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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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Republicans face unexpected challenges in coastal South amid shrinking white vote

From The Washington Post:

Late on election night, a small melee erupted at the University of Mississippi here when a group of white students frustrated by the reelection of President Obama marched outside and began shouting racial slurs at African American students. Several hundred people gathered to watch as two white students were arrested.

“Mississippi still has a lot of work to do in race relations,” said Kimbrely Dandridge, an African American Obama supporter and president of the student body.

Yet even as that incident evoked ugly memories of an earlier era, Election Day in the South told a newer and more surprising story: The nation’s first black president finished more strongly in the region than any other Democratic nominee in three decades, underscoring a fresh challenge for Republicans who rely on Southern whites as their base of national support.

Obama won Virginia and Florida and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. But he also polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states.

Much of the post-election analysis has focused on the demographic crisis facing Republicans among Hispanic voters, particularly in Texas. But the results across other parts of the South, where Latinos remain a single-digit minority, point to separate trends among blacks and whites that may also have big implications for the GOP’s future.

The results show a region cleaving apart along new electoral fault lines. In the region’s center, clustered along the Mississippi River — where Bill Clinton polled most strongly — the GOP remains largely unchallenged and the voting divide between blacks and whites is deepening. Nearly nine of 10 of white voters in Mississippi, for instance, went for Republican nominee Mitt Romney this year, according to exit polls. About 96 percent of black voters in the state supported Obama.

The pattern is markedly different in the five states that hug the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Florida, which together hold82 of the South’s 160 electoral votes. A combination of a growing black population, urban expansion, oceanfront development and in-migration from other regions has opened up increasing opportunities for Democrats in those states.

“Georgia is an achievable target for Democrats in 2016,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a frequent Obama surrogate during the campaign. “What you’re going to see is the Democratic Party making a drive through the geography from Virginia to Florida.”

That will be easier said than done — particularly when the Democratic nominee is not Obama — but powerful forces in the region are clearly eroding GOP dominance. The trends pose difficulties for a Republican Party that has been shifting toward Dixie since the “Southern strategy” of the Nixon era, which sought to encourage white flight from the Democratic Party.

In every Southern state except Louisiana, the population of African Americans grew substantially faster than that of whites over the past decade. The growth is fueled by black retirees from the north and rising numbers of young, well-educated blacks in prosperous cities such as Atlanta, Norfolk, Charlotte and Charleston, S.C.

The influx also includes fast-growing, but smaller, Hispanic populations and an infusion of less-conservative outsiders attracted to popular coastal areas. Together, the shifts are making the electoral landscape from Virginia and the Carolinas look increasingly like the swing state of Florida.

Obama’s 2012 numbers in the Southeastern coastal states outperformed every Democratic nominee since Carter and significantly narrowed past gaps between Democratic and Republican candidates. The lone possible exception is Georgia in 1996, which gave Arkansas native Bill Clinton 45.8 percent in 1996; Obama fell 0.4 percent short of that mark in tentative 2012 results, but ongoing revisions could close the gap.

The proportion of white voters in the South is also shrinking. Southern whites voted overwhelmingly for Romney, but in six Southern states, far fewer of them appear to have gone to the polls on Nov. 6 than the number who voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.

In Florida, the share of votes cast by whites this year fell to 66 percent, down from 73 percent in 2000. In Georgia, the number of white voters declined while African American registration increased nearly 6 percent and Hispanic voters grew by 36 percent.

“Republicans can focus all they want on Hispanics,” said John Anzalone, a Montgomery, Ala., pollster who helped analyze swing states for the Obama campaign. “But they also have a problem with whites, in this election cycle, just showing up.”

Many Republican leaders in the South say the lower turnout by whites in some areas simply reflected lower enthusiasm for Romney as a candidate, and doesn’t signal a longer term decline in GOP strength.

Prominent conservatives in the region are acutely aware of the danger posed by the trends. “We’ve got to go out and sell our ideas not just to the choir, but the whole church,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member from Mississippi and a top Romney fundraiser (and nephew of former governor Haley Barbour). “We’re not going to get 25 percent of the black vote in four years, but we’ve got to figure out which African Americans share our core beliefs.”

Some Republicans had hoped to make at least small inroads among black voters in 2012 given lower African American turnout in the 2010 midterms, high black unemployment and the modest success of presidential candidate Herman Cain in the Republican primaries. They reasoned that winning over just a small percentage of black voters in key states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida could alter the outcome of the race.

