Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Imaginary World of Joe Donnelly

Matt Tully's column this weekend is a love letter to Joe Donnelly, singing the praises of the liberal Congressman from northern Indiana whose voting record has been in lockstep with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi from the moment he took office.

This liberal voting record--a hard and objective, unchallenged fact--is something that is inconvenient to the narrative of Tully's paean to Joe Donnelly (really a sour grapes lament of the defeat of Dick Lugar), so Tully simply omits it.

In Tully's world, Donnelly is a soft cuddly moderate who loves bipartisanship, a guy who can get away with an outright lie of claiming he never voted for Nancy Pelosi for house speaker when in fact he voted for her twice.

Let's look at the column:

It's easy to be depressed about politics these days.

Super PACs shape campaigns from the shadows, and cable news entertainers influence politics from the edge of sanity. Big issues go unaddressed because of partisan gridlock; yet, somehow, politicians such as Indiana's U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock emerge with promises to bring even more gridlock and partisanship to Capitol Hill.

Mourdock bluntly said recently: "We need less bipartisanship in Congress." Among many other such statements, there was this one: "To me, the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else."

I could go on; Mourdock is the Energizer Bunny of juvenile political ideas. So it's been nice to see that his divisive brand of politics has caused him trouble recently and helped make Indiana's Senate race competitive.

I'm curious about what makes the Senate race any more competitive than the one in 2010, other than columnists like Matt Tully proclaiming it to be so.

Gone are the pre-primary days when the Republican state treasurer had only to appeal to a small slice of the voter pool -- a slice that loved his inflammatory rhetoric. The general election season has arrived, and Mourdock's opposition to working with anyone who doesn't share his far-right worldview is a tougher sell among the 91 percent of Hoosier adults who either didn't vote in the Republican primary or didn't vote for him in that primary.

Fair enough. Mourdock must now sell his worldview to the 60% of Hoosiers that had him lead the Republican ticket statewide in 2010 (and had him beat Joe Donnelly in Donnelly's own district). This is neither a tough sell nor a new one for Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock's fortunes are not helped by the fact that his Democratic opponent is a workmanlike Blue Dog moderate. Joe Donnelly, a former small-business owner and current third-term U.S. House member from Northern Indiana, delivers a message built around two core ideas: create more jobs and turn Washington, D.C. into less of a toxic swamp.

This is interesting, as Joe Donnelly is currently in Washington and has by his voting record contributed greatly to 1) things that destroy jobs rather than create them, and 2) continue to keep Washington a toxic swamp.

There is also nothing "workmanlike" about Joe Donnelly's background (he's an attorney and a Democratic party hack), just like there's nothing actually moderate about him when you examine his voting record.

"This is about making Hoosier lives better and our country stronger," Donnelly told me over coffee at the City Cafe Downtown last week. "(Mourdock) is going there as a partisan warrior. I'm going there as the hired help from Indiana to make our state stronger."

Again, with his votes for Wall Street bailouts, Obama's economy-strangling deficits, Obama's budget-busting failed stimulus plan, and Obama's government takeover of health care, there is no record of Joe Donnelly using his time in Congress to "make Hoosier lives better and our country stronger."

Does anyone seriously think that the life of the average Hoosier is better today than it was when Joe Donnelly went to Washington? Is our country stronger? Certainly not with Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Donnelly minding the store. Indiana is not any stronger, either.

Hired help, indeed. Most people would fire hired help with a record like Joe Donnelly's.

So far, Mourdock has been Donnelly's most valuable political asset, routinely saying things that his opponents couldn't make up. For example, he has said that if the Senate is not in Republican hands next year, his main goal as a taxpayer-salaried senator would be to travel the country campaigning to get more Republicans elected. He believes compromise can be achieved only if Democrats and moderate Republicans cave on every issue and embrace his positions. He has offered a laughable proposal to eliminate several federal agencies and departments without offering a sensible plan to replace the services they provide.

If you believe that more government and more debt and more spending is the answer, clearly you're going to be voting for Joe Donnelly. If you want less government and less debt and less spending, clearly you're going to be voting for Richard Mourdock.

As Mitch Daniels is fond of saying, "You'd be surprised how much government you'll never miss."

"What will happen if you act that way is people will ignore you," Donnelly said. "How can you be a serious part of any discussion if you've said from the beginning that the only plan you'll be a part of is your plan?"

Joe Donnelly hasn't exactly gotten a lot accomplished in Washington other than be a rubber stamp for a liberal agenda written out of Chicago by Obama and San Francisco by Nancy Pelosi.

In a state that leans to the right, those pulling for Donnelly point to his opposition to abortion, his support of gun rights and his call for less spending.

Oh, well that seals the deal, right? How encouraging.

Joe Donnelly has "called" for less spending.

His voting record, however, has been in lockstep for ever more spending.

Joe Donnelly says he is opposed to abortion.

His voting record, however, has been for policies like Federal funding of abortion and coercion of private Catholic hospitals to go against their pro-life beliefs by order of government decree.

Pay no attention to what he does in DC, folks. Only pay attention to the sweet lies he tells back here in Indiana.

That record could help sell his candidacy to independents and moderate Republicans. But what about Democrats? To that question, he said he would support President Obama "when he's right" but added that the problems facing the country aren't about partisan labels.

If his voting record is any indication, by Joe Donnelly's own words we can conclude that he believes Barack Obama is right with ballooning government spending, raising taxes, and Obamacare.

Remember, Joe Donnelly says he supports Barack Obama "when he's right."

His voting record shows that Joe Donnelly thinks Barack Obama is right a lot.