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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Things are getting nasty on the DeLay business in D.C. But he will survive and thrive. - The GOP's battle cry: "Don't tread on me."

The DeLay mess continues. If you opposed his investigation, and you are in the GOP, you are roadkill.

On a related topic, the Associated Press has reported that prosecutors agreed to drop an illegal campaign contribution charge against Sears, Roebuck and Co. in exchange for its cooperation in an investigation of contributions to a political action committee associated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

In a separate "Don't tread on me" topic:

Furious that Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) voted with Democrats on a controversial bill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is pushing to get her removed from his powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.On Sept. 30, nearly five weeks before Election Day, Wilson was the only Republican committee member to vote for a motion that would have forced the Bush administration to release internal cost estimates of the Medicare prescription-drug law.

(Wilson story is in The Hill.)

More on the Dean's wish that Gov. Sonny Perdue will prove his critics wrong by doing something. - Sonny loves Shipp, a recycle.

Last night I did a post of the Dean's wish list for 2005, the last one being:

"Gov. Sonny Perdue will prove his critics wrong. He will do something."

In my introduction I carried on about this wish by Mr. Shipp about our Do-Nothing Governor, noting that the Dean's wish that the Governor do something assumed it was within him, that he could if he wanted to, etc., and that it might not be.

Anyway, I got an e-mail from one of my longtime (as in 5 months when I started the Cracker Squire; wow, has it been that long) urging that I repost one I did earlier about Shipp being the Governor's least favorite political writer.

I did get a kick out of writing that one, and am most happy to comply with this brillant and timely request.

It was a 11-11-04 post, and was entitled:

More "Them thar's are fighting words." - Shipp accused of having an open invitation for breakfast at the Governor's Mansion.

Today's PI has some true fighting words in it.

In a 10-13-04 post we quoted from a 1942 case before the U.S. Supreme Court upholding a constitutional challenge to a New Hampshire statute that prohibited the use of offensive, insulting language toward persons in public places.

The Court stated:"There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting" words — those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace."

The U.S. Supreme Court noted such words tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.

The fighting words? Today's PI reports, and I quote:

"[Bill] Shipp is the governor's least favorite political writer."

Today's revelation that Bill Shipp is one of the Governor's favorite political writers, least or otherwise, reportedly is causing the Dean of Georgia Politics and Journalism to consider giving up his writing career and retiring once again (the Dean in his fifth or sixth career, having worked with Bill Moyers at Newsday, having been the ajc's top political writer and associate editor of the newspaper's editorial page, etc.).

The PI's fighting words concerning his being on a list of the Governor's list of favorite writers is quickly jeopardizing the Dean's reputation as Georgia's premier political journalist.

"Maybe I am losing the ability to convey my true feelings about the man," Shipp allegedly told his longtime assistant Chris. "But rather than hanging it up, I think I am just going to try a little bit harder."

"Don't worry Mr. Shipp," Chris is reported to have replied, "You still have plenty of time between now and Nov. 2006."

First black chief judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

Waynesboro native John H. Ruffin Jr. will take yet another step in his pioneering legal career when he is sworn in next week as the first black chief judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia.

(Waynesboro is in Burke County, immediately south of Richmond County (Augusta), and Georgia Power Company's has a huge nuclear power plant in the county on the Savannah River, a very important source of revenue for the County.)

Congratulations to Judge Ruffin!!

(The Augusta Chronicle, 12-30-04.)

All Party Chairs. Now Hear This; Now Hear This.

I did a 12-19-04 post entitled "A Los Angeles Times masterpiece: GOP Has Lock on South, and Democrats Can't Find Key."

I introduced an article from the L.A. Times with the comment: "The message is rough; I am taking it as a challenge, but the DNC must buy in also, big-time. Our Party cannot afford a misstep at this time."

My friend Steve in a comment provided a better word than rough -- ugly -- noting that that this was "an important article, and it demonstrates the ugly truth of what we Democrats are facing."

Steve is right. It is an important article, and Democratic leaders need to review the article every couple of months.

Today a second article is out there, one that is must reading for all state Party Chairs and those in the decision-making field on matters affecting the spending of Party resources and developing Party strategy for future elections.

The article is in the Washington Post, and is long, very long. I am going to summarize and highlight later (this time of the year is one of my busiest), but for now, just a couple of bullets:

-- But despite their fundraising success, Democrats simply did not spend their money as effectively as Bush.

-- The Kerry campaign, in addition to being outspent at key times, was outorganized and outthought, as Democratic professionals grudgingly admit.

-- "They were smart. They came into our neighborhoods. They came into Democratic areas with very specific targeted messages to take Democratic voters away from us," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said. "They were much more sophisticated in their message delivery."

-- The ultimate test of the two campaigns is in the success of their efforts to increase turnout from 2000. Kerry and his allies increased the Democrat's vote by about 6.8 million votes; Bush increased his by nearly 10.5 million.

-- Surveys of people on these consumer data lists were then used to determine "anger points" (late-term abortion, trial lawyer fees, estate taxes) that coincided with the Bush agenda for as many as 32 categories of voters, each identifiable by income, magazine subscriptions, favorite television shows and other "flags." Merging this data, in turn, enabled those running direct mail, precinct walking and phone bank programs to target each voter with a tailored message.

-- Two days after Super Tuesday, the Bush campaign, anticipating Kerry would have no money to respond, began a $40 million, six-week televised assault designed to crush the Democratic nominee before he could get off the ground.

I did a bit more than I intended, but the point is that the article is not just conclusions. It tells what was done. Thus required reading. More to come.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Dean's wish list for 2005. Not a bad one. - And here's to hoping your wishes for 2005 come true.

At a most appropriate time, the Dean shares his 2005 wish list. I can understand the Dean realistically being hopeful on most everything on his list except the last one.

The Dean often engages in tongue-in-cheek, and when from time to time such goes right over the heads of some of his readers, they get upset with him, real upset.

I don't know if the Dean was engaging in such when he penned the last item on this list or if, by the time he was about through with his column, he was finishing a refreshing glass of holiday eggnog, spiked with some fine bourbon with just a dash of some freshly ground nutmeg courtesy of lovely wife Reny.

Why do I say such?

The last item on the Dean's wish list is "Gov. Sonny Perdue will prove his critics wrong. He will do something."

Because while all good Georgians would appreciate their Governor actually doing something, we have an enigma here with this Governor.

We know he is a Do-Nothing Governor who hasn't done anything; we assume he wants to remain a Do-Nothing Governor who won't do anything; but we don't know if this Do-Nothing Governor, assuming he ever wanted to do anything, could do anything.

Thus how could Shipp hope the man can do something that the man might be incapable of doing.

You know what I mean, don't ya? Sort of like how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. We know the woodchuck can't chuck wood. We don't know whether Sonny can chuck. Can you chuck Sonny? If you can, I'm with the Dean. Start chucking.

But still we don't know if he can. Thus I remain undecided -- with the Dean, was it tongue-in-cheek or the eggnog?

Heck, truth be told, I'm getting all mixed up myself. Sally, how about a little eggnog.

Maybe next year -- In 2005, here’s some news to look forward to

By Bill Shipp

Looking for some good news? You have come to the right place. As 2004 fades into the ages and 2005 begins, there may be plenty to celebrate, even in politics.In some ways, the nascent 2005 offers more hope than any year since 2000. The terrible events of Sept. 11 knocked the breath out of us for a while. But we seem to be recovering.

Sure, gloom and doom still dominate the headlines. With a little luck, however, those clouds may evaporate.

So let’s cross our fingers and hope that:

-- Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is right, that the Iraqi elections will turn out OK, and we can begin to scale down our military presence in the Middle East. Chambliss recently visited Iraq and said he was encouraged by what he saw. He returned to Washington just in time to be appointed Senate Agriculture Committee chairman. With only two years’ service in the Senate, Chambliss is on his way to restoring the reins of power to Georgia’s congressional delegation. Chambliss’ chairmanship ought to be a good omen for even better things ahead on the federal front.

-- In his role as an analyst and employee of Fox News, former Sen. Zell Miller will bring a new level of decency to Rupert Murdoch’s empire. With his recently acquired credentials as a crusader for moral values, Miller can serve as a beacon for higher standards and less smut on Murdoch’s airwaves and cable outlets.

-- Georgia’s new senator, Johnny Isakson, will find the Senate less distasteful than Miller did. Isakson won’t bother to take his dueling pistols to Washington.

-- Former Sen. Max Cleland, the tireless campaigner for fellow Vietnam vet John Kerry, will land an important job outside government and politics.

-- Both Republican-dominated chambers of the Legislature will usher in a new era of unity as well as urgency to dealing with the state’s major problems: health care, education, transportation, water supply, economic development and runaway immigration.** State Senate leaders Eric Johnson and Bill Stephens have the experience and brain power to set an example for more cooperation and less nuttiness for the neophyte House leaders.

-- The Legislature will finally approve the new city of Sandy Springs.
The state will abandon the outrageous idea of turning Ga. 316 into a privatized tollway.

