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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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Senate Rejects GOP Attempt to Ban Earmarks

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Senate voted Tuesday to reject a Republican attempt to ban earmarks, in a vote that saw more than a half a dozen Republicans break with their party's self-imposed ban on the practice.

On the other side of the aisle, seven Democrats—primarily relative newcomers to the Senate—voted to oppose earmarks, defying party leaders who continue to support congressional directed spending.

Earlier this month, Republicans agreed to a voluntary ban on the practice, joining House Republicans who also agreed to a ban.

President Barack Obama has similarly endorsed a ban.

The practice has come increasingly under criticism because of allegations of corruption and abuse related to earmark requests.

Foreign governments say WikiLeaks revelations undercut relations with U.S.

From The Washington Post:

Diplomats and government officials around the world lamented Monday the massive leak of U.S. diplomatic cables, and many predicted it would undercut their ability to deal with the United States on sensitive issues.

The State Department cables, dumped into the public domain by the WikiLeaks organization, embarrassed the Obama administration in foreign capitals and raised the possibility that the United States will have a much tougher time collecting critical information, even from allies.

This week's disclosures are just the latest wave of documents the organization has released this year, following earlier batches from the Iraq and Afghan wars. Collectively, the releases have forced foreign officials to wonder whether the United States can be trusted with secrets.

The revelations, and the manner in which they emerged, were all the more damaging because U.S. officials have taken the lead in emphasizing the need for cybersecurity. At the United States' urging, cybersecurity was singled out at a NATO summit in Lisbon last week as one of the top priorities to guarantee security of alliance members in the years ahead.

Adding to the sour mood internationally is the extent to which U.S. diplomats have been tasked with activities traditionally associated with intelligence-gathering, including collecting personal and financial information from their sources.

Monday, November 29, 2010

'I am hurt, but I am not slain; I'll lay me down and bleed a while, And then I'll rise and fight again.' -- Bleeding my foot; I'm hemorrhaging!

On November 7, 2010 I did a post entitled "The Cracker Squire is a member of a dying breed headed for near extinction unless the Democratic Party finds a way to move back to the middle."

In a November 10, 2004 post I wrote:

It will take more than a little patience, but keep the faith.

In times such as this I recall one of my Scottish favorites, Sir Andrew Barton, for comfort and patience to keep the faith. Barton was in a crucial battle with King Henry VIII, and while injured, encouraged his troops to fight on, saying:

"I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I'll rise and fight again."

Actually, Sir Barton's condition that he described merely as being "hurt" involved his having an arrow in his head.

I can relate.

On Tuesday I'll be voting for Justice David Nahmias (for the Supreme Court) and Antoinette (Toni) Davis (for the Court of Appeals)

Thanks to all of the candidates for having run clean and wholesome campaigns.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Incoming Ways & Means Chair: 'Let me be clear that Washington doesn't have a revenue problem.' - If this thinking prevails, the country is in trouble.

From an editorial in The Washington Post:

There is no sensible solution to the debt problem that does not include both spending cuts and revenue increases.

[W]hy is Mr. Obama, having appointed the debt commission, proposing a permanent extension of the tax cuts for households making under $250,000 a year? "Now, this is actually an area where Democrats and Republicans agree," he said in Indiana on Tuesday. "The only place where we disagree is whether we can afford to also borrow $700 billion to pay for an extra tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, for millionaires and billionaires. I don't think we can afford it right now - not when we are going to have to make some tough decisions to rein in our deficits." Missing from Mr. Obama's analysis: any explanation of how we can afford to borrow more than $2 trillion to pay for making the rest of the tax cut permanent.

But the administration's arguments look reasonable in comparison to the official Republican mantra: The Bush tax cuts must be extended, in their entirety. "Some have suggested that getting our deficit under control will take both spending cuts and more tax increases," Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a speech to a tax policy group this month. "Let me be clear in saying that Washington doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem." If that ends up being the Republicans' last word, the country is in trouble.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Afghanistan Rejects U.S. Aid for Bank Audits - That's fine; spend the money in USA on the needy & something other than bailouts (or apply on deficit).

From The Wall Street Journal:

Afghanistan has rejected a U.S. offer to finance an audit of the country's banks, instead saying it will hire its own auditor to vet a troubled industry that threatens the nation's financial stability.

Friday, November 26, 2010

GOP and Tea Party Gains Are Mixed Blessing for Israel

See article in The New York Times about how fresh Republican support for the Israeli government after the U.S. midterm elections -- the Israeli government being viewed by some as one of the big winners of the midterm elections -- may be offset by Tea Party suspicion of foreign aid.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aiming for the Political Middle: An alliance is seeking to organize a grass-roots movement targeting the middle - 'No Labels'

Nancy Peloski & Company are off to a good start.

From The Wall Street Journal:

An alliance of centrist Republicans and Democrats is seeking to organize a grass-roots movement targeting the middle of American politics, a political sphere depopulated by the midterm elections and a vital tool for any potential third-party presidential candidate.

The group, called "No Labels," has drawn support from supporters and advisers of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the country's most powerful independent politician, raising questions about his national political ambitions. Mr. Bloomberg has been invited to attend the group's Dec. 13 launch.

Political analysts see a potential Bloomberg bid if Washington's divided government turns into gridlock, if the economy doesn't improve, and if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and President Obama are the likely nominees. Mr. Bloomberg said he wouldn't consider running in 2012. "I have the best job in the world," he said.

The group has raised more than $1 million to seed its effort against what it calls "hyper-partisanship." Backers include co-chairman of Loews Corp. Andrew Tisch, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich and ex-Facebook executive Dave Morin. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as U.S. senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, will attend the New York launch.

[I note that Liberman won't run as a Democrat next year because he is DOA if he does.]

The group's goal is to start a centrist equivalent to the tea-party movement on the right and MoveOn on the left. It sees an opportunity based on the defeat of liberal Republicans in recent years and the heavy losses taken by conservative Democrats in 2010.

"I've never seen such a wide opening for a third force in American politics," says William Galston, a Brookings Institution fellow and No Labels adviser.

Third-party movements of the center, including most recently Unity '08, have a poor track record if they aren't associated with a strong candidate, such as Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 or Ross Perot in the 1990s. Even then, no third-party candidate has ever won more than 27% of the popular vote.

Mr. Bloomberg personally donated to a successful ballot measure in California to change the process of Congressional redistricting to prevent gerrymandering.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

David Brooks: Sin and Taxes

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

This has been a great month for conversation. The Bipartisan Policy Center and the chairmen of the fiscal commission released big plans for reducing debt and reforming government. This has set off a deluge of interesting commentary about how we should govern ourselves in the coming century.

But is any of this going anywhere? Are any elected officials actually going to follow through on these plans? Has anybody discovered a political formula to get spending cuts, tax increases and other reforms through the Congress?

I’ve spent the past few days calling Congressional leaders and other budget mavens to get an answer to that question. The answer is No.

Nobody has a political strategy for getting anything like this passed in the short term. There is very little likelihood the political class as currently constituted will address the looming fiscal disaster soon.

Some Republicans have been talking honestly about cutting entitlement spending, but almost no Republican seems willing to accept tax increases as part of a bipartisan budget deal. You could offer Republicans a deal that was 80 percent spending cuts and 20 percent tax increases and they’d say no. They’d say no to 90-10, too.

Ronald Reagan raised taxes 12 separate times during his presidency. But “No New Taxes” has become the requisite for membership in today’s G.O.P. Without a tax increase there will never be a bipartisan deal and without a bipartisan deal there will never be a solution because no party will ever take sole responsibility for the brutal spending cuts that are also required to reduce the debt.

The Democrats don’t offer much hope either. Some moderate Democrats would like a big budget summit. Put everything on the table. Don’t come out without a plan.

But the Democratic Party is in the middle of an identity crisis. The liberals are fighting hard to make sure the moderates don’t gain control of the party (Nancy Pelosi’s re-election as leader was partially about that). These mobilized and defensive liberals are certainly not going to hand control of the government to the few remaining budget hawks and tell them to go remake the welfare state.

The liberal Democrats show no sign of accepting significant spending cuts to the programs they regard as their movement’s greatest achievements. They are in no mood to revisit health care, even though Medicare will have to be hit to get the debt under control. Many of them are in no mood even to acknowledge the scope of the problem, as their responses to last week’s various commission reports demonstrated.

