t.a. barnhart talks with Jim Greenfield and Lisa Michaels for HIPFiSH
First, the personal stuff.
I do not like the politics represented by Jim Greenfield and Lisa Michaels. I think they are wrong on the facts, wrong on the theory and wrong on their conclusions about American economics and politics. I also think more Americans agree with me on the issues than with them. Should either of them get the Republican nomination for CD 1, count me among those helping whichever of the Democrats is nominated.
That said, I had a great time talking with both Greenfield and Michaels recently. Rob Cornilles, the presumptive leader of the GOP field, wouldn’t even agree to an interview for Hipfish; his deputy campaign manager made sneering, dismissive comments about both of these opponents. Yet when we spoke over the phone in late August in separate conversation, I found both to be open, personable, honest about their political aims, and full-speed-ahead conservatives. Both knew my political leanings — I informed them prior to the interview of the range of work I do — but neither was defensive or aggressive. In short, it was a pleasure to speak with them and to get the chance to ask them about their campaigns for this nomination.
Jim Greenfield is a lawyer working in real estate investment, a radio talk show host, and he’s been through this before. In 2002, he was the Republican nominee for this Congressional seat, and he got thumped 63%-34%. But he doesn’t come across like a person who thinks about defeat. He’s also a free market fundamentalist, as he sees it:
“Adam Smith, Milton Friedman … free markets work fabulously well at creating wealth and prosperity for the entire population if they’re allowed to work without government intervening. And part of that free market system is that companies that do well and are well-managed succeed. Companies that are poorly managed or dishonest, fail. And that’s the way it should be.”
Greenfield opposed the TARP bailout, calling it and other taxpayer-funding rescues of corporations “corrupt” — the recipients of that funding in turn give campaign contributions to those who bailed them out. This opposition to targeted government spending that benefits specific individuals is one example of the kind of spending Greenfield opposes.
“All the functions that the government is now spending on that are not authorized by the Constitution, we should look at cutting back and save there. And that’s most of the federal domestic budget.”
As the CD 1 Representative in Congress, Greenfield said he would not be working to bring “pork” back to the district. He feels the system is corrupt, with each Member voting for other Members’ pork in order to get their own. For Greenfield, this is “politics as usual” and he would instead seek to reduce federal spending.
“We could save trillions of dollars off our military budget if we’d just start fighting the war on terrorism intelligently. Instead of having huge armies fighting wars in foreign countries, if we just started targeting terrorist groups, that would save our Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the military budget.”
This would also include closing down bases in Europe and Japan: “We can’t afford [to station troops there] anymore.”
Greenfield does not accept the argument that raising the debt ceiling was necessary: “Debt is the problem”. True to his conservative ideals, he argues that government needs to eliminate regulations that hamper the free market. The housing market implosion, he said, was caused by regulations aimed at universal home ownership that forced banks to lend to anyone, regardless of ability to pay. He would privatize Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac and let the free markets fix the damage done to housing.
Greenfield argues that his stands on the issues “are much stronger, much clearer” than Cornilles’. His strategy is to position himself on the right and give the voters a real choice. He is clear on where he stands: “liberal governmentalist policies don’t work”. Liberalism creates bureaucracy and higher taxes while preventing the free enterprise system from working. He believes voters in both parties are coming to this understanding; so by campaigning on that basis, he believes he’ll provide the winning alternative to liberal politics-as-usual that he sees as the greatest problem facing the country.
Lisa Michaels is a local tv and radio host, a consultant and entrepreneur, and, like Greenfield, a veteran of political campaigns. In 2000, she lost the HD 8 race to Mark Hass by 10 percentage points. In 2008, she again challenged Hass, this time for his Senate seat. She didn’t fair so well in this second race, getting steamrolled 68%-32%. But, again like Greenfield, you don’t hear anything defeatist from her despite those tough losses.
