.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cracker Squire


My Photo
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, June 30, 2005

School systems, lower tax bases and the proximity to larger towns for commuting purposes are all cited as reasons why people move to small towns.

The Macon Telegraph reports that four of Georgia's six cities with more than 90,000 people have experienced a populaton decline since 2000 -- Macon, Savannah, Columbus and Augusta-Richmond County.

"The middle and upper-middle class people are fleeing to the suburbs," said Douglas C. Bachtel, a professor at the University of Georgia's College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Athens-Clarke County and Atlanta have grown 0.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

Bachtel said the higher-income residents are essential to cities because they tend to support civic organizations, such as parent-teacher groups, Rotary clubs and soup kitchens, that supplement city governments' efforts to maintain strong communities.

"They form the foot soldiers of these volunteer organizations," said Bachtel, who has been studying census trends for 25 years. "When they leave, the government is left to get the people back on track."

Despite the population loss, Macon will continue to draw investors, said Pat Topping, senior vice president with Macon Economic Development Commission.

Topping said Macon's central location and interstate access are prominent factors for companies looking to build. As long as people are willing to commute to work, companies would still rather build in Macon and pull their work force from the surrounding areas, he said.

And those areas are growing. Warner Robins, Gray and Forsyth have each grown more than 14 percent during the 2000-2004 period.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling in New London, Connecticut case has members of state GOP being guilty of the pot calling the kettle black.

Today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution James Salzer reports:

Leading Georgia Republicans, some of whom earlier this year backed legislation that critics said encouraged government to seize people's land for economic development, are now promising to protect property rights after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week on eminent domain.

The flurry of activity comes just a few months after several Republican legislators backed a bill critics said would have done almost exactly what the Supreme Court later ruled was legal. Senate Bill 5, which was co-sponsored by [State Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah)], died in a legislative committee in February after a public outcry.

"If John Kerry is a flip-flop, what is Eric Johnson?" Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) said. "You talk about the ultimate hypocrisy."

Iraq is beginning to look like Vietnam. I know Iraq is not Vietnam. But Tuesday night it sure sounded like it.

Echoes of Vietnam

By Richard Cohen
The Washington Post

About two years ago I sat down with a colleague and explained why Iraq was not going to be Vietnam. Iraq lacked a long-standing nationalist movement and a single charismatic leader like Ho Chi Minh. The insurgents did not have a sanctuary like North Vietnam, which supplied manpower, materiel and leadership, and the rebel cause in Iraq -- just what is it, exactly? -- was not worth dying for. On Tuesday President Bush proved me wrong. Iraq is beginning to look like Vietnam.

The similarity is most striking in the language the president used. First came the vast, insulting oversimplifications. The war in Iraq was tied over and over again to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, although that link was nonexistent. The Sept. 11 commission said in plain English that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Even a line such as we must "defeat them abroad before they attack us at home" had a musty, Vietnam-era sound to it. Whether it's true or not, it is an updated version of the domino theory: if not Saigon then San Francisco.

Second, just as Lyndon Johnson and others referred to communism as if it were a worldwide monolith, so Bush talks about terrorists. He mentioned "terrorists" 23 times, and while he also occasionally employed the word "insurgents," his emphasis was on the wanton murders of the former and not the political aims of the latter. He even cited the terrorist leader and al Qaeda associate "Zarqawi" by name, saying the United States would never "abandon the Iraqi people to men" like him -- strongly suggesting that he was the problem in Iraq. Abu Musab Zarqawi, though, is only part of the problem.

Bush sounded downright Johnsonian in talking about progress in Iraq. He cited rebuilt "roads and schools and health clinics," not to mention improvements in "sanitation, electricity and water." This, too, had a familiar ring. We got the same sort of statistics in Vietnam. Some of them were simply concocted, but most, I think, were sort of true. Roads were paved, schools were opened and village councils were elected -- and yet, somehow, it never mattered. The newly elected village council could meet in the newly opened school and get there on a newly paved road -- and spend the night planning an attack on U.S. forces. It is all so depressing.

In Vietnam, it took the United States forever to recognize that it was fighting not international communism but a durable and vibrant nationalist movement led by communists. Something similar may be happening in Iraq. Yes, foreign terrorists are flocking to the country. But the Sunni insurgency is a different thing. The Sunnis may work with foreign terrorists and gladly use their expertise, but their goals are not the same. The salient and depressing fact remains that no insurgency can survive for long without either the cooperation or the apathy of the populace. Someone's making bombs, and someone's not turning him in. Bush may extol Iraqi democracy, but at the moment not enough Iraqis feel it is worth dying for.

Finally, Bush descended to Vietnam-speak. This is the language used by the Johnson and Nixon administrations to obscure the truth by emitting a fog of numbers. Thus Bush cited the "8 million Iraqi men and women" who voted, the "30 nations" with troops in Iraq (a total joke, and the president knows it), the "40 countries" and "three international organizations" that have pledged "$34 billion" in reconstruction assistance (another joke), the "80 countries" that recently met in Brussels to aid Iraq, and the "160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions" -- one of them being, clearly, to stay out of harm's way.

The war Bush declared to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction is not the war being waged. The two have only one thing in common: rhetorical sleight of hand. Yet the consequences of pulling out of Iraq would be awful. The day Saigon fell I was ashamed for my country -- an ugly, disgraceful retreat. I don't want that to happen again. But unless Bush rethinks his strategy, fires some people who long ago earned dismissal, examines his own assumptions (what's the point of continuing to isolate Iran and Syria when we need them both to seal Iraq's borders?) and talks turkey to the American people, he will lose everything good he set out to do, including the example Iraq could set for the rest of the Middle East. I know Iraq is not Vietnam. But Tuesday night it sure sounded like it.

Immigration Plan May Have Gone Awry.

According to the Washington Post:

The Bush administration's guest worker plan has actually helped fuel illegal immigration because some believed President Bush is offering amnesty . . . .

The administration proposed early last year to allow undocumented workers living in the United States to legally hold jobs. The plan would give legal status to as many as 8 million immigrants for up to six years, provided they remained employed. The plan would not necessarily place them on the path to citizenship or permanent residence.

The proposal was backed by the business community, opposed by many immigrant advocacy groups and languished in Congress. Some Republicans have criticized the plan as tantamount to amnesty, a characterization the administration has rejected.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Biden says he can win in the red states. - Goal: unite 'red' and 'blue' states, big cities and small towns, and Americans of all walks of life.

The Hill reports:

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who is rarely thought of as a centrist, plans to take his presidential campaign to red states and rural voters in a bid to show that he has the quality that many party strategists say is key to winning the 2008 presidential primary: electability.

Biden yesterday announced the formation of a leadership political action committee, Unite Our States, with the purpose of electing a candidate "committed to addressing the challenges facing our country by beginning to unite 'red' and 'blue' states, big cities and small towns, and Americans of all walks of life."

By stressing the importance of unifying Americans, Biden is marching on to territory already being surveyed by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who is also laying the groundwork for a 2008 presidential run.

Democratic strategists' conventional wisdom says the 2008 primary will boil down to a contest between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-runner, and a "not Hillary" candidate. A strategy emerging among those vying to be the alternative to Clinton, particularly Biden and Bayh, is to emphasize their ability to unite Americans. The implication is that Clinton is a divider.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What else has happened that should be making Ralph Reed cringe? Well, how about this editorial from his hometown newspaper.

Friends, just because somebody has name recognition does not automatically mean they are the best person for the job.

I have had only one face-to-face conversation with Mr. Reed and that was a couple of years ago in the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce parking lot after some large meeting or other. He is very smart and very, very smooth, but my you-know-what detector kept bleeping and I could not make it quit. Now he is running for high elected office in my state, but I believe he really has his eye on Governor and then on the top job in Washington, D.C., which is somewhat scary for a moderate Republican to contemplate. Even before this Alabama gambling mess involving the Choctaw Indians and their highly profitable casinos, I did not think that Ralph Reed was the face I wanted to see for Georgia. No.

(The [Duluth] Weekly.)

Shipp notes yet another possible Democratic candidate who might be persuaded to take on GOP nominee for Lt. Gov.

Some Democratic legislative leaders are looking for a high-profile candidate to take on Republican favorite Ralph Reed for lieutenant governor next year.

They believe Reed has been seriously wounded in current Senate hearings that connect him to high-roller lobbyist Jack Abramoff and millions of dollars in lobbying fees from Indian casinos. One name mentioned as a possible challenger: freshman state Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, daughter of the late Gov. Ernest Vandiver and a well-known community activist. She earlier said she plans to run for the state Senate next year.

(Bill Shipp in The Athens Observer.)

Shipp: Time to take the next step past civil rights era.

This week Bill Shipp -- never one to mince words -- has some courageous advice:

The civil rights era was a defining time for this country. We are a better people today because of what brave men and women did in the 1950s and 1960s. We also are fortunate leaders of the movement were dedicated to nonviolence. Violence-bent organizers might have bequeathed a bloodier legacy.

Having said that, I believe it is time that we moved on. The civil rights era is like the Civil War. It is fading into history.

The Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council have disappeared. Jim Crow is dead. Black people in the South are no longer required to explain the Constitution's commerce clause in order to vote. Black elected officials abound. An African-American middle class is expanding exponentially.

