Only the biggest of political wussies would claim a scheduling conflict to flee a candidate forum.
Yet James Ramos, after agreeing to appear at a March 1 forum with the Redlands Tea Party Patriots, did just that to escape appearing with his competitors for Neil Derry’s seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
It’s absolutely clear that Ramos is afraid to appear before our standing-room-only candidate forums. I have covered about every type of board, council and commission in my 20 years in newspapers, and I never met a politician who wasn’t aware of the trappings of an appearance before accepting an invitation.
When I was a reporter, I would have to squelch my laughter when I heard talking heads like Ramos’ Andre Levesque, according to the Loma Linda Patch, talk in such nonsense:
"Unfortunately, the other commitments that we have we simply couldn’t get out of but there will definitely be plenty of opportunities for voters to come and see James,” Levesque said. “And they are definitely encouraged to come to our many public meet and greets or one of the forums and debates we'll be scheduling down the road.”
Politicians are aggressive chess players when they’re in campaign mode. They don’t make a move without first war-gaming each scenario. To accept an invitation without knowing the sponsoring group, as well as the possible impacts on a campaign, is an amazing rookie mistake.
Another possibility is that Ramos has been living under a rock since the tea party movement burst onto the national scene in 2009. How else could you accept an invitation from any group with “tea party” in its name and not realize who it is?
What most likely happened is Ramos’ supporters saw publicity about his appearance and began to panic for no good reason. The news that all five candidates then in the race had accepted our invitation had been in the media for almost a week. We’ve hosted liberals at our forums and they walked out just fine.
If a scheduling conflict were true, then Ramos the politician should know well enough that his other engagement isn’t nearly as important as an appearance before the Redlands Tea Party Patriots, a group with 200 active members and nearly 1,200 people on its e-mail list. He should have had the political sense to cancel his other appointment.
I’ve gained so much respect for the liberals who possessed the character to appear at our forums and defend their views. They may not have won votes from our conservatives, but they won my respect for standing their ground.
I’m not moderating the forum, but I hope the Patriots leave an empty chair on stage March 1 to remind voters of the candidate who chickened out.