Thursday, November 02, 2006

Time to clean House

The mid term elections are only days away. The ballots show more candidates, and provide more choices than I can ever remember since moving here 22 years ago. We’ve had three forums for state candidates. We’ve even hosted a Congressional debate. It’s been busier, crazier, and far more interesting than elections in the past that were pro forma events ensuring that the same incumbents would continue to do the same things in Concord.

State and local Democrats have benefited from the national level of dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. To paraphrase Lord Acton – absolute power corrupts, absolutely. The Democrats had their time as the party of corruption. The Republicans have managed to dig themselves in even deeper, in a much shorter period of time. We’ve seen Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and Bob Ney brought down by ego and greed. Mark Foley resigned in disgrace, while the GOP tries desperately to cover up Denny Hastert’s indifference to Foley’s conduct. When all of that is added to the mounting disgust with the war in Iraq and the phenomenal deficit brought on by the borrow-and-spend conservatives, it creates a stew of discontent, a desire for change. One need only look at the bumper crop of lawn signs for Democrats this year in Carroll County to know change is coming.

This past Wednesday night, the Conway Education Association hosted a debate between Congressional candidates Jeb Bradley and Carol Shea-Porter, at Conway Elementary School. It is likely that Bradley agreed to Conway because he thought there would be small turnout, and little media interest. When I pulled in, the area in front of Kennett was covered with people waving Shea-Porter signs on both sides of Rt. 16. I parked next to a group of 4 Bradley supporters, struggling to arrange a stack of sign totems. They never did make it out to the road. That was indicative of how the rest of the evening would proceed. Congressman Bradley – self proclaimed champion of the environment - pulled in to the debate in a gigantic campaign motor home – the kind that might get 5 mpg if the wind was blowing the right way. Ms. Shea Porter arrived in a modest compact car. The differences between the two candidates did not end there.

The debate was riveting. Moderator George Epstein did a fine job of keeping the occasionally rowdy crowd under control. He asked all of the candidates in the audience to stand up to be applauded, and with wry good humor, congratulated Henry Mock for standing, even though he hadn’t been informed in advance that he’d be asked to stand.

Congressman Bradley is not a gifted public speaker. He has figured out that the longer he takes to answer a question, the fewer questions he has to take, and he’s mastered the art of the filibuster reply. From the very first question asked, Bradley displayed his inability to face a question head on. A man in the audience yelled, “You didn’t answer the question!” The crowd laughed – and Carol told him he needn’t have worried, that she was on it – and went on to point out to Bradley that he hadn’t answered the question, as she proceeded to answer it herself. That was how the evening progressed. Carol Shea-Porter demonstrated her strong speaking skills, as well as her ability to think on her feet. Congressman Bradley demonstrated his ability to repeat the same talking points over and over, as if repetition would somehow make them meaningful. At least three times he said, “We must keep Iraq from becoming a launching pad for terrorism.” He also said that we must prevent Iraq from civil war. Most of the people in the room were aware that it’s too late on both counts, yet despite the obvious mocking from the crowd, he continued to repeat those mantras. Last summer I saw him do the same thing in Hart’s Location at a town hall meeting. When questioned about marriage equality, he kept repeating that he believed marriage is between a man and a woman. He couldn’t say WHY he believed that, he could only say it over and over again.

The debate was taped by Valley Vision. If you live in a town that is served by the station, do yourself a favor and watch it. As one man commented to me on his way out the door, “I hope Bradley’s on his way to the hospital for a blood transfusion.” Carol was definitely the winner of that debate – and we will all be the winners if she’s elected to represent us in Washington.

We can also change who represents us in Concord, and we should. The forum held by the Economic Council was revealing. The GOP contingent was angry that they weren’t prepped in advance to discuss topics that anyone in the room would have been prepared to discuss – the same issues that NH has been coping with for decades. This was a sorry display, made sorrier when combined with the revelation of their combined technological ineptitude. Crow Dickinson has been in the NH House for 30 odd years. That’s too long. Gene Chandler should have been expelled from the House for his ethics violations. We can expel him, now. Carolyn Brown is in over her head. She can speak knowledgeably and passionately about her volunteer work in the community. She can’t speak that way about the legislature. She admitted that she voted for SB110, even though she didn’t understand it – the bill that caused north country health insurance premiums to skyrocket. At the debate it was apparent that she votes the way Chandler tells her to. She’s never sponsored a piece of legislation. Carolyn’s niche is working in the community. We can help her do the kind of work that is clearly more fulfilling and comfortable for her. Henry Mock left the House with the “Friends of Gene Chandler” cloud hanging over his head, and now wants to return. Mock is an angry man, given to shouting out bizarre pronouncements. He’s firmly rooted in the good old boy ways of the past. NH needs to move forward in a positive direction. Time to clean House. See you at the polls!

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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