January 15, 2006

Notes on the Breakfast Table, Page 1

Justin Katz

Sometimes I think that writers on social or political matters have an obligation not to participate in the processes or events of which they write. It is much more difficult, for example, to speak ill of a player whom one likes personally, or through whom one wishes to gain advantage. And surely both analysis and literary force suffer when cogent details become advisably withheld or generalized so as to avoid causing personal offense. (Note that I offer no specific examples.)

On the other hand, I wonder whether a writer can accurately understand topics such as politics without having first-hand experience of the emotional as well as intellectual forces involved. I can't help but think, for example, that there are important lessons to be found in the relief that I felt upon discovering that the last two seats available at the East Bay GOP Breakfast were — although at a table being circumnavigated by Mayor Laffey as I sat — next to representatives of the Chafee campaign.

Lessons from that particular experience I'll leave for further rumination, turning instead to those deriving from the presentation of the event's host, Representative Bruce Long. As preface and intermissions to the speeches of the event's two special guests, the soft-spoken Rep. Long offered, most prominently, a running back-slapping list of the elected officials and candidates present in the room. Such are the necessities of political life, but in a gathering of approximately seventy people, it made gratuitously conspicuous the high percentage of insiders. (Indeed, Mayor Laffey's family alone contributed about 8% of the headcount.)

Perhaps by way of explanation for the copious recognition that he doled out, Rep. Long noted the lack of brave souls willing to enter Rhode Island politics on the side of the right (loosely speaking). With so many Republicans "afraid to be sacrificial lambs," in Long's words, a bit of ritualized encouragement of those who've stepped forward is certainly not too much to ask the rest of us to endure.

I would suggest, though, that obligatory clapping is less likely to encourage the lambs than would a clear enunciation of what, exactly, they are sacrificing for. Rep. Long may assert that Rhode Island's Republican Party is in its current state of perpetual minority "not because of the issues," but because of the aforementioned lack of people. Party chairwoman Patricia Morgan unintentionally contradicted him, however, when she stole five minutes at the end of the meeting to announce that the party is finally getting around to piecing together a platform.

It could be argued, I suppose, that the RI GOP's difficulties couldn't possibly be "because of the issues" when the group has yet to take any explicit stands on them. The hope and excitement fostered by the forceful speeches of attorney general candidate Bill Harsch and Mayor Laffey argue otherwise.

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I am just sitting here on pins and needles waiting to see what platform Ms. Morgan and the RI GOP leadership can come up with, Maybe they will ask our decisive Senator. Especially since none of there platforms have ever worked yet. And if they try to take credit for the Governor winning they (the party leadership) Supported Jim Bennet.

Posted by: Fred on the Blog at January 15, 2006 7:01 PM

Fred - Your comment about the the party leadership wrongly taking credit for electing the governor is a little incorrect. The party leadership at the time did support the governor's primary opponent, but you must remember that when the governor came into office he purged the party leadership and installed his own people. So, really the people in there now are the governor's people, people who I assume he put there because they supported and helped him, not his primary opponent. Remember Morgan is not a Bennet person, she is a Carcieri person, installed and kept there by the governor.

Posted by: x-Man at January 15, 2006 7:12 PM

I was one of the 70 some -odd people at the breakfast (the rest of the A-team was fighting injustice in the West Bay) and came away with a couple of observations...

1) Justin is absolutely correct, why has the RIGOP waited until now to start developing a platform? is it because Jeff Deckman finally quit (that was a nice bomb-shell dropped by Morgan)? After hearing the speeches by both Bill Harsch and Steve Laffey, how can this party lack ideas for a platform?

2) Both speeches were terrific, if we had more candidates like Bill Harsch and Steve laffey, we could close the gap with the Dems. Laffey made a great point when he discussed his vision of building the part in RI, which included having a mission statement as to why people should be Republicans and of course, replacing liberal Senator Chafee at the top of the RIGOP ticket with someone who does not apologize for being a Republican (at the very least).

