It hurts too much to laugh

Published by James O'Toole on .

                                                        By James M. Perry

Concession speeches by losing politicians are usually predictable -- congratulate the winner, thank the hard-working volunteers, hug the wife and kids, wave to the crowd, and head back to the hotel suite for a stiff drink. 
Not so last Tuesday night with Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, loser in a nasty, hard-fought primary runoff with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. The 41-year-old McDaniel was angry, and refused to concede. "We had a dream and the dream is still with us," he told a crowd at his campaign headquarters in Hattiesburg. "Today the conservative movement took a back seat to liberal Democrats in Mississippi."  
Everyone in the crowd knew what he was talking about. The 76-year-old Cochran made a last-minute appeal to black voters, and by all reckoning they swarmed to the polls to vote for him. That's perfectly legal, for Mississippi primaries are open, meaning anyone can vote in them.
Because politicians hate losing elections, really good concession speeches are rare.
The best, I think, was delivered by the erudite Adlai Stevenson in 1952, after he was crushed by Dwight Eisenhower. 
"Someone asked me as I came in, down on the street. how I felt, and I was reminded of a story that a fellow-townsman of ours used to tell -- Abraham Lincoln," Stevenson said. "They asked him how he felt after an unsuccessful election. He said he felt like a little boy who had stubbed his toe in the dark. He said he was too old to cry. but it hurt too much to laugh." 
Alf Landon, who lost badly to FDR in 1936, was pretty good too. Landon said his defeat reminded him of the Kansas farmer laughing after a tornado wrecked his farm. His wife said, "What are you laughing at, you old fool?" He replied, "the completeness of it all." 
After his loss to Barack Obama in 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona told a home-state crowd that he would do all in his power to help Obama "lead us through the many challenges we face."  He said Obama had won an an "historic" victory and he recognized the "special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight." 
There have been lots of really bad concession speeches but it's hard to top Richard Nixon's famous "last press conference" on Nov. 7, 1962, after he had unexpectedly lost the California governor's race to Democrat Pat Brown. It was all the fault of the press, he said. They'd been badgering him ever since the Alger Hiss case in 1948. Now, he said, reporters should "give the shaft" to future candidates, just as they had given the shaft to him. "You don't have Nixon to kick around any more. because, gentleman, this is my last press conference." He was elected president six years later. 
Thomas Dewey was so upset by his loss to FDR in 1944 that he conceded with almost nobody listening in a radio interview. "Son of a bitch," FDR said. In 1916, Charles Evans Hughes took  took two weeks to telegraph Woodrow Wilson his concession. Wilson said the message was "a little moth-eaten when it got here, but quite legible." 
Ross Perot, a colorful independent candidate in 1992, gave a little concession speech "and then switched to body English," the New Yorker reported. "Cackling wildly, he swept his wife into his arms and danced to a deafening recording of Patsy Cline's 'Crazy.' "


Casey, Hatch bill to help people with traumatic brain injuries

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Authorization is about to expire for a program that provides grants and coordinates concussions federal research on concussions and other brain injuries prevalent in youth sports, but two senators are working to reauthorize the program.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, started the Traumatic Brain Injury Coordination Plan with late-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in 1996. Now Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is working with hatch to get the program reauthorized.

“This legislation supports critical activities to improve prevention, education communities and support individuals with [traumatic brain injuries] and their families and caregivers,” Mr. Casey said.

Mr. Hatch and Mr. Casey today introduced legislation to extend funding for five years. 

The program provides grants averaging $250,000 to states to improve access to care for traumatic brain injuries along with grants averaging $50,000 to prevent abuse and neglect of brain-injury patients living in institutions, nursing homes, jails, prisons and community-based settings.

Additionally, the legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to review scientific evidence relating to brain injuries in children and to identify opportunities for additional research.

Mr. Hatch said the legislation will make a difference in many lives without increasing federal spending.


