Friday, May 30, 2008

Dan Seals and the Rostenkowski Way: What WAS In That Envelope, Anyway, Dan?

Someone alerted me to this video making a point about 10th Congressional Candidate Dan Seals and his ill-advised decision to accept a 'mystery' envelope from former congressman (and, oh, yeah, convicted felon), Dan Rostenkowski, at the end of Seals' last night class he is teaching at Northwestern University.

We don't specifically know what was in that envelope; we only know that it's kinda the point of this video. When someone hands you an envelope and tells you it's to support your campaign, we can pretty much guess what was in it. Passing a campaign contribution to Seals during a class, on Northwestern University property, is absolutely the height of idiocy. When the IL GOP broke this story, and we had a brief post on it, I read with incredulity the comment of one bloke who said, something like, 'well, what was he supposed to do, give it back?' Well, duh....

Anyway, Dan, with all the negative attention you are getting all over the place for your ill-advised gas give-away, I can't believe you were this stupid. (For just a sampling of the negative NATIONAL attention he's been getting, see here and here and here and here and here and here.) It's gonna be a fun few months until November if you keep this up, Danno.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden: Obama Already Working to Lower His Own Bar for Effecting "Change," Should He Be Elected

No one ever said Barack Obama wasn't smart, or that he didn't plan far down the political road. From what I've read and heard recently, he's already figured out that his grandiose promises of "change" pose a problem for him: no one, no matter how skilled, how 'messianic', can change something like the way Washington, or indeed the country, works overnight. Even more simply, many people massively overestimate the effect a single individual, even the president, or his or her administration, can have on the course of the country (little things like the global economy, rogue nations, acts of God, etc., can throw a little wrench into even the best-laid plans of a president).

So, what's the problem that Obama faces? Well, when you campaign on a promise of "change," and you don't deliver, people will lose faith and you will come under massive criticism for failing to meet your own goal. So, Obama, ever the clever politician, is already seeking to diminish expectations for the effectiveness of his presidency, should he win. He has already realized that he cannot meet the promises he has made, even as vague and empty as they are, given that he has positioned himself as the guy who will turn Washington around on a dime the first week he's in office.

This attempt to manage expectations has not happened overnight. Only a few weeks ago, Obama promised grand change to an enthusiastic crowd, but then admitted it'll be a long slog:
"I'll be honest with you," he said. "We've dug ourselves into a hole, and it's going to take some time to get out." He also said that change for some issues could be "two or three years away."

Now, we're hearing it may even take him two terms.

Wow, ya gotta hand it to this guy. He hasn't even gotten the Dem nomination, but he's already campaigning for his second presidential term.

Clearly, he's buying some insurance. Don't blame me, he says, if my first term is a failure by the very standards I've set--the problem in Washington is simply too big for anyone to handle in only four years, and the GOP has made such a mess of things, what could anyone have done?

The message is subtle, but it's clear. Obama doesn't believe the package he's trying to sell to the masses, because it's unrealistic. Obama is sowing the seeds now to be able to say in the future, I never promised you a rose garden.

Oh, but you did. And now, you're already backing away.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Forget About Bush's Third Term: Worry About Jimmy Carter's Second

I saw an interesting article over the weekend that may be an effective rebuttal to the now-familiar Dem mantra that electing John McCain would be the equivalent of giving George W. Bush a "third term." This article, by blogger Paul Miller (I'm assuming no relation to Rich Miller of Capitol Fax Blog) was picked up by The American Thinker and is receiving some attention for its well thought-out analysis and evidence of eerie similarities between Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

During the early Dem debates when we had 8 or so candidates (remember those days?), it seemed that the popular tactic was to see which candidate could bash George Bush the best. Ah-ha, thought I, this is never going to work in the general election, because I know something these candidates apparently don't know- George Bush will not be on the ticket in Nov. 2008.

Well, the joke was somewhat on me, because Obama has found a way to put George Bush on the ticket, and that's to equate John McCain with a third Bush term, although in truth, the policies of George Bush and John McCain are very different... too different, in fact, for a lot of right-wing solid Bush supporters, but I'm assuming they will come around in the face of the alternative...

We may have the last laugh yet, though. While it was undeniably a great tactic to find a pithy, clever way to equate McCain with Bush, Obama may have even more problems if the comparison to Jimmy Carter gets some legs. If you are old enough, harken back to the days of double-digit inflation, hostages in Iran, gas shortages, and little global respect for the American president as a world leader. Carter also had the 'blame America' syndrome that afflicts Obama, and which seems to make Obama want to vet America's behavior in the eyes of the world:

"We can't drive our SUVs and, you know, eat as much as we want and keep our homes on, you know, 72 degrees at all times, whether we're living in the desert or we're living in the tundra, and then just expect every other country is going to say OK, you know, you guys go ahead keep on using 25 percent of the world's energy, even though you only account for 3 percent of the population, and we'll be fine," Obama said.

Oh, so now we're supposed to ask the rest of the planet if we're OK or not?

Is Obama running for president of the world, or of the United States?

Let's see if labeling Obama as the new Carter is an effective response to those who would paint McCain as Bush III. The GOP, too, can play the game of 'brand the other guy with a comparison to an unpopular president.'

