Monday, October 29, 2012

Hitting a nerve -- 7 days until Election Day!

Imagine my surprise the other day to learn that Jon Kyl and John McCain had emphatically supported Richard Carmona, now the Democratic nominee for US Senate from the great State of Arizona.

Well, actually I was not at all surprised. Nor was I surprised at the indignation the two Republican US Senators from Arizona expressed at Carmona using their own words -- spoken during his senate confirmation hearing -- after he was nominated by then President George W. Bush to be the Surgeon General of the United States.

Of course, at that time, Carmona was a registered Independent voter. Not very long ago, that changed.

Even though Carmona is now a Democrat, he still has garnered endorsements from Republicans, though not that many from those who need to hang onto hyperpartisanship to maintain their livelihood. Of course, Kyl and McCain are still very definitely partisan.

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini put some perspective on the Republican senators' indignation:

U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona did something "shameful" to U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl.
He quoted them accurately in a campaign commercial. (emphasis added)
That's it.
It turns out that repeating verbatim the kind words the senators once used to describe Carmona has made McCain and Kyl really, really, really mad. So much so that the senators issued a statement saying Carmona "has no credibility."
Or are McCain and Kyl the ones with credibility issues?
Well, at minimum, I believe it's fair to say that Carmona hit a nerve, perhaps Kyl and McCain's funny bone. The good news is that, according to WebMD, "The funny-bone sensation can be intense, but it is not serious and will go away on its own."

That, of course, IS good news. I'm confident much of the pain (in the BEE-HIND) that many of us have been experiencing to increasing degrees over the last couple of weeks will go away suddenly on November 7 (the day AFTER the election). Even if our favored candidate does not win his or her particular election campaign. (Note that the 2014 election begins on November 7, 2012)

Anyway, very similar to the nuisance and faux outrage expressed by Kyl and McCain, the Democratic candidates for the LD26 seats in the Arizona Legislature stirred up a little bit of a brouhaha with a campaign ad sent to some voters by snail mail a few weeks ago.

The mailer fairly and correctly characterized the three Republican candidates for the LD26 seats (senate hopeful, Jerry Lewis, currently a senator in an OLD district and two newcomers Ray Speakman and Mary Lou Taylor) as Tea Party puppets. And did so using cartoon style (JibJab) images.

Well, it seems that the affable senator from West Mesa (Lewis) took offense and shopped the story of the way those dastardly Tempe Democrats victimized the guy who "vanquished" the evil villain Russell Pearce. Surprisingly, the story was so substantial that it took three weeks for Lewis' camp to get ANYONE interested in it. Finally, on October 23, the Yellow Sheet Report picked it up. For them, of course, gossip is their stock in trade.
Escalating the attack, Ableser and his Democratic teammates Juan Mendez and Andrew Sherwood have labeled their LD26 GOP opponents as “Tea Party puppets” in a mailer that was sent to voters in Tempe and Mesa this week. The hit piece shows Lewis and House candidates Ray Speakman and Mary Lou Taylor being held up by strings, with a caption that declares: “Between funding Sheriff Joe, endorsing Russell Pearce, and taking $100,000 from crooked lobbyists, you have to wonder… Who’s pulling their strings?”

On the other hand, for the Phoenix New Times -- which over the years has garnered numerous awards for top notch investigative journalism -- it's historically only been people like Fife Symington, who clearly had "issues" regarding personal integrity who thought NT was a gossip sheet.

Mere weeks ago, however, New Times and its parent company, Village Voice Media, changed ownership. One would have hoped that the edgy legitimate investigative reporting would not have suffered a drop in quality so soon. But that may be a reasonable way to look at what NT reporter Stephen Lemons did when he caught wind of the Yellow Sheet blurb.

Since I've linked Lemons story, I won't copy it in this blog post. But I will say that Lemons' indignation, declaration and characterization of this situation is more than just a little bit disappointing. Like the Yellow Sheet said, the LD26 Dems went "all in" with this mailer. For one, I am glad that Democrats are not afraid to be Democrats and that they are willing to take the gloves off and fight for my interests.

Politics is about power and cannot legitimately be separated from conflict.
It is difficult to conceive of a human community where there is no conflict among the members or between persons in the community and outsiders. At the same time, the degree to which conflict is overt varies widely. 
Besides the fact that Lemons drops numerous rhetorical bombs on the LD26 Democratic candidates (bombs, by the way, that the three candidates have endured without visible casualty), the most disturbing thing about his story, in my view, is that as far as he is concerned, for Jerry Lewis, since the first Tuesday in November 2011, time has virtually stood still.

