Today I went Somerset County way to check out two events, one I had planned for awhile and one I had not until yesterday morning.
So at 9:00 this morning I found myself in a restaurant called Peaky’s eating breakfast with a man who wants to be Maryland’s next Senator.
Richard Douglas alerted me to his visit a couple days ago as we have kept in occasional touch since his last run in 2012; a primary that he lost to Dan Bongino. (Douglas still believes Bongino “ran a terrific race,” but Douglas won eleven counties as well.)
In fact, in his remarks Douglas revealed that his second try for the Senate came out of “watching this Iran trainwreck,” an agreement he called “on par with the Munich Agreement” between Hitler and Neville Chamberlain in 1938. Douglas remarked that Iran wasn’t the Westernized nation they try to portray but instead their people ”want to kill Americans and British.” A Senate that approves an agreement with such a nation will tolerate anything, Richard added, noting the Senate is “such (that) it will not heal itself.”
With a significant part of his career being spent in the Senate, Douglas had knowledge of how the game worked, often picking up the volume which contains the Senate rules to make a point. He categorized his era in the Senate as being one with Republicans who had more backbone, such as his old boss Senator Jesse Helms. Regarding his time there, Douglas termed that the one of the “best moments” in the Senate was the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed in 2002. Passed as a bipartisan measure, Douglas wistfully noted that the Democrats were “back on the attack” a year later. Douglas also played up his experience with the Justice Department under President Bush as well as his service in the Navy during the Cold War.
Another of Richard’s passionate subjects is Cuba, as he predicted the island nation will open up – just not under the Castro regime. He also predicted that Barack Obama would make some lame duck pardons of several American criminals seeking refuge in Cuba, particularly cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. But opening up Cuba now in the way Obama has is already costing Americans their jobs, as Douglas cited an Alabama company which will move some operations there. “The Senate let it happen,” said Douglas.
In Richard’s opinion, a good Senator needed three things: discernment, a knowledge of procedure, and backbone. “If you’re missing backbone, the other two don’t matter,” said Richard. He continued the point by saying he was willing to deny unanimous consent if he judged a bill or amendment would be bad for Maryland or for the nation at large. “Alarm bells go off” when that happens, said Douglas, and leadership doesn’t like it. Senators “hate to vote,” said Douglas, because they’re put on the record.
Unfortunately, the Senate he’s trying to enter is one that enacted the Obama agenda instead of stopping it as promised. “They’re afraid of looking obstructionist,” said Douglas, “Instead, they look weak.” He would “take issues hostage” because it only takes one Senator to stop the train and start the bargaining.
Most of what Douglas said in his remarks dealt with procedure and foreign policy, but he made sure to mention that there are thousands of voters who don’t care about that because they are struggling economically. It’s “a problem on par with national security,” said Richard, and he stressed that he wanted to work with Governor Hogan to create an economic environment more like that of South Carolina, Georgia, or Texas. In visiting minority neighborhoods, Douglas revealed that “lots of African-American voters” were ready to vote Republican, in part due to Donald Trump. But Douglas called both Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards “eminently beatable.”
There were a number of questions laid out for Douglas, with one being just how far he would take the withholding of unanimous consent when it could cost the state on another bill. That aspect was “part of the calculus,” said Richard, but he vowed to “help when I can and resist when I must.”
Regarding illegal immigration, Douglas said the current laws were fine, just not being enforced. One area of concern for Richard was work permits, and he vowed to “put American workers first again,” trying to tilt the playing field back in our favor. Related to that was the refugee issue, on which Douglas pointed out America was once the “loudest voice” for refugees until Obama destroyed our credibility.
One thing that Douglas noted with regard to the Second Amendment was that Maryland has a “gap” in their state constitution. (He was referring to Article 28: “That a well regulated Militia is the proper and natural defence of a free Government.” It does not give Marylanders the right to bear arms.) But he thought firearms should be in the hands of law-abiding citizens and they shouldn’t face hurdles such as the fee prescribed by the state to secure a handgun permit.
To sum up, while Douglas believes “a weak Senate is bad for America” and has insider knowledge, he does not consider himself an insider. His insider knowledge would be used “for the good of the state.”