3) When Harsch rose to speak he got a standing ovation, not so for Laffey until the Laffey table (this guy always seems to bring a crowd) rose and clapped. At the end of his remarks, people got up and clapped immediately, this guy really strikes a cord by discussing real issues and why it's great to be a Republican...it sure seemed like he changed some minds.

4) Patricia Morgan should be fired, the RIGOP has done NOTHING to grow the party under her "leadership" and seems to be scandal ridden (TV Ads, $500K for Chafee, etc.). Pattie, it's time to go!

5) It probably was not too much fun being a Chafee person on Sat. AM. When you hear Laffey, he makes you feel good, like Reagan use to when he spoke, Chafee makes you want to jump off that bridge that should have been demolished 6 years ago (for a lot less $$).


Posted by: bosco "BA" Baracus at January 15, 2006 7:36 PM

You people are amazing. The vitriol directed at Chafee is misplaced. He gets elected in a Democratic state and outside of the 20 people who post regularly, nobody thinks Laffey has a grasp on reality. Honestly, the Cranston rink fire, his statements about not wanting federal funding, and his terrible temper are really off putting. Not too mention he is way too conservative to ever get elected here. Remember that Chafee's approval ratings statewide are second only to Jack Reed. Nothing to sniff off if we want to keep a GOPer in DC.

Posted by: Justin at January 15, 2006 9:22 PM


In the future please spare us your mostly incomprehensible, pseudo intellectual babble.

Do you talk like this? I hope not.

If this event was the typical RI Republican affair (Their motto: do nothing and do it poorly) you discovered once again that Chafee’s people sound just like him. Lots of talk with no action. Inward looking “at-a-boy” back slapping, but no ideas for the future. They are socially liberal but have no clue about what is going on in the real world, and they are boring… oh how they are boring. Sound like what you saw?

Laffey on the other hand is a real person. He has a mission, and the passion you see when he speaks about it is real. The guy actually cares about the issues and it is this honesty that makes people stand up and cheer when he is done. His campaigns are not well staged plays, they are real struggles to win the hearts and minds of regular people and are based, in fact, on a desire on the part of the candidate himself and his army of volunteers to win the primary, the general election and then go to Washington and represent the tax payers of Rhode Island like they have never been represented before, and all of that with a sense of humor. They seem to actually have fun while they storm the castle.

Right now the RIRP has no platform, no money (what ever happened to the $500k), no candidates for the major offices, and the only guy who has a plan is being attacked by the NRSC. (Remember while Chafee points to jack pixel, his people are doing full blown smear campaigns and full-length cartoons.) This is an abomination.

The governor, Patricia Morgan, and Chafee himself need to look in their collective rearview mirror. Something big is coming, and its coming fast.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 15, 2006 10:10 PM

Bosco, great observations! I'd say you hit the nail on the head with #5 in terms of what's ailing the RI GOP to-date:

To grow membership (and respect, no less) we need POSITIVE LEADERSHIP. Having Rep. Long refer to GOP candidates as "sacrificial lambs" certainly will NOT get people's hands raising, "yes, take me to the slaughterhouse---sign me up!"

But the comment that really struck me was when Pat Morgan (Deckmann bombshell aside) more or less stated, 'well, we've paid off our debt, as well as all the FINES, so now you can be assured that whatever money you donate to the RI GOP will go "directly" to the candidates.'

This brings pathetic to a whole new level.

Also, what's with the suggestion list stating the RI GOP's first improvement should be to define a message? WE STILL DON'T HAVE A MESSAGE??? This is ridiculous---how can you be an organization without a message???

...Yes, Ms. Morgan has got to go---fast. Her "leadership" style is dysfunctional, pessimistic and downright embarrassing.

Laffey stated that to grow GOP numbers in this state we need strong, positive leadership from the top-down... he said to give him six years in the Senate, and he'll guarantee that we'll see it happen in RI.