So we’ve still got budget gridlock. But it’s worth stepping back to acknowledge how abnormal this is. As late as the 1980s and 1990s, Congress did pass serious measures to control debt. Across the Atlantic, Britain is enacting a budget with spending cuts and tax increases. In fact, all affluent countries are now faced with the challenge of reforming their welfare states and few are as immobilized as the U.S. is.

This is in part because the problem is so hard — baby boomers are retiring and medical advances raise costs. But the U.S., more than other country, is immobilized by a shift in the ethos of its leadership class.

For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

This ethos has dissolved, on left and right. The new mentality sees the country not as an equilibrium, but as a battlefield in which the people, who are pure and virtuous, do battle against the interests or the elites, who stand in the way of the people’s happiness.

The ideal leader in this mental system is free from moral anxiety but full of passionate intensity. This leader pushes his troops in lock step before the voracious foe. Each party has its own version of whom the evil elites are, but both feel they’ve more to fear from their enemies than from their own sinfulness.

Compromise is thus impossible. Money matters should be negotiable, but how can one compromise with opponents who are the source of all corruption?

I meet many members of Congress who had hoped to serve under that first ethos but now find themselves living within the second. The good news is an ethos can change: a financial shock, a popular movement, something unexpected. Just don’t expect the big change to emanate from Washington in the near term.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peggy Noonan thinks Obama is a one term president and she offers the GOP some advice in selecting its 2012 presidential candidate.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Every four years we say, 'This is a crucial election,' and every four years it's more or less true. But 2012 will seem truer than most. I suspect it will be, like 1980, a year that feels like a question: Will America turn itself around or not? Will it go in a dramatically new direction, or not.

And if there are new directions to be taken, it's probably true that only a president, in the end, can definitively lead in that new direction. On spending, for instance, which is just one issue, it's probably true that the new Congress will wrestle with cuts and limits and new approaches, and plenty of progress is possible, and big issues faced. But at the end of the day it will likely take a president to summon and gather the faith and trust of the people, and harness the national will. It's probably true that only a president can ask everyone to act together, to trust each other, even, and to accept limits together in pursuit of a larger good.

Right now, at this moment, it looks like the next Republican nominee for president will probably be elected president. Everyone knows a rising tide when they see one. But everything changes, and nothing is sure. President Obama's poll numbers seem to be inching up, and there's reason to guess or argue that he hit bottom the week after the election and has nowhere to go but up.

Most of my life we've lived in a pretty much fifty-fifty nation, with each cycle decided by where the center goes. Mr. Obama won only two years ago by 9.5 million votes. That's a lot of votes. His supporters may be disheartened and depressed, but they haven't disappeared. They'll show up for a presidential race, especially if the Republicans do not learn one of the great lessons of 2010: The center has to embrace the conservative; if it doesn't, the conservative loses. Add to that the fact that the White House is actually full of talented people, and though they haven't proved good at governing they did prove good not long ago at campaigning. It's their gift. It's ignored at the GOP's peril.

All of this means that for Republicans, the choice of presidential nominee will demand an unusual level of sobriety and due diligence from everyone in the party, from primary voters in Iowa to county chairmen in South Carolina, and from party hacks in Washington to tea party powers in the Rust Belt. They are going to have to approach 2012 with more than the usual seriousness. They'll have to think big, and not indulge resentments or anger or petty grievances. They'll have to be cool eyed. They'll have to watch and observe the dozen candidates expected to emerge, and ask big questions.

Who can lead? Who can persuade the center? Who can summon the best from people? Who will seem credible (as a person who leads must)? Whose philosophy is both sound and discernible? Who has the intellectual heft? Who has the experience? Who seems capable of wisdom? These are serious questions, but 2012 is going to be a serious race.

Consumer Risks Feared as Health Law Spurs Mergers

From The New York Times:

Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses.

Democrats strategists ready to take page from GOP playbook in 2012

From The Washington Post:

Major Democratic strategists, still reeling from a barrage of midterm spending by conservative groups, are planning a similarly well-funded campaign by liberal organizations aimed at reelecting President Obama in 2012.

The fledgling discussions - including a conference of top Democratic donors that wrapped up in Washington this week - underscore a dramatic shift in strategy by Obama and his aides, who quashed plans for major outside groups in 2008 in order to rely on their own record-breaking donor efforts.

But many chastened Democrats now say they must fight fire with fire by encouraging the formation of counterweights to the GOP-leaning independent groups that dominated the airwaves this fall.

The change in Democratic strategy illustrates the extent of the fundraising earthquake that has shaken the U.S. political world this year. A series of court decisions effectively wiped away decades of campaign-finance restrictions, helping groups operating outside the political parties spend an estimated $500 million on attack ads and other election-related activities, most of it favoring Republicans.

The apparent change of heart is particularly notable for Obama, who has long advocated strict campaign-finance limits and has sharply criticized the Supreme Court for allowing unlimited political spending by corporations. The shift is reminiscent of Obama's pragmatic decision to forgo public financing in 2008 to outpace Republican nominee John McCain, who agreed to spending limits in exchange for federal matching funds.

Obama adviser David Axelrod, who will leave the White House in the coming months to focus on the president's reelection bid, said in an interview: "I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle" when it comes to campaign spending by outside groups.

"We're going to continue to urge all of our supporters to participate through our campaign," Axelrod said. "But it's unrealistic to think that you're going to have this deluge of spending on behalf of Republican candidates and not engender a reaction on the Democratic side. It's a natural thing."

Obama has spent much of the past two years railing against the outsize role played by monied interests in Washington politics, including unusually blunt criticism of the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unfettered corporate spending on elections. Republicans have blocked Democratic attempts since the ruling to impose broader disclosure requirements for political spending.

From the Cracker Squire Archives: GOP Has a Lightning Rod, and It’s Not Palin

A post done over a year ago (10-15-09) entitled "GOP Has a Lightning Rod, and It’s Not Palin" is sure proving to be the case. The post notes in part:

On Capitol Hill, Ms. Bachmann is viewed with disdain by Democrats who see her as a wacky purveyor of outrageous claims and criticisms. Leading Republicans wince occasionally at her appearances on the floor and on television, but they also see her as someone with telegenic appeal who can energize conservatives and aggravate Democrats and they are not likely to rein her in.

For what is going on now with her, see Saturday's The New York Times and Washington Post.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

GOP Earmark Ban Shifts Clout

From The Wall Street Journal:

With deep-draft cargo ships set to steam through a widened Panama Canal in 2014, South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown tucked $400,000 of federal money into a House spending bill to deepen the Port of Charleston so it could accommodate the bigger ships.

Next year, Charleston will have no one to press the case. That could mean losing shipping business to deepwater ports along the Eastern seaboard.

Congressional Republicans decided this week to swear off such "earmark" spending for their districts and states—effectively eliminating it altogether given the GOP's expanded numbers in both chambers. That means the Obama administration will have sole discretion over which ports to deepen, waterways to dredge and dams to build, among other things.

"We're going to be in a position where we can implement decisions really based on highest priorities," said Rob Nabors, acting deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers may still say how money is budgeted generally for activities such as dredging, but by banning earmarks—specific projects funded as a result of lawmakers' requests—they won't be able to direct cash to individual districts or states. And the president will have more power to eliminate or trim programs that have resisted cuts for years, White House and congressional officials say.

By some estimates, eliminating earmarks could save $15 billion a year, but that assumes recipient programs would be eliminated completely, something no one in government believes. Earmark decisions are more about control than money.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), who has crusaded for an earmarks ban for years, favors the new rules despite the power shift. He calls earmarks "the currency of corruption" on Capitol Hill because some lawmakers have traded them for campaign contributions from lobbyists.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said the ban would lead to more horse-trading, with the president holding a powerful hand. "You want money for that port—vote for START," he said, referring to a nuclear-arms treaty President Barack Obama wants the Senate to ratify. "Every administration is going to use this power, and they'd be crazy not to."

Although earmarks are a small part of the budget, they dominate some aspects of spending. The Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation and the Defense Department's research, development and testing operations are predominantly funded by congressional and presidential earmarks, as are some other areas of the federal bureaucracy.

For most of the federal government, spending is allocated by formulas or competitions designed to spread the wealth and fund the best projects. But the Army Corps' budget for building levees and dredging waterways, for example, goes to Capitol Hill as a long list of projects selected by the president. White House officials don't consider those earmarks; budget watchdogs and many members of Congress do.

The White House last year requested 95 Army Corps construction projects with $1.7 billion. Congress funded 258 construction projects for $2 billion, appropriations committee aides said.

