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Monday, September 20, 2010

MAMA GRIZZLIES VS. COMMON SENSE

It’s hard to imagine, but Sarah Palin seems to have discovered, endorsed and overseen the primary victory of a “mama grizzly” who is even less equipped to serve in high public office than she is. Well, maybe not. Anyway, Palin travels the country energizing the Tea Party faithful with speeches filled with the all the serious content of her bumper sticker collection and her and the Tea Party’s latest manifestation of the aptly named female “ursus arctos horribilis” a.k.a grizzlies, has left heads shaking in Republican Party organizations across the country. The latest cause of all this consternation is the nomination of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware. Seen by many as a fatal blow to Republican chances of winning a majority in the U.S. Senate, the cliché about “circular firing squads” seems to fit. O’Donnell can most kindly be described as quixotic. Her resume’ contains a number of typically fatal campaign attributes such as numerous financial problems. She was denied a college diploma for years for non-payment of tuition; had a residence go into foreclosure; had an IRS tax lien imposed on her for non-payment of taxes and has been accused in a formal complaint of diverting campaign contributions for personal use.

When it comes to political advocacy she seems to be suffering from a case of terminal flakiness. She has had to “modify her positions” on some, but much is still a matter of record. She “used to” think masturbation was an important social issue which she opposed, along with standard religious right positions on abortion and stem cell research. Despite recent assertions that she would place the Constitution above her “personal beliefs” she has said she wants to “apply Biblical principals” to public policy as in teaching Creationism in public schools. This apparently makes sense to her since in a previous campaign for office in 2006, she claims to have heard the “audible voice of God” although she has not shared with the public exactly what the Deity told her. Perhaps it was her commitment to “never vote to increase taxes”, a box no politician should climb into given the enormous deficits and national debt which are beyond significantly reducing with spending cuts alone.

Essentially, O’Donnell comes across as an unfocused and previously unsuccessful, religiously conservative gadfly and the Tea Party decision makers have given away the moderate constituency in Delaware in their commitment to make some kind of political statement to mainstream Republicans. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a major player in the Tea Party, has said he would rather lose a seat to the Democrats than compromise the unity of the new far right movement. He’s going to get his wish. O’Donnell currently is eleven points behind the Democrat candidate.

The O’Donnell candidacy is no anomaly however. In a similar exercise in political eccentricity, Palin and company endorsed Sharron Angle for the Republican Senate nomination in Nevada over the less strident establishment candidate and in doing so breathed new life into the campaign of embattled Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who now narrowly leads. Angle, who the New York Times reports, is just your typical grandmother who “has a fondness for weight lifting and her 44 magnum”.

While Angle at least has some local political experience she holds some political views that can only be described as “off the wall“. She has advocated “phasing out Social Security” although now is having to “rethink” that non-starter. But she still wants to eliminate the Department of Energy whose responsibilities include the nation's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production.

Also on her hit list is the Environmental Protection Agency, established during the Nixon Administration and the Department of Education which she somehow believes is “unconstitutional”. She has denounced energy giant BP’s compensation fund for Gulf of Mexico economic victims of the recent oil spill; wants to withdraw from the United Nations, privatize Medicare, eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, denies global warming evidence and must have been on a conference call with Christine O’Donnell when she talked to the Almighty since she believes her candidacy is a “mission for God”.

The dire economic straits of Nevada and especially Las Vegas may still defeat Reid who is desperately playing the “immigration card” to attract the votes of Nevada’s large number of Mexicans who work in the hotel, casino and restaurant industry. And of course, if the “mission of God” doesn’t work out Angle has a back up, the endorsement of Joe the Plumber of 2008 election fame.

The only upside of Palin’s and the Tea Party’s campaign against moderation and for incumbentcide is that there may be a few gaps in the firing squad circle. In Alaska, the anti-incumbent effort produced a credible candidate in Joe Miller. Miller narrowly defeated sitting Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who now may hand the weak Democrat candidate a slim victory by running a “write-in“ candidacy which might split the Republican vote. Nonetheless, Miller is a social and fiscal conservative, and unlike O’Donnell and Angle, has an actual history of intellectual achievement and service. He is graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a decorated combat veteran in the First Gulf War, a Yale Law School graduate, and has served as a U.S. Magistrate in Alaska. He might actually be an improvement over Murkowski who essentially inherited her seat from her father.

In Kentucky, libertarian and Duke University educated physician Rand Paul has softened some of his stranger rhetoric and leads in the polls. If elected, and since he is clearly an intelligent person, the reality check of Senatorial politics may move him from the “far right” to the “less far right” and give him a chance to be effective. Also, he doesn’t hear voices.

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