He then pulled out this list and read off the change in Republican membership in several towns and cities. Cranston was the only municipality to see an increase in membership over the past few years. Every other municipality he read (Exeter, Newport, Warwick...) saw a decline---point proven.

Laffey’s speech was tremendous and of all, encouraging... One thing that impressed me was how he said we should never, ever disgrace the U.S. President. Even if it’s Clinton, or Carter---someone who we disagree with---this is the leader of our nation and it does us no good having gov’t officials that publicly shame him…

Like hearing the way Chafee embraced Hugo Chavez on the Arlene Violet show last December---it made me sick. Here’s a U.S. Senator who speaks more highly of a South American dictator than he does of our own President---this sums up what is wrong with Chafee, and wrong with the State GOP party that supports him.

Laffey has a bright outlook for this party and the drive to see it succeed in RI. His leadership is worth our while to follow. He’s full of energy, optimism and has already begun improving RI’s political landscape by taking on the special interests in Cranston.

Posted by: ian at January 15, 2006 10:28 PM

All this talk about no platform for the RIGOP, which I agree with....isn't that the governor's responsibility? I think the governor is supposed to be the head of the party. He appointed Pat Morgan. Where is he in all this? How come nobody is taking him to task for installing Pat Morgan when he took office and again in in 2004? The governor is supposed to give the party a platform, not Laffey, not Harsch, not Chafee, not Long, not Watson, not anyone but the governor. I support the governor, but I just want to point out that everyone's issue with no platform for the party rests with the governor, the leader of our party and the woman he put there to run it.

Posted by: x-Man at January 15, 2006 10:51 PM

I hate to interrupt otherwise constructive commentary for something like this, but assuming that you're addressing me, let's get one thing straight, Joe: Although I don't consider Anchor Rising to be, strictly speaking, "my" blog, it is on my server, on my dime, designwise and technologically the product of hours of my effort, and (although only in part) a result of my further effort to organize and promote it. If you want to be spared my "mostly incomprehensible, pseudo intellectual babble," you can go somewhere else.

This goes for other readers as well as Joe, and with reference to other Anchor Rising contributors as well as me: If you cannot muster respect for your hosts, then we will all be spared your commentary on this Web site.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 15, 2006 10:53 PM

Okay Chafee plant from post #4:

Justin - So, did last week's talking point, "let's nab Laffey for being too liberal" prove uneffective? (Re: Do RI GOP Members Want a "Bottom Up" or "Top Down" Party?, 1/4/06)

So, today we're taking the "Laffey's too conservative to get elected in a blue state" route?

1) This is unoriginal
2) This is flip-flopping the issue

As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Posted by: Yolanda at January 15, 2006 11:06 PM

I happen to agree that Laffey is unelectible. I don't particularly like Senator Chafee, but Laffey scares me and your fawning only gives crendance to my fears that aside from a small majority this guy just doesn't have it. Admitedly, Chafee's appeal stems from his name. But Laffey comes off as way, way, way, way off the reservation.
Lets discuss ways he could tone it down and start appealing to people who might be interested in joining his camp.

Posted by: Telmedo at January 16, 2006 12:08 AM

As the writer of the post that you refer to as an attempt to "nab Laffey for being too liberal," (Do RI GOP Members Want a "Bottom Up" or "Top Down" Party?) I can honestly say I have no idea what you are talking about. Read it again. No where does it come close to saying that Mayor Laffey is a liberal. (Though some of the commenters do.) It is a post about the corrupting influence of Washington, D.C. on a majority party and how such influence can move a party away from it's base. In short, power gains primacy over ideals.

Posted by: Marc at January 16, 2006 8:32 AM

Well, Telmedo... Laffey's already won 3 elections and has been twice elected as Cranston Mayor---saying he's unelectable is a moot issue.

Otherwise, it is his loud and offbeat style that wins over supporters and gets people to take notice.

He's not some cookie-cutter candidate, indistinguishable from the crowd. He's motivating, energetic, and interesting to listen to.

