Monday, January 23, 2006

Chairman Sean and Big Labor Evasions

Over at TC, Mitch Cumstein suggested that I had made an "unfair ... distortion of the facts" about an answer Chairman Sean gave in a debate before last year's primary.

What happened was this: I made reference in a post that Chairman Sean had made "disturbing comments at a PWC Committee of 100 debate on public employee unions."

Mitch responded with this:
Jim:
I have to say I still don't understand your comments regarding the Committee of 100 debate (which I attended) and the "right-to-work" question. Sean stated that he would talk to any and all parties involved in a question. Period. I think that speaks volumes about any leader, a willingness to listen to whatever anyone, including opponents, have to say and evaluate it as opposed to simply dismissing it out of hand. He never stated that he supported unions or gave any indication that he ever would. He merely said he wouldn't refuse them an audience. Suggesting any more from that debate is simply unfair and a distortion of the facts.
Mitch's memory apparently failed him, but because I had written about it at the time, I responded with this, at some length, because reason takes up more space that catch phrases. Indeed, while useful (look at all the content to be gleaned from Chairman Sean's), they frequently are used to hide meanings:
No, Mitch, that's not all he did.

The question was this: “Virginia protects its workers with a Right to Work law and bars public employee monopoly bargaining. With these principles in mind, would you seek and/or accept the endorsement[s] of the Virginia Education Association and/or the Virginia AFL-CIO? Additionally, would you support any effort to impose a ‘meet-and-confer’ requirement on Virginia’s public employers?” I drafted this question, and as I recall, I did not know at the time that Chairman Sean had been endorsed by the Virginia Education Association, an endorsement which should disqualify almost any "Republican" candidate for further consideration in a contested nomination.

Chairman Sean’s answer was, to say the least, distressing, not the least because he never squarely answered the question (contrary to your representation). Your memory appears to be faulty; mine is refreshed by the fact that I happened to write a memo about it at the time. But you assert that he answered by saying that "he would talk to any and all parties involved in a question. Period."

But that doesn't answer the question. I asked a very specific question about a very specific issue which relates to the granting of preferred legal status to labor unions (i.e., while you have a right to speak, government officials have no obligation to listen to you, and meet-and-confer legislation creates an obligation of public officials to listen to union bosses) in the competition for scarce public resources, one with which any locally-elected leader should be familiar. If you don't concede that Chairman Sean wasn't familiar with the issue, then he's ignorant. If you do, then he evaded squarely addressing a fundamental "good government" question.

What he did answer was that his father was a “union man” in New York (not necessarily damning; his website indicates that he was a police officer), and then launched into various motherhoods about the GOP being a “big tent” (read: “We shouldn’t stand for anything”) and indicated that he is either too stupid to know the difference between rank-and-file union members and union bosses, or too dishonest to admit to supporting the latter’s agenda. I do not believe that he is stupid.

Chairman Sean also seemed to indicate his support for imposition of a preferred status for public employee union bosses vis-a-vis state and local governments. He also cited the “fact” that Ronald Reagan was endorsed by the NEA. While I assume that Reagan was never endorsed for President by the NEA, it has since been suggested to me that he may have been endorsed by the California affiliate for Governor, in the days before the extreme radicalization of the NEA, and it is that endorsement to which Chairman Sean may have been referring.
So there it is. I don't think Chairman Sean is stupid. I just don't think that he answered my question --- which gave him a wonderful opportunity to expound on the evils of special privileges for public employees unions --- either fully or particularly honestly. I don't think he ringinly endorsed the union boss agenda for greater power and permanent, government-subsidized perpetuation of the far Left, but at the same time, he used language and catch phrases which should give anyone with an understand of those issues pause.

But what he did say is enough to give pause to those who hold that Virginia's ban on public employee monopoly bargaining is good government.

And I'm still trying to figure out how support for the enrolled and engrossed law of the Commonwealth of Virginia --- you know, like its definition of marriage and prohibition of sodomy --- is, in TC's words, "far-far-far-far right" or "out of touch with voters."

