Tom Campbell challenges big government wing of the Republican Party

When it comes to thoughtful politicians who don’t tend to sway in the latest political winds, some would claim that no one comes to mind faster than Tom Campbell, who has served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing California’s 12th and 15th districts.  He’s currently running for the Republican nomination to oppose Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate in 2010 – a crucial year for the minority party.

His chief Republican opponent is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose high-profile firing from the Silicon Valley firm provided her with the kind of name recognition that sometimes eclipses the downside of the event.  (Can you imagine a Carly Fiorina ad that touts her failed management of H-P as a feather in her cap?)

As with most CEO’s, Fiorina ran a company that prides itself on diversity in its workforce, and that specifies on its website:

     HP does not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, national origin, disability, age, or covered veteran status.

Yet Fiorina criticizes Campbell for his failure to support Prop 8 – the ban on gay marriage.  Campbell takes a small government view of the world, and simply sees no place for this type of intervention in people’s private lives.  Fiorina has clearly calculated the value of an undisputed anti-gay position in a party that has increasingly closed the door on all sorts of diversity. 

The fact that Ron Paul, a leading Republican and a former presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, shares a viewpoint on gay marriage with Campbell and not Fiorina doesn’t seem to matter much in the heat of the battle, as she portrays Campbell as being as liberal as Barbara Boxer.  Is Paul also a Boxer clone?

Campbell is a true conservative in the old-school ways before the younger Bush administration made conservatism a form of government activism.  He has always been considered a spending hawk who has deeply opposed the expansion of government into new areas such as health insurance.  But, he is a life-long protector of Constitutional rights for all – even the unpopular people such as Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a professor at the University of South Florida who had been fired because of alleged ties to terrorists.  (In later court cases, Al-Arian has pleaded guilty to involvement with terrorist organizations, but had not received his day in court at the time of his firing).

Campbell’s principled response to a fellow-professor’s plight was supported by numerous other Constitutional scholars and noted civil libertarians, and is the type of stand that some would say defines leadership.  Fiorina’s advertising has attempted to link Campbell to terrorism – just as many politicians and innocent individuals were attacked in the wake of 9/11 by a defensive and embarrassed Bush administration.

It should come as no surprise then, that Condoleeza Rice – Secretary of State under George W. Bush – has endorsed  her friend Ms. Fiorina.  If there were ever a case of two peas in a pod – as the Fiorina advertising defines Campbell and Boxer – it would more likely be Fiorina and Rice.  Both experienced difficulties in their biggest roles, and both seem to favor big government activism (albeit on a side of issues that are today often confused with conservatism).

Campbell, on the other hand, is the kind of politician who threatens to bring power back to the conservative movement and civility back to Washington.  It is no wonder, then, that the new breed of interventionist Republicans is trying to shoot him down.