Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sucker Punching True Believers

If you've been reading for the past year, you've probably noticed by now that I've become a bit focused on the race for IL-06. I guess when the national party decides to take interest and undermine the local candidate, I get a bit perturbed. But who wouldn't, except Rahm Emanuel. First, Chris Bowers of MyDD declared IL-06 the primary to focus on. Now Austin Mayor's contribution to Eric Zorn's Blogginois year in review focuses on the same issues I've been raising about Rahm's undermining of Cegelis:
The National Democratic Party Discovers the Illinois 6th District.


In early 2005, 6th District Dems heard rumors that the DCCC was taking a serious interest in the 6th District race. Naturally, we expected that the DCCC would get behind Christine Cegelis, the Democratic candidate that garnered 44% in the last election. But the DCCC insisted on being coy. They told the Cegelis supporters that they would have to raise $100,000 by June 30 FEC filing and then the DCCC would support Christine's ongoing grassroots campaign for the 6th District seat.

But while the DC Democratic leaders were assuring the Cegelis team that it would have their backing if it met their fundraising benchmarks, they were simultaneously undermining the Cegelis campaign by courting other potential candidates to run in the 6th District Democratic primary. The DCCC leadership was sending feelers out to multi-millionaire Democrats who would be able to self-fund their own campaigns.

And what happened when the Cegelis team met the fundraising goal set by the DCCC? The DCCC raised the fundraising target.


But while the GOP culture club of corruption and cronyism was lining up behind Roskam, the DC Dems were letting big donors know that they were looking at fielding another candidate for the primary. That's right true believer, just when the DCCC told the Cegelis team that they needed to raise unprecidented sums of Democratic money, they let big money donors know that they were considering fielding another candidate. Well, you know what happened next -- the big Democratic donors decided to keep their metaphorical powder dry and Christine's fundraising calls suddenly fell on deaf ears.

And the DCCC leadership then turned around and used that fundraising drought -- if you can call raising over $160, 000 by Sep. 30 a "drought" -- as their excuse reason to parachute a candidate in from outside the district.

To parachute a candidate from outside the district, who's only lived outside the district for less than three years, outside the state for the majority of her life, with no political experience, virtually no support by local Democratic Township orgs, and nothing but the support of political professionals who call themselves volunteers in an attempt to not violate federal campaign finance laws orchestrated by Rahm Emanuel. The true believers are not happy campers about being sucker punched right about now.

Monday, December 26, 2005


To anyone paying attention, the method of Duckworth's entry into the IL-06 race is pretty obvious and Rahm's reason for touting her as a strong candidate pretty transparent. From Dennis Byrne's column in today's Chicago Tribune:
Speaking of being bought by the insider crowd, we come to Tammy Duckworth. She has entered the Democratic west suburban 6th District congressional race as a protege of liberal U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) Emanuel heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which means he has a lot of money to buy candidates and their support.


Emanuel has committed a bankroll to install Duckworth as the candidate of the party apparatus, even though she is a political novice who lives outside the district and whose political positions have been a mystery. So why would Emanuel run such a political nullity, when a proven candidate is available?

Because she is a war hero. Duckworth was an Illinois Army National Guard helicopter pilot who became an amputee in a crash in Iraq. Emanuel already has trotted her out as "evidence" that Democrats are patriotic and sympathetic with the military. And to inoculate Democrats against the (correct) perception that they're weak on the war against terror. Not surprisingly, her campaign was launched by media toadies, including ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who gave her undeserved exposure on his Sunday TV talk show. Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that George and Rahm worked together for the Clinton White House.

Using her honorable service in this way is breathtakingly cynical, even for someone as practiced as Emanuel. Even in something as squalid as Illinois politics.

I'd say this is a mild preview of how Roskam would attack Duckworth as a challenger. Her very strong suit of being a disabled Iraq vet will be turned from a strength to liability by focusing the debate on questions over her residency, charges of being controlled by Chicago Democrats, and Emanuel's constant 'look at the war hero' press focus.

If the cynicism displayed by Emanuel and his "figthing Dems" narrative is already this transparent to both the right and the left, I wonder about the wisdom of playing so obviously in the Republican "Democrats as weak" frame. In trying so overtly to prove Democrats are not the wimps Republicans say we are, do we prove their point by saying "am not!" a bit too loudly. Doth the congressman protest too much?

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Primary to Focus On This Year: IL-06

Ya, I'm on vacation and all that... Chris Bowers at MyDD outlines why the DCCC's decision to support Duckworth is a bad idea:
I think that the DCCC supporting Duckworth against Cegalis is a truly horrendous move on their part, and I honestly believe that in response the netroots should fight back by supporting Cegalis in the primary in any way possible. I have three basic reasons why I think the DCCC's move to support Duckworth is awful:
1. It is an incredible waste of resources. [...] However much the DCCC is spending to help Duckworth, it is an utterly unjustified diversion of resources away from challenging incumbent Republicans and toward challenging other Democrats.

2. It is a repeat of our losing 2004 strategy. [...] In other words, not only do I not believe that Duckworth being a veteran is much of a bonus to her candidacy, I am actually horrified that we think we could win in 2006 using the same theory we had in 2004. If we are still deluding ourselves into thinking that someone will win because s/he is a veteran, then we didn't learn anything from the past. Are we really so uncritical of our past performances, and are we really doing so little to come up with new ways to run campaigns, that we are just going to use the same strategies from losing campaigns again and again? The lack of vision here is truly disturbing.

3. It takes the base for granted. [...] In 2004, we did indeed transfer our new movement to the establishment, and I have a feeling that set a really bad precedent. I believe that many in the establishment came to believe that they could pick whatever candidate they wanted to run, and we would fall in line behind that candidate, causing the money, the activism, and the new alternative media to flow to whoever they wanted. However, in this race it can be different. If the netroots supported candidate can actually defeat the establishment chosen candidate, it will force the establishment to stop taking the base for granted. If we can defeat the establishment in at least one location, it would force them to actually negotiate with us in the future. This could help bring an end to bossed primaries. This could help the netroots to have a real say in the messaging and direction of the party. If Cegalis can win, then they will have to start actually coming to us and asking us what we think before they decide to waste our resources and use other bad strategies in both primary and general elections. The ice is already slightly cracking on their willingness to listen to us: a big primary victory like this could cause it to shatter.

So that is my case. I think for the DCCC to support Duckworth is a waste of resources, is a bad electoral strategy, and takes the activist base for granted. I also think that helping Cegalis win would greatly enhance the bargaining power of the netroots within the party. I honestly believe that if there is one primary we should focus on this year, it is the IL-06. Here is a link to her website. Please support her.

I agree completely. Donate to Cegelis here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays

Get the hell off the blog and go spend some time with your family. What the hell is wrong with you damn blog addicts?

So Where Was Emanuel?