-- Georgia’s Democratic Party will right itself to become solidly competitive once more. Congressmen Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Athens will emerge as leading lights in a reinvigorated party. The freshly organized legislative rural caucus will restrain some of the over-the-top impulses of urban-suburban carpetbaggers of both parties.

-- Few Georgia military installations will appear on the government’s hit list as the federal base-closing commission prepares to make its final recommendations.

-- Georgia’s unemployment rate will continue to drop. New industries with better-paying jobs will locate here. More Chinese businessmen will begin showing up in Georgia in search of economic opportunities. Fewer Georgia jobs will be shifted to China — and India, Singapore and the Philippines.*

-- Air travel will become fun again, but cell phones will remain banned on scheduled airlines.

-- Coca-Cola shares will rise to $50 and more.

-- Georgia high school students will finally break out of the cellar in rankings of national SAT scores.

-- The Atlanta Falcons, enjoying one of their best seasons ever, will make it to the Super Bowl. Michael Vick, the Falcons’ indispensable Golden Boy, will survive another season without major injury. With its pitching staff overhauled, the Atlanta Braves will go to the World Series. The Georgia Bulldogs will ignore the return of Coach Steve Spurrier to the SEC (as South Carolina coach) and rack up another string of victories, including a romp over Spurrier’s Gamecocks.

-- Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin will win an easy re-election victory and continue the work of bringing order out of chaos to our capital. Lisa Borders will return as City Council president.

-- Former State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko will avoid prison time. (Wouldn’t it be sad if the first woman elected to a statewide executive office in Georgia finished her career behind bars?)

-- The Legislature will adopt a constitutional amendment to create an appointed (instead of elected) post of state school superintendent.

-- Gov. Sonny Perdue will prove his critics wrong. He will do something.

* And from the Other Georgia, we add Brazil to the Dean's list of countries. In 1995 Tecumseh Products Co. spent $40 million on an engine and carburetor plant that employed 550 workers in a 317,000 square foot facility in Douglas, many of the workers coming from adjacent counties.

Shortly before the following noted decision was made, Tecumseh announced it was expanding to 800 employees, and that the Douglas facility was its best plant -- worker and production wise -- in America.

Then last year Tecumseh decided that with the difference in labor costs, it made financial sense to close the Douglas operation and move it to Brazil, which it did, spending $55 million on a new plant in Brazil.

** And we know this issue also needs some attention on the federal level, and it cries out for a bipartisan solution. Each time President Bush talks about immigration reform, he makes it clearer that as a former governor of Texas, he understands this issue on a personal level. At his year-end press conference last week, Mr. Bush talked about enforcing the nation's borders while showing the "compassionate heart of the American people" to those coming for work. He talked about keeping out smugglers and drug runners, while letting in those who will take the jobs that Americans won't take. He noted that these immigrants were coming over the border to put food on their tables and that they wanted to be able to go back home, then return to work in the United States.

"Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande river," he reminded the members of his own party who are already rising up against him on this issue. And, finally, he said he was "passionate" about changing the immigration laws in his second term.

President Bush also recognized that many Hispanics voted for him this year. But change won't come easy. Already the noisiest opponents of immigration reform, most of them Republicans, have started pounding their tambourines. (The leader of one anti-immigrant group denounced Mr. Bush as a "lame duck" shortly after the newly re-elected president put immigration on his priority list.) Meanwhile, the Democrats are eyeing the talk of Republican immigration reform warily.

Immigration reform will take time, and the longer it takes, the more illegal immigrants will stream into the country. Estimates have grown from about eight million, when the president first began promising a reform plan, to about 10 million today. If President Bush wants to tackle a huge problem that cries out for a bipartisan solution, he could not have picked a better target.

(Primary source: 12-29-04 New York Times editorial.)

Mama said there'd be days like this. - Move over Rover. That's right, into the broom closets, so we have room for the Gov.'s girth & GOP's arrogance.

Dick Pettys of the Associated Press reports:

[T]his week [there is a] major reshuffling of prime statehouse real estate.

In offices throughout the [Capitol], boxes were being filled and computers packed up in compliance with eviction orders given by leaders of the incoming - and historic - new Republican majority.

Much of Perdue's senior staff will be moving from cramped space on the Capitol's second floor to the bigger first-floor offices now occupied by the Legislative Budget Office, an agency which Democrats used as a check against the governor's budget power.

The Legislative Budget Office is moving to a state building across the street, where its role likely will be reduced.

House Republicans will gain the Capitol space Perdue's staff is vacating, while the Senate will get the first floor Capitol space from which Secretary of State Cathy Cox's press office is being evicted.

The new legislative office space is in addition to the numerous offices already held by the House and Senate on the third and fourth floors of the gold-domed statehouse, and likely will be used as additional office space for deserving legislators whose offices now are across the street, with the rank and file.

If location is everything in real estate, it is especially so for legislative offices.

"Proximity is power, or the perception of power," acknowledged Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah.

But if having a Capitol office is a desirable thing, that's not what the reshuffling is all about, said Johnson, who negotiated the reorganization of space with Perdue and House Speaker-elect Glenn Richardson, R-Dallas.

"We're trying to make the most efficient operations we can to run state government," he said.

Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan described the reorganization as a way to consolidate the governor's aides in closer proximity to each other.

But Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, said he finds that argument strange.

"What is unusual is the additional amount of space the governor is taking over in the Capitol, and that he's doing it in the name of reducing state government. Visually, it makes them look more expansive," he said.

Porter is among the Democrats being evicted from his Capitol office. Currently the Speaker pro-tem with a nice office on the statehouse's third floor, he soon will be moving to the Legislative Office Building across the street.

"The Legislative Office Building's not so bad," he said. "I've been over there before."

After a pause, he said that at least the offices "are bigger than broom closets."

(12-29-04 AP.)

Let me introduce Kristen Wyatt of the AP if you don't already know her. - K. Wyatt on what to expect (& not expect) from GOP this legislative session.

This is the second time I have posted an article by Kristen Wyatt, the first being on 08-23-04 when my blog was still in a formative stage.

In my first post I described Kristen Wyatt as "a young reporter with the AP who knows her Georgia politics." That much is true. But I could have written much more.

Kristen has two qualities that contribute to her being a future (if not already) star in the world of political reporters and commentators.

First, she is as knowledgeable about Georgia politics as anyone I know, excepting Bill Shipp of course. She is truly a study on Georgia's fascinating past, and it is a ball discussing this with her.

Second, Kristen has a feel for what is going on, the big picture, and placing current events into their proper historical perspective.

How did I get to know Kristen? She called me this past summer for an interview as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. What was supposed to be a 5 minute interview ended up lasting 30 to 45 minutes, and I enjoyed every second of it (and think Kristen did as well).

We talked about Sid some for sure, but most of the time we spent discussing what was going on, what was going to happen, and why it was going to happen, both on the state and federal level.

And we didn't miss anything on our predictions. Kristen is good, very good.

I was hoping that I would get a lot of early press out of my new made friend, but lo, she was subject to dictates of the press. That summer the news wires, press (including endorsements by such organizations as the ajc), decided that since there were three GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate, they would concentrate on only three Democratic candidates.

Thus if your name was not Denise Majette, Cliff Oxford or Mary Squires, press coverage was slim to none.

One friend who I felt tried to break the mold a bit in this regard -- not in my direction but just break the mold -- was Ben Smith. Ben was with the ajc and is the author of the bit that appears above under Cracker Squire.

He has an excellent feel for Georgia politics, and I have missed seeing his articles in the ajc since late summer.

I did get a little ink from Kristen, hid as it was near the end of a lengthly story that gave the three "leading" candidates 90% of the story. Although only a little, I very much appreciated it, especially as I learned later about her inability to write more about me was dictated from above.

I put her article on my Web site. The following is what Kristen had to say about Sid (taken from page 1 of my Web site):

"KRISTEN WYATT, a young ASSOCIATED PRESS reporter and student of Georgia history and politics who loves discussing such topics, on June 22, 2004, writes in an AP release:

Sid Cottingham, an attorney and former state court judge from Douglas, [has] been active in the state party for many years but this is his first campaign [where he is the candidate rather than serving as campaign manager for someone else]. He running as a conservative, traditional Southern Democrat.

A clever wit, Cottingham scoffs at suggestions that the Democratic Party is dying in Georgia, although he warns fellow Democrats not to try to bash Bush: 'He could use his mama's pearls to beat Laura to death on the Capitol steps and he'd still carry Georgia.'

That was it, but as noted, I very much appreciated it. I would later get to know another expert on Georgia politics, Dick Pettys, also with the Associated Press, and told him how impressed I was with Kristen.

With Republicans in charge, what can the social right expect?

By: Kristen Wyatt
Associated Press
December 29, 2004

They've toiled in the vineyards for years, and now social conservatives in Georgia can rest assured their work will pay off. Republicans control the full Legislature and the governor's office. Surely, some may think, the laws long yearned for by the social right will have no trouble breezing through the Capitol.