Exercise: Ask anyone who was an adult during Carter's term and during Bush's two terms. Then ask them which one they'd rather see repeated, if that's the choice.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free: Let Us Honor and Remember Those Who Gave Their Lives This Memorial Day

For many Americans, sadly, Memorial Day simply means a day off work and maybe a picnic. But, perhaps, being at war gives American a hightened awareness of the ultimate sacrifice made by our servicemen and women who have given their lives for our country. I guess if there is one lesson we've learned from Vietnam is that the American people need to separate their political view on this enagement or that engagement, and support the troops who are serving our country. So, on this Memorial Day, let's concentrate on honoring the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in the service of our country, and we'll give the political aspects of war and local elections a rest, perhaps. I'll leave you with this to think about....

Freedom Is Not Free
- Kelly Strong

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Dan Seals "Sticker Shock" Caption Contest (UPDATED)

One of our commentors pointed out this priceless picture of Dan ('We're buying gas, not votes') Seals pumping gas yesterday in Lincolnshire that was associated with the Daily Herald online article on the "Gas for Votes" fiasco yesterday, but I missed it, as it was not in the print edition of the paper.

Sure seems prime material for a caption contest to me. Have at it.

UPDATE: The Pioneer Press has this story on Gas Gate. Seals says the event was not intended to influence peoples' votes, but to make them aware of how the Bush administration's energy policies are hurting consumers at the gas pump. "There's no voting buying here," Seals said. "I think he (Kirk) is trying to distract people from the real issue, which is that people are fed up with the prices they're paying at the pump."

Exercise-- read Seals' quote "There's no vote buying here" Then look up at the picture. Then read the quote again. Repeat until it sinks in. SEALS TRIED TO BUY VOTES. Knock, knock, Dan. That's the U.S. Attorney at the door.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'Gas for Votes' Stunt "Backfires," Leaving Dan Seals With Egg On His Face in IL-10 (UPDATED x3)

Well, it's been quite a day in the IL-10th District congressional race; first, there was the story that former congressman (and convicted felon) Dan Rostenkowski presented Dem candidate (and night school instructor at Northwestern University) Dan Seals with an envelope during his night class that contained (so says the IL GOP) an assumed monetary donation that would help Seals in his campaign (or did it just contain some good advice, say, on how to avoid prison?). After all the negative press Seals got for prematurely claiming he was a professor at NU, and then taking flak from NU students who were concerned his teaching gig amounted to university-sanctioned electioneering, you would think Seals wouldn’t be so stupid as to take a campaign contribution in front of his class, in an NU classroom.

Usually, a story like that would keep us talking for at least a few days.

But, Seals managed to top himself today with "Gasoline Gate".

As you may have heard by now (if you are the kind of person that reads this or similar blogs regularly), Dan Seals pulled a rather boneheaded (and possibly illegal) stunt today in toney Lincolnshire, an inner north shore suburb (is there such a thing?), where Seals showed up at a local gas station to sell discounted gas to all and sundry. The shtick? Seals offered to pay the difference between 2001 gas prices (which he pegged at $1.85) and today's price, up to ten gallons, to any customer that showed up between 12:00 and 1:00.

But, there were few (!) glitches. First, despite being advertised as an hour-long promotion, Seals arbitrarily cut off discounted gas sales by 12:20 or so, and only about 50 motorists actually got any cheap gas, the Chicago Tribune reported. Next, the Seals camp didn't bother to inform Lincolnshire police of the promotion, and lunchtime traffic was snarled all around the area. D'oh! Not only were people who waited in the 1.5 mile-long line pretty pissed when they were turned away, people in the area who had nothing to do with, or no interest in, Seals' political stunt, were also inconvenienced... and, no doubt, probably collectively wasted more gas by idling in their cars than Mr. Seals gave away. I daresay that Seals lost a lot more votes today with this stunt than he gained. Even the usually reserved Tribune stated that the stunt "backfired."

Getting down to basics, the whole idea of Seals' stunt was flawed from the get-go. First, this was hardly an original idea from Seals. In fact, Seals stole this from the Dem playbook in the 2006 election cycle. But, there's a big trap with this strategy, Seals fell right into it.

Recall that back in 2006, the Republicans controlled Congress, so they were an easy target to blame for high gas prices, which back then were around $2.20 to $2.40 a gallon (seems like the good 'ole days). Even then, however, the Dem playbook warned its candidates that tried this gambit that it could backfire, if the Dems took over Congress and gas prices didn't drop. As noted at the time, the obvious problem "is a long-term one, the fact that there really is no "magic bullet" to make prices come down at the pump, so voters might be disappointed if Congress goes Democratic and gas prices stay high."

Well, guess what happened? The Dems won the majority, gas prices skyrocketed, but Seals decided to use an outdated campaign strategy from 2006 that warned against the very circumstances that came to pass... yet Seals bit anyway. Seals apparently did not stop to think that the most relevant comparison for political purposes is not between early 2001 (when Kirk first took office) and 2008, but rather 2006 (when the Dems took over) and today. If my figures are right, gas prices have risen more than twice as much in the two years since the Nancy Pelosi-controlled Congress took over, compared to the entire six previous years under Kirk and a Republican-controlled Congress. D'oh! again.

