Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ronald Reagan and the Jews

This was provided to us for reprinting on the Blog by

Ronald Reagan and the Jews
By: Jason Maoz, Senior Editor

Date: Wednesday, July 07, 2004

"Reagan I could trust." - Yitzhak Shamir

"He was unshakable; a staunch supporter." - Shimon Peres

For most of the 1980's, Ronald Wilson Reagan dominated the American political landscape as no man had since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The attitude of most Jews, however, was that Reagan's presence in the White House was a not altogether pleasant fact of life, something about which they could do nothing and for which they bore little responsibility.

Although Reagan's share of the Jewish vote in the 1980 election was 39 percent - the best showing among Jews for a Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower's 40 percent in 1956 - the number that really stands out all these years later is that while Reagan was winning a 44-state blowout victory in the nation at large, fully 61 percent of Jewish voters preferred either the incumbent, Democrat Jimmy Carter, or third-party candidate John Anderson.

If Reagan's landslide victory over Carter was greeted by a less than enthusiastic response from American Jewry - then even more than now one of the Democratic party's most loyal constituencies - the reaction was entirely different in Israel, where there were real fears of what another four years of a Carter administration would bring.

For Israeli officials, the fact that a candidate with strong pro-Israel credentials defeated Carter was merely icing on the cake; more important was the relief in at last being rid of a president they had long ceased viewing with anything but distrust. And they were equally pleased to bid adieu to the Carter foreign policy team, particularly the national security adviser, Zbiegnew Brzezinski, and the UN ambassador, Donald McHenry, who along with former Carter officials Cyrus Vance (secretary of state until mid-1980) and Andrew Young (McHenry's predecessor at the UN until late 1979) had been a constant impediment to warmer U.S.-Israel relations.

The Roots of His Commitment

Ronald Reagan had an instinctive affinity for Israel that Jimmy Carter plainly lacked. As an actor who spent decades in the heavily Jewish environment of Hollywood, and who counted scores of Jews among his friends and colleagues, Reagan moved easily in pro-Israel circles. Both as a private citizen and as governor of California he was a familiar sight and a favored speaker at various functions for Israel.When asked about his immunity to anti-Semitism, Reagan would credit his parents, often relating the story of how his father, a traveling salesman, was about to check in at a hotel in some remote area late one night when the desk clerk casually remarked, "I'm sure you'll enjoy it here; we don't allow any Jews." Whereupon Jack Reagan brusquely informed the clerk that he most definitely would not enjoy it there, grabbed his bag and walked out the door. He spent the night sleeping in his car.

Few experiences touched Reagan as deeply as did his viewing of Nazi death-camp newsreels. "From then on," he said, "I was concerned for the Jewish people."

"The newsreels of the death camps he had seen in 1946," wrote Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, "were such a vivid part of his memory that he was able to imagine... that he was actually at the site of the concentration camps when they were liberated by the Allied armies."

Indeed, in separate conversations, Reagan told then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center that he had filmed the camps and their grisly evidence of Nazi atrocities and had even kept a copy of the film for himself in case anyone would voice doubt about what the Nazis had done.

Contrary to his recollection, Reagan, who spent the war years in Hollywood working on propaganda films for the U.S. military, could not have filmed the camps himself. Given the nature of his wartime responsibilities, though, he certainly would have been one of the first Americans with access to those films.

Reagan's emotional reaction to the Holocaust sealed what would become a lifelong commitment to the Jewish state. And for better than four decades he never wavered in his certitude, even when, as president, he had his share of disagreements with Israeli leaders.

"I've believed many things in my life," Reagan stated in his memoirs, "but no conviction I've ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United states must ensure the survival of Israel."

Scrapping Carter's Foreign Policy

"Few presidents," wrote Steven Spiegel in The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict, a study of U.S. policy toward Israel, "have come to office with as specific a vision of the world as Ronald Reagan. The basic tenets of his policy could not have been more divergent from the principles of the Carter era: staunch anti-Communism, antagonism to the Soviet leadership, de-emphasis on the Third World as an object of U.S. concern, and a commitment to a dramatically increased defense budget."

As his first secretary of the state Reagan chose General Alexander Haig, former chief of staff in the Nixon White House and more recently supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe. Haig was described as 'a 100 percent supporter of Israel on all issues' by Caspar Weinberger, the secretary of defense with whom he often clashed.

Reagan's UN ambassador during his first term, the solidly pro-Israel Jeane Kirkpatrick, had been a professor of political science at Georgetown University. Her writings on the struggle between democracies and dictatorships caught Reagan's eye as he campaigned for the White House, and the thought struck him that this was precisely the clear, pro-American voice he wanted for his administration.

For the Middle East, the Reagan team initially visualized an alliance of shared interest between Israel and anti-radical Arab states, a plan that for obvious reasons proved unworkable.

"The administration," explained Spiegel, "planned to provide incentives to both the Israelis and Arabs so they would join the effort to block Russian expansion in the area. Reagan, who had gone further than any previous major candidate in celebrating the Jewish state as an important strategic asset to the United States, would offer the Israelis unprecedented cooperation and increased military assistance. Meanwhile, the Arabs, especially the Saudis, would be fortified with arms so that they could contribute to the effort. Each side would acquiesce in U.S. support for the other because of the assistance they were to be provided."

The plan sounded sensible, but its implementation was stymied by the Saudis' reluctance to be grouped, however loosely, with Israel. The administration, rather quickly, was forced to shelve its grandiose plan for an anti-Soviet alliance and concentrate instead on bolstering friendly nations in the region on an individual basis.

The Inevitability of Disagreement

Reagan inaugurated what Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman have termed the 'Solid Gold Era' in U.S.-Israel relations. Certainly the administration included individuals - most notably Weinberger - who were less than favorably disposed to Israel, but their influence was more than offset by the views of Haig, Kirkpatrick, a number of key non-cabinet level aides and, of course, Reagan himself.

Even so, Reagan - and this should underscore the inevitability of disagreement between Israel and even the friendliest of U.S. presidents - found himself engaged in a series of tiffs with the Israeli government, particularly during his first term.

The earliest friction concerned Israel's destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in June 1981. The U.S. voted with the rest of the UN Security Council to condemn the action, and briefly held up delivery of some F-16 aircraft to Israel, but the reaction was basically a slap on the wrist, with no permanent ramifications.

"Technically," Reagan wrote in his memoirs, "Israel had violated an agreement with us not to use U.S.-made weapons for offensive purposes, and some cabinet members wanted me to lean hard on Israel because it had broken this pledge.... I sympathized with [Prime Minister Menachem] Begin's motivations and privately believed we should give him the benefit of the doubt."

