Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chris Murphy

The Newtown Families and Democracy

President Obama played his strongest card this weekend in the ongoing struggle over gun control legislation when he had one of the parents of the victims of the Newtown massacre deliver his weekly radio address. Francine Wheeler, the mother of one of the 1st-graders murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December delivered an impassioned plea for Americans to join in support of what she and the White House termed the president’s “common sense” proposals. The speech was both eloquent and deeply moving and, like the effects of some of the lobbying visits to members of the House and the Senate by the Newtown parents, obviously effective.

Suffice it to say that so long as the debate about guns is restricted to one between Ms. Wheeler and, say, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, gun rights advocates haven’t got much of a chance. There is no arguing with grief, especially when it is attached to rather amorphous rhetoric about the issue that simply implores Congress to “do something” about guns.

This is a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of those who are seeking to oppose the president or even the bipartisan compromise proposal put forward by pro-gun senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, but there is no use complaining about it. The Newtown parents have a right to speak out on this issue and you can’t blame the media for giving them outsized coverage. But those who believe they can count on this factor cowing the NRA or even more moderate opponents of infringements on the Second Amendment into submission should not overestimate the impact that the pure emotion generated by the relatives of the victims will have in the long run. Such passion is powerful but it is not a substitute for reason. Nor can it be sustained indefinitely. That is why people like Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who is puffed in a column this weekend by the New York Times‘s Maureen Dowd saying his goal is to “disenfranchise the N.R.A.,” are not going to succeed.

Read More

President Obama played his strongest card this weekend in the ongoing struggle over gun control legislation when he had one of the parents of the victims of the Newtown massacre deliver his weekly radio address. Francine Wheeler, the mother of one of the 1st-graders murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December delivered an impassioned plea for Americans to join in support of what she and the White House termed the president’s “common sense” proposals. The speech was both eloquent and deeply moving and, like the effects of some of the lobbying visits to members of the House and the Senate by the Newtown parents, obviously effective.

Suffice it to say that so long as the debate about guns is restricted to one between Ms. Wheeler and, say, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, gun rights advocates haven’t got much of a chance. There is no arguing with grief, especially when it is attached to rather amorphous rhetoric about the issue that simply implores Congress to “do something” about guns.

This is a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of those who are seeking to oppose the president or even the bipartisan compromise proposal put forward by pro-gun senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, but there is no use complaining about it. The Newtown parents have a right to speak out on this issue and you can’t blame the media for giving them outsized coverage. But those who believe they can count on this factor cowing the NRA or even more moderate opponents of infringements on the Second Amendment into submission should not overestimate the impact that the pure emotion generated by the relatives of the victims will have in the long run. Such passion is powerful but it is not a substitute for reason. Nor can it be sustained indefinitely. That is why people like Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who is puffed in a column this weekend by the New York Times‘s Maureen Dowd saying his goal is to “disenfranchise the N.R.A.,” are not going to succeed.

Sympathy is a powerful motivating factor in any political discussion and the value of the Newtown victims to the anti-gun forces is that it puts their arguments in a context that cannot be directly refuted. The families of the victims, like the survivors of any horrific event, are, by definition, above reproach and must be heard in respectful silence rather than be subjected to the usual and appropriate back and forth that is par for the course for those speaking on any contentious issue. The fact that they have generally couched their statements in a general manner rather than honing in on specifics and avoided lashing out in rage against groups that oppose gun control has only enhanced their appeal.

The piece by the Times‘s queen of snark will be seized on by opponents of the Manchin-Toomey compromise as one more proof that what is at stake here is not just provisions like background checks at gun shows that can truly be characterized as “common sense” measures but just the first step toward a push toward infringing if not effectively annulling the Second Amendment. Murphy, whom Dowd tells us does not even allow his young children to play with toy guns, is not helping liberals persuade Americans that their long-term goal is not widespread restrictions on legal gun ownership.

This illustrates the left’s problem on guns. It can only succeed in advancing their agenda on guns so long as the bloody shirt of Newtown is being waved. When the tears subside and we catch our collective breath, allowing us to look clearly at what the president has proposed, what more and more Americans are seeing is that proposals about so-called assault weapons and ammunition magazines would do little or nothing to lower the volume of gun violence, let alone avoid another Newtown.

The point about the exploitation of the families of the victims in the gun debate is not that there is anything wrong about their statements, even if they were to inject themselves in an even more direct manner in the controversy. Rather, it is that ours is a system of laws not individuals or sentiment. The checks and balances inherent in the system serve to slow down the pace of legislation, which is something that, as Dowd writes, frustrates the Newtown families. But the genius of our constitutional system is that it is designed specifically to mute the voice of the crowd, especially when it is driven by by emotion such as that which liberals and the Newtown families are seeking to harness.

