Monday, July 14, 2008



I was excited to give Joe Garcia's congressional campaign in Miami-Dade a little push Saturday when I saw an advance of Sunday's NY Times Magazine story, Will Little Havana Go Blue? David Rieff wrote a long superficial piece full of inaccuracies I didn't address. But I want to.

First off, Little Havana is neither in the district where Joe Garcia is challenging Mario Diaz-Balart or in the district where Raul Martinez is challenging Lincoln Diaz-Balart. It's in the decidedly less Republican part of Miami-Dade than either of those-- the district where Annette Taddeo, who was studiously ignored by Rieff, is challenging Bush rubber stamp Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Having spent a lot of time talking with Blue America's Orlando candidate, Alan Grayson, I've become aware that Cubans are no longer the majority among Spanish-speaking Floridians. Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Mexicans, etc-- by and large independents and Democrats, not Republicans-- make up the lion's share of Hispanic Floridians. And even in Little Havana itself, there are less Cubans than non-Cuban Hispanics. Rieff must have forgotten to mention this-- although it is the most crucial aspect in the election in the three South Florida congressional districts he's talking about.

As I read his piece, the first thing that jumped out at me as completely false and very misleading was on page two:
It had long been a commonplace of South Florida politics that greater Miami’s three Congressional representatives, Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers-- who are descended from a prominent pre-Castro political family-- could basically keep their seats for life, as previous South Florida congressmen like Claude Pepper and Dante Fascell did. But while Ros-Lehtinen is generally regarded as a shoo-in for re-election, the Diaz-Balart brothers are facing the first serious challenges of their careers. Instead of facing off against the comparative unknowns who have been the sacrificial lambs of the Democratic Party in the past in and around Miami, they are facing two extremely well-known (and surprisingly well-financed) Cuban-American Democrats: Raul Martinez, the controversial former mayor of the working-class (and overwhelmingly Cuban-American) city of Hialeah, just northwest of Miami, and a proven vote-getter for many years; and Joe Garcia, from his youth a protégé and then a trusted colleague of Jorge Mas Canosa’s and, after the older man’s death, his successor as head of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Immediately I smelled a rat-- a big stinking DCCC rat. I knew immediately Florida's sleaziest member of Congress, Debbie Wasserman Shultz must have managed to work her black magic on Rieff's story. You may-- or may not-- recall that in March Wasserman Schultz embarrassed Democrats nationwide by refusing to endorse the 3 Democratic candidates, Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez and Annette Taddeo and instead seemed to urge, if indirectly, the re-election of her three far right cronies, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and, most strenuously, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. What makes this especially awkward is that Wasserman Schultz is the chair of the DCCC's already highly distrusted and unethical Red to Blue campaign. That and the fact that she is a funnel for far right Cuban money to Democratic members of the House and for sugar cane money (which is behind anything that will keep the U.S. from normal relations with Cuba). In fact, let me go on a brief tangent here for a moment, to help everyone get a better picture of what a complete bucket of slime Wasserman Schultz is, since she has been very successful at portraying herself as an up-and-coming progressive Democrat with a bright future. This is from The August 15, 2007 Hill:
When Democrats gained control of Congress, hopes were high that Cuba travel and trade restrictions would be eased by a party historically opposed to a so-called hard line on Cuba.

So far, however, the Democratic-led House has been tougher on Cuba than when Republicans controlled the lower chamber.

Sixty-six House Democrats-- including 20 members of the freshman class-- recently voted against a farm bill amendment offered by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) that would have made it easier for U.S. farmers to sell agricultural goods to Cuba.

...Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was instrumental in winning Democratic votes against the Rangel amendment. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told The Miami Herald that Wasserman Schultz was “a tiger” on the Rangel vote, while Antonio Zamora of the U.S.-Cuba Legal Forum described her as a key party in building Democratic opposition.

“I was about as active as you could be,” said Wasserman Schultz, a second-termer who serves as a deputy chief whip for Democrats. At the same time, she said other members such as Reps. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) also worked hard to whip opposition.

