Darrell West’s Review of Laffey’s Book

Darrell West has several interesting things to say about Laffey’s book. From the Projo:

This book is vintage Steve Laffey. Smart, energetic, and hard-hitting, the former mayor of Cranston presents a funny and well-written account of recent state and national political history. When national leaders attempted to get him to run for lieutenant governor instead of the U.S. Senate, he describes an awkward meeting with National Republican Senatorial Committee chairperson Elizabeth Dole in which she buttressed her argument against a Senate run by saying that she was a Christian and that somehow their shared religious values should lead Laffey not to run against Lincoln Chafee.

Laffey provides illuminating behind-the-scenes anecdotes such as the time in 1999 when presidential candidate George Bush was irritated with Chafee over the latter’s weak defense of him on national television regarding alleged drug use during Bush’s youth. “Is that asshole Chafee going to be here?� an exasperated Bush asks about an upcoming fundraiser in Rhode Island. “Do I have to (blanking) acknowledge him?�

But there’s a major deficiency as well, namely that Laffey is not very introspective about his Senate defeat. When Richard Nixon lost his first presidential race in 1960 and Bill Clinton was defeated as Arkansas governor in 1980, they searched for the reasons behind their losses, made significant adjustments, and went on to future political success. Based on this book, Laffey seems to have learned little from his own experience. [full text]

My favorite parts are: 1) where West refers to Laffey’s assertion that “aggressive bloggers” were one of the reasons he did not get elected to the Senate and 2) where West says that Laffey “glories in … disguised postings on local political blogs.” That, I gotta see. I’ll be requesting my copy of Primary Mistakes from the Cranston Public Library.

24 thoughts on “Darrell West’s Review of Laffey’s Book

  1. Just read the whole review.

    Of course: it’s everyone ELSE’s fault. The Great Steve Laffey can do no wrong.

    Hmmmm….sounds like another Republican, doesn’t it? The one who couldn’t name one mistake from his first term as president. Must be tough to be infallible.

  2. I plead guilty! And unlike Larry Craig, I’m not going to fight the plea. See the archives of rifuture for proof.


    I’m sure you won’t have to wait too long for the lib’s copy — and I commend you for saving your money and not purchasing the book.

  3. Thanks, Jesse. I will always be thankful for Steve Laffey, however. I think he did some things right. And if he hadn’t run for Senate, it’s entirely likely that Sheldon would not have been able to beat Chafee.

  4. I would be more interesting in a book you would write Kiersten which you could easily sell in your home town, something Laffey needs to target (according to him) “..my mind was always thnking about outside of Rhode Island – Nebraska or Virginia; what would someone in Virginia think?” As Laffey’s behind-the-scene strategy is far different than your moral standing Kiersten.

    Laffey – for a concrete plant ~ cannot/won’t comment.
    Laffey – (a)won’t meet to discuss flooding infrastructure problem with the City’s inability to properly clean the storm drains (prior to resident being made to file lawsuit); (b) won’t meet to address Petition of hundreds of signatures mandating the City Perform Maintenance to Drains.
    Laffey – inability to control/explosive.
    Laffey – marries the nanny (yup, going to keep that one in ~ unethical in my book); when he blows himself up to look like the white knight of his family as the only sane one then you open yourself to scruiteny.
    Laffey – Pro – he did have some financial resolution. Con- he left the City with more debt than he admits, and from going to City Council meetings I am infuriated to learn we are over 5K in debt from wrong spending. Should Virginian’s care? Cranstonians sure should and this will be echoed on blogging forums and in future debates. Crossing Guards is where I was behind him and how he stood strong against the unions, but, his negotiating style is wrong for representing anything on a higher level than at his dinner table. People don’t want to hear his combative arrogant behavior.

    Answers all blog questions openly ~ something many bloggers/taxpayers here in Cranston (vs. Virginia) can’t seem to get any answer on from Laffey.

  5. Kiersten:

    I admire your generosity toward Laffey, but, like Suzanne, I don’t think it’s deserved — nor would it be returned by him toward you.

