Reale Simple

The world is more than what they tell you. Listen up. It's not complex. It's Reale Simple.

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Former USCHO writer, former writer at a Midwestern broadsheet, occassional CHN blogger.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Playing the Bigotry Card

My friend Ellie Burhans wrote an article on her blog today in regards to the 13-story mosque being planned in Lower Manhattan, less than 600 feet away from the former location of the World Trade Center. She referred to opposition to the project as "hate, pure and simple." It's an argument that those who are opposed to the project have been hearing for a couple of weeks now.

This isn't a response to Ellie per se, but it is a venting of frustration for being repeatedly called a bigot without any established basis for it. I'm not a bigot. I simply believe that the concerns of all groups involved should be considered, not just the concerns of one group.

I don't deal with emotional arguments. I deal with facts. Brutal, undeniable, plain truths. And in case you doubt these facts, I've provided links to reputable sources, national and international, backing them.

Fact: The 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were Islamic, and were using their faith as justification for their attack. Whether the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful or not (the body of evidence suggests that they are), this cannot be avoided.

Fact: Terrorists using Islam as a justification continue to attempt attacks on the United States and on New York City, most recently on December 25, 2009 in Detroit and May 1, 2010 in Times Square. Both attacks were narrowly avoided, but there were 290 people aboard Flight 253, and the Times Square bomb, had it not been thwarted, would likely have been worse than the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. We are still at war with radicalized Islam, whether we like it or not, because they are attacking us.

Fact: The imam behind the project, Faisal Abdul Rauf, has refused to categorize Hamas (whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and who has been firing rockets at Israeli citizens from their Gaza stronghold for six years) as a terrorist organization. He also called the United States an "accessory" to 9/11 on 60 Minutes after the attack.

Fact: Sources of funding for the project are fairly unknown. Rauf has said that the funds would be raised entirely within the Muslim-American community, but he also told an Arabic-language newspaper in London that funding would also come from Arab countries. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has frequently funded mosque projects abroad to support Wahhabism (the strain of Islam practiced by Osama bin Laden), especially in Great Britain and Southeast Asia, which have been sources of extremist rhetoric and the growth of domestic terrorism in those areas.

Fact: The project is known as the "Cordoba Initiative," named for the vanquished Spanish capital conquered by invading Muslims in the 8th Century. Following the conquest, the massive Great Mosque of Cordoba was built, symbolizing the victory and the conquerors' power. (The building itself has been renamed from "Cordoba House" to "Park 51," the building's location, but the project's name is unchanged.)

Fact: Construction is due to begin on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks. September 11, 2011 is a Sunday, which is an awfully strange day to begin construction.

These are the collective reasons why I oppose the building of a mega-mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. I'm sorry, what's hateful about all of this? Is it hateful to point out the facts?

As of 2002, there were over 100 mosques in New York City, including 17 in Manhattan. That number no doubt has increased since then. If this were truly an issue of freedom of religion, an issue of hate, why wouldn't this be one of the things brought up as a major concern of those who oppose the Cordoba House? Muslims in New York are not lacking for places to worship.

Another mosque already exists near Ground Zero, and has been there for 30 years. They are seeking a new location nearby. Why has there been no controversy? Because they aren't trying to be ostentatious with a grand monument and have been exceptionally gracious with the 9/11 families.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1832, was destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the South Tower fell on it. Despite promises from the City of New York, it has yet to be rebuilt due to miles of red tape. There's outrage over private citizens voicing their preference to holding back an Islamic mosque near Ground Zero. Where's the outrage over government actually holding back a previously existing Christian church near Ground Zero. Are they hateful, too? (Answer: No, of course not. The government can't possibly be hateful)

Imagine the outcry if an evangelical Christian church decided to build a mission just outside an abortion hospital where an abortion doctor had been killed. It would be ear-shattering, and the people behind the outcry would have a point. They wouldn't be called hateful.

Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's allow Fred Phelps to move forward with his plans to build a monument in Cheyenne, Wyoming celebrating Matthew Shepard's killing! Why not? Fred Phelps is a religious figure, aren't you just full of hate for opposing his freedom of religion?

Gonna get outraged over the blocking of a "super mosque" in London near the site of the Olympics? Nah, Europeans aren't bigots.

I'm not opposed to mosques. I'm not opposed to the free practice of religion. I'm not opposed to Islam. I'd have no problem with this mega-mosque being built near Central Park or uptown. I just have a problem with it being built THERE, at a location that was heavily damaged and ultimately abandoned after the 9/11 attacks, which may not have even become available for sale if not for the 9/11 attacks. They can't find a place more than 600 feet away from the place where almost 3,000 people from all walks of life and from multiple religions were murdered in the name of Islam? Seriously?

But ultimately, the bigger problem isn't whether there's a mosque near Ground Zero or not. The use of charges of bigotry or racism is reaching epidemic proportions in the modern political discourse, and it is to the detriment of said discourse.

Bigotry and racism are more and more routinely being used as blunt instruments, without basis in reality, as a method for seeking to silence opposition. The method has a double effect for the person using it. First, it allows them to lay claim to the moral high ground while casting doubt on the motivations of those in opposition, seeking to delegitimize relevant arguments. Second, it acts as a threat to those who would oppose - the message becomes clear; support our position or be labeled a bigot or a racist. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will look at the facts I have laid out, understand them, even agree with them, but will still support this mosque lest they be called a hateful bigot.

What does that do? It spikes real political conversation and dumbs it down to the lowest common denominator. Are there some bigots out there who oppose the mosque? Of course, but that's because there are some bigots in society. Are there racists in the tea party movement? Yes, but that's because racists exist in society. That doesn't make ALL opposition to the mosque inherently bigoted (pure OR simple), and it doesn't make the tea party movement inherently racist.

I'm not afraid to be called a bigot (since I know I'm not one), but it does get tiring to hear it constantly.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Learning the Wrong Lessons From NY-23

It's obvious at this point that the national media, from Fox to MSNBC, has no idea what just happened in NY-23. Part of that stems from their late arrival into the race midway through. The other part stems from their general ignorance of local politics in this neck of the woods.

1) Third parties are a waste of time. Nope. In this case - assisted by New York's electoral fusion rules - a third party proved a useful tool for conservatives to at first nudge, then poke, and finally hit the GOP over the head with a 2-x-4 repeatedly to get their point across.

2) Third parties are the wave of the future. Wrong again. When national figures like Glenn Beck start arguing for the formation of third parties to be populated by conservatives, I want to bang my head against the wall. Perot in '92 ring any bells? Nader in 2000? Under American election laws, a third party without a corresponding and mirrored fourth party is like asking for your ideology to fail. In a system with instant runoff voting, I would be all for it. Not now. It's far better for conservatives to fight smaller battles, like NY-23, than to split the right-wing and right-of-center votes along two parties.

3) Conservatives should have picked a candidate who lives in the district. Take a look at this map:

















See the black dot I put on there? That's the approximate location of Lake Placid, where Doug Hoffman lives. Go west from it, and you're in the district. Southwest, you're in the district. Due south, you're in the district. Southeast, east, northeast, north, northwest from Lake Placid, and YOU'RE IN THE DISTRICT. Four of the five towns that border North Elba (the town that includes the village of Lake Placid) are in the district. Lake Placid was gerrymandered out of NY-23. Throw in the fact that this whole area is rural and very similar to its surrounding towns, and the "Doug Hoffman doesn't live in the district" meme that the Republicans pushed while Scozzafava was still in the race and that the Democrats pushed after her departure seems very, very silly.

Oh, and as an aside, Republican Party? Maybe you shouldn't have been playing that card considering your support in the SAME YEAR in the SAME STATE in ANOTHER special election, in fact, one in a BORDERING district, of a candidate who was not from that district. The hypocrisy is yet another reason why conservatives are not happy with you.