A new generation of black leaders - perhaps a generation who never experienced the degradation of segregation laws - may be needed to break the black predisposition to venerate images and ignore present-day realities. Holding officials to an equal standard of accountability would be a good first step.

Friday, June 24, 2005

More from Jim Galloway on Reed's unfolding Casiogate.

Jim Galloway continues his Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting on Ralph Reed:

Rusty Paul, a lobbyist and former chairman of the state GOP, attended a meeting of Republican chairmen from the state's congressional districts Wednesday, the day the e-mails were released.

"Everybody went around the room and talked about it. Most people thought the story would be over in four or five months," said Paul, who hasn't taken sides in the race. "I haven't seen any evidence of criminality — maybe naiveté — yet. It's still a little bit early to see what the impact of this is."

Paul said it would be hard to pry away Reed's base of religious conservatives. "Among 'movement conservatives,' there's a sense that the media is trying to kill [Reed]," the former chairman said. "They're nervous. They hope there's no other shoe to drop. But they're hanging with him."

Paul said he doubts the controversy has hampered Reed's ability to raise funds for his campaign. But Paul said one of Reed's strengths — his presence on television as a photogenic spokesman for the Republican agenda — has been curtailed.

As I noted in a post yesterday entitled "It keeps getting worse for Reed with respect to something called telling the truth. The Washington Post's take," the issue of telling the truth is now in play.

I got a phone call this morning agreeing with my post about how things were heating up with respect to Reed because of the recently released e-mails, and the issue of truth now being on the table. I noted that at this point the average guy out there who knows the media is writing about Reed does not care to know and understand the details.

They basically think that up to this point it has been a Democrat versus Republican. But now that the issue of truth is a factor, this is something they want know about and sure understand what lying means. We are into a different game altogether.

Placing Ads Site Unseen Part of Risk on Wild Web.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The Web has flourished as a freewheeling medium that gives any interest an audience. But as big business has tried to capitalize on those audiences, advertisers increasingly find their brands popping up in the Internet's darkest corners.

Yahoo Inc., the most popular Internet site, shut down all of its user-created chat rooms this week after three blue-chip companies found their online ads running alongside discussions of sex with children.

PepsiCo Inc., State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulled at least some ads from Yahoo earlier this year in an incident that underscores the risks posed when the masses create their own media.

Ads from the three companies appeared with Yahoo chat rooms bearing such titles as "Girls 13 and Under for Older Guys."

The spending & tax cutting by Bush team is out of control. It will be a miracle if there is no implosion in the economy in next 3 years.

On 11-06-05, I wrote:

"I think that, unless Bush comes through big time in his second chance administration, he will go down as one of country's worst presidents."

Is he doing any better? No, it has gotten worse. The following from one of my favorite columnists, Thomas Friedman who writes for the New York Times, gives some insight about maybe why Bush is doing so terrible. I know it is lengthy, but it is worth reading.

Run, Dick, Run

By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
June 22, 2005

George Bush has a Dick Cheney problem.

It's not the one you think: an overbearing, archconservative vice president imposing his will and ideas on a less-seasoned president.

No, George Bush has a different V.P. problem. It is the fact that his vice president has made clear that he is not running for president after Mr. Bush's term expires in 2008. So Mr. Bush has no heir apparent. And that explains, in part, why his second term is drifting aimlessly, disconnected from the problems facing the country.

"If President Bush had a vice president, or someone who was clearly designated as heir apparent to his administration, [the president] would have a more immediate incentive to widen his political base, to offer policies that would appeal more to the center," argued Don Baer, a former senior adviser to President Clinton. But if one looks at the sorts of policies that Mr. Bush has chosen, or not chosen, for his second term, it suggests that Mr. Bush "is not thinking of the bigger implications" for three years down the road, Mr. Baer added.

For instance, the spending and tax cutting by the Bush team is ridiculously out of control. It will be a miracle if there is no market-induced implosion in the economy or the housing market in the next three years. But you can bet the farm there will have to be a huge correction after 2008 to get taxes and spending back in line. If Mr. Bush had a V.P. who was clearly anointed to succeed him, and whose success would be viewed as part of Mr. Bush's own legacy, it is hard to believe the president wouldn't be interested in a more sane fiscal policy. One thing for sure, his vice president would be.

Instead, Mr. Bush seems to be governing as though he were on a permanent campaign - much like Bill Clinton did. But Bill Clinton was on a permanent presidential campaign. Mr. Bush seems to be governing as if he were on a permanent primary campaign against John McCain in South Carolina.

So far, the second Bush term, to the extent that it has any discernible agenda, seems to be to cater to the far-right wing of his party - period. It's been urgent midnight meetings about Terri Schiavo and barely a daylight session about energy.

With gasoline prices soaring, and the biggest beneficiaries being the very Arab dictatorships who are tacitly sponsoring the terrorists killing Americans in Iraq, it is blindingly obvious that our country needs a comprehensive strategy for reducing our energy consumption and developing alternative fuel systems. The president has utterly failed in this regard.

To travel around America today is to find a country also deeply concerned about education, competition, health care and pensions. It is a country worried about how its kids are going to find jobs, retire and take care of elderly parents. But instead of focusing on a new New Deal to address the insecurities of the age of globalization, the president set off on his second term to take apart the old New Deal, trying to privatize Social Security, only feeding people's anxiety. It won't fly.

Yes, Mr. Bush has laid down a bold proposal for also fixing Social Security, but by not putting that front and center, it has gotten lost behind his private accounts obsession, which is not the country's priority. A president with a V.P. running behind him never would have let that happen.
Mr. Bush would also not be taking the head-in-sand positions he has in opposition to stem cell research, climate change, population control and evolution - positions from which centrist Republicans are now distancing themselves. Just last week, the Senate's top Republican energy-bill negotiator, Senator Pete Domenici, split from Mr. Bush and indicated that he believes the science is clear - climate change is occurring - and we need to do something about it.

If Mr. Bush's hope is to make the Republican Party into a permanent majority party and sustain his legacy, he would have picked a handful of significant proposals to widen the party's circle - especially with the Democrats so clearly out of ideas. But instead of widening and broadening, by focusing on getting things accomplished that would benefit the vast middle of the country, Mr. Bush is catering to right-wing fetishes.

If this is how he intends to use his political capital, that's his business. But if Mr. Bush had a vice president with an eye on 2008, I have to believe he or she would be saying to the president right now: "Hey boss. What are you doing? Where are you going? How am I going to get elected running on this dog's breakfast of antiscience, head-in-the-sand policies?"

Karl Rove's exact words concerning "liberals."

According to today's Washington Post, the exact language Karl Rove used in a speech Wednesday to the New York state Conservative Party was, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Would President Bush will ask Rove to apologize? White House press secretary Scott McClellan replies to reporters, "Of course not."

As we witness the smugness, arrogance and insularity among senior officials of the Bush administration, recall the Greek Tragedies and the word the Greeks had for this trait -- hubris. It was their explanation of why big shots -- the rich, the famous, the powerful -- do the inexplicable things they sometimes do and often destroy themselves doing them.

Three thousand years later, it's still as good an explanation as any of what seems to be going on now in the White House.

Dick Morris: These accusations are highly personal & have little bearing on what kind of president Hillary would make.

The following are excerpts from a piece Dick Morris wrote that appears in The Hill:

I am no defender of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, to put it mildly. But the recent charges in Ed Klein’s book to the effect that she is a closet homosexual or that Bill raped her and that this act triggered Chelsea’s conception are as crazy as the list that was circulating around of the 20 or so people the Clintons allegedly had killed.

These accusations do not belong in our public dialogue. They hit below the belt and tend to discredit the more serious and sober concerns so many of us have about the danger she would present in high office.

How can anyone say if the charges are true? Ed Klein is a respected author, a former editor in chief of The New York Times Magazine and the foreign editor for Newsweek. He would not have written these charges without some substantiation. But these accusations (in The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President) are highly personal and have little bearing on what kind of president Hillary would make.

Bill Clinton made a fine president on domestic issues because of his ability to find common ground in the center of our process.

Criticize Hillary all you want. She deserves every bit of it. But let’s stay within the foul lines, shall we?

(The above is the nice part of a rather critical article about Hillary.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It keeps getting worse for Reed with respect to something called telling the truth. The Washington Post's take.

Today's Washington Post reported this with regard to Ralph Reed:

Material released yesterday also appeared to undermine assertions by former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, now a candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor.

Reed has acknowledged receiving $4 million from Abramoff and Scanlon to run anti-gambling campaigns in the South. Reed has said he did not know where the funds were coming from, but e-mails suggest that he was aware that some of the money he was getting came from the casino-rich Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

I spared my readers of the details of Jim Galloway's article today. Most probably don't care about the exact chapter and verses, but there is one thing I do believe that Georgians care about. Did the man tell us the truth or did he lie. Based on the ongoing hearings in Washington and the e-mails that were released yesterday, it appears that Mr. Reed did the latter. This Georgians will care about.

And I need to throw this in as an afterthought. Jim Galloway may yet get a Pulitizer on his reporting of this matter, and I am serious about this, very serious. Thanks for a good and thorough job of investigative reporting Jim.

Indian Affairs panel hears 'tale of betrayal.'

The following comes from today's The Hill:

Embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff was an avatar of greed and contempt who betrayed his friends and associates, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asserted yesterday.

