Joe Conason's Journal

A candidate turns negative -- again! -- but his stand on the issues provides the real entertainment.

By Salon Staff

Published October 4, 2002 3:51PM (EDT)

More Forrester fatuity
So mesmerized was I by the brief, fatuous material on Doug Forrester's issues page that I failed to realize that there is actually more. It's all still empty-headed cliché and sonorous crap, but several more paragraphs are indeed available. I certainly didn't intend to mislead -- or to overlook the work of the Forrester campaign staff.
[1:17 p.m. PDT, Oct. 4, 2002]

What the Republicans admit
Life, politics and the law aren't always simple enough for the ditto-heads among us. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's necessary to read and think before shouting. In New Jersey, for example, people seeking to understand why the state Supreme Court decided that Lautenberg could be substituted for Torricelli ought to try reading their unanimous decision available here (in pdf). Yesterday, the Newark Star-Ledger published a brief but revealing account of the judges' remarks during oral argument. The judges clearly felt that the statute in question does not strictly prohibit a candidate substitution after the 51-day deadline. Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, the former chief counsel to Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, pointed out that while New York's election law says that failing to meet the deadline is a "fatal defect," the New Jersey statute "says nothing of the kind."

This memo from a Republican lawyer to the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee inadvertently reveals the arguments for allowing Lautenberg on the ballot. The memo mentions the last New Jersey case when this issue arose, in 1952. On that occasion, the Republicans were trying to prevent a candidate who died from being replaced. Their bid for a one-party election was rejected. The NRSC memo also notes that "the time limit was raised from 34 days to 51 days in 1985" -- and that the legislative history shows the reason for the time limit was "to afford election official [sic] sufficient time in which to attend mechanics of preparing for general election."

In other words, the explicit aim of this law was not to prevent a losing candidate from quitting and being replaced, as the Republicans themselves admit. And state officials have informed the court that they do have enough time to prepare, while the Democrats have agreed to pay the additional costs.

The "strict adherence" to the "letter of the law" trumpeted by indignant Republicans is, in practice, about as strict as Newt Gingrich's monogamy. For them it isn't good enough that a Republican-dominated court voted unanimously to permit Lautenberg on the ballot. (Apparently Republicans appointed by Christie Whitman aren't Republican enough for Princeton legal scholar Robert George, whose bitter screed about their pro-choice views is posted on Forrester's Web site.) Petty consistency is all that matters.

So these same pettifogging Republicans must also believe that Bush and Cheney should have forfeited the electoral votes of Texas, since Cheney surely wasn't an "inhabitant" of Wyoming as required by the Constitution's 12th amendment; and Mitt Romney ought to have been thrown off the Massachusetts ballot, since he obviously hasn't lived there for all of the past seven years, as required by that state's constitution; and Katherine Harris should have been bounced from the Florida ballot, since she admittedly backdated her "resignation" to run for Congress.

In all of those cases, judges or other administrators decided that the absolute letter of the law mattered less than allowing the voters to exercise their democratic will. But those "liberal" interpretations were acceptable, because they benefited Republicans -- who crave power, not principle.

That's all, folks
Meanwhile, in case Scalia and Rehnquist don't help out, Doug Forrester has shifted the focus of his wholly negative campaign to Lautenberg. He is seizing on statements the former senator made upon retiring, apparently because he literally has nothing else to say. He also is exploiting the cheap "patriotism" gambit urged by Karl Rove.

For anyone who was too busy to click over to the "issues" page on his Web site, I reproduce below several of his key position statements. (I know I've pointed this out already -- but somehow I can't turn my gaze from the perfect vacuity of this candidate. It's beautiful.) Please note, these aren't selected quotes or paraphrases. Each is the entire statement of Forrester's position, in full.

Defense: "There is no more important function of the federal government than to provide for a strong national defense."

Education: "Few issues are as important as the education of our children. As a former university instructor, I have seen the power of a good education. Simply put, it can change lives."

Healthcare: "Along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all Americans should have the right to expect decent health care. Just as the Statue of Liberty stands to welcome teeming masses of the poor and tired, a great nation must be able to care for its sick and elderly."

Taxes: "Americans, especially New Jerseyans, are being taxed at the highest levels since World War II, and are inundated with the day-to-day pressures of paying them." (This is wholly inaccurate, but never mind.)

And my personal favorite, Social Security: "Looking forward to a comfortable and secure retirement used to be one part of the American Dream that we all shared."

Someone sent me an e-mail last night, theorizing that Forrester's handlers had started to write a platform for his campaign, and then chucked the thankless task to go out for a beer.
[12:05 p.m. PDT, Oct. 4, 2002]

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