Public opinion is variable, but the Constitution is strong enough to survive even against the assault of liberal ideologues even when sympathetic victims back them. American democracy gives a fair hearing to those who feel their own experiences in tragedies enables them to speak with authority on the issues. But such feelings, no matter how rooted in tragedy or how much pity they compel across the board from their fellow citizens, cannot transform a weak argument about the law into a strong one. 

Read Less

Ethics Could Cost Dems CT Senate Seat

If Democrats weren’t already worried about the recent turnabout in the Connecticut Senate race, they got more bad news over the weekend. Republican challenger Linda McMahon filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the conduct of her opponent Rep. Chris Murphy. She accuses Murphy of getting a sweetheart loan from a bank that had donated to his Congressional campaign while he was serving on the House Financial Services Committee.

While Democrats will answer by pointing out McMahon’s own troubled financial past as well as that the complaint won’t necessarily lead to legal difficulties, this is a major problem for Murphy. Connecticut politics was turned upside down two years ago when similar questions about sweetheart deals for former Senator Chris Dodd forced him out of office after 30 years. Moreover, it levels the playing field between the two vying to succeed Joe Lieberman since the sort of public corruption that Murphy is accused of is generally viewed by voters as more serious than anything to do with McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. Given that, contrary to all expectations, the race between Murphy and McMahon is tied and that the latter will almost certainly outspend her rival by a huge margin in the next two months, there is no longer any doubt that this race has become a tossup that may soon be leaning to the Republicans.

Read More

If Democrats weren’t already worried about the recent turnabout in the Connecticut Senate race, they got more bad news over the weekend. Republican challenger Linda McMahon filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics over the conduct of her opponent Rep. Chris Murphy. She accuses Murphy of getting a sweetheart loan from a bank that had donated to his Congressional campaign while he was serving on the House Financial Services Committee.

While Democrats will answer by pointing out McMahon’s own troubled financial past as well as that the complaint won’t necessarily lead to legal difficulties, this is a major problem for Murphy. Connecticut politics was turned upside down two years ago when similar questions about sweetheart deals for former Senator Chris Dodd forced him out of office after 30 years. Moreover, it levels the playing field between the two vying to succeed Joe Lieberman since the sort of public corruption that Murphy is accused of is generally viewed by voters as more serious than anything to do with McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. Given that, contrary to all expectations, the race between Murphy and McMahon is tied and that the latter will almost certainly outspend her rival by a huge margin in the next two months, there is no longer any doubt that this race has become a tossup that may soon be leaning to the Republicans.

As Politico reports, the detail of the Murphy complaint doesn’t paint the congressman in the best light. A few months after his first term in Congress began, Murphy was sued over his defaulting on a loan that originated with Webster Bank. That lawsuit was eventually dropped but the bank, which is listed as a contributor to the congressman’s campaign, then gave Murphy an additional loan and charged him the prime rate rather than one that would be given to an ordinary consumer. Members of Congress are prohibited from receiving any deal that a member of the public cannot obtain.

Both Murphy and the bank claim no wrongdoing was committed. But the transactions appear to be symptoms of the usual influence peddling in which politicians are handled with kid gloves by businesses that stand to benefit from the decision made in Washington. Murphy may be entitled to the presumption of innocence under the law but in the court of public opinion he will soon find that the appearance of corruption will convince voters that he is guilty until presumed innocent. His answer to the charges, in which he says that they merely show he’s “not a perfect person,” may be the best he can come up with under the circumstances but are not likely to convince voters he is clean.

This will give McMahon a club with which to beat Murphy until the election and, given her considerable resources, it is likely that few in the state will not be aware of the case by the time she is done pounding the theme in her ad campaign. Though the Democrat has the advantage of running in a blue state and having the opportunity to catch Barack Obama’s coattails, the last thing he needed was something that would allow voters to see him, rather than the wrestling mogul, as the ethically challenged candidate.

While I was deeply skeptical of McMahon’s chances of doing better this year than in her first try for the Senate in 2010, it looks like I — along with a lot of others — may have underestimated her and overestimated Murphy. Republicans who wrote off their chances of winning the Senate when Todd Akin went off the deep end on abortion in Missouri may have found another pickup that will allow them to be in the majority next year.