    Laffey used this city as a political lilypad and has had to spin his record more than a Federer backhand to make it look even barely attractive — and even then, his support came mainly from angry Republicans who simply parrotted his talking points and apparently needed nothing in the way of substance in their candidate.

    All of his “financial expertise” didn’t keep us from facing a state maximum tax hike this year (which, after only nine months, you can’t blame on Nap), nor did it really accomplish anything but give Laffey a convenient talking point about raising the city’s bond rating.

    I also disagree that Sheldon would not have beaten Chafee anyway; last year was a Dem (and/or anti-Bush) year. But to amble down that theoretical path for a moment: had Chafee not had a primary, he still probably would have gone negative and Sheldon still would have succeeded in hanging W. on Chafee’s neck.

  6. Laffey’s campaign against Chafee significantly damaged Chafee’s reputation as a mild-mannered gentleman. It got worse with Sheldon, but Laffey got the ball rolling good and early.

  7. PS. The only time I suspected a close Laffey ally to be posting anonymously on this blog was in this thread. Hop aboard the wayback machine for this one:


    PPS: Actually, there are some other times when I think anonymous posters have been Laffey supporters, but this was the most memorable and vehement ones.

  8. So, Jesse, you’re saying that Laffey is utterly and completely evil? That’s a reasonable (if somewhat exaggerated)inference to draw from you saying that Kiersten is being too generous.

    Honestly, I’m no supporter of Laffey–that’s me having the go ’round with Morgan back there in p=125–but even I think he had some redeeming qualities.

    This is yet another example of why I accuse you of spouting the partisan Dem line.

    And I’m not so sure Whitehouse (Sheldon? You’re on a first-name basis?) would have beaten Chaffee. The latter enjoyed a generally favorable reputation, plus he could point to the times he voted against Bush. Plus let’s not underestimate the power of his last name. Yes, it was a “Dem Year,” but assuming that each part will mimic the whole is a logical fallacy. Maybe SW would have won anyway, but I think it would have been uncomfortably close, whichever way it fell.

    And you keep defending Nap by changing the subject back to Laffey. No, we can’t blame Nap for the budget situaton. No one has on this blog (at least, I haven’t.) But I do blame him for rashly–or dishonestly, which was it? which is worse?–promising NOT to raise taxes. And–rashly or dishonestly–swearing that he would stop the concrete plant. He won by less than 100 votes (forget the exact total) and those two promises no doubt swung the election to him.

    Go ahead: call me naive for expecting a politician to follow through on his promises as you did before. Shall we conclude that you consider making promises–whether dishonest or “merely” rash–you may not be able to keep acceptable behavior? Then on what criteria do we make a choice if we can’t believe anything the candidate says?

  9. klaus:

    Allow me to respond point-by point:

    – “Evil”? No, I never said Laffey’s evil. A liar, an egomaniac, a fraud — I’ll admit to that. But evil is too strong a word. Laffey’s far too small (and small-minded) to be evil. And I don’t agree that your inference was reasonable. “Exaggerated” is being generous, but I’ll agree to it. You’re trying to label my statements as something they’re not, which just undercuts this whole credibility campaign you seem to be on. I see through Laffey’s spin and simply choose not to believe one word of it. We may have a difference of opinion on that, but that doesn’t make me less credible — nor does it give you the right to characterize my statements by inference.

    – Sheldon: You’ll notice that Kiersten referred to him the same way previously. That’s selective enforcement of an infraction that you seem to be inventing. And maybe I am on first-name terms with Senator Whitehouse — what difference would that make?

    – Spouting the Dem line: I agree with the Dems on the Council — no secret there. But I’m not under anyone’s direction in posting on this blog. That’s another case of your, ahem, exaggerated inferences leading to wrong conclusions.

    – Defending Nap: If I’m guilty of anything in this regard, it’s using the same tactic that Laffey people did when he was Mayor. So, it’s OK for them, but not for me?

