race for the 20th Congressional District challenges expectations
Liberal” was a phrase constantly thrown at Kirsten Gillibrand
by the John Sweeney campaign two years ago during their fierce
battle for the 20th Congressional District seat. But during
this election cycle, that phrase is not likely something Gillibrand,
now the incumbent, is going to hear from her Republican opponent,
Because Treadwell, according to some pundits, has “more money
Treadwell, a wealthy recipient of a blind trust and the grandson
of a founding executive of General Electric, has an image
crisis to overcome this election. Democrats and Republicans
alike joke that Treadwell has “never worked a day in his life.”
assertion is inaccurate, as Treadwell wrote briefly for Sports
Illustrated and served as secretary of state under George
Pataki. He was also chairman of the New York Republican Party.
York Post writer and talk-show host Fred Dicker repeatedly
has shown open contempt for Treadwell, referring to him as
“insular, elitist and ideologically anemic.” Dicker has also
perpetuated an anecdote about Treadwell not being sure what
to do with the paycheck he received as secretary of state.
Some Republican pundits point to Treadwell’s time as Republican
Party chair as a time of decline for the party, and some blame
The campaign Treadwell has run so far has not delivered the
attack-dog politics some had expected to erupt early on in
the race. Instead, so far things have been fairly cordial—besides
some wrangling over debates.
Treadwell has demanded debates with Gillibrand in 10 locations
around the district, as Gillibrand did during her race with
Sweeney. Gillibrand, however, never got the debates she requested,
as Sweeney kept putting them off until it was too late.
This time around, Gillibrand has accepted only three debates.
The Treadwell campaign has confirmed only one debate.
Treadwell spokesman Peter Constantakes said, “At this point
in time we have agreed to one joint debate. We have called
for not debates, but town-hall-type meetings in all 10 counties
of the district so as not to only hit all the areas of the
district but so people can ask questions. It’s similar to
what she called for in 2006.”
is in Washington Monday through Friday,” said Gillibrand spokeswoman
Rachel McEneny. “So it would be almost impossible to do 10
debates. We have decided to go through three major media outlets:
the Post Star, Times Union, and the Poughkeepsie
Journal. We think media-driven debates are the right forum
to reach all the people of the district, not candidate-controlled
The only jointly confirmed debate will occur Oct. 23 and is
sponsored by the Times Union and WMHT.
Meanwhile, Gillibrand representatives have voiced concern
as of late that Treadwell is a bit of an amorphous opponent.
Treadwell has not given a rundown of where he stands on issues
on his Web site. Some pundits wonder if he aims to remain
flexible on certain issues so he can endear himself to very
distinct parts of the large district.
Constantakes counters: “We have had a number of articles on
the Web site that deal with detailed issues. Sandy has been
out through the district talking to people, and throughout
he has commented on stories and challenged the congresswoman
on her votes in Congress. Her saying his positions aren’t
on his Web site is kind of meaningless.”
In another interesting twist, pundits were miffed when Treadwell
did not immediately begin running hard-hitting attack spots
against Gillibrand as soon as primary season was over. Treadwell
has instead run commercials focusing on energy policy.
In 2006, the race between Sweeney and Gillibrand got ugly
early and stayed that way till the end.
While Treadwell’s image problems might lead the Gillibrand
camp to think they are facing a cakewalk, the fact remains
that Treadwell, who has bypassed public funding and is financing
his own campaign, can throw intimidating sums of his own money
into the race. And the district still has an overwhelming
number of registered Republicans.
It is expected that the campaign will be one of the most expensive
congressional races waged this year. From April 1 to June
31, Treadwell spent $635,000. Gillibrand spent $214,000.
Both candidates have millions of dollars in their campaign
coffers, and it is likely that local television stations will
benefit greatly from ad buys.
Although Treadwell faces an identity crisis, Gillibrand has
one of her own. As a “Blue Dog” Democrat, Gillibrand has straddled
the fence between Democrats and Republicans. Gillibrand upset
her liberal supporters this year by voting for H.R. 6304,
the FISA Amendments Act that gave telecommunications companies
retroactive immunity for their role in government spying on
The Gillibrand camp points out that she has brought home money
to her district while addressing issues important to the constituents
of her rural district, like dairy subsidies, home heating
and fuel prices.
Despite all the money being thrown around, there are those
who think Gillibrand has become far too iconic and popular
to be unseated by Treadwell. And because of her star status
as a working mother and politician, Gillibrand will be setting
the terms not just for the debates, but for the campaign.
congresswoman has a job,” said McEneny. “We will get to all
10 counties. She looks forward to sharing her vision, and
what she has accomplished since she was elected with her constituents.
And we look forward to the debates.”
the face of the current state of the American
health care system and the ongoing health care
debate, Americans may have a hard time empathizing
with the French, who are facing cuts to their
national healthcare system. French President Nicolas
Sarkozy has cut funding for half of the country’s
165 physiotherapists at the National Baths of
Aix-Les-Bains. As a result, the physiotherapists
have gone on strike. Sarkozy has begun to take
on France’s state sector industries, which have
regularly scared away attempted cuts by previous
French leaders. In a recent speech, Sarkozy recently
pointed out that there are 721 French diplomats
in the former colony of Senegal, which only has
a population of 12 million—while there are only
271 diplomats in India. “How is that normal?”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had a run in
with protestors who were holding McCain signs
and chanting “Drill here! Drill Now!” during the
Democratic National Convention this week. The
speaker paused and then responded, “Right here?”