I should also note that the Somerset County Republicans have a monthly straw poll and this month Ted Cruz emerged the big winner with 14 votes of 22 cast. John Kasich received 6 and Donald Trump just 2. (More on him in a few paragraphs.) If I read their chart correctly, Cruz and Trump were tied last month but now fortunes have shifted dramatically. (As a caveat, the sample fluctuates each month, I’m sure. For example, they had me as an “extra” Cruz vote this month.)
As a housekeeping note and favor to those who may wish to enjoy breakfast with the Somerset County club (it was quite good), they voted to not have their meeting May 14 because it conflicts with the state GOP convention and several Central Committee members would be absent.
Those absent people must have also planned to show up at the event I was set on attending in the first place. Not a single Somerset County voter came out to Congressional challenger Michael Smigiel’s townhall meeting held at the library in Princess Anne. As a concerned voter who honestly hasn’t made up my mind in the race, it was great to have a 40-minute or so conversation with Mike, but as a blogger it was not very good because carrying on a conversation keeps you from taking notes and I didn’t bring a recorder. So I won’t be chock full of quotes here, and you can take the lack of attendance as you will – of all the counties in the First District, Somerset has the second-smallest number of Republicans. (Kent County, the second leg of Smigiel’s town hall tour today and the last of Smigiel’s planned twelve county stops overall, is the smallest by about 300 voters – both are shy of 5,000. But Smigiel comes from neighboring Cecil County.)
I was given two new pieces of literature today. While both make their good points about Smigiel, the message on the palm card is that “Harris Sold Us Out,” with the flyer adding “Harris Promised All The Right Things And Did All The Wrong Things.” Obviously those with long memories may recall that Harris ran a similar campaign against Wayne Gilchrest to secure the GOP Congressional nomination in 2008, and Smigiel uses some of that literature on his flyer. When I asked him whether he was basing his campaign on one vote Harris took (the CRomnibus bill of 2014) he replied it was more like eight.
A couple other contentions I made regarded Harris’s role in building the party as well as his seniority in Congress. It’s no secret that several local candidates were recipients of Harris money – you can call it buying support, but I would argue that the Congressman was out to build a conservative farm team in this part of the state. Smigiel countered that Harris was also the recipient of money from Exelon, which led to a Harris vote allowing the federal government the authority to override Maryland’s demand for a water quality permit for the Conowingo Dam. Mike also intoned that Somerset residents were unhappy with Harris for a vote against Hurricane Sandy cleanup funds, which is the linchpin for Jim Ireton’s Democratic campaign.
And I didn’t even bring up the Harris votes for Speaker with the former Delegate.
Overall, I felt bad for Mike that no one else showed up. Compare this with his stop in Salisbury that Cathy Keim covered for me while I was away, which had a fair number of people.
The question for all of us regarding this race is simple: Andy Harris is not a perfect Congressman, but then it’s possible no one would be. Is Mike Smigiel running a campaign to convince voters he would be a better alternative? I really didn’t get an answer to that question within our conversation, but it will come as a judgment call for me based on something Richard Douglas said: who has the better backbone to stand up for the people and do what’s right, not just for the First District, but America as a whole?
Someone who’s not convinced me he will do what’s right for America has nevertheless secured a headquarters here.
Yes, the Trump headquarters is at 229 East Main Street here in Salisbury, the former location of a print shop. They’ll be here for less than a month, as I’m told they have the space for a 30-day period. So the question is just what they will be doing in the building and how many people will stop by (it’s not on the beaten path and downtown parking can be a challenge during the day, when you have to feed a meter.) I suspect there may be some volunteers making phone calls from there and perhaps staging a later appearance from The Donald himself locally. That would be a hoot.
But I’ll stick with the choice of the Somerset County Republicans – #TrusTED Cruz.
A few weeks ago freshman Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska made what is called his “maiden speech” on the Senate floor, and it was a thoughtful critique of the Senate’s rules and the partisan arguments that the body has devolved to.
He cited a number of Senate icons: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who Sasse praised for his curious nature; Margaret Chase Smith, who was unafraid to question those in her own party – even when she agreed with them on principle; and Robert Byrd, who cared most about the Senate as an institution. I realize this is about a 30-minute speech, but you can break away from the Ravens or Redskins game today to take the time to listen – and avoid having the foibles of those two losing teams spike your blood pressure.