McCain, presiding over the third of four scheduled hearings by the Indian Affairs Committee on Abramoff’s questionable business dealings with Indian tribes involved with gambling, turned the spotlight on Abramoff client the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, which he represented from 1995 to 2004.

“Today’s hearing is about more than contempt, even more than greed,” McCain said. “It is simple and sadly a tale of betrayal.”

Although many observers had expected this hearing to focus on the Choctaws’ payments to prominent conservative groups, including Americans for Tax Reform and a company led by Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed, McCain instead steered toward less politically sensitive targets.

Fellow Republicans have expressed displeasure with McCain’s investigation, suggesting that he may be using the probe to strike back at conservative political foes.

E-mails: Reed knew tribal money funded anti-gambling campaigns. - This is big folks, maybe as big as it gets on this particular issue.

Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today that lobbyist Jack Abramoff sought guidance from political strategist Ralph Reed in disguising Indian tribal money sent to anti-gambling campaigns whose leaders were wary of accepting casino cash, according to documents released Wednesday. The e-mail exchanges also indicate that Reed knew from the beginning of his professional association with Abramoff in 1999 that a Mississippi Indian tribe with casino interests was bankrolling much of his anti-gambling activity in Alabama against a state-sponsored lottery and video poker.

(Almost as a footnote to such a big story, the e-mails indicate that Abramoff also earmarked $10,000 in Choctaw money for Reed's successful 2001 campaign for chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.)

Folks, this might be as big as it gets. In a 5-23-05 post entitled "And what kind of other tribal enterprises other than gambling did he have in mind, one that sold tomahawks or miniture tepees?," I wrote:

"I think these recent revelations open the door to the possibility that Ralph Reed will decide to call it quits, and come out with some statement to the effect that he tried to offer himself for public service, but is being met with the politics of personal destruction, etc. (something he knows a lot about when someone else is on the hot seat).

"For me and my money's worth, I would like to see him stay in. As I have noted, his getting into this race is the best thing that can happen to the Democratic Party of Georgia."

Is this getting more and more likely? I think the answer has to be yes, especially in light of his earlier repeated denials of this and the impact this race is having on his business according to various reports we have seen.

Democrats Fear GOP Push on Flag-Burning & with justification; their knees are wobby.

A 6-23-05 Associated Press article notes:

Symbols are everything in politics. They can get you elected -- or defeated. That's why Democrats fear getting singed by a proposed flag-burning ban, forced into a vote that Republicans will cast as a test of patriotism.

The GOP-led House voted 286-130 on a measure Wednesday that would give Congress authority to ban desecration of a U.S. flag. Its prospects aren't good in the Senate, but Republicans could still get what they want _ an issue that divides or even conquers Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Democratic Party leaders generally don't want to tamper with free-speech rights in the Constitution, but they were split on whether to bow to political pressure. After all, the flag means more than ever after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and Republicans are not shy about evoking Sept. 11 in political fights.

They did it in the 2002 congressional elections, gaining seats, and again in 2004, when terrorism remained the defining issue of congressional races and President Bush's re-election bid. Republicans returned to Sept. 11 in the flag-burning debate.

[T]he issue "makes Democrats' knees wobbly" . . . .

It will not be an easy vote, as evidenced by the carefully worded statement issued by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I support federal legislation that would outlaw flag desecration, much like laws that currently prohibit the burning of crosses, but I don't believe a constitutional amendment is the answer," she said, adopting a position similar to the one taken by her husband, former President Clinton, when he was in office.

Her aides said there is no contradiction in being against the flag-burning amendment and for a flag-burning law.

Democrats can't afford to continue putting themselves in a position of having the perception of being against God and guns and unwilling to defend the flag, the symbol of our great country. As Hillary is doing, we must choose our words with care.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Having it both ways. Maybe the adage "Is you is or is you ain't" does not apply to Ralph Reed with respect to Georgia's lottery.

This week Bill Shipp writes:

TOGETHER AGAIN: Seems like only yesterday that former Gov. Zell Miller, father of the Georgia lottery, traveled to Alabama to help Gov. Don Siegelman campaign for a lottery in that state. At the same time, Miller's former protégé, Ralph Reed, also descended on Alabama to spearhead a full-time drive against Siegelman's "evil" lottery. Reed's side won. Alabamans voted against a state lottery and later voted Siegelman out of office.

Now Miller, 73, and Reed, who turns 44 Friday, are again best of buddies and enthusiastic political allies. Miller is helping Reed raise campaign funds to run for lieutenant governor in Georgia. Reed, of course, says he is completely in favor of Miller's Georgia lottery and wouldn't dream of trying to tamper with it if he wins next year's election. Reed also says he didn't know Indian casino money was used to underwrite his 1999 anti-lottery war in Alabama.

You have to wonder if any Alabama voters ever look enviously at Georgia's lottery-financed HOPE scholarships and wonder whether pied-piper Reed once led them down the wrong path - for the wrong reasons.

Last summer in Savannah at GABEO former Savannah Alderman David Jones asked U.S. senatorial candidate Cliff Oxford a question in a way that Jones knew would -- and it did -- bring the down the house. Jones said "Mr. Oxford, is you is or is you ain't?"

Oxford smiled until he heard what followed, that being the question why he had not voted since 1996.

Next summer former Alderman David Jones might be able to ask Ralph Reed the same question about the lottery.

Senate Nears Deal on Estate Tax.

According to today's Wall Street Journal, Republican and Democratic senators are nearing a compromise that would permanently wipe out estate taxes for all but the very wealthiest Americans.

Negotiations call for the current exemption equivalent of $1.5 million going to more than $3 million after 2010.

Our firm does a lot of estate planning work, but nonetheless, I very much favor this change. It was part of my platform last summer. Getting the U.S. House of Representatives to go along will be a walk in the park. It has voted several times to completely repeal the federal estate tax (although it is best that this not be done; what the Senate is working toward is best because of something called carryover basis).

Democrats Press Bush Harder On Iraq. Words Reflect Drop in Public Support for War.

According to the 6-11-05 Washington Post:

Congressional Democrats, after months of sporadic and often tepid critiques of the administration's handling of the Iraq war, are sharpening their criticisms and demanding that President Bush say more about the mission's difficulties and his plans for surmounting them.

[O]nly the most left-leaning Democrats have called for specific changes to Bush's policies, such as setting a schedule for withdrawing U.S. troops. Most Democrats are sticking to familiar themes, such as urging allies to help pacify Iraq and to train Iraqi troops and police.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Particularly in the House, “hawks” circled to assure the outcome if even a Republican was brave enough to dissent.

What's being killed?

The Rome News-Tribune
June 21, 2006

THOSE WHO hoped Republicans were merely “feeling their oats” in clamping down on debate, discourse and discussion when they achieved control of the General Assembly may want to start losing hope.

Legislatures are supposed to be debating societies where ideas are argued — and may the best one win. They’re not intended to be rubber stamps doing little other than OK’ing whatever some party’s leadership decides to do.

In this year’s General Assembly session, citizens saw their elected representatives — especially if not members of the dominant party — regularly silenced. Particularly in the House, “hawks” circled to assure the outcome if even a Republican was brave enough to dissent. Bills were regularly blocked from the consideration of amendments. Opponents were refused recognition, and thus could not speak, or were cut off in mid-argument.

After more than a century of being relegated to the back benches it might be understandable that Republicans would be inclined to flex their muscles and engage in “pay back” — although, come to think of it, they themselves were never treated quite this severely when Democrats held sway.

CERTAINLY, the assumption would be that after one session in which they “delivered the message” that Republicans might allow the people’s representatives, all of them, to get a word or two in. After all, unlike in the national Congress, there is no such thing as a filibuster possible in the state legislature.

Alas, worse things may now be in the offing.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, has revealed that he has ordered a “kill switch” installed at the chamber’s podium, giving as his reasons that this would be in the interest of common courtesy and maintaining a sense of decorum. It will allow Richardson to, in effect, push a button and silence, by cutting off the microphone sound, anyone who is saying anything that he finds offensive.

“I will use that sparingly,” Richardson promised. “I hope I never have to use it.” Specifically cited was the instance where Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, held the floor and started singing a civil-rights anthem in opposition to the photo ID measure for voters.

DEMOCRATS, needless to say, are suspicious as to the purity of Richardson’s motives. So should citizens be, as at minimum it sets a troubling precedent. Will Republicans next demand advance copies of anything a representative of the people plans to say?

“I don’t believe he is going to use the kill switch just when someone speaks too long,” said Rep. Tom Bordeaux, D-Savannah. “I fear he is going to use it when things that he and his administration don’t want to hear start being said.”

That is indeed the fear. “Hawks” were used sparingly during the session — but they were used. “Engrossing” bills so they could not be changed wasn’t common (and seemingly limited to the most controversial topics) but it did happen.

Just as with the procedure of the local County Commission, where “advance notice” of a citizen wanting to speak (and about what) is required else that taxpayer will not be recognized, has been an annoyance to many, such restrictions fly in the face of “free speech.” Cutting someone off who is spouting obscenities or such might be understandable, but gagging them because they don’t agree with what is proposed?

THAT MAY BE a great way to run a railroad but it is a poor way to run a republic. The distance between gagging dissenters and strangling representative government is a small one.

Rick Thompson probably won't challenge Attorney General Baker since Thompson is going to work for the GTLA.

