Kuhl's New Year

The Ontario Republican's New Year's Eve post sounds like he was hitting the champagne a little early.  GOP believes that Randy Kuhl will do well in 2008, and cites two reasons why: the surge is working and therefore Iraq is less of an issue, and S-CHIP is off the table.

I must have slept through the Iraq victory parade, especially the part where all of our soldiers came home and we stopped spending billions per month on a war without end.  But I don't think I was the only one who missed the "Iraq is not a problem" bandwagon.  Last week's Economist magazine, hardly a hotbed of left-wing extremism, has an in-depth review of the Iraq situation.  Acknowledging that the surge has lessened violence in Iraq and provided an opportunity for improvement, they say:

Alas, there has so far been no sign that the government of Nuri al-Maliki is poised to grab this opportunity. Indeed, as an adviser to General Petraeus glumly describes it, “The politics is going nowhere.” The government still acts like a collection of competing fiefs, not a body that speaks with a national voice. Even among Shias, a paralysing factionalism has, if anything, got worse. [...]

Worse, Mr Maliki is still failing to reach out effectively to the Sunnis. The main Sunni block in parliament, which had a clutch of ministries in the ruling coalition, continues to take no part in government. [...] To cap it all, the Sunnis are sorely divided too—and not just over al-Qaeda. The main Sunni block in parliament is deeply wary of the Awakening in Anbar, which may displace it as the authentic voice of the Sunnis nationwide.
Also, I didn't sleep through the Petraeus hearings, where he made it clear that the surge will end in the Spring.  By that time, both parties will have picked their nominees and Iraq will once again be a major issue getting tons of airtime as part of the Presidential race.   Surge or no surge, a broad majority of Americans still want to get out of Iraq.  Thinking that this issue will just go away is simply unrealistic.  We are going to hear a lot about Iraq in 2008, and much of it will not be kind to Kuhl's record on the issue.

As for S-CHIP, Massa can still argue that Kuhl's stalwart support of the Republican minority led to 50,000 fewer insured children in the 29th district.  The recent S-CHIP cave-in by the Democrats just kicked the can down the road.   Massa can still ask voters who they would like to be voting on S-CHIP expansion in 2009:  him, or Randy Kuhl.

In general, all of the issues on which Massa campaigned in 2006 are still important in 2008.   The economy isn't getting better, the deficit is growing, the war in Iraq hasn't made us more secure, and healthcare is becoming less affordable by the day.  The only difference between '08 and '06 is that the entire country will be focused on the presidential race, where all of these issues will be debated continuously until the day of the election.  I have to assume that a happy warrior like Massa is relishing that prospect, and I don't think there's much silver lining for Kuhl in the cloud that's been created by 7 years of the Bush administration.


SCHIP has gone worse for Kuhl than anyone could have expected. The Democratic failure to pass it this year means that they'll vote on it again next September-October.

The failure to pass it might hurt Democrats in general, but it will hurt Kuhl in particular.

The big question in 08 is how much hay Kuhl will be able to make with immigrant-bashing. I don't see how there's any other wining issues for him.

I think you forgot that you can't blame Kuhl for anything that happened before 2004--although he has been tied to the hip with the Prez, the VP, and even Ms Laura.

Exile: My understanding is that the S-CHIP compromise moves the reauthorization date into 2009, but of course Congress can choose to bring up S-CHIP as many times as they'd like.

Rich: Yes, you're right, Kuhl has only voted with the Bush admin for 3 of the 7 years.

I never suggested that the Iraq War is finished, but the issue of Iraq has gone down on the Dems' priority list, mostly because of the successes of the surge. And there is no question that Massa was pinning much of his hopes on success next year with SCHIP. In fact, here's Massa in his own words just three months ago:

"[SCHIP] is rapidly overcoming Iraq and here's why: people have a hard time finding a solution on Iraq, they just can't. This has a solution — this bill makes sense, it is clear and evident."