Well, that and the fact that some voters may have been swayed by Lemons' insane notion that Ed Ableser having missed votes -- that would not have made the difference between passing or failing on bills -- is somehow worse than Lewis having voted almost entirely as Russell Pearce would have voted. More on that in a moment.

Stephen Lemons' worships the undeniably affable Jerry Lewis as a hero, which -- for a day -- he indeed was. But worthy of hero worship a year later with absolutely NO analysis of Lewis' record as a senator? That's really stretching it. People who overheard Lemons' conversation with Ableser on the phone tell me that Lemons was raging at the incumbent Tempe state representative, with numerous epithets, swearing and cursing.

Now ALL of this tempest in a teapot by Lemons' is nothing more than fulfilling the role of TOOL for those who intend to keep Arizona locked in the dark ages, politically speaking. Distraction from the real reason we vote for members of legislative bodies.

Do we need a KING to rule over us, or a REPRESENTATIVE to speak ON OUR BEHALF in the making of laws and public policy?

How we answer that question determines whether hero worship is the appropriate approach. If we want a KING to rule over us in a benevolent manner, Jerry Lewis, the warm, affable guy with the mile wide smile is THE guy.

But if we (YOU, I already know that I don't need a king) want a representive voice in the state senate, then we can only genuinely tell based on his record. So, let's look at it.

According to Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy, Jerry Lewis voted eleven out of twelve times the way Herrod wanted him to vote. Those bills encompass a woman's right to make her own health care decisions (Herrod eschews that right), dictating education policy, protecting the "religious freedom" of corporations and professionals (screw religious freedom for ordinary individuals, however) AND what she calls judicial reform.

The sole contrarian vote Lewis cast, on bills Herrod considered important enough to include in her report, was on a bill that Lewis was given special dispensation by the senate GOP caucus for the primary purpose of being able to tell voters about it this year. That was the contraception mandate (HB2625). Lewis voted NO to exempt religious organizations from the mandate. But the bill passed and became law without him.

Now, about that claim in the LD26 Democrats mailer that Jerry Lewis is a Tea Party puppet. The Arizona Republic's Robert Robb wrote a very poignant and succinct column illustrating that very point just today.
Jerry Lewis and Prop. 120
For those who believe that there are too many right-wing wackos in the Arizona Legislature, Proposition 120 is one of their strongest pieces of evidence.
Referred to the ballot by the Legislature, Prop. 120 tries to change the terms and conditions under which Arizona became a state – 100 years later.  That includes taking over the federal forests and parks and declaring federal environmental and land management laws null and void in Arizona.
Regardless of what one thinks about federal management of public lands and environmental laws, this is nutty stuff.
The solution to having too many right-wing wackos, we are told, is to elect more moderate Republicans who won’t do such stuff. Jerry Lewis is often held up as an example, having achieved a special status in the anti-wacko pantheon by dispatching Russell Pearce in the recall election.
Well, there’s an interesting story about Lewis and Prop. 120.
Prop. 120 initially died in the Senate, 14-16. Six Republican senators had the good sense and fortitude to vote against it: Rich Crandall, Adam Driggs, Jerry Lewis, John McComish, Michele Reagan and Steve Yarbrough.
One of the yes votes was missing, Frank Antenori. But even with Antenori’s vote, Prop. 120 couldn’t pass on reconsideration unless one of the no votes changed to a yes.
One did. That would be Jerry Lewis.   
Stephen Lemons' brazenly brandished his bias and left all pretense of journalistic objectivity and integrity far behind in the drivel he called reporting on this issue.

I enthusiastically support Ed Ableser for the Arizona Senate but DO expect him to have a better attendance record in 2013 and beyond.

Another bit of good news as a result of this dust up is that volunteers turned out in record numbers over the weekend after the story was published on the NT website. Not only are LD26 Democratic candidates not afraid to be Democrats, but the voters and activists are stepping up too.

Stephen Lemons should issue a complete retraction and apology. But I won't hold my breath.

Yes, Lemons hit a nerve too. But Lemons, if not completely disingenuous, grossly erred in his "analysis" of the mailer and the situations about which he wrote.

The bottom line on Lemons' hit piece is that he thinks Jerry Lewis deserves a pass for, as HE put it, having vanquished Pearce. He offered not ONE bit of analysis of Lewis' conduct as a senator.

Smart voters will not fall for it.

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