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Cracker Squire


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

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq

Bob Woodward writes in The Washington Post:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death.

U.S. Scolds Israel on Plan for West Bank Settlement

From The New York Times:

In a rare public rebuke to Israel, the Bush administration said Wednesday that an Israeli plan to construct a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank for the first time in 10 years could violate the terms of an American-backed peace proposal.

For the Bush administration, which has shied away from criticizing Israel, the rebuke was so unusual that State Department officials took pains to assure reporters that it represented official policy and had been cleared by senior members of the administration.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Democrats want to revive collegiality and civility in an institution that has been poisoned by partisanship in recent years.

From The New York Times:

Republican rule on Capitol Hill drew to an exhausted end just before dawn on Dec. 9 after lawmakers dispatched a pile of bills that few had read and even fewer had helped write. Democrats say the era of such chaotic and secretive legislating came to a close as well.

After chafing for years under what they saw as flagrant Republican abuse of Congressional power and procedures, the incoming majority has promised to restore House and Senate practices to those more closely resembling the textbook version of how a bill becomes law: daylight debate, serious amendments and minority party participation.

Beyond the parliamentary issues, Democrats assuming control on Jan. 4 said they also wanted to revive collegiality and civility in an institution that has been poisoned by partisanship in recent years.

In the House and Senate, the leadership is vowing to conduct full and open conference committees that reconcile differing legislation passed by the two chambers and produce a final bill. In recent years, those sessions have all but disappeared, with senior Republicans hashing out final versions behind closed doors, occasionally adding provisions passed by neither the House nor the Senate. Some of the major legislation approved in the final hours of the past Congress was written in private by just a few lawmakers and aides and rushed to the floor.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Democrats Pledge to Restrain Spending

From The Washington Post:

Determined to banish their old tax-and-spend image, Democrats want to shrink the federal deficit, preserve tax cuts for the middle class and challenge the president to raise money for the Iraq war when they take control of Congress next week. But it won't be easy.

The incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees said they plan to honor a campaign promise to devote billions of additional dollars a year to homeland security and education. And they reiterated a commitment not to cut off funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They said they will press Bush to help finance a war that is costing the nation as much as $8 billion a month.

"In terms of practical politics, the reality is this: We have to be on good behavior so we have a chance to win the presidency," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative House Democrats whose ranks swelled to 44 in the November elections. "We have a chance now of having a new Democratic Party that supports the middle class and has middle-class priorities at heart."

[M]ilitary operations in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . are expected to cost $170 billion this year, up from $120 billion in fiscal 2006.

Consultant Helps Democrats Embrace Faith, and Some in Party Are Not Pleased

From The New York Times:

As Democrats turn toward the 2008 presidential race, a novice evangelical political operative is emerging as a rising star in the party, drawing both applause and alarm for her courtship of theological conservatives in the midterm elections.

Party strategists and nonpartisan pollsters credit the operative, Mara Vanderslice, and her 2-year-old consulting firm, Common Good Strategies, with helping a handful of Democratic candidates make deep inroads among white evangelical and churchgoing Roman Catholic voters in Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Exit polls show that Ms. Vanderslice’s candidates did 10 percentage points or so better than Democrats nationally among those voters, who make up about a third of the electorate. As a group, Democrats did little better among those voters than Senator John Kerry’s campaign did in 2004.

Ms. Vanderslice’s efforts to integrate faith into Democratic campaigns troubles some liberals, who accuse her of mimicking the Christian right.

Ms. Vanderslice . . . [tells] candidates not to use the phrase “separation of church and state,” which does not appear in the Constitution’s clauses forbidding the establishment or protecting the exercise of religion.

“That language says to people that you don’t want there to be a role for religion in our public life,” Ms. Vanderslice said. “But 80 percent of the public is religious, and I think most people are eager for that kind of debate.”

Gov. Eugene Talmadge: "Sure I stole, but I stole for you."

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes in Georgia Trend:

It's been more than 70 years since Eugene Talmadge famously told his critics, "Sure I stole, but I stole for you." The voters kept re-electing him governor, too.

Perdue was blessed with a deeply flawed opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, whose operatives ran one of the most incompetent statewide campaigns in history. But give Perdue some credit as well. He maximized his financial resources, kept his explosive temper in check during the debates and helmed a tightly disciplined campaign organization that stayed on message all the way.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

DNR loses two voices for the environment amid marsh debate

Stacy Shelton in the ajc reports that two pro-environmental voices on the Georgia Board of Natural Resources will lose their seats Jan. 1, victims of congressional redistricting. Gov. Sonny Perdue's office this week told Ralph Callaway of Callaway Gardens and Sara Clark of Alpharetta they are losing their seats. The change means environmental groups are losing two of their most consistent allies on the board that sets environmental policy for the state.

According to the article:

Clark said she suspects her vocal position on marshland development may have influenced Perdue's decision to end her appointment, adding, "but I don't know."

"I always felt like I walked the tightrope between the two sides of the issues, but not on the marsh," Clark said Friday. "If we lose it, it will be really hard to mediate it. [The marsh is] a wonderful unique future on the coast and that was a passion of mine."

Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said Friday that the governor's decision to remove Clark "didn't have anything to do with dissatisfaction or anything like that. . . . The decision was strictly based on the fact there were two people in the same district and we had to make a decision. It would not have come up otherwise."

Democrats’ Pledge to End Individual Financing of Pet Projects May Change Little

From The New York Times:

The Democrats taking over the Congressional appropriations committees next year have boldly pledged to place a moratorium on earmarks, the pet spending items that individual lawmakers insert into major spending bills behind the scenes.

But like much resolute talk in the Capitol, the declaration may not have the sweeping effect that the plan’s backers have suggested and its critics have denounced. Although earmarks figured prominently in some recent Congressional bribery scandals, they have also become cherished instruments of political power, used by party leaders to reward or punish members and by incumbents to buy good will among their constituents.

So the Congressional reaction was swift and vigorous when the two new appropriations chairmen, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, said in a joint statement that “there will be no Congressional earmarks” in the resolution they draft to bridge over the unfinished spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year, declaring “a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place.”

But the scope of the declared moratorium may be far more limited than it sounds.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas to All, & here's to hoping you have or have had a chance to watch It's a Wonderful Life. Truly, we have much for which to be grateful.

The following is from a 12-24-04 post:

One of the most popular American films of all-time and a perennial holiday favorite, It's a Wonderful Life, was not a huge hit with either critics or audiences when it debuted in December 1946. But it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart), and Best Director (Frank Capra).

After slipping quickly into obscurity, it began appearing on television occasionally in the late 1950s. But when the film's copyright lapsed in 1973, It's a Wonderful Life quickly became a staple of American TV programming between Thanksgiving and Christmas and belatedly earned its rightful place in the lexicon of American popular culture.

And a staple it has been at our family and probably yours over the holidays for years.

Who wants someone telling them how to raise their kids or suggesting what to do over the holidays? Maybe on the latter, if you're in New York City, sure.

Regardless, I'm am going to do it. Watch this movie if you get a chance, and watch it with family and friends.

God put each of us here for a special reason, and this classic helps put this in perspective. And if you need to be reminded just how much family and friends mean, watch the movie with them. It will bring tears to all eyes.

To all my friends, both old and you new ones whom I met this year, whether on the road or on the Web, and whether liberal, conservative, red, blue, pro-life, pro-choice, purple, urban, exurban, rural, living in Georgia or the Other Georgia, or like me, a little bit of and mixture of all of the foregoing and primarily a Georgian and proud of it, know that I love you and appreciate you.

