Friday, September 17, 2010

Mike Castle Meets Up with the Tea Party

Were you to ask me to choose between a political candidate with decades of experience and another candidate with no experience whatever, the choice would almost be too easy.

Were you to ask me to choose between a candidate who is a sure winner and another candidate who is very likely to lose, I would, if I had turned on my rational faculties, opt for the former.

Like most people I value politicians who know how to get things done, who can manage the maddening complexity of the government. They may not be the most zealous ideologues, they may even cast a few questionable votes, but they are also role models for decorum and propriety. What could be wrong with that?

Given those predicates, if I were voting in the Delaware senate primary last Tuesday, I would have chosen Mike Castle over Christine O'Donnell.

Rejecting a candidate who has a proven record of winning elections for one who has a history of making embarrassing public statements does not bring your party any closer to a governing majority.

No less a pair of conservative intellectual titans, Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer, were horrified, aghast, at a loss for words when upstart O'Donnell beat Castle last Tuesday.

Yet, when the time came to express their feelings about O'Donnell, neither of the two was at a loss for caustic criticism, the kind that will be appearing in opposition ads between now and November.

So much for party loyalty. So much for sportsmanship, for grace under fire.... While I have no reason to think that either was wrong, there are other values beyond expressing your feelings.

As though this were not shocking enough, Mike Castle outdid them all in the realm of bad sportsmanship. The matter would normally pass beneath your radar, but it emphasized something that has been making its way through my own consciousness.

After he had lost the primary election, Mike Castle did not bother to call Christine O'Donnell to concede and to congratulate. He managed to connect with Pres. Obama and Vice Pres. Biden, but did not even try to reach O'Donnell until Thursday. He left a message on her voice mail.

Better yet, for the good of the party and the good of the country, Castle compounded the insult by refusing to endorse O'Donnell. Link here.

So here we have the wiser and more experienced candidate behaving like a petulant child. Like a pathetic whiner and a sore loser.

Why did Mike Castle's conscience refuse to allow him to support Christine O'Donnell? Because she attacked him personally, and worse yet, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity did too. Because no one ever suffers the indignity of a personal attack in American politics.

With apologies for the vernacular, Mike Castle should grow a pair.

At a time when Tea Party activists are being criticized for their immaturity, establishment favorite Mike Castle has taken it upon himself to give us a quick lesson in childishness.

Hasn't Castle made it that much more likely that O'Donnell will not be elected? Even if she has the slimmest of chances, being endorsed by Castle will surely help her cause. And what, after all, does he have to lose by making a gracious gesture.

From here things become more complicated. Democratic governance depends on small gestures of courtesy and respect. Congressional debates are sprinkled with pro forma declarations of esteem for opponents. The opposition party is always credited with being the "loyal" opposition.

One would assume that when  you disagree with a member of your own party, you would also know enough to maintain the proper level of civility.

These gestures matter because they affirm, in a ritualized fashion, that the disagreements expressed in these bodies are political, not personal.

To gain more insight into the issues involved I would recommend this morning's articles by Peggy Noonan and Kirsten Powers. Links here and here.

Both women make important points, and encourage us to take the Tea Party seriously as a national political phenomenon. Noonan points out, wisely, that the Tea Party represents a repudiation of the Republican establishment for being too weak, too ineffectual, too concerned with placating Democrats and too unwilling to fight them on the issues.

Establishment Republicans were trying to be conciliatory and mature, they were trying to work with Democrats, but they were just getting rolled. They did not just want to be respected; they wanted to be liked. And they wanted the kind of good press that comes your way when you are a Republican attacking Republicans.

If you want to be conciliatory and to get along while your opponents are shooting at you, you are going to get hurt.

There is nothing wrong with gestures of conciliation, with showing an ability to compromise. But if these gestures are not reciprocated you need to have another plan. Continuing to be conciliatory when you are getting nothing in return is political appeasement.

Witness John McCain's history of assiduously courting the liberal media. He was their Republican darling. Yet, when it came to his election they were more than happy to turn on him.

Or better, take the case of George W. Bush. How did it happen that Bush allowed himself to be attacked and vilified by Democrats and the media without defending himself? That is the greatest mystery of the Bush administration.

An administration that brought the fight to terrorists around the world turned tail and ran when the Democrats began attacking it.

As I see it, and as I understand Noonan's analysis, the Tea Party is a response to the fact that George W. Bush refused to fight back.

We have it on the authority of no less than Karl Rove that the Bush administration's biggest mistake was in not responding to those who were attacking him for having lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Link here.

Appeasing your opposition and attacking your colleagues are two sides of the same coin. The sense that you can only work with the opposition by giving in to their imperious demands disregards a basic political principle.

Once you have expressed your pro forma high esteem for the loyal opposition, you can and should defend your position vigorously. You must ensure that you are getting a goodly amount of what you want. If, as Peggy Noonan says, you get 15% while your opposition gets 85% you have been had. You have been too conciliatory and have driven a soft bargain.

