Friday, June 27, 2008

All Obama Politics is Local

As we get ready for the Big Dig through November, and slosh through the political mud sure to be slung by the Republicans everywhere in NJ, we can be sure we have the Team Obama covering our backs.

Like Chairman Dean's 50 state strategy covered the nation, so goes Team Obama. This from our fine friends at, regarding Texas local races. Let's hope Team Obama does the same in NJ:

Obama to bring campaign fight, funding to Texas
Democrat hopes to at least drive up turnout and influence local contests

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's campaign will send money and staffers to Texas and other heavily Republican states to help elect Democrats in congressional and local races, officials said Wednesday.

"Our strategy orientation is to play offense," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, who announced the strategy at a news conference.

While Plouffe conceded that the Illinois Democrat was unlikely to defeat Republican John McCain in Texas, he said the move into the state is part of a strategy to boost other Democrats and train Texas volunteers who would later be sent to battleground states.

Obama's 50-state strategy, he said, is designed to help the party increase its majority on Capitol Hill and to try to regain control of state legislatures, including Texas, where the Democrats need to pick up just five House seats to control the chamber.

Another goal is to force the Republicans to spend money in "red" states so they have less available for swing states.

Obama's aides told the Houston Chronicle that the Texas expenditures could increase party turnout in targeted races for Harris County district attorney, sheriff and county judge.

The national campaign's presence in the state also could help Democrats in closely watched Houston-area congressional races for the seats of incumbent Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican Michael McCaul.

"It'll help us create a government majority," said Plouffe. "In a state like Texas, there's House races, there's state Senate races, and we're going to encourage people to get involved in their local elections."

The campaign, Plouffe said, intends to tap into the grass-roots organization it built during the primary season, eventually using some of its volunteers to help in more competitive states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Ohio.

"We have got a lot of volunteers from these states and want to make sure we have a way to use them," he said.

At a June 12 meeting of contributors in Houston, Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod of Chicago, said the campaign first would deploy 15 staffers to help with voter registration, according to Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald Birnberg.

Showing national appeal

Among the many reasons for the deployment, Axelrod explained, is that the campaign wants to demonstrate its national appeal and presence.

Axelrod also said the campaign is interested in electing Democratic state lawmakers who would help decide election boundaries for U.S. House seats in Texas and elsewhere in later years.

Obama also wants to be able to tell prospective Texas campaign contributors that some of their money would be spent where it was raised.

The Obama campaign has no immediate plans for advertising in Texas' 19 media markets. The first general election advertising blitz will focus on 18 states that are believed by campaign strategists to be competitive. Those include several that went for George W. Bush in 2004, like Alaska, Montana, North Dakota and Georgia.

Party resurgence

A spokesman for the state Democratic Party, Hector Nieto, said the decision by the Obama campaign is "obviously good news for us."

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said that by sending professional staffers to Texas, the Obama campaign can supplement what he said was an improving Democratic Party organization in the state.

"I think that the reason the National Democratic Party would be putting money into Texas is to continue the Democratic resurgence" in the state, Jillson said,

The Democrats, he said, are not likely to win statewide contests but could prevail in areas where the party is on the upsurge, such as Harris County.

Pollster Ralph Bordie, who conducted an IVR poll in Texas, said that Obama could bring out new voters, particularly African Americans and youths.

A high turnout of those groups could affect down-ballot contests such as the race for the 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Austin to western Harris County. McCaul is in a tight race against Houston lawyer Larry Joe Doherty, according to some polls.

Alan Bernstein also contributed to this report.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

McCain: Wrong for New Jersey, New York and the “Region”.

There was a time when I fit in with the Republicans more ‘stealth-fully’.

As a white, bald, bearded, paunchy male in his 50s, I blended in with the crowd. But, alas, today I was out-ed at the opening of the “New Jersey/New York Regional Campaign Headquarters for McCain”. I was recognized upon entering by the former campaign manager for Mayor Marty Marks. Oh well, with fame comes responsibility. Or something like that.

