Thrilled about Palin as McCain’s VP Pick

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for CBS Channel 2 News about my thoughts on the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate.  I could not be more thrilled.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts expressed during the interview.

First, she brings unique qualifications to the job.  As a tough reform Governor in a state where everything is tougher, she has demonstrated on ability to take on the Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.  This is something left to the VP and she is ready.  Importantly, she understands one of the most impoprtant issues facing the next administration – energy supply and independence and the environment.  Alaska is the forefront for many of our energy issues, including drilling, pipelines and the environment.  She is uniquely equipped to handle the competing interests as they emerge on a national scale as we debate energy independence. And she understands the military.  Although she has not personally served, she is the commander in chief of the Alaskan National Guard and knows first hand the requirements for our troops.  And as a mother of a soldier, she truly understands the issues and concerns facing all military families.

Secondly, she is prolife.  This quality transcends the abortion issue.  Her views on the sanctity of human life will permeate all the important decisions she and the administration will face.  Whether it is understanding the threat of terrorism and radical jihads, deciding when to send troops into battle, analyzing economic impacts on families, or appointing judges to the federal bench, she understands that it is our lives at stake and that each life affected is of unique worth.

And finally, I have to say it, she is a woman and a relatively young one at that.  That means she represents the future, the fresh new face of the Republican party.  It is clear with the choice of Palin, McCain is redefining the party for this century and we should be thrilled to see her as one of the many bright stars.

Convention Countdown: 3 Days to Go and a VP!

What an exciting day.  Obama and the Democrats have had their big night and by all accounts it was as expected:  a lot of smoke and mirrors (literally), a well delivered speech laying out pie in the sky promises, and the “crowning” (not my words but an ABC reporter’s) of their nominee.  But the celebration seems to be shortlived as McCain is set to announce his VP, in yet another historic move. 

As I am writing this, Fox News is reporting that they have confirmed that the VP will be Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska.  I am thrilled to have both a woman and pro-lifer on the ticket.  Just this morning someone asked me who I thought it might be and I said that based on the conference calls I have particpated on and the tidbits I get from within the campaign, I thought it would be a surprise.  When I said it may very well be a woman and Palin, people thought I was crazy.  Wednesday evening, during one of our weekly delegate conference calls, we heard about the platform committee’s work and got a clear understanding of what will be the cornerstone issues.  After the call, in discussing it with fellow delegates, the tea leaf reading was that the VP may very well not be Romney or Pawlenty.  All of the work of the last couple of days has been about reading tea leaves but now we can move forward on defining the Party and  getting our message out to voters.

So what is in the Platform?  Well one of the most prominent issues is the Supreme Court and appointments to the federal bench generally.  This is probably the one area in which the President alone has the greatest effect on our lives.  It is clear that Senator McCain is pro-life and the courts are the most important battlegrounds for that issue.    To emphasize those values, Palin as VP would underscore McCain’s committment to upholding the value of every human life.  But I am politicizing and what is more important is to relay that it seems like the Platform Committee work is well underway.  Look for a big discussion on the courts and a heavy handed look at Joe Biden’s failure as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to get qualified, intelligent judges appointed and his politicizing of appointments.  Remember he led the attack on Robert Bork the most qualified man never to be appointed.  I have also been actively helping out the Catholic Working Group from the campaign which is McCain’s organized effort not only to reach out to Catholic voters, but to address and consider those issues that Catholics and other religious folks are most concerned about.  It has been a great opportunity to meet Josh Lynch, the director and to see the great events they are sponsoring.  In addition to a Mass, there will also be talks including a very timely one by Archbishop Chaput who has written a book “Render Unto Ceaser”, which addresses the faith/political life dichotomy.  You may remember Chaput who recently criticized Sen. Biden who is being touted by the Democrats as the Catholic candidate.  Based on the responses to McCain’s strong convictions expressed at the Saddleback debate and with Biden, a Catholic, as VP nominee, this group will be working hard during the campaign.  Look for more information on these efforts in the weeks to come.

