Skip to comments.An Open Letter to Howard Dean
Posted on 09/15/2003 5:29:39 AM PDT by Congressman Billybob
To: Governor Dean From: Congressman Billybob re: this little matter of honesty in campaigning
Dear Sawbones (may I call you Sawbones?),
You've made a lot of statements on the campaign trail of late that lead me to question whether you've decided that truth is a terrible impediment to getting elected.
I don't have the knowledge to analyze everything you've said. But there are four points you've repeated as a Democratic mantra that I do know, nine ways from Sunday. On those four I conclude you have the honesty of a five-year-old who's just gotten into the chocolate chip cookies but with a mouth smeared with chocolate, says, "I didn't do it."
In order, your four obvious lies are about President Clinton, President Bush, the Texas legislature, and the recall election of Governor Davis in California. In each case, you claim that "The Republicans are acting to thwart democracy." Well, let's take a look at the facts and see what we have.
You challenge the impeachment of President Clinton as an effort to "reverse" the previous election. Hellooo. Elections are regular; they come around every four years, rain or shine. Impeachments are extremely rare; they only apply to malfeasance while in office. Would you confuse a routine physical exam with brain surgery, for instance? I hope not.
Impeachment only applies to someone who is already in office. Self-evidently, Presidents Andrew Johnson and William Clinton, the only ones subjected to impeachment and trial, had been elected the last time they ran. Otherwise, the impeachment terms of the Constitution could never have applied to them.
So your attack on the use of this process is an attack on the Constitution itself. If you don't like any provision of the Constitution, your legitimate choice is to seek to change it. And if you cannot get it changed, you must abide by it. Leastwise, that's what President Washington and most other Presidents to date have thought of the Constitution.
Next, you attack the Florida litigation as an effort to "reverse" the 2000 election. Hellooo. You, sir (may I call you sir?), are aware of the Electoral College, in which votes have been counted not nationwide but state by state since 1789. You, sir, are aware the College has occasionally produced "minority" Presidents. You, sir, are aware that there were multiple recounts in Florida, including a year-long unofficial one led by the New York Times, ALL of which concluded that President Bush won Florida, and therefore won the election. Again, your quarrel is not with the Republicans, but with the Constitution.
You claim that the California recall is a "reversal" of an election. Hellooo. You, my friend (may I call you friend?), are aware that the recall has been part of the California Constitution since 1911, and many other states have the same process. You, friend, are aware that recall cannot apply to any Governor unless that person has first been elected. Again, your quarrel is not with the Republicans (and Democrats and independents who signed the petition there), but with the California Constitution.
You claim that the Texas redistricting battle is an assault on "democracy." You, Shorty (may I call you Shorty?), are aware that the US Constitution commands every state legislature to redistrict its state after every Census, conducted every ten years. You are aware that the Texas legislature has not yet completed any redistricting as required after 2000. You are aware that the Texas Constitution requires that two-thirds of each House of its legislature must be present, for that House to act (a provision the Democrats are using by fleeing the state while the legislature is in session).
Again, your quarrel is not with the Republicans but with the Texas and US Constitutions. By the way, you apparently approve of fleeing the jurisdiction when something happens that you don't like. Please state the conditions under which you would escape to Canada, if you were elected President and something you adamantly disliked was going down in Washington. I'd love to hear that.
In all this I conclude that you are a liar. I have a bunch of friends who are doctors. On occasion I've met a graduate of law school who's dumb as a post, but never a graduate of medical school. You are too smart -- in an abstract sort of way that seems common among Democrats -- not to know the facts on these four issues. You know that you're lying.
Howie baby, (may I call you Howie?) you're not alone in this. I've heard and read the same set of lies from many other Democrats over the last two weeks. Is there a fax machine somewhere in Washington that cranks out the "Lie of the Week" with instructions to all true Democrats to "ride this pony til it drops dead"? If there is such a central fax machine, I bet it's on the desk of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry (the $10 million man) McAuliffe.
After all, Terry learned how to lie at the knee of a Grand Master, former President Bill Clinton. (Remember him? He was in all the papers. Whatever happened to him?)
Are you willing to lie flat-out to the American people because you believe a sufficient number of them are dumb enough so you can fool them and win the next election? Is your goal to find an exception to Abraham Lincoln's famous comment, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time."? Is this the Dean Exception to the Lincoln admonition: "Maybe I can fool enough of the people enough of the time."?
As someone who's labored in the vineyards of constitutional law for decades, I assure you that it ain't rocket science. Every part connects to every other. You just have to learn the parts and connect the dots. It's sort of like anatomy class in medical school. "The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone. And the ankle bone's connected to the shin bone ...." You remember that, don't you?
So quit your lies about the US Constitution, and the California Constitution, and the Texas Constitution. Unless, of course, you genuinely believe that constitutions as the voice of the people just don't matter, and that constitutions should be treated like silly putty whenever they interfere with the hopes and intentions of Democrats. If you genuinely believe that, by all means say it and see how far that gets you.
Oh, and by the way, stop stealing your laugh lines from other people. That line you took from a TV show starring James Carville to deliver as if it was yours, before a slavering audience in Baltimore last week, reminds me of a short, cutting review of a Broadway play. The reviewer wrote, "It was both good and original. The part that was good was not original. The part which was original was not good."
Try to speak for yourself, unless you've forgotten how to do that. I realize the risk. You may just find yourself wasting away in Dukakis-ville. Just another leftist Democrat governor from New England, whose act the American people are not about to buy.
On second thought, ignore my advice. Go on lying. Go on stealing your lines from anyone who thinks and writes better than you. If the Democrats are foolish enough to nominate you with all that on your record, they and you deserve what you'll assuredly get.
See you behind an asterisk in the history books.
