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The following talk recently took place at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida (Nov. 17-20, 2011). The transcript follows with introductory remarks given by Pat Caddell and the Freedom Center’s Michael Finch.
Michael Finch: Ladies and gentlemen, if I can have your attention, we want to go ahead and get the program started. Thank you.
To introduce this morning’s speaker, Congressman Bob Turner from New York, the new congressman from New York, is going to be a longtime friend, political analyst, great friend of the Freedom Center. So I introduce Pat Caddell, who will introduce our speaker. Thank you.
Pat Caddell: Well, this is interesting, isn’t it? Actually, I’m very proud to introduce Congressman Turner. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on his bio; I’d rather talk about his election and what happened, and how important it was, and the significance of it.
I talked a little bit about it yesterday. Well, let me just — it’s in the biographical information. Congressman Turner lived his whole life in the district he represents, in Queens and Brooklyn. He for 40 years was in the business of news media and worked on developing talk shows, with Phil Donahue, Jerry Springer and others, and was an executive.
And I read, in my stupor last night, as I was looking at things — for those of you who were up late, too — I found that one of the reasons — and I’d love to hear the congressman’s comment on this — was that he had gotten upset watching a segment on Bill O’Reilly about healthcare with the incumbent in the district — this was prior to the 2010 election — Anthony Weiner, someone you may have heard of — in that district, in which he was, you know, talking about healthcare in ways that the congressman — Bob Turner at that time found offensive.
And so he did what all good Americans should do — started running for office. And what enough Americans don’t do is run for office. And so he took on a seat, and started running in a district that’s three-to-one Democratic registration. And he ran in 2010 and did not have a lot of money — Anthony Weiner had a lot of money, and the machinery of the Democratic Party in New York City — and got 40 percent of the vote, which is quite a respectable showing for someone not been in politics. And he started running again, so that when Mr. Weiner’s — really, it’s Sunday, morning, I shouldn’t –
There’s a thought in my mind, but I’m leaving it alone. You can figure it out. But when he got into his difficulties, and the special election was called, everyone said that seat is still going to be safe for the Democrats. Now, one of the issues was it was heavily — there’s a substantial Jewish population, and an orthodox Jewish population. And they were unhappy with the President on Israel. But at the same time, as it’s said, it’s still a three-to-one Democratic district. And the Democrats nominated an — just to show you how we get over ethnicity — this’ll be a surprise to some of my former — some of my erstwhile associates on the left — sometimes we overcome things, like ethnicity and so forth. The Democratic nominee was an orthodox Jewish voter. He would lose orthodox Jews four-to-one to Bob turner in the election. Because issues matter a lot more.
I was interested in it because I believed that the race was winnable. The Republicans had just lost the 26th District in New York, the Jack Kemp seat near Buffalo, which is — if you were there yesterday, I commented was a district that could not be lost, if you put a glass up, or a cup, named Republican. And they managed to do it. And millions of dollars were spent by all of these organized groups.
Bob Turner’s election was a real counterpoint to that. The President in the polling, from the very beginning, was in trouble in that district, because of the economy, and because of Israel, and because of, in general, his policies on national security — including terrorism, interestingly enough, as well as what this New York State Senate had done on gay marriage.
But when it all came down to it, Bob Turner made his campaign. And with some suggestions, his pollster was John McLaughlin who, as you know, is a colleague of mine from Secure America. And so as these things work out, ideas pass around. The campaign not only challenged the question of Israel and challenged the question — Bob really ran a campaign, to voters one-on-one, talking to them about what was happening in their lives and what the party was not doing for them.
And he was very fortunate. A number of Democrats endorsed him. I was one of them, proudly to say. And the argument that he was able to make — and former Mayor Koch and others — was that this election was really important — that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid needed to be sent a message about both the economy, and what was happening with their economic policies; and Israel, before it was too late. And they responded.
It is interesting — John and I did a post-election survey. And I don’t want to take up a lot of time, but I just want to tell you some of the highlights. That campaign worked. The vast majority of it was pretty even — about 80 percent of people who said they’d voted for Turner. By the way, a quarter of them had never voted for a Republican for Congress in their life. That’s an interesting point.
The President overall in that district had an unfavorable rating that was — disapproval rating that was in the high 50s, had a negative favorability rating. Bob Turner was the most popular person, at 51-32, in the district. But his opponent wasn’t high negatives; he was slightly positive. Anthony Weiner was less positive, although they were about 38 percent [or] favorable to Weiner, which I still found interesting. And that only could happen, I suppose, in New York.
But what was also interesting was the repudiation of the issue that drew him into the fray to begin with, which was healthcare. A whopping majority of people wanted it repealed and replaced. The feeling that the President’s policies were endangering Israel — you know what was interesting about that? Catholics were even higher than Jews in believing that. But Jews are heavily Democratic. But a majority of them believed it, and substantial numbers voted, and I suspect also — looking at the turnout — didn’t vote.
And one of the questions that was interesting to me was the question — do President Obama’s policies endanger the security of the state of Israel? And that was 44 yes and 36 no, in a district where Jewish voters are the second-largest group religiously, and which is a three-to-one — remember, a three-to-one Democratic registration district.
