re crafting.

West: Thank you. Yes, I try very hard and try to be thorough and try to be correct because it is very important. And I also try to admit when I change my mind or make a mistake – I think that’s equally as important. That’s one complaint I have with general journalism is that there is very little interest in correcting mistakes, and also changing minds. Sometimes the facts appear and there is reason to reconsider, and that is actually, I think, a sign of human growth and not anything less.

People tend to get very entrenched in their views of the world and vested in them so it becomes very difficult to reconsider and reformulate policies, which is one of my complaints with, for example, the Bush administration over its period in Iraq and Afghanistan, and certainly the military over these many years of fighting the same war, even as it became more and more apparent that “winning hearts and minds” in the Islamic world was not going to happen short of conversion to Islam. It’s that clear-cut; there’s no room for wiggle here. It is an absolute brick wall in terms of trying to persuade or win over an Islamic culture to a Western way.

You would think after a decade of trying there would be some reconsideration here, but I think there’s even less willingness to consider  a larger picture, much to the detriment of our country and just too many of our fellow citizens from the military.

monoblogue: Right, and in a way I can tie this to together to conclude it, this gets to be a battle between infantilization and maturity. We’re not showing the maturity to evolve our thought process as situations dictate.

West: That is certainly one way to think of it; it does seem to be that way. I think there’s also people with careers in mind, and reputations they’re too vainly wed to – these are some of the very human characteristics, yes, but I would say they are not of the more mature side. Certainly the ideal to which we aspire – and of course, we’re all human so there’s not some super standard that we all hit all the time every day – these are very serious problems and none of it is theoretical, none of it comes from an academic milieu where a theory can be argued.

We’ve been battle-testing these theories, which have led to loss of life, loss of limb, and tremendous losses to our national treasury, to our fitness of our fighting forces – I mean, it’s really been a cataclysmic decade and there’s really no end in sight (nor) any interest in looking back and actually saying what went wrong and how can we make it better for the future. I hope that that changes.

monoblogue: I hope it does too, and that actually turns out to be a good spot to wrap this up. Your book comes out in May, and I wish you the best of luck with it. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

West: Thank you, Michael, I enjoyed it.

**********

We actually chatted for a few minutes after the interview, comparing notes on the conference and other topics. A thought we extended on during the impromptu conversation was regarding the process of writing her book since I obviously chose a different path in getting my book to market because I wanted it out before the 2012 election. It boggles my mind that her manuscript has taken so long in the editing process, although I’m sure verifying the footnotes is a tedious batch of work.

The key thing was that I learned a lot in speaking with Diana, and hopefully you did as well in reading this. I haven’t determined next week’s guest quite yet, so stay tuned.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 15, 2013

Today’s guest comes from a perspective which might surprise you. Jonathan Bydlak comes from a political background as the Director of Fundraising for Ron Paul’s 2008 Presidential campaign, but has turned his talents to the lobbying side of politics as President of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. They bill themselves as the only group in Washington with that singular focus.

Since I’ve referred to his group here on several occasions, most recently in this odds and ends post, I thought his national perspective would be good for readers to understand, if only to prove not everyone inside the Beltway wants to spend, spend, spend!

**********

monoblogue: What got me interested in your group in the first place was that you’re looking at things on the spending side, which is where I think the whole ‘fiscal cliff’ solution lies.

Bydlak: Absolutely.

monoblogue: But let me back up a second, because your group is relatively new, is it not?

Bydlak: Yes, we formed in February of 2012 and we didn’t become a full-time pursuit until late May or early June.

monoblogue: So you’re actually a very new group. What was the impetus behind getting together as a group and starting it up?

Bydlak: Well, I has the idea of the group for quite some time, literally since I worked in the (Ron) Paul campaign in 2008. The initial idea actually came out of a conversation I had with Peter Schiff, when I was working on the campaign. We used to chat every so often on economics and we got into this discussion one time about, why does no one talk about spending and why is no one as serious about spending as Dr. Paul? That’s what ultimately, personally drew me to Ron Paul, that he was willing to ask the question ‘where are you going to get this money from to pay for the things that you want to do?’ which most of the candidates in both parties tend to not want to do.

Anyway, the thought occurred to me at the time – Grover (Norquist) has been successful at getting – at least Republicans – to not raise taxes. And it struck me that the pledge model is actually a pretty effective one – not just because of Grover’s success, but also if you look at the term limits movement for example in the 1990s spread pretty effectively through groups like US Term Limits by using a pledge mechanism. It struck me as odd that no one had attempted to apply that model to the spending side of the equation, and here we fast-forward five years after the 2008 campaign…the TEA Party movement is talking about the debt and about spending, and it seems to be a more significant awareness and concern about borrowing and the debt, and so on… You have groups that focus on the tax side of the equation and you have groups that talk about spending along with twenty other issues, but there’s no one who has attempted to create an organization that is focused solely on spending…

There was a huge void being missed, particularly in light of the fact that people are seemingly waking up to the notion that spending is ultimately the cause of our financial problems.

monoblogue: Right. And I guess that’s the other side of the equation; as you said, Grover Norquist is very well known for his ‘no new tax’ pledge. The problem that I’m sure people are having a hard time wrapping their head around on the idea of cutting spending is that you can cut spending for anybody except the pet group of the person that’s sitting there saying “we need to cut foreign aid” or “we need to cut welfare” or “we need to cut defense.” Yet there’s other people who say “you can’t cut defense” or “you can’t cut welfare” and you can’t cut all this other spending. If – and maybe this is kind of putting you on the spot – if it were up to Jonathan Bydlak, what would be cut spending-wise?

Bydlak: Let me make a couple comments on that. So the first thing is that everyone wants to get into, exactly what we should cut. The problem I have with that discussion is that it assumes there’s already agreement that there should be cutting going on. As the recent fiscal cliff negotiations show, there’s actually not agreement at all. You had all but eight Senators voting for McConnell’s fiscal cliff compromise, and you had roughly one-third of Republicans and all but 16 Democrats voting in favor of the bill. So, in Washington at least, there isn’t agreement that we even should be cutting in the first place. We haven’t passed a budget in over 3 1/2 years, over a thousand days. So from our group’s perspective there is significant value to be added just by getting people together from both sides of the aisle and getting them to even agree with the premise that we should cut spending. That’s my first comment.