In all seriousness, though, two of the points Sasse makes regard the constant travel and fundraising as well as the reflexive talking points they need to recite to create soundbites for the voters back home. It’s really not supposed to be that way, and to me Sasse’s speech can be part of an argument I have made over the last several years.
When you consider what the legislative branch was originally supposed to be, it’s clear that the House was supposed to be of the people, who, if they found out the person they sent to represent them was a scoundrel, only had to wait two years to toss them out. To those who argued at our formation, it seemed like an appropriate enough time for representatives to establish themselves and still be accountable.
On the other hand, Sasse notes that an argument was made by some of the writers of the Constitution that Senators should have lifetime terms. As it was, they agreed Senators should have lengthier tenures of six years.
Yet the key differences between the House and Senate as originally applied was the latter’s equal representation from each state and their selection by the respective state legislatures rather than the voters. Each state, regardless of population, was entitled to two members of the Senate – it was the result of a compromise between larger states which thought they should have a larger share of the say in our affairs and smaller states which felt like they should get their voices heard as well. Thus, little Delaware and its fewer than 60,000 inhabitants at the time would have equal status in one house of the legislature with Virginia, which had a population over ten times greater. While we now have the concept of one person, one vote for our states to abide by in all their legislative bodies, including their equivalents to the national House and Senate, the Senate was excepted.
Prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the Senate was inhabited by whichever two people the state legislature deemed worthy for the job – thus, you had statesmen and scoundrels alike, with absenteeism an ongoing issue. As part of the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century, direct election of Senators by the people was proposed and ratified. Fast forward a century and what do you find? Statesmen and scoundrels, who now have to hustle for campaign cash to be re-elected every six years and don’t always show up, either. While the argument can be made that the Senate is far more accountable now, it doesn’t seem to give the people any more faith in Congress. So why not revert back to the old way?
For one thing, we’ve seen the interests of states recede in our political system. More and more, the states are becoming simple lines on a map that give out different colored license plates because the federal government runs roughshod over their interests. Indeed, there is a Constitutional supremacy of the federal government but this should stop at affairs each state should be equipped to handle on its own.
Sasse alluded to the short-term thinking of the Senate in this era, and that’s also reflected in the body’s makeup. Several successive “wave” elections have radically changed its makeup, reflecting voter preference of the day: the leftist tide that ejected the Republican majority and brought Barack Obama to office at the end of last decade yielded to the rightward TEA Party wave that retook the House for Republicans in 2010 and the Senate four years later. Had the Senate been insulated from the fickle nature of the voter, change would have been more gradual. Certainly, ascending Republican fortunes on a state level would be gradually shifting the Senate rightward, but at a slower pace.
Restoring the pre-Seventeenth Amendment method of selecting Senators would also make state legislative elections far more important, as chances would be great that at least one Senator would come up for reappointment during a term. States that value diversity, moreover, could make their own waves with their appointments and not leave it to the will of the voters. Also, without the worry about advocating a politically incorrect viewpoint – lest their opponents make a campaign commercial out of it – Senators would be more free to speak their minds and engage in the style of debate Sasse advocates.
It’s generally the Left which advocates for getting money out of politics, so what better way would there be than to take the direct election process for Senators out of the hands of the voters entirely? Just in Maryland alone, it’s a certainty that the candidates running for the open Senate seat on the ballot next year will spend $15 million or more to get through a contested primary and general election because they have to secure more votes (at least in the Democratic primary, where much of that $15 million will be spent) than Sen. John Barasso did to easily win his 2012 election in Wyoming. To keep his Senate seat from Wyoming, Barasso got 184,531 votes – that total would have placed him a distant second in the 2012 Democratic Senate primary here in Maryland, let alone being an also-ran in the general election. And Maryland, in turn, is small potatoes compared to states like California, Texas, or Florida.
