MCGOP – 20 February 2010

I attended the Madison County Republican breakfast Saturday morning – the place was packed – extra chairs had to be pulled out for seating.  This shows a lot of interest and energy in the Alabama Republican Party, given that the scheduled speakers were “statewide Republican candidates with primary opposition” – that is, no big names were advertised.

The ‘biggest’ speaker was State Senator Hank Erwin, running for Lieutenant Governor.  I’d never met Erwin, but I’ve agreed with him on some issues and disagreed with him on others (he was the biggest opponent of last year’s Gourmet Beer Bill).  I got to speak with him early and found that he’s a nice guy – I’d already thought of him as a pretty good politician.  He talked about passing movie industry incentives last year and how he’d like to recruit ‘wholesome family movies’ to Alabama.  I wonder if the incentives helped bring Bear Grylls’ nude bottom (Man vs Wild) to Alabama…

I caught up with Erwin after the event to speak with him about Free the Hops and the Brewery Modernization Act.  I think he was somewhere between uncomfortable and amused with our discussion.  I hope to turn him around on FTH, but regardless, he has my vote.


Congressman Parker Griffith attended the breakfast.  As usual, Elbert Peters announced the names of elected officals attending and asked for people to hold their applause until all the elected officials were recognized.  Griffith received (light but enthusiastic) applause anyway.  He wasn’t alone in receiving applause, but I thought I’d point it out.

Griffith and I chatted before the breakfast – he recognized me as a contributor here at Flashpoint.  For the record, his face wasn’t beet-red.  Also for the record, the man is a gifted politician.

As someone interested in the art of politics, I think that Griffith is a talented politican and I’ve mused that he wouldn’t have switched parties unless he thought he could win.  So, I asked him how he thinks he can win.

Griffith began by saying that the Congressional Democrats were more liberal than he thought (if only he had read Flashpoint! – and if only I’d been quick enough on my feet to remember that quip!) and that the Democrat leadership was too liberal to work with - Democrats were opposed to issues critical to Alabama like manned space flight and defense.  Griffith mentioned a recent encounter with someone who criticized him for switching parties and he noted that Ronald Reagan and Richard Shelby and Fob James also switched parties (IIRC Reagan and James weren’t in office when they switched).  Griffith noted that the GOP leadership assigned him to the Energy and Commerce Committee – unlike some who diminish this Committee’s power I think that it’s a peach appointment – it’s one of the most powerful committees in the House.  I mentioned that Griffith had gotten a good welcome to the party with the Davidson fundraiser.

An interesting point that Griffith brought up was the number of Republican crossovers who voted for him when he was a Democrat – he’s certainly counting on their votes this time. 

Here’s ace reporter Challen Stephens of  The Huntsville Times on the committee appointment (“Griffith says he’s satisfied with the way he changed parties”):

Griffith, as a new Republican, has emerged as the only freshman member of Congress on the Energy and Commerce committee, a group that touches roughly half of the legislation in Congress. That includes health care and communications reforms, and energy policy, foreign commerce and consumer protection.

Before people start thinking I’ve gone over to Griffith’s side, let me say that he’s my third choice.  However before he was elected to Congress I said that I could vote FOR Griffith on the issues – this was before the hospital scandal.  My biggest problem is still the Huntsville Hospital documents – I read them and they’re disturbing – but I’m left wondering if that’s just me.  After all, Griffith wasn’t arrested and he still has his medical license – if he really did cause “unwarranted pain and suffering” to his patients then something should have been done years ago.  I don’t think I got played – the documents were real – but maybe they didn’t give me the whole story (does that mean I got played?).  That whole mess is disturbing – no wonder people wanted to ignore it.

I spoke with a few people about Griffith’s switch – he’s got a surprising amount of support.  Some of his biggest GOP detractors will vote for him over any Democrat.  IMO if he makes it through the primary – he’ll win the election.

One of the most intriguing items to come from the day was an invitation for Brian and me to meet with Griffith – given that whatever we write on this blog we’ll say to someone’s face - won’t that be interesting…

15 thoughts on “MCGOP – 20 February 2010

  1. Reactionary:

    My two cents: Energy & Commerce is a “plum” committee to a lot of Congressmen because a lot of PAC and Special Interest Group contributions are given to its members.

    But for a Tennessee Valley Congressman, it’s a misfit, a total bust. There is a reason it has been decades (if ever) since a 5th District Congressman was on Energy & Commerce: it does not meet the Tennessee Valley’s needs.

    The 5th District Congressman must be mindful of our unique local interests:

    1. TVA (Transportation & Infrastructure)
    2. NASA (Science & Technology)
    3. National Defense (Armed Services)
    4. Roads (Transportation & Infrastructure)

    Of course, anything that has to do with the budget (Ways & Means, Budget) helps.

    Griffith is ZERO FOR FOUR.

    No help on TVA (notwithstanding Griffith’s claim that E&C has some relationship to TVA, the relationship is tangental in the context of overall energy or nuclear energy policy).

    No help on NASA.

    No help on National Defense.

