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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Toomey & Sestak: Two Hares Chasing a Tortoise at Muhlenberg

Ultraconservative Pat Toomey and Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-7) are hardly what I'd call regular guys. Toomey made a fortune dealing in derivatives, while haughty Sestak goes through staff the way I go through a bag of Cheezits. You're more likely to find these guys on a swanky golf course than at an Iron Pigs game.

That's why I have to laugh about their supposed health care "town" hall, scheduled at Muhlenberg College tonight. It's no town hall in any real sense. Of the approximately 400 tickets made available by the college, half go to the respective campaigns and another 100 will be handed out to students. That leaves just around 100 for real people and the tea-baggers.

Still, they are trying to prove they're cool. They've confirmed their rendezvous on Twitter and have even agreed - Obama style - to share a beer when all is said and done. I suspect both will ask for straws.

"This is pure good governance," Sestak solemnly pronounces.


This is no exercise in democracy. It has nothing to do with health care reform, either. It has everything to do with bashing Senator Arlen Specter. While Sestak has been launching little toy boats in his bath tub, Specter has been tangling with numerous angry crowds in town halls throughout the state. They've practically assaulted this nearly 80 year-old Senator, apparently forgetting that Snarlin' Arlen comes from the tough streets of Philly, where he learned Scottish law. Rocky country.

"Yo, Adrianne!"

While Specter is out there talking about actual issues, Toomey and Sestak are moving pieces on a political chessboard. Toomey is propping Sestak up with this Muhlenberg "town" hall so he can knock him down later. He knows he just might beat Sestak. He has no chance at all against Specter. For his part, Sestak is looking for a statewide launching pad from which he can challenge Specter's admittedly weak Democratic credentials. And the last place Joe the Admiral wants to do that in is in his own district. He's already fired everyone there. So these senatorial wannabes think they have a win-win, and it's why the incumbent was given no invitation. He'll just muddy the waters.

"With Arlen Specter, you never know who's going to show up," snarks Toomey. Well, whoever that person may be, he's already beaten you once, Pat, and that was among Republicans. Sestak claims Specter is "following my leadership." I see. What leadership is that, Admiral Joe? The kind that caused thirteen of your staffers to jump overboard during your first term? The kind that led the Navy to force you to walk the plank for disrupting morale there?

Both of these hares are ready to make deposits on apartments in Washington, but my money is on the tortoise.


David Diano said...

I was thinking it was more like two dummies in search of a ventriloquist.

Glad to see that others are onto Sestak and what he represents.

You'd probably enjoy blogging over at http://pa2010.com/

Anonymous said...

Toomey's a shill. Sestak who? I have no kids and pay school taxes. I think if health insurance stays private and for profit, only people with kids in school should bear the burden of school taxes. Schools should all be private, for profit and traded on the Stock exchange with School CEOs making millions of dollars a year.

Anonymous said...


Former congressman Pat Toomey is a very successful businessperson. It is not correct or fair to deride this accomplishment with your claim that he made a “fortune in derivatives”. Pat Toomey has earned the respect of many people through his demonstrated integrity both in business and public service.
It is also unfortunate that those whose beliefs in small/limited government mirror those of the Founding Father’s are labeled as “ultra Conservative” by those who see their own thinking as open and fair.

Scott Armstrong

Donald said...

Neither one is getting any traction thus far. Toomey is safe for the primary and doomed in November and Sestak is fighting the machine, he is getting good free press though on Fox and MSNBC a lot.

Anonymous said...

So glad you said this because when we called for tickets were told they were out! When we asked why in the world would you hold this event in a small hot room, response made no sense. Makes school look stupid at best.
Why didn't they host this in the gym...unless they didn't want the public to be there in the first place. Naaaaaa, why would that be?

Anonymous said...

Tell us more about Sestak. We never heard of the guy before last week.

Anonymous said...

To Donald:
You really think Toomey has no chance against Specter, even with Specter's health care stance?

Anonymous said...

I believe either Sestak or Specter will withdraw from the race prior to the primary. Right now, my money is on Sestak. I don't believe enough people know him outside suburban Philly. That could change, however, if polls show Toomey leading Specter, or if Independents start breaking for Toomey. Then the state party bosses (including Rendell) will pay a visit to Specter, perhaps promising a cabinet post if he drops out. One thing is certain, Arlen's ego will not allow him to lose a primary.

Donald said...

Toomey can only win if this election is a repeat of 1994 when another extremest, Santorum beat Wofford. Specter is no Wofford. Harris Wofford didn't have 40+ years of hard core campaign experience, Wofford stuck to his convictions and based his campaign 2 years earlier on the success of health care, Specter has no core convictions and has many other issues he can run on.

