In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story bylined by longtime reporter Dennis Roddy, it appears the much-publicized rescue of a group of Haitian orphans by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Congressman Jason Altmire, both Democrats, had more to it than met the eye. It isn’t pretty, either. The story caught the eye of conservative activist and GrassrootsPA blogger Chris Lilik, who brought it to our attention.
Roddy reports that in fact the rescue mission was the brainchild of former Republican US Attorney for Western Pennsylvania Mary Beth Buchanan. Setting about her idea with gusto, the well-connected and energetic Buchanan set up an impromptu orphan rescue in her dining room, working the phones to start lining up the necessaries. Says Roddy:
Ms. Buchanan, who has been openly mulling a run for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, spent four days obtaining clearance for the children to enter the United States, medical supplies for the trip down and back, physicians to escort the children and — in the final link that did not fall into place in time — an airplane cleared to land in Haiti.
She said the organizer of the other rescue attempt, Leslie Merrill McCombs, a senior consultant for UPMC, phoned and grilled her for information, obtained a list of the children and ended up shipping medical supplies gathered as part of the Buchanan effort on the plane that carried Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Mr. Altmire.
However the successful rescue was organized, it had the effect of short-circuiting Ms. Buchanan’s effort and shifting attention to Mr. Altmire, a former UPMC lobbyist.
The focus here has to be the kids. They are out, they are safe, and there is a happy ending. Objective accomplished. But it is surely disturbing that a US Congressman and sitting governor would suddenly jump aboard Ms. Buchanan’s train and effectively throw her off it — all in the name, it would appear, of getting Altmire ahead in a game of political one-upmanship. It is precisely this kind of shenanigans that so angered Massachusetts voters when they elected Scott Brown. Playing games with peoples lives — whether it’s health care or Haitian orphans — shutting doors, pushing people out etc., etc. is creating a political backlash this year that could be of historic proportions.
The irony is that the people who do these things always lose by doing them. Altmire may have won his battle over Buchanan by using Haitian orphans as pawns. The question is whether the arrogant bullying revealed in this episode will backfire big time and have Altmire lose the war, his re-election in November — to Buchanan.
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