Or will they?

The GOP, set to begin its historic first session in full control of Georgia's government since Reconstruction, is getting a barrage of requests for conservative social measures when they take office.

Ideas that include waiting periods for women seeking abortions. A law to shield county courthouses that choose to display the Ten Commandments. A boost to faith-based charities by repealing a state ban on spending tax dollars on religious groups. Maybe even a renewed ban on gay marriage, that is, if a judge throws out the constitutional amendment resoundingly approved by Georgia voters in November.

But political watchers and even Republicans themselves warn that all will not be smooth sailing for the religious right, even if they feel they've been good and faithful servants to the GOP for so long that they're due a payback in the form of socially conservative laws.

That's because Georgia Republicans have a long wish list of things they'd like to get done, not just social matters. And they may be looking to attack less controversial bills first while they get their lawmaking legs under them.

"I think the average voter is more concerned with, 'How am I going to get to work down Georgia 400? And what about my rising property tax bill? And my child's education?' That's a lot more important to most people than whether there's the Ten Commandments in the courthouse," said Rep. Fran Millar, a Dunwoody Republican who is entering his eighth year in the Legislature.

Republican lawmakers were vague about what social matters they would be willing to tackle. The so-called Women's Right To Know Bill, which would mandate a 24-hour waiting period for any women seeking an abortion, is likely the first on the list.

The measure has passed the Senate, which has been controlled by Republicans for two years now, but stalled in the Democrat-controlled House. Now that the GOP is also in charge of the House, lawmakers said to look for that bill to be quickly revived.

Another likely topic for debate will be a faith-based charities measure first pushed by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. That would be a constitutional amendment repealing the state's prohibition of tax dollars going to religious groups, which prevents religious charities from competing for state grants.

The federal government has already changed its rules to allow religious charities to compete for public funds, as long as the money is not used to proselytize. Georgia's proposed rules would be similar.

Lawmakers seemed less likely to take up a Ten Commandments bill, for several reasons.

First, it was pushed last year by a Republican lawmaker (Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Newnan) who has left the Legislature for Congress. Second, the proposal would call for the state attorney general to pick up the defense tab for any lawsuit filed over a Ten Commandments display, an idea some may support in principle but not want to enact given the state's tight budget. Finally, state lawmakers are inclined to sit back on the issue now that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take a Ten Commandments case, probably by next February.

The Georgia GOP is unlikely to run away with a batch of social bills, even though their conservative stances helped put them in power, said Mike Digby, a political scientist at Georgia College & State University.

"Every party is a coalition of a lot of different groups," Digby said. "While the Republican majority is due in part to the votes of the Christian right, it's also due in part to votes that are much more secular."

In other words, evangelical Republicans who consider social matters like abortion to be the most important will have to compete for attention with Republicans who think a smaller state budget or civil-lawsuit reforms are more pressing.

"Some parts of the coalition are not nearly as tuned in to the Christian right," Digby said.

Even a former head of the Georgia Christian Coalition agreed. Rep. Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons Island, who once led the coalition and recently was elected state House Majority Leader, said anyone who expects his religious leanings to drive his agenda would be wrong.

"The first priority is going to be the budget," he said, then disputed the idea that Republicans owe legislation to religious voters who have supported them. Even very religious voters, Keen said, were wooed to the GOP slowly, by more than a promise of action on abortion or some other matter.

"This is not something where everybody got up one Sunday, ran to the church pews and got them to vote," Keen said.

Still, the Republicans cannot afford to ignore their religious base. For years the GOP has taunted that ruling Democrats were afraid to let social matters come to a vote, a charge that was mostly true. Now the GOP needs to walk the walk, as it were, and allow debate on social matters even if they don't all agree, said the Rev. Ray Newman, a public affairs specialist for the Georgia Baptist Convention.

"Some of these things have been introduced and reintroduced and never had a chance to come out and be debated or to come to a vote," Newman said. "So that's what I'm hoping will be one difference. It remains to be seen whether that will happen."

Energetic New Faces . . The Democrats' Class of 2004

Excerpts from:

Energetic New Faces . . .

By Harold Meyerson
The Washington Post
December 29, 2004

This was a year the Democrats would just as soon forget. George W. Bush's victory may not have signaled a Republican realignment so much as a consolidation of the GOP's Southern base. . . . Democrats suffered a stunning defeat.

Yet the year wasn't a total loss for the nation's oldest, if no longer majority, party. In particular, it brought the greatest outpouring of new Democratic activists since the epochal elections of 1968 and 1972, when tens of thousands of preponderantly young, anti-Vietnam War volunteers flocked to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern. None of those campaigns prevailed, but in time, the Democratic Class of 1968-72 became the core of the modern Democratic Party.

Over the years, the Class of '68-'72 brought its distinct values -- feminism, environmentalism, reproductive freedom and skepticism about the use of U.S. military power -- into the center of American politics and life. Changing realities and political opposition led Democrats to modify some of those beliefs; Bill Clinton (who'd been McGovern's Texas state coordinator in 1972) revalidated armed intervention in the Balkans, and Democrats backed Bush's action in Afghanistan.

Bush's war in Iraq, though, swelled the ranks of Democratic activists as nothing had since Vietnam. Through its Internet fundraising, the Democratic National Committee tapped so many new donors that it actually outraised its Republican counterpart in 2004. . . . But it wasn't the party so much as its progressive adjuncts, including the newly minted Americans Coming Together (ACT) and MoveOn.org, to which the volunteers -- as ever, disproportionately young -- flocked.

And flocking, this year, meant moving around. With campaigning concentrated in a handful of states, Democratic volunteers from across the country made their way to Cleveland and Columbus, Orlando and Miami. Until the final weekend of the campaign, when the locals poured in, a trip to an Ohio, Florida or Nevada campaign office of a Democratic "527" group was likely to turn up as many short-term migrants from California and New York as it did homegrown volunteers.

The Democrats' traveling circus has gone home now, but that doesn't mean it has disbanded.

The leaders of ACT have been deluged with messages from its activists, suggesting campaigns to be launched and urging ACT to hasten its post-election reconstitution. Such long-standing groups as the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are awash in new volunteers as well. A new generation of activists has formed and is refusing to go away.

Politically, this new generation is distinguished from its 1968-72 predecessors -- and from the Republicans' Class of 1964, the Goldwater volunteers who remade their party over the subsequent two decades -- by its relative absence of a breakaway ideology and by its strategic flexibility.

Unlike the McGovernites and the Goldwaterites, the new activists do not feel so embattled in their own party -- not so long as George W. Bush dominates the landscape outside it. Differences among the Democrats pale by comparison. Though almost every one of them opposed to the war in Iraq, the scores of Democratic volunteers I met this year understood why flat-out opposition to the war would not play in the precincts they were walking.

Indeed, the Class of '04 lacks a distinct ideological profile that sets its members apart from other Democrats. It's their numbers and their networking and their determination not to disengage that stamps them as a new political force. As Bush moves to restore a more Darwinistic capitalism, as the U.S. presence in Iraq runs out of raisons d'etre, as unions gear up a national campaign to organize Wal-Mart, the Class will define itself by its activism -- and just maybe it will inject some causes of its own. Lord knows, the Democrats could use some.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

UPDATE on Let the games begin. The 2006 Democratic Matchup for Governor.

This is an update on the previous post of today entitled "Let the games begin. The 2006 Democratic Matchup for Governor. - The "L" word (?)."

The "L" word part of the post's title is in bold to emphasize the direction this campaign took on its first day -- more accurately stated as the spin on this campaign today from the Mark Taylor camp.

A one sentence summary of the first day of campaigning between the duo:

Cox came out attacking Gov. Perdue. Taylor came out attacking Cox.

Being the southern gentleman that I am, it is only natural that we go with:

The Lady first:

Cathy's first volley was across Perdue's bow. In an interview, she accused the governor of waging "unproductive, wasteful and divisive" political battles. She cited Perdue's efforts to get rural Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, rather than finding issues to unite lawmakers.

"I want to devote my energy to trying to build consensus in getting both Republicans and Democrats to buy into productive solutions for the problems Georgians are dealing with," Cox said.

She did not outline a platform Monday, but her campaign Web site pledges to "improve education, provide access to high quality health care and promote economic development in every region of Georgia."

"I feel like Georgia's at a critical stage and will be in the next couple of years. If we don't make some real progress in education and economic development and other issues, we're going to lose the great luster that has attracted millions of Georgians to this state over the last decade," she said.

In her announcement posted on her Web site, Cox states: "I believe Georgia is ready for a governor who takes us beyond partisan one-upmanship and is willing to work with people of all political parties to get things done. I will be that kind of governor."

Addressing Gov. Perdue's role in gaining control of the Senate through party switches shortly after his election, Cox said in an interview:

"That is part of a tone I want to change in government. We've got to get beyond one party trying to dominate and being unwilling to work with people of another party. I'm not going to expend any of my energies convincing people to switch parties. I want to build consensus between Republicans and Democrats, not further divide them."