The head of the McCain campaign in New Jersey is Senator Bill Baroni [R-14]. Sounding like the quarterback of a team that has not won a game in many a year, he declared the “New Jersey/New York Regional Campaign Headquarters for McCain” officially open today at 1pm. His counter part from New York, Ed Cox stood by his side.

At this rate---that’s just one headquarters for about every 28 million people---that’s just about 11 ‘regional’ headquarters for a nation of 305,986,357 people. But seriously, folks…

“New Jersey/New York Regional Campaign Headquarters for McCain”. That is a mouthful for a small headquarters, actually located in Perth Amboy [although they like to tout that the HQ is in Woodbridge, that bastion of Democratic activity].

"Woodbridge has the kind of voters that John McCain appeals to all over New York and New Jersey," declared Baroni. His counterpart did not seem quite as positive. Said Cox: "The headquarters had to be somewhere in the region, so we picked New Jersey." Does not sound like a good explanation to the folks back home in the Empire State.

Baroni touted that a coalition of “Reagan Democrats and independents” will win both New York and New Jersey for McCain. He and Cox repeated this mantra at least four times during the 40 minute or so press conference. Of course, it was a tough call whether or not he should be told that Reagan Democrats are either no longer with us may have retired and moved elsewhere. This year the ‘independents’ are leaning Democratic big time. The one word that no Republican dared to speak: George W. Bush. Hmmm….

Also, on hand was Senator Leonard Lance rallying the Republican troops to win the New Jersey/New York region from “Buffalo to Cape May”. Kean Jr. was also there with some blasé comments about how New Jersey is going for McCain this year.

The Baroni/Cox team was battered with questions from the media---101.5FM, the Associated Press, NJN-- about McCain’s chances of winning in a state where no Republican has won state wide since 1997; No presidential candidate has won state-wide since 1988. Where McCain supports off-shore oil drilling in a state where “The Shore” is capitalized. A state that opposes the war in Iraq, that supports some sort of better national healthcare plan.

Overheard dialogue, throughout the crowd:

“Off shore drilling is not a problem. So many oil tankers got sunk in WWII. They didn’t have any ‘ecological crisis’ over those ships.”

“OBama doesn’t have enough military experience to oppose the war.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Funniest Man in The Room

There were very few rooms in which George Carlin was not the funniest guy in the room. He was also usually the brightest, wittiest, and most friendly. He will be missed.

I had the opportunity of seeing Carlin perform live in Toledo, Ohio about 18 years ago. I was headlining a now defunct comedy club in the ‘burbs of Toledo, and he was a major theater downtown. There was only a few hotels in downtown Toledo where he could be staying, so I called them all.

Bingo! Luckily on my second try, I found his hotel and was connected to his room.

Now, I knew I only had about ten seconds to introduce myself, and get him laughing so he would talk with me. So, when his manager Gerald Hamza answered the phone, I immediately introduced myself as Lazlo Toth, a father who had a son who was going to be at the show that night.

I asked him if he knew if George had intended to use the word “motherfucker” in show, as I was concerned that my son might be offended. Hamza was laughing knowing that 'Lazlo Toth' was an alias used by Don Novello/Father Guido Sarducci. He put George Carlin on the phone. I had their attention, and when Carlin got on the phone, I introduced myself as a fellow comedian. He invited me backstage after his show. He could not have been nicer.

His concert show was especially great. After my set, I saw the final thirty minutes of his set. He closed with the “Seven Dirty Words you can’t say on TV”. And he did say “Motherfucker”, by the way.

After the set, I went back stage to his dressing room. And the first thing he did was ask me how my set went. And they he told me to go fuck myself for stealing people for my show, that he should have had at his.

We talked the comedy scene in general; about John Belushi, and about mutual friend and comedian, Chris Rush. He read to me some lines he had tried out that night for the first time, and he asked me my opinion. Then he said, “Well, I recorded the set, so tomorrow on the flight out, I will listen to it."

He treated me as as an equal and apologized for not being able to see my show. A true professional and a gentleman. I spent about 45 minutes with him, and he wished me well.

