Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts While Shaving: Changing Temper of the Times Could Favor GOP Takeover in Two Districts… Gingrich Once Again Proves Hyde’s Point.


Changing Temper of the Times in 8th and 11th .

The changing temper of the times…rocketing away from a placid liberal electoral mindset (pro-Obama, tolerance with government growth with acceptance of tax hikes)…may well reflect itself in some Illinois congressional races which otherwise would have been chalked up as “safe” for Democratic reelection.

8th District.

I’m very impressed with Republican prospects in the 8th district. That’s the district held by Democrat Melissa Bean—consisting of north and northwest suburban areas…Schaumburg and dozens of other suburbs beyond Chicago which was originally represented for 33 years by Phil Crane and before that by Don Rumsfeld. Bean started out being very cautious that she appears to be a moderate Democrat—but in the last year she has let her enthusiasm for her old campaign mate Barack Obama get the better of her. She voted for Cap and Trade which is decidedly unpopular. She voted for the $787 billion stimulus package which has not remotely helped reduce unemployment at this stage. Her voting record when compared to Speaker Pelosi’s wish list is chalked up in the middle 90’s.

The Republican I think can beat her is 47-year-old Joe Walsh, an Irish Catholic, pro-lifer, free-marketer, one of nine children who is father of five. He was born in Barrington. He has a degree in English from the University of Iowa and a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago. He ran a Jobs for Youth program in the inner-city here; he has taught remedial courses for high school dropouts. He was a key executive at the Heartland Institute, a free market think-tank. He ran against Sidney Yates in possibly the most Democratic district of the state, which is now represented by Jan Schakowsky, losing to Yates (naturally). He was my guest last night on WLS and has the kind of approach to representation that with luck and some breaks can make it.

11th District.

I’m also greatly interested in the 11th district where I believe the Republican future lies with 31-year-old Adam Kinzinger, born outside of Kankakee but who lives in Bloomington.

Kinzinger won an impressive berth on the McLean county board, was reelected impressively but when the Iraq War began in 2003, joined the Air Force. He got his jet pilot’s wings in 2005. He became a captain and in 2007 won a medal for valor outside his area of command by saving the life of a young woman. He saw she was gushing blood after having been stabbed by a jilted lover who was waving a sharp knife and vowing to finish her off.

Though unarmed, Kinzinger wrestled the guy…who was much bigger and heftier than Kinzinger… to the ground while the assailant was wildly flailing the knife with which he nearly killed the woman. He was not only awarded the Air Force medal for heroism but the National Guard’s Valley Forge cross for heroism as well as the Red Cross’ citation for heroism.

He’s now in the Air Force reserve. He strongly reminds me of a young man just his age in 1958…four years younger than I…who had been a Navy jet pilot and who served as legislative assistant to Rep. Robert Griffin (R-Mich) just down the hall from where I served as press secretary to Rep. Walter H. Judd (R-Minn.), ranking minority member of House Foreign Affairs. He bought me a cup of coffee one afternoon in the House of Representatives cafeteria.

We were both House staffers in 1958. Don Rumsfeld said he was quitting and going back home to Illinois to take a job at a stock brokerage firm—but it was clear that post would be temporary. He was preparing to seek the Republican nomination to succeed Marguerite Stitt Church in the then 10th district whenever she decided to retire. He was totally unknown. The rest is history: He was elected in 1962, becoming a young and highly influential Republican member, leading a putsch to topple bulbous-nosed old Charlie Halleck (R-Ind.) who was known to imbibe a good deal every afternoon…and who helped install Jerry Ford as Republican leader.

Participating in the unseating of Halleck lost Rumsfeld support among the Old Bulls of the GOP in the House like Les Arends (Illinois), the party whip so he knew he had to get out of there or he’d never move up in the hierarchy. Then Rumsfeld became a top aide to Richard Nixon, head of the Office of Economic Opportunity, director of the Office of Price Stabilization. Then chief of staff to President Gerald Ford, ambassador to NATO, the youngest secretary of defense in the department’s history. When Ford lost election, Rumsfeld became a highly successful CEO of G. D. Searle, He toyed with running for president and even had an exploratory committee in the field but decided to abandon it because he, frankly, wasn’t the type to munch thousands of corn-dogs at state fairs.

He stayed at Searle but varied that job by serving in specialized short-range foreign policy assignments to President Reagan. Then once more secretary of defense for George W. Bush (this time the oldest secretary of defense in the department’s history). Hugely controversial with Bush, we are awaiting the telling of his side of the story anent Iraq in his memoirs.

I have been a friend of Rumsfeld for more than 40 years and am withholding my judgment about his second defense tenure until he writes it. But this is supposed to be about Adam Kinzinger not Rumsfeld. To put it bluntly, Kinzinger (his name is German; he’s an evangelical Protestant but is not at all reminiscent of Henry Kissinger!) reminds me strongly of the charming policy wonk that Don Rumsfeld was and is.

Kinzinger, a solid pro-lifer, has a few competitors for the nomination against incumbent Debbie Halvorson in the 11th Illinois but he is clearly the most electable in my view. Halvorson has made a series of mistakes—principally by being far too liberal for the Illinois borderland which covers most of Will county including Joliet with a huge stretch of normally Republican territory.

Republicans Walsh and Kinzinger are real winners of the future, in my estimation.


