Saturday, February 23, 2008

Knox Follies/New York Times McCain Crackup

Oatney on the Air 2/23/08-LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

David Oatney discusses the latest public misdeeds of Knox County (TN) Mayor Mike Ragsdale. The New York Times and the John McCain lobbyist story.

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Dems on Bredesen: "Knows nothing" about agriculture

When thinking of Governor Phil Bredesen, Democrats in the Legislature will publicly rally around his cause. What do they really think of Bredesen?

These Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee thought the mics were turned off, but they weren't and caught the fact that members of the Governor's own party think he knows nothing about agriculture or about the parts of the State (the majority) where agricultural policy is still important. As they point out in their little blurb, the Governor insists on spending money (and obtaining it from the feds) for boll weevil eradication, even though it has been 50 years since Tennessee had a major boll weevil infestation.

For those that don't follow the action in the Tennessee General Assembly regularly, the House Ag Committee remains one of the most powerful committees in the Lower Chamber.

If his own party can't trust him to make sound policy, why should the rest of us?


Friday, February 22, 2008

Nader rides again

On behalf of Republicans everywhere, I'd like to thank Ralph Nader in advance of Sunday's Meet the Press:

Kevin Zeese, who was Nader's spokesman during the 2004 presidential race, but is no longer working for him, said Friday that Nader has been actively talking to "lots of people on all sorts of levels" about the possibility of making another run.

Zeese said he could only guess what Nader might do, but added: "Obviously, I don't think ("Meet the Press" host) Tim Russert would have him on for no reason."

Last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control."

Ralph Nader's share of the vote in both 2000 and 2004 was very small, and in 2004 it was minuscule. Those votes for Nader were just enough in some jurisdictions to tilt the election to the Republicans. Nader and his raiders could indeed prove a welcome addition in this cycle.


Hillary aiming (sort of) high

Last night's Democratic debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton raised the question as to whether Hillary now recognizes that her days as a candidate are numbered:

"You know, no matter what happens in this contest, I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama," Clinton said. "I am absolutely honored."

As Bill Schneider pointed out in his analysis of the debate, Clinton dominated the substance of the discussion, but Obama clearly won the battle of rhetoric. Obama's campaign is proving that the race for the Democratic nomination (and perhaps the entire General Election) is truly a case of symbolism over substance. Clinton did very well, Schneider said, but it simply wasn't enough to slow Obama's momentum.

Hillary was so congenial to Barack Obama at certain points in the debate that it was enough to make some observers wonder if she is beginning the process of ceding the nomination to Obama. If the Clinton camp does believe that their quest may be nearing its end, is the sudden effort to make nice something more than Hillary trying to put on the face of unity? It is quite possible that at this point in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton may be legitimately aiming for the Vice Presidency.

It may be disappointing for her supporters, but it makes sense for her. If Obama's administration is anywhere near politically successful, she then becomes the annointed successor to the messiah himself.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

All the news unfit to print

The New York Times, rather than stick to stories that actually make sense, has chosen to get into the gutter against John McCain:

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

Of course the Times proceeds to provide no proof of the allegation, which may indeed be true since Washington tends not only to be a center of political corruption, but also a cesspool of lust. As might be expected, John McCain adamantly denies any affair with his lobbyist friend:

McCain described the woman in question, lobbyist Vicki Iseman, as a friend.

The newspaper quoted anonymous aides as saying they had urged McCain and Iseman to stay away from each other prior to his failed presidential campaign in 2000. In its own follow-up story, The Washington Post quoted longtime aide John Weaver, who split with McCain last year, as saying he met with lobbyist Iseman and urged her to steer clear of McCain.

Weaver told the Times he arranged the meeting before the 2000 campaign after "a discussion among the campaign leadership" about Iseman.

But McCain said he was unaware of any such conversation, and denied that his aides ever tried to talk to him about his interactions with Iseman.

"I never discussed it with John Weaver. As far as I know, there was no necessity for it," McCain said. "I don't know anything about it," he added. "John Weaver is a friend of mine. He remains a friend of mine. But I certainly didn't know anything of that nature."

John McCain is learning the cardinal truth of how the modern media works. Up to now he has been the darling of the press because he is perceived by them as good since he has "stood up" to his own party. He is still a Republican, however, and he is standing in the way of history-or so the press perceives it.