4) Conservatives drove a moderate out, which is why they lost. Wrong on two fronts. First, calling Dede Scozzafava a moderate is like saying Timothy Leary merely dabbled in drugs. Second, if Scozzafava had stayed in the race, there's a good chance that Doug Hoffman would have won, not to mention that if Hoffman had been the nominee to begin with, he would have stood a good chance of winning.

5) New York Republicans need moderates, not conservatives, to win elections. It sounds similar to the above argument, but it's wrong for a different reason. It's true that in many parts of New York State, Republicans should put moderates rather than full-on conservatives on the ballot. The Albany area's a good example. The North Country isn't like the national stereotype of New York as a liberal state. The party should assess the political mood of each individual district and support candidates that fit with those areas. Dede Scozzafava wasn't a good fit for NY-23. Doug Hoffman was. On the flip side, so was Bill Owens, who figures to be another Blue Dog Democrat in the House. The Democrats figured out that NY-23 didn't want a liberal. One wonders exactly how the GOP came to that conclusion.

6) NY-23 proves the Democrats aren't in big trouble next year. It doesn't prove anything. The nomination of Scozzafava and the insurgent conservative campaign turned this race into an all-out melee. By itself, it can't really speak to the relative vulnerability or strength of the Democrats heading into the midterm elections. The results in New Jersey and Virginia, on the other hand... well, let's just remember what Whitman and Allen's '93 victories portended for '94, and what Corzine and Kaine's '05 victories portended for '06...

7) Sarah Palin and the tea party movement were marginalized by the result in NY-23. Wishful thinking on the part of those professional journalists who can't help but resort to juvenile name-calling when talking about the tea parties. On the contrary, Palin, Thompson, and other fiscal conservatives flexed their muscle and made their point days before the election - the GOP is going to stand on principle whether the party heads want to or not. Remember, up until the last week of the election, Doug Hoffman wasn't expected to win - conservatives merely hoped he'd beat the liberal Republican, and hopefully squeak out an overall victory. The former was accomplished even before Election Day. That's a big win for Sarah Palin, whose endorsement of Doug Hoffman helped kickstart his campaign into overdrive.

8) Hoffman owes all of his support to national figures, so this was "astroturf." Nope. Take a look at the polls. From the very beginning, his numbers did nothing but rise and Scozzafava's numbers did nothing but fall. He wouldn't have attracted any national attention if he and the conservatives of NY-23 hadn't already established him as a legitimate candidate. The national attention merely accelerated his already rising support.

Segueing from the last point, the national media was really only paying attention to this race over the last three weeks of the campaign - thus, they never really got a feel for what was going on there. If they're not careful, it'll cause people to draw the wrong conclusions from NY-23, and the same foolish mistakes will be made in the future.

Who Lost NY-23?

There's no doubt I'm disappointed this morning. It's rough to head into the count with cautious optimism only to come out on the losing end no matter what the circumstances here.

New York's North Country will be represented by a Democrat for the first time in several generations for at least the next 14 months. When something of that kind of historical magnitude comes down, finger pointing is completely inevitable. So before people start pointing fingers in the wrong directions, allow me, a local resident who has been watching the special election since the day President Obama nominated John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army, to guide you in the right direction.

Those to blame for last night's Democrat victory, in order starting with the most culpable and going down:

1) NY-23's GOP Chairpersons. Don't start at the end. Start at the beginning. There were six other candidates for the Republican nomination besides Dede Scozzafava, including Doug Hoffman and Matt Doheny. Scozzafava happened to be the only elected official in the field. The chairs learned the wrong lesson from the 2008 election and didn't learn the obvious lesson from the NY-20 special earlier in the year. They thought NY-23 was trending Democrat due to Barack Obama's victory in the district and decided to go with a non-conservative holding the top position of power among the potential candidates.

The #1 culprit here is Clinton County chair Janet Duprey, who, like Scozzafava, happens to be an Assemblywoman. The two women are close friends, and by all accounts Duprey was the driving force behind the appointment of Scozzafava as the nominee.