As far as where you cut, the bigger problem isn’t so much that everyone has their pet projects per se, it’s that both parties have not wanted to address significant portions of the budget. The reality is, if you want to balance the budget, you want to curb spending and bring the budget back into balance, you have to address the big-ticket items in the budget, and there are relatively few: entitlement spending and military spending. The interesting thing about those two things is they essentially represent the two sacred cows of the two major parties. On the left you have entitlements, Democrats (will tell you) ‘no, you can’t consider entitlement reform, on the right you have military spending and Republicans say, “no, we can’t really go and address a bloated Pentagon budget.”

So at the end of the day if you care about having a government that lives within its means, it doesn’t really matter what Jonathan Bydlak wants to cut because it’s a mass that you have to reform. Entitlements and military spending make up 75 to 80 percent of the budget, and when we’re talking about borrowing 40 to 45 cents out of every dollar you can’t balance that without…by looking at only 20 to 25 percent of the budget. So the second point I’ll make is that, from our group’s perspective, we’re trying to increase awareness and highlight the fact that ultimately, if you’re serious about spending and serious about having government live within its means, you have to also be serious about reassessing entitlement spending, about reassessing military spending, and about getting both parties to put their sacred cows on the table. The big part of the problem as I see it: Republicans, for a long time, have talked a good game about “we need to cut spending” and then Democrats come back and say, “all right, let’s start with the Pentagon.” Republicans say no, that’s our sacred cow and push it off the table…as a result, Democrats are never forced to put entitlement spending on the table.

To me, the most important line in our pledge is the line that says, “all spending must be on the table.” We can have the debate down the road about how much we can cut from here and how much we can cut from there, but let’s start with an agreement that we shouldn’t claim spending and that everything should be on the chopping block. In my opinion, that’s the only way you’re ever going to get both parties to seriously consider the types of cuts that need to happen.

monoblogue: So you’re looking at it more as a groundswell of support from the outside rather than trying to work from the inside…you’re looking for the people to say, “look, we want you to address this problem – we don’t care exactly how you address this problem, just put everything on the table and let’s address it.”

Bydlak: I think that’s the starting point, right? Then you have to say what can we cut in the Pentagon’s budget, and how can you restructure Social Security and Medicare and other entitlement programs. That’s the sort of debate that has to happen, but instead we see…grandstanding about that we can’t cut this, or can’t cut that, or, in general, an unwillingness to put their own sacred cows on the table. The compromise is always “I’ll vote for your spending if you vote for mine,” rather than “I’ll accept some cuts in my spending if you accept some cuts in yours.”

I think you’re starting to see a pretty significant change…one is that Ted Cruz, for example, he signed the Pledge and has been saying everything should be on the table. That’s something that would be hard to imagine happening five or ten years ago. Another example is Lindsey Graham – now Lindsey Graham and I would probably have disagreements over how much could be cut from the Pentagon’s budget, but Lindsey Graham has said, “you know what, I’d be willing to go and consider military spending on the chopping block if we can get meaningful entitlement reform.” That’s a very big change, so that’s the sort of mindset that we’re trying to promote, to actually get people to realize this problem is ultimately, in my opinion, and if you want to talk about the greatest threat to our national security, it’s our national debt.

So the way that you’ll ultimately get significant reform in these areas is to get everyone to agree that their sacred cow is on the table, too. I wouldn’t characterize it as working from the outside or working from the inside; it’s a combination of both.

monoblogue: Given that you have such an influence from Ron Paul, you would get a reputation as sort of a maverick. That was Ron Paul’s entire gig, so to say – he was not exactly a mainstream Republican (and) he kind of went his own way. That’s fine; I respect him for that. Do you find that the influence – most people know you’re disciples of Ron Paul and such – is that a large obstacle in Washington?

Bydlak: I don’t consider myself a disciple of Ron Paul; I don’t know even what that exactly means. Obviously I’m very supportive of Dr. Paul and I’m generally of the same political persuasion, but I don’t consider myself a disciple of anyone. There have been a couple of articles which came out recently saying that I’m the next Grover Norquist, if you will, (but) my comment is I’m the first Jonathan Bydlak. (laughs) That’s funny, my parents will tell you a story that when I was five years old, maybe I was four, the first book I ever bought was a collection of Ronald Reagan’s speeches, “Speaking My Mind,” which was an autobiography and collection of speeches he wrote shortly after leaving the White House. I paid a dollar for it at a used bookstore and growing up I had a picture of Ronald Reagan on my bedside table. There are plenty of things I would disagree with Ronald Reagan on, so again, to characterize me as a disciple of one or the other, I don’t really know.

I suppose your argument is that simply by having worked for Dr. Paul that somehow that ends up being a disadvantage, but I don’t think so because the focus of our organization is just on the issue. If you think about which organizations in Washington tend to be most effective at accomplishing their objectives, in my opinion the evidence is pretty obvious. And that is organizations that have a laser-like focus on one issue – you think about the NRA, you think about the ACLU – left or right, those groups tend to be the ones that are most effective and ultimately the most feared. So I think this is part of the reason it’s so important to focus only on the issue of spending, because if you start taking positions on twenty different issues the coalition of people that you’re able to bring together becomes increasingly limited. My hope, and I think what we’re proving, is that we’re able to bring together a larger number of people by focusing solely on one issue, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, independent, Libertarian, Green, pick your ideological persuasion or party affiliation.

monoblogue; Well, I agree with that. That makes perfect sense to me. Now I know you were also circulating a spending pledge, much like Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes, and you mentioned Ted Cruz – I assume he’s one of those who has signed that pledge?

Bydlak: Yes, that’s right.

monoblogue: Who else has signed the pledge, and has anyone started to think about 2014 and contacted you and said “I already don’t like the way things are going in this Congress and I wanted to get a early jump on the next Congress so I’d like to sign your pledge now?”