...Wasserman Schultz’s position on Cuba puts her at odds with some Democratic leaders, but she said she has no worries that this might affect her if she seeks a higher leadership position in the future.

Two of the purveyors of DeLay-level corruption in the House leadership, Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn voted against Rangel's amendment (Emanuel abstained) as another right-wing front group in cahoots with Wasserman Schultz, US-Cuba Democracy PAC, forked over $320,000 to Democrats in the current cycle.
Fifty-two of the 66 Democrats who voted against Rangel’s amendment have received one or more contributions from the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC since the beginning of the 2007-2008 cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

It has given $56,000 to 22 Democratic freshmen this year, and 17 of those freshmen voted against Rangel’s amendment. The giving began during the run-up to the 2006 election. Freshman Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Phil Hare (D-Ill.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Zack Space (D-Ohio) and Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio) received donations before they were elected, and all but Giffords voted against Rangel’s amendment.

The votes of the freshmen are a concern to those who believe the current U.S. policy on Cuba is ineffective. “At this point we must as a matter of urgency prevent a generation of Democratic legislators from becoming permanent embargo supporters,” wrote Robert Muse, a Washington, D.C., lawyer with expertise in U.S.-Cuban policy, in an analysis of the vote.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a PAC which has given nearly a quarter million dollars to Democrats running for re-election and election in the House. Between the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and her own sleazy Democrats Win Seats PAC this is how much loot Wasserman Schultz was able to direct to Democratic freshmen willing to sell her their votes, even from congressmen representing agricultural districts where this amendment would have had widespread support. The first amount comes from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC and the second came directly from the shady Wasserman Schultz PAC:

Jason Altmire (PA-04) $8,000 + $5,000
Mike Arcuri (NY-24) $4,000 + $2,000
Bruce Braley (IA-01) $5,000
Chris Carney (PA-10) $7,000 + $7,500
Kathy Castor (FL-11) $2,000
Joe Donnelly (IN-02) $3,000 + $5,000
Brad Ellsworth (IN-08) $3,000 + $3,000
Gabby Giffords (AZ-08) $5,000 + $5,000
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY-20) $8,000 + $4,000
Phil Hare (IL-17) $9,000 + $1,000
Ron Klein (FL-22) $10,000 + $4,000
Tim Mahoney (FL-16) $10,000 + $7,500
Harry Mitchell (AZ-05) 0 + $4,000
Patrick Murphy (PA-08) $6,000 + $4,000
Joe Sestak (PA-07) $1,000 + $2,000
Heath Shuler (NC-11) $7,000 + $5,000
Albio Sires (NJ-13) $10,000
Zach Space (OH-18) $7,000 +$4,000

Let's get back to Florida. Regardless of Wasserman Schultz's shameful protection for her extremist pal Ileana, FL-18 is the most Democratic leaning (PVI- R +4) of the three districts and Annette's campaign is both well-organized and well-funded. Last year two state assembly seats in the district flipped from Republican top Democratic, a far better predictor than Wasserman Schultz' propaganda barrage on behalf of Ileana Ros Lehtinen. And FL-18 gave over 56% of it's vote to Senator Bill Nelson in 2006. Bush won there in 2004 with 54%-- as opposed to 57% in Lincoln Diaz-Balart's 21st CD (PVI- R+6) and to 56% in Mario Diaz-Balart's 25th CD (PVI- R+4). While the Diaz-Balarts pretty much acknowledge they are right-wing extremists and just count on tired anti-Castro rhetoric to get them elected over and over, Ros-Lehtinen though voting almost exactly the way the Diaz-Balarts vote (for the war, for illegal wiretaps, against children's health care, for tax breaks for the rich, etc), tries to paint it over with a thin veneer of being a "moderate." She isn't. Since October 10, 2002 she has participated in 63 votes regarding the war in Iraq. She voted the straight Bush-Cheney line 62 times and voted "against" them when the House decided to transform a grant into a loan. But when it comes to supporting our troops with health care or sufficient armor and pay increases, she voted against the troops each and every time-- 22 votes against the troops, zero votes for the troops. The fake moderate voted the exact same way on aid to veterans: 23 times against the vets, zero times for the vets. Does this sound "moderate?" Ileana Ros-Lehtinen opposes a woman's right to choice, even in the case of rape and/or incest. She isn't a moderate and she isn't an independent. She's no less extreme than the Diaz-Balarts-- and that is extreme.