And to my Republican and Independent friends, here's to suggesting that Richard Cohen was right when he says "[a] little bourbon would do wonders for our dysfunctional government." Anyway, we can at least think about his words of wisdom as we spike our eggnog with a little along with some freshly ground nutmeg.

This will be my only Christmas message, but truly, is this a great country or what!

God Bless America!!

Pelosi Aims To Recast Self, Party

From The Washington Post:

On a scale associated with presidential inaugurations, Nancy Pelosi is planning four days of celebration surrounding her Jan. 4 swearing-in as the first female speaker of the House. She will return to the blue-collar Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up, attend Mass at the women's college where she studied political science, and dine at the Italian Embassy as Tony Bennett sings "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

But the hoopla is more than just a party.

Pelosi is grabbing the moment to present herself as the new face of the Democratic Party and to restore the party's image as one hospitable to ethnic minorities, families, religion, the working class and women.

"This is important strategic repositioning," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who teaches political communication and rhetoric at the University of Pennsylvania. "Essentially, she's trying to embody the Democratic Party that she would like to offer the nation in 2008."

In her meticulous selection of events and venues during a week when she expects to attract media attention from as far away as Australia, Pelosi is clearly trying to bury the label "San Francisco liberal" that Republicans tried to affix to her during the midterm elections.

" 'San Francisco liberal' is a construct used very effectively for a long time by Republicans," Jamieson said. "It's a little like 'Taxachusetts.' It's telegraphic and very powerful. They haven't been able to get her identified with it because, to this point, a lot of people didn't know who she was. She's trying to position a counterimage before she gets well known."

Pelosi's public relations offensive follows some missteps that marred her first few weeks after the elections, including a stinging defeat when she backed Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) over Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) for the job of House majority leader and a very public spat with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who was passed over for the chairmanship of the House intelligence committee.

Eyeing ’08, Democrats Nurse Freshmen at Risk

From The New York Times:

The 110th Congress has not even been sworn into office. But in a measure of the determination not to surrender the majority in two years, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive speaker, has instructed aides to begin acting immediately to help Democrats who won by small margins in districts where President Bush did well in 2004 or who coasted in because their opponents were mired by controversy. Those new members are methodically being given coveted spots on high-profile committees, in particular the Financial Services Committee, a magnet for campaign contributions, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, a platform from which to send money for projects back home.

Their names will be affixed as co-sponsors atop big-ticket measures on ethics and stem cell research that are to be voted on in the first 100 hours of the new Congress, Democratic leaders said.

Several said they were being told that given a choice of voting the party position and casting a vote that would help them in their districts they should feel free to retreat from the Democratic line.

The urgency of the effort reflects the narrow margins that the new majority was built on. Even though the Democrats picked up 30 seats, many of those were by margins of less than five percentage points.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rev. Jim Nelson will seek to become Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia

The following comes from Atlanta Political Party about the Rev. Jim Nelson of Savannah who ran for Congress to represent the 1st Congressional District and now is filing to run for Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia:

Looking back on that contest [for Congress], Nelson says a lethargic, poorly organized Democratic Party failed to extend a hand to him and other candidates beyond the metro Atlanta region -- with a few exceptions.

The national party poured all of its money only into what it deemed clear-cut competitive races: Burns-Barrow and Marshall-Collins. At the state level, the Taylor-Cox primary battle was a money drain, Nelson says. In the general election, all of the funding went to Taylor. Candidates in the so-called hinterlands were left in an every-man-for-himself posture. Even still, "I raised $100,000 for my campaign," Nelson says of his District 1 bid.

Organization phobia wasn't the only factor at work within the upper echelons of the Democratic Party.

"There was no real excitement coming from the party," laments Nelson. "The state convention was a good example. It was almost like being at a boring business meeting. We needed more fanfare. More signs. We need to be organized to win."

Nelson thinks he can deliver some energy.

There's no doubt he has the oratory, honed apparently from the pulpit.

Married for 34 years, Nelson served as an airborne infantry officer and worked as an instructor at Fort Gordon in the waning months of Vietnam. He received his undergraduate degree in speech and theater and his first master's degree in political science. He said he also received a master's degree in divinity and did his doctoral work in faith and ethics. He has been a church pastor for 17 years. Columns he wrote for newspapers coupled with ideas from his thesis became the basis for a book, Where Would Jesus Put the Sidewalks?, which examines the political and ethical rationale communities exercise in making decisions about how to fund public projects.

Nelson sees a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and is bothered by government's sluggish response to the needs of low- and moderate-income citizens, and its willingness to soothe the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable.

"When you look at things Scripture really focuses on, it's basically about taking care of one another... being there for one another," he says. "A fair minimum wage, health care for all, equality of opportunity for education, early childhood care, these are more Democratic than Republican issues."

Shipp: Questions abound on denying in-state tuition to illegal residents

Bill Shipp writes:

Understandably, elected officials are not often enthusiastic about delving into the official conduct of fellow public servants. If they were, Gov. Sonny Perdue might quickly become tired of answering embarrassing questions from his peers about everything from customized tax benefits to shaky retirement systems. Or Attorney General Thurbert Baker might become a pest demanding detailed explanations of legislators' outside income and ignored environmental-law violations.

But Republican Perdue and Democrat Baker are fine team players. They don't ask, and they don't tell. If they did, the governor or the attorney general might have wondered aloud why federal officials from both parties have let us down so completely on guarding our borders and protecting the integrity of citizenship.

Sonny and Thurb might even have inquired why their pals on the state Board of Regents decided long ago to treat illegal aliens just like Georgia kinfolk. Of course, good team players would never be so rude, and we respect their wishes to remain tranquil and polite on such matters.

So we're volunteering to help do their jobs, and ask a few questions on touchy subjects such as rewarding lawbreaking college students and evaluating the moral fiber of the people selected to govern our state-financed university network. Let's begin with easy questions.

-- Georgia has routinely granted low-cost in-state tuition to some who are not from Georgia and amazingly cannot prove their legal residency. However, other students who can prove their residency are penalized. For instance, if a youngster from Alabama wants to attend Georgia Tech and shows up with absolute proof that his home is in, say, Dothan or Montgomery, he's out of luck. Georgia discourages him from crossing the Chattahoochee. The Peach State demands that he pay sky-high out-of-state tuition. On the other hand, if a child from faraway Djibouti sneaks into the state illegally with his parents and can't prove where he's from, Georgia colleges - until now - have welcomed him like home folks. He is rewarded with low in-state tuition. That's mighty hospitable, but why do illegal refugees from Djibouti receive better treatment than straight-up boys from 'Bama?

-- Six months ago, the Board of Regents was served with an official legal opinion stating the University System of Georgia cannot lawfully offer in-state tuition to persons who reside in the United States illegally. Why are our revered regents just now getting around to eliminating tuition breaks for illegals? And why are fugitive criminals allowed to enroll under any circumstance?

-- Georgia is known for its stern and merciless attitude toward the criminal class. So why did it take a complicated legal opinion to state the obvious? Georgia's colleges and universities should not reward lawbreakers with goodies thought to be reserved for law-abiding residents. After all, we're not recruiting football players here.

-- Now tell us again, in less than 100 words: Why in heaven's name would any college president, provost or even lowly registrar believe, under any circumstances, that giving federal fugitives a break on college tuition is a good idea? Why did not one responsible official blow the whistle and shout, "Hey, we're breaking the law and aiding and abetting lawbreakers?" Surely, their silence on the matter did not relate to government funding based on student populations - or did it?

