Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Beach Volleyball

My posts on yesterday's rumble in Corning were tongue-in-cheek for a reason. I don't think much of what is said in campaigns in August resonates with most voters.

Politics is a bit like the Olympics in that regard. Some people follow swimming or curling closely. The rest of us pay attention for two weeks every two years. Between Olympics, some great achievement might register, but it's mostly background noise.

Since politics has more impact on our daily lives, and is more widely covered than, say, synchronized swimming, this analogy isn't perfect. That said, I do talk to a wide variety of fairly well-read and well-educated district residents who have no clue who represents them in Congress.

Keeping that in mind, I think yesterday's dust-up probably made its biggest impact on those who already have a set view of either candidate. For tuned-in Massa supporters, it shows that he's a fighter. For Kuhl supporters paying close attention, it shows that Massa is an upstart.

For everyone else, it's like beach volleyball in May. We know it exists, but we're going to wait for the Olympics to pay attention.

More Trash Talk

Randy Kuhl's Congressional Office and Eric Massa's campaign have issued press releases about this morning's rumble. Drill in below to read more.

Corning Confrontation

Eric Massa attended a Kuhl news conference this morning to ask Kuhl about scheduling time for a debate. Things got a little heated, as this WETM story recounts.

According to the report, Kuhl, who was "visibly unamused", talked a little smack after it was over:

"That's not the way I was raised," said Kuhl of Massa's behavior. "Unfortunately, there are people who didn't have the luxury of having wonderful parents like I did who taught about parental respect."

I understand the first part of Kuhl's taunt: Massa had bad parents (i.e., "Your Momma"). The second part, about parental respect, doesn't quite make sense. Is Massa supposed to treat Kuhl like his Daddy?

Video after the break:

Yet Another Drilling Post

When Randy Kuhl chose to take a page directly from Newt Gingrich's book and make drilling the centerpiece of his energy program, he chose to ignore what we've know for at least 35 years: we are far too dependent on a commodity that's extracted in some of the most contentious corners of the earth. Instead of attacking this problem head-on, he chose to mouth a comprehensive energy plan while advertising a "business as usual" solution.

That would be fine if "business as usual" were presented honestly. But the case coupling drilling more with paying less in the near term is so tenuous that Kuhl and others following the Gingrich gameplan have to rely on a set of false claims to make their case.

What's Wrong with Congress

Andrew Bacevich's interview with Bill Moyers is an interesting and enlightening discussion of how we got into our current political predicament. Bacevich is a retired Army colonel, and a conservative in the real sense of the term. Here's one part of the interview that I thought hit the nail on the head:

The Congress, especially with regard to matters related to national security policy, has thrust power and authority to the executive branch. We have created an imperial presidency. The congress no longer is able to articulate a vision of what is the common good. The Congress exists primarily to ensure the reelection of members of Congress.

and this:

BILL MOYERS: Here is what I take to be the core of your analysis of our political crisis. You write, "The United States has become a de facto one party state. With the legislative branch permanently controlled by an incumbent's party. And every President exploiting his role as Commander in Chief to expand on the imperial prerogatives of his office."

ANDREW BACEVICH: One of the great lies about American politics is that Democrats genuinely subscribe to a set of core convictions that make Democrats different from Republicans. And the same thing, of course, applies to the other party. It's not true. I happen to define myself as a conservative.

Well, what do conservatives say they stand for? Well, conservatives say they stand for balanced budgets. Small government. The so called traditional values.

Well, when you look back over the past 30 or so years, since the rise of Ronald Reagan, which we, in many respects, has been a conservative era in American politics, well, did we get small government?

Do we get balanced budgets? Do we get serious as opposed to simply rhetorical attention to traditional social values? The answer's no. Because all of that really has simply been part of a package of tactics that Republicans have employed to get elected and to - and then to stay in office.

and this about the 2006 election, where Democrats promised to end the Iraq War:

BILL MOYERS: And you say the promises of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi prove to be empty. Reid and Pelosi's commitment to forcing a change in policy took a backseat to their concern to protect the Democratic majority.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Could anybody disagree with that?

This blog is devoted to understanding one Congressional district. In the three years I've been writing here, I have been surprised to see how much power Congress has ceded to the President. The most unpopular President in modern history has been able to manipulate Congress because each party in Congress, as Bacevich says, is mainly concerned with maintaining its majority.

The whole interview is worth watching.

Remember Town Hall Meetings?

One point of pride in Randy Kuhl's 2006 campaign was his pledge to visit all 145 towns in the district every year. Because of last year's protests, and their attendant media attention, Kuhl changed those meetings to by-appointment-only this year. He's held a handful so far, and no more are scheduled on his town hall meeting page. His campaign website also contains no mention of the meetings.