Under rules adopted by Republicans, the party's lawmakers next year will be able to accept or reject projects from the White House list but won't be able to substitute any of their own. Democrats haven't followed suit in prohibiting earmarks.

For GOP lawmakers, the self-imposed ban means that if the White House favors the ports of New York and Oakland, Calif., over Savannah, Ga., and Charleston for deep-draft ships, the only recourse will be to beg the administration to relent.

Advocates of the ban say Congress must now step up scrutiny of the administration and issue more-stringent directives on how agencies spend their money.

Without earmarks, some projects will likely die. Steve Ellis, vice president of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, points to an "environmental infrastructure" fund created in 1992 that pays for wastewater and drinking projects, among others. Mr. Ellis called the program—crafted by two of the most prolific earmarkers, former Rep. Bud Shuster (R., Pa.) and the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D., Pa.)—an end-run around scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency funding process.

Every president since Bill Clinton has tried to kill it. Next year, Mr. Ellis said, it likely dies.

Congress has spent $106 million this decade for a floodway project in Dallas, though no administration has requested it. Republican lawmakers won't be able to fight for it next year.

The White House is trying to scuttle three health-care facility construction programs that cost a combined $383 million annually, all kept alive by earmarking. Likewise, the Transportation Department's $34 million rail line relocation grants have survived the White House hit list. In 2010, there were 27 earmarked projects costing a total $25 million.

Without the power to add such projects, the programs could finally die, a White House budget official said.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Foreign-policy setbacks deepen Obama's election wounds

From The Washington Post:

Presidents have often turned to foreign policy after domestic setbacks - from Ronald Reagan's Latin American tour and speech calling the Soviet Union the "focus of evil in the modern world" in the months after his party's 1982 congressional losses to Bill Clinton's escape to Indonesia and the Philippines following his own midterm trouncing a dozen years later. Both found redemption at the polls.

President Obama has followed suit. But since his midterm shellacking this month, he has suffered a series of foreign policy setbacks, in Congress and abroad, that have put his agenda for improving America's standing and strength overseas at risk.

From failing to secure a free-trade agreement in South Korea to struggling to win Senate ratification of an arms-control treaty with Russia, Obama has bumped up against the boundaries of his power at a defining moment of his presidency.

He is halfway through his term and politically weaker after midterm voters punished his party. But ahead are a host of unresolved foreign policy issues, from drawing down troops in Afghanistan to advancing Middle East peace prospects and economic relations with China, that will require a firm base of domestic support and could help determine whether he is reelected.

Obama arrived Friday morning in Lisbon for a NATO summit, where he hopes to secure military and financial commitments through 2014 from his allies in the Afghanistan war. But shadowing the meeting is Obama's early pledge to take on the world's most vexing issues and the lack of lasting progress achieving those goals.

"He assumed that because he was liked so clearly and overwhelmingly he could merely assert what he wanted to achieve and people would follow," said Simon Serfaty, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Clearly enough, the world that he imagined proved to be different than the world as it is."

Presidents often look abroad after elections not only to avoid domestic troubles if they went against them but also because foreign affairs usually came second during months of campaigning.

Compelled in part by the fixed dates of two economic summits, Obama left for an extended trip to Asia just days after voters handed the House back to Republicans and narrowed the Democrats' majority in the Senate.

Although he found some adoring audiences in Asia, especially in his childhood home of Indonesia, Obama also encountered foreign leaders skeptical of his free-trade ambitions, proposals to address China's undervalued currency and U.S. monetary policies designed to promote growth at home.

A number of other issues have collided, as well, in a way that has highlighted how much of his foreign policy agenda remains incomplete.

The Middle East peace process he inaugurated two months ago has stalled. His mercurial ally in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, is calling for scaled-back U.S. military operations there at the height of the 30,000-troop escalation Obama approved a year ago.

His pledge to remedy one polarizing legacy of the Bush administration by closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffered this week when a jury convicted the first former detainee to face civilian trial on only one of 285 criminal counts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We need more than symbolism - Symbolic rebuke from a third of Democratic caucus suggests Pelosi no longer has as firm a grip on her party.

The ajc's Political Insider reports that U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, issued a statement Wednesday morning saying in part:

There comes a time . . when one must put the future of the country and the Democratic party ahead of purely personal considerations. Having Speaker Pelosi as the face of our party in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next two years will not allow us to rebuild for the future. It will make it more difficult for us to recapture the moderate and independent voters who deserted the Democratic Party in droves this November. It will make it more difficult for us to make inroads in rural America which shifted from blue to red in historic proportions. In fact, I don’t see how we will be able to recruit candidates to run in the South and other red states with Speaker Pelosi at the helm.

And from today's The Wall Street Journal:

House Democrats elected Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday to lead their party in the minority next year, after a symbolic rebuke from a third of her caucus that suggests she no longer has as firm a grip on her party.

Ms. Pelosi, of California, beat North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler by 150-43, in an internal election that exposed fissures inside the party after Democrats lost more than 60 congressional seats, and their House majority, in this month's midterm elections.

That result followed an earlier roll call in which 68 Democrats voted to delay the leadership elections until after Thanksgiving, so lawmakers who survived the midterms could have more time to digest the results. Democrats will gather again on Thursday to decide whether to strip Ms. Pelosi of some of her power, including her ability to name the head of the party's campaign arm in the House.

Ms. Pelosi was unbowed after Wednesday's vote.

"The message we've received from the American people is that they want a job," she said.

Asked whether it was wise for her to maintain her post in the wake of the losses and her low approval ratings, she replied, "How would your ratings be if $75 million were spent against you?"

Some Democrats who have been allied to Ms. Pelosi weren't happy with Wednesday's decisions. "We just had a horrible election," said Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, a Pelosi ally who supported the proposal to delay the election. "A couple of weeks would have been appropriate for all of us to talk."

Oregon Rep. David Wu told Ms. Pelosi directly at the meeting that he couldn't vote for her, at least not today, even though he has supported her in past elections, Mr. Wu said.

"Under these circumstances, I would have resigned," he said, adding, "We will move on. It's time to turn the page."

And David Broder, a dean among journalists with The Washington Post, writes about the bad omen in the Democrats' reorganization of House leadership:

When the rules of the House of Representatives forced the Democrats to confront a painful choice among their leaders, they did what Democrats are often inclined to do. They changed the rules.

Usually, such a stunt would matter only to the members affected by the change. But this one sends a dangerous signal at a crucial moment, when both parties are being tested on their willingness to respond to the lessons of the last election. This is a disquieting development.

When the Democrats lost their House majority in the political upheaval on Nov. 2, they also lost one of their four leadership posts.

It has always worked this way whenever an election shifts control of the House between the parties. Someone on the losing side loses his leadership job.

[Steny] Hoyer had no problem in accepting the change; he had been No. 2 to Pelosi before. But [Jim] Clyburn was not as accommodating and with his unwillingness to step down a post, the Democratic caucus suddenly faced a crisis.

The two men who both aspired to remain in the leadership were no ordinary players. Hoyer, who once challenged Pelosi unsuccessfully for the top post, had close ties to moderate and conservative Democrats already devastated by their election losses. Clyburn is a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, in many ways the most loyal and dependable bloc in the party.

Neither man was willing to step down, and Democrats could not afford for either to be humiliated. So what to do? Change the rules. Invent a job of assistant leader, with no specific duties, and slot Clyburn for that post.

Normally, this would not matter much. But we are about to start a Congress in which everything depends on the willingness of the leadership in both parties to face up to hard choices - on the budget, Afghanistan and a dozen other issues.

Too often in the past, Democrats have avoided making hard choices by throwing more money in the pot or taking similar self-indulgent steps. When it came to the stimulus legislation and health-care reform, for example, Democrats spent to buy votes rather than make tough choices.

The Democrats' unwillingness to face the hard choice in this internal fight sends exactly the wrong signal.

Scott Brown's election was not a wake-up call to Obama; maybe this test of his effort to try terror suspects in civilian courts will be.

A jury convicted a former Guantanamo detainee of one count of conspiracy in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa, but acquitted him of more than 280 other counts in a case widely seen as a test of the Obama administration's effort to try terror suspects in civilian courts.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, of Tanzania, was the first former detainee of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be tried in a U.S civilian court. He faces 20 years to life in prison.

Mr. Ghailani's acquittal of the vast majority of charges could boost the arguments of those who maintain that military tribunals, and not civilian courts, are the proper venues for major terrorist trials. It also bolsters the view from others who say the security fears that surrounded the decision to try Mr. Ghailani in lower Manhattan were overblown.