-- Have the regents offered similar tuition advantages to other outlaws, such as gem smugglers, underage beer drinkers or sports bettors? How about extraterrestrials? How do we treat beings from outer space that show up in Athens or Statesboro or even Kennesaw and Valdosta without proof of origins? Don't scoff. Visit a couple of our campuses. You'll see. They're everywhere.

Now for the second part of the test, reserved for officials assigned to carry out our laws.

Do you believe a return to tarring and feathering might be justified for you and other public officials who make a mockery of their oath to guard the public treasury and who sneer at the Georgia constitutional provision prohibiting state-sponsored gratuities (e.g. cut-rate tuition) for anyone, including illegal aliens?

Do you believe that failure to enforce immigration laws and to protect our borders should be an impeachable offense, and that persons - even those at the highest levels - who willfully refused to enforce those laws should be removed from office?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Once again I say, thank God for and God bless the Democratic Party

Today's The New York Times reports:

Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas [and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008], who blocked the confirmation of a woman to the federal bench because she attended a same-sex commitment ceremony for the daughter of her long-time neighbors, says he will now allow a vote on the nomination.

On Oct. 12, [the nominee] Judge Neff answered a long list of written questions from Mr. Brownback. In her letter, she said she would decide any cases that came before her according to the law and the Constitution and would not be guided by her personal views. That is the same pledge that several conservative Republican judicial nominees made when asked whether their blunt personal statements opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriages would affect their performance on the bench.

Mr. Brownback, a member of the Judiciary Committee who supported those other nominees, has tried to put himself forward as the Republican presidential contender who best represents the interests of the nation’s conservative religious community.

In a 7-06-06 post entitled "Thank God for and God Bless the Democratic Party," I wrote:

In November 2004 I voted "no" on the state constitutional amendment concerning gay marriage that I considered to be gay bashing.

For a Republican to admit that he or she is only a "M" for moderate, then such Republican is considered by other party faithfuls as being no better than a Democrat, and as such is anti-family and has abandoned family values.

Thus with today's Georgia GOP, to really be a "good" and faithful Republican true to the party's tenets, you must wholeheartedly believe in the politicization of social issues that are none of your business -- and despite America's general acceptance of divergent opinions and appreciation of the right to agree to disagree -- you must reject the idea that a matter such as abortion is a personal and private matter (and for some, also involves views that are religious rather than being not purely political).

And if you dare fail this GOP litmus test, you've got it, obviously you're anti-family and have no family values.

And if you also -- God forbid -- believe something as radical as judging others not on the content and qualify of their character, but rather on their sexual orientation and choice of lifestyles, then you must be a nonbeliever and -- you guessed it -- have to be a Democrat.

I say to heck with you GOP-Pharisee Holier Than Thou types, and I say thank God for and God bless the Democratic Party.

Georgia Democrats have not been able to redefine themselves as the party of the moderate middle.

Chuck Clay writes in the November 2006 issue of James:

The big loser of the post election cycle has to be the Georgia Democratic Party. It continues to falter and reel from political body blow after blow. Georgia Democrats have not been able to do what Democrats around the country did -- redefine themselves as the party of the moderate middle.

Until they do, the future will look bleak. Politics is cyclical, so this decline is not the obituary for Georgia Democrats, but it does show until they come up with something new, don't expect different results anytime in the near future.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bill Shipp: Where is Sam Nunn now that we really need him?

Bill Shipp writes:

Where is Sam Nunn now that we really need him?

Look no further than Georgia for an example of what happens to Democrats if blacks think they have lost their stake in the elections game. Republican Sonny Perdue wiped out Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mark Taylor in the Nov. 7 election because black voters stayed home. Taylor might not have won in any case, but a strong black turnout would have made the race close. Taylor took the black voted for granted, courted the white male vote and lost the election in a landslide.

A similar scenario could occur nationally unless Democrats embrace a towering candidate who can rise above the politics of race - a candidate who can select a ticket capable of pleasing all segments of citizens instead of satisfying a handful of bosses determined to control the Democratic nomination even if they lose the election.

At the moment it's hard to imagine such a candidate except perhaps former Sen. Sam Nunn. We tried to phone Nunn for his reaction, but his office said he was not available. We also tried to phone Nunn six years ago and again four years ago. He didn't take our calls then either, and look what happened.

Amy Morton to run for Candidate Recruitment Vice Chair of the Dem. Party of Georgia -- "We must fundamentally change the way we do business."

Last week on her blog Georgia Women Vote! Amy Morton confirmed that she is running for Candidate Recruitment Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Amy is one hardworking, dedicated Democrat. The party is indeed fortunate she is willing to take on this important and crucial job. I cannot think of one other person who is more suited to the task and challenge at hand.

In confirming that she had filed to run, Amy noted:

For the past several years, less formally, I have been engaged in recruiting great candidates and believe that there is no task more important for Georgia Democrats. We must fundamentally change the way we have approached this work by embracing a 159 County Strategy to partner with locally elected Democrats to identify, mentor and ultimately elect great candidates at every level of government. I have no interest in simply serving on another board or having a title. There is a great deal of work to be done, and I hope to have the opportunity to do that work, as a part of a great team!

In 11-27-06 and 12-04-06 posts Amy wrote:

[T]he Party has not to this point routinely partnered with locally elected Democrats and local Democratic organizations to create and maintain a central database of all Democratic elected officials, at every level of government. We need to do this because it is a critical starting point for candidate recruitment, field planning and GOTV efforts. It is not enough to focus on state-level races alone. We must commit to helping qualified candidates seek office at every level.

We need to reach out to . . . people . . . in all 159 counties. We need their energy, their perspective, and their ideas. In addition, we need to be willing to reach out to critical swing voters and ask for their support and their vote.

The bottom line is that Georgia Democrats cannot sit around and hope that the Georgia GOP implodes. From voter communication to branding to candidate recruitment, we must instead fundamentally change the way we do business.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Damn. First Former Va. Gov. Mark Warner; Now Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh Rules Out White House Bid In 2008.

The Washington Post reports that:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) announced today that he will forgo a run for president in 2008, citing the "long odds" he would face as a candidate who is not well-known nationally.

The main reason for Bayh's decision was a belief that his chances of winning the Democratic nomination in a field likely to include such political heavyweights as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) were not high enough to justify the commitment of time and manpower over the next two years.

Bayh is the second serious Democrat to pass on a presidential bid in recent months. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner shocked the political world earlier this fall when he announced he would not be a candidate for president in 2008. [See 10-12-06 post entitled "(1) Shucks!! Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner Won't Run for Presidency in '08 & (2) What a difference one and 1/2 years can make in Georgia."]

The following is part of a 3-13-06 post about Sen. Bayh's recent visit to Georgia to address the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner:

No other Democrat looking at the 2008 presidential campaign can make the boast that Evan Bayh can: He has won five elections in a heavily Republican state by ever-increasing margins of victory.

Bayh was elected to one term as secretary of state of Indiana and two terms as governor and is in his second term in the U.S. Senate. He won re-election in 2004 by a margin of 24 percentage points, even as President Bush was carrying Indiana by an even heftier margin.

"Same day, same voters," Bayh said in an interview in his Senate office late last week to discuss his upcoming speech at the Georgia Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. "And if we take the same approach, we can win in Georgia, just like we've won in Indiana."

It isn't a revolutionary approach. According to Bayh, all it takes is holding the Democratic base and reaching out to independent voters and to what he describes as "reasonable Republicans" who recognize that "we're all in this together, and we need to make progress."

The biggest problem for Democrats, though, is Democrats themselves, Bayh said.