Of course, trying to blame high gas prices on a single member of Congress is pretty ludicrous to begin with. Either Seals is being purposely disingenuous for political gain, or he has no understanding of market economics. It seems to me that, by far, the two greatest factors to the recent huge run-up in oil prices is increased demand from developing countries like China and India, as well as rampant speculation in the market (which a segment on WBBM this morning stated that speculation may be adding as much as $40 a barrel to the current price of oil). Dan Seals will be able to do nothing more about this, should he (heaven forbid) be elected to Congress, than Mark Kirk is individually to blame for it. You can also add, while we're at it, the burdensome federal and state taxes on gasoline (up to 20% of the price) and Barack Obama's and the Illinois Democrats' collective resistance to any kind of gas tax relief on the state or federal levels.

In a rather rare move, Congressman Kirk's team actually took note of the Seals debacle, and issued a statement seriously questioning the legality of the stunt.

And, the Seals apologists were in full defense mode today, in the comments over at Capitol Fax Blog, and at Illinois Reason and Archpundit. Some even got a little personal with TA, but hey, as a lawyer, I have a pretty thick skin, so have at it guys.

But to anyone like Archpundit and Rob N., who equate the Seals stunt with handing out the usual freebies like pizza and beer or campaign tchotckes, I have news for ya: buying your volunteers pizza and beer after a day of knocking on doors, or handing out free T-shirts and hats with “Kirk for Congress” or whatever you like, is a lot different than calling the media and announcing to all comers that you’re running for Congress and hosting a give-away, so c’mon over.

Seals' stunt today was the equivalent of him standing on the street corner and saying, I’m Dan Seals, here’s $50, and by the way, I’d appreciate your vote. Even if the FEC determines, in the end, that it's not illegal, it sends the wrong message on a lot of levels, and isn't what I want in MY Congressman.

h/t to "Wumpus" over at Cap Fax Blog for the "Gas for Votes" monicker. Love that!

UPDATED: The Waukegan News-Sun quotes Kirk spokesman Eric Elk as stating that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture have been asked to look into the questionable legality of the Seals stunt from a number of different angles. See the Daily Herald's take on the story here.

UPDATED x2: Check out the CBS-2 video of Seals handing out his campaign literature during the event. Also note the really pissed off look of the Lincolnshire Police Chief. IL GOP Chairman Andy McKenna has called on Seals to reimburse the two suburban police departments that had to scramble to provide police coverage and traffic control on extremely short notice.

UPDATED x3: Rich Miller at Capitol Fax Blog spins himself dizzy with his criticism of the Tribune's story (characterizing it as a "hit piece") stating that the Seals gas stunt "backfired," and promotes Archpundit and Illinois Reason, both of which made the focus of their posts Team America, almost more so than the story itself. Miller, however, neglects to give the opposing viewpoint a voice and ignores TA's post on this same issue, in favor of highlighting the pro-Seals blogs.

'Professor' Dan Seals Campaigns On Northwestern University Class Time

The IL GOP put out this press release today...

Dan Seals invites convicted felon Dan Rostenkowski to address night school class, then takes dirty money from Rostenkowski in front of students

Former Congressman ran the largest Congressional corruption ring in U.S. history

Congressional candidate Dan Seals this week invited former congressman and convicted felon Dan Rostenkowski to lecture to night school students about federal policymaking and then took money from Rostenkowski in front of the class, according to student reports.

Seals, who was hired as an instructor to facilitate 10 night school classes this spring at Northwestern's School of Continuing Studies, invited Rostenkowski to teach students Tuesday night. According to students in the class, after Rostenkowski's presentation, the convicted felon handed Seals an envelope and said he hoped the contents would help Seals' campaign.

Rostenkowski served as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee before his 1994 indictment on federal corruption charges for his key role in the House post office scandal. Charges against Rostenkowski included keeping "ghost" employees on his payroll, using Congressional funds to buy gifts such as chairs and ashtrays for friends, and trading in officially purchased stamps for cash at the House post office. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of mail fraud and served 15 months of a 17-month sentence.

"Dan Seals should be ashamed for taking dirty money from one of the most corrupt members of Congress in American history in front of innocent students," said Lance Trover, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party. "Dan Seals has a track record of unethical campaign practices and should go back to school for a class in personal ethics,"

Trover pointed to an Inspector General investigation launched by the Illinois Attorney General in 2006 after the Chicago Tribune reported state workers were fundraising for Dan Seals on government time using government resources.

"When it comes to ethics, Dan Seals represents the Blagojevich wing of the Democratic Party," Trover said. "Quite frankly, people are fed up with the Blagojevich-Seals style of politics."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Terry Link's Objection to Keith Gray Dismissed; Lake County Dems 0-for-6

This just in... the hearing officer made a directed finding against the objector, Cynthia Alexander, who opposed GOP candidate Keith Gray, who is slated against State Senator Terry Link.

Link's legal team reportedly had nothing, and simply fished around to see if they could trip anyone up as to the circumstances of the slating meeting.

Next up is the hearing on Dan Sugrue, who is slated to run against State Rep. Kathy Ryg.

