The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ed Koch on the Iraqi Front in the War on Terror

Ed Koch is one Democrat who takes seriously the threat of radical Islam to the United States. That makes this column all the more important.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is Obama Puffing Up the Donor Numbers?

To the Centerman, there has always been something just a little amiss about the campaign of Barack Obama. We have already found ourselves asking, to borrow a phrase from Walter Mondale, borrowed from Wendy's Hot & Juicy Hamburgers, "where's the beef?"

That question arises again in the context of a New York Times story regarding Obama's fundraising. The Obama campaign has made much of the large number of donors to Senator's campaign, as proof of his widespread popularity. But is there beef in them buns? According to the Times, this comes about because,
Mr. Obama’s campaign has also employed novel tactics — like counting sales of $5 speech tickets or $4.50 Obama key chains as individual contributions — to pump up his numbers and transform grass-roots enthusiasm into more useful forms of support. No other campaign is known to have listed paraphernalia sales as donations.

The Times does not say what excluding those "donors" would do to Obama's numbers, nor how they compare to other candidates. In one sense, it hardly matters - Obama's fundraising numbers would be impressive no matter how he got it, and having people buy campaign trinkets is, in a way, as impressive as having them directly contribute to the campaign. The excitement is real. Yet one comes away once again thinking that Obama may be just a bit slicker than most folks yet think. The Centerman would like to believe that Senator Obama is the candidate so many seem to think he is - the unifying centrist, the man of integrity, the leader of a new generation. So far, though, I am just not quite buying it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

When voters threw out the Republican congressional majorities last fall, one reason was frustration over pork barrell spending, epitomized by the practice of "earmarking."

The new Congress, we were assured, would be different.

Today, the 2008 budget for Health and Human Services rolled through the House Ways & Means Committee, Chaired by Congressman Charlie B. Rangel of New York. It includes one of the largest earmarks anywhere in the budget, $2 million for the City College of New York, to be spent specifically on... the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Frankenstein's Monster Turns on Its Creator: Senator McCain is Attacked by Stupid Campaign Finance Laws

Poor John McCain. Here's the latest in a difficult week for the Senator: the New York Times is reporting that he may have made illegal campaign fundraising calls from the Senate cloakroom.

As the Times reports:
About 3 p.m. Tuesday, Senator John McCain ducked off the Senate floor, entered the Republican cloakroom and took out his mobile phone. Just hours after accepting the resignation of his two top campaign aides, he was making a conference call to his top fund-raisers to urge them to keep up the fight.

The call, however, may only have exacerbated an already tough week for Mr. McCain. Senate ethics rules expressly forbid lawmakers to engage in campaign activities inside Senate facilities. If Mr. McCain solicited campaign contributions on a call from government property, that would be a violation of federal criminal law as well

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but still, we feel some sympathy for the straight talkin' Senator. How dumb is all this?
Matt David, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, ... said Mr. McCain used his campaign cellphone and did not specifically ask the fund-raisers for campaign contributions, which would have been a crime.

It gets worse:
Whether a conference call with fund-raisers could constitute a solicitation of campaign contributions and thus violate the criminal law as well as the internal Senate ethics rules can depends on the details of the call, several legal experts said.

“If it is a solicitation, it is illegal,” said Lawrence Noble, a nonpartisan expert on political law in Washington.

Marc Elias, a Democratic campaign lawyer, said, “It is going to depend on the precise words that were used on the call,” noting that courts might consider an exhortation to pump up his fund-raisers a solicitation, depending on the context. (Mr. David insisted there was no form of solicitation on the call.)

It's going to depend on the precise words of the call? Context? An exhortation? Used his campaign cell phone? Did not "specifically ask" for contributions? How is someone supposed to comply with such rules? The answer is, they're not. They are supposed to stop raising funds.

How absurd is our system. Of course, at the end of the day, I wonder if anyone believes that this makes Senator McCain more corrupt? Maybe this will wake up Senator McCain to some of the damage that he has done with his "reform" crusade - but then, his days as a serious policy maker seem to be coming to an end, so it may not matter.

Meanwhile, this story in the gossipy Politico discusses something the Centerman has blogged on long ago - the relationship of Senator McCain with the "Reform Institute." The cruelest cut: The Politico Headline calls Senator McCain an "ex-reformer."

How absurd this all is. Senator McCain is being treated unfairly, to be sure (yes, let's go to a couple of Democratic lawyers for commentary - that's fair!), but what goes around sometimes comes around. Live by "reform," die by "reform."

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