CMU's driverless car hits speedbump in D.C.

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Carnegie Mellon University’s driverless car hit a speed bump Tuesday when researchers invited members of Congress for a test drive – err – test ride.

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Blair, arranged the rides to promote the new technology ahead of efforts to regulate it.

But, as Yahoo News reports, “And then Congress broke the car.”

Read more here.


Casey urges action on transportation bill

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Washington’s latest partisan logjam could shut down the federal highway improvement program as roads and bridges crumble, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., warned today.

With prospects of a long-term solution dimming, Sen. Casey is throwing his support behind s the PATH Act, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden’s Band-Aid approach that staves off trouble for six months.

The Oregon Democrat’s Preserving America’s Transit and Highway’s Act would prevent insolvency by providing the Highway Trust Fund with a $9 billion infusion funded by tax hikes.

Republicans on the Finance Committee aren’t satisfied with Wyden’s plan, funded by tax changes. The committee adjourned for a weeklong recess without voting.

Meanwhile, the highway fund has been limping along with a series of short-term fixes enacted over the last several years including an 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax that will expire Sept. 30 without reauthorization.

Mr. Wyden proposed a six-month fix. He offered a menu of pay-fors including measures aimed at getting tax scofflaws to pay up. One measure would revoke passports for delinquent payers and another would require banks to provide additional mortgage information to the Internal Revenue Service, which would help the agency improve tax compliance.

“Getting a long-term transportation bill has to be a central focus,” Mr. Casey said, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a short-term agreement done.”

Doing nothing isn’t an option, said Mr. Casey, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

“What we’re facing on transportation is the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown. It’s that simple. It is that stark and disturbing,” he said.

Lawmakers including House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Blair, have said they would consider hiking the gas tax as part of a long-term solution, but Mr. Casey wants to look at other options first.

“We’re going to have a lot of proposals and I’m not willing to support a gas tax without a longer discussion and engagement,” he said. “There are a whole series of other ways to finance a long-term transportation bill.”



Play ball!

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

You only need one more than your opponent to win, but chances are U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle won’t settle for that tonight. We’re not talking votes here; we mean runs.

Mr. Doyle, D-Forrest Hills, is in his eighth year coaching the Democrats’ best hitters, bunters and fielders and tonight he has a chance to seal his sixth win as team manager at the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.

Mr. Doyle, who had been a star catcher on the team and two-time MVP, took over as team manager when Rep. Martin Sabo of Minnesota retired from Congress and from congressional baseball.

As manager, Mr. Doyle lost his first two games, but has been on a winning streak since 2007. Last year his team shut out the Republicans 22-0.

You could chalk it up to a few standouts on the team including former Morehouse College star pitcher Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana and power hitter Linda Sanchez of California – the only woman on either team. But Mr. Doyle says attributes it to his mandatory 7 a.m. practices over the last month on all but the rainiest of session days.

This is not Little League game. This is hardcore baseball.

“I’m managing a bunch of prima donnas and they all want to play. I tell them I only play my best players and if that’s not OK they probably shouldn’t play with me. In the beginning I benched a lot of players who felt they should have played,” Mr. Doyle said the night before his biggest – OK, his only – game of the year.

Mr. Doyle is the only Pennsylvanian on the Democrats’ team. Meanwhile, the opposing team’s lineup might make you think Pennsylvania is a solid red state. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton is pitching, Rep. Patrick Meehan of Delaware County is playing third and Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair is covering right field.

Several thousand spectators – including many congressional aides, journalists and lobbyists – are expected to attend. The price of admission is $10 and proceeds – expected to be more than $300,000 after expenses – will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Washington, D.C.; the Washington Literacy Council and the Washington Nationals Dreams Foundation.

It’s a good way to raise money for charity and practice the kind of teamwork that isn’t often seen in the capital.

“If we could bring some of the camaraderie on the ball field to the House floor, that would be helpful,” Mr. Doyle said.