December 20, 2005

Setting Some Things Straight

Justin Katz

Although this isn't something that I expected ever to write, the coming year's Republican primary in Rhode Island is already a subject for blazing passions. That, in itself, strikes me as a healthy turn of events. Still, I remind commenters that Anchor Rising will insist that their conversations be civil. I should also clarify my current thinking so as to avoid being lashed (laughably) to "liberal lightweights" and accused (insultingly) of choosing my ground based on an event-lurker's bruised ego.

I do not support Lincoln Chafee's reelection. Long-time readers of Anchor Rising and, especially, Dust in the Light will not be shocked to hear me opine that Chafee, simply by virtue of his being a United States Senator, does damage to our nation. His being so prominent among local Republicans does further damage to both the party and the conservative movement in Rhode Island. Indeed, playing some role, large or small, in his removal from office would bring me not a little satisfaction.

Furthermore, I've long held, and continue to believe, that Steve Laffey brings to the table many qualities that Rhode Island needs. Allow me to restate with emphasis: that Rhode Island needs. Most significantly, that means a courage for disruption. It also means the good sense to understand the general dynamics that brought about our current circumstances and the clarity to cut through to their cores.

As Cranston's mayor, Laffey has operated with a mandated and clear objective to clean up the municipal government and return the city to functional status. But the U.S. Senate requires a broader political and social philosophy than I've heard Laffey articulate — much less prove. Where will he stand on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, or the next matter that the world thinks to heave upon its moral burden? I don't know. More importantly, I don't know what foundation would be informing his decisions. I've heard that he's pro-life; why? On what grounds? If he will be driven on social matters by the pragmatism that drives his civic policies, then he, too, may prove damaging to our nation.

None of these questions, on their own or in aggregate, would lead me to question Laffey's suitability as a means for unseating Chafee. However, little signs of character and personality, gathered from the news and (admittedly limited) personal experience, tilt my ambivalence toward concern. Not least among those signs is the fact that Laffey was unable to find — or wait for — a second step for his political career within the state's borders. That inability is at least suggestive of an impatience, perhaps an arrogance, that is fundamentally at odds with the approach to government that I believe to be essential toward arresting our society's spiral into either chaos or mechanical depravity.

That Laffey is what Rhode Island Republicans have come up with as an alternative to our unacceptable incumbent suggests to me that we are still in need of shaking up and creative turmoil. Perhaps a loss of one of their most treasured possessions — a seat in the national legislature — will force the local party operatives to reassess the necessities of success. In that process, it is not inconceivable that Steve Laffey will develop and articulate a more encompassing vision and emerge as a candidate whom I could enthusiastically endorse.

In the meantime, perhaps I'll write in "George Herbert Walker Bush."

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Even though I am a conservative, I personally would rather see Whitehouse in office than Laffey.

Anyone around the mayor knows the senate is not is goal. He wants to be President. He'd like to be king. His ego knows no bounds.

Posted by: james at December 20, 2005 10:04 AM

James, with the above statement you have killed whatever credibility as a conservative you may have had.

Posted by: Andrew at December 20, 2005 10:19 AM

I don't understand why a candidate's stance on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, etc. are elevated to the same level of importance as what are truly the most-pressing issues facing our nation = national security, a looming energy crisis, and an atrocious budget deficit.

The above-mentioned social issues should not be what drive our public policy. I personally am tired of the excessive media coverage they receive---and am particularly disappointed in how the Senate is now incorporating them into the evalution process of judicial nominations to the Supreme Court.

Our country's future is not threatened by any given stance on the above-mentioned social issues.

However, if we don't start controlling wasteful spending and reducing our nation's deficit, we threaten our country's financial stability and ultimately our current status as world power. Also, if we don't look for ways to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, we will forever be in conflict with the Middle East.

Laffey is addressing these issues regularly in public and on his website. Even better, he is providing solutions to resolve them.

National Security, Wasteful Spending, Energy Dependency: these are the issues that REALLY MATTER to our country, and they must be dealt with if we hope to continue as the world's leading nation.

Posted by: ian at December 20, 2005 10:27 AM

Ian,

You make an important observation that some issues are more important than others. However, I'd add that conservatives can legitimately disagree with one another on which issues they consider more important, something you don't seem willing to do.

I tend to agree with your list, but I'd also include immigration reform, not necessarily a Laffey strong suit given his Guatamala stuff (I'd add that Sen. Chafee really hasn't been too vocal on the issue).