Now that SCHIP has been reauthorized at its current levels, i.e., no cuts to the program (which was never suggested), I merely asked where does Massa go from here. Your retort indicates that Massa won't let this issue die, citing the "50,000 fewer insured children in the 29th district" because the income expansion was vetoed (btw, I would love to see where you got that data). But one must note that New York already sets its SCHIP family income eligibility level to 250% above the federal poverty level. The question which Massa opens himself to is, "How do you justify further expansion and spending of a program to cover upper middle class families, when it already covers families earning $41,500 right here in New York?"

Because the Republican war has no "solution" doesn't mean that it's not worth talking about in '08. As the economy slows and recession threatens, the cost of the war (dollars spent/wasted, missed domestic and international opportunities, GWOT/Afganistan/Pakistan, energy prices...) will be the issue, along with the sacrifice of our lives and stature. The Iraqi civil war is not in remission. It's quietly metastasizing. Having handed the Iraqis a year of relative stability, the American public and military leadership are not likely to support a long term presence if the Iraqis fail to step up.

If Kuhl and the rest of the gang don't move to reduce our commitment in Irag significantly before November, it will cost them. I'm betting on a Nixonesque cosmetic reduction during the summer.

Republicans might want to frame SCHIP expansion as a giveaway to "upper middle class families" making over $41,500, but the families who are trying to survive on two minimum wage jobs without health insurance for their kids may not be flattered by your frame. Some might even vote for Massa.

OR: On Iraq, you said "the surge is working" a couple of times, and my point on that, as always, is that there's a difference between tactical success and strategic success, and the tactical success of the surge is not leading to the political solution that was the strategic goal of the surge.

On S-CHIP, you're right that Massa thought that S-CHIP was a loser issue for Kuhl, but he's never backed down from his anti-Iraq war stance, and I've never gotten the impression from him that he thought that Iraq wouldn't be a key issue in 2008.

In addition to the good points that vdomeras makes, another thing that's going to happen next year is that Spitzer is going to push to move eligibility to 400% using NYS funds, since federal funds have been denied. So it will be another example of how NYS sends more money to the federal government than it gets back, and Kuhl's vote will increase the tax burden of New Yorkers.

The 50K number is from memory, but I found a source that says that the overall NYS number is 400K so the number is definitely in the tens of thousands for the 29th district, one of the poorer in the state. (source: http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=267843)

vdomeras: On "reducing commitment", I agree. Another thing that will probably happen is that the Bush admin. will try to play the post-surge draw-down as a reduction in force.

The awful truth is that the Brazil trip hurts Kuhl more than SCHIP. I don't think the trip is important, in any sense, but Kuhl handled it poorly and it looks bad.

He's also alienated much of the Southern Tier political media -- some of whom, to their credit, take their job quite seriously -- with his ham-fisted statements on Iraq and the Brazil trip. That's the biggest story of 2007 politically for Kuhl. And it's a very, very bad one.

I'm not sure that SCHIP hurts him that much, but it doesn't help.

My impression is that nine months ago, this race tilted heavily to Kuhl. Now, I think it's probably a toss-up.

The recent success in Iraq is off-set by the rising instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The "War on Terror" began as a mission to disrupt and destroy Al-Qaeda and their allies, and devolved into a farce with the invasion of Iraq.

Iraq is not a small "issue" that can be swept under the rug, especially when one thinks of the families of the 3,900 American casualties, the 500 amputees, and the 29,000 wounded. Kuhl's continued support of a stubborn and vague policy is morally unjustifiable as those numbers continue to grow. Since the pinnacle of the "surge" - June of '07 - nearly 400 American servicemen have died. That is not the definition of "success" or "victory" in my book.

SCHIP will haunt Kuhl, especially since he advocates and supports the money pit spending in Iraq. An interesting figure I pulled up today stated that the national debt is approaching 35 trillion dollars, an increase of 15 trillion in 8 years. This immense increase in debt can only be attributed to the fiscal irresponsibility of the ruling party, and had the Republicans focused on helping the American people - say with health care - instead of tossing it into a sectarian pissing contest, than perhaps they could have retained their idenity as "fiscal conservatives."

Politicians like Randy Kuhl deserve to be kicked out on their ass, America needs independent and experienced leaders, not sycophantic yes-men.