Category Archives: Politics

South Carolina Shocker

I was surprised to wake up this morning to see that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had won the South Carolina primary. And won it convincingly.

Newt Gingrich by Gage SkidmoreThe final tally showed Gingrich winning the primary by 12 points over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and it puts what the Romney camp had hoped would be a quick march to the nomination into serious question. Romney has the backing of much of the Republican power structure. He’s already spending millions for advertising in Florida, which votes a week from Tuesday.

I’ve been watching Gingrich since he ascended to the Speakership in 1994. I was working for C-SPAN at the time, and Gingrich was famous for his “Special Orders” speeches, conducted in the House after the close of official business. The speeches, which could last as much as an hour, were delivered to a mostly-empty house chamber, but recorded and aired by the house television system and read into the Congressional record. It was one of the tactics that brought the speaker national recognition.

Now Gingrich, who many had discounted as unelectable, won by a substantial margin, and turned the nomination process into a horserace. He went on the offensive with the news media a debate the day ABC news aired an interview with his second ex-wife in which she asserted he had asked for an “open Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmoremarriage,” which under many circumstances could have spelled the end to his campaign. He blasted CNN for opening the debate with a question about his personal life, and said it was “despicable” for them to do so. By doing that, it’s possible he raised his standing with many of South Carolina’s conservative voters who have a pretty low opinion of the national news media. It’s certain that his debate performance  on that issue was a factor, and maybe a major factor, in his win Saturday. It can’t, however, be discounted that voters do not register by political party in South Carolina. Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. It leads one to wonder how many Democrats may have turned out to cast a vote for Gingrich because they saw him as the weaker candidate, more easily defeated by Barack Obama in the fall. But President Obama would underestimate former Speaker Gingrich at his own peril.

Now, the campaign comes to Florida, where only Republicans can vote in the primary. There is a debate here in Jacksonville at UNF January 26th, and I’m expecting that my phone will start ringing incessantly with robo-calls not later than Monday. But unlike South Carolina, Florida is not a traditional “southern” state. There is an extensive diversity of thought here. The Panhandle and northeast Florida are more conservative, like the “traditional” south, which may give Gingrich and advantage. But the central and southern areas, largely from the I-4 corridor to south Florida will be more moderate, and potentially more favorable to Romney. It’s possible the Florida can make the decision, but it’s just as likely that the nominating campaign will go deep into the spring. It does appear now that the field has been winnowed to two, though former Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul will probably hang on as long as money continues to come in. We will see in a week if the Florida balloting swings the momentum back to Romney, or gives Gingrich an additional boost. Let the robo-calls begin. (Photos from Wikipedia by Gage Skidmore)



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Filed under Elections, Politics, Primarys, Republican Party

Why Not A Moderate?

With the New Hampshire primary today (Tuesday), South Carolina on the 21st and Florida on the 31st, the nation is deep into its quadrennial process of selecting a President. With only token opposition to President Obama’s reelection (sorry, Darcy), even his failure to file a slate of delegates in  New Hampshire and problems with the Georgia ballot over birth certificate issues are unlikely to derail his path to the nomination.

On the Republican side, the national media has been almost obsessed with the “flavor of the month.” Each of the “not Romney” candidates has had his or her flirtation with being the candidate who can beat the former Massachusetts governor. And all the talk is “who is the true ‘conservative’ in the race?” They seem enthralled with who has the backing of the Tea Party.

But more important is, who can get things done?

The political parties have become increasingly polarized. Run to the right (or the left) for the nomination, and then to the center to win the general. The conventional wisdom leaves many voters wondering which candidate is the real candidate. The hard-line conservative or liberal who wins the nomination, or the more moderate candidate who might win the general.GOP elephant

Which begs the question … when did it become a sin to be a moderate in a primary election?

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Is it possible that more people might turn out for a primary election if they thought there was a candidate in the race that appealed to them? So often, it seems, the moderates who will come out in the general election are voting for what they consider the least objectionable of two candidates because that candidate has expressed views they find distasteful pandering to the extreme of one side or the other to win the nomination. Is it any wonder why so many people say they have not enthusiastically voted for a candidate in years, if ever, maybe at any level.

In 1969, Richard Nixon called on what he referred to as the “vast silent majority” to support his plan to end the war in Vietnam. That silent majority still exists today. The majority of Americans who want to be involved in politics, but also have the priority of keeping the mortgage paid and the kids in school and food on the table and gas in the car. They want Washington, and Tallahassee (or insert your state capital here) and even city hall to do what they do and mostly leave them alone. They don’t turn out for primary elections because, if they’ve paid attention at all, they’ve heard a lot of far left or far right rhetoric and phony talking points that are absolutely as canned as they sound … and so what’s the point? It’s always for “the children” or “working Americans”, and, depending on party affiliation,  against “corporate fat cats” or “tax and spend liberals.” And both sides serve up a health dose of vitriol for the dreaded “Washington insiders” and “career politicians.”

The candidate that appeals to the moderate Republican is one who will be fiscally responsible and doesn’t want to impose his or her morality on the rest of the nation. I want a candidate who supports a strong defense, truly equal opportunity for all … including middle-aged white males who are trying just as hard, or maybe harder than anyone else to support their families. I’m a proud moderate Republican. I think there are maybe millions more like me, and it’s time we started voting in primary elections. I do, for no other reason than to tell whomever has run to the far right that we’re here, and we do vote.

I VotedThe good news, for me at least, is that the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012 appears to be a moderate. To me, the rest of the field has been fairly weak, though some candidates had their appeal. Speaker Gingrich is almost always the smartest person in the room, but Governor Romney is the candidate who thinks most like I do.