Years before, for a final thesis paper in a graduate class in media and the law, I did an analysis of the Supreme Court case that made him famous----the FCC v. PACIFICA FOUNDATION, 438 U.S. 726 (1978)----the “Seven Dirty Words” case. As a future law student obsessed with the First Amendment and stand-up comedy, it was an intellectual feast to do such a paper.

And so, George Carlin is now gone. He came in at Number Two on the Comedy Central list of the Top Hundred funniest stand-up comedians of all time---after Richard Pryor’s Number One, and before Lenny Bruce at Number Three. I am sure where ever he is, Pryor is laughing his ass off, and is saying, “Motherfucker. You’re only number two.”

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Alan David Stein of WCTC supports the use of Water Boarding Torture

In the morning, sometimes I listen to Jack Ellery on 1450 AM WCTC. In the afternoon, sometimes it’s Alan David Stein. Generally, they both provide a good antidote to the lunatics on right-wing radio in the New York/New Jersey listening area.

<-------Alan David Stein.

Ellery in the AM and Stein in the PM are more liberal than most radio talk show hosts, although they could provide more depth on the issues. Now that ABC’s Curtis & Kuby has been replaced with Don Imus, there are few hosts on the air who give me a good liberal/progressive hit.

Maybe a good description for both of them could be “populist liberals”. Or maybe “liberal populists”.

I generally agree with them both on most issues in Central Jersey. Except for yesterday when Stein declared his absolute support for water boarding torture.By any means necessary,” he said. I would have thought Stein was smarter than that.

Stein stated he was at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. He said that if water boarding torture of an informant would have produced the information to help prevent another 9/11, then he would support it. If only life were that black & white and that simple.

Of course, when someone is tortured, you never know what you’re going to get. There is no guarantee that the information will be valid or even useful.

From Wikipedia:
“Waterboarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing a person on their back with the head inclined downward—…and pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning and is made to believe that death is imminent.” The benefits of water boarding are highly questionable.
I called the station, and spoke with Mr. Stein on the air. He posed a question to me about 9/11 ----would I support water boarding torture if it would have prevented a 9/11?

I replied---what if it was someone you knew being tortured? Your neighbor? A relative? Yourself? These are questions of civil liberties.

I told him that I think it is sad that he would advocate such an unconstitutional method of interrogation to sustain the fight to protect our constitutional democracy.

The ends do not justify the means. How are we any better than Iraq, North Korea, Nazi Germany, etc---if we are willing to use their same methods to protect our values? And how can we expect our enemies to do any less than what we are doing ourselves?

The Framers had it right: they included constitutional protections against such things as 'cruel and unusual punishment'. Following WWII, as a forward thinking and peace loving nation the United States signed to the Geneva Conventions regarding treatment of POWs. Those standards do not include torture. And the standards do not change from incident to incident. It’s a slippery slope.

If Stein supports the use of torture to prevent another 9/11, would he support it to have prevented a Pearl Harbor? Maybe so. What about the assassination of President Kennedy? Perhaps. But, what if it was his best friend to be killed? Or what if the person to be tortured was not some alleged Al Queda terrorist, but his next door neighbor? Or maybe someone in his family? What about other more severe torture methods? Then the matter may get a little muddier.

The problem with the current administration’s standards regarding these issues, is that there are no standards at all. They hold people in prison in Gitmo in violation of the Geneva Convention and in violation of the Constitution---of course they’d have no problem using torture. Stein is just wrongheaded on this issue. The ends do not justify the means.

Of course, talk radio does not provide callers with any lengthy time to discuss the issues, and they move from topic to topic likes bees from flower to flower. So, we did not get to speak at any great length on this issue.

I would welcome a longer in studio debate on this issue at WCTC.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Conservtive Donerty's call for Big State Government

Conservative libertarian Assemblyman Michael Doherty wants Big State Government to shut down the Golden Parachutes ----the hefty severance packages paid by school districts to retiring school officials.

Such deals are freely negotiated by the two parties, but Doherty wants Big State Government to get involved to nix them ----now, in the past, and for the future.

Is this state involvement in a freely negotiated contract between two parties constitutional?

If it's an Abbott district, maybe---since they get a good portion of their money from the state, maybe a higher level of state scrutiny is warranted. But, what if it's Hunterdon/Warren Counties school districts? Then what?