Bydlak: We got started in the middle of the primary cycle, so we got started a little late just by virtue of when the group was formed. We  had 24 candidates nationwide who signed the Pledge; of those we had a Democrat running in New York City, we had an independent running in Colorado, we had a handful of Libertarians, and the rest were Republicans. Out of those, I think 12 made it into the general election, and then two were elected: Ted Cruz being one and the most prominent, and the other being Doug Collins, who was elected in Georgia’s Ninth District, which has recently been redrawn because of the Census and Georgia getting an additional seat. Representative Collins has been looking pretty great in terms of what he’s been saying; I think he seems pretty solid on the issue. Of course, we’ll see how that continues to pan out… That’s sort of where we are right now; naturally we are focusing on getting organized ourselves in terms of being able to maximize our impact in 2014, with the idea being that we want to get as many people on the record as possible saying they are committed to the planks of our Pledge.

monoblogue: So your foot is in the door in terms of both the House and the Senate…in the future – and I know you’re basically a one-issue organization – are you planning on getting into financially supporting candidates or do you just want to stay with the advocacy arm of it?

Bydlak: No, we don’t endorse any candidates. Part of what I see our role is to put candidates on the record. For example, in the Texas Senate race Lieutenant Governor (David) Dewhurst, who was running against Cruz, also signed the Pledge within a day after we announced Senator Cruz had signed… We’re not here to endorse anyone.

Pledges have two main benefits, I think. One is that they provide information to voters. When candidates run for office and say they’re serious about tackling the national debt, or that they’re a fiscal conservative, or what have you – it’s one thing to say those things but it’s another thing to be actually willing to put your name on paper and say what that actually means. We are attempting to define very clearly what that means; generally the three planks of our Pledge, which is that you’ll only vote for a balanced budget, you won’t vote for new spending programs that aren’t offset elsewhere in the budget, and they won’t vote to increase borrowing.

The second benefit, of course, is that when they get into office and they renege on the promise they made to voters, well, now there’s a means for the voters, the activists, and the media to hold them accountable. It’s not just that they ran for office and it was some random verbal promise, here you have it in writing and you can say, “wait a minute, this is what you said and you’re not doing that.”

So we see our role as not at all trying to endorse anyone, but actually trying to get as many people as possible to go on the record and say we care about these issues enough that we want to signal to voters that we’re serious enough to say we want to sign on the dotted line. That, in a nutshell – to us, it’s more about changing the incentives of the game. There’s a great Milton Friedman quote where he says something to the effect of the greatest challenge in politics is to create good incentives so that imperfect people do good things. And the idea is if you’re going to rely on politicians to do the right thing, that’s kind of a fool’s errand. But you can start to create incentives for certain behavior – that is something that I think is really valuable, and that’s where I think the Pledge is really valuable that it starts to provide a counterweight to the incentive of the status quo, which is basically bring home the pork to your district and have your campaign financed by special interest groups.

But if you can show that voters care about these issues enough where politicians feel compelled enough to go on the record about them, well, that changes the incentives of the game and perhaps leads to a better opportunity to see meaningful spending cuts.

monoblogue: Certainly I’d like to see, if I’m faced with a primary of ten people, I’d love to see that ten people signed the Pledge, and I definitely want to do my part to spread the word. I know you guys have a website and all that, so take this opportunity to plug yourselves for my readers.

Bydlak: The website is reducespending.org, People can go on our website and download a copy of our Pledge, and get their Representative or Senator to sign, or candidates to sign. There is also a Voter Pledge people can sign, with the goal being the more support we can show for the idea we are promoting the better. We are open to any suggestion, certainly we are heavily into social media, which is probably not surprising given my experience in the Paul campaign, but definitely join our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and send me an e-mail and get involved that way in terms of, if there are ideas people have, we want to hear any of them.

monoblogue: I have one last thing that just occurred to me. Are you planning on taking this to a state level, or strictly federal?

Bydlak: It’s absolutely something we would like to do, and we’ve already talked to a couple organizations about this. The challenge of the state level is that there are fifty different requirements, as some states have balanced budget requirements, some don’t, there’s various minutia in every different state; frankly, I’m not well-versed in all the minutia in how each state works. So that’s a growth opportunity and something we want to do, but we need to enlist the involvement of people who are experts so what we would likely do is roll them out in a handful of states at a time. That’s definitely something we would like to do in the future.

monoblogue: All right. I appreciate the time; it’s been very enlightening to me and hopefully getting the word out a little at a time will help you in 2014.

**********

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed chatting with Jonathan, whose group may someday rival organizations like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Certainly I think they have a sound approach to getting excess spending into the national conversation.

Next week’s guest is yet to be determined, since there’s a possibility of having a “breaking news” personality. Stay tuned.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 8, 2013

Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.

Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.

**********

monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?

Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.

monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.

Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.

But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.

monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.

Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.

Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.

When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.

monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?

Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.

The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?

And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.

The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.

monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.

We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.

Bongino: Right.

monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?

Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.

Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.

Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.

monoblogue: It established credibility.

Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.

And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.

When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.

…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.

monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.

Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.

monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?

Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.

I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.

monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.

Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.

I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.

I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.

monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.

Bongino: No, it’s not.

monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!

**********

Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.

Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.

A new beginning for an old project

January 1, 2013 · Posted in Ten Questions · Comments Off on A new beginning for an old project 

If you’ve been around since the beginning of this website, you may recall I have done posts off-and-on in a category called “Ten Questions.” It began as a method of getting interview-style answers out of candidates in the 2006 election, a segment which comprises most of the 49 entries in the category. I then used the format occasionally from 2007-2009 to interview local and national people of renown, with the last “Ten Questions” post being an interview of then-Senate candidate Robert Broadus in 2011.

