Election Countdown: Four Weeks to Go

Well a lot has happened in this last week which, if it is any measure, means we are in for a roller coaster ride up to November 4th.  We saw the House fail to pass a bailout bill, the Senate pass one, a Vice Presidential debate viewed by record numbers of people, and finally a bailout bill passed and signed by Bush.  Phew!  Not only did I participate on a panel discussing the VP debate for our local CBS News, but I had the amazing opportunity to reflect on all of this again on Bruce Dumont’s Beyond the Beltway political debate radio show.  I am not sure where to begin except maybe with the Vice Presidential debate.  I think we saw the Sarah Palin we expected to see:  dynamic, energetic, geniuosly straight talking and visionary.  We saw a some what tamed, if not neutered, Joe Biden who worked incredibly hard to create a record for Barack Obama that clearly failed to match his own and paled in light of Palin’s.  The “misstatements” put forth by Biden just demonstrated how hard it must be for him to claim that Obama on his own his ready to lead our country.  From claiming Obama helped kick out Hezbelloh from Lebanon, that Obama warned the Treasury in a phantom letter, and Palin’s oil plan taxed the same windfall profits as Obama’s (which is clearly not true) all the way to going to Katie’s Restaurant, which hasn’t been in business for decades, Biden didn’t seem committed to the vision and leader he has been brought on to support.  Putting on my partisan hat, Biden seems more like Obama’s babysitter than a trusted advisor, put there to make sure Obama stays on track with the Democratic party.

And what about this bailout bill?  I think it is important to keep in mind how we got into this mess.  There is no coubt that the central engine driving this was Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac.  On one end, they drove banks to take greater risks on homeowners and then managed to hide these risks in packaged mortgage swaps that were traded to banks and investment banks.  With the assistance of credit rating agencies rating these packages with assurances of the government as the insurer, these tainted packages were injected into the system without the approriate flags.  No doubt, excited Wall Street bankers, hungry for the upside and and not willing to parse through these risks created a frenzy that Fannie Mae and Freddie were glad to fuel.  Predatory lenders and housing advocates took advantage of these rates and subprime mortgage opportunities to boost their own numbers as well.  However, have no doubt that the central gate keepers to all of this were our government sponsored entities that were protected and shielded by some very driven members of congress who refused to question the system.  There is no doubt that McCain led the fight to reform these entities and saw what was coming down the pipeline and unfortunately, disarmed by his unpopularity, Bush was unable to garner the support in Congress to correct the situation.  The Democratic feeding frenzy regarding these loans had far too much momentum.  That said, what is important to remember is that we are seeing a breakdown in our financial markets, which is having an effect on the economy.  This is not a result of economic policies such as spending, balancing budgets, promoting job growth or tax policy, all which fundamentally drive our economy.  So to say this is a result of Bush policies is patently false and nothing but political rhetoric.  At the heart of this is Democratic attempts to take over personal and private decisions and reengineer them to grow the economy.  There is nothing that Obama has said that would show that he is different from his colleagues.  A vote for Obama is a vote for four more years of Pelosi and Reid failures.

McCain is clear that his vision is to keep private decisions, like health care, investments, and education in the hands of those people who are best able to create, innovate and negotiate the best choices for themselves.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are perfect examples of how Democratic policies will get us into big messes and how their tax, spend, and penalize the innovator policies fail. 

It is clear that many challenges, not just the economy, confront the next administration.  There is no doubt that on the front burner, burning even hotter, is the fact that we are fighting two very complicated and important wars.  These are just two of the battles on the war on terror front.  So much more goes into their success such as intelligence, nation building, diplomacy, strategic alliances, weapons defense, and on the ground infrastructure.  Only McCain understands this and has the capabilities to manage this.  Every proposal offered by Obama has as its number one component the reduction of our defense committments.  This should be alarming.  He is not committed to steering the economy and fighting these two wars.  Make no mistake, he plans to end these wars, successfully or not and attempt to reengineer our economy.  It should bother voters that his chief economic advisors are Raines and Johnson, who each headed up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Penny Pritzker, whose own bank failed while she was at the helm as a result of too many subprime mortgages.  We cannot trust that Obama will see us through all these crises.  He will easily trade in our national security in order to secure his and the Democratic congress’ control of our economy.  We saw what happened with Fannie and Freddie.  With Obama, we know we will lose these wars and we can be pretty sure he will only further entrench our economy into a recession.  Let’s choose a leader who can bring us certain victories.

