Monday, May 22, 2006

Not Just Toast And Juice

One of the more interesting features in the local print media is the PG's Monday morning "Breakfast With" interview. Each week, Patricia Sheridan asks a few questions to a well-known politician, celebrity, or other person of note. The interviews are generally light, friendly sessions that largely try to avoid divisive or controversial topics. When a candidate for office is the subject, you come away with a bit better understanding of the individual than you do from an interview in a more formal setting.

This morning's "Breakfast With Bob Casey" goes a little way towards distancing the Pennsylvania State Treasurer from his opponent, incumbent Rick Santorum, in this year's US Senate race. Casey has been the front runner in just about every poll since he announced his intention to run. What most pundits seem to forget, and which I always remind myself, is that the only poll that counts at this point in the race is the one coming up in early November. Still, Casey is a good nominee for the Democrats to run against Santorum, since he is the most likely candidate to siphon support from the Senator's base.

On the question of why he entered the race, Casey says:

It was really a concern I had that the country was, and still is, going in the wrong direction because of the Bush administration. We've got a senator, Sen. Santorum, who, since President Bush has been in office, votes with President Bush 98 percent of the time. I think we need a senator who is going to be more independent than that. I think the country needs a new direction, and that's what really got me into this race.
Which makes him no different than any outraged jerk who writes a letter to the editor of any newspaper in Pennsylvania. How many times have you opened up the paper to read the words "wrong direction" on the editorial page? It's a tired talking point, and an especially vague one at that. The one thing I like about Casey's answer is that he effectively promises not to vote with the Democrats as often as Santorum votes with the Republicans. I'll bet Howard Dean and the DNC just love to hear stuff like that.

Casey criticizes Santorum's partisanship, and goes on to downplay his own:
I'd approach issues of public policy, especially budget issues, the way I've always approached important issues, and that's in a very independent way. I don't think you go to Washington to lead the point of view of one party only. You go to fight for the people of Pennsylvania. You know from the work that I've done as auditor general and state treasurer I've been very independent.
As far as his service to the citizens of the Commonwealth, I do not doubt that this is true. Casey, like his namesake father, is known to be very independent minded in the sense that the bulk of his support comes from people who, as the old saying goes, "vote for the man, not for the party". The US Senate is a whole different ballgame. In the Senate, he wouldn't be in charge of his own department anymore; he would be a junior part of a caucus of Democrat partisans. He might turn out to be to the Democrats what Arlen Specter is to the Republicans. I wouldn't hold my breath on it, though. There's a presidential election coming up in two years, and I wouldn't expect a Senator Casey to be anything other than a loyal follower when his party needs his support. That's how politics is done in Washington.

On the subject of "waste, fraud and abuse", Casey gets out the hammer and sickle:
What we've seen too much of is a lot of posturing in Washington, mostly by Republican power brokers, who would rather cut Medicaid and make poor people and older citizens pay more for Medicare or Medicaid so they can give more to the top 1 percent in a tax cut. That is not only immoral, but it's fiscally irresponsible.
I'm still waiting for someone, anyone to show me where in the Constitution is the passage that makes the federal government responsible for insurance and health care. This proves that Casey is in fact a Democrat, or (if you are a literalist like me) a Socialist. The very existence of such social programs at the federal level is fiscally irresponsible, not the reduction or elimination of same.

Casey's use of the word "immoral" leads me to consider something that I try very hard to ignore when it comes to politics, and that is the candidate's religion. I am not Catholic, yet in the twenty years that I have been participating in the electoral process, I have probably cast more votes for Roman Catholics running against non-Catholics than vice-versa. The candidate's creed rarely if ever played a part in my choice. Political affiliation is another matter, though one of the few times that I crossed over to vote for a Dem was when the late Governor Bob Casey (a Catholic!) ran for re-election against the execrable Barbara Hafer (who has since made an honest woman of herself and become a Democrat). Yet, when a Catholic candidate like the younger Casey describes opposition to Socialism as "immoral", I can't help wondering whether he feels that his work in politics is reducing his time in Purgatory. I wonder the same thing about Rick Santorum, who made a self-serving personal visit to Terri Schiavo's bedside in the wake of Casey's Senate announcement, and who once proposed that the federal government should give every adolescent a lump sum to pay for a college education. Politicians from other religions aren't exempt from this charge, either. Who was responsible for "compassionate conservatism" and "faith based initiatives"? Charity is a personal matter; it should not be political.