This may seem like a counter-intuitive argument to make from one who has forcefully argued that our local school board should be elected for accountability’s sake. But I agree with Sasse that the bureaucracy in the federal government has become its fourth branch, one which is contributing to the imbalance between the legislature and executive branches. Currently we have an executive run amok, although he’s just the latest in a string to do so. It’s a philosophy expressed by the phrase attributed to Clinton advisor Paul Begala: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.”
Directly or indirectly, the people were made responsible for at least a portion of two of the three branches of government, electing a House of Representatives and a slate of presidential electors that rarely stray from the party line of how the state as a whole voted. Their interests were balanced out by the states, represented in the Senate, and the judiciary which wasn’t selected by the people but by the executive with the permission of the Senate. (This insulated them from undue influence.)
In the manner of “progress” we have moved to a system where Senators are just another class of politicians. Certainly I have my favorites among the group, but as a whole I think we may be better served by going back to the original system. We realized the mistake of the amendment following the direct election of Senators (Prohibition) and repealed it in short order, so there is precedent for removing this error as well. Let’s bring back the balance.
To be a well-informed voter, sometimes you need context. Take this example I received from Bill Murphy of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which was plugging a website called electionharmony.com on Valentine’s Day.
If you go to that URL, you’re redirected here, which is the NRSC’s blog.
All this is well and good, but I wanted more. So I wrote back and asked Murphy about context: did have have the data for all 100 Senators, for my thought was that – just based on the sheer number of near-unanimous votes the Senate takes – a lot of Republicans would fall into the 75% to 85% range themselves. Murphy’s pithy reply: “We’re running against the Democrats below. Our priority is to highlight their voting record to their constituents and defeat them in November.”
Okay, I get it. But you probably picked a bad week to do this after a number of Republican senators sold out and voted to pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill (a.k.a. blank check) without extracting any concessions whatsoever from the Democrats. It was even more gutless for some Republican senators to vote for cloture only to turn around and vote against the final bill when they knew the Democrats would have the votes to pass it. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn were two of those who, as far as I’m concerned, voted with Obama 100% of the time last week and I find that unacceptable.
Here’s my problem with this approach. Sure, it would be nice to pick up the six seats in the Senate, maintain control of the House, and give Barack Obama a completely Republican Congress to deal with come next year. But will they have the cajones to keep him in check when he uses his pen and his phone to rewrite laws without their consent, as he has done time and time again with Obamacare?
The NRSC supports Republicans in the Senate and tries to find candidates to defeat Democrats. But there are degrees to being Republican. I understand that winning a Senate seat in Maine or Oregon may take a somewhat different candidate than one who can prevail in Texas or South Carolina, but they should all adhere to at least some conservative principles and must have the intestinal fortitude to stand up against overreach of the executive branch, up to and including impeachment. (Yes, I said the i-word.) So what if it’s the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency and so what if we would have to survive Joe Biden. (Delaware can get a President before it gets a national park, since they are shut out of both at the moment.) We didn’t elect an emperor.
Yet the NRSC will likely try to protect its incumbents, regardless of their merits. Listen, I’m a registered Republican, but sometimes my party gets it wrong. A hokey URL and noting some Democrats vote with their president over 90 percent of the time is one thing, but we also need to present a principled conservative alternative along with a plan to keep the executive branch in check. I haven’t seen that come across my e-mail box yet.
There are certain things Congress is supposed to do, and creating a budget is one of them. But on the very day President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, we “celebrated” an ominous milestone:
It didn’t take the House long to do its job, but the title of the “do-nothing” Congress belongs to the Senate. While gridlock can be a good thing in a lot of instances, not performing their Constitutional duty is inexcusable.
The House did their job, so tell the Senate to do theirs. We’re always being asked to compromise so now it’s their turn.
And if they don’t, perhaps it’s time to elect some new Senators who would work more closely with a Republican house. A few good candidates come to mind, none of them named Ben Cardin.
After teasing the Maryland public over the last week, 2010 gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy made it official: he’s not running for the U.S. Senate. Instead, he’s backing a first-time candidate who’s spent most of his professional career in law enforcement and who believes, “we did nothing wrong, government failed us.” If you look at this hopeful’s issue page it reads as a fairly conservative platform both economically and in foreign policy.
