(DIS)ENDORSEMENT. On Wednesday the REPUBLICAN candidate for election to the House of Representatives from District 21 (
SWEENEY ENDORSED. Friday's Saratogian carried an endorsement of Mr Sweeney for re-election, with “effectiveness at securing federal funds” cited as the decisive consideration. At the same time, the editorial faults Mr Sweeney for (1) a “lame” excuse for refusing to debate his opponent, (2) improper “junkets” at taxpayer expense, (3) “unsettling” behavior with regard to that 911 domestic dispute report (discounting it, then promising to see that it is made public, then reneging), and (4) pitching imprudently into the “nastiest, dirtiest” of political campaigns.
Also endorsing Mr Sweeney, this morning, was The Troy Record. While saying "we are closer to Gillibrand's positions than Sweeney's" on most issues, the editorial recommended Mr Sweeney in light of his "track record of bringing home millions for the district and working on its behalf." Mr Sweeney "knows how to play the game." He is "in a position to ensure that New York state and his district get their fair share in federal funding." (About that line of reasoning, see Specious Argument, below).
GILLIBRAND ENDORSED. Yesterday’s Register-Star and Daily Mail carried a joint endorsement of Ms Gillibrand. While acknowledging that Mr Sweeney “certainly has brought home funding for any number of projects” the editorial credits Ms Gillibrand with superiority of wit and “platform.” (The editorial also said “Residents of Columbia and Greene counties have had ringside seats for the heavyweight bout” between the Congressional candidates. That characterization is warranted by the volume and terms of the contestants’ television advertisements, but is not warranted by Daily Mail coverage of the campaign. Until yesterday, and in contrast to all other District 20 dailies, there hadn’t been any. Readers of
SWEENEY DISENDORSED. Last Sunday the Post-Star of
THE DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE. The Post-Star reversal stemmed from events that received lavish publicity (across the country) on Wednesday and Thursday. Three newspapers published the reputed text of a State police report about a 911/domestic disturbance call back in December, from Mr Sweeney’s wife. News organizations had tried for months to obtain the report. In spite of their appeals to the Freedom of Information Act, they had been thwarted. Finally, they did obtain a copy. They published it along with accounts of their struggle and of how Mr Sweeney, his wife, and his spokespeople responded to invitations to comment. The respondents initially were silent or denied the authenticity of the well authenticated report, and they claimed to be victims of a mendacious attack from the Gillibrand camp. The Sweeneys said they wanted the ‘real’ report released, but they did not take the necessary steps to make that happen. The TimesUnion editorial board, the New York Daily News (!) and the Associated Press offered to expedite the paper work, but “the Congressman angrily refused.” He also denounced the media for puffing up a “non-issue.” His “curt dismissal of the domestic violence incident as a ‘non-issue’,” says The Post-Star, “demonstrates that [Sweeney] either doesn’t understand the seriousness of this matter as it relates to his role as a member of Congress, or that he simply hopes to divert attention from it so he can win the election.” His conduct “reflects disturbingly not only on his character, but on his credibility to serve effectively as a representative of all the people.”
RALLY. Dominating news about the Sweeney-Gillibrand race on Thursday night and Friday morning were accounts of the star-studded rally in Clifton Park, in which Mr Sweeney’s re-election was urged by Governor George Pataki, by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and by State Senate minority leader Joe Bruno. Governor Pataki hailed Mr Sweeney as a “good man” who has brought benefits aplenty to his district. Mr Giuliani urged the re-election of Mr Sweeney for the sake of maintaining a sound Republican-led national security posture. Senator Bruno depicted Mr Sweeney as the victim of an extraordinarily “vicious, slanderous, libelous” campaign waged by a candidate who merely wants a job. (He did not identify the slanders. And if she does get the job, Ms Gillibrand will be taking a pay cut). According to Maury Thompson of the Post-Star, the visitors and Mr Sweeney refused to take questions after the rally; Mr Giuliani’s version of Mr Sweeney’s position on the Patriot Act was counter-factual.
SPECIOUS ARGUMENT. When not engaged in damning his opponent, Congressman Sweeney pins his case for re-election on his record of service--tangible service; Federal dollars--to constituents. That approach to evaluation also is the one that has been invoked regularly by Mr Sweeney’s supporters, from Governor Pataki on down. It is the basis of the Saratogian and Troy Record endorsements of Mr Sweeney, despite misgivings. It is an attractive line of argument. It seems to be as legitimate and rational as other approaches to assessing candidates, such as reputed ideology or values, policy stands, looks, political bedfellows, voting records or personal character. And in Mr Sweeney’s case, the Services Rendered theme serves the dual purpose of diverting attention from those other tests of merit and of highlighting the fact that Mr Sweeney has indeed been extraordinarily effective at steering Federal dollars (or rather, taxpayers’ dollars) to local projects. For that work, Mr Sweeney surely deserves credit. But a high score on Services Rendered does not yield a strong case for retaining the service provider. It is does not suffice to support the expectation that the candidate, if re-elected, would continue to be an effective service provider. The key question here is whether Mr Sweeney would (as The Troy Record so glibly assumes) continue to be "in a position" to bring home the bacon. And the answer is No. Mr Sweeney’s success as service provider has derived, in no small measure, from being a member, and a particularly staunch member, of the House of Representatives’ ruling party. His potential future success as a service provider depends on continuing to be a member of the ruling party. But on Tuesday, that vital condition will be extinguished. Events of the past year make it certain that on November 7th the Republicans will lose their grip on the House of Representatives. That transformation is anticipated confidently by the recognized impartial experts (Cook, Rothenberg, Congressional Quarterly, Sabato) but also by avidly “conservative” notables (Buckley, Buchanan, Brooks, Carlson, Coulter, Keene, Morris, Novak, Will…). The only uncertainty they express is over whether the Democrats will win a majority of House seats or a huge majority. In either case, the Democrats will gain control of the Speakership, committee assignments, the order of business, and appropriations of money for home-district projects. If Mr Sweeney were to buck the national trend sufficiently to be re-elected, he would become, for the first time, a member of the Republican minority. What is more, he would be remembered by the new House leaders as an exceptionally brutal Republican--a capo in the gang led by Tom "the Hammer" Delay. His ability to steer Federal money our way would be greatly diminished.
FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS. In the few hours since this blog first was posted, several battle-shaping events have transpired:
---Gillibrand Endorsed. Sunday’s TimesUnion contained a Gillibrand-endorsing editorial. While conceding that Mr Sweeney “has worked hard on behalf of his district” and “has boosted efforts to bring high-tech jobs” here, the editorial laments his “prominent and unapologetic support of deleterious Bush administration policies” and of the “ethically challenged House GOP leadership.” Praise for Ms Gillibrand’s positions and qualifications is coupled with affirmation that “It’s time for change in the 20th congressional district and across much of the country.”
---Bill Clinton Returning. A second pro-Gillibrand appearance by the former President of the