Noting that in the last six weeks, four Republican activists asked her to switch parties, three of them suggesting she run as a Republican for lieutenant governor, Cox stated: "I take that as a good sign I am the kind of candidate that can attract Democrat and Republican support."

(I believe this is the first time we have been informed of the numbers of Republicans who had approached Cox about switching parties.)

Apparently in keeping with what is a very obvious early campaign theme that she is a leader who can work with both political parties, Cox has chosen former Rep. Dan Ponder Jr., a Republican from South Georgia, to serve as her campaign manager.

(Ponder is from Donalsonville -- county seat of Seminole County immediately to the west of Cathy's home in Decatur County -- and you might recall that he is the person who gave the impassioned speech on the floor of the state House several years ago in support of Georgia's hate crimes bill during Barnes' administration. And although a Republican, he was not one by birth, having switched to the GOP in 1997 after being elected in 1996 to the House seat Cathy and her father once held.)

According to the ajc's PI, Ponder says "[Cox] can transcend party lines to bring civility back to politics."

Sid's spin: The above quotes were taken from the three newspaper articles noted below, and represented statements made by Cathy either in interviews, on her Web site, or during her announcement.

I've already noted Cathy's early campaign theme of running on a platform of having Democrats and Republicans work together under her leadership.
And from her words about the Gov., she intends to portray him as a divider.

Does this remind us of any recent political campaign? How about 2000, Bush vs. Gore?

Bush pointed to his own record of dealing with a Democrat-controlled Texas legislature, and cast himself as a President who would be a "uniter not a divider."

Are we to perceive an analogy here with our Republican-controlled Georgia legislature, and Cox casting herself as a Governor who would be a "uniter not a divider?"

(And a quick P.S. about Cathy: When you hear the name Mark, think Mark Dehler. Who is that? Cathy's husband of course.)

Now to the Big Guy:

The Taylor camp picked up on the "L" theme floated a couple of weeks ago by Nick Ayers, executive director of the Perdue political campaign, as he was denying that Cox had been approached by emissaries from Perdue.

"If Cathy Cox didn't support Cynthia McKinney, John Kerry and gay marriage, she'd fit great into the Georgia Republican Party, but she does," Ayers said. (12-17-04 ajc.)

Was this theme in the making prior to this comment by the Perdue campaign? I don't know, although I wish I did.

Mark Taylor spokesman Rick Dent had this to say about Cathy's announcement that she was a go:

"Now we will see if Mark Taylor's experience, his record on schools, jobs and protecting families and his moderate views on the issues can beat a liberal like Cox in a Democratic primary."

"As this campaign progresses, it will be clear that the views of Cox and her key backers are out of the mainstream and out of step for the voters in Georgia," Dent also said.

Dent reported that Cox was courting financial support from EMILY's List, one of the nation's largest PAC's that seeks to elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates.

Dent called EMILY's List "a very liberal special interest group."

Cox acknowledged that she has spoken with EMILY's List, but said she has received no endorsement.

As we all know, Taylor is off to the early lead in the money race. He has a strong track record as a fund-raiser, something I have written about before on this blog. It truly is a machine, headed up by one very accomplished and talented person.

According to campaign financial reports, Taylor had $1.1 million on hand in June. Since then, he has raised another $500,000 according to Rick Dent.

(It may be recalled that political consultant Rick Dent joined Denise Majette's campaign and became its spokesman after the Aug. 10 runoff. Previously he had served as Press Secretary to then-Gov. Zell Miller and had worked in Zell's last U.S. Senatorial campaign.)

Sid's spin:

If this were a baseball game, of course yesterday would not even rank as the top of the first inning. But still perceptions and opinions are formed, sometimes fleeting, sometimes for the duration.

The Lt. Gov., who filed back in April the papers the Secretary of State filed Monday, is obviously in a different situation than Cathy who has just done what he and some other so-called Democratic Party heavies had hoped she would not do.

In announcing, it should have been Cathy's day in the limelight, not his.

Thus for Mark to have come out so aggressively by his spokesman against Cathy on day one really surprised me.

Such could be perceived as giving the appearance that Mark, who some have tried to portray as being the one the preseason odds favor, as already having gone on the defense against one he perceives as the front-runner by his attacking Cathy so early.

What was he supposed to do, say he welcomed her as a competitor and the opportunity to ferret out the issues, etc.? Maybe.

That would have been the statesmanlike, taking the high road approach, something that would not have gone unnoticed given the negative campaigns that have just ended. And doing so may have been perceived by some as a sign of confidence on his own part.

And he could have done this and at the same time begun his "Cathy is a liberal theme" by saying he welcomed the clear choice this presented to Georgians, or some such that just wasn't so negative so early.

On this part of my thinking, I want to emphasize that I do not question the Lt. Gov. wanting to strike early with his "L" theme if this is what his camp has determined is what he wants to be his first shot (and we assume the first of many to come) across Cathy's bow. Thus I am only addressing the negative tone, not the substantive tone of Taylor's campaign.

On a second topic, I especially question why Mr. Dent would want to go after EMILY's list -- a very large and respected grassroots political network that has been around for almost 20 years -- so early and in the press which, of course, is a medium of communication for both sexes.

Women activists in our Party already know the PAC well. Was Mr. Dent hoping to sway them by his comments?

And any hay made with men by such a description "as a very liberal special interest group" might easily be more than offset by alienating some of the female members of our Party faithful.

As noted above, Cox acknowledged that she has spoken with EMILY's List but said she has received no endorsement. Was she being defensive with the "but" part. Maybe, but she shouldn't have been.

Will Cathy make EMILY's List recommended candidates list? Does a cat have climbing gear? Will it help her or hurt her? The former, no question about it, and she would seek and get the endorsement of this group even if she had Taylor's bankroll already lined up.

Overall, I don't think the Taylor camp furthered its objective today, but as noted, this is only the beginning.

And while discussing Taylor, this past Sunday on The Georgia Gang my mentor Bill Shipp said "Mark Taylor has the locks on African-American voters, and thus on the nomination."

I saw the locks this summer, especially in DeKalb and South Fulton.

Do I agree with Mr. Shipp that this translates into the Lt. Gov. having the nomination? Not by a country mile. This thing is wide open.

And to those who complain about this upcoming fight among two qualified, loyal and respected Democrats damaging the Party, I say stay tuned. The Lord works in strange ways.

(The three newspaper articles referred to are: the AP, 12-28-04; the GDP, 12-28-04; Morris News Service, 12-27-04; and the ajc, 12-28-04.)

(1) Bush Is Scaling Back the Economic Agenda; & (2) Reelection Honeymoon With Voters Eludes Bush, Polls Say.

The Bush administration has decided to delay by at least a year efforts to make wholesale changes to the U.S. tax code that just weeks ago were identified as a key and immediate goal of President Bush's second term, the Washington Post reports (immediate meaning a Bush administration goal by the end of 2005).

Citing White House economists, Republican tax aides in Congress and outside administration advisers, the Post says administration officials have determined "they have their hands full with Bush's pledge to overhaul Social Security and a budget plan that will demand politically painful cuts to non-defense spending."

Separately, the Los Angeles Times notes that Mr. Bush prepares to start his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any just-elected sitting president since World War II, a fact blamed on public discontent over the war in Iraq.

A Gallup survey conducted for CNN and USA Today puts Bush's approval rating at 49% — close to his preelection numbers. That's 10 to 20 points lower than every elected sitting president at this stage since just after World War II, according to Gallup, which has been tabulating such data since Harry S. Truman won a full term in 1948.

Bush's Gallup rating echoed a survey published last week by ABC News and the Washington Post, which put his approval rating at 48%. That poll also found that 56% of Americans believed the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Time magazine also put Bush's overall approval at 49%.

According to the Times, one person who met with Bush the same day a U.S. military mess tent was bombed in Iraq described the president as "distraught."

The Times says the ability of Mr. Bush to reverse the sagging opinion numbers through his inaugural address and the State of the Union speech will help determine whether he can regain popular momentum needed to enact changes to Social Security, the liability tort system and other areas.

(Cited sources and wsj.)

Let the games begin. The 2006 Democratic Matchup for Governor. - The "L" word (?).

Mark Taylor spokesman Rick Dent on the Cathy Cox announcement:

"Now we will see if Mark Taylor's experience, his record on schools, jobs and protecting families and his moderate views on the issues can beat a liberal like Cox in a Democratic primary."

(Dick Pettys of the AP, 12-28-04; GDP, 12-28-04.)

Former Rep. Dan Ponder, Jr., a Republican from South Georgia, will serve as Cox's campaign manager.

(Morris News Service, 12-27-04.)

Ponder is from Donalsonville, and you might recall that he is the person who gave the impassioned speech on the floor of the state House several years ago in support of Georgia's hate crimes bill during Barnes' administration.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Lower the flag to half-mast. Another Great American has left this life. -- Dr. Bill Hinson died on December 26, 2004.

