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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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shipp: DPG Chair Jane Kidd's early jobs are (1) to attract white Georgia males to Democratic Party & (2) to raise some money for the Democratic Party

Bill Shipp writes:

Making it OK for white Georgia males to say they vote Democratic is by far the most difficult and important task facing the new chair.

The election of Kidd seems to point to better days for Democrats.

First, however, Kidd must turn her attention to raising money for the down-but-not-out party and preparing for a full-court press against incumbent GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year.

Monday, January 29, 2007

DPG's Newly Elected Constituency Group Vice Chair to Hit the Ground Running

As a candidate for Constituency Group Vice Chair, Virgilio Pérez Pascoe ran on a simple platform:

"I have the leadership skill, management experience, and cultural sensitivity to help each county, leveraged by the key constituent local and state groups, build its programs and tailor its messages to bring voters back to their political home: The Democratic Party of Georgia."

Based on correspondence to Jon Flack, Chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Committee, the DPG's newly elected Constituency Group Vice Chair Virgilio Pérez Pascoe is hitting the ground running this Monday morning (from Jon Flack's blog The Peach Pulpit):

This is what I have decided to do:

• I will call our Chairperson Janet Kidd early Monday morning and ask her what her thoughts are.

• I will call Bernita Smith to find out what it is that made DeKalb win a 60k plurality in the last governor´s election. I want to understand what they are doing right---mostly who are the constituent groups.

• I will call Dr. Constance M. Burkes, Chairperson of Dougherty Co. in the southwest of the state to understand why it was that they also beat the Republican party in the last election, even if, by a hair. What have they done, and what are the constituencies there.

• I will call Jon Flack, my County Chairperson, because we live in one of the 100 fastest growing counties in the nation, along with 11 other counties in the State of Georgia, to understand what we need to do there to build a credible Democratic counterpart to the Republican behemoth and rid this county once for all of its regressive reputation.

• I will call the Young Democrats of the State of Georgia, for irrepressible fountains of ideas, hopes and goals.

• I will call Cobb County Democrats to understand how a rapidly growing, and diversifying county, and a Republican stronghold to boot ,has developed its constituent group make up. The one breakfast I attended showed me how diverse, active, and focused various constituencies are in that Party.

• I will call Ben Myers, to see how I can get educated on labor/general employment issues and specific constituent groups there.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

To the victor belong the spoils

In the morning I am going to send Jane Kidd $100 to help her with the expenses she incurred in seeking this full-time, nonpaying job.

But forget the caption of this post, and send a couple of bucks to the candidate you supported for Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. We are indebted to all of them for their willingness to serve our Party.

The media weighs in on the DPG's election of Jane Kidd as Chair

Jim Galloway writes in the ajc in an article entitled "GEORGIA DEMOCRATS: Leader seeks to recapture women's vote":

In a bid to recapture female voters who have slipped away over four disastrous years, Georgia Democrats on Saturday elected Jane Kidd . . . .

"I think women will trust women," Kidd said after the final vote.

Kidd's supporters described the 53-year-old former Athens state representative as a centrist and called her election a victory for those who want to challenge Republicans for moderate and independent voters — and appeal to older, traditional Democrats in rural Georgia.

Kidd's father was Ernest Vandiver Jr., who was governor from 1959 to 1963 — a political career ended by his decision not to oppose the integration of the University of Georgia. He died in 2005.

Since 2002, with the defeat of incumbent Gov. Roy Barnes, Democrats have seen their fortunes plunge. State Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus, a former chairman of the party, is among many who pinpoint the Democrats' diminishing appeal among women as a cause.

Barnes had angered the state's teachers, a profession dominated by women. Last year, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor defeated Secretary of State Cathy Cox in a bitter Democratic primary for governor. Afterward, a lack of support among women ensured his defeat by Republican incumbent Sonny Perdue.

Kidd "will be helpful in crafting and delivering a message that will bring a segment that we think we've lost back to the table," Smyre said.

Kidd's victory . . . was in part dictated by the state Democratic Party's charter, which requires that the chairman and first vice chairman be of opposite genders.

Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond last week made a late entry into the race for first vice chairman. Thurmond, who is African-American, immediately drew a large base of black committee members — who were then required by the rules to choose a female candidate for the top post.

Thurmond easily defeated state Sen. Doug Stoner of Smyrna to win the first vice chair.

An AP article reads in part:

Kidd, who served as representative from Athens from 2004 to 2006, said her first priority will be fundraising to create organized committees in counties where they don't exist.

"It means all the world to a candidate" to have organized committees, she said . . . .

Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service writes:

Kidd . . . is the daughter of the late Gov. Ernest Vandiver and niece of the late U.S. Sen. Richard Russell. She promised to rebuild the county organizations, hold training workshops around the state and recruit candidates for every race in future elections.

One of her first orders of business will be to hire a new executive director.

And not directly on the subject of Jane Kidd but about our meeting, James on his Drifting through the Grift blog shares one of those "you had to be there" moments:

After receiving an appreciation gift which looked like a paperweight, outgoing Chairman Bobby Kahn then received two plane tickets. Mr. Kahn was gracious enough to finish the joke by asking "is it true one them's one way."

And although not media, Party loyalist and booster Jim Butler, in congratulating the successful candidates who will be leading the Party for the next four years, writes in an e-mail:

Perhaps this election can be a start [of] the Georgia Democratic Party [again becoming] the Party of Sam Nunn . . . . If folks who are Democrats but have given up proselytizing for Democratic candidates can be convinced that the Georgia Party has really changed, and is no longer a "metro Atlanta liberal" party, then I think and hope those "latent Democrats" will begin to be active. If that happens, fundraisers and prospective contributors may come to believe that investing in the Georgia Democratic Party makes sense again.

So let it be written, so let it be done. Saturday truly was a great day for the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Candidate Sally Rosser: "It takes this team to spread the Democratic message throughout the community in a positive and consistent way."

Sally Rosser, candidate for Congressional District/County Chair Liaison Vice Chair, made the following comments on the Blog for Democracy:

To elect Democrats we need a vibrant, healthy team of Democrats, each contributing their own talents in their own way. The magic team includes the volunteers who knock on doors, put out yard signs, and make phone calls. It includes those who use their personal connections to open doors. It is those who support the Party and candidates financially. It is those who are elected and serve in a position of visibility. It is those who allow us to use their reputation as the community image of the Party. It takes all of these people working together as a team to breathe life into a County Party. It takes this team to spread the Democratic message throughout the community in a positive and consistent way. It takes this team to build our image and sink our roots so deep that we will not moved!

For the rest of Sally Rosser's statement discussing her candidacy, see the above link.

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman wins praise by helping reshape party for new challenges

The ever vigilant Mel at the Blog for Democracy has done a post featuring an article from The Charlotte Observer on the Democratic Party Chair in North Carolina. The DPG candidates in Georgia need to read this article and take notes. The full article follows:

None of the Democratic Party big boys wanted Jerry Meek to be party chief.

Not Gov. Mike Easley. Not former Gov. Jim Hunt. Not then-Sen. John Edwards or members of the congressional delegation.

So it was a surprise two years ago when Meek upset the establishment candidate to become party chairman. As the outsiders' candidate, Meek was given a mandate to shake up the state Democratic Party.

Meek is no longer regarded as the rebel-in-chief. Meek is given high marks by some Democrats for leading the party through its best election in years, for bridging differences between traditional power brokers and the more liberal Howard Dean wing of the party, and for proving to be a competent fundraiser.

As a result, Meek is expected to be re-elected to a second term as chairman when the state Democratic Executive Committee meets today at Elon University.

"I think Jerry Meek has done a superb job," said Hunt.

Meek's first term was aided by a national Democratic tide spurred by opposition to the war in Iraq. His second act may be more difficult, as he tries to find a candidate to unseat Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole and keep the governor's mansion in Democratic hands in 2008.

Meek is a 36-year-old Raleigh attorney, who at 6 feet 8 looks down on nearly everyone he encounters. He has thrown himself into the unpaid position, putting in 60-hour weeks -- thanks in part to the generosity of his employer, lawyer Wade Byrd of Fayetteville, a major Democratic donor.

