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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, March 31, 2008

Democrats happy to join in with Republicans on advocating an end to Gov. Perdue's “austerity” cuts to education.

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Just as Democrats used to do to them when they were in the majority, Republicans have stolen an issue from the Democrats, and Democrats couldn’t be happier. The Republicans this session are advocating an end to the “austerity” cuts to education that Perdue has kept in his budget version since the last recession.

And it clearly sticks in the governor’s craw that members of his own party are now trying to bash him with the same issue Democrats tried to use against him in his 2006 re-election campaign.

McCain has so far managed to enlist only a fraction of the heavyweight bundlers of campaign contributions who helped drive Bush’s 2 runs for president

From The New York Times:

With attention focused on the Democrats’ infighting for the presidential nomination, Senator John McCain is pressing ahead to the general election but has yet to sign up one critical constituency: the big-money people who powered the Bush fund-raising machine.

New Backing for Obama As Party Seeks Unity

From The Wall Street Journal:

Slowly but steadily, a string of Democratic Party figures is taking Barack Obama's side in the presidential nominating race and raising the pressure on Hillary Clinton to give up.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is expected to endorse Sen. Obama Monday, according to a Democrat familiar with her plans. Meanwhile, North Carolina's seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group -- just one has so far -- before that state's May 6 primary, several Democrats say.

Helping to drive the endorsements is a fear that the Obama-Clinton contest has grown toxic and threatens the Democratic Party's chances against Republican John McCain in the fall.

In earlier eras, the standoff between the two candidates might have been resolved by party elders acting behind the scenes. But no Democrat today has the power to knock heads and resolve the mess.

The expected move by Minnesota's Sen. Klobuchar follows Friday's endorsement of Sen. Obama by Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 22.

Both senators had planned to remain neutral, according to party officials, but decided to weigh in as the Democrats' campaign became more negative and Sen. McCain was free to exploit the confusion looking to the November election.

What makes such endorsements significant is that they're from superdelegates.

Even raising the prospect of a convention fight could backfire for Sen. Clinton by antagonizing the superdelegates she needs. Many superdelegates are on the ballot themselves this year, and the last thing they want is a chaotic convention that plays into the hands of Republicans.

I started to post this yesterday (before seeing the below comment). I will post it now. I predict that after Nov. 4, DNC Chair Howard Dean is toast.

I admit that I have never been a member of the Howard Dean fan club.

He recently noted that Democrats across the board "are haranguing me to show leadership."

While I can understand his predicament with regard to the issue of Hillary staying in or getting out, he should have resisted his natural urge to blurt out something with regard to the following comment taken from The Wall Street Journal that most surely come back to haunt him:

Party Chairman Howard Dean says he was "dumbfounded" at the suggestion by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy Friday that Sen. Clinton should pull out.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Other Georgia will be well represented in the Georgia trade delegation en route to China.

The political spin on this story is that Gov. Perdue will be absent during this final, hectic and dangerous week of the Legislature.

The local spin on this story is that I am proud to share with my readers that my good friend JoAnne Lewis is among the 40 state business leaders accompanying Gov. Perdue to China.

JoAnne Lewis is Executive Director of one of my favorite clients, the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority, and she will represent Douglas and Coffee County and the rest of the Other Georgia well in China.

From the AJC:

This is the week that Georgia rolls out the red carpet for the People's Republic of China, a Communist country with a roaring free-market economy that could mean big bucks for metro Atlanta and the entire Southeast.

A high-profile trade delegation that includes Gov. Sonny Perdue and about 40 state business leaders leaves for China today aboard Delta Air Lines' inaugural nonstop flight from Atlanta to Shanghai, China's booming business center and the Asian equivalent of New York City.

The trip is historic for several reasons. It is Delta's first nonstop flight to China in the airline's 79-year history. It is the only nonstop flight to China from the Southeast, and one of just a handful in the nation. Georgia will open an economic development office in China during the weeklong visit. And the trade-diplomatic mission could accelerate the push to locate a Chinese consulate in metro Atlanta, where 50,000 Chinese live.

"It will be the most important trade mission we do," said Ken Stewart, state Commissioner of Economic Development and one of the trip delegates.

"We're basically debuting Georgia in China."

Clinton Vows To Stay in Race To Convention

From The Washington Post:

A day after Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean urged the candidates to end the race by July 1, Clinton defied that call by declaring that she will take her campaign all the way to the Aug. 25-28 convention if necessary, potentially setting up the prolonged and divisive contest that party leaders are increasingly anxious to avoid.

What’s been lost in the furor over Hillary’s Bosnia fairy tale is that it kicked off her major address on the Iraq war, timed to its 5th anniversary.

Frank Rich writes in The New York Times:

MOST politicians lie. Most people over 50, as I know all too well, misremember things. So here is the one compelling mystery still unresolved about Hillary Clinton’s Bosnia fairy tale: Why did she keep repeating this whopper for nearly three months, well after it had been publicly debunked by journalists and eyewitnesses?

In January, after Senator Clinton first inserted the threat of “sniper fire” into her stump speech, Elizabeth Sullivan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote that the story couldn’t be true because by the time of the first lady’s visit in March 1996, “the war was over.” Meredith Vieira asked Mrs. Clinton on the “Today” show why, if she was on the front lines, she took along a U.S.O. performer like Sinbad. Earlier this month, a week before Mrs. Clinton fatefully rearmed those snipers one time too many, Sinbad himself spoke up to The Washington Post: “I think the only ‘red phone’ moment was: Do we eat here or at the next place?”

Yet Mrs. Clinton was undeterred. She dismissed Sinbad as a “comedian” and recycled her fiction once more on St. Patrick’s Day. When Michael Dobbs fact-checked it for The Post last weekend and proclaimed it worthy of “four Pinocchios,” her campaign pushed back. The Clinton camp enforcer Howard Wolfson phoned in to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC Monday and truculently quoted a sheaf of news stories that he said supported her account. Only later that day, a full week after her speech, did he start to retreat, suggesting it was “possible” she “misspoke” in the “most recent instance” of her retelling of her excellent Bosnia adventure.

Since Mrs. Clinton had told a similar story in previous instances, this was misleading at best. It was also dishonest to characterize what she had done as misspeaking — or as a result of sleep deprivation, as the candidate herself would soon assert. The Bosnia anecdote was part of her prepared remarks, scripted and vetted with her staff. Not that it mattered anymore. The self-inflicted damage had been done. The debate about Barack Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was almost smothered in the rubble of Mrs. Clinton’s Bosnian bridge too far.

Which brings us back to our question: Why would so smart a candidate play political Russian roulette with virtually all the bullet chambers loaded?

Sometimes only a shrink can decipher why some politicians persist in flagrantly taking giant risks, all but daring others to catch them in the act (see: Spitzer, Eliot). Carl Bernstein, a sometimes admiring Hillary Clinton biographer, has called the Bosnia debacle “a watershed event” for her campaign because it revives her long history of balancing good works with “ ‘misstatements’ and elisions,” from the health-care task force fiasco onward.

But this event may be a watershed for two other reasons that have implications beyond Mrs. Clinton’s character and candidacy, spilling over into the 2008 campaign as a whole. It reveals both the continued salience of that supposedly receding issue, the Iraq war, and the accelerating power of viral politics, as exemplified by YouTube, to override the retail politics still venerated by the Beltway establishment.

What’s been lost in the furor over Mrs. Clinton’s Bosnia fairy tale is that her disastrous last recycling of it, the one that blew up in her face, kicked off her major address on the war, timed to its fifth anniversary. Still unable to escape the stain of the single most damaging stand in her public career, she felt compelled to cloak herself, however fictionally, in an American humanitarian intervention that is not synonymous with quagmire.

Perhaps she thought that by taking the huge gamble of misspeaking one more time about her narrow escape on the tarmac at Tulza, she could compensate for misvoting on Iraq. Instead, her fictionalized derring-do may have stirred national trace memories of two of the signature propaganda stunts of the war: the Rambo myth the Pentagon concocted for Pvt. Jessica Lynch and President Bush’s flyboy antics on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln during “Mission Accomplished.”

That Mrs. Clinton’s campaign kept insisting her Bosnia tale was the truth two days after The Post exposed it as utter fiction also shows the political perils of 20th-century analog arrogance in a digital age. Incredible as it seems, the professionals around Mrs. Clinton — though surely knowing her story was false — thought she could tough it out. They ignored the likelihood that a television network would broadcast the inevitable press pool video of a first lady’s foreign trip — as the CBS Evening News did on Monday night — and that this smoking gun would then become an unstoppable assault weapon once harnessed to the Web.