A Monday post noted that former U.S. Attorney Rick Thompson has been hired as a lobbyist for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association ("GTLA").

A rumor had been floating out there that Thompson had some interest in challenging Thurbert Baker for Attorney General.

The announcement that Thompson is going to work for the GTLA would seem to remove him from any possibility of running against our friend Attorney General Baker. I suspect but do not know for sure that it was part of Thompson's arrangement with the GTLA.

This leaves Republican Robert Highsmith of Atlanta, formerly deputy counsel to the governor, as the only likely GOP candidate running against Baker next year.

As noted in our 5-10-05 post about Robert Highsmith being a candidate, the Attorney General has been gearing up for a challenge since last summer.

Good luck Thurbert!! We'll be with you 100%.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Wonder if Roy Barnes will be paying his association dues this year?

Today's Political Insider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a truly shocking development:

To that recurrent question — how much have things changed at the Capitol? — here's another eyebrow-raising answer. Former U.S. attorney Rick Thompson has been hired as a lobbyist for the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.

While he was the attorney for the state's Southern District, Thompson was involved in several high-profile investigations of prominent Democrats. An internal Justice Department investigation found that Thompson abused his authority by threatening to launch an investigation of Gov. Roy Barnes and state Sen. Van Streat during their 2002 re-election campaigns.

Thompson also launched the investigation of Sen. Charles Walker (D-Augusta), which led to his conviction earlier this month. Walker attempted to have the case dropped because of Thompson's involvement but was rebuffed.

But none of those folks are going to be at the Capitol in January. And the trial lawyers group, known to lean Democratic, was frank in its explanation for bringing Thompson onto its team.

"Following a 2005 legislative session that was controlled entirely by Republicans for the first time in more than 130 years and that saw the passage of a number of bills that severely restricted Georgia citizens' ability to secure justice in the court system, the trial lawyers association has been working to improve and expand its relationships with elected officials within the Republican Party," a news release announcing Thompson's new job said.

Hiring the former bane of Democrats is "yet another part of our overall effort to reach out to the Republican members of the Georgia General Assembly," association president Glenn Kushel said. Thompson, in the same release, said he has "always strongly believed that maintaining a fair and balanced civil justice system is absolutely consistent with the core principles of the Georgia Republican Party."

Rick Thompson's investigation of my then state senator Van Streat cost both Rick Thompson and Van Streat their jobs. Thompson was forced to resign as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, and Van Streat lost his state senate seat to Tommie Williams.

Old times there are not forgotten -- Tobacco markets open this week, Part II.

One of the first posts on the blog was done on 8-4-04 and was entitled "Old times there are not forgotten -- Tobacco markets open this week." It concluded:

The times, they are a-changing.

And indeed the time are changing. That 8-4-04 post is repeated below as an introduction to just how much they have changed in the agricultural world.

(I know this is a political blog, but all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. Loosen up and learn a little about what for many of your fellow Georgians is the passing of a way of life.)

The 8-4-04 post is below, and the post that follows is a update from another Associated Press about a friend and client of mine in Coffee County. The 8-4-04 post:

Old times there are not forgotten -- Tobacco markets open this week.

An Associated Press article in the Albany Herald on 8-3 notes that the "[e]xperts say enthusiasm at the tobacco markets has waned the past few years."

Down here in South Georgia any of us could have told you as much; we don't need an expert.

On 8-4 Tommy Irvin, Georgia's commissioner of agriculture, will be on his 36th annual tobacco tour, visiting markets here in Douglas and then onto Nashville. I probably won't go. A couple of years ago not going would have been similar to a kid missing a circus coming to town in the 50's -- you just didn't do it.

As noted in the Associated Press story, changes in the landscape of the golden leaf have turned a once ballyhooed event into almost an afterthought.

About 80 percent of the flue-cured crop in the past couple of years has bypassed the auction system, with farmers selling their crop directly to cigarette makers. That trend is expected to hold again.

Gone are the days when the opening of the tobacco markets was one of the most exciting days of the year. Buyers arrived in stylish cars to bid on tobacco that was world renowned. Farm families poured into town to spend more freely than usual. And growers in bib overalls gathered in the warehouses to hear the singsong chant of the auctioneers.

One thing that has not changed is the aromatic smell of tobacco. It still fills the auction warehouses and receiving points where farmers deliver contract tobacco.

"It still has a pleasant smell, and it still smells like money to most tobacco farmers."

I still think about the "smell of money" when I pass a tobacco warehouse in Douglas on my long Saturday morning run during this time of year. In the "old days" local merchants would carry farmers all year, knowing they would be paid when the cash crop came in.

The times, they are a-changing.

Old times there are not forgotten -- Tobacco markets open this week, Part III.

Van Grantham is a friend and client who used to grow tobacco in Coffee County. I hope you enjoy excerpts from this article from the 6-19-05 Macon Telegraph about Van and his older brother Jimmy:

The last harvest: As quota system ends, farmers are quitting tobacco

What Van Grantham will miss is the aroma - broad leaves, slowly curing in the barn at the crest of summer, their sugary juices preserved in a product that was the envy of the world.

The smell of south Georgia flue-cured tobacco, done right, was as good as money in the bank.

"You could walk up to a barn, and you could smell it and you could tell what stage it was in," said Grantham. "When you done it 30 years, you can tell what's going on."

Grantham, 48, and his older brother Jimmy, 65, built their lives around tobacco, just like their father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

It was the mainstay and the mortgage-lifter, the lifeblood of the farm. It meant college education for the kids and a retirement check in the autumn of life.

And now it's gone.

The Granthams made their final tobacco crop last year. This year, like about half of Georgia's tobacco farmers, they planted none. Although some farmers are gambling that they can survive without federal price supports, competing without a safety net on the world market, the Granthams and many others have called it quits.

"We just elected not to do it because the profit wasn't there," Jimmy Grantham said.

End of the quota system

All of Jimmy Grantham's life, tobacco has held a special place in the shelter of the law.

In 1938, Congress set up a tobacco quota system. It was a lifesaver for Depression-era farmers, holding down production to control supply and guaranteeing a minimum price.

Over time, a farmer's quota became a prize possession, something he could sell, lease or pass down like a family heirloom.

But all of that changed last year when Congress abolished the quota system and offered tobacco farmers a $10.1 billion buyout. Paid for by tobacco companies, not tax dollars, it set up a 10-year plan to compensate quota owners and tobacco producers for the loss of the price support system. Friday marked the deadline to sign up for the buyout.

From now on, a tobacco farmer will contract directly with tobacco companies such as Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds. Moore said contract prices this year are about 35 cents to 45 cents below last year's guaranteed price of $1.85 per pound.

Auction time

Jimmy and Van Grantham grew up in Coffee County, in the heart of Georgia tobacco country.

father had three or four acres of tobacco. As he cropped it in stages, he cured the harvested leaves in a stick barn.

"He would put the tobacco in the house after it was cured," Jimmy Grantham recalled. "It was that valuable a crop."

Van Grantham said tobacco auction time used to be like a county fair.

"They would have a parade, a square dance in the street," he said. "All the tobacco buyers would come to town. The Douglas market was the biggest tobacco market in the state."

As the farmers brought their harvest to the cavernous warehouses, it was first-come, first-served.

"The farmers would be lined up with their pickup trucks with three or four tobacco sheets on them. They'd have 'em covered up in case it rained," he said. "It wouldn't be nothing for them to be lined up for a half a mile."

Or to line up a day in advance and spend the night.

"I can remember spending the night on top of the tobacco, sleeping on it," Van Grantham said.

Buyers would walk up and down, grading the tobacco. The auctioneers would make their machine-gun patter.

"Oh, man; as the saying goes, it was music," Van Grantham said.

A thousand an acre

Jimmy Grantham was born at the start of the tobacco harvest season of 1940, two years after the quota system was enacted.

Each year, his birthday would find him laboring for spending money under the sweltering sun among the sticky tobacco leaves on his father's farm.

Later he worked at the tobacco warehouse where farmers trucked in their sheets of cured product to be weighed and sold.

In 1958, farming three acres of his own, he made enough money to buy a Pontiac, his first car.

After he married, Jimmy Grantham moved to his wife's family farm near Willacoochee in nearby Atkinson County. Tobacco wasn't their only crop.

They grew vegetables and cotton and raised hogs. But nothing compared with tobacco.

Through the 1970s and beyond, he said, a farmer who did things right and was blessed by the weather could expect to clear $1,000 an acre.

"There is nothing else out there that you can make that much of a return on," he said.

While Van stayed on the Grantham farm in Coffee County and Jimmy farmed near Willacoochee, the brothers helped each other. They shared their hired labor and worked each others' land.

"Jimmy is my brother (but) he's more like a daddy to me," Van said. "He taught me everything there was about tobacco."

Over the years, Jimmy Grantham invested in tobacco quota, buying up acreage from other farmers. He planned to lease out the right to grow tobacco during his retirement years. Now those plans have been overturned. He said the buyout will help offset but not undo the loss.

Changing times

Both the Grantham brothers used to smoke. Neither one does today, although when Jimmy is away from the house and the gaze of his wife, Margaret, he likes to hold a wad of tobacco in one cheek.

"Personally I don't advocate smoking," Van Grantham said. "I don't want my boys smoking. The way I've always felt about it, it's freedom of choice.
... I'd a lot rather pass a man coming down (Interstate) 75 smoking a cigarette than a man with a fifth of liquor turned up. (But) I'm not advocating smoking. I'm not endorsing it."