Earlier today I was writing about politics and the future direction of our Party. I just got in from a rough day at the office, and got some sad news. Suddenly neither of the foregoing things seems to matter very much.

As background for this post, in a post dated 12-13-04, I wrote:

"Rev. Bill Hinson, one of the top Methodist ministers in the country, told me once that he spends an hour of preparation for every minute of his sermon. Listening to him you understand why. . . .

"I am a Methodist. Many of you Methodists probably know that Rev. Bill Hinson recently suffered a very serious stroke, and is not doing good. To check on his condition, you can go to http://www.williamhinson.net/ which was updated today. Bill's wife Jean is from Douglas and Bill is from Snipesville, a small community in Jeff Davis County. Keep the Hinsons in your prayers."

My recorder informed me that Dr. Hinson passed away yesterday. A 08-04-04 post entitled "Lower the flag to half-mast -- A Great American has left this life," was about the passing of Manuel Maloof.

The following is the text from Bill's All Saints Day sermon, preached a month before his stroke.

"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

"So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.

"2 Corinthians 5:1-9."

The Lord has blessed me. I was a FOB. And our First United Methodist Church congregation here in Douglas was indeed fortunate to have had him again as our revival speaker in September 2003.

Lower the flag to half-mast. A great American has left this life.

When the Dean speaks, the Democratic Party better listen, Part II. Sid's response to the Dean concerning the issues the Dean raised.

The following is my response to Bill Shipp's usual words of wisdom contained in his latest column that is set forth in full in the preceding post:

Mr. Shipp, you suggest in your recent column that our Party will be best served if we get our agenda in tune with the rest of the state of Georgia and the nation.

Dean, please know that this is what we are about; at least it is our intent, and what we know we must do. You may call it our agenda; we consider it our working on and refining of our message.

Although I wish I could say that everyone in our Party heard the same message on Nov. 2 as you and I did, we both know this is not the case.

Many remain in denial. Others seem to think being "right" is all that matters, with of course those doing the thinking also determining what they deem to be right.

But good Sir, I do know that the leadership of the state Party, official or otherwise, recognizes that the Democratic Party in Georgia has lost some its luster and former glory as evidenced by the results of the November results in 2004 for a reason. (I do not buy into the current thinking that such reason is the same that caused our first disaster on Nov. 5, 2002. I attribute the latter loss to arrogance.)

And this leadership also recognizes that perception is important, sometimes more so than the actual facts themselves. And such leadership recognizes that our Party suffers from perceptual problems, serious perceptual problems.

This leadership also knows that the political pendulum is always swinging, and that if we awaken from our pre-Nov. 2, 2004 slumber, we are a long way from becoming a dead-end organization and joining the ranks of the Federalists and the Whigs.

As noted in my recent write up on the state Executive Committee meeting, this leadership knows that remembering from whence we came will not interfere with our being flexible, innovative, and above all, inclusive of all, including new and accomodating ideas and platforms.

And with the kind of enthusiasm that has surfaced on a statewide basis since Nov. 2 of this year, it is apparent to me that the job has begun in earnest to right the Democratic Party’s ship in this great state.

Sure we’ve got our work cut out for us, but with the interest shown before, at and after the state Executive Committee meeting about which you wrote, I feel confident that we are up to the task.

In doing this, we know we must reconnect with the voters of this state. Kerry may not have minded you and others saying he appeared to be anti-family and anti-religious, but you are not going to be talking about us if you use such language. We are in our post-Nov. 2 mode.

It seems that in the past anytime Democrats met, the first order of business was to divide us into our Party's various caucuses as we identified ourselves. There was the black caucus, the Hispanic caucus, the lesbian and gay caucus, etc.

But what happens in the future when I try to bring one of my high school buddies back into our Party's fold? He will not be accustomed to going to Democratic meetings and having to be identified as being in one of several of our Party's constituencies?

In such a situation you know what this white male voter is going to immediately wonder -- where do I fit in? Where's the white guys' caucus?

For these and other reasons, we are into a very different mode now Mr. Shipp. We are now in the process of rebuilding, and as such we are far less interested in black caucuses and white caucuses and Hispanic caucuses. We want Democratic caucuses.

And in this process of rebuilding, we are far less interested in liberal caucuses and conservative caucuses. Again, we want Democratic caucuses.

And along the same line, I will tell you that my buddy shares something in common with millions of farmers, factory workers, waitresses and just plain ole regular good people in Georgia and across our country. He ended up voting -- utterly against his own interest -- for Republican candidates. We are going to address and take care of this between now and 2006.

And since ours is the Party of hope and dreams, the Party of the People, the party of inclusion, we think there is room in our Party for beliefs that we share with most Americans, those who hold middle-of-the-road positions on abortion, guns, taxes and other issues.

Mr. Shipp, having given you our general feeling of where we want to go, please do not think we have intentionally ignored making a big deal about what you called two primary issues facing our Party -- things you said we do not want to discuss last weekend. But they just aren't primary with us, at least not in our post-Nov. 2 mode.

One of what you identified as a 800-pound gorilla -- Gay Marriage -- while inconspicuous at last weekend's Executive Committee meeting, wasn't completely silent as you noted.

Rather Mayor Andrew Young noted that "Georgia law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and Georgia has found a way to get along."

We think that this is a good way to address the issue, and leave it at that.

You think that is a little ambigious you say? Take it, like it or don't like it; but that is our position on the matter.

You insist on more you say. Well, because of your loyalty to our Party and because I know you are a great Democrat who often gets verbally killed and criticized as the messenger (as did I in the comment to the previous post), I will give you more.

Our position: As a Party we believe in the wisdom and legality of conventional wedlock.

Oh sure we used to go a bit further and let you know what we think about all of the fuss about same-sex marriages being nothing but gay bashing, but that's behind us.

(And this was not just put behind us by the Nov. 2 election; rather it came with the filing of the second lawsuit challenging the constitutional amendment filed post-Nov. 2. See the 11-11-04; 11-28-04; and 12-10-04 posts and posts linked therein for background to this statement.

And yes I have not forgotten and very much appreciate the post I did on 10-19-04 entitled "What a difference a word makes. -- Same-sex marriage. Hell no say 60%+ of Georgians. Same-sex union. Why not." That same theme is discussed in the 12-10-04 post noted in the previous paragraph that has as its subject a recent New York Times article that reports that the "Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, has . . . adopted a new, more moderate strategy, with less emphasis on legalizing same-sex marriages and more on strengthening personal relationships. The leadership of the Human Rights Campaign . . . [has] concluded that the group must bow to political reality and moderate its message and its goals. . . . Lawyers representing some gay groups have concluded that challenging antimarriage amendments in individual states is a losing proposition even if they win in some courts because American society is not yet ready to accept the idea of same-sex partners sharing the same rights as heterosexual couples.")

On the other identified 800-pound gorilla -- Abortion -- with all due respect Sir, we beat you out of the gate on this issue and have left you at the starting line.

But first, we do note that we plead guilty as charged to the following statement contained in your column:

"As for abortions, Democrats have allowed Republicans to turn the issue of 'a woman's choice' into an up-or-down decision on performing abortions."

But we also agree with your statement that "[t]he abortion judgment is never that simple, as any affected woman or doctor or parent or pastor can testify."

It is for that reason that on behalf of my Party I recently wrote -- on a Democratic blog on one of the internets -- that:

"I am pro-choice, not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be my wife or daughter.

"But what if someone has religious convictions different from me; do we not have room in the Party for such person?

"Howard Dean on 'Meet the Press' just got through saying 'I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats.'

"And he is taking the lead from Bush, who even as he supported an amendment to the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, emphasized tolerance, breaking with his most conservative Christian supporters to repeatedly say he favored allowing states to recognize same-sex couples in other ways, like civil unions."

And in a 12-06-04 post entitled "The issues: (1) How about a reprise from Mr. Clinton on abortion being safe, legal & rare; & (2) Let's say Demo's for planned parenthood; GOP opposes," I wrote:

"As we reach out to religious voters, we should quit arguing the legality of abortion, and rather shift the theme to abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare.' And just as we want to see fewer abortions, we want our children to learn good values -- at home, in school, at Sunday school and at church with their parents.

"(Come on now, suck it up a little; the rules of engagement changed on Nov. 2.)

"Good values, health care, jobs and sex education can reduce the number of abortion procedures, and who can be opposed to that.

"The above 'safe, legal and rare' was Mr. Clinton's formulation for abortion, and the incidence of abortion fell under President Bill Clinton and rose under President George W. Bush."

This is our position Sir. We are beyond pro-choice and into things such as planned parenthood, if this is one's desire and does not interfere with his or her religious and moral beliefs.

We are beyond letting the forces of evil continue to outmaneuver us. We are reflecting back on how we operated when we were the Big Tent Party, and how we can tolerate opinions and positions divergent from perhaps a majority of the Party.

It is not our intent in our post Nov. 2 mode to be put on the defensive. We recognize that Karl Rove, Inc. wants to force us to defend taxes and lawyers, gay rights and unfettered access to abortion.