My good friend Ed Smith of Doherty's office said that 'contracts made by public entities can be nullified for the public good'. But, that still seems like Big Government getting involved in a freely negotiated deal.

I am always amused when so-called “conservative libertarian Republicans” default to the Big Bad Government they usually disdain ---- to help solve a problem in the state. While a strong argument can be made that such a deal may be bad public policy, the question is:

Who gets to decide the solution? Legislators in Trenton ---or the folks who pay the bills and vote for the school boards who cut the raw deal?

The bill, passed by a good sized coalition of Ds and Rs, ---would ban such payments for both current and future top school officials. And that kind of state government involvement in the market place seems OK for Doherty.

This was all spurred on by a retiring school official in Monmouth County who got paid three quarters of a million bucks. That is a nice piece of change to go home with at the end of a school day. He would have to serve in Trenton almost 15 years to make that much.

As much as state taxpayers do not like the idea of such deals, one must question the constitutionality of the state of New Jersey being able to retroactively alter existing contracts.

Some people think the real answer should be political---in the voting booth, and maybe not legislative, in Trenton. Let the local voters in Monmouth County ----the folks who are paying the tab for such deals ----vote to bounce out school board members who negotiate and support such deals.

In the months ahead, keep your eyes pealed for lawsuits from those same top school officials who cut such deals in the past, and now have been nixed. Hope the school districts have budgeted for legal fees to pay their

I am sure that the attorneys for those same retired school officials will have an eye toward Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution:
No State shall … pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…
Thomas Jefferson, in a Letter to Isaac McPherson, August 13th, 1813, said this of ex post facto laws:
“The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them. The federal constitution indeed interdicts them in criminal cases only; but they are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases, and the omission of a caution which would have been right, does not justify the doing what is wrong. Nor ought it to be presumed that the legislature meant to use a phrase in an unjustifiable sense, if by rules of construction it can be ever strained to what is just.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wisdom of My Father

Two years ago, my brother Paul gave me a birthday present of Tim Russert’s book, The Wisdom of Our Fathers.

Great book. Read it cover to cover. Or skim through it, and bounce around from story to story. It is a wonderful read, either way.

So, what wisdom did my father give to me?

Always keep your sense of humor.

My dad told great stories, always with a great deal of enthusiasm and joy. The stories were sometimes funny, sometimes moving. He was also one to be able to take a joke or play a joke on friends. He was always joyful in almost everything he did. This was reflected in all the friends he made in his life.

I am a stand-up comedian, speaker and storyteller because of what I learned from him about humor.

“It is what it is.”

My dad had a very simple almost Zen-like refrain when it came to bad things that happened that he could not control: “It is what it is.” That was it. It was a simple way of saying, ‘don’t over think situations’; ‘Keep things simple’; ‘Don’t overanalyze things’. Be pragmatic and deal with what is in front of you, and not what is not there.

Learn to forgive.

My dad had a very fluid, flexible way of looking at the world. He forgave others easily. Sometimes my mom might say ‘too easily’, but that is the way he was. If you don’t learn to forgive, I think I learned from him, you miss out on some wonderful feelings and the larger picture. And keeping the anger alive is not healthy, and forces you to keep the same perspective for too long a time.

An insatiable curiosity.

My dad would always ask questions about everything. He would ask me constantly about politics, my legal education. I remember one particular conversation about the field of sports law. He once asked me why baseball was exempt from federal anti-trust laws, while other major sports were not. For someone who did not finish high school, he really understood some fairly complex concepts at times. I was inspired in large part by his insatiable curiosity to go to law school. This evolved in to ‘question authority’, think outside the box, there are no stupid questions.

A love of sports.

Be inspired by the great and small accomplishments of others. Teamwork. And the fact that a dedicated group of people who truly believed in their task could accomplish almost anything.

Always make new friends.
My dad spent his life always making friends, everywhere he went. I cannot tell you how many people at his condo complex in Florida who would come up to me and say, “Your father was the first person who introduced himself to me when I moved here.”