'Tobacco was a living'

Last year's Georgia tobacco crop amounted to about 47 million pounds, less than half of the 132-million-pound crop of 1970. Georgia farmers grew it on 23,000 acres, about a third of the 1970 tobacco acreage.

Now the want-ads are full of equipment that can hardly be used for anything but tobacco: tobacco strippers, tobacco balers and barns with built-in heat exchangers for the curing process

Van Grantham said his 84-year-old mother told him recently, "This is the first time she can ever remember tobacco not being grown on her home farm. And she said, 'What are you going to make a living with?' Because tobacco was a living for all of us."

Jimmy Grantham has three sons and Van has two. All the boys help on the farm. The family loves farm life - a way of living where you don't punch a time clock, and you can sit down to eat food that you grew yourself.

But family farms have been dwindling for years. The Granthams say the North American Free Trade Agreement is the latest culprit. American farmers now compete globally with farmers who earn pennies a day.

The Grantham brothers say they wish they could pass along the farming way of life to their boys, but they can't ignore reality.

"I'm going to encourage them to get an education - a college education," Van Grantham said. "And if they want to farm, they can hobby farm. ... The way NAFTA's done us, there's no way to make a living on a farm anymore, especially with tobacco gone. It's just tough nowadays. ...

"It's not a way to make a secure living anymore."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bush fighting to regain confidence of Americans.

Five months after starting his second term with high hopes, President Bush is struggling to regain the confidence of Americans concerned about the direction of the Iraq war and the U.S. economy.

With his job approval rating slumping to 42 percent in a poll by The New York Times and CBS News, down from 51 percent in the aftermath of the November election, Bush has begun an effort to refocus his presidency -- a move welcomed by anxious Republicans.

"I think Bush is in the process of regaining his footing, and focusing on real dinner-table issues," Republican consultant Scott Reed said.

Bush began his second term in January with an ambitious plan to overhaul the Social Security retirement program but it has failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill and many Americans are skeptical. The preoccupation over Social Security figured in the delay of his promised attempt to overhaul the tax code.

At the same time, he got caught up -- some Republicans say sidetracked -- in a battle on Capitol Hill over whether a brain-damaged Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, should be kept alive.

Then came a fight in the Senate over arcane rules about filibusters involving Bush's judicial nominees, and a protracted fight over his nominee to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.

Some Republicans believe those issues proved to be a distraction from Bush's agenda and showed he was out of touch.

The Iraqi insurgency also intensified, with increasingly brazen suicide bomb attacks despite Vice President Dick Cheney's bold assertion the rebellion was in its "last throes." At home, soaring gasoline prices took a bigger bite out of household budgets.

The White House is now scrambling to right the ship.

"In the weeks ahead, I will continue to focus on ways to ensure that our government takes the side of working families, and that America prevails in the war on terror," Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

Bush has a particularly tough task when it comes to Iraq amid a rising death toll and questions by Democrats about whether U.S. intelligence had been "fixed" around a policy that would inevitably lead to war with Iraq.

The theme will be to reassure Americans the war has been worth it and to urge patience in the goal of getting Iraqis trained sufficiently to allow U.S. troops to come home.

The Times/CBS poll said only 37 percent approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from 45 percent in February, while 51 percent thought the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, a slight drop from findings throughout the spring.

(6-19-05, The Washington Post.)

Unease Over Iraq Becoming an Issue for 2006 .

President Bush's policy in Iraq faces growing criticism in Congress, and now it is figuring into the early stages of the 2006 midterm elections. Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) launched his campaign for the Senate last week with a television commercial saying it's time to figure out how to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

Against a patriotic backdrop of U.S. servicemen and women, Ford praises U.S. military forces and then invokes the Fourth of July to conclude by saying, "Let's work hard to bring them home soon, and with honor, and make them as proud of us as we are of them."

Ford's decision to lead off his campaign in military-friendly Tennessee with a message playing on public impatience with the U.S. mission in Iraq suggests that politicians are sensing a shift in public opinion toward Bush's policy. The Democratic House member said he believes he is on solid ground politically by focusing attention on ending the U.S. mission there.

"Since September 11 [2001], the country and Congress have given the president the benefit of the doubt, from the Patriot Act to the efforts in Afghanistan to the resolution on Iraq to now the war and postwar efforts," Ford said in a telephone interview. "Now many people are realizing that a new approach and some new ideas are needed."

Ford anticipates attacks from GOP opponents questioning his support for the military but said he's prepared to defend his defense credentials in the coming campaign.

"I've supported our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan unflinchingly since 9/11," he said. "I think the greatest threat our policies face in Iraq is diminished public support. . . . I don't live by surveys, I live by what people are saying. I've traveled all across our state, and I'm hearing it from Republicans and Democrats alike."

(6-16-05, The Washington Post.)

A timeline of Ralph Reed's casino controversy.

May 2001
The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, which operates a large casino in Kinder, La., hires Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The tribe wants to prevent competition from other Indian casinos.

May 2001
Abramoff allegedly directs longtime friend Reed to manage a behind-the-scenes effort to close the Tigua Indians' casino in El Paso, Texas.

May 2001
As the Texas Legislature debates a bill authorizing tribal gaming, an organization called Committee Against Gambling Expansion runs radio ads that prompt a deluge of anti-casino telephone calls to lawmakers. The committee was incorporated by a Houston lobbyist who says Reed has been his client. The bill dies in the Texas Senate.

Late 2001 to early 2002
Reed organizes Texas pastors to provide what he calls "cover" for John Cornyn, then attorney general of Texas, who had filed a federal lawsuit to shut down the Tiguas' casino. The tribe and its supporters had said Cornyn would drive the Tiguas into poverty, but Reed mobilizes the pastors to counter with moral arguments against legalized gambling.

February 2002
As the Tiguas' casino is about to close, Abramoff approaches tribal leaders and offers to lobby Congress to reverse the state's actions. He and a partner, public relations consultant Michael Scanlon, collect $4.2 million in fees from the tribe.

March 2002
Abramoff enlists U.S. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) to sponsor an amendment allowing the Tiguas to reopen their casino.

August 2002
While the amendment is pending, Abramoff hires a jet to fly him, Ney and four others --- including Reed --- to play golf in Scotland. The Tiguas arranged for another tribe to pay $50,000 toward the cost of the trip.

October 2002
Ney drops the amendment, saying he had been "duped" by Abramoff.

September 2004
The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee conducts the first in a series of hearings to investigate Abramoff's dealings with the Tiguas and five other tribes he represented.

Sources: Documents released by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee; AJC interviews.

(6-19-06, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) (Complete story by Alan Judd at 6-19-05 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ralph Reed says how he will campaign in Georgia.

Ralph Reed, who has been national chairman of the Christian Coalition, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and had prominent roles in President Bush’s campaigns, tells a rally Friday how he intends to run his campaign in Georgia:

“My advice is we ignore the pundits, the polls and the press ... and stand for what’s right,’’ said Reed.

Reed left them with a plea to get busy. “We won by 537 votes,’’ he said, referring to the incredibly slim margin by which Bush won the White House in 2000.

“We won because people like us knocked on doors, made phone calls, stuffed envelopes and did all the grass-roots things. ... I’m asking you to do it one more time.’’

(6-18-05, The Gwinnett Daily Post.)

The AJC reports Ralph Reed's defining his campaign in event held in Atlanta with backer former Sen. Zell Miller. - No surprises.

The 6-18-05 Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed used a raucous rally Friday to define his campaign to become the first Republican lieutenant governor in Georgia history.

Reed staked out positions consistent with his background in the evangelical Christian movement: He's against abortion, for the right to bear arms. He's against higher government spending, for teaching morals in public schools.

Blasting Republican critics — including, implicitly, supporters of his opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville — who have described him as an "albatross" for the party, Reed said his values are "not a liability. They are the key to our majority status."*

"I will not flag. I will not fail. I will not retreat," Reed said. "I'm a mainstream, balanced-budget, tax-cutting, pro-family conservative."

* The guy is smooth. Here he is taking a shot at changing his liability into a plus when he says his values are "not a liability. They are the key to our majority status."

Mike Bowers & Zell Miller in the early going line up behind different GOP candidates for lieutenant governor.

The press has missed a headline with regard to an important event, but have no fear; we'll read something about it from Baxter & Galloway and Bill Shipp in the near future.

On Friday I posted the following:

I understand that Mike Bowers, Georgia’s former Attorney General, has endorsed Casey Cagle and did so surrounded by all the metro sheriffs who are also Republican (Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth, Cherokee, Dawson and Douglas).

In writing up Zell Miller and radio and TV talk-show host Sean Hannity being at the Cobb Galleria to boost Ralph Reed, the Saturday issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article covering the story noted the following:
The event — part fund-raiser, part celebration of Republican victories in Georgia and nationally — took place several hours after Cagle quietly announced the endorsements of seven Georgia sheriffs and former Attorney General Mike Bowers. Reed, though, was able to draw a crowd by appearing with two conservative icons: Miller and radio and TV talk-show host Sean Hannity.

But folks, Mike Bowers endorsing Casey Cagel is a story in and of itself, just as is Mike Bowers and Zell Miller having different horses in the race for lieutenant governor's race.