By contrast, I should point out, I recently had the opportunity to hear my Congressman, Dr. Tim Murphy, speak on the issues of importance in Washington today. He's Catholic, but he didn't speak as a representative of any religion. He sounded like a Republican -- or, to be literal again, a Constitutionalist. If Rick Santorum sounded more like Murphy, I'd feel better about voting for him.

Getting back to the breakfast, interviewer Sheridan, to her credit, questioned Casey's use of the "top 1 percent" talking point. He informs her that we live only to serve the wealthiest Americans:
It's more than a goal. It is something that they have already implemented and they want to keep it going. It is the mantra and the singular focus of President Bush and the leadership of the Republican Party.
Suddenly, I can hear the unmistakable sound of a cuckoo clock signaling the top of the hour, yet there is no cuckoo clock anywhere near me. Kind of like how Bob Casey can hear the President and the Republican leadership repeatedly chanting "tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent", even though they have never actually done so. Casey ties tax cuts to inferior body armor for our troops in Iraq and socialized medicine, which lands him straight into the heart of Moonbat territory.

As for the war in Iraq, Casey promises to "ask tough questions" and "demand answers". He doesn't go batshit crazy like a lot of Dems do (John Murtha, for instance) and call for withdrawal; rather, he wants us to support a democratic government in Baghdad. Perhaps he will clarify someday by telling us just what his "tough questions" are. Do we have to elect him in order to find out? Screw that.

Upon being asked whether his agreement with Santorum on abortion makes it a "non-issue", Casey says that it does not, that it is a very important issue, and then goes on at length to discuss job growth and health care. Not that such things are themselves unimportant, but in the context of the question, his answer is almost a non-sequitur. Being a Democrat means never having to stay on topic if you're pro-life and someone raises the abortion issue.

Casey on lowering health care costs:
We should repeal the tax cuts. I realize some wealthy people won't like that, but that's the right thing to do. It is also the way to free up some dollars to lower the cost of health care by, for example, growing and investing in the children's health insurance program, using federal dollars to grow that program.
Nobody whose tax cuts get repealed would like it, not just "some wealthy people". Earlier, Casey talked about deficit reduction via higher taxes. Now he's talking about spending the hypothetical increased revenue to expand hypothetical government health care programs. He hates the deficit, he loves the deficit. Where is the logic?

Finally, the interview ends on a silly kind of question -- whether Casey could get the federal government to connect Pittsburgh to the East Coast via high-speed rail -- and he suddenly comes back down to Earth:
You've got to do it within the bounds of fiscal responsibility. That's something we'd have to weigh in the context of the budget reality. But I think certainly there has been a lot of time and effort invested in Western Pennsylvania in Maglev. Frankly, I think Sen. Santorum should use at least this year while he's still in the Senate to show some leadership on that issue.
He's starting to sound like a conservative again -- too late. I don't regret voting for a write-in against Santorum in the primary -- it's a luxury you can afford when a candidate is unopposed -- but I'm feeling better about voting for him come November. It would take a lot to get me to consider an alternative.


Kashmir said...

I believe as election season wears on, Casey will further distinguish himself from Santorum. I plan to spend a lot of my time on my blog talking about those differences.

jipzeecab said...

An excellent analysis of Mr. Casey's positions.
My biggest gripe with the US Senate at this point is that in the notorious prescription drug bill the leadership allowed the bill to pass with a prohibition saying that all drugs purchased under the plan had to be sold at the full retail price rather than the government using its size as probably the largest vender to negotiate lower prices when many of our citizens are seeking their "scripts" in Canada and elsewhere. If the government was going to interfere in this issue it should have done so on behalf of its citizens and taxpayers as well.
My mom is currently enjoying her renegade status as one of those who is refusing to sign up for this program despite the built in penalties for later enrollment.
She is normally a pennypincher and it is costing her approximately $75 a month by not participating!