"Some people vote against the Democratic Party because of the substantive positions we take," he said. "But I think there's a fair number of people who vote against our candidates because of how they perceive the way we express what it is we believe. There's a sense that we're a little condescending, a little elitist. And folks will never vote for you if they think you're looking down your nose at them.

"Especially in the South — "and in the Midwest," Bayh added.

Cultural issues such as abortion will remain as divisive as ever, he said, but they don't have to be as explosive as they are now. He noted, for example, that in his last election, he got the support of 45 percent of anti-abortion evangelicals because "I treat people with respect," especially when there is disagreement.

Still, acknowledging differences and seeking common ground with opponents can take Democrats only so far, Bayh conceded. They still have to overcome a big hurdle with voters, one that has plagued them for decades: the sense that they are not as capable or as vigilant as Republicans in matters of national security.

"Being tough and being smart on national security, that's clearly a threshold issue with us," Bayh said. "People need to know they can trust Democrats with their lives. If people don't trust us with their lives, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else."

The next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party is going to have to approach the issue head on, he said. And that nominee is going to have to convince voters of three things: "We know it's a dangerous world, the current administration has done much to undermine our national security, we can do better."

Jeane Kirkpatrick -- This post is intended to serve as a follow-up to the previous post. Republicans, you are welcome to join us in moving forward.

From The New York Times:

IN the days since Jeane Kirkpatrick’s death, much has been written about her tenure at the United Nations, her foreign policy outlook and her indelible personality. But not a lot has been said about Jeane Kirkpatrick, ardent Democrat — and what that meant to the success of Ronald Reagan [a former Democrat] in international affairs.

One important bridge between Ronald Reagan and Democrats like Ms. Kirkpatrick was an organization called the Committee on the Present Danger . . . . The aim of the group was to make Americans aware of the growth of Soviet military power and the risks posed by the SALT II treaty.

Over the course of the campaign, many Democrats on the committee met with Mr. Reagan. These off-the-record briefings in California and Washington dealt for the most part with arms control, a favorite subject for Mr. Reagan, who did not believe in merely limiting the rate of growth of weapons of mass destruction, but was instead looking for ways to reduce their numbers and eventually do away with them altogether.

Jeane Kirkpatrick had, in a real sense, cleared the way for Democrats to cross the bridge to the Reagan administration. Mr. Rostow became the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Paul Nitze was appointed Mr. Reagan’s chief arms negotiator. Myer Rashish became under secretary of state; Charles Tyroler served on the Intelligence Oversight Board; Lane Kirkland, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., joined the National Endowment for Democracy; and Edward Bennett Williams, the prominent Washington lawyer, became a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Max Kampelman was re-appointed ambassador to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Bipartisanship personified.

Others followed, of course. And all of them played a role in sending communism over the edge. But Jeane Kirkpatrick, as she was in so many ways, was the first.

Friday, December 15, 2006

If you don't go to church this weekend, this can be the sermon you missed. - Let's strive to have civility & tolerance become part of our daily lives.

This past week my good friend Mel penned on Blog for Democracy the post of the week. The post was entitled "The death of civility." The post was about civility, and more accurately, the lack thereof, on the internet in general, and on blogs in particular.

Mel, as an aside to the primary subject of the post, accurately observed that with respect to blogs, "some controversy will drive traffic and spark reader interest, but too much will kill it. Finding the balance between the two is easier written than done and is a vexing problem for everyone who believes in the promise and power of the netroots."

Mel's post on civility reminded me on an earlier post that I had done. It was a 1-29-05 post that is worth repeating if we are going to make any progress now that Tom DeLay is no longer in Congress and the Democrats have been given a chance (former President Bill Clinton recently cautioned after the midterm elections that "[t]he people didn't give Democrats a mandate. They gave us a chance.").

The earlier post:

Excerpts from:

Bridging the Great Divide
By Colbert I. King
The Washington Post
January 29, 2005

[Recently] at a Washington think-tank roundtable [a] group of about 20 men and women drawn from the worlds of journalism, business, government, religion and nonprofits gathered late in the day to talk about the increasing incivility and polarization in the country.

There was broad agreement that two consecutive contentious presidential elections have left the country with pronounced partisan and ideological schisms. Most agreed . . . that the present crisis of division comes at a time when the country faces serious long-term challenges: the global war on terrorism; conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the turbulent Middle East; a growing national deficit; looming problems with Social Security and Medicare; a breakdown in public education; rising anti-Americanism abroad. Without the presence of civility in the national debate -- not the "bite-your-tongue-to-keep-the peace" variety but civility based on mutual respect, careful listening and honest dialogue -- a polarized country won't be able to tackle those problems.

Tolerance, as in having respect for the views of others, is in short supply these days, the group agreed. So, unfortunately is the ability to listen.

There was also a consensus that:

• American politics can do with less absolutism (it closes off dialogue).

• Wedge issues so beloved by campaign strategists contribute to incivility and division.

• Owning up to political mistakes can be a valuable lesson in humility.

• Compromise and collaboration for the common good should outweigh political and personal differences.

[W]orry about open hostility and the loss of a middle ground in our politics occupies the minds of more than the roundtable's participants. Since the forum, more than 70 leaders in public policy, academia, religion and politics have come together to create a National Committee to Unite a Divided America. The aim is to bridge political differences and foster greater civility and inclusiveness in government.

[D]ozens of . . . prominent Americans of different political stripes have signed up with the committee because they believe the lack of national unity in the face of tough international and domestic challenges could have tragic consequences. They are going to press the president, Congress and political leaders around the country to set a new tone for the nation and to unite Americans in the spirit of civility and shared sacrifice that was demonstrated after Sept. 11, 2001.

Doable? A house as divided as the nation is today deserves no less of an effort [than to make the] Washington pastime of eviscerating political opponents [a thing of the past].

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jane Kidd Changes Mind; Will Seek To Become Chair of Democratic Party of Georgia

From The Athens Observer:

Jane Kidd didn't succeed in her attempt this fall to move from the state House to the Senate, but she's not ready to leave politics.

The Athens legislator announced Tuesday she's running in next month's election to become chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party.

Besides one term in the House, Kidd served two terms on the Lavonia City Council. But her political skills were honed inside her family as the daughter of the late Ernest Vandiver, a governor of Georgia, and grandniece of the late U.S. Sen. Richard Russell.

"The Democratic Party of Georgia has allowed others to define us," Kidd said. "... We're not the scary people we have been portrayed as."

Her goals would be to develop a better way of communicating what the party stands for and to improve its grassroots campaigning. She said that's why Democrats lost races for the governor's office and all of the open seats on the ballot, not because the positions the candidates took.

As chairwoman, she also would have to deal with the departure of rural whites from the party, which has become dominated by urban blacks.

"I think rural whites reflect the majority of Georgia. They have been frightened away (from the party)," she said.

The response to her announcement was positive among legislators. House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin said her family would be an asset.

"I think Jane would be a wonderful chairwoman because her family represents the positive values of the Democratic party," Porter said, adding, "but Jane has made her own mark."

New Congress Is More Trusted Than President

From The Washington Post:

Americans trust Democratic lawmakers more than President Bush to handle the nation's toughest problems, including the Iraq war, and a quarter of Republicans are glad that Democrats have won control of Congress, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

At the same time, however, most Americans want lawmakers and the president to work together rather than pursue separate agendas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

State Rep. Al Williams To Lead Legislative Black Caucus

According to the Blog for Democracy, State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, has been elected chairman of the 50-member Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

I am a big fan of Rep. Williams. He was re-elected on November 7 to his third term in the House with 67.5 percent of the vote.

