Saturday, November 13, 2004

Updated Nov. 12, 2004 at 3:45 pm., revised Nov. 14 at 9:00 am.
And the hits, they just keep on coming. Conservatives-- foiled again? Playing Ball with Chairman Topinka.
In the November 11, 2004, Blog entry of Rich Miller, www., Rich attempts to shoot down what he characterizes as paranoia from the tinfoil hat crowd:

"And then there's the paranoid fantasy that Illinois Republican Party Chair Judy Baar Topinka somehow wanted a Keyes candidacy in order to ruin the party's conservative wing."

"The problem with this tinfoil hat argument is the undeniable fact that it was the conservatives who came up with the Keyes idea and it was the conservatives who convinced the state GOP to bring him here and then defended him until his strange behavior forced most of the saner members of their cabal into hiding.”

Well, Yes, Rich, all of that could be true, and it still could be the case that Judy threw out some bait [Dr. Andrea Barthwell, a puller of Democrat priamry ballots and a contributor to Democratic candidates] that the conservatives stupidly reacted to by selecting Alan Keyes as the Senate Candidate. Of course, the Barthwell bait was intended to repel the State Central Committee members (especially the conservatives) to Keyes, not attract them to Barthwell. My operatives tell me that Chairman Topinka was very happy to have "moderate" Barthwell as the "finalist," alternative to Keyes, but not because Barthwell would be a great moderate candidate. If there is one thing Chairman Topinka knows well, it is politics.

Judy may have been pushing the State Central Committee members to vote for Barthwell, but she certainly knew that a Keyes nomination would help her future in state politics much more than a run by the moderate political novice, barely Republican Barthwell [Boys and Girls, do you know the phrase "conflict of interest"]. And, of course, what could very moderate Republican Chairman Topinka urge her State Central Committee members to do, publicly or privately? vote for Keyes? I don't think so. After all, if she did that, Rich and friends would not be able to write about the paranoia of the tinfoil hat crowd? Would they? It is always important to give yourself some cover in politics.

As I think Rich Miller knows, politics, in part, is about being opportunistic, and especially about exploiting the opportunities your opponents give you and setting some traps. Senator Pat O’Malley has spoken about Chairman Topinka being mentored by George Ryan, Illinois' most recent former Governor, who devoted his life to politics and accumulating power. George is certainly someone who knew all the political tricks and traps. Unfortunately, for George, some of his past behavior as Illlinois Secretary of State and his post '98 election flip-floping from pretend conservative to actual liberal kind of caught up with him and he was unable to even think about running for re-election. And, of course, George Ryan has been indicted and is set to go on trial in March, 2005 on federal racketeering charges. The mainstream former Attorney General of the State of Illinois, Jim Ryan, referred to George Ryan’s Administration in the Secretary of State’s office as the most corrupt in the State’s history—and the competition in Illinois for that ranking is pretty fierce.

So, when it comes to accumulating or maintaining political power and manipulating others, Chairman Topinka knows a thing or two. My operatives tell me that Judy was working hard in and around the State Central Committee deliberations to shoot down, or veto, the preferred choices for the Senate nomination of some of the conservatives, such as John Cox, Jim Oberweis and Senator Steve Rauschenberger. After a while, the conservative block on the State Central Committee began to look around to see who might work-- if not to placate Judy-- to perhaps energize their brothers and sisters to override Chairman Topinka.

Although Judy does not have a vote on the State Central Committee, it would be disingenuous for Rich Miller to claim that Judy does not have considerable clout as State GOP Chairman, with some of that clout able to be used to sway some State Central Committee votes.

With Keyes in the mix, although Judy did not seek him out, it had to dawn on Chairman Topinka that Keyes might not be all that bad- for the future of Judy and of the so-called “moderate/liberal wing” of the Republican Party that Judy has come to represent. And, the "final four," candidates of the SCC to replace conservative Jack Ryan are said to have been General Borling, Terry Barnich, Barthwell and Keyes.
Borling, a pro-choicer with 2% of the primary vote could not be viewed as a serious candidate. Barnich was way too close to the Thompson wing of the party for the conservatives to be comfortable. Barthwell, as indicated above, was barely a Republican, if that, and pro-choice. So, 98% of the Republican Primary vote went to pro-Life candidates, and Pro- Choice, very moderate Republican Chairman Topinka, with her clout, had produced a final four that was 50% to 75% pro-choice [Barnish's abortion views are unknown to me and perhaps to others].

So, it couldn't have been too hard to see where this was going. Judy had to realize that with Barthwell as the alternative, and Barthwell is who Chairman Topinka and her supporters on the State Central Committee picked as one of the two finalists with Keyes, the conservatives [even those smart enough to have doubts about Keyes] would be driven to Keyes and “all things considered [as the NPR crowd likes to say],” that wouldn’t be so bad for Judy. And, of course, the conservatives did bite on the bait [taking Keyes over Barthwell] and the rest, as they say, is history. Judy hopes the Keyes candidacy was a big step toward alienating Republican mainstream voters from her conservative competitors for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Remember, since June, Judy has been blaming the “problem” on Jack Ryan and since late August, on Jack Ryan and Alan Keyes. As Chairman Topinka would no doubt readily put it, this was a train wreck created by two conservative candidates who Judy would be very comfortable labelling as on the right, very damaged goods and very damaging to the Illinois Republican Party and, of course, she would be quick to point out that they were both brought to you by the conservative wing of the Illinois Republican Party.

So, Rich Miller has to explain to his gentle readers why exactly the Keyes disaster on November 2, for which Judy blames Jack Ryan, Alan Keyes and the conservative wing of the Republican Party in Illinois, is a bad outcome for Judy Baar Topinka’s bid for Governor, or even to keep her Treasurer position? Also, can Rich Miller explain what Judy did to prevent the outcome? Promote Barthwell? Well, that only pushed the conservatives toward Keyes, as she knew it would. And, which of the above characterizations, according to Rich Miller, are inconsistent or in conflict with what really happened?

I would say the ball is now in Rich Miller’s court, or is it Judy Baar Topinka’s court, or do they differ?
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” can be reached at