In case anyone is keeping track, the Lake County GOP has prevailed in all of its objections to slated candidates so far (four county board candidates and one state rep. seat), and the Lake County Dems just failed in their first objection, which was to Keith Gray.

Terry Link's Fishing Expedition to Knock GOP Opponents Off Ballot Ends Today (Hopefully)

As we reported a few weeks back, State Senator Terry Link's Lake County Democrats filed a pretty desperate set of objections against slated GOP candidates Keith Gray, a Mettawa resident who owns a business in Waukegan (running against Link), and Dan Sugrue, a Green Oaks attorney (running against State. Representative Kathy Ryg). See the foregoing link for the objections and responses, etc.

Today, hearings on both cases will be held downtown at the James R. Thompson Center. As a lawyer, you never like to predict how the hearing officer (or judge, or jury as applicable) is going to rule, but I have to say that Link's case is essentially non-existent. Link's objector (his disciple Cynthia Alexander) claims on behalf of Link that the Lake County GOP could not have met in a Waukegan law office on April 1 to slate Gray, since they also claimed they met in Green Oaks later that day at the home of Dan Sugrue to slate him. Guess the Dems cannot conceive of having more than one meeting in a day.

It's clear that they have heard something about the Tri-State Tollway, however, since they subpoenaed the attendance of every person who was at the meeting, along with their I-Pass records. TA assumes this is to check to see if someone's I-Pass records might reveal that they were somewhere else on the tollway system when the Lake County GOP claimed they were at the meeting, but if you've never heard of the phrase, "Fishing Expedition," this is the classic example.

As to Sugrue, the Dems appear to claim that the slating meeting was not held in the 59th District, which is a requirement (Sugrue lives in Green Oaks but has a Libertyville mailing address, which is somewhat misleading, but pretty easy to check on). Since the meeting was held at Sugrue's Green Oaks home (which IS in the District), if in fact the home was NOT in the District, Sugrue would have a bigger problem, since he would not be eligible as a candidate in the first place. TA expects this objection will also be quickly dismissed.

I think it is telling that Link, especially, would file such a pathetically thin objection, just in the off chance that he might prevail. It's clear to me that Link is desperate to avoid putting himself up to the judgment of the voters in the fall, in any case where there is actually an alternative.

Stay tuned during the day for further developments...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Barack Obama Lays Down the Law and Picks It Up Again: "Lay Off My Wife," Even Though She's My Co-Campaigner (UPDATED x3)

Well, Barack Obama once again is showing he's got a mighty thin skin. Not a good trait for someone who aspires to be leader of the free world. The latest flap is Barack vs. the Tennessee GOP, which has been running ads making hay of Michelle Obama's statements regarding her newfound pride in the U.S., now that her husband has deigned to run for President and save us all. Barack thinks that, despite putting his wife (and occasionally the kids) on the stump for him for the past year, it's a dirty political trick to start taking potshots at his wife.

Obama should have learned a lesson, perhaps, watching John Kerry's presidential campaign implode when he made his military service a centerpiece of his campaign. You can't start off your campaign by proclaiming 'John Kerry reporting for duty!' and then act offended when the opposition starts questioning whether your military service is everything you were making it out to be.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that modern politics has gotten to be a very dirty business, and even if a candidate chooses to put himself or herself up for public scrutiny, family ought to be off limits, or at least, should not be fair game as if the family was also running for the office.

UNLESS... the candidate -- with full (and enthusiastic) participation from the spouse -- makes his or her spouse essentially a co-campaigner and goes out on the stump. Michelle Obama's statements on the stump, on behalf of her husband, using her personal views to make her point, made her fair game. Sorry, Barack. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. And, from what I can see, Michelle Obama has been every bit as much of a campaigner as Bill Clinton is for Hillary. I don't hear Hillary whining about the unfair treatment of her husband.

Better grow some 'lizard skin,' as we litigators like to say, or you are not going to be able to last the rest of the campaign, much less (ugh) make it as president.

SEE MR. THIN SKIN HIMSELF: On Good Morning America, here. h/t Lynn Sweet.

UPDATED: OBAMA TO DECLARE HIMSELF THE DEM NOMINEE: It appears that Barack Obama has lost patience with Hillary and will declare himself the nominee after the Kentucky and Orgeon primaries are held Tuesday, despite the fact that he will not yet have enough delegates to be declared the winner before the Democratic convention. Hmm... just don't criticize this move otherwise, Obama is likely to go off in another rant on TV.

Interestingly, only recently David Axelrod, Obama's campaign chief, stated:

"Senator McCain has basically run free for some time now because we have been consumed with this. Everybody is eager to get on with this. We are not going to take anything for granted. But we are also going to spend time addressing broader issues. I mean, I don’t think we are going to spend our time solely in primary states." (emphasis mine)

Guess they must've changed their minds, or perhaps Axelrod wasn't in the loop on where Obama was headed. Or, perhaps he just has a different understanding of what 'taking something for granted' is, exactly.

Seriously, this move may backfire on Obama, bigtime. Just as many Clinton supporters were quietly starting to accept what appeared to be inevitable (remember when they said that about Hillary?), and the superdelegates were falling into line, he has to go make this big statement about how he's the guy? If you can read the tea leaves, this probably doesn't mean Obama would pick Hillary for VP, and it also will give Hillary supporters even more qualms about jumping in for Obama, which was already rumored to be a big problem for him. h/t Lynn Sweet.

