Author Archive: Scott Shields

Moran Blows It

As a columnist, I like Tom Moran. A lot. And I know quite a few people who know him personally and speak very highly of him. But I’ve got to say that I found something in his Star-Ledger column this morning really offensive. Here’s a comment he made on Senator Menendez’s deep involvement in Congressional immigration talks.

No one was closer to the action on this one than U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), himself an immigrant from Cuba, and one of only three Latino senators.

Senator Menendez is not “an immigrant from Cuba.” And what bothers me is that Tom Moran knows this. It’s the Senator’s parents that were immigrants from Cuba. Menendez himself was born right across the Hudson in New York City.

It could easily be said that the offensive part here is that Moran assumed Menendez was an immigrant just because he’s Hispanic. But at no point would I ever assume that Tom Moran of all people would make a mistake like this based on any sort of inherent racism. Rather, it’s the sloppiness of the claim that is so offensive. Moran just had to endure a year’s worth of biographical information about the Senator — he knows better. This kind of laziness has no place in otherwise solid journalism.

All Politics Is Local… Even Online

It’s easy to get comfy at progressive political sites like Blue Jersey. As Jonathan Chait profiled recently in The New Republic, the progressive netroots is a well-developed movement of like-minded activists who share common goals, common language, and a basic understanding that we’re essentially all on the same side.

But our corner of the blogosphere, large as it might be, isn’t the end-all-be-all of online communications. Take, for example, community blogging. I have a lot of respect for people whose sites focus on the needs and interests of their neighbors. It’s not about furthering an agenda, building a narrative, or preaching to the choir so much as it is giving your community a place to engage in discussion online. One great example of this is Hoboken411.

And Now, Your Michael Wildes Moment of Zen

Following up on the Inside Edge post awarding Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes — and BCDO candidate for Senate in the 37th — the “Roger Chugh Award for the most extensive online ego wall,” I thought I’d post my personal favorite from the gallery.  Here’s the Mayor presenting the one and only Michael Bolton with the key to the city of Englewood.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Democratic Staffers In The Right-Wing Machine

When I think of Congressmen Steve Rothman and Donald Payne, “conservative” is just about the last word that pops into my head. Am I worried about either of their progressive bona fides? Not really. However, I’m a little concerned about the choices made by some of their staffers. Two, to be precise.

Shelly Stoneman serves as Rothman’s Legislative Director, as well as Military and Foreign Policy LA. Kerry McKenney is Payne’s Legislative Director and Press Secretary, a juxtaposition I don’t quite get, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that no one serving at the pleasure of New Jersey’s progressive voters should be attending conferences put together by the right-wing Mercatus Institute. And yet, according to records of travel by Congressional staffers analyzed by Kagro X at Daily Kos, that is exactly what each of them did in February of this year.

The Mercatus Center bills themselves quite vaguely as “a research center focused on improving our understanding of how societies transition to prosperity and remain prosperous over time.” However, a more detailed analysis of their work can be found in a Wall Street Journal article reposted at their own website:

When it comes to business regulation in Washington, Mercatus, Latin for market, has become the most important think tank you’ve never heard of. Staffed by veterans of the White House office that reviews and often scales back proposed rules, Mercatus, with its free-market philosophy, has become a kind of shadow regulatory authority. The White House’s top regulator, John Graham, was briefly a member of Mercatus’s board of advisers before taking the government post.

And an analysis of their financial support network, done in early 2005 by MyDD’s Chris Bowers, explains their interest in so-called “free-market” deregulation. Familiar right-wing names like Koch, Olin, and Scaife have pumped tens of millions of dollars into the organization since its founding in 1985. The Mercatus agenda can be summed up as the wholesale destruction of any and all government oversight of big business, consequences be damned.

The only other member of the New Jersey delegation with staff at the conference was Scott Garrett, whose Chief of Staff Michelle Presson was in attendance. While it makes perfect sense that Garrett’s staff would work in association with a group like Mercatus — he’s a far-right Representative, they’re a far-right think-tank — it doesn’t speak well of either Payne or Rothman to have their names associated with the Mercatus Center.

I’m not suggesting that Stoneman or McKenney should be run out on a rail for attending one Mercatus conference. But we really ought to make it clear to our lawmakers that corporatist, anti-government think-tanks like Mercatus are not to be considered honest or credible sources of information or training for their staffers.

Phonebanking for Menendez – This Week!

So many people have been asking me what they can do to help Senator Bob Menendez get elected this November. Nearly every time I meet someone new, they express to me just how important they see this election as being. And they’re right. The contrast in this race could not be more clear — Bob opposed the Iraq War, Junior supports it; Bob has led the fight against Social Security privatization, Junior’s expressed support for it; etc, etc. One candidate will stand up to the Bush agenda, while one will help enable it.

Drawing a False Equivalence

In this day and age of he said/he said reporting, it’s all too common for reporters and pundits to draw false equivalences between candidates, declaring a pox on both of their houses. We’ve seen it most prominently of late in reference to Jack Abramoff, with reporters failing to draw a distinction between Republicans taking Abramoff’s money and Democrats taking money from the Indian tribes who Abramoff has worked for. It’s created a story where none previously existed.

