Frank Pallone for Congress.


Tony Kurdzuk/Star-LedgerStar-Ledger Editorial Board Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The disgust with Washington runs so deep this year that many voters are inclined to throw out even the most effective members of Congress and replace them with untested rookies.

Be careful, though. Because some of these rookies are fanatics whose knowledge of public issues runs no deeper than the sound bites that are the staple of talk radio.

The clearest case of this in New Jersey is Anna Little, the tea party Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.).

Little, 43, is the mayor of Highlands and served briefly as a Monmouth County freeholder to fill a vacancy. An immigration lawyer, she organized an impressive group of volunteers during the primary and narrowly defeated the Republican establishment’s choice, the publisher Diane Gooch.

The problem is that her views are extreme, incoherent, or both. She believes, for example, that government should not regulate business “in any way.”

Think of what that would mean. Factories could dump carcinogens into our rivers. Oil companies could drill off the Jersey Shore without safety regulations. Insurers could cancel your policies at will. The minimum wage would be history.

And this wasn’t some slip of her tongue on the campaign trail. This is her belief, and when challenged, she sticks to it.

Little’s view of the Constitution is so pinched that she would strip government of the power to answer the will of an overwhelming majority of citizens. She says Social Security and Medicare both violate the Constitution, for example.

On other issues, she is incoherent. One day she called abortion a private matter between a woman, her doctor and God. The next she called it “murder” and says abortion doctors “need to be brought to justice.”

She wants to extend all the Bush tax cuts, as most Republicans do, and then she would layer on another round of tax cuts, across the board. Asked how she would pay for that, she will name only one specific: Eliminate the Department of Education, a puny player in scheme of things that would cover only a tiny fraction of the revenue loss.

Little is not ready. And she shows so little inclination to reflect on her views that she probably never will be. To give her a seat in Congress would be like giving a running child a pair of scissors. Bad things would inevitably happen.

Pallone, a Democrat first elected in 1988, was one of the authors of the Obama health care reform, and one of the few candidates who has campaigned on its merits, rather than run from it. Good for him.

The reform has flaws, but it is a huge step forward. Insurers are already being forced to drop their most obnoxious practices, like cutting coverage after illness strikes. And if Little or her fellow Republicans have a plan to expand coverage to the low-income working families who lack coverage today, we haven’t heard it.

Pallone is a sturdy environmentalist who was a key player in cleaning up the Shore, and supported legislation to combat climate change.

This is an easy call. Pallone in the 6th.