Meek has sought to re-energize and reshape the party -- a task made easier because North Carolina had what is widely regarded as one of the strongest Democratic parties in the South before he took office.

"The state party had been run as though we were still a one-party state -- a one-party state where Democrats rule," Meek said in an interview in the Goodwin House, the 1903 house a block from the Capitol that serves as party headquarters.

"The idea was that the party should disappear into the background. We now have a two-party state. The party has to be more savvy about how it uses its resources. It needs to be more aggressive. The party, as an institution, has to have its own voice, because there might be times down the road when we don't have a Democrat in the governor's mansion or we don't have control of the General Assembly."

Meek said he sought to change the party in several respects:

• From a top-down party run by governors to one that is more responsive to local Democratic Party activists. The party has hired three field coordinators, helped counties set up Web pages, stepped up local training on organizing and other skills and instituted monthly conference calls with county chairs.

• From a patronage-based system to an ideological-based system of organization. "People nowadays don't get involved in the party because they have any expectation of getting an appointment to a position," Meek said. Meek said he will push the party to take positions on five or six issues that will likely be considered by the legislature.

• From a party that relied on older, big donors and traditional business interests to one more attuned to young activists, many of whom engage in politics through the Internet.

• From targeting party money primarily in swing districts to spreading some of it into traditionally Republican counties that the party has tended to ignore.

One such county was Watauga, home to the college town of Boone. Even though registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, the county elected a completely Democratic county board of commissioners, a Democratic sheriff and helped elect two new Democrats to the legislature.

Diane Tilson, the Watauga County Democratic chairwoman, said a strong local party effort was aided by the state party, which provided regular consultation as well as other help such as voter information and helping plan a roadside advertising campaign.

"I do know that Jerry has been very hands on," Tilson said.

Meek's election in 2005 reflected, in part, national discontent among Democrats following President Bush's re-election. That mood also helped elect former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as chairman of the national Democratic Party.

Meek defeated Ed Turlington, a politically connected Raleigh attorney, by putting together a coalition of liberals, anti-war activists and local activists who felt ignored by the state party.

There was some concern that Meek would try to move the party away from its centrist, pro-business moorings.

"The thing I didn't know about two years ago" said Hunt, "was whether or not he would lead the party in a moderate, mainstream way, which I think is typical of North Carolina Democrats and necessary to win elections. The fact is, I think Jerry has been very supportive and has led the party in representing the mainstream positions."

The race for the DPG Chair -- Mike Berlon got his start in politics working for Jerry Springer in Ohio.

Bill Shipp writes:

Without Kahn at its helm, the state Democratic Party is obviously heading in a new direction. The odds-on favorite to become the new Democratic chairman is Mike Berlon, the Gwinnett County chair, who says he trained for politics at the knee of Jerry Springer in Ohio. This is the same Jerry Springer who has earned millions with a rude and crude TV show starring America's white trash. Berlon also ran for Congress but failed to file required Federal Election Commission reports.

The source of the news that Mike Berlon got his start in politics working for Jerry Springer in Ohio is Mike himself. He noted this while making telephone calls soliciting support in his run for the Chair.

I don't know if I would have told that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Transcript of Va. Sen. Jim Webb's Democratic Response to President Bush's State of the Union Address -- One of the strongest & best I have ever heard

Good evening.

I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown — an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the president's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the president has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the president and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy — how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy — how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it¹s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day.

Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them.

In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.

In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy — that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. We must recapture that spirit today.And under the leadership of the new Democratic Congress, we are on our way to doing so. The House just passed a minimum wage increase, the first in ten years, and the Senate will soon follow. We've introduced a broad legislative package designed to regain the trust of the American people. We've established a tone of cooperation and consensus that extends beyondparty lines. We're working to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons.

With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. Many, including myself, warned even before the war began that it was unnecessary, that it would take our energy and attention away from the larger war against terrorism, and that invading and occupying Iraq would leave us strategically vulnerable in the most violent and turbulent corner of the world.

I want to share with all of you a picture that I have carried with me for more than 50 years. This is my father, when he was a young Air Force captain, flying cargo planes during the Berlin Airlift. He sent us the picture from Germany, as we waited for him, back here at home. When I was a small boy, I used to take the picture to bed with me every night, because for more than three years my father was deployed, unable to live with us full-time, serving overseas or in bases where there was no family housing. I still keep it, to remind me of the sacrifices that my mother and others had to make, over and over again, as my father gladly served our country. I was proud to follow in his footsteps, serving as a Marine in Vietnam. My brother did as well, serving as a Marine helicopter pilot. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues — those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death — we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value ofour lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm¹s way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us — sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable — and predicted — disarray that has followed.

The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Financially. The damage to our reputation around the world. The lost opportunities to defeat the forces of international terrorism.And especially the precious blood of our citizens who have stepped forward to serve.

The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military. We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq¹s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.

On both of these vital issues, our economy and our national security, it falls upon those of us in elected office to take action.

Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other."And he did something about it.

I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War II. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.

These presidents took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.

Thank you for listening. And God bless America.

To listen to Sen. Webb's response, go to this link.

Can we laugh at ourselves? I think so. A little levity from the Readers Write section of the ajc.

I came across the following while reading my hard copy of the ajc tonight:

Let Frank join the crowd

All we need now is for U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to announce that he, too, is running for president. Then, the Democratic Party's slate would be complete.

Bush Turns to the Clinton Playbook

From TIME:

When George W. Bush takes the podium in the House tonight, he will peer into an audience of scowling, hostile faces. He will see lawmakers made bitter by the failure of his Iraq gambit, and by his call to risk compounding that failure by adding more U.S. troops to the lethal sectarian stew in Baghdad. He will see members of both the House and the Senate seething over his miscalculations, his six years of contempt for the Congress and his legacy of debt, bloated government and partisan animosity.

Then he'll look at the Democrats, who will be smiling.

In late 1994 and early 1995, President Clinton was in free fall. His aides despaired. They worried he might never recover from the shellacking the Democrats took in the 1994 mid-term elections. His approval ratings were mired in the 30's, and seemed unlikely to rise. When Clinton delivered his State of the Union address in January 1995, his first with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole seated behind him as Speaker and Senate Majority Leader, he looked out at an audience of Democrats who blamed him for losing their majorities and of Republicans who were already convinced he would be a one-term president. Then he proceeded to deliver what may forever be the longest State of the Union address in history -- 81 long minutes of policy prescriptions large and small. It was interminable, a seeming embarrassment. That night I spoke to a top White House adviser to the President. "We're getting killed on this, aren't we?" he asked. "We're dead."

But the public didn't agree with the Beltway assessments of Clinton's 1995 State of the Union address, even the ones from within his own White House. The reaction was favorable. Slowly, Clinton began the process of saving his presidency.

Twelve years later, aides to George W. Bush are studying the ways previous administrations salvaged presidencies that seemed to some to be beyond salvation. One of the lessons of the Clinton recovery, both in 1995 and later, during Monica, in 1999, is that Americans reward presidents who, even in the face of enormous distractions, focus on issues that matter to them.

Which is why, according to leaked previews, Bush won't spend much time tonight talking about surging troops in Iraq or the Global War on Terror. Instead, he'll put forward what for him will be progressive and bold policy proposals on health care, the environment and immigration reform.

The Limits of Speech In a Troubled Presidency

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

The vast powers of the U.S. presidency make it a little silly to question whether the leader in the Oval Office has lost his relevancy. After all, President Bush is going ahead with plans to deploy additional U.S. troops to Iraq in the face of bipartisan resistance in Congress and opposition from a majority of Americans. But his increasing isolation in polls and in Washington does raise the question of just what he can accomplish with tonight's State of the Union address.