UPDATED x2: Now it appears that Obama has thought better of declaring victory tomorrow and he will come as close to he can to declaring victory, without actually declaring it. Is this starting to become an obvious pattern of dissembling?

UPDATED x3: I don't get the print edition of the Chicago Sun-Times (seems like the only paper I do not happen to subscribe to), but I saw on the print previews on Channel 5 news last night that the wife-gate story is plastered all over the tabloid-like front page of the Sun-Times. Here's the accompanying article by Obama apologist and promoter Lynn Sweet.

Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune devotes barely half a column to the story (simply printing an AP story), and buries it on page 6 in my print edition. Is it that the Sun-Times will take any excuse to put Obama on the cover, or is there another reason for the massive disparity in treatment of this story between Chicago's two major (last) dailies?

IN CONGRESSIONAL NEWS: Steve Greenberg, who is running against Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean in IL-8, seems to be picking up steam. Michael S. Steele, conservative former Lt. Governor of Maryland, GOPAC Chairman and rumored VP possible for John McCain, was the keynote speaker for a Greenberg fundraiser last Thursday that fetched about $175,000. Also, Greenberg has a new campaign manager, Colin Corbett, on board.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pimp That Congressional Ride! $1161 a Month for a Ford? (UPDATED)

It's Friday, so I thought with all the nastiness going back and forth in the presidential race, we ought to take a breather and look at the expensive driving tastes of some of the Illinois Congressional delegation, who are allowed to lease cars at taxpayer expense, legally. WBBM radio just finished an investigation into the cars leased by our reps in Congress from Illinois and came up with the following results:

--> Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago leases a 2007 Lincoln Navigator for $746/month and gets 12 miles per gallon city/17 mpg highway

--> Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago leases a 2007 Ford Expedition for $1161/month which gets 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway

--> Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago leases a 2006 Honda Civic hybrid for $366/month which gets 40 mpg city/45 mpg highway

--> Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago was leasing a Mercury Marquis for $265/month but was trading it in to lease a Saturn Vue. Further information not yet available.

--> Rep. Jerry Costello of Belleville leases a 2008 flex fuel Jeep Cherokee for $778/month that gets 9 miles per gallon city/12 mpg highway

--> Rep. Don Manzullo of Rockford leases a 2007 flex fuel Mercury Mountaineer for $465/month which gets 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway

--> Rep. Phil Hare of Rock Island leases a 2006 Buick Lucerne for $897/month which gets 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway

--> Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville leases a 2007 flex fuel Jeep Commander for $627/month which gets 9 mpg city/12 mpg highway

Read the whole story here. The mileage is noted because a change in the rules dicates that congressmen must start leasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, WBBM reports.

Leaving the mileage issue aside, look at the lease price for Congressman Jackson's Ford Expedition. It's $1161 a month! What kind of ride is THAT? And it's a Ford? If I was in Congressman Jackson's district, I would be worried about my congressman's negotiation skills if I couldn't wrangle a better deal than that. Of course, maybe it's a "Funkmaster Flex" edition.

As our observant TA readers will note, Congressman Mark Kirk did NOT make the list of shame, as he does not lease cars at taxpayer expense. That's right, ZERO taxpayer dollars.

TA hears that Congressman Kirk gets by with an '88 Toyota in DC and a '98 Ford at home in the 10th District. It's not stylin', I guess, but that's a lot more in line with what normal people who are not feeding at the taxpayer trough like Congressman Jackson can apparently afford. Kirk might want to join AAA with an aging fleet like that, though... (sorry Mark!)

Have a great weekend!

PS- I've never seen Mark Kirk's '88 Toyota, but the vision in my mind was the beater in the commerical. Sorry again, Mark, but I couldn't resist.

SATURDAY UPDATE: Most people probably don't pour over the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, but there were a few articles that I thought were pretty good which I wanted to point out. First is a great piece on how to make a Democrat go nuts (just say "appeasement"). Second, on a more sobering note, is a follow-up on the challenge faced by the national GOP which focuses on the national mood, and it's not good. Follow that up with the "pity party" piece, and it'll pretty much kill your Saturday. Check 'em out, but only if you're in the mood for deep thought today.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Many Are Asking, Has the GOP Hit "Rock Bottom?"

During my usual morning read (News-Sun, Tribune, Herald and the WSJ), I came across two articles that both addressed the question "Has the GOP hit rock bottom?" Karl Rove in the WSJ and Jim Tankersley in the Chicago Tribune each look at the recent victory of the Democrats in the special election in Mississippi for Congress, and point to the upset victory of Democrat Travis Childers in a solidly Republican congressional district. Just like the Oberweis race here in the 14th District, the national GOP spent a ton of precious cash trying to keep what should have been a 'safe' seat. And, with the upset in Mississippi, that makes three losses in special elections for the GOP.

So, what's going on? Has the GOP really hit 'rock bottom'?

My first answer to that was, hell no!