The Rev. C.L. Bryant, an African American tea party activist from DeSoto Parish, La., helped lead a spirited effort by some of the most conservative GOP-aligned groups to use Obama’s support for gay marriage as an opening to appeal to socially conservative black voters.

He produced a feature-length film titled “Runaway Slave” that urged blacks to flee the Democratic Party. It was shown in more than 20 cities, while he and other conservative African Americans toured the country to blast Obama’s support for abortion rights and gay issues.

But the issues had little apparent impact on Obama’s support within the black community. Black pastors — some of whom had preached against gay marriage in the past — rallied to the president. Romney also hit a number of sour notes with minorities during the campaign, including his apparent suggestion that blacks who support Obama want “more free stuff” from government.

“Romney was real disrespectful,” said Rodney Collier, 58, a black stylist at Haywood’s Hair Images in Richmond. “How can you be so negative and nasty to a sitting president?”

By the closing stage of the campaign, gay marriage had largely disappeared from the conversation among black voters. “We don’t see any of that,” said Tiara Moore, 23, a biology student, after a day of canvassing before the election at historically black Hampton University in Virginia. “They talk about health care and student loans.”

Contrary to the expectations of many Republican pollsters, black voters came out in droves on Election Day and voted overwhelmingly for Obama — near or above 95 percent in most parts of the South.

“We were all basically stunned at the results,” Bryant said. “It is very clear that the direction of the Republican Party — the conservative movement — is necessarily going to have to include the changing face of America and address the concerns of minorities, blacks, Latinos, and even younger white women, all young people. . . . It has to happen or we’re going to be insignificant.”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sally, let's send Saxby a check: Grover Norquist: Washington Enemy No. 1 - The man who enforces the no-new-taxes pledge is under fire like never before. Why he still expects Republicans will hold the line.

From The Wall Street Journal:

'No one is caving," Grover Norquist says emphatically and repeatedly when we meet this week in his office in the nation's capital. By "no one" he means congressional Republicans, and by "caving" he means surrendering to Barack Obama's call for tax increases. Republicans are facing an avalanche of pressure from the White House, the media and even many on Wall Street to abandon their antitax principles to avoid a "fiscal cliff."

Since 1993, there hasn't been a major tax increase in Washington with the exception of the 2010 ObamaCare law—which not a single Republican voted for. For 20 years, every Republican presidential nominee, most GOP governors, and almost all Republican Senate and House candidates have signed the pledge. He sees the pledge as embedded in the Republican brand: "It's a constant reminder to voters, 'Oh yeah, Republicans are the ones who won't raise my taxes.' "

Mr. Norquist is unbending in his conviction that the only option for raising revenues and staying true to the pledge is through pro-growth reform. "Any deal now that closes loopholes," he figures, "is the destruction of tax reform." Why? Because "any dollar taken out of credits and deductions and then spent by Congress is not a dollar you can use for tax reform and cutting tax rates later."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saxby Chambliss: ‘I care more about the country than a 20-year-old anti-tax pledge’

From Jim Galloway's AJC.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Peggy Noonan: The I's Have It - An epidemic of egomania strikes America's civilian and military leadership.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

We are becoming a conceited nitwit society, pushy and self-aggrandizing. No one is ashamed to brag now. And show off. They think it heightens them. They think it's good for business.

It used to be that if you were big, you'd never tell people how big you were because that would be kind of classless, and small. In fact it would be a proof of smallness.

So don't be showy. The big are modest.


There is the issue—small but indicative of something larger—of how members of the U.S. military present themselves, and the awe they consciously encourage in the public and among the political class. The other day on his Daily Beast blog, Andrew Sullivan posted a letter from a reader noting the way officers are now given and relentlessly wear on their dress uniforms ribbons, markers and awards for pretty much everything they do—what used to be called fruit salad. Mr. Sullivan posted two pictures we echo here, one of Gen. David Petraeus and one of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. This is the Eisenhower of D-Day, of the long slog through Europe in World War II. He didn't seem to see the need to dress himself up and tell you what he'd done. Maybe he thought you knew. He didn't wear all the honors to which he was entitled, though he could have used them to dazzle the masses if that had been what he was interested in.

Top brass sure is brassier than it used to be. And you have to wonder what that's about. Where did the old culture of modesty go? Ulysses S. Grant wore four stars on his shoulder and nothing else on his uniform. And that was a fellow who'd earned a few medals.