Mr. Bush's advisers tell the New York Times his speech will "re-energize" the White House's domestic agenda with its bipartisan and ambitious tone. "The power of the ideas requires people to take notice and take seriously important domestic initiatives," presidential counselor Dan Bartlett argues. But, as The Wall Street Journal says, "Much of the public has stopped listening to him." A new poll from the Journal and NBC News indicates that only 22% of Americans want Mr. Bush to set policy for the country, that just 27% express confidence in his goals, and that only 28% approve how he has handled the war. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll find that "for the first time, majorities of Americans say Bush cannot be trusted in a crisis, has not made the country safer and should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq to avoid further casualties rather than leave them until civil order is restored," according to the Post. A bigger majority, 65%, now opposes the bigger troop deployment than the 61% margin against it when Mr. Bush announced his policy change Jan. 10, the Post adds.

A first -- Sen. Clinton plans to forgo public funds for the primaries, and if she becomes the nominee, the general election as well.

From The Washington Post:

The public financing system designed to clean up presidential campaigns in the wake of the Watergate scandal may have died on Saturday when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) announced her bid for the White House.

[S]he plans to forgo public funds for [the] primary season but also that, if she becomes the nominee, she will not take public money for the general election.

By opting out of the system, Clinton will be able to spend as much money as she can raise, both for the primaries and for the general election, rather than being forced to abide by strict spending limits imposed by the Federal Election Commission on candidates who accept public financing.

Others have opted out of public financing for the nomination campaigns, but Clinton is the first since the current structure was created in 1974 to declare she will forgo public financing in the general election as well.

One effect is to put lesser-known candidates at a further disadvantage in competing with rivals who have the capacity to raise huge amounts of money.

See also an article in The New York Times entitled "Death Knell May Be Near for Public Election Funds."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Political Insider: "It’s hard to say who’s winning, but Democrats who hold elected positions appear to be lining up behind Kidd . . . ."

The ajc's Political Insider offers a theory explaining the late entry of Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond into the contest for First Vice Chair, which now includes state Sen. Doug Stoner of Smyrna and Secretary of State candidate Darryl Hicks:

The key is that party rules require that if the chairman of the party is male, the first vice chair must be female, and vice versa. There’s no similar regulation regarding the races of the office-holders, but you’ll see that this could be an unspoken requirement.

Assume that Kidd, daughter of the late governor Ernest Vandiver, is the front-runner — not just because of Berlon’s position on elected officials, but because of her lineage, the fact that she’s not from Atlanta, and her relatively centrist positions.

The entry of Thurmond, also from Athens, into the race for the No. 2 slot first serves as a signal to African-American voters that it’s all right to vote for Kidd.

Thurmond and Hicks are then the two black candidates in the race for first vice chairman. Stoner is white.

But Hicks just took a job as chief of staff to Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves. That could give pause to some state committee members, while Thurmond, as we said, has a non-Atlanta address.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Martinez Takes Over as Leader of RNC -- Florida Senator Aims to Reach Out To Minority Voters

From The Washington Post:

Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who arrived in the United States as a teenage Cuban refugee, took his party's helm yesterday as general chairman of the Republican National Committee, vowing to reach out to minority voters and restore "the principles that have made us great."

Martinez was handpicked for the job by President Bush, and his ascendance was not without controversy. A small group of conservative RNC members had announced their opposition to the first-term senator because they viewed him as overly tolerant of illegal immigration.

But to many Republicans, Martinez represented a fresh face for the party, a first-generation American whose background and congenial personality could widen GOP appeal to vast new voter groups. Martinez called for greater tolerance for all groups during his inaugural address yesterday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Georgia: The higher education state

From the ajc's Political Insider:

Who has the most hard-core Republican congressional delegation in the country?

One measure might be the House vote Wednesday on the bill reducing the interest on federal student loans, part of the Democrats’“100 hours” push. The popular measure was a rout, with 124 Republicans joining the Democrats and only 71 opposing it.

But the Georgia Republicans solidly opposed the measure. Six of the seven Republicans voted against it, with Rep. Charlie Norwood, who is battling cancer, not voting.

All six Georgia Democrats voted for the measure.

At this time I do not know who I will be voting for as Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

In a 12-12-06 post I wrote that I would be voting for Mike Berlon for the next Democratic Party of Georgia Chair.

Since that time other candidates have filed their intent to run for this office, and I have determined that I want to meet and hear from all of the candidates, and thus do not want to be in the committed column for anyone.

I intend to continue my due diligence, and if I decide who I will vote for between now and January 27, I will post it. But I probably will not decide until I have met with the candidates in Atlanta on January 27 prior to the elections.

For those of us who have not had the opportunity and pleasure, we will have a chance to meet the candidates at the lunch being sponsored by the party from 11:30 until 12:45 on January 27.

Please know that I remain very impressed with Mike Berlon and the campaign he has conducted, and I may vote for him. I emphasize this since my being premature in endorsing Mike and then wishing I had waited until I had met and heard from all the candidates should not be perceived as anything negative on Mike in the least.

My feelings on the race for Chair are reflected in an e-mail I received from a friend two nights ago. The author of the e-mail wrote that as a party "we have an embarrassment of riches in this race," and that both Jane Kidd and Mike Berlon would "make outstanding Chairs for our party. Who would have thought we could be so lucky?"

And then yesterday afternoon we got an e-mail from Carol Jackson saying she was officially a candidate for Chair, and that "Our very experienced candidates represent the diversity in our party. We have candidates from rural, urban, and suburban areas of the state," and that "We Democrats are coming back!!!"

We indeed are coming back.

New chief election strategist for the House Democrats & Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean bury hatchet

From The Hill:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the new chief election strategist for the House Democrats, welcomed Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean to his office Tuesday for a “jovial” meeting in which the two pledged to work together during the 2008 election cycle

Such amity contrasts with the contentious relationship between Dean and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). They clashed last year over how much money Dean would commit to get-out-the-vote efforts and television advertising campaigns in individual congressional races.

As chairman, Dean centered his efforts on a “50-state strategy” to rebuild neglected state and local Democratic Party organizations, even in places such as Alaska, Nebraska and Alabama where Democrats run poorly. Emanuel, however, wanted to pour as much money as possible into congressional districts with vulnerable Republican candidates. At a meeting in May 2005, the Washington Post reported that Emanuel stormed out of a meeting with Dean amid a flurry of “expletives.”

“Victory is a great aphrodisiac. Rahm Emanuel had to make decisions [on a race-by-race basis]; Dean’s job is to rebuild the national party. They were both right,” newly elected Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who is close to Dean, said.

Still, some House Democratic aides close to Emanuel find working with Dean difficult. In a profile of Emanuel in GQ magazine’s January issue, an unidentified Democratic aide and Emanuel ally said, “[Dean is] so frustrating. I just don’t like him, anyway. I haven’t liked him from the beginning. It’s totally bizarre dealing with him.

She continued, “It’s not just that we only got $2.4 million, but we’re also supposed to not say mean things about Howard Dean. And Rahm’s supposed to act like everything’s wonderful.”

I admit to have the same problem with Dean -- I just don't like him.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Perdue didn’t propose very much in the way of policy initiatives during his first term in office & he will accomplish even less during his second term

Tom Crawford writes in Capitol Impact:

Start with the fact that Perdue is basically a lame-duck governor, while several prominent legislators and congressmen are already setting up their campaigns to replace him in the 2010 elections. Perdue didn’t propose very much in the way of policy initiatives during his first term in office and he will accomplish even less during his second term as House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle start jockeying for position in the next governor’s race.

You can expect Richardson and Cagle to emphasize their own issues and pay scant attention to any of the governor’s ideas. That won’t sit well with Perdue, who seethes with anger whenever he thinks anyone is questioning his prerogatives as the state’s chief executive. As soon as the governor figures out that legislators are ignoring him, he’ll go off like an improvised explosive device and cause collateral damage all over the capitol.