See also this article in The New York Times.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The U.S. government is now borrowing $5 billion every business day and has done nothing more than talk about a plan to reduce its debt.

Article about states having debt, etc., in The Wall Street Journal.

The liberal suicide march continues, with Pelosi & Reid - along with a deservedly wounded Pres. - still being the faces of the Party. Lord help us.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a tense and somber meeting, Democrats who lost their seats in the midterm election urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to abandon her bid to remain her party's leader in the House.

It was the first time that Ms. Pelosi had faced the critics from within her own ranks since Nov. 2, when Democrats lost more than 60 House seats—and their majority in the chamber.

Despite the calls for her removal, Ms. Pelosi is widely expected to survive an internal caucus election on Wednesday and become minority leader, keeping her a face of the party.

Rep. Heath Shuler, the lone Democrat who has announced a challenge to Ms. Pelosi in the caucus elections, worried that her status atop the party would make it harder for Democrats to recruit candidates in moderate districts like his own, in western North Carolina.

"You also lost a tremendous amount of moderates in the Democratic Party," Mr. Shuler said. Of about 45 districts where voters in 2008 favored the Republican candidate for president but installed a Democrat in the House, "there's, what, 11 or 12 of us left," Mr. Shuler said.

Democrats in the Senate are also poised to leave the bulk of their leadership teams in place.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada was re-installed as majority leader by acclamation on Tuesday.

Earmark Ban Exposes Rifts Within Both Parties

From The New York Times:

In leading his colleagues in a vote on Tuesday to ban the lawmaker-directed spending items known as earmarks, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and consummate Congressional appropriator, averted a divisive clash within his caucus over the question of joining the new House Republican majority in enacting an earmark “moratorium” for the next Congress.

Given how zealously Mr. McConnell has defended the constitutional prerogative of Congress to control the federal purse, his turnabout was also the surest sign yet that the rightward pressure of Tea Party groups, and an antispending sentiment among voters, have begun to influence the way Washington does business.

At the same time, the renewed push against earmarks highlighted a potential conflict between the calls to eliminate the spending items and demands by many Tea Party supporters for greater fidelity to the Constitution. It is the Constitution, after all, that put Congress in charge of deciding how to spend the taxpayers’ money. In pledging not to let individual lawmakers designate federal money for local purposes, the anti-earmark contingent is in effect ceding more power to the executive branch over how taxpayer dollars are spent, presumably not the outcome desired by the new crop of grass-roots conservatives.

Both supporters and skeptics of an earmark ban say that it would empower the executive branch, at least initially. While earmarks amount to a trickle in the government’s flood of red ink — slightly more than three-tenths of 1 percent of federal spending — most of that money would still be expended by federal agencies in the absence of earmarks but without specific directions from Congress.

Mr. McConnell, in a speech on Monday announcing his new view, strongly defended some of his own past spending items, singling out two projects that he said were extremely important to his home state, including an effort to clean up hazardous waste at a plant that produces enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

Still, Mr. McConnell added, “there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and out-of-control spending in Washington.”

Past earmarks that have drawn criticism have included money for the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and for pig odor research.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, nonprofit group that has long fought earmarks, said the recent election results made a continued defense of earmarks politically untenable. “To say, ‘Hey, thanks for your votes, we’re going back to business as usual,’ that was really going to be damaging to their credibility,” Mr. Ellis said.

Other appropriators, like Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, expressed astonishment at Mr. McConnell’s shift, seeming to see it as a betrayal of the bipartisan fraternity that has long characterized the spending panel.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, formerly the State Senator for the Cracker Squire's senatorial district.

From the ajc's Political Insider:

During the GOP primary runoff for governor between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel in August, Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams of Lyons jumped into the contest with gusto – on Deal’s side.

Which may be one reason you haven’t seen Deal try to protect Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Gainesville.

From the same state that sought a national bailout for itself: Illegal Immigrants Win Ruling on College Fees

From The Wall Street Journal:

Illegal immigrants in California may continue to pay the lower in-state fees at public colleges and universities, the state's top court ruled Monday, a decision that saves them as much as $23,000 a year.

California's legislature in 2001 passed a law that let nonresidents attend state colleges at the in-state rate if they, among other things, attended a California high school for at least three years.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell eats some crow: Tea Party Wins GOP Vow to Ban Earmarks

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell turned against earmarks Monday.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a swift victory for tea-party activists, the Senate's top Republican agreed Monday to a plan to ban GOP members from proposing earmarks for spending bills, suggesting that what was once a core part of legislating has now become politically unacceptable.

Earmarks, or spending items tucked into legislation by individual lawmakers, had long been defended by leading Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The development came as Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, reversed his longstanding support for the practice and said the public would no longer accept it.

Many conservatives who won in the recent election have attacked earmarks as a symbol of congressional favoritism and horse-trading. Earmarks were attacked in campaign commercials and have figured largely in the widespread public disgust with congressional spending.

Monday's announcement won't ban earmarks by law. It will be a rule governing Senate Republicans and expire at the end of the next Congress in January 2013, unless it is renewed.

Senate Democrats showed no inclination to match the Republicans' move.

Some senior Republicans still defend earmarks, saying, among other things, that the Constitution gave Congress the power of the purse, and that barring earmarks shifts more power over spending decisions to Mr. Obama and the executive branch.

Mr. McConnell was a leading defender until Monday, creating tensions within the party and in particular with Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), a big figure in the tea party. But in his first speech on the Senate floor since the election, Mr. McConnell capitulated.

The $15.9 billion in earmarks made in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 amounted to about 1% of discretionary spending, the part of the budget that Congress controls on an annual basis.

In 2008, the Senate rejected a proposed earmark ban by a vote of 71-29. Only six Democrats voted for the measure, including then-Sen. Obama.

Senate Republicans are scheduled to vote Tuesday on an earmark ban.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I knew we would be reading about this: Years Later, Armey Once Again a Power in Congress

From The New York Times:

[Dick Armey] invited incoming lawmakers who had been backed by the Tea Party to a two-day retreat in Baltimore last week, where he presented them with policy books and urged them not to submit to the ways of Washington. (He and wife, Susan, also spoke on how to avoid letting Congress ruin a marriage.)

As new lawmakers, many of them with no political experience, come to Washington, many groups and would-be leaders of the Tea Party are vying to influence them. Several held competing freshman orientations over the weekend, in advance of the official party orientation this week.

But Mr. Armey is uniquely poised: he has the legislative experience that the Tea Party groups can’t offer, but the Tea Party credibility that Republicans can’t claim.

There is particular irony in Mr. Armey — who has spent three decades in Washington, where he has become one of the city’s most enduring insiders — mentoring a movement that wants to hold on to its outsider ethos.

Elected to Congress in 1984, he was at the forefront the last time Republicans stormed the Capitol, helping write the Contract with America that set the party’s agenda in 1994, and becoming majority leader, the second in command, the following year.

Even those who call themselves friends say there is potential peril for the Tea Party in the relationship.

“A lot of people are trying to run to the front of this parade,” said Vin Weber, a former House colleague of Mr. Armey’s. “But anything that begins to make them look like another Washington-based political organization is going to take a lot of wind out of their sails.”

He has told Republicans that their victory is less a mandate than a second chance for them to show that they can govern well. It is something of a second chance for him, as well.

Mr. Armey aspired to be speaker of the House, but hurt his chances when he joined and then denied being involved in an attempted coup against Speaker Newt Gingrich. “His credibility was shot with a lot of the members,” said John Feehery, a former top aide to the Republican leadership.

An economist by training and an evangelist of the Austrian school of free market economics, Mr. Armey represents the libertarian wing of the Republican Party more than the social conservative wing. Since leaving Congress, he has complained that Republicans focused too much on social issues and not enough on fiscal conservatism.

The concern about spending that propelled the Tea Party wave has made his brand of conservatism popular again.

There have also been some eyebrows raised at the idea of a former Republican Conference chairman and majority leader advising new House members to be skeptical about the leadership. But many Republicans credit Mr. Armey for recognizing the potential of the Tea Party movement early. “If they hadn’t had Armey working for them, it would have been a bloodbath for us,” Mr. Feehery said.

Mr. Armey was among the first to endorse Tea Party candidates like Marco Rubio, the senator-elect from Florida. FreedomWorks, through its political arm, also helped organize Tea Party groups.

A man of many aphorisms, Mr. Armey likes to say, “Washington is a city of young idealists and old cynics.” In his telling, you lose your youthful idealism when you worry too much about fitting into the establishment. Speaking to the new lawmakers in Baltimore, he framed it as a stark choice: embrace the movement that got you elected or become “hack politicians, going along to get along.”