Jump now to the woman who is the main focus in the Petraeus scandal, Paula Broadwell. She was a person of impressive achievement right from the start—high school valedictorian, West Point grad, master's degrees, Army officer. But even that wasn't enough ribbons. In YouTube videos she brags about her security clearance, her inside knowledge—"That's still being vetted"—and the Ph.D. she's working on. She calls herself a biographer, but biographers actually do something arduous—they write biographies.

Ms. Broadwell contracted with a professional, reporter Vernon Loeb, to organize, synthesize, think and write. On Twitter, Ms. Broadwell describes herself as "Author . . . National Security Analyst; Army Vet; Women's Rights Activist; Runner/Skier/Surfer; Wife; Mom!" On her website she noted that in her free time she is an Ironman triathlete "and a model and demonstrator for KRISS, a manufacturer of .45-caliber machine guns." "When Paula is not on the frontlines, online, or writing lines," she and her husband run, ski and surf together.

My goodness. All hail. This isn't describing yourself in the best possible light, this is bragging about yourself to a degree and in a way that is actually half mad.

But it's kind of the way people talk about themselves now. And I have to say, this is new. Not new in history but new as a fully developed and enveloping national style. You know why they loved us in Europe in World War II? I mean aside from because we won? Because they thought we were kind of strong and silent—modest, actually—like Gary Cooper in "Sergeant York." Now we still do ratta-tat-tat, but it's on Facebook FB +6.27%and it's about how great we are.

We used to worry that kids would be victims of the self-esteem movement, that constant praise would keep them from an honestly earned, and therefore stable, self-respect, and steer them toward mere conceit. Now parents have it.

The other young woman in the story, Ms. Broadwell's apparent nemesis, felt harassed when her role became known. Jill Kelley called 911 and quickly informed the operator of her status. "You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability." She suggested "diplomatic protection" might be in order. But she isn't a diplomat, she's a lady who gives parties and knows a lot of people. She even knows an FBI agent who opened an investigation for her because she felt harassed by anonymous emails. This really was a confusing part of the story. Just about everyone, certainly every woman, in the public eye in America receives aggressive, insulting, menacing emails. We didn't know we could get FBI investigations opened for that! Maybe our mistake is not being honorary consuls with inviolability.


These are just the players in the scandal of the week. Have we noticed a certain lack of modesty in our political figures? Thank goodness, therefore, for Mitt Romney, who in a conference call with donors said he got beat and beat bad, that his campaign was lacking, that his gut on the big issues was probably off, that he shouldn't have allowed his campaign to become (in the grandiose, faux-macho lingo of campaign consultants who wish they wore fruit salad) an air war and not a ground war, and that they were smoked in get-out-the-vote. He added, with an eye to concerns larger than his own, that he wanted to help the party analyze and define what didn't work in 2012 so it would be stronger in 2016.

Sorry. Kidding! He didn't say that.

He said the administration gave "gifts" to interest groups, and the groups appreciated the gifts, and, people being the little automatons they are, said yes, sire, and voted for him.

In a way it was as bad as the old "47%" tape. Because it was so limited.


Which gets us to the president. He's looking very stern. You don't have a problem with Susan Rice, you have a problem with me, he says, with a scowl. He talks about the fiscal cliff but not in a way that shows a real eagerness for compromise. He does not define areas of potential give, potential progress. He won, after all. He doesn't have to.

What is needed is bigness, magnanimity. It's not all about him, his party, it's not all about self. It is not even all about one's deepest political intentions. There are other ways and schedules for moving forward there.

Get the Republicans leaders on the Hill together. Suggest in subtle ways you'll let them save face. Quietly acknowledge you weren't the best negotiator in the world the first time 'round, and neither were they. Maybe no one was quite their best. But the nation faces a real challenge and there will be economic repercussions in mishandling it. "Let's make a deal and let's make it quickly. We all have to play games but not too much and not too long."

And mean it. And deal.

This would be good for the president, good for his legacy, good for the country. This is a man who could show that in a time of crisis he and Speaker John Boehner could re-enact Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill. Which is something the country would be relieved to see. "Look—it still works!"

It might take some of the bitterness, some of the long, grinding, partisan poison out of the system.

Might we see that?

Or just instead the stern face, the old soft, nebulous aggression, in the age of the outsized ego?

As Medicare and Social Security have come to account for about a third of the federal budget, some former AARP officials say it is increasingly risky for the group to try to wall off the programs from cuts.

From The Washington Post (AARP uses its power to oppose Social Security, Medicare benefit cuts for retirees):

AARP, the lobbying powerhouse for older Americans, last year made a dramatic concession. Amid a national debate over whether to overhaul Social Security, the group said for the first time it was open to cuts in benefits.