I wrote the following about him in a 1-18-05 post partially entitled "A shot heard (or that should have been heard) round the state":

Rep. Al Williams, whether planned or just given that he is a natural, delivered the highlight of the day for me.

Rep. Williams of Liberty County reminded us that currently we are in a war for the soul of the Democratic party. We have the problem and face the challenge of bringing back within the fold white males.

And to compound this challenge, we risk losing Hispanics and other minorities.

While acknowledging that historically being the big tent party makes it tough to hold our various constituencies together, it is something we must be vigilant about and do.

And we must quit allowing it to be said that our party has a problem with God, morality and ethics. Since when, he asked, was our party not a party about God, morality and ethics.

He said it was hogwash and a crime to let the Republicans get away with claiming to own God, to own values.

Just because our party is for choice does not mean that we have no morals.

And to hear otherwise from national party members perceived to be elitists and claiming to speak for the party does nothing to help. As he put it, "The average voter in Hahira [a small, rural community in Lowndes County] could care less" about such elitist talk.

The days of the party operating 7 months out of four years must end. E-mail is great, but nothing beats the knock, knock, knock at the door as we canvass the neighborhoods.

I could go on and on with Rep. Williams message to the troops, but you get the idea. But I can't quit without sharing a line that Rep. Williams attributes to Rep. Calvin Smyre: "Coal runs a train; gold runs a campaign."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I will be voting for Mike Berlon for the next Democratic Party of Georgia Chair

In the days of ancient Greece, the Greek city-state Sparta, upon defeating another city-state, would reward those who had supported Sparta, exile those who had opposed it, and execute those who had remained neutral.

On January 27 I will be voting for Mike Berlon for the next Democratic Party of Georgia Chair.

On his Web site Mike says:

I am more dedicated than ever to building a truly effective statewide organization. I am dedicated to bringing the reach of the Democratic Party of Georgia beyond metro-Atlanta so that we can work effectively in every corner of the state to inspire committed Democrats to get involved as well as to re-brand the Democratic Party so that it resonates with voters, regardless of where they live, and convinces them to identify with the Democratic Party and to vote Democratic.

I am committed to partnering with counties around the state to open Democratic Party of Georgia Regional Satellite Offices. Having a physical presence around the state will allow the Democratic Party to engage with county groups, other progressive groups, and elected officials at all levels to build true coalitions, help implement effective marketing strategies, develop field plans, and implement GOTV activities in order to strengthen and build the Democratic Party and to elect Democrats up and down the ballot throughout Georgia.

Immediately after being elected, I pledge to begin a statewide Listening Tour where I will travel the entire state of Georgia meeting with local leaders, elected officials, and activists to gain their input and insight on the future of the Democratic Party as well as what is most needed by each of them to strengthen the Party in their areas. I pledge to take this feedback back with me and make sure that it is incorporated into the DPG strategic plan. I plan to implement a series of quarterly conference calls so this dialogue may continue and we can ensure that the work of the Democratic Party is moving forward.

In order to help facilitate communication by County Parties, to build an online presence for the Democratic Party of Georgia, and to streamline our online communications, I plan to revamp the Democratic Party of Georgia’s website and to provide County Party websites for each interested County Party. While we work to create parties in counties where no party currently exists, local websites will provide information on other ways to get involved with Democrats in neighboring counties and with the State Party.

Danita Knowles to run for 1st Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia

From an email to the Coffee County Democratic Committee and also from the Web site CoffeeCountyDemocrats.com:

I have filed papers to run for the position of 1st vice chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. I have been blessed to be involved with the party -- to express my belief in the big tent party as the way to improve the lives of all Americans. And I still believe in that great party our friend Sid describes as the party of "Hope and Dreams." I have learned so much in the county party, as a director and the Secretary of the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs, 1st Congressional District Chair on the DPG Executive Committee and now, a former candidate.

Danita Knowles, Chair
Coffee County Democrats

The Coffee County Democrats have been honored to have had our local Chair elected by her fellow Democrats to two state offices. In addition to her local duties, Danita also serves as Chair of the 1st Congressional District Democrats and as Secretary of the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC).

The Congressional Black Caucus wants Jefferson’s seat restored

From The Hill:

The Congressional Black Caucus is planning to press Democratic leaders to reinstate Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) to the Ways and Means Committee, raising the thorny question of how leaders will handle the fate of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who has also come under ethical scrutiny.

If incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and fellow leaders decide to keep Jefferson off Ways and Means, they could open themselves to charges of following a double standard by allowing Mollohan to become chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, as he is now poised to do.

The House voted in June to strip Jefferson of his Ways and Means seat, an action precipitated by Pelosi, who wanted to distance her party from the scandal that had enveloped Jefferson after the FBI raided his home and found $90,000 in his freezer.

The renewed debate over Jefferson’s fate could also spark controversy over what happens to Mollohan. A conservative watchdog group has accused the lawmaker of using his senior position on the spending subcommittee to benefit his friends and himself financially.

Democrats Freeze Earmarks for Now

From The Washington Post:

Democratic leaders declared a temporary moratorium on special-interest provisions known as earmarks as they attempt to cope with a budget crisis left by the outgoing Republican-led 109th Congress.

The biggest victory would be for those lawmakers who have crusaded against earmarks, or home-district pet projects. Virtually all of the bills that pass the Senate and House appropriations committees contain such projects. For the fiscal year that began in October and will end Sept. 30, the slate will be wiped clean.

Poll: 7 of 10 Americans Disapprove of Handling of Iraq War

From The Washington Post:

Negative assessments of the war in Iraq -- the central issue in last month's midterm election -- continue to hold down President Bush's job approval ratings and could cast a pall on the final two years of his presidency.

In a new Post-ABC News poll, seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way the President is handling the situation in Iraq -- the highest percentage since the March 2003 invasion. Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I am glad the Legislative Services Committee raised the “per diem” allowance for Ga. legislators to $173 from the current $128 beginning in January.

According to the ajc:

[The Legislative Services Committee] met briefly in committee and voted to increase their daily legislative allowance from $128 to $173 a day.

The money is meant to help the state's 236 lawmakers pay for food and lodging, but they don't have to account for it with receipts. Legislators are entitled to the daily allowance every day they attend the upcoming 40-working day legislative session and for any days they spend in committee. It is in addition to their $7,000 annual expense account – for office supplies and other items — and their $16,524 annual salary.

According to InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

[T]he committee was shown a study, prepared at the request of House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, which ranked Georgia 50th in the nation for legislative compensation, reimbursement and per diem.

I am glad the state lawmakers decided to bite the bullet. In a 2-14-05 post entitled "We are always expecting more for less. Let's reverse this with our state legislators. - We need shorter sessions," I wrote:

In a 1-10-04 post entitled in part "We underpay our legislators. - But would the public howl about a bipartisan raise? It shouldn't, " I noted:

-- that "it's a tough juggling act between running one's business and serving as a part-time legislator;"

-- that while "Georgia's lawmakers . . . hobnob with corporate big shots and dine with lobbyists in alligator shoes" and "battle a perception they're rolling in money," "the Legislature is a cross-section of Georgia from an economic and social standpoint," and therefore, "you've . . . got a lot of middle class people and some who just barely get by;"

-- that "to the best of my knowledge, Georgia's legislators have not had a raise, at least a meaningful raise, for decades;"

-- that our legislators -- not counting the days the spent in Atlanta on committee meetings when the Legislature is not in session -- have go "to Atlanta for 40 days and 40 nights once a year" for "$16,524 annually and $128 per diem for their public service" (and of course this is 40 work days which does not count weekends or days when the Legislature is in recess); and

-- that "we underpay our legislators," "are probably getting a heck of a lot more than we are paying for," and that an "adjustment is not only deserved and in order but way, way overdue."