If the McCain camp believed that his maverick image would cause the press to treat him fairly during a General Election campaign, they have likely received a rude awakening.

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Ragsdale documents

Readers might remember that a few days ago we published a report about abuse of taxpayer money in Mike Ragsdale's office. Several readers made note in correspondence with The World that they couldn't get through to the links we had posted-and we did have problems getting the links to this critical documentation available for mass consumption.

That issue has now been resolved. Here is the documentation of Mike Ragsdale and the Director of the Office of Neighborhoods overcharging the taxpayers for an unnecessary trip to Nashville.

Here are the documents relating to the Mayor's Bear Creek "retreat," the misuse of federal funds, and the over $1,300 shortfall currently being picked up by the taxpayers in Knox County.

Most importantly, you can now view the documents within the original story as it was written the morning The World broke it.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Should have been Wolfenbarger in 2B

A few of my Knox County readers might remember that I once aspired to a County Commission seat in the Second District.

While I am not in a position to serve in that capacity, I did have a favorite candidate in the special appointment process for the B seat in the Second-Bob Wolfenbarger. I know that Bob would take his responsibility of serving the people of the 2nd District just as seriously as I would have done, and I believe he would have made a fine Commissioner. If I still lived in the Second District and were I eligible to be appointed, I would have dropped out and endorsed Bob Wolfenbarger.

It is a shame that Wolfenbarger was not appointed.


Obama flaws emerge too late for Hillary

NBC News political director Chuck Todd, who is probably one of the best nuts-and-bolts political minds in news television and print, has an outstanding essay on the state of the campaign for the Democratic nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Todd concludes that Obama is beatable-but it may be too late for the Clinton campaign to do it:

A victory in either Ohio or Texas will probably drive Sen. Hillary Clinton out of the race. Victories for Obama in both states will definitely end it.

[Obama]'s 10-0 since Super Tuesday, and remarkably, his smallest margin of victory came Tuesday night in Wisconsin.

That's right, Obama's 17 point blowout of Clinton in the Badger State was his poorest showing since Super Tuesday.

He's gone from a narrow pledged delegate lead (and overall delegate deficit) on Feb. 6 to a nearly insurmountable 150+ pledged delegate lead.

When you factor in superdelegates, he's still ahead by 80.

What's the end game? Fast-forward to Denver and picture Clinton accepting the Democratic nomination. Now, ask yourself, how did she get there?

The only plausible explanation is that Obama makes a series of mistakes that suddenly makes him unelectable. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? No.

Obama has many flaws and in recent days is showing that both he and the people around him make his candidacy extremely vulnerable. The revelation of Obama's troubling political past and ties to the radical Left in the case of himself and the people around him could rally the conservative base of the Republican Party in a way that John McCain has heretofore been unable to accomplish (that base may vote against Obama-and very deeply so-rather than for
McCain, and may be likely to view McCain as infinitely better than a neo-Marxist in the White House).

Todd confirms that Obama is not as teflon as some of his more thoughtful supporters would like to believe:

Obama could lose in November. In fact, even now, I'd argue that he's got no better than a 55 percent chance at winning the White House.

I actually think his chances are closer to 50% even. In spite of the difficulties with Barack Obama as a candidate, the gravy train of the Democratic base has left the station for any of his flaws to matter in a primary campaign. His followers view him as a political messiah (and a few as something more) and that kind of complex is hard to beat in a primary situation. The General Election, on the other hand, is quite another matter.


Badger, Husky, Aloha roundtable


A discussion of the Wisconsin, Washington, and Hawaii (Dem) primaries/caucus with Ken Marrero, Adam Graham, John McJunkin, Fabian Story, and David Oatney. Oatney, Marrero, and Graham also discuss the divide in the conservative movement.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama has even more ties to Marxist left

First, a Che Guevara flag is found in an Obama office in Texas, and people shrugged it off as an isolated incident.

Obama then gets the endorsement of Nicaraguan Communist leader Daniel Ortega:

Speaking at one of Nicaragua's universities, President Ortega said "It's not to say that there is already a revolution under way in the U.S. ... but yes, they are laying the bases for a revolutionary change". Moreover, the Sandinista leader said after receiving an honorary doctorate, that he has "faith in God and in the North American people, and above all in the youth, that the moment of great change in the U.S. will come and it will act differently, with justice and equality toward all nations."