The backlash from AARP members and liberal groups that oppose changes in the program was enormous — and this time around, as Washington debates how to tame the ballooning federal debt, AARP is flatly opposed to any benefit reductions for the nation’s retirees.

AARP’s rejection of any significant changes to the nation’s safety net could be a major factor as policymakers seek a deal to put the government’s finances in order through raising taxes and cutting spending on federal programs, possibly including popular entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans say scaling back Social Security and Medicare, the largest drivers of future government deficits, is necessary. President Obama has previously been open to benefit cuts.

But for lawmakers who would have to vote for such changes, AARP’s 37 million members and $1.3 billion budget are a force to be reckoned with. In the past eight months, AARP has sponsored a series of candidate debates, run television ads, circulated questionnaires and held more than 4,000 meetings around the country to mobilize its legion of supporters to oppose any cuts.

Under the slogan “You’ve earned a say,” the group has been building opposition to entitlement changes. A recent poll by the organization found that 70 percent of Americans 50 and older think Medicare and Social Security shouldn’t be part of the upcoming fiscal debate.

“We’re fighting to stop cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that will hurt beneficiaries,” said AARP’s top lobbyist, Nancy LeaMond. “We want to ensure that Social Security is not part of this deficit discussion.”

Leading bipartisan proposals to reduce the federal debt have proposed changes to entitlement programs, including raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 and adopting a stingier formula to determine Social Security payments. Both proposals were discussed during secret negotiations between Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in summer 2011 during efforts to resolve the country’s debt ceiling crisis. Those talks collapsed without a final agreement. But many political observers expect the proposals to resurface as Democrats and Republicans try to reach a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” — the government spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in at the beginning of next year.

AARP opposes raising the age for Medicare eligibility on the grounds that it would increase costs for younger seniors while driving up premium costs for older ones. The group opposes efforts to shrink Social Security cost-of-living increases, which it says would cost older seniors thousands of dollars in benefits.

AARP’s critics say it is looking out for current retirees at the expense of future generations.

“We’ve been stealing money from our children, and one of the main reasons that we’ve been unable to stop is that AARP is so opposed to any change to the entitlement programs and they’re politically powerful,” said Kevin A. Hassett, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.

But AARP argues that it is protecting benefits vital to both current retirees and younger Americans. With the demise of guaranteed pensions in the workplace and the inability of many workers to save enough for retirement, Social Security and Medicare are increasingly indispensable.

“You have people in their 40s and 50s who are cascading toward a terrible retirement,” said Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University professor who co-chairs Strengthen Social Security, a coalition that has joined AARP, organized labor and others in opposing any benefit cuts in the program.

AARP and others say the recent economic downturn has made it even more urgent to protect entitlements. Households with adults approaching retirement have median retirement savings of $120,000, about the same as 2007, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. But balances for younger workers have shrunk, meaning that more that half of all Americans could see their standard of living decline once they retire, the center said.

A recent issue of the AARP Bulletin — the largest circulation magazine in the world, sent to all its members — warned seniors that the proposed change to Social Security previously embraced by Obama and Republicans could cost “a potential cumulative loss of thousands of dollars.” The organization followed that with a letter to all members of Congress cautioning against Social Security changes.

Dozens of Democratic senators are vowing to protect Social Security — including Sen. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who has said any changes to the program should not be considered as part of the upcoming debate over the fiscal cliff.

This would not be the first time that AARP has applied its political muscle with decisive effect.

The group’s backing was influential in passing what liberals called a flawed Medicare prescription drug plan in 2004. Then, AARP’s opposition doomed President George W. Bush’s proposal to partially privatize Social Security. And its support was instrumental in helping to enact Obama’s health-care overhaul, which reshaped parts of Medicare.

“It is the 900-pound gorilla,” said Frederick R. Lynch, a Claremont McKenna College professor who wrote a book about the organization. “All AARP has to do is whisper.”

But as Medicare and Social Security have come to account for about a third of the federal budget, some former AARP officials say it is increasingly risky for the group to try to wall off the programs from cuts.

Aware of growing political support for entitlement changes, even among traditional Democratic allies, AARP signaled a shift in thinking last year. John Rother, then AARP’s top lobbyist, said at the time that the organization was open to benefit cuts for Social Security recipients. This was widely viewed as a major departure for the group and welcomed by some as refreshingly realistic. But the statement caused a furor among the many interest groups opposed to such a change.

Soon afterward, Rother left AARP. He says it’s important for AARP to advocate for its position but also to be flexible.