Read Less

More Blue State Warning Signs for Obama

I noted last week that a Rasmussen poll showing Republican Linda McMahon in the lead in the Connecticut Senate race and wondered how she could be doing so much better in 2012 than she did in 2010, when she lost another Senate race in a landslide. There was some reason at that time to think that poll was an outlier since the former pro wrestling mogul had polled badly all year in general election matchups prior to winning the GOP primary last month. But yet another poll has just been released, this time by the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University that again shows McMahon beating Rep. Chris Murphy by a 49-46 percent margin. At this point, even those like myself who have been skeptical about the idea that a deep blue state could possibly send a Republican to the Senate this year, let alone one with as dubious a background as McMahon, have to concede that she has an excellent chance of winning.

However, I’m still somewhat skeptical about the idea floated that the sole explanation for this is that in the past two years the brash businesswoman has been able to alter her image. It may well be that after three years in politics, voters in the state that calls itself the “land of steady habits” may be getting used to McMahon and no longer associating her primarily with the misogyny, drug use and violence of the WWE. But there’s another hint in both the Quinnipiac and Rasmussen polls. If, as they show, even the top of the ticket is losing ground in deep blue Connecticut, the Obama re-election campaign may be in bigger trouble than many of us thought.

Read More

I noted last week that a Rasmussen poll showing Republican Linda McMahon in the lead in the Connecticut Senate race and wondered how she could be doing so much better in 2012 than she did in 2010, when she lost another Senate race in a landslide. There was some reason at that time to think that poll was an outlier since the former pro wrestling mogul had polled badly all year in general election matchups prior to winning the GOP primary last month. But yet another poll has just been released, this time by the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University that again shows McMahon beating Rep. Chris Murphy by a 49-46 percent margin. At this point, even those like myself who have been skeptical about the idea that a deep blue state could possibly send a Republican to the Senate this year, let alone one with as dubious a background as McMahon, have to concede that she has an excellent chance of winning.

However, I’m still somewhat skeptical about the idea floated that the sole explanation for this is that in the past two years the brash businesswoman has been able to alter her image. It may well be that after three years in politics, voters in the state that calls itself the “land of steady habits” may be getting used to McMahon and no longer associating her primarily with the misogyny, drug use and violence of the WWE. But there’s another hint in both the Quinnipiac and Rasmussen polls. If, as they show, even the top of the ticket is losing ground in deep blue Connecticut, the Obama re-election campaign may be in bigger trouble than many of us thought.

Quinnipiac shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by only seven points in Connecticut. That 52-45 margin doesn’t look very good when compared to the stunning 61-38 point victory he won there in November 2008. Connecticut may not truly be in danger of going Republican but if the president’s margin of victory there this fall is only in single digits, it’s going to be a long night for the Democrats.

McMahon may have rehabilitated herself to the point where she’s competitive, but her lead may be due more to the enthusiasm gap between the two parties this year than her own efforts. Nevertheless, with her enormous financial edge, having a lead heading into the fall is a big deal for McMahon. It also shows that Democrats are going to have to work to hold onto Connecticut. And that’s good news for Romney even if Obama winds up winning there.

Read Less

Can McMahon Steal a Blue Senate Seat?

Republicans are mourning what most now concede is the certain loss of a U.S. Senate race in Missouri that they were sure was a pickup for the GOP only last week. Rep. Todd Akin’s idiotic comments about rape and pregnancy has elevated embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill from likely lame duck to someone who is favored for another six years in Washington. That’s a blow to Republican hopes of finding the four turnovers they need to take control of the Senate next year and repeal ObamaCare, but a Rasmussen poll may give them some hope of making up for the Akin fiasco. The latest survey of the race to replace outgoing independent Democrat Joe Lieberman shows Republican Linda McMahon grabbing a surprising 49 to 46 percent lead over Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy among likely voters.

Throughout this year, McMahon has polled badly in a general election matchup against Murphy. That was the argument former congressman Chris Shays used in the Republican primary earlier this month, but the overwhelming majority of GOP voters rejected him in a landslide win for McMahon. But if the Rasmussen poll is not an outlier, it may be a sign that the pro wrestling entrepreneur may actually have a shot of stealing a seat that almost all political observers had assumed was in the pocket of the Democrats.

Read More

Republicans are mourning what most now concede is the certain loss of a U.S. Senate race in Missouri that they were sure was a pickup for the GOP only last week. Rep. Todd Akin’s idiotic comments about rape and pregnancy has elevated embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill from likely lame duck to someone who is favored for another six years in Washington. That’s a blow to Republican hopes of finding the four turnovers they need to take control of the Senate next year and repeal ObamaCare, but a Rasmussen poll may give them some hope of making up for the Akin fiasco. The latest survey of the race to replace outgoing independent Democrat Joe Lieberman shows Republican Linda McMahon grabbing a surprising 49 to 46 percent lead over Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy among likely voters.