The items which you dismiss--abortion, euthanasia, etc.--are those that many religious conservatives view as being the most important, ie; a debate about life itself.

Conservatism is a big tent. Don't make the mistake of dismissing the importance that many place on these value/moral issues. Also, I'd remind you that those who happen to prioritize "life" issues are more likely to agree with your priorities (if with a different emphasis) than those who oppose them on those issues.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at December 20, 2005 11:00 AM

Hi Marc,

My point was not about conservatism, but about the excessive attention Washington devotes to the above-mentioned social issues.

These issues are certainly important to many individuals on a personal level. However, on a political level these are not the issues that will secure our country's future down the road and therefore, I don't believe Washington should be focusing as much attention as it has been on whether Roe vs. Wade should be overturned, or if gays should be allowed to marry, etc.

A pro or con outcome on such issues will not send our country down the path of destruction.

However, if you look at history, you'll notice that former great powers have fallen due to financial mis-management, and/or a weakened national defense.

Great Britain is a prime example: It kept surmassing debt during the first half of the 20th century to the point it became monitarily dependent on the U.S.

We don't want our country to meet the same fate. That's why I'm for politicians that make these issues (again - budget spending; national security; energy...) as their priority.

Posted by: ian at December 20, 2005 12:19 PM

I'm with ian. If we don't pay proper attention to national security, or energy and budget issues - which directly effect national security - we just may find ourselves not having the luxury of worrying about such things as gay marriage, euthanasia, abortion, etc. That is not to say I don't have my own beliefs on all of these issues. However, in the context of prioritizing the issues, I can't see ranking my beliefs on gay marriage, or any social issue, higher than those on national security.
Personally, I think that anyone who ranks any of these social issues as the #1 single most important thing in the world is a wacko - no matter what side of it they come down on.

Posted by: Jim at December 20, 2005 12:52 PM

Ian/Jim,
Again, I personally agree with the prioritization as you've described, but I think Jim is being too cavalier in his statement about those who may prioritize social issues over foreign policy. Like I said before, I think that--among conservatives--foreign policy is pretty settled.

The libertarian wing of the conservative movement and the traditional/religious wings have often been at odds. Ever since the "new" American conservative movement emerged in the '50's, conservatives have debated about what makes a "real" conservative. William Buckley and others did much to help foster a comprehensive conservative ideology, but there are still disagreements. Jim's relegation of social issues to the back bench while putting an emphasis on international and fiscal issues is an example.

By the way, some have hypothesized that the fall of the (Western) Roman Empire was a result of too many outsiders coming into the empire, which ultimately undermined the Roman notion of civitas. In short, failure of their traditional social system resulted in its collapse before they realized it had occurred. (There's much more--it's still not a "settled" issue among historians--but I won't bore you all.)

Posted by: Marc Comtois at December 20, 2005 3:15 PM

So am I the only person on this blog who thinks the national economy is going well? I hear two groups of people talking about how poor we're doing: liberals and people supporting Steve Laffey. RHODE ISLAND IS THE PROBLEM, NOT CONGRESS! Despite the instances of overspending, our country's economy is still doing pretty damn well.

James, please don't suggest a Whitehouse/Laffey race. A race between leftist and a person I don't trust and probably can't win. I think I'd just sit that one out, but how can you say you'd vote for Whitehouse?

Posted by: Anthony at December 20, 2005 5:40 PM

Two other points:
Ian, if you are pro-life, you believe that a baby is being killed every time an abortion occurs. To that end, we legally kill more people every year than were killed on 9/11. Saving thousands of lives is a not an insignificant priority. Having said that, I do agree that a nation's top priority should be protecting the physical safety of its citizens, so I concur with your prioritization of national defense.

On the spending issue (as differentiated from the tax issue), Linc Chafee has always been viewed as extremely fiscally conservative. I do find irony that he is now being attacked as a free-spender.

Remember boys and girls, Laffey is a moderate maverick bucking the party and Chafee is a Republican party hack backed by the Bush administration....are we living in WeirdoWorld or what?!?!

Posted by: Anthony at December 20, 2005 5:58 PM

I frankly dispute Ian's assertion that social issues "are not the issues that will secure our country's future" and "will not send our country down the path of destruction." If we continue cheapening life and advertising death, surely we are headed toward destruction. If we continue to dismantle the foundations of our culture, surely the same is true again. What reasoning leads to a different conclusion... or is it simply a gut assertion?