And the GOP does not have any compelling (positive) national leadership like they had in 1994. This is a purple state that leans blue. Toomey will have to do a huge makeover to hide his extremist views on many things.

Anonymous said...

You underestimate sestak. His former staffers were soft political hacks who wanted cushy jobs. They couldn't cut it. Ask the people working for him: he's demanding and holds himself accountable just as he does his staff. How refreshing.

The man did more than launch toy boats--he was an admiral.

I'm good with Specter, but I love Sestak. Either way, Toomey is going back to the Club for Growth.

Bernie O'Hare said...


Of the LV's pols, Toomey is far more coservative than the rest. Hence the term "ultraconservative." Isn't that about right?

And I may be mistaken, but my research shows Toomey making a fortune on Wall Street, mainly on derivatives, long before he started any business in the LV.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"His former staffers were soft political hacks who wanted cushy jobs."

Thirteen of them? And Admiral Sestak had the same problem in the Navy, which is why he was fired. He retired as a rear Admiral, but I don't think he made it to that rank until then.

Ken Petrini said...


Look at the contrast. As I wrote today, Toomey could have stayed out of this issue--it will be settled before he takes office if he wins--while Sestak of course has to vote on it in the house. Still, unlike Callahan (your next article), Toomey is taking a very public stand. Doubt this single payer fan will agree with him, but he is taking a stand!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ken, He gets credit for taking a stand, but I think the motivation for tonight's "town" hall is pure politics.

Anonymous said...

but I think the motivation for tonight's "town" hall is pure politics.


NO SHIT! It's an election! It's pure politics. And when Specter did his town halls, they were purely about politics b/c THAT's THE BUSINESS THEY ARE IN!

And I don't have a problem with a politician who is hard on people either. We could use a few more people willing to crack some heads together.

For the record, what is Specter's stance on health care. He seems to have been wishy washy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, there's a little bit more than pure politics in Specter's town halls. He's out there meeting w/ constituents, explaining things and listening to them, presumably to arrive at the best possible bill. For Toomey and Sestak, this is all about bashing Specter, who is extended no invitation. It has nothing to do w/ the actual issue under suupposed discussion. And it's no real town hall. I find that a tad troubling, don't you?

Specter is capable of being just as political as those two hares, but in this instance I admire his courage in facing down people who are very upset over single payer health care. He sure as hell has not been wishy washy in those town halls.

As far as admiring a mean boss is concerned, it's one of the things I don't like about Sestak or, for that matter, Specter. They both have the rep of being hard to work under.

Anonymous said...


Can't be trusted by either party

Out for himself and his own glory


Mark it down early

Will SEIU or ACORN be at Muhlenberg College tonight perhaps to intimidate the Nazi tea-baggers?

What is going on with Obama's war in Afghanistan?

Where are Cindy Sheehan and all the other anti-war peacenik hacks?

Hypocrisy at work?

Anonymous said...

Toomey can absolutely beat Specter. True, he lost to Specter in round one. But he lost a fairly close race with President Bush and Santorum supporting Philthadelphia's finest RINO.

Republicans and even conservative democrats that bought into that strategic disaster are much the wiser this time, and Specter's recent betrayal is burned in their minds. Add in the Lewinsky ratings of the messiah and his Congress, and the stage is set for Specter's defeat.

Sestak would be a more formidable opponent for Toomey, in that his military credentials neutralize the key conservative argument of being stronger on national security issues.

Anonymous said...


I would be curious as to where you found your information that Pat Toomey made millions from derivatives. Secondly, if one believes in small government and limited taxes then one is a conservative, if you believe otherwise you are not (even if you are a Republican). Please explain; what is an “Ultra Conservative” and how is that different from “a conservative“?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Toomey and Dent have nearly identical positions on Obamascare.

Your admiration of a guy (Specter) who never stood for a thing in his life, never sounded a clarion call on any major national concern, never ever will be called anything remotely close to a statesman is ponderous.

Specter will go down in history as a self-serving position-less survivor who showed up at peculiar moments and acted peculiarly.

At least Dent and Toomey and Sestak have taken a stand. For all his town meetings, we STILL have no idea where Specter is on Obamascare because he's yet to determine what's best for his re-election. He strikes me as everything you deplore about politicians - regardless of party.

Bernie O'Hare said...


In the Wikipaedia bio, it is clear that Toomey started out on Wall Street, where he sold derivatives. There are numerous references to this on Google. Specter, in a political ad, claims "Pat Toomey, as a Wall Street trader he sold risky derivatives called 'credit default swaps' the same swaps that have plunged us into this financial mess."