A reader noticed this state of affairs and contacted Kuhl's office asking about meetings. He was told that Kuhl will be having more meetings if he's elected this year.

In 2006, town hall meetings were a major part of Kuhl's effort to portray himself as a "service Congressman". In 2008, they are a public relations liability that are no longer part of Kuhl's campaign.

Sean Carroll Throws A Slow One Right Over the Plate

Sean Carroll's raw video of a Kuhl interview shows some surprising bias. At about 13:35, Carroll lobs this softball:

I also spoke with somebody just the other day who said that "I think Randy's going to win the 29th, because Mr. Massa, his message is tired, he's now been out there three or four years, and people may just be getting annoyed with him." I know that may be an unusual question to pose to you about your opponent. How do you respond to that?

This question did not make the highly edited WHAM report, which carefully balanced Massa's and Kuhl's answers. But it was posted on their site, so it's part of the record, even if few will watch the interview to the end.

Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa are perfectly capable of campaigning on their own. Carroll's job is to put them through the ringer, not to inject partisan opinion into the story.

13WHAM's policy of posting backstory, raw video of interviews, and supporting documents is something every TV station should emulate. The TV news "hole" is mercilessly tiny, and those of us who like to learn more appreciate the extra effort WHAM takes to tell us the rest of the story. It's too bad that it sometimes makes them look pretty bad, but this is one of those times.

Leader Oil Column

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader editorial page [pdf], which contains Managing Editor Joe Dunning's column about oil and the election.

Dunning's point is that Randy Kuhl may have an edge because Democrats have not taken action on a comprehensive energy plan, and they don't have a short-term strategy. Much of what he says makes sense. Even Nancy Pelosi's own summary of Democratic action looks pretty piecemeal.

Dunning's also right to say that taxing big oil won't lower the price of gas. However, Obama's recently released plan to use the oil tax to pay for a $1,000 rebate to taxpayers shows a clear connection between oil taxes and consumer relief.

But Dunning's mistaken when he classifies oil drilling as a short-term solution, and contrasts it with the new fuel mileage standards, which won't kick in until 2020. He's right that the deadline for the fuel mileage standards is too far in the future. But the drilling advocated by Republicans won't come on line until almost 2020, either.

Once you separate spin from reality on the drilling issue, it turns out that there's no short-term solution to the high price of gas. That's a politically unpalatable truth. If Democrats had a bold long-term plan, I think they'd be in better shape politically. But Randy's not going to win this election promising to drill. That one-trick pony doesn't have legs to make it to November.

Also, it's interesting to note that Dunning's column is the only piece on that whole page that says anything positive about Republicans. The editorials criticize McCain's negative campaigning and discuss Ted Stevens' indictment. The syndicated column criticizes Bush, and the commentary piece talks about the upside of higher energy prices.

The Leader editorial page has been traditionally conservative, and I think it still is. Real conservatives aren't happy with the direction of the supposedly conservative Republican party.

Everyone on the Bus

Chuck Schumer and Randy Kuhl are worried about high energy costs and school buses. Kuhl is encouraging constituents to fill out at web-based survey on the issue.

In rural areas, where busing is necessary, higher gas or diesel costs will have a major impact. Suburban districts have an easier solution: stop running close-in bus routes. In Pittsford, every student can take the bus to school, no matter how short the trip.

One of the good things about higher energy prices is that it gives us a chance to re-evaluate some government programs that are wasteful and perhaps even harmful. Rising childhood obesity didn't get close-in busing canceled. Perhaps high gas prices will.

Blue Letter

I normally don't discuss letters to the editor, but reader Stan sent me a link to one in the Star-Gazette. The letter writer claims that Massa is out of line because he paid his wife $75,000 for accounting services. That charge appears to be false and politically stupid.

In this cycle, I can find $9,000 paid to Beverly Massa, all of which is reported on the latest quarterly filing. If someone wants to plow through all the filings, be my guest. I get the feeling that the letter writer looked at one filing and jumped to a conclusion about Mrs. Massa's salary.

Also, Randy Kuhl's son was his paid campaign manager last cycle. I don't know who's managing Kuhl's campaign this cycle, but I wasn't impressed with James' performance in 2006. See this post or this one for more details.

If hiring relatives is somehow wrong, then Kuhl's actions hiring his son are probably worse than Massa's. At least Massa's wife is a professional bookkeeper.

The S-G editorial page editor needs to do some fact checking before printing junk like this.

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