Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain's Ancient History

One last point on Friday's debate that I forgot to mention in yesterday's post...

McCain consistently referred to historical events--both as an example of success and as an example of failure--in framing his answers to a number of policy questions. While I appreciate a good discussion of history, I wonder if his points resonated at all with large segments of the public. Here were three that stood out while I was watching:

I won't repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is, after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region.

Back in 1983, when I was a brand-new United States congressman, the one -- the person I admired the most and still admire the most, Ronald Reagan, wanted to send Marines into Lebanon. And I saw that, and I saw the situation, and I stood up, and I voted against that...

The point is that throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan, who wouldn't sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika. Or whether it be Nixon's trip to China, which was preceded by Henry Kissinger, many times before he went.
The problem is that to many of the viewers, the events McCain referenced might as well be ancient history. Someone who was voting age in 1980 when the Afghan-Soviet conflict was at it's height would now be at least 46 years old today. Someone of voting age in 1983 when Lebanon and the Soviet dictators listed would be at least 43. A listener who might have been making political decisions in 1973 when Nixon was visiting China would now be at least 53.

How many voters are going to hear those examples and think "Yeah, I remember what that time was like."? Some will, but McCain probably already has many of them. Unless a voter of my generation was paying unusually close attention for a 12-year old or studied this stuff in college, these examples are meaningless. For most people under 35 or so, most of what they know of these events would be based on the commentary of Rich Eisen or Mo Rocca on I love the 80s.


Monday, September 29, 2008

"The average South Korean is three inches taller" and other thoughts on Friday's debate

I wasn’t able to see all of Friday’s presidential debate live, and the 40 minutes I did see of it on Friday was with the sound off and the closed-captioning on (I was at a birthday party at a sports bar…the idea was to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees. Once the game got to 13-4 in favor of New York, a few of us were able to turn a couple of TVs over to the debate.). So for the legion of loyal readers who were hoping for an in-depth live blog…sorry to disappoint.

But I did watch it again over the weekend and a handful of things stood out to me.
  • The quote in the title is a perfect example of what happens when a candidate tries to take a point that has a complex explanation and uses it as a talking point: it becomes complete gibberish. Here is the entire portion of McCain’s answer dealing with North Korea:

    As far as North Korea is concerned, our secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, went to North Korea. By the way, North Korea, most repressive and brutal regime probably on Earth. The average South Korean is three inches taller than the average North Korean, a huge gulag.

    We don't know what the status of the dear leader's health is today, but we know this, that the North Koreans have broken every agreement that they've entered into.
    When I first saw this response (on closed caption) I laughed out loud. Let’s forget for the moment the way the sentence in bold reads--it appears that John McCain is calling a tall South Korean individual a huge gulag (which suggests that the three-inch shorter North Korean person is a slightly shorter gulag). It’s funny because it kind of sits out there as a ludicrous, ridiculous piece of trivia.

    But thinking about it a little more, the fact that North and South Koreans have different growing patterns is probably strong anthropological evidence that North Korean society trails pretty significantly. The point McCain was probably trying to make is that the North Korean people are malnourished, do not have access to modern health care and a whole host of other factors that cause North Koreans to fail to thrive, all of which are the fault of Kim Jong Il and his father before him.

    I’m giving McCain the benefit of the doubt that he knows the rationale behind why the size of Koreans is proof that North Korea is a “repressive and brutal regime.” But the problem is that in a debate format, a candidate rarely has the opportunity to expound on these little nuggets. So unless the person watching the debate takes the additional step in his or her mind to walk through the reasons why a dangling piece of information matters, he or she probably hears that and wonders “What the hell does the height of a Korean have to do with negotiating with a foreign leader.”

  • There has been quite a bit made in debate reviews of the fact that McCain would not look at Barack Obama when he was speaking about Obama, or when Obama was speaking him. I think that was probably more evident in the hall than it was on TV. We rarely got to see the two of them except on split screen and in that view it’s hard to tell where the candidate is looking. What the split screen did show was the little flashes of anger that hit McCain when Obama would attack him. He had that reflexive forced grin that says “you’re not bothering me! You’re not bothering me!” that makes it clear that he was quite bothered.