Now before you go calling Specter a liar, as Toomey has already done, let me tell you that there used to be a magazine called Derivatives. Here's what that magazine had to say in 1999:

[T]he derivatives industry can claim representation by one of its own. Last November, Rep. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), a former swaps dealer, was elected to represent his Lehigh Valley district.

Toomey has already helped draft House Resolution 10, a proposal to roll back some of the Glass-Steagall legislation of the 1930s. Not surprisingly, Toomey is virulently opposed to unnecessary regulation. “The trend in deregulation, beginning in the early 1980s, is one of the biggest reasons for the sustained economic expansion,” he says. “I would like to see us continue to deregulate on many fronts, including the financial services industry.”

And what of the much-ballyhooed hedge fund regulation talk emanating from Washington lately? “It’s not clear to me that the problem with Long-Term Capital Management requires new regulation,” he says. “I think we need to continue to work on understanding what really happened there and what the magnitude of the threat to the infrastructure of our financial services industry was. Frankly, I think that the outcome was appropriate. The equity investors lost everything—and under the circumstances that had to happen—but the bailout essentially worked. I would be very leery about, and I will resist, any effort to impose inappropriate regulations as a knee-jerk reaction to what was a big problem but was essentially solved.”

Such passionate discourse is music to the ears of derivatives players around the country.

He made his money dealing in derivatives before he went into the restaurant business. He opposed regulation. The default credit swaps played a very big role in causing our current recession, and Toomey was definitely a part of that.

Why do I call him an ultraconservative? Because he is rigid, unwilling to bend away from conservative princiles even when theur application is clearly wrong, as they certainly were with the failure to regulate default credit swaps.

I know of no one in the LV who adheres to these conservative principles more rigidly than Toomey.

I also call him an ultraconservative bc he is all for government interfering in our lives when he decides to impose his own morality on the rest of us. He voted to ban gay adoptions, voted to prohibit flag burning, wants to return prayer to schools, voted to make it harder for people to file for bankruptcy, is opposed to alternative sentencing, etc. etc.

Not my kind of guy. I know he has a lot of appeal to you and Joe Hilliard, but e's way too rigid for me, and is actually inconsistent bc he has no problems w/ government stepping all over our civil rights.

Anonymous said...

Dent and Toomey are two Republican parrots owned by the Corporations that want Americans poor and stupid. Actually have just enough money to go into debt with their legal loansharking operations.

They are both tools.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Idiotic comments like yours add nothing, and if anything, help Dent and Toomey.

Anonymous said...

Why are derivatives suddenly a bad word? They were/are legal and made lots of connected Democrats and Republicans lots of money. If they were so problematic, where was Barney Frank on the issue? Couldn't have been a problem and he's still in charge so they must be fine now. What gives?

It's like telling Bible thumpers in the South that a carpetbagger politician has been known to enjoy the company of homo sapiens and thespians. Boo! Derivitives! Boo!

You live in a broom closet and likely couldn't explain derivatives coherently if your next bus fare to gummint cheese depended on it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will gladly acknowledge that I am part of the genteel poor. I was unaware that my finances are a measure of my intelligence.

But to be honest, I do know the reasons for the Wall Street meltdown. We're all aware that subprime lending and a runaway housing market helped create this mess.

But most of us are unaware that the commercial paper market also dried up. These are business IOUs, short-term loans, valued at hundreds of billions of dollars every day. It's what Paul Marin does. The Reserve Fund, which had extended this type of credit to Lehman Bros., broke the buck. That drove money market managers nuts and they stopped offering commercial paper.

Credit default swaps, or credit derivatives, also played a big part. Bond owners who want to transfer the risk of default to someone else would enter into an agreement paying a third party a percentage every year, and he would agree to pay owners if the bond defaulted.

What happened is that many people who did not even own bonds would enter into these credit swap options, gambling that there would be a default. And just as many people were selling tem. Eventually, it all came crashing down like a house of cards. There are $5 trillion in bonds, but $60 trillion in credit default swap protection worldwide. Not healthy.

This was a biparisan failure, and Barney Frank is one of the architects of this failure, resisting attempts at regulation on the basis that these folks knew what they were doing. Unlike me, they don't live in broom closets, but they did not know what they were doing. And their failures may have the ultimate result of forcing you to live in a broom closet.

By the way, if I thought someone was an idiot, I would not waste my time reading that person's blog.

Anonymous said...


Was at the fair all evening really beat.

Wikipedia… really? The derivative accusation is an invention of Arlen Specter. Need I say more… keep checking the facts on this.

