Archive (2008)

Seven Years Later

Seven years after Pearl Harbor, two years after the defeat of fascism, at the start of the Cold War, a reporter wrote this about the newly-elected President:

He was out to get all the soft-heads, and he got them triumphantly. Unhampered by anything resembling a coherent body of ideas, he was ready to believe up to the extreme limits of human credulity. [...] If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country he would have promised to provide them with free missionaries fattened at the taxpayers' expense. [...] We can only hope that he will improve as he goes on. Unhappily, experience teaches that no man improves much after 60, and that after 65 most of them deteriorate in a really alarming manner. I could give an autobiographical example, but refrain on the advice of counsel.

That's from H.L. Mencken's dispatch the day after 61 year-old Harry S. Truman won the 1948 election. At the height of his career, Mencken was more influential than Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, combined.

In 1948, if some politician's shill had the gall to ask that Mencken to treat his candidate with deference, he would have received the same treatment that Mencken gave the newly-elected President. Today, seven years after another terrible event in our country, the craven, cowering national press meekly defers when asked.

This isn't a partisan point. I don't care who asks the press to defer. I just care that they do.

Mark Your Calendars

Randy Kuhl's latest blog post is about his recent interview with John Stossel of ABC's 20/20. The subject of his interview is the Farm Bill.

Anyone familiar with Stossel's interviews might not be so quick to brag. Stossel usually a takes a skeptical, somewhat libertarian view of politics. He's death on pork-barrel spending, and he's already turned in a negative piece on the Ethanol boondoggle.

If you doubt my judgment, consider this fact. The Democrat Stossel interviewed is Shelia Jackson Lee [D-TX-18]. She's not even on the Agriculture Committee. Don't you think that some publicity-hungry committee member would have stepped forward if they though anything good could come of this interview?

Massa Press Conference: Health Care

I wasn't able to make today's Massa press conference, but WXXI already has a story up.

More Hard Words About NY-26

This is only peripherally about NY-29, but I think the NY-26 campaign taught a lot of people some hard lessons that are applicable to most political campaigns. I'll bury my thoughts after the break for those only interested in NY-29.

Biography: No life experiences are "all bad" or "all good". Candidates need to package their life experiences as a narrative that accentuates the positive and acknowledges and contextualizes the negative.

Jon Powers received a lot of publicity for his work in War Kids Relief, a charity organization he founded. It was a noble failure. Powers was unable to get congressional funding for WKR, and faced with a rotten security situation in Baghdad, it was clear that private donations wouldn't suffice for the effort. Powers made a dangerous trip to Iraq, some kids were helped, and the whole effort made him realize that WKR wasn't going to be the way he would make an impact. So he ran for Congress.

That last paragraph is my spin on the effort, gathered from reading media accounts and listening to a Powers' appearance on a Kevin Hardwick's radio show. It wasn't Powers' initial story His campaign website made it sound like WKR was a going concern. His opponent nit-picked at that story until WKR became a negative. If Powers had acknowledged WKR as a learning experience and impetus for running for Congress in the first place, he'd have been better positioned to respond to those attacks.

Media: Don't ignore opposition blogs. Use them to prepare your rapid response.

I first read about the War Kids Relief story on a conservative blog months before the story surfaced in the media and in Jack Davis' attack ads. Yet the Powers campaign took a long time to formulate an ineffectual response to the attacks once they hit the traditional media.

When a blogger posts a negative story, one of two things has happened. Either someone from an opposing campaign has fed it to them, or, worse, some individual looked at your campaign's storyline and poked a hole in it. Some negatives are pure haterade, but the WKR negative was an important indicator that Powers' story had a few holes in it.

Update: The story surfaced five months ago, as Cincinnatus at Monroerising points out.

Endorsements: meh.

Endorsements are good for garnering media attention and for influencing low-information voters. Low-information voters don't vote in primaries.

Fundraising: Money in the bank is is just a bunch of pictures of dead Presidents.

Powers didn't spend a lot on the primary, presumably because he needed some of that money to challenge well-financed Christopher Lee in the general. This is pure Monday-morning quarterbacking, but I'll bet he wishes he had spent a little more of the $900K that he raised.

Kuhl's Health Plan

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader story [pdf] on Randy Kuhl's new health care plan. The text of the entire plan is posted on his campaign website.

Blogging from 13-WHAM

I am here at the WHAM-13 (CW-16) studios, and since there's nothing going on in the 29th, all attention is on the neighboring 26th district. So far, the highlight of the night is Evan's reference to Jack Davis' big swinging wallet.

