Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Walsh Seeks Embryo Vote

In last night's debate against Democratic challenger Dan Maffei, incumbent Republican Jim Walsh was asked if he's ever thought of changing his mind on his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. My eyebrows were certainly raised by his response:

No, I absolutely believe that there's a life in those embryos and that if we destroy it for whatever reason that's the destruction of a life.

I wonder if Walsh realized what he said. It's not just embryonic stem cell research that should be against the law, but also in vitro fertilization and first trimester abortions, all of which would be murder if a fertilized embryo were to be recognized as a human life.

A clever approach if you think about it. If all of CNY's embryos had been given constitutional rights 18 years ago when he was first elected, they'd now be of voting age, and they'd owe their lives to people like Walsh.

Unfortunately, Walsh hasn't had any visible effect in moving the Right-to-Life agenda. Which begs the question: is he hypocritical or is he ineffective? Or maybe it's just another case of a cynical Republican dangling red meat in front of conservative voters.

More reactions to the debate

The stem-cell issue wasn't the only pandering to the right wing. Walsh also offered up more standard Republican tropes such as:
  • equating illegal immigration with terrorism
  • maintaining that we need to legalize illegal domestic wiretapping in order to fight terrorism
  • whining that Democrats will increase taxes
  • declaring that Foley was just one bad apple, and then not nearly as bad as Democratic bad apples of the past

Walsh even denounced Maffei as a "carpetbagger" despite Dan's having grown up here and having Syracuse roots that go four generations back.

Local media starting to get it

I've noticed recent coverage of the race in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Syracuse Post-Standard is starting to look more even-handed. It used to focus on "who's this Maffei guy, anyway?" but now I've seen more discussion of the real differences between the two candidates, with Maffei being given weight as a viable option. For example, from the Syracuse paper:

It's a race that Robert McClure, a Syracuse University political science professor, said he won't be calling before Nov. 7.

"In 1996, Jim was not the person of stature on the Appropriations Committee he now is. He was just beginning his climb through the Republican hierarchy and his seniority had not really begun to reap the kinds of benefits for the district that I think it now does," McClure said.

"On the other hand, I think the mood is different today. In 1996, the country was not in a particularly sour mood. That's not the case now. There's an underlying nastiness and negativity that I think is different."

And the Rochester D&C article gives Maffei the first and last word:
"It's time to change the priorities in Washington," Maffei said, criticizing Walsh for voting with President Bush more than 90 percent of the time.
Walsh said the area's economy is "outstripping the rest of the state."

"The congressman is in a state of denial," Maffei replied, saying corporations such as General Electric, Carrier, Eastman Kodak and Xerox are now shadows of what they once were.

Walsh feeling the heat

In the debate, Walsh seems to be running away from his record, instead complaining about his challenger: Dan's not from around here, Dan's money comes from George Soros (mentioned twice in the debate), Dan's message is one of "doom and gloom." (As if anyone in Syracuse actually thought things were all funny and sunny?)

But I think Walsh is finally starting to realize that his biggest obstacle to reelection isn't his Democratic challenger, it's the voters who live in his district. At least those pesky liberals who show up at debates and ask uncomfortable questions like why he's voted with Bush 90% of the time. So, according to a statement released yesterday by the Maffei campaign, Walsh is trying to keep them away from the debate: a letter to Syracuse CBS affiliate WTVH 5, which would televise the debate live on October 23, Walsh has sought onerous restrictions, including:
  • Excluding students and faculty from even attending the debate on their own campus;
  • Limiting the kinds of questions that can be asked; and
  • Prohibiting audience members from even asking questions.

Come on, Jim. It's been a fine ride. Your kids have gotten good jobs in Central New York (about the only ones who have, of course). You haven't been touched by even a hint of scandal. But it's been 18 years and it's time for a change.


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