Then I thought, wait, does that mean worse is ahead? Is the better answer that we HAVE hit rock bottom? Well, simply to have to ask the question is not good.

One of the reasons the GOP is in this pickle is that it lost its message and core principles of fiscal conservatism. In fact, many people think the reason the Dems have been successful of late in some of these special elections is that they have run candidates that are actually to the right of the GOP candidates in some respects. As the WSJ stated today in its editorial,"The Republican Panic,"

Democrats have settled on a formula of running as cultural conservatives in GOP districts, and as economic populists on "fiscal discipline," trade protection, corporate bashing, and "middle-class tax cuts" paid for by taxes on the rich. If Republicans can't trump that message with an agenda of low taxes, health-care affordability and portability, jobs and stable prices, they will be routed again in November.

However, there is good reason for hope. First, at least here in Illinois, we have the leadership of Mark Kirk. "The critical challenge before both parties is to articulate a 21st Century agenda," Kirk told the Tribune. The Illinois State GOP is showing the glimmerings of life, having just rolled out its "Agenda for Illinois." More on this to come.

Also, it looks like the fall election could be focused, at least in Illinois, on the Blagojevich administration and possible indictment, impeachment, recall or who knows what. Even if Barack "Sweetie" Obama is at the top of the Dem ticket, it is my theory that the Dems will count Illinois as safe, and empty the state by sending every Barack supporter elsewhere to drum up votes in other states.

Sadly, many Republicans in Illinois, like crabs in a bucket, keep dragging each other down when they try to climb out. The Conservatives are convinced that the answer is to run candidates that are more conservative (to get back to bedrock GOP principles), while the moderates are equally convinced that the only way to win elections is to run more moderate candidates (to appeal to a broader base and changing viewpoints of the electorate).

Yet, again, there is hope. In Lake County, from what I've seen lately, there are signs of these two GOP groups coming together. I am hopeful that we will all stand behind our great crop of new candidates, including Steve Greenberg, Dan Duffy, Keith Gray, Dan Sugrue, and Tim Stratton. The Lake County Dems will have their own hands full defending their seats in the midst of ties to Blago, Stroger and Terry Link (and his petition scandals).

I'm certainly not ready to throw in the towel yet, and we have a long time until the election. More than enough time for the GOP to bounce back from the "bottom," if they choose.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mark Kirk Discusses Internet Predators, Gang Violence, Transportation and Other Hot Issues with Mary Ann Ahern on "City Desk" (UPDATED x4)

This morning I took time out from Mother's Day stuff to tune in to Channel 5 and watch City Desk with Mary Ann Ahern, and her great interview of Congressman Mark Kirk. Here's a link to the first part of the video.

As usual, Congressman Kirk was extremely impressive in his presentation of the issues and what he is doing in Congress to affect change for the betterment of people in the 10th District. He began the interview by talking about his concern over the Internet alternate universe of "Second Life," which Kirk views as an uncontrolled and fertile ground for Internet predators due to insufficient age controls and restrictions.

A lot of people are paying attention to this important issue, and this week I have read numerous pieces, mostly on the blogs, that seem to be either strongly supportive of Kirk's efforts, or strongly against Kirk's stand. Among those who support Kirk are parents who have had firsthand experience that their children (or even themselves) have received a solicitation from an Internet predator of some kind, and understand the kind of danger that these sites pose.

The ones who are critical of Kirk fall mainly into two camps: first, people who are either big fans of Second Life or similar games, or are somehow involved in the Internet gaming industry (and thus seem to be very defensive against what they perceive as government over-regulation); and, second, the usual anti-Kirk crowd who dismiss this as a political stunt.

It struck me as I was watching the interview that those people who are screaming about over-regulation of the Internet, or are simply critical of Kirk for addressing this issue, are likely the same people who are screaming that the government failed to provide ENOUGH oversight over the lending industry, which they tend to blame for the subprime lending crisis. You can't have it both ways, folks. As Kirk pointed out, we don't allow just anything on TV or radio, and the Internet has been the equivalent of the Wild West for too long. Does any rational parent really think that a medium that provides an alternate universe where you can experience 'rape rooms,' bondage stores, brothels, and areas for Satanic rituals, should not be subjected to government oversight to ensure that minors are not able to access such age-inappropriate material?

Congressman Kirk also discussed the growing gang problems in the 10th District, gun loopholes, the chaos in Springfield and potential loss of federal transportation funding, and several other issues.

What's Dan Seals up to? Carrying Jan Schakowsky's briefcase and using high schoolers to get his campaign message out.

UPDATED: The website picks up on TA's discussion and its readers join the debate. Go check it out. If nothing else, Mark Kirk's concern over this issue is going to bring national attention to the need for a closer look at Internet safety for minors.

UPDATED x2: Here's the second part of the City Desk interview of Mark Kirk.

UPDATED x3: Mark Kirk had a press conference on Monday to announce new legislation to encourage employers to provide more mass transit benefits. See more here.

UPDATED x4: The mass transit credit propsal is the "Question of the Day" over at Capitol Fax Blog. Go check it out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

McCain, Not Obama, Better Choice to Prevent War In Iran; Mark Kirk Fights to Add Israel to Missile Defense Blanket (UPDATED)

ROLL CALL ARTICLE: Here's a no-subscription link to that great article from Roll Call that we discussed yesterday.

