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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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Screw the ACLU. If you want to vote, don't commit a felony. Got it? -- ACLU fighting voting rights of convicted felons.

From The Athens Banner-Herald:

The Georgia Constitution is clear on the issue: Anyone convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude cannot vote until they complete their sentence and pay all associated fees and fines.

But voting rights groups say the state has yet to produce a list of the felonies considered examples of moral turpitude, a legal concept defining conduct that violates community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.

The Georgia Secretary of State's office thinks "moral turpitude" applies to all felonies.

The result, the American Civil Liberties Union says, is disfranchisement of about 283,000 felons - disproportionately black, who represent more than half of that total.

Clayton County Superintendent John Thompson confirms the Cracker Squire's earlier post that the Emperor John Thompson has nothing on. Geez.

In a 3-28-08 post entitled "Listen up Clayton County -- The two finalists for temporary superintendent don't have what it takes to salvage the school district's accrediation." I wrote:

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.

But who in the world would have thought he was this bad as reported by the AJC:

About 1,000 Clayton County high school students walked across the stage Friday, shook their new superintendent's hand and accepted what they thought was a diploma.

They got back to their seats and opened the diploma case to find a blank piece of paper. An additional 2,000 Clayton graduates will receive similar empty folders today.

The reason? Clayton County Superintendent John Thompson ordered more than 3,000 high school diplomas shredded Thursday after seeing his name wasn't on them. On Friday, Thompson learned it will cost up to $50,000 to reprint the diplomas.

Georgia Democrats in U.S. Senate race: "If I'm going down, I'm going down swinging NOT." (I hate people saying that, meaning adding the "not" at end).

On the blog Blog for Democracy, I did a comment addressing a comment by my friend Mel -- as good and loyal a Democrat as one can find in the Metro -- on the news that the AFL-CIO would endorse Rand Knight for the U.S. Senate race.

Mel, obviously dismayed, inquired by her comment:

"What in the world is going on here? This is really mind boggling."

In a quick attempt to provide comfort to Mel by noting that there were many others who concurred with her statement-question, I dashed off the following comment:

All I can offer up is that perhaps labor wants to be perceived as being irrelevant.

George Eliot's advice that "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt" comes to mind. Labor, this round and the earlier one, would have fared better to have wanted to endorse, but not come out and done so under the circumstances as they now exist.

The reaction by Jim Galloway of the AJC's Political Insider was even more direct. It noted:

If it isn’t there already, the Democratic race for U.S. Senate is about to be thrown into a cocked hat.

Meaning, for any not familiar with the idiom "thrown into a cocked hat," soundly and swiftly defeated.

Continuing, the Political Insider noted:

Several Democratic candidates, including Atlanta attorney Jim Martin and former TV journalist Dale Cardwell competed for the endorsement. The AFL-CIO provides only a limited amount of campaign funding, but its networking system has served as the skeleton for many statewide races.

The endorsement of Knight is a blow to the Martin campaign, which has now raised the most money in the Democratic race, and good news to DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones.

Martin, 62, has the longest pedigree of any Democrat in the race — having served as a state lawmaker and commissioner of the state Department of Human Resources under both Govs. Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 2006.

Martin entered the race only in March, at the urging of Democratic activists here and in Washington — who are worried about the impact the nomination of Jones might have on the rest of the ticket.

Union workers and African-Americans are two of the most important constituencies in a Democratic primary. Strategists were already worried about the Martin campaign’s ability to attract the endorsements of African-American political leaders in the state.

Fallout from the Obama-Clinton fight at the national level has caused many black Democratic leaders to stay on the sideline in the U.S. Senate contest.

In 2007 the Cracker Squire wrote: Don't sign the Four State Pledge Letter 2008. There will be no upside, & much downside to doing so.

Today there is an article in The Washington Post that notes:

When Democratic Party leaders voted on Aug. 25, 2007, to sanction Florida Democrats for moving up the date of their presidential primary, no one anticipated that the decision would lead to a tense showdown that will help decide the outcome of the nomination battle between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

[E]ven at the end of last year, few Democrats, including the candidates, anticipated how much these decisions would come back to haunt them.

While no one might have anticipated exactly what impact the decision would have and how it would play out, I most definitely anticipated that the fallout from the decision would not be good for the party, the candidates, and the voters of Florida and Michigan. I still question the thinking that went into (or the lack thereof) and the manner in which this matter was handled from the perspective of our party's need to win in November 2008.

I did a 8-31-07 post entitled "Don't do it Clinton, Obama & Edwards; don't sign the Four State Pledge Letter 2008."

The post provided in part:

Regardless of the merits, regardless of who is right or wrong, don't make a mistake and sign the Four State Pledge Letter 2008 as Richardson has done and Biden has indicated he would do. I predict there will be no upside, and much downside, to doing so.

This is an easier decision for candidates who lack the resources to campaign in the bigger states.

The Washington Post article also notes:

[A]fter months of sparring and bad feelings between the two camps, the real question is whether both sides -- and the two states -- are prepared to accept what the committee decides, or will instead take their grievances to the party's credentials committee next month or possibly to the convention in August.

"What's at stake is whether this nominating process will come to a quick conclusion in a way that unifies the party, or whether it will drag on for weeks and perhaps months in a way that threatens party unity and potentially hurts the nominee and the party," said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist and veteran of rules battles.

The story of how the Democrats got to this moment is a tale of personal egos, state pride, institutional integrity and raw political maneuvering. Its beginning dates back many years, and is rooted in competition between political leaders in Michigan, led by Sen. Carl M. Levin, who think their state should have a larger role in the nominating process; and those in New Hampshire, who have zealously guarded their state's first-in-the-nation primary.

Levin, who will present Michigan's case today, said in an interview Thursday night that he is prepared to carry on the fight if his state's full delegation is not seated in Denver with full voting rights, arguing that any other outcome would be appealed to the credentials committee.

Levin has proved to be a skilled and relentless proponent of dislodging New Hampshire and Iowa from what he sees as their privileged position as the states that kick off the nominating calendar. He was the catalyst behind the creation of a commission, authorized at the 2004 Democratic convention, to study and reform the nominating calendar for 2008.

The commission met for a year and ended up reaffirming Iowa's and New Hampshire's traditional roles. It also proposed adding Nevada and South Carolina to the early round of voting to encourage regional and ethnic diversity. But the panel, in a decision blessed by the rules committee, stated its determination to keep other states from scheduling their contests before Feb. 5, 2008.

In Florida, however, Republicans in control of the governor's mansion and the legislature decided to move the state's primary from Feb. 5 to Jan. 29, to break away from what was becoming a virtual national primary of nearly two dozen states. How hard Democrats resisted remains in dispute. State Democratic Chair Karen L. Thurman said: "We didn't have the votes to [block] it. No matter what happened, this bill would have become law."

Florida's move triggered a reaction from Republicans in South Carolina, who were determined to preserve their tradition of holding the first Southern contest of significance. They announced they would shift their contest from Feb. 2 to Jan. 19.

Katon Dawson, the sometimes flamboyant South Carolina GOP chair, made the announcement in New Hampshire. Standing with him at that Aug. 9 news conference was New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, who said the decision would trigger his state's law requiring that its primary be held a week before any similar contest. That meant New Hampshire's primary would be, at a minimum, more than a week before the DNC had established in its original timetable.

Two weeks later, the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to bar Florida's delegation from the convention.

Levin marks the Dawson-Gardner news conference as the trigger for his state's decision to move its contest from Feb. 9 to Jan. 15. In his view, Michigan had agreed to abide by the DNC's calendar, provided all other states did, as well.

Once New Hampshire indicated it would move, Michigan indicated it would do the same -- and on Dec. 1, 2007, the DNC's rules committee barred Michigan's delegates from the convention. Levin contends that New Hampshire should have been sanctioned as well for moving its date, but party officials say New Hampshire had the authority to do what it did.

The Republican National Committee, dealing with a similar problem, cut violating states' delegations in half and moved on. The Democrats, determined to send a tough message to other states that might have been contemplating further moves up the calendar, inflicted the maximum penalty of a total ban.

Eager to please the early states, particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential candidates agreed in September to a request from party chairs in those two states, as well as in South Carolina and Nevada, that they not campaign in Michigan or Florida. A month later, Obama and several other Democrats removed their names from the Michigan ballot. Clinton did not.

Speaking to New Hampshire Public Radio, Clinton said: "It's clear, this election they're having [in Michigan] is not going to count for anything. But I just personally did not want to set up a situation where the Republicans are going to be campaigning between now and whenever, and then after the nomination, we have to go in and repair the damage to be ready to win Michigan in 2008."

Still, even at the end of last year, few Democrats, including the candidates, anticipated how much these decisions would come back to haunt them. They assumed that there would be an early resolution of the nomination battle and that the nominee, in a magnanimous act, would agree to seat the delegations.