In this post I also reviewed how few attorneys are in the legislature now compared with days gone by because of the stress and strain of keeping their law practices going while the General Assembly is in session.

And speaking of attorneys and per diem, I noted how Ethics Commissioner Emmett Bowers has said he was troubled that metro Atlanta legislators receive the same per diem as those other lawmakers from outside metro Atlanta and "get to put it in their pocket."

This comment was made in the context of the fine levied against former House Majority Leader Jimmy Skipper (D-Americus). Skipper, who retired last year, spent campaign donations for an apartment in Atlanta in 2001 and 2002.

Is this why Jimmy Skipper retired? No, his retirement was related to the reality that Georgia's General Assembly -- although supposedly a part-time undertaking -- often turns into a year-round job.

This is especially the case for those in positions of leadership such as Jimmy Skipper, where such legislators find that with numerous committee meetings and campaigning during the "off season," their elected offices end up being year-round jobs, with the result that their full-time careers, families and civic duties back home are negatively affected.

But even for those who are not in demanding positions of leadership, as noted in the above post, sometimes the financial strain and time commitment become too much, and a legislator is forced to choose between taking care of the legislator's business or minding to the public's business as a legislator.

In 2002, the legislature, which was embroiled over discussions about redistricting, didn't adjourn until April 12, breaking a record held since 1885 for the longest session.

The next year topped that when the it did not leave town until April 25. The hot issue that year, you recall, was the flag.

And last year, legislators were able to get out of the regular session by early April, but came back to the Capitol for a special session in May called by the governor to discuss the budget and funding for indigent defense.

(See 2-5-05 article in The Savannah Morning News article by Vicky Eckenrode.)

There is no question that our legislators deserve a raise.

But no time is a good time for legislators to vote themselves a pay raise. For sure, even if both parties get together and decide it is time to bite the bullet on this, it is unlikely to happen before the 2006 elections. (And by Georgia's Constitution, any change cannot become effective until the end of the legislative term during which the change is made.)

Thus while any pay raise politically would not be the thing to introduce at the present, how about cutting back the amount of time a legislator is expected to serve.

Georgia's Constitution provides that a regular session begins on the second Monday in January of each year, and may continue "for a period of no longer than 40 days in the aggregate each year."

Soon after Republicans assumed control of the Capitol this year, their party leaders pledged to get the state's business done quickly. House Speaker Glenn Richardson said he would push hard to keep the session from dragging on.

And while some Democratic legislators expressed concerns that a quicker-than-usual session could lead to a rubber-stamping attitude among the ruling party, this would seem to be of less concern if all sides knew the amount of time that the Legislature would be in session from the beginning, and it was a certain number of days, a certain number less than 40.

Last year it took the Senate a couple of weeks to get organized since it had just taken control, and the same thing happened this year with the House.

But as of today, February 14, we will be on the 18th legislative day out of 40, and look at all that has happened, and it took a couple of weeks for the House to organize itself.

We all recall the normal lull that goes on between the 2nd Monday in January when the Legislature convenes until the ending days when we dread the new stuff that pops out of nowhere. The Republicans say they are going to stop such last minute legislation that catches all of us by surprise, and this is probably wise.

Since 40 is the maximum time, I suggest that both houses of the Legislature by resolution vote to have 25 or 30-day general sessions until further action of both houses.

This should help lessen the impact of these part-time jobs being like year-round jobs, and in the process encourage more good people to come forward as candidates with less concern of their full-time careers, families and civic duties back home being negatively affected.

It is something to think about, and to discuss with your legislators.

Together, Virginia's Elite Democrats Target GOP

From The Washington Post:

It was Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's party, but two other Democratic stars seemed to dominate a reception in Tysons Corner last week to raise money to help unseat Republicans in the General Assembly.

Former governor Mark R. Warner and Sen.-elect James Webb arrived early and stayed late as they greeted contributors to Kaine's political action committee, which plans to help finance Democratic candidates next year.

What was unthinkable in Virginia six months ago is now the political reality: With Webb's election last month, the state has three prominent Democrats who say they are working as a team to build the party in a historically Republican state. Their first mission is trying to defeat Republicans in next year's legislative races.

Six years ago, it appeared as if the state's Democratic Party was on the verge of irrelevancy, with Republicans having won two successive governor's races and holding both U.S. Senate seats and majorities in the Virginia House and Senate.

But today, Democrats are the ones who can point to two straight victories for governor -- Warner in 2001 and Kaine last year -- as well as Webb's narrow win over Sen. George Allen (R).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

GOP Laments Mixed Results As Control of Congress Ends

From The Washington Post:

Demoralized Republicans adjourned the 109th Congress at 5 a.m. yesterday with a near-empty Capitol, closing the door on a dozen years of nearly unbroken GOP control by spending more time in the final days lamenting their failures -- to rein in government, tame the deficit and temper their own lust for power -- than reliving their successes.

The leaders of the revolution agreed that the past 12 years hardly cemented the conservative visions of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and the class of 1994. But [Former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.)] said that it is far too early to close the books on a conservative era.

"I still expect to see a fourth golden moment in my lifetime," he said. "We've got a bit of a setback here, but we're going to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger. We'll be back."

Cagle Not Sold On Idea Of Adding More Members To Supreme Court Or Returning To Partisan Judicial Races

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

[N]ot all Republican leaders think the smart next step is to add two more members to the [Georgia Supreme Court] who would initially be appointed by GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue, or to make judges again run in partisan elections.

You can put Casey Cagle, the lieutenant governor-elect and the first Republican who will hold that position, in that category.

I’m kind of cool to the idea,” he said in a recent interview with InsiderAdvantage Georgia. “Obviously, I’d like for others to make their case and I’ll try to be open-minded, but I don’t have a real strong appetite for that.”

He continued: “Judges are elected by the voters and I’m very cautious about trying to manipulate the system in order to have a certain outcome. I think my basic fundamental belief is that the voters are the ultimate decision-makers, and I just don’t see the need to try to manipulate the system ... I haven’t heard from one voter that’s saying we should add more justices or go to partisan elections.”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bill Shipp: Jim Butler may challenge Sen. Saxby Chambliss

Bill Shipp reports:

High-profile Columbus trial lawyer Jim Butler confirms that he is interested in challenging Georgia senior Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, for re-election in 2008. Butler, a Democrat, says he will make up his mind by April 1, 2007.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dueling Views on Diplomacy Pit Baker Against Rice

From The New York Times:

Many of the blistering critiques of the Bush administration contained in the Iraq Study Group’s report boil down to this: the differing worldviews of Baker versus Rice.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III was the architect of the “new diplomatic offensive” in the Middle East that the commission recommended Wednesday as one of its main prescriptions for extracting the country from the mess in Iraq. Ever since, he has been talking on television, to Congress and to Iraqis and foreign diplomats about how he would conduct American foreign policy differently. Very differently.

At a midday meeting with reporters on Thursday, Mr. Baker insisted that the study group had “rejected looking backward.” But he then proceeded to make a passionate argument for a course of action he believed Condoleezza Rice, the current secretary of state, should be pursuing — while carefully never mentioning Ms. Rice by name.

The United States should engage Iran, Mr. Baker contended, if only to reveal its “rejectionist attitude”; it should try to “flip the Syrians”; and it should begin a renewed quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians that, he maintained, would help convince Arab moderates that America was not all about invasions and regime change.