“You want to be perceived as being a strong advocate, but at the same time your long -term interest is in solving a problem,” he said in an interview. “The art, if you will, is to make sure that you are operating and messaging in such a way as to get the best possible results for your members within the context of solving the problem.”

Rep. Nan A.S. Hayworth (R-N.Y.), who has spoken with AARP officials about their policy, said she wishes the organization would do more to talk to its members about the financial challenges facing entitlement programs rather than simply opposing cuts.

“I think it’s important to have a mature conversation so we understand the challenges we face going forward,” she said.

In 25 years, spending on Medicare and Medicaid is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to equal 10 percent of the economy — double the current percentage. In the same period, Social Security spending is expected to rise from 5 percent of the size of the economy to 6 percent, mainly as a result of the retirement of baby boomers.

LeaMond, AARP’s top lobbyist now, said that Medicare savings can be found by slowing the growth in health-care costs and that Social Security can be strengthened without cutting benefits, though she did not say how.

She said AARP members care deeply about the long-term solvency of the programs even if they don’t want to bear the brunt of the cost of fixing them.

“If the critics spend anytime with our members, you cannot help but be struck by their powerful sense of legacy,” she said. “They want to leave Medicare and Social Security as strong for their kids and grandkids as for them.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

A point of personal privilege (or some such): I sure hate this, having been a customer from time to time since 1970: Dante’s Down the Hatch to make way for apartment tower

(I also was a fraternity brother at Davidson College with one of its managers at the Underground location after its second opening there.  Again, I sure hate this for you guys up there.)

From the AJC:

Buckhead’s iconic Dante’s Down the Hatch restaurant is closing to make way for luxury apartments.

Atlantic Realty Partners announced this week it reached an agreement to buy the eclectic jazz and fondue hotspot on Peachtree Road and build a 10-story luxury apartment tower in its place.

If the deal goes through, Dante’s would close its doors to the public in March after decades as a draw for Buckhead party crowd, the Valentine’s Day rush and countless prom dates.

The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the development firm is getting some of Atlanta’s most exclusive land. The 2-acre lot sits across from Lenox Square Mall and near a string of swank hotels and trendy restaurants. The developer expects to submit plans to Atlanta officials within the next few weeks and to break ground in the spring of 2013.

Dante’s owner Dante Stephensen didn’t immediately return phone calls on Friday. But earlier this year he warned that the restaurant and nightclub could go belly up because of a Fulton County tax bill that he said topped $90,000 because of the skyrocketing value of the property.

Stephensen opened the original Dante’s Down the Hatch at Underground Atlanta in 1970, but after business declined in 1981 he moved the restaurant to Buckhead. He opened a second branch in the renovated Underground in 1989, but it closed after a decade.

The Buckhead location, meanwhile, thrived as office towers, luxury condos and apartment buildings sprung up around it. Stephensen has turned down several lucrative offers for the valuable property over the years, but this week apparently got an offer he couldn’t resist.

GOP governors back away from Romney remarks - Swift denunciation of the latest tone-deaf comments by Mitt Romney about “gifts” that a “very generous” President Obama had given to African Americans, Hispanics and young people. Geez Mitt.

From The Washington Post:

Republican leaders have begun reckoning with the fact that their party has grown increasingly out of step with a broad majority of American voters.

While party leaders remain confident in their beliefs, they have identified a litany of problems and a steep set of challenges: flawed candidates, a problematic message, the alienation of nonwhite Americans who account for a growing share of the population, outdated technology and a political operation that is not up to that of the Democrats.

A telling sign of their determination to change course was their swift denunciation of the latest tone-deaf comments by Mitt Romney, who little more than a week ago they were all trying to help elect president.

In a conference call with campaign donors on Wednesday, Romney blamed his loss in part on “gifts” that a “very generous” President Obama had given to African Americans, Hispanics and young people. It was similar in sentiment to his earlier suggestion — also to a group of wealthy contributors — that 47 percent of the American public consists of government-dependent deadbeats who view themselves as victims.

Asked about Romney’s latest comments, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal bristled and told reporters at a Republican Governors Association meeting here: “I absolutely reject that notion, that description.”

“We need to stop being a dumb party, and that means more than stop making dumb comments,” added Jindal, the RGA’s incoming chairman and a rising star in the party.

The need to reorient and rebuild the party was a major topic of conversation at the governors’ meeting. Among the top concerns was the party’s failure to attract Hispanics, the fact that its voter turnout operation did not live up to expectations, its flatfooted response to Obama’s attacks on Romney and its misplaced optimism that Romney would win.

