Monday, March 19, 2007

It's Official: Ravenstahl is a Frightened Little Wuss

Pittsburgh's interim mayor, Luke "The Debate Chicken" Ravenstahl, has now spent exactly four straight weeks cowering in fear and attempting to evade any and all debates with his opponent in the May Democratic primary, City Councilmember Bill "Cojònes" Peduto. The challenge was issued by Mr. Peduto on Monday, 19th February 2007. It has yet to be responded to in any substantive fashion by either Master Ravenstahl or the adults who control his every waking thought. For a while, it seemed somewhat possible to believe -- just maybe -- that Master Ravensthal's failure to respond was due solely to ordinary scheduling conflicts. But it's been four weeks at this point. Mr. Peduto has issued his challenge again and again, and has offered to "bend over backwards" to fit the interim mayor's schedule. The only reasonable conclusion, after nearly a month of ducking the challenge, is that Luke Ravenstahl is simply afraid to put his ideas before the people of Pittsburgh, and that he is terrified of confronting Mr. Peduto one-on-one.

I recognize that, in this particular post, I am using much stronger language than usual. While I have long been a critic of Master Ravenstahl and his administration, I usually attempt to maintain some level of decorum in these discussions. But, to put it plainly, I am finally -- and quite justifiably -- completely pissed off. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior by the interim mayor. He is shortchanging every last one of us, including those who are firmly and irreversibly on his side. He is denying us any opportunity to look into his eyes and judge his ability to think on his feet. And even more importantly, he is preventing us from gaining understand anything at all about his plans for our city's future.

He should be ashamed, but it would seem that he is well beyond shame at this point.

I recognize that there are those of you are firmly behind Interim Mayor Ravenstahl in this election. This post probably angers many of you. But I ask that you set aside your anger for a few seconds and hear me out. Because this continual refusal to hold any debates whatsoever is hurting you and your city just as surely as it is hurting me and everyone else who lives here. Nobody is being well served by this cowardly behavior. Not you, not me, and not even Luke Ravenstahl himself.

Political competition is critical to the functioning of a democracy. The crucible of competition is often the only thing that truly moves us forward, vapid slogans notwithstanding. We are all best served when there is at least a bit of heat being applied to our elected leaders. Even when we are firmly on their side, they still do their best work for us when they are facing the heat of competition. By refusing to debate Mr. Peduto -- by cowering in fear over the very prospect of doing so -- Master Ravenstahl is allowing this election to descend into something approaching a coronation. By refusing to subject himself to any kind of confrontation, he is denying himself the opportunity to define his views and to refine his own political skills. Should he allow himself to take an easy walk to victory on May 15th, he will have no reason to even consider the needs of anyone apart from himself and those within his immediate circle.

Ultimately, this isn't about who will win the election. The likely results of the primary are becoming increasingly clear by the day, and very few of us honestly expect Mr. Peduto to win. Luke Ravenstahl is likely to triumph, regardless of what occurs at any debate with his opponent. Quite frankly, Master Ravenstahl seems to be a fairly capable speaker, especially when he is well prepared with a set of semi-scripted remarks. And any minor mistakes on his part would be easily compensated for in the minds of most voters, who would just figure that one can't expect perfection from somebody so young, and would fall back into a "give the kid a chance" mindset. He has nothing to fear from debating, and yet the overwhelming sense is that he remains, nevertheless, terrified of doing so.

For those of you who are tempted to repeat the claim, as Interim Mayor Ravenstahl himself did in yesterday's Tribune-Review, that his campaign is working hard to resolve all of the details surrounding these debates, I would ask you to spare us. The story is bullshit, and everyone knows it. There is no way in hell that it could possibly take four whole weeks to negotiate these details. The Ravenstahl campaign is clearly stalling, clearly afraid, and clearly shortchanging the voters of our city by refusing to engage in these debates.

It is, truly, time for someone to break out the chicken suit.


Anonymous said...

Yep. That about sums it up.

I think it's time for some Matt H spin now...

Bram Reichbaum said...

At a Ravenstahl event I attended, a couple of his mid-level staffers warned that Luke's great strength will be his debates -- he's smart, eloquent, thinks on his feet, and has a good grasp of the issues. They painted a very impressive portrait of him as a debater, and assured me "four or five" debates will be forthcoming.

Richmond K. Turner said...

The thing is, Bram, that I agree with that sentiment to a certain extent. I don't think I would go as far as saying that his debates with Peduto would reveal a "great strength", but he would probably hold his ground pretty darn well. So why does he continue avoid debating?

My own bet is that his campaign sees no real benefit in doing them. They probably feel that he is so far out in the lead that debating would just lead to some openings that Peduto wouldn't enjoy otherwise.

Whether it's a good campaign strategy or not, however, it's deeply against the interests of the city as a whole. Surely Luke must realize that, but still... four freaking weeks is a long damn time to duck the debates.

Matt H said...

The debates will happen. Just wait & see.

Even my organization will be planning our "meet the candidates" night that we have every year. Both candidates will be invited to attend. I'll even invite all of you to come out and say hello.

EdHeath said...

