Saturday, April 17, 2010

Has Utah U.S. Senator Bob Bennett Unofficially "Crowned" Republican Challenger Mike Lee His Successor?

Mike Lee
Republican challenger Mike Lee seems to think so, after Bennett marched out prominent retired Utah generals and Afghanistan veterans on Friday April 16th, 2010 to single out Lee alone and criticize him for his stance on Afghanistan, which Bennett characterized as a naive, dangerous "cut-and-run" policy that could lead to the return of Taliban rule. Primary media story from the Deseret News.

Bennett's attack was triggered by recent debate statements by Lee about Afghanistan. Those statements are best summed up by this explanation on Mike Lee's website: "My policy on Afghanistan is simple: Our troops are there to take out military targets — things that present a clear and present danger to our national security — and should be brought home as soon as possible after all such targets have been destroyed or neutralized and the Afghan National Army has been trained sufficiently to protect their own land from further Taliban incursion." This represents the proper constitutional use of American military power outside the United States; namely, go in, subjugate the enemy, and then get out. No nation-building, no peace-keeping, no wiping babies' asses.

Amongst the group of seconds Bennett brought to the news conference included Maj. Gen. Peter Cooke, who said "I don't know if they're naive or they're trying to get political gain. Now is not a time for either. ... One must know those kinds of comments hurt our soldiers engaged in fighting." Former Utah U.S. Senator Jake Garn, R-Utah, a retired brigadier general in the Utah Air National Guard, said wars in Korea and Vietnam offered lessons for involvement in Afghanistan now that Lee has not learned. Garn maintains that America pulled out too soon from those two countries. "We shouldn't have a nuclear threat from North Korea. Vietnam should not all be communist. We have hindsight to prove that we've got to stay firm in Afghanistan and not make the same mistakes we did in all those other wars."

I have to break this off momentarily to disagree with Garn. We lost in Korea because we played for the tie. MacArthur wanted to go into China while they were still in recovery mode from their revolution and vulnerable, but Truman wimped out and fired him. Ditto Vietnam - had we bombed the dykes on the Red River near Hanoi, Uncle Ho [Chi Minh] would have cried "Uncle" the very next day. When you fight to win, you shorten the conflict.

Bennett also brought along some eye candy in the person of former Miss Utah Jill Stevens along with Layne Pace, an attack helicopter pilot in Afghanistan who leads efforts to help orphans there, to press home the attack on Lee. However, none of Lee's critics offered any suggestions on how we should wage the war in Afghanistan if President Karzai follows through on his threat to jump to the Taliban.



In response, Mike Lee said Bennett not only is twisting his views but also may have out-generaled himself to Lee's advantage. By going on the offensive, Bennett's showing vulnerability, and may have done Lee a favor by implicitly confirming Lee is atop the seven Republicans challenging Bennett and presents enough danger to be criticized. Lee also said the attack by Bennett's allies was not so much about Afghanistan, but because some polling by candidates shows Lee ahead in delegate support at the state convention. Lee said his own polling shows him with a double-digit lead over Bennett. Lee's full response is available HERE, where he wrote "I have always been a strong advocate and supporter of our military. Those serving in our Armed Services are brave men and women who are willing to sacrifice all they have for the freedoms we enjoy. Anyone who would question my support for, or commitment to, our military and national defense has either not explored my positions or has been misled by distorted political rhetoric.”

Lee's polling statement contrasts strongly with an April 8th Rasmussen poll which shows Bennett with 37 percent, Lee and Tim Bridgewater with 14 percent each, Merrill Cook with 6 percent, Cherilyn Eagar with 4 percent, and 21 percent still not sure. The fact that Cook is polling ahead of Eagar makes the poll a bit suspect, in my opinion.