The Bush presidency began with James Baker leading the fight for Florida's electoral votes. Few individuals are more polite and courtly than James Baker. And yet, when it came to fighting for his candidate, few people were more ferocious and formidable than James Baker.

The failure to see that you can be both at the same time has done damage to the Republican establishment. When Mike Castle voted for the cap and trade legislation he became the poster boy for capitulation. And capitulation is never a sign of good negotiation skills or of considerable political experience. It is a sign of fear.


The Ghost said...

a little fact checking is in order next time you venture into the political arena ...
First, Castle claims he repeatedly tried to contact O'Donnell directly on Wed and Thur ... she has changed all her numbers ...
If you had followed the campaign from the start you would have noticed some vile stuff being throw at Castle from O'Donnell herself and O'Donnell supporters ...
She accused Castle of having her offices broken into and her supporters floated gay rumors about Castle. He may have fought nasty but she and her supporters stepped over the line several times.
Castle owes O'Donnell nothing and given the name calling he experienced from about 50% of the GOP base he really can't be expected to be a "party" man after wiping off the spittle many heaped upon him ...

The Ghost said...

The rest of your post was pretty good but I think you may have put too much stock in the idea that the Tea Party is a response to the fact that George W. Bush refused to fight back. If that were the case the Tea Party would have shown up in 2007 and 2008 after 6+ years of Bush basing went unchallenged. It did not, it is a response to the overreach of Pelosi, Obama and Reid pure and simple ...

Marsh said...

Ghost, "She accused Castle of having her offices broken into and her supporters floated gay rumors about Castle."

Like Stuart said, "Why did Mike Castle's conscience refuse to allow him to support Christine O'Donnell? Because she attacked him personally, and worse yet, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity did too. Because no one ever suffers the indignity of a personal attack in American politics."

"He may have fought nasty"

May? He and his supporters called her crazy. And attacked her sexuality.

He needs to grow up and get over it. Stuart had it exactly right. He's a sore loser.

If we CO'D doesn't win in Nov. I will have no regrets about what the tea party did in DE. I say good riddens to a man who felt so entitled to that seat that he thinks his behavior is justifiable.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Allow me to clarify things. If Castle had called O'Donnell on Tuesday evening and had found that her phone numbers had changed, he could easily have gotten up at his announcement and said that he had tried to contact Christine O'Donnell but had not been able to get through to her.

At that point an enterprising reporter would surely have found him the number.

According to the Washington Post article I linked, Castle was hardly reticent in attacking O'Donnell.

Politics does get very nasty. I do not think that it does anyone any credit to go into hiding, claiming neutrality, because his opponent attacked him personally.

The fact is, there is so much of that stuff going around that most people know by now not to take it all that seriously.

Mike Castle would have looked better if he had chosen loyalty over pique, even in favor of a decidedly inferior candidate.

And I agree with Marsh that Castle did not hold the attacks he threw at her to the same standards as the attacks directed against him because he felt that he was entitled.

In today's political arena, acting like you're entitled is a bad idea.

As for the ghost's other point, as I recall it, the attacks against W really picked up in ferocity after the 2004 election. Surely, the liberal media never thought of him as a legitimate president, but he was doing well enough up to 2004 to win the election.

I agree with the ghost that the Tea Party was galvanized by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, but, if that is true, why would it, as Peggy Noonan says, be a repudiation of the Republican party, and especially, of Republican politicians who go along with the Dems and are not considered to be strong enough to fight back.

Marsh said...

I'd also like to add that I'd be willing to wager that Castle lost almost no votes b/c of the gay rumor.

He lost the race b/c of his own voting record.

RayH said...

"conservative intellectual titan"
At least in reference to Rove this amounts to three errors for the price of one.

"...greatest mystery of the Bush administration."
Mystery solved: Karl Rove

As a side note, is there a list of HTML tags that are allowed in Blogger comments? I've searched the on-line help without success. In particular I tried to use 'blockquote' and received an error message.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, RayH. "conservative intellectual titan" was an attempt at irony... evidently not a very successful one...

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: RayH
RE: [OT] Permissible HTML

Well, the listed items (below the 'Leave your comment' box are BOLD, ITALICS and something called 'a'. But I don't know what 'a' does.

I've also used LINKS successfully, but they're rather complicated. And if there is a ':' in the 'hover' portion, it needs to be replaced with a '-', or Blogger complains.

Neither BLOCKQUOTE nor STRIKEthrough work.

Hope that helps.


[Consistency is the hobgoblin of good user interface.]

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: [OT] Testing 'a', Reprised


....that's 'interesting'.

Looks like a 'LINK', but how does one get it to do anything useful?


[To have no errors. Would be life without meaning. No struggle, no joy. - Haiku Error Msg]

Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. And NOW it's gone! The post with the test of 'a', that is.