At March 19, Matt, you (y’all, the Mayor’s campaign) should be able to give us a firm date for debate(s). Of course, we have no choice but to wait and see. But I wouldn't think that time is on your side. All of the issues mentioned on this blog can be dredged up, and if no progress has been made on them, that will be apparent.
Of course, a big juicy ethical violation investigation would make a debate more interesting. Might not happen (probably won’t happen), but boy if it did, a debate would have a packed house. Too bad the new arena’s not up yet, we could fill it …. Heh.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole-heartedly with your ultimate points, Admiral. Both Luke and the MSM (PG, in particular) have done the citizens of Pittsburgh a tremendous disservice by failing to respect the democratic process. I'm embarassed and appalled by both.

However, I disagree with the conclusion that Luke will prove himself worthy of a thorough debate. He won't embarass himself, and he will "sound" just fine to the average listener. However, he will demonstrate nowhere near the level of depth that his opponent will. He is "Bob O'Connor light". Bob couldn't speak well, but he had years of experience to rely upon and well-thought strategies to fall back on during tough exchanges. He was not eloquent by any stretch of the imagination, but he had good instincts. Luke has the instincts of the average 26 year-old within the political context. He simply cannot be trusted to think on his feet - he's a memorizer, not an analyzer. He regurgitates, he doesn't create. This is why he needs more time - to study.

Maria said...

Let's just say it:
He's Bush.

Hell, more than being like Bush, reality is if this city had a viable Republican Party, he'd be a Republican (And not the decent Rockefeller kind).

Anonymous said...

According to the Trib ( he is too busy jetting off to NYC for a midnight snack to prepare for a debate.

Smitty said...

Several weeks ago, Bill Peduto jokingly said to a group of Committee members that he was going to get a lifesize cut out of Luke to accompany him to all events.It was a great idea.Bill its time to bring out the cardboard Luke!!

Mark Rauterkus said...

Luke isn't Bush as much as he is Tom Murphy.

In the 2001 general election, Tom Murphy held ONE debate. It was on Sunday Night before the election that Tuesday. Tom Murphy won that election. But, it was the last one he would ever win.

Tom Murphy wrote the standard that many of the Dems around here subscribe to.

Furthermore, the thing to do is put the pressure on the news directors. The public should be putting pressure on QED, KDKA-TV2, WTAE, WPXI, KQV, P-G, Trib, AM 1360, Univ. of Pgh, CMU, Point Park, D.U., CCAC, Carlow, Urban League, B-Pep, Chatham, Preservation Pgh, Sustainable Pgh, South Side Slopes Neighborhood Assn, North Side Leadership Conf, Just Harvest, etc.

Certain organizations and institutions in this town should be holding these debates.

Anonymous said...

Don't cry, it'll be ok. Jeez, my 2-year old niece whines more than you.

Debates will inevitably happen, but they aren't as important as you seem to think they are. How much can you really learn about the candidates when they are giving you 30-second sound-bite responses. The truth is, neither of these candidates is a policy heavy-weight.

And as an added bonus, the fewer debates they have, the better. I'm tired to looking at Jared from Subway, oops, I mean Bill Peduto.

Anonymous said...

Name calling (wuss)?? I'd have thought that was beneath you, Admiral. I'm disappointed you've stooped to that level.

Maria said...

Not fair to pressure the organizations that you mention. From what I hear, many such organizations have been chasing Luke around since January trying to schedule forums/debates.

Luke is apparently too busy partying in NYC and lying about it to accommodate anyone else's schedule.

Anonymous said...

Seriously Mark, regardless of how any of us feels about Tom Murphy, the man was not a vacuous frat boy - we at least had an opportunity to make judgments of his opinions because he actually had his own opinions.

Luke knows that the longer Peduto goes w/o real exposure, the more his Luke's apathetic base will grow.

Jason Phillips said...

I know that the Pitt College Democrats are trying to do a debate and that a certain KDKA personality said he would moderate.

It is my understanding that the only ingredient missing is a dash of Luke.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Luke won't be missing from a debate until a host goes forward with the event without him. The host has to have courage and plug ahead.

It doesn't take two to tango in this setting. More are necessary, but none beyond the host/venue are critical.

Candidate A, Candidate B, Ref/moderator, Venue, Audience -- and perhaps candidate Z.

The institutional venue/host is the most important element.

It IS fair to pressure organizations. What organization has the courage to host a debate without candidate A? So far, the organizations have blinked. That means Luke gets a free pass.

Maria said...

The following six progressive groups went on with their forum despite Luke pulling out at the last minute:

- Democracy for Pittsburgh
- The League of Young Voters
- The Getrude Stein Club
- The Steel-City Stonewall Democrats
- Progress Pittsburgh
- Americans for Demoractic Action

As documented here

Mark Rauterkus said...

The progressive groups holding a debate that doesn't get anything but progressive candidates is more like a pep rally, not a debate.

I think it is great that they went ahead. I think it is great that they built the organization to host such an event. No doubt.

But, they are not the same as WQED nor KQV.

I'm looking for a major institution to break the long jam. Then others need to follow, with or without Luke.

Matt H said...


He's Bush? That's crazy.

Matt H said...

Democracy for Pittsburgh
- The League of Young Voters
- The Getrude Stein Club
- The Steel-City Stonewall Democrats
- Progress Pittsburgh
- Americans for Demoractic Action

I wouldn't calla ny of those events debates. Those sound like Pro Peduto groups to me...