Thursday, January 19, 2006

Roskam for Wanderer

Peter Roskam
[Here’s another article on the 6th district Congressional race to replace Henry Hyde appearing in this week’s The Wanderer which, as you know by now, is the oldest national Catholic weekly in the U.S.]

CHICAGO—The man who seeks to succeed Henry J. Hyde in Congress could have a tough battle against a female Democratic legless Iraq war veteran this November when the war will be an issue, but State Sen. Peter Roskam [R-Wheaton] is confident he can win. Roskam, 44, is Hyde’s personal pick for his successor, having worked for the legendary Congressman in Washington, and for years the prime go-to state lawmaker for conservative social legislation. He is probably the best known pro-lifer, supporter of traditional marriage and foe of embryonic stem cell experimentation in the legislature. Like Hyde who is chairman of International Affairs and former Judiciary chairman, Roskam is eloquent, fearless on social issues, witty in presentation and hugely popular with many colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Also like his mentor, he is not afraid to link his views with deep-rooted positions on moral issues. Small wonder since Roskam worked for Hyde when the masterful lawmaker developed his most famous imagery in defense of life. Roskam was there when the veteran congressman explained his concern for unborn life this way: “Have you ever wondered why, when you go up in an elevator and you rise above floors 10, 11 and 12 you go right to 14? You ask where is floor 13? It’s there, make no mistake but it’s not listed because the world wants you to ignore that the floor exists. That’s the way it is with God’s precious unborn children: the world doesn’t mention them directly. They’re called fetuses, almost like tumors or an appendix. They’re the unnamed target, the world says, of `a woman’s right to choose.’ To choose what? The answer is unborn children but they’re not named. Of all the discriminated against minorities, they are the least respected. They don’t have votes; they don’t have constituencies as do even the snail darter or antelopes in Alaska. They are signaled as enemies of convenience and so-called `reproductive freedom.’ That’s the group whom I rise to defend today.”

The House, engrossed with its own machinations, would nevertheless hush when Hyde would make his addresses from the well of the chamber. And he would conclude: “All of us who serve the cause of this unrepresented minority commit sin and make our petty alliances all the time. But there is before me the vision that is shared by all pro-lifers, that some day when we go before the Just Judge to answer for my life, to atone for our omissions and commissions, and just when it will seem like there is no one to defend us, there will come the sweet chorus of praise from the voices of the unborn stilled by murder who will petition Almighty God for tolerance in our behalf.”

The speech, matchless in eloquence and delivery, usually convinced a motley collection of Congressmen, a mixture of pro-life believers with a smattering of pro-choice Democrats to cast votes for the Hyde amendment to defend the unborn from Medicaid abortion. Even in a heavily Democratic House, Hyde would carry the day. Roskam was with Hyde when that eloquent speech was prepared and delivered and when the votes were secured.

Reared in the suburban area he represents, Roskam seeks to represent a district that includes O’Hare International Airport (named in typical Chicago style for a dead World War II Medal of Honor airman who got a military appointment from the feds after his father was gunned down following his turning states evidence against Al Capone). A lawyer, in partnership with Al Salvi, the first opponent to Durbin, Roskam is a member of the Anglican Mission of America, a group led by a traditionalist bishop in Africa, formed out of dissatisfaction with the liberal-leaning U. S. Episcopal church. He taught at an Episcopalian high school in the Virgin Islands for a year, served on Hyde’s staff, returned to the Illinois, got a law degree and was elected to the state House of Representatives. Then he went to the state Senate. He is married with four children.

Roskam’s district is high income territory but is also less Republican, less conservative and more socially liberal than it was previously. The district gave George W. Bush 53 percent in 2004 and Hyde 56 percent, polls showing that Hyde took an estimated 5 percent loss due to dissatisfaction of some voters with his role as Judiciary chairman which impeached Bill Clinton. Hyde took on the assignment, knowing that there would be personal as well as political retaliation, crafted from Clinton staffers including then White House political director Rahm Emanuel. Their punishment cost him dearly in a district with median income of $62,000 and is 12.5 percent Hispanic and 8.1 percent Asian.