But while Greenfield is running to take on federal domestic spending, Michaels’ aims for Congress are less clear. She’s unfamiliar with the issues facing the North Coast region. A long-time resident of Beaverton who pulled her kids from public schools, the basis of her campaign stems from her broadcasting experience:
“I try to talk with my audience, not at them. … I’ve been studying the issues and talking with the community about them for years” on her radio show. Her strategy is simple: Go out and meet as many voters as possible. She believes she is “in touch” with her community, and, if elected, will maintain that contact by conducting a weekly Ustream.com interactive town hall with constituents to get their perspective.
“I’m not going to be owned by anybody,” she declared.
Taxes and Regulations
Although not running explicitly as a Tea Party candidate, Michaels reflects those politics. She opposes anything that infringes on the property rights of the individual. Part of this stems from a land dispute involving her family, and part of it is simply the ideology of the far right:
“I just really want to get government off of people’s backs so they can start making more money and so we can free ‘em up to hire more people.
“Business owners don’t know what state and federal governments are going to hit ‘em with next. Measure 66 & 67 was just the death knell to a lot of business owners.”
Over the course of an hour’s conversation, she offered no specifics about these issues apart from a few personal anecdotes. Her views are similar to Greenfield’s; he presents the free-market-libertarian perspective in a more sophisticated way. If he’s running for the distinctly right, that’s turf he shares with Michaels.
She also opposes “green solutions”, charging that they cost more than what is returned on the investment — not a very encouraging message to those seeking the development of wave energy facilities off the Clatsop County coast.
In fact, she’s a proponent of “clean coal gasification” and other energy resources that she says “we know work, like oil and gas”. She called “green energy” a “big scam” that allows the federal government to take away people’s lands, lets environmental lawyers file frivolous lawsuits, and otherwise deprive Americans of their private property, thereby enslaving them.
These are not fringe or radical views, of course. I assume in the course of the campaign, she’ll provide more detail as she meets voters;
“I think it’s a big power trip on both parties, and I’m fed up with it.”
Michaels initial reason for seeking the nomination was to expose voter fraud, something she has taken on in the past. But even more than tackling voter fraud — a big challenge given the paucity of evidence in Oregon for anything worse than incompetence — she now wants to win to prove a point:
“I especially want to win it because of the attitudes and the things that have happened with the Cornilles campaign. … We’ve got some insiders in the Republican Party, the elite group that is supposed to run all the campaigns…. I think it’s a big money-making endeavor for people that run campaigns.”
Michaels cited her various forays into the electoral waters, either being thwarted by the party pushing forward candidates they had no intention of backing — “designated losers” she calls them — or refusing to provide her with fundraising and other resources. She pointed to the Dudley gubernatorial campaign as a prime example of this GOP elite caring more about money than winning:
“If you can gin-up fear of government to the extent that you can raise eleven million dollars with the right kind of high-profile guy like Chris Dudley, and you can get commission on eleven million dollars, despite the fact that his opponent … only raised $4 million, and he beats him? Do you really care if your candidate loses if you’re able to gin-up that kind of angst to generate that kind of donation level?”
Michaels’ anger at the GOP seems to be as much a driving force as Greenfield’s is towards federal domestic spending. And while it’s evident she cares about the general issues of reducing regulations and taxes, and that she would be an advocate for resource extraction within the country and an opponent to developing sustainable energy sources; it’s also clear she’s running to win for another very strong reason.
To spite the Oregon GOP.
“Are we really going to nominate the guy who lost by double-digits to the crazy guy less than a year ago? Does that really make sense to anybody?”
I extended the same invitation to the Cornilles campaign as I did to Greenfield and Michaels. I spoke to his Deputy Campaign Manager who, when told I would be interviewing those two, was dismissive about their politics. Cornilles “declined” to be interviewed, whether because of the inclusion of Greenfield and Michaels, or because I was the interviewer, I don’t know.
Jim Greenfield’s website is http://greenfieldforcongress.com/. Lisa Michaels’ can be found at http://www.lisamichaels.org/.