Meanwhile, Ms. Rice remained publicly silent, sitting across town in the office that Mr. Baker gave up 14 years ago. She has yet to say anything about the public tutorial being conducted by the man who first knew her when she was a mid-level Soviet expert on the National Security Council. She has not responded to Mr. Baker’s argument, delivered in a tone that drips with isn’t-this-obvious, that America has to be willing to talk to its adversaries (a premise Ms. Rice has questioned if the conditions are not right), or his dismissal of the administration’s early argument that the way to peace in the Middle East was through quick, decisive victory in Baghdad.

Aides to the 52-year-old Ms. Rice say she is acutely aware that there is little percentage in getting into a public argument with Mr. Baker, the 76-year-old architect of the first Bush administration’s Middle East policy. But Thursday, as President Bush gently pushed back against some of Mr. Baker’s recommendations, Ms. Rice’s aides and allies were offering a private defense, saying that she already has a coherent, effective strategy for the region.

She has advocated “deepening the isolation of Syria,” because she believes much of the rest of the Arab world condemns its efforts to topple Lebanon’s government, they said; and in seeking to isolate Iran, they said, she hopes to capitalize on the fears of nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that Iran seeks to dominate the region, with the option of wielding a nuclear weapon.

Ms. Rice makes no apology for the premium she has placed on promoting democracy in the Middle East, even though that is an idea that Mr. Baker and his commission conspicuously ignored in spelling out their recommendations. “I don’t think that the road to democracy in Iraq is at all utopian,” she said in April.

It is plenty utopian to Mr. Baker, who has made clear his view that the quest is entirely ill-suited to the realities of striking a political deal that may keep Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other, and that may extract American forces from Iraq.

Mr. Baker said nothing on Thursday about looking for Jeffersonian democrats in Iraq; he would be happy with few good “Iraqi nationalists” who can keep the country from splintering apart.

“They start from completely different places,” said Dennis Ross, the Middle East negotiator who worked for Mr. Baker years ago and left the State Department early in the Bush administration. “Baker approaches everything with a negotiator’s mindset. That doesn’t mean every negotiation leads to a deal, but you engage your adversaries and use your leverage to change their behavior. This administration has never had a negotiator’s mind-set. It divides the world into friends and foes, and the foes are incorrigible and not redeemable. There has been more of an instinct toward regime change than to changing regime behavior.”

To some degree, the Bush administration has softened that approach in its second term, and Ms. Rice’s aides contend that much of what is recommended in the Baker report, including a regional group to support the country, is already under way.

Mr. Bush himself seems uncertain how to handle his always-uncomfortable relationship with his father’s friend. It was Mr. Baker who in 2000 ran the strategy for winning the Florida recount, but he has also made little secret in private that he regards the administration as a bunch of diplomatic go-cart racers, more interested in speed than strategy and prone to ruinous crashes.

The administration has sent out word that it regards Mr. Baker’s recommendations as more than a little anachronistic, better suited to the Middle East of 1991 than to the one they are confronting — and to some degree have created — in 2006 three years after the Iraq invasion. It is a criticism that angers Mr. Baker, members of the study group say.

Iran and Syria illustrate the differing approaches of Mr. Baker and Ms. Rice. “If you can flip the Syrians you will cure Israel’s Hezbollah problem,” Mr. Baker said Thursday, noting that Syria is the transit point for arms shipments to Hezbollah. He said Syrian officials told him “that they do have the ability to convince Hamas to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist,” and added, “If we accomplish that, that would give the Ehud Olmert a negotiating partner.”

Ms. Rice’s allies argue that if it were all that simple, the Syrian problem would have been solved long ago. Stephen J. Hadley, national security adviser and Ms. Rice’s former deputy, said recently that the problem “isn’t one of communication, it’s one of cooperation.” Now that Mr. Baker has taken his differences public, the mystery is this: is he speaking for Mr. Bush’s father? “We never figured that out,” said one fellow member of the panel. “There was always this implication that there was a tremendous amount of frustration from the old man about what was happening. But Jim was always very careful.”

The elder Mr. Bush was careful, too. Asked if he wanted to offer his insights to the panel, he declined.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Culture Shock on Capitol Hill: House to Work 5 Days a Week

From The Washington Post:

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.

For lawmakers, it is awful, compared with what they have come to expect. For much of this election year, the legislative week started late Tuesday and ended by Thursday afternoon -- and that was during the relatively few weeks the House wasn't in recess.

Next year, members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m. Monday and will finish their business about 2 p.m. Friday, Hoyer said.

With the new calendar, the Democrats are trying to project a businesslike image when they take control of Congress in January.

By the time the gavel comes down on the 109th Congress on Friday, members will have worked a total of 103 days.

"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

Time away from Washington is just as important to being an effective member of Congress as time spent in the Capitol, Kingston added. "When I'm here, people call me Mr. Congressman. When I'm home, people call me 'Jack, you stupid SOB, why did you vote that way?' It keeps me grounded."

Eaton upsets Burgess -- Now we have a little more history by which to gauge future contests

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Four weeks ago, Eaton trailed Burgess 46.3 percent to 48.8 percent with a Libertarian accounting for 4.9 percent of the vote. It takes 50 percent to avoid a runoff in Georgia. Even so, general election runoffs are rare, the University of Georgia’s Dr. Charles Bullock pointed out in an InsiderAdvantage column earlier this week [see 12-4-06 post], so there wasn’t much history to suggest how this race would turn out. (In primary elections, where there is a lot of history, incumbents pushed into a runoff generally don’t survive. But the data pertains only to primaries.)

The most famous general election runoff in Georgia was the one in which then-U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler failed to reach 50 percent and lost the runoff to the late Paul Coverdell. So now we have a little more history by which to gauge future contests.

The question now, though, is how Eaton’s presence will affect decisions of the PSC. The man he replaces was the swing vote who often sided with Commissioners Stan Wise and Doug Everett against Bobby Baker and Angela Speir. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which editorially advised against the Democrat’s re-election, argued that Burgess had voted “with Wise and Everett on behalf of utilities and against the interests of Georgia citizens.”

What we know about Eaton is that he is a 37-year-old realtor from Atlanta who campaigned heavily on the rise in natural gas prices in Georgia and what he called the need for the PSC to seek innovative ways to reduce customers’ bills, including fostering the development of alternative fuels. The coming months will tell us more.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rep. Calvin Smyre Elected To Head National Black Caucus Of State Legislators

InsiderAdvantage Georgia reports that:

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, has been elected president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) . . . .

Founded in 1977, NBCSL is a nonpartisan organization with more than six hundred members in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As president, Representative Smyre will lead the organization’s efforts to identify and research important public policy issues as well as craft model state legislation to address these issues.

Smyre was first elected to the Georgia House in 1972 at age 26. He’s now served in the Legislature for 32 years. He was floor leader for former Gov. Joe Frank Harris and has chaired the University System of Georgia Committee and the House Rules Committee. He is a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

In a 3-19-05 post partially entitled "[O]ne of my favorite Georgia Democrats, Rep. Calvin Smyre. -- Georgia Democrats appreciate all you do for us Rep. Smyre," I wrote:

As noted in the caption, Rep. Calvin Smyre is one of my favorite Georgia Democrats. As noted above, he is currently serving as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

He has previously served as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, and now serves as Chair Emeritus.

He is a go-to person, whether it is legislation that has hit a snag or someone with difficult situation or problem needing resolving.

In a 12-27-04 post I wrote the following about Rep. Smyre:

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

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

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

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

And in a 12-20-04 post, I wrote the following about Rep. Smyre:

Rep. Calvin Smyre echoed much of what Mr. [Bert] Lance had said, but was more forceful, firing up those in attendance in the process. He is fed up with the DNC ignoring the South, and reviewed how completely writing off the South will continue to portend disaster for us landing a Democrat in the White House and its trickle down effect.