10:05 PM - The news here is bad for both Jon Powers and Jack Davis, who proved the political adage that negative campaigning hurts your opponent and it hurts you. Alice Kryzan, a relative unknown who spent a fraction of the cash that Davis and Powers spent, apparently beat them both.

10:14 PM - Dale Volker, in SD-59, is facing a strong challenge from his Republican opponent. Kathy Konst, the Democrat endorsed by Tom Golisano's Responsible New York, seems to be winning running away.

10:20 PM - Evan was trying to get me to say that Jon Powers was a terrible, terrible, terrible candidate. I believe this, but I just can't bring myself to say it on the TeeVee. Powers' response to the War Kids Relief accusations was to essentially ignore it. For every ten press releases from the Massa operation, the Powers campaign sent out one. Powers raised 900K and I'm sure he wishes that he spent more of it.

10:31 PM - The Powers' loss probably sinks the possibility that Massa, Powers and Maffei will campaign together. Synergy is always overrated, but I thought there were some possibilities.

10:39 PM - The schadenfreude countdown begins -- we're waiting for location video of disappointed Powers supporters.

10:41 PM - Sean Carroll just ran a story that was all about the personalities in the 29th race. There are two strong personalities in the race, and they're worth covering, but Rochester media's need to cover 4 Congressional Districts often means that Rochesterians don't hear about the issues.

Primary in SD-59, SD-62

Today is primary day. There is no primary in the 29th Congressional District, but on the off chance that some of my political junkie readers missed it, there are New York State Senate primary contests in two districts in the 29th.

There are Republican and Democratic primaries in New York State Senate District 59, which contains all of Wyoming County, and parts of Erie, Livingston and Ontario Counties. Democrats Kathy Konst and Timothy Pawarski are running, as are Republican incumbent Dale Volker and challenger David DiPietro.

There are Republican and Conservative primaries in SD-62, which covers Gates, a tiny bit of Rochester, Orleans County and part of Niagara County. Republican Brian Grear is doubling down by challenging incumbent George Maziarz in the primary, as well as in the general: Grear also filed petitions for the Democratic line. Conservative Donald Hobel is challenging Maziarz for that line.

Plugs: Me on TV, Greenpeace at Watkins Glen

I'll be appearing with some other local bloggers on Rochester CW-16's primary night show tonight between 10 and 11 P.M. The show is a combination of primary-night reporting and pre-general analysis, and the bloggers will be talking about the impact of blogs on local politics. I will probably also be writing a post on the impact of primary results on the election in the 29th. 13-WHAM and CW-16 share the same news team.

As reported earlier, Greenpeace is bringing a solar demonstration vehicle to the Southern Tier. The vehicle will be on display at Watkins Glen, Clute Park/Lakeside (by Route 414) tomorrow, between 4-6 P.M.

New Massa Ad: Two Faces of Randy Kuhl

The Massa campaign has a new ad attacking Kuhl's energy plan, embedded after the break.

Leader Column and Editorial on Massa/Kuhl

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader Opinion Page [pdf] with Bob Rolfe's Insider column. Rolfe mentions the Massa point that only the President can recall Congress, as well as Randy Kuhl's votes against renewable energy.

The Leader also give Kuhl and Massa a "grin" for talking about Social Security.

S-CHIP: Fight Over

Despite promises to the contrary, the House leadership has decided that it won't bring another Supplemental Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) vote to the floor before the election.

If you search for S-CHIP on this blog, you'll find that discussion of an increase in funding and coverage for that program dominated the press last Fall. Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl battled over the bill with press releases and mailers. President Bush vetoed it twice, and the House failed to override those vetoes.

The S-CHIP "compromise" that finally passed at the end of last year extended the current program until March, 2009. Though it was promoted as a temporary measure, today's move by the House leadership indicates that last year's vote was a surrender, not a compromise.

S-CHIP began as a modest increase to a popular program which had some bi-partisan support (at least in the Senate). It morphed into a major ideological fight that dragged in issues of immigration and fiscal responsibility. I don't see it as a "win" for anyone. Democrats look impotent, Republicans look like obstructionists, and a huge amount of time and voter attention was wasted on an issue that ultimately wasn't solved.

S-CHIP is also a cautionary tale. Despite almost certain Democratic gains in the House and Senate, it's highly unlikely that either body will have a veto-proof majority. Unless Democrats also win the White House, we could be looking at four more years of S-CHIP style stalemate on issues of health care, energy and the economy.

Messenger Post on Energy

The Messenger-Post has a tough editorial about the Massa campaign's attempt to tie the demise of a trucking company to Randy Kuhl. It also calls Kuhl's energy plan a "fantasy plan".