Were you at this breakfast on Saturday?? It was clear as day that going in, a majority of the people there had their reservations towards Laffey. When he was introduced, it was a mild applause at best.

However, throughout his speech everyone was listening intently, there were several mid-speech applauses, shouts of "Amen" and the like... By the time Laffey finished speaking, it was an instant standing ovation (which wasn't even initiated by the table of Laffey supporters).

Without a doubt, he won over that crowd. People listen to the Man with the Bullhorn---and if this breakfast was any indication, they are liking what they hear!

Posted by: Yolanda at January 16, 2006 8:42 AM

Hi Marc,

I wasn't referring to what you wrote. I was referring to the first response made in that post by Chafee plant Tim.

quote: "Mr. Shirley is either too lazy to look into the actual liberal record of Steve Laffey..."

Now, less than two weeks later, Chafee plant Samuel is saying Laffey's too conservative.

Posted by: Yolanda at January 16, 2006 8:47 AM

Chafee plant Justin... Excuse me.

Posted by: Yolanda at January 16, 2006 8:50 AM

If I may summarize the preceding posts:

1) There are those who honestly believe that RI is "so" Democrat / liberal (am I being redundant?) that no conservative has a realistic chance of being elected, at least not to statewide office. And so, the best we can hope for, is to elect moderate Democrats like Lincoln Chafee.

My question to this group is: and to what end? Why even bother having a "Republican" party in Rhode Island? To eat the crumbs the Democrats throw?

2) There are those that believe that RI could actually be turned into a Republican state, or at least a state with a meaningful "real" (conservative) Republican presence.

The RI Democrat party is now effectively a rubber stamp for two special interest groups - the public sector unions and the welfare lobby.

Most "working family" Rhode Islanders not only don't fall under the rubric of those two special interests (including unionized labor in the private sector), and are what used to be called "Reagan Democrats."

Between these "actual" "working families" tired of ever-rising property taxes funding welfare for illegal immigrants, and the corruption ... and senior citizens tired of the same (indeed fearful of ever rising property taxes) ... there are significant portions of the population could be peeled away from the Democrats.

To us "#2's" (I consider myself part of this) all it would take is for the RIGOP to show the courage of convictions (whatever those are currently remains a mystery as there is no platform or message) and the backbone to confront the Democrats and their special interest masters.

The frustration among "#2's" is palpable. As the reported comments of Rep. Long indicate, the RIGOP suffers from the political equivalent of the "battered wife syndrome" - they keep taking the beatings; can't conceive of leaving or fighting back against their abuser(s).

Posted by: Tom W at January 16, 2006 10:30 AM

Yolanda, Thanks for the clarification. I guess I missed that you were talking about the comments and not the post itself.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at January 16, 2006 10:47 AM

Chafee bloggers please stopping being repetitive.

1, The ice rink is a non-issue because the city had until 6/30/06 to make the changes.

2, Laffey is opposed to all pork spending, Chafee supports pork including $223 million for a bridge in Alaska. The bridge to nowhere is an issue in the Republican primary.

3, Laffey has been elected and re-elected by landslides in Cranston, which is a microcosm of the state.

4, Chafee camp is simply repeating the same points they always make- raise doubts on electability, and attack Laffey's character.

5, Laffey talks about real issues, and is a real Republican on core issues: (war in Iraq, Alito, pork spending, voting for Bush).

6, Laffey's approach will win the primary, Chafee's will not.

Return to Chafee base (or college dorm room), and try again.

Posted by: The Red Baron at January 16, 2006 10:49 AM

Justin, (this is directed at the Justin in post #4. Are you Justin Katz?)

Please give me an example of Laffey's "terrible temper", as you described it.

Posted by: Jim at January 16, 2006 11:19 AM

Steve Laffey has done more to energize the Republican Party of RI in 4 months of campaigning for US Senate than Ms. Morgan has done in 4 years of misguided leadership.

"The truth will set you free."