Recent polling by Lake Research, the most respected Beltway polling firm, shows a very different story from the one Wasserman Schultz has been surreptitiously pushing out to the media. Although Annette is just starting to get known to most of the district, the poll shows she is already "positioned for a strong general election contest against [the] incumbent... After hearing a mix of positive and negative on both women, Taddeo pulls into a narrow lead over Ros-Lehtinen: 44% for Taddeo to 42% for Ros-Lehtinen." If Wasserman Schultz were a real Democrat she would be cheering this news instead of twisting it into negatives.
The voters’ strong desire for change, combined with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s close association with President Bush, places the incumbent Congresswoman in a vulnerable position. George W. Bush is enormously unpopular, with three-quarters of voters (75%) rating his job performance negatively, including over half the electorate (52%) who believe he is doing a poor job. This spells trouble for Ros-Lehtinen who has voted to support Bush’s policies 86% of the time. Voters’ dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership in Washington is fueling a strong mood for change, as two-thirds of the electorate (67%) believes things in the country are heading on the wrong track.

Voters prove receptive to Taddeo’s positions on a broad range of issues where Bush Republicans have failed the voters. Voters register strong dissatisfaction with Ros-Lehtinen’s lack of independence and misplaced priorities, including the lack of accomplishments on core issues including health care, economic issues, and the war in Iraq. The contrast between Taddeo’s platform and Ros-Lehtinen’s close adherence to the Bush Republican party line places Ros-Lehtinen at substantial risk at a time when voters are seeking fundamental change.

In addition to the weakness in Ros-Lehtinen’s existing support, the profile of the undecided vote looks very favorable for Taddeo. A 54% majority of undecided voters are self-described Democrats compared to just 19% who identify as Republicans. Perhaps more telling, just 6% of undecided voters say they plan on re-electing Ros-Lehtinen.

Debbie Cook, Darcy Burner, Howie, Annette Taddeo & Hilda Solis

The first I ever heard of Annette was from Joe Garcia telling me what a great candidate she is. But I noticed when the DCCC finally slapped down Wasserman Schultz and overrode her on Joe and on Raul Martinez, they still let her get her way on Ros-Lehtinen, the only one of the three not added to the Red to Blue list. Today I attended an event put on by 11 Democratic congresswomen from Southern California. Each of the 11 donated a minimum of $1,000 to each of 8 women who are running for Congress from around the country. As soon as I walked in Blue America incumbent-- and one of the event's hostesses-- Hilda Solis, introduced me to Annette about who she was extremely enthusiastic. It didn't take long before I understood why.

A successful entrepreneur, Annette is a thoughtful progressive who backs women's rights, gay rights, a quick, responsible end to the occupation of Iraq (which she has opposed from the very beginning of Bush's misadventure) and she is eager to work to get corporate bribes out of the political system. She took a strong position against warrantless wiretaps and retroactive immunity. She is extremely charismatic and made a spectacular speech during the lunch, if not stealing the show, at least sharing the spotlight with Linda Sanchez and Darcy Burner, each of whom also was greeted with thunderous applause.

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At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Snow, a true man died last week. Do you guys truly give a damn about this or is it back to the business of "Muckraking as Usual".

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Bruce said...

Tony Snow, in leaving, made the world a better place.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce: You sound like a "Great" guy. Don't forget to kick your dog tonight as you are coming up from your Mom's basement for dinner.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

I don't have a dog, but you'll do just fine. Look at it this way, at least his kids won't have an arrogant lying shill for a role model anymore.
Gotta go back to the basement now. I think I saw some Repugs creeping about in the damp dark corners. I love to pull their legs and antenae off, one by one.


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