Well, my intent this time is to have “Ten Question Tuesday” as a regular feature each Tuesday. While most of the interview subjects will be political, the focus won’t strictly be on Maryland politics. Going forward in 2013, I’m going to eventually try and bring a little more of a national profile to this site just as my first subject did to his political race: I thought I would begin with perhaps the most popular Republican currently living in Maryland, recent U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino.

I’m not sure just where this effort will take me, since it will be quite a bit of work securing interviews and putting them together. But in order to improve this website and provide a service to readers, hard work is often necessary.

So look for this to debut at noon next Tuesday. Due to its length – Dan and I (well, mostly Dan) spoke for over 20 minutes – I haven’t decided whether to make it a two-part interview or distill it down to one part. (I look at it this way: you’re not coming here in that instance to read what I have to say!) But I can tell you that Dan should have a dynamic presentation at the MDCAN Turning the Tides 2013 conference on January 12 in Annapolis. I’ll be there, and if you’re trying to bring conservatism to its rightful place atop the Maryland political ladder, you should be too!

But ultimately the ball is in the court of you, the readers. I’m well aware of my readership trends over the years so if I see Tuesday readership is surging I’ll know I have a hit on my hands. As Dan told me in the interview, “media leads to more media,” so I’m going to find out if readership of this feature leads to more readership overall.

U.S. Senate interview: Robert Broadus

This is the first of what I’m looking to be a series of interviews with candidates for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat, now held by Ben Cardin. Think of it as an extension of my old “Ten Questions” series.

Robert Broadus is a former naval officer and current small business owner who may be most familiar to Maryland voters as the head of Protect Marriage Maryland, a group opposing the imposition of same-sex marriage in the state. He also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Fourth District in 2008 and 2010, finishing third out of four candidates in the 2008 Republican primary with 21.8% of the vote and losing the 2010 general election to incumbent Donna Edwards with 16.4% of the vote.

To begin, I was a bit confused by his website.

monoblogue: Let me start out by getting one thing straight: I was told (by a friend of mine) that you’re running for the Senate, but your website advertises “Broadus for Congress.” Having run for Congress twice before (once losing in the primary and once in the general) how does that show you’re committed to the race?

RB: Congress includes both the House and the Senate.  Keeping the committee of the same name offers me a chance to save money.  You can hear in my several public statements that I am running for Ben Cardin’s Senate seat.

monoblogue: I sort of suspected that, but it may be confusing to some who simply know you by website and recall you ran for Congress before in 2006 and 2008. So why the leap to a statewide seat?

RB: I have always believed that the Constitution puts the decision-making power of the United States into the hands of the Congress, which is the body designated to represent the will of the people and their states.  I considered running for the House of Representatives in ‘08 and ‘10 (I did not run in ‘06) because a) the House is by design supposed to be closer to the people, and b) it is only the House that has the power to introduce bills for the appropriation of funds.  I saw many of our financial problems, the reckless spending, and the multi-trillion-dollar debt coming from the mal-appropriation of funds, and I saw election as a fiscal conservative to the House as a means to remedy this problem.  I additionally saw that both Al Wynn and Steny Hoyer were Democrats who had voted out of step with their party for the invasion of Iraq, and I believed at the time that this would make them weak with their constituents.  I correctly gauged that Al Wynn was the weaker candidate; unfortunately instead of replacing him with a fiscally responsible Republican, his voters chose to replace him with the ultra-progressive Donna Edwards.

My ultimate decision to run for Senate was prompted by the fact that Ben Cardin was the first Senator to introduce Obamacare to the public, holding the very first townhall meeting in the majority-black setting of Prince George’s Community College.  Part of my encounter with Senator Cardin can be viewed here.

I was also interviewed by Neil Cavuto afterwards.

So, although the event was almost 2 years ago now, I believe that if voters really care, and if they are truly angry enough about the destruction of their liberties, they will support my efforts to take the issue of Obamacare directly to Cardin in serious debate, and to make him pay for what he and his party did to us by giving him a pink slip in November 2012.  I believe that the issues of loss of freedom, if framed correctly, will resonate with Black Americans, and the issues of unconstitutionality should appeal to Republicans in such large numbers that they will vote together to get better representation in the Senate.

I also recognized other statewide issues that needed to be addressed, and which were not being heard with me running in a single congressional district.  Issues like same-sex marriage and illegal immigration were clearly issues that crossed party lines, and got people from all demographics to come out and challenge their legislators about what was being done almost in secret, against the will of the voters.  So, I realized that I also needed to make these issues part of my Senate campaign.  I very much believe that if we can unite the social conservatives throughout the state, the fiscal conservatives who recognize the tragedy being inflicted on us by the Democratic Party’s monopoly over Maryland, and inspire them to fight for their freedoms and demand that government respect us as people—as full-grown men and women—as the true rulers of this country, then not only can we win this election, but we can also achieve the goal that our founders and even Abraham Lincoln spoke glowingly of: the goal of self-government, which is in reality the goal of independence: EMANCIPATION.

The people of Maryland need to hear the message of freedom again, and that is why I am running for Senate.

monoblogue: I’ve noticed on your issue page that you cite the Constitution frequently – that’s a good trait to have in a Senator.

I’d love a comment on your call to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment – given Maryland’s longtime love for all things Democratic, isn’t that going to cost you a job in the Senate? Or were you planning on term-limiting yourself anyway?

And a more important question: how do you get out the message of freedom in an era when 30 second sound bites are the norm and Ben Cardin is sitting on a cool million dollars? How much do you think you need to compete?

