Saturday, April 05, 2008

Seeing things as they are

A friend of mine who is a Democrat from the old school (Re: really a conservative and doesn't know this is not his boyhood Democratic Party), expressed total shock yesterday morning over this:

Former President Carter left little doubt this week about whom he'd like to see in the White House next year.

"My children and their spouses are pro-Obama. My grandchildren are also pro-Obama," he said at a news conference, according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day. "As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for, but I leave you to make that guess."

"I've lost all respect for Carter," the friend said, "I can't believe he would endorse Obama."

Conservatives have known that Jimmy Carter is a bit of a flake for years. Isn't it funny how it takes something as bizarre as this election cycle to finally get some people to see things as they are, rather than as they might wish them to be?

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Wagonmaster Saturday

Porter Wagoner on Letterman


Friday, April 04, 2008

Once upon a time

Once upon a time (July of 1996), Mike Williams ran for the Tennessee Senate. In doing so, he said that he was keeping his personal pledge that he would only serve eight years in the House. Williams was, he said, a big believer in term limits.

I'm not hot on mandatory term limits, but it does help when someone knows when their limit has come and when it is time to hang it up.

So what ever happened to Williams not taking PAC money? He certainly takes plenty of it now, because that is nearly all of what is funding his current campaign. How about those self-imposed term-limits? I guess he only imposes them when he has a chance at seeking higher office.

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The sour mood

The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows something that those of us who observe the political scene in our own home towns across America can already see-the people are in a bloody sour mood about the direction of the country:

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country’s direction than at any
time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in
the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

In a normal election year, that would likely equate to victory for the party out of presidential power, presently the Democrats. There is one important reality of the poll that The New York Times tried to downplay in its coverage, however:

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and
Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college
graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is
headed in the wrong direction.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.

The poll confirms what I can see and hear with my own eyes. With diesel and gasoline prices climbing, drivers and truckers aren't the only folks feeling the pinch, so are farmers. When farmers and those in related agribusiness industries begin to say that things are getting rotten, you can bet that the economy really is in bad shape. If people in rural America aren't feeling the pinch, it can be assumed that any downturn in the economy that is being talked about in the press is a temporary thing-economic problems begin here in the sticks, and if we don't have economic issues, the rest of the country won't have a long-term problem.

I recall a discussion I had with my Grandfather when he was still with us about these issues. One thing I remember clearly was him pointing out that in the rural Southern West Virginia community where he grew up, they were feeling the effects of the Great Depression for several years before the
1929 Stock Market Crash-and he thought the notion that Herbert Hoover was to blame for the Depression was "a bunch of bunk" (a phrase he often used). The problems they had in those days were similar to what we are dealing with today. People borrowed money on good faith and credit, sometimes they made risky moves with the money-buying land, equipment, or supplies they could not pay for. People borrowed too much, invested without knowing what they were doing, and banks charged what in those days was considered excessive interest. The economic hardship caused by these bad decisions hit rural America first and hardest-and so it is today.

While The New York Times says that people blame the government, a lof of people in the heartland of the country are very much aware that the problems with the economy we are now experiencing began back in the mid-90's. While the economic downturn might be good political news for Democrats under normal circumstances, we don't live in the 1920's anymore. We have 24-hour news and communication, and the 82 percent who agree that the country is on the wrong track likely disagree about the means to get it on the right one.

Democrats would be politically wise not to count their chickens before they're hatched.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

An 1877 scenario

I've been saying all along that this election was going to be another close one, and the numbers and the path for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to 270 Electoral votes would be very different. This is what we could expect if the election were held today:

Obama vs. McCain
Base Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA (168 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: NJ, MN, OR, WI (42)
Toss-up: CO, IA, MI, MO, NV, NM, NH, OH, PA, VA (112)
Lean McCain: AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, MT, NC (81)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, ID, IN, KS, KY, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (135)

Clinton vs. McCain
Base Clinton: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT (172)
Lean Clinton: AR, MN, OR, WA, WI (44)
Toss-up: FL, IA, MI, NM, NH, OH, PA (101)
Lean McCain: CO, LA, MO, NV, VA (47)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (174)

Tim Russert broke down the numbers this morning on Today, and I must admit that I believe Russert is right on about how both Clinton and Obama would attempt to win the White House. Both of these candidates would pursue different strategies to victory, but the Clinton campaign's latest salvo about how Obama could not win a General Election is nothing more than a scare tactic. The reality is that victory is no more or less possible for either Clinton or Obama, but one may carry some different States than the other (Clinton, for example, is assuming that she will win Arkansas-I wouldn't count on that just yet). The one thing that is noteworthy is that many of the States Obama managed to win in the primary season will be written off by the Obama campaign in the General Election.