The other day, Lynn Sweet had an article on Emanuel's arm twisting on the Sensenbrenner immigration bill:
Friday, the House approved an immigration bill by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that most Democrats regarded as anti-immigrant and needlessly punitive. It is unlikely to survive in the Senate. The measure was approved 239-182, with 36 Democrats voting with the GOP majority.

"As painful as it is for me to come to this conclusion, after careful examination of all of the events last Friday I have come to the conclusion that indeed the chair of the DCCC either asked, encouraged or cajoled people to vote for the Sensenbrenner bill," Gutierrez told me.


The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, ran a story Tuesday about how members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and their allies were "furious" that Emanuel and Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were lobbying incumbents who were GOP targets next year to vote "yes" on Sensenbrenner.


Emanuel, on vacation, released a statement after I asked his office whether he lobbied anyone for a vote: "I voted against the Sensenbrenner bill and have opposed it every step of the way.

So is this how we defeat the Republicans and take back the House? Vote with them on terrible bills like this? How do we contrast the Democratic Party from the Republican Party when we do this? Do we vote against it before we vote for it? That worked so well in 2004.

But the comment that gets my attention is that on Monday Emanuel was "on vacation." Are you kidding me? Congress was in session. He's suppose to be there to serve, not taking a vacation. Is he following Bush's lead here? What's worse, Emanuel seems to be on vacation during one of the most important votes this year - the vote on the Republican pushed Budget Bill that cut funding for social programs while giving tax cuts to the rich. Six Democrats missed this vote. The bill passed by six votes. For the head of the DCCC to miss this vote is inexcusable. Sirota has more:
The Washington Post reports that when asked, Emanuel's spokeswoman said "Emanuel had a family obligation." Is that code for "on vacation?"

This is a really important question that Emanuel needs to answer - and I should say, it is still possible he had a good reason, and if he does, then I will stand down (though it better be a pretty compelling reason considering Republican Rep. Joe Barton managed to make the vote 4 days after being hospitalized for a heart attack). Democrats should know whether the guy who is supposed to be leading the charge to take back the House was loafing around on vacation when the most important votes of the year were being cast - votes where, the more Democrats who vote for against the bills, the more vulnerable Republicans have to vote for it and potentially open themselves up to criticism on the campaign trail.

So we're waiting, Congressman Emanuel, for a real explanation. Because it's time to know whether vacation is more important than stopping a bill that slashed an incredible $40 billion out of Medicaid, child care assistance, and other key priorities.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), one of the six missing Democrats, has since explained her absence. She missed the vote due to a death in her family. That is most certainly a reason to miss any vote, even an important vote like this one. But we are still waiting to hear from the other five Democrats, and most notably, the head of the DCCC, Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cegelis Expenditures Well Below Average

I was never much found of math class. But I remember the part about ratios, and that if you have a smaller number to start with the ratio can be manipulated as a smaller number will be affected more considerably than a large number - especially when fixed costs are involved. This method of statistical manipulation seems to me the basis of the circular argument I keep hearing about Cegelis' burn rate. From reading the blogs, you'd expect that she was spending money like a drunken sailor. Yesterday I had this same exchange again with Archpundit, who relayed the following in the comments when I noted Cegelis was taking in enough to sustain her campaign infrastructure:
This is the last way you run a primary campaign. Infrastructure at this point should be an office, a manager, maybe a press person and some field people with the canvassing done by volunteers. You don't need a huge infrastructure--you need to stockpile cash and use as much in kind and donated labor as you can.

It's canvassing, coffee and free press at this point, not spending lots of money. You then build on that by having the money for near the election to do mail and radio and other expenses.

Larry has a much better depth on this subject than I do, so at first I just took him at his word. But then I started thinking about math class and those ratios again and something just didn't seem right.

So I looked at the Q3 expense reports for all the Democrats running for the House in Illinois and a funny thing happened. Cegelis was 33% below average, and only 4 out the 12 Democrats on record have spent less than she had in Q3.

The summary:
Of the 19 Congressional Districts, I could find FEC Q3 filing reports on only 14. Of these, I limited my data to only candidate who had raised at least $50K so as not to completely skew the average to candidates who have raised $2-5K. This left 12 Democratic candidates for the House, of which all save Cegelis were incumbents:
Cegelis expenditures were well below the average
4 in 12 candidates spent less than Cegelis
4 in 12 candidates spent twice than Cegelis
2 in 12 candidate spent three times Cegelis

The Averages:
For this one, I averaged all the expenditures for all Democratic candidates, and then compared these with Cegelis' expenditures as well as Roskam's. I included one average without Guiterrez as for some reason he only spent $2.9K and raise only $3K according to his Q3 report, and again skewing the average a bit. Numbers below are in thousands:
Average of All Dem Expenditures = $69.03
Average w/o Guiterrez = $75.05
Cegelis = $46.4
Roskam = $105.9
The biggest spending Democrat was Rahm Emanuel: $146.5K

Individual Numbers
The chart below reads: District, Incumbent, Expenditures in Thousands, and Candidate. N/R signifies no report for Q3 found and two races are noted as having challengers under $50K raised:
IL-01: D $26.9 Rush
IL-02: D $83.2 Jackson
IL-03: D $27.3 Lipinski
IL-04: D $2.9 Guiterrez (3K raised)
IL-05: D $146.5 Emanuel

IL-06: O $46.4 Cegelis
IL-06: O $105.9 Roskam

IL-07: D $49.7 Davis
IL-08: D $119.9 Bean
IL-09: D $114.9 Schakowsky
IL-10: R N/R
IL-11: R $22.5 Pavich
IL-12: D $46.4 Costello
IL-13: R N/R
IL-14: R <$50K
IL-15: R <$50K
IL-16: R N/R
IL-17: D $141.8 Evans
IL-18: R N/R
IL-19: R N/R

Rahm's Involvement in the Ratio
Cegelis burn rate is high if you only look at the expense/income ratio. Since Cegelis has been effectively cut off from fundraising from large institutional donors thanks to Emanuel trying to shut down her campaign and his sharing her donor base, her funding is at only $160K this year. Emanuel has effectively shut down her campaign's fundraising, then turned around and complained about her fundraising numbers. This is a circular argument. Looking at the other Democrats running for office, it is quickly notable that incumbents are raising quite a bit of money as a benefit of the incumbent effect. But they are spending by and large more money on their campaigns than is Cegelis. If all campaigns need right now, as Archpundit put it, is an office, a manager and maybe a press person, why are these others spending so much more than Cegelis? Why is she being critisized her her spending less than average, and below 9 of 12 other Democrats in Illinois races?

