Unlikely McCloskey?

McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo

Fresno Bee

I was momentarily confused by the radio snippet I heard the other day about a Republican challenging Rep. Richard Pombo, the Tracy, Calif., Republican who has raised the ire of some for his conservative positions on the environment and property rights. Did the newscaster really say that former Congressman Paul M. "Pete" McCloskey would run against Pombo?

It was time to do the math because I covered McCloskey's last campaign, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate race 24 years ago. My first thoughts: How old is McCloskey now, and can he really be serious about winning a campaign against a Republican power broker?

The answer to those questions came quickly when I heard that familiar voice a few days later in a telephone interview: "Yes, I'm serious," McCloskey said. "At 78, you don't give up five months of your life to lose an election."

His determination aside, the odds are against the one-time Marine who served 15 years in
Congress. Pombo has $555,000 in the bank, and could spend $5 million on a re-election
campaign. Pombo also has a solid GOP base, although he faces criticism over ties to admitted felon Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist.

But few think Pombo is in serious trouble unless further revelations surface. For McCloskey to win the June primary, he will have to persuade Republicans in a Northern California congressional district that he's a better party nominee than the incumbent.

That's where it gets a bit tricky for McCloskey, who has been called a maverick Republican for most of his career. Some think that means he's not really a Republican.

Wayne Johnson, Pombo's political consultant, said the more voters learn about McCloskey, the less enthusiasm there will be for him. He really should be running in the Democratic primary, Johnson said.

If McCloskey's campaign takes hold, Pombo undoubtedly will point out that his opponent has often gone against his party, starting with McCloskey's 1972 challenge of President Richard Nixon over the Vietnam War, and then supporting Democrat John Kerry over President Bush in 2004.

That isn't a record that you'd expect to be a roadmap for success in a rock-solid Republican district that covers parts of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

But McCloskey says 11th District voters want someone they can trust, adding that Pombo caters to the powerful and ignores his constituents.

"This is going to be a fun campaign," McCloskey said in a telephone interview from Lodi, Calif. "Pombo has a hotshot campaign consultant who says Pombo won't debate me, which is an interesting position for someone who is part of Congress, which is a debating society."

McCloskey began his political career amid much applause. He defeated Shirley Temple Black, whose career as a child actress made her a household name. That began a congressional career that saw him making news often because of his direct talk.

Among his accomplishments in Congress was co-authoring the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo is trying to dismantle. Now that has made this personal.

McCloskey understands that he may not be taken seriously by the political establishment or the media. But he said he's committed to changing the minds of doubters.

"You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," he said last week during his campaign announcement.

McCloskey looked for other Republicans to challenge Pombo, and decided to get into the race when he couldn't find a serious candidate. Despite his age, he said he is willing to take a stand.He said Republicans in Congress have strayed from party principles of smaller government, less intrusion into citizens' lives and a commitment to the environment.

"It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who gave us a strong environmental policy to protect parklands, wildlife preserves and wilderness, as well as anti-trust laws to control business excesses," McCloskey said.

It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, he said.

We'll see whether Republican voters in California's 11th Congressional District see it that way. McCloskey, at least, will give them a choice in the GOP primary. At a time when gerrymandered districts have sucked the interest out of congressional elections in California, this one might be fun to watch.

(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, http://www.shns.com.

I was sorry to read that the McClatchy Co. has decided to bury Pete McCloskey's challenge to Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, in the rhetoric of the horse-race. For the corporate media, whenever political values threaten the tranquil flow of business (the real estate business in California), it instantly resorts to handicapping as a form of political coverage.

The headline is dismissive: "McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo."

We assume McCloskey had something to say after his comment, "You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," -- and Boren just forgot to mention what McCloskey had to say in the next sentence.

I don't know what airy heights Boren now inhabits in what Scripps-Howard office building or where in the country is it. But I have registered voters in recent years in front of supermarkets in Tracy, Manteca and Stockton, in the 11th congressional district. From my observations, those people are no less deserving than any other Americans to honest, decent political representation in the House of Representatives. At present, they are represented by the political front man for Pombo Real Estate Farms, a man who cannot remember how many times he met Jack Abramoff and would be happy to forget he received about $55,000 from him, if other organizations had not reminded him of the fact. To local dairymen, he is the front half of the Pomboza, a duet of congressmen so committed to the real estate development of their districts they cannot be counted
on to represent the dairy interests in the upcoming Farm Bill.