Those of you who think John McCain is going to get trounced in November may want to re-think that opinion, because much of McCain's electoral base is made up of people who simply refuse to vote for Clinton or Obama-and there are a great many such people. McCain is very beatable, but so are Clinton and Obama-all McCain needs to do is carry two or three toss-up States and either Democrat is likely beaten.

There is also a serious possibility of a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College. If that occurs, be prepared for the myriad of political ignoramuses, socialists, direct democracy advocates, and enemies of federalism and States' rights to once again demand the abolition of the constitutional method of electing our president. If such a thing were to happen, Tennesseans should be prepared for the dillution of their votes so that people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles can elect the president and void our say-and don't expect to see many candidates here, either. Fortunately for us, the Constitution would have to be amended to allow for that, and I don't expect for the little old Red States to declare en masse "yes, we'd just love to screw ourselves!"

If a tie were to occur, that would throw the election into the House of Representatives. "Well Oatney, since the Democrats control the House, wouldn't that mean the Democrat would win under such a scenario?" The federal Constitution lays out the procedure the House would use to elect the president via the 12th Amendment:

But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

Each State delegation has one vote-members of the House do not choose individually. That means that in those States where the Republicans still comprise a majority of the House delegation, those States are most likely to vote for the Republican nominee. In addition, there would likely be immense pressure on House delegations to vote the way their State did regardless of their partisan composition, which means that it is very possible for the candidate who carries more States in November to win the election in the House-and that scenario favors John McCain.

It is quite possible for the Democratic nominee to win an election in the House as well, but if the Democrat wins he or she would likely have to strike a deal with House Republicans to do so. As the Compromise of 1877 settled the 1876 election in the House by ending Reconstruction in the South, a Democrat in 2009 attempting to win the election in the House under such a circumstance would have to aquiesce to some major Republican initiative or series of programs.

While it is still most likely that the November election will be settled before January, the present political climate makes a House election a possibility. While many ignorant people may decry this as some crisis and malfunction of the system, were this to happen people ought to be reminded that the Constitution has a procedure for just such a circumstance. Every century or so, Americans need an education in the Constitution-and regardless of who won in the end, it might be good for the country.

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Mr. Williams' unsurprising announcement

Those of us who live in the 4th Senate District and follow local and State politics had a hunch that Mike Williams was going to run for re-election. Now, with the filing deadline for the August Primary coming today, we see that Williams has made it official:

For months, the former Republican has declared himself undecided on whether to
seek another term, and he waited until today, the filing deadline, to submit
petitions, according to the Associated Press.

Union County Election
Administrator Larry W. Roe says Williams filed as an independent candidate for
Senate District 4.

Elsewhere in the state, Randy Camp, a former
state personnel commissioner under
Gov. Phil Bredesen, has
filed as a Democratic candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen.
John Wilder, former lieutenant governor. Among Republicans seeking that seat is
state Rep. Delores Gresham, R-Somerville.

The Democrats in the State Senate are desperate, largely because they know that Wilder's seat is an excellent opportunity for a Republican pickup, and Delores Gresham really is an outstanding candidate. Sources close to the situation tell The World that Camp is running as a "Wilder Democrat," which means that intends to win election to the Senate with the notion "Randy Camp: He's not really liberal."

Mike Williams may be running as an independent, but his re-election campaign will be backed (whether openly or under the table) by Governor Bredesen and the machine of those in the Senate Democratic Caucus who are allied with the Governor. It was Democrats who encouraged Williams to switch his affiliaton to "Independent" because he could not win a Republican primary (one internal GOP poll had him losing a primary to Mike Faulk by 19 percentage points), and because he would be beaten as a Democrat nearly as bad. Masking his alliance with the Democratic Party by labeling himself as independent is the only hope he had to win, and hope of winning re-election was the very reason Williams left the GOP in the first place.

Williams could be the Democrats' only hope of electing a Democrat as Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate in 2009, and Democratic money is Williams only shot against the well-supported and well-funded man who will beat the tar out of him on November 4th.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What we should have done

I will be the first to admit that my views changed-strongly so-about the nature of this presidential election. For those of us who are cultural conservatives, we now understand that we had an opportunity in this election to elect a candidate that was really our man, and we completely blew the opportunity. This was largely due to the reality that conservatives were divided. Beyond that, however, conservatives could not find a candidate that clearly articulated their values-or so they thought.

Many cultural conservatives now see what they should have done, and have great regrets:

Then, venerable Paul Weyrich—a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Council for National Policy (CNP)—raised his hand to speak. Weyrich is a man whose mortality is plain to see. A freak accident several years ago left him with a spinal injury, which ultimately led to both his legs being amputated in 2005. He now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He is visibly paler and grayer than he was just a few years ago, a fact not lost on many of his friends in the room, some of whom had fought in the political trenches with him since the 1960s.