Later in 1981, a bitter fight was played out in Congress between the White House and supporters of Israel over the administration's decision to sell Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia. The sale was finally approved by a narrow margin, but the confrontation left bruised feelings and egos on both sides.

The fears of those who opposed the AWACS sale would, over time, come to be seen as overblown. Ironically, Israeli military leaders were never in the forefront of the AWACS opposition; according to Raviv and Melman, "the commanders of the Israeli air force - the officers most directly concerned - were willing to live with AWACS flying over Saudi Arabia. They did not see them as a serious threat to Israel's security."

The AWACS battle highlighted what many in Washington - and Jerusalem - felt was the needlessly abrasive personality of Menachem Begin. Their concern was underscored in 1981 when, just weeks after the Reagan administration signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel for closer military and strategic ties, Begin rammed a bill through the Knesset that in effect annexed the Golan Heights. The U.S. responded by suspending the memorandum, whereupon Begin delivered a blistering - and highly undiplomatic - tongue-lashing to the American ambassador in Israel.

Reagan's frustration with Begin reached a crisis point in June 1982 with Israel's invasion of Lebanon, a promised 'quick strike' that became a Vietnam-like quagmire for the Israeli army and an unprecedented military and public-relations fiasco for the Israeli government.

To make matters worse, it was during this tense period that Alexander Haig resigned as U.S. secretary of state. Haig's tenure had been marked by squabbles with other administration officials and his departure was hardly a shock, but the timing could not have been worse for Israel. (Haig's replacement, George Shultz, initially viewed with some wariness by supporters of Israel, would develop a surprisingly warm rapport with Israeli and American Jewish leaders.)

The U.S.-Israel relationship had grown strong enough to survive a major disaster like Lebanon, just as it would survive what some viewed as the overbearing personality of Menachem Begin; the failure of the so-called Reagan Plan, which called for a freeze on Israeli settlements and the eventual creation of a quasi-independent Palestinian entity; the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Israel played a major role; the ill-advised visit by Reagan to a German cemetery where the remains of SS soldiers were buried; the arrest and conviction of an American citizen, Jonathan Pollard, on charges of spying for Israel; and the administration's controversial 1988 decision to talk to the PLO after Yasir Arafat read some American-scripted lines about recognizing Israel.

Through it all, Reagan provided more military and financial aid to Israel than any of his predecessors, and the increased cooperation between American and Israeli intelligence services proved beneficial to both countries. Washington also worked closer with Israel on the economic front, and in 1985 the administration signed a landmark Free Trade Area agreement, long sought by Israel, which resulted in a hefty boost in Israeli exports to the U.S.

Soviet Jewry

The plight of Jews in the Soviet Union was bound to strike a sympathetic chord with someone as unbendingly anti-Communist as Ronald Reagan. Concern over the Russians' decades-long repression of Jewish religious expression and their refusal to allow 'refuseniks' to emigrate to Israel was woven into U.S. policy during the Reagan years.

"Reagan's interest in Soviet Jewry was immense; it was close to the first issue on the American agenda and was part of the confrontation between the two superpowers," Yitzhak Shamir told authors Deborah and Gerald Strober.

"The Soviet leaders," Shamir added, "told me that every time they met with Shultz, he raised the issue of Soviet Jewry, and they would ask him, 'Why do you do this?' Shultz answered that this was very important."

Elliott Abrams, who served under Shultz as an assistant secretary of state, told the Strobers that "The Reagan administration kept beating the Soviet Union over the issue of the Soviet Jews and kept telling them, 'You have to deal with this question. You will not be able to establish the kind of relationship you want with us unless you have dealt with this question...' "

According to Richard Schifter, another assistant secretary of state, when Gorbachev came to Washington in December 1987 for a summit with Reagan, it was just a couple of days after a huge rally for Soviet Jews had been held in the nation's capital and the person who was the note-taker at the meeting told me that Reagan started out by saying to Gorbachev, "You know, there was this rally on the Mall the other day."

"And Gorbachev said, 'Yes, I heard about it. Why don't you go on and talk about arms control?" And for five minutes, Reagan kept on talking about the rally and the importance of the Jewish emigration issue to the United States, when Gorbachev wanted to talk about something else."

The Reagan administration was instrumental in gaining the release in 1986 of prominent Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, imprisoned for nine years on trumped-up treason charges. Now a government minister in Israel, Sharansky recalled his reaction when, in 1983, confined to a tiny cell in a prison near the Siberian border, he saw on the front page of Pravda that Reagan had labeled the Soviet Union an 'evil empire.'

As Sharansky described it, "Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's 'provocation' quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us. I never imagined that three years later I would be in the White House telling this story to the president....Reagan was right and his critics were wrong."

* * * *

In 1984 Reagan was reelected in a landslide of historic proportions, but his share of the Jewish vote actually decreased by nearly eight points from 1980. When he left office in January 1989, it was with a higher approval rating than any president before him, but Jews - a majority of whom evidently consider a president?s fealty to liberalism more important than his support of Israel - gave him lower marks than any other voting bloc save African Americans.

It would take four years of the decidedly frosty relationship with Israel fostered by the first President Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, for an appreciable number of Jews to begin looking back at the Reagan years with a new sense of appreciation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"The Constitution and Regaining Principle in our Politics" -- August 24

Calling all Reagan Conservatives in the Washington, D.C. area!

Hillsdale College, The Federalist Society, and The Heritage Foundation are sponsoring a day-long course titled, "The Constitution and Regaining Principle in our Politics" on Monday, August 24 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m near Capitol Hill.

All three of these fine institutions are dedicated to making America’s foundational principles the foremost consideration in the creation of our nation’s public policy. There are those who argue that we have lost the battle for limited, constitutional government, but we think nothing could be farther from the truth. The real challenge we face is returning to these enduring principles as the guide for America’s politics.

On August 24, the program will begin with a session to review and discuss primary principles and readings that point in the right direction.

The session will focus on topics such as:
  • Why We Need Principles;
  • America’s Foundational Principles;
  • Understanding the Constitution of the United States;
  • The Challenge of the Modern Administrative State; and
  • What These Principles Mean for Politics.
Space may be limited based on the site of the facility. Registration will be $15 to include continental breakfst and lunch. Please contact Jennifer Powell ASAP at or call at (202) 248-5084 to let her know of your interest in the attending the event and please let her know you heard about it on the R.C. Blog.

We hope to see you there!

Monday, July 27, 2009

CBO Deals Another Crushing Blow to Obamacare

From this morning's Heritage Foundation Morning Bell Report:

For the second time in less than two weeks, the independent and non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has dealt a crushing blow to President Barack Obama’s health care plans. First, on July 17th, CBO director Doug Elmendorf sent a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), explaining that, in direct contradiction to President Obama’s promise that his health plan would not add “even one dime to our deficit over the next decade,” the House health plan would actually increase the budget deficit by $239 billion over ten years.