An indefatigable campaigner, Roskam has been knocking on thousands of doors in the 663,000-plus district and has raised more than $1 million for his campaign. Like Hyde who sought his first term in 1974, in midst of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s resignation, Roskam is facing what might be called a time of testing. Hyde ran against Ed Hanrahan, a pro-life Democrat, former and states attorney in another district that was usually warmly supportive of Irish Catholic Democrats in 1974. Democrats were supposed to win that contest and Hyde was one of the very few new Republicans to win that year. Similarly, Roskam now seems to run against odds piled on him by a fellow Illinoisan who sees his own advantage in scooping up for the Democrats a district which normally could be expected to elect Roskam who, like Hyde, can generate fervent support for moral values.

To capture Hyde’s district, Cong. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the Democratic campaign chairman of the House is literally betting the House against Roskam. Emanuel, whom I’ve known since he was a lowly fund-raising staffer, has had a meteoric rise: from a staff job raising money for Mayor Richard Daley to a White House spinner of media answers to cover Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, to friendship with near billionaire ex-treasury secretary Robert Rubin to becoming a multi-millionaire as a private investment banker through Rubin’s help, without a day’s previous experience in corporate finance. He topped this by virtually buying the lavishly generated congressional seat once represented by Dan Rostenkowski, becoming a junior deal-cutter on Ways and Means and snatching the chairmanship of the Democratic party’s campaign committee which has national financial resources.

Ditching the regular Democratic candidate in the district that ran the closest race to Hyde in twenty years, Emanuel is convinced that no ordinary Democrat can beat Roskam. With Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Catholic one-time pro-lifer who rose above principle to become pro-abort, Emanuel personally recruited Tammy Duckworth, 37, a 14-year National Guard soldier and multiple amputee who lost her legs as an Illinois National Guard helicopter pilot when her Black Hawk was shot down near Baghdad in November, 2004. Emanuel has compiled one significant win in Illinois. He personally recruited the woman who defeated one of conservatism’s most knowledgeable House members, pro-lifer Cong. Philip Crane (R-IL), a one-time presidential candidate. Emanuel’s own personal stake in this campaign is clear: he wants to take out a Republican candidate who is as articulate as Hyde and use that victory to de-legitimize pro-life as a viable campaign issue across the country.

After that, Emanuel (whom I’ve known, at one time closely as a fellow radio panelist 20 years ago) wants to leverage himself to become the next Democratic leader of the House whenever Nancy Pelosi, 65, the current ultra-liberal pro-abort Catholic, packs it in as result of criticism for her often hyperbolic language stemming from her exotic San Francisco origins. After becoming Democratic leader, Emanuel wants to build a Democratic majority and graduate to Speaker. Nor does he want to stop there.

To achieve these goals, the slight, 46-year-old married, ex-ballet dancer who is as intense and as cuddly as a coiled spring, seeks to find more candidates who can evoke warmth, sympathy and favorable media coverage. Normally it would be wise to downplay social liberalism in a Republican district but Emanuel believes that with Duckworth he can get her elected with a stridently liberal platform. To get the job done he has retained veteran liberal Democratic consultant David Axelrod to do her TV. Axelrod does not come instantly to mind when one considers winning for a Democrat in Republican-leaning district. The major consultant for Mayor Richard Daley, he is a hard-edged liberal meat and potatoes guy. Indeed, Emanuel and Axelrod may be too high a liberal octane. Especially Emanuel. In his zeal, he occasionally over-reaches as will be shown later in this report.

Democrats nationally believe Duckworth can put them on the side of patriotism and flag-flying to offset the damage Durbin incompetently did by linking American troops guarding terrorists to followers of Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler. Emanuel, with buckets of money derived from his eastern banker contacts, has canvassed military hospitals in signature gestures of compassion while seeking wounded veterans as Democratic candidates for Congress to nullify his party’s frequent flirtations with forces that often call the U.S. an evil aggressor.

In Duckworth, Emanuel believes he has outdone himself. Not only is she a severely wounded veteran but of Hawaiian descent (which could appeal to Asians in the district), she has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Hawaii, a master’s in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D. C. and was working on a doctorate in political science at a suburban Chicago university when she was deployed. She is not, interestingly enough, a resident of the district she wants to serve which doesn’t bother Emanuel much since the Constitution only stipulates one be a resident of the state. Were anyone to point this out, Emanuel very likely would charge them with insensitivity to the plight of a wounded female veteran who has already re-modeled her house so as to make it easier to gain access and for whom moving to the district could be inconvenient. Who will question this?