Some conservatives would suggest that it's important to ensure that our country remains worth defending. Others would insist that our moral compass and our approach to geopolitical and fiscal matters are inextricably linked. I agree with both propositions.

Whichever way one prioritizes issues, though, the fact remains that a Senator's term in office is likely to cover more than the top few priorities. My complaint, in short, wasn't that I disagree with Laffey on issues that trump national security, but that I have no idea what his positions are, nor why he holds them. Truth to tell, that missing "why" could certainly come around to affect future manifestations of the issues on which we know Laffey's stance.

I should also tuck in at the end, here, that national security isn't a swath of invisible duct tape that seals the mouths of those who have other concerns. Moreover, calling fellow conservatives wacko isn't going to help your candidate win the primaries, or the general election, if he makes it there.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 20, 2005 7:03 PM

Anthony,

As I posted before under a related topic, I believe that the Republican party needs to be the party of Reagan. However, not only in the neo-conservative model, but also in its broad appeal across party lines. Reagan was elected because he was inclusive and of GOOD MORAL CHARACTER. He gave democrats and centrist republicans reasons to trust him. I have not seen mayor laffey do this.

The republican party cannot afford to lose the public trust. Electing candidates like steve laffey - who are only in it for themselves - is a sure ticket to the minority.

I agree with some Laffey supporters that have suggested that it be better to lose this election outright if Chafee wins the primary so that the GOP is able to take stock of its candidates and go after the next election behind a unifying rather than divisive message. conversly, I believe that the same holds true if mayor laffey wins the GOP primary.

I don't trust mayor laffey, and I fear that his election would be another step forward in the republican party's exit from the majority.

I don't believe that just because I agree with someone's stated policy that they are worthy of my vote. I would rather have men of character and debate deciding our public policy, and Laffey's arrogance and ambition is very unsettling to me. If he were concerned with RI, he would run for office IN THE STATE or take on Jack Reed after tackling the cranston union contracts that are coming due. Steve Laffey is NOT going to change the tone in Washington, or the manner in which federal dollars are spent. And I find it disingenuous that the bridge to nowhere continues to come up when RI is home to some of the most heafty federal payouts per capita in the nation.

Maybe if he loses, laffey will pursue his real dream: to be named monarch of some Latin American country which he could then name El Laffia

End point
If Laffey comes through in the primary, I will not vote for him. I WILL write-in - maybe for Spock or another space invader.

Posted by: james at December 20, 2005 9:17 PM

Interesting arguments all around. Here's my take. I absolutely agree that the Republican Party needs to be the party of Reagan. That means, embracing both social and economic conservatism. Conservatism, as a worldview, is not an either/or proposition. Properly understood, it's a blend of social and economic conservatism. They are related to each other, much in the same way that religion and morality are related.

Right now, I am not seeing as much of it in the Republican Party at the national level as there should be. One notable exception would be that of freshman US Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. He had the guts to stand up for what was right, in regard to Senator Ted Stevens' $250 million "Bridge to Nowhere." Even though he got obliterated on the initial vote (85-15), he won the battle of ideals. He got the Senate to modify the proposal, gained tremendous respect from his collegues, and in the process, made a folk hero out of himself nationally.

Reagan won because he had a strongly held belief system rooted in optimistic conservatism, and he articulated his beliefs extraordinarily well. His ideas were also larger than himself. With a few exceptions, we're definitely not seeing that in the R.I. Republican Party. Governor Carcieri, although he would probably not strike anyone as an ideologue, does operate from a conservative worldview, both economically and socially. That so few Republicans in Rhode Island do, I would postulate, is exactly why we are in the ultra-minority at present. No one likes to vote for someone who stands for nothing.

If you look at the entire lives of Reagan and Laffey, you should note many interesting parellels. No one, including himself, would claim that Laffey is a Reagan clone. However, he is motivated by a similar deeply held desire to help people, mainly by wanting to clean up what others have screwed up. As I've said before, Laffey is not perfect. However, I believe he is right, as to how to fix up the mess that has been created in Washington. I believe his message of "the Strongest Voice for the Smallest State" will resonate, not only with Republican primary voters, but with a majority of voters statewide. I'm an optimist, so I believe that only takes a few good people who are willing to stand up for what is right to make a difference.