One of Barack Obama's primary political platform planks is the notion that we don't talk enough to terrorist nations. Lots of other U.S. presidents talked to all sorts of nasty leaders and countries over the years, and there's nothing to be afraid of. It will increase our standing in the world and make our friends forget about George Bush, and the terrorists will lay down their arms and embrace lattes and soccer games on weekends, just like us folks in Hyde Park do.

Here's another scenario: Countries like Iran will see an Obama presidency as weak on asserting its interests globally and will test its mettle, especially against Israel. Iran will see little to lose in continuing to march towards nuclear weapons capability, which will lead Israel to react to preserve itself, much like its recent bombing of the reactor in Syria. Iran will count on being able to withstand an Israeli air attack on its nuclear facilities, which are deep underground, and will then have a great excuse to go to war with Israel. The U.S., of course, will be drawn in, and no amount of the Barack-star's silver-tongued rhetoric will get us out of that mess.

John McCain is the best shot we have at avoiding that scenario, but it will be a challenge to make that point in the coming months. In today's Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger observes:

John McCain needs to find an Achilles heel in this opponent. It's there – not the Wright mess but Obama's dustup with Hillary Sunday on Iran, when he tagged her for "saber rattling" and "tough talk."

Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, collector of centrifuges, makes Jeremiah Wright look like Little Bo Peep. Yet this Tuesday Barack Obama said he assumes the American people will see it is "not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but our enemies, like Roosevelt did, Kennedy did, and Truman did." In the here and now, a more apt name comes to mind: Jimmy Carter.

A grand Enemies Tour awaits President Obama – Iran's Ahmadinejad, Syria's Assad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, North Korea's Kim Jong Il, an al Qaeda "diplomat" from Osama bin Laden, Sudan's Hassan al-Bashir, Zimbabwe's Mugabe, Burma's junta.

Someone who understands this all better than most is... you guessed it... Congressman Mark Kirk.

As the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel approaches, Kirk has renewed his efforts to convince President Bush to give Israel the advanced X-band radar system that would enable Israel to knock down Iranian missiles early in flight. Kirk is working on this bi-partisan effort with Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and has the backing of 63 colleagues, according to an article today in Roll Call (subscription needed to view). According to the article, Kirk stated that X-band radar would "allow Israel and the United States to see the earth through a common window" and more than quintuple Israel's warning time against an Iranian missile attack from one minute with its current system to six minutes and allow an intercept with Arrow missiles outside Israeli territory.

Even Senator Clinton seems to understand the need to take a hard line with Iran, or at least she understands it better than Obama. The Roll Call article stated:

Clinton said last month that the United States could "totally obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. She also proposed extending America's nuclear "umbrella" to Arab states in the region to keep them from "going nuclear."

Kirk, while not opposing deterrence, said that including Israel fully in the U.S. missile-defense system would be a better alternative, particularly because "deterrence only works against a rational regime" that would not risk destruction of its own population. Iran's leaders, on the other hand, adore martyrdom.

As usual, Kirk's deep understanding of foreign policy and intelligence shines through. Obama, however, who aspires to be the commander-in-chief, has a naive view of the world that comes with his Hyde Park liberal background, and will put us in a very dangerous place if he should win in November. McCain and Kirk hopefully will not let this happen.

SEAL WATCH: If anyone still bothers to go over to the 'other blog', it's interesting how Ellen never posts on anything positive challenger Dan Seals does, and simply seeks to criticize whatever Mark Kirk does. Could it be because... Dan Seals does nothing to talk about? Oh, I do have to point out that at least one Seals supporter wrote into the Daily Herald to trumpet Dan's ability to organize a park cleanup on Earth Day. That's swell, lady. Mark Kirk is out there, trying to protect the world from terrorism, our kids from Internet predators, and Lake Michigan from pollution, and Dan cleans up a park on his off Saturday. Well, you don't need to guess who I'm voting for...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Hillary vs. Barack Show

Everyone enjoying the Hillary v. Barack show? John Kass of the Chicago Tribune has a great take on where things stand, and why. He doesn't think it looks good for Hill, though.

Gotta get on the train, so consider this a Dem primary open thread.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mark Kirk Leads Dan Seals by Whopping 21 Points in Internal Poll

This just in... A new internal poll released by the Kirk campaign shows Congressman Mark Kirk is up 21 points over his Democratic challenger, Dan Seals. More later...

Mark Kirk Concerned About Our Kids and "Second Life"

Mark Kirk is all over the MSM this morning after he sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting a consumer alert about the possible dangers posed by Internet predators lurking in the online world of "Second Life."

"If Second Life is unwilling to protect minor children from explicit material on their Web site, it is imperative that we warn parents of the danger Second Life represents so they can effectively monitor their children's Internet usage," Kirk stated.

The naysayers of course, think that Congressman Kirk is simply playing for headlines. See the comments going back and forth at the Daily Herald site.

So, excuse me? Kirk's identification of a problem and trying to protect our kids is something to be critical of, while Dan Seals mostly hides in the shadows and sporadically comes out to wander around aimlessly at public events trying to shake a few hands? Are these folks so sheltered to think that Congressman Kirk made up the whole issue of Internet predators? Check out this and this and this.