At one time they, along with former Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Moreland, were always together, often times being on the opposite side of former Speaker Tom Murphy.

This is a story for others to tell, and I am sure it will be sooner rather than later. But know this. Bowers coming out for Cagel -- especially in light of Miler being with the other man -- is a story in and of itself, and is very significant within the ranks of the GOP and in this race.

Iraq: The more things change the more they stay the same.

The following appeared as part of a story in Friday's Wall Street Journal:

Sunni Muslims make up an estimated 18% of Iraq's population, while Shiites make up about 65%. The two groups have long shared the same country and, in many cases, the same neighborhoods. The two branches of Islam -- which parted ways in the ninth century over leadership of the Muslim community -- have co-existed uneasily for hundreds of years throughout much of the Islamic world.

Saddam Hussein's regime was dominated by the Sunnis. The regime systematically persecuted Shiites in Iraq's south, as well as ethnic Kurds in the north, who make up about 15% of the country's population. Opposition groups aimed almost all of their ire at the Sunni leadership. But in many neighborhoods in Iraq . . . Shiites and Sunnis still managed to live peacefully as neighbors for decades under Mr. Hussein's rule.

This article, along with the Newsweek story that was the subject of a 6-17-05 post, made my mind flash back to something I wrote in a 10-5-04 post:

I have tried unsuccessfully to get what I am fixing to relate to Sen. Edwards' campaign prior to tonight's Vice Presidential debate. It concerns something Dick Cheney said while he was a private citizen on the lecture circuit about halfway between his service to Bush I as Secretary of Defense and becoming part of the Bush II team as Vice President.

What I heard I feel certain was said over and over as Mr. Cheney was on a lecture across the country. Some of the same thoughts are in Bush I's book, but dern if you hear anyting about it from the Kerry camp.

The lecture was at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, as part of something called the Florida Forum Series. This series seeks to bring some of the world's most widely known public figures to Jacksonville, Florida, with the series benefiting Wolfson Children's Hospital.

The last lecture I attended there was in September 2002, and the lecturer was Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a fascinating evening program and presentation wise.

Anyway, when Cheney was in Jacksonville in the mid-90's, he had no reason to fabricate, exaggerate, etc. Bush I had been retired, and Bush II was still just a cowboy.

After a fascinating lecture, a person in the audience asked the following question: Mr. Secretary, after American troops and U.S. led forces liberated Kuwait, why did we stop at Iraq's southern border; why didn't we go on to Baghdad and take Suddam out.

I remember the respond as if it were this morning, someone having asked a question about which so many Americans such as myself had wondered.

Two reasons citizen Cheney said: First, the history of this region of the world and our own intelligence convinced us that as bad as Suddam was, his not being there would probably be worse. Without question the whole area could be rendered less stable, and just as surely civil war between the Shiites, Sunni and the Kurds would erupt, with more fighting and bloodshed than the liberation of Kuwait had involved.

And second and equally important reason he stated, was that the coalition was not with us; it strongly opposed and would not support going on to Baghdad. And just as was the case with the decison to retake Kuwait, having the coalition was deemed imperative.

But shift the clock forward several years, and Bob Woodward in his book Plan of Attack tells us that Cheney, unlike Powell, could not wait to get back to Iraq.

Thus if I were asking the questions tonight, I would ask the Veep how were things different in 1992 and 2002. If there were not WMD's and a link with bin Laden, had history changed; was having the coalition no longer important?

(In a 9-23-04 post I provided another theory of mine as to why we went in, something I don't really think is true because I don't want it to be, even though I feel I have blood on my hands. The post provided:

This whole thing sort of reminds me of something that happened in 1991 when the Vice President was Secretary of Defense, and is a pet theory of mine of providing at least part of the answer as to why Cheney was so bound and determined to invade Iraq and get Hussein, with or without supporting evidence, and with or without the coalition we had when we went in Kuwait.

After American troops and U.S. led forces liberated Kuwait and then stopped at Iraq's southern border, Bush I encouraged Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south to take matters into their own hands and get rid of Suddam.

Such groups, and especially the Kurds, did just that, rising in revolt against Suddam. But no help was forthcoming from America, as Bush I withheld American military support when their uprisings drew savage retribution from Baghdad.

It is something that I wish I could forget but cannot. I have never blamed Bush I for this per se; rather it is something I regard as America as a country getting blood on its hands.)

Father's Day.

Once a year

By Sam M. Griffin
The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight
June 18, 2005

For several decades now, feminists have led a crusade to purge fatherhood from our society or paint it as a perpetually suspicious position equated with abuse and perversion. They’ve had notable success. Some churches have even rewritten the lyrics of precious old hymns to change references to father, man, mankind, son and so forth to more acceptable, politically correct, generic terms—many of which ridiculously alter the meaning and impact. Other hymns—such as Faith Of Our Fathers—have been purged from hymnals entirely. “Sexist,” sniff the feminists. “Silly” seems more accurate. But despite the unrelenting attacks, we still have fathers, still discover the need for fathers—more than ever—in the loving, caring, unchanging model exhibited by God, our Father. Human fathers are an imperfect lot, of course, often falling far short of The Example. They grow weary, short-tempered, selfish and impatient. Still—as in our relationship with the Heavenly Father—we often fail to appreciate or develop the bond with fathers until too late. There are few social ills that the presence of legitimate, conscientious, responsible and loving fathers in a traditional family setting would not improve. While tomorrow is not necessarily a day to sally forth to save society by restoring old values and relationships, it is an opportunity to assure Old Dad that he’s loved. Take it. There are far too few such opportunities in life. Don’t miss this one.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Americans want their soldiers home; Congress is getting angry about the conduct of the war. It’s time for Bush to start being frank about Iraq.

This is President Bush’s legacy. Mothers don’t want their children to join the military. Who would have thought that not even four years after 9/11 and the biggest surge of patriotism the country had seen in at least a generation, the military would be having trouble getting people to enlist. By taking the country into a war that we don’t know how to win and can’t afford to lose, Bush has squandered his second term and made Americans less safe and less economically secure.

Six in 10 Americans now say some or all of the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq should come home. A belated blast of media attention on the so-called Downing Street memo, British minutes of meetings in the summer of 2002 about intelligence being “fixed” around the idea of regime change in Iraq, is raising questions about Bush’s credibility at a time when his optimistic pronouncements about Iraq are being tested. Washington insiders knew war was inevitable, but that’s not what Bush was telling the country or the Congress, and now that the war isn’t going well, members of Congress are angry at having been manipulated.

Whatever the reason for the shift, there’s been a precipitous decline in support on Capitol Hill for the administration’s what-me-worry, stay-the-course policy in Iraq. The best the White House can come up with is a promise that Bush will soon start speaking out more about Iraq. What can he say--that Americans should ignore the rising casualties, everything is going well, have patience, stay the course, there is light at the end of the tunnel? Marshall Wittmann, a Texas native and senior fellow with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, suggests the next time Bush is in Crawford he should drive down I-35 to the LBJ Library and listen to the tapes of conversations between President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara as the Vietnam War raged.

The gap between what the American people saw on their television screens and what they heard from their political leaders back then gave rise to the phrase “credibility gap.” Bush is flirting with the same fate. He can’t be frank with the American people about Iraq. He may not even be capable of being honest with himself about the way events are unfolding. Comments from commanders in the field undercut on a daily basis the administration’s pipedream that an Iraqi army can be trained and competent to take over the security of the country.

Even Democrats who opposed the war can’t quite fathom just leaving. This is not Vietnam, a tiny country of no strategic importance. Iraq is at the nexus of terrorism and oil, and allowing it to further devolve into chaos would signal a defeat of enormous consequence. “We have to be realistic about the training of the Iraqis so that when we pull out we do not create a killing field,” says [Minnesota Rep. Betty] McCollum.

Excerpts from an article by Eleanor Clift in Newsweek, 6-17-05.)

Mass. Gov. Backs Gay Marriage Ban.

Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday he will support a proposed constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriages and civil unions in Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is now legal.

(6-17-05, The Associated Press.)

Bowers endorses Cagle.

I understand that Mike Bowers, Georgia’s former Attorney General, has endorsed Casey Cagle and did so surrounded by all the metro sheriffs who are also Republican (Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth, Cherokee, Dawson and Douglas).

Perdue Fined for Ethics Violations.

According to 11 Alive News, the State Ethics Commission today fined Governor Sonny Perdue for violating campaign laws. It is believed to be the first time a sitting governor has ever been fined since the commission was created in the 1970s.

The commission fined Perdue $1,900. They also ordered him to repay more than $18,000 in campaign contributions -- most of it to his wife, Mary.

HB 218 continues to stir debate.

Dick Pettys of the Associated Press reports that "[o]ne of the most controversial bills of this year's legislative session continue[s] to stir strong feelings."

Backed by Gov. Sonny Perdue's administration, the bill passed the House this year but stalled in the Senate under intense opposition from the state's press.

The governor's team contends that Georgia's Open Records law are hindering the corporate recruitment effort because businesses don't want their negotiations open to public inspection.

"I still don't believe we have an issue. I don't believe open records are hampering our ability," said Mike King, an editorial board member of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The measure would allows economic development authorities to bar public access to the offers they make to companies to lure them to Georgia. The deals would be subject to open records laws only after a deal was completed.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Ron Stephens of Garden City, argued that neighboring states can use open records to find out what Georgia is offering and steal away those businesses by offering slightly better deals.