Emanuel has crafted for Duckworth what he believes will be a winning issue format. While she has received a medical discharge from the service, since Emanuel took her under his wing, Duckworth has announced that she will stay in the Illinois National Guard and would be one of about a half dozen members of Congress serving in the Guard. Her life experience can be used for her trade policy: Her husband worked at two companies that outsourced jobs to other countries, prompting her to advocate a mildly protectionist stance.

Now comes what Emanuel believes is the coup de grace. She goes hard left on social policy. She is not only pro-abort but even opposes parental notification for minors seeking abortions. Opposing parental notification is a bummer in the district and represents an extreme position, but Emanuel needs to placate the district’s small but potent liberal Democratic base in order to neutralize Duckworth’s primary opponent, Christine Cegalis who sounds not unlike Democratic national chairman Howard Dean. Duckworth also supports embryonic stem cell research which, at Emanuel’s direction, she blurs into plain “stem cell” research. Bearing the imprint of her political Svengali, Duckworth talks blandly of not “substituting government for family when it comes to making personal medical decisions”—a coded reference to Terri Schiavo, another appeal to a base which hated the Schiavo intervention.

On the issue of Iraq, Duckworth has changed under Emanuel’s guidance. When Duckworth first came home on medical leave and before she became a candidate, she defended the Iraq war and said she was ready to return to pilot helicopters. This stance Emanuel has pruned to a support for the troops but also vocal criticism of the war, something Duckworth had not said earlier.

Now as to over-reaching. Emanuel believes in exerting maximum leverage in behalf of increased health care. Duckworth says in her literature: “I’ve been so fortunate to have received the best health care possible for me to overcome my war injuries.” So far so good—but then she coyly employs a device that sounds like Emanuel rather than herself. “But when I’m out in public, people come up to ask me about my prosthetic legs and how they can assist a relative who has lost a leg to diabetes.”

Question: Can you imagine that you or anyone you know would go up to a legless war veteran, point at her metal stick legs and ask how a diabetic relative can get so equipped with a prosthesis? The response should evoke the old Chicago saying, “give me a break!” It is vintage Emanuel to whom there is no lightness, just the clenched fist raw partisanship that fits tough Chicago wards. There is no modulating pedal for Emanuel as some of his other candidates learned to their discomfiture.

Thus applying a 100 percent Emanuel strategy, Duckworth could jeopardize her campaign in a district which has a decent regard for free-market solutions, not 100 percent federalized health care. Against Duckworth and Emanuel, Roskam is confident he can triumph. For a full list of his positions on the issues, go to his web-site at Contributions (only personal checks) should be sent to Roskam for Congress, 423 West Wesley, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.


  1. Peter's best friend, and his law partner, Al Salvi, is the best known conservative to ever fight for our causes in the legislature. Peter is 2nd.

  2. In the 90's, Congressman Harris Fawell retired from Congress, leaving an open seat in the predominantly DuPage County 13th District. Out of our state legislature, Peter Roskam and Judy Biggert ran for the seat. I supported and worked for Peter in that race.

    Biggert, then late middle aged,had lived in the district, in Hinsdale, for most, if not all, of her adult life. Peter Roskam's legislative district overlapped the 13th Congressional, so he had represented part of it in Springfield for some years. The suburb he lived in also had some parts within the 13th Congressional.

    However, Peter and his family lived at an address only a few blocks outside of the congressional district line. Accordingly, Biggert's supporters tagged Peter as a "carpetbagger" early on, and it became a recurring mantra of the campaign, as I personally witnessed. Going door to door for Peter, I had an argument with one voter who said that Peter lived "outside" of the district. My point that Peter's Wheaton home only a few blocks from the district line had more in common with this voter than Biggert's Hinsdale mansion many miles away fell on deaf ears. Peter lost in the primary to Biggert.

    Do not underestimate the resonance of a candidate's failure to live "in the district" in DuPage County. DuPage County voters take great pride in their communities and dimly view the presumption of someone from outside their communities to know their concerns. Duckworth's first strike is living outside the district. Her second is living outside of DuPage County in this quintessential Du Page district. Appropriately, geography may now work in Peter Roskam's favor, in payback for the time it unfairly worked to his detriment.