UPDATE: And with all of that having been said, I don't assert that Chairman Sean has done anything in his current office to raise a concern on this point. Under the Commonwealth's law, he couldn't. But the question was raised in the context of his aspirations to statewide office, where he could do something. And given his endorsement by the Virginia Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, there was --- in retrospect --- good reasons to raise these questions. My recollection is that, to this day, Chairman Sean has refused to release the VEA's questionnaire, or his answers to it.

14 comments:

Mitch Cumstein said...

Wow, I expected a little more commentary on this.

I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this. We're obviously coming at this from different angles. I, for one, do not believe that you should be concerned about Sean regarding this issue. I support right-to-work, as I believe does Sean. I've never been given any reason to think otherwise. I think the VEA's endorsement of him over Bolling was a no-brainer, not because of any expected assistance on his part, but simply Sean's record in supporting public education (which, ok, I know you're not a big of). But let's be honest. Had Sean won the nomination, the VEA and every other union would have still flocked to Leslie Byrne. And, had Connaughton won the general election, I don't believe for a minute that we would have anything to fear on the right-to-work front.

I can see where you're coming from on his response to your question at the debate. The answer wasn't particularly straight-forward. But, let's face it, they rarely are. When your question was asked (I didn't know it was yours at the time), I remember thinking that it was merely a ploy to tie Sean in with labor unions, sort of a guilt-by-association thing. I don't doubt that that occured to him as well and colored his response. I also remember being completely exasperated by Bolling's reponses. I didn't think he answered a single question with a cogent idea, other than to invoke the names of George Allen and Jerry Kilgore. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, Bolling could tell me the sky is blue and my first reaction would be to wonder what the bastard was hiding. Granted, that's not very open-minded. But I hold Bolling in lower esteem than you hold Connaughton. And I readily admit that my feelings toward him have an impact on my reaction to what he has to say. But, I'm only human.

James Young said...

I might agree with you, had Chairman Sean troubled himself to make a strong subsequent statement, or refused the VEA endorsement (guilty by association?!?! He was associating with them!!!). Maybe you're right about his position (which is about more than just the Right to Work law; some states with Right to Work law have public employee monopoly bargaining statutes, too), but you have absolutely no evidence to support your assertion. I'm sick of politicians who say nothing, and what little they do say panders. And Sean pandered to the VEA, refused to let us in on his answers to their questionnaire, and evaded a very straightforward question on how he views the role of public employee unions.

And BTW, I doubt seriously that you hold Bolling in lower esteem than I hold Chairman Sean. As to his answer, I have only my recollection to go on (Comcast switched tapes at the very end of Chairman Sean's answer), but I remember a decent non-lawyer's answer that needed work. Of course, Bolling had the wit to make a big issue of it in the General, when Leslie attacked the Right to Work law.

And by the way, if you believe that willingness to "talk to any and all parties involved in a question.... speaks volumes about any leader, a willingness to listen to whatever anyone, including opponents, have to say and evaluate it as opposed to simply dismissing it out of hand," would you include the Klan as "anyone"? And anyway, you're not describing Chairman Sean? He clearly dismisses anything that the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance says out of hand. And now, I hear, he's dodging a debate on taxes and spending sponsored by the Committee of 100.

Mitch Cumstein said...

"And Sean pandered to the VEA, refused to let us in on his answers to their questionnaire, and evaded a very straightforward question on how he views the role of public employee unions."

How did he pander to the VEA? He may very well have not shared his answers, but that isn't proof that he did, in fact, pander to them. I seem to recall this being a major issue in 2003 with the School Board candidates and the PWEA/GOP endorsements. If memory serves, at least one candidate received both, which would seem to be at odds.

"I doubt seriously that you hold Bolling in lower esteem than I hold Chairman Sean."

I'll conceed to a draw on that, but that's as far as I'll go.

"would you include the Klan as "anyone"?"

Well, I'm not sure I'd put the Klan in quite the same league as the VEA. For practical purposes, the answer is no, I wouldn't include them, as I think that most intelligent folks would agree that they do not represent a responsible interest or group. I don't necessarily agree with the agenda of the VEA, or NEA, but that doesn't mean that simply dismissing their thoughts and positions out-of-hand makes any sense. I think you can be both open-minded enough to consider multiple sides to an issue while still being strong enough in your convictions and knowledge of it to not be easily swayed by rhetoric or the direction in which the wind is blowing. For me, it's a combination of acknowledging I could be wrong, while at the same time "keeping my friends close, but my enemies closer." Sorta explains why I read your blog on a regular basis ;)

"And now, I hear, he's dodging a debate on taxes and spending sponsored by the Committee of 100."

