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Saturday, April 23, 2016

California 8th Congressional District: Paul Cook vs. Tim Donnelly

by JASmius

First off, it ain't my district.  This.... my district, represented ably if in mediocre fashion by Republican and former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert for over a decade.  Most of why he's still representing WA8CD is the 2010 redistricting that saw heavily conservative Chelan and Kittitas Counties added to the swing-ish eastern portions of King and Pierce Counties.  This was offered in exchange for carving out the new Olympia-only Tenth CD out of WA3CD, which is and will always be a Democrat seat.  It's far from ideal, but at least I am accurately represented in Congress most of the time.

Can CA8CD say that?  Judging by Republican incumbent Paul Cook's ACU rating, yes - which is to say, if you're a conservative - and chances are, you are in this R+10 district - Representative Cook accurately represents you MOST of the time, and no more than that.

But let's introduce him first.

Paul Cook is seventy-three years old and was an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served for twenty-six years, earning a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War.

In 2006 he ran for and won California's 65th Assembly District seat, representing the cities of Banning, Beaumont, Big Bear Lake, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Perris, San Jacinto, Sun City, Twentynine Palms, Yucaipa, Yucca Valley and other smaller communities and unincorporated areas in Riverside County and San Bernardino County in Sacramento for three terms.  He left that post to successfully run for Congress from CA8CD in 2012, where he is currently in his second term.  He has been endorsed by the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) past presidents, the San Bernardino Sun, National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition, the County Farm Bureau, State Assemblyman Steve Knight, State Senator Sharon Runner, and U.S. Congressman Ed Royce (CA-39).

Representative Cook's American Conservative Union (ACU) lifetime rating - 75.67% - isn't spectacular and is in decline.  In the 113th Congress, Cook's freshman term, he posted a respectable 84% mark, but last year that number fell rather precipitously to 71%.  His voting missteps have included....

***Opposing the Stutzman amendment to the Congressional Resolution presenting a conservative alternative to the budget bill.

***Opposing the Hice amendment to the Military Construction-Veterans Administration Appropriations bill prohibiting the use of federal funds to pay employees while they are conducting union activities.

***Opposing the King amendment to the Military Construction-Veterans Administration Appropriations bill prohibiting funds from being used to enforce the prevailing wage provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act.

***Opposing the Walberg amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill eliminating a provision allowing $50 million allocated to the Afghan Security Forces to be redirected to infrastructure programs.

***Supporting the four-year reauthorizing of the Export-Import Bank.

***Supporting HR 1314 (Roll Call 579) busting the budget caps.

***Supporting HR 2029 (Roll Call 705) the "Omnibus".

Given that the Omnibus passed by a 316-113 margin, it would certainly seem that Representative Cook's "yea" vote wasn't too terribly needed, and the "Boehner Boner" could have been passed without it.

Cook sits on the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security Committees, and is a member of (and I didn't know there was such a thing), the "House Cement Caucus," which makes me wonder if Max Baer ever served in Congress.

Paul Cook strikes me as a rank & file Member who generally votes conservatively but will vote as the leadership directs on occasion as needed.  He appears to be a conventionalist, not a counter-revolutionary, whose safe seat gives him that flexibility.

Tim Donnelly is looking to change that this November.

Mr. Donnelly was the guest on Constitution Radio this afternoon.  I had never heard of the man before the last few days, but in the process of doing show-prep, I found out quite a few....revealing items that have made his run as a Tea Party activist and politician....shall we say, quixotic.

But let's introduce him first.

Tim Donnelly is fifty years old and is a successful entrepreneur.

His first foray into conservative activism came in 2005 with the Minuteman Project.  His involvement only lasted a year.

In 2009, he ran for and won California's 33rd Assembly District seat, which he held for two terms, posting a perfect 100% ACU rating, before mystifyingly leaving that post to unsuccessfully run for governor of California in 2014, finishing a distant third, narrowly behind the almost as distant second-place finish of the only slightly less woebegone Neel Kashkari, to four-term Democrat Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown.

Given that elective billets for conservatives are problematic in States as "blue" as the Pyrite State, seeking a seat in Congress from a safely "red" district struck me as being a much more realistic race to pursue than the California governorship.  That was the context in which I went into this afternoon's interview.

Then the interview began, and several things became abundantly apparent.