And he opposes more regulation? Many understand that the gross failure to enforce existing regulations was the cause of the mortgage crisis. The fact that others don’t understand this is not a credit to them.
Although you may find Toomey’s stand on social issues not to your liking they may in the end be more in the mainstream than yours. So the term “ultra” refers to where he stands on issues from the unique perspective of your point of view.
It may shock you to know that I am a social liberal but see the nation’s fiscal crisis and rampant government expansion as the paramount threat to the nation. Therefore electing fiscal conservatives to public office is a prerequisite to restoring real economic growth and prosperity.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Never said you were an idiot. Just not knowledgeable about things financial. And Wikipedia as a reference would get you thrown out of a bad college.

Bernie O'Hare said...


Hope you and your family had fun. I relied on more than Wikipedia, but consider that source to be getting better and better all the time. I also quoted from that 1999 article in "Derivatives." But I understand what you're saying, especially since there are many kinds of derivatives. I'll do a little more research.

I suppose the reason for the "ultra" label is Toomey's views on social issues. I think you could argue in support of civil rights very consistently as a conservative who detests government interference in your life. Toomey, however, seems to be out there w/ Falwell and Pat Robertson. Perhaps it's unfair to brand suc a person as ultra conservative bc that kind of thinking might even be construed as liberal in the sense that government is taking control of your life.

As far as government regulation goes, you are right. The gov't was not enforcing existing regulations. But there are some areas, like default credit options, that are not regulated at all. The disaster there helped the financial collapse that occurred a year ago.

Both parties are to blame for this, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Never said you were an idiot. Just not knowledgeable about things financial. And Wikipedia as a reference would get you thrown out of a bad college."

Actually, you said I was too poor to understand high finance and pointed to my humble surroundings, as though that is evidence of anything. You're mistaken, as I demonstrated immediately after your initial comment. I got stuck taking those courses in law school, and booked them all. I generally have no interest in high finance or the people who chase after money. But I understand it.

I know a few impoverished people who have a deeper understanding of finances than many Wall Street financiers. It is always a mistake to underestimate someone or judge a book by its cover. But knock yourself out.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, where I get hung up is when people equate products with automatic evil. Derivatives, when properly sold and properly used, are good products. Similarly, subprime mortgage products, when properly sold and used, are beneficial as well.

It is when these products were abused that problems arose. And did that happen? Hell yeah. And it was supported by Ds, Rs, Wall Street, Main Street, absolutely everyone.

There is absolutely no evidence that Pat Toomey improperly sold or abused derivative products. To tar him with that broad a brush is in my opinion unfair.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have no evidence that Toomey acted unethicaly when he sold derivatives. The point in my post was to establish that the sale of those derivatives is what made him wealthy before he went into the restaurant biz. But Specter is using it against Toomey, and probably unfairly. Derivatives magazine does point to Toomey as someone who would fight against regulating those sales, which we now know is a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Liberals love tilting at inanimate objects. Derivatives are inherently bad, just as guns are - regardless of human involvement.

Anonymous said...

732am, unfortunately both liberals and conservatives play that game.

But if we're going to say that the derivatives business Pat Toomey was involved in 20-30 years ago (he was an investment banker from 1984-1991)created this mess, then we can continue blaming Jimmy Carter for today's inflation. Makes no sense at all and completely takes away from legitimate discussion.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

Banker, As someone in the finance industry, would you agree that we need to regulate default credit options? In hindsight, wasn't this just gambling, w/o a casino?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely they should have been regulated (and your casino analogy is pretty damn accurate). All financial exposure should be weighted against the firm's capital base - simple leverage.

Now that is harder to do than it sounds, but there are some smart people in the world, I'm sure they can figure it out.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Tommey represents the Club for Growth. The proeblem is the growth he represents does not benefit the average American.

Anonymous said...

And I blame Ricahrd Nixon for the healthcare mess since he planned on a national HMO system.

Damn socialist Republicans

Anonymous said...

Scott Armstrong said:

"I would be curious as to where you found your information that Pat Toomey made millions from derivatives. Secondly, if one believes in small government and limited taxes then one is a conservative, if you believe otherwise you are not (even if you are a Republican). Please explain; what is an “Ultra Conservative” and how is that different from “a conservative“?"

Per Wikipedia (with footnotes)

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Toomey was raised by working-class Catholic parents, and was one of six children. Through scholarships, he was able to attend La Salle Academy and later, Harvard University. After graduating from Harvard with a political science degree, Toomey was hired by Chemical Bank in 1984, where he was involved in currency swap transactions. In 1986, Toomey was hired by Morgan, Grenfell & Co., where he dealt in multiple foreign currencies, interest rates, and currency-related derivatives.[2] In 1991, Toomey resigned from the firm when it was acquired by Deutsche Bank in order to avoid the decreased flexibility and entrepreneurship that the acquisition would have caused.[2] The same year, Toomey and two younger brothers, Steven and Michael, opened Rookie's Restaurant in Allentown, Pennsylvania.[2]