Posted by: Leon Berg at January 16, 2006 11:48 AM

Amen, brothers, I say amen. Justin will never provide anyone with any evidence of a bad temper by laffey because there is none, no tape on radio or tv or no press release. He's got what it takes and I hear his speech was awsome!!!!

Why would anyone bother with some of these topics like electibility or some such. Noone CARES. They care about what you have done for them and what you will do.

To me Laffey is the best. His brain power is much higher than anything I have seen in politics and he is always one step ahead.... no three steps ahead of his enemies. Look how he out manuevered the crossing guard and their union bosses...Way, way ahead. Go Laffey Go!

Posted by: ron milton at January 16, 2006 1:16 PM

To clarify: the Justin who posted comment #4 is not Justin Katz. The "Justin Katz" who posted comment #8, however, is indeed Justin Katz.

Hope that clears up what looks like to be some confusion amongst commenters.

(HINT: mouse over the name and an email address will pop up. Anchor Rising contributors uniformly use name@anchorrising.com)

Posted by: Marc Comtois at January 16, 2006 1:46 PM

As a concerned citizen who's seen the fall and rebirth of Cranston, I have been to most public hearings and council meetings since 1999. I have seen Laffey outnumbered and under viscious attack. I have seen him respond to lies, slander and false accusations. But, I have never seen him lose his cool. Even when union neanderthal Paul Valletta threatened him with violence, Laffey was cool, calm and collected in a chamber packed with union thugs. Even though the Edgewood boys tell me the Mayor could have most assuredly and handily given Paulie a good woopin', Mayor Laffey remained calm and professional throughout the ordeal.

Who at Chafee HQ came up with the "temper" smear. Lets stick to the issues and the facts. You guys are really desperate!

Chafee folks, please refer to www.electlaffey.com for facts and good ideas.

Posted by: warbucks at January 16, 2006 3:48 PM


I call 'um as I see 'um. You must earn our respect. We owe you nothing.

A free and open blog like this one is only valuable when it remains such. When someone points out a deficiency and you threaten their expulsion you only diminish the value of “your” efforts, not to mention sounding immature at best.

Did you ever consider that I maybe right? Straight talk is what people want not some convoluted and pretentious gibberish. You do sometimes fall into that trap.

Your hostile post at 10:53 PM on January 15, 2006 is a much better effort at clearly and concisely communicating a concept. Your open threat though is a bad idea.

Respect must be mutual or it degenerates into fear on one side and at best imperialism on the other. In other words, if you are doing us a favor by hosting, then we are doing you a favor by responding.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 16, 2006 9:19 PM

You'll understand then, Joe, if I decline to invite you to any dinner parties. Respectfulness, at least when requested by a host, is not a gift that a guest deigns to grant from a podium of judgment, but a tone conducive to constructive interactions.

We operate this blog, as do most bloggers, out of a combination of interest in expression, passion for our topics, and desire to effect change. Your appeal to freedom and openness as the value of a blog is simplistic. I don't presume to know why as many people read Anchor Rising, in particular, as do. Frankly, I suspect that my contributions are only minimally a reason. But I sincerely doubt, given the imbalance of readers to commenters, that the bulk of the former would find its value to be greatly diminished by this writer's insistence that persistent tangential ad hominem is grounds for removal of commenting privileges.

Surely you see that you did more than "point out a deficiency," and perhaps you can perceive that you did so in a way that contributed nothing to the conversation except to further heel the rut of incivility that has too much characterized discussion of this primary race in these comment sections. Do you actually imagine that I've been writing for so long without having heard and understood the touch of truth in complaints such as yours? Do you not hear the tone of banality in your assertion about "straight talk" being what people want?

