Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Unfortunately, he’ll fit right in

The other day I picked up the September issue of Running Times and noted an item concerning the ACLI Capital Challenge. The Capital Challenge is a three mile road race open to teams representing the three branches of the federal government and the media. The proceeds benefit the District of Columbia Special Olympics. This year they raised a record $16,800. My reaction to this is two-fold. First, I think it’s great that senators, congressmen, judges, etc. can get together and raise money for a worthy charity. Second, I am amazed at the miniscule amount they raised when compared to the sums routinely garnered for their own individual campaigns. How does $200,000 sound? That’s the amount raised in one short evening last week by Ray Meier, a New York State Senator, in his bid for Congress, thanks to Dick Cheney.

A little background: My Congressional district, New York’s 24th, has been represented for 24 years by Sherwood Boehlert. This year, Congressman Boehlert, a member of the nearly extinct species Moderatus Republicani, announced his retirement. Although I didn’t always agree with Congressman Boehlert, I felt that he was a good representative for our area. He was known for his strong environmental stance and more recently, his support for embryonic stem cell research. He was not the sort of fellow who would parrot the party line on command. With his retirement come the announcements of those who’d like to take his place. On the Republican side, looking to repeat Boehlert’s rise from Oneida County Executive to Congressman, is current State Senator and former OCE Ray Meier. Meier came by the OCE office the old fashioned way; namely via the old-boy network. Senator Meier was part of a string of Republican Oneida County Executives who managed to keep the office “among the boys” by retiring from the post early, handing the job off to their hand-picked successor, and thus allowing the successor to be the incumbent at the next election in spite of never having received a single vote for the job.

Money is key to run an election these days and Meier knows this as well as anyone. In an effort to bolster his bank account he held a fund-raiser at the Hotel Utica featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. Although getting a boost from a sitting VP is normally a blessing, given Mr. Cheney’s image and the current state of national affairs, clearly this is a mixed blessing (and a downright damnation as far as the 200 protestors lining nearby Liberty Bell Park were concerned, with several of them carrying giant letters that together spelled out “War Criminal”). Cheney delivered a perfunctory speech to the gathered faithful who had each forked over $150 to attend. The highlight, of course, was the chance to get their picture taken with the Vice President for a mere $1000 ($2000 per couple) which went to Meier’s campaign coffers, netting him approximately $200,000 for a modest evening’s work. If only the Special Olympians had access to such people and their deep pockets.

Congressman Boehlert was there as well, and not surprisingly, backed his fellow Republican for his seat in the House. Party loyalty is what it is, but Meier is no Boehlert. Whereas Boehlert would vote against an administration policy that did not agree with his sensibilities (and, I might add, the sensibilities of many of his constituents), I fear that Meier will be little more than a bobbing-head party yes-man for a cadre managed in recent years by the likes of Gingrich and Delay. Meier has already shown his duplicitous nature in recent weeks. Take, for example, the recent uproar over embryonic stem cell research. If you go to Meier’s Congressional campaign site you will see an unmistakable large headline that reads “MEIER BACKS STEM CELL RESEARCH” Here is an excerpt, dated July 21, 2006:

Utica, NY – State Senator Ray Meier today joined Republican lawmakers across the country in supporting federally funded stem cell research, a breakthrough field of medical research that scientists believe may hold the keys to curing some of the world’s deadliest and most debilitating diseases.
Meier voted “YES” in March of this year to New York State Senate Bill S.5999, supporting state funded stem cell research. This bill establishes a public umbilical cord blood banking program. Umbilical cord blood has shown great benefit to medical research because it is rich in blood stem cells.
“I have a decade long voting record in the New York State Senate, and I’m on record as voting for this type of research, not because it’s the politically expedient thing to do, rather because it is the right thing to do,” Meier pointed out.

Geez, he sounds like an enlightened, rational, man-of-the-people, don’t you think? Hey, it’s not about politics, it’s about “the right thing to do”. Suuuuure it is! In fact, Meier’s “stem cell” vote was not at all in keeping with the majority of the House or Senate, Congressman Boehlert, or approximately 3/4ths of the American people. Meier is strictly opposed to embryonic stem cell research. This announcement was little more than an obfuscation of the facts. Let’s look a little closer at a few other things Meier said:

“Unlike my opponent, I do not support cloning or the destruction of nascent human life for research, I support adult stem cell research.”
“While adult stem cell research has yielded great success, the kind of ‘research’ my opponent is proposing has yielded nothing, ” concluded Senator Meier.

Remember that: “nascent human life”. In other words, an embryo, a 50-cell blastocyst that looks like a hollow ball. Amazingly, Meier complains that embryonic stem cell research, a relatively new field which for all practical purposes is not funded at either the state or federal levels, hasn’t yielded “great success”. That’s like stating that you’ll fertilize your garden only when it starts yielding produce. In contrast, Meier’s opponent, DA Michael Arcuri had this to say:

As Congressman Boehlert said, “This issue is not party-specific. There are leaders in the Republican Party who have supported this bill all the way.” Congressman Boehlert is not the only Republican to support federally-funded stem cell research.
That’s why as your Congressman I will support efforts to expand stem cell research. Supporting stem cell research is both morally correct and economically important for New Yorkers.
Unfortunately, my opponent, Raymond Meier, has some rather extreme views on this issue. In fact, he is the sponsor in Albany of a bill that would ban almost all forms of embryonic stem cell research in New York. According to New Yorkers for the Advancement of Medical Research, Raymond Meier’s bill “would be devastating to the many New Yorkers who suffer from the physical, psychological and economic burdens of life-threatening and debilitating diseases.”

Further, Meier is purported to have told the Utica Observer Dispatch that “Stem cell research is of dubious medical value.” Hmm, let me see if I’ve got this straight: He’s against it, unless you’re for it, in which case he wants you to think he’s for it, too. In either case, he’d very much like to receive some of your money, even if it requires the support of a top member of an unpopular administration. In light of this, I’d like to propose a new campaign slogan for him: “Ray Meier for Congress: Unfortunately, he’ll fit right in.”