And I'll say this again: How is Duckworth filing petitions, paying for a-list consultants working on her campaign, media outreach sufficient to get her on This Week, and a campaign spokesperson and publicist? All this costs dollars. Big dollars. So how is she paying for it? What is her burn rate? We won't know because she won't file an FEC report until the primary.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. I feel the "burn rate" argument is just another BS argument because people can't find anything but Cegelis' fundraising to criticize her for. And since Rahm has done his best to shut down Cegelis' fundraising while backing Duckworth - his anointed choice - I'll content the argument is intentional. Since Cegelis is not spending outside the norm for Illinois Democrats running for office, Roskam doesn't have a primary and has spent twice what Cegelis has, and especially since Emanuel spent more than any other Democrat running in Illinois, I'll content this arugment about Cegelis is a bit disingenuous and politically motivated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dem Vets Running Are Cowards

This is rich. Take a glimpse into the mind of an angry Republican:
That the reason why [Duckworth] (and other Iraq veterans) are running as Democrats, is because the Republican veterans re-enlisted. But, of course no one is lending an ear to the brave people who go back in because they believe in protecting our country. Have you heard any stories about the people who go back to fight? Of course not, but there's many who have a story to tell. Trust me, it shouldn't be a surprise that there are more Democrat Iraq veterans running for office than there are Republicans, for the very reason I wrote above. Republicans believe in this war, and keep gonig back to fight it. Democrats are cowarding over here, trying to buy votes with the "I hate Bush" mantra. However, it is always amuzing, if not irritating, to see the media focus on any "anti-Bush" B.S. than the good news of the war.

This coming from another yellow elephant that thinks women shouldn't serve in combat and credits her time in the Civil Air Patrol as credibility on serving the country. I've been pretty critical of Duckworth, but calling someone who lost her legs in Iraq less than brave for running for office would be hilarious if it wasn't for the complete absurdity of the statement.

If Republicans believe in this war against a country that didn't attack us so much, then they should go and fight it. If Angry Republican Mom supports the war so much, maybe she should enlist her kids so they can get their legs blow off for their country like Duckworth did. And maybe someone could tell her that her soft-core picture of her and her weapon once again highlight the hypocrisy of the Republican Party being the party of morality.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Locals Dems Upset Over Duckworth

Duh. From The Hill:
Local Democrats warn that, despite Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth’s popularity in Washington, she is likely to face an uphill battle in winning her party’s nomination to run for the seat now held by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.).


Alycia Fitz, a DuPage County Democratic official who coordinates election observers, said Cegelis has a “very loyal following.”

What’s more, Fitz said, there does not appear to be any substantive differences among Cegelis, Duckworth and Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott on Duckworth’s signature issue: the war in Iraq and President Bush’s handling of it.

Steven Kierstead, a DuPage County Democratic activist who runs a weekly e-mail newsletter sent to 1,400-1,500 local Democrats, added that the question of Duckworth’s residency — she lives just over the line in the 10th Congressional District — will hamper her efforts to win the support of party officials.

“It won’t make much difference to John and Jane average voter,” Kierstead said, “but some of the activists are very hot about it. Some of the people in the Cegelis camp already have used it.”

And this lack of so-called institutional support, Democrats add, will make it difficult for Duckworth to avoid looking like a “Washington candidate” imposed on Democrats in the suburban-Chicago district.

Florian Wasik, a retired mechanical engineer who volunteers at the Wheeling Township Democratic headquarters, in the neighboring 10th District, called Duckworth an “intrusion” imposed on the 6th District by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) who represents the nearby 5th District, in Chicago.

Although I agree with the general take of this part of the article, there are two pieces that I take issue with. First is Fitz' notion that there are not substantial differences between the candidates. I guess they all take Democratic positions, so on this level they are similar. But, as I'll try to get into in the new year, there are differences between the three candidates, especially where they stand in the Democratic spectrum and depth on issues important to the district.

The other point that I'll quibble over is this notion that Cegelis supporters are "using" Duckworth's residency as an issue. I've written about it to try to highlight a key difference between Cegelis and Duckworth. Cegelis has 20-plus years of ties to the district. She's raised kids in the district, started a business in the district, voted in the district, and been to just about every Democratic meeting, group, and coffee there is in the district - probably more than once. Duckworth has lived just outside the district for only three years. Noting her short residency near the district is highlighting a legitmate difference between these two candidates, not being used as hyped up spin.

Regardless, Duckworth is in the race and it will be a three way primary. I hope the race stays on issues and moves quickly to a schedule of debates. I'll try to focus in on the various candidate's positions as the new year begins and the primary season kicks into high gear.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Q&A with Tammy Duckworth?

Tammy Duckworth has announced, and the carefully orchestrated roll out of her campaign began this week. As part of that roll out, a media blitz with interviews of Duckworth were all over the papers. Here in IL-06, the Daily Herald had a Q&A interview with her. While it was obvious Duckworth has been media coached, it was equally obvious that she has a set list of talking points. Talking points she faithfully stuck to like glue, and in my opinion, to the point of not giving substantive answers.

First, the focus on Duckworth's long awaited views on Iraq (emphasis mine):
I think it was a mistake going to Iraq. I think that it was a bad decision based on poor intelligence. I think that we need better leadership to make the tough choices and come up with a plan to get our troops out of Iraq and bring them home. I don’t think the current administration has that plan right now.


We need to sit down, make the tough choices. Provide leadership, which is lacking right now, to come up with a program to turn control over to Iraqi forces so they can take over the job of protecting their own country so that American troops can come home. My job as a soldier was to answer the call, to serve my country and I’m proud of that service and I’m proud of my fellow soldiers. I think now we need somebody who can make tough choices. I want to be there to help make decisions so that we never ever send troops again into battle without a plan.

Reading this, I get errie flashbacks to the 2004 Presidential race. Isn't it President Bush's position that the intellegence was bad and that's why we went to war? Hasn't it been proven that the intelligence was manipulated and cherry picked enough by now?

Then notice the talking point she's hammering: strong leadership that makes tough choices. Isn't that Bush's line? He's the steadfast war president who provides strong leadership and makes tough choices? That choice of words is really troubling to me as a Democrat. Making tough choices is great, but in Congress she will not be surrounded by people who unquestioningly follow orders, nor will she be in a leadership position as a freshman Congressman.

On issues questions, she seems to avoid giving direct answers, instead giving vauge or canned answers like this one on abortion:
I think that most people in our district think it’s not the place of government to make that wrenching personal decision between a woman and her doctor. We need to increase the amount of information about adoption out there.

So, where does she stand on abortion? Does she support a women's right to choose? Would she vote to restrict a woman's right to choose? I don't want to hear what she thinks "most people in the district" think. I want to know how she will vote in these issues. She goes on to give similar answer on issues like gun control, Patriot Act renewal, tax cuts, or her health care priorities. I want to know specifics. I don't want to hear that she'll use "common sense" as we all know most people don't have the same definition of what common sense is. I want to know which parts of the Patriot Act she'd support. I want to know what she will do about the health care crisis, not that she's aware there is one. I want to know how she will vote.