In speaking with fellow delegates, it is clear that we are an excited and energized group.  I am amazed at how many first time delegates, like me, there are.  I think this speaks volumes about the process and the direction of the state party.  Having fresh new faces active in a party brings a lot.  I am also amazed at how many veterans are continuing to serve their country by becoming delegates.  It not only shows the confidence that our military personnel have in McCain as the next commander-in-chief, but how important our national security and defense is as an issue.  Terrorism is not going away and to think that we can keep at bay through negotiation and law enforcement is not sufficient. 

If the pundits are right and that the Democratic convention, but for a few highlighted speeches, was slow, lackluster and not an exposition of the ideas of the party, I think we will see the opposite from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The “vibe” I get (and yes, I can generate my own enthusiasm) is that people are excited to get out there and showcase the new and bright talent of the Republican Party, to show that it is not a party mired in old stereotypes and worn out ideas but has a fresh, optimistic and innovative look towards the future.  Yeah, I am a little corny, but am psyched to be part of that.

Convention Countdown: One Week to Go

It is one week before delegates arrive in Minnesota for the Convention.  The last month has been a series of weekly conference calls, either with the national campaign or the local delegation officials.  Much of these calls deal with logistics:  hotel information, transportation, meal and briefing schedules and, yes, what to wear.  It may sound superficial, but because the event is televised and there will be lots of media looking for stories and interviews,  you should assume you will be caught on camera or interviewed by some news outlet.  I have to say, as someone who does not dress up for work everyday, this is helpful information – how formal? how business like? what level of casual?  It has also given me a small license to shop which, as my sister says, is a “shopportunity”.  But these calls are also a good way to feel the pulse of the campaign and how it changes from week to week.  One of the early calls suggested that one way to get the Republicans into the media spotlight is to offer our individual stories as delegates.  It is clear that when looking at my fellow delegates, the Republican party is a diverse and interesting group of people, many of whom are a far cry from the “country-club, business owning, white, higher income” stereotype.  So, in one sense, this blog is a way to get “my story” out there, let people know that Republicans represent normal people who spend most of their time doing normal everyday things for and with their families.  Another clear direction is that we are encouraged to speak about the kind of person McCain is and about his family and accomplishments, but disparaging other candidates is not supported by the campaign.  This has been McCain’s consistent strategy from the primaries into the general election:  this is about issues and the differences on these issues, it is not about slinging mud.

One of the overwhelming parts is the inundation of invitations to events:  not just food related, but real substantive presentations.  My first invite was to an event sponsored by a No Tax Organization, but then the next was to a movie premiere.  Since I am a huge movie buff, I responded with an immediate yes to see “An American Carol”, a satire poking fun at Michael Moore and Hollywood liberals.  I hope there is free popcorn.  But since then, there are invites to discussions on many hotbutton issues, from taxes to the Supreme Court.  The Federalist Society (of which I have been a member) is hosting a truly bi-partisan debate on the future of the Supreme Court between Ted Olsen (former Solicitor General under Bush) and Lawrence Tribe (liberal Harvard Law Professor and litigator).  And these events are just the extra-curriculars,  things to attend apart from the actual delegation meetings and daily briefings and the actual Convention itself.  My sense is that food is the real draw, but I will let you know how things taste.  I guess I could have a special food critic section to this as well.

Because the names of the delegates have been given to the press, I, like many of my co-delegates, have had requests for interviews.  I have had the opportunity to speak to the NY TImes/CBS News, our local Daily Herald and have requests for a couple of national talk shows.  It really is exciting.  Some of the interviews are about who I am, how I got to be a delegate and what are my views on the state of the war, the economy and who might the VP pick be.  But others are less open and more specific, like responding to poll-like questions.  The problem with those poll-question interviews is that the answers they are looking for are supposed to be black and white.  What I have learned is that there is no pure yes or not answer to something like:  Will McCain continue the policies of George Bush?  Well, on some things, yes, in principle, but maybe no in terms of manner.  I also find it important to distinguish my own personal views and hopes from that of the campaign and McCain himself.  Making those distinctions and keeping those views separate is probably the hardest part.   But the questions themselves are incredibly insightful into the media strategy for covering the campaign, and to some extent, revealing where the liberal bias is and what direction it is taking the coverage.   