We welcome McCloskey to the San Joaquin Valley, as should the newspapers. He's a strong guy and a straight shooter.

"It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party," Boren quotes him saying. "This one
might to fun to watch," he concludes.

The message to the readers: Even though you have a political system stacked against all you fools that read our papers trying to get information about important public affairs; even though that political system favors all our wonderful advertisers whose fraudulent messages are, if only by convention, so far beyond the truth they have to pay us handsomely to have them printed, don't you be losers now; don't you imagine for a minute there might be someone running against a crook for a decent reason. The system would crumble tomorrow if that notion were allowed to escape in public. Don't you dare dream of possibly cleaning up this corrupt system, congressional seat by congressional seat. Don't you dare dream you have that kind of power as individual voters. Uh-huh. No, no.

Boren is so obscure, who knows what he's trying to say? Who cares? What, for example, is so wrong with a battle for the soul of the Republican Party? Republicans have souls just like Democrats. All God’s chillun got souls. When Pombo's campaign manager repeats the ancient charge McCloskey should run as a Democrat, we're just talking two-bit power talk c. 1970. (I am always suspicious of so-called “journalists” when they think like back-alley political hacks. If they want that life in its uncertainties, why don’t they have the guts to live it?) This campaign is actually about the soul of both parties, because Democrats should vote for McCloskey on behalf of the general public in the district. That's because, somewhere, sometime, working politicians must step out of their respective machines and begin to think about the public instead of their damned places in the machine. One of the secrets of political campaigns is that it never made much difference which party working politicians worked for, they were and remain essentially the same kind of human animal -- neither the worst nor the best, but one of America's very first inventions, before the steam engine or the cotton gin, and their value remains when it ain't all bought up by the corporations.

The problem we are facing today with both working politicians and the political press is a
complex process of destruction. Maybe it could be accurately said that Republican politics traditionally centered in the soda fountain or the barber shop on Main Street, while Democratic politics centered in the tavern near the mill where the workers cashed their checks. It had to begin in some kind of concrete community because if America had been suburban from the beginning we would never have had any politics. We would have had the monarchy now so rapidly reaching fruition.

We are having a hell of a problem trying to conceive what politics means, now. The high-tech, suburban geniuses say history has fulfilled its purpose in themselves. Not in us,
necessarily; in them. They will manage it all by their perfect numbers from hereon out. So, you don't need to worry about politics anymore. That's nostalgic. America is a technocracy now; it's not even trying to be a democracy anymore. Forget that. That's oldthink. Yes, it is true that once we were based on political principles that were expressed in words complete with logic and argument oldamericans were willing to fight and die for. But the irrepressible forces of American business genius have led us to the newtime in which we live, here and now. Follow the numbers. They change frequently, providing endless variation.

Oldthink was so primitive that the nation had two parties: the Donkeys and the Elephants. The Donkeys and the Elephants lived in the belief that by the strength of their argument alone, after the Civil War, they would protect liberty and justice for all. It was said in public schools every day, little hands placed on growing hearts, as if it weren't a prayer but a pledge of allegiance -- "liberty and justice for all."

What terror awaits the voters of the 11th CD. They have been given a choice denied most Americans. And all the risk of voting for a possible loser, an honest man running against a man who does not have the truth in him. A terrible, terrible thing. Maybe they vote wrong.

Oh, terrible, terrible thing. Not to pick the winner.

Politics is not a horse race. It is really much, much more important than any horse race.

Before you believe your newspapers, realize they make their money from the crap on their advertising pages, not from you. The only reason you exist in their world is that the more there are of you trying to get some decent information on public affairs, the higher the rates they can charge to the advertisers.

As for Boren, oh well. What do you do about one more wannabe politician with a mortgage and an office with a view of somewhere high above the 11th congressional district? One may lack the authority to speak about this district if he hasn’t stood in front of the south Stockton Kmart watching cars being boosted in broad daylight whilst registering the odd Democrat. The sneer from airy heights doesn’t erase for me the fine local coverage of news the Stockton Record has delivered, especially on the incredible complexities of the Delta, through the years. Nobody in their right mind loves Fat City – which in a nutshell is the problem with right minds. Stockton is love at first sight or a heart attack. Take it or leave it. Fat City could care less.

Bill Hatch