For old political watchers in Toledo, it was an all too familiar story. Representative Marcy Kaptur had again stuck her foot in her mouth. The Saturday, March 1st, THE BlADE religious beat writer, David Yonke, recorded Ms. Kaptur at a “Preaching and Teaching Peace in the Face of War” workshop for Catholic leaders, claiming the Arab terrorists we fight today as similar to the “nontraditional American revolutionaries” such as the “Green Mountain Boys”, a Vermont militia Group, and “religious groups” that had “fled persecutions.” The obvious differences are that American revolutionaries fought for freedom in America, their homeland, in an anti-colonial revolt, and supported religious pluralism. Al Qaeda left their homeland to perpetrate 9/11, is a colonizing force, and seek to impose Seventh Century Islamic law on all.
The firestorm was immediate. A posse of emails (including mine to the Vermont Historical Society) flooded conservative media outlets and Republican operatives. By Wednesday, CNN Crossfire’s hosts Paul Begala judged her comparison “despicable” and Tucker Carlson hoped she’d soon lose her seat. Drudge linked THE BLADE article on Thursday, tipping off Rush Limbaugh. Fox News noted her comments on Thursday. Lucas County Auditor, Republican Larry Kaczala – who rumor has it plans to challenge Ms. Kaptur in 2004, called on her to resign in Friday’s paper. Her office issued a statement claiming the comments were “purposely taken out of context” as a “partisan political maneuver.”
Even THE BLADE’s liberal human-interest columnist, Roberta de Boer, said she “almost fell to the floor” after reading Ms. Kaptur’s comments. The local Congressional office reported one call complaining about the remarks in the first week. Without shame, Representative Kaptur, responded that she welcomed the controversy because it afforded her a larger platform to share her deep thoughts. THE BLADE, a paper best described as ruthlessly plutocratic within its circulation area and loony left outside of it, came to her defense in this Sunday’s editorial. It stated that if Marcy was “guilty of anything, it is discussing a touchy subject… In Short, Ms. Kaptur is being demonized…” It goes on to castigate “virulent right-wing internet sites” and the local GOP for defending the Founding Fathers. Four letters to the editor supported and four criticized Ms. Kaptur’s comments in the Sunday edition.
An old inside the beltway joke (from before there was a beltway) went that District residents became so cynical about politics from living with the federal government that they denied the franchise to even themselves. In that spirit, Rep. Kaptur’s run for the Democratic House leadership this year won her no votes not even her own. The press spin was that she dropped out of the race in the spirit of consensus, explaining her real goal was to hector her fellow Democrats, itself an apt metaphor for her Congressional career.
Rep. Kaptur told the captive caucus that they could never out-fundraise the Republicans. Although outspent in her first race in 1982 and defending her seat in 1984, she has raised more campaign contributions and out-spent her Republican opponents since. She sits on a three quarter-million dollar war chest. If her point is that campaign dollars equals votes, she does win her mostly metropolitan Toledo, Ohio district three to one, mirroring her contribution and campaign spending advantage.
Ms. Kaptur’s web site notes her “humble, working class roots.” Her parents owned and operated a grocery store in suburban Toledo; she attended private parochial schools and out-of-state universities attaining bachelors and masters degrees. Her reputation as an environmentalist was made as the Planning Director for Lucas County, in which Toledo is situated. She left to seek a doctorate in urban planning at MIT. After the Democrats lost the once-safe Democratic district in the Reagan landslide of 1980, she was enticed to return to run for the seat, which is still hers. Having earned a reputation as an excellent ombudswoman to her constituents, she’s yet to author a major piece of legislation.
A dependable House backbencher in the 1980’s, she advanced under then-Speaker Jim Wright, who assigned her to prestigious committees, including banking (where she sat clueless as the S&L crisis unfolded). Fuzzy math plagued her further as she famously remarked that in her opinion the annual $200B plus deficits of the time were actually in balance. Embracing Tip O’Neil’s 1986 Democratic strategy of moving to the right of Reagan on the War on Drugs, she proposed that northwest Ohio’s Camp Perry be used to incarcerate drug users, no doubt as a re-education facility to further hector them. Noting her expose that the Big Three automakers were in business to make money rather than cars, the CATO Institute ran the headline: THE SECRET’S OUT, in their newsletter. After Speaker Wright was forced from office for corruption, the only Speaker so disgraced, Rep. Kaptur declared that he was treated worse than a criminal as even criminals are allowed a defense in court. However, the ex-Speaker resigned his office rather than defend himself before the ethics inquiry, an option unavailable to the charged criminal. Her Congressional career has since hit a plateau, despite hailing from the Gephardt wing of the party. Ever the cafeteria New Dealer, the Democrats put her on the Appropriations committee.