First I've heard about such a debate. I can't speak for Sean or anyone else, but I would welcome any debate or discussion on the issue of taxes as long as it includes more than a cursory discussion of spending. While I will admit that my experience with the TPA is limited, what I have seen and heard has appeared to be a bit myopic in its slant toward taxation with little discussion about the role of government and the need to reduce spending in specific areas while maintaining or even (God forbid) increasing investment in needed areas. As I've stated many times before, this is where fight needs to take place. If the TPA is ready and willing to take up this fight, I would have a much more open mind about it.

James Young said...

Not sharing his answers causes the reasonable conclusion that he feared the response to them. That VEA kept its questions secret demonstrates the same thing. Only a sycophant could suggest otherwise.

Your memory on 2003 may be better than mine. I wouldn't have voted for someone with the VEA endorsement.

Whether or not you would "put the Klan in quite the same league as the VEA" --- let's say as an extremist organization --- you should, and that wasn't the point. The point was your universal statement. And neither did I advocate "dismissing their thoughts and positions out-of-hand." Indeed, it is with sure and certain knowledge and understanding of their positions that I posit that no Republican should seek or accept their support. And certainly not one who claims to be a "conservative."

Mitch, you're setting up these false dichotomies in support of Chairman Sean. It would be much more productive if you'd just consider the actual import of the VEA's endorsement. If my candidate were endorsed by that organization, or another identifiably far-Left organization, I'd sure demand full disclosure before I continued to carry his water.

The real question is: Why don't you?

And finally, it appears that you're listening to Chairman Sean's spin on the Committee of 100 debate. The Taxpayers Alliance (I'll assume that's what you mean by "TPA") has nothing to do with it. The invitation seems to be to debate another Supervisor. Again, why's he dodging it?

Mitch Cumstein said...

"And finally, it appears that you're listening to Chairman Sean's spin on the Committee of 100 debate. The Taxpayers Alliance (I'll assume that's what you mean by "TPA") has nothing to do with it. The invitation seems to be to debate another Supervisor. Again, why's he dodging it?"

My apologies. I misread your original statement on this. Again, your post was the first I'd heard about the Committee of 100 event. Who's the debate supposed to include? If it's a Committee discussion with several of the Supervisors, that sounds like a reasonable idea. Of course, it would be up to the invited participants to determine if it was something they felt obligated to intend. I'd certainly like to hear what all of them have to say and have the opportunity to questions them on the issues.

Now, if this were say, a one-on-one type of affair where one Supervisor wanted to use this as a PR opportunity to either make a run at the Chairmanship or another elected office then, well, I'd probably seek a different manner of further the discussion if I were in Sean's shoes. Again, I honestly know nothing about this event. And, of course, I'm no politician. But any politician worth a nickle (and, frankly, some aren't)knows to what terrain to fight on and what ground to avoid. That isn't ducking the issue or the debate. That's Politics 101.

So, do you know the specifics of the debate? I'm genuinely interested.

James Young said...

I didn't hear about it until last night (even though I'm on the C100 Board, my schedule has precluded attendance for several months, and I didn't even know that this topic had been selected), so I understand. Generally, they have one or two on one side, and an equal number on the other of any issue. Corey Stewart has agreed to participate, but neither Chairman Sean nor Marty Nohe could find a single free night in March.

As for your comments about the format, didn't you say that you had been to one of its events last year? I've never heard concerns of the type that you cite.

Unless you don't think Chairman Sean can defend himself in a real debate on these issues?

NOVA Scout said...

If I were a supervisor - especially if I were the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I would generally be selective about accepting engagements, would decline to engage in a debate outside a Board meeting with another supervisor. That's what you have Board meetings for. I don't know that Connaughton and Stewart aren't in agreement on whatever the Committee of 100 forum topic is, but I sense that Stewart has tried to make his way in the world by setting himself up on the board to be against most anything Connaughton is for. I don't see any reason why Connaughton should elect to continue that divide in a public forum, especially since Stewart has not distinguished himself in head-to-heads with Connaughton in the Board meetings that I've had the pleasure to watch on cable.