Reeling from this setback, the White House then put all of its cost-containing reform eggs in one basket: a massive transfer of power from Congress to the Executive branch in the form of an “Independent Medicare Advisory Council” (IMAC) that would be “the equivalent of a federal health board determining how health care was rationed for all seniors.”

But as draconian as that solution would be, the CBO again refused to toe the White House line. In a letter to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Elmendorf writes:

The proposed legislation states that IMAC’s recommendations cannot generate increased Medicare expenditures, but it does not explicitly direct the council to reduce such expenditures nor does it establish any target for such reductions. … As proposed, the composition of the council could be weighted toward medical providers who might not be inclined to recommend cuts in payments to providers or significant changes to the delivery system. … In CBO’s judgment, the probability is high that no savings would be realized … CBO estimates that enacting the proposal, as drafted, would yield savings of $2 billion over the 2010–2019 period.

Just $2 billion! That would leave the House bill still $237 billion short of meeting Obama’s promise to not add a dime to the deficit over the next ten years. Put another way, that $2 billion in savings is two tenths of one percent of what Obama wants to spend on health care over the next ten years. Now Democrats are pushing back against the CBO, claiming the official score keeper just doesn’t understand how wonderful their cost containment schemes really are. One senior House leadership aide told The Hill: “At CBO, they are accountants, but we still have to make our case. They are doing their thing and we are doing ours.”

Now Americans may ask just how accurate is the CBO when scoring the costs of health care reform? Does the CBO have a track record of underestimating how much new health care entitlements will cost? Or is the CBO too conservative and often over estimates new health care spending? Scholars at the CATO Institute went back and compared past CBO estimates on health care to actual spending numbers and found:

When Medicare was launched in 1965, Part A was projected to cost $9 billion by 1990, but ended up costing $67 billion. When Medicaid’s special hospitals subsidy was added in 1987, it was supposed to cost $100 million annually, but it already cost $11 billion by 1992. When Medicare’s home care benefit was added in 1988, it was projected to cost $4 billion in 1993, but ended up costing $10 billion.

History clearly shows that the costs of new heath care entitlements are routinely underestimated. And what would American be getting for their $2 billion in savings from IMAC? The Washington Post’s David Broder wrote yesterday:

But Congress will have to decide if it is willing to yield that degree of control to five unelected IMAC commissioners. And Americans will have to decide if they are comfortable having those commissioners determine how they will be treated when they are ill.

Huge cost estimates that are likely underestimated in exchange for a federal health board deciding the terms of your personal health care is not the reform people were expecting. But more importantly, if the Obama administration can’t trust a federal office to properly score their bill, how is it they trust a similar office to decide which medical treatments you receive?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

House Dems Health Plan

Sorry for the lack of posts (again...). Got crushed with a summer illness and just now catching up on things. Look for a good number of posts in the coming days on 2009 and 2010 elections, Obama's commentary on racial issue in Cambridge, Judge Sotomayor, and other issues of interest.

This afternoon, I'm posting a chart that helps (somewhat) explain what the House Dems intend to do with our nation's health care system. Looks great, doesn't it? You can click on it to see a larger version.

If this were to become law, we are in a lot of trouble. One can only hope and pray that wiser minds will prevail in stopping this runaway train in Congress.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not So Forthcoming...

From this week's "National Journal"....

Curious about the views of the new Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski? You'll have to wait. The agency chief, who has promised un-precedented openness, has declined interviews since taking the helm in late June, and it's not clear when he'll start talking. "I think you'll see him embrace the media after this initial phase," spokeswoman Jen Howard said, emphasizing that Genachowski is in a "listening and learning mode" for now. Equally unclear is when the chairman will convene his first press briefing. After his public debut at the FCC on July 2, Genachowski held an off-the-record "meet and greet" with reporters who were advised beforehand that he wouldn't be answering tough questions. One scribe found it "somewhat useful," while another complained that the only bombshell was a parking ticket he received. The genteel reception, which featured chocolate-covered biscotti and other snacks, was held in a conference room where reporters gathered monthly to grill Genachowski's GOP predecessor, Kevin Martin--whom Democrats repeatedly scolded for lack of transparency. (reported by David Hatch, National Journal)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Wrong Man

The following book excerpt comes from Michael D'Antonio's latest work, "Forever Blue", which details that Robert Moses is the man to blame for the move of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, NOT Walter O'Malley. I have been trying to convince Brooklynites for years on this issue and they all turn a deaf ear to blaming anyone other than O'Malley. D'Antonio does a masterful job in laying out all the facts. This is a long piece, but worth the read! Enjoy!!!

The Wrong Man

From the moment their beloved Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Brooklyn's jilted fans never forgave the team's owner, Walter O'Malley. Problem is: O'Malley didn't want to go. The culprit was someone else.

This article is adapted from “Forever Blue” by Michael D'Antonio.

On a cool, gray October morning in 1957, a twin-prop Convair 440 hummed down the runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport and lifted off the ground. Travelers glancing at the plane through the terminal windows might have noticed that a sign painter had written LOS ANGELES on the fuselage where, only days before, the markings had read BROOKLYN beside the nickname of the team that owned the aircraft, the world-famous Dodgers.

As it rose and pierced the low-hanging clouds, the Convair carried team owner Walter O'Malley and about 30 other people (Dodgers executives, broadcasters, secretaries) who were moving west with him. O'Malley, 54, was leaving behind his lifelong hometown and more than 70 years of Brooklyn baseball history. He took with him high hopes of building a Dodgers dynasty in Los Angeles -- and a few regrets.

O'Malley's main disappointment was having lost his battle to build a new stadium in Brooklyn. During his lifetime the whole truth about this failure, and about the Dodgers' move west, would never be told. Thanks in large measure to New York City newspaper writers such as Pete Hamill, Jack Newfield and Dick Young, O'Malley would be perceived as a greedy traitor who had yanked the very soul out of New York's most populous borough.

For more than half a century the Dodgers' move would linger in the public mind as an outrage almost without equal in sport. Whenever and wherever an owner let down fans, O'Malley's name would be invoked. (It didn't help that the cigar-chomping New Yorker looked and sounded like a slippery old pol.) But as much as this stung him, O'Malley never told his side of the story in any detail. To do so would have violated his personal code: A real man didn't explain himself. And so O'Malley took to his grave exculpating details about the most significant and traumatic franchise shift in baseball history.