Ortega also expressed the hope that an Obama presidency would give voice to the aspirations of millions of citizens of Mexico and Central America who have "silently invaded" the US, even though some polls show that Latino voters currently lean towards Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy.

That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Ortega seems to suggest that he, Hugo Chavez, and their Marxist/Communist allies view the influx of illegal aliens into this country as a way to move our country toward Communism-and they have placed great hope in Obama.

A former leader in the Marxist terrorist underground group The Weathermen is a former colleague of Obama:

Senator Obama's ties to a former leader of the violent left-wing activist group the Weather Underground are drawing new scrutiny as he battles Senator Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

As an Illinois state senator in 2001, Mr. Obama accepted a $200 contribution from William Ayers, a founding member of the group that bombed the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon during the 1970s.

Mr. Ayers wrote a memoir, "Fugitive Days," published in 2001, and on the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

He and Mr. Obama served together on the nine-member board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago nonprofit, for three years beginning in 1999, and they have also appeared jointly on two academic panels, one in 1997 and another in 2001. Mr. Ayers, who was never convicted in the Weather Underground bombings, is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Now Michelle Obama has just now gotten around to pride in America:

“People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and … for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”

If this man is the Democratic nominee, he makes John McCain look more palatable by the second.


Wordsgate 2008

The controversy seems to have receded as it relates to Barack Obama's use of the words of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in some of his own speeches. Obama pointed out that he and Patrick are long-time friends and that they frequently share material. For Deval Patrick's part, he says that he and Obama "often share ideas about politics, policy, and language." The Hillary campaign is attempting to milk "Words-gate" for all it might be worth, with Hillary surrogates all over the cable television news channels this afternoon saying that Obama is unfit to be President because he lifted a few lines from a friend.

The issue doesn't appear to be cutting into Obama's lead in Wisconsin, which now may be as high as 13 points. Texas is now too close to call at this point, with at least one polling agency putting Obama within the margin of error there. The Obama-Patrick Speech Affair does raise the issue of appearances to the wider world:

At the end of the day, Obama borrowing lines from Patrick simply doesn't come across very presidential. "Obama, as the Globe detailed in an April 2007 article, has periodically used themes and even direct lines that echo speeches by Patrick, including the one cited yesterday by Clinton's campaign. Obama's campaign manager, David Axelrod, also worked closely with Patrick in his successful effort in 2006 to become the Bay State's first African-American governor. Obama used Patrick language again recently, remarking at a Milwaukee dinner on Saturday night that it was not true that ‘words don't matter.’”

Domenico Montanaro has a good point-this may be a very minor issue, but it does not make Barack Obama look presidential in the least. It makes it appear that both he and his campaign speechwriters can't come up with original material. Yes, writers usually handle speeches for presidents and candidates, but the spoken word is always credited to the speaker. It is an issue of experience or the lack thereof, and it could hurt Obama in the long run.


Taxpayers foot bill for Ragsdale trists

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, after promising the taxpayers of Knox County greater fiscal accountability in their government, continues to overcharge taxpayers for trips and expenses that are arguably unnecessary. Apparently, Mike Ragsdale thinks that fiscal discipline within the Office of the Mayor of Knox County is good for the goose but not the gander.

Here we see the expense report for a trip that Mayor Ragsdale took to Nashville on August 21, 2007. In the report we find that the Mayor exceeded Knox County's reimbursement policy and charged the county $169 for a room for himself, while the Director of Neighborhoods charged the county $164. The reasoning behind this overcharging was that both said the Courtyard would not give them the standard $99 government rate. Knox County is only supposed to reimburse the standard rate. Why did Ragsdale have to stay at the Marriott, when there are so many other less expensive hotels in Nashville to choose from (I know that from firsthand experience)? I suppose those places weren't good enough for Mike Ragsdale and the Director of Neighborhoods-or whoever it was that Ragsdale was traveling with during his stay in the capital.