We're not going there. We're going to the Governor's mansion and the White House, and will remember and look after those who help get us there, just as President Clinton did when he was elected in 1992.

And we do appreciate the majority of our Party, the Party faithful. It is our base, and we know that in order to win future elections, we must we expand our base and appeal to other voters without alienating our base, the Party faithful.

If we are to remain a relevant part, we must come together and stay together. As I stated in my 12-10-04 post:

"'A house divided against itself cannot stand,' said Abraham Lincoln, paraphrasing the Master's words found in Matthew 12:25. 'And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.'

"Words of wisdom for all ages, and especially appropriate for us to remember in the challenging days as we recognize and accept that we no longer are a majority party; that our base is now only 42% or less; and that we must expand on the base while being sure to keep our base."

And truthfully Sir, we are not going to get beaten up and run over by making a grand stand opposing those who what to post the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Our position on this is that it is up to the courts to determine, and we expert that this matter will be resolved by the courts sooner rather than later.

We do agree with you that we all would do better if we tried harder to live by the biblical admonitions contained therein.

And also, and even though you did not mention this Sir, please know that we strongly resist taking "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and hopefully some of us will have the courage to publicly say so when this comes up again before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. If the national Party takes a different stand, so be it.

With respect to there being any identity of interest of our Party with the American Civil Liberties Union, we thought that went down in the defeat of Michael Dukakis years ago. You must be confusing us with former Rep. Bob Barr.

And as far as organized labor is concerned, we do not deny that it has traditionally been a friend of our Party during feast and famine, although we consider it a healthy sign that it no longer dictates our positions on issues.

And also within our state, labor in Atlanta recognizes and understands that organized labor cannot always receive red carpet treatment in the Other Georgia. Organized labor in Atlanta accepts that this is reality at the present time, but still we all consider one another to be good Democrats, and will continue to work for the Party and the common good.

And finally, some of us did not understand your surprise that Secretary of State Cathy Cox would decline an invitation to join the Philistines.

In my recent write up of the state Executive Committee meeting in Atlanta, I noted that Rep. Calvin Smyre hit a grand slam talking about our Party and our future. I stressed how impressed I was with his firm grasp of and understanding the big picture, and knowing what we must do to prevail in 2006 and 2008.

I also noted that if Rep. Smyre says something, our Party "can take it to the bank."

Well, one thing I did not include in my write up of the meeting was a comment Rep. Smyre made about the relationship of the Democratic Party of Georgia and the NDC.

When he was saying that it was time for us as a state Party to make our views known to the DNC, and if we do and still we are ignored, the Democratic Party of Georgia can at least "go down in dignity."

We trust Cathy Cox has the same feeling with regard to her relationship with the Party, given the long history she and her father and family have of being one of us and us part of her.

It is a different situation from when Gov. Perdue bolted parties because of his frustration with a certain element of our Party. Today someone leaving our Party -- more often than not -- would be doing so out of his or her hopes for personal gain.

And such persons need to remember, as you have told us before Dean, that party switching can be hazardous to one's political health.

The following comes from the Web site of the Coffee County Democratic Committee. It concerns Georgia's Poster Child Party Switcher, Rep. Chuck Sims. Substitute Ms. Cox's name for that of Chuck Sims, and you have her political status and future if she jumps parties.

Recently I made the mistake of telling someone Chuck's goose was cooked. I was promptly corrected; Chuck's goose is charcoal broiled the person said. Chuck's political future is a matter of years -- two from now to be exact, unless he resigns prior to 2006.

Cathy Cox's political future too would be jeopardized, I think, if she jumped parties, her female vote getting ability and TV personality and audience notwithstanding. Just as the Poster Child Party Switcher Chuck Sims, she too would become a person without a party.

From CoffeeCountyDemocrats.com:

-- Did you ever read Sir Walter Scott's poem about a man without a country? If you change a few words, it very accurately describes Rep. Chuck Sims' current situation. For truly Chuck is a man without a party.

A Man Without a Party (or if you prefer),
An Ode to Chuck

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my natural group!
Whose heart no longer within him burns,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on his self-made coup?

If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no longer his District's raptures swell;
High though his ego, once his proud name,
Boundless his statewide publicity as wish can claim;
Despite the countless press, perceived power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

-- Since most the words of our Ode to Chuck are those of Sir Walter Scott, how fitting it is to note that this Scottish author also wrote the following well-known verse that also describes Chuck's course of action:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Chuck has made his own bed, and Chuck will have to lie in it.

When the Dean speaks, the Democratic Party better listen, Part I. - Same-sex marriage & abortion. Part II is Sid's response to the Dean.

Bill Shipp, never one to mince words, speaks. His latest column follows (my response to his thoughts appears in the post that follows):

Democratic Party should work on its agenda before deciding on its candidates

By Bill Shipp

Two 800-pound gorillas sat in the room with the Georgia Democratic Executive Committee in Atlanta last weekend as it met to chart a new course in the wake of its party's devastating election losses. Most of the assembled Democrats tried to pretend the beasts were not there.

Named Gay Marriage and Abortion Rights, the gorillas remained silent wallflowers as old-timers Bert Lance and Andy Young told stories of the party's golden years. Bobby Kahn led cheers for future greatness.

Talk filled the air about targeting voters, recruiting candidates, raising money and even selecting a new national party chairman.

But no ranking Democrat addressed the gorillas and the concerns that their presence raises:

"What are we going to do about gay rights and abortions? These issues are killing our party."

No Democratic leader dared say:

"Republicans laugh at us and call us the party of the blacks because we count so heavily on the African-American vote. And we do. But, as usual, the Republicans are wrong. The Democratic Party is in danger of losing black votes by the thousands for one simple reason. We have become the party not of African Americans - but of gays and abortionists. That is how we are most identified. Those issues do not resonate in the black community any better than they work in white communities. We saw the beginning of serious slippage among black votes in last month's election. Part of the reason: Blacks object to gays and abortions."

Perhaps no one addressed the "two gorillas problem" because gay and women activists are core Democratic constituents.

Both gay and women's rights representatives attended the 40-member executive committee meeting. No modern, dedicated Democrat would suggest that the party abandon support of either group. Helping women and protecting the rights of all people are as much a part of the party's reason for existence as guarding the working classes and protecting the environment.

But "gay" and "abortion" have become luminous threads woven into the state and national Democratic banner. Mention gay rights, think Democrat. Say pro-abortion, think Democrat.

What is wrong with Democrats? Can't they see that a high-profile part of their agenda has become poison to many nonpartisan voters?

In his losing presidential bid, Democratic Sen. John Kerry spoke guardedly three times against legalizing gay marriages. Meanwhile, polls showed Americans in staggering numbers solidly opposed validating same-sex wedding vows.

Former President Bill Clinton, easily the most talented politician among Democrats, suggested Kerry would have fared better speaking 3,000 times, instead of just three, against gay nuptials.

Democrats should not blame Republicans for injecting the gay issue into the campaigns. Democrats inflicted the problem upon themselves. Just as the 2004 election campaigns heated up, some homosexual leaders - nearly all of them Democrats - decided to go for broke on gaining court approval for weddings for gay couples. It was a suicidal move. Yet no ranking Democrats ventured to suggest that organized homosexuals were undercutting the only major political force that tolerates and welcomes them.

As for abortions, Democrats have allowed Republicans to turn the issue of "a woman's choice" into an up-or-down decision on performing abortions. The abortion judgment is never that simple, as any affected woman or doctor or parent or pastor can testify.

Yet everybody in both parties speaks of being "pro-abortion" or "anti-abortion." The less definite "pro-choice" has disappeared from the 21st-century political lexicon.

Posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings raises a similar problem for the world's oldest political party. The American Civil Liberties Union, as firmly identified with the Democratic Party as the AFL-CIO, goes ballistic whenever someone suggests displaying the commandments in even a remote county courthouse.

Is the ACLU crazy or what? Voters may not live by the commandments, but they certainly believe posting them in public buildings does more good than harm. A public showing of the Ten Commandments only becomes a big deal when left-wingers decide to make it one. Legal rants against displaying biblical passages create an anti-Christian aura - not a wise move in a predominantly Christian state, regardless of First Amendment considerations.

As long as bigwigs in the state and national Democratic parties tiptoe around the far-out lefties among them, their organizations are dead ducks. Democrats have little hope of regaining power either in Georgia or the nation.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox's rejection of an invitation to join the Republican Party frankly surprised some of us. Why would she decline to become a powerful force for change in the state's dominant political party? Why would she remain active in what may be evolving into a dead-end organization of ding-a-lings who defend homosexual weddings and easy-to-get abortions and oppose publishing biblical admonitions?

At last weekend's meeting, Democrats batted around names for national chairman to be elected next year and for candidates for governor in 2006. They might be better served by putting the candidate list aside and working instead on getting their agenda in tune with the rest of the state and nation.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The more things change the more they stay the same within the Atlanta archdiocese.