2) The RNC and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). After Duprey and the local chairs made the big mistake, the national chairs expounded upon that mistake and made it worse and worse, even as local conservatives and Republicans virtually shrieked at them that they were backing a bad candidate. They poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race on her behalf, including some ads which attacked Doug Hoffman, who more and more became the choice of Republicans during the course of the election, even before Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson became involved. By the time all was said and done, the GOP spent over $1 million building up Dede Scozzafava into a player in this race despite the fact that her poll numbers peaked at the very beginning of the race, before her record became widely known.

3) Dede Scozzafava. I'm not going to sit here and attack her for making the decision to run for higher office. I'm not even going to attack her here for her liberal record - she's entitled to her views on governance. What IS indefensible, after receiving so much money from the national GOP and being unable to rescue her own campaign from the growing popularity of the conservative candidate, she decided to take her ball and go home, and THEN endorsed the Democrat - the very person the GOP spent all that money on her in order to defeat. The most cursory glance at the final results shows that this endorsement was likely the difference in the race: an endorsement borne out of spite for Doug Hoffman for stealing away the conservative base that she took for granted, and out of spite for her own party, which eventually - with considerable prodding - saw the writing on the wall and stopped supporting her.

Solutions?

1) Dump Dede. The Republican Party CAN be a big tent, but a big tent has to have strong center poles to hold it up. Those center poles represent the party's core values, and if parts of the big tent stray too far from those poles, they undermine the strength of the tent. Such is the case with Dede Scozzafava. So many of her political stances run completely counter to the core values of the GOP. It's not a problem if one or two stances are moderate or liberal. That's why you have a big tent, for people and candidates like that. But after a while, it starts to become a matter of principle. If the party is going to stand up for an outright liberal candidate simply in order to win elections, where is the principle, and what is a party without principle?

The final straw is her endorsement of Owens, which more than likely swung the election in the end. How can she be allowed to ruin the Republicans' chances of retaining a congressional seat by espousing values counter to that of the party, running a horrible campaign (including several unforced errors on her part), wasting the party's money, and then turn around and endorse the Democrat to secure the election for him and still call herself a Republican? Even if she wants to, why would the party allow it?

The counter-argument is going to be that removing Scozzafava from the GOP caucus in Albany will leave the Assembly with only 39 Republicans. My response: so? She votes with the Democrats a large chunk of the time anyway, and it's not like the Republicans are anywhere close to having any sort of power in that legislative body anyway, nor will they likely have control in the near future. Losing a liberal is no loss here.

2) 2010 primaries for Scozzafava and Duprey. Barring the above scenario, the conservative movement must continue its diligence. These two women, by and large, are directly responsible at both the beginning and the end of the election for its result. Although neither are conservatives, Duprey could at least fit into the "big tent" as a moderate, but her actions have done serious damage to the party's reputation in the North Country just as much as Scozzafava's. There should be repercussions to such action. It would be nice to see some serious fiscal conservatives challenge them for their Assembly seats next year.

3) Hoffmania rolls on. There can be little doubt that if it wasn't for the Dede Scozzafava sideshow, the Republicans would have held onto this seat if Doug Hoffman, Matt Doheny, or another fiscal conservative had been the party's nominee. If Scozzafava hadn't been in this race for six weeks, her endorsement of Owens wouldn't have had anywhere near the effect that it ended up having, Hoffman would not have been operating from the disadvantageous position of a third-party, and would have had logistical and financial support from the GOP from the get-go... which is what conservatives in NY-23 were saying all along. This seat is up for election again in 12 months. We know what we did wrong. Now it's time to get it right, and now with the PEOPLE back in control of the first step - nomination - we will get it right.

The mainstream media, the bigwigs at the NRCC afraid to face their own faults, and the party hacks will point to the conservatives as the reason this race was lost. And to the extent they're right, we should be glad they're right. The answer has to be crystal clear for them to understand - we'd rather lose with our principles than support someone who has no respect for those principles whatsoever.