Her answer on her residency insulted me:
Q. You’re entering a contested primary. One of the biggest charges Christine Cegelis supporters seem to be leveling so far is the word carpetbagger. You live just outside the district. Your response?

A. I’m not going to be dealing with labeling. I think this election is about the issues and the values of the district. Hoffman Estates is divided into two (congressional) districts. My friends and my husband have worked for a couple computer companies in the district, so I understand what’s important to voters in this district.

I agree that "carpetbagger" is wrong, and a label we can do without in this primary. But to claim you understand what's important for the district because your "friends and my husband have worked for a couple computer companies in the district" is just ridiculous. I have a couple friends who work - present not past tense - in Evanston. Does that mean I understand what's important to Evanston residents? I don't think so.

I've noted this before: the location of Tammy Duckworth's house is not the issue here. It's her lack of life experience in the district that bothers me. She didn't grow up in the district. She didn't raise kids in the district. She hasn't worked in the district. She doesn't commute every day in the district. Her experience as a district resident is an issue.

This is just one interview. The 10-minute puff piece on "This Week" was not much better as far as depth goes. Ms. Duckworth has obvious charisma, but the media coaching showed through to me. I want to know where she stands, not that she'll be guided by common sense or by what she thinks residents of the district that she has little in common with think. I want to know how she'll vote. So far she hasn't shown me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"Campaign in a Can"

Lynn Sweet in today's Sun Times sums up Duckworth's entry into the race for IL-06 (emphasis mine):
With a campaign totally packaged by some of the nation's leading Democratic strategists in Washington and Illinois, wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth will announce a Democratic congressional primary bid Sunday.


The Duckworth campaign is entirely orchestrated by a team of political professionals with ties to Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the chief of the Democrats' House political organization.


However, Duckworth's campaign-in-a-can brain trust showed their interest in turning her into a national figure -- before establishing her local credentials -- by booking her last week as a guest this Sunday on ABC's "This Week" program.

You know, I've been pretty aggressive and sincerely apologize to Ms. Duckworth for ever going beyond the political to personal attacks. But terms like "packaged" "entirely orchestrated" and "campaign-in-a-can" resonate well with my perceptions of what is happening here.

The push back is aimed at how Duckworth is entering the race, not at her. She may be a willing pawn in this, but truth be told, if I was in her position I might think the idea of someone making me a Congressman would be a good idea. But I hope she's not believing her own press here, nor the sweet words whispered in her ear by her handlers. Her entry has really stirred up a hornet's nest, and has a great many people angry. Emanuel might have done Cegelis a favor by energizing the DuPage base and Cegelis supporters.

Either way, I just don't see this as anything but a waste of resources and yet another circular firing squad orchestrated by Emanuel. Too bad Rahm had to train his fire on a fellow Democrat like Cegelis. Too bad he couldn't have trained our fire on Roskam instead of giving him ammunition.

As they say in those Guinness commercials: "Brilliant!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Look Who's Reading Damn Liberals

Inspired by Rick Klau catching the DCCC astroturphing in blog in favor of Duckworth, I though should examine my own a bit before they figure out to go to Starbuck and post their astoturf. It seems that a certain congress critter is a reader now:
Search results for: 143.231.249.#

OrgName: Information Systems, U.S. House of Representatives
Address: 2nd and D St SW
City: Washington
StateProv: DC
PostalCode 20515
Country: US

Am I on the Enemies list yet?

Blogging for Duckworth from DCCC HQ

What's it going to take to get the Blogosphere to realize that Duckworth's campaign is being run by Emanuel and the Beltway Boys from DCCC headquarters in DC? From Rick Klau's tins:
And then there was this comment left earlier today by “Lisa”, who says she lives in Melissa Bean’s district and lays out why she thinks Duckworth is the right candidate. Interestingly, the IP address associated with Lisa’s computer is owned by the Democratic National Committee headquarters:
OrgName: Democratic National Headquarters
Address: 430 S. Capitol St. SE - 2nd Floor
City: Washington
StateProv: DC
PostalCode: 20003
Country: US

Update: The DCCC is located on the 2nd floor of the building, so it’s entirely likely that this comment is from the DCCC and not the DNC...

First we hear about a fundraiser for Duckworth at the Hilton Towers in Chicago before Duckworth had even announced or been released from service. Then we hear of a bunch of "volunteers" throwing down the gauntlet to get signatures for her a train station in Cook County before heading off to Oak Park. Now we have concerned citizens from adjacent districts blogging from computer that happen to be right in the DNC (more likely DCCC) headquarter! What's next, Astroturf in the LTE section of the local papers? If Duckworth has all this support from the District, why again is the DCCC so involved in her campaign?

Here's the original comment:
I actually live in Melissa Bean's district, not in Hyde's district. But I know how hard it is to win in a Republican district. Bean won because Crane was old and inept. This time, the republican is going to be Peter Roskam, a "fresh face" who will not be painted as a bumbling fool.

Melissa Bean attracted Republican voters because of Crane. We can't use the same strategy in the 6th CD. Instead, we need to appeal to Republican voters because of the strength of our Democratic candidate.

This is why I think Duckworth is a good choice. She served in Iraq and can tell it straight about the war. She'll bring credibility on national security and defense issues, which is where Republicans always beat us. She's got an interesting personal story, which, face it, is important when you're facing the voters.

The bottom line is this - to win this district, we need a big majority of the independents and a number of Republicans. I think Duckworth gives us the best chance to do that.

Besides the fact this comment is bogus, since "Lisa" seems to be blogging from DC, not Illinois, the whole argument she's making is typical DLC crap. To win this district we need to mobilize the Democratic base to turn out every Democrat in the district. We also need the independents as well. And since both the base and Independents are strongly against the war in Iraq, and Cegelis has been against the war from the beginning, Cegelis is the candidate positioned to beat Roskam up and down with his support of the war and Bush's failed policies!

A centrist "DLC type" candidate who says things like "there is good and bad in everything" like Duckworth has, is going to get hammered. As Dean says, when given a choice between a Republican and a Republican-lite, the Republican will always win.

So "Lisa" or who ever you are in DC, try spending some time in my district so you'll know what you're talking about and can stop trolling the Duckworth and Cegelis posts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Comments & Questions Re: Duckworth's Campaign

Over at Capitol Fax, Rich had a post up yesterday afternoon about the media coverage Duckworth was getting in the Daily Herald. What caught my attention was a couple of the comments to the post. First was this comment by 'inish' which I shortened for brevity:
A servicemember may not run for political office. It is a directive of the Dept. of Defense 1344.10

Until Duckworth has been discharged, she can not be a candidate. Discharge papers are “misplaced” all the time. I am the wife of a retired servicemember. It took almost two years for our retirment to be approved.

