Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Perfect Storm for Democrats




It’s almost now or never for party to make big gains



By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst

Democratic candidates from around the country really didn’t have to do too much to either retain or win office in the upcoming November 7 election. The mighty GOP has made it as easy as when Watergate annihilated the Republicans in 1974.

That abysmal valley in our history was based on a single event, albeit a colossal one: the lying and cover-up by the Republican President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, and his inner circle over an initial minor criminal act. It was seen as yet another scandal in the two hundred-year history of the nation but one that profoundly threatened the people’s trust in the institutions of our government. The GOP lost over 50 seats in that election and Watergate clearly affected the outcome in the next presidential election in 1976.

Now, over 30 years later, the GOP is on the brink of a similar calamity. However, this time it is not centered on one scandal, but several scandals, plus an endless string of mishaps, ethics lapses, an increasingly unpopular war, mismanagement and general incompetence.
As much as the GOP sings the tune that all politics is local, this year it will be different. This election should and will be about the bumbling, broader Republican regime in Washington that controls all three branches of the Federal government.

The perfect storm has arrived for Democrats. You can start with the war in Iraq. That, alone, should be sufficient to oust the controlling party. Not only is this a war of choice and was initiated under false pretenses with no legitimate basis, but it has also been so poorly mismanaged that key politicians from the GOP as well as top military officers are urging a fresh new look as to how we can get out. But President Bush and a shrinking number of Republicans want to "stay the course" in deeds if not words. Only a third of the nation now supports the handling of the war and a majority view it as a mistake.

Besides the war, which has left us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and saber rattling from rogue states, the GOP is responsible for other miscues. The pathetic, insensitive handling of hurricane Katrina jumps out. Then you have the plummeting approval ratings of the president; the record-breaking budget deficits; tax cuts to the wealthy; no progress on closing the health insurance gap; no energy, immigration or Social Security reform; anti-environmental policies; a denial of the existence of science; the inane interference in the Schiavo case; and a plunge of our standing in the world. Toss in the myriad other ethics scandals and you have a recipe for disaster.

Nonetheless, the gravy on the roast for the GOP was the Foley mess. For one, it exposed House Speaker Dennis Hastert as one who covered up a creepy sex scandal to retain the House seat for the GOP at the expense of a 16 year-old page. The other aspect of this is that the Christian conservative voting bloc, once said to be in lockstep with the preacher-in-chief, has been turned off by this cover-up and is now also aware that there are gays within the ranks of GOP leadership. Imagine that. "Those people" are working in the Republican hierarchy.

When you add to the mix the public revelations by David Kuo, former manager in the Department of Faith-based Initiatives (read: bribes to GOP-friendly ministers), that top White House staff mocked the Christian conservatives as a group and insulted individual ones (Pat Robertson is "insane," Jerry Falwell is "ridiculous") one can see why this bloc may not be as enthusiastic in this election as it was in 2004.

Also, the question of "gay marriage" will be on the ballots of eight states this time, but there is some hope among lgbt activists that some of these contests will be close and even a win among them is possible. Recent court rulings have mitigated the fear, at least temporarily, that same-sex marriage isn’t imminent and may also dull the conservative drumbeat.

Based on all these factors, unless the GOP again succeeds in stealing the election with their voting shenanigans, the Dems should take over the House, and it has a decent chance of re-capturing the Senate if the anti-Republican tide is full-blown.

In Maryland, the big races are for Senate where the experienced and dependable Rep. Ben Cardin should edge out the empty suit in Michael S. Steele. Steele has ducked any questions so far regarding the issues that matter and has dodged opportunities to debate. The main reasons are that he is too aligned to Bush’s policies and wants that damage contained, and also he lacks the depth of knowledge regarding the issues. Cardin would take him to school.

Steele opposes abortion and is anti-gay and would be a disaster in the Senate. He’s trying to trick na├»ve voters that he can "change Washington." As a freshman Senator? Good luck!
The gubernatorial race between the incumbent Bob Ehrlich and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley will also go down to the wire. It is a great challenge to unseat an incumbent governor who lacks a scandal and where the state is not in disarray as it was four years ago. Nonetheless, the charismatic O’Malley, far friendlier to the lgbt community than Ehrlich will ever be, should ride the anti-GOP tide to unseat the dour and petulant Ehrlich.

All the ingredients are in place for a huge Democratic victory pending an "October surprise" or voting irregularities. If, with all these favorable conditions, they cannot capture at least one of the houses of Congress in this election, my feeling is that we will be stuck with one-party rule forever.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

All Republicans bear stain of failed policies of Bush


Letter Published in the Howard County Times--Nov.2, 2006


We hear all the time that all politics are local. I think that in this environment we can toss out that mantra in the same manner in which it was discarded in 1994. This election is and should be nationalized.

Despite the efforts of our local Republican candidates to run for cover when the name George Bush pops up, voters here in Howard County must consider the party from which these candidates are running. This election should be a referendum on the policies, ethics lapses and incompetence of the GOP, who control all three branches of the Federal government and the Governor's mansion.

Our local Republican candidates-for Governor, Senate, County Executive and those seeking seats on the council and in the General Assembly-must be examined through the lens of what the GOP has done to this country over the past 6 years. Regardless of the candidates' election run-up conversion to pseudo-independence, they are still Republicans. Most have been aided by funding from the vast Republican Party war chest to wage their campaigns.

And Michael Steele, in receiving huge cash inflows from fundraising efforts by Bush, Cheney and Rove and who was hand-picked by the national GOP to run, cannot cloak himself as a non-Republican. The voters are too intelligent for that scam.