The consolation prize for conservatives? It was said time and time again that Scozzafava was to the left of Owens. We ended up with a more moderate winner than if the party's choice had won. On principle, that's what you want. We made our point in this race - now let's hope the ones who failed us get the message and don't stick their heads back in the sand.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Breakfast With Doug Hoffman

I had the great opportunity to be present for an early morning breakfast and meeting with Doug Hoffman yesterday in Plattsburgh. The room was rather small, but the event was well attended - I didn't see an open seat in the house.

Doug's campaign has taken my interest since well before it became a national sensation. I saw just how liberal the Republican candidate was and how Mr. Hoffman was espousing common sense conservative values - less government regulation, lower taxes, and taking a firm stand against some of the more damaging elements of the Nancy Pelosi agenda, like cap-and-trade and card check, and it was a no-brainer to support him.

But I hadn't had the chance to meet Doug until yesterday, and I walked away with a great image of the man.

First off, it's true what the pundits have been saying about Mr. Hoffman. He's unpolished - a regular guy. A fellow attendee told WPTZ-TV that Doug seemed "socially awkward." I think that's a fair assessment. My father picked up on it. "He's a CPA," he declared. Short, blunt, and to the point.

Of course, none of these are really negatives. Not in this political atmosphere.

What is political savvy and polish really good for anyway? For decades we've completely populated the House of Representatives with slick talkers who have an answer for everything - veritable know-it-alls who are the magic elixir for everything that ails us. That's not Doug, and that's why he's a breath of fresh air.

So the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" meme that the media is using for Mr. Hoffman is 100% accurate. Like Fred Thompson said in the ad, "he's one of us."

But it was what Doug said to us that really made me glad I was supporting him (and I'm paraphrasing throughout here, since I didn't have my voice recorder with me). "Politicians don't create jobs," he said of his opponents' constant promises of X number of jobs here and X number of jobs there. "Our elected leaders need to create a positive environment for businesses in order to allow THEM to create jobs."

Isn't it kind of obvious which candidate is more interested in creating that climate? I'll give you a hint - it's not the one who has been railing on repealing the Bush tax cuts, calling them "failed policies." Mr. Hoffman went into a short discussion on S-corporations and how repealing these cuts hurts small business owners more than anyone (hey, he's a CPA, he knows his stuff).

When it came down to question and answer time, I was fortunate to be able to ask the last question. I noted that the Watertown Daily Times had peppered him with all kinds of questions about local projects like the St. Lawrence Seaway and the proposed "Rooftop Highway" connecting Watertown to Plattsburgh. I thought it was ridiculous of them to cherry-pick local pet projects and demand an answer on them and ignore issues like card check and high taxes as though those aren't "local" issues. I'm sorry, were we exempt from cap-and-trade?

"I'm from Ticonderoga," I told Mr. Hoffman. "I could care less about the St. Lawrence Seaway. I do, however, care about the Crown Point Bridge. Fact is, New York's 23rd is a vast district with diverse interests." I then added my bit about national issues not having any local relevance - well, at least if you write for the Watertown Daily News - and asked him for his thoughts on the matter.

Doug compared being a congressman to his job as a CPA. "Lots of people would walk through my door with issues that they wanted me to take care of. You're never going to know as they walk in just what those problems are. The most important thing is that you find out what they are, seek to understand them, and help them arrive at a solution."

Bingo. At any rate, politicians in Washington don't need to be involved in every little thing that comes down the pike. Most of the time, they're only doing it for the face time involved anyway. Mr. Hoffman remarked that many politicians only get involved in local projects for the votes they can buy with them in the first place.

Mr. Hoffman also shot down the notion that he's against all earmarks. His opponents have been acting like if you're against pork barrel spending, you're against any money whatsoever coming into the district. His rebuttal was that he was opposed to wasteful earmarks, using the indoor rainforest in Iowa as a classic example of things the federal government doesn't need to spend money on.