4.1.2. A member on active duty shall not: Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others...

The bold part (emphasis mine) is what caught my attention. I've said this before, but I'll say this again: How is Duckworth, with no announcement, getting 50 volunteers circulating petitions, paying for a-list consultants working on her campaign, media outreach sufficient to get her on This Week, and a campaign spokesperson and publicist? All this costs dollars. Big dollars. So how is she paying for it if, according to Dept. of Defense 1344.10, Section, she can't solicit political contributions from others? How is a big-dollar fundraiser held for her at the Hilton Towers in Chicago last week? Is the DCCC laundering the contributions or am I reading the DoD regulation wrong?

Someone help me out here.

The next comment that caught my attention was this one by 'bored now' again edited for brevity, not content:
(rahm has been collecting petitions for her. i am told that he — and madigan — had 50 people out “gathering” signatures for duckworth at one cook county train station a week or so ago. commuters felt like they were running a gauntlet, and i doubt very many of them refused to sign! given where it was, though, one has to wonder how many signatures were valid…)

Can anyone else verify this? It seems odd to me that the ABC 7 News piece noted her "friends and family" were out getting signatures for her. If this is correct, than Emanuel and Madigan (Lisa or Mike?) are now relatives and family friends. And they are gathering signatures in Cook County no less! For the record, Cegelis had 200 volunteers gather nearly 4,000 signatures to get her on the ballot. I don't think they were all relatives and family friends though. Just part of the Democratic base in DuPage.

Now I know Duckworth was allowed to circulate petitions by her commanding officer. But again, how does this jibe with DoD regulations? If anyone has a greater understanding on this topic please comment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Media Spin

Sorry for the quick two posts in a row on this, but I thought an interesting comparison of media approach to Duckworth's entry into the IL-06 primary came to light today. Here's a comparison from today's news on how this can be slanted. First, from The Daily Herald:
Iraq war vet seeks release to run for Congress
A hot first day of filing for state legislative races

Iraq war veteran Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth is ready to run for the congressional seat held by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde. The question remains: will she be able to?

Now compare to that of the ABC 7 News piece:
War hero may run for 6th Congressional District
Major Duckworth wounded in Iraq

A war hero wounded while fighting in Iraq may run for the seat that will soon be vacated by Congressman Henry Hyde (R). Illinois Democrats want Major Tammy Duckworth to enter the race. She cannot announce her decision publicly until she is officially released from active duty with the National Guard.

The one thing that really bothers me about the way Duckworth is being packaged is that she seems to always be put forth first and foremost as 'war hero' not veteran. You know, I understand a campaign spinning like this, but I don't get it when the MSM does it for the campaign.

"War Hero" Narrative Hits Local TV

If you watched the news tonight, there was actually some pretty fair coverage of the local race in IL-06 on ABC 7 News at 5:00, of course stressing Tammy Duckworth's 'war hero' narrative:
A war hero wounded while fighting in Iraq may run for the seat that will soon be vacated by Congressman Henry Hyde (R). Illinois Democrats want Major Tammy Duckworth to enter the race. She cannot announce her decision publicly until she is officially released from active duty with the National Guard.

Democrat Christine Cegelis, a computer consultant from the northwest suburbs, ran a strong but unsuccessful race two years ago against Republican icon Henry Hyde for a seat in the 6th Congressional District. While Cegelis is giving it another try, Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel -- who is recruiting democratic candidates to run for House seats-- believes his party has a better chance with a decorated war veteran. Major Duckworth, a 37-year-old Hoffman Estates helicopter pilot, lost both legs in an insurgent attack in Iraq a year ago.

"I met Tammy Duckworth. I like Tammy Duckworth. She is a hero and has sacrificed for her country," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, (D) Chicago

Boy what a ringing endorsement from Rahm there. Get ready for the 'war hero' narrative 24/7 starting Sunday.

As to Cegelis, and Roskam, they received a fair amount of coverage on this story as well:
Even so, Cegelis says that she's in the race to stay despite the party's courtship of Duckworth.

"This is politics, and I guess competitive juices flowing is probably the best way to put it because I do believe that one of the things I bring to the district is the fact that I have been here for a long time and I know the people and I have made a lot of networks," said Christine Cegelis, (D) 6th District Candidate

The only Republican in the race is Henry Hyde's handpicked successor. State Senator Peter Roskam of Wheaton said he admires Duckworth, but not her party's motivation for recruitment.

"My sense is that you're really getting a feeling of turmoil from the democrats and that they don't seem to really have a voice," said Peter Roskam, (R) 6th District Candidate.

This will get interesting next week, when Duckworth has formally announced and we will begin to hear where she stands on the issues. But as noted in the video, Duckworth already has Rahm's handlers at work, so we'll probably get well crafted position papers that will read like glossy advertisements.

So here's to a third candidate in the race and a real old fashioned grassroots against the machine contested primary. This should be interesting.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cegelis Outfiles Roskam

Roskam may have more money, but he's got fewer signatures. From the Cegelis campaign:
Today my campaign filed 3,817 signatures in Springfield, making me an official candidate in the race to take back District 6. Each and every one of those signatures is a show of support from the residents of our community. I want to thank all of you who signed on to my candidacy, and I want to thank my valued grassroots support network for getting out there and finding the signatures that brought me to a total that was 5 times the number needed. Peter Roskam, my likely Republican opponent, brought in 1,076 fewer signatures. We like that winning percentage!
Who do you suppose was Roskam's first signature? From the Roskam campaign:
The very first signature we filed was from "Henry J. Hyde." It is very humbling to have Congressman Henry Hyde sign a petition for me to succeed him in Congress.
If that isn't reason enough to donate to Cegelis, I don't know what is. Now all she needs to get 4,000 donations. At $25 a donation, that would make a quick $100K to support her campaign. Donate here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Duckworth's Residency is an Issue

Update 12/18/05: From Archpundit:
She moved to Dekalb 15 years ago and then has been in Hoffman Estates for three years.

This really bothers me. I had given her at least 10 years in the area, but it's only the last three?! Residency is an issue./Update

I've now seen several comments in the Blogosphere and quotes from local sources that emphasize Duckworth's lack of residency in IL-06 as an issue. I agree that Duckworth's residency is an issue. But not regarding where her home in Hoffman Estates rests. Although I think it is really stupid that the law allows anyone to run for any district in the state regardless of where they live, notable candidates like Melissa Bean and Gov. Blago lived outside districts they represented. Dumb law. But the law.

No, Duckworth's residency issue for me is that she has not had any real life experience anywhere near the district, let alone Chicago, let alone Illinois. It's one thing to live out of the district. It's another for a candidate to have spent the majority of her life on a tropical island yet running to represent a Chicago area district.

The life experiences, first hand knowledge of resident issues, understanding of differing economic issues, and a slew of other factors combine here to make Duckworth a weaker candidate who is less likely to represent district residents effectively. This lack of effective representation doesn't even begin to factor in how Emanuel has bought and paid for her campaign and the strings that will include.