The Drudge Report’s link to the YouTube iteration of the CBS News piece transformed it into a cultural phenomenon reaching far beyond a third-place network news program’s nightly audience. It had more YouTube views than the inflammatory Wright sermons, more than even the promotional video of Britney Spears making her latest “comeback” on a TV sitcom. It was as this digital avalanche crashed down that Mrs. Clinton, backed into a corner, started offering the alibi of “sleep deprivation” and then tried to reignite the racial fires around Mr. Wright.

The Clinton campaign’s cluelessness about the Web has been apparent from the start, and not just in its lagging fund-raising. Witness the canned Hillary Web “chats” and “Hillcasts,” the soupy Web contest to choose a campaign song (the winner, an Air Canada advertising jingle sung by Celine Dion, was quickly dumped), and the little-watched electronic national town-hall meeting on the eve of Super Tuesday. Web surfers have rejected these stunts as the old-school infomercials they so blatantly are.

Senator Obama, for all his campaign’s Internet prowess, made his own media mistake by not getting ahead of the inevitable emergence of commercially available Wright videos on both cable TV and the Web. But he got lucky. YouTube videos of a candidate in full tilt or full humiliation, we’re learning, can outdraw videos of a candidate’s fire-breathing pastor. Both the CBS News piece on Mrs. Clinton in Bosnia and the full video of Mr. Obama’s speech on race have drawn more views than the most popular clips of a raging Mr. Wright.

But the political power of the Bosnia incident speaks at least as much to the passions aroused by the war as to the media dynamics of the Web. For all the economic anxiety roiling Americans, they have not forgotten Iraq. The anger can rise again in a flash when stoked by events on the ground or politicians at home, as it has throughout the rites surrounding the fifth anniversary of the invasion and 4,000th American combat death. This will keep happening as it becomes more apparent that the surge is a stalemate, bringing neither lower troop levels nor anything more than a fragile temporary stability to Iraq. John McCain’s apparent obliviousness to this fact remains a boon to the Democrats.

The war is certainly a bigger issue in 2008 than race. Yet it remains a persistent Beltway refrain that race will hinder Mr. Obama at every turn, no matter how often reality contradicts the thesis. Whites wouldn’t vote for a black man in states like Iowa and New Hampshire; whites wouldn’t vote for blacks in South Carolina; blacks wouldn’t vote for a black man who wasn’t black enough. The newest incessantly repeated scenario has it that Mr. Obama’s fate now all depends on a stereotypical white blue-collar male voter in the apotheosized rust belt town of Deer Hunter, Pa.

Well, Mr. Obama isn’t going to win every white vote. But two big national polls late last week, both conducted since he addressed the Wright controversy, found scant change in Mr. Obama’s support. In The Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, his white support was slightly up. As the pollster Peter Hart put it, this result was “a myth buster.” The noisy race wars have failed to stop Mr. Obama just as immigration hysteria didn’t defeat Senator McCain, the one candidate in his party who refused to pander to the Lou Dobbs brigades.

The myth that’s been busted is one that Mr. Obama talked about in his speech — the perennial given that American racial relations are doomed to stew eternally in the Jim Crow poisons that forged generations like Mr. Wright’s. Yet if you sampled much political commentary of the past two weeks, you’d think it’s still 1968, or at least 1988. The default assumptions are that the number of racists in America remains fixed, no matter what the generational turnover, and that the Wright videos will terrorize white folks just as the Willie Horton ads did when the G.O.P. took out Michael Dukakis.

But politically and culturally we’re not in the 1980s — or pre-YouTube 2004 — anymore. An unending war abroad is upstaging the old domestic racial ghosts. A new bottom-up media culture is challenging any candidate’s control of a message.

The 2008 campaign is, unsurprisingly enough, mostly of a piece with 2006, when Iraq cost Republicans the Congress. In that year’s signature race, a popular Senate incumbent, George Allen, was defeated by a war opponent in the former Confederate bastion of Virginia after being caught race-baiting in a video posted on the Web. Last week Mrs. Clinton learned the hard way that Iraq, racial gamesmanship and viral video can destroy a Democrat, too.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Getting Mrs. Clinton. The establishment media is populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in her words & ways that it amounts to an aversion.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.

That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).

But either you get it now or you never will. That's the importance of the Bosnia tape.

Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.

Not that her staff isn't policing them too. Mrs. Clinton's people are heavy-handed in that area, letting producers and correspondents know they're watching, weighing, may have to take this higher. There's too much of this in politics, but Hillary's campaign takes it to a new level.

It's not only the press. It's what I get as I walk around New York, which used to be thick with her people. I went to a Hillary fund-raiser at Hunter College about a month ago, paying for a seat in the balcony and being ushered up to fill the more expensive section on the floor, so frantic were they to fill seats.

I sat next to a woman, a New York Democrat who'd been for Hillary from the beginning and still was. She was here. But, she said, "It doesn't seem to be working." She shrugged, not like a brokenhearted person but a practical person who'd missed all the signs of something coming. She wasn't mad at the voters. But she was no longer so taken by the woman who soon took the stage and enacted joy.

The other day a bookseller told me he'd been reading the opinion pages of the papers and noting the anti-Hillary feeling. Two weeks ago he realized he wasn't for her anymore. It wasn't one incident, just an accumulation of things. His experience tracks this week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mrs. Clinton's disapproval numbers have risen to the highest level ever in the campaign, her highest in fact in seven years.

* * *

You'd think she'd pivot back to showing a likable side, chatting with women, weeping, wearing the bright yellows and reds that are thought to appeal to her core following, older women. Well, she's doing that. Yet at the same time, her campaign reveals new levels of thuggishness, though that's the wrong word, for thugs are often effective. This is mere heavy-handedness.

On Wednesday a group of Mrs. Clinton's top donors sent a letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, warning her in language that they no doubt thought subtle but that reflected a kind of incompetent menace, that her statements on the presidential campaign may result in less money for Democratic candidates for the House. Ms. Pelosi had said that in her view the superdelegates should support the presidential candidate who wins the most pledged delegates in state contests. The letter urged her to "clarify" her position, which is "clearly untenable" and "runs counter" to the superdelegates' right to make "an informed, individual decision" about "who would be the party's strongest nominee." The signers, noting their past and huge financial support, suggested that Ms. Pelosi "reflect" on her comments and amend them to reflect "a more open view."

Barack Obama's campaign called it inappropriate and said Mrs. Clinton should "reject the insinuation." But why would she? All she has now is bluster. Her supporters put their threat in a letter, not in a private meeting. By threatening Ms. Pelosi publicly, they robbed her of room to maneuver. She has to defy them or back down. She has always struck me as rather grittier than her chic suits, high heels and unhidden enthusiasm may suggest. We'll see.

[I understand Pelosi was infuriated by the implied threat the donors would quit giving cash to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), and will relay the message to shove it.]

What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.

* * *

What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."

Made me laugh. It was like the voice of the people answering back. This guy knows that what Mrs. Clinton said is sort of crazy. He seems to know her reputation for untruths. He seemed to be saying, "I get it."

Friday, March 28, 2008

This is big news for Obama: Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey endorses Obama. -- Wants to unify the party.

From The Washington Post:

"The endorsement comes as something of a surprise," Dan Pfeiffer, Obama deputy communications director, said in a statement. " Casey ... had been adamant about remaining neutral until after the April 22 primary [in Pennsylvania]. He said he wanted to help unify the party."

This weekend's Arab League summit in Syria is falling apart.

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

Attendance at [this weekend's Arab League summit in Syria is dwindling] since Jordan today joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in saying its head of state would stay home, apparently out of irritation at Syria's actions in Lebanon and its ties to Shiite Muslim Iran. Those three states are predominantly Sunni, unlike Iraq and Mr. Maliki's Shiite-led governing coalition, though he, too, may not be happy with alleged Syrian and Iranian interference in Iraq.

Not directly asking for donations has been part of the Obama campaign's strategy of slow-walking its way into supporters' wallets.

From The Washington Post:

When Christen Braun decided it was time to learn more about the presidential candidates, the 28-year-old high school teacher from suburban Pittsburgh turned to Google -- right where Sen. Barack Obama's campaign was waiting for her.

Her search triggered an ad for Obama's Web site, which prompted Braun, a Republican, to sign up for the Democratic senator's e-mail list -- and then to make her first political contribution, for $25.

Such transactions help illustrate how Obama has shattered fundraising records and challenged ideas about the way presidential bids are financed. While past campaigns have relied largely on support from small circles of wealthy and well-connected patrons, Obama has received contributions from more than 1 million donors. He raised $91 million in the first two months of 2008 alone, most of it in small amounts over the Internet.

Obama's unprecedented online fundraising success is often depicted as a spontaneous reaction to a charismatic candidate, particularly by young, Internet-savvy supporters. But it is the result of an elaborate marketing effort that has left Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, and Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, struggling to catch up.

Obama aides say their goal has been to "build an online relationship" with supporters who will not only give money but also knock on doors and help register voters for the candidate. To do so, they have spent heavily on Internet ads -- $2.6 million in February alone, more than 10 times as much as Clinton and more than 20 times as much as McCain.

Obama has targeted unlikely sites, such as the conservative Washington Times, where an ad for the candidate appeared yesterday on the same page as a story about an economic speech he gave that morning. But a click on the ad did not lead to a request for donations; instead, it took users to a page where they could sign up for invitations to campaign events.

This approach -- not directly asking for donations -- has been part of the campaign's strategy of slow-walking its way into supporters' wallets. Newcomers are led to a blog and an online store and are offered a chance to join local Obama groups.

Zack Exley, a campaign consultant who oversaw Internet fundraising for Sen. John F. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, said Obama's e-mails to potential donors stand in stark contrast to those sent by the Clinton campaign.

One recent e-mail, from former president Bill Clinton, was blunt: "Any donation, even as little as $5, can make a difference in this campaign. If you haven't given online yet, now is the time."

Exley said that while the Clinton team has been "really aggressive," the Obama campaign has taken more time to build a rapport with potential donors.

"If you just look at the e-mails and the rhythm -- the Obama campaign has not asked for money every time they could have," Exley said. "They've tried to really show people that they're not just after your money. They're not treating you like an ATM."

Political consultants who specialize in online fundraising say Obama has, in two months, rewritten the rules for raising campaign cash.

"Anytime you can reach 1 million donors with the click of a mouse, you redefine the way campaign finance is done in American politics," said Philip A. Musser, a Republican political strategist who serves as a consultant to Google.

Political consultants who specialize in online fundraising say Obama has, in two months, rewritten the rules for raising campaign cash.

The Internet allows a candidate's message to be put in front of virtually any audience. Emily's List, the nation's largest political action committee, spent heavily on Clinton during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses and ran ads that appeared when women in Iowa searched Google for such terms as "recipe," "stocking stuffer" and "post-Thanksgiving sales."

Bush seems to be incapable of relaying the truth on any bad news involving how things are going in Iraq.

The New York Times reports that American-trained Iraqi security forces failed for a third straight day to oust Shiite militias in Basra, even as President Bush hailed the operation as a sign of the growing strength of Iraq’s government.

Joe Klein of Time shares his thoughts about the status of the ongoing battle between Hillary and Obama.

From Time:

Democrats will soon learn how damaging [Obama's 20-year relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright] might be in a general election. They'll also see if Obama has the gumption to bounce back, work hard—not just arena rallies for college kids but roundtables for the grizzled and unemployed in American Legion halls—and change the minds that have turned against him. The main reason superdelegates have not yet rallied round Obama is that the party is collectively holding its breath, waiting to see how he performs in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana.

Joe Klein writes in Time about Bill Clinton and how he sees the big picture over time.

From Time:

Unlike Barack Obama, Bill Clinton does not believe in "the fierce urgency of now." The former President has an exquisitely languid sense of how political time unfurls. He understands that those moments the political community, especially the media, considers urgent usually aren't. He has seen his own election and reelection—and completing his second term—pronounced "impossible" and lived to tell the tale. He remembers that in spring 1992 he had pretty much won the Democratic nomination but was considered a dead man walking, running third behind Bush the Elder and Ross Perot. He knows that April is the silly season in presidential politics, the moment when candidates involved in a bruising primary battle seem weakest and bloodied, as both Hillary Clinton and Obama do now.

From the Cracker Squire Archives -- "This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise."

The AJC's Political Insider (now a/k/a Jim Galloway) reports:

Gov. Sonny Perdue has just put out an op-ed style piece intended for use by Sunday newspapers across Georgia, on the topic of allowing local communities to decide whether the retail sale of beer, wine, and liquor on the Christian Sabbath should be permitted.

No mention of the governor’s support for the portion of the bill that would permit Sunday beer sales in a Gwinnett Braves minor league stadium, and no “You should plan ahead” argument. The governor emphasizes public safety this time. We hear Sunday sales proponents will argue that the New Mexico data cited by the governor is faulty.

Here’s what has come out of Perdue’s office:

Do no harm. It may sound like a simple concept, but it is one that I am afraid supporters of Sunday alcohol sales may have forgotten.

Above all else, I believe it is the responsibility of the Governor and the General Assembly to reject a piece of legislation that hurts more people than it helps.

Allowing the sale of alcohol in grocery stores as well as liquor stores on Sundays will do far more harm than good. In fact, other than those who profit from those sales, it will not help anyone.

The governor being both for and agin alcohol sales on Sunday reminds of a 5-1-07 post entitled "This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise," that reads:

As reported in a 3-26-07 post, the 25% of grocery chain customers who do their shopping on Sunday will have to wait for Sunday alcohol sales.

With both parents usually working, and Saturday devoted to softball, soccer or whatever with the kids, Sunday has become the day to fill the kitchen cupboard for many Georgians.

And how long must they wait? At least beyond next year; since next year is an election year, this issue is dead for the 2008 legislative session.

With the issue dead for now, this is as good a time as any to recall the speech on distilled spirits delivered by the Mississippi legislator Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat in 1952 as reported by the AJC's Political Insider on January 25, 2007:

“You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

“If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.


“If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

Listen up Clayton County -- The two finalists for temporary superintendent don't have what it takes to salvage the school district's accrediation.

Finally someone has said of the two prospective Emperors: "But he has nothing on!"

Listen up citizens of Clayton County. Do not allow things to go from bad (I know, real bad) to worse at tomorrow's school board meeting.

From the AJC:

The two finalists for Clayton County schools temporary superintendent don't have what it takes to salvage the district's accreditation, the head of the accreditation agency said Thursday.

James E. Bostic, one of two state board of education members Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed last month to help Clayton, also criticized the board's choice for finalists.

"The two people suggested ... are absolutely the wrong people," Bostic said. "We need to look at excellent and very capable people in Georgia who understand the state laws and understand how to get things done."

What is this eligible stuff. -- Headline reads: "304,000 Inmates Eligible for Deportation." It should read: "304,000 Inmates Deported."

From The New York Times:

At least 304,000 immigrant criminals eligible for deportation are behind bars nationwide, a top federal immigration official said Thursday.

That is the first official estimate of the total number of such convicts in federal, state and local prisons and jails.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Northern Virginia, a Latino Community Unravels

From The Washington Post:

A vibrant Latino subculture built in Prince William County over more than a decade is starting to come undone in a matter of months.

With Latinos fleeing the combined effects of the construction downturn, the mortgage crisis and new local laws aimed at catching illegal immigrants, Latino shops are on the brink of bankruptcy, church groups are hemorrhaging members, neighborhoods are dotted with for-sale signs, and once-busy strip malls have been transformed into ghost towns.

County officials who have campaigned for months to drive out illegal immigrants say they would be unhappy to see businesses suffer or legal immigrants forced out in the process.

"But I believe the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks," said Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors and a leading advocate of the new policy allowing police to check the immigration status of people stopped for other violations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hillary's flight of fancy in her embellishments on Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Macedonia.

From the AP:

What makes Clinton's situation unique — and the Bosnia embellishments so damaging — is the fact that the New York senator has built her candidacy on the illusion of experience. Any attack on her credentials is a potential Achilles heel.

As first lady, she did not attend National Security Council meetings, did not receive the presidential daily briefing on terrorism and other threats and did not have a top level security clearance. Her foreign trips were glorified goodwill tours, a collection of photo opportunities and sightseeing trips.

Polls show that voters wonder about Clinton's honesty and authenticity. The Bosnia story plays to that character issue. As former Vice President Al Gore could tell her, once the media and voters start doubting a candidate's integrity, every episode that fits that narrative gets blown out of proportion.

Gore never said he invented the Internet; his mistake was to place himself more centrally than warranted at the creation of the technology. But such nuance was lost on people who voted against him in 2000.

What once appeared to be a once-in-a-generation blessing — having two strong candidates with significant appeal among Democrats — is a burden now.

From Politico.com:

Democrats are increasingly nervous about their party’s protracted nomination fight, and some prominent figures are publicly warning that the party needs to act fast to avoid disaster.

Chief among these voices is Phil Bredesen, the two-term governor of Tennessee who is uncommitted to either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Bredesen is doing something about his concerns. He was in Washington this week to promote his idea for holding a “superdelegate primary” in June, in which the 795 party bigwigs would gather to hear one last time from Clinton and Obama before casting a final vote.

Rather than allow the horse-trading and bloodletting go on all summer, he’d get it over with during a two-day business meeting in a neutral, easily reached city like Dallas.

“Invite the candidates to come and talk if they want, and then literally call the roll,” he explained. “We should not go through the summer and have a divided and exhausted Democratic Party. The inescapable conclusion is: OK, you’ve got to find some way to bookend and bring it to closure earlier. How do you do that? Do it in June rather than August."

The governor said he decided to push the plan because of what he called a “sea change” in opinion among Democratic elites. What once appeared to be a once-in-a-generation blessing — having two strong candidates with significant appeal among Democrats — seems more like a burden now, as the race drags on toward April and May contests that are unlikely to offer any more clarity than the muddled results of the past three months.

“Ninety days ago, everybody was talking in warm terms about both the candidates: ‘Isn’t it wonderful? Whoever’s president is going to be great,’” the governor said. “It has gotten vastly more polarized now, and that really concerns me.”

To Bredesen, an even-keeled political pragmatist, superdelegates are certain to ultimately decide the nominee, so it makes no sense for them to do it later rather than sooner.

“The bottom line here is that we have a problem, and I think we need to take it off autopilot and try to find some way of resolving it,” he said. “I don’t know any way that is not going to generate some hard feeling and some divisions in the party. But if we do it early, we’ve got a chance to patch them up.”

Senators stiff National Republican Senatorial Committee, putting NRSC at a disadvantage for a 2nd election cycle (& a surprise about Sen. Lieberman).

From The Hill:

Republican senators with millions of dollars in their campaign accounts have given little or nothing to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), despite its desperate pleas for cash funds.

The Senate Democratic fundraising committee has collected far more cash than has its Republican counterpart. The DSCC reported $32.8 million in cash on hand at the end of last month, while the NRSC had only $15.3 million.

Even Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who calls himself an “independent Democrat” and whom the committee opposed when he faced Ned Lamont, the official Democratic nominee in the 2006 Connecticut Senate race, gave $100,000 to the DSCC in December.

The parsimony of Republican senators is putting their fundraising committee at a big disadvantage for the second election cycle in a row. During the 2005-2006 cycle, Republican senators transferred $4.5 million to their party committee while Democrats gave $10 million to theirs, according to a party official who reviewed the records.

Geez. Enough please. Give her (Chelsea), her mother, us (the party), and the country a break -- Chelsea Clinton asked about Monica Lewinsky.

While campaigning yesterday in Indianapolis, Chelsea Clinton was asked if she thought her mother's credibility was damaged by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Enough, enough.

The link.

Dick Morris, no friend of the Clintons, writes about what he labels Hillary’s list of lies.

From The Hill:

The USA Today/Gallup survey clearly explains why Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is losing. Asked whether the candidates were “honest and trustworthy,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won with 67 percent, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) right behind him at 63. Hillary scored only 44 percent, the lowest rating for any candidate for any attribute in the poll.

Hillary simply cannot tell the truth. Here’s her scorecard:

Admitted Lies

• Chelsea was jogging around the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (She was in bed watching it on TV.)
• Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. (She admitted she was wrong. He climbed Mt. Everest five years after her birth.)
• She was under sniper fire in Bosnia. (A girl presented her with flowers at the foot of the ramp.)
• She learned in The Wall Street Journal how to make a killing in the futures market. (It didn’t cover the market back then.)

Whoppers She Won’t Confess To

• She didn’t know about the FALN pardons.
• She didn’t know that her brothers were being paid to get pardons that Clinton granted.
• Taking the White House gifts was a clerical error.
• She didn’t know that her staff would fire the travel office staff after she told them to do so.
• She didn’t know that the Peter Paul fundraiser in Hollywood in 2000 cost $700,000 more than she reported it had.
• She opposed NAFTA at the time.
• She was instrumental in the Irish peace process.
• She urged Bill to intervene in Rwanda.
• She played a role in the ’90s economic recovery.
• The billing records showed up on their own.
• She thought Bill was innocent when the Monica scandal broke.
• She was always a Yankees fan.
• She had nothing to do with the New Square Hasidic pardons (after they voted for her 1,400-12 and she attended a meeting at the White House about the pardons).
• She negotiated for the release of refugees in Macedonia (who were released the day before she got there).

With a record like that, is it any wonder that we suspect her of being less than honest and straightforward?

Why has McCain jumped out to a nine-point lead over Obama and a seven-point lead over Hillary in the latest Rasmussen poll? OK, Obama has had the Rev. Wright mess on his hands. And Hillary has come in for her share of negatives, like the Richardson endorsement of Obama and the denouement of her latest lie — that she endured sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. But why has McCain gained so much in so short a period of time? Most polls had the general election tied two weeks ago.

McCain’s virtues require a contrast in order to stand out. His strength, integrity, solidity and dependability all are essentially passive virtues, which shine only by contrast with others. Now that Obama and Hillary are offering images that are much weaker, less honest, and less solid and dependable, good old John McCain looks that much better as he tours Iraq and Israel while the Democrats rip one another apart.

It took Nixon for us to appreciate Jimmy Carter’s simple honesty. It took Clinton and Monica for us to value George W. Bush’s personal character. And it takes the unseemly battle among the Democrats for us to give John McCain his due.

When Obama faces McCain in the general election (not if but when) the legacy of the Wright scandal will not be to question Obama’s patriotism or love of America. It will be to ask if he has the right stuff (pardon the pun).

The largest gap between McCain and Obama in the most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll was on the trait of leadership. Asked if each man was a “strong, decisive leader,” 69 percent felt that the description fit McCain while only 56 percent thought it would apply to Obama. (61 percent said it of Hillary.) Obama has looked weak handling the Rev. Wright controversy. His labored explanation of why he attacks the sin but loves the sinner comes across as elegant but, at the same time, feeble. Obama’s reluctance to trade punches with his opponents makes us wonder if he could trade them with bin Laden or Ahmadinejad. We have no doubt that McCain would gladly come to blows and would represent us well, but about Obama we are not so sure.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pettys: The continuing struggle between the House & Senate for greater parity on budget issues & this year's slimmer budget (& my own "misstatement.")

Dick Pettys has penned a must read article in InsiderAdvantage Georgia entitled "Leaner Budget A Result Of Last Year's House-Senate Fight?"

This is really a big, big story, and Dick's historical insight and perspective is invaluable. Are we going to miss Dick Pettys or are we going to miss Dick Pettys?

In response to my post from yesterday, Dick let me know that he has agreed to work through the end of this year, but this most definitely will be his final year of covering the legislature.

Somehow I messed up the post by noting in the caption that Dick was retiring at the end of the legislative session, but correctly noted in the post that he would remain with InsiderAdvantage Georgia through the end of '08.

My explanation: I wrote about a lot of this in my blog. You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.

Hillary says enough focus in the media on Bosnia & Hillary. Let's go back to Rev. Wright & Obama. -- Hillary on pastors and earmarks.

To date the Clinton campaign has refrained from getting involved in the controversy involving Rev. Wright's use of what Obama described as "incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike."

Today, according to the Pittsburg Times-Review, Hillary denounced Rev. Wright's inflammatory language as "hate speech," and had the following to say about Rev. Wright (and by implication, Obama) and earmarks:

"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

"I am proud of my earmarks," she said sarcastically. "Part of the reason that I won New York by 67 percent are my earmarks."

Dumb me. I thought she might have won by such a margin because of her purported experience and instincts to deal with a sudden crisis.

She is challenged; she ups the ante; video appears; "I say a lot of things - millions of words a day - so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement"

A link entitled "Hillary Under Fire for Not Coming Under Fire" to the earlier embellishment and the "I misspoke."

In a Saturday 3-22-08 post entitled "What kind of president would say 'Hey, man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot, so I'm going to send my wife. Oh, and take a comedian with you,'" I wrote:

Remember the Harrison Ford movie Air Force One where Harrison Ford is president and has to rescue his wife and daughter. I assume this scenario would not fit into Hillary's version of a trip she had to make to Bosnia in 1996 because it was too dangerous for the president himself to go.

An article in The Washington Post says there is just one problem with the following stories by Hillary. They just aren't true:

Hillary Clinton has been regaling supporters on the campaign trail with hair-raising tales of a trip she made to Bosnia in March 1996. In her retelling, she was sent to places that her husband, President Bill Clinton, could not go because they were "too dangerous." When her account was challenged by one of her traveling companions, the comedian Sinbad, she upped the ante and injected even more drama into the story. In a speech earlier this week, she talked about "landing under sniper fire" and running for safety with "our heads down."

Of course the main story is the embellishment, the resume padding. For as The New York Times notes:

As part of her argument that she has the best experience and instincts to deal with a sudden crisis as president, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton recently offered a vivid description of having to run across a tarmac to avoid sniper fire after landing in Bosnia as first lady in 1996.

Yet on Monday, Mrs. Clinton admitted that she “misspoke” about the episode — a concession that came after CBS News showed footage of her walking calmly across the tarmac with her daughter, Chelsea, and being greeted by dignitaries and a child.

The backpedaling was a rare instance of Mrs. Clinton’s acknowledging an error, and she did so on a sensitive issue: She has cited her “strength and experience” since the start of the presidential race, framing her 80 trips abroad as first lady as preparation for dealing with foreign affairs as president. That argument was behind her campaign’s “red phone” commercial, which cast her as best able to handle a crisis.

But while the mail story is the embellishing and resume padding, I think the part of the story in bold in my Saturday post is also significant, and such part is missing from the coverage of the story in such publications as The New York Times story linked above and an AJC story and the television coverage I have seen.

This part of the story is that after her version was challenged by one of her traveling companions, she upped the ante and injected even more drama into the story.

And then the video comes out, and she says it is only a "minor blip."

"I went to 80 countries, you know. I gave contemporaneous accounts, I wrote about a lot of this in my book. You know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things — millions of words a day — so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement," she said.

Also see Pantsuit on Fire at RealClearPolitics.com.

Legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush endorses Obama (originally was in the Romney camp).

From The Washington Post:

It might seem unlikely that if Mitt Romney was your first choice for president, Barack Obama would be your second.

But that is the case for constitutional scholar Douglas W. Kmiec, who shocked the conservative legal world on Sunday by endorsing Obama in a post on Slate.com.

Besides serving as legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Kmiec was co-chairman of Romney's Committee for the Courts and the Constitution, which was to advise him on constitutional questions and judicial appointments.

"No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery," Kmiec wrote. "I regret that, and I respect their disagreement." [Think Judas as in James Carville, the raging Cajun.]

"Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or a clear objective" and "has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen," Kmiec wrote. "In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment.''

Go Bush. Go McCain. -- “Make it 100.” McCain's plan for a century-long occupation of Iraq is probably fine with Isakson if he says & believes this.

Travis Fain reports in The Macon Telegraph:

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was in Macon on Monday . . ., was largely upbeat during his talks about the situation in Iraq, which he last visited in January.

As for the basic policy that led the United States to invade Iraq, Isakson said it was sound despite the fact that the weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration expected to find in Iraq weren't discovered.

"I think we did the right thing in this country in changing our policy from reaction to pre-emption," Isakson said.

The long defeat: Hillary Clinton possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

Hillary Clinton may not realize it yet, but she’s just endured one of the worst weeks of her campaign.

First, Barack Obama weathered the Rev. Jeremiah Wright affair without serious damage to his nomination prospects. Obama still holds a tiny lead among Democrats nationally in the Gallup tracking poll, just as he did before this whole affair blew up.

Second, Obama’s lawyers successfully prevented re-votes in Florida and Michigan. That means it would be virtually impossible for Clinton to take a lead in either elected delegates or total primary votes.

Third, as Noam Scheiber of The New Republic has reported, most superdelegates have accepted Nancy Pelosi’s judgment that the winner of the elected delegates should get the nomination. Instead of lining up behind Clinton, they’re drifting away. Her lead among them has shrunk by about 60 in the past month, according to Avi Zenilman of Politico.com.

In short, Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near.

Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance.

Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.

For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support? Is she simply selfish, and willing to put her party through agony for the sake of her slender chance? Are leading Democrats so narcissistic that they would create bitter stagnation even if they were granted one-party rule?

The better answer is that Clinton’s long rear-guard action is the logical extension of her relentlessly political life.

For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn’t know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clichés and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head.

No wonder the Clinton campaign feels impersonal. It’s like a machine for the production of politics. It plows ahead from event to event following its own iron logic. The only question is whether Clinton herself can step outside the apparatus long enough to turn it off and withdraw voluntarily or whether she will force the rest of her party to intervene and jam the gears.

If she does the former, she would surprise everybody with a display of self-sacrifice. Her campaign would cruise along at a lower register until North Carolina, then use that as an occasion to withdraw. If she does not, she would soldier on doggedly, taking down as many allies as necessary.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Senate Press Office release about Dick Pettys retiring at the end of the current session -- We'll miss you Dick. You are among Georgia's elite.

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia that consists of a press release from the Senate Press Office discussing Senate Resolution 1199 and the topic thereof -- A Life in Politics ("A RESOLUTION recognizing and commending Mr. Richard "Dick" Pettys on the occasion of his retirement from InsiderAdvantageGeorgia and covering the General Assembly; and for other purposes . . . .:):

In 1969, a young man with long hair representing the times began a journey that would take him through four decades of the highs and lows of politics and government in Georgia. That young man, now 62, was recognized in the Georgia Senate today with Senate Resolution 1199, honoring him for nearly 40 years of balanced and accurate reporting on Georgia politics and the business of the General Assembly. Dick Pettys, the “Dean” of Capitol Press Corps, has announced that the 2008 legislative session – Dick’s 40th session – will be his last.

“The response in the chamber today showed just how much the Senate respects and appreciates Dick Pettys,” says Lieutenant Governor Cagle. “He has not only provided exceptional coverage of our Capitol for many years, but he has also become a good and trusted friend to many of us. Our chamber simply will not be the same without him and I hope he knows how very much he will be missed.”

Those who’ve worked in and around the Capitol for the last several years know Pettys’ work very well, while some of the fresher faces are just getting to know the high standards and superior news writing abilities that have made him one of the go-to source for news on the General Assembly and state government.

“When you read my father’s articles, you feel like you’ve read all three sides of the story – the right side, the left side and the truth,” said Pettys’ son, Richard R. Pettys, Jr. “He never liked to talk about politics and what was going on in the state at home, but I know that because of him I’ve always had a keen interest in politics. Here’s an example, on August 8, 1974, my father raced home to put his three sons in front of the TV set to watch President Richard Nixon deliver his resignation speech to the nation. He said it was something important, something historic that we should watch, and ever since then I’ve been an observer of elections and politics in our state.”

Dick attended the University of Georgia, where he worked on the student newspaper, The Red and Black. He began his first job in newspapers in 1965 when he began working for a chain of three weekly newspapers in Gwinnett County, which soon became the Gwinnett Daily News. He covered everything from traffic wrecks to moonshine still busts to county commissions and elections. In 1969 he joined The Associated Press, and the following year was named capitol correspondent for Georgia. In that capacity, he covered every governor from Lester Maddox to Sonny Perdue, and every legislative session from 1971 to the present (plus many, many special sessions.) Pettys retired from AP at the end of October 2005 and went to work immediately for Insider Advantage. He is married to the former Stephanie Suessmith, and they have three grown children: Richard R. Jr., William Howland and Chip.

“I don’t know what the White House did without Helen Thomas, and I don’t know what we’re going to do without Dick Pettys,” added Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah). “He understands what we do; he reports it fairly; he reports it accurately and that’s all we would ever ask of members of the media. It’s really going to be a different chamber without Dick Pettys back there.”

Though Dick’s retirement was announced today, he plans stay on with Insider Advantage through the remainder of 2008.

He says; she says. And the party is headed downhill: “This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress.”

A response begets a response.

An Obama supporter writes on his blog: "This is a stain on his legacy, much worse, much deeper, than the one on Monica's blue dress."

The Clinton campaign responds, charging that Obama has betrayed his supporters by engaging in negative politics after promising to change the way elections are conducted.

He says; she says. We say: Cut it out.

(See The Hill.)

2 Divergent McCain Moments, Rarely Mentioned

From The New York Times:

Senator John McCain never fails to call himself a conservative Republican as he campaigns as his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. He often adds that he was a “foot soldier” in the Reagan revolution and that he believes in the bedrock conservative principles of small government, low taxes and the rights of the unborn.

What Mr. McCain almost never mentions are two extraordinary moments in his political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present: His discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.

In the spring of 2001, Mr. McCain was by most accounts still angry about the smear campaign that had been run against him when he was campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary the previous year. He had long blamed the Bush campaign for spreading rumors in the state that he had fathered a black child out of wedlock, which Bush aides denied. Mr. McCain was also upset that the new White House had shut the door on hiring so many of his aides.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Peggy Noonan: "The speech will be labeled by history as the speech that saved a candidacy or the speech that helped do it in. I hope the former."

Pggy Noonan writes "A Thinking Man's Speech" in The Wall Street Journal:

I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important. Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to. It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare.

It seemed to me as honest a speech as one in his position could give within the limits imposed by politics. As such it was a contribution. We'll see if it was a success. The blowhard guild, proud member since 2000, praised it, and, in the biggest compliment, cable news shows came out of the speech not with jokes or jaded insiderism, but with thought. They started talking, pundits left and right, black and white, about what they'd experienced of race in America. It was kind of wonderful. I thought, Go, America, go, go.

You know what Mr. Obama said. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was wrong. His sermons were "incendiary," and they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." Mr. Obama admitted that if all he knew of Mr. Wright were what he saw on the "endless loop . . . of YouTube," he wouldn't like him either. But he's known him 20 years as a man who taught him Christian faith, helped the poor, served as a Marine, and leads a community helping the homeless, needy and sick. "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me." He would not renounce their friendship.

Most significantly, Mr. Obama asserted that race in America has become a generational story. The original sin of slavery is a fact, but the progress we have lived through the past 50 years means each generation experiences race differently. Older blacks, like Mr. Wright, remember Jim Crow and were left misshapen by it. Some rose anyway, some did not; of the latter, a "legacy of defeat" went on to misshape another generation. The result: destructive anger that is at times "exploited by politicians" and that can keep African-Americans "from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition." But "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community." He speaks of working- and middle-class whites whose "experience is the immigrant experience," who started with nothing. "As far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they've built it from scratch." "So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town," when they hear of someone receiving preferences they never received, and "when they're told their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced," they feel anger too.

This is all, simply, true. And we are not used to political figures being frank, in this way, in public. For this Mr. Obama deserves deep credit. It is also true the particular whites Obama chose to paint -- ethnic, middle class -- are precisely the voters he needs to draw in Pennsylvania. It was strategically clever. But as one who witnessed busing in Boston first hand, and whose memories of those days can still bring tears, I was glad for his admission that busing was experienced as an injustice by the white working class. Next step: admitting it was an injustice, period.

* * *

The primary rhetorical virtue of the speech can be found in two words, endemic and Faulkner. Endemic is the kind of word political consultants don't let politicians use because 72% of Americans don't understand it. This lowest-common-denominator thinking, based on dizzy polling, has long degraded American discourse. When Obama said Mr. Wright wrongly encouraged "a view that sees white racism as endemic," everyone understood. Because they're not, actually, stupid. As for Faulkner -- well, this was an American politician quoting William Faulkner: "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." This is a thought, an interesting one, which means most current politicians would never share it.

The speech assumed the audience was intelligent. This was a compliment, and I suspect was received as a gift. It also assumed many in the audience were educated. I was grateful for this, as the educated are not much addressed in American politics.

Here I point out an aspect of the speech that may have a beneficial impact on current rhetoric. It is assumed now that a candidate must say a silly, boring line -- "And families in Michigan matter!" or "What I stand for is affordable quality health care!" -- and the audience will clap. The line and the applause make, together, the eight-second soundbite that will be used tonight on the news, and seen by the people. This has been standard politico-journalistic procedure for 20 years.

Mr. Obama subverted this in his speech. He didn't have applause lines. He didn't give you eight seconds of a line followed by clapping. He spoke in full and longish paragraphs that didn't summon applause. This left TV producers having to use longer-than-usual soundbites in order to capture his meaning. And so the cuts of the speech you heard on the news were more substantial and interesting than usual, which made the coverage of the speech better. People who didn't hear it but only saw parts on the news got a real sense of what he'd said.

If Hillary or John McCain said something interesting, they'd get more than an eight-second cut too. But it works only if you don't write an applause-line speech. It works only if you write a thinking speech.

They should try it.

* * *

Here's what didn't work. Near the end of the speech, Mr. Obama painted an America that didn't summon thoughts of Faulkner but of William Blake. The bankruptcies, the dark satanic mills, the job loss and corporate corruptions. There is of course some truth in his portrait, but why do appeals to the Democratic base have to be so unrelievedly, so unrealistically, bleak?

This connected in my mind to the persistent feeling one has -- the fear one has, actually -- that the Obamas, he and she, may not actually know all that much about America. They are bright, accomplished, decent, they know all about the yuppie experience, the buppie experience, Ivy League ways, networking. But they bring along with all this -- perhaps defensively, to keep their ideological views from being refuted by the evidence of their own lives, or so as not to be embarrassed about how nice fame, success, and power are -- habitual reversions to how tough it is to be in America, and to be black in America, and how everyone since the Reagan days has been dying of nothing to eat, and of exploding untreated diseases. America is always coming to them on crutches.

But most people didn't experience the past 25 years that way. Because it wasn't that way. Do the Obamas know it?

This is a lot of baggage to bring into the Executive Mansion.

Still, it was a good speech, and a serious one. I don't know if it will help him. We're in uncharted territory. We've never had a major-party presidential front-runner who is black, or rather black and white, who has given such an address. We don't know if more voters will be alienated by Mr. Wright than will be impressed by the speech about Mr. Wright. We don't know if voters will welcome a meditation on race. My sense: The speech will be labeled by history as the speech that saved a candidacy or the speech that helped do it in. I hope the former.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is he American enough? -- Show us you are Omaba. Recently ending a speech with "God Bless America" was a good start, but make it just a start.

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

Some 50 delegates were reportedly poised to unite behind Barack Obama if he had won by even 1 point in Texas. He lost the popular vote by 100,000 ballots, and now we learn that 100,000 Republicans voted for Hillary Clinton, probably not because of some change in party allegiance but because they thought she would be the easier candidate to beat. This kind of strategic voting often backfires (think Ralph Nader). The Texas crossovers are winners. By helping to prolong the Democratic race, they can claim credit for weakening the eventual nominee, whoever it turns out to be.

Obama has had a terrible time since Hillary sprang back to life after winning the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4. The speech he delivered on race relations in Philadelphia was a valiant effort to address the story about his former pastor's inflammatory rhetoric. Having resisted for so long being typecast as the black candidate, Obama could no longer hold off plunging into the debate that still divides so much of America.

By most accounts, Obama did a masterful job aligning the promise of his candidacy with the grievances expressed by both blacks and whites, noting in particular how the anger of working-class whites over affirmative action and welfare formed the Reagan coalition. But the cable-news noise machine doesn't easily let go of something so juicy as the anti-American rhetoric served up by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The now-retired pastor did what the Clinton campaign had been unable to do--put Obama in a box he doesn't need to be in, one that brands him as a candidate primarily of black aspirations. The cable commentators kept pounding away, but in another universe, the one inhabited by Obama's base--the millennial generation--his Philadelphia speech became the most-viewed video on YouTube this week with almost 2.5 million hits so far. Maybe, just maybe, the cable critics and conservative pundits are talking to themselves.

At an election-watch panel Thursday morning organized by the American Enterprise Institute, a questioner using journalistic shorthand asked if the uproar over Reverend Wright "has legs." The consensus among the panelists was that Obama might have stanched the bleeding among Democratic primary voters but that the issue will continue to dog him in a more virulent form with questions about where his true loyalties lie. Is he American enough?

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee; my hat is off to the guy.

I have always liked Mike Huckabee, someone my father accurately describes as folksy. One of my early posts about him was from his YouTube discussion of pardoning Keith Richards.

And then I did a post on his "which one" comment in early January entitled: "I love it: During a debate Saturday, Romney accused Huckabee of mischaracterizing his position on the war in Iraq. 'Which one?' Huckabee shot back."

And then one of my favorites was also in January and was entitled: "Huckabee calls himself a threat to GOP elites."

But these and my other posts on Huckabee pale in comparison with comments he recently made on MSNBC as brought to my attention by the AJC's Political Insider.

Such comments by Gov. Huckabee remind me of the Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson movie A Few Good Men, when, at the end of the movie, the corporal who had just been court marshalled said -- while a group was standing in the presence of Navy lawyer Tom Cruise -- "Ten-hut. An officer is on deck!"

The following is from the AJC's Political Insider (and the MSNBC link has the MSNBC interview with Gov. Huckabee):

After a long, well-earned vacation, Mike Huckabee showed up on television this week.

He’s no longer a presidential candidate. But he remains the Republican of an unpredictable stripe. Huckabee appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

Below is the generous analysis that Huckabee — remember that he’s done time as a Southern Baptist pastor — gave of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s speech on race.

And while he didn’t defend the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s statements, Huckabee did try to put them in context.

But the former Arkansas governor, who carried Georgia in the February primary, also spoke as someone who grew up in the segregated South, and his observations at the very bottom of the transcript that follows are what might surprise you.

Huckabee said:

”Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could. And I agree, it’s a very historic speech. I think that it was an important one, and one that he had to deliver. And he couldn’t wait. The sooner he made it, maybe the quicker that this becomes less of the issue. Otherwise, it was the only thing that was the issue in his entire campaign. And I thought he handled it very, very well.

“And he made the point, and I think it’s a valid one, that you can’t hold the candidate responsible for everything around him that people may say or do. You just can’t, whether it’s me, whether it’s Obama, or anybody else.

“But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements. Now, the second story — it’s interesting to me that there are some people on the left that are having to be very uncomfortable with what [Jeremiah] Wright said when they were all over a Jerry Falwell or anyone on the right who said things that they found very awkward and uncomfortable years ago.

“Many times those were statements lifted out of the context of a larger sermon. Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Reverend Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say, ‘Well, I probably didn’t mean to say it quite like that……’

“And one other thing I think we’ve got to remember.

“As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say ‘That’s a terrible statement’ — I grew up in a very segregated South.

“And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you — we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.

“And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, ‘I probably would, too.’”

The circus continues: Murderer Brian Nichols is suing, saying he can't receive a fair trial in Georgia state courts.

From the AJC:

Accused Fulton County courthouse killer Brian Nichols is suing . . . to block further disclosure of records related to funding his defense.

Nichols' lawyers said in the suit filed in Fulton County Superior Court on Friday that Nichols can't receive a fair trial in Georgia state courts for the March 11, 2005, shootings because of defense funding records that have already been released.

The items [the current judge] previously released primarily were invoices for lodging for Nichols' out-of-state attorneys. The judge stayed his recent order regarding further disclosure to allow the defense time to appeal his decision.

As of the end of June 2007, when the state public defender's office cut off funding to Nichols' lawyers, Nichols' defense had cost the office $1.8 million.

"What kind of president would say 'Hey, man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot, so I'm going to send my wife. Oh, and take a comedian with you.'"

Remember the Harrison Ford movie Air Force One where Harrison Ford is president and has to rescue his wife and daughter. I assume this scenario would not fit into Hillary's version of a trip she had to make to Bosnia in 1996 because it was too dangerous for the president himself to go.

An article in The Washington Post says there is just one problem with the following stories by Hillary. They just aren't true:

Hillary Clinton has been regaling supporters on the campaign trail with hair-raising tales of a trip she made to Bosnia in March 1996. In her retelling, she was sent to places that her husband, President Bill Clinton, could not go because they were "too dangerous." When her account was challenged by one of her traveling companions, the comedian Sinbad, she upped the ante and injected even more drama into the story. In a speech earlier this week, she talked about "landing under sniper fire" and running for safety with "our heads down."

U.S. Tweaks Proposal On Illegal Workers -- Employers Could Get Warnings in June

From The Washington Post:

The Bush administration yesterday renewed its drive to crack down on U.S. companies that hire illegal immigrants by slightly altering an earlier initiative stalled by a federal judge since last September.

If the new proposal satisfies the court, the government could begin warning 140,000 employers in writing as early as June about suspect Social Security numbers used by their employees and force businesses to resolve questions about their identities or fire them within 90 days.

The result could intensify an economic and political debate over the administration's immigration policies in the months leading up to November's elections for president and Congress.

The mailings, known as "no-match" letters, were enjoined by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San Francisco while he hears a lawsuit brought by a wide-ranging coalition of major American labor, business, farm and civil liberties groups.

The plaintiffs, including the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Civil Liberties Union, allege that the plan will cause major workplace disruptions and discriminate against legal workers, including native-born Americans.

A systematic effort to wean the U.S. economy off an estimated 8.7 million illegal workers has long been blocked by economic interests and civil rights concerns. But the Bush administration considers that effort the linchpin of its immigration enforcement efforts.

"We are serious about immigration enforcement," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a brief written statement yesterday. "The No-Match Rule is an important tool for cracking down on illegal hiring practices while providing honest employers with the guidance they need."

The understatement of the 2007-2008 campaign: “Let me tell you: we’ve had better conversations,” Mr. Richardson said of his conversation with Hillary.

From The New York Times:

“I talked to Senator Clinton last night,” Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said on Friday, describing the tense telephone call in which he informed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that, despite two months of personal entreaties by her and her husband, he would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president.

“Let me tell you: we’ve had better conversations,” Mr. Richardson said.

The decision by Mr. Richardson, who ended his own presidential campaign on Jan. 10, to support Mr. Obama was a belt of bad news for Mrs. Clinton. It was a stinging rejection of her candidacy by a man who had served in two senior positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration, and who is one of the nation’s most prominent elected Hispanics.

And he came close to doing what Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have increasingly feared some big-name Democrat would do as the battle for the nomination drags on: Urge Mrs. Clinton to step aside in the interest of party unity.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Targeting illegal immigrants, Georgia House passes auto license bill

From the AJC:

Driving without a license could become a felony under a bill that passed the Georgia House Thursday.

The words "illegal immigrant" were never mentioned during the 27-minute debate on Senate Bill 350, but lawmakers got the message anyway.

The bill passed by a 99-68 vote.

The bill . . . requires a jail sentence of one to five years on the fourth offense of driving without a license in a five-year period. The bill also requires a prison sentence of two days to 12 months on the first offense.

The measure could greatly affect illegal immigrants because they are unable to legally obtain a driver's license in Georgia.

Another Angry Black Preacher

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

I'm a liberal, and I loathe the anti-American things Wright said precisely because I believe that the genius of our country is its capacity for self-correction. Progressivism and, yes, hope itself depend on a belief that personal conversion and social change are possible, that flawed human beings are capable of transcending their pasts and their failings.

Obama understands the anger of whites as well as the anger of blacks, but he's placed a bet on the other side of King's legacy that converted rage into the search for a beloved community. This does not prove that Obama deserves to be president. It does mean that he deserves to be judged on his own terms and not by the ravings of an angry preacher.

Yes!! My initial candidate Gov. Bill Richardson endorsing Obama

The AP is reporting that:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, is endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for president, calling him a "once-in-a-lifetime leader" who can unite the nation and restore America's international leadership.

Republican Leadership Exodus

From The Washington Post:

With Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.) . . . [see previous post] announcing his retirement yesterday, all but two of the Republican leaders who controlled the House before Democrats seized power in the 2006 elections are gone or on their way out. A look at the team, now mostly on the sidelines.


Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.)

Hastert, who announced his retirement last August after 11 terms and left in November, served as House speaker from 1999 until Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) succeeded him in 2007 -- making him the longest-serving Republican speaker. Earlier this month, Republican Jim Oberweis lost to Democrat Bill Foster in the special election to fill Hastert's suburban Chicago seat.

Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.)

The majority leader from 2003 until 2005, since indicted on criminal charges related to campaign finance violations, announced he was withdrawing from a reelection campaign in April 2006 and formally resigned on June 9, 2006.


Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio)

Pryce was elected chairwoman of the Republican Conference in 2002. She announced in August 2007 that she will not seek a ninth term.

Rep. Thomas M . Reynolds (N.Y.)

As chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 108th Congress, Reynolds helped oversee GOP House campaigns at a time when the party lost 30 seats.

Rep. John T . Doolittle (Calif.)

Elected Republican Conference secretary, the sixth-ranking GOP leadership position in the House, in 2003 and 2005, Doolittle announced in January that he will not be seeking a 10th term. He and his wife, Julie, are under federal investigation related, in part, to employment provided for her by lobbyists, including the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Sticking Around?

Sticking Around?

Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.)

Blunt, who serves as minority whip, succeeded DeLay as majority whip in 2002. When DeLay stepped down as majority leader in September 2005, Blunt filled that role until John A. Boehner (Ohio) was elected to replace DeLay.

Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.)

Kingston, who was vice chairman of the Republican Conference from 2003 to 2006, has not announced any plan to retire. [And I can add, he will definitely not be doing so this year. He would like to run for governor in 2010, but I think an announcement by Sen. Isakson will kill this thought for him.]

GOP Congressman decision to resign at end of year further complicates the Republicans efforts to try to regain control of the House in November.

From The New York Times:

Representative Thomas M. Reynolds, a five-term Republican legislator from the Buffalo area and perhaps the most influential New Yorker in the House until his party lost control of the chamber, said on Thursday that he would step down at the end of the year.

The decision by Mr. Reynolds, 57, who was nearly defeated in 2006 and was bracing for another tough re-election fight this year, further complicates the Republican Party’s efforts to try to regain control of the House in November.

In addition, Mr. Reynolds, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has come under intense criticism from Democrats because the treasurer of the committee under his chairmanship is being investigated in connection with the embezzlement of several hundred thousand dollars.

In making the announcement of his departure plan on Thursday in Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo, Mr. Reynolds acknowledged that his decision had been strongly influenced by the difficult electoral climate that his party is facing this fall. A savvy politician who measures his words carefully, Mr. Reynolds said that it was “time to face reality.”

Mr. Reynolds, at one time considered a possible speaker of the House, is the 29th Republican member of the House to announce retirement plans since the party lost power in the 2006 election. The retirements underscore the low morale among Republicans heading into a presidential election and saddled with an unpopular war and a troubled economy.

Clinton's First-Lady Papers Touch on NAFTA

From The Wall Street Journal:

Hillary Clinton's daily schedules as first lady . . . show . . . that Mrs. Clinton had some involvement in an issue that she now says she opposed: the North American Free Trade Agreement. As first lady, Mrs. Clinton presided over meetings where Nafta was discussed, the schedules show. Her husband signed the accord.

"The information on the schedule doesn't indicate a position on the issue," campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway said yesterday.

The schedules show that on Oct. 5, 1993, she led a "Nafta Health Care Meeting" of top administration officials, including then-White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty, who played a key role in persuading Congress to ratify the trade agreement. On Nov. 10, 1993, Mrs. Clinton spoke for 15 minutes to an unidentified group in the White House about the trade agreement.

What Mrs. Clinton said then isn't clear from the schedules. Here's what she says now: "You know, I have been a critic of Nafta from the very beginning. I didn't have a public position on it, because I was part of the administration," she said in a Feb. 26 debate in Ohio. [Sure Hillary . . . .]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama's Lincoln moment -- "That was the most sophisticated speech on race and politics I've ever heard."

From the Los Angeles Times:

One hundred and fifty years ago this June, a lanky Illinois lawyer turned politician gave a speech that changed the way Americans talked about the great racial issues of their day.

The lawyer was Abraham Lincoln, and the speech was the famous "House Divided" address with which he accepted the Republican Party's nomination as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost to Stephen Douglas, but the address changed the national conversation on slavery and, two years later, Lincoln was on his way from Springfield to the White House.

America's political story is studded with such addresses -- historical signposts that divide that which went before from all that followed on an issue of crucial national importance. Franklin Roosevelt's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" speech fundamentally changed Americans' expectations of their government in times of social and economic crisis. John F. Kennedy's address on Catholicism and politics to the Greater Houston Ministerial Assn. in 1960 forever altered the way we think about religion and public office.

Sen. Barack Obama, another lanky lawyer from Illinois, planted one of those rhetorical markers in the political landscape Tuesday, when he delivered his "More Perfect Union" speech in Philadelphia, near Independence Hall. The address was meant to dampen the firestorm of criticism that has attached itself to the senator's campaign since video clips of race-baiting remarks by his Chicago church's former pastor began circulating last week.

But instead of offering a simple exercise in damage control, Obama chose to place his discussion of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright's incendiary comments in a wider consideration of race in America -- and the results were, like those Kennedy achieved in Houston, historic.

Just as every seasoned political hand in 1960 knew that, sooner or later, Kennedy would have to tackle the question of his Catholicism head-on, it's been clear for some time that Obama would have to speak explicitly to the question of race in this campaign. Still, polished orator that he may be, no one could have predicted an address of quite this depth and scope.

"That was the most sophisticated speech on race and politics I've ever heard," said CNN's Bill Schneider, the only network pundit who actually has taught American political history at elite universities.

It was all the more remarkable because, while Kennedy presided over what may have been the greatest speech-writing team in electoral history, Obama -- like Lincoln -- wrote his address himself, completing the final draft Monday night.

Obama did what he had to do, unequivocally repudiating Wright's extreme rhetoric. But what was truly radical about his analysis was his implicit demand that black and white Americans accept the imperfection of each other's views on race. Embedded in such acceptance is the seed of that "more perfect union" toward which this country -- unquestionably great but itself imperfect -- must strive.

It was a concept that Obama subtly invoked near the beginning of the speech by pointing to the fact that although the Constitution "was stained by the original sin of slavery," the "answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution -- a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time."

Theologically, original sin is the source of man's fallen nature and the root of his imperfection. Obama went on to build on that concept, invoking the authority of his own mixed heritage -- son of a black immigrant father and white mother, raised by a loving white grandmother -- and refusing to reject either Wright, a man of good works as well as extreme rhetoric, or his loving grandmother, who was prone to racial stereotypes. Obama demanded that black anger make an allowance for white anxiety and that white resentment make a place for black grievance.

No candidate for national office has ever spoken so candidly or realistically about race as it is lived as a fact of life in America. As he put it Tuesday, "The profound mistake of Rev. Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ... is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past."

In Hillary Clinton's Datebook, A Shift -- Events Less Lofty After Health-Care Debacle

From The Washington Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in the White House with a schedule befitting a president, packed with policy sessions, meetings with senators and trips to promote an ambitious political agenda. But after the collapse of her health-care plan in 1994, she largely retreated to a more traditional first lady's calendar of school visits, hospital tours, photo ops and speeches on a narrower set of issues.

The release of 11,000 pages of Clinton's daily schedules as first lady yesterday opened a window into the shifting patterns of her eight years in the White House and provided fresh fodder for the debate over the scope of her experience.

She met her close friend Vincent Foster, the deputy White House counsel, for official reasons just three times in the six months before he killed himself in 1993.

On a personal note, Vince Foster was also my close friend. He was my big brother in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCain Stumbles by Mixing Up Iraqi Groups Aided by Iran

McCain's campaign asserts that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the candidate best equipped to lead the country in a time of international peril, and he has staked his bid in particular on his deep knowledge of the military and political situation in Iraq.

This makes his stumble worrisome. The mistake was big -- not as bad as President Ford saying Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination -- but certainly not insignificant. According to Keith Olbermann, he made the mistake some five times before being corrected by Sen. Joe Lieberman, and thus it would not appear to be just an oversight.

This would seem to leave one of two possibilities. McCain was ignorance of a major matter involving Iraq and Iran, or McCain is slipping.

From The Washington Post:

Sen. John McCain, in the midst of a trip to the Middle East that he hoped would help burnish his foreign policy expertise, incorrectly asserted Tuesday that Iran is training and supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq, confusing the Sunni insurgent group with the Shiite extremists who U.S. officials believe are supported by their religious brethren in the neighboring country.

The United States has long asserted that elements of Iran's security forces have been training and supplying weapons to Iraq's Shiite militias. Iran is an overwhelmingly Shiite country whose government has applauded the emergence of a Shiite-led government in Iraq but has denied supporting Shiite militias inside Iraq.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a predominantly Sunni militant group that has been blamed for deadly mass killings of Shiites and attacks on U.S. forces.

This is a link to McCain's statement.