    The candidates seemed to deal with each other’s attacks in a very different manner. McCain hardly responded at all when Obama attacked him. While he sometimes had a hard time masking his facial expressions, he rarely attempted to counter Obama’s claims. I don’t know if he was purposely trying to ignore him, if he thought that parrying the claims would make him sound defensive, or if he had some other strategy, but I thought it had the effect of leaving Obama’s points out there unchallenged.

    On the other hand, Obama made it a point to respond briefly to nearly every attack. The risk in that is that he could have come off sounding defensive. Most of the time I thought Obama was successful in reframing the attacks and was able to do so without being defensive.

  • Finally, I thought the debate played differently via closed-caption than it did with sound. Reading the answers at the bottom of the screen for the last 40 minutes and only seeing the candidates (but not hearing them), I would have scored McCain as the victor. There didn’t seem to me to be a whole lot that was different from what the candidates have been saying all along; I figured that the status quo on the foreign policy front was probably a McCain win.

    But when I rewatched it and heard their voices and their inflections and the points they found important enough to emphasize, I changed my opinion. McCain seemed just a little angry, a little rigid, and a little peeved. Obama seemed more cool and thoughtful…not aloof like John Kerry, but rational and controlled. Even if Obama didn’t win, he at least tied, which is all he needs to do right now.

Sarah Palin's view of the world

This made me laugh out loud...

(via BMG.)


Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's going to cost $8.50 to do what?

If some members of the Turnpike Authority have their way, it's going to cost $8.50 to get from Logan Airport to Boston:
One proposal floated by Turnpike Authority board members today at their monthly meeting would increase the charge for passenger cars on the eastern portion of the roadway by $1, increasing the cost at toll booths at Allston-Brighton and Weston from $1.25 to $2.25. Another alternative would raise the fare for tunnels by $5, from $3.50 to $8.50. The four-member board also seemed to agree that tolls will have to be reinstated for passenger cars on the western turnpike for Exits 1 through 6.
If both proposals were to go through, it would cost $16.70 in tolls to cover the 60 miles round-trip from 495 to the airport, which is the way I commute. That's 28 cents per mile just for the tolls.

That is also outrageous.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Financial news Mad Libs

Here are a few recent headlines from Dow Jones News Service regarding the stock market (via CNNMoney.com):

Sept. 22, 10:53 am: U.S. Stocks Fall As Traders Await Bail-out Details
Sept. 23, 10:26 am: U.S. Stock Indexes Up As Lawmakers Mull $700 Billion Bailout
Sept. 23, 3:30 pm: U.S. Stocks Rise After Lawmakers Pick Over Bank Bailout
Sept. 23, 4:31 pm: U.S. Stocks End Sharply Lower Amid Rescue Plan Indecision
Sept. 24, 11:08 am: U.S. Stock Indexes Waver As Lawmakers Hear More On Bailout
Sept. 24, 1:31 pm: U.S. Stock Indexes Tilt Higher As Lawmakers Hear More On Bailout

Being a financial writer has to be the most fun job in journalism. It's essentially getting paid for playing Mad Libs. It goes something like this:

U.S. Stocks (verb describing altitudinal change) as (news headline of the day).

Let's give it a try with breaking news from a couple of sites...

U.S. Stocks Soar as NJ farm flings pumpkins with giant catapult. (Worcester Telegram)
U.S. Stocks Plummet as Pistol-packing Pa. soccer mom loses gun permit. (Sentinel and Enterprise)
U.S. Stocks Rise as Pro-pot backers aim high. (Boston Herald)

I think my headlines are just as accurate.

(Idea completely stolen from Matt Yglesias).


Obama, McCain should come together on bailout

If the financial markets are in as deep a crisis as we’ve been led to believe (I am skeptical of this), and if it is imperative that the government quickly bailout failing firms (I am very, very skeptical of this) than it seems like there is one way to get it done: Barack Obama and John McCain should co-sponsor the bailout bill and present a unified front in getting a bill that they agree on passed by congress.

