I was afraid this would happen. I understand the strategic significance of the maneuver, but it does leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Retiring Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert has become the new Sandra Day O'Connor.
You'll remember how, with the two Supreme Court nominations of right wing judges Samuel Alito and John Roberts last year, that all of a sudden, Democrats became great lovers of Sandra Day O'Connor. Never mind all of Justice O'Connor's votes to support right wing causes. Never mind that Justice O'Connor was one of the five justices who voted to prevent votes from being counted in Florida for no good constitutional reason, thus appointing George W. Bush into the White House. Oh, no, from the time that Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, she became every Democrat's ideal for what a Supreme Court Justice should be.
It was just a rhetorical tactic, of course, and a pretty transparent one at that. The minute Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, Democrats had nothing to lose by praising her, and everything to gain. They could create the idea of a moderate Republican Justice in Americans' minds that no nominee could ignore. If the Bush Administration tried to depict a nominee as like that public image of Sandra Day O'Connor, then the Republican base would rise up in arms.
Let's remember that this tactic ultimately failed. Oh, sure, it derailed Harriet Miers, but in her place, America got Samuel Alito, a judge even more extreme in his right wing views.
So, I'm kind of disappointed, but not surprised, to see the Democratic candidates in the 24th District here in New York State now rushing out to sing the praises of Sherwood Boehlert.
This weekend, Michael Arcuri sent out a press release stating, "I particularly want to salute him for trying to use his moderating influence on important questions of public policy. He represented this district well because he mirrored the moderate views of a majority of the residents in the 24th Congressional District."
Les Roberts came out with a similar statement about Boehlert: "Sherwood Boehlert has been a strong voice on environmental issues, and he and his staff have helped hundreds of people in the 24th District when problems arose with their federal government."
These senators didn't have to stab Caesar before they praised him. Lucky for them, Caesar decided to retire first.
It's not the worst thing for these Democratic candidates to make such a rhetorical gesture, I suppose. I'm not going to join them, however. I'm glad that Sherwood Boehlert is going away. Sure, every once in a while, Sherwood Boehlert did something worthwhile in Congress. Most of the time, however, Sherwood Boehlert either voted in support of the right wing agenda or was too weak to succeed in his feeble attempts to resist portions of that agenda.
Was Mike Arcuri right when he said that Boehlert "represented this district well"? Not in my book. Sherwood Boehlert supported Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq. He voted, more than once, for controversial legislation to help Bush spy on the American people. Boehlert also favored George W. Bush's policies to help America's wealthiest families get more wealthy, while leaving the rest of us out to dry.
The Paris Hilton Millionaire Inheritance Tax Exemption? Boehlert voted for it. How was that representing the 24th district well? How many millionaires do we have in our district?
What about Sherwood Boehlert's supposed saving grace, that he supported science and the environment, and protected them from Republican attacks? The truth is that Sherwood Boehlert was mostly ineffective in that effort. Boehlert was too feeble to stop George W. Bush's efforts to replace solid science with junk science, and was too weak to protect environmental standards from his Republican colleagues.
Everyone says that Sherwood Boehlert was a nice man. That may be true. I've never met him in person. However, he was not a good representative for the people of this district. It's out of fashion to say so now, but the record speaks for itself. The people of the 24th District can do better.
Now we have the opportunity to pick someone who can give us better than another meek, weak, mushy, milquetoast politician who hides from the issues. It's time to have a completely open, honest, and robust debate on all the issues that matter.