NoVA Scout said...

James: re the 2005 Bolling/Connaughton joint appearance at the Committee of 100 - It seems to me you're making a very big deal out of what Connaughton didn't say, as opposed to what he said. I was there (in the excellent company of George Fitch at the back of the room). Connaughton used your question to make the point that his leadership ethic has been to give anyone with a legitimate issue a fair hearing. He made the references to his upbringing in a union family. But he certainly never advocated special privileges for labor. I take it you agree that he has done nothing in his six years in public office to indicate that he has been anything other than even-handed and responsible with labor.

I and a nubmer of others with whom I talked afterwards felt that Connaughton made a strong argument that the GOP should not write off labor or the working man for political support. His vision is that of Reagan - that the GOP can be a friend of the working man and that it is not in our interests to be reflexively anti-labor. Obviously, you work at the rough end of organized labor abuse and see a lot of unsavory practices. That may sensitize you to points that others of us would miss. But in this case, I think you're over-interpreting what Sean didn't say.

Both candidates that evening took questions and used them to tee up points that they wanted voters to hear. That happens frequently. If your complaint is that Sean didn't answer the precise question you aske, I'd spot you that and say that one sees a lot of that in these political fora.

I'm not sure what you think we should draw from this? I sense that you want us to think that Connaughton is opposed to Virginia's RTW status. He certainly didn't say it and I very much doubt that his views are much different from yours or mine.

This brings me to a belated observation about your penchant to be the arbiter of those who are "conservative" or "Republican and those who are not. It appears that much of that evaluation is based on who supports a candidate, not on the internal value structure and public positions of the candidate himself. to use an expample you've used in the past - if someone with a Kerry bumper sticker has a Connaughton bumper sticker, Sean's as liberal as Kerry. Or, if you know a guy who seems to be a liberal who tells you he supports Sean, Sean must be a liberal. If the VEA or the Washington Post endorses Sean, Sean must be a liberal. It never seems to occur to you that maybe Connaughton is pulling them into his boat, rather than the other way around. At the local and state level, particularly, ideology is often less important to voters than a sense that the candidate is honest, works hard, and will try to make government work for the citizens.

What Sean spoke about that evening was a sense that Republicans can draw support from non-aligned or even chronically anti-GOP groups if we state their principles clearly and act fairly. That has been one of the elements of Connaughton's success. I must say I like that vision. You view that ability to attract votes across the liberal/conservative boundary as a sign of suspect purity. Some of us view it as a strength, particularly in Northern Virginia. I view it as conservative principles bringing non-conservatives into the fold. You view it as a sell-out. But if you can do it and not compromise any element of the conservative perception of strict controls over the state in the state/individual relationship, why not tkae the votes? We need all we can get.

Mitch Cumstein said...

Well, I submitted a response yesterday morning that didn't seem to make it on to the comments. Oh well.

Nova Scout is dead on here. Connaughton does have the ability to bring others into his fold and not vice versa. I'm a good example of that. As I've stated many times, I don't agree with him on a number of social issues. He's "too conservative" for me. But instead of simply dismissing him, I chose to look at the overall picture, what he's accomplished, how he's done it and what he intends to do, and I like what I see. And make no mistake, it isn't about ambition or wanting something in return, other than wanting to see the county and state I grew up in and am raising my children in to have the best possible leadership available to it.

Now, on the subject of this debate, I just don't see any benefit to the proposed format. Corey and Sean are both Board Members representing the same party. It's not an election year and the two aren't opposing each other for a particular office. So, what's the point. Make it Corey and Jenkins or Barg and maybe you're on to something. Better still, how about a forum that includes both parties, as well as interested groups such as the Taxpayers Alliance? I agree that the issue needs to be discussed, but Corey vs. Sean (or Marty) just looks like opportunism on Corey's part to differentiate himself (as Nova suggested).

James Young said...