Throughout this year, McMahon has polled badly in a general election matchup against Murphy. That was the argument former congressman Chris Shays used in the Republican primary earlier this month, but the overwhelming majority of GOP voters rejected him in a landslide win for McMahon. But if the Rasmussen poll is not an outlier, it may be a sign that the pro wrestling entrepreneur may actually have a shot of stealing a seat that almost all political observers had assumed was in the pocket of the Democrats.

McMahon goes into the general election with the same edge she had when she lost a 2010 Senate race against Richard Blumenthal: money. The former boss of the WWE spent tens of millions of dollars of her own money in an election where she had the advantage of running in a year in which Republicans won a midterm landslide. She was also facing an opponent who was humiliated by the revelation that he had lied about serving in Vietnam. But Blumenthal, a popular attorney general who had been winning statewide contests for 20 years, still beat her handily. That caused observers to wonder why she — or the Connecticut GOP — would think she’d do better in a year in which Barack Obama would be at the top of the ticket in a state where the president is expected to win easily.

There’s no ready answer to that question but McMahon is determined to spend as much as she needs. She’s also up against a congressman who has no real negatives but isn’t a statewide figure either. McMahon still carries all the negative baggage that comes with running an enterprise many voters believe to be disreputable and which promotes violence and misogyny, not to mention having a record of steroid abuse. Yet perhaps after two campaigns, enough of the public is willing to overlook that and accept her as she’d like to be known now: as an independent/Tea Party figure determined to overturn the always-unpopular political establishment.

Indeed, the fact that Murphy is buying ads promoting his candidacy during the WWE’s “Raw” programming may be a sign that the Democrats are no longer counting on the wrestling issue being enough to disqualify McMahon. As the Hartford Courant reports, the WWE, which is still controlled by the Republican’s family, actually issued a statement razzing Murphy for purchasing time on their show for the second week in a row even after he and the Democrats had denigrated it as beneath the dignity of a potential senator as part of their attacks on McMahon.

We’ll have to see if today’s Rasmussen poll is confirmed by other surveys in the coming weeks. But it’s got to be worrying Democrats. If deep blue Connecticut is in play, then they are in much bigger trouble than anyone thought.

Read Less

Anti-Israel Incitement Pops Up On the Left

Democrats got a reminder of just what the far left wing of their party is thinking these days when a debate among contenders for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was overshadowed by vicious anti-Israel rhetoric on the part of one of the candidates. Candidate Lee Whitnum called frontrunner Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” because of his support for Israel. She also referred to another candidate as “ignorant” during the course of the debate that was televised by the local NBC affiliate.

Whitnum, the sole focus of whose campaign is hatred of Israel, is a marginal player at best in a Democratic race that centers on the competition between Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. But her ability to get on the stage and spout bile against the Jewish state and its supporters is something of a victory for the Occupy AIPAC crowd and a warning to both Democrats and Republicans about their obligation to denounce anti-Semitic agitators who seek to worm their way into the mainstream.

Read More

Democrats got a reminder of just what the far left wing of their party is thinking these days when a debate among contenders for their party’s nomination in the race to replace retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was overshadowed by vicious anti-Israel rhetoric on the part of one of the candidates. Candidate Lee Whitnum called frontrunner Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” because of his support for Israel. She also referred to another candidate as “ignorant” during the course of the debate that was televised by the local NBC affiliate.

Whitnum, the sole focus of whose campaign is hatred of Israel, is a marginal player at best in a Democratic race that centers on the competition between Murphy and former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. But her ability to get on the stage and spout bile against the Jewish state and its supporters is something of a victory for the Occupy AIPAC crowd and a warning to both Democrats and Republicans about their obligation to denounce anti-Semitic agitators who seek to worm their way into the mainstream.

Whitnum’s candidacy is more or less the embodiment of the Walt-Mearsheimer conspiracy theories. She is obsessed with AIPAC and Zionism and spends a great deal of space on her campaign website trying unsuccessfully to assert that she is not an anti-Semite. But at least she comes by her bias honestly. According to her biography, her father was a British military officer who served in Palestine during the 1940s when the U.K. was preventing Jews from immigrating to their homeland and assisting Arabs in their efforts to prevent Israel’s birth.

Murphy rightly denounced Whitnum’s comments saying, “This is in our national security interest, ultimately in the interest of U.S. taxpayers to have a strong relationship with Israel and I think it is worth saying on this stage that a lot of her comments have been out of bounds and over the line.” He also said he was reconsidering his support for allowing marginal candidates access to the debates.

Support for Israel in the United States is bipartisan and encompasses a broad coalition of members of both parties including liberals and conservatives. But the virus of hate is alive and well on the margins, especially the far left where, as the Occupy Wall Street protests proved, Jew-hatred seems not far below the surface.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.