RB: I consider that a great compliment.  While I believe that there have been many violations to the Constitution over the years, I note that there are a small handful that can be looked at as absolutely the most egregious, the most anti-American, and the most destructive of liberty.  We can point to the “progressive” amendments as being some of the most dangerous changes to our American system of government—even to the point of taking us backward by making the Constitution an instrument of oppression rather than one of liberation and freedom.  The 16th, 17th, and 18th Amendments were all passed during what was known as the “progressive era.”  The 18th, as we know, was justly repealed by the 21st.  The other two should be as well.  The 16th was implemented to make certain the Congress had a power to tax people’s property in the form of their only means of sustenance—their incomes.  The 17th was implemented to destroy the critical functioning of the States as an integral part of the federal government.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison makes a point of arguing that while the original Constitution (the Articles of Confederation) provided for a “federal” system of government, the new Constitution would provide for what he calls a “combined” government—namely, a hybrid between a “federal” government (a confederation, or government of sovereign states) and a “national” government (a popular government.)  To assure his critics that the States would not be destroyed, he argued repeatedly that their continuance was guaranteed by their constitutionally-guaranteed role of appointing Senators.  For example, in Federalist 45, he writes: “The State governments may be regarded as constituent and essential parts of the federal government; whilst the latter is nowise essential to the operation or the organization of the former…The Senate will be elected absolutely and exclusively by the State legislatures.”

In fact, the entire argument of the Federalist Papers (and therefore, that of the Constitution) depends on the fact that the States were guaranteed not only representation, but EQUAL representation in the national legislature, much as they had been under the Articles of Confederation.  To take this component away not only undoes the character under which the Constitution itself was ratified, but it also destroys the “federal” nature of our system of government.  So, whereas the Federalists Papers are written to argue the need for a combined federal/national government, what the 17th Amendment created was a purely national government, in which the States are mere subdivisions of the country—no more sovereign or independent than counties or towns are to a State.  We are seeing with Obamacare and other pieces of unconstitutional legislation just how insignificant and powerless the States have become.

While I support term limits for all federal offices, I do not have plans for what I will limit myself to.  My primary motivation for running is that there is something dreadfully disastrous happening to our American republic, and it needs to be fixed.  If I am able to affect the system (either from within elected office or outside of it) in a way that these problems will be fixed, then I will have no more need to be in the Senate, and will gladly step aside to allow other citizens to represent the State in that capacity.  It is also important to understand that even in the House of Representatives, you are chosen to represent your State—not “the people” per se.  Only in the twisted political worldview that emphasizes cronyism, pay-to-play, and “bringing home the bacon” has it  been interpreted that members of the House only represent their districts (or certain special interest groups within their districts) and not the entire State.  I further understand that Maryland’s political history means it is almost certain that the legislature will continue to appoint Democrats to the U.S. Senate.  However, when it comes to the Constitution and Liberty, principle is more important than any political ambitions.  If the Constitution says that Senators must be appointed by the legislatures, then I would not support a system that tries to subvert that just because I’d like to see a Republican in office.  In fact, this is one of the motivations behind this rule—Senators should reflect the political disposition of the State.  If enough people in Maryland really want a Republican Senator, then they will work to get a Republican State Legislature.  In fact, I firmly believe that if more people focused on their local politicians rather than national offices such as the presidency, they’d have much more control over their government, and would be happier with the representation they were getting, both in Annapolis and in DC.  This, I think we can do if we change the way we look at politics, and focus on making Maryland a 2-party state instead of a monopoly for the Democratic Party which it has been for its entire history.

Regarding how to get out the message of freedom in an era of 30-second soundbites, this is really up to the people of Maryland.  If they want to hear my message, they will donate to my campaign and give me the platform to speak—in the form of TV ads, mailers, radio spots, etc.  I don’t have to have the most money—I just have to have the backing of the citizens of Maryland, or even of the Republican Party.  However, the grander question is, “Does the Republican Party want to be represented by the message of freedom?”  Do they want it on their airwaves or plastered on billboards across the state?  Last election, the message we heard in Maryland was extremely diluted down to “More Jobs, Lower Taxes.”  Although the Tea Parties had a great influence, and basically saved the MDGOP from extinction, the establishment shunned the Tea Parties and rejected their message of a return to the Constitution and conservative values.

Ben Cardin is sitting on a lot more than a million dollars.  One report I read from several years back showed his personal wealth above $5 million—which he could donate to his own campaign.  But in 2006, Cardin raised over $9 million.  Even though Michael Steele reportedly raised slightly more, Cardin won the election.  So at the end of the day, it is not about dollar figures alone.  With Barack Obama on the ticket and the future of America at stake, we can expect Cardin to exceed $10 million or more, if such amounts are needed to keep the seat in Democratic hands.  Cardin basically has unlimited funds, and can raise whatever he needs.  But more than money, it is the message that will make the difference of a win or a loss in 2012.  If the people of Maryland are ready for a change to what they’ve been getting—a change from high unemployment, high taxes, high inflation, and high treason against the Constitution, then all of these messages combined can overcome those millions.  If they are tired of their money being used to fund abortion clinics, violate their religious liberties, indoctrinate their children with socialist values in public schools, and dole out their money to entice illegal immigrants to settle here, they will also have motivation, regardless of party, to demand new representation.  People can get out and start spreading the word that a renewed spirit of freedom is in the air, and that we must change our way of doing business if we want to pass on a Maryland (and an America) to our children and our grandchildren that was as vibrant and free as the one we grew up in.  We are on the verge of an ideological split, and like in 1861, today we are very much a “house divided.”  However, the division today is not over race and cotton.  It is over freedom to live and work and do as you please versus subservience to an oppressive state that declares that all must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of a tyrant’s will.  Such tyranny is not lodged in a single party—it is lodged in the will of all our politicians to violate the principles of the Constitution, the only thing that guards our freedoms.

I plan to offer the people a choice in the matter: freedom, not slavery—liberty, not death.   If freedom is popular, and if the people value their liberty, then nothing can stop us from winning.  But if they prefer anything above liberty—whether it be safety or security, wealth or celebrity, then they will receive anything but liberty.

To illustrate this point, I will quote Madison again (whom, because of his short-sightedness, I am not a fan of) but who recognized the dangers of Obamacare 224 years ago when he wrote in Federalist #57, “If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the  genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America—a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.  If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate anything but liberty.

There is a very serious problem that has arisen within our government, and we need someone who will go to Washington, who will fight for Maryland and its people, and who will not rest or cease from fighting until that problem is fixed.

monoblogue: Well, there’s not a lot I can argue with there, aside from the fact that I took the million-dollar figure from Cardin’s most recent FEC report. But speaking of getting out the message, are you finding your work with Protect Marriage Maryland and travel around the state in promoting marriage between one man and one woman is giving you a leg up for campaigning? How much influence do you think social conservatives can have in this state?