Is that a pipe-dream? Absolutely. But reading the speeches of the two candidates yesterday, there is hardly a dime of difference between them. Each candidate laid out a set of broad principles that any final bill should include. Below, I have included exact quotes from their speeches (one in red, and one in blue). Can you tell which is which?

On oversight:
I have suggested a bipartisan board to provide oversight for the rescue. We will not solve a problem caused by poor oversight with a plan that has no oversight.

We should set up an independent board that includes some of the most respected figures in our country, chosen by Democrats and Republicans, to provide oversight and accountability at every step of the way.

On responsibility to taxpayers:
There must be a path for taxpayers to recover the money that is put into this fund.

But regardless of how we structure the plan, if the government makes any kind of profit on this deal, we must give every penny back to the taxpayers who put up the money in the first place.

On executive compensation:
No Wall Street executives should profit from taxpayer dollars.

The plan must include protections to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to further reward the bad behavior of irresponsible CEOs on Wall Street.

On earmarks and add-ons:
It is completely unacceptable for any kind of earmarks to be included in this bill.

Let me be clear--we shouldn't include this stimulus package into this particular legislation...

OK. John McCain’s speech is in red and Barack Obama’s speech is in blue (obviously, do you think I’d try to trick you with the colors?).

There are really only a couple of differences in the principles they outlined. McCain specifically mentioned that the legislation should be written in public, not “behind closed doors.” I expect Obama would probably agree to that. Obama has suggested that any bailout also include “the authority to purchase mortgages directly instead of simply mortgage-backed securities.” McCain probably would not go for that, but that seems like a fairly minor sticking point.

Obama also has proposed an economic stimulus plan that McCain would probably oppose, but Obama agrees that any additional stimulus should not be tied to the bailout bill, which is consistent with McCain’s position that there be no earmarks or add-ons.

Obama and McCain ought to sit down together Friday morning before the debate with just their senatorial aides (not their campaign people) and hammer out the framework for a bill. They could announce it at a joint press conference before the debate.

Failing that, the two campaigns could come together and jointly announce that the candidates will not support any bill that does not include each of their shared principles and will urge their colleagues to reject any bill that does not reflect those principles.

Will any of that happen? Of course not. Obama’s recent spike in the polls is largely tied to the financial crisis. From a political strategy standpoint, taking the issue off the table could negate that advantage. Conversely, McCain’s campaign could be looking at a political windfall if an unpopular bailout is passed by the Democratic congress with little Republican support. It would allow him to tie the Democrats to Bush and solidify his self-proclaimed “maverick” persona.

But if we really are at the brink of financial ruin, Obama and McCain should take the opportunity to lead…together.
Afternoon Update: Wow. This is encouraging. Apparently I should call on the campaigns to do things more often:
At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sterling comes through for Naughton, Flanagan, and...Feuer?

Congratulations to Senator-elect Jennifer Flanagan and re-elected Hank Naughton, each of whom won fairly comfortable victories in Tuesday's primary. Let me take this opportunity to pat myself and others of us who worked for the two campaigns on the back. The winning candidates carried Sterling by incredibly large margins.

In fact, Sterling was Naughton's best town by percentage. Here are the numbers for Naughton:

Similarly, Flanagan also outperformed in Sterling:

Breaking it down a little further, she did so well in the four Southeastern towns, that she would have won the election even without Leominster, Lunenburg or Townsend:

Southeast: 2,410-604
Northwest: 2,956-4,370
Total: 5,366-5,004 (52%-48%)

Or to put it another way, the four small towns to the southeast went so heavily for Flanagan that it more than neutralized Knuuttila's advantage in both of his hometowns and the two other towns he represented in the house.

Obviously Flanagan's hometown of Leominster was her base, and she got the most votes there, but it's interesting to see that she was more popular in all four towns to her South and East than she was in her hometown.

One inescapable conclusion is that at least in Clinton and Sterling, many voters essentially voted a Naughton/Flanagan ticket. Here are the raw numbers from the precincts in those towns where both candidates were on the ballot:

Sterling (Precinct 2)
Naughton 374-86
Flanagan 359-97

Clinton (Precincts 1, 2)
Naughton 844-292
Flanagan 860-216

I imagine Senator-elect Flanagan will take every opportunity to remind Representative Naughton that she was more popular in his town than he was. All kidding aside, my sense is that Flanagan was helped greatly by Naughton's presence on the ballot. Naughton's people were also aggressively touting Flanagan as they campaigned across the district--by election day, nearly every home or business with a Naughton lawn sign out front also sported a Flanagan sign.