And finally, there is my participation on the Permanent Organization Committee.  During the Convention, I will be meeting with RNC officials along with two delegates (one man and one woman) from each state to nominate those party members that will serve the party in an official capacity.  It is important because those whom we choose will be responsible for the party’s and the convention’s organization.  The most famous committees are probably the Rules and Platform Committees and they have already been working hard.  I am looking forward to seeing up close the inner workings of the party and getting to know delegates from other states.

My Journey

In early 2007,  with the encouragement of a friend on the Illinois McCain Finance Committee, I signed on to support Senator McCain.   The Senator was strong on so many of the issues I care about:  national security and defense, lower taxes, pro-life and the committment to support non-activist judges.  It seemed early to pick a candidate since there were so many different choices out there but it was a great opportunity to commit to the right person at the early stages of a campaign.  Back in the spring of 2007, through the summer and even in the fall, it looked like it was going to be Guiliani or Romney , with everybody waiting to see what Thompson was going to do.  What a long way since then.  In September, I was asked by Julie Brady, another McCain delegate and the real workhorse in the Illinois vounteer efforts, if I would like to be on the ballot as a delegate.  Because I live in the 9th Congressional district, heavily gerry-mandered to be very liberal/Democrat, I sometimes wonder if it was because the campaign had to find at least one interested Republican in the district.  Little did I realize what that was going to mean!  Again, because of the very strong liberal presence, I had to get creative about how I got signatures for my petition.  Most of the time, I was pleasantly suprised by the support from friends, neighbors and strangers from the other side of the aisle.  But there was always the surprising “There is no way I would support the Republicans” even from people I knew.  I wasn’t even asking for a vote!  It made me realize that politics run deep, even if you are just asking to be on the ballot.  The best part was having the opportunity to learn more about Evanston and the rest of the district and meet so many incredible people.  Out in Des Plains and Park Ridge, I met some of the warmest and truly committed people and that reenergized my committment to be involved, however possible. 

The next few months were pretty quiet since the liberal candidates were more popular in a relatively liberal district.   But then the national tide turned and McCain quickly became the front runner.  By the Illinois primary in early February, it became McCain’s race to lose and the momentum in Illinois and the district really picked up.  Even though the campaign was way behind in dollars, the philosphical support was rolling in.  The excitement of watching the primary results that Tuesday night, along with the other delegates, was incredible.  All of a sudden it was all McCain.  It wasn’t just whether a pledged delegate won the district, but there was friendly competition among the delegates in the same district as to who got more votes.  I know that I benefited tremendously by not only being pledged for McCain, but also having my name first on the ballot  It did not hurt either that Karen Berkowitz, in the Evanston Review had published the week before a really nice interview with me and my family.  (See “Delegates Hope to Make History”, January 31, 2008, Evanston Review, www.PioneerLocal.com)

So that is how I came to be a delegate.  The real fun and work has already kicked in.  I have had some great opportunities to participate in local events but the real start was the Illinois Republican Convention, in Decatur, IL in June.  Decatur, by the way, is the birthplace of the Republican Party, started by none other than Abraham Lincoln.  It makes being an Illinois Republican extra special and extra authentic.  The convention was not only a great place to learn and participate in the work of the state party, learn about its goals and mission, but to meet other active Republicans – delegates, committeepersons, office holders, fundraisers, the whole gamut.  Although I have come to know well many of the Evanston Republicans, who are starting to come out of the woodwork, it was great to meet others, even from Cook County and the city of Chicago.  Yes, there are Republicans in Chicago.  It is quite clear that the state party is committed to putting forth strong, honest office holders and to end the corruption and even appearance of it within the party and state government as a whole.  There is a lot of work to be done, but it is not impossible.  The party clearly is working to support new, hardworking (and conservative!) candidates and is focusing on the integrity of the person.  Aaron Schock, the state representative from Peoria, and Brendan Appel, running for state rep. in Glenview are two that come immediately to mind  I have to say that attending the state convention has re-energized my own personal committment to being an active Republican and to supporting my local officials as well.  We have so many extraordinary young bright and ethical people waiting in the wings and it is exciting to be part of that.  If I feel this way after the state convention, I can’t imagine what will happen in September in Minneapolis/St. Paul.