List Of Candidates for Democratic Party of Georgia State Committee Elections

The list of candidates who have filed to run in the State Committee Elections is as follows (listed in alphabetical order):

Michael R. Berlon (Gwinnett)
Hattie B. Dorsey (Fulton)
Carol Jackson (Habersham)
Donzella J. James (Fulton)
Jane V. Kidd (Clarke)
Jim Nelson (Chatham)

First Vice Chair
Gloria S. Butler (DeKalb)
Darryl A. Hicks (Fayette)
Angela Moore (DeKalb)
Michael Thurmond (Clarke)
Doug Stoner (Cobb)

Congressional District/County Liaison Vice Chair
Randal Mangham (DeKalb)
Sally Rosser (Fulton)
Cheryl Williams (Gwinnett)

Constituency Group Vice Chair
Virgilio Perez Pascoe (Forsyth)
James Quarterman (Douglas)
Terrence Samuel (Thomas)

Candidate Recruitment Vice Chair
Winfred Dukes (Dougherty)
Danita P. Knowles (Coffee)

Patricia Barlow-Ivry (Habersham)
Stephen R. Leeds (Fulton)

Rex Templeton, Jr. (Chatham)

1st Congressional District Chair
Dennis W. Marks (Lowndes)

2nd Congressional District Chair
Margaret Tyson (Grady)

3rd Congressional District Chair
Ernest C. Broadwell (Fayette)

4th Congressional District Chair
Linda Edmonds (DeKalb)

5th Congressional District Chair
William Curry (Fulton)
Sheila Jones (Fulton)

6th Congressional District Chair
Ben E. Myers (Fulton)

7th Congressional District Chair
Tasso Knight (Gwinnett)

8th Congressional District Chair
Keith Moffett (Bibb)

9th Congressional District Chair
Bob Barton (Lumpkin)

10th Congressional District Chair
R. Terry Holley (Columbia)
Patty Payne (Franklin)

11th Congressional District Chair
David McLaughlin (Floyd)

12th Congressional District Chair
Tony Center (Chatham)

13th Congressional District Chair
Donzella J. James (Fulton)
Sukari Scott (Clayton)
Nikema Williams (Fulton)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Was Iraq so "broken" we never could have fixed it? Was Hussein's despotism an avoidable tragedy, or was it, instead, a tragic necessity?

Richard Cohen's current column in The Washington Post:

Some years ago, I accompanied John McCain to Vietnam. For him, it was yet another trip to the place where he had been a prisoner of war, but for me it was a first. After we visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon), McCain and the rest of his party went home. A colleague and I stayed behind to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels. To the Vietnamese, they are a monument to a lesson they taught us. To us, they are a monument to a lesson we never seem to learn.

Experience -- reporting, we call it in my business -- can be vastly overrated. I went to Bosnia and Croatia during the war there and came away convinced that NATO, which was to say the United States, should stay out of that conflict. I was intimidated by the terrain and horrified by the ethnic enmity. I came away with precisely the wrong lesson. NATO went in and ended the killing.

Ducking into the Cu Chi tunnels might be a similar sort of misleading experience, but I don't think so. Suddenly, I was underground, stooped, gasping for air and intolerably hot. I was experiencing -- just for a short while -- the conditions in which the Vietnamese communists lived for long stretches. The tunnels had sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, kitchens, clinics and even operating rooms where surgeons worked in what had to be miserable conditions.

Those tunnels explained to me why the United States lost the Vietnam War. We were fighting people who cared deeply enough about their cause to live underground, to live in ways that no American could even imagine. The Vietnamese communists would do for their cause what no American would do for ours. They won because they believed. We lost because we didn't. We didn't have to.

I keep those tunnels in mind when thinking about Iraq. Just as I could not imagine living in one of them, I could not imagine being a suicide bomber or a member of a death squad -- or killing someone because he was a Shiite or a Sunni. As there was in Vietnam, there is a piece of Iraq -- its culture, it religions, its history -- that we do not understand. This war has lasted longer than we expected not just because we were inept or understaffed or fired the Baathists or discharged the army -- but because we don't understand the country. For instance, an Iraqi government that reacts lethargically to American proposals moved with surprising alacrity to hang Saddam Hussein. Even late in the game, we didn't see it coming.

Similarly, we did not notice that in all the hoopla just before Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdaus Square came down in 2003, the crowd went silent after an American flag was draped over it. The crowd came to life only when the Iraqi flag replaced it. Had we noticed that, we might have learned something about Iraqi nationalism and the fleeting gratitude awarded to liberators. One minute you're a liberator, the next an occupier.

I have some questions. When politicians and commentators detail all that the Bush administration did wrong, I wonder whether any of it really matters. Would things have turned out differently if we had done everything right? Was Iraq so "broken" we never could have fixed it? Was Hussein's despotism an avoidable tragedy, or was it, instead, a tragic necessity? I wonder about all these things. I tend to think now we never could have made it work.

Now, of course, everyone looks like an idiot. Bremer was an idiot and Garner was an idiot and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney and all the generals, with the exception of Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who called for lots and lots of troops and was sidelined. But these men are not really idiots. They were merely wrong, sometimes on account of arrogance, but they were doing what they thought was the right thing. They simply didn't know what they didn't know. They didn't know a damned thing about Iraq.

I wish McCain had been at the Cu Chi tunnels with me and my colleague. (I'm sure he's been there at another time.) I would like to have seen his face, measured his reaction. He knows Vietnam far better than I do, but as a prisoner -- not as an insurgent in a tunnel. I would like him -- because I do like him -- to consider whether the remedy for Iraq is not more American troops, as he insists, but fewer and fewer . . . and then none at all. Iraq is not Vietnam, but America is still America -- and we still don't know what in the world we're doing.

Democrats Seek the Middle on Social Issues

From The New York Times:

The promise may not outlast their political honeymoon, but Democratic Congressional leaders say they are committed to governing from the center, and not just on bread-and-butter issues like raising the minimum wage or increasing aid for education. They also hope to bring that philosophy to bear on some of the most divisive social issues in politics, like abortion.

In their first days in session, Senate Democratic leaders reintroduced a bill that they said was indicative of their new approach: the Prevention First Act, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions by expanding access to birth control, family planning and sex education.

In the House last week, Democrats showcased a vote on expanding federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, which, despite fierce opposition from many conservatives, has won bipartisan support among lawmakers — and voters — who are otherwise divided on abortion.

The mantra, for many Democrats, is the search for common ground. On gay rights, lawmakers and advocates said the most likely legislation in the new Congress would focus on hate crimes and employment discrimination, issues expected to be much less polarizing than the debate over same-sex marriage that was front and center in the Republican Congress.

[T]he Democrats’ moves toward consensus-building on issues that often resist consensus reflect their effort to adjust to a new political reality. Their majority is slimmer than it was the last time they were in power, especially in the Senate. The country, some pollsters say, has grown more conservative on abortion and other social issues.

In the past 12 years, Democratic strategists say they have learned some hard lessons. Many said they were dismayed to see the religion gap after the 2004 election, with the Republicans’ overwhelming strength among churchgoers and the widespread perception that Democrats were a secular party insensitive to issues of values.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who advises Congressional leaders, said, “Most swing voters think that these social issues are issues that both sides love to have fights over, but that they don’t really have a stake in.”

In fact, Democrats, like Republicans, have long had to fight the notion that they are in thrall to the advocacy groups because of these hot-button issues. Republicans clearly took a dip in the polls after their intervention in the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, and many strategists say their intense pursuit of a ban on same-sex marriage and other conservative causes ultimately backfired, making them seem out of touch.

Democrats, after 12 years in the wilderness, say they are not likely to repeat those mistakes.

Amy Morton of Macon announces: "I'm voting for Jane Kidd for DPG Chair."

From Amy Morton's blog Georgia Women Vote!:

I'm voting for Jane Kidd for DPG Chair. Jane can go from boardrooms in Buckhead to the Rotary Club in Bainbridge, be welcome, be comfortable and make people feel great about being a Democrat. In addition, Jane can, without a doubt, raise the cash required to fund a winning strategy.

For Georgia Democrats, Jane offers a unique combination of leadership experience, political acumen and deep roots. From personal experience, Jane knows what candidates need and what it takes to win. She is making a 159 County Strategy for candidate recruitment a top priority, and she understands that local elected Democrats and local Democratic organizations are our greatest under-developed resource. She is committed to making Republicans earn every vote in every race, and she knows that supporting County Parties so that they can be more effective in electing Democrats is key.