    – Naive? Again, I didn’t say anything of the kind. What I said was: “I can’t answer your question as to why (Nap’s) doing what he’s doing, although I think you’d agree that the promises made on the campaign trail have very little to do with what happens after the election, generally speaking.” On that same thread, I also said: “I commend you for staying open-minded. I welcome your replies, in fact.”

    – My character: Following the clearly rushed judgment you put into the earlier points, you conclude your post by questioning my character and inferring (not in an exaggerated way, just using what you wrote) that I condone lying. I’m not even going to try to answer that one, other than to say that with all of the flawed premises you rolled out previously, it’s no surprise you reached this flawed conclusion.

  10. Jesse,

    Do you understand the concept of “inference”? No, you didn’t say some of those things. But drawing conclusions from what someone says, pointing out ramifications, is perfectly legitimate. If you say “one” and later say “one” again, I’m justified to infer “two.”

    “…you’d agree that the promises made on the campaign trail have very little to do with what happens after the election…”

    actually mean? It means that the candidates are making promises they either can’t or won’t keep. Another word for that is “lie.” If this doesn’t bother you, as it seems not to, sort of implies that you don’t mind people lying to you. Or, you imply that it’s OK for candidates to do this. Well, I’m not OK with it. A lie is a lie. And if candidates were held more closely to their promises after the election, perhaps they’d be more circumspect about what they say. Winking at this “boys will be boys” behavior demonstrates more than tacit approval. IOW, it implies that you do condone lying. And you said it, not me.

    So I’m not putting words in your mouth. I’m drawing conclusions from what you say. Perhaps you should consider the implications of what you say before you say it. Nap obviously didn’t do this when he promised not to raise taxes and to stop the concrete plant.

    As for the partisanship…again, it’s an inference. Have you ever said anything good about a Rep? (Not that I can recall, but no claim to perfect memory). And the complete lack of good is…evil, right? “Evil” is, as I admitted, extreme (the term is “hyperbole”), but it’s a difference of degree and not of kind.

    But, whatever. Say what you want to say; just realize people are drawing inferences when you do so. Perhaps you’ll think a bit more carefully about what you do say.

  11. klaus:

    I clearly understand inference — maybe too well, by your increasingly hostile replies. And I suggest that you ought to take your own advice and think before you reply.

    I mean, all you did was repeat your illogical statement a different way, that I support lying in politics. If you actually look at the facts, I made a true statement — that campaign promises seldom turn into reality after the election — but offered no opinion. Maybe that was the problem, now that I think about it: I didn’t issue some kind of angry screed painting all politicians with the same brush, which you would probably have agreed with. No, instead I simply made an observation which led you to decide, on your own, to kick up dust over my character — and then blame ME for causing it! (“Say what you want to say; just realize people are drawing inferences when you do so.”)

    But since nuance seems lost on you sometimes, maybe I can try it this way:

    My opinions are mine. If you’re going to debate me, have facts on your side. If you get upset that I don’t agree with you, try a different angle, find some other evidence — or just don’t bother replying. And I’m not going to hesitate to speak my mind, in exactly the words I want to use, because some readers are too biased, lazy, or angry to understand what I’m saying. I’m not accountable to you or any of your invented standards in what I say. Check my statements with facts, not your opinion, not abstractions — facts. Quibble with my take on the facts, go ahead and call it spin, if you so choose. But it won’t change the facts that I use for my statements. And it won’t make me feel that I should be held accountable for other peoples’ misinterpretations.

    And, for Pete’s sake, stop tying me to Nap. If your problem is with him, call City Hall. Hey, he’ll meet with David Exter — I’m sure he’ll give you 10 minutes.

  12. And if I can be indulged for a couple of moments, I took about 20 minutes last night to skim through Laffey’s book. That’s probably about as long as it took him to draft the concept for it, by the way.