Earlier this month Pope John II appointed Bishop Wilton Gregory to lead the Atlanta archdiocese, replacing Archbishop John Donoghue who was the topic of a 09-17-04 post entitled "Say what? Vote pro-choice, you'll go to hell; molest kids, hey, we won't tell -- Catholics told to let abortion guide vote over all other issues."

Atlanta’s new archbishop is letting the world know that he strongly opposes gay marriage; additionally, he has urged politicians as well as clergy to support a federal marriage amendment as well as state amendments defining marriage as solely between a man and woman.

"You can take Salem out of the country, but you can't take the country out of Salem."

I did a post on 11-03-04, the day after the election, that was entitled in part:
"It Was Too Big a Job even for the Talented Alchemists."

The title had reference to a 10-19-04 post entitled in part "The Alchemists at Work on Kerry," that concluded by noting:

"One of my attorney friends says you can't make chicken salad out of chicken s___. I used to agree with him. But hey, we're doing it."

In a 12-14-04 post I wrote:

"Do you remember those lines I had in a 11-02-04 post:

"'It's not for nothing that people in Massachusetts joked that his initials stand for Just For Kerry. Or that people spoke of him as the guy who refuses to wait in lines at restaurants because he thinks he's above everybody else.'

"When writing about those lines a couple of days later, I wrote in a 11-06-04 post:

"I know some people who think they are too good to wait in lines at a restaurant with the rest of us proletariats and commoners. I don't care for people who think they are too good to wait in lines at a restaurant, such people thinking they are above the rest of us."

I readily acknowledge that referring to our Presidential candidate as "chicken s___" was disrespect and inappropriate. Did I feel bad about it? I should, and used to wish I did. I have never respected the man, as you know, and can add now that based on what I learned today, I never will.

The irony of my saying this is that I am similar to Will Rogers in being able to say that, with the exception of a handful or so out there, "I never met a man I didn't like."

Today my dislike -- almost despising him -- increased.

It was revealed on The Georgia Gang that of the 100 U.S. Senators, all but one of them has spoken to Georgia's soon to be our senior Senator, Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Could this have been one's imagination?

In addition to other times, on one occasion, the two were riding in the same elevator, and Kerry refused to speak to Sen. Chambliss.

This behavior on by Kerry renders him, in my opinion, a petty, despicable nothing. And I would feel the same way if Kerry refused to speak to anyone else you might point out to me, friend or foe.

A post I did yesterday noted:

"Even the after-hours camaraderie of Washington is gone. Republicans hang with Republicans, Democrats with Democrats -- and they all get out of town as fast as possible. A little bourbon would do wonders for our dysfunctional government."

But not speaking to someone, another U.S. Senator, goes beyond Washington's partisanship and lack of civility and congeniality. It even goes beyond rudeness and lack of proper respect.

And less some might want to chime in with comments on Sen. Chambliss, let me note that -- although he is a good Republican just as I consider myself a good Democrat -- you will not find a more senatorial, personable and pleasant guy.

Many do not agree with his Republican philosophy and ways, but like him. I don't know of anyone what doesn't who knows him.

He was my Congressman for eight years; we worked on projects together; our kids attended law school together; he called me when I qualified to run for the U.S. Senate; he attended the funeral of my dear friend Max Lockwood. In short, I know the guy, and have known him for years.

He is a gentleman, and our being in different parties did not keep me from acknowledging our friendship and working relationship on my website.

Holidays are times when we often get out of our regular groove. Truly, I wish I had been out of mine today, and had not learned that Kerry was such a small and petty person.

At least he didn't put his finger in our Senator's chest as his spouse has been known to do.

P.S. Interestingly, Sen. Chambliss also informed The Georgia Gang panel that Sen. Ted Kennedy was most collegial to be around, and was easy and a pleasure with whom to work (and only did his ranting and raving on the Senate floor).

Such a contrast of the two Senators from Massachusetts reminds me of an ad you younger folks missed. Winston used to be the big non-menthol cigarette; Salem the predominate menthol cigarette, and when advertising of cigarettes was allowed under FCC rules, these two powerhouses did their share.

One recurring ad and theme that Salem had was one or more persons in the forest; one could almost feel the breeze and smell the fresh leaves and outdoors, etc.

The ad would note: "You can take Salem out of the country, but you can't take the country out of Salem."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Evolution and Birth of the Rural Caucus - Its Present Role in Georgia's Democratic Party. By James Salzer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If you read the ajc regularly and keep up with state politics, you know the name James Salzer. He is one of the ajc's top state government reporters, and I always enjoy he keeping me informed about what is going in the General Assembly while it is in session.

Prior to joining the ajc, Mr. Salzer wrote for Morris News Service, and the ajc did a good day's work when it persuaded him to join its staff of fine political reporters.

I still refer back to his post-runoff, mid-August story of this year when refreshing my memory on some of then current thinking on how various state and federal elections likely would come out on Nov. 2. His article of that date was prescient, being entitled "November could be political watershed - Summer primaries set the stage for what may be a momentous year at the polls."

In that article, Mr. Salzer wrote:

-- Come November, Georgia voters have a good shot at making history.

Republicans could complete their takeover of state politics, electing a second GOP U.S. senator, winning control of the Legislature and writing a conservative definition of marriage into the Georgia Constitution. Republicans have never had both of the state's U.S. senators and haven't held the state House since Reconstruction.

-- "The biggest thing Republicans are counting on is George Bush's coattails, but local politics control the dynamics," said Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), a Clark Atlanta University political scientist. "A lot of people out there still feel their local Democrats are better representatives than their local Republicans. I don't think Bush's coattails will bring people in."

-- Georgia Legislature: Experts are expecting legislative races to be more competitive than they've been in decades. Republicans are fighting to keep control of the Senate, while Democrats struggle to maintain their lock on the House. Both sides hope to break the gridlock that has existed since a divided Legislature took over in 2003.

Republicans now hold a 30-26 advantage in the Senate. In the House, Democrats have a 103-76 edge, with one independent.

Holmes expects Democrats to have a slight margin in the House after November but said the Senate is less certain.

-- Same-sex marriage: Georgia will be one of at least nine states voting on gay marriage in a Nov. 2 referendum. Georgia voters will decide whether to add a ban on such marriages and civil unions to the state Constitution.

Missouri approved a constitutional ban this month with 70 percent support, and Georgia is expected to follow the "Show Me" state's lead . . . .

Opponents say the measure was cynically pushed by Republicans to increase voter turnout among religious conservatives in a presidential election year.

Those who go to the polls will see only a sentence stating that marriage will be between a man and a woman. Included in the amendment will be a section that would prohibit courts from recognizing any civil union or legally binding relationship between same-sex couples.

The 2004 Legislature voted to put the matter before the voters after passionate debate. The issue split Democrats. White rural Democrats supported the gay marriage ban, while white liberals and most black legislators opposed it.

-- U.S. Senate: Isakson has been criticized as not being conservative enough — especially on the litmus-test issue of abortion . . . .

-- Congress: Depending on which party takes the upper hand nationally, Democrats have a shot at pulling almost even with Republicans in Georgia's congressional delegation.

Two of the state's 13 congressional districts are considered very much in play: the 12th, which stretches from Savannah through Augusta to Athens, and the 3rd, a Middle Georgia district centered on Macon.

The above background about James Salzer is for one reason. To let you know that he knows his subject. Consider this in reading his latest in the acj for 12-23-04 entitled:

Rural Democrats face a new reality

Less than two months after a disastrous election defeat, a battle for the soul and direction of the Democratic Party is being played out in the state House.

Rural Democrats, who ran the chamber for generations, have formed a caucus separate from their urban colleagues in an effort to remain relevant and protect their interests. They say they must make sure small-town Georgia is well represented in a House they fear will now be dominated by suburban Republicans.

But their move is also an attempt to achieve what conservative Democrats have tried to achieve nationally for decades: make the party more palatable to rural and small-town voters, who are increasingly supporting Republicans.

"We're trying to refocus the Democratic Party on a more middle-of-the-road, or conservative, philosophy," said Rep. Richard Royal (D-Camilla).

The caucus is an example of the split between rural conservatives and urban liberals that has long been present in the state Democratic Party. The question is whether those two elements can work together to rebuild the party, or whether rural Democrats will merely become "Republican light," as some have suggested.

GOP lawmakers doubt rural Democrats will be able to move their party to the right.

"A majority of the Democrats up there would like the party to be more moderate, but you have a very vocal minority that won't allow that," said Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta).

Until 2003, the General Assembly had been dominated by Democrats and most of its leaders were rural Democrats or other lawmakers from outside metro Atlanta.

When longtime House Speaker Tom Murphy of Bremen was defeated in 2002, he was replaced by Terry Coleman of Eastman. Other House leadership posts also went to Democrats from outside metro Atlanta, including DuBose Porter of Dublin, who became House speaker pro tem, and Jimmy Skipper of Americus, who became House majority leader. Democrats from outside the metro area were appointed to most of the top committees and the conference committees that negotiated the state budget.