When he gets to Washington, Doug certainly going to be an engima. Many of his colleagues aren't going to understand his approach to solving problems. That's going to be an underscore for exactly how screwed up Washington is.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Silencing the Military's Voice

David Paterson, this one's for you.

I gave up a year of my life serving my country overseas. That's 365 days of being away from the people and places that I hold dear to my heart. It's sacrificing job opportunities, potential salary, and personal freedoms for the chance to put my life on the line, day after excruciatingly long day. Without our military, the most basic of freedoms that are taken for granted by so many in this country, the freedoms of speech, religion, the press, and the freedom to choose our leaders paramount among them, would cease to be.

John McHugh was appointed Secretary of the Army on June 2nd. For those of you keeping score at home, that was four months ago, so this special election that's coming up, we've seen it coming for some time.

Yes, it's true that the nomination, after over two months of procedure, was held up by the senatorial contingent from Kansas, which was concerned that the Obama administration might place prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in their state. Yes, this kept Mr. McHugh from leaving his seat until September. But the senators' beef was not with McHugh, a member of their own party. There was never much doubt that McHugh would eventually get his Senate vote and, as an uncontroversial nominee, eventually become Secretary of the Army.

After another month of the hold, the senators allowed a vote on McHugh's nomination, at which point observers remarked that the prudent thing to do logistically for the special election that would result from his move to the Pentagon would be for November 3rd - Election Day.

McHugh was confirmed on the 16th of September. He was sworn in on the 21st. Governor David Paterson must have called the special election on the 21st or the 22nd, right? I mean, this had been almost four months in the making.

Try the 29th - more than a week later.

Why does this matter? Well, for a soldier serving overseas, it matters quite a bit. The election was called for 36 days after Paterson's proclamation on September 29th. A soldier who wants to vote has to send a request for a military ballot to their county board of elections. Based on my own observations, that can take over a week to arrive back in New York. The board then mails out a military ballot, which takes another week. Assuming that the soldier isn't too busy to pick up his or her mail everyday - or that they receive mail everyday in the first place - they then fill out their ballot and put it back in the mail, which takes another week to return.

That doesn't leave much room for error in the process. Soldiers, after all, have a lot more on their mind than their ballot.

I experienced this squeeze first hand earlier this year when I voted in the NY-20 special election that was called to fill the vacant seat of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Paterson set the election on February 23rd for March 31st, which was also a 36 day difference. As soon as the election was called, I started the process I described above. Did my ballot get counted? I'm not optimistic.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission recommended absentee ballots be mailed to military voters at least 45 days before they are due, [Justice Department official Hans] von Spakovsky said. And the chief of operations at the Military Postal Service Agency recommended at least 60 days.
That's MAILED absentee ballots. How can they do that when the election is called with such a short amount of turn-around time?

That week between Secretary McHugh's swearing-in and Paterson's election proclamation could have been used to help get those military ballots in the hands of voters in a timely manner, but nothing could be done until the proclamation. During that time, it was repeatedly mentioned that the NY-23 special election would probably be held on Election Day for the sake of saving money. What was the hold up?

It's no big secret that the vast majority of the military leans to the right politically - I've told friends that my time on deployment was the only time in my life where I felt like I was the liberal of the group - and a second consecutive snap election from Democrat David Paterson is beginning to look peculiar.

But this time, it's even worse. Of all of the 29 congressional districts in New York State, there is none more closely linked to the military than the 23rd, which includes Fort Drum, home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. And wouldn't you know it? Much of the 10th Mountain is deployed - the 3rd Brigade Combat Team is currently in eastern Afghanistan, while the 1st and 2nd BCTs are in the middle of deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, making it even more difficult for them to be able to cast ballots.

The bottom line is that in any special election, the voting group that needs the most consideration and, quite frankly, protection, are the servicemen and servicewomen who are deployed, fighting their country's wars. While it is they who provide the backing for our right to vote, too often they are administratively denied that right.