He advised them to adopt what he calls an “inside-outside” strategy. The revolution of 1994, he argues, failed because Republicans had a game only inside Congress; the trick is to have lawmakers inside pushing legislation and grass-roots groups supporting the cause from outside.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

From the Cracker Squire Archives: Office of Lt. Gov. shore ain't what it used to be (with real power being in Pres. Pro Tem & Maj. Leader).

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at his debate with Democratic rival Carol Porter.

A 3-1-05 post entitled "Office of Lt. Gov. shore ain't what it used to be (and many think it won't be any time soon, with real power being in Pres. Pro Tem & Maj. Leader)" provides in part:

Earlier this month Bill Shipp penned a column that began:

John Savage, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor three decades ago, delivered such an appealing campaign promise that even Democratic Gov. Jimmy Carter endorsed the notion.

Savage pledged that, if elected, he would seek to abolish the lieutenant governor's office because it served no useful purpose.

Although Savage's vow to eliminate the job he sought received wide attention, he was doomed to lose the election. Democrat Zell Miller emerged the 2-to-1 victor and immediately converted the lieutenant governor's office into a center of power politics. . . .

You won't hear many Republicans say these days the lieutenant governor's office is an empty and impotent position - though GOP senators have stripped incumbent Democrat Mark Taylor of most significant duties.

A 7-12-06 post provides in part:

[Gov. Sonny] Perdue switched parties before the 1998 election when [Mark] Taylor became lieutenant governor and got the ability to assign senators to committees. To punish Perdue for abandoning the Democrats, Taylor essentially left Perdue powerless.

When Perdue complained, Taylor famously replied to reporters, "cry me a river."

A 1-11-05 post entitled "The pendulum is always swinging. Taylor & Richardson and comments that come back to haunt" reads:

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

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

Never forget the pendulum Czar, it is always swinging.

It has swung again. Jim Galloway writes in the ajc's Political Insider:

A bait-and-switch was pulled on those of you who went to the polls on the first Tuesday of November.

For months, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had crisscrossed the state, warning that if Democrat Carol Porter were elected to replace him, a Republican-controlled Senate would immediately strip her of all power.

She would be an inert figurehead with a staff and a $91,609-a-year state salary, the Republican incumbent argued.

The lieutenant governor was re-elected by a comfortable margin. The people had spoken.

Three days later, at a closed meeting on the Mercer University campus in Macon, Republican members of the Senate voted to strip a stunned Cagle of nearly all his authority. When the General Assembly convenes in January, he’ll be little more than the figurehead he warned against.

Karzai wants U.S. to reduce military operations in Afghanistan - Good idea; bring all our boys home.

From The Washington Post:

President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the increased U.S. Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Karzai said that he wanted American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war. His comments placed him at odds with U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has made capture-and-kill missions a central component of his counterinsurgency strategy, and who claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency.

"The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai said. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."

Karzai's comments come as American officials are playing down the importance of July 2011 - the date President Obama set to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan - in favor of a combat mission ending in 2014.

After Party’s Rout, a Blue Dog Won’t Back Down

From The New York Times:

Since surviving [the November 2 election for his third term as congressman representing North Carolina’s 11th District, Rep. Heath] Shuler has emerged as one of most prominent voices in the debate on the Democratic Party’s immediate future. He was among the first to call for Ms. Pelosi to step down from her leadership role in the new Congress and said he would run for minority leader himself if no alternative emerged (though he admitted that he would be an underdog).

The Democrats’ achievements in the last Congress, Mr. Shuler said, are unpopular with the public because the party’s leadership has been too reflexively partisan. He says a more moderate approach is needed.

“It’s my guys that worked probably harder than any group in Washington, did all the right things, voted the right way and still got beat for the simple fact that you’ve got the far edges running the Congress,” he said.

His guys are the members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats who came together after the Republican sweep of 1994, and, boy, did they ever have a bad Election Day this year. Twenty-four of the bloc’s 58 members were defeated, including two of its four leaders (Mr. Shuler is the coalition’s whip). Four other Blue Dogs are retiring this year.

In 2008, 50 Democratic House members were elected in districts that President Obama failed to carry. This month, voters in only 12 of those districts returned Democrats to Congress. Two of those districts are in North Carolina, including Mr. Shuler’s.

“North Carolina is just kind of a different place,” said Jim Hunt, a Democrat who is the longest-serving governor — two tenures that totaled 16 years — in the state’s history. “It’s going to always be about the middle of the road.”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The disconnect continues: I was upset Government Motors cars were going to be made overseas; I didn't know GM would be owned by overseas investors.

A 5-8-09 post entitled "Who said life was simple: Under Restructuring, GM To Build More Cars Overseas" noted:

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

According to an outline the company has been sharing privately with Washington legislators, the number of cars that GM sells in the United States and builds in Mexico, China and South Korea will roughly double.

[Former labor secretary Robert B. Reich asks:] "If GM is going to do more of its production overseas, then why exactly are we saving GM?"

Now the real kick in the butt comes. Guess who is going to own a significant stake in Government Motors after U.S. taxpayers spent $50 billion to carry the company through bankruptcy reorganization.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a sign of the changing fortunes of the world's top two economies, China's biggest auto maker, SAIC Motor Corp., is negotiating to acquire a stake of about 1% in General Motors Co. worth about $500 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The U.S. auto maker also is prepared to sell more than $1 billion worth of shares to sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. Combined, the sales would give foreign investors roughly 16% of the shares to be sold next week under an initial public offering of stock, and give them a stake of some 4% in the Detroit auto maker. GM declined to comment on the investment talks.

The issue of overseas investors buying GM shares in the company's IPO has been a sensitive one for the U.S. government, which plans to reduce its 61% stake in the auto maker to around 35% through the IPO.

The U.S. Treasury has to walk a fine line. Attracting foreign investors will be a key to pulling off a listing of this size. But the Treasury has also had to weigh the possible political outcry if investors abroad are allowed to acquire a significant stake in GM, after U.S. taxpayers spent $50 billion to carry the company through bankruptcy reorganization, people familiar with the matter have said.

The Leftovers: What's on Tap for Congress's Final Session

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lawmakers return Monday for a post-election "lame duck" session that will represent weakened Democrats' last chance to achieve some legislative priorities before the new, more Republican-heavy Congress is seated.

The following are the major issues awaiting lawmakers' attention:

SPENDING: Congress must provide appropriations to keep the government running throughout the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. A stopgap measure, which expires Dec. 3, was passed because Congress hadn't finished work on any of the 12 spending bills that usually finance the government. Democratic leaders would like to package the 12 bills into one omnibus measure and pass full-year funding at roughly current levels. Republicans may push for a two- or three-month stopgap bill, then revisit spending levels next year after they have control of the House and more power in the Senate.

TAX CUTS: Tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire Dec. 31. President Barack Obama wants to make permanent the income-tax cuts for families with less than $250,000 of annual income, but let upper-income tax cuts lapse. Republicans want to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent. Mr. Obama has said he is open to compromise. A likely outcome is a one- or two-year extension of all the cuts.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: A federal program of extended benefits for long-term unemployed Americans expires Nov. 30. Democrats want to extend them further, but Republicans are expected to resist—or at least to insist that the cost be offset by spending cuts. Some Democrats want a deal with Republicans under which the unemployment benefits and the upper-income tax cuts are both extended.

DOCTORS FEES: A scheduled 26% cut in Medicare payments to doctors has repeatedly been postponed. Initially put into law to cut program costs, the provision has been blocked in response to pressure from doctors and amid concern that physicians would stop treating Medicare patients. The latest delay in the payment cut ends Nov. 30.

FOOD SAFETY: The Senate is expected to take up a bill to expand the power of the Food and Drug Administration to regulate food safety. If the Senate overcomes procedural obstacles and passes the bill, the measure would have to be reconciled with a version passed by the House.

START TREATY: A new nuclear-arms treaty with Russia awaits ratification by the Senate. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D., Mass.) is pushing for a vote, calculating that chances dim next year when Republicans will have more power in the Senate.

EARMARKS: Senate Republicans will consider a ban on GOP members requesting earmarks—or appropriations, tax benefits and other provisions inserted into legislation by lawmakers for projects usually in their districts.

