Congressional Campaign Committee has a new spokesman –
Fernando Cuevas, who, if his job description calls for
daggerlike claws, is certainly earning his paycheck.
Cuevas recently went after Rep. Brian Bilbray, the
Carlsbad Republican who is featured in two recent news
releases from Cuevas' desk. The first focuses on the
recent House passage of a farm bill that increases
subsides for biofuels and provides federal help for
farmers. The second is about a House-passed bill that
implements 9/11 Commission recommendations to beef up
security at ports, for rail and transit, and for cargo on
passenger planes. Bilbray voted against both measures.
Putting context aside, Cuevas appeals to voters in
Bilbray's north San Diego district by tugging at two very
emotional issues – terrorism and family values.
The headline on one release reads: “Rep. Brian Bilbray
Refuses to Enact the 9/11 Commission's Recommendations.”
The release goes on to say that politics is more important
to the Bilbray than “defending America from future
The headline on the second release: “Rep. Brian Bilbray
Votes Against Family Farmers.”
For a moment, we will put aside the obvious question of
how a family farmer differs from your garden-variety
farmer. We suspect the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee painstakingly chose the word “family” to convey
a very subliminal message: “Local Lawmaker Not Family
Friendly.” Or better yet: “Bilbray Vote Takes Food From
Mouths of Small Farm Children.”
Now, for the context missing in Cuevas' releases:
Opponents of the farm bill worry that it will discourage
foreign investment and that it may violate some treaties.
Foes of the 9/11 legislation say the bill does not
strengthen congressional oversight – one of the
commission's chief recommendations.
Lest you think Cuevas is picking on Bilbray, be assured
that his recent news releases are among hundreds that the
committee sent to reporters covering Republican incumbents
in districts where Democrats hope to pick up seats next
year. We suspect that Cuevas and friends are hoping to
massage voters' perceptions about Bilbray in preparation
for his 2008 election campaign.
AND THE WINNER IS . . .
Our humble Duncan Hunter, the Alpine congressman who is
giving up his House seat in hopes he can sit in the Oval
Office, scored higher than any other presidential hopeful
in a recent survey of Iowa voters.
The respondents to the poll of registered-but-undecided
voters were Democrats, Republicans and independents, all
of whom were asked to grade 11 White House contenders on
their answers to a question about withdrawing U.S. troops
As a mere aside, we feel it is important to mention
that the survey involved six voters.
Six. Now there's a representative sampling of America.
With that bit of perspective in mind, we turn to the
question put to the candidates by an Iowa television
station: “What do you think will happen when U.S. troops
are withdrawn from Iraq, and what is your strategy to deal
with what happens?”
Hunter's reply was what we've come to expect from this
former Armed Services Committee chairman, who was in the
Army himself and now has a Marine Corps son in
Afghanistan. It is heavy on defending what U.S. troops are
now doing in Iraq and short on the “troop withdrawal”
aspect. It breaks down the U.S. mission into three nice
sound bites: 1) create a free government; 2) create a
military force capable of protecting that government; and
3) when all that is accomplished, U.S. troops leave.
U.S. forces are currently in the second phase of this
three-step process, Hunter said.
“Not only is this phase critical to the continued
development of the Iraqi military, but it will also
determine when U.S. combat forces can begin rotating out
from the battlefield and be replaced by Iraqi forces,” he
Hunter's reply was well-received, apparently: The six
panelists gave him a grade of 2.66 out of a possible 3.
For comparative purposes, we give you the scores of Sen.
Joe Biden, D-Del., 2.5; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., 2.33;
and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., 2.16.
Dana Wilkie is a
Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and
a longtime observer of California politics and social