We don't have to hope that Jane can raise money, a quick scan of her campaign disclosures reveals that she can indeed. Plus, her own volunteer-rich campaigns show a strong commitment to good grassroots organizing. For the Democratic Party of Georgia to be a success, it has to be more than an organizational chart, it has to become a viable force, promoting Democrats and Democratic candidates in Georgia. Jane has the skills and experience to bring life to the party. You can learn more about Jane and her vision for the party by checking out her website. Plus, Jane blogs!

Monday, January 15, 2007

In "I Have a Dream," our native son let the thousands assembled & facing the Lincoln Memorial know that he was from Georgia.

Excerpts from "I Have a Dream" as delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28 1963:

"[G]o back to Georgia . . . knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"[L]et freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! . . . When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kahn's ethics complaint against Richardson spoiled a frenzy of back-stabbing among Republican ranks.

From the ajc's Political Insider:

Republicans may not believe it, but many House and Senate Democrats frowned at the decision by Bobby Kahn, the state Democratic party chairman, to file a salacious ethics complaint against House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

Kahn’s entrance into the fray, with a formal accusation that the GOP speaker had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a natural gas lobbyist, spoiled a perfectly good frenzy of back-stabbing among Republican ranks, several Democratic lawmakers have told us.

For that’s where the tales about Richardson originated.

Bush's challenge isn't just to take control of Baghdad, but to win back control of his party.

From Newsweek:

A former senior Bush aide who is still close to the White House says if things don't improve, a delegation of Republican senators could one day show up in the Oval Office to tell Bush that the party is no longer with him and the war must end—much like Sen. William Fulbright's forcefully urging Lyndon Johnson to bring the Vietnam War to a close. Bush's challenge isn't just to take control of Baghdad, but to win back control of his party. "Before this, the president's credibility was hanging by a thread," says the former aide. "After this, I don't know. It may be lost."

The ethics charge has not slowed down the autocratic speaker a bit.

Bill Shipp writes:

The ethics charge has not slowed down the autocratic [House Speaker Glenn Richardson] a bit. Last week, he summarily fired Rep. Mack Crawford, R-Concord, as the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee chairman on judicial agencies. Crawford's sin: failure to raise enough cash for Richardson's special campaign kitty. Richardson has ordered committee chairs to contribute up to $70,000 to his special fund - or else.

"No president can conduct a war without the support of the American people and without the support of the Congress. That's the lesson of history."

From The Washington Post:

Democrats believe that Bush made a fundamental mistake. Had he embraced the Iraq Study Group, or even made a show of embracing some of its elements, he could have called the Democrats' bluff about wanting to work together, party strategists said. "That would have really jammed us," said a top congressional Democratic aide.

The study group proposed shifting the U.S. mission to support and training, withdrawing combat forces by early 2008, embedding U.S. troops with Iraqi units, threatening to reduce aid to the Iraqi government unless it makes progress, negotiating with Iran and Syria and reinvigorating the Israeli-Arab peace process. But to the consternation of Democrats, the U.S. troop pullout would not be locked into a strict timetable and would depend on ground conditions.

"This was a real missed opportunity," said Leon E. Panetta, a former Clinton White House chief of staff who served on the panel. "No president can conduct a war without the support of the American people and without the support of the Congress. That's the lesson of history." While some officials saw the report as an opportunity to change course, Panetta said, "I think deep down, they viewed it as a sign of weakness to abide by an outside group's recommendation."

Former senator Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), another panel member, said that Bush's plan is "better than the status quo" but voiced disappointment that he did not agree to talk with Syria and Iran. "Nothing is ever solved by not talking to somebody," he said. Simpson said he was stunned by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statement that Iran could use talks with the United States to extort concessions. "Where did that come from?" he asked. " What the hell is gained by not thinking of some kind of system to talk? It makes no sense."

House GOP Shows Its Fractiousness In the Minority

From The Washington Post:

House Republican leaders, who confidently predicted they would drive a wedge through the new Democratic majority, have found their own party splintering, with Republican lawmakers siding with Democrats in droves on the House's opening legislative blitz.

Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82.

Democratic leaders say even they have been surprised by their margins of victory, but they were always counting on GOP votes. Republicans from swing districts who have been beat up for years over their party-line voting have been liberated by their minority status, said Rep. John B. Larson (Conn.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

"They've really been the ones that have been oppressed," he said.

GOP leaders were quick to dismiss the significance of the Democratic winning streak, however. For one thing, the Democrats' opening legislative blitz is being conducted under parliamentary rules that run roughshod over the Republicans, foreclosing any chance to actually amend the bills. But Democratic leaders have promised to give the GOP more latitude once the so-called 100-hours agenda runs its course next week.

For another, the Democrats will soon exhaust their carefully constructed opening list of bills that were designed to appeal across party lines.

Newly in the Minority, GOP Shows Signs of Division on Iraq and Domestic Policies; Still in House There Is a Fear of Retribution for Dissension.

From The New York Times:

After years of rock-solid party discipline and fealty to President Bush, Congressional Republicans have suddenly fractured in their new role as members of the minority, with some prominently deserting the White House on Iraq and others bolting from their leadership on popular domestic issues.

While Republican unrest about Iraq was the most visible party division, others were starkly reflected in the ease with which House Democrats pushed through initial elements of their 100-hour legislative program with substantial Republican backing.

Leaders of both parties pointed to the president’s poor poll numbers, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq and the pent-up demand for some of the legislative proposals pushed by Democrats as the explanation for the Republican splintering.

But Republican leaders have in the past been able to tamp down most discord, arguing that the fates of the president and Congressional Republicans were inextricably linked. And, particularly in the House, there was also a fear of retribution.

There were signs this week that the House Republican leadership was not going to tolerate too much dissension when two lawmakers known for challenging the party orthodoxy — Representatives Jeff Flake of Arizona, a critic of pork-barrel spending, and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, a war opponent — were denied coveted committee slots.

Sen. Clinton's visit to Iraq provides a platform to examine and perhaps alter her views on a war that she once voted to authorize but now criticizes.

From The New York Times:

Viewed with suspicion by elements of her party because she has not explicitly repudiated her October 2002 vote authorizing military action against Iraq, Mrs. Clinton, who was in Baghdad on Saturday, has been trying to shore up her credentials as a critic of the war without exposing herself to charges of indecisiveness or flip-flopping of the sort that so damaged Senator John Kerry in his unsuccessful race against Mr. Bush in 2004.

Some Democrats suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s trip this weekend was intended to give her an opportunity to move further away from that vote and against the president’s policy.

Mrs. Clinton . . . [has] no doubt learned a lesson from Mr. Kerry’s problems in 2004 when he appeared to switch his position on the war: that inconsistency may well prove to be a bigger political sin than taking a position out of step with the electorate. Mrs. Clinton’s associates have expressed concern that if she tries to switch her views on the war, reflecting what her advisers said was concern, she would appear weak as she campaigned during a time of war to become the nation’s first female president.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Rep. Rahm Emanuel: November election opened the way for what could be a long-term realignment, if the Democrats are smart.

Karl Rove may have met his match in Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the architect of the Democratic victory in November's congressional elections.

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Emanuel plans to use Bush's Iraq speech to pose what amounts to a vote of "no confidence" in Bush's leadership -- framing the new strategy as a congressional motion and voting it up or down. Emanuel is certain that Bush's strategy will be voted down and that a sizable number of Republicans will join the Democrats in rejecting the military escalation. Rather than try to restrict funds for the troops (which he sees as a political blunder that would delight Republicans), Emanuel instead favors a proposal by Rep. John Murtha to set strict standards for readiness -- which would make it hard to finance the troop surge in Iraq without beefing up the military as a whole. The idea is to position the Democrats as friends of the military, even as they denounce Bush's Iraq policy.

[H]ere's what Emanuel doesn't want to do: fall into the political trap of chasing overambitious or potentially unpopular measures. Ask about universal health care, and he shakes his head. Four smart presidents -- Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Clinton -- tried and failed. That one can wait. Reform of Social Security and other entitlements? Too big, too woolly, too risky. If the president wants to propose big changes to entitlements, he can lead the charge.