    No help on roads.

    So . . . if Griffith’s primary interest is campaign contributions, E&C is the place to be. But it is a disaster for the 5th Congressional District’s needs.

    You are right when you characterize Griffith as a “talented politician.” He is one of the smoothest operators I’ve ever met. He can outright misrepresent his past voting record, conduct and statements and never blink an eye. That’s a “talented politician” (in the worst meaning of the phrase).

    But a “talented, smooth politician” is not what America needs right now. We already have too many chameleon-like “talented politicians” in Washington who know exactly what to say to anyone to solicit their vote

    What America needs is strong, unwavering leadership.

    And Griffith provides anything but “strong, unwavering leadership.”

    I infer you agree Griffith is not what America needs (because you rank him third), but I thought I’d mention the above for your readers to ponder.

    Mo Brooks

  2. Reactionary: It sounds like you have had a sip of the kool-aid. It is a slippery slope. I would stop drinking while you are still thinking straight.

  3. Mo – it’s a big deal for me even to rank Griffith third. My first thought is to vote my preference in the primary and if Griffith wins to undervote the general. The problem is that the GOP needs to win the seat for the good of the country. Griffith would be better than any Democrat if only for the votes for leadership (leadership is a ‘team’ vote – no more Pelosi). This (potentially) puts me in the position of compromising ‘the greater good’ with ‘principle’.

    If Griffith can explain the hospital issue in terms that reconcile what I know to his side of the story – that will go a long way toward easing my objections. In other words – Griffith needs to prove me wrong / change my mind about the issue on order for me to vote for him.

    IMO Griffith thinks he can win without addressing the issue in the primary – and I wouldn’t advise a GOP opponent to bring it up. It’s certain that the Dems will run ‘de-moralization’ ads (think the anti-Riley gambling ads) if Griffith wins the primary. However, I’m sure he’s got a rebuttal ready if the Dems bring it up.

    IIRC Energy and Commerce handles health care, auto manufacturers, and cap and trade (global warming hoax). These issues are important to the District and the State.

    • Reactionary:

      I agree with you 100% that E&C is a good committee . . . but from my experience in the legislature and from what I’ve learned about Congressional committees, it has general jurisdiction over matters that generally affect the Tennessee Valley . . . but it has ZERO or CLOSE TO ZERO influence over the matters that SPECIFICALLY impact the Tennessee Valley (TVA, Defense, Roads, NASA).

      In that sense, for the first time in memory, the Tennessee Valley is unprotected by its own Congressman with respect to any of the 4 specific needs we have.

      In any event, even if Griffith somehow wins this election, it is unlikely he will be in Congress long enough to build up the seniority needed to wield real influence (18 years for Cramer, for example, would push PG well into his mid-80s – maybe he can serve that long, maybe he will retire, most likely he won’t be in Congress long enough to build up seniority).

      Mo Brooks

  4. Commissioner Brooks,

    I have to admit that I was leaning towards Les, as I have stated on this forum many times, but some of his statements at the forum last week and your stellar performance are leading me slowly in your direction. Thank you for not being afraid to attack PG’s record while remaining above the fray of personal attacks. The 5th district has had enough of low, slimy, gutter politics from both sides and I respect the fact that you desire to keep the race civil and issue-based.

    The comment that Les made that really took me aback was when he said that he would abolish the TVA. The TVA employs thousands of hard working men and women in the Valley and was instrumental in bringing electricity(and with it progress) to North Alabama many ears ago. With the TVA we have some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation.

    Les’s comment amounts to political naivete in my opinion and we need a Congressman who will go to Washington and fight for Tennessee Valley jobs and values, NASA, TVA, and Defense. And as we have seen with the recent space and defense cuts, nothing is scared. Commissioner Brooks, what is your opinion of TVA as well as your strategy for preserving NASA and the Defense industry which is so vital to our economy?

    • YoungGOP,

      I have similar feelings. I have supported Les from the beginning, when I found he was running last April. At the time, he was the only conservative running against Griffith. Over the last few months I have been undecided, and recently have decided to put my support behind Mo. I like that Mo has a proven track record of conservative principles and votes. He has been standing for Tea Party principles before the Tea Parties started up last year. I also agree that Mo is good at addressing the issues in a very professional way. I like that a lot. I would gladly support Les in a runoff between Griffith or general election, but I’ll be working on Mo’s campaign.

    • As a point of clarification, I’m not aware of Les declaring that he would abolish the TVA. He did say that he thought the Dept. of Energy was unconstitutional and should be eliminated, but I don’t believe that would necessarily eliminate the TVA (although it would radically change how nuclear regulation would be handled, for example). I don’t pretend to know about the organizational structure of the DoE, however the TVA is a “federal corporation” that does not receive public tax dollars.

      The DoE is responsible for our nation’s nuclear weapons & nuclear power plants for the Navy.

      • Brian, I rewatched the video from the forum and apparently I misheard Les the first time. He said he would cut the “Department of Energy, EPA, and OSHA.” The first time I heard TVA instead of EPA, this is my fault. I stand corrected

    • Young GOP:

      Your queries take more time than I have to answer in writing. Feel free to call me to discuss in detail at 539-6000 (o); 652-3833 (c); 883-7636(h).