One note about Congressional challenger Bob Feuer...he was trounced and I imagine he expected to be trounced, but his result can be instructive in this sense: when he got a chance to present his case, he did much better than in other towns. Feuer came to Sterling for a forum that was broadcast on local cable. Looking at the 100+ towns across the first district, Only three four gave Feuer a higher number than Sterling:

Oakham 45%
Blandford 40%
Charlemont 38%
Stockbridge 36%
Sterling 35%

Of those, Sterling had by far the largest turnout, with 632 votes cast in the race, the other three four towns combined to cast only 260 504 votes.

Edit (9/19): Bob Feuer wrote in to report that he earned 36% of the vote in his hometown of Stockbridge. I had incorrectly calculated Stockbridge at 34% and left them off the original list.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama opens the door to the Keating Five

Barack Obama continued to hammer John McCain for his assertion that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" today in Colorado, but beyond that he also went somewhere he has not yet gone with McCain...the Savings and Loan scandals of the 1980s. Here is the part of Obama's speech that is gaining the most attention:

Yesterday, Wall Street suffered its worst losses since just after 9/11. We are in the most serious financial crisis in generations. Yet Senator McCain stood up yesterday and said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

A few hours later, his campaign sent him back out to clean up his remarks, and he tried to explain himself again this morning by saying that what he meant was that American workers are strong. But we know that Senator McCain meant what he said the first time, because he has said it over and over again throughout this campaign -- no fewer than 16 times, according to one independent count.
But later on, Obama tied the current crisis to the policies of the 1980s:
It happened in the 1980s, when we loosened restrictions on Savings and Loans and appointed regulators who ignored even these weaker rules. Too many S&Ls took advantage of the lax rules set by Washington to gamble that they could make big money in speculative real estate. Confident of their clout in Washington, they made hundreds of billions in bad loans, knowing that if they lost money, the government would bail them out. And they were right. The gambles did not pay off, our economy went into recession, and the taxpayers ended up footing the bill. Sound familiar?
Although he doesn't mention McCain explicitly, I don't think it's any accident that he is referencing the major scandal in McCain's Washington life. Will the press pick up on it and bring the issue to the forefront? Is it a signal to Obama's supporters and the 527s that the Keating Five is on the table?

I hope so.


Knuuttila: The Wekepeke affects who?

Head-scratcher from Brian Knuuttila in today's Clinton Item:
"The Wekepeke issue is huge and still will continue to be an issue for Clinton and Sterling, as well as West Boylston and even a large part of Lancaster. This is an excellent opportunity for the next state senator to make sure an agreement is worked out. "
I can't find one reference anywhere to an effect the Wekepeke might have on West Boylston and I can't imagine what it might be.


Buyer found for Lehman Brothers


We checked last night and I think Jackson has just enough in his piggy bank to close the deal without me having to co-sign. Negotiations are ongoing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My primary ballot and predictions

Here is how I plan to vote in the primary tomorrow...

State Representative Harold Naughton deserves to be reelected, and will receive my vote. He has been a strong advocate for the citizens of this district and is well equipped to continue as our representative. Challenger Steve Kerrigan is also a credible candidate, but he has not made a case that Naughton should be replaced and has not proposed specific solutions.

I strongly support Jennifer Flanagan for State Senate. Not only has Flanagan brought millions of dollars in aid to the North County while serving as Leominster's state rep., but she has also taken a leadership role in state wide issues, including her advocacy for education and public health bills. Flanagan has also shown progressive positions on social issues, including abortion and gay marriage. Brian Knuuttila has campaigned hard during the race and would likely bring that intensity to the state house, but his conservative views on social issues and a series of campaign gaffes which reveal a lack of organization are red flags.