1) Mr. Donnelly is from the Tea Party's angry, militantly heedless, "FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHT!" wing.  His answers all distilled down to "blah blah blah 'establishment' blah blah blah 'not a dime's worth of difference between the parties' blah blah blah 'FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHT!'" blah blah blah....  This is why I confronted him with the current situation of how House Freedom Caucus intransigence is guaranteeing yet another year-end "Omnibus" fiscal train wreck, just to confirm my hypothesis of his leanings and psychology.  And he didn't disappoint, contemptuously dismissing everything I said and non-responsively filibustering on his merry way.  Which is fine; as co-host, my job isn't to argue with the guest, but more to, in this case, give him enough figurative rope to "hang" himself, which he did very effectively, in my estimation.  Had I been host and primary interviewer, I would have gotten more into the self-evident fact that Mr. Donnelly doesn't know enough about the legislative process to understand that my question was precisely the correct one, which he simply did not want to confront, because to do so would puncture the fiction that politics is all about "fighting" and not also persuasion and coalition-building and governing.  Which, in turn, is why he is unlikely ever to be successful in politics beyond the State legislative level.  Because, as I have argued so many times before, conservatives are a minority in this country, we need allies, and that means a governing coalition in which those allies are not going to be as comprehensively conservative as we are.  It's intractable reality.  To invoke Nick Fury's line from Captain America II: The Winter Soldier, you have to take the world as it is, not as you'd like it to be, if you wish to change it from the former to the latter.

2) Mr. Donnelly's activism has been...uneven, and at times seemingly "controversial" for its own sake.

On March 21st, 2011, Donnelly went from Sacramento to Fresno to call for the resignation of California State University, Fresno student body president Pedro Ramirez during a hearing of the school's student senate committee. Ramirez is an illegal Mexican alien who was on the school's dean's list. He "was injured in a car crash in January 2011" while "driving an intoxicated friend home when he crashed into a tree." Though Ramirez had been sober, "He was investigated for driving without a license" — which is "...a misdemeanor (12500(a) CVC) for which he will likely end up paying a small fine." (Illegal immigrants are not permitted to hold driver's licenses.) Donnelly was subsequently "...heckled..." by the audience of the student body.

Should Ramirez have resigned?  Yes.  Should he have deported himself ?  Yes.  Could he have injured or killed somebody, either his drunk friend or another motorist?  Yes.  Should Donnelly have tried to get Ramirez deported?  Yes.  Did he?  Not that I've been able to determine.  Was he successful in forcing Ramirez's resignation as CSU-Fresno student body president?  Again, not that I've been able to determine.  Was Ramirez the best choice of illegal to go after like this?  Debatable.  Was there a point beyond provoking the "heckling" from the student body audience?  Beats me.

On September 28th, 2012, Donnelly spoke at a bi-partisan Medical Freedom Rally with actor Rob Schneider urging Governor Jerry Brown to veto AB2109. AB2109 makes it more difficult for parents to utilize philosophical exemptions for exemptions from mandatory childhood vaccines. While the bill was not vetoed, Governor Brown added a signing message instructing the Department of Health to add a religious exemption and to make sure the process is not overly burdensome to parents.

The only kind of conservative activism that can be conducted in so hopelessly "blue" a State: The forlorn hope, twilight struggle variety.  The noble lost cause.  In this case, though, it did manage to achieve a little something, and that was better than nothing.  Or "nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Donnelly called for an audit of California's Child Protective Services along with Assemblyman Mike Gatto, following the case of Sammy Nikolayev, who was removed from his parents' home after his parents wanted a second opinion regarding medical treatment. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to audit CPS in three counties in the State of California on June 5th.

Taking a stand and getting results, which is the only thing that truly matters.  Excellent.

In 2013, Donnelly authored AB 351, the "Liberty Preservation Act." The law prevents “local entities from knowingly using State funds ... to engage in any activity that aids an agency of the Armed Forces of the United States in the detention of any person within California for purposes of implementing Sections 1021.” The bill achieved overwhelming, bipartisan support in the California Legislature, and was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.  AB 351 was backed by the Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Tenth Amendment Center, the California American Civil Liberties Union, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, the Libertarian Party of California, and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors. The Liberty Preservation Act prevents any State agency from indefinitely detaining American citizens, a key provision of Obama's National Defense Authorization Act. Donnelly stated, "“Indefinite detention, by its very definition, means we are throwing away the basic foundations of our Constitution.” He added, AB 351 "will prevent California from implementing indefinite detention for any reason.”

Given the universal acclaim for the LPA, this would have to be considered the crowning achievement of Mr. Donnelly's assembly career.


3) Like so many ambitious Tea Party pols, Mr. Donnelly has proven himself plainly and simply "not ready for prime time".

On January 4th, 2012, Donnelly had a loaded Colt handgun while attempting to board an airplane. TSA security screeners discovered the gun in his carry-on luggage. Donnelly agreed to a plea bargain, one count of carrying a loaded firearm into a city without a concealed weapons permit and one count of possession of a prohibited item in a sterile area. He was sentenced to three years of probation, a $2,215 fine, and is prohibited from using, owning or possessing any firearm that is not registered to him.