      Mr. Phillip stated he would abolish the EPA, OSHA, IRS & Department of Energy. I don’t know which other agencies he would abolish. The TVA may, or may not, be on his target list. From what I’ve heard, it appears the principles are pretty much the same for TVA and some of the agencies he wishes to abolish. I suggest you ask Mr. Phillip directly (preferably via email or in writing so that you have a response that is not subject to interpretation or memory).

      Once done, call me and I’ll let you know where I am on the TVA.


      Mo Brooks

      P.S. – Some of us folks remember what it was like pre-EPA and pre-federal pollution laws. While I agree the EPA needs to be restrained by more realistic policies, abolishing the EPA and eliminating ALL federal pollution control laws is dangerous and bad policy. I remember the days of American rivers that caught on fire because they were so badly polluted, DDT at the City of Triana, Love Canal in New York, Birmingham air polluted so bad you could not see Vulcan from the hill on the north side of downtown Birmingham, toxic wastes uncontrolled, etc. I do not want to revisit the days of so many birth defects, respiratory illnesses, fish and game so contaminated you couldn’t safely eat them, and the like.

      • Mr. Brooks,

        While I am not old enough to remember the world before the EPA, I do question your statement that abolishing the EPA would be bad policy.
        I do agree that the EPA needs to be restrained, but they have made many bad and potentially harmful decisions, such as their war on Carbon Dioxide, the elimination of DDT, the safest and easiest way of eliminating malaria (see “Liberty and Tyranny” by Mark Levin). The EPA has been the principle force in pushing “Enviro-statism” onto the American people.

        I do not support the elimination an environmental protection agency. But perhaps we would be better served by having an Alabama EPA. Already California regulates their environment with much stricter pollution controls than many other states. We could say those are necessary considering the smog in LA. Each state should be able to set their environment given the needs of the state and the desires of the people. I believe that the people are informed about the necessity of some environmental control, but if we decentralize it into 50 distinct units, then the Sierra Club and others wouldn’t be able to push their radical agenda on all 50 states.

        The concern of course is that Tennessee will start throwing junk into their rivers that will affect our quality of life. That is where the federal government should act as an arbiter. So instead of having this overreaching, unconstitutional, and out-of-control federal agency. We could have an inter-state environmental arbiter with severely limited powers as compared to the current situation.

        The goal of the EPA is a good one. But our definitions of good quality of life are different. I for one do not consider Carbon-Dioxide to be destructive to our very way of life. Since I believe that controlling the EPA in the long run is a loosing battle, I believe it would be better to restructure the EPA completely than continue in our situation. If you have a better idea that would fix the overarching problem rather than just put out each brushfire along the way, I would be interested in hearing it.

    • Young GOP, your interest in the TVA reminded me that indeed the TVA did “turn on the lights” for many Alabamians and others in the region. It also reminded me that one of the persons instrumental in creating the TVA was someone who has a dam, a lake, and a city in Tennessee named after him, Senator George Norris of Nebraska.

      At the same time, Norris didn’t neglect the Nebraskans he represented. Almost solely due to his efforts at the time, the voters of Nebraska (using their Initiative and Referendum process) entirely restructured their state legislature, just as Alabamians need to do now, over 75 years later. Nebraska’s legislature is unique among all state legislatures in the nation because it has a single house. The state had a senate and a house of representatives for 68 years before Nebraskans voted to get rid of half of their state legislature in 1934. Their unicameral legislation has proven to be more efficient, less costly, more open to public scrutiny, and less influenced by lobbyists, special interest groups, or political parties (because members are elected on a non-partisan basis).

      At this point in time, Alabama needs a George Norris to turn on the lights in our political consciousness, instead of our homes. Alabama needs a Norris now, but it also needs a constitutional Initiative and Referendum process such as would be provided by Representative Mike Ball’s HB 201 if voters demanded that legislators vote for it or face the real possibility of being retired by their constituents in the elections later this year.

  5. Daisy – you may be right – KoolAid is made in Northfield Illinois – maybe it’s a Chicago Democrat conspiracy… Hmm… ;)

  6. You gentlemen know very well that if the GOP wins 40 seats in November. Boehner will give Parker pretty much any committee assignment that he wants. Parker will be perceived as starting the avalanche with his switch and that will in turn be handsomely rewarded. Even if they just pick up the 25 to 35 seats that Charlie Cook says they will. He will still see his power increased in Congress.Oh and in the interest of full disclosure its important to point out once again that I live just inside the Tennessee stateline in Marsha Blackburns district. So I can’t vote for any of them but I’m just giving my two cents here. Im also not employed by any of these gentlemen that are running in the 5th nor am I volunteering for any of their campaigns.

  7. dan t – Marsha Blackburn is on the Energy and Commerce Committee – she is also one of my favorite Members of Congress on policy – I heard her speak once in HSV and I was very impressed.