Congressman John Olver will most likely be renominated to another term , but I will vote for challenger Robert Feuer in the U.S. Congress race. Feuer made a thoughtful case for his candidacy when he visited Sterling last month. Conversely, Congressman Olver was dour and aloof in his interaction with our Democratic Town Committee.

Finally, I will mark my ballot for John Kerry in the U.S. Senate race. Kerry has the sort of steady hand we need in the senate, and it is especially important that he return to the Senate with the uncertainty surrounding Senator Ted Kennedy's health. I do not believe Ed O'Reilly has the temperament to be an effective senator.

Here are my predictions:

Naughton 58...Kerrigan 42. Kerrigan got off to a great start early in the summer, but without making a case for why Naughton should go, he won't get enough support to go over the top. Still, it will be closer than I'd have expected back in May.

Flanagan 56...Knuuttila 44. For most of the summer I've been sure that Flanagan would hit low- to mid-60s and win in a walk. I'm not sure why, but my gut tells me that Knuuttila has been coming on a little in the last two weeks. Can't explain it, just a hunch. Not enough to win, mind you, but a respectable showing nonetheless. (Keep in mind that I badly underestimated Flanagan's support in the 2006 election, for what that's worth.)

Olver 70...Feuer 30. What is the statistic? That any candidate will lose at least 25% of the vote no matter who they are running against? My guess is that Feuer has only been able to contact enough people to add 5 points to that base.

Kerry 66...O'Reilly 34. I think election day will prove that the O'Reilly campaign has been much more smoke than fire. There is no chance that O'Reilly wins, and almost no chance that he is even close. If O'Reilly breaks 45%, I'll make a music video of myself singing Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias' "To all the Girls I've Loved Before" and post it on YouTube.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Knuuttila: For Jen Flanagan before he was against her

Some have said that the greatest show of support one can give to a political figure or cause is to donate money. Using that barometer, state senate candidate Brian Knuuttila has favored one legislative candidate over all nearly all others: State Representative Jennifer Flanagan.

According to the reports filed with the Massachsuetts Office for Campaign Finance, since 2004, when Rep. Flanagan ran for office for the first time, Knuuttila has given money to 11 legislative candidates. Other than his current campaign manager Michael Ellis, who Knuuttila supported in a 2006 special election to replace him after resigning his house seat, Flanagan has been the top beneficiary of Knuuttila's largess. Here is the list of legislative candidates:

Jennifer Flanagan Rep $400.00
Michael Ellis Rep $400.00
Robert Antonioni Sen $350.00
Stephen DiNatale Rep $300.00
Robert Rice Rep $200.00
Robert DeLeo Rep $200.00
Stephen Brewer Sen $100.00
Stephen Buoniconti Sen $100.00
Anne Gobi Rep $100.00
Charles Murphy Rep $100.00
Anthony Petrucelli Rep $100.00
Knuuttila has been more supportive of Flanagan than he has of Senator Bob Antonioni, who he says he has campaigned for in the past; more supportive of Flanagan than Rep. Steve DiNatale, who has endorsed him; and more supportive of Flanagan than his own state rep., Robert Rice.

No wonder Knuuttila almost dropped out because he thought Flanagan was going to outraise him two- or three-to one. He probably figured everyone else supported Flanagan as heartily as he did.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kerrigan's strategy comes into focus

When he first announced his candidacy for State Representative, I questioned whether or not Steve Kerrigan’s campaign was a Quixotic quest or shrewd politics. Well, yesterday’s news that incumbent Harold Naughton had applied for three court positions last year confirms that Kerrigan is shrewd; whether or not his quest will have been Quixotic will be answered at the polls on Tuesday. Here’s the story:
State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr. sought a judgeship and two clerk magistrate positions last year and embarked on his seventh re-election campaign in the spring with two of the judicial applications still pending.

The Clinton Democrat, a lawyer who will face Stephen J. Kerrigan Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the 12th Worcester District seat, has denied rumors that he was interested in a district court clerk magistrate post.

But the Telegram & Gazette has obtained copies of documents submitted to the state Judicial Nominating Commission showing that Mr. Naughton applied for a Leominster District Court judge seat, which was filled in June by former Worcester lawyer Mark E. Noonan, and clerk magistrate posts in the Fitchburg and Uxbridge district courts. . . .