Although hits and misses are to be expected, I've been doing just fine, writingwise. And anyway, at this point, I'm writing much more for the enjoyment and personal challenge of conveying something beyond A Message than for ego or remuneration. If you see it as immaturity that I refuse to allow comments to my posts to become platforms for attacking that enjoyment, then so be it. I guess I prefer such immaturity to the faux paternalism of the unbidden editor.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 16, 2006 10:22 PM

I appreciate the opinions, thoughts, and dialogue of Anchor Rising, and enjoy checking in on a daily basis. But with all do respect, the pretentiousness of Justin Katz' response makes his post far more offensive than anything Joe said. What a shame that you would insult those who participate in your site...the so-called "rut of incivility". As a result of our remarks, which offer proof that elitism is not reserved for those on the left, I will be more hesistant to post what could be viewed as "simplistic remarks". Is this the change you seek?

Posted by: rightri at January 16, 2006 11:24 PM


You don't agree that the comment section exchanges concerning the Senate primary race have at times been uncivil? I've said before that I've found their tone (on both sides) to be off-putting.

For clarification: I don't believe that the commenters are a rut, but that they can fall into a rut of unproductive discussion. That's an important distinction — one that conservatives ought to have no difficulty making.

I'm also not sure why you put quotation marks around "simplistic remarks." I said that a specific comment of Joe's took a simplistic view of blog readership, and I explained why. If you disagree with the point, say so, but if liberals' behavior is to be the bogeyman, then I respectfully note that derailing discussion on the basis of a misconstrued word is among their favorite strategies.

As for the charge of elitism, I cannot do otherwise than deny it. (I've certainly no basis to feel like an elite.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 17, 2006 5:19 AM

OK gang,

Let's get back on topic here.

Justin (from comment #4), I still await your example of Laffey's "terrible temper."

Posted by: Jim at January 17, 2006 10:07 AM


Sometimes our harshest critics just make us better. I have found that to be true in my experience.

On the other hand encouragement, when deserved, is a wonderful salve to many of life's harshest tests.

In that regard I will say that I do concur with some of your commentary here and elsewhere.

As far as the unbidden editor and faux paternalism comment, are all respondents required to agree with everything you write? I think you are smarter than that.

To the other I say: "Luke, I am your father!"

Now jim is right. Let's get back to the post #4 issue.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 17, 2006 1:20 PM

But he was Luke's father...

By the way, although Marc was mistaken about all Anchor Rising contributors' using anchorrising.com email addresses, he was correct that I did not write comment #4.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 17, 2006 7:24 PM

Jason, I gotta tell ya. You come across as a know it all. I'm sure you mean well but the wordiness reallymakes you sound like you are talking down to the commenters. for what its wort, I thank you for the chance to doscuss the issues, but if you take a know it all approach, you are no better than the New York Times

Posted by: stretch cunningham at January 17, 2006 9:31 PM

justin, did I say jason? I was never that good with names do I am really sorry. You're the man Justin, just try to keep it real. Not all conservatives are hi class intelectuals you know, many of your red states are full of blue collar workers like me who love America and miss Ronald Reagan and they are the oned eho have carried the ball for the GOP the past few years. the last thing they need is a lecture from somebody in a state that can't gain seats in its legislature.

Posted by: stretch cunningham at January 17, 2006 9:43 PM

Accept my apologies. The quotation marks should have placed around the word simplistic and not remarks, but I believe my point remains. You dismissed another's thoughts by declaring them "simplistic."

By far the most painful of your comments was the one that accused me of using liberal tactics to misconstrue. Ouch. :)

Don't mean to further derail political conversation. Please know that I appreciate your site Justin, as well as your opinions and writings. I will continue my daily visits. Thanks.

Posted by: rightri at January 17, 2006 10:22 PM

Well, I for one appreciate all the big words that you use, especially when they are used correctly. For those that cannot understand them, I have one word to say to you: THESAURUS!

Posted by: Will at January 18, 2006 1:58 AM

Oh Juuuuuusssssstin, (from comment #4)

Maybe you think I forgot, but for the third day in a row, I am awaiting an example of Laffey's "terrible temper" as you describe it.

Or, do I just assume that you can't provide an example because you know that all you are doing is making up crap since you can't debate the issues - right out of the liberals playbook.

Posted by: Jim at January 18, 2006 2:26 PM