Peggy Noonan: Obama's Gifts to the GOP - Republicans own the political center for now. Not because they deserve it.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Democrats are down, and sniping at each other. That's the way it goes when parties lose. What's interesting is the mood this week among Republicans on the ground. It's not triumphal. They all seem to have in the back of their minds a question: Is this election the beginning of the big turnaround? Is this when the GOP comes to the fore as its best self and soberly, shrewdly pursues policies that will help dig our country out of the mess? Or will the great sweep of 2010 come to be seen, in retrospect, as just another lurch and shift in a nation whose political tectonic plates have been unstable since 2006?

They're not sure, but there's a high degree of hope for the former. And that's news, because Republicans haven't been hopeful in a long time.

They continue to be blessed by luck. Whatever word means the opposite of snakebit, that is what the Republican Party is right now. One reason they are feeling hope is that they have received two big and unexpected gifts from President Obama. The first, of course, was his political implosion—his quick descent and speedy fall into unpopularity, which shaped the outcome of the 2010 elections. At the heart of that descent was the president's inability to understand how the majority of Americans were thinking. From the day he was sworn in he seemed to have had no practical or intuitive sense of what was on the American mind. By early 2009 they had one deep and central worry, the economy. But his central preoccupation was reforming health care. He devoted his first 18 months to it and got what he wanted, but at the price of seeming wholly out of touch with the thoughts and concerns of the American people.

This week the president gave Republicans a second unexpected gift. He reacted to the election's outcome in a way that suggested he's still in his own world, still seeing a reality no one else is seeing. The problem wasn't his policies, but that he didn't explain them well. It wasn't health-care reform, it was his failed attempt to popularize it. His problem was that he was not political enough. He was too substantive, too serious. Americans have been under stress, and people under stress don't think clearly, and so they couldn't see the size of his achievements.

He sounded like a man who couldn't see what was obvious to everyone else, and once again made his political adversaries seem, in comparison, more realistic, more clear-sighted and responsive to public opinion. And he did this while everyone was watching. Again, what a gift.

Two areas seem to me key for Republican leaders in Washington. One is a long-term concern, the other an immediate one.

The first has to do with the art of political persuasion. A month ago, in conversation with a veteran Democrat, I mentioned that the old cliché is now truer than ever, that everything happens in the center. The path to victory is through the center, that's where things are won. The Democrat nodded vigorously. "Compromise," she said, "it's so important."

But compromise was not my point. Persuasion was my point. Compromise is a tool you use to get the best legislation possible, but you have to persuade the big center that your way is the better way. We're in an age where politicians assert, insist and leave. It's all quick, blunt and dumb. But to win and hold the center you have to make your case, you have to show you're philosophically serious, you have to show your logic, and connect it to a philosophy. You don't sit around saying, "I like centrists so I compromise," you say, "Here's what we believe, here's how we think and why."

The establishment of the GOP hasn't been good at this. Some of them aren't philosophically serious. Some don't know that persuasion is at the heart of things. Some know but aren't good at it. Some think they're never given quite the right venue to expand on their views, or questioned in the right way. They should create venues.

A lot of this will fall to the newly elected congressmen and senators, and the philosophically inclined incumbents who've been quiet and let the leadership dominate the stage the past few years.

Right now the center is with the Republicans. They voted like Democrats in 2008 and like Republicans in 2010. But there's going to be lots of drama in Washington the next few months, and things could turn on a dime. To hold the center you have to respect your own case enough to argue for it, and respect the people enough to explain it.

The second area has to do with the media environment that will exist in January, when the new Congress is sworn in. The mainstream media already has a story line in its head, and it is that a lot of these new Congress critters are a little radical, a little nutty.

Media bias is what we all know it is, largely political but also having to do with the needs of editors and producers. The media is looking for drama. They are looking for a colorful story. They want to do reporting that isn't bland, that has a certain edge. We saw this throughout the past year as they covered big tea party rallies.

A reporter would be walking along with a cameraman. At one picnic blanket she sees a sober fellow and his handsome family. He looks like an orthodontist or a midlevel manager. His family looks happy, normal, pleasant. Right next to them, on a foldout lawn chair, is a scowling woman in a big straw bonnet with a dozen tea bags hanging from the brim. She's holding a sign, a picture of Obama in a Hitler mustache. Who does the reporter choose to interview? I think we know. A better question might be who would you pick if you were that reporter and had a producer back in the newsroom who wanted interesting copy, colorful characters and vivid pictures.

The mainstream media this January will be looking for the nuts.

I saw this in 1994, when the new Republican Congress came in. The media had a storyline in their head then, too: These wild and crazy righties who just got elected are . . . wild and crazy. They focused their cameras on people who could be portrayed as nutty, and found them. The spirited Helen Chenoweth, freshman from Idaho, talked a little too much about "black helicopters." She was portrayed as paranoid and eccentric. Bob Livingston, from New Orleans, went to his first meeting of the Appropriations Committee wielding a machete. The new speaker, Newt Gingrich, was full of pronouncements and provocations; he was a one-man drama machine.

It was a high spirited group, and one operating without a conservative media infrastructure to defend them. They and others were caught and tagged like big wild birds, then released into the air, damaged.

The point is when they want to paint you as nuts and yahoos, don't help them paint you as nuts and yahoos. It's good to keep in mind the advice of the 19th century actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who once said, speaking in a different context, that she didn't really care what people did as long as they didn't do it in the street and frighten the horses.

That would be the advice for incoming Republicans: Stand tall, speak clear, and don't frighten the horses.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same. From the Cracker Squire Archives of November 2006. This time it is the other way party wise.

From a 11-10-2006 post entitled "GOP Moderates' Ouster Widens House Divide":

Tuesday's electoral upheaval wiped out many of the few remaining Republican moderates in Congress, further cementing the geographic partitioning of the House and potentially widening the ideological divisions that have contributed to partisanship and gridlock on Capitol Hill.

At a time when President Bush and congressional leaders in both parties are preaching the importance of bipartisanship, the structural realities of where the two parties now get most of their House votes may create enormous obstacles to greater harmony and cooperation.

Prospects for legislative action may hinge on whether Bush decides to seek accommodation with Democrats and to build any victories with a truly bipartisan coalition or whether House Republicans, now a smaller and more ideologically homogenous caucus, press vigorously for a reassertion of conservative policies and initiatives.

Tuesday's election results accelerated the geographical realignment of the House that began with the 1994 landslide, which was fueled by the transformation of congressional districts in the South from Democratic to Republican. Republicans picked up 20 seats in the South that year, shifting the geographic center of the GOP to a region where the party was dominated by religious and social conservatives.

What happened this week was, in the eyes of many political analysts, an almost inevitable backlash after a decade of Republican rule in Congress, during which many of the leaders came from Southern states, and GOP policies designed to appeal to the party's most conservative elements.

This year, Democrats made big gains in the Northeast and Midwest, helped by opposition to the war in Iraq. Exit polls showed the president and the Republican brand more unpopular in the Northeast than anywhere else in the country. The party lost roughly a third of its 36 House seats in that region -- and came close to losing several more.

The results produced a historic shift in the balance of regional power in Congress. The majority party in the House is now the minority party among Southern states for the first time since the 83rd Congress in 1953-1954. The same holds for the new Democratic-controlled Senate, except for a brief period in the 1980s.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unlike the Dems named in the joke from the Cracker Squire Archives, Sanford ‘Lazarus’ Bishop opens his eyes and says no to Nancy Pelosi.

Today "been on fire" Jim Galloway of the ajc's Political Insider does a post entitled "Sanford ‘Lazarus’ Bishop says no to Nancy Pelosi" that notes:

Sanford “Lazarus” Bishop, having just finished a close fight to keep his seat, isn’t in the mood to gamble again.

The southwest Georgia congressman on Wednesday declared that he won’t support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to remain the Democratic leader when Republicans take control of Congress in January. From the Albany Herald:

“I have nothing against Speaker Pelosi; she has worked tirelessly to bring Democrats together,” Bishop said. “But given the fact that we suffered substantial losses in the election, I think a new face is needed for leadership of the Democratic Caucus. I am part of a group looking for an alternative."

I assume that in announcing his intention to buck Speaker Pelosi's decision announced Friday, Bishop was acting out of self-preservation and also perhaps signaling that he was not buying into the post-election message coming from President Obama and Pelosi that they didn't see the election defeat as a repudiation of their agenda and their leadership.

If updating the below joke taken from a 11-13-04 post from the Cracker Achives, I would substitute Obama and Pelosi for Kerry and Edwards:

I know you've heard the joke that goes something like:

John Kerry was walking toward the Capitol and sees a young girl with a newly born litter of puppies. Seeing the young girl's mother in the corner of his eye and wanting to impress about how he is not as snobbish as she might have heard, he stops and asks the little girl: "What kind of puppies are these?" The girl smiles and says "They're Democrats."

The next week Kerry is walking toward the Capitol with John Edwards and again sees the little girl with her litter of puppies. He tells Edwards, "You gotta' see this!"

Kerry walks up to the girl and asks, "Tell Sen. Edwards what kind of puppies you have these?" "Republicans" the young girl replies.

"But last week you said they were Democrats!" The little girl looks up and smiles, and then says, "They were then, but now their eyes are open."

Tom Crawford lays it out in a post entitled 'It could be a long time in the wilderness for Georgia Democrats'

Tom Crawford, author of the subscription service Georgia Report, writes on his blog:

The process that started eight years ago when Sonny Perdue upset Barnes for governor has been completed. Republicans don’t just have majority control of state government – they have an iron grip that won’t be broken for years.

For those of us who were around on election night in 1990, the change has been a dramatic one. There were 11 races for statewide office on the ballot that year. Democrats, headed by Zell Miller in the governor’s race, won every one of those elections.

There were four Democrats running statewide – Secretary of State Max Cleland, Attorney General Mike Bowers, State School Superintendent Werner Rogers and Labor Commissioner Joe Tanner – who didn’t have an opponent on the ballot.

Of the 10 races for Congress in 1990, nine were won by Democrats. Just one congressional seat was won by a Republican, Newt Gingrich, and even Gingrich was nearly upset by a young lawyer named David Worley.

Needless to say, the political pendulum has swung completely to the other side in the two decades since that election.

Here’s how devastating the Republican wave was, up and down the ballot, in the statewide elections. Roy Barnes raised and spent nearly $8 million in the governor’s race. Mary Squires raised and spent next to nothing in the race for insurance commissioner – not even 5 percent of the amount that Barnes spent. And yet, Squires received about the same percentage of the votes in her race as Barnes did in his.

Three days after the election, state Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell saw the futility of it. One of the last Democratic legislators left in North Georgia, Powell sent a letter to Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) resigning from the Democratic caucus.

“The Democratic Party is dead,” he said after sending his letter to Smyre. “I don’t see it coming back in our lifetime.”

By Monday morning, Powell was already caucusing with House Republicans as they elected a new majority leader. The GOP now holds 109 of the 180 House seats, an all-time record. How many more Democrats from rural districts will join Powell before the Legislature convenes in January?

By the numbers

There is always a dropoff in voter turnout in non-presidential election years, but that dropoff in 2010 was much more pronounced among Democrats.

Compare the state’s vote in the 2008 presidential race to the vote in the 2010 governor’s race. There were a record number of 3,924,486 ballots cast in the presidential race, much of that turnout attributable to the presence of Barack Obama on the ballot. There were 2,572,966 votes cast in the governor’s race, a decrease of 34.4 percent.

The Republican vote from 2008 to 2010 decreased by 33.4 percent (683,828 votes) – but the Democratic vote decreased by a whopping 40.1 percent (739,129 votes). There is all the explanation you need for a Republican sweep and a Democrat whipping.

In the 28-county metro Atlanta region, the governor’s race was somewhat competitive. Deal won the metro region by 50-46 percent over Barnes, a margin of 53,447 votes.

Outside metro Atlanta, the Republican advantage really comes into focus: Deal carried those counties with 57.7 percent support to only 38.8 percent for Barnes, a margin of 207,210 votes.

That doesn’t leave Democrats with much to build upon. It gives Republicans plenty of reasons to feel cheerful.

New, more graphic cigarette warnings unveiled - This will backfire on FDA.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration, armed with new powers approved by Congress last year, announced its plans to require cigarette packs and ads to carry bigger, much more prominent and graphic health warnings, including images of dead bodies, cancer patients and diseased lungs.

This will backfire on the FDA or grits aren't groceries. (Photo from The Washington Post.)

U.S. Tweaks Message on Troops in Afghanistan; 'Not really any change; just trying to get past that July 2011 obsession.' - Sure, whatever you say.

From The New York Times:

The Obama administration is increasingly emphasizing the idea that the United States will have forces in Afghanistan until at least the end of 2014, a change in tone aimed at persuading the Afghans and the Taliban that there will be no significant American troop withdrawals next summer.

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

“There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,” a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

On Wednesday, the White House insisted that there had been no change in tone. “The old message was, we’re looking to July 2011 to begin a transition,” a White House official said. “Now we’re telling people what happens beyond 2011, and I don’t think that represents a shift. We’re bringing some clarity to the policy of our future in Afghanistan.”

Like most people involved in the issue, the official asked for anonymity because a review of Mr. Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan is under way and people involved in it are reluctant to speak openly to reporters.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Democratic Strategists Say Damage Control Prevented More Election Losses

From The New York Times:

As bad as election night was for House Democrats, top party strategists say it could have been far worse.

After sorting through the debris left behind by the Republican wave that swamped them, officials at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the difficult decision to cut off campaign spending on Democrats whose races had slipped out of reach and then spend the money elsewhere ultimately saved 15 to 20 seats.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Here's to (1) pulling for Hoyer and (2) hoping Pelosi will reconsider her death wish for & do what is best for the Party before next week's elections.

From The New York Times:

Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Monday that he would try to hold on to that position when his party slips into the minority next year as the leadership of House Democrats remained in turmoil one week after devastating election losses.

The decision by Mr. Hoyer, who has served as majority leader the past four years, sets up a possible fight with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, currently the No. 3 Democrat, who said on Monday that he was still pursuing the No. 2 position as well.

At the same time, some Democrats continued to publicly question the decision of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to try to remain as party leader in the new Congress though no lawmaker has stepped forward to challenge her. Both parties are to hold internal elections next week when Congress returns for a lame-duck session.

Republicans still face a contest for the No. 4 position of Republican Conference leader between Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

[Bachmann, though better known and a favorite of the Tea Party, will lose this contest.]

Republicans May Yet Have Upper Hand in Senate

Gerald F. Seib writes in The Wall Street Journal:

On paper, the numbers tell you the Democrats held on to a majority in the Senate last week.

In reality, things won't be quite that neat. In fact, on some issues the Republicans actually may have a functional majority, given the sentiments likely to prevail among certain Democrats who face the voters in two years.

Among the Senate Democrats, 23 will face re-election in just two years, and, having just witnessed the drubbing some in their party took at the polls, they likely will be even less willing now to toe the party line. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with Democrats, often leans rightward, anyway.

More important, among those 23 Democrats who face voters in 2012 are a handful of incumbents from the kind of moderate to conservative states where Democrats took a beating last week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Joe Manchin, who just won a Senate race in West Virginia by separating himself from President Barack Obama and his party's congressional leaders, also faces voters again in two years because he was elected only to fill out an unexpired term.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, looks at this field and thinks he may see some votes for his side. He points in particular to his desire to roll back parts of this year's big health bill.

[M]aybe there also are Democrats prepared to drift to the Republican side on issues beyond health—say, on spending cuts, tax levels and a new energy program built around such items as electric cars and clean-coal technology. On selected issues, that means Mr. McConnell actually might find it at least as easy as the Democrats' Mr. Reid to assemble a working majority.

Of course, there are distinct limits to how much that means in the ever-messy Senate. In a body where any 41 members can mount and sustain a filibuster to stop action, having a bare majority, real or functional, has limited impact.

Moreover, lest Mr. McConnell be tempted to feel cocky about his position, he has internal problems of his own.

. . . . Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has become a kind of spiritual godfather to the tea-party movement.

And anyone who operates under the tea-party banner isn't likely to feel he is in Congress to compromise on principles to get things done but is highly likely to feel he has a mandate to defy the established leaders in both parties. So the Republican conference could be as unruly and unreliable as the Democratic one.

The real upshot may be that, in a Senate where neither party really has a clear majority on every issue, party discipline means less and the opportunity for free-lancing and interparty mash-ups grows.

Nobody will really be in charge. Let the fun begin.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Obama Says Vote Turned on Economy

Nancy Pelosi's decision announced Friday, like the post-election message coming from President Obama, sent a signal that Democrats don't see their election defeat as a repudiation of their agenda and their leadership. The same message continues . . .

From The New York Times:

President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that he views last week’s mid-term Congressional elections as “a referendum
on the economy” rather than a referendum on him, his policies or the Democratic Party.