With all due respect,
Congressman Billybob (a.k.a. John Armor)
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About the Author: John Armor has taught and written on American politics for forty years. He currently has an Exploratory Committee to run for Congress.
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John / Billybob
John / Billybob
I would take out the "shorty" bit and come up with something else to call him. It doesn't really score any points to make fun of his limited physical stature. Maybe "wingnut" or "liar" would be better here.
BTW, I did not mention in this article that the Democrat mantra that it could "happen to the next governor, and any governor" is a separate lie. History shows that this widely available citizens' check and balance has been employed only twice in national history against a Governor of a state. That suggests strongly that recall, like impeachment, is very rarely used and only in extraordinary circumstances.
John / Billybob
Recalls are used for malfeasance in office, not just political change. The fact that such mechanisms that exist in one-third of the states, but have only been used against Governors only two times in a century, answers your question. If recall were merely a matter of political change, you would see them happening almost as often as elections.
You don't see anything approaching that. The people of California, Nebraska, etc., have demonstrated their understanding that recall is a very specific process that should be employed very, very seldom.
In short, as I have said, Howard Dean is a liar about this. So is Bill Clinton, who said just yesterday in California that "if a Republican is elected, there will be a recall against him, too." Clinton, too, is proved a liar by the simple facts of history.
There were three ATTEMPTED recalls against Governor Ronald Reagan. None came close to getting the necessary signatures to proceed to a vote. It only takes a handful of people with a few dollars and a phone and a copy machine to START the process. But it takes the decision of millions of Californians to turn that into a REAL ELECTION.
A lot of arguments can be made in theory. But most theories founder on the rocks of reality. The only person who can make the argument that recall = a standard political election is someone who is totally ignorant of the history of recalls at the state and local level.
BTW, there are dozens of recall elections every year, mostly at the local level. These are below the radar of the national press. But I've looked into them. Mostly they are the removal by the people of a local Sheriff or County Official who seems involved with corruption or is totally incompetent.
Because the petition requirements are much higher than the maximum levels permitted under the Constitution for simple elections, it takes the highest level of citizen outrage -- a true citizens' revolt -- to get any of these things on the ballot.
Recalls generally require 12% petitions (California) or even higher. Some of my cases in the US Supreme Court have mailed down the point that a petition requirement higher than 5% is unconstitutional for a candidate for President. That, too, is part of the history that liars like Bill Clinton, Gray Davis, and their assorted sycophants are deliberately ignoring.
No, a recall is nothing like an ordinary election. And the last time I checked, it is the sovereign people of each jurisdiction who have the right to put recall into their constitutions, or not to put it there. Writing and ratification of constitutions is also part of the "democratic process" as it exists in the United States.
I repeat -- those who say that recalls are simply reversing elections, are either totally ignorant of the recall process, or are liars.
John / Billybob
Most recalls, as I noted, are local. Faced with a warchest of a few hundred dollars and a fair number of angry citizens, and the Sheriff of Whatever County can find himself being recalled from office. Like political races tehmselves, the smallest districts can have the results depend on shoe leather rather than money. But as the District size grows, the need for money in the campaign rises exponetially.
Is that helpful?
John / Billybob
In a town with 1,000 voters and a 12% requirement, you can talk to your neighbors, spend nary a dime, and get the signatures if enough people are cheesed off. In a state with 8 million voters in the last election, you MUST have money for staff, money for printing, money for communications.
Previous efforts to get signatures in any jurisdiction will give you a good idea of how much money and how many staff (volunteer or otherwise) are needed to get the signatures this time. Take an average of prior signature efforts for any subject, because the more fired up people there are, the easier it gets. Less means harder and more expensive.
I suppose I've been involved in about 100 petition campaigns. It boils down to a formula based on targets and district size. The results are a mini-max. Exceed the maximum and your issue will make the ballot. Fall below the minimum, and your issue will surely fail. In between those two, it's a crap shoot.
John / Billybob
On the other hand, widespread outrage cannot, by itself guarantee the success of a petition drive. Absent mechanics, staff, offices, printing, etc., the anger festers but accomplishes nothing.
But above the limits of the minimum necessary anger and money, the factors are interchangeable. More anger can make up for less money, or vice versa. That's why I say to average the prior, comparable campaigns. The only prior successful recalls in California are state legislative, county or local ones. None of these are comparable to a statewide campaign.
The only prior successful recall against a Governor was in Nebraska in 1921, as I recall. Nebraska is a small state. So that isn't comparable.
Chase down, if you choose, the statistics for money and people involved in prior referenda campaigns in California. These are your "comparables." They are statewide, in the nation's biggest state.
This campaign went way over the top, gathering 1.6 million signatures when only about 1.1 million were safely enough to make the ballot (with the usual 30% cushion for rejected signatures). That tells you that the combination of money and anger in this recall was more than was needed to accomplish goal one -- putting the matter on the ballot.
As for how much more, I haven't the slightest clue. Other than a 70-0 blowout, I have never seen a football coach tell his team to hold off and not score again. This was not a "piling on" situation. This was a "making sure" situation.
That's about the end of my contribution to this interesting discussion. I don't have the time to do the research to dig up more information, nor the time to write an article that might be published for pay as a result.
John / Billybob
Ummm... you may know the subject "nine ways from Sunday," but Andrew Johnson was not elected. He was Veep and attained the presidency as a result of the Lincoln assassination. Clinton was and is the only elected president to be impeached.
John / Billybob
John / Billybob
"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master."
John / Billybob
We just happen to be OPEL (car) collectors and our clubs mailing list is supposed to be apolitical. well, a BIG nasty fight developed over 'signatures' on the bottom of e-mails.
If you'd like to see them, I can privately mail them to you.