Clinton won Michigan with 54 percent of the vote. The choice of "Uncommitted" was second, with 40 percent. In Florida, all names remained on the ballot, and Clinton won with 50 percent to Obama's 33 percent. About 1.7 million people voted in Florida's primary and about 600,000 in Michigan's, though the candidates did not campaign in either state.

Soon after it became clear that every contest could be crucial to the outcome of the Democratic race, Clinton seized on the two states, in part to bolster her contention that she won more popular votes, even though she trailed in the delegate count. Obama accused her of trying to change the rules.

Now it is left to the same committee that imposed the original sanctions to find a solution that preserves the DNC's power to police its nominating process, and one that still finds peace between the warring campaigns and with two key battleground states.

So you will know ahead of today's Rules Committee meeting: Harold Ickes's Call to Seat Florida & Michigan Is a Reversal for Him

From The Wall Street Journal:

Last year, Harold Ickes, a Democratic Party rules committee member and key adviser to Hillary Clinton, voted to strip Florida and Michigan of their convention votes for holding primaries too early in the season.

When the rules committee meets this weekend, Mr. Ickes -- still on the committee and still a Clinton adviser -- will argue the Florida and Michigan votes should be reinstated in a way that would give the New York senator a huge boost.

Mr. Ickes said he and other committee members voted last year to strip Florida and Michigan of their convention delegates because "we wanted to send a definitely unambiguous signal" to other states against jumping the primary queue.

To mollify the two states, Mr. Ickes wants the rules committee, which meets in Washington Saturday, to seat all of their delegates at this summer's convention.

Even Florida and Michigan haven't proposed anything so generous, and the party's lawyers are advising committee members that they have the authority to seat only half of the delegates. The Republican Party cut the states' votes in half for holding early primaries, although John McCain, the likely nominee, has said he would restore the delegates.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Peggy Noonan: "When I finished the book I came out not admiring Mr. McClellan or liking him but, in terms of the larger arguments, believing him."

Must reading: Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. Some excerpts:

Scott McClellan's book is the focus of such heat, the target of denunciation, because it is a big story when a press secretary breaks with a president. This is like Jody Powell turning on Jimmy Carter, or Marlin Fitzwater turning on Reagan. That is, it's pretty much unthinkable. And it's a bigger story still when such a person breaks with his administration not over many small things but one big thing, in this case its central and defining endeavor, the Iraq war. The book can be seen as a grenade lobbed over the wall. Thus the explosive response. He is a traitor, turncoat, betrayer, sellout. If he'd had any guts he would have spoken up when he was in power.

Mr. McClellan defends himself in the same way he defended the administration, awkwardly. He could not speak earlier because he did not oppose earlier; he came to oppose with time and on reflection. He is trying, now, to tell the truth.

[T]he purpose of the book is a serious one. Mr. McClellan attempts to reveal and expose what he believes, what he came to see as, an inherent dishonesty and hypocrisy within a hardened administration. It is a real denunciation.

He believes the invasion of Iraq was "a serious strategic blunder," that the decision to invade Iraq was "a fateful misstep" born in part of the shock of 9/11 but also of "an air of invincibility" sharpened by the surprisingly and "deceptively" quick initial military success in Afghanistan. He scores President Bush's "certitude" and "self-deceit" and asserts the decision to invade Iraq was tied to the president's lust for legacy, need for boldness, and grandiose notions as to what is possible in the Mideast. He argues that Mr. Bush did not try to change the culture of the capital, that he "chose to play the Washington game the way he found it" and turned "away from candor and honesty."

Mr. McClellan dwells on a point that all in government know, that day-to-day governance now is focused on media manipulation, with a particular eye to "political blogs, popular web sites, paid advertising, talk radio" and news media in general. In the age of the permanent campaign, government has become merely an offshoot of campaigning. All is perception and spin. This mentality can "cripple" an administration as, he says, it crippled the Clinton administration, with which he draws constant parallels. "Like the Clinton administration, we had an elaborate campaign structure within the White House that drove much of what we did."

His primary target is Karl Rove, whose role he says was "political manipulation, plain and simple." He criticizes as destructive the 50-plus-1 strategy that focused on retaining power through appeals to the base at the expense of a larger approach to the nation. He blames Mr. Rove for sundering the brief post-9/11 bipartisan entente when he went before an open Republican National Committee meeting in Austin, four months after 9/11, and said the GOP would make the war on terror the top issue to win the Senate and keep the House in the 2002 campaign. By the spring the Democratic Party and the media were slamming back with charges the administration had been warned before 9/11 of terrorist plans and done nothing. That war has continued ever since.

Mr. McClellan's portrait of Mr. Bush is weird and conflicted, though he does not seem to notice. The president is "charming" and "disarming," humorous and politically gifted. He weeps when Mr. McClellan leaves. Mr. McClellan always puts quotes on his praise. But the implication of his assertions and anecdotes is that Mr. Bush is vain, narrow, out of his depth and coldly dismissive of doubt, of criticism and of critics.

If that's what you think, say it. If it's not, don't suggest it.

When I finished the book I came out not admiring Mr. McClellan or liking him but, in terms of the larger arguments, believing him. One hopes more people who work or worked within the Bush White House will address the book's themes and interpretations. What he says may be inconvenient, and it may be painful, but that's not what matters. What matters is if it's true. Let the debate on the issues commence.

If it's fine for state parks in Georgia, why not in national parks in the US of A.

Dumb me. I thought Sonny Perdue's influence was on the wan nationally as of late. After all, McCain didn't invite him to Arizona last weekend when some of the other potential VP candidates visited him.

Ditto on the influence of the Georgia GOP based on the unproductive (and this description is being kind) legislative session we just had.

But apparently word is spreading that down here in the Deep South concealed weapons are being welcome in state parks and on public transportation.

Thus the following news from The New York Times: ??

The federal government is considering a proposal to allow visitors to carry loaded, concealed weapons in some national parks, wildlife refuges and monuments.

[O]pponents, including several former National Park Service officials, say that the current rules are effective — there is little crime in national parks — and that the change would threaten visitors’ safety and could easily ruin the family-friendly atmosphere of the parks and other attractions.

Go figure. But many felt the same way about Georgia House Bill 89 that also allows for concealed weapons to be carried into certain restaurants. Remember what Jim Galloway warns as noted in a 4-09-08 post:

Note to waiters & waitresses: Smile when you hand out the menus, & no arguing over 5 percent tips.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Because Carter sought to appease the Washington establishment he ran against by giving the vice presidency to one of their own, they scorned him.

David Broder writes in The Washington Post:

A year after Jimmy Carter lost his reelection race to Ronald Reagan, Hamilton Jordan, Carter's former White House chief of staff, sat down for a lengthy interview with scholars at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

The main theme of Jordan's interview was this intriguing observation: "Only because of the fragmentation that had taken place" in the Democratic Party and its allied groups was Carter able to be nominated and elected in 1976. But that same fragmentation made the challenge of governing so difficult that he was almost doomed to fail.

What Jordan meant was this: In the two previous elections, the Democratic Party was riven by strife over the Vietnam War, social policy and civil rights. It was bitterly divided by the nomination of Hubert Humphrey over Eugene McCarthy in 1968, and of George McGovern over Humphrey and others in 1972. In 1974, after Watergate ended the Republican revival, the old-guard Democrats suddenly confronted an influx of reform-minded new faces in Congress.

It was in the resulting "chaos," as he called it, that Jordan conceived the possibility of making the one-term governor of Georgia the next president. The "fragmentation" they discovered was real, not metaphorical. Carter won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary with less than 30 percent of the votes, as four more-liberal contenders -- Morris Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris and Sargent Shriver -- split up the rest.

But once Carter was in the White House, the liberals who controlled Congress quickly took his measure. They put their obligations to their constituencies and interest groups ahead of any loyalty to him. He never had a "honeymoon," and by his third year his presidency had unraveled, not because of Republican obduracy but because of his inability to lead his fellow Democrats.

Because Carter ran against the Washington establishment, he had no claim on their loyalty -- and they easily spurned him, Jordan told his interviewers. Because he sought to appease them by giving the vice presidency to one of their own, Walter Mondale, they scorned him. And because he tried to flatter them by giving key places in his administration to some of them, he faced continual rebellions within his own White House and Cabinet.

This is the cautionary tale Obama and his brain trust could find in Jordan's interview. Obama, too, has profited from fragmentation in the Democratic Party that has allowed a long shot, once again, to capture its greatest prize. But if he is elected, he will have to solve the problems of fragmentation that doomed Jimmy Carter.

This Time, Hagels Aren't Boarding the Straight Talk Express

From The Washington Post:

Once upon a time, Lilibet Hagel [,the wife of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.),] was a big supporter of John McCain.

These days, however, Lilibet Hagel is a proud donor to McCain's likely general-election opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Chuck Hagel's drift from McCain. He was once considered McCain's closest friend in the Senate -- Vietnam veterans with adjacent offices.

Now Hagel is a lonely voice against the Iraq war in the GOP conference.

Recently, Chuck Hagel, who is retiring at the end of this year, has defended Obama's approach to diplomatic engagement with rogue nations such as Iran, a strategy McCain and President Bush have likened to "appeasement." Some even have speculated about an Obama-Hagel ticket.


Having Hagel on the ticket would be fine with me. More likely, I see him in an Obama cabinet.

In a 5-13-08 post, I noted that the late Hamilton Jordan recently advocated that Obama

name retiring Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, from Nebraska, war hero, successful businessman and thoughtful critic of the Iraq War, to be his Secretary of Defense to rebuild our nation's military power.

And in a 5-27-08 post I quoted David Brooks who wrote that Obama would

need someone who can be a senior, authoritative presence in a cabinet [such as] Republican Senator Chuck Hagel . . . .

In Rebuking Ministers, McCain May Have Alienated Evangelicals

From The Washington Post:

"For McCain to have to repudiate these people is much worse than ever having their endorsement in the first place," said Doug Wead, a political consultant who ranked 1,000 evangelical pastors for former president George H.W. Bush to court for endorsements. "If evangelical Christians feel this is an attack on them, even if they don't agree with [Rev. Rod] Parsley and [Rev. John] Hagee or follow them, it could galvanize them against McCain."

Obama is faring better today with the white working class than did either Gore or Kerry.

From The New York Times:

[T]here is no relationship between how candidates perform among any particular group of voters in primaries and how they do with that segment in the general election. In 1992, Bill Clinton lost college-educated voters to Paul Tsongas in the early competitive primaries, but he went on to win that group in November by the largest margin any Democrat ever had. Similarly, John Kerry lost young voters in the competitive primaries in 2004 before going on to win them by a record margin in the general election.

Democrats running for president have been losing white, non-college-educated voters since before Mr. Obama was elected to the Illinois legislature. Al Gore and Mr. Kerry each failed to win a majority of this bloc in the general election. With these voters, the size of the losing margin is what matters.

Mr. Gore lost them by 17 percentage points while winning the national popular vote. Mr. Kerry lost them by 23 points and the country by fewer than two and a half points. The last Democrat to win white, non-college voters was Bill Clinton, who carried them by a single point in the three-way races in 1992 and 1996.

By comparison, Mr. Obama is only two percentage points behind John McCain among these voters in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Another recent survey shows him down seven points.

In other words, Mr. Obama is faring better today with the white working class than did either Mr. Gore or Mr. Kerry.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mayday Mayday, we're getting hit on the right and barraged on the left by "friendly" fire.

The press corps has a lot to answer for when a former White House press secretary accuses it of not being tough enough.

The political coverage of MSNBC anchors Chris Matthews, left, and Keith Olbermann has been criticized for being blatantly left-leaning and pro-Barack Obama.

What a contrast in headlines and stories today with regard to coverage of President Bush and his Iraq war.

On the one hand is The Washington Post with the headline "MSNBC, Leaning Left And Getting Flak From Both Sides," and a story that discusses the criticism and attacks on MSNBC for its evening lineup, where the channel has clearly gravitated to the left in recent years and often seems to regard itself as the antithesis of Fox News.

And on the other is TIME with the headline "You Know You're a Wussy Press Corps When the Former White House Press Secretary Says You Were Too Easy on Him," and this story about Scott McClellan throwing President Bush under the bus -- and who can argue undeservedly so -- that reminds us that after September 11, journalists were convinced that their audience would punish them for delivering discouraging words about the President and the war. The story goes on to note that:

Not all journalism between September 11 and the start of the Iraq War was driven by the fear that journalists would be seen as unpatriotic -- and thus revenues would suffer -- but a shameful amount was. (See, for instance, the directives at CNN and MSNBC about not seeming anti-American before the war.)

If the press is more adversarial now, it's because, after Hurricane Katrina, they believed that they had the public's permission -- and therefore a business incentive -- to be.

It would be nice to believe that the shame of being called too wimpy by the guy whose job it was to keep the media in line would give the press more backbone during the next war or after the next terrorist attack. I'm not betting on it, though. It's easier for the press to get courage, and for press secretaries to get scruples, after the fact.


For coverage of Scott McClellan's new book, see The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and for coverage and White House rebuttal, see The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bush-McCain Tuesday night fundraising appearance moves to avoid being seen by the press.

From TIME:

The White House: The White House confirms they moved the joint Bush-McCain Tuesday night fundraising appearance to keep the press out.

According to the Wall Street Journal Online:

President Bush was to appear together with presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain at a fund-raiser in Phoenix, the first time in nearly three months that the two Republicans will be seen together. With Mr. Bush's popularity at a record low, the McCain campaign has made sure that television footage of the two men together will be minimal.

Obama: “He’s holding a fundraiser with George Bush behind closed doors in Arizona. No cameras. No reporters. And we all know why. Senator McCain doesn’t want to be seen, hat-in-hand, with the President whose failed policies he promises to continue for another four years.”

It is a measure of how far Bush's stature has fallen that even staunch allies like the Israelis are now ignoring White House command.

From TIME on "Why Israel Is Talking to Its Enemies":

When President George W. Bush appeared before the Israeli Knesset recently and denounced those who appease "terrorists and radicals," it was seen back home as a swipe against Democratic contender Barack Obama for saying that the U.S. should talk to its enemies. But his audience of Israeli legislators, who interrupted Bush's speech at least 14 times with thunderclaps of applause, interpreted it otherwise. They saw it as the American President's unswerving support of the Jewish nation on its 60th anniversary. Nevertheless, under instructions from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel envoys have been carrying out discreet talks with the very "radicals and terrorists" that Bush was warning against in his speech: Syria, the Lebanese militia Hizballah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It is partly a measure of how far the Bush Administration's stature has fallen that even staunch allies like the Israelis are now ignoring White House commandments.

(1) Jim Wooten pens a classic on PSC Member Angela Speir; & (2) I still like the idea of the citizen-politician as the best sort of public servant.

Jim Wooten has penned a classic in the AJC entitled "Straight arrows find it hard to survive Gold Dome":

There's not much demand for PB&J Politicians.

We say we like them. We're always looking for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the straight arrow of the 1939 Frank Capra classic.

But, truth is, they don't fare all that well in the real world of politics.

Take Angela Speir, for example. After one six-year term as a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, Speir opted not to run again this year. Could she have been re-elected? Probably, though she'd have a tough race against the veteran politico known during his legislative career, and later on the PSC, as Lauren "Bubba" McDonald.

Times change, though, and as evidence thereof, Bubba the Democrat is now Lauren the Republican. It's a new Georgia. He's the best-known of the four candidates — two Republicans and two Democrats — qualifying to succeed her.

Six years ago, Speir was an unknown, under-the-radar 34-year-old who spent little beyond the qualifying fee in a race against the better-known McDonald. When the votes were counted, she had 924,015 to McDonald's 911,772. The upset was such that, for awhile at least, she was referred to as the "Accidental Regulator."

Republicans just coming into power under the Gold Dome would have done well to emulate Speir. "I've never let a lobbyist even buy me a cup of coffee," she says. Some in newfound positions of power under the Gold Dome do more than take a cup of coffee; they use lobbyists as credit cards, just as the good ol' boys had before them.

For Speir, the perks of power held no sway. She declined the Crown Victoria that taxpayers provide members of the Public Service Commission. She declines, too, to accept tickets, gifts, junkets — favors in all forms. She does not accept meals from lobbyists — or journalists. For this interview, her suggestions include the snack bar at Agnes Scott College. "I usually eat a PB&J [peanut butter and jelly sandwich] at my desk, so I don't know of many quiet places to meet," she had said when I first proposed that we talk over lunch.

"You don't have to ply me with food or beverages to give me the facts," she recalls telling those who wished to influence her when she first joined the PSC. "Whatever you have to say, say it on the record in a committee room." She continues:

"I wasn't going to tell them how I was going to vote [on rate cases], and I wouldn't tolerate off-the-record conversations with things they wouldn't say before every interested party."

One of her crowning achievements as a commissioner was to get the PSC to agree to a rule that would ban private talks between commissioners and those with business before the agency during the final weeks of deliberations when proposed settlements are being discussed. That rule, she said when it was finally approved last August, would move the PSC toward decisions "based solely on the evidence on the record and not on backroom deals."

When she talks about her six years on the PSC, it's with the refreshing innocence of a schoolgirl idealist, a Miss Smith Goes to Atlanta. "I didn't run for office so I could make a living," she says. "I looked on it as a way to make a difference. It's a very humbling calling to be a public servant. I feel like I'm there to represent 9 million people and that they are there with me, counting on me to make a fair, honest and ethical decision."
As she leaves the PSC, perhaps to work with children in a nonprofit, perhaps to start a family, she's not certain what will come next. "I'm 40 years old; I've got a lot of life left and I'm really excited about that," she said. "There's more to life than utility regulation."

Whatever's ahead, Speir is certain of the legacy of her regulatory career. "I want to look back and know that I have done everything possible to honor the Lord and the people of Georgia with courage, strength and integrity."

PB&J Politicians. God bless 'em — and the mamas and daddies that raise 'em.


Not an old-timer like Sid and Jim Wooten; can't say you have heard of the movie classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Then read on from my 8-14-04 post entitled "The citizen-politician -- Gone the way of the Oldsmobile?":[You have heard of an Oldsmobile, right?]

One of the most popular American films of all-time and a perennial holiday favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life," was not a huge hit with either critics or audiences when it debuted in December 1946. But it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart), and Best Director (Frank Capra). After slipping quickly into obscurity, it began appearing on television occasionally in the late 1950s. But when the film's copyright lapsed in 1973, "It's a Wonderful Life" quickly became a staple of American TV programming between Thanksgiving and Christmas and belatedly earned its rightful place in the lexicon of American popular culture.

And a staple it has been at our family and probably yours over the holidays for years. I know you know of other movies starring Jimmy Stewart, but what about ones directed by Frank Capra. And even better than that, starring Stewart and directed by Capra.

I knew you knew. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." This classic argues that the average man, decent of heart and pure in his intentions, was the best sort of public servant. It is a logical myth for a democracy to cling to: The Republic's salvation can be found in the people's wisdom.

Tales of ordinary men bravely venturing into the public arena are always tales of naiveté. And they always involve an encounter with corruption. Stewart faced off with a dastardly senator in "Mr. Smith." As with the encounter with the banker in "a Wonderful Life," decency triumphs.

And what of the great democratic myth that high office should be accessible? By the time "Mr. Smith" premiered in 1939, it was already an exercise in nostalgia. More than 10 years earlier Walter Lippmann had observed that mass media and increasingly complex social relations had made any expression of the people's "common will" impossible. By necessity, he argued, government should be a partnership of scientific experts and professional politicians. Only such elites could grasp the issues and make informed decisions, checked by voters who rallied behind one party or another.

Yes, elites can get things wrong, sometimes badly wrong. But most of the time they couldn't possibly do worse than the citizen-innocent. We love to hate "professional politicians," but like it or not, politics is a profession. Even the attributes of the political class that we claim to despise are, more often than not, virtues. We sometimes recoil at Bill Clinton's cool and LBJ's cunning, but how else are competing interests brought to consensus?

Most of the above concerning "Mr. Smith" is from the 8-13-04 Wall Street Journal article by a Noah, "a television producer in Los Angeles." I threw in the "Wonderful Life" stuff. (The article is about the "American Candidate," "an election-season reality show [that] revises the unreal idea that average citizens should rescue politics.")

I still like the idea of the citizen-politician, the idea that the average man or woman, decent of heart and pure in his or her intentions, was the best sort of public servant. I know, I know -- I'm old-fashioned.


Thanks Jim for bringing this background on Ms. Speir to our attention. May God bless her, her kind and her ideals.

The AJC accurately notes: House Speaker Glenn Richardson's lashing out is characteristic of his personality and leadership style.

An editorial in the AJC accurately observes the unfortunate status of things with respect to leadership in the Georgia House:

[House Speaker Glenn] Richardson's response to [a matter was] characteristic of his personality and leadership style. When he doesn't get his way, he lashes out against his perceived enemies, just as he did in the middle of the 2008 General Assembly when he took away the committee assignments and leadership roles of fellow Republicans who wouldn't vote the way he wanted them to.

Price of sulfur, a key but secondary fertilizer ingredient behind nitrogen and potassium, rises to $500 a ton from $50 a ton a year ago.

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

The use of food crops for biofuel at a time of fiscal and ecological petroleum worries isn't the only contentious nexus between surging food and oil prices. Fertilizer is also kicking up a big stink.

Demand for sulfur, long an ugly yellow waste product of petroleum refining, is surging as well, because it's needed to make sulfuric acid, which in turn is essential to the production of fertilizer, as the Times of London reports. The likes of Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi national oil producer Adnoc are expected to get windfall profits from the sulfur market, which has seen prices rise to $500 a ton from $50 a ton a year ago, the Times adds. And it isn't hard to see where the demand is coming from. In the U.S., fertilizer use has pushed prices for the plant nutrient up 65% in the past year -- faster than the 43% increase in farmers' fuel prices and a 30% increase in prices for seeds, as The Wall Street Journal points out. Sulfur is a key but secondary fertilizer ingredient, behind the nitrogen and potassium usually contributed through potash, and the phosphorus that comes in the form of phosphate. And the Journal reports farmers believe the small group of U.S., Canadian and Russian companies that dominate markets for potash and phosphate have too much market power. In some countries, these producers enjoy unusual protection from antitrust rules.

Whatever the cause, "those skyrocketing costs are making it harder for farmers to expand their harvests in response to the global food crisis that has sparked rioting, rationing and export controls in many countries," the Journal notes.

David Brooks puts in a plug for Nunn as Obama's V.P.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

A vice president can . . . have a gigantic impact on an administration once in office (see: Cheney, Richard). Therefore, a sensible presidential candidate shouldn’t be selecting a mate on the basis of who can help him get elected. He should be thinking about who can help him govern successfully so he can get re-elected.

Obama will need a vice president who knows the millions of ways that power is exercised and subverted in Washington. He’ll need someone who can be a senior, authoritative presence in a cabinet that may range from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to the labor leader Andy Stern. He’ll need someone who can supervise his young reformers and build transpartisan coalitions more effectively than Obama has as senator.

Sam Nunn and Tom Daschle seem to fit the bill. Nunn is one of those senior Democrats (like David Boren and Bob Kerrey) who left the Senate lamenting the dumbed-down nature of modern politics. Daschle was more partisan as majority leader, but he is still widely trusted and universally liked. As experienced legislators, both could take Obama’s lofty hopes and translate them into nitty-gritty action.

The Times They Are A-Changin' -- S.E.C., Shifting Its Position, Backs Health Care Balloting

From The New York Times:

The Securities and Exchange Commission, shifting its position, has told companies they must allow shareholders to vote on a proposal for universal health insurance coverage.

Shareholders, including religious groups and labor unions, have offered the proposal in an effort to draw the nation’s largest corporations deeper into a debate over the future of health care, fast emerging as one of the most important issue in domestic policy.

This came as a surprise to many executives, who said the agency had allowed companies to exclude similar proposals in the past.

Many companies say the health care principles are not a proper matter for shareholders to vote on, and they have tried to keep the proposal out of proxy statements prepared for their 2008 annual meetings.

Opposition from businesses was one of the major factors that sank President Bill Clinton’s proposal for universal coverage in 1994. But businesses of all sizes are clamoring for relief from high health costs and have concluded they cannot solve the problem by themselves.

Under the commission’s rules, a company does not have to allow shareholders to vote on a proposal if it “deals with a matter relating to the company’s ordinary business operations,” for which management is responsible.

But the commission said it was appropriate for shareholders to express their views to company management by voting on “significant social policy issues” beyond day-to-day business matters.

Monday, May 26, 2008

She makes a gaffe, & shortly thereafter proceeds to put the blame on someone else ("out of context," etc.). I am sick and tired of Hillary's whining.

Obama makes a gaffe, Hillary is all over it for weeks.

She makes one, it is almost as if it were someone else's fault.

As noted in a 5-24-08 post, last Friday was not the first time she referred to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as her reason for staying in the contest. In March, she had told Time magazine essentially the same thing.

But this time the comment gets spread on the Internet and gets legs. Her reaction:

"Almost immediately, some took my comments entirely out of context and interpreted them to mean something completely different -- and completely unthinkable."

And I am "deeply dismayed and disturbed" that my comment about Kennedy's shooting would be construed as anything other than a historical reference.

From the outset Obama has said that he takes Clinton at her word when she said she meant no harm in invoking Kennedy's assassination.

I have tried to refrain from saying it for several months, but I can resist it no longer -- I am sick and tired of Hillary's whining.

(For quotes, see The Washington Post.)

A cynic, or a Democrat, might say members of the state’s economic elite have contracted a virulent case of buyer’s remorse.

A few weeks ago Bill Shipp had a column that was entitled: "Big business got legislature it deserved."

The Dean's column noted:

Since the recent crashing finish of the 2008 session of the General Assembly, the media have been full of various state leaders lamenting the lack of productivity and the egotistical rancor of various Gold Dome politicians. Prominent among those quoted have been the business leaders of metro Atlanta, decrying the lost opportunity to deal with pressing issues like traffic, health care and water.

Before you feel too sorry for those corporate titans weeping while staring out the windows of their 50th-floor conference rooms, remember this - those same people gave us the state government we have today. Over the last several years, the metro Atlanta business community has gone all in with the state GOP, funding them at such a massive level that Republican bank accounts have been insurance against Georgia's beleaguered Democrats ever regaining power.

Yesterday the AJC's Political Insider had a post entitled: "Sam Olens and business’ disenchantment with the state Capitol."

The post lays it on, noting:

In the six weeks since the Legislature imploded and departed Atlanta, Georgia’s business community has moved from denial to anger to outright depression.

A cynic, or a Democrat, might say members of the state’s economic elite have contracted a virulent case of buyer’s remorse.

This fresh Republican administration, a governorship and two legislative chambers, had advertised itself as a best friend to commerce, but has been unable to deliver what commerce needs most — a strategy for breaking through metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion so that goods and people can move from one side of Georgia to the other.

Other issues scream for attention, too, but transportation remains the chafing point.

One reaction by business types had been to place calls to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, to beg him and his air of competency to join the 2010 race for governor. Isakson declined early this month.

Ever since, Georgia’s corporate phone trees have scoured the landscape for another, next governor — perhaps an outsider who might be able to raise the state Capitol up from the frat house basement it’s fallen into.

Having struck out with their call to Sen. Isakson, why doesn't the state’s economic elite -- the business leaders of metro Atlanta -- just plain acknowledge that they also struck out by putting their faith and money with the GOP.

Earlier, as the Dean reported back in March, a group of business leaders had organized a "Draft Johnny for Governor" movement.

As noted in a 5-21-08 post, the Dean very recently reported that

rumor has it that Barnes . . . may come roaring back to rescue us from chronic incompetence and apathy. . . . [T]he words "not a moment too soon" come rushing to mind.

After acknowledging its past mistake and the resulting heavy cost to the state, the metro Atlanta business community needs to redeem itself and help Georgia recover for lost time by forming a "Draft Roy for Governor" movement. Here's to hoping it will.

My man Harold Ford, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council and a former Tennessee congressman, has some good advice for Obama.

From Newsweek:

The night Barack Obama is expected to accept the Democratic nomination will be Aug. 28, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King had a dream, and Barack Obama is part of its fulfillment.

We live in a more just and open country than we did 45 years ago, a country where an African-American may be elected president. That doesn't mean the country is perfectly just, or that we live in a new, post-racial era. But concerns about race in this election are overstated.

Do many rural or working-class people have questions about Obama? Sure. But these are less about race than about culture. Obama has not lived their lives.

That's OK. In the weeks and months ahead, he just needs to show that he respects them and understands the issues that matter to them—that he can make their lives better. Obama has run a first-rate primary campaign, energizing countless new voters. Now he's got to get off the big stage more often and meet with people where they work, play and pray. That means getting out to schools and factories, coffee shops, fairgrounds and houses of worship. He needs to earn their trust.

That lesson was driven home for me during my run for Senate in 2006, at a little bar-restaurant called the Lil' Rebel in Jackson, Tenn. I'd been to church, and during a morning prayer, Pastor Nathaniel Bond held my hands. "There are more Davids than Goliaths, and more answers than there are problems," he said. Later that day, as I was driving past the Lil' Rebel for the second time, heading out of town, I decided that I had heard those words for a reason. We turned the car around and pulled in. I wasn't scared, but my aide— a white guy—was slightly nervous. He told me that "if things don't go right, we'll just go."

When I walked in, the people couldn't have been nicer. They let us put bumper stickers on their vehicles—some next to Confederate flags and BUSH '04 STICKERS. They told me about another patron who was a big fan, and how upset he'd be that he had missed me. Well, about a week later, that guy approached me at a campaign event. "You should stop at every little place," he said. "You'll be surprised." I only regret the clock ran out on me before I could do more of that.

Obama has lots of time. He doesn't need to ride rodeo, or hunt if he doesn't like hunting. People know that the candidates running for president don't live just the way they live. But they want to know that they're understood, and that their daily struggles are respected. Obama should mingle. He should go to the states where he lost big: walk across Kentucky and West Virginia. He should take half a day and work as a fireman, a waiter, a mechanic.

He can't shy away from embarrassing himself. When Obama went bowling and shot a 37 (for seven frames, with the help of some small children), he should have seen that as an opportunity. He could have returned to the same bowling alley the next day to show how determined he was to improve. "I told you I'd come back," he could have said with a smile. "We're all going to come back and improve. We just need to address our challenges honestly and head on."

No Democrat has won a majority of the working-class white vote since LBJ in 1964. That's partly because some have been smeared as elitists. But Barack Obama is no elitist. He was raised by his mother and grandparents. Nothing was spoon-fed to him; he had to work, and he took advantage of educational opportunities. More than that, he used what he learned to help working-class people. He has to tell that story, an authentic American story that hardworking people can relate to. He just needs to get out there and meet them.

Tom Crawford tells us why Ga.’s GOP ruling class is getting a little nervous about Nov., and maybe became a little more so with Bob Barr's nomination.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

When Georgia Republicans hold their annual state convention, it’s usually a festive occasion where delegates take verbal shots at the opposition party and get enthusiastic about the big victories coming in November. At the GOP convention in Columbus last week, the bashing of Democrats was in full force, with Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine remarking that “the single greatest threat to America” aside from Osama bin Laden was the prospect of Barack Obama being elected president.

The enthusiasm about November, on the other hand, wasn’t as intense as in past years. Among the party leadership especially, you can detect some concern, even some anxiety, about the party’s fate in the fall election.

That uncertainty stems from the candidacy of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Georgia Republicans also have a “Ron Paul problem” to deal with. Paul, the Texas congressman and former Libertarian, mounted a quixotic presidential campaign this year that didn’t attract overwhelming numbers of supporters. Those who do support Paul, however, do so with the ferocity of jungle animals.

There was a Paul contingent at the state convention - probably about 10 percent of the crowd - who wanted to be part of the slate of delegates sent to the national convention in September. They also wanted to have their say about some of the resolutions brought before the convention for a vote.

Party officials would have none of that.

Convention attendees also elected a slate of national delegates put together by party bigwigs that did not include a single Paul backer [even though at the Feb. 5 presidential primary] . . . Paul received nearly three times more votes than Giuliani and Thompson combined.

Georgia Republicans thus have alienated a host of Ron Paul supporters who are angry at the way they were treated at the convention and may have someone besides McCain to vote for in November. Former Georgia congressman Bob Barr is campaigning to be the Libertarian candidate for president, and if Barr is on the ballot, he’ll get the vote of just about every Paul supporter.

Subtract the thousands of Paul supporters who normally would vote Republican, add the thousands of black voters who will be drawn to the polls by an Obama candidacy, and throw in a lethargic Republican base. You can see why Georgia’s GOP ruling class is getting a little nervous about November.

UPDATE: Sunday afternoon, Bob Barr, the former four-term congressman, became the 2008 Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, and announced that his headquarters will be in Atlanta.

According to the AJC, Barr anticipates qualifying for the national presidential debates this fall.

The former congressman has had to overcome the objections of many Libertarians who view him as an interloper and who question his commitment to Libertarian ideals.

Some Libertarians say he has not embraced fully the Libertarian message on key party issues, such as the legalization of all drugs or the ending of all federal taxation. Thank goodness!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Virginia Is Up For Grabs In Fall -- Aides to Obama, McCain Say State Will Be Competitive

From The Washington Post:

For the first time in decades, Virginia is shaping up as a presidential battleground as advisers to Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama lay plans to compete in the fall for the state's 13 electoral votes.

Virginia has supported a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1948 -- Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 -- but the recent string of Democratic victories has Republicans vowing to redouble their efforts in the state this year.

DNC Is Not Duplicating the Fundraising Success of Party's Candidates -- This should be no surprise. What did we expect when we elected Howard Dean.

From The Washington Post:

In a banner fundraising year for Democrats, the struggles of the Democratic National Committee to stockpile cash are frustrating party leaders and complicating efforts to define Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) are raising record sums for their presidential bids, and Democrats in the House and Senate enjoy huge cash advantages over their Republican counterparts. But as of the end of April, the DNC had collected $22.8 million this year and had $4.4 left to spend; the Republican National Committee finished April with $57.6 raised and $40.6 million in its accounts.

Whatever the cause, there is broad agreement that the DNC's cash position will put significant pressure on the party's nominee -- probably Obama -- to raise vast sums quickly for the national committee to compete with Republicans during the late spring and summer.

"Both campaigns have expressed a desire for us to attack McCain," [a party] official said. "We made a small media buy. But we simply cannot sustain the kind of advertising we need right now. We can't even sustain even a national cable buy for a month."

Financial records reveal that the DNC has spent $638,000 against McCain this year, the vast majority of which -- $600,000 -- was spent on two television ads that ran on national cable networks. The first questioned McCain's assertion that Americans are "better off" than they were eight years ago; the second hit him on the idea that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 100 years or more.

Back to politics (All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy) -- Worries in G.O.P. About McCain Camp Disarray

From The New York Times:

Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign is in a troubled stretch, hindered by resignations of staff members, a lagging effort to build a national campaign organization and questions over whether he has taken full advantage of Democratic turmoil to present a case for his candidacy, Republicans say.

In interviews, some party leaders said they were worried about signs of disorder in his campaign, and if the focus in the last several weeks on the prominent role of lobbyists in Mr. McCain’s inner circle might undercut the heart of his general election message: that he is a reformer taking on special interests in Washington.

“The core image of John McCain is as a reformer in Washington — and the more dominant the story is about the lobbying teams around him, the more you put that into question,” said Terry Nelson, who was Mr. McCain’s campaign manager until he left in a shake-up last fall. “If the Obama campaign can truly change him from being seen as a reformer to just being another Washington politician, it could be very damaging over the course of the campaign.”

The ousters of some of the staff members came after Mr. McCain imposed a new policy that active lobbyists would not be allowed to hold paying jobs in the campaign.

Although Mr. Obama has continued to raise far more money than Mr. McCain, Mr. Bush’s fund-raising machinery has helped keep the Republican Party competitive. The McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee, between them, have $11 million more on hand — about $62 million — than the combined cash-on-hand of Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

Last Sunday, he invited Mike Murphy, his longtime friend and political adviser, who is not involved in this campaign, to his home in Virginia. There, Mr. Murphy reportedly gave him a detailed and at times tough assessment of what Mr. McCain had done wrong.

Mr. Murphy urged him to tone down his attacks on Mr. Obama and stop coming across as so angry. He recommended that Mr. McCain concentrate on running as a reform candidate to strip that issue from Mr. Obama, and to make greater efforts to distance himself from Mr. Bush, Republicans familiar with the conversation said.

Some of Mr. McCain’s associates said that Mr. McCain might be interested in bringing Mr. Murphy back on board, but that his current circle of advisers was resisting that.

Some Republicans said they were concerned that the Democrats would soon unify around Mr. Obama, and that it was only a matter of weeks before Mr. Obama began unloading a huge round of advertising intended to define Mr. McCain. If that happens, they said, Mr. McCain may look back at this period as a time of missed opportunity.

Mr. McCain has made some gains in reassuring conservatives nervous about his views on issues like immigration, polls suggest. But if he is going to rely on turnout in the Republican base more than on winning over independents and disaffected Democrats, there is evidence that he has not gone as far as he needs to — particularly given how energized Democrats appear to be.

Was this widely publicized? I know I don't live in Atlanta, but I didn't see anything about it.

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on a scooter in 'Roman Holiday.'

From The Wall Street Journal:

In March, Atlanta held Scooter Commuter Day as part of a broad program to encourage people to commute on scooters. The goal, city officials said, was to cut fuel consumption while easing Atlanta's notorious traffic congestion.

Curious about the median price of a single-family home in some of the big metro areas even with the nation's real-estate bust?

From The Wall Street Journal.

Chicken Producers in Price Pinch; Costs up 65% in Just Two Years.

Until last year, Gold Kist was an important Georgia business headquartered in Atlanta. It had operations in Florida, Alabama, North and South Carolina, and in Georgia, including a hatchery, feed mill, and large processing plant in Douglas.

Last year after prolonged resistance from Gold Kist, the board members of both companies voted unanimously to combine the two companies, in what was actually an acquisition of Gold Kist by Pilgrim's Pride. Prior to the acquisition, Gold Kist was the third largest chicken company in the country.

The facilities here in Douglas continue to operate much as before the acquisition.

From The Wall Street Journal:

It has been a tough year in the poultry business, with supply outpacing demand and feed-grain prices going through the roof.

Rising feed-grain prices, accelerated by the diversion of corn to make ethanol, have pushed up the cost of producing a live chicken by as much as 65% over the past two years, according to Clint Rivers, CEO of Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the No. 1 U.S. chicken producer by volume.

County officials should follow state law, whether they like it or not: Counties find loopholes to issue license plates to illegal immigrants.

From the AJC:

Illegal immigrants can still get a license plate in Fulton County despite a state law that tightened access to tags.

The year-old law has made it very difficult for immigrants without visas to register cars in most counties because they need a Georgia driver's license first. To get a license, they must show a valid visa.

Fulton has interpreted the state law differently, leading to more lenient requirements.

"We're not interested in knowing whether they're illegal or not," Fulton County Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner Angie Lewis said. "That's not our role. We're registering cars."

Tax commissioners in four metro counties have different interpretations of the law, known as Senate Bill 38, which went into effect July 1, 2007. Cobb, Gwinnett and DeKalb counties have interpreted the law to mean there's no getting around the need for a Georgia license.

Still, there are loopholes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hillary Clinton's remark on Robert Kennedy’s assassination as a reason why she is staying in the race stirs uproar.

From The New York Times:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defended staying in the Democratic nominating contest on Friday by pointing out that . . . “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

[T]he comments touched on one of the most sensitive aspects of the current presidential campaign — concern for Mr. Obama’s safety. And they come as Democrats [NOT THIS DEMOCRAT] have been talking increasingly of an Obama/Clinton ticket, with friends of the Clintons saying that Bill Clinton is musing about the possibility that the vice presidency might be his wife’s best path to the presidency if she loses the nomination.

Concerns about Mr. Obama’s safety led the Secret Service to give him protection last May, before it was afforded to any other presidential candidate, although Mrs. Clinton had protection, too, in her capacity as a former first lady.

Friday was not the first time Mrs. Clinton referred to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in such a context. In March, she told Time magazine [essentially the same thing].

And from The Washington Post under the headline "Hillary Clinton Raises the Specter of the Unspeakable."

Smart candidates don't invoke the possibility of their opponents being killed. This seems so obvious it shouldn't need to be said, but apparently, it needs to be said.

There are taboos in presidential politics, and this is one of the biggest. To raise the specter of a rival's assassination, even unintentionally, is to make a truly terrible thing real. It sounds like one might be waiting for a terrible thing to happen, even if one isn't. It sounds almost like wishful thinking.

The fear of a president or a presidential candidate being shot or assassinated is horrifying precisely because recent history teaches us that it can happen. We don't need anybody to remind us, and we certainly don't need anybody to remind whatever suggestible wackos might be lurking in the shadows.

In the context of Obama, Clinton's words broke a double taboo, because since the beginning of his candidacy, some of Obama's supporters have feared that his race made him more of a target than other presidential hopefuls. Obama was placed under Secret Service protection early, a full year ago. To be unaware that one's words tap into a monumental fear that exists in a portion of the electorate -- a fear that Obama's race could get him killed -- is an unusual mistake for a serious and highly disciplined presidential candidate.

It's surprising, too, because something very similar just happened last week, when Mike Huckabee made a joke at an NRA convention about somebody aiming a gun at Obama. He later apologized and called his remarks "offensive."

Another story in The Washington Post notes that her comment "cooled speculation that the two may form a joint ticket for the general election."

Immigration Officials Arrest 905 in California Sweep

From The New York Times:

Federal immigration agents have arrested 905 people in California in the past three weeks after a statewide search for those who had violated orders to leave the country. The operation was the latest in a series of national sweeps by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

In the process of seeking each person on the list, Ms. Mack said, agents often encountered friends, family members and others who had violated immigration laws.

“Agents may come to a house looking for a target, and someone answers the door, or there are other people in the house who have also violated immigration laws,” she said.

Brian DeMore, acting director of the federal Office of Detention and Removal Operations in Los Angeles, said agents took into custody any person they encountered during an arrest who had violated immigration laws.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 25.7 percent of those caught in the sweeps had been convicted of crimes while in the country.

270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push

From The New York Times:

In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here [in Waterloo, Iowa], 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.

The convicted immigrants were among 389 workers detained at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in nearby Postville in a raid that federal officials called the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.

The pleas were part of a deal worked out with prosecutors to avoid even more serious charges. Most immigrants agreed to immediate deportation after they serve five months in prison.

The large number of criminal cases was remarkable because immigration violations generally fall under civil statutes. Until now, relatively few immigrants caught in raids have been charged with federal crimes like identity theft or document fraud.

If the immigrants did not plead guilty, [Matt M. Dummermuth, the United States attorney for northern Iowa,] said he would try them on felony identity theft charges that carry a mandatory two-year minimum jail sentence. In many cases, court documents show, the immigrants were working under real Social Security numbers or immigration visas, known as green cards, that belonged to other people.

“The government is not bashful about the fact that they are trying to send a message,” [one of the attorneys representing some of the defendants] said, “that if you get caught working illegally here you will pay a criminal penalty.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb: "There’s a saying in the Appalachian mountains: 'If you’re poor and white, you’re out of sight.'"

The AJC's Political Insider reports on this morning on appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” [he also was on MSNBC last evening] of U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and his describing the cool feelings of the white working class toward Obama:

This is a very powerful cultural group that’s always underestimated, and it’s not simply in the Appalachian Mountains. But that original settlement that I wrote about began in Pennsylvania, went into Pennsylvania, went down the Appalachian Mountains into northern Georgia, northern Alabama, then spilled west.

They formed sort of the core group in terms of value systems of working class white America, and we shouldn’t be surprised at the way that they’re voting right now.

And the reason I would say that is — black America and Scots-Irish America are like tortured siblings. They both have long history and they both missed the boat when it came to all of the larger benefits that a lot of other people were able to receive. There’s a saying in the Appalachian mountains that they say to one another, and it’s, “if you’re poor and white, you’re out of sight.”

The fact that they would line up and vote this way is not so much a comment on Barrack. I think Barack is saying a lot of good things that will appeal to this cultural group in time.

When I hear people say this is racism, my back gets up a little bit, because that’s my cultural group. This isn’t Selma, 1965.

This is the result of how affirmative action, which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African Americans, expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white, and these were the people who had not received benefits and were not getting anything out of it. And they’re basically saying, hey, let’s pay attention to what has happened to this cultural group in terms of opportunities.

If this cultural group could get at the same table as black America you could rechange populist American politics. Because they have so much in common in terms of what they need out of government.

While Bush repeatedly scorns the idea of talking to enemies without first getting preconditions met, administration policy has been far more nuanced.

From The New York Times:

Israel, America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East, just became the latest example of a country that has decided it is better to deal with its foes than to ignore them.

The announcement that Israel has entered into comprehensive peace talks with Syria is at odds with the course counseled by the Bush administration, which initially opposed such talks in private conversations with Israelis, according to Israeli and American officials. A week ago, President Bush delivered a speech to the Israeli Parliament likening attempts to “negotiate with the terrorists and radicals” to appeasement before World War II.

“We have heard this foolish delusion before,” Mr. Bush said. “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared, ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

But in many ways, the Bush administration’s own policies appear to be at odds with his thesis.

While Mr. Bush and his advisers have repeatedly scorned the idea of talking to enemies without first getting preconditions met, administration policy over the last seven years has been far more nuanced. In fact, the United States under the Bush administration has shown a sliding definition of just when it is beneficial to talk to whom.

Under Mr. Bush, the United States has held direct talks with Libya (which has admitted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people); sent envoys and a warm presidential letter to North Korea (which detonated a nuclear device in 2006); and even participated, through American diplomats in Iraq, in talks with Iran (which the United States has accused of backing attacks against American forces in Iraq).

American diplomats do not talk to Hezbollah or Hamas — both militant Islamic organizations that Washington considers terrorist groups. But while the Bush administration long ago withdrew its ambassador from Syria, the United States does business with its government, which backs Hezbollah, and which the State Department has designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

So what was Mr. Bush talking about last week when he compared negotiations with terrorists and radicals with “the false comfort of appeasement”?

Inside the administration, many officials, particularly at the State Department, concede that the United States does not hew to one policy on engaging its enemies. “I’d rather be right than consistent,” a senior Bush administration official said, in explaining the willingness to talk to North Korea, which the administration accused just last month of trying to help Syria build a nuclear reactor. He said the United States wanted to make sure that talks were “purposeful engagement, not witless engagement.”

To that end, the administration has tried to be sure preconditions are met; for instance, it repeatedly says that it restored diplomatic relations with Libya only after Libya renounced terrorism in 2003. But Bush administration officials were in talks with Libya before that happened, and many credit the negotiations with leading to Libya’s change in behavior.

As for Hamas and Hezbollah, which have both refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist or to forswear violence, the administration official said that a criterion for talks with the United States would be that “they’d have to change their behavior.”

But Israel is in indirect talks with Hamas, with Egypt serving as the go-between, over a cease-fire in Gaza. Under the proposal that the two sides are considering, Israel would end its blockade of Gaza in exchange for a Hamas agreement to stop the rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, among other things.

Sometimes expediency makes former enemies temporary allies. In Iraq, which the administration has frequently called the front line in the fight against terrorism, former insurgents are now on the American payroll as members of citizen patrols in what is called the Sunni Awakening movement, and they have contributed to an overall decline in violence.

And on Wednesday, the Bush administration was singing the praises of an Arab-mediated deal in Lebanon which would, in essence, give Hezbollah veto power over the Lebanese cabinet.

While the United States will continue its policy of not holding direct talks with Hezbollah, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the agreement “a positive step” and was even on the phone over the past few weeks with Egyptian and Saudi officials to help find a resolution to the Lebanese stalemate, administration officials said.

“Bush’s rhetoric is completely disconnected from everything on the ground,” said Martin Indyk, head of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. “While he’s giving his speech against appeasement last week, Hezbollah was taking over control of the Lebanese government.”

The events in Lebanon, Mr. Indyk said, show that the administration ought to put more pragmatic considerations ahead of principle.

The Israel-Syria announcement, in particular, offers an interesting case study, because Israeli officials have said for months that the United States was the only obstacle blocking talks with Syria, which both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak advocated.

In particular, Elliott Abrams, Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser, has cautioned against an Israeli-Syria negotiation, according to Israeli and Bush administration officials. Administration officials said they feared that such a negotiation would appear to reward Syria at a time when the United States was seeking to isolate it for its meddling in Lebanon and its backing of Hezbollah.

But a few weeks ago, Israeli officials told their counterparts at the State Department that they planned to begin the negotiations, which are being mediated by Turkey.

“They weren’t asking our permission,” one senior administration official said. Another Bush official characterized the Israeli announcement as “a slap in the face.” But he said that United States officials believed that Mr. Olmert made the decision with his own domestic political considerations in mind: He is facing several criminal investigations involving events before he became prime minister in 2006, but while he was serving in government. He has denied wrongdoing, and other experts said that Israel had its own compelling reasons to engage Syria: to blunt Hezbollah’s growing power in the region.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

As we remember Hamilton Jordon, I reflect back on the service to his country of the great Georgian Bert Lance.

Today's headlines and news stories are all about Hamilton Jordon, and well they should be. I had the pleasure of meeting him years ago here in Douglas. What a figure; was a true visionary.

While everyone else will be writing about Hamilton Jordon, I want to reflect upon the service to his country of another great Georgian whom I met in December 2004 at an all-day Saturday meeting in Atlanta of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia. In a 12-20-04 post about that meeting, I noted:

Bert Lance [is] someone for whom I have always had a lot of respect and a very high opinion, [and have] my strong feelings about how he was treated in D.C. Getting to meet him and being able to chat with him for an half hour was a personal highlight of the day.

A month or so later I did a 1-13-05 post on my day in Atlanta at the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus meeting where seven candidates launched their bids for the DNC chairmanship, replacing retiring Terry McAuliffe.

In that post I wrote:

Prior to sharing my thoughts and reflections, I cannot resist telling you that I got a mild case of the bighead at the meeting. How so? I got to sit at the head table.

Not the one up front with Chairman Bobby Kahn and the seven candidates, but one in the audience. On my left sat Bill Shipp; on my right Bert Lance. Was I ever in hog heaven. What hallowed company! What great Georgia Democrats!

Today Matt Towery, writing about Hamilton Jordan in InsiderAdvantage Georgia, remembers:

[M]any of the problems attributed to [Carter's] presidency -- massive inflation, an impossible situation in Iran, a growing energy crisis -- were all inherited from the administrations of Nixon and Ford.

Hamilton Jordan had the courage of his convictions. He believed in the plan he created for Carter’s upset takeover of the Democratic Party and the White House in 1976. He took the potshots and slights that came his way from a D.C. Establishment that resented not only Jordan and [Carter Press Secretary Jody] Powell, but also close friends of Carters like former Office of Management and Budget Director Bert Lance.

Lance was unfairly and shabbily treated by a “company town” media for issues that, compared to this current administration, would never have caught anyone’s eye. He went on to be one of the Democratic Party’s most influential behind-the-scenes movers and shakers.

All of these men took the shots and aggressively tried to serve their nation.

[B]ecause they were southerners surrounded by an old guard elite in D.C., they learned to circle their wagons and rely on their best attribute -- loyalty to one another.

Thanks Matt, we needed to be reminded of that.

And Bert, please know that I proudly display my copy of your book The Truth of the Matter in a prominent place on a mahogany lowboy in my office, and try to live up to your kind autographed message therein: "To Sid Cottingham, a "Real" Democrat. Best Wishes. Bert Lance."

I wouldn't have told that brother -- First Congressional District Candidate Bill Gillespie bashes John McCain's military record.

I met Democratic congressional candidate for the First District Bill Gillespie on August 4, 2007, at the State Committee Meeting that was held in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) annual dinner to award the Richard B. Russell Public Service Award.

In talking with him in Macon I learned that he served 23 years in the U.S. Army, having retired as a Lt. Colonel. During that time he served in Iraq with the Third Infantry Division, and during his career taught for a while at West Point.

He does not have the outgoing personality of Rep. Jack Kingston, but given the national -- and I also believe Georgia -- anti-GOP sentiment this political season, Gillespie could be a serious candidate, even though he faces Kingston who has been the incumbent since 1992. (Kingston went in two years before Newt's Contract with America group, and thus was grandfathered from the term limits part of the contract that of course has been ignored.)

But something I read in the Savannah Morning News this week by that newspaper's astute political writer and my friend Larry Peterson gives me pause about his candidacy and his campaign strategy.

Having been a Captain in the United States Army myself, I am all the more proud that my father served during World War II, and that my father-in-law -- as did McCain -- attended the Naval Academy, was a Navy pilot taking off from and landing on carriers, and after a distinguished Navy career, retired from the Navy as a Captain. (The rank of captain in the Army, Marines and Air Force is well below that of a captain in the Navy.)

But Gillespie sees it differently. In Savannah this past Monday Gillespie noted that McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and called him part of the "Navy royalty."

"Admirals' sons," Gillespie said, "were treated like royalty. They were privileged people. They were given a silver spoon. Their careers were prepared for them."

Go figure . . . Why not point out McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal of the 1980s. And if he just had to malign McCain's military career, maybe even point out that McCain was right at the bottom of his class at Annapolis (894/899) as compared with Obama's high class standing.

But to attack his military career and note that having had a father and grandfather who were admirals in the Navy [meaning they had four stars] gave him a silver spoon and be treated like royalty befuttles me.

Why didn't Gillespie tell those who might not know that while in captivity, McCain's father was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater, and McCain was offered early release. The North Vietnamese wanted a worldwide propaganda coup by appearing merciful, and also wanted to show other prisoners of war that persons with family military connections like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially. But McCain turned down the offer of repatriation; he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well.

Mr. Gillespie, as a fellow Obama supporter, I know you are trying to advance his candidacy as well as your own. But please, you are hurting him I assure you. For as you know, Obama has said he respects McCain's service as a decorated former pilot who spent five and a half years in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

Georgia's Dean of Politics and Journalism hopes former Gov. Roy Barnes will come rescue Georgia from chronic incompetence and apathy.

Bill Shipp writes:

Barnes, for the first time in a long time, delivered the traditional Confederate Memorial Day speech at Oakland Cemetery. In olden days, an appearance at this event was a sure sign of revving up to run.

You have to wonder what Georgia would have been like if Barnes had won a second term. Barnes would have been a big player in national politics. More than that, Georgia would not be making the top of everybody's snicker list for worst traffic, worst schools and worst health care.

If Barnes had put in a full eight years as governor, Georgia might be a far different place. His transportation plan already was being hailed as a national model when the teachers unions and gullible flaggers ushered him out the Capitol door in 2002.

Look where we might have been in transportation improvements alone if Barnes had remained:

● More than 220 additional miles of HOV lanes with express bus service would have been built. Just think how that might have shrunk your gasoline bill and commute time.

● Commuter rail connecting Midtown to cities north and south of Atlanta would be under construction.

● Shuttle service to congested edge communities would have been up and running.

● A new intermodal transportation terminal serving as a hub for the region with passenger rail service would have been nearly finished.

● Vast improvements to the Georgia 400 corridor and the Highway 316 path would already would have been carried out.

● A more dedicated and less unruly legislature would have approved special bond financing with the feds so the projects could go forward immediately.

Perdue swept all those grand plans under the rug as soon as he captured the Gold Dome.

[R]umor has it that Barnes . . . may come roaring back to rescue us from chronic incompetence and apathy. . . . [T]he words "not a moment too soon" come rushing to mind.

Next president will have to manage wearing the straightjacket left in the Oval Office by Bush, resulting in a hesitancy to take needed strong stands.

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

There has been much debate in this campaign about which of our enemies the next U.S. president should deign to talk to. The real story, the next president may discover, though, is how few countries are waiting around for us to call. It is hard to remember a time when more shifts in the global balance of power are happening at once — with so few in America’s favor.

Let’s start with the most profound one: More and more, I am convinced that the big foreign policy failure that will be pinned on this administration is not the failure to make Iraq work, as devastating as that has been. It will be one with much broader balance-of-power implications — the failure after 9/11 to put in place an effective energy policy.

It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from, what he called, our “addiction to oil.”

The failure of Mr. Bush to fully mobilize the most powerful innovation engine in the world — the U.S. economy — to produce a scalable alternative to oil has helped to fuel the rise of a collection of petro-authoritarian states — from Russia to Venezuela to Iran — that are reshaping global politics in their own image.

If this huge transfer of wealth to the petro-authoritarians continues, power will follow. According to Congressional testimony Wednesday by the energy expert Gal Luft, with oil at $200 a barrel, OPEC could “potentially buy Bank of America in one month worth of production, Apple computers in a week and General Motors in just 3 days.”

Homeland Security stands by its planned 670 miles of fence along the Mexican border -- $3 million per mile to build the fence. Keep it going.

From The New York Times:

[T]he Department of Homeland Security [is pushing] to complete 670 miles of fencing along the Mexican border by the end of this year . . . .

[K]nown efforts at illegal crossings — measured by the number of people detained at the border — have fallen 17 percent this year, after declining 20 percent in 2007 . . . .

[T]he new fencing has mainly proved useful when it has been backed up with other enforcement methods, like electronic surveillance and aggressive prosecution of illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol.

Technical glitches have plagued plans to expand and enhance the electronic surveillance into a virtual fence, and it remains uncertain when it will be in broader use.

“I don’t believe the fence is a cure-all,” [homeland security secretary, Michael] Chertoff said. “Nor do I believe it is a waste. Yes, you can get over it; yes, you can get under it. But it is a useful tool that makes it more difficult for people to cross. It is one of a number of tools we have, and you’ve got to use all of the tools.”

As many as 2,000 immigrants a day still cross the Southwest border illegally, according to estimates by scholars well versed on the border. Continuing a decades-old cat-and-mouse game, the crossers move away from areas where the Border Patrol establishes control to more vulnerable points, most recently near San Diego.

In addition to the border enforcement, immigrant traffic is influenced by a variety of social, political and economic factors; the recent drop in known crossings, for example, occurred as the economy began to sputter, drying up construction jobs and others that lure immigrants.

Officials of the Homeland Security Department give a broad estimate of $3 million per mile to build the fence, or about $2.1 billion to reach the goal this year, out of $5.2 billion for the Border Patrol this year. The officials have declined to provide Congress with a more exact price tag, saying costs vary depending on the difficulty of the terrain.

Under perhaps the most effective program, which is used in limited areas of Arizona and Texas, federal prosecutors press criminal misdemeanor charges against immigrants caught by the Border Patrol, putting them in detention for up to two months, well beyond the several hours they normally would be held before being returned to Mexico.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

John McCain -- The "Straight Talk Express" has derailed.

See Sen. McCain on a YouTube classic.

Suck it up Obama. And by the way, here's to looking for good results for you today.

In a 2-19-08 post entitled "Michelle Obama: Get a script and stick to it or zip it. This was not your best day, and for the record, you owe your country an apology," I wrote:

Michelle Obama to a Milwaukee audience yesterday while stumping for Obama said: "And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

We will be exposed to this statement by Michelle Obama as much as we were to Kerry's "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

I have been hoping Obama would not screw up; I never thought it would be his wife who would make a big mistake.

Will it rise to the level of Kerry's statement at the Grand Canyon where, in this one appearance, he uttered words that may have cost him the presidency? Here you recall Kerry said that, in hindsight, he still would have voted to authorize the war in Iraq, even if he had known then that the U.S. and allied forces would not find weapons of mass destruction.

I don't think so, but it was a major mistake, and she needs to apologize to her country or otherwise clarify what in the world she could have meant and get it behind her.

Now, three months later, Obama, responding to an ad from the Tennessee Republican Party that reruns the "proud of my country" line, Barack Obama warns that his opponents should "lay off my wife."

Has Obama laid off of Bill Clinton. Clinton, like Michelle, joined the fray, her remark having been made in a political speech Although viewed as a gaffe, earlier on the same day she had said almost the same thing word for word, namely, "[f]or the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country . . . ."

Continuing in his response, Obama said:

"But I do want to say this to the GOP. If they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. Because that I find unacceptable."

Michelle continues to interview with Obama and truly being his surrogate. If he does not want her to be fair game and otherwise off-limits from campaign attacks, he needs to readjust his campaign strategy and her schedule.

Toughen up Obama. This may get you some sympathy -- I too feel that if someone takes on one of my staff or my family they take me on -- but this posture in the context of your running for president with Michelle at your side is silly.