Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Kuhl on the Issues

Randy's issues page needs a little work.  Five of the 12 issues on that page -- including the "War on Terror" -- haven't been linked yet.  Firefox users who mouse over the Issues drop-down, and IE users who click on the missing issues in the drop-down, get a message containing the word "void" in the notification area (lower-left corner).   

I don't think that's the message Kuhl intends to send.

Randy's Sure Nickel

Rochesterturning's recent post on 2004's race, which went 51%/41% for Kuhl, raises an interesting question:  who's running on the Conservative line this year?  In 2004, the Conservative party candidate, Mark Assini, got 6% of the vote.

Unfortunately for Massa, this time around it's Randy [pdf].  That's probably a solid 5% for the man from Hammondsport.

Randy's Iraq Fumble

Randy Kuhl's visit to Iraq earlier this month is an interesting glimpse into Republican political strategy for dealing with the hot-potato issue of the war.  It also shows that Randy needs to work on his game if he wants to have any credibility on this issue.

Randy's trip was one of at least 16 by members of congress since July.  Fourteen of those members are Republicans.  The lone Democrat who accompanied Randy on his trip, Lincoln Davis of Tennessee, has a competitive district (won by 54% in '04 [pdf]) and supports a "stay the course" position in Iraq. 

The surge of congressional visits appears to be part of a Republican political strategy for dealing with the Iraq issue. Not so,  according to Randy's spokesman, Bob Van Wicklin.  He calls it "asinine" to charge, as Eric Massa did, that Randy was using this trip to boost his candidacy.

Well, I've been called worse, but this jackass thinks the facts show exactly that.

In the same interview, Van Wicklin noted that "oversight is an important part of the job" and that "He (Kuhl) votes on the defense budget."  That's mighty thin.  If you go beyond Van Wicklin's Schoolhouse Rock version of how a bill becomes a law, there's the little matter of committees.  Kuhl isn't on a single committee that has anything to do with Iraq.  If Van Wicklin's right, 747s full of legislators would be winging over to Iraq on a regular basis. Obviously, they're not, because only committee members can exercise meaningful oversight.  The rest, like Randy, are there for the nickel tour.

So, Randy's in Iraq as a member-at-large with four other representatives who support the war and don't have Iraq-related committee assignments.  He's there for a few hours, spends time at an airbase and flies around in a helicopter. What else could he do but gather anecdotes and get his picture taken with local troops?   

Randy's visit was clearly a campaign-related trip.  The question is whether it did him any good.

My take is that Randy blew it.  A smart politician would have filed away that Iraq trip for debates, TV commercials and speeches.  In a debate, anecdotes from the trip could be used to put his opponent on the defensive.  Even though Massa has spent far more time in the Middle East, and is better-experienced in foreign policy after having served as an aide to Wesley Clark, he would be forced to argue with Randy's personal account of his recent trip.  Fresh eyewitness testimony is powerful, and that's why Republicans are sending dozens of members to Iraq 100 days before the election.

Instead of quietly storing up anecdotes for later, Randy took what could have been a silk purse and turned it into a sow's ear by opening his mouth.  Stupid comments like " really isn't bad.  You can almost forget you're in a war zone..." and "When you fly over and you look down, we were 1,000 feet, and you see people in fields, farmers plowing fields, herding water buffalo's [sic].  It's life as usual." make him seem horribly out-of-touch. I'll bet that I'm not the only person who's reminded of Vietnam by that last remark.

By spouting off about his trip to the media, Randy opened himself up for a devastating broadside from a respected third party, General (ret.) John Batiste. Massa now has a rejoinder ready for Kuhl in the debates:  he can quote a man who led troops for two years in Iraq. Randy can still use his trip as fodder for speeches and ads, but he'll need to tread lightly in the debates.

If you want to see how a smart politician handled the same trip, take a look at Rep. Tom Cole's column.  The man who led Randy's delegation to Iraq came back with a carefully-worded positive take on the war.  There are no references to Vietnam-era livestock, and no hollow "not so bad" assertions. Randy needs to study that hard and learn a few lessons, or his campaign will suffer the same fate as the water buffalo in Apocalypse Now in the coming election.

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