The GOP, under the leadership of President Bush, supported a tragic war of choice in Iraq that had no foundation from the start and has been a disaster in its management. By committing such a large amount of our resources and manpower to this futile cause, we are rendered impotent in the wake of saber rattling from Iran and North Korea. Indeed, we are left more vulnerable by a party whose members try to falsely impress the electorate that they can protect us better.

So drunk with power are they, that it is becoming more evident that the top leader in Congress had allowed the Foley mess to continue despite early warnings simply to protect and retain Foley's Congressional seat. This is the party that has decimated the environment, denies the existence of science, given huge tax breaks to those who do not need them, mismanaged a natural disaster, increased the size of government with its inept and politically-charged Department of Homeland Security, failed to legitimately tackle Social Security and energy reform, fostered more terrorists, and saw our world standing-like Congress' and Mr. Bush's poll numbers-plummet.

But with all the challenges facing America and the world, the president and Congress saw fit to waste precious legislative time by obsessing over such life and death matters as flag burning and gay marriage.

Don't think for one minute that our local Republican candidates are insulated by this disgraceful period of governance by our national leaders. One such candidate, in a recent public forum, defended our policy in Iraq by asserting "we were attacked on 9/11." She still doesn't get it. The voters, even with these local contests, must examine the candidates in the context of our national failures that continue to mount.

Steve Charing
Clarksville

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Foley’s foibles stain GOP, gays


By Steve Charing
Senior Political Analyst


"Lurid." "Salacious." "Disgusting." "Despicable." "Perverted."

Those were the most common characterizations heard by innumerable outraged citizens across America in response to the content of suggestive and sexually explicit e-mail and instant messages that former Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) sent to a 16 year-old congressional page. But they could also be the same terminology that unfortunately so many use to associate with the lgbt community and its attendant "lifestyle."

This development and the way the GOP-led House of Representatives mishandled the original notification of the events have dealt the Republicans another blow. They were seen as "protecting the congressional seat, not the children." The fallout indicates the Republicans forfeited their lock on the so-called cultural values issue and dampened any remaining enthusiasm from religious conservatives for the upcoming mid-term election.

Some Republican supporters desperately reasoned that going after Foley sooner would have been seen as "gay bashing" or "politically incorrect." Spare me. All they do is trash gays to comply with their innate bigotry or to win votes.

As much as I was delighted to see another Republican misstep during an unprecedented period of errors, incompetence and pre-election free-fall, I fear the impact of this highly publicized episode will have on our efforts to achieve equality and on our community itself.

On the heels of defeats in the judiciary regarding same-sex marriage in Washington and New York (and now most recently in California) and several states poised to amend their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage, this scandal didn’t come at a good time. Indeed, it led to verbal attacks on the gay community by religious conservatives, reinforcing the animus that prevails throughout much of straight America.

The anti-gay fervor that was fanned by the Republicans in 2002 and most prominently in 2004 appeared to have quelled to a degree as the rulings from the recent court decisions generally tamped down the fear of "gay marriage." Moreover, some pro-gay progress was beginning to at least be viewed as a possibility. The repeal of the military’s odious "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, for example, was gaining traction even among some Republicans.

But the old stereotypes re-surfaced with the breaking news of the Foley Folly. Traditionally homophobic Christian conservatives were quick to link pedophilia to the gay lifestyle. While these charges did have some resonance briefly, lgbt supporters had denounced them as statistically invalid and reprehensible for attacking an entire segment of the population for the misdeeds of one troubled closet case.

Gays have been blamed for the misdeeds in the Catholic Church, as well as such disasters as tsunamis and hurricanes. But in the Foley case, when efforts to pin any wrongdoing by the Republican administration or Congress on Bill Clinton or the liberal media failed, they turned to their other favorite scapegoats: gay people.

They denounced gay men as predatory. Well that is true to some extent. Young gays constantly complain in blogs and in chat rooms about the "old pervs" hassling them online or in clubs. But straight men and males of all species are sexual predators—males typically are the aggressors.
Our opponents, however, like to claim that we are all child molesters. But the Journal of the American Medical Association found that although 90 percent of pedophiles are men, 98 percent of those men are heterosexual. That doesn’t matter to these homophobes. Their mindset is that gays are perverts, and that’s the comfort zone of straight society.


We were set back in many ways by this scandal and the roaring voices raised by our opponents. In a letter written to Speaker Dennis Hastert, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese wrote, "When extremists in your party go on national television and assert claims that a person's sexual orientation is responsible for immoral and inappropriate conduct, it sends a clear signal to the American people that they are more interested in pushing their anti-gay agenda than they are in holding our elected officials accountable."

As wrong as Foley was to use his position in Congress to harass and make unwanted sexual advances to vulnerable high school-age pages, there is little evidence that it constituted pedophilia. Even if he had sex with the page that launched this scandal, the age of consent in Washington D.C. is 16. But that is the legal matter; our community still has been tainted with Foley’s foibles.

The general anger was loud and clear and rightly so. But I question if the intensity of the reactions would have been comparable had the former Congressman sent similar e-mails to a female page. There would have been some outrage to be sure, but not to this extent. Man on boy sexuality is a huge taboo. That’s what angers the citizenry most.

As this scandal continues to unfold, the impact on the mid-term elections will not be known for certain until after November 7. Should the GOP lose control of both houses of Congress and the Foley affair is seen as the principal cause (Hello, forget Iraq?), they will really target gays more than ever, if that’s possible. And gay Republicans will particularly be in the crosshairs.

The fallout will also show that this affair impeded our ongoing attempts to convince the rest of America that we are mainstream like everyone else and deserving of equal benefits and rights. We will have yet another mountain to climb.