Five Weeks To Election: Countdown Begins

I have decided to continue blogging throughout the entire campaign.  As a result, I may get a bit more partisan.   To kick off the home stretch of the campaign, we should first cover the debate.  I had the great opportunity to discuss my views on the debate and the recent bailout proposal on Bruce Dumont’s nationally syndicated political radio program Beyond the Beltway.  Bruce’s show is probably the most civilized, balanced format you’ll find on TV or Radio.  His guests each week consist of one clearly partisan guest from each party and two more moderate guests, each with his or her own leanings, one to the left and one to the right.  Bruce has an incredible way of parsing through the issues and positing clear and thought provoking questions.  To hear my participation and of course a definitve debate on the First Debate go to www.beyondthebeltway.com to hear last night’s show. 

After any appearance in the media, or even when we debate our friends and families at the dinner table, we always think about what we said, what we didn’t say, what we could have said better or “Aha, that is the zinger I should have said!”.  Having had a couple of these thoughts myself, I thought I would comment on a few:

One point we discussed in detail was something made apparent by the debate, which was that the War on Terror and our foreign policy is multifacted, and dealt with on many different fronts.  Each front requires its own nuances and strategy.  We have two very different types of leaders emerging, one who prefers diplomacy and a consult first response and one who wants to govern from resolve and strength.  Although these styles are not mutually exclusive, it is clear that one is more willing to act with strength,  is less dependent on advisors for his information and is less deferential to international concensus than the other.  In this dangerous world, who has the knowledge, expertise, judgement and frankly, agility to manage these multiple demands?  I think on Friday night, it was clear only John McCain has all of that and we know this for sure because we know him and how he thinks.  Although I had the opportunity to say this, I feel it needs repeating.

We also had the opportunity to discuss Sarah Palin.  Our debate was cut short due to time so that we never got a good one going.  I have a feeling we could easily fill two hours discussing her.  One thing I want to say is that although she may not have the foreign policy experience or philosophy that McCain has, or even Joe Biden, she has clearly demonstrated the skill set and judgement required to participate in foreign affairs.  As a governor, and this could be said about any good effective governor, they have to negotiate daily with partisan legislators, special interests, big businesses, other politicians (and the media!) on a daily basis.  You either have the skills and judgment to do this or not.  Because she has demonstrated she is more than adept at this, I see no reason she cannot apply her savior faire to the international arena.  Being a good Vice President does not mean having negotiated or met with foreign leaders although we might ask this of the men running for the top of the ticket.  She has demonstrated measurable results and when choosing the leaders of this country, results count.  I also have no doubt that she has the personal skills, and charm!, to diffuse any offenses she might face.  The art of negotiating requires the art of diplomacy and Sarah Palin has demonstrated, if nothing else, that she can  convince and inspire those around her.  As a final note, I find it unbeleivable that someone could think she threatens working women everywhere.  She is the perfect example of a working mother who works and succeeds in her paying job and still managed to be pro-family.  She is a pro-family working mother and has embraced a culture of life, demonstrating that you can work and have a family, that one does not exclude the other.  What feminists are talking about when they say Palin threatens this is (and I hesitated to call this out last night) is that she is pro-life, antiabortion and that somehow threatens the rights of women generally.  Actually this is patently untrue.  Her choices and pro-life values threaten the very concept of choice that feminists have been screaming about for decades.  Shouldn’t we be celebrating the choices that the Palins, as a family have made?