Those details were secreted in private files stored away after O'Malley died, in 1979. Recently opened by his heirs, this archive sheds new light on what only a small group of people understood at the time of the team's transfer: As he sought help to secure land for a new stadium, O'Malley had been drawn into a political game that was rigged against him. He had wanted to build the iconic ballpark in Brooklyn. Instead, he was maneuvered into the role of baseball's Benedict Arnold. How this occurred is a case study in the power of the most imperious bureaucrat in the history of urban America: Robert Moses.

Walter O'Malley began his pursuit of a new stadium the moment he became a part owner of the Dodgers, in 1944. The team's home park, Ebbets Field, was a quirky, ornate little ballyard that seated a mere 32,000 fans and was in a state of elegant decay. Fans entered through a rotunda where they bought tickets at gilded booths lighted by a chandelier with globes shaped like baseballs hanging from 12 arms fashioned to look like bats. In the grandstand the aisles were narrow and the battered seats were tight. On the field the wall in right deflected hits at crazy angles, turning singles into doubles. In left a balcony that overhung the field grabbed dying line drives.

Ebbets was where outfielder Hack Wilson was hit in the head by a fly ball as he argued with a heckler and slugger Babe Herman set his own pants on fire by tucking a lit cigar in his pocket. The eccentricity wasn't limited to the players. In the stands Hilda Chester banged her frying pan, members of the Dodgers Sym-Phony Band tweaked the umps with their sour rendition of Three Blind Mice, and Mrs. Izaak Walton Killam, one of the richest women in the world, took her picnic lunch in a field box with the aid of her white-gloved butler.

All of them helped make Ebbets a garden of peculiar delights. But the place had an ugly side, too. On hot summer days the restrooms became unbearably pungent, and beer-soaked fans could turn violent, starting fistfights, throwing objects at players and even assaulting an umpire. Just as bad were the moments when the Dodgers themselves went too far. In June 1945 Leo Durocher allegedly lured a loudmouth from the stands into a private room under the seats and broke his jaw. Thanks to the twin mystiques of baseball and Brooklyn, the manager had nothing to fear from the law. At the Lip's trial for second-degree assault 10 months later, 200 spectators erupted in cheers when jury foreman Hyman Shapiro uttered the words, "Not guilty."

With such heartfelt support, the Dodgers could have bumped along at scruffy Ebbets for decades to come, but O'Malley had greater ambitions. He wanted a championship team to match New York's perennial World Series contenders, the Yankees. To get it, he needed to increase revenues, and he was certain this would require a new, larger stadium with plenty of parking to accommodate families that were fleeing Brooklyn for the suburbs. Once O'Malley assumed full control of the team, in 1950, the new ballpark became his El Dorado, if not his white whale.

The owner planned a graceful 50,000-seat stadium that would take its place among the city's most famous landmarks. Before family-friendly became a cliché of sports venues, O'Malley envisioned spotless grandstands with perfect sight lines and abundant amenities, including more restrooms and food options. A mass-transit hub would serve city residents, and the parking lot would have room for every suburbanite's car. With this plan in hand the owner waged a public-relations campaign that yielded big, favorable stories in New York-area papers and a spread in Collier's magazine. He then turned to powerful friends in politics for leverage with the municipal government. No one could assemble the land for such a big project without the city's aid.

Politics came naturally to O'Malley. His father, Edwin, a member of the Tammany Hall Democratic machine, had been commissioner of public markets for Mayor John (Red Mike) Hylan in the early 1920s. Edwin had been briefly famous for tying up a state inquiry into graft in his department with a filibuster that drove one exasperated prosecutor to ask, "Are you electrically wound up?" Despite ample evidence against him and his associates, the elder O'Malley kept his job and stayed out of jail.

Walter O'Malley studied law at Columbia and Fordham, and later, as a public works contractor and Dodgers team lawyer, he connected with Brooklyn's political elite and became a constant presence at the clubs and social events that brought powerful men together. With his slicked-back hair, ever-present cigar and gravelly Noo Yawk voice, he was a Damon Runyon character come to life. No one was better company, especially at an old-fashioned "beefsteak," where hundreds of otherwise civilized men sat at long tables and devoured platters of buttered sirloin with their bare hands. He was a masculine force of nature whom people came to call simply The O'Malley.

If Brooklyn had held on to its autonomy instead of becoming part of New York City in 1898, The O'Malley's connections would have guaranteed him his dream ballpark. Instead, his friendships brought him only to the door of Robert Moses, the most powerful unelected official ever to serve in a U.S. city. Educated at Yale, Oxford and Columbia, Moses began his government career in the 1910s as a reformer trying to rid the city of patronage politics. After failing to do so, he transformed himself into the ultimate power broker. Through patrons such as New York governor Al Smith and New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Moses was appointed to numerous state and municipal positions -- he once held 12 simultaneously -- including New York City parks commissioner, head of the State Parks Council, head of the State Power Commission and chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. With endless ambition and more self-regard than Caesar, he gained control over vast sums of money for building everything from highways to high-rises. Over five decades mayors and governors came and went, but Moses endured, and through favors, contracts and patronage he grew ever more powerful. By mid-century if he wanted something built in New York City, it got built. If he didn't want it, he stopped it.

When it came to Brooklyn, Moses spoke condescendingly of its working-class residents, once declaring that their "disposition depends on the standing of a [baseball] team." But he was sensitive enough to public opinion to pretend to care about the fate of the Dodgers. He read O'Malley's letters and listened to his arguments for putting a new ballpark in a forlorn section of the Fort Greene district where Flatbush and Atlantic avenues meet.

The area was dominated by a municipally run meat market, a sprawling, rat-infested abattoir where blood ran in the gutters. Moses had already declared the area blighted and eligible for a federal program that would clear the land. But he had quietly promised the territory to friendly developers, including the apartment king Fred Trump. Moses had also picked his own spot for a new municipal baseball park, and it was not in Brooklyn but in Flushing Meadows in Queens. A stadium there was part of Moses's grand vision for the development of Greater New York, and he wasn't going to let O'Malley preempt him. As early as April 1954 Moses privately directed his aides to give O'Malley the brush-off. Two years later he would remind them of his stand against the Brooklyn stadium but remain publicly noncommittal because, as he said in a memo to his staff, "it is necessary to show that our opposition is based on something other than prejudice."

Unaware that Moses would never budge, O'Malley pressed his case with politicians, business leaders and the press. He also pushed for performance on the field that would bind the Dodgers even more tightly to Brooklyn. The team continued its color-blind policy, begun by Branch Rickey with Jackie Robinson in 1947, of bringing the best players to the roster. In 1955, as the Dodgers often fielded a lineup with a black majority, the impossible happened: The team won its first World Series, defeating the hated Yankees. After winning Game 7 in the Bronx, Dodgers lefthander Johnny Podres was so overwhelmed that he couldn't say much more than, "Wow! Wow! Wow!" In Brooklyn people took to the streets waving pennants and banging pots and pans.