PS Some advice from Margaret Thatcher to Senator Chafee would be in order: "Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides." They didn't call her the Iron Lady because she was squishy!

Posted by: Will at December 21, 2005 3:22 AM

Justin,

Excellent posting by the way. One proverb, from an old friend that gave this bit of advice to me a number of years ago, as it relates to both parties and politicians:
"Do not make the perfect the enemy of the good."

An application of this would be Reagan's own principle of being willing to work with someone that agrees with you 85% of the time, and an ability to agree to disagree about the other 15%, in order to accomplish your shared goals. An all or nothing approach, much more often than not, ends up leaving you with nothing. Holding principles and being pragmatic need not be mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Will at December 21, 2005 4:06 AM

Holding principles and being pragmatic need not be mutually exclusive.

Of course not. But voters should know whether that's the case, or even likely, with a particular candidate. Similarly, imperfection is not necessarily an indicator of "the good."

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 21, 2005 4:52 AM

Will,
I've also used that line, but I'd add that it can just as easily be used as justification to support Sen. Chafee. In fact, I'd say some commenters have already effectively made the point in that Sen. Chafee votes with the President or Republican party 70-80% of the time. Of course, Sen Chafee's problem with conservatives is that he seems to vote against the President on the big things like the Iraq War and tax cuts.

In contrast, I think a Sen. Laffey would vote more consistently along conservative lines, but I do wonder if his newfound animosity toward the Nat'l Republican party --justifiable as it may be--will lead him to make the "Laffey" perfect the enemy of the good.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at December 21, 2005 8:01 AM

The argument of whether Laffey is a social conservative is misplaced. Although, I note that Laffey has publicly stated that he is pro-life and anti-homosexual marriage. The federal government should not be in the business of social engineering. The Constitution explicitly left the basic police power to the states. The police power includes, among other things, the general power to protect morals. The federal government was given no such power. The fundamental problem is that the federal courts have expanded congressional power beyond the limits imposed upon it by the framers. The fight over social issues (on the federal level) is one of sovereignty. At its core, the fight is over who sits on the federal bench. For social conservatives, the most important issue is how a senator will vote on federal judges the Alito nomination tells the tale. Laffey in favor Chafee undecided but probably opposed.

Posted by: Tom M at December 21, 2005 9:12 AM

I must say that I'm concerned about some of the people calling themselves "conservative" who believe that abortion is not an issue. Tom M is right that this is should be an issue handled by the states, but currently it is not. Conservatives who say abortion is not an issue have effectively ceded the battleground to liberals.

Marc, you brought up an interesting point about Chafee voting with Bush 70-80% of the time. In the grand scheme of things Chafee is a moderate, but his positions on select issues (tax cuts, abortion, the Iraq war) put him well to the left.

I see him as necessary to maintaining the majority although the race between Chafee and Laffey is a Hobson's choice.

You can vote for a proven winner who has shown he can beat Democrats and will preserve the majority. However, you lose some ideaological purity and you must hope that other Republican senators will drive the Senate's agenda.

Or you can vote for someone who still has left a lot of questions unanswered, is divisive and exhibits personal traits found in many dictators and probably can't win a general election but who is idealogically correct on most issues.

It's not a great choice, really. I'll take my chances that re-electing Chafee will help keep the majority being fairly confident that the Republican leadership will not put him in a position where he'll be driving the Senate's agenda.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2005 9:47 AM

Anthony, I am downright appalled with the "we're better off settling with what little we have, rather than risk it for something new" mentality---especially so far out into the election.

If Chafee actually remains a Republican, than you still have over 9 months to get your "questions" answered. Laffey is constantly making appearances at GOP functions across the state. (Not to mention, he's always asking Chafee to publicly debate him.)

He is pro-Life, against gay marriage, and I'm sure he'd gladly share his viewpoints on stem-cell research, euthanasia, and other like issues.

However, his platform issues are national security, budget spending, energy---just read today's op-ed piece in the Providence Journal.

From a fiscal standpoint, he's as conservative as they come---and it is this aspect of conservatism, that our country is most desperately lacking.

If you agree that Laffey is ideologically correct on most issues, than how could you not vote for him? Yes, there is always the risk that Chafee's seat could fall into Democratic hands.

However, what's the point of clinging to this seat, if the best outcome would be to sustain a RINO who "Republican leadership will not put in a position where he'll be driving the Senate's agenda."

