Paul Jenkins: Begich a Republican? Not even in a galaxy far, far away

commentJune 22, 2013 

Hey, listen, if you have a spare Ronald Reagan mask left over from Halloween, how about shipping it to Mark Begich? Then, he might actually fool somebody into believing he is a Republican. Lord knows, he's tried everything else.

Alaska's junior senator broke with Democrats, for instance, in their latest gun grab -- and what Alaska politician would not? -- earning him the situational, and temporary, enmity of other Dems and knuckleheads like New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Oh, yes, to sound Republicany, Begich supported the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He even said in a recent campaign ad -- I'm not making this up, honest -- that federal spending should be cut. Cut, do you hear? In his bid to be Republican for re-election, he is even dissin' Barack "I'm All Ears" Obama for poking into Americans' telephone and computer habits. Too easy, given that Obama is as popular in Alaska as scabies.

But it is a ruse. To spin his rightist tale to the naive, Begich the Democrat sounds like that desperate guy, reeking of booze and cheap perfume, trying to explain to his wife where he was all night. "I swear, I was with Republicans," he says.

Take, for instance, Begich's recent "Squawk Box" interview with CNBC anchor Joe Kernen. As The Washington Post's Ruth Tam reports:

" 'I'm trying to put everyone in a box we can understand,' Kernen said. 'Are you closer to a Pelosi Democrat or to a Rockefeller Republican?' "

" 'Probably a Rockefeller Republican,' Begich said without hesitation."

Really? Not even if you close one eye and squint hard. The late Nelson Rockefeller was a longtime New York governor, the 41st vice president and an unsuccessful three-time candidate for the GOP's presidential nod. He was considered a liberal. The kinder among us would dub him RINO, or "Republican In Name Only." From Begich's perch way over there, on the far, far left, he cannot even see Rockefeller Republicans.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee guys are ecstatic at Begich's magical rebirth. "We know Republicans. ... Republicans are friends of ours. ... Senator Begich, you are no Republican," Press Secretary Brook Hougesen cackles in a news release.

The question? Is it remotely possible Begich is a Republican sub-species, maybe in another galaxy?

Real Republicans guffaw. Begich voted with Obama and Democrats something like 94 percent of the time -- including a "yes" on Obamacare, a calamity looming just over the horizon. He not only voted for it, he cast a deciding ballot. A truly moderate Republican, Lisa Murkowski, voted "no."

Begich voted for a carbon tax the National Association of Manufacturers predicts will strip Alaska of 21,000 jobs and inflate energy costs. Add to that his vote for the $787 billion stimulus measure and to release the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Program funds.

There's more. He is chairman, for crying out loud, of the Senate Democratic Leadership Team's Steering and Outreach Committee. The leadership team boasts liberal Dems Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, along with New York's Chuck Schumer and Washington's Patty Murray.

That is not the curriculum vitae of a moderate Republican, even a sub-species in another galaxy. It is not even the curriculum vitae of a moderate Democrat.

Begich's tenure as Assemblyman and Anchorage mayor offers several clues about his Republicanism. Instrumental in stalling the sale of the city-owned Anchorage Telephone Utility -- costing taxpayers millions -- he was a key sponsor and defender of photo radar, an offensive, intrusive revenue-enhancement scam killed finally by angry voters and sensible judges. (And he's outraged about the NSA's snooping? Really?) Don't blame me, Begich lamented at the time, my constituents wanted it. Thankfully, they did not demand something worse, like cooties.

As mayor, there were last-minute deals with union fat cats and five-year labor contracts that bled the city. Anchorage's spending skyrocketed an astonishing $30 million annually, on average. It is all there.

This will be an explosive election, with Democrats and Republicans pouring uber-millions into Alaska because, as Senate elections go, Alaska is a cheap date. Along with Begich, candidates of note so far include real Republicans Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller, who has a Bronze Star. There may be more

In the ruckus, if you see someone campaigning in a Reagan mask, it's probably Begich -- and the mask would be the only thing Republican about him.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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