Russell Moore: Will the Real Clay Pell Please Stand Up?
Monday, September 08, 2014
That's not snark---it's a valid question considering the fact that Bob Plain over at rifuture.org brought to light the fact that Pell was a registered Republican in Arizona for roughly 10 years. And for those scoring at home, the vast majority of those years were reportedly during the Bush years. Those were the years that we were led into war in Iraq that quickly turned into a quagmire and suffered economic policies caused the housing crisis.
Mr. Honest and Upfront
But don't think for one second that I hold anything against Pell for being a Republican. Neither political party has a monopoly on truth, and many of my friends are Republicans, and the belief that government spending shouldn't be more than the taxpayers can afford is one of my most fundamental.
Here's what I do hold against Mr. Pell: he's perpetuated a fraud against his own supporters. Pell and his merry band of advocates have been going around our beautiful state with his wife (who was also a Republican until 2011) claiming that he's the "real" Democrat in the race--whatever the heck that means. All the while failing to disclose that he, in fact, was once a, gasp!, Republican.
Above the fray?
Perhaps what makes this situation most nauseating is the fact that Pell has acted as if he were the the above the fray, honest candidate in the race. While he hasn't run any "negative" ads, he's often mocked his opponents for their public service during the debates by calling them "politicians".
Pell claims that he's Mr. Honest and is therefore deserving of our trust is perhaps the hallmark of his campaign. And his supporters are making similiar arguments. Just read to what prominent Pell supporter, lobbyist, and political operative Jonathan Jacobs had to say in a column for GoLocalProv.
Jacobs' spin falls down
"How does one with no experience in elected office, earn the trust of Rhode Island voters in such a short time? The answer is by not earning their distrust. Rhode Islanders show a level of distrust in government surpassed only by Illinois. Illinois, mind you, has had four of the last seven governors serve time in prison. All Clay Pell has to do is avoid earning the distrust that has infected the state like a virus of political cynicism and anger."
By failing to disclose the fact that Pell was a Republican during the Bush years while gallivanting around the state criticizing his opponents for not being "real Democrats" is probably not the best way to convince anyone that you're trustworthy. If that was "all" Pell had to do, he's clearly failed.
Special interest connections
That's not the first disingenuous thing he's said or done either. Pell continually claims that he's not tied to special interest groups because he's not accepting money from their political action committees or lobbyists. But what he hasn't told people is that the National Education Association--one of the state's two teachers' unions, is actively running his campaign.
The fact that Pell was a Republican for 10 years, under normal circumstances, would probably be the least harmful demerit on his resume. We're talking about a guy who had 9 jobs in 8 years, lost his car twice last winter, and hasn't even held a single press conference.
Yet when considering that his argument seems to be that he's the most trustworthy, the fact that he failed to disclose his GOP street cred is much more important.
Lack of credentials
Let's face it: if Clay Pell's name was Clay Smith, and he didn't have an unlimited bankroll, and his wife was unknown, and had no family in politics, Pell wouldn't have garnered a second glance.
But given the fact that he's been able to pump more than $3 million of his own personal fortune in the race to produce slick television commercials and parade around his celebrity wife, he's been able to propel himself into the race as a serious contender by acting as if he's something he's really not--a liberal Democrat. His handlers from the National Education Association have given him a script to memorize, and he's recited the lines and tried to never deviate from what they've taught him to say.
And he's leveraged his grandfather's name and goodwill to the best of his ability in a desperate attempt to appeal to the nostalgia of Rhode Islanders.
In a way, you almost have to feel bad for Clay Pell. Like the bad guy in a movie, he almost got away with his scheme. Recent polling, both public and private, had the candidate surging and posing a threat to topple both General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras--the other two major candidates.
Whether or not Rhode Island's Democrats want to send Clay Pell into the general election clearly is their purview. But fortunately for the state's voters, they now know that Pell isn't the lifelong, dedicated Democrat that he's portrayed himself as.
The Democrats who vote in the primary deserve to know that while Pell claimed to be a stalwart Democrat, he was a Republican for a decade.
Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Pell Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI
10. Pell's Base?
Where is Pell’s voter base going to come from?
Seriously – Another No Private Sector Experience Governor?
8. Decision making
Has he ever had to make an executive decision?
7. Ordinary RIers
Can Pell connect to Rhode Islanders?
Progressives and Unions are in Love with Pell, is that good for RI?
5. Kwan Factor
Is he more than Michelle Kwan’s husband?
4. Claiborne Factor
Is he more than Claiborne Pell’s Grandson?
3. GOP Factor
Can Pell beat a Republican?
2. Experience, any?
Does Pell have any experience?
1. Tough Enough?
Is Pell tough enough?
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