RB: I believe that working on the marriage issue has given people a subject to associate my name with. People who care about preserving traditional marriage very often associate me with it. At the same time, people who are opposed to preserving traditional marriage also know me as a pariah. In my view, this helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. People who outright reject social conservatism will most likely go and find other candidates to support.

On that note, I do believe that social conservatives can have a great influence in this state, but like everything else, it depends on them wanting to make their voice heard. The first question Republicans must ask themselves is, “Why am I a Republican?” Some will just be Republicans because their parents were Republicans and they were raised to like the Republican “brand.” But if anyone is a Republican because they truly believe in a set of principles, they will most likely find themselves describing conservative principles. Is there a difference between social conservatism and other forms of conservatism? On the surface, the answer seems to be, “yes,” but in reality, the answer is, “no.” When you look at issues like abortion, single-parenthood, inner-city violence, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, etc, these all boil down to economic issues, even moreso than being issues of faith. The chief distinction of where we fall is whether we let our particular circumstances interfere with our own willingness to support the conservative message.

(It is important to note that like most Blacks in America, I did not start as a conservative, and would not have identified myself as a conservative 10 years ago. But the more I have thought on the issues, the more I realize that I either have been a conservative all my life, but didn’t know it, or that I want to be a conservative on certain issues, but just can’t bring myself to give up certain idiosyncrasies that I’ve grown up with, such as identity-politics or a deep-seated belief that there are some things people can’t do without government.)

To that point, the question of being a conservative (and more importantly a social conservative) rests largely with the MDGOP & the National GOP’s desire to push the message out to voters that conservatism is cool. As long as the MDGOP’s mantra is that we have to moderate on some issues to win over liberals, we will never be in a position to win the argument. What they are really saying is that they do not feel confident enough about their own ideology to convince others that it is the right philosophical approach to life.

The reality is that like myself, most Marylanders have been conservative all their lives, but didn’t know it. They believe in liberty, fiscal responsibility, and that justice is best achieved by adhering to the rule of law. They believe in treating other people the way they’d want to be treated—which means not only giving lovingly from your heart, but also showing “tough love” by withholding charity when instead what the person needs is a swift kick in the rear. They believe in doing “what’s right,” and that means sometimes you’ve got to tighten your belt and delay gratification to get through the tough times and see better days.

The unfortunate thing is that liberalism (or statism) teaches people that government can solve all their woes, and even better than that, it can solve them instantaneously—all they have to do is believe that government is the answer to all their problems and serve it unerringly. Whenever government fails, just turn a blind eye or blame the other party; and whenever things go well (no matter how slightly,) showcase it as evidence that government works. Yet the truth is that government cannot ever make your life significantly better. It can only make you dependent. And it is unraveling this fallacy that causes the fiscal conservative (or conservatives of another category) to eventually arrive at the same point as the social conservative. The social conservative isn’t so because he worships a certain religion (although he may have found conservatism because of his religious beliefs.) The social conservative is so because he wants to stand on his own two feet. To do so, he must act with wisdom, which means avoiding foolish risks and frivolous lifestyle choices. If he does make such a bad choice, then he must be prepared to live with the consequences—he does not expect society to pick up the slack for his personal decisions.

And this is the difference. Every time you hear a Republican say something like, “I’m normally against government welfare, but…” you are witnessing a fiscal conservative cave in to his own principles. And the liberal (statist) has a million ways to pry us from our values. Their favorites are words like “compassion,” “love,” and “pity.” Another one is a hyphenated form of the word, “justice.” Recently, they’ve begun toying with the words “sacrifice” and “tolerance” to achieve the same effect. Conservatism (which is self-reliance or at least a desire for independence) requires the ability to reject all these things when they drive us away from our better selves. Liberty requires that we can place something above grandiose ideas like “love” or “tolerance.” Indeed, we can put our needs before the desires of others, and we can put our families before other families, and we can put our faith in God before other noble ideas like “love” and “tolerance.” Even “fairness,” sometimes, will fall to our greater sense of self-preservation—but that’s what liberty is all about. Liberty is not the idea that you have to do what others want—it is the idea that you can do what you want, even if others disagree.

This is a lesson that my ancestors learned and passed down through the generations, as they yearned for liberty from the slavemasters’ plantations. This is the lesson that our founders fought for as they rebelled against their King and created a new government to protect their liberties. And I believe that if we promote this message effectively, the people of Maryland will see it is a fire that still burns in their hearts and minds.

So, I do not see social conservatives as being the minority in this state—not by a long shot. I see them as being the dominant majority. It is a bit sad that their strength is not self-evident. It is just a matter of time before they awaken and realize that what they want in their hearts can be achieved by voting for a guy like me, running on a Republican ticket, and that what they want can be achieved in this next election. It won’t take 20 years of being a career politician, nor will it take a complete turnaround of the statehouse. Putting the right person in the House or Senate can magnify their voice 1,000 times beyond what they have now, which is complete silence. Not only that, but they will not get this magnified voice with any other candidate—Ben Cardin is actually stifling their voice. I will not pretend that it won’t be a struggle to get them to realize this, but I do believe that in the near-term, it can be done.

monoblogue: I think this has been a pretty thorough discussion. Is there anything else you want to add to “close the sale”?

RB: Thanks a lot, Michael.

I would simply close by saying that identifying with conservative values has enabled me to better consider why we instituted a government among ourselves, and what the Constitution is really all about.  It has enabled me to see–as many abolitionists like Frederick Douglass did well before 1865–that the Constitution is a “freedom document,” which in its best interpretation should be looked at as embodying the spirit of Independence that fueled the founding of these united States.  It has also caused me to take a more serious look at how money is created and used in our financial system.  No government that preserves an individual right to property (as our 5th amendment requires ours to) can do so without supporting a capitalist economic system based on sound money.  And it has enabled me to see that in our current struggle, the Republican Party is the party that stands for the liberty, independence, and even the equality of opportunity for all people willing to put in the required work and remain dedicated to achieving success, happiness, and prosperity.