Most important thing was, it was clear that President Obama was in trouble. From that moment on, two things have happened. And perhaps Congressman Turner could comment on this. One is the Obama Administration realized how deeply they were in trouble.
And there’s an important last point I want to make. His opponent, David Weprin, outspent him two to one. And in the last week of the campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent one half million dollars in the last seven days trying to hold that seat. The Republican establishment basically gave Bob Turner the back of their hand. I mean, he can’t say that, I’m sure, because he has to get along. But I’ll just flat out tell you, they gave him nothing.
The groups, who will go nameless, but you can imagine — some of them start with initials like K and R — but those groups, which poured millions into the 26th, would not help Bob Turner. This was won on the basis of a terrific candidate, as you’ll see; and a powerful message in a powerful moment.
So what happened is the Obama Administration immediately panicked. And from that moment on, they have been trying to reconnect with their base and with Democratic voters. Because they realize how dangerous it is. And the Republican Party — and I will not, because this is not my speech — won’t characterize them as I often do — have decided, at that moment — have learned none of the lessons and not apply them, and just sit there; and have not taken up what was a clear path that I believe pointing the way to unseating President Obama, and unseating him among the voters who will make a difference — the independents and the Democrats.
I think Bob Turner is one of most fantastic candidates, the most — and, you know, candidates who run — I’ll tell you from personal experience — who run from conviction, but also because they feel it’s a responsibility, have a certain lightness about them, unlike the people who are running because — my God, I need this. And well, actually, some of them use it as a psychiatrist’s couch. But they run so desperately for their ambition.
And the more he was attacked, the better candidate he was. Nothing bothered him. He was funny, he was tough, and he was really strong.
And with that, I would like to introduce the congressman, who I endorsed — first time I ever endorsed a Republican congressman — Bob Turner.
Bob Turner: Thank you. And good morning.
And before I begin, I want to acknowledge my wife, Peggy –
– who is responsible for all this. It is true I was yelling at the television set during O’Reilly. And she said — do something.
So it’s on your head.
I’m new to politics. My career in this business is about 18 months, both as a candidate and a congressman. So this is on-the-job training. And I’ve made a lot of observations. And it would be wise that I keep most of them to myself, which I will.
I want to talk to you a bit about the 9th Congressional District, which borders Brooklyn and Queens. It in some ways reflects a lot of the entire nation in its mood. I know you’re probably, after listening to Mark Steyn and others, pretty bummed out. Well, I can give you a little glimmer of hope. But let’s not get carried away, it’s a glimmer.
This district went with Obama in the last election, 56-44. It is a very diverse district. It is about 35 percent Jewish and split between what I would call practicing and orthodox. Ed Koch, who was a big factor in this campaign, said — I will help you with that secular Jewish vote. They are hardened Democrats, half of which are not affiliated with any synagogue, shul, anything. Their religion is socialism. But there’s one thing that will get them back in the tent — it’s Israel. So remember that.
And that was his message throughout the campaign. And he did a great job blunting the Democratic forces there and giving us the credibility that we needed.
The district is about 14 percent Hispanic — very low turnout. 10 percent Asian — various turnout. The rest — Irish, Italian, Polish and whatever; and a rather large Russian presence. Full extent of that is unknown, but an important factor in the race.
Most of these people, single-family — two-family homeowners, two jobs. Husband and wife working at least two jobs. These are the people that do the heavy lifting, pay the taxes, bear the brunt of government policies; and less beneficiaries than most. And there is, and I felt, a resentment and a feeling of disempowerment and abandonment by the government.
These are the same people that went for hope and change just a short while ago. That discontent now, I think, is palatable. When they were told there’s a healthcare crisis — even though it’s largely manufactured by our own government — the government’s response was Obamacare. When there was a housing crisis and a banking crisis, the response was Dodd-Frank. When there was economic stagnation, their response was stimulus one and two. And the debt and the deficit keeps mounting.
This district — and I think throughout the country — needn’t be economists to know that when you spend — borrow 40 cents on every dollar you spend, you can’t do that indefinitely. They’re being told that — well, sure you can. Just get us through this next election, and then we’ll deal with it.
This growing sense of unease in everything we do — they can even look internationally. We hear a threat to our great ally, Israel, and the government — or the Obama Administration’s response is moral equivalency, and a condemnation and criticism of Israel — one-sided. All of this is playing very badly, I think, for the Democrats.
Furthermore, our President says our economy and our malaise is because America has gotten soft. And we’ve gotten a little lazy. Well, tell that to those working families. They’re not buying it. I think there is a continuing anger at this administration. Between the lines, they can see the socialistic attitudes of this administration and are being bombarded with the words “the capitalist 1 percent.” At the core here, they seem to know what’s really happening.
Myself, I greatly object to the term “capitalism” to describe our system. That term, by the way, was coined by Karl Marx. Our system is free enterprise. It’s a natural extension of our unalienable rights. And our free enterprise system is more than capital. It begins with people who have a dream and a hope and an idea — it’s intellectual capital. And it doesn’t work until you put in the sweat equity that makes things happen. And then last, it’s those that are ready to risk their fortune and money to do what has to be done to pursue a dream, to make themselves prosperous, independent — they never have to say “may I please” to any man. They know this. They don’t have to be told.
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