Daniel Bongino is a 36-year-old Severna Park resident who has no political resume, but instead has worked for both the Secret Service and the New York City police department over the last sixteen years. It would seem a curious choice for Murphy to be backing this neophyte, but Brian hasn’t played by the conventional wisdom yet and probably won’t be doing so anytime soon.
Of course, the obvious question is whether Bongino will be able to take advantage of Murphy’s backing to vault past the other contenders for the GOP’s U.S. Senate challenger slot. Most figure incumbent Democratic Senator Ben Cardin a virtual lock for re-election for a second term but Daniel joins a fairly diverse field of five Republican contenders; a field which includes 2010 GOP nominee Eric Wargotz. Other Republican aspirants are former District 31 State Senate candidate William Capps, political neophyte Rick Hoover, and perennial candidate Corrogan Vaughn.
Wargotz would have to be considered as the odds-on favorite, but it’s worth noting that Eric only garnered 38% of the vote in a 10-man race last year so a better, well-funded candidate could defeat Wargotz in the primary. (In that primary Jim Rutledge, who had a much smaller campaign war chest but considerable TEA Party backing, finished second with just over 30 percent of the vote.) In theory, the blessing from Murphy, also a TEA Party favorite, could allow Bongino a 25-point base in the primary based on Brian’s support.
If events run true to form, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate next year will attract between seven and ten candidates for the nomination. Some of these will be on the ballot for the umpteenth time and others won’t even file with the FEC because they don’t (or won’t) raise enough money to wage a serious campaign. Given that background and the high-profile support of Murphy, a candidate like Daniel Bongino – even as a first-time officeseeker in a statewide race – will be one to contend with as next April draws closer.
Trying to get all he can out of a lame duck session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to continue his session through January 4th.
In published reports, Reid vows the Senate will return after Christmas if necessary in order to address a number of what they consider loose ends – a deal struck to maintain the present tax rates for two more years in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for several more months and an omnibus spending bill to run the government through September 30, 2011 chief among them. Also included in the fast and furious agenda is the DREAM Act providing benefits for illegal aliens, the START treaty with Russia, the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for homosexuals in the military, and a huge land grab covering millions of acres which would become federally protected. All this could conceivably come to a head a full two months after Democratic control of all levers of government was repudiated at the ballot box (although the Senate remains in Democratic hands by a considerably smaller margin.)
It was last year about this time that the focus was on passing Obamacare, which passed one of its major legislative hurdles on a Christmas Eve vote. Why wouldn’t it surprise me to see the same thing happen this year? To be a member of Congress these days is to have not-so-happy holidays, with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi playing the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Scrooge. If you’re a taxpaying American you’re getting the lumps of coal in your stocking once again.
Never mind the fact that Congress had the better part of two years to address most of these issues, but holding court until almost the day the new members are sworn in is pretty rare - most recent sessions have come to an end well before Christmas. Even when the Republicans ceded control of Congress in 2006 (under a Republican president) they completed their duties by December 22.
But the Democrats have milked the sessions to regularly bump up against Christmas, presumably figuring the public wouldn’t pay much attention to what they passed at the last minute. Among other things, this practice was part of what we rebelled against on November 2.
Unfortunately, Senator Reid not only survived a spirited challenge from Sharron Angle – with the help of a massive GOTV effort from Las Vegas casinos who convinced their workers that Reid needed to stay – but got to keep his leadership position in the Senate as Republicans couldn’t run the electoral table. (In truth, the numbers game was going to make that difficult anyway since this year’s crop was mainly elected in the Republican boom year of 2004. The tables are turned in 2012 as a host of Democrats will be up for re-election.) Regardless, Reid will continue to play the schemer with a smaller majority in his corner over the next two years and a hostile House sending him legislation to bottle up.
So we will have to remain vigilant right on through the holidays, just in time for a new Congressional session to begin and the ’90 Days of Terror’ known as the Maryland General Assembly session to commence as well. Those who crave their freedom are beginning to realize it’s a full-time job to protect what’s theirs since those who oppose us aren’t willing to give up their power easily or happily.
Obviously Harry Reid doesn’t know the meaning of ‘no’ and it will be up to the 42 or so Republicans in the Senate to stand together and teach him that lesson.