The secret for the Democrats, says Emanuel, is to remain the party of reform and change. The country is angry, and it will only get more so as the problems in Iraq deepen. Don't look to Emanuel's Democrats for solutions on Iraq. It's Bush's war, and as it splinters the structure of GOP power, the Democrats are waiting to pick up the pieces.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Poll: Most Americans Opposed to Bush's Iraq Plan. Majority of Those Surveyed Are Skeptical That Surge Would Make Victory More Likely.

From The Washington Post:

A majority of Americans oppose sending additional troops to Iraq as outlined by President Bush in his nationally televised address Wednesday night, and just one-in-three Americans said the plan for more troops and a stepped up combat efforts by Iraqi forces make victory there more likely, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The findings of the survey, conducted after Bush's primetime speech, represent an initial rebuke to the White House goal of generating additional public support for the mission in Iraq. The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

For all their attacks on the White House over its use of war powers, Democrats aren't about to block Bush on troop levels in Iraq.

From TIME on "The Dems: More Bark Than Bite:"

[W]hen it comes to actually taking any action to check Bush's war powers, there's not much bite to the Democrats' bark. Which raises the question: will Democrats use their new power to rein in what they say is an overreaching President? Or will they choose to continue what proved to be a successful political strategy when they were in the minority: criticizing the Administration for unpopular policies while avoiding taking action themselves that could prove equally unpopular?

On Iraq, Hill Democrats have chosen the latter course. Sen. Edward Kennedy yesterday introduced a bill to block funding for deploying additional troops to Iraq. But Reid and the Democratic leadership prefer a non-binding, "sense-of-the-Senate" resolution opposing the troop increase that is designed to embarrass Bush by peeling off dissenting Republicans, without actually taking any action to block the move. Kennedy's proposal, leadership aides say, is a stalking horse designed in part to placate the base by attacking Bush while leaving Democrats who support the leadership's alternative safe from accusations they don't back the troops.

A great post from the Political Insider: "The man who won’t be in the picture."

From ajc's Political Insider:

Years ago, those who kept track of communist regimes put great stock in group photographs. To spot who stood closest to Stalin or Mao was to get a glimpse of who was in, and who was out.

Use that as a bit of background on Thursday morning, when you watch those pictures of President Bush and troops at Fort Benning.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican up for re-election in ‘08, won’t be there, we’re told.

Your surprise for the day: If Keen is in the 2010 race for governor, House Speaker Glenn Richardson is not.

From the ajc's Political Insider:

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen of St. Simons Island . . . admits he’s looking at the ’10 race for governor, too.

You didn’t know about Keen? That’s your surprise for the day. Because if Keen is in, House Speaker Glenn Richardson is not.

The kinder, gentler Christian Coalition: "Sin is sin. There is no felony sin, no misdemeanor sin."

From the ajc's Political Insider:

[In attendance at a legislative hearing Tuesday were Sadie Fields and] Jim Beck, the new head of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, the group Fields left to form her own, independent organization known as the Christian Alliance.

Last fall, when she split with the Christian Coalition, Fields declared that the national organization had strayed its core concerns. And had at times allied itself with liberal organizations.

If the past is any guide, at some point during this session of the Legislature, House and Senate leaders will summon Beck, Fields, and a few other leaders of the GOP base into a closed-door meeting.

They will be told that only one or two of the items on their various wish-lists will make it through the Legislature this year. Any more could jeopardize GOP standing among the party’s centrists.

In the agenda that Beck sent out last week, not a single item addressed homosexuality. Nothing about gay marriage or adoption by gay couples. That doesn’t signal a change in conviction — just tone, the new head of the Christian Coalition said.

“We’re trying to become a kinder, gentler organization,” Beck said.

Sin is sin, Beck said. There is no felony sin, no misdemeanor sin. An act of adultery, for instance, is just as sinful as an act of homosexuality, Beck said last week.

Obviously, the time stamp on that comment is important. The Richardson complaint had not surfaced.

S.D. Sen. Johnson's Condition Improves

From The Washington Post:

Sen. Tim Johnson's condition has been upgraded from critical to fair, four weeks after he was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage, his office said yesterday.

The South Dakota Democrat, who was taken to the hospital Dec. 13 and underwent emergency surgery, remains in intensive care.

Johnson's office has said that his recovery is expected to take several months.

His long-term prognosis is unclear.

The senator's illness raised questions about the Democrats' one-vote majority in the Senate. South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike Rounds, would appoint a replacement if Johnson resigned or died.

A Republican appointee would create a 50-50 split and could allow the GOP to retain Senate control because of Vice President Cheney's tiebreaking vote.

Race between Mike Berlon, Jane Kidd, Carol Jackson and Jim Nelson for Chair of DPG said to be wide open

Larry Peterson of the Savannah Morning News writes:

[The] four-way race for state Democratic chair . . . to replace Bobby Kahn . . . is viewed as wide open because the party power structure - or what's left of it after years of GOP victories - hasn't closed ranks around any candidate.

Dems breaking rank angers Democratic Minority Leader DuBose Porter -- The Democratic party leader says Speaker Richardson now considers them a joke

From the ajc:

Seven Democrats broke party ranks in the House of Representatives Monday to reelect Republican Rep. Glen Richardson (Hiram) as speaker, a move that doesn't sit well with their Democratic leader.

Porter (D-Dublin) said the Democrats who voted for Richardson did so because they think they could get plum committee assignments."

And really that is kind of shallow," Porter said without referring to any specific legislator. "You are still going to be a minority on that committee. It is not going to mean anything. And you have lost more respect among your own caucus — in your own constituency — than anything you have picked up in trying to curry favor with someone who now considers you a joke."

Cagle -- All the Right Moves

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

When the next governor’s race comes around in four years, Georgia voters will see one of the most crowded ballots ever on the Republican side. There are several GOP hopefuls interested in succeeding Sonny Perdue: House Speaker Glenn Richardson, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, and possibly others from inside the beltway like Sen. Johnny Isakson or Rep. Jack Kingston. They would all have their own strengths, but the one who may be head and shoulders above them is the man who’s set to become the first Republican lieutenant governor in Georgia’s history, Casey Cagle.

Cagle, an amiable businessman and six-term state senator from Gainesville, seems to be making all the right moves as he prepares to take over leadership of the Senate. After years of feuding between Senate Republicans and a Democratic lieutenant governor, Cagle is working to restore harmony to the upper chamber. It’s a move that should sit well with voters weary of the partisan bickering in politics.

Cagle is . . . positioning himself as a more moderate alternative to Richardson and Perdue, two politicians with quick tempers and angry personalities. While Cagle is conservative and religious himself, he could score points with swing voters by serving as a balance to the more hot-headed leaders on the other side of the capitol.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Not a bad start for the lieutenant governor: Cagle vows bipartisan leadership

From the ajc:

Casey Cagle said Sunday he'd appoint at least one Democrat as chairman of a Senate committee as part of an effort to demonstrate a bipartisan leadership style.

Cagle said he'd model his first term after a Democratic predecessor, Pierre Howard, who worked with Republicans as well as members of his own party.

"That's my style," said Cagle. He confirmed that he'd made former Sen. Terrell Starr of Clayton County, a Democrat who just retired, a senior adviser.

A repeat of a January 11, 2005 post entitled "The pendulum is always swinging. Taylor & Richardson and comments that come back to haunt."

From a January 11, 2005 post:

''Cry me a river,'' Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor once told Republican senators who complained of their treatment in the then-Democrat-controlled Senate.

"I hear them crying," Speaker Glenn Richardson said of his rule on "hawks."

Never forget the pendulum Czar, it is always swinging.

Speaker Glenn Richardson: A bill not meeting his criteria "will have a tough time making it through this process.”

From the ajc:

Georgia’s House of Representatives reelected Glenn Richardson as speaker today . . . . At least seven Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for Richardson.

In his acceptance speech to the House, Richardson said he would favorably consider legislation during this 40-day session if it shrinks state government, cuts taxes, encourages “personal responsibility,” and strengthens families.