He reviewed some data similar to that posted in a 12-19-04 post that noted that the South includes 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Together they cast 168 electoral college votes, more than three-fifths of the 270 required for election.

Rep. Smyre thinks it is time to quit being nice and sugar-coating our feelings about the national Party.

He seems close to the point of thinking Georgia Party officials should go public, letting the powers that be know how sick and tired of the DNC we all are.

The former Party Chair is an eloquent spokesman who can rattle off statistics backing up his position. I hope we do go public, and the sooner the better. And if we do, there is not a better spokesman for the Party than Rep. Smyre.

And lastly, in a 11-22-04 post I wrote that

my favorite low profile political trio – Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, Attorney General Thurbert Baker and former state Democratic Party Chairman Calvin Smyre – remain most vigilant in rebuilding our state's white-black Democratic coalition as we all work together in reviving the crumbled Democratic power and putting back together again our Humpty-Dumpty Democratic Party of Georgia following our November 2002 whipping.

The next time you run into Rep. Smyre, thank him for all he does and has done for our party. Rep. Smyre, we 'ppreciate you.

Message From A Megachurch

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post:

American politics took an important turn last week at a church in the foothills of Southern California's Santa Ana Mountains.

When Rick Warren, one of the nation's most popular evangelical pastors, faced down right-wing pressure and invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak at a gathering at his Saddleback Valley Community Church about the AIDS crisis, he sent a signal: A significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine.

For a quarter-century since the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, white evangelical Christians have been widely seen as a Republican preserve. No one did a more comprehensive job of organizing them than President Bush, and he carried the white evangelical vote in 2004 over John Kerry by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1. Many of the most politically active evangelical leaders have insisted that the morally freighted social issues -- abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage -- took priority over all questions.

Warren is no political liberal. On the contrary, his views on the hot-button issues are reliably conservative, and he has said that members of his sprawling Orange County congregation probably vote overwhelmingly Republican.

But Warren speaks for a new generation of evangelicals who think that harnessing religious faith too closely to electoral politics is bad for religion, and who are broadening the evangelical public agenda to include a concern for global poverty and the scourge of AIDS.

Warren is also the most gifted religious entrepreneur since Billy Graham.

Chambliss has long been viewed as a shoo-in for a vice presidential slot in 2008. But . . . .

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported:

Republicans pondering a political shift to the middle after their losses in midterm elections might consider the example of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before setting their course.

Mr. Bush, who is stepping down this month because of term limits after eight years in office, has a track record as one of the nation's most socially and economically conservative politicians, yet he enjoys a nearly 65% approval rating in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. His brand of conservatism -- a mix of conservative political stands and activist governance -- has paid off for him in a way it hasn't for his brother in the White House.

His public support in a key swing state, his recent launch of a political advocacy group and the departure of two of his high-level aides to join the possible presidential campaign of another conservative governor suggest Mr. Bush will exert substantial influence over his party in the 2008 election and beyond.

At the least, he looks likely to be a significant power broker, despite the heavy toll the Iraq war has taken on his older brother's public-approval rating. The younger Bush has said he has no plans to seek the presidency in 2008. But he hasn't been as assertive in batting down persistent speculation among his closest backers that he might consider the No. 2 spot on a presidential ticket.

Today's the Political Insider in the ajc notes:

Chambliss has long been viewed as a shoo-in for a vice presidential slot in 2008. His Georgia roots could serve as a regional balance to any ticket-leader from the North or Midwest. He’s telegenic, and he’s got a commanding view of international affairs from his seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

All that may have changed in November, one of our well-read Republican friends pointed out this morning. If Republicans are to have any chance — slim though it may be — of taking back the Senate in two years, Chambliss may obliged to keep his seat.

As red as Georgia may be, an open Senate seat is still a gamble — and would drain valuable GOP resources.

Monday, December 04, 2006

U.S. Rep. John Lewis: "My history attests that I abhor racism."

U.S. Rep. John Lewis writes in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

My history attests that I abhor racism

I'd like to offer my sincere apology to all who were offended by the content of the John Eaves ad. I would never have participated in the ad if I had believed that it was racist.

I can honestly say that I don't think I have a single racist bone in my body. Anyone who examines my life history will know that I have fought too long and too hard to put an end to racism and bigotry to participate in anything that I thought would lead to the creation of a greater racial divide. For almost 50 years, I have believed and continue to preach that we must lay down the burden of race and create a truly interracial democracy — an all-inclusive beloved community.

Some of us come to our involvement in politics from a different place. We were denied the right to vote simply because of the color of our skin. Some of us were beaten and left bloody and unconscious. Some of us were left for dead. Some of us were arrested and jailed many times, trying to become participants in the democratic process.

Regardless of our differences, we must all find a way to pull together — Democrats and Republicans, black and white, rich and poor. We must continue to build and not tear down, to love and not hate, to reconcile and not divide. We are one people, one family, the American family, and we must find a way to work together, to live together and make peace with each other.


Handicapping The PSC Runoff: Judicial Races May Play A Role

Dr. Charles S. Bullock writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

[This] week Georgians get to experience some of the diversity encouraged by our federal system. We will be voting in a general election runoff. While many municipalities and eight other states have vote thresholds for primary elections, of states that have primaries, Georgia alone requires a minimum vote share in a general election.

In an exclusively two-party system, requiring a majority vote would stimulate a runoff only under the unlikely circumstance of two candidates evenly dividing the vote. The frequent presence of Libertarians competing for statewide offices raises the prospect of no candidate winning a majority.

[In the contest for the Third District seat on the Public Service Commission (PSC members must live in designated districts but the entire state votes on each one), the incumbent, David Burgess, got] 48.8 percent while his Republican challenger, Chuck Eaton, got 46.3 percent.

Generally, incumbents pushed into a primary runoff do not survive even if they led the primary field. Since 1970, incumbents who led Georgia primaries have won runoffs only about 40 percent of the time. General election runoffs have been too infrequent to develop estimates of success rates for these contests.

Fourteen years ago when Georgia had its first statewide general election runoff, two contests appeared on the ballot. The headliner was the U.S. Senate contest in which Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler led in the general election with 49.2 percent of the vote - 35,000 votes ahead of Paul Coverdell. In the runoff, which Coverdell won by 16,300 votes, turnout dropped from 2.2 million three weeks earlier to 1.25 million in the runoff.

After Fowler fell in the runoff, the General Assembly reduced the threshold for election to 45 percent. In 1996, that lower requirement allowed Max Cleland to go to the Senate with 48.8 percent of the vote. Republicans believed that had a majority been required, Guy Millner would have replicated Coverdell’s come-from-behind victory. Once Republicans took control of state government, they restored the 50 percent plus one requirement.

For the first time since judicial elections were made nonpartisan in 1984, they have been pushed back from the primary to the general election.

If turnout statewide hovers around ten percent, the handful of counties that have judicial or local contests still to be resolved will exert a disproportionate influence in determining whether Democrats retain their one PSC seat.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Suburban populism, a revolt against Rovian polarization politics.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post:

The basis for this new majority is very different from the one Democrats enjoyed between 1954 and 1994. The old majority depended heavily on representatives from the big cities of the North and rural areas in the South. The new majority, as [Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois] has been preaching, was built on gains in suburban and exurban areas and a new brand called "suburban populism," which he defines as "a revolt against Rovian polarization politics." The Democrats are increasingly the party of the metropolitan areas, suburban as well as urban, especially outside the South.