Flush with victory, O'Malley made an even bigger push for a stadium. He sent a box of autographed baseballs to Governor W. Averell Harriman (who handed them out as gifts) and arranged to have a model of the new ballpark displayed for people to inspect at the Williamsburg Savings Bank, on Flatbush Avenue near the proposed stadium site. City officials responded by creating the Brooklyn Sports Center Authority, a commission charged with studying and possibly leading the redevelopment of the 500-acre area with new housing, parking garages and O'Malley's ball field. Moses acted as if he supported the idea, and O'Malley, going all-in with his bet, sold Ebbets Field to a developer.

The sale, which helped O'Malley build a construction war chest, allowed the team to lease Ebbets for five more years while the new park was built. It also created a hard deadline that would force an end to the political game. If Moses and other officials were serious about keeping the Dodgers, they had to settle the stadium issue.

They weren't serious.

Months passed, and Mayor Robert Wagner failed to appoint anyone to serve on the Brooklyn Sports Center Authority. According to the press, several candidates declined because they suspected Moses was secretly maneuvering against the stadium. Wagner eventually found three men willing to serve, but without funds, office space and staff they made no progress. As the summer of 1956 turned to fall, the Dodgers again won the pennant. The World Series rematch with the Yankees would be remembered for Don Larsen's perfect game and an only-in-Brooklyn event that occurred off the field.

It happened in the middle of Game 2, when the Dodgers' big righthander, Don Newcombe, departed Ebbets Field after getting shelled in the second inning. A parking-lot attendant named Michael Brown spied the pitcher, who should have been back in the stadium with his teammates. "What's the matter, Newk?" Brown called out. "A little competition too much?"

What came next would remain in dispute, but Brown claimed that Newcombe punched him in the stomach. Thanks to an alert police officer, the incident didn't escalate, yet it made the papers. Newcombe started Game 7 only to be knocked out in the fourth, and the Dodgers lost 9-0. The unhappy pitcher disappeared for 24 hours but made it to the airport for a team flight to Los Angeles, from where the Dodgers would go on to Hawaii and then to an exhibition tour of Japan.

During the overnight layover in L.A., O'Malley went to a morning meeting at the coffee shop of the Statler Hotel. The Dodgers were scheduled to depart for Japan at 12:30 p.m., and as the hour approached, their road secretary, Dick Walsh, went to check on his boss. He found him with Kenneth Hahn, a Los Angeles County supervisor. "Kenny Hahn was very, very aggressively selling the prospect of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles," Walsh would recall decades later. O'Malley listened as Hahn said that a stadium could be built in a place called Chavez Ravine. As Walsh waited anxiously for his boss to wrap up the meeting, he got the impression that O'Malley, born and bred on the East Coast, wasn't enthusiastic about a move west. At the end of the meeting Hahn told local reporters that the Dodgers owner considered Los Angeles his second choice, behind moving to a new ballpark in Brooklyn.

The O'Malley returned home from Japan to discover that the stadium authority remained stalled. On Dec. 6, 1956, he went to his office and found a package that had been mailed from Japan. Inside was a set of plans for a new 70,000-seat multipurpose stadium in Tokyo that could host baseball games. (The park would open 18 months later.) O'Malley thought about his own decadelong effort to replace Ebbets Field and, in a letter found among the documents recently disclosed by the O'Malley family, wrote to New York City's chief lawyer, Peter Campbell Brown:

On my return I was sorry to find that little or no substantial progress has been made of the redevelopment of the area.... If there is anything I can do without muddying the waters and adding to the confusion, let me know.

As O'Malley looked for some way to advance his stadium proposal, Moses was moving decisively against him. On Dec. 7 Moses wrote to the mayor to suggest that the Brooklyn commission's responsibilities be cut. The diminished organization would not need even "a bit of staff," Moses advised. Nor would it need the $278,000 that had been requested to pay for engineers, surveys and other expenses. Instead Moses suggested just $25,000 for a consultant. The mayor went along with him.

Informed of this by a member of the authority, O'Malley turned toward his Plan B. Around New Year's he quietly departed for the West Coast. There he would be met by a local newspaperman who was such an avid booster of his fair city and of the national pastime that he could have stepped right out of Sinclair Lewis's Main Street.

Vincent X. Flaherty, a columnist for the Los Angeles Examiner, wore double-breasted suits with gaudy ties and wrote with his fedora perched on his head. Not content to merely report the news, he wanted to make it -- by helping to bring big league baseball to Los Angeles. He began this effort in the late 1940s, working as an unpaid staff member for the self-appointed Los Angeles Citizens' Committee for Major League Baseball, which included billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes, hotelier Conrad Hilton and MGM boss Louis B. Mayer.

Year after year Flaherty had written long letters to O'Malley and trekked to New York to pitch him on the riches that awaited him in Los Angeles, and year after year O'Malley had said no. Then, in January 1957, O'Malley showed up in Los Angeles and Flaherty became his chauffeur, tour guide and cultural interpreter. Flaherty arranged for an inspection of Chavez Ravine, a plot of a few hundred acres near downtown L.A. Save for a few dozen remaining residents in small wood-frame buildings, the land was vacant. O'Malley found it easy to imagine a stadium with thousands of parking spots on the site, which was accessible from four freeways that could bring fans from every direction. Here was the perfect place to build a ballpark for a city that hungered for the game and had never heard of Robert Moses.

If the Dodgers decamped, The New York Times Magazine had asked in a headline a year earlier, WOULD IT STILL BE BROOKLYN? In the text the great sportswriter John Lardner noted that some New Yorkers didn't consider the team a civic asset worth saving, but he argued that the Dodgers represented the spirit of the borough, and "we will do well to give them the home they need. In lean years and rich they will honor it, and us."

The choice was clear, and yet the city and Moses stalled. When O'Malley returned from California, he told City Councilman Joseph Sharkey that the Brooklyn stadium was "dying a slow death." Nevertheless he promised to raise between $4 million and $5 million to invest in sports center authority bonds and to find other investors to buy up the remaining $25 million of the issue. O'Malley also agreed to pay rent of $500,000 per season -- more than any other major league team was paying at the time -- if the new stadium were government-owned. In exchange he asked to see "definitive positive progress by July 1."

The authority's engineering consultant, Jack Madigan, who was allied with Moses, responded by asking if O'Malley would pay $1.5 million more to cover the cost of issuing additional bonds for the stadium and other parts of the redevelopment scheme. Having sold most of the team's assets to raise cash, O'Malley would have been hard-pressed to come up with another $1.5 million. But even if he could, the signals sent by Moses, Madigan and Wagner -- none of whom responded when O'Malley called them -- were clear. The stadium, O'Malley wrote to a friend, was receiving "the kiss of death."

