Examining Candidate Joe Miller

Joe Miller – noun: 1. a book of jokes. 2. an old, familiar joke; chestnut; after Joe Miller’s Jestbook  (1739) by John Mottley.  Source: Dictionary.com.


WC’s readers know WC is no fan of Lisa Murkowski, and that he has railed against her rudeness, inability to comprehend the health care crisis and her dubious arithmetic skills. But candidate Joe Miller seems to be even looser with the truth, more ignorant of Alaska’s economic realities and even less aware of the law.

Loose with the Truth

Joe Miller has never been a judge; he has been a magistrate. A state judge is appointed by the Governor from candidates proposed by the Alaska Judicial Council. Joe Miller has been a candidate for a judgeship: the superior court in 2005, the seat Judge Robert Downes now holds. He withdrew his name just before the bar poll results came out: that’s usually an indication he was panned by his peers. A magistrate is appointed by the court to do ministerial tasks. A federal magistrate is much the same.

In his bio, Miller says, “In 2004, Miller stepped down from the bench to run for State Representative.” He was never on the bench; he was never a judge. He ran for the superior court, although he quit before he got fairly started.

He says in his campaign website he has lived in Alaska for 16 years. He told the Judicial Council in March 2005 he had “been an Alaska resident for 10 years, and has practiced law for 9 years. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1995.” So if he graduated from Yale in May or June of 1995, in March of 2005 he had lived in Alaska for something less than ten years. And in 2010 he’s lived in Alaska 15 years, not 16 years. Yale is in New Haven, Connecticut, not Alaska.

Miller also says in his bio, “He has represented clients in a wide variety of cases, a number of which have gone all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court.” As it turns out, “a number” is two reported Alaska Supreme Court decisions, one when he was part-timing at the Borough Attorneys’ Office and one domestic relations case.

In his blog, Miller objects to the moratorium on offshore drilling. He says,

The drilling projects that were slated to begin this summer off the North Slope were to take place on the Outer Continental Shelf at depths of approximately 200 to 400 feet. Drilling at these depths is much safer [and] time-tested.

Actually, no. They are not. WC doesn’t know of any other oil wells drilled from platforms in the Arctic sea ice. And the artificial-island based technology has never been used anywhere, ever. It is unproven and untested. And what in the world does your serving on the Alaska Board of Marine Pilots have to do with the safety of off-shore drilling?

WC looks for scrupulous truth in a politician. We’ve had more than enough liars. It’s a very bad sign if a candidate is padding his or her resumè from the start. And Joe, that’s a lot of different jobs in a relatively short period of time. Alaska also doesn’t need another quitter.

Ignorant of Alaska’s Economic Realities

Miller touts a master’s degree in economics. So when he studied at UAF, he likely learned that 42% of the jobs in the Fairbanks North Star Borough trace directly to federal dollars. That may be unhealthy, but it is the fact. When a candidate talks about dramatically reducing the federal budget and slashing programs, the candidate is talking about Alaska jobs in a very real way. There’s no way to “dramatically reduce the federal budget” without kicking the Alaska economy in the groin. WC wonders if Miller’s position is based upon ignorance, cynicism or tea bag politics.

When he studied economics, presumably he also studied the options for the federal government when an economic depression threatens. Presumably, he also studied the effects of Congress’s decision in 1933 to balance the federal budget in the middle of the Great Depression, and the consensus that it extended the depression by 3-5 more years. So when Miller says,

When the Democrats took over, they proceeded to spend even more.  The federal budget deficit was $1.4 trillion last year and is on track to be that, or more, this year. The Obama Administration’s own projections call for a doubling of the National Debt to over $20 trillion by the end of the decade.

Miller is either pretending we’re not still in the worst recession since 1929 or he slept through macroeconomics. If Miller is serious about dramatically reducing the federal deficit, he’s talking about prolonging the recession or worsening the recession.

And talk of  “return[ing] our federal government to the limits prescribed by our Constitution” is pure tea bag posturing. When the Founding Fathers – a dubious phrase if there ever was one – wrote the U.S. Constitution it took much longer to get a bale of cotton from Richmond to Boston than it takes today to get a computer shipped from Shanghai to Fairbanks. It took two weeks with good winds to get from London to New York; a 4.5 hour jet flight today. By any measure you use, the world is an inconceivably different place today than when the Constitution was written. Arguing that James Madison’s thoughts on the application of the Commerce Clause are more than historically interesting is to pretend the world hasn’t changed. If our government can’t change as well, the country is toast.

WC assumes Joe Miller is smarter than his claimed positions suggest. That implies he is cynical and manipulative in his positions. Not what WC looks for in a candidate. Oh, and Joe, you’ve given a grossly oversimplified version of why the national debt has increased.

Ignorant of the Law

Miller’s website says, “Federal powers not specified in the Constitution are reserved to the States by the 10th Amendment.” To which WC says, “So what?” This is tea bag blather at several levels. Almost all federal programs have been tested (or are in the process of being tested) by the U.S. Supreme Court. You remember the SCOTUS, Joe? They’re the ones who decide when the 10th Amendment has been violated. Not a junior senator from Alaska. So as a matter of law, your statement is meaningless.

The one possible argument against an expansion of national health care – saying “Obamacare” is more posturing – is that at present it is largely regulated by individual state laws. It’s an historic artifact relating to the insurance industry as a whole. Ironically, each of the three “solutions” to the health care crisis would significantly increase the evidence the health care industry engages in interstate commerce and is therefore more clearly subject to federal regulation under even the most neanderthal reading of the Constitution. Nor are the tired “solutions” Miller proposes any different from the ones that – wait for it – Lisa Murkowski has proposed. And WC has already shown they won’t work, back when Lisa was touting them. So Miller’s health care solutions would not only expand federal power; they aren’t going to work.

What to Do?

Miller is apparently a global warming denier, even though he lives in Alaska and can see it happening around him. Based on his website and public statements, he’s willing to say, if not believe, whatever it takes to attract the tea bag vote.

Miller claims he “He quickly mastered the law.” Shucks, WC has been a lawyer for more than thirty-four years and can’t claim to have “mastered the law.” Miller’s show of arrogant ignorance may appeal to the willful, bone-headed ignorance of the far right, but it should scare any thinking citizen spitless.

If a guy lies on his resumè, accepts the endorsement of [Name Redacted], is willing to slash Alaska jobs and is a lawyer who doesn’t understand the 10th Amendment, he’s not qualified by WC’s standards to be elected dog catcher, let alone U.S. Senator.

Other Wickersham’s Conscience blog entries on Joe Miller: