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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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dem. governors at the meeting of the Nat'l Governors Ass'n plead with their presidential candidates to focus on a pragmatic agenda & urge moderation.

From The New York Times:

Democratic governors pleaded with their presidential candidates to ignore the fringes of the party and focus instead on the “middle 20 percent” of the electorate with a pragmatic, problem-solving agenda.

“Democrats certainly could not win in Tennessee with just a hard-nosed Nancy Pelosi-style Democratic agenda,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. Mr. Bredesen, a Democrat re-elected in a landslide last year, was referring to the House speaker.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, said “it’s way too soon to tell” who will win his party’s presidential nomination.

Mr. Rendell has a big appetite for politics. He was general chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the 2000 election. But he is disgusted with the early start to the 2008 race.

“I think it’s insane,” Mr. Rendell said in an interview. “The media has created a two-year presidential election cycle that’s very destructive to American politics. And the political system is complicit. We front-load our primaries so much that four or five states decide who the nominees are going to be. It’s over by February. And then we have a God-awful yearlong presidential campaign, general election campaign, which is too long and lends itself to all these negative attacks.”

“If we were to design a system for electing a president, I don’t think we could do worse,” Mr. Rendell said. “It’s terrible.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Today our hat is off to Rockdale County Democratic Party Chair Garvin Haynes and those great and loyal Democrats in Conyers and Clayton County.

According to the Rockdale Citizen:

A resurgent Rockdale County Democratic Party hopes . . . "have a full slate of candidates on a local level this next election cycle,” party Chairman Garvin Haynes said Wednesday. “I think that the more choices people have, the better our government works, and we plan on giving them some additional choices.”

On Saturday, the party’s executive committee swore in 14 new members — a significant move for an organization that had been barely surviving with four active members and a sign of competition to come in the historically Republican-leaning county.“

We’re excited,” Haynes said. “We have grown from four party members now to 24 party members in a matter of 18 months, which is an excellent confidence-building thing to happen for our party.”

Though unsuccessful, a campaign last year for county commission by [a Democrat] sparked a renewed interest in the party, Haynes said. [I]t was the first time since 1998 that Republicans had competition in a county commission race.“

It’s difficult to keep them motivated about local politics when we haven’t had a candidate in eight years,” Haynes said. Haynes said he expects some Democrats will begin announcing next month their intentions to run in 2008.

Haynes, an active Democratic Party member since 2003, was elected chairman of the local party in December. He took over for longtime Chairman Harry Powers, who did “a great job in some very lonely years,” Haynes said.

Since taking over, Haynes has appointed members to head committees for fundraising and voter registration, and a local Young Democrats chapter. The party has also begun regular monthly meetings . . . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

From the Cracker Squire Archives -- Iraq: (1) The more things change the more they stay the same; & (2) Cheney: Back off Pelosi.

Vice President Cheney's refusal to back down from his assertion that the Democratic approach to Iraq would "validate the al-Qaeda strategy" and his continued transpacific war of words with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made my mind flash back to something I wrote in a 10-5-04 post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

From the Cracker Squire Archives: A one-liner by DPG First Chair Michael Thurmond.

From a 8-22-04 post about the 8-21-04 Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) Richard B. Russell Dinner held in Macon each year:

Some one-liners from the evening:

Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (attired in a white dinner jacket): "It's been a thrill getting to see so many of my friends and acquaintances tonight. And it's been fun meeting some of you I haven't met before, including that guy who looked me right in the eye and said 'Hey waiter, how about bringing me another drink.'"

The Christian Right’s Dream Candidate -- His name is Jeb Bush, and unfortunately for them, he seems serious about not running.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

Watching the Republican candidates elbowing each other for position on the right is a classic Washington spectator sport. Nobody quite measures up, and they all look a little craven trying. The prize they’re seeking: the evangelical vote, which is crucial to success in the GOP primaries. Republicans can’t win the White House without them, and social conservatives so far have been lukewarm toward everybody in the field.

There’s one politician the Christian right could get excited about: John Ellis (Jeb) Bush. But he’s not running—surely in part because the Bush brand has been so badly tarnished by the Iraq misadventure. A handoff from brother George would have been easy—if only the president had stayed focused on finding Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan rather than rushing off to invade Iraq. But for his brother’s mess, Jeb would be a formidable candidate.

He’s still a likely contender at some point—maybe even as a vice presidential pick in ’08. He can raise money, he has a Mexican-born wife who could help with California, and he can deliver Florida. The restoration is premised on the Republican nominee needing the credibility with the religious right that Jeb could bring. The Bush family seems to be moving its chips to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Several of Jeb’s gubernatorial staffers have signed on with Romney, and Jeb’s sister, Doro Bush Koch, is cohosting a fund-raiser for him. Mom and Dad are reportedly telling friends he’s a fine man and the class act in the race. With front runner John McCain faltering and Rudy Giuliani an unlikely fit with Republican primary voters, Romney looks like the Bush Dynasty’s best bet.

Jeb’s ambition, his intellect and his tenacity have not dimmed. Combine these personal characteristics with his ability to raise money and you’ve got a potent political force, says S.V. Dáte, the Tallahassee bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post and author of “Jeb: America’s Next Bush.” The book is not particularly flattering. Dáte says Bush governed with the openness and transparency of the Politburo; that his tax cuts went to the top 4.7 percent of Floridians and that he created the lowest number of jobs of any governor since 1970. Despite that record, polls show a consistent high regard for him, especially among social conservatives who remember his tireless efforts to sustain Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose survival in a vegetative state—in the face of her husband’s efforts to end life supports because of the grim prognosis—became a cause célèbre for the religious right.

The younger Bush was the one the family thought would become president, but that calculus went out the window when Jeb lost his initial bid for governor in Florida, and George was elected in Texas. Dáte says he wonders what would have happened if both brothers had won that year. George is seven years older but is otherwise out-classed by Jeb, the intellect of the family and, at 6 feet 4, a significant physical presence. Would they have run against each other in the primary? Would there have been a playoff game of horseshoes?

In Washington on a promotional tour, Dáte took questions at Politics & Prose, a bookstore in northwest Washington, where key chains counting down the hours, the minutes and the seconds left in Bush’s term sold out over the holidays. Dáte began with the top five e-mails he got in response to an article he wrote for The Washington Post speculating what a Jeb Bush presidency would be like in its seventh year, if the family plan had worked like it was supposed to. Many readers thought he was endorsing Jeb because he said that the younger brother wouldn’t have screwed up hurricane relief. Dáte believes Jeb would have followed the same siren song of the neocons into war. But once in Iraq, “Jeb would have been less prone to botch the job through inattention and cronyism,” Dáte says.

The thought of another Bush headed for the presidency struck most readers as preposterous. “The single most idiotic article I’ve read in The Washington Post,” said one. “Is this column a humiliating payback for a lost wager?” asked another. “The Bush family (expletive deleted) the world. I have a Colorado spruce in my front yard smarter than you.”

But the author is undeterred by the skepticism. He says it is “inevitable” Jeb will run for president, though he admits ’08 is problematic. Still, if the troops start to come home by the end of this year and the president’s approval ratings start climbing, who knows? Dáte states in The Washington Post piece that John McCain swung by Tallahassee in December 2005 to sound Jeb out about the prospect of running with him, and adds that any Republican candidate would be foolish not to put Jeb on the shortlist. Evangelicals make up a quarter of the country, according to some estimates—and as much as 35 to 45 percent of Republican voters in some states. If anybody has a lock on them, it’s Jeb.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Do we ever have our work cut out for us . . . .

According to the AJC's Political Insider, Chair Jane Kidd has announced that the Democratic Party of Georgia is out of operating funds, and the party’s annual fund-raiser, the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, will not be held until May 17.

“We made the payroll this week,” she said. “But we can’t do it again.”

Kidd said much of her first month in the leadership position has been spent going to donors throughout the state, trying to patch up the once-mighty party’s finances.

The party requires between $700,000 and $750,000 to keep its staff of 10 in rent money. That includes an executive director, who hasn’t been hired yet.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Buy One, Get One Free." -- Will History Repeat Itself?

From Newsweek:

In January 1992, as Bill Clinton's candidacy was foundering amid allegations of infidelity, his wife joined him at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. They were on a rescue mission. "We love each other," Hillary Rodham Clinton told the crowd. "We support each other." As for Bill, he sold himself to the onlookers as one half of a political team; Hillary was the reason that he had run. "She woke up one morning and said, 'Bill, we have to do this'." He touted her résumé: Yale Law, successful attorney, years of work on education and children's issues. He had a new campaign slogan, he said: "Buy One, Get One Free." It worked, of course.

On her first swing through New Hampshire recently, Hillary and Bill were a team once more—even if he wasn't with her. Republicans fear Team Clinton above all, she said. "I'm the one person they're most afraid of because Bill and I do know how to beat them; we have consistently, and we will do it again."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Standing in the other man's (Rep. Jim Marshall's) shoes -- Troops, don't let anti-surge vote discourage you.

From the AJC:

Remarks by U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) on the House floor Wednesday turned into an impromptu address to American troops in Iraq. An excerpt:

We're debating a nonbinding resolution to disapprove of the Iraqi/American military surge in Baghdad. We do so knowing Congress cannot manage a war, let alone micromanage one.

We do so knowing the surge has begun and will continue despite our debate and vote.

We do so hoping our debate and vote will not discourage those called upon to execute the surge.

But we also do so knowing that it might. That's enough for me to oppose the resolution.

I will vote no on the anti-surge resolution despite the fact that, for three years now, I have consistently contended that we should have fewer troops in Iraq, not more.

But this anti-surge resolution is akin to sitting in the stands and booing in the middle of our own team's play because we don't like the coach's call. I cannot join midplay nay-saying that might discourage even one of those engaged in this current military effort in Baghdad.

To those soldiers and Marines who are engaged, I would say the following: Don't be discouraged by this debate and vote. It is birthed and sustained by the very democracy that you are defending. If you are successful, Iraqis might one day enjoy the same right to debate and vote like we are debating and voting. If they do, they may well look back at you as having birthed that right for them.

Nearly 40 years ago, I was a grunt platoon sergeant in Vietnam, a kid who dropped out of college and enlisted specifically to go to Vietnam. And at the very time that I was fighting insurgents in Vietnam, our country was torn by antiwar protest and debate. I didn't worry about that. You shouldn't, either. I didn't let it discourage me. You shouldn't let it discourage you.

You should simply do your duty and be proud of the fact that you've done it. Do it to the best of your ability. Let others —- the president and the Congress —- debate what that duty actually is.

Don't let this discourage you. Just do your duty as best you can.

The House Friday passed the resolution disapproving the "surge" on a 246-182 vote. Marshall was one of two Democrats voting against the measure.

Unlike the reaction expressed by many Georgia blogs, the Other Georgia did not rejoice in the AJC's announced restructuring.

On February 15, 2007, the AJC announced that, effective April 1, the print version of the AJC would only be delivered to 66 Georgia counties, whereas before it has been delivered to 145 of Georgia's 159 counties.

Publisher John Mellott said in an interview that the newspaper is cutting delivery to where delivery isn't cost effective and where advertisers have limited interest. In addition to such places as Coffee County, this change will result in the disappearance of the print paper in cities such as Augusta, Columbus, Savannah and Albany.

Metro residents (I refrained from saying city slickers) may not realize and appreciate it, but this is big news for the Other Georgia. The "Atlanta paper" has had an important influence over the years in molding opinions in this State, regardless of the derision it has received from the Talmadges on the one hand to the current Governor on the other.

Although I read Political Insider online each morning, I read my hard copy of the AJC when I get home for work, especially for State news.

As an eight-year old kid, I had a paper route delivering The Atlanta Constitution each morning that presented special challenges each Sunday keeping my Schwinn upright because of the extra weight of the combined Journal and Constitution (years later The Atlanta Constitution and it "Covers Dixie like the Dew" The Atlanta Journal would combine).

Also as a kid, I grew up reading Ralph McGill and thinking he hung the moon, just an adult I read Bill Shipp and know he hung the moon.

AJC Publisher John Mellott says AJC plans to shift more resources to focus on digital news. But as a avid reader of both online and hard copies of publications (including the AJC, the Wall Street Journal, TIME, Georgia Trend Magazine and James (which is not online)), I can attest that you have to know what you are looking for to find it online. As a hard copy reader, you just come across it.

All of the above to say, AJC, I am going to miss you.

From the Cracker Squire Archives: Opposition to abortion is a bulwark of the Republican Party. It wasn’t always thus.

From a 3-18-05 post partly entitled "Abortion is a litmus test for both parties now":

Opposition to abortion is a bulwark of the Republican Party. It wasn’t always thus. President Gerald Ford supported federal funding for abortions for poor women until his challenger, Democrat Jimmy Carter, emphasized his personal opposition to abortion and said he opposed using federal money to pay for the procedure. Ford changed his position under political pressure, and in the midst of the presidential campaign in September 1976 he signed the so-called Hyde Amendment (named after its sponsor, Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde) to ban using Medicaid funds for abortion. Almost 30 years later, the ban remains intact.

The Cracker Squire, a resident of the Other Georgia, agrees with the Dean that remaking Peachtree Street would be good for Georgia.

Bill Shipp writes:

Vision is one of those 20th-century words that you don't hear much now, at least not in these parts.

So when the v-word popped back into the headlines last week, some of us old-timers switched off the Weather Channel and took notice.

A commission of business and civic leaders, convened by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, announced a billion-dollar dream to overhaul the most famous thoroughfare in the transportation center of the South. Yep, the big mules want to restart the heart of Atlanta and remake Peachtree Street.

Led by Cousins Properties CEO Tom Bell, the Peachtree Corridor Task Force proposes turning Peachtree into a grand boulevard from Brookhaven in the north to Fort McPherson south of Atlanta. Battalions of workers would bury utilities, reinstall streetcar lines, improve sidewalks, create parks and rip up unsightly edifices. They would convert Peachtree into a splendidly landscaped spine of a refurbished city.

Someone on the commission said Peachtree could be like Chicago's Michigan Avenue. Did he say Michigan Avenue? Let's shoot higher. Let's talk like those guys from the old days. Remember the "World's Next Great City"? That was Atlanta's slogan and dream a long time ago.

Redoing Peachtree is not the only major public-private dream floating around. However, this idea has more behind it than hope and blue smoke. It is a real possibility backed by what seems to be a feasible financial plan. Its point man, Tom Bell, runs one of the nation's premier real estate development corporations. His retired boss, Tom Cousins, was a driving force behind Atlanta's move into world-class commerce beginning in the 1960s.

Of course, when Cousins and his pals reigned, a handful of business executives called the shots in the Capitol and Atlanta City Hall. No one hemmed and hawed much about whether to build a Major League Baseball stadium, expand Hartsfield Airport or construct the World Congress Center. Coca-Cola magnate Robert W. Woodruff usually had the first and last word. Decisions, albeit less autocratic, are much more difficult and complicated now.

Trapped in a carryover from Georgia's wool-hat days, Atlanta still is envied and resented in much of the state, even though the ripple effect of Atlanta's booming economy has created jobs, helped build highways and schools and improved the quality of lives in every part of Georgia. For generations young Georgians left for cities like Detroit or New York or Cleveland in order to enjoy the good life. Now they come to Atlanta. More than half of all Georgians now live in the metro area centered on the capital city. Every thinking Georgian knows that the health of the state is dependent on the Atlanta region.

Yet in recent times, the capital city has cooled. Construction cranes still dot the skyline but not nearly in the numbers as in the old days. Giant corporations have merged, moved out or gone under. Thousands of high-paying jobs have disappeared.

The current leadership under the Gold Dome makes no bones about its "make no waves" governing philosophy. However, if the past is a valid guide to the future, most of the good things that have helped move our state into the modern era have been accomplished through partnerships with government and business leaders. George Berry, a former city of Atlanta official from the go-go days of the 1960s, says: "The Peachtree Street project has the potential of bringing the state, with its well-funded Department of Transportation, into partnership with the city of Atlanta government and the city's business leadership to bring a vision into reality."

Georgia is blessed with other opportunities but also beset with problems. Population is increasing exponentially, and the real estate industry flourishes. Yet infrastructure is stretched to the breaking point. Dreamers who also are doers are rare.

The Atlanta-Peachtree project is important statewide because it marks the first time in years that substantial interests have come up with a public-private project of such magnitude. It also could prove to be a mood changer.

Instead of recoiling, retreating and taking cover, our business and government leaders might be ready to embark on a new string of ventures to bring improvements and prosperity to every corner of the state.

I'm not sure I agree with you on this race Jane. -- Kidd touts grassroots campaigning to win upcoming 10th Cong. District special election.

According to the Augusta Chronicle:

Traditional campaigning is the way to win the upcoming special election for the 10th District Congressional seat, said . . . Jane Kidd, leader of the Georgia Democratic Party.

"TV ads and direct mail aren't going to win this race. Grassroots is going to win this race," she said.

I am a big advocate of grassroots, but there is going to be such a short time for campaigning in this particular election that grassroots will probably take a backseat.

Is it just semantics or are we revisiting '04? -- Hillary: I would rather lose support for my presidential bid than apologize for 2002 vote on Iraq.

A 8-10-04 post was entitled "Kerry said what about Iraq? -- Be careful here Senator," and provided in part:

The headline in the AJC reads: "Kerry says Bush was right to invade Iraq."

The headline in The Washington Post reads: "In Hindsight, Kerry Says He'd Still Vote for War."

Responding to President Bush's challenge to clarify his position, Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday that he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq even if he had known then . . . "what we know now . . . ."

We will hear more about this Kerry "yes" answer between now and November -- especially during the debates -- than his earlier I did but I didn't. (You will recall that Kerry voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the invasion yet opposing funding for the war.)

According to The Washington Post:

[On Saturday Sen. Hillary Clinton said] she would rather lose support for her presidential bid than apologize for her vote in 2002 authorizing the military action.

Under mounting pressure from antiwar Democrats to make amends for her support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which she now says was a terrible mistake, Clinton (D-N.Y.) renewed her vow to end the war if she is elected president. But she refused to repudiate her vote, as former Democratic senator John Edwards has done.

"Obviously I would not vote that way again if we knew then what we now know," the Democratic presidential front-runner said during a town meeting in Dover. "But I have to say that if the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from. But to me the most important thing now is trying to end this war."

Is this whole thing on Sen. Clinton's 2002 Iraq vote just semantics; or is it a bit of being hardheaded as was probably the case with Kerry; or is she afraid of having an appearance of weakness in the areas of American national defense and national security?

I don't know the answer, but I do not think I would imply that I will never apologize. Never -- or seldom -- should one say never.

After doing the above post, I came across an excellent article in today's New York Times discussing her new comment. It notes:

Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).

At the same time, the level of Democratic anger has surprised some of her allies and advisers, and her campaign is worried about how long it will last and how much damage it might cause her.

“Some of her many advisers think she should’ve uttered the three magic words — ‘I was wrong’ — but she believes it’s self-evident that the Senate Iraq resolution was based on false intelligence and never should’ve come to a vote,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former United Nations ambassador and an adviser to Mrs. Clinton on foreign policy.

Navigating the antiwar anger, and toughing it out for 11 months until the primaries, is now perhaps Mrs. Clinton’s biggest political challenge.

“She is in a box now on her Iraq vote, but she doesn’t want to be in a different, even worse box — the vacillating, flip-flopping Democratic candidate that went to defeat in 2000 and ‘04,” said one adviser to Mrs. Clinton. “She wants to maintain a firmness, and I think a lot of people around her hope she maintains a firmness. That’s what people will want in 2008.”

Indeed, Mrs. Clinton believes that reversing course on her vote would invite the charge of flip-flopping that damaged Mr. Kerry or provoke the kind of accusations of political expediency that hung over Al Gore in 2000 and her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, in the 1990s, several advisers said. She has argued to associates in private discussions that Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security, the associates said.

Mrs. Clinton’s image as a strong leader, in turn, is critical to her hopes of becoming the nation’s first female president. According to one adviser, her internal polling indicates that a high proportion of Democrats see her as strong and tough, both assets particularly valuable to a female candidate who is seeking to become commander in chief. Apologizing might hurt that image, this adviser said.

Yet some Democrats are surprised that the Clinton campaign, which is widely regarded as a ferocious political operation, has not lanced this issue.

“For the life of me I don’t understand why she can’t say, ‘I made a mistake, I was misled, the country was misled, the intelligence was manipulated,’ ” said Robert M. Shrum, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry in 2004. “I think there’s this tremendous desire in her campaign not to get into a position where you’re identified with traditional Democratic views. But this is now a party that is strongly antiwar, and is desperate for change on big issues like Iraq and health care.”

Her approach to leadership and national security was forged during her eight years in the White House: She believes in executive authority and Congressional deference, her advisers say, and is careful about suggesting that Congress can overrule a commander in chief.

“She thinks she will be president and will have to negotiate on the nation’s behalf with world leaders,” said one Clinton adviser. “She thinks we’re likely to still be in this mess in 2009, and coming onto the campaign trail and groveling and saying at every opportunity that you made a mistake doesn’t actually help you solve the problem.”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Jockeying begins for Norwood's seat

Shannon McCaffrey of the AP writes:

"This is a very Republican district," said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia in Athens, which is in the congressional district. "Realistically, I don't see a Democrat having too much of a chance."

Without a primary, there's no limit on how many candidates from either major party can run, which means it could end up being a crowded field. If no candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the special election, a runoff election would follow four weeks later between the top two vote-getting candidates, regardless of party.

Norwood's district was redrawn by Georgia's Republican-led state Legislature in 2005 to include the Democratic stronghold of Athens. But, Bullock said, overall it remains strongly Republican.

Norwood won re-election in November with 67 percent of the vote against Terry Holley, a small business owner and Democratic party activist.

The district stretches from the northern reaches of Augusta along the South Carolina border to North Carolina over to near the outer edges of the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The Religious Right's Era Is Over

From TIME by Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners and the author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It):

As I have traveled around the country, one line in my speeches always draws cheers: "The monologue of the Religious Right is over, and a new dialogue has now begun." We have now entered the post-Religious Right era. Though religion has had a negative image in the last few decades, the years ahead may be shaped by a dynamic and more progressive faith that will make needed social change more possible.

In the churches, a combination of deeper compassion and better theology has moved many pastors and congregations away from the partisan politics of the Religious Right. In politics, we are beginning to see a leveling of the playing field between the two parties on religion and "moral values," and the media are finally beginning to cover the many and diverse voices of faith. These are all big changes in American life, and the rest of the world is taking notice.

Evangelicals — especially the new generation of pastors and young people — are deserting the Religious Right in droves. The evangelical social agenda is now much broader and deeper, engaging issues like poverty and economic justice, global warming, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, genocide in Darfur and the ethics of the war in Iraq. Catholics are returning to their social teaching; mainline Protestants are asserting their faith more aggressively; a new generation of young black and Latino pastors are putting the focus on social justice; a Jewish renewal movement and more moderate Islam are also growing; and a whole new denomination has emerged, which might be called the "spiritual but not religious."

Even more amazing, the Left is starting to get it. Progressive politics is remembering its own religious history and recovering the language of faith. Democrats are learning to connect issues with values and are now engaging with the faith community. They are running more candidates who have been emboldened to come out of the closet as believers themselves. Meanwhile, many Republicans have had it with the Religious Right. Both sides are asking how to connect faith and values with politics. People know now that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and we are all learning that religion should not be in the pocket of any political party; it calls all of us to moral accountability.

Most people I talk to think that politics isn't working in America and believe that the misuse of religion has been part of the problem. Politics is failing to resolve the big moral issues of our time, or even to seriously address them. And religion has too often been used as a wedge to divide people, rather than as a bridge to bring us together on those most critical questions. I believe (and many people I talk with agree) that politics could and should begin to really deal with the many crises we face. Whenever that happens, social movements often begin to emerge, usually focused on key moral issues. The best social movements always have spiritual foundations, because real change comes with the energy, commitment and hope that powerful faith and spirituality can bring.

It's time to remember the spiritual revivals that helped lead to the abolition of slavery in Britain and the United States; the black church's leadership during the American civil rights movement; the deeply Catholic roots of the Solidarity movement in Poland that led the overthrow of communism; the way liberation theology in Latin America helped pave the way for new democracies; how Desmond Tutu and the South African churches served to inspire victory over apartheid; how "People Power" joined with the priests and bishops to bring down down Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos; how the Dalai Lama keeps hope alive for millions of Tibetans; and, today, how the growing Evangelical and Pentecostal churches of the global South are mobilizing to addresse the injustices of globalization.

I believe we are seeing the beginning of movements like that again, right here in America, and that we are poised on the edge of what might become a revival that will bring about big changes in the world. Historically, social reform often requires spiritual revival. And that's what church historians always say about real revival — that it changes things in the society, not just in people's inner lives. I believe that what we are seeing now may be the beginning of a new revival — a revival for justice.

The era of the Religious Right is now past, and it's up to all of us to create a new day.

Cynthia: I've got $60,842 in the bank, $35,080 in debt, but I still need your help in raising money to retire campaign debt.

Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's Web site CynthiaforCongress.com notes:

"[Cynthia McKinney] faces nearly $ 60,000 in campaign debt. If Cynthia is to continue to serve our nation and the people of Georgia, she now needs our help retiring this debt. Please give generously."

But Ben Evans in an AP release is reporting that "her plea doesn't square with the end-of-year finance report she submitted recently to the Federal Election Commission, which showed her campaign having almost $25,000 left over."

Young Voters Find Voice on Facebook -- Site's Candidate Groups Are Grass-Roots Politics for the Web Generation

From The Washington Post:

Late on the day that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, Farouk Olu Aregbe logged on to Facebook.com, the popular online community where college students post profiles, share photos and blog. On a whim he created a group called "One Million Strong for Barack."

"I remember thinking, there's got to be more supporters out there," said Farouk, 26, who advises student government at the University at Missouri at Columbia.

Farouk's group had 100 members in the first hour. In less than five days, 10,000. By the third week, nearly 200,000. Yesterday, a month after he created the group, it had 278,100 members.

Meetup.com helped energize the Dean campaign, but more sophisticated social-networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster and MySpace were not a factor during the 2004 election. A recent Pew Research Center poll, however, reported that 54 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds have used them. And Joe Trippi, who spearheaded Dean's e-campaign, is among those who believe they will play a significant role in the current race.

It took our campaign six months to get 139,000 people on an e-mail list," Trippi said. "It took one Facebook group, what, barely a month to get 200,000? That's astronomical."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Preacher Primary -- Republican presidential hopefuls court evangelical kingpins that could determine the 2008 nomination.

Howard Fineman writes in Newsweek:

The Republicans’ first primary contest is next week, and it’s not in New Hampshire. It is in Orlando, at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters. GOP presidential candidates will be there to try to generate buzz that will translate into evangelical airtime—and support in "the base” in 2008.

Unlike 2000 (and of course 2004) George W. Bush and Karl Rove don’t have the event wired. So it is wide open—just as the Republican nomination race is—and so Orlando is an important pit stop, especially for Sens. John McCain and Sam Brownback and former governors Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. All of them want to win the nomination by building from the base outward, the way it’s been done in the party since the days of Reagan.

One candidate will be conspicuous by his absence: Front runner Rudy Giuliani. I am told that he won’t be there, but in a sense he doesn’t have to be. He’s not trying to win by getting right with the religious conservatives on cultural and faith issues. If he is going to get their votes, it will be through other means, or by default in a general election race against, say, Hillary Clinton.

The Three Kingmakers
Because there is no obvious and overpowering standard bearer for the cause of the religious right, age-old fault lines and feuds are reemerging among the titans who control the Sacred Satellite Dishes. Each of them thinks that he can anoint the One.

The Three Kingmakers have familiar names and big, traditional audiences on radio, television and now, the Internet: the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson. A younger generation (or two) is coming along, but these remain big brand names in the burgeoning world of all-Christian commerce.

There are two main fault lines among them: the one in Virginia, which separates Falwell and Robertson; and the one that separates Dobson, in his mountain fastness of Colorado Springs, from those he genially regards as amateurs (everybody else).

Here’s how the dynamics are working right now. Falwell’s anointee-designate is McCain. The reasons are personal but, more important, historical and, in a sense, familial.

McCain, Bush and Falwell
The Founding Father of modern TV preachers in politics, Falwell has been reverend-in-residence in the Bush family for 20 years. Back when Ronald Reagan was president, the late Lee Atwater cultivated Falwell on behalf of Vice President George H.W. Bush. Falwell became Bush’s trusted ally in the 1988 race, and in the losing race for re-election in 1992. In both campaigns, Falwell got to know George H.W. Bush, and Falwell was instrumental in helping to unify the mega-preachers behind Junior in the 2000 race.

McCain and Falwell went at it in 2000—the senator called him an “agent of intolerance”—but things have changed since then. McCain and his advisers decided that the route to the nomination in 2008 lay in loyalty to the Bush legacy, and to Bush personally. It was a natural step, then, for McCain to begin cultivating Falwell, the family political preacher. He has done just that—and Falwell has been only too happy to help “educate” McCain on the issues.

Last May, McCain delivered the commencement address of Falwell’s Liberty University.

But the Falwell-McCain alliance cost the candidate whatever chance he might have had to gain the support of Virginia’s other leading religious broadcaster, Robertson. The Commonwealth is barely big enough to contain the both of them: their differences are deep—theologically, organizationally and personally. To the Yale-educated Robertson, son of a senator, Falwell is a country upstart. I’ve always thought that one reason Robertson mounted his own campaign for the presidency in 1988 is that he couldn’t abide the original Falwell-Bush alliance.

Romney's edge
So Robertson has to have his own candidate, and there is no way it would be McCain. The good doctor seems to have taken a liking to Romney, whose father was a governor and who had the good sense to get graduate degrees from Harvard. Robertson’s CBN network ran a glowing profile of Romney, a piece that studiously ignored some of the Mormon doctrinal teachings that would seem calculated to make even Robertson’s helmet of TV hair stand on end.

Romney is expected to be the commencement speaker this May at Robertson’s Regent University.

Among the three Kingmakers, it seems that only Dobson is unsure of his nominee. He seems to be working by the process of elimination. He already has declared that he would not personally vote for McCain—take that, Jerry—but in a lesser-noticed interview he also said that he could not vote for Giuliani (no surprise there).

Dobson has said nice things about Romney, but at a private meeting of Christian activists in Washington last week, I am told, he made the case—at least for the sake of argument—for Huckabee, the personable former Arkansas governor who also spent a good bit of his career as a Southern Baptist preacher.

I always thought that Huckabee was the logical candidate for religious conservatives—the next step in the progression. If you want to put God in the public square, why not get a preacher to do it? Eliminate the middle man—or men.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tom Crawford weighs in on the challenges facing DPG Chair Jane Kidd

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

Running the Democratic Party of Georgia isn’t necessarily the hardest job in the world, but it comes close, as Jane Kidd will soon discover. As the newly-elected chair of the state Democratic Party, Kidd has the unenviable job of bringing order to a party that is famous for its divisiveness and its inability to get everybody to agree on even the simplest task. It’s been said that chairing a group of Democrats is like trying to herd cats; in the case of Georgia Democrats, it’s like trying to herd a pack of angry mountain lions ready to tear you to shreds at the first opportunity.

Kidd brings an impressive political pedigree to the chairmanship. She’s the daughter of former governor Ernest Vandiver, who oversaw the integration of the state’s schools in the early 1960s, and the grand-niece of Richard B. Russell, a monumental figure in 20th century Georgia politics as governor and senator (Kidd was christened with the same middle name as her illustrious ancestor: Brevard).

She is taking the reins of the party at a pivotal moment in its history: she’s the first chairman who was freely elected by the party’s delegates rather than anointed by the governor. She replaces Bobby Kahn, the former hatchetman for Roy Barnes who is criticized for not doing enough to rebuild the party after Barnes’ surprise defeat in the 2002 governor’s race. Kidd and the other contenders for chairman all agreed on one thing: Georgia Democrats need a party organization that can do the basic things like raise funds, recruit candidates, and do the grassroots work to turn out voters on election day. Republicans have been beating the pants off the Democrats for the past decade in those fundamental areas, which is why the GOP is now the dominant party in state politics.

“We can do more for our candidates, our elected officials, and our counties,” Kidd told delegates to the state committee caucus. “The DPG should come to you - and we will. We pursued a 50-state strategy in 2006 and we now control both houses of Congress. We need to do the same here in Georgia in all 159 counties.”

The leadership lineup reflects the concern that Democrats have been putting too much focus on metro Atlanta and neglecting the rest of the state: Kidd grew up in Franklin County; she and Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond, elected first vice chairman, both represented Athens House districts in the Legislature.

There also seems to be a recognition that Georgia Democrats need to do a better job of differentiating themselves from the national party, an association that has not resonated well with many voters. “Basically, we’ve got to be a center-right party to succeed in this state,” Thurmond said. To that end, an encouraging sign for party leaders was the presence at the committee caucus of conservative Democrats like state Reps. Alan Powell of Hartwell and Jeanette Jamieson of Toccoa, along with Macon Congressman Jim Marshall.

With a woman and an African-American in the top leadership positions, Democrats hope they can shore up two of the party’s weaknesses in recent elections: eroding support among women voters aggravated by the battle between Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox for the gubernatorial nomination, and decreased turnout among black voters. The party also has a Latino vice chairman, Virgilio Perez-Pascoe, to help connect with the state’s fastest-growing demographic group. “I think women will come back,” Kidd said. “I don’t think they’ve trusted a lot of our elected officials, and we allowed that to happen. Trust is the big issue.”

There is no guarantee that the new leadership can dig the Democrats out of their deep hole. Critics contend that Kidd is a little light in elective experience (she served for only two years in the Georgia House) and from a family that has been away from the political limelight for a long while.

“Jane seems to forget that her late father has been out of office for 44 years,” a Republican lawmaker said. “The Vandiver name plays well, but only in a few places in North Georgia. Ernie is long forgotten in most places.”

For better or worse, Democrats have put the party’s future in Kidd’s hands. “All of us regret what happened with Mark [Taylor] and Cathy [Cox],” House Minority Leader DuBose Porter said. “All of us recognize we have to move on from that. I can’t think of a better person to move on with.”

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Vietnam’s Ghosts -- As Congress prepares to debate Iraq, a disagreement bet. Kerry & Webb resurrects some of the toughest questions facing the nation.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

The number of American dead is still a fraction of what it was in Vietnam, and yet the horror that Iraq has become could eclipse that earlier misadventure. Supporters of the war warn that if American troops leave precipitously, then Iraq will descend into a bloodbath the way Vietnam and Cambodia did when the Democratic Congress withdrew funding from the South Vietnamese government, in effect sending hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of innocent people to their deaths at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As Congress grapples with a war gone bad, the ghost of Vietnam hovers over the Capitol. Antiwar Democrats were not rewarded at the ballot box, and it’s taken a generation—and another disastrous war—for the party to get anywhere near parity with the Republicans on national security.

Having lost in Vietnam, many Americans cannot bear the thought of another defeat. That’s why the stakeholders in the current conflict—the president and his party, principally—cannot bring themselves to accept the fact that the Iraq war is lost. The House will begin the debate next week, with every member given five minutes to speak, and sooner or later, the Senate will have to come out of hiding and express itself on the most important issue facing the country.

But the president is the decider, and he’s decided to keep waging war, perhaps even to expand the war to Iran. It’s not unlike President Nixon announcing on television in April 1970 that U.S. troops were entering Cambodia, an expansion of the war he said was necessary to protect the troops in Vietnam. The memory of Vietnam is selective—depending on who is doing the remembering. Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who fought there, sees it through a different prism than former presidential candidate John Kerry, another Vietnam vet who came to an opposite conclusion about the war’s worth. The flash point between the two decorated veterans came at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month, when Kerry seemed to assume that those opposed to the Iraq war felt the same way about Vietnam. Webb steered him away, saying, “As much as possible, we need to keep this debate away from Vietnam.”

Webb was as fierce a supporter of Vietnam as he is now a critic of Iraq, which “is not a parallel situation,” he said. When Saigon fell and American television screens carried images of the ignominious U.S. pullout, Webb felt nothing but disgust for the seeming joy among his fellow law students that the war was over. “You make me want to puke,” he told a classmate, according to an account in Robert Timberg’s book “The Nightingale’s Song,” about the life stories of Webb, Sen. John McCain and three other graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Vietnam is why Webb left the Democratic Party, only to come home again over Iraq. He is a true Jacksonian, a populist who doesn’t like foreign wars. He still believes the soldiers in Vietnam were betrayed by their political leaders, a phenomenon he sees repeated in the decision to invade Iraq and the subsequent bungling of the mission. He was attracted to Ronald Reagan when he called Vietnam a noble cause, a phrase ridiculed by those on the Kerry side of the divide. The event that triggered Webb’s break with the Democrats was President Carter granting amnesty to those who fled the country to avoid the draft. To many people, that’s a fair response to an unjust war, but in Webb’s view, if you’re enjoying the benefits of freedom, fleeing duty is not an option.

For Webb, it’s not really about the war, it’s about the culture of service, and for him there is no contradiction. If you’re from this tradition, and in Webb’s view everybody should be, you serve proudly and trust the judgment of your political leaders. Webb’s father flew planes during the Berlin airlift; his son is a Marine in Iraq, and Webb served heroically in Vietnam. He doesn’t want the debate over Iraq corrupted by competing views over Vietnam, and whether the politicians betrayed an ally by abandoning South Vietnam. Kerry protested the war and appeared with Jane Fonda and had long shaggy hair, and it must have grated on Webb. Webb is saying to Kerry that they can agree Iraq is a disaster without rehashing Vietnam. A struggle that began in the 1960s is once more taking shape on Capitol Hill.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

All eyes around the USA, including those of Sen. Chambliss, will be on the 10th District -- Uneasy thoughts on Rep. Norwood & the 10th District

Today the AJC's Political Insider observes:

Politics is full of crass moments, and this may be one of them.

No one wants to see U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood of Augusta leave the stage. . . . But already several figures are said to be making contingency plans for the quick, a one-month, non-partisan campaign that would result if the seat becomes vacant.

One thought dominates: A race for the very conservative 10th District in northeast Georgia could be one of the first federal elections in the post-’06 climate, a test of what the GOP base now thinks of Iraq and the remaining months of the Bush administration.

And it might become a guidepost for any Republican facing election in ’08.

And yesterday the Political Insider reported and reminded us:

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican who faces his first re-election test in 21 months, exhibited frustration with the Iraq war Tuesday by casting one of three committee votes against General George Casey, President Bush’s nomination as Army chief of staff.

“Gen. Casey has been the top commander on the ground in Iraq, and frankly under his leadership we haven’t done so well in the last two and a half years,” Chambliss told the Associated Press after the vote. “I just don’t think the operation has gone very well under his leadership.”

Georgia is widely viewed as pro-military, and one of the most friendly to the president. But last month, Strategic Vision, the GOP polling firm, reported that only 38 percent of the state’s voters approved of Bush’s Iraq policy.

Also, remember that one day after his State of the Union speech last month, Bush flew down to Fort Benning to talk to the troops. Two Georgia congressmen accompanied the president. Chambliss was not among them.

Dr. Charles Bullock writes: "A Tough Challenge For Jane Kidd - - No Kidding"

Dr. Charles S. Bullock III, a Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia, writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

In what may be the first step in the continuing transformation of Georgia’s political landscape, the Democratic Party elected a new chair during the last weekend of January. A political party holding an election may not sound newsworthy but it was a new experience for the state’s once dominant institution. During the decades of Democratic hegemony the governor handpicked party leaders. But with Democrats embarking on their fifth year without control of the governorship, the traditional selection process is no longer available.

The selection of a woman, Athens’ former state representative Jane Kidd, was not unique since a woman had led the party a generation ago. The challenge confronted by the daughter of former Governor Ernest Vandiver, however, is unprecedented.

Over the last 15 years, Democrats have seen Republicans go from holding no statewide offices to winning 12 of the 15 elected on a partisan ballot. During this same period Republicans increased their share of the congressional delegation from one to seven. In winning majorities in the General Assembly, Republicans trebled their share of the seats.

At the top of Kidd’s “to-do” list is: take steps to halt the downward slide. Next: get Democrats on the road to recovery. Achieving these objectives will require candidates, voters and money.

As she ponders how to meet the challenges, Kidd might review the steps Republicans took that got them from irrelevance to dominance. The potential significance of the GOP model is underscored since the Democratic Party today finds itself in much the situation occupied by the GOP in the not-so-distant past. Consider these facts. In 1997 Republicans had 74 seats in the state House and 22 in the Senate. Today Democrats have 74 House seats and 22 Senate seats. The 1992 exit polls showed a Georgia electorate that was 42 percent Democratic and 34 percent Republican. In 2004, 42 percent of Georgia voters were Republicans and 34 percent Democrats. Last November those who went to the polls were 44 percent Republican and 32 percent Democratic.

If Kidd follows the Republican model, she will begin a program to identify prospective candidates in deference to that old political aphorism: you can’t beat somebody with nobody. Historically Democrats did not need to worry about candidate recruitment since when Democrats controlled Georgia government the best of the politically ambitious automatically gravitated to the majority party.

Almost two decades ago Republicans, frustrated by their inability to translate success in presidential elections into congressional and state legislative seats developed an effective approach to candidate recruitment. First they identified districts that looked promising for their party. Then the state party turned to local activists for help in finding attractive potential candidates. Since some of the prospects lacked experience on the campaign trail and hesitated to explore such uncharted territory, the party offered advice and assistance. By concentrating resources on attractive candidates in winnable districts the GOP gradually chipped away at the Democratic majority in the legislature. In time, some of the Republicans in the General Assembly ran for Congress or statewide posts.

Get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, is a second area in which Democrats might study the GOP playbook. The “72-hour campaign” has proven more effective in getting Republican voters to the polls than Democratic GOTV efforts. Republicans have become adept at identifying voters likely to support their candidates, putting relevant materials into the hands of these voters, and then getting these voters to turn out whether it be by casting absentee ballots, voting early, or going to the polls on election day. Volunteers, who are often more faithful and diligent than paid workers, have largely fueled the Republican effort.

The Democrats new leadership team represents components needed to fashion a majority. The new number 2, Michael Thurmond, is an African American and the black vote is the party’s core constituency.

By selecting a white woman to lead the party, Democrats put at the helm a representative of the key swing group in Georgia politics. When Democrats won statewide contests in the 1990s, white males gave significantly larger shares of their votes to the GOP than did white women. Women continue to display more loyalty to the Democrats making up almost 58 percent of those asking for Democratic ballots in the 2006 primary but only 48 percent of the Republican primary voters. However in recent general elections, white women have given the same levels of support as white men to the re-elections of George Bush and Sonny Perdue.

A Democratic comeback in statewide elections will require both mobilization of African Americans and greater support from women who cast a majority of the vote in general elections. (Of course getting more white male votes would also help the Democrats but that may be more difficult.) The challenge to the Kidd – Thurmond duo will be to recruit candidates and design appeals that overcome the deficit that their party has encountered in the elections of this new century.

The trends do not favor Democrats. In 2002 when the GOP surged into the majority, it won the top-of-the-ticket positions of governor and U.S. senator by more than 100,000 votes. Two years later, when for the first time Georgia voted Republican for both president and U.S. Senator in the same election, both won by more than 500,000 votes. In 2006, with turnout down again, as is the pattern for mid-term elections, Republicans made their two most significant gains, winning the offices of lieutenant governor and secretary of state by about 250,000 votes.

One lesson derived from these figures is that the GOP showing of 2002 was not a fluke.

A second conclusion is that a number of voters who remained loyal to the Democratic Party in the 1990s are now regularly selecting Republicans. The longer these voters continue that behavior, the harder it will be for Democrats to win them back. What may have been an exception in voting against Roy Barnes and Max Cleland is hardening into a more generalized preference for Republicans with each passing election.

In thinking about the challenge to Kidd and Thurmond, the words of Jerry Reed come to mind. He sang about having “a long way to go and a short time to get there.”

Dick Morris on the importance of the front-runner

Dick Morris writes in The Hill:

The nominees for the 2008 presidential race will be selected in 2007. The tempo of the new political process, driven by 24-hour cable news, Internet bloggers, conservative talk radio, and liberal NPR is so rapid that the nomination race cannot exist in stasis waiting for Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina to get around to holding their votes in early 2008. Well before they open their caucuses or polling places, this nomination, in each party, will have been decided by the national media coverage during 2007.

What is the role for the early, small caucus/primary states in 2007? They will not have held their primaries or caucuses yet, but the state-by-state polls published regularly in 2007 become the equivalent of virtual primaries in each of these states. But to win these polls, it doesn’t matter so much what happens within each small state but what is going on nationally.

The old model — a Jimmy Carter labors in obscurity in the Iowa vineyards and then is discovered nationally after he wins there and sweeps all remaining primaries — is quaint but obsolete. Now you have to win the American Media Primary of 2007 and then your victory is ratified in the primaries and caucuses of 2008.

The key for the candidates is to become the early front-runner and hold the position for the first three quarters of 2007. Once that is accomplished, the nomination is probably in the bag. No clear front-runner, except for Rockefeller in 1964, has ever failed to win the nomination since the primary process became pivotal in party nominations in 1960.

Among Democrats, Kennedy in ’60, Humphrey, once he entered the race, in ’68, McGovern in ’72, Carter in ’76 and ’80, Mondale in ’84, Dukakis in ’88, Clinton in ’92, Gore in ’00 and Kerry in ’04 were front-runners who held their leads. Mondale, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry were front-runners who were briefly shaken by challengers (Hart, Tsongas, Bradley and Dean) but held on to win their nominations

Among Republicans, Nixon in ’60 and ’68, Ford in ’76, Reagan in ’80, Bush in ’88, Dole in ’96, and Bush in ’00 were all front-runners going in and the nominee coming out. Only Goldwater can be said to have pulled off an upset in 1964 by toppling Rockefeller.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bill Shipp describes Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond as "perhaps the smartest politician in the Georgia Democratic Party."

Bill Shipp writes:

"Democratic candidates must treat Sen. (Barack) Obama just like any other candidate. They must not treat him differently because he is an African American."

That bit of guidance for white Democratic presidential candidates comes from perhaps the smartest politician in the Georgia Democratic Party - Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, the only black candidate to win statewide office without first being appointed.

[I]f Obama insists on running as the Black Candidate, he's a dead duck, Thurmond thinks.

"The last frontier for black candidates is being able to win in white jurisdictions. When I run for election, I tell my audiences, regardless of their race, 'Don't vote for me because I'm an African American, and don't vote against me because I'm an African American. Vote for what I stand for,' " Thurmond said.

The Georgia official knows how to avoid the race trap.

In his three contests for labor commissioner, Thurmond has routed a half-dozen white Democratic and Republican contenders.

In 2002, he won re-election with 51 percent of the vote and with blacks comprising 21 percent of the turnout. Last year, he captured 55 percent of the ballots, as black representation in the election hit a near-record-high 24 percent, according to official election numbers.

First elected to the state House in 1986 from Clarke County, Thurmond was, at one time, the only black lawmaker from a white-majority district. He also was the first black legislator since Reconstruction elected from Clarke County. As Thurmond racked up one political achievement after another, he watched his Democratic Party collapse around him, losing the governor's office, control of the legislature and both U.S. Senate seats. He saw his Democratic mentor Gov. Zell Miller throw in with the Republicans and endorse President Bush and Gov. Sonny Perdue. (In the mid-1990s, Miller appointed Thurmond to direct his welfare-reform program.)

On the campaign trail, Thurmond joked with white audiences about being blood kin to the late ultra-conservative white Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In each of his elections for commissioner, Mike Thurmond swept several mountain counties where only a handful of black voters reside. To be sure, the labor commissioner election is a down-ballot, low-profile contest that draws only a fraction of the attention devoted to, say, a presidential primary or a governor's race. Still, Thurmond's success in reducing the race factor in an Old South state is remarkable.

At the recent contentious Georgia Democratic Committee meeting, Thurmond worked feverishly behind the scenes to defeat labor union-backed Michael Berlon for party chair. Thurmond feared the controversial Berlon would marginalize the party's importance. Instead of Berlon, Democrats finally turned to former state Rep. Jane Kidd of Athens as their chairwoman, and they installed Thurmond as first vice chair.

Thurmond is expected to play a pivotal role in vetting Democratic challengers to Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year. How Thurmond reacts to the anticipated Senate candidacy of DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, also an black, might be a key to whether Democrats have any hope of retaking the post captured by Chambliss from Max Cleland in 2002.

Note to Bush: A leader knows when to quit

Peter Beinart writes in TIME:

Cut Your Losses, Save Your Legacy -- In Iraq, the decider need to learn to un-decide

President Bush is taking the long view. He has been reading biographies of George Washington. He recently bemoaned "short-term historians." He keeps mentioning Harry Truman, a President reviled when he left office but rescued by posterity. Bush says he doesn't think about his legacy, but more and more, it's what he seems to think about most.

I wish he wouldn't. In theory, thinking about your legacy should be humbling. But in Bush's case, it's making him increasingly reckless. Bush knows that historians will see him through the prism of Iraq: if the war is a failure, so is he. So he's paying any price to win. Were he focused on the present, he might see that the war is already lost. Instead, he's gazing over the horizon, trying to dig himself out of his Iraq hole and making it ever deeper as a result.

Bush seems to think that historians smile upon Presidents who never give up, even when the going gets tough. But that's not quite right. Take Bush's hero, Truman, who regularly ranks among the top 10 Presidents of all time. One of the things historians admire about him is his willingness to acknowledge when victory was beyond reach. It started with China. In 1949, America's man in Beijing, Chiang Kai-shek, was steadily losing ground to communist rebels. Hawkish politicians and pundits demanded that Truman intervene, and when he didn't and China fell to Mao Zedong, they accused his government of appeasement and worse. Joseph McCarthy, who rose to prominence in the wake of China's fall, cited Truman's refusal to rescue Chiang as evidence that his State Department was infested with communist spies. And in 1950, those charges helped sink Democrats at the polls. But historians generally think Truman did the right thing. He would have liked to save China's pro-American regime, but he recognized that the cause was hopeless. And by cutting his losses, he kept the U.S. out of an unwinnable war.

On Korea, Truman also refused to go all out for victory. In June 1950, communist North Korea invaded the capitalist South. With Seoul unable to hold off the assault, Truman sent in U.S. troops, which quickly turned the tide. Giddy with success, he announced that the U.S. would not simply push the communists back to the border; it would liberate the North as well. That seemed like a good idea until China, terrified by the prospect of American soldiers on its border, joined the war, forcing the U.S. into a headlong retreat.

At that point, Truman faced a choice. His commander on the ground, General Douglas MacArthur, demanded victory, which meant full-scale war with Beijing. Dropping 30 to 50 atom bombs on Manchuria, he suggested, would do the trick. But Truman refused. He fired MacArthur, refused to bomb China and, in a humiliating reversal, abandoned the dream of a liberated Korea. Instead, the U.S. fought to an unsatisfying draw, with an eventual cease-fire reaffirming the border between North and South. MacArthur denounced the new strategy, and Truman's approval ratings--already damaged by the loss of China--sank below 30%, where they stayed for most of the rest of his presidency.

But once again, historians cheered. Although famed for his strong convictions, Truman changed his goals in response to changed circumstances. So did Ronald Reagan, another President whom Bush admires. In 1983, Reagan sent 2,000 Marines to try to end Lebanon's civil war. That October, suicide bombers truck-bombed their headquarters, killing more than 230. Reagan vowed that the U.S. would not be driven out, declaring the Marines' presence "central to our credibility on a global scale." But four months later, the Marines were gone, withdrawn from a mission they could not possibly achieve. Reagan loathed terrorism, just as Truman loathed communism. But each man recognized that there were limits to what the U.S. could do about it.

Those limits should be blindingly clear today as an exhausted American military tries to stitch Iraq back together, in a country and a region where the only thing Sunnis and Shi'ites agree upon is that they hate us. Bush seems to think historians reward Presidents who never give up hope. And when that hope is justified by the facts, they do. But sometimes they reward Presidents for abandoning their hopes so they don't become obsessions. The best thing Bush can do for his legacy is to stop trying to change it. The more he accepts that history's die is already cast, the more merciful history will be.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I love creative juices . . .

The AJC's Political Insider notes:

The resolution clearing the way for the erection of a statue to Zell Bryan Miller has already sparked the creative juices. In today’s paper, one letter writer suggests a statue of the former senator and governor sitting on George Bush’s lap.