The 36-year old Duckworth grew up in Hawaii. Of course, not growing up in frigid Chicagoland does not disqualify one from serving here in Illinois. But it does limit a candidate's ability to understand what district residents take for granted having lived here for decades. This in my opinion limits the efficacy of Duckworth's ability to represent my district. Some background from Sweet at the Sun Times:
As a teen, Duckworth lived in Hawaii; she has an undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii and a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University. She landed in Illinois as a doctoral student at Northern Illinois University.

So let's say Duckworth is a good student, graduated from college with her undergrad at 22 and had her masters by 24. That's two-thirds of her life spent no where near Illinois, but primarily on a tropical island that bases it's economy, lifestyle, recreation, and culture on little or nothing District Six residents do.

Next comes a doctoral program at NIU which puts her in Illinois, but in DeKalb. For those unaware, DeKalb is very rural, is at least an hour way outside IL-06, and does not have much in common with DuPage county other than being in Illinois. This puts Duckworth on a very educated path, which I find laudable, but still no where near my district.

Back to Sweet:
Duckworth joined the ROTC as a graduate student in 1991 and was commissioned in the reserves the next year, becoming a part of the Illinois Army National Guard in 1996. Before deployment to Iraq, Duckworth was a staff supervisor at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston.

This is a great military record, and again laudable for someone to have served our country and my state. But taking a hard look past the 'war hero' narrative that Emanuel's publicist is pushing, this again shows how even when in Illinois, Duckworth has had little in common with residents of IL-06.

She was a commissioned officer in the National Guard, a job that bears little similarity to the daily work routine of district residents. Again, this is not to fault Duckworth for her service. On the contrary, her service is admirable. But let's be honest. Her service also kept her from integrating into the district in ways local candidates like Cegelis and Scott have. DuPage does not revolve around a military installation the way some communities do. Duckworth did not raise children in the district. She was not employed by small businesses in the district. She did not start a business in the district.

She was a government employee, in the military no less - a very different reality from the overwhelming majority of residents in DuPage. Even as a staff supervisor, she worked in Evanston - a North Shore affluent community that might as well be on the other side of the globe when compared to blue collar District Six. Once again, Duckworth's is an admirable bio, but one that shares little commonality with district residents and hampers her ability to represent them accurately.

Duckworth's residency for me is an issue. It is not as important an issue as her stance on the war or other issues key to district residents. But intimate understanding of district life is the foundation from which a candidate will vote. I want to know how my representative will vote. When there is a candidate like Cegelis, who has lived in the district for more than two decades, raised children in the district, worked and started a small business in the district, and campaigned in the district for two years, I feel comfortable knowing how Cegelis will vote.

I don't have that same comfort with Duckworth. And seeing that Rahm's publicist is pushing nothing but Duckworth's 'war hero' narrative, I don't see the issues that are important to me as being more important to Duckworth than getting elected.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Who's Shutting Down Who?

Over at Rick Klau's blog, he reflects on the blowback towards the Duckworth campaign by Democratic Township organizations in DuPage:
I want to see Christine win in the primary, and beat Roskam. But the way to get her there is not to remove potential competitors. It’s to win by attracting a higher percentage of the vote than any competitors, and by outraising her competition. Shutting down potential competitors before they’ve had a chance to establish their fitness for the position is undemocratic, unfair and ultimately irresponsible.

I tried to comment on his blog with no luck, so I'm posting here. I disagree. Strongly. I don't disagree that shutting down competition is undemocratic, unfair and ultimately irresponsible. That's the crux of the animosity here.

The problem is, it's not Duckworth's campaign that is being shut down here. It's Cegelis' campaign.

Dick Durbin isn't loaning one of his staffers to the Cegelis campaign. No one is throwing a high dollar meet and greet complete with a suite at the Hilton Towers in Chicago for Cegelis. The only DCCC I've read about hasn't repeated noted Cegelis as their best chance to win the district. The anonymous Democratic aides I've seen quoted haven't been negative toward Duckworth.

Even if Duckworth is a comparable candidate and Rahm is looking only to win in the District, why not support Cegelis then? She has the name recognition, the support on the ground, the volunteers in place, and the campaign organization ready to go. Plus she's got a rock solid position on the war in Iraq that resonates with the large and growing majority of the country. Duckworth looks poised to take the DLC centrist middle ground that will take the Iraq war off the table and not provide a great way to contrast a the Democrat running for this seat with Roskam. I've yet to hear any reason Cegelis is not better positioned to win IL-06 than Duckworth would be. Yet the entire support of Rahm's organization is pushing to undermine Cegelis.

Shutting down potential competitors like this is undemocratic, unfair and ultimately irresponsible. But it's the Cegelis campaign, not the Duckworth's, that is being shut down here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dean's Wrong: I Don't Have the Power

I owe my political awareness to Howard Dean. Because of him I started blogging, volunteering and donating to Democrats. Dean's rallying cry in the 2004 campaign was "You have the power." The more I learned about the Republicans in control of our government, the more I wanted to use this power to help elect Democrats.

This is why I started supporting a local candidate running for Congress in my own district. Henry Hyde's district. With Christine Cegelis' campaign as a rallying point, I saw more Democrats active in my district than I've seen in my lifetime.

But now, as the Democratic primary approaches, I read of the DCCC again passing over a candidate who newly energized Democrats in my district overwhelmingly support. I read of the DCCC's backing of a candidate with no political experience and few ties to my district. I read of the advantages of military credentials and "wounds" - not issues that matter to the district. I read of the finest political consultants money can buy working for a candidate who hasn't even done any fundraising in the district yet.

As I watch this unfold, I wonder what power I really have.

I wonder how much power I have when a whisper campaign can be spread about Cegelis by a DCCC spokesman and anonymous incumbent Democrats and their aides:
While Democrats will not acknowledge publicly that they are frustrated with Cegelis, they have made it known they are open to other contenders’ jumping into the race.

Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), has said the committee has met with other potential candidates.

A Democratic aide on Capitol Hill said simply: “The Democratic field in Illinois-6 is still open.”

I repeatedly hear that Cegelis is a poor candidate for one reason alone: her bottom line. But rarely do I hear any other criticism of her. And even less seldom do I hear this criticism put together with the reality of who controls the donor base Cegelis relies on and who is pushing Duckworth's campaign:
Emanuel (D-Ill.) has been encouraging Duckworth to get in the race for the west suburban seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), undermining Cegelis because he is convinced she cannot raise enough money to win a general election..

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) first broached the idea of a congressional run with Duckworth, who, as his guest, sat in the House gallery at the State of the Union address last February.


While Duckworth is a political rookie with no campaign experience or political organization behind her, if she runs, she will be able to tap into a turnkey political operation engineered in large part by Emanuel.


Emanuel has been shopping for someone to run against Cegelis for months, so the emergence of Duckworth was not unanticipated.