So what did O'Malley do? He hired a clown.

To "ease tension at Ebbets Field," he said, the owner signed Emmett Kelly to perform before and after games during the 1957 season. Kelly's character, Weary Willie, looked very much like the famous Brooklyn Bum drawn by cartoonist Willard Mullin. The difference was that Kelly's character never smiled. "I'm a misfit, a reject," he explained. He made people laugh at their predicaments, which was perfect for Brooklyn.

Kelly made his debut at the Dodgers' spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla. Except for the clown's presence, life at the camp seemed to follow its usual routine. The O'Malley presided over poker games and put on his annual St. Patrick's Day bash. Beat writers reported on the team's condition, noting the progress of the creaky old-timers and the promise of young pitchers such as Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.

But as the writers followed the team's preparations for the season, they also covered the drama surrounding the Dodgers' search for a new home. The first big development involved O'Malley and Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, who swapped two minor league clubs. Wrigley got the Dodgers' Texas League franchise in Fort Worth; O'Malley got the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League and their little stadium, Wrigley Field. The next big news was the arrival of a platoon of officials from Los Angeles who said they were on a mission called Operation O'Malley. Flaherty told the Dodgers owner, "You can call your shots, and Los Angeles will give you damn near anything."

The L.A. entourage was led by a gangly fellow with a big-toothed smile and thick black-frame glasses. Mayor Norris Poulson was, in Flaherty's estimation, "a self-glorified boob," yet he had risen steadily from the state assembly to the U.S. Congress and finally to the mayor's office. In his pursuit of major league baseball Poulson had joined with Hahn and the young city councilwoman Rosalind Wyman to make a deal with officials in San Francisco, who also wanted a big league team: San Francisco could go after the New York Giants, whose owner, Horace Stoneham, was secretly planning to leave Manhattan, and Los Angeles would court O'Malley. As San Francisco mayor George Christopher told Poulson, "We consider this practically a joint venture and know that if you are successful, San Francisco also will eventually receive major league baseball."

In Florida, Poulson & Co. waved brightly colored LOS ANGELES pennants and posed for photos with O'Malley and Dodgers slugger Duke Snider. "Mr. O'Malley has a problem," said Poulson. "We believe we can solve it, and quick." At dusk the day of the Californians' arrival they retired with O'Malley to a nearby hunting camp called Blue Cypress Ranch, which was owned by a member of the Dodgers' board. There, in rustic isolation -- the ranch didn't even have a phone -- Poulson confirmed that, as Flaherty had promised, O'Malley could get whatever he wanted, including Chavez Ravine in exchange for the Angels' Wrigley Field. A few days later O'Malley wrote to a friend, in another letter recently disclosed by the O'Malley family, "The Los Angeles matter is much further [along] than the newspaper accounts indicate."

At the close of spring training O'Malley met with Stoneham, who said he had decided to move his team to Minneapolis. O'Malley didn't try to persuade him to stay in New York, but he did suggest that the Giants owner consider San Francisco. If he moved there and the Dodgers went to Los Angeles, O'Malley said, they could re-create the fierce Giants-Dodgers rivalry on the West Coast.

With California threatening to grab both of New York's National League clubs, Mayor Wagner called everyone to another meeting. This time, however, it was O'Malley who said no. In O'Malley's eyes, Wagner lacked the power and the will to act in the Dodgers' favor. A petulant mayor told the press, "If the owners were set on leaving, we'll just have to pick up our marbles and go home."

Moses heaped blame on O'Malley in a long essay he wrote for the July 22 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED titled, Robert Moses on the Battle of Brooklyn. On the story's opening spread the power broker stared out at readers from a photo that made him look like a trout in a bow tie. He claimed, falsely, that O'Malley wanted a government-built park reserved exclusively for the Dodgers. Moses acknowledged that some Brooklynites might grieve the loss of the team, but he added, "a new location elsewhere on Long Island could hardly be classed as a tragedy." But as far as O'Malley and diehard Brooklyn fans were concerned, once the Dodgers left the borough, they might as well go anywhere.

The Dodgers' departure was now an open secret, but the next move was made by Stoneham, who announced that the Giants were going to San Francisco. Suddenly the biggest baseball town in the country, the only one with three major league teams, was in danger of becoming a one-franchise city. In a futile attempt to play the white knight, Nelson Rockefeller, a prominent businessman and philanthropist soon to be elected governor of New York, offered to contribute a few million dollars toward a Brooklyn stadium. Wagner summoned O'Malley and Rockefeller to discuss the idea, but that gave them only false hope. After the meeting Moses sent a letter to the mayor's secretary saying that "Nelson has been badly advised" and the city had "nothing to gain" from his proposal. "This Dodger business," the letter concluded, "reminds me of the jitterbug jive."

The Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field on Sept. 24, 1957, a Tuesday night, five days after being eliminated from the pennant race. Attendance was 6,702. No announcement was made about the team's departure. No ceremony was conducted. But as the innings passed, the sad-faced Emmett Kelly pretended to wipe tears with his sleeve. Once the Pittsburgh Pirates had been defeated 2-0, organist Gladys Goodding played Auld Lang Syne.

In early October the Los Angeles city council approved the swap of Chavez Ravine for Wrigley Field. Dodgers publicity man Arthur (Red) Patterson walked into a press room set up at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan for reporters covering the World Series between the Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves. He handed out a one-page press release that tersely declared the end of major league baseball in Brooklyn.

So much had been said and written in advance of this formality that it didn't generate a big outcry. "There were no pickets, no mass protests, no suicides," Roger Kahn wrote 18 months later in The New York Times Magazine. "In fact, there was almost no reaction. . . . Without the Dodgers in Brooklyn, it develops, you still have just about what you had before -- a busy, crowded heterogeneous borough."

An editorial in The New York Times expressed gratitude for the zany Bums, Jackie Robinson and many thrilling games, and it wished the team "a grand slam success for the future." But others, such as sportswriter Dick Young of the Daily News, were not so kind. To Young, O'Malley was the personification of evil. For years Young had benefited from a special relationship with the Dodgers. The team's general manager Buzzie Bavasi called himself "the executive in charge of Dick Young," and his assignments included buying Young suits, treating him to free travel and slipping him exclusive stories. No doubt the loss of these treats troubled Young. Three months before the move he scorched O'Malley in an article called To Hell with the Dodgers. When the team's transfer became official, he called O'Malley "the most momentous manipulator baseball has ever seen." Young kept on attacking the owner until the day O'Malley died.

