Friday, October 29, 2004
The Fairlfield County Weekly Thursday endorsed Democratic Westport First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell for Congress over incumbent Republican Rep. Christopher Shays.
The text of the editorial:
Christopher Shays can’t be used to this. According to a University of Connecticut poll, he leads his opponent, Diane Farrell, by about 7 percent. Some candidates would give a kidney for that kind of margin. Not Shays.
Since he joined the U.S. House of Representatives 17 years ago, he’s more used to giving his challenger a 20-point behind-the-woodshed whipping. People like him. He’s considered honest, independent, thoughtful.
Diane Farrell, Westport’s first selectwoman, has taken on the Fourth District fixture that is Shays. In her tenure there, she’s become deeply involved with regional issues. She’s helped build a fancy senior center. She’s spearheaded a rebuilding of Westport’s schools. She’s also, thanks to that project and revaluation, raised taxes considerably.
Farrell has brought in the big guns in support of her candidacy. Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Ann Richardson have all visited the district on her behalf. Former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker has endorsed her, as have a number of groups including Emily’s List, which offers financial support to female candidates.
Most importantly, she’s left every other Democratic challenger in the dust in terms of fundraising. When the people with bucks think you can win, then you can win.
Throughout her campaign, Farrell has forwarded two cardinal principles.
These are: Shays has abandoned his status as a maverick and thrown his lot in with a changed Republican Party that has, under the influence of the Bush regime, shifted far to the right of the typical Fourth District voter. And, two, in his pursuit of national recognition—consider his work in campaign finance reform and his deep involvement with national security issues—Shays has forgotten his own constituents, a condition that has, among other things, caused him to fail to properly address burning needs back home. The chief need being, in Farrell’s mind, more money from Washington, D.C., to improve transportation in southwestern Connecticut.
The first point is debatable. Shays has voted for Bush’s tax cuts and has vocally supported, and continues to support, the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, yet he has swum against the tide in his support for the late, lamented assault weapons ban and has offended both parties in his quest for meaningful campaign finance reform.
Furthermore, in the spirit of lies, damn lies and statistics, while the chart Farrell carries with her from campaign stop to campaign stop shows Shays to be with the Republican majority on an overwhelming percentage of his votes in Congress, other non-partisan reports show that he follows his party’s lead with much less frequency.
And it should not be forgotten that Shays has consistently defended a woman’s right to choose abortion, has been a longstanding friend of the environment and has repeatedly said that he simply can’t understand how gay marriage affects the sanctity and standing of his own and, therefore, finds the idea of a constitutional amendment barring the practice unsupportable. This, he said, is a matter that should be left to the states. Not your typical proto-fascist.
As regards transportation, Farrell is correct. Metro-North trains are ancient, filthy and about as reliable in inclement winter weather as a Geo Metro. Interstate 95 ... well, the less said about that, the better, for an accurate description of travel on that highway would require more profanity than our vocabulary holds.
Yes, Rep. Rob Simmons of the Second District has garnered $45 million in earmarked transportation funds for his district while Shays, over the same period of time, has brought back about $30 million less. Shays, if reelected, must do better on this front. Farrell says that if elected she will.
While, in fact, transportation in the Fourth District, and Connecticut as a whole, is clearly fubar, Farrell’s plan to do so doesn’t engender much confidence. It seems to consist chiefly of insisting that her party’s leadership appoint her to the transportation committee and strolling around D.C., hat in hand, demanding money.
While persistence can be a virtue, it is not a plan.
Farrell has a subset of particular criticisms of Shays’ record (which, admittedly, are easier for her to come up with in the context of a race against a long-term incumbent. He has a record. She, aside from her time in Westport, doesn’t.) that hit home a bit harder.
Her forthrightness, especially in one of the wealthier congressional districts, regarding the need to roll back tax cuts for the highest earning Americans, is laudable. Shays has maintained his support of the Bush tax plan and maintains that the economy is doing quite well, considering the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Farrell’s opposition to the No Child Left Behind act, which she said represents an utter lack of understanding regarding how children learn and of how to close the achievement gap while passing huge administrative costs down to the local level, is also appealing. While it’s difficult to see what Farrell could do on her own to change national education policy, or any other national policy for that matter, her position on these issues is more in tune with ours than Shays’.
That said, Shays is, on the whole, a good egg. As is Farrell. One would need the wisdom of Solomon to decide this one ... were it not for one pesky little thing. The war in Iraq.
We’re loath to bring up Vietnam again; Bush and Kerry and all the little political flies buzzing around their campaigns have done that enough. But, it must be noted that during that war Shays was a conscientious objector. Apparently thinking that it was the wrong war at the wrong time, Shays opted to serve in the Peace Corps rather than in the military.
In and of itself, this is a fine thing. Shays merits respect for having made the choice he did.
Yet, today, he is unequivocal in his support for the war in Iraq. He, in fact, suggests that America must go further to defeat terrorism and that it is acceptable, even necessary, to use American military force unilaterally and preemptively in its defense.
Shays, stating the obvious, says that he has changed since Vietnam. Sept. 11, he told the audience at a Greenwich Chamber of Commerce luncheon, “was a wake up call from hell.” America, he said, had been asleep from the taking of hostages in Iran in 1979, through the attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut, through the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, through the embassy bombings.
One might say that there’s little if any proof that Iraq in general and Saddam Hussein in particular had anything to do with these aforementioned acts of terrorism.
To this, Shays says, “It’s like saying Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with Hitler’s Germany.” To this, we say, Pearl Harbor had much more to do with Japanese imperial ambitions, the hostage taking in Iran had more to do with that country’s own Islamist revolution, Beirut was the act of Hezbollah and the Cole and the embassy bombings were the deeds of Osama bin Laden (remember him?) and Al Qaeda.
So, again Mr. Shays, why Iraq? And why have you substituted the principles that allowed you to avoid service in Vietnam with ones that allow you to passionately advocate a policy that has resulted in the death of more than 1,000 who volunteered to serve?
You say, “I’ve changed to the reality of 17 years of education about the threat.” We say, unless there’s something you’re keeping from your constituents, some palpable threat that emanated from Iraq, we may be able to understand how you changed your position regarding war, but we cannot understand why you chose to actualize your change of heart by backing Bush policies in Iraq.
Farrell doesn’t downplay the threat of terrorism. No thinking person can. Farrell wants to see bin Laden captured. She is fully aware that Hussein led an oppressive, criminal regime in Iraq. She also wishes democracy for Iraqis. But, she said, she would have voted to give Bush the power to invade only if the weapons inspectors were given time to complete their work. Of course, we now know that had they been permitted to do so, Bush’s reason to go to war would have been nullified.
She wants America to pay more attention to nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. And, if any military action must be taken in these countries, she wants other countries involved in the planning, the decision making and in sharing the economic burden. While the United States is the world’s only superpower, it is not the only citizen of the world. And consultation doesn’t always mean appeasement or the relinquishment of national prerogatives. What it does is increase the likelihood that what we’re seeing happen in Iraq today does not happen again—a successful military action with a destructive peace.
This is not ignorance of the threat of terrorism. This is prudence. This is reason.
This is not the position of Christopher Shays.
Shays says he’s comfortable winning or losing the election on this point. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
The Weekly endorses Diane Farrell.
Posted 10/29/04 at 08:45 AM Permalink