“Can we drill your brains?” Pelosi went on to
call the protestors “the handmaidens of big oil”
and the “two-cents-in-ten-years crowd,” referring
to the amount she thinks off-shore drilling will
reduce the price of gas.
Day the Swinging Died
Region pundits and reporters lost one of their
favorite subjects this week. A Slingerlands psychiatrist
put in the winning bid to buy the Union Street
Bed and Breakfast in Schenectady, effectively
ending the run of the swinger hangout that features
a sex dungeon in its basement. Owner Bob Alexson
has said that he was not driven out but has chosen
to move on. Alexson clearly did not consider what
area columnists and anchors would be left to write
about with his sexy B&B out of the picture.
Seattle woman who registered her dog to vote—a
protest against the lax oversight of voter registration—had
fraud charges dropped against her this week. The
judge dismissed the case, sighting that the woman
had already paid over $200 in court costs. The
woman did not try to hide the fact that her dog
was registered, and she pointed out that the dog
never actually voted.
leading foreign-policy think tank brings together Obama advisers
and diplomats to discuss the future “relevance” of the Middle
delightful to be here with all of you, and the best news that
I can bring you is that there are only 146 more days of President
Bush,” said Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Near East and South
and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee. “Never in my 24 years
[in the Senate] have I seen our [country’s] position as compromised,
our credibility as tarnished, and the situation as complex
and convoluted as it is right now.”
Kerry was one of a dozen panelists to speak at the New America
Foundation’s soft launch of its Middle East Task Force, a
division of the Washington D.C.-based think tank that will
focus its research on America’s future in that volatile region.
The three-hour discussion held last month in Denver at the
Democratic National Convention was given the loaded title:
“Can the Next President Make the Middle East Irrelevant?”
The answer from the panel was an emphatic “No.”
long as oil is relevant to us, the Middle East will be relevant
to us,” said Gregory Craig, senior advisor to former Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright and senior national security advisor
to Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “As long as
religion is relevant to us in this country . . . as long as
religion plays a role in our lives, and the lives of others,
the Middle East will be relevant to us.” And as long as we
are the de facto protectorate of Israel, he said, the Middle
East will be relevant to us.
The more appropriate question, the one that Obama is prepared
to grapple with if president, he said, is: “Can the Middle
East be made less dangerous?”
Craig said he believes this is an achievable goal. The Middle
East, though in the turmoil of warfare and profound shifts
within its regional power structure, can be brought back to
a relative stability if the next president embraces diplomatic
and economic strategies, and reverses the eight years of American
absence within the Arab-Israeli negotiations. It’s vital,
he added, that the next president be engaged early and with
full force in Middle Eastern issues, and not wait until his
seventh year in office to engage in diplomacy—an obvious swipe
at the inaction of George W. Bush in regard to Israel, and
to an extent, Iran.
Craig laid out an abbreviated vision of foreign policy for
an Obama administration, hinging on the war in Iraq: Obama
would begin immediately to draw troops out of Iraq, roughly
two brigades every month, concurrent to intensifying diplomatic
measures with Iraq’s leadership and neighbors.
These neighbors would be “well-advised,” he said, to maximize
these diplomatic entreaties. With Iran, the threat of economic
sanctions or military action would be real and remain on the
table. The Turks and Saudis, with their own sectarian issues,
and the Syrians and Jordanians stressed under the spill over
of violence and refugees from Iraq, all offer promise as helpful
partners. The leaders of these countries, Craig said, “have
the capacity to make it worse [in Iraq], but they also have
the capacity to work through this transition.”
Former Congressman Mel Levine, Middle East policy advisor
to the Obama campaign, said that Obama will work with Iran,
trade with Iran, and welcome Iran back to the community of
nations, but if diplomacy doesn’t work, economic sanctions
possibly coupled with multilateral military action would be
options. But conversation and diplomacy, he said, need to
shape the future of American foreign policy.
have to engage with Islam,” Craig agreed. “Obama has made
the promise that during his first year as president that he
will give a major address at a Muslim capital. To begin a
discussion that will lead to greater understanding, and greater
The past eight years have been a foreign-policy nightmare,
Kerry said, and to highlight the mismanagement responsible,
he told the story of meeting with Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas in 2005.
went into the West Bank the morning after the elections,”
Kerry said. “And he said to me, ‘You know, Senator, I know
exactly what you expect of me. I have to disarm Hamas. Now
you tell me how I am supposed to do that. Look around you—I
have no police, I have no radios, I have no equipment. I have
no ability to deliver. In fact, Hamas has more ability to
deliver service in the street than I do.’ It was the single
largest moment where I regretted the loss of the presidency.”
Despite American rhetoric that Israel and the United States
needed a partner for peace within the Palestinian ranks, Abbas
was left isolated and unsupported.
did nothing, folks,” said Kerry. The Bush administration made
demands of Abbas but offered no assistance, indicative of
the style of foreign policy that has defined the tenure George
Bush. He continued, “You can’t have diplomacy that is: Send
your diplomats in to sit down with somebody and tell them
what they have to do, and that’s the end of the discussion.
And I know for a fact that is exactly what some of our high-level
envoys have been told that they had to do over these past
Under an Obama presidency, he argued, this dangerous policy
would be reversed. America would approach foreign policy with
diplomacy and not just an understood leverage of military
am confident in our ability to take on this challenge,” Kerry
said. “I am thirsty.”
loose ends this week-