Other writers, including New York Times columnist Arthur Daley, called O'Malley a villain and habitually likened him to Machiavelli. Red Barber, the beloved former Dodgers broadcaster, described O'Malley as "about the most devious man I ever met." As these criticisms accumulated, resentment in Brooklyn grew and was handed down from one generation to the next. In 2007, when O'Malley was elected posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Pete Hamill wrote in the Daily News, "Never forgive. Never forget." Hamill claimed that O'Malley had caused such pain to Brooklyn that some residents had moved away.

Was it true? Had O'Malley crushed Brooklyn's spirit? The answer is no. In 1963, after the Dodgers vanquished the Yankees in the World Series, a New York Times editorial titled Joy in Flatbush declared, "At last the wounds have healed." In 1969, when the New York Mets won the World Series, Brooklyn honored them with a rally at Borough Hall. The victory made the Dodgers seem like ancient history.

But then, in 1972, Kahn published one of the most romantic and moving baseball books ever written. The Boys of Summer turned the Brooklyn Dodgers into paragons of virtue, living symbols of all that was good about America before the upheavals of the 1960s: the counterculture, the shock of political assassinations and the wrenching protests over the Vietnam War. The book became a best seller and a sports classic not only because it was a good read but also because it was infused with the author's love for the team. Still, Kahn wouldn't deny that it also benefited from something in the national mood. TIME magazine described The Boys of Summer as part of a wave of nostalgia in popular culture that included the movie The Last Picture Show and the musical Grease. Like many a good story, the book had a villain: O'Malley, whom it depicted as a cheerless, money-obsessed old man.

The owner could have devoted his sunset years to fighting for his name in Brooklyn; instead he built his dream stadium in Chavez Ravine, and with the cash from record-setting ticket sales he put together a premier franchise. The Dodgers won a championship in just their second year on the West Coast, and they topped the National League in winning percentage for 25 years. As much as he was reviled in New York, O'Malley was loved in Southern California, and in the end he viewed his success there as a gift from Robert Moses. He revealed this once, in a note to an old friend. It was the only document among his papers that expressed this view of his nemesis. O'Malley wrote: Bob became an enemy when he sabotaged our plans to build a stadium in Brooklyn. He became a benefactor when his opposition became so violent that we left Brooklyn and happily became established in California.

It's plain to see that O'Malley was right. And the sons and daughters of Brooklyn have reason to let go of their old grudge. Truth is good for the soul. Forgive, and forget.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Clarence Thomas: The Courage of His Convictions

Sorry for new posts for the past few weeks. Between work and a mini-vacation, I've been unable to post. With the Judge Sotomayor hearings beginning and the VA state campaigns in full swing, I'll be back on the saddle.

With this morning's start to the Sotomayor hearings, I wanted to post a fantastic article on Justice Thomas by Michael Barone from yesterday's Washington Examiner...

Clarence Thomas: The courage of his convictions
By Michael Barone, Senior Political Analyst

July 12, 2009

Justice Clarence Thomas has now served on the Supreme Court for 18 years, longer than most of the other 109 men and women who have sat on that high bench. Yet he remains an enigma to many. In the court’s open hearings he sits mute while most of his colleagues pepper counsel with questions. Yet he can be seen trading quips with his seatmate, Justice Stephen Breyer — a hint of the gregarious Clarence Thomas whose close friends describe him as a man with a wide-ranging intellect and gutsy sense of humor that takes flight in what they call “The Laugh.”

He is a man who says he does not read newspapers and seldom if ever watches newscasts. If true, it’s probably a good thing, because he has been the center of political controversy since his confirmation hearings in 1991 and the object of patronizing and dismissive commentary by many legal scholars. But though he was confirmed by the Senate by a slim 52-47 margin, he holds a lifetime appointment and has said that he intends to serve for 40 years — longer than any previous justice.

Thomas’s confirmation and role on the court are of special interest as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its hearings tomorrow on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to succeed the retired Justice David Souter. The vetting of Sotomayor promises to be a tame affair compared with the tumultuous and controversial grilling of Thomas in 1991, which he characterized as a “high-tech lynching.”

Sotomayor seems to share the views of Hispanic politicians and advocacy organizations and will face a committee controlled by the party of the president who nominated her. Thomas, by contrast, appeared before a hostile committee majority as a nominee who had disagreed with the views of most black politicians and civil rights organizations.

Thomas told the story of his life up to the time he took his seat on the court in his best-selling memoir “My Grandfather’s Son.” It’s a dramatic story, of growing up in the segregated Deep South, raised by a stern and hard-working grandfather (“the greatest man I have ever known”), of rebelling against him and rejecting his church (“I was an angry young black man”), of academic achievement and personal failings. At Yale Law School he took tax and corporation classes and did better than his detractors have suggested; tax law professor Boris Bittker every year set aside several anonymous exam bluebooks as examples of good work, and one year one of those bluebooks was Clarence Thomas’.

Most profiles of Thomas, and much of “My Grandfather’s Son,” concentrate on issues of race. The justice complains bitterly that he had few good job offers after graduating and that classmates and hiring partners assumed he must not be very smart. When he went to work for Missouri Attorney General John Danforth, he insisted on working on tax cases, but when Ronald Reagan appointed him head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he found himself in the center of controversy over race policy. His decision to emphasize individual cases rather than class actions and his speeches opposing racial quotas and preferences made him the target of traditional civil rights groups.

They tried to block his nomination to the Supreme Court and rallied to his former co-worker Anita Hill when she charged him with improper sexual advances. Ironically, it was EEOC Chairman Clarence Thomas who had persuaded Solicitor General Charles Fried to urge the Supreme Court to bar sexual harassment as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
All this is familiar stuff to those who remember the political controversies of the early 1990s or who have read “My Grandfather’s Son.” What is not so familiar is Thomas’ work as a judge — his majority opinions that determine what the law is, and his concurrences and dissents that have pointed the way to what the law may be in the future.

At first Thomas was dismissed as a clone of Justice Antonin Scalia. But today even liberal analysts of the court concede that he has set his own course. His opinions show an original and consistent approach to the law, and their distinctive prose — disciplined and graceful, but not flashy — indicates they are not the products of his law clerks but of the justice himself.
Two themes that run through his years on the court are illustrated by two of his opinions announced in the last full week of the court’s term last month. One of them was a dissent from the court’s 8-1 decision on the Voting Rights Act, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. The other was his opinion for the court in a 5-4 decision on maritime law, Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend.

