"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"


GOP Stressing Pork, Not The Party
Washington Post
By E. J. Dionne Jr.
July 25, 2006

GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- Sen. George Allen, the Virginia Republican up for reelection this year, and Jim Webb, his Democratic opponent, have big differences on Iraq. Allen supports President Bush's policies. Webb opposed the war.

But the big news out of their debate Saturday in Hot Springs had nothing to do with the Middle East. The geographic locale that mattered was Craney Island.

Most people outside Virginia's Hampton Roads region have never heard of Craney Island -- and neither had Webb, an anti-politician whose career has taken him from the military to the Reagan administration to writing and now back to the Democratic Party.

Allen asked: "Jim, what's your position on the proper use of Craney Island?"

Webb replied, candidly: "I'm not sure where Craney Island is. Why don't you tell me?"

No doubt feeling very pleased, Allen replied: "Craney Island's in Virginia."

Just last week -- as Jim Hodges of the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., reported -- the Senate authorized a $671.3 million expansion of Craney Island, adding 580 acres and "offering a boost for a future port there."

Allen wanted no one to miss the significance. "This is huge," he told reporters. "It's a big, big deal."

I have no idea whether Allen will get a boost from his quiz-show moment of triumph and the implication that he delivered big-time for Virginia. What's interesting is the extent to which Allen and other Republican incumbents around the country are talking up how they brought big government's largess to their constituents.

It doesn't matter that they claim to be against that very same big government. Faced this year with a choice between running on their party's record and delivering pork, they'll take pork.

That means that some incumbent Republican senators are acting as if they were seeking reelection for governor -- or even mayor.

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) started running a television spot a couple of weeks ago focusing on "fires, accidents, paramedic calls" and the needs of localities to be prepared for terrorist attacks.

In the ad, Kyle Miller, an assistant fire chief in Cedarville, Ohio, offers this testimonial: "Senator DeWine saw how stretched our local fire departments have become, and he went to work. He delivered badly needed equipment, training and resources to firefighters and emergency services across Ohio. He saw a problem and he fixed it. He's not flashy, but Senator DeWine gets things done."

If you wonder how attractive the Republican Party label is this year, consider that the tagline on DeWine's ad is "Independent Fighter for Ohio Families." The word independent is underlined, so you can't miss it. For the record, the Democrats insist that DeWine's ad exaggerates his accomplishments. More revealing -- if unsurprising -- is that the role of taxpayers (or deficits) in delivering all those goodies goes without mention in his spot.

The campaign Web site of Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, one of this year's most endangered Republicans, offers a wondrous combination of old-fashioned bring-home-the-bacon politics with the best in voter-friendly technology.

The site features a section headlined: "What Conrad Burns Means to You!" (It's their exclamation point.) It brags about "Over $2 Billion Brought Back for Montana Families." What's nifty is that Montanans can click on their city, town or region -- Billings, eastern Montana, Kalispell, Bozeman, Great Falls, Missoula, Butte or Helena -- and find out their share of the take.

The "Key Accomplishments for the Billings Area" included the Montana Avenue Restoration, the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch, Pompey's Pillar, the Armed Forces Reserve Center, and the Airport Road and Zimmerman Trail.

Pompey's Pillar? According to Burns's site, it's "an interpretive monument dedicated to the only signature and physical evidence of their passage through the Lewis and Clark Trail." Further checking revealed that the "signature" in question is Capt. William Clark's, carved into the monument on July 25, 1806. Very cool.

Okay, all incumbents brag. But from Craney Island, Va., to Cedarville, Ohio, to Pompey's Pillar in Montana, most Republican senators in tight races want to get your mind off that irrelevant stuff -- you know, President Bush, Iraq, the deficit, oil prices -- and on to those nice little things they've gotten that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad big government to do for you.

And if you can forget just this once that they're Republicans and instead see them as, say independent fighters, that would be nice, too.

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