At one session, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour laid out the need to take an ungentle approach to fixing those problems: “We’ve got to give our political organization a very serious proctology exam. We need to look everywhere.”

Jindal and other governors insisted that putting the party back on track does not mean betraying its traditional principles.

“In the face of the losses, we do have to make changes,” Jindal said. “We need to modernize our party. We don’t need to moderate our party.”

Added Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who survived a recall effort earlier this year: “It’s not that our beliefs are wrong. We’re not doing an effective enough job articulating those beliefs.”

He also was critical of Romney’s comments. “We’re the party that helps people find a pathway to live the American dream,” Walker said. “They want to have a chance to live the American dream. They want to have a job.”

Just two years ago, fueled by the insurgent forces of the tea party movement, Republicans took back the House in a midterm election that was viewed as a repudiation of Obama. But the president’s relatively easy victory last week suggests that the gains of 2010 masked deeper problems for the GOP.

Still, Republicans see reason for optimism, particularly at the state level. In January, the number of GOP governors will reach 30 — the highest number either party has claimed in a dozen years.

Some of them are considered to be among the Republicans’ brightest prospects for the 2016 presidential election — a topic that was much discussed outside the formal sessions of the meeting, which was held at the luxurious Wynn Encore casino and resort and attended by a large contingent of lobbyists.

Among the attendees was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on his first trip outside his home state since it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. As he made his way through the halls, Christie was frequently stopped by well-wishers and congratulated on his performance following the storm.

Back-to-back presidential losses have often forced political parties to look for a new path.

After losing in 1984 and 1988, for instance, the Democrats moved away from their traditional New Deal liberalism and turned to the “third way” centrism advocated and embodied by then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

GOP governors are well positioned to lead a similar movement now, said Craig Shirley, a biographer of Ronald Reagan who advises conservative groups. “They’re going to know sooner than the people in Washington what is politically feasible and viable.”

Added Pat McCrory, who last week was elected North Carolina’s first GOP governor in 24 years: “Politically, I think the power and influence of the Republican Party is at the state and local level. Governors, I think, are going to have more influence on national policy than the White House or Congress.”

As recently as the 2000 election, Republican governors united early around then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas and played an important role in easing his path to the nomination.

“He was one of us, and he was able to get a lot of governors on board early,” recalled Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

But Branstad said he was not certain whether Republican governors would form such a phalanx leading up to 2016.

“At this point, people are just trying to analyze what happened” in the most recent election, he said.

While some defeated presidential candidates remain influential figures in their parties, Republicans appear ready to treat Romney as a dinner guest who has stayed too long after coffee.

“There is no Romney wing in the party that he needs to address,” said Ed Rogers, a longtime Republican strategist. “He never developed an emotional foothold within the GOP, so he can exit the stage anytime and no one will mourn.”

Added Branstad, whose state will hold the first presidential nominating contest in 2016: “We’ve got [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio coming for my birthday on Saturday. We’re going to turn a page.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Petraeus back to work

The story is told of the French diplomat in the bad days of the Cold War who was approached by a Soviet agent and shown pictures of himself having sex with a woman most definitely not his wife. This is called the “honey trap” and it is used by intelligence services to extort information by threat of blackmail. At any rate, our Frenchman nonchalantly put on his glasses and peered at the pictures. He pointed to one and then another. “I’ll take this one and that one and, yes, that one, too.” The shocked KGB agent turned on his heels and left. A Frenchman cannot be blackmailed on account of sex.

Oddly enough, David Petraeus is now in the position of that Frenchman. His dalliance with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, is known to everyone on the planet, including yak herders in places I cannot spell. His personal computer’s hard drive has been ransacked by the FBI and possibly by his own CIA. Salacious tidbits have been leaked to us, the reading public, and we can only imagine what has been whispered in the corridors of the FBI. Another person’s sexual passion is always funny.

I have a glancing familiarity with Petraeus. I found him frank and personable — not at all what I expected. I have long maintained that a man of 60 who has no body fat is not to be trusted — but I found Petraeus to be the exception, a rebuff to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. (“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”) Alas for Petraeus, he did not think enough. Such men are fools.

This thing with sex, this American obsession and its concurrent hypocrisy, has gone far enough. We went through a disgraceful attempt at a presidential coup with Bill Clinton, who was accused of lying about sex — imagine! — but survived to become a widely admired elder statesmen. We have seen members of Congress destroyed by personal peccadilloes that had nothing to do with their public responsibilities. Robert Livingston (R-La.) was about to succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House when an extramarital affair was discovered. He not only gave up the speakership but left the House and has spent his purgatory as a Washington lobbyist. (Livingston was succeeded by David Vitter, now a senator, who admitted being a client of the so-called D.C. Madam.)

The list of Washington sex scandals is long and, really, quite distinguished. One would have to include John F. Kennedy and, just to be fair, Thomas Jefferson. I want to mention Warren Harding, a randy devil he, and even Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose wartime affair with his driver, Capt. Kay Summersby, has long been alleged. Lyndon Johnson’s affairs have been documented by the indefatigable Robert Caro — and were all but conceded by the weary Lady Bird Johnson. These matters can hurt.

It may turn out that Petraeus’s greatest intelligence failure had nothing to do with what happened at Benghazi but with his utter disregard of the novelist Nelson Algren’s three rules of life: “Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.” Many a man, including Algren, who hooked up with the difficult Simone de Beauvoir, has disregarded these rules to his regret. Petraeus has to be added to this list. Broadwell was reckless with her e-mails and she then promoted her book with a bit more than wink: She was embedded with him. The book is called “All In.” Oh, grow up!

But now that it has all been done, is there a better man to fill Petraeus’s CIA seat than Petraeus himself? He is blackmail-proof and more than qualified for the job. He not only was a four-star general, a West Point grad (top 5 percent of his class) and a Princeton scholar but, in the quite recent past, he held the director’s job himself. The United States would not only be getting the best man for the job but also striking a blow against the sexual McCarthyism that has destroyed so many careers and, in wretched silence, has aborted many a political career before it was even announced.

At dinner one night, I sat opposite Holly Petraeus. She’s charming and deeply concerned about the welfare of our troops — both active and retired. I can only imagine her hurt. But this is her matter — and her husband’s — and not ours. He betrayed her, not his country. No more need be said. Now get back to work.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Have at it Mr. Prime Minister: Netanyahu Says He’d Go It Alone on Striking Iran

From The New York Times:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reiterated his willingness to attack the Iranian nuclear program without support from Washington or the world, returning to an aggressive posture that he had largely abandoned since his United Nations speech in September.

Though American officials, including President Obama, have always acknowledged that Israel ultimately has the right to decide how to defend itself, Mr. Netanyahu’s tough tone and timing — on the eve of the American presidential election — are sure to reignite rifts with Washington over how best to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

Among those interviewed was Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister currently contemplating a political comeback. He accused Mr. Netanyahu of “spitting in the face” of Mr. Obama and “doing anything possible to stop him from being elected president of the United States,” a harsh critique in a country that regards safeguarding its special relationship with Washington as a sacred priority.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers .

From The Wall Street Journal:

Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee.

Several restaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker.

The shift is one of the first significant steps by employers to avoid requirements under the health-care law, and whether the trend continues hinges on Tuesday's election results. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the Affordable Care Act, although he would face obstacles doing so.

President Barack Obama is set to push ahead with implementing the 2010 law if he is re-elected.

A company will have to pay a penalty of $2,000 for every such worker, after the first 30, if it doesn't offer qualifying health coverage. If a company offers health insurance but the coverage is deemed sparse or unaffordable, the company must pay $3,000 for every worker who gets a federal tax subsidy to purchase coverage as an individual.

Darden Restaurants Inc. was among the first companies to say it was changing hiring in response to the health-care law. The Orlando, Fla., parent of Red Lobster and Olive Garden in February began testing hiring part-time workers in four markets to replace some full-time employees who had left, a spokesman said.

Ken Adams said his 10 Subway restaurant franchises in Michigan have about 60 employees who work 30 hours or more in a given week. Before year-end he plans to cut their hours to below 30 and, in some cases, to reduce positions altogether, he said. A Subway corporate spokesman said it was up to individual franchisees to make such decisions.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

We live and learn: Libya Attack Shows Pentagon’s Limits in Region

A very informative article in The New York Times about how the Pentagon's Africa Command, based in Germany, lacked a quick-response force to send to Libya when American diplomatic posts came under attack in Benghazi.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

It is a mystery why the president didn't second-guess himself more, doubt himself. Instead he kept going forward as if it were working. He doesn't do chastened. He didn't do what Bill Clinton learned to do, after he took a drubbing in 1994: change course and prosper.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

No one knows what will happen. Maybe that means it will be close, and maybe it doesn't. Maybe a surprise is in store. But the fact that Barack Obama is fighting for his political life is still one of the great political stories of the modern era.