The greatest threat to our future can be described in two ways that are closely related:  the first is forgetting that we were created as a republic of free and independent States.  It is the States that serve as a check on the national government to protect the rights and sovereignty of the people.  We are losing this as we embrace an increasingly nationalist government.  The second is in neglecting the vital importance and proper interpretation of the 10th Amendment, which locked into the Constitution the very principle of the rights and sovereignty of the States.  The 10th Amendment tells us how to read the rest of the Constitution, and defines its character completely.  The notion that the government’s powers are limited, and that it does not have the authority to employ any means whatever to achieve its desired ends over the rights of the people are contained nowhere else in the Constitution but there.  Obamacare represents an unbridled assault on the heart of the Constitution in the form of rendering inert the 10th Amendment.  I have had several occasions to speak with Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, and he expressed the same concerns.  I stand by his efforts and the efforts of other States’ Attorneys General to defend the rights and sovereignty of their States regarding an issue that the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved with.  We all need to stand in this critical hour—in 2012–to save our States and protect our republic, as that is the only way we will protect our liberties.

**********

Personally, I think Broadus lays out a very compelling case as a conservative Senator. He obviously has the strikes against him of a lack of name recognition in most of the state and perhaps being too closely identified on the surface as a one-issue candidate. However, in this interview he displays a depth of thought which should be able to convince voters he has sound positions on most issues outside the narrow range of social conservatism.

That narrow base of support could be his downfall in an election year such as 2012, where the primary is early. That gives an advantage to candidates who already have a support system in place.

Yet Robert reminds me a little bit of 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rutledge – not necessarily in style, but in the way he speaks at length and depth about conservative issues. If Robert’s as good of a speaker as he is a writer, I’d love to watch him mop up the stage with Ben Cardin in a debate – that’s probably why you won’t see one.

Ten questions for – Deborah Johns

September 24, 2009 · Posted in National politics, Personal stuff, Politics, State of Conservatism, Ten Questions · Comments Off on Ten questions for – Deborah Johns 

It was one year ago Tuesday that I ran my first Ten Questions with today’s subject, and the reason I caught up with her again was to get her reflections on the TEA Party Express tour she participated in which crossed the country leading up to the 9-12 TEA Party rally, along with speaking at the Washington, D.C. rally itself.

Deborah is an ordinary citizen who became extraordinary through the intersection of hard work, devotion to country, and love of freedom, so I’m proud to once again bring you Ten Questions for her.

**********

monoblogue: Having interviewed you last year on the eve of the “Stop Obama” bus tour and now that you’ve completed the TEA Party Express, I’m talking to a seven-time bus tour veteran. Obviously each tour is different but what sticks out to you most about this particular go-round?

Johns: What sticks out in my mind is how many people who have come out to a political event for the first time in their life ever, whether they identify themselves as a democrat or a republican.  We asked at each of our rallies for a show of hands as to how many people has been to an event of this nature for the first time in their lives, and there were so many who raised their hands.  Also how many people brought their children to be part of a history making event, because getting out and “protesting,” is something that most conservatives just have not done.  Like Ronald Reagan said “Most conservatives are meat eaters and retreaters, who would rather go home at the end of the day and be frustrated at the news on television, than get out and do something about it.”  Well these meat eating retreaters are now getting out and doing something about the direction of their country.

monoblogue: Since many of the stops were the same as last year’s tour, could you sense a different mindset among the crowds at those locations? And how did looking out over the vast multitudes in Washington D.C. affect your perception of the tour’s success?

Johns: I did sense a different mind set with the crowds.  Last year everyone was galvanized by “hope and change.”  The American people really believed that electing Barack Obama was going to bring change they hoped for.  I think for liberals that meant one thing and for conservatives it meant another and in the end neither side is ultimately getting the change they hoped for and pretty much the feeling of the American people is one of disbelief and the feeling that they were sold a bill of goods.

The crowd of 1.5 million people who came by buses, car pool, train and air, was so amazing.  People really for the first time felt like their voice was making a difference, and they were there in DC to make sure the clunkers in the Capitol knew they were hearing them.  The chants of the people were awesome, “We own the Dome,” the Constitution begins with “We the People,” and so many more.  It truly gave me a greater sense of pride and admiration for the great country we live in, to see all these people be inspired in the cities we went to, and even the ones we could not get to, feel a sense of urgency to do whatever it took for them to get to DC to be heard and be part of a history making event.  The sleeping giant has awoken.  People standing shoulder to shoulder to fight for the freedoms and independence our men and women in uniform have given us, and now they are being responsible for these freedoms on the home turf. 

monoblogue: Taking into consideration the mood of the country regarding politicians, it’s noteworthy to me that your tour (and the 9-12 rally itself) did not feature any true “name” political figures. Just from your perspective as somewhat of a political outsider, would you say that the TEA Party Express benefited from being somewhat apolitical and more issue-based?

Johns: Our focus was on the issues and that is the important agenda right now.  People are focused on the issues, and which politicians are either in line with what they want and those politicians who are not in line with the issues they are passionate about.  You first have to be able to articulate the issues and the problems, and then identify what candidates match up with your philosophy.  We feel that a leader will emerge from all of these efforts, and then that will yet again cement all of the people together.  There is plenty of time to identify the proper leader for the movement.

monoblogue: I ran across a video (and put it up as part of this postdone by the Fox affiliate in Detroit regarding your stop there, and it seemed to focus more on the people who attended the rally rather than your message. Did you find the media coverage of your tour overall satisfactory or do you feel a need to set the record straight?