Let's put two and two together here. The real power for Democratic fundraising in Illinois is Emanuel, not small donors like me. Cegelis shares a donor base with Emanuel, who's district is right next door to IL-06. For months Emanuel has been actively undermining the Cegelis campaign publicly. Yet people still wonder why Cegelis has had difficulty with her fundraising?

It is Emanuel, not me, who has the power to shut down a campaign by choking off it's sources of high dollar donors. Donors in Chicago. Donors in his district. It is Emanuel, not me, that has the power to provide a network of top dollar consultants for turn-key campaign for Duckworth.

Who's gathering signatures to get Duckworth on the ballot? Who's canvassing for her campaign? Who is funding her campaign? Nearly 200 volunteers have canvassed and circulated petitions for Cegelis this year. Approximately 1,400 people donating an average of $120 each have funded the Cegelis campaign. Who has the power here? Volunteers or paid campaign staffers? With the first FEC filing deadline for Duckworth's campaign happening in March, people like me will not have the power to find out who is paying for Duckworth's staff, media, publicist, and turnkey campaign.

Who has the power to decide who runs in my district? Again, it looks not to be residents like me:
Emanuel wants Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth, an Army National Guard pilot who lost her legs and suffered a broken arm when Iraqi insurgents hit her helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, to jump into the race. According to Bill Burton, the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee’s (DCCC) spokesman, Emanuel believes her military credentials and wounds give her an edge in a district that no Democrat has ever won.

Military credentials and wounds! I understand the idea of a "fighting Dems" narrative, but didn't think such a narrative would trump name recognition, a volunteer network, boots on the ground, or a deep understanding of district issues. The emphasis here seems to be on the photo-op Duckworth will generate, not district issues. What does that say to Democrats like me in the district?
Gayl Ferraro, chairwoman of the DuPage County Democratic Party, said the issue of Duckworth’s residency coupled with her outside backing could hurt her prospects.

Ferraro noted that Democrats in DuPage, many of whom back Cegelis, have been working for years to build the party despite long odds.

Long odds that will just get longer, as Duckworth's campaign demonstrates that the power to choose a candidate rests not with voters like me, but in the hands of those with money and power outside my district. By ignoring the reality on the ground in IL-06, Rahm and the DCCC set up a lose/lose situation:
If Duckworth runs and wins:
This will be a blow to Democrats in the district who have used the Cegelis campaign as a rallying point as they work to build the local Democratic party. Such a win will most likely be viewed as a hostile take over of the district by Chicago Democrats and have a lasting effect on those most active in the district, as a bitter primary will hurt a race in which every vote will be needed to win.

If Duckworth runs and loses:
Roskam will jump all over this and run with the "Cegelis' own party wouldn't support her" narrative. Just as was done to Dean in his primary, Roskam will use this to falsely paint Cegelis as radically on the fringe of her own party. The primary would be essentially a complete vote of no confidence by the Party for Cegelis, making what is already going to be a difficult race for any Democrat that much more difficult for her. How will Rahm and the DCCC support Cegelis then after working against her in the primary?

Gov. Dean told us "You have the power." In 2004 I believed him. As I watch what's happening to the Cegelis campaign, I'm not so sure anymore.

Another Reason to Support Cegelis

One of the key reasons many Democrats in IL-06 were empowered by Cegelis was her position on the Iraq war. Cegelis was against the war before it was popular to take this position; back when Republicans called such positions crazy and unpatriotic. Yet Cegelis stood for something that was politically risky at the time, giving Democrats a campaign to rally around.

Take such a clear position on the war from the start is a huge advantage for Cegelis. This is in clear contrast to Roskam, who has been an ardent supporter of the Iraq War and Bush's 'war on terra' since the beginning. Through this issue, Roskam can be tied to Bush, DeLay, and the DC Republican establishment that people are increasingly becoming jaded with.

This is also another reason why I feel Duckworth is the wrong candidate for this district. Although she must remain mum on Iraq, her DLC backers tip her position. As do quotes like this:
It's unclear what Duckworth would say about the Iraq war. When I asked her, she would not declare the war right or wrong: "There is good and bad in everything.

Taking a middle position on the Iraq war is a sure way to take a powerful issue off the table in the General against Roskam. Especially when Iraq looks to be a key issue in 2006:
The war in Iraq is by far the biggest reason Americans volunteer for disapproving of the job Bush is doing as president - it is the answer given by more than half who disapprove. Smaller numbers say that the President is doing a bad job generally, that he is dishonest, or mention his positions on other domestic issues.

WHY DISAPPROVE OF BUSH'S JOB? (Asked of those who disapprove of Bush's job)
53% Iraq war
8% Doing a bad job generally
8% Dishonest
6% Other domestic issues
5% Other personal qualities
4% Economy/jobs

We need Democrats who can clearly contrast with their Republican opponents in 2006. Running a DLC style centrist when the public opinion on the war has turned so negative would be a mistake. It would once again lead to more confusion about what Democrats stand for. And it would remove a powerful issue from the debate in IL-06.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Plan for Victory in IL-06?

One of the biggest knocks on Bush and his Iraq strategy is that he is disconnected from the reality on the ground in Iraq. The same can be said of Emanuel and the DCCC when it comes to the race for IL-06. They keep pushing their conventional wisdom for this race, which might as well be called "The Plan for Victory in IL-06":
First, Democrat Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran, nearly won a House race in Ohio’s strongly Republican 2nd District over the summer. Then Duckworth signaled she might run. Then, with opposition to the war mounting, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), an early supporter of the war, called last month for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. Several Democrats who have served in uniform are now running or contemplating bids across the country.

Should Duckworth run, the general election would be one of the few contests in the country that would be truly competitive next year, Democrats contend.

Democrats in Washington have praised Cegelis as smart and likable but voiced skepticism about her chances of beating Roskam, despite routinely adding that Roskam is “too conservative” for the district.

Just who are these anonymous "Democrats" who "contend" this? Rahm Emanuel and his staff at the DCCC? Just like Bush's plan for Iraq, their conventional wisdom doesn't match the reality on the ground in IL-06:
“It’ll be about me, about how basically I’ve been a resident of this district for the last 20 years,” Cegelis said of her campaign for the suburban-Chicago seat.

“I think I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I know the people of my district,” she added. “I’ve got the organization that I have been building over the last two years.”


Gayl Ferraro, chairwoman of the DuPage County Democratic Party, said the issue of Duckworth’s residency coupled with her outside backing could hurt her prospects.

Ferraro noted that Democrats in DuPage, many of whom back Cegelis, have been working for years to build the party despite long odds.

