Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tim Holden: PA's Political Mugwump

Most Americans wouldn't know Tim Holden if they tripped over him. He's the congressman from Pennsylvania's 17th district (Dauphin County-Harrisburg and parts of Schuykill, Lebanon, and Perry Counties).

In fact, you might actually trip over him someday because, when confronted with a tough decision, Tim has a habit of assuming the fetal position. That one reason he has a serious challenger: Toni Gihooley, a long-time state cop and victim's advocate.

Tim is a classical political mugwump, a fence-sitter. In Abraham Lincoln's time, they defined a mugwump as someone with his mug on one side of a fence -- and his "wump" on the other. He's seemingly convinced himself that if his voting record is all over the map people in his moderate-leaning district will assume he's a . . . moderate Democrat. In short, a mugwump.

In previous coolumns I've talked about Pennsylvania Superdelegates -- particulary 4th district representative Jason Altmire and 8th district representative Patrick Murphy -- whose districts went solidly for Hillary Clinton. How did they do on reflecting the popular will? Not well. They both supported Barack Obama. (As you'll see in the Republican Herald story below, Altmire has left an air of mystery about where he stands on the candidates.)

What about the fact that the state of Pennsylvania went frr Mrs. Clinton by more than 200,000 votes? That didn't seem to impress Murphy or Altmire, and it didn't influence the aforementioned Tim Holden.

But what candidate did Holden, undeclared month after month, finally declare for? Hey, this is Tim Holden remember, and apparently he's still not made up his mind. Ask him again in a year or so.

Consider the following story that appeared in the June 5 edition of

"Sen. Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination Tuesday night, letting uncommitted superdelegates off the hook.

"U.S. Rep. Tim Holden — one of the uncommitted — called the process “flawed, foolish” and “undemocratic” on Wednesday.

“It looks like a decision has been made without the superdelegates having to step in, and that’s what I think should have happened,” Holden, D-17, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Holden is one of about 140 superdelegates who did not endorse Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during primary season, according to an Associated Press tally.

In Pennsylvania, Holden is one of two congressmen who endorsed neither Clinton nor Obama. The other congressman, Rep. Jason Altmire, a freshman from outside Pittsburgh, says he won’t formally endorse a presidential candidate but he supports Obama.

"On Wednesday, Holden blasted the involvement of superdelegates — party officials, governors and members of Congress free to support whichever candidate they choose. There are about 800.

“My feeling about this process is it’s flawed, foolish,” Holden said. “We look foolish. For superdelegates to impose their will on voters is undemocratic and I will tell Howard Dean that the next time I see him.”

"Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has been calling for superdelegates to pick a candidate for several months.

"Holden said his support of either candidate — in his role as a superdelegate — is “moot” now."

I'm sure you've heard of people voting "yea" or "nay" -- or even "present." But I doubt you've ever heard of anyone voting "moot."

How did Sen. Clinton do in Congressman Holden's district? She did lose urban Dauphin County (Harrisburg), with a big Black population. But she won Schuykill [SKOOK-uhl] County by 15,355 to 5,517. She carried Lebanon County by 7,316 to 5,772. And she won Perry County by 2,613 to 1,623.

So why didn't Tim Holden reflect the will of the people -- and come out for Senator Clinton? Or, if he didn't like Hillary, why not back Barack? Or anybody of his choosing?

I fear you already know the answer. Holden knows that when he takes a strong stand -- on any issue -- he might end up offending someone. Better to remain undeclared -- or vote "moot" -- unto eternity.

I believe Hillary Clinton supporters are going to identify not so much the "process" as what's wrong with the system. I believe they going to declare that The Problem lies with people like Tim Holden Howard Dean, Jason Altmire, and Patrick Murphy.

They'll also identify the Jason Altmires of our political system -- a man who "supports" Obama but won't declare that he does so -- as deeply flawed human beings. (Jason Altmire is opposed by Melissa Hart, who -- unlike Holden and Altmire -- has the capacity to make up her mind.)

Pennsylvanians do have a choice. They can re-elect Tim Holden to a 9th term, or they can elect Jason Altmire to a 2d term. The alternative is to vote for two people -- Toni Gilhooley and Melissa Hart -- who've never been mistaken for mumwumps.

In short, we can have the "Three Stooges" -- Murphy, Holden, and Altmire -- for another two years, or we can end a comedy show that's gone on much too long to be funny anymore.

Note: Patrick Murphy's 8th district GOP opponent is Tom Manion at: If the challengers I've cited are to end Pennsylvania's congressional clown show, they very much need your help. Visit their web sites today -- and often. Thanks.

1 comment:

hrsgurl said...

Honestly, I'd rather see a moderate like Holden remain neutral and not endorse a candidate. Maybe secretly he likes McCain but doesn't want to get ostracized by his party. I was outraged by Casey's endorsement of Obama. If he was as pro-life as he said he was, first of all, he would not be a Democrat secondly he would not have paraded around Pennsylvania with "punished with a baby" Obama.