Jim said...

What makes the Delaware election especially messy is that O'Donnell has "lots of baggage" as Karl Rove has said. There are lots of questions about her past. I'm not talking about her views and embarrassing statements made many years ago. What I am concerned about is her lying about her degree, her apparantly sham sexual harrassment lawsuit against a former employer, her failure to pay past due tuition obligations for 17 years, the very strange situation on how she handled the near-forclosure on her house, her IRS taxes due and other serious problems.

These issues will be scrutinized over the next six weeks and she is already 11 points behind in the polls. This is not good for Republicans, the Tea Party or for America as it appears that we will most likely be stuck with one more liberal Democrat in the Senate for another six years.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Jim
RE: Got....

What I am concerned about is her lying about her degree, her apparantly sham sexual harrassment lawsuit against a former employer, her failure to pay past due tuition obligations for 17 years, the very strange situation on how she handled the near-forclosure on her house, her IRS taxes due and other serious problems. -- Jim


Talk is cheap. Especially from Democrats and their sympathizers.


[Liberals aren't. Progressives won't.]

Chuck Pelto said...

P.S. If your allegations were accurate....

....I suspect that the Democrats wouldn't be dragging out allegations of high school 'witchcraft' experimentation. Instead, they'd be flaunting YOUR allegations.

Jim said...

Chuck Pelto,

Here is a link that will give you a copy of the actual complaint that was filed by O'Donnell against her former employer.

You can also read an article about this in a recent posting in The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication.

With respect to her past due tuition payment, O'Donnell acknowledges that she finally settled that debt. According to Fairleigh Dickenson University, it was settled just this year, 17 years late. The amount was $4800, which seems a paltry amount for someone who used to make a salary of $65K with no dependants to support. She has other unpaid debts. "The wicked borrow and do not repay." Psalm 37:21

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Jim
RE: O'Donnell's 'Transgressions'

Thanks for the 'evidence'.

In terms of analysis....

[1] Are you suggesting that someone CANNOT file suit against their employer for discrimination?

I know a fellow officer—reserve side—who was 'dismissed' by his company, just before he became 'fully vested'. They said his position was no longer necessary.

Six months later, he discovered that they had re-instituted the position and filled it with a 20-something.

You suggest no one should complain about being abused by their employer?

How very 'odd'.

[2] Regarding the debt repayment. Are you saying it has not been repaid? In satisfaction of the creditor?

If the creditor is 'satisfied', what's the complaint?

You've never been in 'arrears' with a creditor?

Based on your argument, YOU should run for the US Senate.


[Let he who is without 'sin' cast the first stone. -- some Wag, around 2000 years ago]

Jim said...

Chuck, I am not against someone defending themselves against discrimination but against using the law to file nuisance suits to hit it big in the litigation lottery. I read this complaint and it has "frivolous" written all over it, which is why O'Donnell dropped the suit. If the case had any merit, she would have found a lawyer to take it on a contingency basis.

As a CFO and HR manager I have had to coordinate EEOC defenses for my employer and such frivolous suits are costly and tend to favor litigious plaintiffs and their lawyers. These lawsuits cost businesses billions and this reduces employment and investment. If O'Donnell was a left wing feminist than I wouldn't be surprised. But this is something that principled conservative women do not due. Besides, the complaint contains statements that could easily be considered untrue. She claimed that her employer would not give her sufficient time for her to partake in a masters program. It turns out she never was in such a program because she didn't have a degree because she didn't pay her tuition. She settled the debt just this year so it wouldn't be an issue in her campaign. Why couldn't she come up with $4800 years ago on a $65K salary? She probably spent more on her wardrobe, hair and nails over the past year! A principled person would not let that happen.

She also has other debts that are unpaid and... she is now 15 points behind in the polls. The Democratic National Committee is very thankful for her because they have better chances of keeping the Senate.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Democrat by birth and a conservative by choice, coming late to this post.
1. That Christine, she's a real sweetheart, but she's wont to hit a sour note from time to time. She badly needs a husband with money, brains, and political judgment to be her Bill Clinton.
2. The Republicans can win the Senate and Presidency in 2012, but they need to cut out the fratricide over ideological purity. The way I read the demographics, the Repubs can't carry the day with the Tea Party and the Religious Right alone...they need to hold the so-called RINOs in their coalition.
3. Re Castle: I understand. He was treated pretty badly, and I can understand why he'd sit out the general.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Arriving late gives a different perspective. Thank you for yours. Of course, nominating Christine O'Donnell cost the Republican party a senate seat. We could say the same about a couple of other candidates.

But it has also taught everyone in the party to think of candidates in terms of electability, not just ideological purity. So perhaps that will be a saving grace.

On the other important question you raise, if it is incumbent on tea party candidates to support more moderate Republicans, isn't it also incumbent on RINOs to support Tea Party candidates when the situation works out differently?