She dutifully opposed assistance to Nicaraguan freedom fighters, the first Gulf War, and the recent Iraqi resolution. She votes for DC statehood, amnesty for illegal aliens, and subsidies for biomass fuels. Her lifetime rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action is 75, with a low of 60 in 1994 and a high of 95 in 2002. The conservative American Conservative Union’s lifetime rating for Ms. Kaptur is 15, with a rating of 30 in 2001. Her opposition to taxpayer-funded abortions masks her leftist voting record. She resolutely resisted the Democrats move towards the middle in the Clinton era. .
The backbone of her support is the still-powerful unions, AFL affiliated unions like the autoworkers, service workers, public school teachers, public employees, and the radically open borders farm workers organization – FLOC, whose leader gets himself arrested with Martin Sheen protesting the Pentagon’s School of the Americas. FLOC organizer, Mike Ferner, a former city councilman and self-identified socialist, just returned from Iraq where he served as a human shield for Saddam. The other pillars of the modern Democratic Party, public employees and ethnic lobbies, along with environmental groups and feminists, reliably support her.
She is a member of the Progressive Caucus with such luminaries as Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, the House’s only socialist; California’s Barbara Lee, the only representative who voted to deny Bush authority to respond to 9/11; Washington’s Rep. McDermott, who went to Baghdad with ex-representative David Bonior - Ms. Kaptur’s acknowledged mentor, and who many credit for the Democrats dismal showing in the 2002 elections; and Ohio’s other political joke, Dennis Kucinich, who led Cleveland into default as mayor in 1977 and just flip flopped on abortion in his quixotic bid for the Presidency.
She came into national prominence opposing NAFTA. Perot even approached her to run as his vice-president. She is one of those representatives often seen on C-Span after dark, presenting her views to the camera. Appearing on their Washington Journal program with Republican Phil Crane, viewers got to see the real Marcy. In contrast to Mr. Crane’s happy warrior demeanor was her arrogance: the pouting lip, disgust in her voice, and the repeated embarrassed glance askance.
This past election the Democrats sent out a mailing with a “Rosy the Riveter” cartoon character on the front. Inside were thumb-sized pictures of all the Lucas County female Democratic candidates, featuring front and center and enlarged a picture of Ms. Kaptur, a self-described feminist. Fanning the flames of the so-called gender gap apparently is an important component of the late middle-aged spinster Kaptur’s political strategy.
Kapturism includes holding countervailing positions. She’s an environmentalist who made her bones resisting urban sprawl, yet supports massive immigration which adds a Houston every year and will almost double our population in half a century - a weird cure for sprawl. She supports the appropriation of affirmative action from African-Americans to reward the sons of Cuban and Brazilian slave owners, the sons of Arabic and Spanish slave traders, and for the daughters of the Confederacy. Marcy supports tipping the law of supply and demand in favor of employers by advocating the importation of labor - even supporting the HR1-B quotas. This friend of the working woman backs policies that have stagnated the economic prospects of the bottom 60% of Americans who, adjusted for inflation, are poorer today than in 1979, and that with female participation in the workforce more than doubling, which was even more true before NAFTA than after. She complains of the population and political power shift from the industrial Midwest to the Sun Belt even as her support of immigration and federal pork barrel politics subsidizes that ascendancy. In other words, she’s the drink yourself sober, eat yourself thin, and spend yourself rich school of Democratic delusion.
And what has she done for her district? Like most American urban areas, Toledo is a struggling enclave surrounded by prospering suburbs. In the 1970s Toledo average wages were 20% higher than the national average. Today they are 10% lower, comparing badly to even other rust belt cities in Ohio. While many cities enjoyed a population boom in the last decade, Toledo continued to hemorrhage people.
There are signs the voters have had enough of Kapturism. Her opponent in the last election was a crank who still managed 39,000 votes. Marcy’s misandrist mail out backfired as Republican Maggie Thurber won the race for county commissioner, defeating a long-time Democratic incumbent. Meanwhile she drops feelers about running for President. Maybe her slogan will be: Doing for you what I’ve done for Toledo. And she wouldn’t be joking either.
Mr. Winter was liberated from Ms. Kaptur’s representation by the recent Congressional redistricting.