King said he might support changes to the law if there was solid evidence the state was being hampered in its industry recruitment efforts and if the change ensured the public's right to know at critical stages.

"I'm not convinced we're there yet," he said.

Kingston supports Patriot Act limits opposed by other Georgia Republicans.

It's a rare day when Republican Jack Kingston, arguably the most conservative member of Georgia's congressional delegation, and Democrats John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney, arguably the most liberal, see eye-to-eye on a divisive issue.

While Georgia's six other Republican congressmen voted to continue to allow investigators to check library and bookstore records under the USA Patriot Act, Kingston voted with the six Democrats who supported the rollbacks.

Democrats were able to win support from enough Republicans Wednesday to limit the provisions on a 238-187 vote. The Senate still must act on the measure, and Georgia Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson signaled they're reluctant to limit the law enforcement powers.

Although Kingston was Georgia's only Republican congressman supporting the rollbacks, former Rep. Bob Barr also was a vocal advocate of the move. Barr left the House in 2003 and his current responsibilities include consulting for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been opposed to numerous provisions of the act.

(6-17-05, The Associated Press.)

Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. went so far as to say Mr. Bush "could really declare victory in the next six months if he wanted to."

The latest political setback on Iraq came when a conservative, a moderate, a liberal and a libertarian teamed up in the House yesterday to prod Mr. Bush to set a timetable to withdraw from Iraq.

The resolution was sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Tex.). It calls for Bush to begin drawing down troops in Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006, but does not set a date for complete withdrawal.

(6-17-05, The Washington Post.)

Bush's Support on Major Issues Tumbles in Poll.

Increasingly pessimistic about Iraq and skeptical about President Bush's plan for Social Security, Americans are in a season of political discontent, giving Mr. Bush one of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and even lower marks to Congress, according to the New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Forty-two percent of the people responding to the poll said they approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling his job, a marked decline from his 51 percent rating after of the November election, when he embarked on an ambitious second term agenda led by the overhaul of Social Security. Sixteen months before the midterm elections, Congress fared even worse in the survey, with the approval of just 33 percent of the respondents, and 19 percent saying Congress shared their priorities.

Still, Mr. Bush continued to have majority support for his handling of the war on terrorism - 52 percent - one of his strengths throughout his 2004 re-election campaign.

Looking back, 51 percent said they thought the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, while 45 percent said military action was the right thing to do.

When asked an open-ended question about the most important problems facing the nation, Americans cited the economy and jobs, war and terrorism at the top of the list.

The sharpest drop in Congressional approval in recent months occurred among Republicans.

(6-17-05, The New York Times.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dems cheer House poll.

Recent Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) polling shows that seven Republican members would be easily defeated if their reelection took place today, the committee’s chairman told House Democrats yesterday at a closed-door meeting.

While [DCCC Chairman] Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) did not name the members, who are from districts “around the country,” he said all polled at 43 percent or less when voters were asked if they would vote today to reelect their congressional representative . . . .

The numbers created a palpable buzz in the room, said one attendee, as the assembled Democrats mulled the prospect of unseating a handful of vulnerable Republicans. Democrats have seized on recent nationwide polls showing high disapproval ratings for Congress and the president.

Emanuel also asserted that the party’s recruiting efforts have been progressing at a fast clip. So far, the DCCC has recruited 19 candidates to challenge incumbents or run for open seats, well ahead of the three candidates the committee had at this time last cycle, he said.

“The political environment has attracted a lot of well-qualified candidates,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who chairs the DCCC’s recruiting efforts. "We’ve been focused on getting lots of challengers and having them file early so that if there is a mood-swing election, we’re ready for it.”

Democrats are hoping that their efforts to highlight what they regard as “Republican abuse of power” in Congress, in particular the decision to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case and the ongoing impasse over House ethics procedures, will resonate with voters. Democrats also have sought to appeal to voters with their stand against private accounts in Social Security and in favor of stem-cell research.

“The national political climate has changed,” said Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), one of the DCCC’s 10 regional recruitment chairs. “There is a perception that Bush is an albatross instead of an asset for Republicans.”

He added, “It was a challenge recruiting in ’03. Now, because of the opposition to Bush, we’re getting candidates to believe in the viability of the district.”

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that, although Americans have a poor view of Congress as a whole, they still support their own members of Congress. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they approved of the job their elected representatives were doing, while only 41 percent approved of Congress as a whole.

Sarah Feinberg, a DCCC spokeswoman, said those results do not contradict the DCCC polling, which showed a lack of support for members from their own constituents.

“I think that first of all [the high approval rating] is just not the case in these districts,” she said. “What we’re seeing nationally is that Americans are dissatisfied with Republican leadership. Their priorities are out of sync with Americans, and I think these polls show that.”

(10-16-05, The Hill.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wow!! Talk about heavy. I just read & am posting Bob Irvin's plea for "Please, Ralph," withdraw your candidacy "before it's too late."

I came across Bob Irvin's plea to Ralph Reed in my hard copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution later this morning after doing a post earlier today reporting that some GOP sources were predicting that "a prominent Republican figure will publicly call for Ralph Reed to withdraw from his GOP primary race against state Sen. Casey Cagle."

I had no idea when or who, but I will have to say that Bob Irvin qualifies for the billing of being "prominent." And the wording of Mr. Irvin's call is very heavy indeed.

Bob Irvin is a former Republican state representative and House minority leader. After having been active in state GOP affairs for years, in 2002 he ran against Sen. Saxby Chambliss for the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Chambliss, elected to Congress in 1994, had seen his national image soar as chairman of an Intelligence Committee panel on homeland security. During the 2002 primary, Bush, Cheney and various other GOP dignitaries traveled to Georgia to boost Chambliss' coffers, all much to the chagrin of Irvin as Chambliss' GOP primary rival.

With this tad of background on Irvin, the following is from today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Reed an albatross for GOP
Party stands to suffer in 2006 if candidate doesn't withdraw

By Bob Irvin
Published on: 06/15/05

This is an open request to Ralph Reed:

Please withdraw your candidacy for Georgia lieutenant governor, in order to avoid a grievous, majority-wrecking split in the Republican Party. If you should win the nomination, many thousands of Republican voters will desert us for the Democrats in 2006, defeating not only you but also many other good Republican candidates, maybe even Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Consider 1998, when Mitch Skandalakis — who was your client — lost the lieutenant governor's race so badly that he pulled under Guy Millner and David Ralston, as well as a dozen legislative candidates who otherwise would have won.

If you are defeated in the primary, that too will create bitter divisions in our base, badly weakening us for years. You are simply too divisive for our new majority. The ongoing scandal over casino money in Alabama is only the latest, but not likely the last, scandal to surface. You run the risk of destroying our majority coalition before it has had time to mature.

I make this request because Reed is four things that Georgians do not elect:

• A professional contract lobbyist, someone who is available for hire to influence political outcomes. This has been Reed's very lucrative business since he left the Christian Coalition, and even Pat Robertson has recently been quoted as saying that it raises doubts in his mind about Reed. Reed took millions of dollars from gambling interests in Louisiana and Mississippi to stop competitive casinos in Texas and Alabama. He took money from Enron to lobby the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission to deregulate electricity.

These three instances happen to have been in the newspaper, but they are three among who knows how many causes he has been glad to hire himself out to promote. His M.O. is to tell evangelical Christians that his cause of the moment, for which he has been hired, is their religious duty, and therefore they need to write regulators, turn up at meetings, or whatever. As an evangelical myself, I resent Christianity being used simply to help Reed's business.

• A Washington man, not a Georgia man. We've elected some great people who became very important in Washington, from U.S. Rep. Carl Vinson to Sen. Paul Coverdell. But they all started as Georgia politicians. They were our representatives to Washington, not the other way around.

Reed is the exact opposite: He built his career in Washington before ever evidencing the slightest interest in Georgia. His approach to politics is pure Washington: harsh partisanship, shady funding, "plausible deniability" and spin. While he was Georgia Republican Party chairman, he said to me, speaking of the Washington crowd, "Remember, I work for them, not the other way around." Georgians by and large don't want to replicate the sleaze, gridlock and ideological warfare of Washington here in Georgia.

• An ideologue. Georgians have elected pragmatic problem-solvers, from George Busbee to Sonny Perdue. A point of view doesn't rule you out (Newt Gingrich is an example). But an ideologue is somebody whose sole "reason" for being elected is what he says he believes, rather than what he has done or can do to solve problems. The last ideologue Georgia elected was Gov. Lester Maddox. Like Maddox, Reed is a politician whose main selling point is his opinions, not his accomplishments or his plans. He never evidenced any interest in Georgia issues until he starting running.

And everybody knows that he doesn't have the least interest in being lieutenant governor. The Republican state senators, who would be his "team" if he were to win, have almost unanimously endorsed his opponent, Sen. Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville). Reed wants to be governor, and this is just the steppingstone.

• A person whose only career is politics. Georgians like for their officials to have made their way in the real world. Former Gov. Roy Barnes is a lawyer. Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn is a lawyer. Even ex-governor and former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller is a college professor. Not in modern times have we elected somebody who has no connection with the real world. Reed has never made a dime outside the overheated, overcompensated, overperked world of politics. What kind of personal appreciation can he have for the problems of average Georgians?