    Hmm… notable parts: well, in the first chapter he repeats all of the same talking points that he used in his failed US Senate bid. You know: Cranston was failing, I was brave, I took on the big, bad crossing guards, etc. etc.

    One telling part was how he chose his campaign staffers for the Senate run, i.e., only single people between 25 and 35 with no prior campaign experience. The better to have no one who would disagree with him — another pearl of knowledge he attributes to a fellow Wall Street stock pumper-and-dumper elsewhere in the book. He also notes several others (named and unnamed, such as “Fred” and “Mr. X”); goes to great lengths to recall how his spokesperson’s Jewish surname was popular — but apparently only with other “Jews”; and imagines conversations between George W. Bush and Karl Rove, among others, where the fate of the entire GOP apparatus in America came down to Steve Laffey.

    But the really striking parts of the book are the things that Laffey DOESN’T mention — i.e., that he allied himself with Club for Growth and that he would have raised taxes in both of his final two years in Cranston, among other things — and the things he lies about, outright. One glaring example is his footnote that Chafee had nothing to do with his start in politics: “The truth in this statement is nil.” Sorry, Stevie is wrong on this one. The fact is, Chafee sent his local staffers looking for recruits who would help Laffey run for Mayor in Cranston in 2002. Instead, Laffey rebuffed the offers and used Mike Traficante’s operation to get elected.

    In the end, Laffey’s book deserves to be shelved under Fantasy Fiction or placed right next to Ann Coulter, another angry Republican who won’t let something like the truth get in the way of her one-sided diatribes.

    So there: I just saved you $27 ($17.13 new on Amazon or $14 used).

  13. My posts aren’t increasingly hostile. In my first response to you, I asked if you were on, or were trying to get on, Aram Garabedian’s payroll.

    Pray tell, how have they gotten more hostile than that?

  14. klaus:

    Please don’t put me on the spot to revisit all of our back-and-forth to prove what I’ve said. You’ll be disappointed with the results.

    You’re still not answering questions you don’t like and/or sidestepping legitimate points I’ve raised (you make no concession that maybe I really don’t like liars in politics, for example), or your flat-out failure (unwillingness? inability?) to have facts to support your statements. That’s hostility.

    But, in fairness, I’ll give you another chance: Please tell me where and when Napolitano “promised not to raise taxes” as you’ve claimed so frequently. From what I recall (having been able to see the campaign up-close and attend the mayoral debates), he said he would do everything he could — including using part of the surplus that wasn’t needed for the bond rating — BEFORE asking for more taxes. Those two things are not the same, unless you grossly oversimplify the issue.

    Now, I’ve never matched you in the guilt-by-association department and claimed that you’re allied with the local GOP — and even with the evidence that I could point to (one-sided anti-Dem stance, defense of Laffey, repeated attempts to tie me in with the Dem party), I’m still not going to make that claim. I don’t see any point to it, for one; plus, I haven’t needed to suggest any such thing before now to prove you wrong (while you’ve been very persistent in trying to do the same thing to me — only to have extremely poor results), so why start now?

  15. Jesse, if you’d been paying attention, you would realize we’re not discussing your facts. This is about inference and implication rather than a dispute about who said what or when.

    Such as: even if Nap didn’t promise not to raise taxes, he did promise to stop the concrete plant. Which means he either promised rashly or didn’t know what he was talking about. That is the issue at hand. Are you OK with this? I’m not. If you are OK with it, why?

    Logically, it has to be because you don’t mind candidates telling lies when campaigning; OR you don’t mind candidates making rash statements when they don’t have full command of the facts. You say you don’t condone canditates telling lies. That means you’re OK with rash promises. Or, if you have a third possibility, I’m all ears.

    See, that is not about the fact of the case, but about your reasons for thinking what you do. Are those reasons sound? Because even if everything someone says is absolutely true, the litany of facts can be misleading or slanted to the point of misrepresentation. So it’s not about whether you’re factual; it’s about whether your position is slanted.