Next we examine an expense report for Mayor Ragsdale's staff "retreat" at the Dancing Bear Lodge. The money for this little excursion came from the so-called "hospitality fund" and the gang went to Townsend on August 1-2, 2006. Part of these expenses were paid by UT-Battelle at Oak Ridge National Labs with $1,000 in federal grant money. Under no circumstances was this money to be used for the purchase of alcohol. Mike Arms decided that everyone on the "retreat" needed plenty of wine with dinner, however. He and John Werner were reimbursed a combined $269.92 for the purchase of adult beverages for the Mayor's celebration at Dancing Bear-a party for which Knox County taxpayers have thus far fronted well over $1,300 because of the "shortfall" in the hospitality fund, while the Mayor stayed in a private cabin with hot tub and fireplace.

Trips to Nashville to speak at the "Minority Health Summit" that is completely unnecessary to the daily function of government while overcharging the taxpayers to boot for a hotel you didn't need to stay at and an aide you didn't need to bring along. Staff excursions to expensive lodges with the help of federal grant dollars. Perhaps we should all get jobs in Ragsdale's office so that we can abuse taxpayers' money for our own personal enjoyment with such reckless abandon-and get paid for doing it!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Does this sound familiar?

Shock of all shocks, John McCain is now promising that he won't raise taxes if elected President:

"No new taxes," the likely GOP presidential nominee said during a taped interview broadcast Sunday.

McCain told ABC's "This Week" that under no circumstances would he increase taxes, and added that he could "see an argument, if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates, and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates," as well as giving people the ability to write off depreciation and eliminating the alternative minimum tax.

While I'm glad that McCain is making a commitment to lowering Americans' tax burden and not increasing taxes, he'll have to forgive me for being a little skeptical. We got the "no new taxes" pledge from another candidate from the moderate wing of the party before. When that candidate was elected, he gave us the 1990 budget deal that was a sell-out to the Democrats. The same budget agreement would later cost that President the 1992 Election and give us Bill Clinton.

The only way to insure that McCain is being square with his tax promise is to watch the man in office...we've been down that road before.


Congressional Republicans and the GOP nominee

After Congressman David Davis (R-Tennessee 01) addressed Tennesseans for Immigration Reform and Education (T-FIRE) Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes and I wanted as honest an assessment as possible of how he believed Congressional Republicans would handle the illegal immigration question during an administration led by John McCain. As Davis pointed out, his voting record on the issue has been solid, and since he is a freshman we only have two years worth of a record to examine.

Davis did say that the House Republicans met with McCain this past week, and that during this meeting members made clear to him that when they return to their districts and hear from the people who elected them, they are being told by those folks in overwhelming numbers that not only will they not tolerate any bill that would grant amnesty, but those members who vote for such an amnesty can expect to pay a heavy price. McCain can afford to be as politically aloof as he is because he serves six-year terms in the Senate, and can play conservative at election time. House members can't do that, as they come before the people for a vote every two years. It is far easier to scrutinize and study the voting record of a two-year Congressman than a six-year Senator. As a result, House Democrats tend to be more liberal and House Republicans more conservative than their Senate colleagues (the exceptions to that tend to be Republicans who are elected in typically Democratic districts or Democrats elected in Republican ones).

The question that this discussion brings to bear is this: How will a John McCain nomination affect the Congressional Election? Specifically, will House Republicans distance themselves from him in order to pacify discontent in their districts? I suspect we will likely see very little mention of John McCain when House Republicans are on the stump at home this fall, especially in those races where incumbents are being primaried. If Congressiional Republicans won't back John McCain hard, he may go into November having to fight for the White House (mostly) alone.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Stations of the Cross


The eyes of Texas

New polling information out of Texas shows that Mike Huckabee and John McCain are in a dead heat in the Lone Star State. We're being told the nominating process is essentially concluded and that John McCain is King, Emperor, Lord and Master of the GOP. Apparently, someone forgot to send that memo to the good people of the old Republic.

I'll have a bit more tomorrow on Congressman David Davis' address to T-FIRE in Morristown and the role of Congress in this year's presidential election. One thing Congressman Davis told me yesterday is that he believes that the only reason that John McCain is the likely Republican nominee is because of the division of the conservative vote in the entire process. Davis and everyone else with political acumen knows that, but it also stands to reason that since the base of the party never wanted McCain to begin with, they at least have a chance to let him know their disapproval and make it known that they are not going away. The base of the party also has an outside chance to make sure the Republican National Convention is something more than a four-day infomercial.


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