Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Personal Aside: Far from an Ideal Choice for the Senate, David Hoffman May Be Equal if not Worse for the Dems Than Alexi.

Feast of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys/ or Sts. Caspar, Balthasar Melchoir.*

Hoffman a Disappointment.

I sat down for my radio interview with David Hoffman Sunday night with a good deal of favorable anticipation. Notwithstanding my Republican credentials, I recognize that the heavy preponderance of Illinois voters are Democrat and that an able, attractive Democrat untouched by scandal could well win the race. Especially this Democrat: a bright, 42-year-old, a former federal prosecutor under Patrick Fitzgerald who in all brings a brilliant 16-year record of public service to the voters. Moreover, he is best known for his widely-praised work as Inspector General of the city of Chicago where he transformed the office from a bland politically accommodative one to a highly effective, independent anti-corruption force-Hoffman issuing findings that embarrassed Mayor Daley and the patronage operation of The Squid.

His joint investigations with the FBI and other federal agencies have exposed bribery, fraud and theft involving contracting, illegal employment, ethics violations and considerable waste. Hoffman served as assistant U.S. attorney here from 1998 to 2005 and was for a time deputy chief of the narcotics and gangs section. A year ago Gov. Quinn named him to the 15-member Illinois Reform commission charged with recommending anti-corruption and ethics reforms following Rod Blagojevich's arrest.

That's not all. Hoffman has had the deserved reputation of a legal scholar. He had served as law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the outstanding justice of the 2nd U. S. Court of Appeals, Dennis Jacobs. He has foreign policy experience, having worked as a legislative assistant to the U. S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

All this at age 42!

Running for the Senate, he is opposing State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and has made the devastating point...true, it appears...that the supposedly charismatic (well that's what some young women say) Treasurer has failed in the two big jobs of his life: as vice president of his family's bank and State Treasurer. We know all about his work as vice president where charges have been made against the granting of loans to Outfit types. But as State Treasurer, a post that it's very hard to get into trouble with, he lost money with Bright Start, the widely touted college savings program. Giannoulias has bragged in a campaign TV ad that he has converted Bright Start "from one of the worst college savings programs in the country to one of the top three."

Well, not exactly. The Associated Press has made a factual correction for him. The ad says Wall Street lost the money and he recovered millions of dollars for Bright Start. Not entirely true. He recovered $77 million but the full loss was $150 million, meaning that investors have still lost plenty of money. Notwithstanding this, Giannoulias has had the money to campaign brilliantly. The Greek community is deservedly proud of those who run for office-bipartisanly-and their generosity to candidates bearing Greek surnames is legendary. The polls show that Giannoulias is well ahead of Hoffman in the primary and is in fact also slightly ahead of the favorite for the Republican senatorial nomination (not my favorite, by the way but be that as it may), Rep. Mark Kirk.

It seems to me that all David Hoffman has to do is to make hay on his opponent's record and steer a fairly regular Democratic course. But that is not what he did the other night on my radio program. I reminded him of Bill Daley's very astute Op Ed last week in The Washington Post warning his party that it could be disastrous for it to veer unduly to the Left. Remarkably, Hoffman had not heard of the Op Ed which has been given a good measure of national publicity. In the interview which I shared with Nadig Newspapers' bright and extraordinarily well informed columnist...also a columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer...Russ Stewart, I...speaking for myself...was astounded that Hoffman who, calling himself an independent, has ample wiggle room with issues to make important distinctions from Giannoulias...on one important issue veered Leftward from even Barack Obama.
That was on the all-important question of Afghanistan. Obama spent 90 days pondering whether or not to follow the recommendations of two generals...one of whom he personally appointed-Stanley McChrystal-to reinforce the military there...and Obama decided to do it which was sound policy. Obama is sending 30,000 fresh troops there and is getting 10,000 from NATO which meets McChrystal's request. Only the Far Left...the Daily Kos and a few others...reject this decision, have not called victory an option and seem in fact to be punishing the president with dire imprecations for following his general's advice.

To my dismay, David Hoffman is in lip-synch with the Left, not mentioning victory as an option and pushing instead the old McGovernite theory of wrapping up the battle, allowing it to be lost and go home. Exactly why Hoffman has taken this position in contradistinction to Obama at a critical time as this is a mystery. He doesn't explain it very well. It's just a foreclosed decision: Obama was wrong to reinforce the troops there.

