Hollis Republicans go to the trouble of vetting all the candidates, and we give them all a fair turn to speak and sell their ideas to the group. We have even had impromptu debates when several candidates showed for one event, but more typical is allowing a single candidate sufficient time to lay out his or her ideas and take questions.
We have had a variety of congressional and senatorial candidates through already this season, but last week saw Scott Brown and Jim Rubens in back-to-back appearances at my home, and at our neighbors, the Ferlins, respectively. This provided a unique opportunity to compare and contrast their styles.
I’ll cover Rubens (And Testerman, and Smith) separately)
We were criticized by some for “supporting” Brown when the event was announced, but as noted above, we simply like to give all the candidates a chance to soar, or to crash, based on their own performance. Well, ‘support’ and ‘Brown’ aren’t two words you will hear me using together very much after these events.
First, about that dog: In the Sherlock Holmes story “Sliver Blaze”, Holmes drew the attention of the police inspector to the curious incident of the dog in the night time: “But the dog did nothing in the night time” said the inspector. “That was the curious incident”, said Holmes.
In the case of Scott Brown, the curious incident was what he didn’t, or wouldn’t say….
First, let me be positive by saying that Brown was a perfect gentleman, calling Mar-Mar about two weeks ahead to thank her for hosting the event, and was gracious with us in person. Gail was truly a delight to meet, too.
Also, as a former military officer, we appreciate his service, and are predisposed to give him a respectful hearing. (We also expect to hear about his oath and fidelity to the constitution.)
The curious part began with the call in the afternoon before the event, when Brown personally asked me to ensure that there would be no video recording “In order that the discussion would be uninhibited”. I mentioned that blogger(s) would be present, and specifically asked whether he’d consider a separate micro-interview with Skip – no dice.
A little later, I got callback from long time GOP operative, Andy Leach – as far as I could tell, the calls were not related, since I had called Andy earlier to ask if he was attending, and whether there was any collateral (EG signs) to help welcome Brown. In the call, we touched on the no recording policy, and Leach’s insistence was that it wasn’t The Grok taking things out of context, but the ability of Dem trackers to take a snippet of our video out of context.
Well, if you think like that, you’ll avoid all cameras and microphones, which is not what we typically see with politicians, but we soon found a much more compelling reason for avoiding cameras: He has nothing of substance to say, and no policy positions to stand on!
As Skip noted, Brown had clearly been warned about hostile bloggers, but he completely failed to grasp to opportunity which was presented: Neither Skip nor I are interested in “gotcha” reporting like the drones from ThinkProgress, who are no doubt already on the case. What we are interested in is the man who desires to be the next Ambassador from the Sovereign State of New Hampshire to the Federal Government, and how well his principles and philosophy mesh with that of NH conservatives.
We were sorely disappointed: After his own version of “The boy from Hope, AR”, the mis-spent youth, the old-fashioned judge who straightened him out, the military service (Thankyou, Sir), etc., Brown gave his own version of “The Unity Speech”, AKA “Any Republican is a good Republican – so vote for me!”
In addition, as well as getting in Skip’s face about misrepresenting his very public shortcomings and positions, Brown continued to point to Skip every time a topic came up where he thought he’d been unfairly characterized as lacking in principles, as if Skip and The Grok were the primary obstacles to his coronation.
Brown railed against Obama’s policies, Shaheen as a rubber stamp for them, excessive taxation and regulation, and the usual litany, then prescribed the usual cure – a Republican majority – never mind the quality, just count the butts in seats, especially those committee chairs!
After he’d told us how he hates excessive regulation, and how he supports school choice, local decisions, charter schools, home schooling, vouchers and the whole nine yards, including the ominous line “getting you the help you need”, I had an opening: I asked him if, based on those positions, he favored the elimination of the Department of Education (Something that conservatives have wanted ever since Carter created it). Much waffling, but basically no shrinkage of the Leviathan State there. Worse, when answering a subsequent question, he let on that he thought Arne Duncan was a pretty good Education Secretary, and better than the average Obama appointee (a very low bar to clear).
On the 2nd Amendment, as Skip noted, aside from blaming others for the poor opinion that NH conservatives have of his position, he whined about how his NRA rating fell as a result of remarks, not actual votes. Listen, if you fell into the trap of “must do something about ‘assault’ weapons” after Newtown, that means (A) you don’t have a principled position to stand on, and (B) you don’t have the courage of your supposed 2nd Amendment convictions. Listen, I bet ‘Scared’ Shurtleff loves to shoot his guns as well, but he, too, does not trust the plebes with them.
What blew it for me was Brown’s insistence that we’d never have to worry about gun control coming up if we just had a Republican majority in the Senate! Hah! Perhaps he should actually talk to a few New Hampshire-ites about GOP Senates and gun control Trust me Senator Brown – principles matter!
Then there was the little matter of the Constitution – when asked a question which went to the heart of the Constitution, Brown waffled as usual, but what he did say was remarkable – paraphrasing: “The constitution has been amended and altered by countless judicial decisions as it evolves to keep pace with the needs of society”!
OH. MY. GOD!! A living Constitution advocate! THAT, Sir, is a Disqualifying Statement!
All the questions went the same way -whether softball or hardball, they did not elicit any concrete statement of principle or philosophy, but just general platitudes about fixing broken Washington, and getting things done. He obviously doesn’t understand the basics of the Constitution: At the Federal level, we need very few laws at all – just the common defense and sound budgets – it is rightfully HARD to pass laws.
After a few questions, I had a very uncomfortable feeling – like trying to look through a highly polished glass column to see the truth, or see inside a cloak of invisibility, or stand on a teflon floor in low gravity – in other words, it was impossible to get a grip on his positions on anything except “vote for me, I’m the lesser evil”.