    I come here for open and honest discussion. As such, facts are important, but interpretation and judgment are just as important. I do not enter a discussion with a pre-determined outcome in mind. While I cannot say with certainty what your motives are, I infer that you do have a predetermined end in mind. That is not a fact; it is a perception based on observed behavior. It may not be wholly true, but it may not be wholly false, either.

    Having an end in mind when entering a discussion is partisanship (among other definitions). I defend GOP candidates when I deem it appropriate. I condemn GOP candidates when I deem it appropriate. If you really believe I’m a GOP operative, I suggest you read the interchange between Morgan and I about Laffey. Or, go over and read some of my stuff on Anchor Rising.

    Did you get all that? I hope so. I am not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying I don’t believe–or don’t trust–much of what you say because I suspect your motives. I also suspect you’re not looking at the whole picture; rather, you’re looking at a portion of the picture that paints the GOP in the most unfavorable light possible. I’ve explained why.

    You can convince me otherwise by presenting a more balanced set of arguments. When you convince me that you are interested in the fair exchange of ideas, then–and only then–I will apologize and admit I was wrong.

  16. klaus:

    You strayed off the path when you appointed yourself the arbiter of acceptable debate on this blog, instead of actually debating properly.

    I’ll just repeat, one more time: It IS about the facts. The record is: I have them; you don’t. Nothing you’ve written makes that any less true.

    The way to change it is: Inform yourself better, instead of instigating conflicts and playing contrarian.

  17. Jesse, you realize of course that your “response” comes down to a little boy shouting “IS SO!”

    Forgive me. I was under the impression I was debating with a grown up.

  18. klaus:

    Ah, now you’ve settled for just posting flames. A not-entirely-unexpected development. Sorry, I’m not biting this time.

  19. Also, it looks as if this topic has run its course. The Laffey book landed with a huge ‘thud’ and will be completely forgotten by 2010. Although the tone of his book may make a good opposition advertisement: “Steve Laffey: The S&M (Smear and Manipulate) Candidate”

    I can just see it now:

    “Steve Laffey can’t resist hurting others for his own political career — and he doesn’t care how much he needs to twist the truth to make himself sound good. Laffey wrote a book that shows how badly he wanted the US Senate seat — even insisting that his campaign only hire single people with no political campaign experience so he wouldn’t have to hear opposing opinions — and yet does he blame himself for his failure?

    “No. He blames everyone else — even creating fictional conversations among top Republican leaders to support his paranoid belief that everyone was out to get him.

    “Steve Laffey is the S&M candidate — Smear and Manipulate. Isn’t it time Rhode Island voters told Laffey the safe word? Isn’t it time we tell him ‘No’?”

  20. Now Jesse, I know you consider yourself to be the sole arbiter of facts, but I am going to give you some facts to counter your argument that Laffey’s book landed with a “thud”:

    I attended Laffey’s book signing and arrived a little after 7pm. The line was long, but the event started early and there were already people who had been through the line and were leaving. I did not count those early birds, but from the time I arrived to the time I left a little before 8PM, I counted 66 people who had their book(s) signed. The Border’s employee who was overseeing the event stated (after only the first hour) that this was the best attended author signing ever at that location.

    I don’t have a precise final count, but a conservative estimate by the photographer who chronicled the entire event was at least 110.

    “Thud?” Not quite, more like “cha-ching!”

    And forgive me for going off-topic, but I find the whole exchange between you and klaus to be hilarious. Seeing your egotistical need to always have the last word override political prudence (by alienating an influential member of your party’s base) is priceless.

  21. Jesse,

    You are like a finely tuned instrument, able to produce sound exactly as expected when played.

    And as far as klaus is concerned, he is influential within your party, but you are unable to see it. He is intelligent, articulate and takes the time to argue rationally in a public forum. He is the kind of guy who, when he makes up his mind on a candidate, spreads the word far and wide either as an advocate or an adversary.

    On second thought, “influential” might be the wrong word – “valuable” may be more appropriate, as klaus can probably swing several hundred votes within his sphere of influence.

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