Never mind the organization in place or that every township organization in DuPage is behind Cegelis. Never mind that the Democratic Chairman for the County notes that residents are supporting Cegelis and have been for working for years to build the local Democratic party. Doesn't matter. The conventional wisdom, confirmed by "some Democrats" in pure Fox News style, is that the Hackett model will win the day in IL-06. While Cegelis has supporters circulate petitions to get her on the ballot and turn up every weekend to canvass for her, who is doing this for Duckworth? Oh yes, forgot. Money buys these sort of things, including a publicist:
Lori Goldberg of Jasulca/Terman and Associates, a public relations firm in Chicago that is helping Duckworth, would say only that her candidate is waiting for the Army to release her from active duty.

What is it they see in Duckworth anyway? Oh yes. A bio and a photo op they can package:
Emanuel wants Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth, an Army National Guard pilot who lost her legs and suffered a broken arm when Iraqi insurgents hit her helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, to jump into the race. According to Bill Burton, the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee’s (DCCC) spokesman, Emanuel believes her military credentials and wounds give her an edge in a district that no Democrat has ever won.

How exactly do wounds give a politician an edge other than photo ops? And they admit it. Emanuel's Plan for Victory in IL-06 is as disconnected from the reality on the ground as is Bush's plan victory in Iraq.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Cegelis on Iraq & IL-06

This past Thursday, local bloggers held a conference call with Christine Cegelis. Below are some of the notes I took from the call typed while listening to the conversation between the candidate and bloggers on the line. I've summarized the 35-minute conversation for this post, and tried to group the responses by topic:

On the President's Plan for Iraq:
Cegelis was disappointed, as were we, in the President's "Plan for Victory" in Iraq and his 'major' speech on the plan. She noted that she was optimistic about Rep. Murtha's plan for withdrawal, and thought that this indicated that the tide had truly changed in Washington. She was in DC recently for a National Security Briefing where all indications were that the troops were overstretched and can't sustain another year at the status quo. She was confident the Democrats in Congress would keep the withdrawal in the public's attention and bring the troops home, and hopes that saner people prevail on Iraq policy.

Cegelis felt the President's plan seemed not to be based on reality, but on political posturing. She noted that Rep. Murtha had said on Russert's show that is would take 25 years to adequately train the Iraqi troops. Both Cheney and Ruslfeld have already said we'd be in Iraq for decades. Perhaps the plan was intentionally being vague on just what "training" the Iraqis meant.

Comparisons to Duckworth on Iraq:
When asked how her approach to Iraq would differ from a candidate like Duckworth, Cegelis noted that the military is the best at what they do. She commended Duckworth for her bravery and her service. But then noted that the military is under the guidance of civilian officials. As a civilian, she will look to experts like Rep. Murtha, as he is seen as the military go-to person who's opinions should be respected.

Her style was to listen to many viewpoints with an open mind, give respect to the opinions of people who are the experts, then synthesize what was felt to be the best course of action. Cegelis felt this was Bush's weakness as a president. He seems to surrounding himself with yes men, and not want to here opinions that differed from his own. Her style would be to surround herself with people who will tell her the truth regardless of what that truth may be.

Iraq's Future
For the future stabilization of Iraq, Cegelis noted the variety of unknowns. She noted her agreement with Rep. Murtha's assessment from the consensus of people on that ground that the large US troop prescience in Iraq is making the situation less stable and making the situation worse.

She felt that the US must begin to take a less visible support roll, such as air support, allowing the Iraqi's to regain control of their own country. Internationalizing the efforts to rebuild Iraq were just as important. If Iraqis can't get clean water and have poor electrical function, and 40% unemployment, the efforts of our troops would be made even more difficult. Making life better for the Iraqi citizen would help lead towards greater stabilization. Cegelis felt the best way to insure peace was to employ men and educate women.

The Iraq Issue in IL-06
When asked how much an issue Iraq would be in the district, Cegelis felt that although there was a strong anti-war presence in the IL-06, that almost all people she talked to felt Iraq was not much of an issue for the race. In talking to residents at her many coffees and public events, people from the district seemed to universally realize that no freshman Congressperson was going to single handedly solve the Iraq issue.

Instead, she noted that resident's concerns where much closer to home. They wanted a Congress person who understood the district and its issues. They were concerned about NCLB, O'Hare expansion, United workers losing their pensions. Residents understood the importance of these economic quality of life issues and realized that these were where she could make a difference in their lives for the better.

Cegelis used DuPage schools as an example. She cited how the Glenbard school system, due to budget cuts, had to cut from seven to six classes, hurting student's education. Since people move to DuPage for the quality of the schools, she saw this as having a direct impact on the quality of life for district residents. Cegelis also noted how in the global picture, such cuts as these hurt students' futures by providing them with a lesser education. This is very concerning as in the EU, India, and China their governments understood that education was key to competing in the global economy, and yet the US seemed to be going in the opposite direction, for example, with a budget bill that cuts student loans and child support enforcement.

Personality vs. Issue
Cegelis was adamant that she was running for Congress because from the heart she felt that issues that were important to residents of the district were not being discussed. The focus seemed to be choosing candidates based on personality instead of what the candidate would do for the residents of the district. This, Cegelis felt, was why we have the government we've got. She hoped to keep the race for IL-06 focused on the issues that mattered to district residents.

She hoped voters would focus on how a candidate is going to vote on issues that matter to IL-06 For example, how is Roskam going to vote? Returning dog tags is a lovely thing to do. But how is her going to vote on issues that matter in Il-06?

Cegelis wanted a campaign that highlighted opposing points of view, not just stories. She felt one of her strengths was being open opposing points of view which made her understanding of issues stronger.

Blogs and the Future:
Cegelis felt the beauty of blogs was to develop a clear idea of what needs to change. What direction do we need to go. What is politician's vision. In DuPage she saw this as a key function as the Republican machine has been in place for 30-plus years. Every local Republican meeting gets 200-300 people in attendance. Democratic organization are just beginning to build, but they are decades behind. She felt blogs where a way to speed this process and help organize locally. She felt this was part of the importance of her run against Hyde in 2004 - the process. An Democratic organization needs to be built to beat the Republicans. This wasn't going to happen overnight, let alone one election cycle. Cegelis thought being a part of this process was one of the most important parts of her campaign.

Bloggers on the call raised the issue that blogs tend to be read most when they hit topics of high passion or controversy. Issues like education, healthcare and pensions might be lost to more hot button issues. Cegelis emphasized that at some point everything has to stop being entertainment, and serious issues need to be discussed. Controversial issues may get attention, but issues like the budget bill that affect our daily lives need to get more than a ho-hum response. She felt the Blogosphere was key to keeping the focus on where a candidate stood on the issues rather than the main stream media's tendency to focus on personalities.

One Reason
Cegelis closed our conference call by emphasizing that we are all in this for one reason: "We all love our country enough to be here talking about this late on a Thursday night." It was her greatest hope that people both on the blogs in in their communities would continue to get involved to make their government and their country a better place. That was the key reason for her run for Congress.