Friday, January 05, 2007

Shays Puts On A Happy Face

Chris Shays, the Ishmael of New England congressional Republicans – “And I alone am left to tell the tale” – is not entirely unhappy in his new role as the last moderate Republican still standing. According to a report in the Hartford Courant:

"Speaker Nancy D. Pelosi, D-Calif., has clashed with Shays for years. She came to his Fairfield County district in 2004 and declared Shays a 'rubber stamp for the radical right wing, check-your-brain-at-the-door congressperson.' And worse, 'an enabler for Tom DeLay,' the former Republican majority leader who gave Shays fits.

"Shays had shot back. 'Nancy Pelosi is a fraud,' he said flatly, referring to some minor trouble she'd had with the Federal Elections Commission after taking contributions that exceeded federal limits.

"Thursday, though, Shays could revel in the knowledge that Pelosi is leading the fight for his plans for ethics reform: to ban gifts from lobbyists, to place tough restrictions on privately financed trips and to ban travel on corporate jets.

"Pelosi's people are saying nice things publicly about Shays, and he's saying nice things about her. 'I'll probably see more things done in this Congress than in the past,' he said."

Moderates adapt quickly to changed circumstances; it is the secret of their longevity. However, this time it worked only for Shays. Other moderate Republicans in Connecticut did not survive.

"I don't know what being the only Republican member from New England means," said a bewildered Shays.

Some Republicans are hoping Shays will understand that it means, among other things, not being a Democrat.

Prior to the election, the Hartford Courant, weary of moderation, decided to throw out of the boat all Republican members of the Connecticut US congressional delegation. The Courant proceeded to endorse all the Democrats – Big surprise! – and before you could say “Connecticut is a one party state,” Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons were send packing. Simmons lost in a squeaker to Joe Courtney and Johnson surrendered her seat to Chris Murphy. Simmon's lost because he waws out-organized in UConn.

There are a few theories that might explain the Republican losses. Certainly Johnson and Simmons did not lose because the Courant threw in its lot with the Democrats. If influence were electricity, you couldn’t light a light bulb with the influence Connecticut’s press wields over voters. Papers and other media outlets continue to exert influence upon politicians, but they’ve lost credibility among voters and subscribers, who continue to seek out other means of gathering alternative information.

One might assume that heated objections to President George Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror turned the trick, until one realizes that the two Connecticut politicians most conspicuously associated with Bush’s prosecution of the war, Shays and Sen. Joe Lieberman, were not shown the door.

My own guess is that authenticity was decisive: The political persona of a politician must be authentic. Shays’ authenticity derives from both his association with the Republican Party and his attachment to certain political ideas. If he drifts too far from either, he too will go down with the Pequod.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Shays did an about face on Iraq in the last weeks of the campaign moving to the left of his opponent, Diane Farrell, by calling for a timeline for withdrawal of our troops while Farrell was calling for benchmarks to order withdrawal. Farrell also made some strategic mistakes in her campaign by not hitting enough on some other issues like immigration where sahys is anything but a moderate - he's to the far right of Bush and McCain. It's very hard for a challenger to hit a moving target. It is also significant to note that in Ct the Republican party is exteremely weak even in sahys district where there are a lot of Republicans. And in new england we do still have Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as Republcans in the US Enate.

Don Pesci said...


Snowe and Collins are US senators. Shays is the sole remaining Republican in the US House of Representatives. It’s true that Shays announced close to Election Day that he favored a timeline for withdrawal; he since has announced that he does not favor a “surge” in troops. I don’t think that either Shay’s or Lieberman’s positions on the war were decisive in the general election. That seems obvious; if they had been decisive, both would have lost since these two were the congressmen in Connecticut most closely associated with Bush’s effort to create a democratic oasis in the churning Middle East. Your comments are always appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I know Snowe and Collins are senators but I did misspell senate. I do beleive Shays change in position was decisive in him beating farrell - I live in the 4th CD. Nobody knows really what the hell a surge is and if that's what Bush will call for. There are no good alternatives from here forward. The good news (whether there is a surge or not - and it will cone from extended or early dployments not an increse on the military ranks, which will take years) is that Dave Petraues is getting another star to head up military ops in Iraq. The Kurds had referred to him as King David when he waS LEADING THE 101ST IN THEIR REGION BECASUE OF HIS ABIlities. He will most likely change tactics and redploy whatever troops he has to work out of small local bases in the rather than the large compounds they work out of now. It makes sense - and it may be the last chance to get success. That's coming from somoen who thinks the invasion never should have happened and that the no/fly no/drive containment policy should have continued while the US hunted down bin laden. it also comes form someone who believes that saddam should have been tried at the hague for war crimes against Americans.!!!!!

Don Pesci said...


Fairly shrewd analysis. You raise too many points for me to do justice to any one of them. I’m not sure Iraq can be settled militarily. I am sure that Bush is right about the nature of terrorism, which is bad news for the rest of us. Baghdad cannot be secured without draining the swamp: That means breaking a lot of furniture and killing a most of the followers of Sadr – not likely. You would also have to punish Syria and Iran militarily. Perhaps no one but be remembers that Shays lost the endorsement of the Hartford Courant because he was promoting an invasion of Syria. For a war to end, there must be two indispensable conditions: 1) one of the two opposing forces must win, and the loser must acknowledge defeat. What would a defeat look like for Amadinijad? The answer is – it would look very much like victory. He is awaiting the destruction of the Middle East, a sign of the return of the mahdi. My view of things is more pessimistic than yours. I think we already have lost in the area. But the loss will mark only the beginning of the struggle. And it is by no means certain that the West – by which I mean everything loveable in the West – will win.

Anonymous said...

Pesci: Agreed that it can't be settled militarily and I disagree with your regional analysis quite a bit but it ain't up to either of us anyway. What I beleive Petraues is up to is more of a police type approach that he used in Kurdistan but obvioulsy a much tougher challenge. And as good as he is he is only one piece of the cog. I think Negroponte will be doing quite a bit to get Condi's ass out of the sling. She's smart but not in her job.

Don Pesci said...


Interesting to know what your predictions for the area are after the Great Satan has left. I think this piece pretty much covers the Homefront.

Anonymous said...

Predictions on that type of stuff are beyond my paygrade. And it is still not clear to me if Bush will engage Syria and Iran diplomatically as Baker suggests or what exactly his plans in Iraq are so I have nothing to base a prediction on anyway. I am looking forward to the Prez's speech tonight to see if it's specific or more of his Holy War crap that scares the hell out of me. And BTW, I tired to answer yesterday but couldn't get through :)

Don Pesci said...

Yes, “predictions” is probably not the right word. None of us are born with crystal balls in our brain, and there are variables involved yet hidden beneath the surface. I think it would be disastrous of the West to miscalculate the nature of this enemy, and we do not need a crystal ball to take his measure. He has been with us for centuries; he has left his trail through history. More importantly, he has told us precisely what his intentions are and has left his bloody footprints upon three decades of our own personal history. The West ignores him at its peril. It is madness of the worst sort not to be frightened by frightful things.

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