The first theme is that, as in Northwest Austin, Thomas has been willing to stand alone, or nearly alone, even against his natural allies. Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion, with concurrences by seven other justices, raised serious doubts about the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires Justice Department approval for changes in election laws in states that had low voter turnout in elections from 1964 to 1972. Thomas zeroed in on the issue the court sidestepped and argued that the law was unconstitutional. This was consistent with his view back in 1994 that almost all Voting Rights Act cases had been wrongly decided — and with his general willingness to overturn previous high court decisions he regards as wrong.

But it’s not fair to charge, as some critics have, that Thomas ignores past discrimination against blacks. His dissent paints a vivid picture of white Southerners’ “concerted acts of violence, terror and subterfuge to keep minorities from voting” from the 1870s to the 1960s, and endorses the court’s upholding the original provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

At the same time, he has objected to racial preferences in government contracting because they “stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority,” and in a 1995 case, he wrote, “It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.”

In the Atlantic Sounding case, he agreed with the four justices generally labeled liberal that an injured seaman may sue for punitive damages for “failure to pay maintenance and cure” — an admiralty law term. Thomas had similarly agreed with the liberals on the meaning of the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines. As in that earlier case, Thomas’ opinion went far back in history, citing English and American cases decided in 1676 and 1784 and interpreting the Jones Act of 1920.

Thomas’ willingness to write lonely opinions and to be guided by history has sometimes helped to change the law. For example, his 1997 concurring opinion setting out recent legal scholarship on the Second Amendment right to bear arms laid the groundwork for the court’s 2008 decision overturning the District of Columbia’s handgun ban. In setting his own course in case after case, Thomas has also done more than his detractors understand to change the course of the law.

The likely confirmation of Sotomayor and the possibility of future Obama appointments could change the balance on a court that has been closely divided on many major cases. But that seems unlikely to change the thrust of Thomas’ jurisprudence. He may write more dissenting opinions and fewer concurrences, but his insistence on going his own way may if anything become more pronounced. At the same time, his tendency to go back to first principles and to re-examine the origins of the law may prove, over time, persuasive and influential in ways surprising to both his critics and admirers — just as he has surprised both in his first 18 years on the court.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cuccinelli Featured on National Review Online

Earlier this week, the Cuccinelli campaign was featured on National Review Online. Here is that article:

Virginia Gentleman
A prospective state attorney general goes back to the founders.

By Michael Warren

Several prints of war paintings hang in the law offices of Virginia state senator Ken Cuccinelli, but the most prominent is titled Sons of Erin: It shows a brigade of Irish-born Union soldiers charging into the Battle of Antietam — or Sharpsburg, as it’s known in Dixie. The Irish brigade, comprised of poor immigrants — many fresh off the boat — lost over 500 men that day. “The Irish were the best fighters on both sides of the war,” says Cuccinelli, a self-described Civil War buff who is half-Irish himself.

Cuccinelli is running for attorney general as a conservative Republican in a right-leaning state that’s having a fling with Democrats. Last year, voters delivered their electoral votes to Barack Obama. Virginia’s governor is a Democrat and so are its two senators. Perhaps this trend makes Cuccinelli an underdog, like those Antietam warriors and their ancestors back in Ireland. The candidate certainly sees it that way, except in one important respect: “They always lose,” he says.

So far, the 40-year-old Cuccinelli has always won. In 2002, he ran in a special election to represent Fairfax County in Virginia’s senate. He won again a year later. Then, in 2007 — a rotten year for Republicans — he had his toughest race yet, winning by about 100 votes in a race that required a recount. He expects a close election this November, too, against Democratic state delegate Steve Shannon.

“I’ve been outspent in all three races,” he says, showing the pride of a businessman who is satisfied to have done the job well for half the cost. It may happen again this fall: Shannon currently leads in fundraising. But Cuccinelli insists that victory is just a means, not the end. “The point is to accomplish the agenda,” he says. What is the agenda? “I’m running to advance a more limited-government, pro-family agenda. The founding fathers would approve.”

The founding fathers play a critical role in Cuccinelli’s political philosophy. He doesn’t have a favorite, but he has a natural affinity for fellow Virginians like Patrick Henry, James Madison, and George Mason. For Cuccinelli, though, the ideas are more important than the people, and he makes the point with another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. “He articulated the principles spectacularly,” says Cuccinelli. “But he didn’t always live up to them.”

Cuccinelli says the founding fathers got the principles right: “It’s a foundation that can’t be improved upon.” He offers this foundation as a remedy for disenchanted Republicans. “My view is that the GOP platform should read ‘Life, liberty, and property.’ It would save us a lot of paper.” He goes on to criticize Republican efforts of the past decade. “What have the Republicans been supporting? No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and supporting TARP I. So much for the party of small government.”

Cuccinelli becomes most animated when he’s talking about the philosophy behind the principles. He cites the Declaration of Independence’s most famous line, about the self-evident truths that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then he makes an important observation: “Most people forget the next phrase, which explains that it is for these purposes that governments are created.” Cuccinelli considers this phrase — “That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men” — the key to understanding what the founders were thinking: Rights are inherent and universal, and governments exist only to guarantee them, not to grant them.

To illustrate this idea, Cuccinelli points to the recent Supreme Court case over gun ownership in the District of Columbia. In his written opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that the Second Amendment did not grant people the right to defend themselves with arms but only reaffirmed the preexisting right of a free people to do so. Cuccinelli leans back in his chair and paraphrases Aquinas: “Natural law is written from the hearts of all men.”

“Read from the founding period and do it continuously,” he says. “That’s what I tell new legislators.” Cuccinelli wants to educate Virginians about Mason, Madison, and the rest. “All of the great founders, except for Adams, are from Virginia,” he says. “When I run in Virginia, I talk about those Virginians.”

In the contest against Shannon, Cuccinelli will need more than a good reading list. “We have a significant grassroots advantage,” he says. “We know grassroots better than anyone else, and we’re more focused on that.” He claims his strategy of knocking on doors gave him the small margin of victory in 2007. This approach won’t work as well statewide, though he plans to repeat the practice as much as possible and encourage his volunteers to do the same.

Will strong grassroots efforts put Cuccinelli over the top in November? Although the races are separate, he’ll run with the GOP’s nominee for governor, Bob McDonnell, who is polling roughly even against Democrat Creigh Deeds. A good election for McDonnell —the state’s former attorney general — will help Cuccinelli’s odds. Even so, the prospective attorney general says he won’t be counting on McDonnell’s coattails. He believes he has the secrets to success: “I’m willing to lose, and I won’t abandon my principles.”

— Michael Warren, a Collegiate Network intern at National Review, studies economics and history at Vanderbilt University. is an independent site and is not affiliated with any official web sites, associations, or organizations associated with President Reagan. Any views expressed or content included on this site do not necessarily reflect the views, positions, or opinions of any of the organizations or individuals named, linked, or advertised.

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