“Any bill that does not will have a tough time making it through this process,” Richardson vowed.

This message is similar to the one conveyed by Speaker Richardson in January 2005 when he said that lawmakers would focus what he called his four "core values." Those were to reduce the size of government, strengthen family values, reduce taxes and encourage personal responsibility. (See 1-11-05 post entitled "The British are coming! The British are coming! -- Should we get our guns (won't work with these hawks), consult Machiavelli, or just read 1984 again.")

Sunday, January 07, 2007

"An Inconvenient Truth" has transformed Gore's public image from cold to cool.

From The Washington Post:

Over the past six years, Gore has become a heroic figure for the party's liberal left, thanks in large part to his early and steady opposition to the war in Iraq. And it's not just liberals who have taken to Gore. "An Inconvenient Truth," the film detailing Gore's lonely quest to raise awareness of climate change, is one of the most successful documentaries of all time and, as important, has transformed Gore's public image from cold to cool.

That renewed popularity has stoked speculation that Gore just may have another national race up his sleeve. "He's the Rocky Balboa of 2008," said Chris Lehane, a former Gore adviser.

Georgia has become perhaps the meanest, most hardball state for politics in the nation.

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

• Insiders report that Democrats are intent on seeing Richardson re-elected as Speaker, hoping he will serve as a lightning rod as the ethics complaint and follow-up stories potentially gain greater traction with the public at-large. The public is generally unaware not only of the complaint, but of the name of the Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Name identification for statewide officials is usually relatively low among the general public, with the exception being the governor and U.S. senators.)

• Many members of the GOP House caucus were caught completely off guard as the story began to unfold late this week. Several members are questioning the situation, but at present there has been no report of anger toward Richardson by these members or any requests for internal caucus action. Some of this is attributed to the fact that Richardson is known to rule the caucus with “an iron fist,” much like his Democratic predecessors in the position (among others, the late George L. Smith, Tom Murphy and Terry Coleman).

• Longtime GOP strategists . . . expect the Richardson issue to have more serious political implications than some GOP pundits have privately suggested. As one expert put it: “For whatever reason, Georgia has become perhaps the meanest, most hardball state for politics in the nation. No one ever would have done this to certain Democrats who might have been in similar circumstances in past years. We obviously now live in a political environment where set-ups and very hurtful personal attacks will be common. It’s dynamite that will hurt both sides if it doesn’t come to an end.”

Richardson supporters warn colleagues not to discuss the speaker's situation with news media

Bill Shipp reports:

[Speaker of the House Glenn] Richardson's supporters in the House have warned colleagues they will "kick a--es and take names" of any lawmakers who discuss the speaker's situation with the news media.

Leadership Tries to Restrain Fiefs in New Congress

From The New York Times:

Less than 24 hours after taking over as speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi summoned the new chairmen of five committees with responsibility for various aspects of Iraq policy to her office to review and coordinate plans for hearings and inquiries.

The gathering on Friday would have been unthinkable when Democrats last controlled the House. In the days before the 1994 Republican takeover, all-powerful Democratic chairmen ruled their committees with impunity, doing what they wanted, when they wanted, with little regard to the views of the speaker or others in the upper ranks.

Now the new Democratic leaders of the House and Senate want to avoid a return to that era by forging a working relationship with the men and women who will actually write the bills and lead the Congressional investigations. Top lawmakers acknowledge that finding a way to keep the overarching goals of the party from clashing with the objectives of the independent chairmen will be crucial to keeping Democratic control from spiraling out of control.

[T]he delegation of such power to the chairmen came with a price. Republicans derided Democrats as arrogant and pushed the image of out-of-touch Democrats as a campaign slogan, riding it and Democratic gaffes to majority status in 1994.

Once installed, the new Republican leadership moved quickly to centralize power in the offices of speaker, majority leader and whip. They stripped chairmen of the power to control their own legislation, enacted term limits and forced prospective chairmen to plead their case with the leadership and bolster it with a record of campaign contributions.

Incoming Democrats said Republicans went too far in diminishing the authority of chairmen and fostered arrogance at the leadership level.

Now Democrats say they hope to strike a more productive balance, giving chairmen some leeway as long as they operate in concert with their fellow committee leaders and with the leadership’s approval.

Sam Nunn on Iraq: "It was the worst strategic error I've seen in modern times by the United States."

From an AP article in the Macon Telegraph:

[Sam Nunn] hasn't ruled out another round in politics, although he says he has no inclination to run for office.

Nunn was widely viewed as the Senate's foremost authority on foreign and military affairs at the end of his 24-year career, in which he served as an influential chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He remains active in international affairs and is among a select group of former lawmakers who many current leaders look to for guidance.

He was asked but declined to serve on the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton.

Nunn has sharp words for the Bush Administration's planning of the Iraq war.

"We've lost a lot of prestige and credibility in the world," he said. "I definitely think we made a real mistake going to war without the consensus of other countries ... we can't occupy a country successfully without cooperation from neighbors and countries around the globe.

"I think we're paying a very severe price for that right now," he added. "It was the worst strategic error I've seen in modern times by the United States."

"Our friends in a lot of places in the world are alarmed by the deterioration of our position in the world," he said. "We can restore it ... but to lead we have to listen, and we have to be perceived as listening.

"I don't think it's intentional, but we've come across as basically very arrogant in the last several years."

Nunn said he believes voters sent Bush - and the world - an important signal by ousting the president's party from power in November's elections.

Back in Georgia, he's not optimistic Democrats will retake political power anytime soon, but he said his party still can win statewide races.

His daughter, Michelle, could be one of them.

"She would have a real shot if she wanted to run," Nunn said of his daughter, who directs a national nonprofit group based in Atlanta and considered running for the Senate in 2004. "I think one of these days she may toss her hat in."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

House Tightens Disclosure Rules for Pet Projects

From The New York Times:

The House voted on Friday to pull the shadowy tradition of Congressional earmarking into the daylight, requiring lawmakers to attach their names to the pet items they slip into spending or tax bills and certify that they have no financial interest in the provisions.

More than any of several ethics rules adopted by the House this week, the earmark measure could prevent the kind of corruption that led to several big scandals in recent years, including former Representative Randy Cunningham’s sale of earmarks to government contractors for cash, gifts and campaign contributions.

The cost of earmarks has tripled in the last 12 years, to more than $64 billion annually. Some lawmakers treated their share of that money as personal accounts to dole out to constituents or, in many cases, campaign contributors.

The vote on the new earmark measure was linked to a rule known as “pay as you go” that would prohibit the House from increasing the deficit by passing any new tax cuts or entitlement spending programs without offsetting them with spending cuts or tax increases.

[T]he changes were approved by a vote of 280 to 152, with 48 Republicans joining all 232 Democrats.

Friday, January 05, 2007

With 22 Senate Republicans up for re-election in ’08, the GOP is in as much of a political bind over Iraq as the Democrats.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

All eyes are on the Democrats to see whether they will stand up to Bush. Memories of the Vietnam hangover and fear of being tagged as the party who lost Iraq keep Democrats from articulating a clear position. But the real rebellion is brewing within the Republican Party. Conservative columnist Robert Novak wrote that Bush can count on only 12 of the 49 Republicans in the Senate to back him on the war. Virginia Sen. John Warner, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, is quietly telling people the president is making a big mistake if he believes a surge in troops will bail him out in Iraq. If Democrats can peel off enough Republicans to publicly oppose the surge option, they may try to force a vote. With 22 Senate Republicans up for re-election in ’08, the GOP is in as much of a political bind over Iraq as the Democrats.

Cagle could have room to maneuver in the middle between the governor and the speaker on hotly contested issues.

Tom Crawford writes in Georgia Trend:

During his political career, Perdue has swung from being a moderately conservative Democrat to a Christian Right Republican and he'll want to do things that appeal to the party's evangelical base.

With Perdue and Richardson pushing the envelope to the right, that could leave some space toward the center for a politician like Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. If he chooses to go in that direction, Cagle would have room to maneuver in the middle between the governor and the speaker on hotly contested issues. Of course, Cagle is very conservative and religious himself.