Henry Hyde once told me that Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, is 50% genius and 50% nuts. On a given day, he can bolt either way. The genius part is self-revelatory. Starting as a backbencher in the House, he mobilized fellow backbenchers who had been placidly following Minority Leader Bob Michel to think about discarding him and rev up their latent conservative engines. As an insurrectionist, Newt did the groundwork that caused one Speaker, Tip O’Neill to hand his gavel over to a surrogate, walk to the floor and bellow personal insults. That caused his words to be “taken down” which in House parlance means rebuked—the first case in modern times where a Speaker was chastised by the body he led.

The rebuke caused the tempestuous O’Neill to fade back in a sulk which validated Gingrich’s view that with a lot of guts and courage the demoralized Republican minority could win control of that body. The next Speaker was Texas’ Jim Wright. Gingrich researched the facts behind a book that Wright had purportedly written and which with the Speaker’s knowledge was bought in bulk across the country by special interest groups which may well have been legal technically but which nevertheless enabled Wright to exceed the limitation on his honoraria. Another Gingrich charge alleged that Wright’s wife, Betty, was given a job by a group to which Wright could technically be said to have been beholden…allowing him surreptitiously to exceed the limit on gifts that applied to members of Congress.

The charges which went to the House Ethics committee ruined Wright’s effectiveness and he was forced to resign. Gingrich was the brilliant provocateur who caused one powerful Speaker to be rebuked by his House and his successor to quit. Thereupon Gingrich bluffed Michel out of the minority leadership, became Number Two in the Republican caucus and almost single-handed conceived of a brilliant stratagem to wrest the House from decades of Democratic control to Republican hands. His idea to fashion a “Contract with America” captured much public attention and turned the Republican campaign for the House from fractionalized individual races to one which thundered a national message. Due almost entirely to Gingrich, Republicans won control of the House in 1994 for the first time since 1953. That is the genius side of Gingrich.

Now Newt’s nutty side. Remember Hyde having said he’s 50% genius and 50% nuts?

You’d imagine that having installed himself as Speaker, number two in line for the presidency, that Gingrich would have enough to do, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. No sooner did he take the Speaker’s chair than his cocksureness overcame his better judgment. He initiated a tax-exempt course for politics that could be sold to people who want to take it instead of the regular courses in colleges and universities. He ran into the same general trouble as Jim Wright did whom he drove out of Congress. The deal was investigated by the House Ethics committee (as was Wright’s at Gingrich’s urging). He was charged with 84 violations of House ethics rules—which were finally dropped to one…but this was bad enough. He was fined heavily for violating the ethics requirement and for the first time in U. S. House history, he was censured.

Not content with that, he lambasted President Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes while at the same time he was conducting a tempestuous affair with a married woman. Gingrich was at that time married to Wife No. 2. His chaotic life seriously interfered with his management of the House. Republicans lost a great number of seats but kept slender control of the House—for which they blamed Gingrich. There was an abortive attempt by some Republicans to dump him which was uncovered and which led to the decision of House Majority Leader Dick Armey to leave the Congress. Gingrich then left the House which then exploded up-for-grabs.

After the left the House, Gingrich got married to his mistress and believe it or not he became a Catholic (she was already Catholic). He made a fortune writing very well conceived books, serving as a Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and other think tanks. He became a contributor to Fox News. Once again he has spewed forth a flurry of projects, brilliantly conceived expositions of the issues. As memory of his transgressions receded there have been many who believe he would be the best qualified candidate for president in 2012. He has said he will consider running for the presidency.

But then re-arose the nut factor The 23rd district of New York, a fairly liberal area covering most of the state’s North Country, starting at Lake Champlain and including the St. Lawrence Seaway and over the Adirondacks to Madison county in the south with such centers as Watertown and Oswego on Lake Ontario—the largest district in New York state—a district that despite having a Republican congressman, John McHugh, carried for Obama 52% to 47%...has seen McHugh, a liberal, leave for the job of secretary of the army under Obama. Reason: he has to get out while the getting is good because New York will be redistricted soon and his district is exceedingly likely to be eliminated forcing him to run in a district which a Republican cannot possibly win. So soon there will be a special election.

Failing to take note of the radically changing temper of the times, the House Republican Campaign committee determined to fight yesterday’s war. It picked to succeed McHugh quite possibly the most liberal Republican it could find—someone who makes Olympia Snowe look like a standpatter. The committee endorsed Assemblywoman Dierdere Scozzfaua, who’s a pro-abort, pro-gay, pro-same-sex marriage who in her state elections became indebted to ACORN to which her ties go back for many years. She’s a teachers’ union favorite and has also been endorsed by the proprietor of the most leftwing blog in the country, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos. And good old Newt Gingrich endorsed her as well.

The normal rationale would argue that it’s better to have a very liberal Republican congresswoman rather than a Democrat: at least she will cast the vital first vote, to organize the House for a Republican Speaker. But that’s the normal rationale. The swiftly changing temper of the times shows that there is a drastic upsurge of conservatism in the 23rd district Republican district. There is a loud revolution being waged against Scozzfaua with the candidacy of Doug Hoffman by the New York Conservative Party.

The upshot: Newt Gingrich has wounded himself seriously by dabbling in the primary. Once again the old view of Hyde’s…50% genius, 50% nuts…is being recalibrated. Thus once again, Newt Gingrich has maimed himself with his conservative base just as his prospects were brightening.

Not that the Republicans should ever…ever…ever consider him for the presidency. So this goof-up by Newt may just be the break the GOP needs to rid itself permanently of this brilliant but highly erratic presidential wannabe.

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