Oy vay.  Was this an oversight?  Had he forgotten he had the loaded Colt handgun with him?  I would imagine not, although that would be the better PR explanation.  If it was deliberate, that would mean Donnelly was either unfamiliar with local gun ordinances or was but defied them anyway, which, given that they were local gun ordinances, would not bring the Second Amendment into the question.  As to trying to sneak it past the TSA, given their track record of success at weapons detection, that was probably a good bet that didn't happen to work out on that occasion.

Still, a totally unforced error that, while it, curiously, didn't prevent reelection to his State assembly seat, will be baggage in this congressional race growing ever heavier the higher the office he seeks.

These two, though, take the cake and all the ice cream with it:

Controversy erupted when Tim Donnelly posted comments on his Facebook page accusing his primary opponent Neel Kashkari of supporting the imposition of Sharia Law in the United States, as Undercommissar of the Treasury....Kashkari incidentally, is a Pandit Hindu and not a Muslim. [emphasis added]

Donnelly's comments weren't "racist" or "divisive," but they were stupid for their completely unnecessary incendiary nature.  Kashkari hosted a Treasury seminar on introducing American free-market principles (well, they were American then, anyway) to Islamic countries....

Trying to introduce any Western principle to Muslim societies is a fool's errand given their extreme pro-Qur'anic chauvinism.  Donnelly could have charged Kashkari with wasting his time and being dhimmistically naive.  He could have whacked Kashkari for being one of the lead Bushkins on implementing TARP itself.  There was no shortage of legitimate attack angles on this particular topic for Donnelly to choose from.  So why make up this nonsense about Kashkari being a de facto Muslim Brotherhood aspirant?  Especially given that Kashkari's <AHEM> "swarthy" countenance would leave Donnelly wide open to the "racism" canard?  Did Donnelly really not know that Kashkari is a Hindu and not a Muslim?  Or did he just come across the above seminar summary, saw the phrase "Islamic Finance 101" and Kashkari's name on it, exclaim, "AHA!  Now I've got him!" and it was off to the Facebook races?

That rake to the face took place during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.  Whereas this one bobbed back into prominence from eight years earlier, suggesting that there is a treasure trove more of this overheated doggerel where it came from:

A 2006 speech by Tim Donnelly surfaced in April 2014, in which Donnelly referred to a "Hispanic insurgency" which he compared to the war in Iraq.

I didn't get the chance to ask Donnelly if he is a Trumplican, but that one remark alone pretty conclusively answers that question.

Again, why go rhetorically nuclear?  Isn't it enough to point out that there are thirty million illegals in this country already, and that we must restore the execution of existing U.S. immigration laws and take what measures we can to take back control of the border, implementing every measure and tactic toward that end that we can - including, but not limited to, a border wall (that isn't contingent on Mexican underwriting)?  All of that can be done calmly and reasonably, and MUST be to overcome the avalanche of "xenophobe" and "racist" garbage that any border hawkery effort will illicit regardless.

This is what Tea Partiers like Donnelly refuse to get through their thick skulls: Conservatives will always be "fighting" uphill.  We don't get to make unforced errors and get away with them.  We have to be tactically perfect.  And that means TPers have to choose between advancing the policy "football" as far as possible and deriving emotional catharsis from it in the process.  Because we do not get to do and have both.

Calling the illegal alien invasion a "Hispanic insurgency" isn't just self-defeatingly stupid, it's CRAZY self-defeatingly stupid.  It saves the Left the trouble of caricaturing us.  And it turns low-information voters even more solidly against us.

It is very....Trumpoid.

Is it any wonder that so many California Republicans have gone so far out of their way to distance themselves for Tim Donnelly?  Sure, some of them are RINOs, but not ALL of them.  Maybe at least part of the problem lies with him.  The parallel to the infamous Todd "Justifiable Rape" Aiken is toe-curlingly apt.

For whom would I vote in a Cook-Donnelly race?  I'd take either of them over any Democrat, but the Pyrite State's asinine anti-partisan "top two" system (We're stuck with it up here as well) makes a "red on red" matchup likely.  So my answer is....I don't have to answer.  What I will do is predict that Representative Cook will easily defeat Donnelly precisely because of all these self-inflicted PR wounds that have given him a, frankly, crackpot reputation, to say nothing of hugely distracting from Cook's bona fide policy sins.  The incumbent in CA8CD will benefit from the same factor as does my incumbent in WA8CD, whom he eerily resembles in many ways: inertia, and a lack of credible opposition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Given Cook's advancing years Donnelly's run probably has more to do with staying in the local political limelight so he is positioned for a future House run.