While he said he should be held accountable for the economy as the nation’s leader, he did not accept the suggestion that he pursued the wrong agenda over the last two years, and he focused blame on his failure to build public support for what he was doing or to change the way Washington works.

In a session taped for CBS’s “60 Minutes” before Mr. Obama left for Asia, the correspondent Steve Kroft pointed out to the president that Republicans view the election as a referendum on him and the Democrats, and asked if he agreed. “I think first and foremost it was a referendum on the economy,” Mr. Obama said. “And the party in power was held responsible for an economy that is still underperforming.”

The interview was Mr. Obama’s first since the election and largely tracked the sentiments he expressed at his news conference the day after the vote.

The president’s interpretation of the election underscored the contrasting messages the two parties have taken from the elections. Republicans won at least 60 more seats in the House to take control, the largest such gain by either party since 1948, and picked up six more seats in the Senate, putting them close to parity with the Democrats, who maintained a much slimmer majority. Republicans also scored significant victories in governor’s and state legislative races.

Surveys of voters at polling places showed that 37 percent said last Tuesday they were casting their votes to express opposition to Mr. Obama’s policies, while 24 percent said they were supporting his policies. The rest said he was not the impetus for their vote. Those numbers are almost identical to those in 2006 when voters cast judgment on President George W. Bush’s policies and Democrats seized control of Congress in a mid-term election they cast as a referendum on the incumbent president.

To the notion that voters may have sent a message for smaller, less costly, more accountable government, Mr. Obama responded, “First and foremost, they want jobs and economic growth in this country.”

Pressed by Mr. Kroft, he then added that voters also care about spending. “There is no doubt that folks are concerned about debt and deficits,” he said. “I think that is absolutely a priority. And by the way, that’s a concern that I had before I was even sworn in.”

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Cracker Squire is a member of a dying breed headed for near extinction unless the Democratic Party finds a way to move back to the middle.

An article entitled "White Democrats Lose More Ground in South" is in today's edition of The New York Times:

It was less than 50 years ago that a young man named Lewis McAllister Jr. won a special election to become a Mississippi state representative.

“We were, of course, pretty excited about that,” said Wirt Yerger Jr., who at the time was the chairman of the state Republican Party. They had a right to be: Mr. McAllister was the first Republican of the 20th century to sit in the Mississippi Legislature. Being a Republican in the South, Mr. Yerger recalled, “was pretty lonesome at first.”

Things are looking a little different now.

A political realignment that has been taking place for decades hit overdrive in last week’s elections, leaving Republicans at a stronger position in the South than at any time since Reconstruction. And with Republican control of so many legislatures on the eve of redistricting, white Democrats, who once occupied every available political office in the region, are facing near extinction in some states.

“The Democratic Party as we know it in Alabama is dead,” boasted Philip Bryan, the spokesman for the state’s Republican Party, which gained control of the legislature for the first time in more than a century. “We just killed it.”

The degree of one-party control Republicans have just achieved in much of the South has broad implications for future campaign strategies. But it also provides a laboratory to study the internal debates of the Republican Party, the effects of undiluted conservative policy and a nearly one-to-one relationship between party preference and race, at least in national contests in the Deep South.

Of the nine Democratic representatives that remain from the states of the Deep South, only one, John Barrow of Georgia, is white. Of the 28 Republicans, only one, the newly elected Tim Scott of South Carolina, is black.

Republicans now hold at least 93 of the 131 House seats from the states of the old Confederacy. Less than 20 years ago they did not even hold half. With the defeat of long-serving fiscally conservative Blue Dogs like Representatives Gene Taylor of Mississippi and John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, Southern white Democrats in Congress have become as rare as a Dixie blizzard.

Republicans, however, say their job is not finished. The South is often thought of as red to its core, but it is not as simple as that. The preference for Republicans has trickled down over the decades, with voters first supporting Republican presidential candidates, then Republican congressmen — who often simply switched parties — and more recently Republican state legislators.

State Republican Party officials say they are now looking at local officials like sheriffs and chancery clerks who still often run as Democrats.

“That’s the last bastion,” said Brad White, the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party.

The enduring allegiance to the Democratic Party among Southern whites comes from a fondness for incumbents, an enduring populist streak, lingering gratitude for the New Deal in certain areas and, in large part, habit.

While white Southern voters may be dropping that habit, this does not necessarily mean they are all eager to embrace the Republicans.

Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University and a co-author of “The Rise of Southern Republicans,” said that white conservatives first fled the Democratic Party in large numbers in the 1960s, turned off by the civil rights legislation and social programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. But it was not until the Reagan years that they felt comfortable identifying as Republicans.

A similar pattern is unfolding now with white Southern moderates, Mr. Black said, who are repelled by President Obama’s policies but have not fully embraced the other side.

George Dale, a Democrat who was Mississippi’s insurance commissioner from 1975 to 2007, is one of those moderates.

“People like me almost find themselves without a party,” he said.

The causes of the Southern disillusionment with the Democrats are complicated. Race plays a role, which shows up in the muttering of an Arkansas farmer who said he did not trust blacks in power, or in the bumper sticker in Louisiana that read “Don’t blame me, I voted for the American.” But it is not the only factor.

“Some of it is cyclical, some of it’s racial, some of it’s fueled by cable TV,” Mr. Dale said.

Many of the white Southerners losing faith in the Democrats are more moderate on social issues and less hostile to social programs than Republicans, but they dislike the Obama administration so much that they are taking it out on any Democrat in sight.

Mr. Dale said many Southern voters saw the national Democrats as pursuing polices of an overreaching government.

“If the Democratic Party has any intentions of being a factor on the state level, they’re going to have to find a way to move back to the middle,” he said.

Until then, the task of governance is starting to fall almost exclusively to the Republican Party. That may be more difficult than it seems.

Traditional Southern Republicanism is socially conservative and assertively pro-business, characterized by an aversion to taxes, regulation, abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control.

But while its politicians have long held forth against the federal government, the South remains heavily dependent on federal largesse in the form of farm subsidies, defense contracts and aid for its large concentrations of poor people. More than a few Southern Republicans who railed against the federal stimulus package accepted the money anyway.

The Tea Party brand of conservatism is less tolerant of this wink-and-nod approach to government spending and places a lower priority on social issues.

It has some echoes of the small-government gospel that was preached by Mr. Yerger and other pioneers of the modern Republican Party in the South, who found few Southerners sympathetic to their condemnation of the New Deal. Many of them initially viewed social issues like segregation as tactical stands worth taking to draw disaffected Democrats to their free-market agenda, according to Joseph Crespino, a professor at Emory who has studied the rise of conservative politics in Mississippi.

How the small-government fundamentalists of the Tea Party fit into the mainstream Southern Republican Party remains to be seen.

“This could be a very fleeting experience for the Republican Party, if they ignore us,” said Kevin Desmond, a director of the Patriots of East Tennessee, a local Tea Party group. “When Lamar Alexander, the senator here in Tennessee, comes up for election in 2014, I think he’s going to have his hands full.”

There are other signs that the realignment might not be permanent. Growing Latino populations in Florida and Texas, and in Georgia and South Carolina, could rearrange the political map again before too long.

And then there is the curious case of North Carolina. While Republicans racked up historic victories in state races on Tuesday, seven of the state’s eight Democratic congressmen survived challenges, including Heath Shuler, a young Blue Dog elected in 2006.

That, oddly enough, leaves North Carolina with one of the most Democratic Congressional delegations outside of the Northeast.

GOP Plans to Use Purse Strings to Fight Health Law

From The New York Times:

As they seek to make good on their campaign promise to roll back President Obama’s health care overhaul, the incoming Republican leaders in the House say they intend to use their new muscle to cut off money for the law, setting up a series of partisan clashes and testing Democratic commitment to the legislation.

Republicans, who will control the House starting in January but will remain in the minority in the Senate, acknowledge that they do not have the votes for their ultimate goal of repealing the health law, the most polarizing of Mr. Obama’s signature initiatives.

But they said they hoped to use the power of the purse to challenge main elements of the law, forcing Democrats — especially those in the Senate who will be up for re-election in 2012 — into a series of votes to defend it.

Given their slim majority, Senate Democrats must stick together if they want to avoid sending Mr. Obama spending bills and other legislation that he would feel compelled to veto, setting up the prospect of a broader deadlock and, in an extreme situation, a government shutdown.

Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who died this year,. . . described the power of the purse as “one of the most effective bulwarks ever constructed” to shackle the hands of an overreaching executive.

Even if judges uphold the constitutionality of the law, federal officials will still need money to administer and enforce it.