Rural Democrats hung with their city brethren on many issues, especially those affecting the party. But when legislation on social issues, like gay marriage, hit the House floor, many voted with Republicans.

Rural vs. urban

House Democrats tried to display unity in November, when they picked Porter, a floor leader for Gov. Zell Miller in the early 1990s, as minority leader. Miller has become famous nationally for backing Republicans and criticizing the Democratic Party as being a captive of the left.

While Porter was a nod to small-town Georgia, the rest of the top House Democrats are mostly urban. Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus) became minority whip, Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) was re-elected Democratic caucus chairman and Rep. Nan Grogan Orrock (D-Atlanta) became caucus vice chairman.

A few weeks later, rural Democrats formed their own, largely white, caucus, which is expected to have 38 to 40 members, about half the House Democrats.

"We think we have a lot of issues in rural Georgia that are different than those in the urban areas," Royal said. "We are concerned the rural issues could be overlooked."

Rep. Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island), who will become majority leader in January, said the GOP leadership includes plenty of non-Atlanta lawmakers. More than half the Republicans nominated for leadership posts come from outside the area, though the new speaker and speaker pro tem are from Dallas, in Paulding County, and Alpharetta, respectively.

"It's amazing to me that because Republicans are in charge, [they say] everything will be driven by the Atlanta area," Keen said. "The reason we have a majority is we won seats outside of Atlanta."

Several veteran rural Democrats have also switched to the GOP over the past two years as the political tide shifted.

'Republican light?'

The need for a caucus of rural Democrats is a mystery to urban lawmakers like Rep. Bob Holmes (D-Atlanta), a Clark Atlanta University political scientist and one of the House's longest-serving members.

"They have been in control," he said. "Where are they going to go from here? It's like trying to be Bush light. It's like trying to be Republican light."

But University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock compares it to the conservative Democratic groups that formed years ago in hopes of moving the national party to the right.

"Whether they say it or not, it seems like they buy into what Zell Miller is saying," Bullock said. "If the Democratic Party's face is Bob Holmes and Nan Orrock, it's going to be a hard sell in rural Georgia."

In Miller's latest book, "A National Party No More," he argues the Democratic Party is out of step with the country. While the outgoing U.S. senator hasn't directly attacked the Georgia party, which has traditionally been more conservative, he also didn't campaign for Democrats here this year and was one of President Bush's biggest backers.

The rural caucus picked Rep. Jeanette Jamieson (D-Toccoa), a Miller loyalist from North Georgia, to head the group. Jamieson joined other rural House Democrats this year to endorse Republican Johnny Isakson in his successful race to replace Miller.

Jamieson said the caucus' goal is to represent rural Georgia on issues such as road funding, the viability and availability of health care and school funding. Rural schools rely heavily on state funds.

"In the last two budgets, education has taken a tremendous hit," she said. "Local schools have had to make up the difference. It's much more difficult in rural Georgia to do that than in other areas."

She acknowledged the caucus may have a beneficial impact for Democrats, but didn't cite that as a main goal for forming the group.

"We could say we hope it will offer reassurances to these rural areas that the Democratic Party is indeed in tune to their needs and concerns," she said.

Rep. Holmes' name is in bold in both the excerpts from the Aug. article and the 12-23 article. He was wrong in August, and I think he is wrong now.

The 11-08-04 ajc's Political Insider described the then upcoming contest for House minority leader as follows:

"By postponing a vote on who will be the House minority leader, Democrats have given themselves 10 days to figure out whether the mixed-race, mixed-geography, mixed-philosophy coalition — which was first built by Jimmy Carter and which ruled Georgia for 30 years — is at an end.

"Right now, the three veteran candidates for House minority leader are: Bob Holmes, an African-American academic from Atlanta, who thinks Democrats have moved too far right; Georganna Sinkfield, a black real-estate agent from Atlanta who feels somewhat the same; and DuBose Porter of Dublin, a white newspaper publisher who represents the last vestige of white rural power within the Democratic party."

And it was Baxter and Galloway's PI that first alerted us to this caucus, a minority within a minority the PI called in in a 11-18-04 story entitled:

A group guaranteed to remember the past 150 years or so as the good old days

A pre-meeting of House Democrats was held this week, before the election of DuBose Porter of Dublin as minority leader. It was an organizational meeting of "the rural caucus," chaired by Jeanette Jamieson of Toccoa.
Most are white, many have been listed as possible switchers to the Republican Party. Ideally, Jamieson said, the rural caucus will serve as a voice on issues ranging from transportation to water to public health to education.

Other members said the new caucus is intended to protect members — all now in red counties — from being tied too closely to their Atlanta brethren. "We realize that's a problem. That's not to say Atlanta's bad," said Gerald Greene of Cuthbert.

Keep in mind that this is the same group that ruled the state Capitol — and all of Georgia — for more than a century. And now they're a minority caucus within a minority party. It wouldn't surprise many to see a rural caucus turn into more of a way station. [This quote was in the 11-22-04 post.]

And now going to just what many of you are dying to hear, what Jim Wooten had to say this weekend about the Democrats' rural caucus:

"• Good news . . . for two-party Georgia. A group of House Democrats has formed the rural caucus to move the party "on more of a middle-of-the-road or conservative philosophy," explained Richard Royal (D-Camilla), one of the vanishing breed of Southern conservative Democrats. The caucus had the good sense, too, to elect Jeanette Jamieson (D-Toccoa) as their leader. She's a lot like Zell: tough and with a deep streak of mountain independence. I usually try not to mess with people from the mountains. They'll whup you. It would be the party's good fortune if she could whup them away from the national herd."

(And recall the advice Mr. Wooten recommended to our Party that is noted in the 11-27-04 post criticizing all of the pork contained in the omnibus spending bill that was passed without any of our U.S. Congressman or Senators having had the opportunity to read:

"Hint to defeated Democrats: Become fiscal conservatives and run against the tax-and-spenders."

William Shakespeare's Henry VI is out. Lawyers are in with Democrats in 2004.

"The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers." the Bard wrote in Henry VI.

No way said the Democrats. We like lawyers. The largest law firms across the country increasingly upped their campaign contributions -- from political action committees and individual lawyers -- during the recent presidential election campaign.

As a whole, American Lawyer magazine reports, the Am Law 100 firms gave more than $19 million to Democrats in 2003-2004 and more than $12 million to Republicans. (The Center for Responsive Politics sorted out the Federal Election Commission financial contribution records by law firm, as of Oct. 25.)

(The Washington Post, 12-23-04.)

Altho I voted aga. Bush, Cheney & Rumsfeld, count me in as being a "Blair Democrat." But we sure have created a huge mess where we shouldn't even be.

Excerpts from the latest column by:

Thomas L. Friedman

The New York Times
December 23, 2004

[T]his is a war between some people in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world who - for the first time ever in their region - are trying to organize an election to choose their own leaders and write their own constitution versus all the forces arrayed against them.

Do not be fooled into thinking that the Iraqi gunmen [who, in broad daylight and without masks, murdered two Iraqi election workers on a busy street in the heart of Baghdad] in this picture are really defending their country and have no alternative. The Sunni-Baathist minority that ruled Iraq for so many years has been invited, indeed begged, to join in this election and to share in the design and wealth of post-Saddam Iraq.

As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, "These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age." They are a tiny minority who want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. It's time we called them by their real names.

However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.

Indeed, they haven't even bothered to tell us otherwise. They have counted on the fact that the Bush administration is so hated around the world that any opponents will be seen as having justice on their side. Well, they do not. They are murdering Iraqis every day for the sole purpose of preventing them from exercising that thing so many on the political left and so many Europeans have demanded for the Palestinians: "the right of self-determination."

What is terrifying is that the noble sacrifice of our soldiers, while never in vain, may not be enough. We may actually lose in Iraq. The vitally important may turn out to be the effectively impossible.

We may lose because of the defiantly wrong way that Donald Rumsfeld has managed this war and the cynical manner in which Dick Cheney, George Bush and - with some honorable exceptions - the whole Republican right have tolerated it. Many conservatives would rather fail in Iraq than give liberals the satisfaction of seeing Mr. Rumsfeld sacked. We may lose because our Arab allies won't lift a finger to support an election in Iraq - either because they fear they'll be next to face such pressures, or because the thought of democratically elected Shiites holding power in a country once led by Sunnis is anathema to them.

We may lose because most Europeans, having been made stupid by their own weakness, would rather see America fail in Iraq than lift a finger for free and fair elections there.

As is so often the case, the statesman who framed the stakes best is the British prime minister, Tony Blair. Count me a "Blair Democrat." Mr. Blair, who was in Iraq this week, said: "Whatever people's feelings or beliefs about the removal of Saddam Hussein and the wisdom of that, there surely is only one side to be on in what is now very clearly a battle between democracy and terror. On the one side you have people who desperately want to make the democratic process work, and want to have the same type of democratic freedoms other parts of the world enjoy, and on the other side people who are killing and intimidating and trying to destroy a better future for Iraq."