POLITICS AS USUAL
By Jim Baron
The president of these United States can take his endorsement and shove it?
Iâm sure thatâs what Democrat Frank Caprio said to the president of his own party. I know because after he said it in a radio interview, he called a press conference a few hours later for the specific purpose of saying, basically, âYeah, you heard me, I told him to shove it,â just in case someone had missed it the first time.
That press conference is what made it clear that this was not some petulant pop-off; it was a premeditated campaign strategy.
If you are not going to get the presidentâs endorsement when he comes into town anyway, why not turn a negative into a positive, and make a big show of how you donât need the presidentâs crummy endorsement. In fact, tell him he can shove it! That will get big headlines. It will make you the story of the day and not Barack Obama. And nobody will even mention Lincoln Chafeeâs name. This will go big on the cable news outlets and even the networks; maybe it will even get you some last minute national money from Obama foes across the country. Whaddaya got to lose?
Maybe the election.
Pre-planned or not, Caprioâs vulgar and disrespectful remark was an unmitigated gaffe. If nothing else, it was ungubernatorial. It made Caprio seem like a punk. Obamaâs job approval ratings might not be too high right now, but most people donât like it when you insult the president; it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Politics ainât beanbag, and you can understand a governor saying that in a private conversation with his staff. But you donât call a press conference to say it, not on the day the president is flying into town.
That doesnât make you sound tough and independent. It makes you sound like a pouting crybaby, lashing out in peevish anger at not getting your own way.
Besides, Caprio might need Obama someday, especially if he wins the election.
Remember that famous New York Daily News headline: âFord to City: Drop Deadâ? Well, what happens if the state is hit with a big hurricane or devastating blizzard and Governor Caprio has to ask for federal emergency assistance? Will we see a headline in The Times or the Woonsocket Call that says: âObama to RI: Shove Itâ?
make for better races
Say what you will about the candidates for various offices this year, they have certainly made themselves available and have given voters more than ample opportunity to take their measure.
One reason is that there are so many prime seats that are open this time around; there is no incumbent governor, 1st District congressman, attorney general or general treasurer.
The four major candidates for governor must be sick of looking at each other already â they got together for countless debates and forums any time and any place a handful of people would show up and listen to them. They often had several debates in the same week and sometimes even twice a day. There were three televised debates just last week.
The gubernatorial candidates were boring as all get-out, God bless them, but at least they showed up and said their piece.
Even the sniping between Democrat Frank Caprio and Independent Lincoln Chafee was for the most part too petty for anyone to remember much past this Wednesday. (OK, that âshove itâ incident did lively things up a bit, but thatâs the exception that proves the rule.) But no voter who has been paying attention can claim he or she doesnât have enough information to cast an intelligent vote.
The candidates in the 1st District congressional race were another matter â their debate on Channel 12 was a pitched political battle. I thought a couple of times that it might escalate to fisticuffs right on the PPAC stage (wouldnât that have been great!). It has to be said once again that Channel 12 stages political debates they way they should be done. Moderator Tim White gave Democrat David Cicilline and Republican John Loughlin plenty of room to argue back and forth and the heat it generated was enough to shed plenty of light on the diverse stands of the two men. If you didnât see it, you should watch it on the Channel 12 website; it is worth it for the entertainment value alone.
The contrast to that is the lame Channel 6 debate that they didnât even put on Channel 6, but ran on that RI News Channel. Whose idea was it to use those lame wild cards the candidates were stuck holding up? It made them look foolish. I was waiting for Vanna White to show up so the candidates could buy a vowel. The wild cards were bad in the Congressional debate; they were downright ludicrous in the governor debate. Give Channel 6 and the League of Women Voters kudos, however, for showcasing all seven gubernatorial candidates (but if you are going to have seven candidates, you really should give them more than one hour).
Cicilline and Loughlin also gave voters as much face time as they could ask for. Two weeks ago, they debated four times in the span of 36 hours. Give Cicilline credit, with his lead in the polls and in fundraising, he could have held back and hid behind TV ads, but he stood there and duked it out with Loughlin time and again. That seems like an even better idea with the polls showing Loughlin catching up at the end.
The campaign was fun while it lasted, fellow politics junkies, but tomorrow itâs all over.
Letâs keep our name;
it has nothing to do with slavery
Iâm not big on pushing people to vote if they are not otherwise inclined to, but you should get out and vote tomorrow if for no other reason than to vote against that damned fool constitutional amendment to take âand Providence Plantationsâ out of the stateâs official name.
It would be a travesty if that nonsense were to prevail on a popular vote. At some point, even in politics, common sense must be allowed to trump emotion, and this is where I draw the line.
As every man, woman, child and every other half-sentient being must know by now, the word Plantations in Rhode Islandâs name has nothing to do with the cotton and tobacco fields in the antebellum South where African slaves were oppressed and mistreated.
Even supporters of the amendment acknowledge that by now but, perversely, they contend it doesnât matter. They are so invested in taking offense they insist that we act upon their misperception -- which by now is intentional -- and change the name of the state anyway.
The name Providence Plantations is not implicated in slavery, we should not be embarrassed or ashamed about it, and we should not erase it now or in the future.
As I have said before, removing those three words from the stateâs name is not going to improve the lot of a single person in this state, black, brown, white or green. We would be better off devoting our attention and our energy to something that could.