We can't keep settling for do-nothing leadership. If it means taking a risk, so be it... as the saying goes, NO RISK, NO REWARD.

Posted by: ian at December 21, 2005 2:39 PM

I really think you all need to come out of your "Reagan is God" bubble. This hero worship is exactly the same kind of blathering hero worship the liberals espouse for JFK.

The propaganda of the past 25 years has obviously infiltrated every reasoning cell of your brains. You are able to do nothing but spout the lies which were fed to you and are continuing to be fed to you by Mayor Laffey and others. Reagan started out with an admirable theory about reducing government. It was a theory. It did not come to fruition. Talk is cheap, and talk is especially cheap when you have a corporate-dollars-driven party machine behind you mass-producing this talk. Reagan was not a man of good character in my estimation. Men of good character do not run covert arms-selling operations and do not secretly fund wars without the consent of the rest of the legislature.

My pledge: I am ignoring all the talk in this campaign from now on. I am only going to pay attention to DEEDS --to the verifiable actions of the people who wish to become our leaders in the senate. Unfortunately, I do not believe most politicians have the decency and the respect for voters to tell them the truth about their beliefs or their intentions. And I agree with Tom W. that in a contest between true Republican values and the opportunity to rise to power in Washington, Laffey will choose the latter.

Posted by: citizenjane at December 22, 2005 10:37 AM

Citizen Fonda,

Apparently your distaste of President Reagan is deep. Let's see Ronald Reagan defeated Communism, I guess that isn't true either. I guess you must support Senator McCain's anti torture law? And you probably think we are above torture, since we are better than terrorists. People like myself True Patriot's believe that One AMERICAN life is worth more than 3000 Terrorist lives. If Torturing a terrorist saves one AMERICAN Life do you really care? RINO's like yourself give true Republicans a bad name. You probably voted for George H. Bush in the last election like your hero. I hope you at least believe in Christmas and Have a Happy New Year.

Posted by: Fred on the Blog at December 22, 2005 10:39 PM

Nobody disses the Gipper and gets away with it! Ronald Reagan was the greatest U.S. President, if not the greatest human being ever (of course, excepting Jesus, but he's a special case). Let's just say that if the Trinity were taking applications for a fourth Person, that Reagan would be very high on the list. Hero worship? Perhaps. :)

Reagan was a man of humble roots, strong faith, a mulitude of talents, impeccable character, and with more moral certitude in his right pinkie, than you'll ever have.

He believed that government was not the solution to our problems, that government itself was the problem. He did, during his presidency, reduce the size and scope of government. His economic theories were vindicated, as government revenues more than doubled during his eight years in office. He backed the Nicarauguan freedom fighters, against the communist government that the Democrats who controlled Congress at the time wanted in power. Because of him and others in his administration, Nicaraugua is now a democratic country. He had the vision to back "unpopular" initiatives aimed at the Soviet Union's demise and forecast the collapse of imperial communism. Hundreds of millions of people live in freedom because of him. I could go on, however, may I suggest you read his autobiography "An American Life." Your eyes will not burn of you do!

PS Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

To the Republicans, Merry CHRISTmas!

Posted by: Will at December 23, 2005 5:12 AM

It was a wonderful, peaceful and frequently silly Christmas, thanks guys! My older one particularly liked the letter from Santa explaining the important Junie B Jones collection which will be arriving late due to sleigh overload!!! Funny how a gift not being there can be more interesting than the many other things she got.

I don't want to go over and over this. I'm not a propagandist. I'm an independent voter. More important than reading a biography is that I lived through the Reagan years as a teenager and young adult. I was paying attention and what I saw was a whole lot of propaganda. I spent 2 months in the Czech Repub after the "velvet revolution". I was aware of a lot of what was going on. I agree that Communism was a very damaging political regime. However, I do not agree that Reagan "caused" the ending of Communism.

I'm actually trying to tell you something that may help your cause which is -- every time you invoke him as a hero, you are losing lots of potential "big tent" people, the kind of people that I bet Reagan himself would have admonished you not to insult by comparing their moral certitude to tiny appendanges.

But, that being said, my littlest one has a cold, and I am watching her like a good mother hawk, and honestly, from now on, I think I'll go back to reading books rather than these blogs. G'night...

Posted by: citizenjane at December 25, 2005 8:06 PM