In the last few weeks, I can't tell you the number of people who have come up to me and volunteered something like, "I'm a Republican, but I'm not voting for Ralph Reed." Generally, they live in the suburbs, the decisive battleground in this and future elections, but some of them are in South Georgia.

They are mostly long-time Republican activists, people I have known for 30 years or more in the finally successful effort to build a two-party system. Reed's nomination will alienate them. His defeat will alienate his naive but devoted supporters. Either way, we're left with a minority.

The only solution is for Reed to withdraw his candidacy. Please, Ralph, do it, before it's too late.

File this one under "Why am I not surprised?"

Philip A. Cooney, who resigned as chief of staff for President Bush's environmental policy council last week after documents showed he edited scientific reports to cast doubt on the effects of greenhouse gases, will go to work for Exxon Mobile this fall.

Exxon Mobil has long financed advertising and lobbying efforts that question whether warming caused by humans poses risks serious enough to justify curbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted by smokestacks and tailpipes.

(6-15-05, The Wall Street Journal Online and 6-15-05 The New York Times.)

And what kind of other tribal enterprises other than gambling did he have in mind, one that sold tomahawks or miniture tepees?, Part II.

In a 5-23-05 post entitled "And what kind of other tribal enterprises other than gambling did he have in mind, one that sold tomahawks or miniture tepees?," I wrote:

I think these recent revelations open the door to the possibility that Ralph Reed will decide to call it quits, and come out with some statement to the effect that he tried to offer himself for public service, but is being met with the politics of personal destruction, etc. (something he knows a lot about when someone else is on the hot seat).

For me and my money's worth, I would like to see him stay in. As I have noted, his getting into this race is the best thing that has happened to the Democratic Party of Georgia.

I note this since yesterday Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact (and regular columnist in Georgia Trend) had a piece in Capitol Impact reporting that GOP sources predict that a prominent Republican figure will publicly call for Ralph Reed to withdraw from his GOP primary race against state Sen. Casey Cagle.

The stated rationale will be that Reed, like lieutenant governor candidate Mitch Skandalakis in 1998, could have a disruptive effect on the party’s entire general election ticket if he wins the Republican primary next July.

We will just have to wait this one out. If it happens, meaning some GOP figure does call on Reed to withdraw, this is not the same as his withdrawing.

We have miles to go on this one before we sleep, and as noted above, I hope Reed stays in the race. His presence is one of the best things our party has going for it at the present.

Religious Right, Left Meet in Middle. Clergy Aim to Show That Faith Unifies.

After a year in which religion played a polarizing role in U.S. politics, many religious leaders are eager to demonstrate that faith can be a uniter, not just a divider. The buzzwords today in pulpits and seminaries are crossover, convergence, common cause and shared values.

(6-15-05, The Washington Post.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

White House Watch: News coverage blamed for waning support of Iraq policy.

White House advisers are blaming negative news coverage for recent drops in public support for the occupation of Iraq. "The public often reacts to the specific news of the day," says a senior GOP strategist. And when Americans see vivid coverage of roadside bombings, insurgent attacks, and especially the deaths of American soldiers, they tend to react negatively, the strategist says.

(6-14-05, U.S. News & World Report.)

N.J. Court Rules Against Same-Sex Couples.

A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that New Jersey's Constitution does not require the recognition of gay marriage [and] affirmed a lower court ruling that said legislators must change marriage laws before same-sex couples can wed.

The New Jersey attorney general's office contended that it had addressed the concerns of gay couples through a domestic partnership law that offers same-sex couples some rights similar to those of married couples, including the ability to make medical decisions for each other and tax benefits.

Massachusetts is the only state that currently allows gay marriages.

(6-14-05, The Washington Post.)

McCain May Be Bush's Ticket. - McCain-Bush in 2008?

That would be John and Jeb, the most logical Republican ticket if the party remains in the polling doldrums. If President Bush and his political maestro, Karl Rove, decide that the only way to create a political legacy is to nod toward the Arizona senator with whom they have battled and feuded, they will go for the guy who can win.

[T]he economy, Iraq and the political situation may be even less ideal two and three years from now.

[I]f middle-class income growth is sluggish, bread-and-butter discontent will benefit any Democrat running on a throw-the-bums-out platform. McCain could promise just enough change to win the election. He voted against Bush's tax policies, yet he is also among the most fiscally conservative members of the Senate.

Bush and McCain could end up as each other's best friends. Bush has been battling, with Rove's help, for a long-term political realignment in favor of the Republicans. The president could well come to see McCain as the only Republican with a chance to push a Republican era forward. McCain, in turn, knows that his only way around the Republican right is to run with Bush's open blessing, if not his outright endorsement.

And here is where Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, could be the deal-closer. Jeb Bush has said he will not run in 2008. But that does not rule him out as a vice presidential candidate. If McCain won, Jeb would be the No. 2 to a president who will turn 72 on Aug. 29, 2008, and might well serve only a single term. If McCain lost, Jeb would have enhanced national recognition for a run in 2012. If picking Jeb is the price of winning over George W., McCain will pay it.

(E.J. Dionne, Jr. in The Washington Post, 6-14-05.)

Hard Cash Is Main Course for GOP Fundraiser. Selling of $2,500-a-Plate Tickets Is Laborious but Necessary, Lawmakers Say.

How do you collect $23 million, $2,500 at a time?

That is what Republican lawmakers have spent months doing in preparation for tonight's President's Dinner, a fundraiser for the party's House and Senate campaign committees that lures well-off donors from across the country to a blue-carpeted hangar-size hall for the chance to hear President Bush speak and to dine on beef tenderloin en croute with 5,500 others.

Because of the new fundraising limits Bush signed into law in 2002, the parties can no longer rely on mega-donors who once gave by the hundreds of thousands. Now much of the money is raised by selling $2,500-a-plate dinner tickets, a laborious process that is consuming an increasing amount of lawmakers' time and creativity.

Party leaders pit the House against the Senate in going after donors, and lawmakers use their tallies as a way to promote themselves for future leadership jobs.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), an obstetrician, had raised $22,500 by last weekend and planned to kick in at least $10,000 from his own campaign account, to get him closer to his goal of $50,000.

"This is the hardest part of being a member, and we all get weary of it," he said. "So much money is spent and sometimes you think, 'Gosh, you know, we need to bring some sanity to this.' But when you've got both sides doing it, it ups the ante."

To pep up the rank and file, Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), the dinner chairman for the House, went before his 230 fellow Republicans this spring in running shorts to urge them to get into the race, then adopted a baseball theme at another meeting to warn them about striking out. Later, he invoked his childhood preacher to tell them about getting the spirit, and compared the dinner to a church building fund.

Kingston, who is also vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, held weekly meetings with his team captains and called members who were not meeting their goals to give them a boost. Kingston, the son of an educational psychologist, said he is using the same formula to motivate members to raise money that he used when he was in his twenties and selling commercial insurance strictly on commission: Make it fun, while warning of what could go wrong.

"Politics is a dangerous world where all the tides ebb and flow real quickly," he said. "We have to raise money to compete in the marketplace."

(6-14-05, The Washington Post.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

At least we were prepared for Miller's fund-raiser for Reed. But his raising funds to knock off Alabama Democrats is not going to go over very well.

Today's AJC's Political Insider reports:

This Friday, Miller and radio conservative Sean Hannity will co-host a fund-raiser for Ralph Reed at the Cobb Galleria.

Reed is a former intern of Miller's, after all. But the former senator is also the featured attraction at a June 24 fund-raiser in Birmingham for the Alabama Republican Majority Committee, a GOP group that is raising money to knock off incumbent Democrats in that state's Legislature.

By labeling the other party a bastion of Christianity, he implied that his own was something else -- something determinedly secular.

Excerpts from:

Scream 2: The Sequel - Dean's Problem Isn't his Big Mouth
Dean's mouth gives the Democrats plenty to talk about.

By Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper
June 20 issue

Dean . . . branded the Republican Party "pretty much a white, Christian party"—as if that were some kind of a crime. Wise guys of both camps viewed the statement as a blunder, because, well, most Americans are white Christians.

[A]s the permanent lead character in his own movie, Dean is always problematic. Something of a loner politically, he "doesn't have the Rolodex or the contacts that other people have," says Steve Grossman, a former DNC chairman and close ally. Dean is surrounded at the DNC with a new but rather small palace guard of people who believe in his vision and attitude—and who distrust the generation of Democrats that preceded them.

But Dean was only too glad to get insider help after his "white, Christian party" remark, which was just the latest in a steady stream of invective that many Democrats have viewed as counterproductive at best—at least if wooing Red State swing voters is the goal. Meeting privately with senators last week, Dean promised to watch himself more carefully. "It's important to make the news, not be the news," he told them, according to Sen. Chris Dodd.

But Dean's real problem may not be his mouth but his mind-set. He and his aides seemed genuinely mystified at the idea that his characterization of the GOP was a political mistake. But by labeling the other party a bastion of Christianity, he implied that his own was something else—something determinedly secular—at a time when Dean's stated aim is to win the hearts of middle-class white Southerners, many of whom are evangelicals. In a slide-show presentation at the DNC conference last weekend, polltaker Cornell Belcher focused on why those voters aren't responding to the Democrats' economic message. One reason, he said, is that too many of them see the Democrats as "anti-religion." And why was that? No one asked Dean, who wasn't taking questions from the press.