Pirro For Something 2006
By A.D. Freudenheim  

11 September 2005

When deciding to vote for a candidate for any elected position, there are a few factors likely to influence a person’s decision: Will this person faithfully represent their interests and views? Does one like or trust the candidate? How is this candidate better than the others? Sadly, all to often, voters must instead ask themselves: Which candidate is the lesser of these evils, the most appealing from an unappealing group?

Within this equation, voters also must sometimes factor in party affiliation; a candidate may choose to align themselves with a political party in order to secure wider public support, or to obtain financial assistance – and hopefully they do so because that party’s ideas and opinions are in sync with their own. True, there may be shades of variation and some difference of opinion within a party’s many candidates; but voters typically understand that a person’s connection to a particular political party is a kind of leading indicator of their ideas, perspectives, and ultimately, their intentions in office.

Then, there are situations where this traditional way of thinking about politics appears to make little sense – and New York (both city and state) is representative of the resulting confusion. Take Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, running for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate. Like many New York Republicans these days, Ms. Pirro lays claim to so-called “moderate” positions: her campaign web site notes that she is tough on crime, but implies that she supports broad government assistance to victims; similarly, she claims to be tough on domestic violence, a position that could suggest she is supportive of women’s rights; and Pirro values laws protecting the environment, and touts the work of her “Environmental Crimes Bureau” in prosecuting offenders. In many important ways, Ms. Pirro’s positions are thus only marginally aligned with the platform of the national Republican Party, and are certainly more “leftist” than the current, conservative Republican Bush administration’s approach.

Of other important issues, however, there is no mention; Ms. Pirro’s campaign web site does not even provide a page outlining her campaign platform on the many topics she would almost certainly face as a U.S. Senator. Support for (changes to) Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid? What about those women’s rights – and the extended issues about laws protecting women in the workplace, or about abortion rights? Upholding the environmental laws of New York State is important for a District Attorney, but how does Ms. Pirro feel about those laws in the first place? Would she support stronger environmental conservation laws nationally?

In fact, the place where these issues are best addressed on her site is through news coverage of her candidacy – and these articles reveal more about the failures of journalism than of politics. For instance, the Pirro campaign has posted a New York Times[1] article about her candidacy, from 9 August 2005, which states confidently in the second paragraph, that she is “a political moderate who supports abortion rights, gay rights and the death penalty.” Later, the article returns to these subjects, undermining the strength of its initial declaration:

Ms. Pirro repeatedly declined yesterday to outline her positions on abortion, gay rights, Social Security private accounts and stem-cell research. When asked if she considered herself a Bush Republican, she declined to embrace that description, too. “I’m going to be Jeanine Pirro – I’m not someone you can categorize as this, that or the other thing,” she said.

It is certainly clever of Ms. Pirro to include this article, since few will read past the early paragraphs – and readers will thus be left with this impression of her moderate positions, without seeing how Pirro refuses to answer direct questions about these same issues. However, as a New Yorker who is none-too-pleased with Senator Clinton, I read the Times’ article when it appeared in the paper; in fact, I read the entire piece. The article left me disappointed, both with the Times’ reporting – how can they assert Pirro’s stand on key issues only to note later that they cannot confirm these same positions? – and with Pirro-as-candidate.

I do not support Hillary Clinton’s political ambitions, and I generally do not like the manner in which she has represented New York. However, I am even more opposed to the reactionary positions of President Bush and his administration. The question of how a Republican who lays claim to moderate views when convenient, would vote in the U.S. Senate – whether she would be swayed by the voting block of more conservative GOP Senators, and by pressure from her party – is not a matter to be taken lightly. So, after reviewing her campaign web site further, I decided put the question to Pirro directly, and sent the following letter on 23 August 2005:

Ms. Jeanine Pirro
Pirro for Senate
P.O. Box 8283
White Plains, NY 10602

Dear Ms. Pirro,

I greeted the announcement of your campaign for the Senate with some joy, since I am no fan of Senator Hillary Clinton. I think an engaged, competitive race that explores the major issues facing New Yorkers and the nation benefits the citizens of this state, even regardless of whether “my” candidate ultimately wins.

However, in reviewing the information about you on the Pirro for Senate website, as well as the news coverage about you in various publications, I remain unconvinced that you deserve my vote. Here’s why: despite your articulation of some “liberal” or “moderate” positions, I am concerned that, once elected to the U.S. Senate, you will join the Republican voting block – even on issues where your home state constituents disagree with the national Republican Party’s positions. Take the recent Senate confirmations of judges Janice Brown and Priscilla Owen: both of these women hold views that are directly counter to those you claim to hold, from how to handle abortion rights, to women’s rights more broadly, to gun control, and on and on. Or, to put more of a point on it, neither of them would likely be electable to state-wide office in New York; they are simply too conservative (and too religiously-motivated). Would you have supported their appointment to the Federal bench? Similarly, in Senate discussions of possible Social Security reform; or changes to the more onerous and oppressive aspects of the USA Patriot Act; or modifications to our bankruptcy laws: where would you stand in representing not only me but all of New York? I am not convinced that, were you in the Senate already, you would be able to resist being pressed into voting the GOP line by Majority Leader Frist and others.

Whatever my concerns with Senator Clinton and how she represents my interests in Washington, DC, and whatever my disagreements with the (unrealistic) positions expressed and (stupid, obstructionist) tactics adopted by the Democrats, there is no question that I remain more opposed to the broader agenda espoused by the GOP nationally. I find the zealous, faux-Christian, faux-moral-values, Big Brother conservativism of the Republican Party entirely unpalatable. I believe that the GOP’s “we’re helping the average American” shtick is no more true than when it is expressed by the Democrats – and, in fact, looking at Republican proposals on Social Security and other social infrastructure reforms, things are only likely to get worse for the average American if the GOP has its way. Any suggestion that, by electing you, New Yorkers will help move the Republicans to more moderate positions rings false; the GOP is very evidently too rooted in and in thrall to the far-right elements of our society to move at all based on your presence.

What say you, Candidate Pirro? Why do you deserve my vote?

That was almost three weeks ago – three weeks with no reply from the Pirro Campaign. I have received no reply to the specific questions I asked. I have not been given an answer that attempts to sidesteps the questions by clarifying Ms. Pirro’s positions on certain issues. I have not even received an acknowledgment, via a form letter, that avoids addressing the issues altogether and simply thanks me for writing. As with her failure to take a stand publicly on key issues, Ms. Pirro’s silence speaks volumes. Thus far, the question about the lesser of two candidates’ evils remains unanswered.

[1] “High-Profile Prosecutor to Run Against Clinton,” The New York Times, 9 August 2005, as posted on Pirro For Senate at http://www.jeaninepirro.com/newsstory.cfm?id=67   Copyright 2005, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
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