Finally, on a more negative note, there was one thing that troubled me in the debate.  At one point, Barack Obama claimed that his left wing voting record was not liberalism “but me opposing George Bush.”  This spoke volumes to me.  First, it showed a patent disrespect for the not just the office of President, but the man who serves in it.  It also showed an incredible lack of principle.  I would like to think his voting record represents how he feels about something and what he substantively believes in not an opportunity to be a petulant contrarian.  And finally, it shows that he really doesn’t care about being bi-partisan or seeking to make change constructively.  We should be very concerned by this since this is a man who, if elected, will have strong majorities in both the House and Senate.  his willingness to listen to all sides will be reduced and unchallenged and he will not have the checks and balances that a strong democratic government requires.

Convention Day 3: Service

Each day, there is an assigned theme and that is the focus of the groups and speeches for that day.  The first day was Service, and due to the truncated event as a result of Gustav, all efforts were focused on the relief efforts for the Gulf states.  Day 2 was about Reform and everyone focused on how McCain is different and will make changes in DC.  And yesterday was Prosperity, and while the speeches focused on reducing taxes, improving the economy and reforming government and spending, the real work done by the delegates was SERVICE.  I along with many, many, many other delegates spent much of the day packing care boxes for the folks down in the Gulf region.  I wanted to share with you some photos, very brief snapshots of those efforts:

Assembly line relief efforts

Assembly line relief efforts

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the Gulf

Boxes filled with food ready to go to the GulfA fellow Illinois delegate putting together care packages

It was amazing to see you how so many people could do so much in such a short amount of time.  I haven’t heard the final numbers, but there were Target and Fed EX trucks lined up waiting to be filled with boxes.  I also had the opportunity to hear Senator Brownbeck and Michael Steele speak at a conference discussing the role of religion and faith in a politician’s life.  Michael Steele moved the audience (including some to tears) in telling the story of his own adoption and his gratitude to his natural mother for choosing his life. 

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

Here I am with Sen. Brownbeck (excuse the glare)

I had some time to kill before the big night.  It was Sarah Palin’s big night and she spoke along with Steele, Romney, and Guiliani.  Where do I begin?  The excitement and the secuirty were at an all-time high and Guiliani kicked it off by attacking the attacks on Palin’s family.  Sarah truly was, even by the New York Times account, “electric”.  It was so exciting to be on the floor for her speech even though I could only best see her on the jumbotrons around the arena.  Nevertheless, she hit a home run again (so far she is batting a thousand) as she took on questions of her experience and Obama’s directly.  She was charming and to the point and even hinted at her own ability to handle foreign policy based on her proximity to Russia.  I think we will see her depth more and more as the weeks come.  No doubt she has sealed her support in the Republican party and has demonstrated she can cross partisan lines. 
So far, for me this convention has been indescribable.  The warmth and sincerity of each person I meet and their committment, not only to getting McCain elected, but to the work they do back home is incredible.  Everyone is down to earth and approachable, even the seemingly remotest of celebrities.  I want to conclude by adding a picture with Karl Rove taken the other night who on the floor with us was friendly, unassuming, generous with his ear, thoughts and time and hilarious!  I wish more than anything America could see the Republican party I see.  We are here to do work and we love this country but we love our families and communities even more by the work we do everyday in home.  Away from the cameras and the lights and the glitz, each person – celebrity, pundit, politician, delgate, volunteer or journalist – really cares about how our lives will be shaped by these efforts and events. 

I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.
I wish you could see what a warm and sincere man he is.

I am truly humbled and honored to be here this week. 

Convention Focuses on Gulf States

I know that conventions are about fundraising, but this one is clearly about a different kind of fundraising.  Clearly the focus this week is on the plight of those in the Gulf states and as a result, each delegation is working hard with various charities to raise money to help those in the greatest need.  Our delegation is working with Rebuilding Together, a non-profit that brings volunteers and communities together to rehabilitate the homes of low-income homeowners.  This group takes not only money but “in kind” donations so if you have lumber or concrete or tools to donate, they will coordinate the transport of those to the areas in need. Delegates have also been helping out with the phone banks and one of my colleagues was there after Cindy McCain’s speech when they raised over $1 million dollars in just a couple of hours.  So I guess when we talk about fundraising this week it is not for the party but for Americans!  So if you are reading this and watching the flooding down south go the link for rebuildingtogether.org and donate today.

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.

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.