from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Paul Hackett at Hawk and Dove 

Washingtonians know Hawk and Dove as a classic Capitol Hill establishment that has been around for several decades, as the name should make clear. On Tuesday Dec 6, Paul Hackett, Democratic candidate for the US Senate had a fundraiser / get to know the candidate event. Having given money to Hackett’s special election race against Jean Schmidt, I was on the mailing list, and receive an electronic invitations. Since one of the hosts was Kevin Thurman, internet guy who put in in contact with Tom Vilsack, I thought I would attend. What follows is a semi-coherent reflection on the 3 hours I spent there.

The event was scheduled from 6-8. I spend far too much time at the establishment, normally when I am waiting for my wife who works nearby at the Library of Congress. Thus I arrived at 5:30, grabbed a beer and said hello to my friend the day manager Paul. I then around 5:45 wandered to the back room where the event was being set up. I remained until 9:30, well after the event was “officially” over. During my 3 hours I had a number of interesting conversations, including people who ahd served with Hackett in Iraq, at least one of whom is still on active duty, several key members of his campaign staff, others who there just to support him, and also with Kevin, noted above.

This will not be a stenographic account of the events, not even of Hackett’s formal remarks, if they can be so described. It will include reference to remarks he made to the crowd as a whole as well as several comments made directly to me or others. It is far more my general impressions, buttressed by specifics where relevant.

My first set of remarks is about people who served with him in Iraq. I talked with four, one a civilian female, three males who had been in the Marines (one still was). All were incredibly supportive, even though at least two were registered Republicans, one of of whom held a high ranking position on a Republican congressional staff (I promised not to be more specific, even though this individual was there with the knowledge of the person from whom s/he worked).

I served in the Marines (stateside only) in the 1960’s. That one’s fellow Marines, subordinates, superiors or equals (I will not specify) believe in and will support you is high praise indeed. While I did not see combat, I know that ultimate loyalty is to those with whom you serve, for your life may depend upon them. This is most true of the trust one places in one’s commanding officer. That people whom served under the command of Paul Hackett support him is very high praise, trust me.

Hackett is very “direct.” To put it another way, he is blunt, says exactly what he thinks, even if it might not be the politic thing to do. I remarked on this to several people, including both Hackett and his campaign manager. I offered the following thoughts.

(1) Americans will accept someone who speaks directly (even bluntly) what s/he believes, but once you start down this route you cannot back off because others tell you it is not “political” or “smart”.

(2) Americans want their political leaders not to be - how shall I say this - mean, nasty, demeaning to their political opponents. They want leaders who can recognize that people can honestly disagree about issues without demonizing their opponents.

(3) Americans want people able to seek out and work on those areas where common ground can be achieved.

BTW both agreed with me on these points.

Since this a holistic reflection, I will not try to recapitulate all I heard and observed. I note that Tim Ryan, elected to the House from Ohio when he was 28, showed up to introduce Hackett. I remember Ryan from the 50th birthday party for Howard Dean at Capitol City Brewery in 2003, where I had talked with him. I told him how much I respected him for being willing to take a stand and endorse Hackett now - after all, this could still be a contested primary.

When I first met Hackett he displayed what I consider an appropriate sense of humor, although I recognize that all who read this might not agree. I stated my name, my service serial number, and added “reporting for duty.” He immediately responded “Don’t do that, it reminds me of Kerry!” and we both chuckled.

When Hackett spoke to the crowd of about 100, his remarks covered a large amount of territory. Let me hit a few highlights.

He didn’t think it was the government’s business what you did in your bedroom or what you had in your gun case.

He worried that we would be the first generation to leave the country worse off than we received it.

He made it clear that he opposed the war, but that as military they followed the legitimate orders of the policy makers. He noted as well that he wishes he was still with his Marines, who as one of his former subordinates pointed out to me, will be returning to Iraq in June.

He had, in a side conversation with someone else, had said that those who thought that Iran was going to take over because of the relationship between Shi’a in both Iran and Iraq don’t understand the culture - that Iraqis are Arab and the Iranians are Persian, and that over the long term the two simply are too different to sustain a close relationship.

He described that Democrats as being the party of fiscal responsibility and - and I hope this is close to what he said - national security. He hit two other points as well, but right now I have brain lock - I did not take notes. Actually I wish I had an audio tape, because his remarks were so pointed and concise.

On Iraq -- he was quite critical of those who would set an arbitrary end date for withdrawal. He noted that the military will carry out the orders of the policy makers, but that it should be the military’s professional judgment of how and when to draw down troops.

I could go on, but you should already have a sense of what I think of Hackett. I was impressed far beyond the surface impression one can get from most politicians. There was not a lot of the normal “candidate-speak” which one encounters far too often here around DC.

BTW - slightly off topic . Also present was Andrew Duck, who will be the Dem candidate against Roscoe Bartlett in Maryland’s 6th CD. Duck is a retired career army officer who also served in Iraq. As it happens, several of his nieces and nephews attend the hs at which I teach, and another is associate director of admissions of the college from which i graduated and for which i do volunteer work in admissions - I know that nephew well,which shows how small the world really is.

I could go one with many more details. That might or might not be productive. let me give my general sense.

1) Should Sherrod Brown compete for the Senate nomination, he will get his clock cleaned.
2) Hackett has a real chance to win in Ohio. DeWine does not have a high approval rating, and Hackett has a real ability to draw support not only from Democrats, but also from republicans and libertarians (and he repeatedly mentioned both).
3) This is a man who is in it for real. He mentioned both privately and publicly that he was not satisfied with the close loss to Schmidt - as far as he is concerned, nothing other than a win is acceptable.
4) Anyone who encounters Hackett directly as I did is likely to look for a way to offer support. You may not agree with him on all issues (I don’t), but you will respect his forthrightness. Thus I have volunteered to serve as a resource person on education policy, even though it is not one of his top issues. I don’t intent to impose my viewpoints, but to help him clarify and best express his own views.

This is the end of my remarks. I hope they are useful to someone.

Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed!
Email accepted at "kber at earthlink dot net"
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