Sunday, June 26, 2011

Can Thaddeus McCotter Be The 2012 GOP Presidential Nominee?

We’ve interviewed Congressman- and potential presidential candidate- Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District several times on ‘Conservative Republican Forum’. He has always been one of our favorite guests because he usually provides direct answers to direct questions and has an easy going demeanor and sense of humor that make him a pleasure talk to.

So imagine my surprise when I listened to the June 9th edition of ‘The Tony Katz Radio Spectacular’ and heard what could be characterized as a “contentious” interview with the aforementioned Congressman McCotter.
Tony Katz – who indicated he opposed all bailouts- asked McCotter, who voted against TARP, about the bailouts of GM and Chrysler. The Congressman’s reply caught me (and I think Tony) quite by surprise.

McCotter started by saying, “It’s nice to have ideology and fantasy, but here’s the reality of the vote. You can walk around and say you’re opposed to all bailouts, that’s fine, but here’s how your vote would have come down. As you know the Wall Street bailout was passed first before the auto companies ever came to Washington. That meant that $700 billion of Main Street’s money was parked on Wall Street with the same people that crashed the economy”.

To begin with, McCotter’s statement that, “It’s nice to have ideology and fantasy” implies that he believes a person cannot be opposed to bailouts in general, or the auto company bailouts in particular, for principled reasons. If this is truly how he feels it is disturbing.

But what is more troubling is that I believe his statement misrepresents what TARP was and is. It’s true that Congress authorized $700 billion in TARP funds. But according to the CBO only about $433 billion was actually distributed and it was certainly not “parked” in a lump sum  “on Wall Street”. Whatever portion of the funds had not yet been distributed were, and still are, in the Treasury and did not have to be distributed.

Using that set of “facts” the congressman then asked Katz what he would have done as a legislator. Specifically McCotter asked, “The $700 billion TARP stays on Wall Street or some of it is peeled away from [it] to give Main Street a chance to survive and the auto industry and save the taxpayers $300 billion in social safety net costs, according to Moodys. Which do you do?”

Again I was surprised by Congressman McCotter’s response (or lack thereof). He did not answer the question that was posed to him, but rather turned it around on Katz- who is not a legislator, but a journalist and talk show host – and posed a question to his interviewer.

It is also important to note that the auto bailouts still led to the restructuring of the car companies and it is unclear whether the bailouts will save them in the long run. But unlike in a standard Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Chrysler bankruptcy a chunk of the equity went to the government and a majority to the UAW. In a normal Chapter 11 filing the secured bondholders claims would have been paramount. But because of the intervention of the federal government they were sent to the back of the line and that set a potentially dangerous precedent.

In addition private emails obtained by The Daily Caller detail the Obama administration’s involvement in cutting non-union worker pensions after the GM bailout, that could not have occurred otherwise.

It should be noted that the district that Congressman McCotter represents, Michigan’s 11th, is a suburb of Detroit. Many of his constituents are union autoworkers, their children, spouses and retirees who rely on union benefits and pensions. In addition many of those that are not directly employed by or tied to the automakers are dependent on the continued success of those companies for their livelihoods.

With the June 9th Katz interview in mind, and with the knowledge that Congressman McCotter is mulling a potential presidential bid, I asked him about another issue that a listener had brought to my attention. Specifically, that this year Congressman McCotter had voted against 2 Republican amendments that would have reversed President Obama’s executive order directing PLAs (project labor agreements) be used for federal construction projects. PLAs require non-union construction companies to have an agreement with the local unions if they want to bid on a government contract. Many feel that PLAs drive up the cost of government contracts, waste taxpayer dollars and limit competition.

Asked why he voted that way McCotter replied, “How many votes in the Senate would it have? How would the President sign it into law? I would also point out that we don’t need anymore, especially in a place like Michigan, any more confusion or chaos within the economy as we struggle to survive. So at this point it would not be wise to do that. So what you see hear is what the argument is it’s a bill that’s going nowhere and it’s also a case, that in my case, in the district that I represent it would have harmful effects and so I’m not going to support it at this time”.

The argument that the bill would have gone nowhere in the Senate and that President Obama would not have signed it is beside the point. The line of reasoning that it would have had harmful effects, especially on his constituents, is not. But it does raise some questions about a member of the House of Representatives running for President.

You can listen to the complete interview with Congressman McCotter by clicking here.

Many have made the argument that legislators should not run for President of the United States. Certainly there is a huge difference between the job of a member of Congress- writing and amending laws, oversight, etc. – and the job of President, which is to act as the nation’s chief executive.

In addition the priorities of a congressman are different than those of the President. A congressman’s first responsibility – after adhering to their oath to Constitution – is to serve the needs of their constituents – the 650,000 or so people that live in their district – who elect them every 2 years. The President must answer to the vastly broader constituency of the entire United States.

Congressman McCotter’s “contentiousness” in both the interviews with Tony Katz and on our program maybe related to the recognition that if he runs for President he will face many questions about his voting record like the ones posed to him on both shows. The questions will come not only from the relatively friendly and conservative “New Media”, but also from his primary opponents and the liberal “mainstream media”, who will likely dig deeper and be much more relentless in their inquiries.

When it comes to national security, foreign policy, illegal immigration, border enforcement and a host of other issues that are important to the Republican base and the “Tea Party” Congressman McCotter’s positions are very much in line with the grassroots supporters and primary voters he will need to persuade to vote for him. But on some fiscal issues, due to the district he represents, some of his votes may give certain fiscal conservatives pause.

Ronald Reagan said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor”. I do not believe that Congressman McCotter taking some votes that I- and perhaps other fiscal conservatives- disagree with, disqualifies him as a potential, and very formidable, presidential contender. However, he needs to recognize that these questions about his positions and voting record will continue to be asked and perhaps return to his usual demeanor in answering them. It is after all that easy going disposition- in addition to his intelligence, directness and principles- that makes him such an attractive potential presidential candidate to so many Americans.