The room—which had been taken over by argument and side-conversations—became suddenly quiet. Weyrich, a Romney supporter and one of those Farris had chastised for not supporting Huckabee, steered his wheelchair to the front of the room and slowly turned to face his compatriots. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, "Friends, before all of you and before almighty God, I want to say I was wrong."

In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy.

There are few men in this country with the credentials in the conservative movement that Paul Weyrich has. When the Catholic Weyrich supported Mitt Romney, many of us could not understand his reasoning-we wondered if the ole boy had lost his marbles considering Romney's shady history. We now know that, like many of us, Weyrich simply refused to consider Mike Huckabee or give him a chance, even though Huckabee was the most clearly pro-life and pro-family candidate in the race. Adam Graham, Warner Todd Huston, John McJunkin, and myself spent virtually our entire Iowa Caucus Roundtable podcast blasting Huckabee for everything from high taxes to scholarships for illegal aliens. We brushed off the fact that the Minutemen endorsed Huckabee-and that group does not endorse immigration softies. We blasted Huckabee as a liberal, said he wasn't really one of us, and that he was a phony (as if Mitt Romney were the real thing). We held out feigned hope that Fred Thompson would light a fire under himself and actually run to win. The truth was that his numbers were poor because he got in the race too late, and all he did was help John McCain (by blasting Huckabee instead of McCain in South Carolina) whether he intended to do so or not-and of course he endorsed McCain just days after his mentor Howard Baker did the same.

Then there was Huckabee, the pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-public prayer, pro-God, anti-atheist, social conservative Southern Governor. We couldn't endorse this man...why? We all called him the Huckster-I remember Frank Cagle and myself both calling him that in a conversation-but Huckabee survived and showed integrity while doing so. With guts and gusto, Mike Huckabee carried on until the end. He wasn't the perfect candidate, but for years we've said the Supreme Court was the place where the future of the country would be decided, and there would be no question of the kind of justices President Huckabee would appoint. We've collectively said we wanted a real pro-lifer in the White House, and a "true believer" in the Second Amendment. Mike Huckabee was all of these things, and we all got behind him (myself included), when the proverbial Sherman's Army was about to enter political Atlanta.

I should have gotten a clue when I talked to a few very good Catholics who told me they were backing Huckabee, and that they thought he was the candidate who best represented our values. I blew it-but we all did. We had a candidate in this race, and that candidate did not fail conservatives-conservatives failed their candidate.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The primaries and November

Speculation about whether the Democrats lengthy primary fight will impact their chances in November has hit the Democrats' flagship newspaper, The New York Times:

Robert Shrum, a longtime Democratic operative who wrote that speech for Mr. Kennedy, said a bitter extended primary challenge in itself did not doom the outcome.

“It’s not the going to the convention, it’s how sulfurous and negative this gets,” Mr. Shrum said of the Clinton-Obama battle.

“What would hurt is if we had three or four months of escalating negative attacks and a huge fight over Michigan and Florida,” Mr. Shrum said. “We could have a situation where we set gender and race against each other, and we could lose the unlosable election in the bonfire of the vanities.”

Some Democrats fear just such a trajectory.

“This contest will get even more contentious, and there will be more charges and countercharges,” Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s campaign in 2000 and is neutral in this race, said after Mr. Clinton told Democrats last week to “saddle up.”

“People were excited; now they’re exhausted,” Ms. Brazile said. “In the beginning, they liked one candidate and respected the other; now they love one and hate the other.”

A Gallup poll last week found that as of March, 28 percent of Clinton backers would vote for Mr. McCain over Mr. Obama, and 19 percent of Obama supporters would vote for Mr. McCain over Mrs. Clinton.

The longer this goes on, the more likely it becomes that the Democrats will lose the General Election. The reason is not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama by themselves, since these are people with the political experience to know that for the sake of their own futures they cannot take what happens in the campaign personally. It is those who are supporters and surrogates of either candidate that could doom the Democratic ticket.

Not only has this been one of the most divisive primary season that either party has seen in many years, but the Republican Party has managed to nominate a man who, while strongly disliked by many of us in the base of the GOP, is a very popular man with independents and certain Democrats. It should come as no surprise that many of these folks would consider voting for John McCain. If the Republican nominee had been a good Republican, this might not be as much of an issue-but this is John McCain, and a divided Democratic Party could mean that theunwinnable election becomes winnable for the Republicans.

