Cleve Tidwell at the RNC Chairman Michael Steele dinner.
I’ve been observing with somewhat detached amusement the various “astroturfing” attempts (here, here, here, and even here) by supporters of presumed (as yet officially unannounced, although quite active) Senate candidate Cleve Tidwell. I had seem him speak at the GOP State Central Committee and at the previous night’s dinner with RNC Chairman Michael Steele and came away unimpressed with his speaking ability (as noted by another PPC contributor, “inspirational” is not a word that immediately comes to mind in association with Mr. Tidwell) but otherwise not with any significantly negative (or positive) opinions on the man or his candidacy.
I recently had the opportunity to observe Mr. Tidwell at some greater length (quite a bit greater length, as it turns out) at his recent appearance at a “townhall” meeting jointly sponsored by DU College Republicans and the Colorado HD3 Republicans.
The somewhat sparsely attended meeting (there were some two dozen in attendance, including 4 DU students from Tidwell’s campaign team – which “started out” at DU – several DU College Republicans, a number of HD3 Republicans, and a few attendees of various other provenance). The meeting kicked off with a nod to the historical significance of the weekend date (April 19th being the anniversary of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”), discussion of the recent Denver (and national) Tax Day Tea Party events, and a discussion of the basic tenets of the GOP: “freedom – with responsibility” and an emphasis on the need to defend the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.
Matthew Arnold, Director of Clear The Bench Colorado, then gave a brief presentation on the movement to restore accountability to Colorado’s judiciary – reining in the “out-of-control” Colorado Supreme Court by voting “NO” to retain the four justices who must face the voters in 2010 – which was enthusiastically received by those in attendance.
Mr. Tidwell was then introduced by one of the DU College Republicans on his campaign team. He emphasized Mr. Tidwell’s international business experience, stated that Tidwell had built “an unconventional support team” of mostly students, and stated that Tidwell believed that “a strong America is good for the entire world.”
Mr. Tidwell then addressed the audience, starting out by saying “Forgive me if I don’t sound like a politician – ’cause I’m not… we’re all in business in some way.” He exhorted those in attendance to “get involved” while acknowledging that “there will be days it’s boring – that’s politics” but that to participate, “you don’t have to be old like me – we need your energy.”
Mr. Tidwell characterized the state of his campaign as currently in a “grassroots organization” – “getting ready to announce as a candidate” while meeting with various groups, “concentrating on meeting and signing up delegates.”
After reflecting on his background (emphasizing both his experience in international business and as a veteran of the United States Marine Corps – Force Recon) and noting that he moved to Colorado after spending much of his life in Atlanta, GA (yes, he still has the accent) “because it was where I went fishing” he addressed the reason for his desire to get involved in politics. ”I’m 62, and I’ve had it.” “Government can’t run our lives (although they’re trying to) and there’s a real threat of a movement towards Socialism succeeding in this country.”
He then began touting his core message: Strong Values (patriotism, morality, spritual life) for a strong GOP. Mr. Tidwell characterized a “moderate” stance as a “recipe for failure”, noting that Unaffiliated voters are NOT necessarily midway between the GOP and Democrats, but are in actuality “all over the place politically.” He stressed that many voters had left the GOP because the GOP “didn’t stick to it’s principles” (an assessment that has merit, in my view – although one can argue about which principles are critical) and that attempts to triangulate or tack “leftward” would not necessarily attract more votes.
Mr. Tidwell then addressed several policy areas or topics. His comments on the recent Department of Homeland Security report labeling political dissenters and opposition to President Obama as “Right-Wing Extremists” (“I take offense to that – it’s absurd”) drew the biggest applause of his presentation. He posited an ongoing assault on “Spritualism” nationally, citing the recent covering up of religious symbols/imagery at Georgetown during a recent Obama appearance. Addressing education issues, he characterized the state of textbooks in current use as “frightening” – noting that educational institutions are a “venue for attack” on American values, history, and even science (witness the “global warming” hysteria). He attacked proposals for single-payer healthcare as “Socialized Medicine” (again, correctly, in my view) noting that such a system does not work in several countries (specifically citing Britain, Canada, even Guatemala) – as people “stand in line for hours” to see a doctor, only to get an appointment for several days later to actually receive treatment. “I’ve lived in Socialist countries,” he declared, “and I’ll tell you it’s not good.” On economic policy, he asserted “if they’d stop printing money, and imposing all sorts of regulations, we’d get ourselves out of this mess.” He stated that “we MUST stop increasing the debt and spending” – or inflict a massive burden on people, in this and following generations.
“Government was set up to protect us – NOT interfere with our lives.” (A sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse – in all areas).
Some concluding impressions: Mr. Tidwell spoke for a long time (well over half an hour, NOT counting almost as much time for Q&A – for a townhall that was supposed to consume not much more than that time in its entirety). His delivery was largely lacking in inflection or excitement – with some exceptions (he became moderately animated on a few occasions) his delivery seemed to drone on… and on. Also, he sounded some discordant notes when talking (at length) about his “international business experience” and “extensive connections” with national and foreign ‘power players.’ Although it’s not technically correct to accuse him of ‘name-dropping’ when he failed to mention any names, his frequent references to his ‘connections’ were gratuitous and jarring:
“I’ve worked with Kings in 3 countries – negotiated deals, I know them well”; “I can play ball in the Senate; I’m already playing, they know me – I’ve been invited to DC as the guest of a committee chair from Texas”; “I’m used to the tough stuff, I’ve testified in the Senate”; “Deals are not made in the halls of the Senate – they’re made in other places – who you know somewhere else who can bring pressure” helps make things happen.
As a military veteran, one statement by Tidwell (well, two – his attempt to claim kinship with the recent Navy SEAL snipers who dispatched the Somali pirates in rescuing the Captain of the Maersk Alabama by suggesting that they were really Force Recon Marines might have impressed the college kids, but not this guy who knows a few ‘operators’) seemed particularly “off” – his assertion that “I’ve still got a clearance – and can get into classified briefings” didn’t ring true. Security Clearances have an “expiration date” - 5 or at most 10 years, depending on the level of clearance – so it’s unlikely, at best, that Mr. Tidwell continues to maintain a clearance. It’s possible – and I’ll retract this statement if shown proof to the contrary – but this wholly unnecessary assertion, given the topics and the audience, reflects poorly on Mr. Tidwell’s judgment (and possibly character as well).
In summation: although Mr. Tidwell did make some statements and take some positions with which I agree, I was not left with the impression that he would make a strong (or even realistically viable) candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado in 2010.
And that about wraps up my “Think on Cleve Tidwell.”
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