This all started, my dad would tell me, on the army transport train from New York to Alabama in 1942. Here was this 20 year old Jewish kid from Brooklyn on his way south, away from home for the very first time in his life.

He sat by himself, all sad and dejected, until an older soldier came up to him and said, “Hey, kid why the sour face?”

My dad said, “Well, I don’t know anybody here, and I am all by myself.”

“You think any of these guys know any one here? The Army doesn’t draft people all from the same neighborhoods. Well, you have plenty of time to make friends. All you have to do is go up to someone, and offer your hand for a hand shake, and just tell them something ----any thing---about yourself, ‘Hey buddy, I’m Murray---and my old man owns a candy store on Flatbush Avenue. What does your old man do?’ That’s how to start a conversation and make some friends.”

“What if the guy is a wise guy, and doesn’t want to talk?”

“Well, then pass him by, and go on to the next guy. There are hundreds of guys on this train. Follow me, and we will meet some swell guys from all over.”

And that is exactly what my dad did. He got up, and walked the train from car to car, and made lots of friends. Some for just that train ride. Some for just the time he was in the Army.

And some for a lifetime. But it was a habit he never got tired of.

Tell a good story. More than once, if needed.

When I was a kid, I thought hearing the same stories over and over again was boring. Then I got older. And the stories stayed the same, but my perspective changed. So, the stories of my dad in the army, growing up in Brooklyn, getting married, of his early life took on new meanings, new lessons. And upon each telling, they took on new meanings---like hearing a song you like, seeing an old movie, re-reading a good book.
Be proud of your all your children.

Whenever I appeared at The Comic Strip in Florida, my father would take pride in inviting any and all of his Florida friends to see me. After one particularly good show, I was hanging out with my parents and their friends. My father’s friend Irving remarked to my dad, “You must be very proud of your son, Joey.” Without missing a beat, right in front of me, my dad said, “I am proud of all my children.”

In the late 1950s, my parents brought in to our home Jerry Amancio, a foster child at the age of 6 ½ . Jerry came from a divorced family and a very troubled home. My father used to spend many nights taking to him, giving him the attention he so needed to help solve his many problems. He spent a lifetime being a dad to Jerry, and received the ultimate gift when Jerry turned 50: Jerry had his last name changed from “Amancio” to “Novick”.

And so I am very proud of him, and all the wisdom he left me. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tribute to Tim Russert

Eight years ago, I was up in New Hampshire for about a week volunteering for the Bill Bradley for President campaign. Working some media for the campaign, I found myself at a local TV station, where I ran in to an old political comedian friend of mine, Will Durst.

Will invited me to attend a big bash being hosted by the fine folks of Comedy Central being held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Manchester. There, I ran in to many Democratic politicos I knew from around the country, as well as fellow comedian Jon Stewart [who had recently graduated from the comedy club circuit, and inherited The Daily Show]. This was a room filled with about a thousand people, eating, drinking and schmoozing.

In pretty much the center of this noisy hectic room, I happen to come together at the same time with Jon Stewart, Congressman Jerry Nadler of the 8th district in New York, and Tim Russert.
The meeting was brief, but serendipitous. I was introduced to Mr. Russert by Jon Stewart, and it was then I found out he had gone to law school. I was impressed.

Flash forward to 2006, where for my birthday my brother, Paul, buys me a copy of Mr. Russert's book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers". We had lost our own dad two years earlier, and I very much enjoyed the gift. I read the book from cover to cover, laughing sometimes, crying other times. It was a good read.

I will miss Mr. Russert's intelligence and well placed questions each and every Sunday morning on "Meet The Press". It just won't seem like a real presidential political season without him.

My condolences to the Russert family, and especially to his son, Luke.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Denying Undeniable Deniability

This week, I did not pitch for the New York Yankees. And I did not negotiate a peace treaty in the Iraqi civil war.

And this week, I did not run for Chairman of the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee. The only difference is, I never had to deny over and over again the first two activities.