Mr. Kerrigan, 36, a former Lancaster selectman and aide to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said his opponent “clearly has got to make a decision about what his priorities are.”
The leak of Naughton’s job applications is the “A-ha!” moment that I’ve been waiting for as I’ve been trying to figure out what Kerrigan has been up to. Looking back at the campaign as a whole, it’s clear to me that yesterday’s news is the culmination of a summer-long strategy to paint Naughton as uninterested and uncommitted. In a May 1 Telegram article announcing his candidacy, Kerrigan had this to say:
"I want to do this job," he said. "This has nothing to do with Hank (Naughton). When it comes right down to it, I just want to work in the Legislature. I have a desire to serve."
The article also included unsourced “rumors” about Naughton’s lack of desire and commitment:
Mr. Naughton yesterday denied rumors that he is in line for a district court magistrate post, passing it off as expected because he is a lawyer and former prosecutor, and because there are a few court magistrate positions open in Central Massachusetts.

"I've had several fundraisers, and there is one coming up on June 16. I am running for re-election," he said. "I look forward to the campaign, and I hope the people of the 12th District come forward once again to support me."
I can’t prove it, but there is little doubt in my mind that it was Kerrigan who planted the seed with reporter Karen Nugent regarding these “rumors.” I think he knew concretely that Naughton had applied for the three court jobs a year earlier. He innocuously reminds the reporter of the “rumors” and sets the hook for the rest of his campaign. (To be fair, he also set the hook with me. I have surmised that he is running to build a reputation so that he can win a special election if Naughton were to step down after the election, which means that I, too, have given credence to the rumors of Naughton’s job search. )

If you have been reading Kerrigan’s literature (and to his credit, I get something in the mail almost every week), his message is consistently about representing the people of the district at 100%. That is his entire platform. If he mentions issues at all, it is using very broad strokes. I am not sure that I have heard or read of a specific policy that he would propose or a specific position of Naughton’s that he opposes. Kerrigan did very well at the forum we hosted in July, but the one time he seemed at a loss for words was when I asked him what his first bill would be.

Last month, Kerrigan turned up the heat on Naughton just a little more when he mentioned that the representative had not voted on the final budget. Naughton missed the vote because he was on active duty with his Army reserve unit. I was critical of Kerrigan’s attack, but it was consistent with his “100%” theme.

Now comes the confirmation that Naughton applied for court positions over a year ago. Make no mistake that the Kerrigan campaign or one of its supporters leaked the job applications. The first clue is that the article was written not by Nugent, who is the regular Clinton reporter, but by Shaun Sutner, a writer who has covered statewide political issues. The Kerrigan campaign is savvy enough to make sure that the local stringers don’t screw it up, so the info was leaked to a writer who would know what to do with it and who has not written one story about this campaign the entire cycle.

It appears to me that the Kerrigan campaign has been planning on leaking this story at this time from day one. This story is the next to last brick in the wall that they have been constructing since jumping into the race in May. If I am correct, I would expect that Kerrigan has another mailing at the print press as we speak using this story as the hammer. The only thing the printer has been waiting for is the T&G masthead with the exact headline and a callout quote to plug into the blank space. I’ll bet a dollar to a donut that tomorrow, Saturday or Monday the mailman will deliver one last Kerrigan flyer prominently featuring this story.