I'm proud to have had the chance to serve my country. Looking back, seeing everything that I gave up and all the hardships that I endured, I still would have done it all over again. But now, having returned home to see parties and politicians continually trying to do the politically expedient thing instead of doing the right thing, it's enough to get me more than a little upset.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Republican Values?

Last week, the Watertown Daily Times reported that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) "will push Scozzafava for House Armed Services post if elected." Dede Scozzafava is crowing about it as though this is a major coup.

Seriously? For a person who would be representing Fort Drum? You don't say.

I should mention at the outset that Boehner is just doing his job. He's a party figure as Minority Leader and thus it's part of the job description to support the candidates with the "R." Being Minority Leader means working for the party, even if you're a man of principle. He didn't choose Dede Scozzafava, but it's his job to get her elected. The purpose here isn't to blast John Boehner, it's simply to point out how weak of a motivation this is for voting for Scozzafava.

Forget for a moment that Doug Hoffman would clearly caucus with the Republicans after he's elected. Let's take a quick trip in the Wayback Machine.

In 1984, the 10th Mountain Division was reactivated, and its headquarters was placed at Fort Drum, which, at the time, was a minor Army post. Today, 80,000 soldiers a year train there.

In 1983, Congressman David Martin, a Marine Corps veteran representing the 26th district and Jefferson County, was named to the House Armed Services Committee. Since that time, Fort Drum's representative has never been missing from the committee's member rolls until John McHugh's resignation this week.

It's hardly uncommon to find representatives of districts with major military posts on the HASC. Among the posts currently represented: Fort Carson (4th Infantry Division), Fort Bragg (82nd Airborne Division, 2 different representatives), Schofield Barracks (25th Infantry Division) and Pearl Harbor Naval Base (US Pacific Fleet), Norfolk Naval Base (Fleet Forces Command)... Camp Lejeune, Fort Detrick, Fort Huachuca, Wright-Patterson AFB, the list goes on and on.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), the chairman, represents Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base. The new Ranking Member of the minority, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), represents Fort Irwin. And of course, the most recent Ranking Member, John McHugh, represented Fort Drum.

It's also not uncommon to see military veterans on the committee, like Democrats Rep. Jim Marshall and Rep. Joe Sestak, or Republicans Rep. Duncan D. Hunter and Rep. Mike Coffman. Two women on the committee, Rep. Niki Tsongas (whose father survived Pearl Harbor) and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, grew up in military families. One is married to a Vietnam veteran. Democrat Rep. Dave Loebsack's step-son is in the service.


Based on an admittedly less than thorough look at the current HASC, at least 36 of the committee's 58 members either have a personal connection to the military as a veteran or close relation to a veteran, or represent a major military facility. Three of them - Tsongas, Rep. Walter B. Jones, and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, are both.

Doug Hoffman, who left the Army Reserve in 1976 as a Staff Sergeant, would also be both.

So considering that he did his turn in the military and would be representing an important active duty post of the United States Army with a long history of representation on the HASC, and would caucus with Republicans... clearly, Doug Hoffman is equally, if not more qualified to serve on that committee.

So there are only a few conclusions we can draw from this announcement. Either the Republican Party is willing to place either Scozzafava or Doug Hoffman on the committee, and thus, this is no reason to vote for Scozzafava. Or, this is some sort of veiled threat to keep Hoffman off the committee if he wins. Sour grapes, perhaps? If this is the case, the Republican Party is clearly only looking out for itself and not for any kind of principle. Why would you vote for that?

The North Country wants a conservative. The only one in this race is Doug Hoffman. He's the best choice we have to represent not only Fort Drum, but the 23rd District as a whole, whether the Republicans are willing to give him a seat on the Armed Services committee or not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why I Support Doug Hoffman for Congress

I used to consider myself a strong Republican, because I believed the Republican Party best espoused conservative values. I'm not exactly sure when it was that I decided that was no longer true. It might have been after I plugged my nose and voted for John McCain. After all, I figured he was better than the alternative, and given the way things have played out to date, I still feel I made the right decision.