What you're going to have is a lot of people grabbing the ball and trying to run with it, and they're all going to be running wide right.

What we don't know at this time is how the average Georgian will feel about all this. Voters haven't expressed any unhappiness so far with the Republican leaders. The next two years should tell us just how far to the right they're willing to go.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to seek insurance for all children

From the Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose that all Californian children, including those in the state illegally, be guaranteed medical insurance as part of the healthcare overhaul he intends to unveil next week, according to officials familiar with the plan.

If enacted by the Legislature, his proposal would affect about 763,000 children who now lack insurance. Although the administration has not revealed details of how it would pay for such a program, officials estimate that extending insurance to all children could cost the state as much as $400 million a year.

That would be a small piece of Schwarzenegger's stated goal: to ensure medical coverage for all of the 6.5 million Californians who now have none. Experts say that could cost upward of $10 billion a year.

The Democrats’ Cautious Tiptoe Around the President’s Tax Cuts

From The New York Times:

President Bush is all but daring Democratic leaders to attack his signature tax cuts as they take over Congress. But Democrats, perhaps to his frustration, are having none of it.

But even as Democratic leaders continue to accuse Mr. Bush of having a reckless fiscal policy, they have refused to discuss dismantling his tax cuts . . . .

[Senator Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee,] acknowledged on Tuesday that higher taxes, especially on wealthier families, would eventually have to be part of a comprehensive plan that included tough spending restraint and an overhaul of entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

“I believe that if Americans are told the truth they will support actions necessary to address the budget,” he said. “If we’re going to be honest about this, it’s going to require both sides’ giving up some of their fundamental positions.”

But other Democratic lawmakers say it would be almost pointless to lead an unpopular fight over raising taxes until Republicans are willing to share some of the political pain.

With Mr. Bush almost certain to fight almost any effort to revisit his tax cuts, and Republicans in Congress unlikely to rebel against the president, Democrats are inclined to wait until after Mr. Bush is gone.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The removal of the last secular strongman marks the death knell of Arab nationalism. Now, it is the Islamists who are filling the void.

From TIME:

Saddam's downfall has not heralded a new Middle East. The primary concern of Arabs across the region today is the emerging civil war in Iraq and its potential breakup as a state, which threatens to spread a virus of instability across the region. Pro-Western Sunni regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan are increasingly concerned about growing Iranian influence in post-Saddam Iraq, while Turkey is concerned about the creation of a de facto Kurdish mini-state in northern Iraq that may spur greater agitation by Turkey's own Kurdish minority. President Bush's belated acknowledgement that things are bad in Iraq, despite the U.S.'s massive investment of blood and treasure over nearly four years, is hardly comforting to Washington's allies in the region.

As loathed as Saddam's regime may have been among Arabs, many nonetheless viewed him through a nationalist prism. From Morocco to the Gulf, there was widespread admiration for Saddam's willingness to stand against the U.S. and Israel. On the Arab street, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was therefore viewed as an imperialist Western assault on Arabs and Muslims rather than the war of liberation from an odious oppressor, as the Bush administration had depicted it.

The negative and often conspiratorial view of U.S. goals in Iraq has only been reinforced by Washington's management of post-war Iraq, which has been plunged into the worst turmoil of its history. Instead of frightening other Arab dictators into mending their ways, Saddam's fate will likely encourage them to cling to power at any cost: if you leave office, you run the risk of being executed by your enemies.

The war's architects had hoped that toppling Saddam would set in motion a train of events that would see liberal democracy triumph in the Arab world. Instead, the biggest beneficiary from his demise has been Islamic fundamentalism. Saddam's execution marks the final nail in the coffin of Arab nationalism, a secular ideology of pan-Arab unity and independence. Originating with the Arab Revolt against Ottoman domination of the Middle East nearly a century ago, the ideology took on a militant edge following Arab independence after World War II. Partly as a reaction to Israel's defeat of the Arabs in the 1948 war, Arab nationalism promoted militaristic societies led by warrior leaders who espoused dreams of victory and grandeur. The tragic result has been decades of tyranny, conflict and stagnation for millions of Arabs rather than the blossoming of an Arab renaissance. Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser became Arab nationalism's first populist leader with his nationalization of the Suez Canal. But a decade later, he blundered the Arabs into the devastating 1967 war with Israel that spelled the beginning of the end for Arab nationalism.

Saddam fancied himself as the new Nasser when he became Iraq's president in 1979, championing the Palestinian cause and fighting a eight-year war to curb Iran's Islamic Revolution. Many countries — including the U.S. — supported Saddam as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, which they deemed a greater long-term political threat to Western interests than Arab nationalism. But Saddam followed Nasser in blundering his way to defeat, starting with his invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Saddam's hanging has removed the last Arab strongman willing to fight the fundamentalists in the name of Arab secularism. (The sole remaining candidate is Syrian President Bashar Assad, but his lack of military clout and key alliance with the non-Arab Islamic Republic of Iran undermine his claim to the mantle.) Nor is there much prospect that liberal Arabs will present a new, democratic alternative any time soon. Instead, in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, the future increasingly belongs to the Islamic fundamentalists. Judging by the escalating conflicts in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories as well in Iraq, that is a future that may be best described as bleak.

Bill Shipp on the candidates to chair the Democratic Party of Georgia

Bill Shipp writes:

Atlanta lawyer Bobby Kahn, a leading scapegoat for the Democrats' string of recent ballot-box catastrophes, ends his nearly three-year tenure as state party chair with the election of a new chairperson on Jan. 27.

A glance at possible successors may cause a few Kahn haters to long for a return to the days of the brusque, razor-tongued strategist.

Here's the roster of candidates for state Democratic chair:

• Mike Berlon, Gwinnett County Democratic chair, is allied with leaders of Georgia's ever-shrinking labor movement. A handful of county chairs are also in his corner. Berlon's bid is built on the curious notion that the state party should keep Democratic elected officials at arm's length and concentrate strictly on raising cash for the overall "Democratic cause." (Some party organizations in other states already play such roles.)
Several elected officials, including Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond, are hopping mad at the idea of a party that is mainly an independent boosters' club and not an operational campaign organization. Berlon is presently favored to win the position, though he spent a wad in 2004 on losing a Public Service Commission primary to underfunded Democrat Mac Barber by a whopping 43 percentage points.

• Jane Kidd, daughter of former Gov. Ernest Vandiver and a consummate political person, is looking for a landing place after she gamely ran for the state Senate in a district openly gerrymandered to end Kidd's political career. She leaves the state House after serving only one term. Kidd is closely allied with House Minority Leader Dubose Porter of Dublin, causing her detractors to fear that she would use the position of state party chair to promote Porter's nascent bid for governor. She is the anti-Berlon candidate in the contest, seeing the party as mainly an instrument of and for elected officials.

• Former state Sen. Carol Jackson could be the compromise choice for chairperson. For three terms, this diehard Democrat held onto a state Senate seat in a GOP stronghold. She retired from the Senate in 2004, and then attempted unsuccessfully to regain the seat against Nancy Schaefer, a longtime conservative icon. Republican Schaefer retained the seat with the help of Democrat renegade Zell Miller, who once counted Jackson among his most influential supporters.

• The Rev. Jim Nelson, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress in the 1st District, has indicated that he too expects to be a candidate for party chair.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Reading the tea leaves -- Are House Speaker Glenn Richardson & House Republicans looking for a way to take a more moderate, middle-of-the-road tack?

From the ajc's Political Insider:

House Speaker Glenn Richardson has hired a veteran of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s shop to be his new chief of staff.

Chris Cummiskey, an Atlanta native who currently is Isakson’s state director, has been tapped to replace Jay Walker, who resigned recently to go into private business. Cummiskey also served as political director for Isakson’s Senate campaign.

It’s possible to read too much into these things, but this hire is being read by some as a signal Richardson and House Republicans – perhaps looking around at what happened in other states this year – could be looking for a way to take a more moderate, middle-of-the-road tack.