Okay, have it your way. But, I know who I want as my congressman... someone who is out trying to be a positive force for the people of the 10th District, and not someone like Seals who simply hangs back and scoffs from the sidelines. It's probably not quite fair to say that a vote for Dan Seals is a vote in favor of Internet predators, but what does Dan's list of (non)-accomplishments say about him?

Sooner or later, Dan Seals needs to get it through his head that simply running for Congress is not a credential for running for Congress.

MEANWHILE... Back in the state(nut)house, the Democratic State Senators are claiming that their canceling of Tuesday's normal legislative session had absolutely NOTHING to do with the fact that Illinois state senators are driving out in droves to campaign for Barack Obama in Indiana. The good part about all this is that they will have no credibility with the public by the time the election rolls around.

Monday, May 5, 2008

News-Sun: Senate Majority "Must Be Held Accountable": Does This Include Terry Link?

Much like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the uproar over the State Senate's failure to pass its own version of the 'recall amendment' that would have allowed a vote on whether to amend the state constitution to recall elected officials does not seem to be going away. However, an AP article today questions whether voters are so clueless as to let the Democrats get away with their collective stand against recall of the governor when the fall election comes around. One thing is for sure, it won't be much of an issue if the GOP doesn't push it... but, that's largely how our two-party system works. While there is no denying the role the Fourth Estate plays in politics and shaping the issues, it's still primarily the job of the opposition to define the issues in an election.

Of course, some help from the press is not unwelcome, and even the Waukegan News-Sun is jumping on the bandwagon this morning in denouncing the failure of the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass the recall amendment, and give the voters a chance to rectify their clear mistake in re-electing Blago. In fact, the News-Sun declares this morning that the majority in the Senate "must be held accountable" for continually acting against the will of the people of the State. Hmm... the News-Sun editorial does not mention Senator Terry Link by name, but it seems clear that Link, as Senate President Emil Jones' hatchetman, is in the center of this outrage. Does that mean Link has already blown the endorsement for the fall?

To add insult to injury, over the weekend, newly-minted state senator (and Link protege) Michael Bond had the audacity to state that there was absolutely no pressure put on senate members to vote against the amendment. Are you kidding me? It was all I could do stop myself from calling his office and screaming "Liar, Liar, pants on fire!" Of course, I knew it wouldn't do any good, so I went back to my coffee.

So, what should the Lake GOP do to make sure voters don't let the Dems, especially Link and Bond, off the hook?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shame of Lake County: Senators Terry Link and Michael Bond Join to Help Block Recall Measure (UPDATED)

As you probably have heard by now, the Illinois State Senate failed to pass its measure for a fall ballot question on whether to add a recall provision to the Illinois Constitution. The recall measure, even though it applied to a number of different types of elected positions, was aimed squarely at Governor Rod Blagojevich. Not only has Blago been at odds with the General Assembly for years now, his administration has been tainted by hints of scandal, some more direct than others, such as the latest testimony in the Tony Rezko trial that alleges Blago was basically selling state positions for campaign contributions.

Well, we have something to be proud of in Lake County. Two of our own state senators, Democrats Terry Link and Michael Bond, voted to kill the amendment. Yes, marching in lockstep with State Senate President Emil Jones, these two Lake County legislators voted to protect a corrupt governor rather than vote the will of the people, which overwhelmingly appears to be in support of giving the people to right to recall elected officials, much as they do in several other states, such as California.

The amendment failed by three votes, as I understand it. So, it's clear that Bond and Link had the potential to make a difference. Interestingly, state senator Susan Garrett voted in FAVOR of the amendment, even though she has no GOP opponent for the fall election. She even voted for it in spite of personal reservations that the addition of other elected officials besides the governor (an amendment to the bill that many believe was intended to be a poison pill to thwart the bill) wasn't a wise move. Garrett may be trying to earn the label of "do-gooder" that some TA commentors would like to hang on her.

Senate President Emil Jones, who is a staunch Blago supporter, argued vehemently against the recall provision. Terry Link is Emil Jones' henchman. Bond, of course, was made by Link. So, Lake County, it's pretty clear who your state senators support when push comes to shove--they support their own leadership, and a corrupt governor, rather than the will of Lake County voters.

Think this will be an issue for Link in the fall election? Count on it. The Lake County GOP already has a scathing press release up on their website.

UPDATES FROM THE NEWS: The Waukegan News-Sun runs a short AP piece on the recall vote and fails to address the local issue. The Daily Herald does a better job.

Meanwhile.... The other big story of the day was that Northwestern University rescinded its offer to Reverend Jeremiah Wright to bestow an honorary degree on Wright at NU's commencement this spring. Check out the story at the NU paper here. For bonus points, check out the several comments that have already been posted at the paper. As one commentor astutely observed, this appears to be an extreme embarrassment for NU as their tacit plan to indirectly endorse Barack Obama for president completely blew up in their face. Well, what you expect for a once-great institution that hires an unemployed loser like Dan Seals to teach night school? UPDATED-- All of this seems to be taking a bit of a toll on Obama... will it be enough to turn the tide for Hillary?