In the weeks since the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee Convention, I was asked on at least a twice a week basis if I were running. Sometimes by fellow Democrats. Sometimes by members of the Republican County Committee Executive Board. Once or twice by those who were supporting a previous candidate for Chairman of the Hunterdon County Democratic Committee. I found the whole thing very amusing. It seems the more I denied it [aka The Truth], the more it became believable. Rock solid. Right up to the day of the election this passed Tuesday.

A few weeks back, at the Hunterdon County Democratic Convention, the executive powers that be nominated and supported former Republican Chris Harcar for Hunterdon County Freeholder. Now, many of my fellow Democrats found that such possibility very abhorrent. After all, Harcar was in the paper almost weekly with her bout and court case against Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow. Other issues marred her candidacy.

There were many [including myself] who did not think she would make the best candidate for freeholder in the fall, and that her candidacy would be a distraction from our local races. We supported Martin Siecke, who won the County Committee endorsement and the nomination. Having been Chairman from 1996 -2000, I know hard it is to find good candidates. So, although we disagreed on Harcar's candidacy, I respect those who found her. Siecke's nomination at the convention was a surprise. And I guess there were those who thought that my candidacy for Chairman was going to be a surprise, also.

All along the way, I denied that I was running. It seems the stronger the denial, the more credible the candidacy became. I was told by a fellow Democratic committeeman, that the fact that there was no organized effort to get me elected, seemed to make those in the Committee think that I must be organizing the whole campaign very stealthfully.

I found the whole thing very amusing. I even received calls from local newspaper reporters and the fine folks from And then my denial became a news story.

And so, the real headline grabber should be for new Hunterdon County Chair Lois Zarish. In politics they tell us that there are 'workhorses' and 'show horses'. Lois is most definitely a hard working Democrat, who has asked for little over the years in return for her hard work. This is her shot to prove what can be borne out of hard work.

My two cents: First on the agenda should be a gathering of the Clinton supporters and Obama supporters to mend the rift. And Mrs. Zarish is the right person for that job.

Note to Chairwoman Zarish: You have the backs of many Democrats for many years. It is time for people in Hunterdon to have yours.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Even My Aunt Rose Would Be Proud of the ACLU

Last month, my Aunt Rose told me that knew that Senator Barack Obama was a ‘secret Muslim’ because her friend Shirley read it on ‘the website’.

On “the website”. Like there’s one big website with all the information one needs to know, and if it’s on “the website”, it must be true.

Like those ads that say “as seen on TV!”, with the exclamation point added for extra credibility.

In New Jersey, the fine folks at the ACLU work on behalf of people of all religions. A few years back, they made sure that a school in Hunterdon County let a Christian second-grader sing "My God is an Awesome God" at their annual talent show.

More recently, they helped a Muslim student settle an issue from two years ago, that prevented him from attending his graduation from West Side High School. The school held their graduation at Baptist Church, and his Muslim belief prohibits him from entering a building with religious icons. He was forced to choose between “honoring [his] education and [his] faith”.

The result:
“…the district agreed not to sponsor or promote religious events, to no longer re ward students for attendance at religious events or ceremonies, and to stop using religious buildings or places of worship for school events.”
Thank you to the fine folks at the ACLU. I think even my Aunt Rose would be proud.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Clinton supporters: Meet your Party's Candidate for President

Earlier this winter, I was surprised to find out that many longtime Democrats in Hunterdon County----people that I had worked with for years on local, state, and national campaigns had declared their intention to not support Senator Barack Obama, if he happened to become our party’s nominee. Of course, this was back in December/January. I tossed it off as so much nonsense from the Clinton supporters. Their sense of “entitlement” was palpable back then, and it finally turned uglier this week.

When Senator Clinton finally held her campaign ending ‘event’ the other night declared her campaign over, and officially endorsed Obama, some fireworks began again in Hunterdon amongst the Democrats. More than a few of those Democrats acted as if they were entering a “period of morning”, and pseudo-seriously asserted that if Obama did not choose Hillary for his running mate, they would ‘place a McCain sign” on their lawn. Now, these folks were by no means ‘soft-core’ Ds. These were as hardcore as you can get.

After going through being yelled at on Main Street for not supporting Hillary and then being called ‘un-Democratic’ at a Democratic dinner for supporting Obama, I thought I had seen it all.

