Beware the “Moderate Republican”

Why do people continue to promote the fiction of “moderate Republicanism”? It’s a contradiction in terms, like “healthy corpse.”

Maybe George Will actually wants Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to be re-elected after all.

There’s got to be some deep reverse psychology behind Will’s “promotion” of Menendez’s Republican challenger, Big Pharma’s own Bob Hugin, as a suitable alternative to the controversial incumbent:

Robert Hugin, 63, grew up in blue-collar Union City, as did Menendez, with whom Hugin served as student representatives to the local board of education. Hugin became the first in his family to graduate from college (Princeton University), served 14 years in the Marine Corps (his two sons are now officers), then went into business, rising to run a pharmaceutical company. This sin, although scarlet in the overheated public mind, might be less so than Menendez’s transgressions…

This election will test whether voters think that being a luridly indiscreet (this is a discreet way of describing Menendez’s behavior) senator is less objectionable than Hugin’s guilt of association with the pharmaceutical industry whose products help to give millions of people sufficient longevity and vitality to nurse grievances against the products’ prices.

This has to be a tongue-in-cheek observation by Will, considering just how extensively Hugin ripped suffering people off:

Jackie Trapp was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal but treatable blood cancer in 2015. After chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she was put on Revlimid, a live-saving cancer drug that costs $21,197 a month. Even with good health insurance, Revlimid costs her nearly $20,000 a year in out of pocket expenses.

“We’ve blown through the bank accounts. They’re pretty much empty. We had to refinance our house,” Trapp said about the cost of the drug, which is manufactured by New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Celgene.

The profits off Revlimid made Bob Hugin, the former Celgene chairman and CEO, more than $140 million, according to a report issued today by Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, a Super PAC which is spending a reported $1.5 million on a TV ad that opposes Hugin’s campaign for the United States Senate.

Hugin is spending some of that money to self-finance his challenge to two-term Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez.

The report claims that the price of a single Revlimid capsule increased by more than 165% since Hugin became Celgene president in 2007, going up from $247.28 to $662.36 when he retired to run for office earlier this year. During his time as CEO, from 2010 to 2018, the cost of Revlimid doubled.

The report also alleges that Hugin exploited loopholes in a federal law to block a “cheaper generic version” of Revlimid from coming to market, and was criticized by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as “the number one offender in denying samples of drugs for generic testing and development.”

Like Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Hugin is trying to pull a Charlie Baker, promoting himself as a “different kind of Republican” in his campaign ads. Of course, anybody who calls himself a “different kind of Republican” assumes voters are too stupid to figure out that he’s the same kind of Republican:

When New Jersey Republican Senate nominee Bob Hugin was a senior at Princeton University, he made it clear that gay students weren’t welcome at the Tiger Inn, the elite eating club he led as president.

If a member of the club was found to be gay, a 21-year-old Hugin told the Central Jersey Home News in 1976, “he wouldn’t last long,” according to an article circulated [July 20] by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)…

Hugin’s association with the Tiger Inn — one of the oldest and most prominent “eating clubs” at Princeton, which for over a century have been part of the university’s social scene — didn’t end when he graduated. He took a leadership role on its alumni board and in the early 1990s, when he was in his late 30s, fought a woman’s 13-year attempt to make the all-male club co-ed in state and federal court.

After settling the case in 1992 — a year after the club finally admitted women — Hugin was quoted accusing the plaintiff, Sally Frank, of “politically correct fascism“ in a Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Does anybody doubt that if Hugin were to defeat Menendez this fall, he’d be as obsequious to Trump and his agenda as any other Senate Republican? Why do people like Hugin continue to promote the fiction of “moderate Republicanism”? It’s a contradiction in terms, like “healthy corpse.”

Will has to be ribbing his readers. If he’s not, and he’s seriously suggesting that Hugin is made of Senatorial stuff, the only reaction of those who’ve read his column should be: Seriously?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.