Friday, June 20, 2008

Get to Know 'Em

The distinguished representative from New York's 22nd Congressional District, Maurice Hinchey, recently seized the microphone to unveil his latest brainstorm:

"So if there's any seriousness about what some of our Republican colleagues are saying here in the House and elsewhere about improving the number of refineries, then maybe they'd be willing to have these refineries owned publicly, owned by the people of the United States, so that the people of the United States can determine how much of the product is refined and put out on the market. To me, that sounds like a very good idea."

A government official suggesting that the power of government be used to arbitrarily seize private property, to say nothing of the call for socializing a significant segment of the economy, should be grounds for recall and/or impeachment. His statement runs contrary to American values, economic history, and common sense. This man should be run out of Washington DC on a rail and live the rest of his life in pitiful, humiliating exile, as the chairman of a public university economics department or something.

Even Hinchey seems capable of having a moment of clarity on this matter. Put down those Molotov cocktails comrades, for the moment at least, the revolution is on hold:

But on Thursday, Hinchey avoided questions over his support for U.S. ownership of refineries in an interview with FOX News. He conceded, however, that the idea was unlikely.

Asked if he advocated the government taking over the oil business, he said: "Let's be serious. The government is not going to be taking over these refineries. ... But I do think we need to be putting national pressure on these oil companies ... to let them know that we're prepared to do whatever is in the national interest of the people of this country. That's our job — do what is in the public interest."

Actually, no. There is no requirement for doing the "public interest" especially when it comes to applying extra Constitutional force on members of the public you don't like. If the Congressional oath is to be taken seriously, that's actually in opposition to doing your job:

"I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

You get the sense Rep. Hinchey's mind is on something else when speaks those words every two years.

I have never heard of Hinchey before. But any time one of these obscure Congressmen makes national news by crawling out from under their rock to expose their beliefs to an audience beyond their gerrymandered safe seats, I turn to the definitive source for information: The Almanac of American Politics, by Michael Barone.

Some fun facts on Hinchey:

Catholic, married, Navy 1956-58

OK, good so far.

In his 8th term in Congress (16 years), preceded by 18 years in the New York Legislature.

A turn for the worse! But it's starting to make sense. Only a man with 34 years in "public service" would think it's a good idea to hold a press conference about nationalizing the oil refineries.

Sadly, it seems this could have all been nipped in the bud in 1992:

When he first ran for Congress (in 1992) [Hinchey] called for national health insurance, a repeal of the Reagan-Bush tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and a "reindustrialization" of America. His opponent, Bob Moppert, ,a Binghampton moving company owner, called for less government spending and bureaucracy. In a context that was not only partisan, but geographic, Hinchey beat Moppert, 50% - 47%.

The voters of upstate New York were given that choice and they still went for Hinchey? They clearly deserve whatever suffering befalls them. But why do the rest of us have to get dragged down with them?!

With his 3% mandate, Hinchey proceeded to change the face of America as we know it. Highlights from the Almanac:

He has one of the most liberal voting records for a non-Urban member of the House.

In 2007 he stirred controversy in Utah when he sought to limit the sale of oil and gas leases in wilderness areas.

He advocates a return of the Fairness Doctrine. In March 2007 he criticized the TV networks contending they continue to give disproportionate air time to conservatives on their Sunday morning talk shows. "When network news shows favor one political point of view over others, the American people are cheated out of an open, honest, and fair discussion."

Hinchey has been a frequent traveler: it was revealed that between 2000 and 2006 Hinchey took more than 20 privately-funded foreign trips to many exotic places, ranking him among the top members of Congress who received travel gifts and leading the New York Post to call him a "junket junkie." When the Ithaca Journal suggested his trips were a conflict of interest, Hinchey responded that it was "a result of the paper falling victim to Republican spin."

Lest you think any of this might get the old folks at home restless about the guy they have been sending to Washington for almost two decades, in the 2006 election, Hinchey ran unopposed. In the last contested election (2004), he beat his Republican rival 67% - 33%.

Where have you gone Bob Moppert? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Actually, it sound like it wouldn't matter if they resurrected old Bob or not According to Barone:

Early in his house tenure Hinchey was a Republican target, but since the mid-1990's he has won reelection easily; his district became more secure after redistricting with the help of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a friend of Hinchey from their time in the Assembly. In 2006 he ran unopposed.

It looks like we're going to have to get used to having Maurice Hinchey at the reigns of power for as long as he wants to be there.

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