What is Naughton to do? Hit back on a couple of fronts. First, it appears that whoever released the information to the Kerrigan campaign or its supporters was at best being unethical and at worst breaking the law. In the list of instructions on the Joint Nominating Commission website, this stands out:
8. This application does not constitute a public record. For confidentiality reasons, once the application is filed with the JNC, applicants should not provide a copy of the application to other individuals. However, upon approval by the JNC, applications, including the confidential portion, are forwarded to the Governor for review. In addition, applicants should note that a portion of the application may be reviewed by the Chief Legal Counsel, the Joint Bar Committee as well as the Governor's Council.
Further, if it was a commissioner who leaked the info, he or she would be in violation of Executive Order 500:
1.5.4 Confidentiality: Except as otherwise may be necessary for purposes of conducting due diligence of an applicant's qualifications and during Commission meetings, each Commissioner shall keep confidential all information concerning any applicant, except that information which may reflect unfavorably on an applicant's suitability for judicial office shall be disclosed to the Chairperson. The Chairperson shall disclose any such information to the Commission and to investigators employed on behalf of the Commission for purposes of due diligence. No discussions, motions, opinions, votes or facts revealed during meetings of the Commission may be directly or indirectly disclosed by any Commissioner to any person other than another Commissioner in accordance with this Code of Conduct. Except as may be required to conduct due diligence, all substantive communications with applicants outside of meetings and interviews shall be conducted by the Chairperson or her designee.
Will Naughton accuse the Kerrigan campaign and its contacts on Beacon Hill of an unethical and possibly illegal breach of confidentiality? Maybe something like this: “Steve Kerrigan’s cabal of Boston lobbyists and Washington insiders will do anything, including releasing confidential records, to get him elected. Steve Kerrigan should condemn this breach of ethics and demand that his supporters in Boston come clean and reveal the source of their information.”

Naughton also ought to point out more forcefully that Kerrigan has mischaracterized his earlier denial of interest in a position. Back to today’s story:
“I’ve made my decision. That’s why I’m running for office,” Mr. Kerrigan said. “I certainly read that denial, that he’s never applied for these jobs, and that appears not to be the case.”

Mr. Naughton, who in 2006 initially supported Mr. Patrick’s primary opponent for governor, former Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, said also he was told not long after applying for the Leominster judgeship that he would not be appointed.

“I got a letter saying I wasn’t going to be considered for that,” he said.

The Clinton lawmaker, who also represents Boylston, Northboro and parts of Lancaster and Sterling, maintained that his assertion in a May 2 [sic] Telegram & Gazette story that he was not in line to be a clerk magistrate was accurate because he believed that the Fitchburg and Uxbridge jobs would not be filled by permanent appointments.
Perhaps this is a little too (Bill) Clintonian in the parsing of the words, but Naughton never denied that 10 months earlier he had applied for magistrate positions. He said that he was not “in line” for those positions. Based on the way the May 2 article was written, I don’t think Nugent ever asked him if he had applied. Here it is again:
Mr. Naughton yesterday denied rumors that he is in line for a district court magistrate post, passing it off as expected because he is a lawyer and former prosecutor, and because there are a few court magistrate positions open in Central Massachusetts.
Kerrigan cannot accurately claim that he “read that denial, that he’s never applied for these jobs” because Naughton has not denied applying for the position and looks like he has never been asked the question.

Even so, a candidate can only gain so much by playing defense, and Kerrigan is trying to put Naughton in a defensive position for the last week of the campaign. Will it be enough to overcome Naughton’s lead in fundraising and the advantages of incumbency? We’ve got a fun five days to find out.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Knuuttila supporter: "Gays can't produce children, so what's the point."

Senate candidate Brian Knuuttila can't be too happy about a letter of support printed in today's Sentinel and Enterprise. The letter takes opponent Jen Flanagan to task for her opposition of the constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage. That's not the problem. The problem is that it's a gay-baiting tour de force:
Ms. Flanagan must be very proud of herself getting the endorsement from Matthew McTighe, whoever he is, and his Mass Equality for the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. How wonderful and you must be so happy.

"Excuse me for being sarcastic" but we (the voters) never got the chance to vote on gay marriage, thanks to the governor and the one party Legislature.

Shame on all of you. Had we voted you all would have lost. There are more of us straights than gays.

They can't produce children, so what's the point. It's not a civil-rights issue at all. You use civil rights for anything that comes down the pike. That's what Liberals do.
I've never understood the hate and vitriol some people have for the LGBT community. It's OK to have a difference of opinion on this or other issues, but the "there are more of us straights than gays" mindset and the argument that "they can't produce children" boggles my mind. (Should all marriages be dissolved when one or the other spouse is no longer able to produce children? Is the decision to have a vasectomy or the onset of menopause or impotence akin to divorce?)

I don't imagine Knuuttila would choose to be aligned with this sort of thinking. While he has been an opponent of gay marriage and would have voted to put the issue on the ballot in 2008, I haven't seen any indication that he holds the same outrageous view as this public supporter. I wonder if these sort of endorsements hurt more than they help.

