Politics & Policy

Harry Reid’s ‘Pet’

If Delawareans want a down-the-line, tick-the-box, reliable vote for President Obama and the Democratic leadership, Chris Coons is their man.


Christine O’Donnell is the Republican nominee for the Senate in Delaware, and whatever you think of her qualifications, it is time to take a look at her opponent and decide what is at stake in this race. Chris Coons, the Democratic nominee, would be, if his record is any indication, a solid vote for tax increases, against repeal of Obamacare, for cap-and-trade, and against most GOP proposals to curb spending. He would be likely to back another stimulus package if Obama proposed one. His background indicates that he shares the president’s exception-taking to American exceptionalism. More than anything else, he would be a down-the-line, tick-the-box, reliable vote for President Obama and the Democratic leadership, whether or not that still includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who recently called Coons “my pet.” Here are five things you should know about Chris Coons:

1. Obama’s rubber stamp: “I’m someone who would broadly support the agenda of our president,” Coons told a group of supporters. “I think we need more folks in the Senate of the United States who are . . . willing to work in responsible partnership with an administration that I think made the right choice on health care, on the stimulus, on the jobs bill.” Coons backs other pillars of the administration’s agenda such as a cap-and-trade program and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation. His support for taxpayer-funded abortion and partial-birth abortion earned him a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He favors amnesty for immigrants who are here illegally. His statements on the economy indicate that he thinks we need another stimulus bill. Obama is our most liberal president in decades; Coons would be a reliable vote for whatever remains of his agenda and a reliable vote against repealing those items he has already enacted.

2. Party man: In a wave election year where voter sentiment is running strongly against the Democratic party, Coons is the epitome of a party apparatchik. When all signs were pointing toward Mike Castle’s being the Republican nominee, Coons was recruited by Democratic elders to run against him, and he gladly accepted the mission, despite its apparent futility. Castle, a fixture of Delaware politics and winner of eleven straight statewide elections, was expected to win the seat walking away. Ted Kaufman, the longtime Biden aide who took over Biden’s seat, had already announced that he wouldn’t run. Most political observers assumed that Kaufman was keeping the seat warm for Biden’s son, Beau, an Iraq War veteran currently serving as Delaware’s attorney general. Beau was widely expected to run in 2010, but last January, following the Scott Brown stunner in Massachusetts, Biden fils announced that maybe this just wasn’t his year. The party needed someone else to get beaten by Castle, so — loyal party man that he is — Coons stepped up to take the fall.

3. Three tax hikes in four years: In 2004, when he was elected county executive of New Castle County, Coons inherited a budget surplus and promised not to raise taxes. He proceeded to break that promise three times between 2006 and 2010, raising property taxes by 5, then 17.5, then 25 percent. When asked about the tax hikes at a recent debate with O’Donnell, Coons said, as reported by the Wilmington News Journal, that “Without a tax increase, he would have been forced to lay off police and close parks and libraries.” Like most Democrats, Coons has been cowed by public-sector unions into taking the position that public-sector jobs are more important than the jobs that are inevitably lost when taxes rise. In the Senate, he would be a proud member of the voting bloc that has already transferred tens of billions of dollars from federal taxpayers to those state governments that spent the bubble years spending themselves into insolvency.

4. Politicized hiring and firing: Coons is running as a good-government liberal who will clean up Washington, promising to introduce a law restricting lobbying by former lawmakers. But as county executive, Coons engineered the dismissal of a political opponent’s brother in a manner that, had a Republican done it, would have prompted liberals to cry scandal. In 2004, Coons beat Sherry Freebery in the Democratic primary for county executive. Freebery’s brother, a county manager, had supported her campaign. When Coons took office, he pushed state lawmakers to change the status of county managers from merit-based positions to political appointments, according to the News Journal. As soon as the legislature made the change, Coons fired Freebery’s brother. This kind of thing formed the basis of the allegations of politicized hiring and firing against George W. Bush’s Justice Department and against Sarah Palin as governor of Alaska, but Coons apparently gets a pass because he’s a Democrat.

5. Drank the Amherst Kool-Aid: While an undergraduate at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Coons published an article in the student newspaper about how his exposure to the academic Left had transformed him from a “proud founding member of the Amherst College Republicans” into a “bearded Marxist.” He was only slightly exaggerating. According to Politico:

In one passage of the article, Coons explains how in the months leading up to the trip abroad “leftists” on campus and college professors had begun to “challenge the basic assumptions” he had formed about America.

A course on cultural anthropology, noted Coons, had “undermined the accepted value of progress and the cultural superiority of the West,” while a class on the Vietnam War led him to “suspect . . . that the ideal of America as a ‘beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world’ was not exactly based in reality.”

Coons wrote that a study-abroad experience in Africa completed his transformation — something about the many parallels he saw between Kenya’s kleptocratic elites and American capitalists. None of us wants to be judged by our college ramblings, but Coons turned his ramblings into a career: He spent the first ten years of his post-grad life at various left-leaning nonprofits and in the academy, and, of the eight years he spent as a lawyer in the for-profit sector, four overlapped with the beginnings of his career as a politician. Coons’s academic and career choices have perfectly prepared him to serve as a valet to Barack Obama in the Senate. Delaware voters should deny him the opportunity.

Stephen Spruiell is a National Review Online staff reporter.


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