Look at where he started, placing his hand on the Bible Abe Lincoln was sworn in on in 1861. It was Jan. 20, 2009. The new president was 47 and in the kind of position politicians can only dream of—a historic figure walking in, the first African-American president, broadly backed by the American people. He won by 9.5 million votes. Two days after his inauguration, Gallup had him at 68% approval, only 12% disapproval. He had a Democratic Senate, and for a time a cloture-proof 60 members. He had a Democratic House (256-178) with a colorful, energetic speaker. The mainstream media were excited about him, supportive of him.

His political foes were demoralized, their party fractured.

He faced big problems—an economic crash,two wars—but those crises gave him broad latitude. All of his stars were perfectly aligned. He could do anything.

And then it all changed. At a certain point he lost the room.

Books will be written about what happened, but early on the president made two terrible legislative decisions. The stimulus bill was a political disaster, and it wasn't the cost, it was the content. We were in crisis, losing jobs. People would have accepted high spending if it looked promising. But the stimulus was the same old same old, pure pork aimed at reliable constituencies. It would course through the economy with little effect. And it would not receive a single Republican vote in the House (three in the Senate), which was bad for Washington, bad for our politics. It was a catastrophic victory. It did say there was a new boss in town. But it also said the new boss was out of his league.

Then health care, a mistake beginning to end. The president's 14-month-long preoccupation with ObamaCare signaled that he did not share the urgency of people's most immediate concerns—jobs, the economy, all the coming fiscal cliffs. The famous 2,000-page bill added to their misery by adding to their fear.

Voters would have had to trust the president a lot to believe his program wouldn't raise their premiums, wouldn't limit their autonomy, wouldn't make a shaky system worse.

But they didn't trust him that much, because they'd just met him. They didn't really know him.

You have to build the kind of trust it takes to do something so all-encompassing.

And so began the resistance, the Tea Party movement and the town-hall protests, full of alarmed independents and older Democrats. Both revived Republicans and, temporarily at least, reunited conservatives.

Why did the president make such mistakes? Why did he make decisions that seemed so unknowing, and not only in retrospect?

Because he had so much confidence, he thought whatever he did would work. He thought he had "a gift," as he is said to have told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He thought he had a special ability to sway the American people, or so he suggested to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

But whenever he went over the the heads of the media and Congress and went to the people, in prime-time addresses, it didn't really work. He did not have a magical ability to sway. And—oddly—he didn't seem to notice.

It is one thing to think you're Lebron. Its another thing to keep missing the basket and losing games and still think you're Lebron.

And that really was the problem: He had the confidence without the full capability. And he gathered around him friends and associates who adored him, who were themselves talented but maybe not quite big enough for the game they were in. They understood the Democratic Party, its facts and assumptions. But they weren't America-sized. They didn't get the country so well.

It is a mystery why the president didn't second-guess himself more, doubt himself. Instead he kept going forward as if it were working.

He doesn't do chastened. He didn't do what Bill Clinton learned to do, after he took a drubbing in 1994: change course and prosper.

Mr. Obama may yet emerge victorious. There are, obviously, many factors in every race. Maybe, as one for instance, the seriousness of the storm has sharpened people's anxieties—there are no local crises anymore, a local disaster is a national disaster—so that anxiety will leave some people leaning toward the status quo, toward the known.

Or maybe, conversely, they'll think he failed to slow the oceans' rise.

We'll know soon.

Whatever happens, Mr. Obama will not own the room again as once he did. If he wins, we will see a different presidency—even more stasis, and political struggle—but not a different president.

Friday, November 02, 2012

An Unlikely Political Pair, United by a Disaster

President Obama and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey viewed storm damage in Brigantine, N.J., on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Romney forces see Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota ripe for turning red. After a season dominated by talk of Ohio, Virginia and Florida, Campaign 2012 suddenly shifted focus to a new trio of states Wednesday amid a new verbal battle about which candidate is better positioned to win on Tuesday.

Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post:

After a season dominated by talk of Ohio, Virginia and Florida, Campaign 2012 suddenly shifted focus to a new trio of states Wednesday amid a new verbal battle about which candidate is better positioned to win on Tuesday.

The new geographic front in the political war focuses on Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, three states that have backed Democrats dating back at least to 1988 but which Republicans say are ripe for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in his challenge to President Obama.

Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, went so far as to promise on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he would shave off his mustache if Obama lost any of the three states. He later said, “I’m very confident that I’ll still have this mustache on November 8th. We’re going to win those states.