Johns: I feel the cable channels and local media did a great job in providing coverage.  However, the national media of ABC, NBC and CBS did not cover any of the events on a national level.  Our events were covered by the local affiliates, but not the evening or morning shows on any of the networks.

monoblogue: I don’t want to forget the root cause of your involvement. Being a Blue Star Mom obviously the military is never far from your mind, and your primary objection to President Obama was based on how you imagined he would be as Commander-in-Chief. Is there any way he’s performed above your low expectations or is it even worse than you dreaded? And do you ever get that “I told you so” thought when Obama carries on policies on the War on Terror (oops, “Overseas Contingency Operation”) put in place by former President Bush?

Johns: Let me put it this way, his foreign policies are a total failure.  I do not want a President who goes around the world and apologizes for anything in the past of the actions of this country or our military.  We have nothing to apologize for.  I am also offended when he has hugged Hugo Chavez, agrees to meet with the President of Iran without conditions, bows to the King of Saudia Arabia, and allows his Attorney General to investigate our CIA members for their past actions, putting them in essence in jeopardy for career decisions they made that were approved by the Bush administration, and now they are being investigated, and having this doubt cast over their good actions to keep this country safe is disgraceful on the part of the President.  He also does not want pre-emptive air strikes in Afghanistan because of the fear of either death or injury to civilians in the area, and would prefer to risk the lives of American ground troops first.  Anyone knows you always send in the air support first as a means of clearing an area, and then you send in the ground troops.  Remember the shock and awe effect when the Iraq war started?  No one wants innocent civilians to be killed, but unfortunately war is not a tea party, and unfortunately innocent civilians do get killed, but it is the best thing, as evidenced by our generals, air support should come first before the ground troops.

monoblogue: In that same vein, given the focus on domestic and economic issues, do you think the our foreign policy and our effort against terrorism is being hurt by this shift in focus from years past?

Johns: I feel that if our CIA members are going to continue to be investigated by the Attorney General, that will most definitely hinder continued investigations by our CIA and military personnel who act in the proper manner to keep this country free from attack again like what happened on 9/11/01.

monoblogue: Last year I asked you about future political plans and you responded that if you were to go that route it would be a few years down the road, at least until your youngest child graduated high school. Is that timetable still intact or has the spirit shown on the TEA Party Express moved you to reconsider?

Johns: It is all possible.

monoblogue: The area where I live is definitely in play next year as a swing district because we have a “Blue Dog” Democrat freshman representing our area. Naturally that prompts me to ask: will you be doing yet another Our Country Deserves Better tour for the Congressional elections in 2010?

Johns: Yes. (In fact, just after I did my e-mail exchange with Deborah it was announced that a second TEA Party Express will launch October 25– of course, she will embark on bus tour number 8.)

As the Our Country Deserves Better tour announcement notes:

“We’re going to send a message to the politicians in Washington that if they are supporting bailouts, out-of-control deficit spending, higher taxes, increases in the size and instrusiveness of government, then they should probably be looking for a new line of work, because we’re going to be sure they are out of job come next November,” said Joe Wierzbicki, coordinator of the Tea Party Express.

The “Tea Party Express: Countdown to Judgment Day” will depart San Diego, California on Sunday, October 25th, and traverse the nation from coast-to-coast, border-to-border, before ending up in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, November 11th (Veterans Day).

This tour will take in portions of the country omitted on the original TEA Party Express, focusing on stops in the Pacific Northwest and southern states – alas, it comes no closer to here than South Carolina.

But I also want to thank Deborah for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that she finds the next tour as exciting and fulfilling as this one!

Ten Questions for – Dr. Jim Pelura, Chair of the Maryland Republican Party

As I like to do on about a monthly basis, here is another installment of what I call Ten Questions.

Back in December of 2006, Jim Pelura and I came into our positions at the Maryland GOP together – I was sworn in as a Central Committee member and he was elected at that convention as Chair of the Maryland GOP. Admittedly, I voted for his opponent but obviously he didn’t hold that against me when he agreed to do the interview.

monoblogue: Let’s go back to the beginning. The 2006 elections have just concluded and Republicans were shut out in statewide races, including the relatively popular Governor Ehrlich losing a reelection bid. Nationally the GOP faced the prospect of being in the minority for the first time in 12 years. So what motivated you to run for the Chair position you now hold, and how many people thought you were completely crazy? 

Pelura: Why did I run?

I had been concerned for some time that the MDGOP was out of touch with the grassroots and the traditional Republican philosophy of small government, low taxes, fiscal responsibility and faith in the individual. I was concerned that the liberal agenda of the Governor and majority of the General Assembly would have no voice of opposition among the Republican rank and file. I was not ready or willing to give up on Maryland that easily.

As for the second part of your question………not as many as one would think, although a friend said that he was going to give me a few sessions with a psychiatrist for Christmas that year!

monoblogue: Oh, there were and still are plenty of voices of opposition to liberal policies here in the Free State. But you found yourself inheriting a Maryland GOP which was in dire financial straits and had to make some unpopular financial decisions. Were you surprised at the extent of the problem when you came onboard? And do you think that the Maryland Republican Party will be able to compete financially in 2010?

Pelura: If you remember, at the December meeting where I was elected, the outgoing Chairman announced that I was being left about $300,000.00. We all knew that fundraising would be difficult due to the recent elections and that money in the bank would be needed to “get over the hump”.

As we soon learned, that $300,000.00 was actually about $20,000.00 and there were about $60,000.00 in bills to be paid. Needless to say, I was surprised.

But, by making significant cuts in expenditures and taking out a line of credit, we survived.

Fundraising is still a concern, however, but there are significant “bright spots”.

The line of credit is nearly paid off, small donations are way up from in the past (in terms of the “health” of the Party, I would rather have 10,000 $1.00 donations than one check for $10,000), and many of the “big” donors are showing interest in giving to the MDGOP once again.

The Maryland Republican Party will be ready for 2010, both financially and in terms of good and credible candidates for elected office. Read more

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6. But in Maryland we extend the fun: early voting runs October 25 through November 1.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Neal Simon (Unaffiliated) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

    Rob Arlett (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Nadine Frost (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Tom Carper (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Demitri Theodoropoulos (Green)

     

    Congress (at-large):

    Scott Walker (R)

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.