To be fair, at least one of Flanagan's supporters is also into name-calling on this issue. Last month, an editorial in Bay Windows magazine quoted the head of MassEquality:
"It’s an open Senate seat [and] it’s a reasonably conservative district," explained MassEquality Executive Director Marc Solomon. And while most Democrats running in primaries these days are solidly pro-LGBT, said Solomon, the race between Knuuttila and Flanagan "is a classic race of a Neanderthal former rep running against someone who has been with us every step of the way."
Thankfully, the candidates haven't resorted to this sort of name-calling.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The $100,000 house race

The campaign finance reports are in, and for what has to be the first time ever, the candidates in the 12th Worcester District primary have raked in over $100,000 in their attempts to win the seat. Here are a few observations from my reading of the reports:
  • The $102,482 Harold Naughton and Steve Kerrigan have combined to raise makes this primary the third richest in the state this cycle, behind only the races in the Fifth Essex and Fourth Plymouth districts. The two campaigns have combined to spend $82,855, which places them second in expenditures. Of those top three races, the 12th Worcester is the only two-man contest.

  • Among contested races statewide, only Fifth Essex incumbent Anthony Verga has raised more money than Naughton's $62,841.

  • Naughton has done much better in the district than Kerrigan has, outraising the challenger by more than eight-to-one. Kerrigan has only tapped 18 contributors for a total of $2,505 in the five towns (and $500 of that is Kerrigan's own money). By contrast, Naughton's report listed 200 local contributions.

  • On the other hand, more than half of Kerrigan's nearly $40,000 has come from contributors living outside of Massachusetts. Over $14,000 came from the Washington, D.C. area. In comparison, Naughton snagged less than $900 from outside the state; of that, $424.50 came from the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.

  • Of course, incumbency has it's privileges. Naughton pulled in over $11,000 from Political Action Committees and trade organizations and nearly $2,400 from fellow candidates and legislators in other districts. Kerrigan did not receive any money from these special interests.
What does it mean? Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I'd say that the ability to only get 18 contributors from the district probably spells big trouble for Kerrigan. All the out of state money can buy a lot of mailings, but none of those contributors can vote. In a local primary, the people who come out and vote are the ones who are committed to their candidate; casual voters don't take the time. If Kerrigan hasn't been able to get his supporters and potential constituents to commit to his campaign financially, one wonders if he'll be able to get them to care enough to get out to the polls.

Below are the numbers:

Harold Naughton Stephen Kerrigan
Contribution Pct. Contribution Pct.
District $21,825.19 34.7% $2,505.00 6.3%
Rest of State $38,287.00 60.9% $14,750.00 37.2%
Out of State $899.50 1.4% $21,051.00 53.1%
Not Itemized $1,830.00 2.9% $1,335.00 3.4%

TOTAL $62,841.69 $39,641.00

PAC $11,250.00 17.9% $0.00 0.0%
Candidate $2,374.50 3.1% $0.00 0.0%


Monday, September 1, 2008

Bristol Palin's pro-choice choice

The big non-Gustav story of the day is the announcement by the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Brooke is pregnant:
We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.
Many conservatives joined in their support of the Palin family. David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network:
Look, this development will actually be positive for the most part with Evangelicals. First they hear that Sarah Palin chooses the life option even though she had a Downs Syndrome baby and once again the family (and Bristol) has chosen the life option in this recent case.
Evangelical leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:
Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation.
Rod Dreher of Beliefnet, in a post titled "Palin's daughter gets pregnant, chooses life":
Bristol Palin is not going to abort her unborn child. She's going to keep the baby and marry the father. Good for her. It shouldn't have happened, but it did happen, and now she's going to do the right thing -- the hard thing.
And so on and so on. There doesn't seem to be any awareness by any of these conservatives that they are endorsing the pro-choice position. If these and other conservatives have their way, girls like Miss Palin won't be able to "choose" the life option.

I commend Miss Palin for her choice to keep the baby and hope both she and her child are healthy and happy. Women facing the same situation in the future should still be able to make that choice.



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