Shaw v. Klein -- the opening salvos
A lot of weird news has happened in the past few days. Over in the MIddle East, they're continuing to bomb the shit out of each other. Up north, even the New York Times has endorsed dark-horse-candidate-turned-frontrunner Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate race. And down in Miami, President Bush has continued his long tradition of babbling nonsense to adoring, pre-approved fans in carefully stagecrafted events that are designed to make the public think he is speaking to real people. The Miami Herald story about Bush's trip explained that the visit was "part of a White House strategy to get the commander in chief out of the Beltway bubble and amid regular folks." But in the very next paragraph in the same story, the Herald -- hardly a bastion of this alleged liberal media I keep hearing about -- mentioned that at Bush's visit to Joe's Stone Crab, "Diners in shorts and T-shirts grabbed cameras and craned their necks for a peek of the president, but they had to settle for a huddle of Secret Service agents as the president ate privately with people the White House called 'community leaders.'"
You say Bush "amid regular folks," I say Bush "amid a prechosen set of supporters in a public place." Whichever.
Of course, food has long been a central theme of Bush's photo ops, which have included everything from corn:
To fake turkey:
But at least Bush's advance team picked good eateries. Along with the aforementioned Joe's, which features amazing, if overpriced, Stone Crab claws, Bush also visited the Versailles Restaurant, home of the best Cuban food on the planet -- seriously, you can't even get better Cuban food in Cuba.
But enough of all this. I am a voter in Florida's District 22, which is shaping up to be one of the toughest battles of 2006, if you believe all the political pundits who bloviated over it in the leadup to the race. Over the weekend, I had my first encounters with the campaigns of incumbent Republican Rep. Clay Shaw and Democratic challenger Ron Klein. In some ways, the differences between the two encounters were stark.
A knock at the door last Saturday turned out to be a Ron Klein volunteer, a middle-aged lady with an army-green tanktop, and short black hair coupled with shockingly blonde bangs. She handed out campaign literature before running through a bunch of questions. In particular, I recall her asking what was the most important factor in defeating Clay Shaw. Among the multiple-choice answers were keeping social security safe, ending corruption in Congress, and so on. I went with corruption. If this hypocritical greed orgy in Washington goes on any longer, the rest of these issues won't matter.
Challeger Ron Klein, allegedly out to end corruption
The next day, I caught the first televised campaign commercial for Clay Shaw. Points for not even mentioning Klein -- the commercial offered no mud-slinging at all, a welcome change from Shaw's initial campaign strategy. At the time I predicted a Klein win back in a May blog entry, Shaw's Web site was rife with slime. The site has since been cleaned up, and is as squeaky as the new TV ad, which focused on Shaw's pro-environment stance. A kindly female voiceover intoned, "The Audubon Society even named Clay Shaw 'Guardian of the Everglades,' and an even bigger honor? That came from the Boy Scouts." An inset phoro showed a Boy Scouts Everglades Patch, which was commissioned in honor of the congressman, while the larger picture focused on Shaw with a large group of Scouts.
Of course, the Boy Scout endorsement, coming from an incumbent, is patently absurd. The Boy Scouts support the status quo, no matter who's in charge. I'm an Eagle Scout myself, and I have congratulatory letters on achieving that rank from President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle, a man who I still consider one of the stupidest men alive -- perhaps the Stupidest Man in the World, were it not for a few notable others. But despite my own misgivings about these douchebags, did I not invite them to my Eagle Scout Court of Honor? You bet I did! And I would have done the same, no matter who was president. My point is, the Boy Scouts honor whomever may be in charge at the moment. They don't do politics. So an incumbent saying he's been endorsed by the Boy Scouts is a bit like any politician saying he's been endorsed by his own mother -- well, no shit.
I mean, seriously? A Boy Scout endorsement is the best this guy can do? Whatever.
Clay Shaw, allegedly courting the all-important Boy Scout vote
So, one side's got freaky ex-hippies out canvasing the neighborhood. The other side's hiding behind Mom and apple pie. Of course, in American politics, hiding behind Mom and apple pie is all-too-often successful. And after an unbelievable 26 years in Congress (remember when the GOP took over Congress in 1994 with promises of term limits?), Shaw ought to know how to win a campaign. I'm a little more hesitant in my Klein prediction, but I still think he'll pull it out. Shaw is too easily tied to President Bush, and that guy is downright loathed these days.