But time and time again, the Republican Party has shown that it is willing to try for the most politically expedient path, instead of the path of conservative principle. Somewhere between 1994 and 2006, when the party was unceremoniously booted from power in Congress, the mantra of "a government that governs least governs best" became "a government governed by Republicans governs best." That's the wrong answer.

Doug Hoffman knows this firsthand. Easily one of the best conservative choices to throw his name into the hat for the special election in New York's 23rd District, he was unceremoniously spurned in favor of "the party's choice."

"The party's choice" didn't win in NY-20 when then-Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco was chosen over a better choice, State Sen. Betty Little. It's even worse now when "the party's choice" has been repeatedly endorsed by ACORN's front party, the Working Families Party.

After hearing that Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava was "the party's choice," I was flabbergasted. A woman who is unabashedly pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and whose husband runs the local AFL-CIO and has been endorsed multiple times by the Working Families Party... is the best choice for the Republican Party... in the North Country? I wouldn't think twice about her as a Republican choice in, say, Albany, or Manhattan. But Watertown? Plattsburgh? REALLY?

When State Sen. Darrel Aubertine, a true moderate who is considered more conservative than many of his colleagues across the aisle in Albany, was considered a favorite for the Democrat nomination, I caught myself asking an open question - might I actually support a Democrat?

Aubertine did not run, and there's a better choice. Doug Hoffman - the Conservative Party of New York's choice for Congress, and the only small-c conservative running in NY-23.

The party didn't pick Dede Scozzafava because she represents the party's values well. The party picked Dede Scozzafava because they thought she had a better chance to win. They chose her because they thought that being previously elected made her more likely to win than just a common citizen, a businessman. They selected her because it was "her turn."

It was Jim Tedisco's turn, too. Whoops.

But the party miscalculated. I, like many North Country residents, will not support Dede Scozzafava simply because she's got an "R" next to her name.

Bill Owens is the Democrat candidate, the handpicked choice of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. He's another vote for Nancy Pelosi and her radical agenda that seeks to fundamentally change our nation from a country founded on individual liberties to one which fosters and encourages dependency on a bloated, mismanaged government bureaucracy. But at least he's a liberal in liberal's clothing. It would be better that we not fooled ourselves about who we were voting for if we were to choose him as Secretary McHugh's replacement rather than choose a wolf in sheep's clothing.

But the best part is this: ultimately, it's not why you shouldn't support Scozzafava. It's why you SHOULD support Doug Hoffman.

It's time to stop voting because you don't like the other guy, and this election is a great place to start. Pundits popularly claim that you are "wasting your vote" to choose a third party. Not this time. Not when the "major party" choice is six of one and half-dozen of another, not with a clear alternative with a real, populist message like Doug Hoffman - and not when he has a real chance to win.

Doug Hoffman is the only candidate in this race that espouses the values which drew tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans to the streets of Washington on September 12th. Those values are, traditionally, in sync with the values of North Country voters. Doug Hoffman is the only candidate that will stand up to government waste. He's the only one willing to stand against a corrupt tax code. He's the only one standing against card check. Against the disastrous cap-and-trade scheme. Against a government take-over of healthcare, which can only drive the quality of health services into the ground. All of these positions support liberty and oppose government control, and Doug Hoffman is the ONLY candidate who can claim these positions.

When we choose our candidates based on their record and their values instead of whether they've got an R or a D next to their names, it becomes a no-brainer. The North Country needs Doug Hoffman - and he can be an important reminder to not only the New York GOP but the GOP nationwide that conservatives are not going to be led around blindly by the hand.

On Facebook, commenting on his recent endorsement by the PBA, Hoffman said, "it goes to show that people follow principles, not parties. When will the parties figure that out?"

Maybe after Doug Hoffman is sworn into Congress as an elected Conservative.