Yeah, nova scout. Corey is just the anti-Sean. He has no other reason to exist. That's the case for everybody who opposes tax-and-spend Republicans. And dismissing them as such is so much easier than addressing their arguments.

As to your second post, experience (I appreciate that you recognize that) teaches that his answer was pandering. I agree that the GOP should not "write off ... the working man for political support." But union officials are a different matter, and there is a distinction, which you seem to recognize. And as much as you'd like to claim that Chairman Sean is the second coming of Ronald Reagan, there are plenty who are less than persuaded. Besides, he simply didn't answer the question asked; he evaded. And it's not just support for the Right to Work law, as I think I said above. Virginia is somewhat unique in that it bars public employee monopoly bargaining and "meet-and-confer," which experience also teaches is the "camels nose under the tent" that Doug Wilder famously referred to in 1989.

You also take issue with my observations about Chairman Sean's supporters, noting that "It never seems to occur to you that maybe Connaughton is pulling them into his boat, rather than the other way around." 'Course, had Chairman Sean done anything (like limiting taxes and spending in PWC), that theory might hold water. He hasn't. And it renders suspect his efforts for promotion to a position with broader responsibilities. And if he does deliver or promise to do so, those votes will evaporate faster than a puddle on the Mall in August.

As for you, Mitch, I didn't have anything to do with your response yesterday. Didn't even see it. As for your substance, let's see: you don't like Chairman Sean's [stated] conservative positions on social issues, but you like what I maintain is his tax-and-spend ways. How, exactly, is any of that "conservative"?

As for the debate, my understanding is that Jenkins or Barg will be invited, now that Chairman Sean said he can't find a single day to do so in March. But I'm not in charge of that; I only heard it second hand.

James Young said...

And BTW, nova scout, can I assume that I'll see no more childish aspersions about the length of MY posts?

Mitch Cumstein said...

Jim:

"As for you, Mitch, I didn't have anything to do with your response yesterday. Didn't even see it."

I didn't intend to suggest that you did. It hadn't even occurred to me that you had and it had been censored. I simply noted that I had tried to post a reply much earlier and it didn't make it on, for whatever reason.

"As for your substance, let's see: you don't like Chairman Sean's [stated] conservative positions on social issues, but you like what I maintain is his tax-and-spend ways. How, exactly, is any of that "conservative"?"

First, I don't agree with some, not all, of his stated positions on social issues. And I do support his positions/record on taxes and spending, which you have implied are "liberal" in the past. I strongly disagree with that assessment. I think he has made sound, rational and responsible decisions while faced with a county straining under unprecedented growth. I don't ever remember calling it "conservative," because, frankly, I couldn't care less if it or it isn't. I'm more interested in results than ideology, and I'm very impressed with the results I've seen.

As for the debate, why were Jenkins and/or Barg invited only after Sean (or Marty) declined? Makes absolutely no sense to try to make this a Stewart vs. Connaughton-only debate unless someone has an ulterior motive. If Corey wants to prove himself to his "conservative" friends, let him get things done on the BOCS. If he can, great. It shows that he can work with the rest of the Board effectively to further his agenda and make the compromises necessary for success. If he can't, well, then it would seem that his ideas are a little too far out of the mainstream to earn the support of the Members within his own party who represent other areas of the County. And are responsible to their own constituents. Of course, if Corey's right and they're wrong, those dissatisfied constituents can vote them out of office. (Though I think that's highly unlikely.) Expecting a Sean or Marty to allow Corey to cherry-pick in a debate on this issue after having failed to get what he wants from the Board as a whole is just silly.

James Young said...

Mitch, when I referenced "conservative" in discussing Chairman Sean, I was just noting his own claim.

Second, I presume that you will cease attacking me for attributing ulterior motives to others, and immediately jump to my defense when others do so. It seems that you are quite willing to do so in defense of Chairman Sean's refusal to participated in a debated sponsored by a well-respected NON-PARTISAN organization.

James Young said...

And your accusation that the Committee of 100 is "allow[ing] Corey to cherry-pick in a debate on this issue after having failed to get what he wants from the Board as a whole" simply demonstrates your ignorance of that organization, or your self-serving and inaccurate views of the way in which it functions.