To me, Senator Obama is ‘America’. He is what the Republicans tell us Americans should be: Raised by a single mother, he represents the ultimate ‘melting pot’ American as he bi-racial. He picked himself up by his own bootstraps, and went to Harvard. He is an accomplished, articulate, very bright man. Those who have long Washington resumes of ‘experience’ lack his judgment, intelligence and grace under pressure.

I first met Senator Obama a few years back, at a campaign rally for then-Senator Jon Corzine running for governor. I was chosen to be on stage with many other New Jersey residents because we ‘looked like a cross section of New Jersey’. I guess I was there represented all Jewish males who are ‘paunchy, balding and personable’.

I happened [by the luck of the draw] to find myself standing next to Barack Obama. While the rally got under way, we began chatting about the similarity between New Jersey and Illinois with regard to state issues. Obama had been a Illinois state senator, before running for the US Senate. We agreed that the two states shared several issues in common----an up state/down state and urban/rural dichotomies; spiraling property taxes; and urban sprawl. I found him a bright, articulate guy. And I thought to myself, that that man will run for president someday.

My advice to the Clinton supporters: get over the loss, there is too much work to be done. Your party needs you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Meet Senator Frank Lautenberg, the Anti-Zimmer

Lobbyist and lawyer Dick Zimmer lives in Hunterdon County, and just became the nominee for the Republican Party for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Mr. Zimmer has been introducing himself periodically as the “Anti-Lautenberg”.

Note to Mr. Zimmer: It’s going to be a tough sell to the voters in New Jersey that we should elect someone to the Senate other than Lautenberg.

According to
“….Lautenberg's biggest benefit is his name recognition and voter perceptions that he's doing a good job. 48% approve of his job performance while 31% disapprove, and 43% view him favorably, compared with 30% who see him unfavorably. That's not a great number, but given that his name is recognized by a total of 94% of the state is a positive…

So, Zimmer's strategy is to call himself the Anti-Lautenberg? Or the Un-Lautenberg? Read on:
“In this year's Senate contest, the Democratic candidate, whoever that may be, remains a strong favorite in the Garden State. 54% of respondents said they were more likely to vote for that party, while just 24% said they would likely vote for the Republican winner.”
Although Mr. Zimmer had three decent terms in the Congress, [1] he was present for only one term [1995-1996] with the Republican Party in control, and [2] since he lost to Congressman Rush Holt, he has been working as a lobbyist. Many former elected officials are tapped as lobbyists, but it is rare for a lobbyist to be tapped as a candidate for office.

Recently on News 12’s “Power & Politics”, Lobbyist Zimmer declared that ‘age’ would not be an issue in his Senate run.

That is it won’t be, at least until Zimmer gets desperate.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Whitman's witless campaign

Kate Whitman focused her entire campaign for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 7th district on just one thing:

Tearing down Senator Leonard Lance.

It was as if the other five candidates in the race did not even exist. That was mistake number one.

Senator Lance and I do not always agree on everything politically. He will be supporting John McCain for president and I do not. He opposed Paid Family Leave and I support it. He supports extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans and I do not.

However, I can say this: He is a man of integrity. He is a true gentleman, and almost too good for New Jersey politics. The way Kate Whitman tried to tear him down said something about her leadership skills: she has none. She attacked Senator Lance for giving up his Senate Minority Leadership post to Senator Tom Kean, Jr. She even found a way to blame New Jersey's fiscal woes on Lance.

The Todds and the Lances go back generations in the Republican Party. I do not know what she was thinking, but it could not have been much. Even the Republican supporting Hunterdon County Democrat had something to say about Whitman's tactics.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Who Wants to be a Democrat?

I am so glad that the presidential campaign season has finally begun. The two candidates ---Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain--- can finally get their campaigns started. It was getting soooo boring there for a few months.

My Aunt Rose lives in Florida, and whenever I have the chance to visit, it’s like living in a Seinfeld episode. She is 83 years old, and a life long Democrat. She is just less than 5 feet tall, wears very thick glasses and walks with a walker. She plays Mah Jong, Canasta, and has voted Democratic for more than sixty years. The area in Broward County where she lives is so Democratic, it would make your teeth hurt.
Back in 2000, she was one of many voters who may have voted for Pat Buchanan. When I asked her if she voted correctly given the ‘chad’ system, she became very indignant, and yelled at me.