Second, as Hoffman is a law enforcement expert, I thought he might at least offer some rationale for defending the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to try terrorists in civilian court, including KSM and the underpants guy who sought to detonate the airliner on Christmas Day...affording these men who are in fact combatants in a war that Obama himself (finally) acknowledges is occurring. I had hoped for a fairly extensive disquisition on the intricacies of the law from Hoffman. Instead he said flatly that he supports it and...mysteriously..."these things have to be decided on a case-by-case basis." Well OF COURSE on a case-by-case basis! But we heard nothing from him of a scholarly note that would help his listeners understand why he feels in synch with Holder.

It's clear that with his reputation as an independent, Hoffman could have stated, courteously, a position that is counter to Obama's on the terrorist trial and in support of Obama on Afghanistan-thus one-for-one on these issues. But no. I then maintained that Hoffman is to the Left of Obama. He denied that. And here is another interesting thing.

I asked him then to tell me where he is to the political Right of Obama. He said he favors more stringent banking regulation than does Obama. That's not to Obama's right...it is again to Obama's Left! All the more strange, he didn't even seem to perceive it.

My own view is that as with all candidates, Hoffman has calculated what affect his positions will have on his ability to win the nomination-which is no surprise and in the conduct of all campaigns is to be expected. But this seems to be the important point here:

He strikes me as having wagered that by taking some key positions to Obama's Left he will appeal to the very Daily Kos dissidents who are dissatisfied with even the Leftward stance of Obama. This strikes me as a serious miscalculation, statewide and nationally.

Everyone but the hardest-shelled ideologue of the Left should recognize that the American public is going somewhat Rightward: probably not as much as I would like, but Rightward they are moving. Bill Daley recognizes that. Hoffman seems to be basing his campaign on the dissidents to Obama. This gives Giannoulias an invaluable opening. My guess is that old frayed Lefty movement types like Abner Mikva...the retired judge who was Bill Clinton's ethics chief but who was playing the piano on the White House's first floor while sundry things including a young girl intern practicing fellatio on the president were happening up above...have gotten to Hoffman, have convinced him that going Left is how to distinguish himself from Alexi.

We have grown up here with the liberal media-induced seance that Abner Mikva is some kind of grizzled old sage...the heir purportedly to the late Studs Terkel (far more an actor rather than a creditable sage). False about Mikva. He is grizzled all right but a grizzled old Lefty just 20 years or so younger than a Hyde Parker he once ran against, the late charming, media-beloved but still off-the-rails radical Leon Despres who died at 101, a man whom I liked very much personally, who on my radio show regaled us with how he traveled to Mexico City with alms for Leon Trotsky but a man so far out of touch with political reality at least nationally as was possible to be.

This kind of folly ignores the fact that things are a-changing in America and even in the hot, fevered brow of the Democratic Left. Here you have the case in Massachusetts in the special election for the 60th Senate vote, the vacancy caused by the death of Ted Kennedy, where the polls are uncertain about who is going to win (the election is Jan. 22)...Martha Coakley, the Lefty anointed successor or the Republican Scott Brown. Now I would really be stunned if Brown picked it up but that is not the point here. The point is that even in the sancto sanctorum of Kennedy-run Massachusetts a Republican in one poll...by a Democratic firm... leads Coakley.

Hoffman who never heard of Bill Daley's Op Ed when I interviewed him may not be aware of the changes going on in his party. If so, this may well be due to the grizzled old dinosaur of the Left Mikva who views everything through a left-lensed prism with our largely (not entirely) supine liberal media cheering him on. If that is the case, the horizon is even more bright for a Republican senatorial victory than I imagined heretofore: Giannoulias will likely be nominated and stumble forward into the general election carrying heavy baggage. Or Hoffman will be nominated and stumble forward as a liberal critic of Obama, thus playing into Republican hands.


*: St, Marguerite Bourgeoys [AD 1700]. The founder of Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal, sixth of 12 children, was born in France. When 20 she was unaccountably refused by first the Carmelites and then Poor Clares, she prayed to be accepted for vocation. Then the governor of the French settlement at what was later to become known as Montreal requested a schoolmistress for his little colony.

She gladly went, arriving at Quebec in the Fall of 1623, then a fort protecting only a few hundred. She housekept for the governor, taught a few children, built a school that opened its doors to Indian children, founded what was then the first missionary school in Canada and then secured recognition from the bishop of the Congregation of Notre Dame, her indomitable figure known as the First Schoolmistress of Montreal.

At the age of 73, her health started to fail and she was forced to resign as Mother Superior. When a young novice mistress fell very ill, Marguerite offered her life to God in the young woman's place. The young nun recovered but Mother Bourgeoys died on Jan. 12, 1700. She was canonized in 1950.

This day is also recognized as the Feast of Sts. Casper, Balthsaar and Melchoir, the 3 Wise Men.

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