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Ragsdale the witch hunter

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale has put in an open records request for constituent correspondence between County Commissioner Victoria DeFreese and her constituents. Knox County Law Director John Owings says DeFreese must comply. DeFreese is threatening to seek the opinion of the State Attorney General on the matter:

The letter goes on to say that it represents the mayor's office's:

"...formal request under the Tennessee Open Records Act for access to or copies of any and all correspondence you have received by fax, letter or email related to spending issues in county government. We also request access to or copies of any and all records regarding phone calls you have received including handwritten notes, telephone logs or any other related documentation."

"I resent being asked to divulge information that was drafted by constituents that were freely expressing their feeling to me as their representative," DeFreese said Monday afternoon in a press conference she called.

Mayor's spokesman Dwight Van de Vate says in no way was the letter intended to be confrontational toward DeFreese, calling it a standard and common request.

"I certainly don't think we need to force the issue. It is not intended to be disruptive and very clearly it might be already and that is certainly not our goal," Van de Vate says.

Note that Mike Ragsdale is not requesting these letters so that he may respond to constituents' concerns-certainly he isn't giving that impression to Commissioner DeFreese. Those who are concerned that DeFreese should turn over constituent correspondence to the Mayor's Office need to ask themselves: Do private citizens have an expectation of privacy when communicating with their elected representatives?

Here at The World, we don't necessarily have that expectation because we've made a conscious decision to operate a very public weblog, and lots of folks know who operates this blog even without personally knowing the writer. When this writer utilizes correspondence with a public official, it is the assumption here that word just might get around. However, most citizens likely have a reasonable expectation that if they communicate with an elected official, their letter will not be spread around to people they did not correspond with without their knowledge. There is no guarantee, for example, that Mike Ragsdale and his staff will not attempt to make life hell for those who dared speak out against him. If Ragsdale has the names of citizens who oppose him, there is little assurance to these people that his minions will not find a way to get back at them for taking aim at his embattled administration.

The long and short of it is that the Mayor's Office (the executive branch of Knox County Government) asking for the constituent correspondence of a county commissioner (the legislative branch) to be turned over to them looks an awful lot like a witch hunt.

As is to be expected, Ragsdale's allies at the News-Sentinel, the editor of which thinks that our State Constitution is a worthless frontier document (it reflects a "frontier mentality"-you know, the mentality that gave us the Bill of Rights), are willing agitators in the witch hunting process-and it could be argued that they have re-written the manual on witch hunts for the modern era. Elected officials are frightened to talk to each other, to the press, and now to their constituents. Soon, constituents may be afraid to call their representatives.

DeFreese should be encouraged to seek the Attorney General's opinion regardless of whether Ragsdale's office "pushes" the issue or not. The idea that a county executive has the right to request correspondence between members of the legislative body and their private citizen constituents has very serious and extremely dangerous constitutional implications. Citizens have just as much right to protection from over-zealous government as the press has freedom to pursue openness within that government.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy New Year

It's Opening Day-sing it Harry!


Obama's charm

Barack Obama is showing that he isn't giving up in Pennsylvania, and I have to admit that I find his re-introduction of retail politics into the race to be an ingenious move politically:

Obama has launched a charm offensive in Pennsylvania, forgoing days packed
with town halls and cheering crowds at rallies to make small unannounced stops
that take the locals by surprise.

Case in point, trying not to strike out in Pennsylvania to Clinton, Obama
went bowling Saturday night at Pleasant Valley Lanes in Altoona, five minutes
from a hot dog shop that he had visited earlier in the day.

When Obama walked in with Sen. Bob Casey, who recently endorsed him, locals
stopped munching mid-fry to stare. The presidential hopeful shook hands, posed
for pictures and then joined local Roxanne Hart to bowl a few frames.

Everyone knows that he stands as a long-shot in Pennsylvania, but with 23 days to go there until the Primary, he doesn't need to win to make it impossible for Hillary Clinton, he only needs to race her close. Even a 15-point spread would keep Obama in the overall delegate lead. The switch back to a "retail style" of politics could be good for the Obama camp, because we've already seen that Obama does his best in that kind of political setting.

Obama's big problem is going to come in the General Election. The polls that now show him with a narrow lead over
John McCain are not likely to hold, not only because his primary opponent's former supporters may be inclined to vote for McCain, but because the McCain camp will use all of the unsavory elements in Obama's background against him. They will do so in a way that makes it appear that they had nothing to do with it, and that John McCain is the honorable party-but the political hay will be very effective nonetheless.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Casey and divisiveness


Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey Jr., son of the great pro-life Governor, endorses Obama. The present divisive nature of politics.

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Divine Mercy Sunday

Here is a lovely recitation of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy on this feast of God's mercy throughout the world.

Pray for mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Amen.

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