Well, even though I think New Jersey’s reporters tend to be better than that (you know… home team bias), the same dynamic can be found in this morning’s Star Ledger editorial on the Senate race. The Ledger’s editorial board, in asking the two major party candidates to ‘try the high road,’ draws a clearly false equivalence between the conduct of the Kean and Menendez campaigns.

Getting Ready For Tonight’s Debate

(Join us tonight for a debate open thread, with commentary from Rep. Frank Pallone and Rep. Rush Holt.)

Yesterday’s televised debate between Senator Menendez and Tom Kean, Jr. exposed a massive gap between the two candidates. While the Senator displayed a strong command of the issues and the ability to discuss them, Kean, Jr. proved why people say he’s just too junior for Jersey. He stumbled over his words, froze up in front of the camera, and garbled his way through his well-rehearsed comments. It wasn’t pretty and, even though it might have worked for Bush, it wasn’t endearing.

And despite being very publicly smacked down by both the New York Times and Star Ledger for attempting to mount a Swift Boat attack on Menendez, he stupidly stuck to his talking points, spouting the same easily debunked ad hominem attacks. I guess for Kean, Jr., stay the course isn’t just for Iraq anymore.

Tonight, there’s another televised debate between the two, live at 8PM on NJN. Junior originally tried to weasel his way out of it, claiming a conflict with Senate business, but Majority Leader Dick Codey gave the kid a hall pass to go all the way across Trenton for the debate. Here’s hoping he’ll stay off of Route 1.

For those of you interested in watching outside of New Jersey — or for those of you addicted to your computer screens — you can stream it online.  The link can be found at NJN’s website, http://www.njn.net/newspublicaffairs/coverage/senatedebate06.html.

Here at Blue Jersey, there will be another open thread to discuss the debate, this time hosted by myself on behalf of the campaign. It should be a pretty fun forum, with two Blue Jersey favorites — Congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone — joining us for some running commentary. Should be a fun night!

Tom Kean, Jr. Runs Away (Literally) From The Fight

(Cross-posted at MyDD and Daily Kos)

All of us here at the Menendez campaign have been pretty fed up with the petty attacks against the Senator, from NJ GOP chairman Tom Wilson’s Ann Coulter-isms to Kean, Jr.’s own vague and unfounded personal attacks. Now, there are a few options for responding to this kind of Rove-style campaign. You can ignore it. You can send out surrogates to protest. Or you can confront the tactics, head on. Senator Menendez insisted on the latter.

As Juan wrote about earlier, on Friday morning in Atlantic City, at a meeting of the New Jersey Association of Counties, Senator Menendez had some choice words for Tom Kean, Jr..

My record is clear, and I will not stand by another minute and let my opponent malign me or my service to the people I have represented throughout my career.  Tom, you may be playing with George Bush’s campaign playbook, but you’re on the field with a different kind of Democrat….

One week ago, his state party chairman stooped to the lowest form of politics, and said that if I had my way, the terrorist Zarqawi would still be alive to murder innocents in Iraq and plot attacks against our country.  And Tom Kean, Jr.?  No, rebuke, no apology, not a word.

That’s not a campaign of courage, that’s a campaign of cowardice.

You have to earn the right to talk about honesty and integrity and frankly Tom, when it comes to ethics and character, you have no standing to lecture anyone.

What was Kean’s response to the speech? Well, even though he was supposed to be sitting on the stage with Senator Menendez, he chickened out and waited outside until the Senator was done speaking. He then went up to the podium and delivered the same canned speech he’d been planning all along, with absolutely no response to the Senator’s comments. After Kean, Jr. spoke, reporters tried to get him on the record. No such luck. As Josh Gohlke of the Bergen Record put it, Kean and his crew “stampeded down a carpeted hallway and into an elevator.”

Several reporters managed to keep up, blurting out questions the candidate was determined not to answer.

Did he care to respond to Democratic candidate Robert Menendez’s scathing speech just a few minutes earlier in the same ballroom? Was he, as Menendez charged, a lightweight armed only with empty attacks?

The Kean contingent stampeded down a carpeted hallway and into an elevator. The reporters and questions squeezed into it with them. Kean kept repeating a few slogans.

“I’m proud of both my record and my vision for the future of the country,” Kean reiterated, this time with finality, as everyone spilled back out of the elevator and he hurried off. “Thank you very much!”

After talking for a few minutes, the reporters realized they had entered and exited the elevator on the same floor. So ended a strange episode in a campaign that is reaching impressive levels of absurdity, given that it’s only June.

When the only impressive aspect of his campaign is the new level of absurdity he’s been able to reach, Tom Kean, Jr.’s got to be wondering what he’s doing in this race at all. The Beltway Republicans think they’re going to win this race the same way they’ve won races all across the country — shoveling fear and smear. Welcome to Jersey, Rove. It’s not going to work this time.