“What, are you out of your mind? Of, course I voted correctly! Of course, I voted for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.....I think.”

"I think." That’s what we need today: More ‘thinking’ Democrats.

After spending the last several months reading about how Hillary supporters are not going to be supporting Obama, I ventured to talk to my Aunt Rose about it.

“I cannot support O-Bama”, she said, saying his name with a loud “O”. By this time, I had to follow through. “But, why not? He’s a Democrat,” I declared.

“He is a secret Muslim.”
“ ‘A secret Muslim?’" I pondered.

“ ‘A secret Muslim," she repeated.
"And just where did you get that idea?”

“From my friend, Shirley. It’s true”

“And just how does Shirley know this, that he is "a secret Muslim?’ ?” I ask.

“Oh, Shirley is on the websites all the time. And she gets the email. She knows.

‘On the websites.’ ‘The email’.

This is what passes for knowledge these days. Oh to be a retired Democrat in Florida.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Debates do as debating does.

At the debate at NJN this passed Friday night, Andrews tried to make the case that he, and not Lautenberg, should be the standard bearer for the Democrats this fall. So, Congressman Rob Andrews does have greater rhetorical skills than Senator Lautenberg. Just not enough to shake loose the Senator.

While he made the case that he is a better speaker, Andrews’ powers of persuasion still have not convinced me that age alone should be the criteria by which Democrats should judge Lautenberg unworthy of their support. We all should be as energetic and intelligent at 84 as Lautenberg is now.

Andrews picked, poked, prodded, and punched Lautenberg over and over again, but like a well-worn world champion who still has the experience of a thousand battles, Lautenberg kept his cool and showed a thick skin. He remained serious, sage and unshaken.

I arrived at NJN about 7pm, and there were dozens of Lautenberg supporters out front holding blue placards bearing the Lautenberg name, chanting, and “Bank on Frank!” over and over again. An apt, if not entirely clever, slogan.

We can bank on Frank, and, of course, bank on Frank’s bank account as well. He donates much to his own campaign. As Andrews pointed out during the debate, he and his wife Camille could not write their own campaign a two million dollar check because it would bounce.

Like that concern has ever stopped politicians from writing checks before.

In the audience was a Who’s Who of NJ Democratic politics: Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes; his brother and Andrews campaign manager Michael Murphy; Assemblyman Reed Gusciora; Congressman Frank Pallone; and Governor Jon Corzine himself. Where else should NJ’s in-crowd be on a Friday night in Trenton?

Even conservative columnist Paul Mulshine was there to cover the festivities. Mr. Mulshine and I have a mutual dislike for the exorbitant fees charged by Wachovia Bank for overdraft protection. Ironically conservative Mulshine thinks there should be a federal law addressing the issue. Imagine that?

Anyway, there was a lot of' 'he said/he said’: [“You supported the war.” “No, you supported the war”: “You voted with President Bush”. “No, you voted with President Bush”. “You’re running from your record.” “No, you have no platform”].

The poor mayor of Morristown was the only one saying, “But, what about me?”

One final note: The press release sent out by the Andrews campaign which contained Lautenberg’s statements from the debate included the “umms” and “uhhs” that occasioned the Senator’s answers: This was rude, crude and entirely unnecessary. -----As unnecessary as if Lautenberg’s campaign pointed out Andrews’ ‘well-practiced’ standard political-debate ‘hand gestures’ and/or his occasional casual head movements, all in a press release of their own. It was a low point for the Andrews campaign. Andrews is much better than that.

When it all shakes out, both Andrews and Lautenberg have good records as Democrats in Congress and in the Senate respectively. While I do give a tip of the hat to Andrews, I must give the nod to Senator Lautenberg.

However, I will work as hard for either candidate, which ever one wins. The mere thought of a Senator Sabrin, Senator Zimmer or Senator Pennacchio is just too much to wrap my brain around.