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.

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.