It also appears that fellow Republican candidate Tim Bridgewater may have piggy-backed on Bennett's attack. On his website, Bridgewater wrote, “I feel that the veterans’ concerns regarding some of Mike Lee’s statements and positions on foreign policy are completely justified. To describe the brave efforts made by our men and women in the military as “an international meals on wheels program” is offensive. I was present when Mike Lee suggested that there may be “as many thugs there [Afghanistan] as there are right here in Utah County” and I find these statements to be very troubling. These comments show a profound lack of understanding in regards to national security and world affairs. I am sure Mike’s response will be that I am attacking his position for political purposes, but that would simply be an effort to deflect from his indefensible comments and position. These kinds of statements on something as important as our national security cannot be ignored.” This, combined with Bridgewater's previous support of John McCain, can only serve to fuel perception that Tim Bridgewater would actually be little more than Bennett Lite.

The state caucuses occur on May 8th. No one will get the 60 percent or more of the delegates necessary to avoid a primary fight, so the top two finishers will go to a primary. Mike Lee appears to be positioned to be one of the top two. Will Bennett be the other?

9 comments:

chris said...

Keep in mind that the double-digit campaign polling was targeted at state delegates only, whereas Rasmussen's poll targeted "likely Republican voters" -- so a larger voting base that doesn't have any say in the May 8 state convention. Two different groups.. the state delegates are all that matter right now!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't find any details about the Rasmussen polling methods. I would be interested to see exactly who they polled and how they polled. For example, if they called at certain times of the day and only used public phone lists, they likely oversampled an older demographic. Those kinds of details can make a poll next to worthless, and it always makes me suspicious when none of the details are exposed.

Deseret Dawg said...

Anonymous - According to Rasmussen, it was a poll of 620 likely voters done in one day. That probably means "supervoters". The Crosstabs might give more information, but are only available for premium (paid) members.

Deseret Dawg said...

Chris - Thanks for bringing out that distinction.

Anonymous said...

The title of this blog is a really stupid question. Bennett doesn't want a successor, he's taking an easy pot shot at Lee because Lee made it easy to take that pot shot. Besides, who "crowns a successor" by lambasting him in a statewide newspaper? If you really think Bennett can crown a successor, you should read some of the very nice things he's said about Cherilyn Eagar. That's how you crown a successor--be supportive, not insulting.

Anonymous said...

I think Mike Lee would very much like to be crowned Bob Bennett's successor. Unfortunately he's run into a little bump along the road to his coronation. Heaven forbid we actually ask our next US Senator to respond to some very legitimate questions about his positions on national security issues.

Meals on Wheels? Really Mike. . .

Rob Alexander said...

As a veteran of the Utah Air National Guard, I support Mike Lee's positions of maintaining a strong national defense, having clear objectives when we place our brave men and women of the Armed Forces in harm's way, and bringing our troops home when our objectives are achieved.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war and grant letters of marque and reprisal. I trust that Mike Lee would use those powers wisely and appropriately and would work to prevent the President from usurping those powers.

Jim said...

Wow, if Mike Lee's position on our objectives in foreign undeclared wars like Afghanistan (which to me, is pretty clear and very Constitutional), is the only thing that our aging senator can find to criticize, then it appears he really does have a serious problem. Fact is, Mike Lee's position is very defendable, and has been widely accepted among the delegates who will be attending a large gathering on May 8. We'll see what happens there. Meanwhile, can't you guys find something of substance to whine about?

Anonymous said...

Mike do not give up on your position. It is the best and most rational; something many republicans have not used in foriegn policy, i.e. rationality. The fact of the matter there is an inconsistency with our forigen policy. We spend over 720 billion dollars a year in foriegn policy objectives. This is more than what all of europe spends, somwhere around 200 billion, and almost half of what total countries, in the world combined, spend on foreign policy objectives. Almost 20 cents of every dollar collected in tax dollars goes to pay for our foriegn objectives. See, the so called "fiscal conservatives" are only conservaties with domestic problems, but somehow can allow total fiscal irrsponsbility when it comes to foriegn policy. What the heck is this? Today it is not "national security;" it is internationally security. Republicans do not give a dang about national security. They leave the borders wide open.