Judging from the Siena Research Institute's latest sample survey results, the tide of opinion on the contest to elect a member of the United States House of Representatives for the 20th District of New York State—including GreeneLand--has turned in favor of the challenger. As of late October, Christopher Gibson, the Republican (and Conservative) nominee, apparently led in popularity among likely voters over the incumbent, Scott Murphy, the Democratic (and Independence, and Working Families) nominee. That marks a reversal of earlier survey findings. It also portends, in my judgment, a result that would be unfortunate. Here, mostly in the form of knocks on Gibson, is my rationale:
SITE-SEEING. For modern voters, plentiful information about contestants for elective office is readily available. Through the News link on Google, voter can review reports of what has lately been said by and about the candidates. Also richly illuminating, though biased, are the candidates’ campaign web sites. Readers of Seeing Greene are directed accordingly to http://scottmurphyforcongress.com and http://chrisgibsonforcongress.com. There they will find biographical notes that do credit to both candidates. They will find lists and texts of endorsements. They will find “Issues” sections that illuminate differences in policy stands. They also will find a big contrast in the depth, the substance, of the candidates' attention to current issues. By that standard, Mr Gibson wins the prize for shallowness.
ENDORSEMENTS. Congressman Murphy’s bid for re-election has attracted support from the editorial boards of the 20th District’s pre-eminent newspapers, The TimesUnion of Albany and The Poughkeepsie Journal, as well as from The New York Times. Also endorsing Mr Murphy’s re-election are these papers: Bennington Banner, Glens Falls Post-Star, Oneonta Daily Star, Columbia Paper, Daily Freeman, Millbrook Independent and Lake George Mirror News. Mr Gibson is endorsed by The New York Post, The Register-Star and its sister The Daily Mail, The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, The Saratogian and The Troy Record. [This section was inserted on November 1]
BAD THINKING. At an early stage of his congressional campaign (see Daily Mail, 5/28/10), Mr Gibson reverently invoked two sentences that were made famous by Pres. Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.” A moment’s reflection suffices to expose the vapidity of those words:There is no problem that is The problem. There is no solution that is The solution. Various problems arise in communities. Various proposals aimed at solutions are voiced. Some of them involve positive governmental (regulatory, law-making, resource-allocating) activity; some call for removing government regulations. To think of “government” as an It that can be The solution or The problem is worse than naïve.
BAD CONDUCT. In the Poughkeepsie Journal of September 26, Chris Gibson was quoted directly as saying “I would not have voted for” a bill, the Small Business Jobs Act, that had come before the House of Representatives and had been supported by Congressman Murphy. (The reporter, Brian Tumulty, did not say where, when, or in what form Mr Gibson made that statement). On October 13, during a videotaped joint interchange of Gibson and Murphy with the Journal’s editorial board (Poughkeepsie Journal Ed Board, 10/13/10), Mr Gibson said “I would not have voted against this bill.” Mr Murphy voiced surprise at the latter statement, and his campaign promptly put out a news release calling attention to the apparent flip-flop. Mr Gibson then responded by ascribing the first statement to a staff error; his spokesman has misunderstood his position, and thus had put the wrong words in his mouth.
Errors of that sort do occur. What speaks ill of Mr Gibson, however—speaks ill of his character—is the fact that he did not promptly correct the alleged error. He did not put out a clarifying statement. Even at the October 13 session (17 days later), he did not acknowledge the discrepancy and offer an explanation.
(At the Journal encounter, following Mr Murphy’s remark about his apparent change of position on the Small Business bill, Mr Gibson falsely accused Mr Murphy of flip-flopping on “the” comprehensive health care bill. No bill that came before the House of Representatives was “the” health care bill. As Mr Murphy pointed out, he voted against one health care bill, and voted in favor of a different, revised health care bill. The false flip-flop charge later was trumpeted by the Gibson camp in attack advertising).
BAD COMPANY? Colonel Gibson’s career has encompassed not only tours of duty in combat zones but also, to an extraordinary extent, ‘civilian’ occupations. While serving in the Army, this professional soldier officer undertook post-graduate study at Cornell University, earning Masters and Doctoral degrees in political science. He also worked in Washington DC as a Congressional Fellow and in Palo Alto, CA, as a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution that is housed on the Stanford University campus. These assignments can be regarded as exceptionally broadening experiences for a professional soldier and prospective Congressman. They also can be viewed as red flags. Thus:
*As a Congressional Fellow, Mr Gibson worked in the office of Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Los Angeles-based Republican who chaired the powerful Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee of the powerful Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives. Mr Lewis has been scored, by the non-partisan Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), year after year, as one of the “most corrupt” members of the Congress. (www.citizensforethics.org/projects/reports)
*As a Hoover Institution resident, Mr Gibson drew inspiration and guidance from the West Coast outpost of pseudo-intellectual “neo-conservatism.” Hoover Fellows relate to the idea of impartial objective scholarship as the Fox network relates to impartial objective news.
BAD MEDICINE. The Murphy and Gibson campaigns present, as one would expect, contrasting themes and prescriptions. Mr Murphy harps on jobs—on the current scarcity of jobs, on measures that can stimulate job creation. For Mr Murphy that emphasis is doubly appealing: it taps into a strong current of popular feeling, and it heightens the electoral appeal of a successful business enterpriser over a just-retired professional soldier. The Gibson campaign too dwells on the urgency of economic revival. Thus, an August fund-raising appeal alluded to “Chris' vision for less taxes, lower spending and more freedoms that will allow private sector job creation.” At a Catskill rally in August (Daily Mail, 8/24) he touted the importance of “targeted tax and regulatory relief.” Supporters hail Mr Gibson as the candidate who will fight to “cut government spending and create jobs” (http://freedomproject.org, inviting the happy inference that the former will deliver the latter. And at the outset of the “Issues” section of his campaign web site, Mr Gibson declares that
The single biggest issue in this campaign is the economy and the most significant difference between me and my opponent is how we facilitate private sector growth…. [This growth] is achieved by getting government out of the way.
What an easy, happy, painless cure. Reduce tax rates, strip away government regulations, and happy days are here again.
Unfortunately, Mr Gibson neglects to back that prescription with testimony from reputable economists. He does not (on the hustings or on his web site) name the more onerous, suffocating regulations. He does not draw upon experience. Thus, he does not suggest that the Crash of 1929, and the ensuing Great Depression, was preceded, much less caused, by a rash of tax increases or regulations. He does not challenge the widely held view that our present economic plight was triggered mainly by the sub-prime mortgage mess—foreclosures, bankruptcies, construction freezes, job losses—whose occurrence was preceded and was indispensably expedited, for banks and investment houses, by deregulation.