It’s back to the political for this edition of FNV, and I have plenty to choose from since I took the extra week.
You know, Americans aren’t happy with their government and its spending. So says the Senate Republicans.
Nice of them to use some video from my old hometown – the part about Senator Voinovich was taken from WNWO-TV, the NBC affiliate in Toledo.
As a matter of fact I find this next video pretty funny. The vain stumbling in search of a thought is the best part.
Sure Bob Ehrlich put it out, but when you’re caught you’re caught.
Even more funny is this spot for a phony product. Fortunately, I’m not in the market for it.
I still want the sticker I’ve seen which says: ‘You voted for Obama? Thanks a lot @$$hole!’
One group which still supports Obama and his agenda is the NAACP. While it smacks of ‘gotcha’ journalism, sometimes these guerrilla efforts are the best way to get the truth.
Human Events did the video, so consider the source before you demean the message.
Here’s another example of ‘gotcha’ journalism. But imagine if it were a pro-life group disseminating incorrect information – would you not see someone like Geraldo Rivera all over it?
I guess considering the fetus ‘medical waste’ makes it all better?
The next two videos are an impassioned plea from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal regarding the oil drilling moratorium and jobs. This was at the ‘Rally for Economic Survival.’
If Governor Jindal can continue being a leader, he may yet be a factor in 2012. Do you wonder if President Obama is trying to make him look bad as a potential opponent?
I’m saving the best for last. Americans for Limited Government took time to remind us that next February marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of an American who fought for limited government as much as he could.
Ronald Reagan’s message seems a good way to bring this edition to a close.
A tired old man whose time is almost through decided to chuck popular sentiment and make a stand for principle. It sounds like the storyline for a hundred Hollywood movies, but this played out in real life earlier this week as Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning was castigated for cruelly holding up unemployment benefits and highway projects because he simply wanted to follow the rules he didn’t vote for, but was determined to hold the Senate to.
Obviously the gesture was a futile one – perhaps not as futile as managing my old hometown baseball team (yes, Jim Bunning managed the Toledo Mud Hens in 1974 and 1975 before going into politics and is the lone Baseball Hall of Famer to also serve in Congress) but the $10 billion fiscal measure to extend unemployment benefits another 30 days passed handily, 78-19. That vote added another $10 billion to the deficit.
Originally, Bunning simply wanted the $10 billion to come out of stimulus funds already allocated rather than creating new debt. Later, an amendment he sponsored would have taken away a tax credit for paper companies as a tradeoff to maintain the idea of PAYGO legislation (that lost 53-43 on a fairly party-line vote.)
The PAYGO legislation came about as an effort to sweeten the deal when Democrats wanted to raise the national debt ceiling to nearly $15 trillion. Republicans voted en masse against the amendment to add PAYGO but they lost and PAYGO became the rule along with the increased debt limit.
Yet Democrats rammed through two pieces of legislation by declaring them as “emergencies” exempt from the PAYGO rules and were well on their way to making this another case when Bunning made his stand. “If we cannot pay for a bill that all 100 Senators support, how can we tell the American people with a straight face that we will ever pay for anything?” asked Bunning.
For Congress to pay anymore than lip service to cutting the size of government, some hard decisions need to be made. Certainly there’s a humanitarian case for extending benefits, but that $10 billion comes out of the private sector or becomes debt for our ancestors (descendants, thanks Tim – d’oh!) to pay off. It’s simply an unsustainable system.
Unfortunately, not every Republican backed Bunning’s stance because Democrats are outstanding at playing the victim card and attempted to tar the entire GOP with the broad brush of being uncaring and unfeeling. Since Bunning isn’t running for re-election he had nothing to lose by taking a stand.
And I have nothing to lose by branding Democrats as hypocrites. They had yet another opportunity to stand by the rules THEY enacted yet to them the rules only apply to everyone else. At least the Republicans didn’t have that pretense of PAYGO legislation yet managed to balance the budget during the early years when they were in charge of Congress.
So I applaud Senator Bunning for his stand and would love to see him and fellow Republicans continue obstructing when they see the double standard for which Democrats are famous. They may have won this round but come November Democrats may regret what they’ve done.