The bottom line is, moderates have to stop being afraid to speak up when they disagree with the hard-liners. I can’t be the only one who is tired of being told I’m not “Republican” enough. If Republicans truly want to be a majority party, and not just “not Democrats” occasionally, it’s the moderates who will take them there.

Make room in that “big tent,” … you’ll be glad you did.



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Filed under Moderates, Politics, Republican Party

What Does Massachusetts Mean?

Scott BrownSo Scott Brown has beaten Martha Coakley for the seat formally held by Senator Edward Kennedy. It has been one of the most hotly-contested elections since … well frankly the Virginia and New Jersey Gubernatorial contests. Republicans have won all three.

Of course, the punditocracy on both sides of the aisle are in full-throated roar. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” say those on the far left, while those on the far right are close to claiming President Obama is a lame duck just a year into his presidency. The Coakley campaign said Obama should have come in to help her sooner, while the Brown camp is euphoric that Obama seemed to have no effect in the race.

But not just the Brown camp. Republicans everywhere are feeling emboldened and powerful, like the anticipated 40 years in the wilderness might not come to pass after all. And now, with the ability to block cloture again available, the GOP has wrested some small bit of control on Capitol Hill back from the Democrats.

 martha coakley With the election of President Obama, the leadership of the Unites States Congress swung far to the left. From my observation, neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has the ability nor the inclination to be bi-partisan on anything substantive. With full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, they steamrolled ahead on health care legislation that would be extraordinarily expensive and still not cover everyone. And, at a time when millions of Americans are concerned most about finding a new job or at best not losing the one they have, Congress debated health care. And, while Congress and the President continued to say that they were going to stimulate the economy and create jobs, they offered up additional bailouts and a health care bill that no one really knew how it was going to be paid for.

To many independent and moderate voters, it seemed like Nero continued to fiddle while Rome burned.

ted-kennedy And so, in all but one opportunity they’ve had, voters have taken Democrat seats and handed them to Republicans. Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have all changed hands. Only in New York’s 23rd Congressional District have the Democrats been able to hang on, and the way congressional districts are drawn, that’s not a huge surprise.

Some will call this election historic. Senator Kennedy was elected to the seat in 1962 at age 30, which is the youngest age allowed for a U.S. Senator. It had previously been held by his brother, John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, born to privilege, spent nearly his entire adult life in the Senate, and somehow managed to portray himself as a “man of the people.” For that seat to now be held by a Republican is historic, in some ways.

Democrat Evan Bayh, from my home state of Indiana, warns that the election of Scott Brown should serve as a wake-up call to Democrats, that they’ve governing far to far to the left. Bayh is a fairly moderate Democrat, so it’s understandable that he’d call for them to move more to his way of thinking.

GOP elephant But Republicans, too, need to proceed with caution. The moderate and independent vote rs that are swinging these elections back to the GOP won’t subscribe to a far-right ideology any more than they’ll subscribe to a far-left ideology. Republicans would be wrong to read these elections as a far-reaching endorsement of far-right wing policies.

Republicans are feeling good, and with good cause. They’re winning, and much sooner than most pundits gave them a chance for after the Obama election in 2008. But three contests do not a movement make. It will take hard work at a grass-roots level and they will need to listen to people who may sometimes disagree with them. If they can do that, this could be the beginning of a return to political prominence for the GOP.



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Filed under Massachusetts Senate Race, Politics, Thoughts

Election Day

I Voted Today is election day, for those of you reading on Tuesday, September 15th. That’s likely most of you. And even if you don’t live in the Florida 8th Senate district, or the 13th Jacksonville City Council district, or the 1st Duval County School District, I hope you’ll continue reading.

For those of you who ARE eligible to vote in those races, for pity’s sake go to the polls and vote. Readers of The Jacksonville Observer know who is my choice for the State Senate, and I’ll be attending that victory party tomorrow night.

You should go to the polls because these local elections are in some ways the most important. If you believe, as I do, that the government closest to the constituents is the most responsive and can be the most effective, then this is your election. State Senate, City Council, and School Board. It doesn’t get much more local than that. Then, too, this is a special election which was the result of a chain of events set in motion by the untimely death of State Senator Jim King. That race was pushed up by a year, and with a Jacksonville City Councilman and a member of the School Board resigning to run for the Senate, those offices had to be filled at the same time.

Voter turnout is expected to be low. 10 to 12 percent by some estimates, which is honestly pathetic. You can’t turn on the television or radio (unless you consume ONLY public broadcasting) without seeing and hearing endless commercials either lauding or lambasting the candidates. The local media has done it’s part to inform people about the candidates, some more favorably than others, it seems. I was fortunate enough to moderate one discussion among all four, and one in which three participated. I do love being involved in the process. I think one of the things I miss most about my former position is that I did a lot of that. One of my ongoing career goals is to find a way that allows me to do it again.

But think about it. People complain about government. At every level. “Those Guys Never Do What I Think They Should,”  is a common refrain. But when you ask them if they voted, the get defensive, or look at you like you’re from Mars. Lots of people turn out for the big national or state elections, but when it comes to a special election which can determine incumbency for the upcoming normal cycle, they don’t bother. And by the time there’s an incumbent, it’s often too late.

So, I’ve done my part. I’ve tried to do my part to impartially give candidates a forum in which to express their views, and by all reviews I’ve been successful at that, and I’ve gone to vote. And I’ve encouraged others to vote. Of course I hope they vote for the people I support, but I really just hope they vote. At least the informed folks. Sometimes I think anyone voting on name recognition alone should just stay home, but that’s not democracy either. If more people get out and vote, at least we’ll have a true sense of the “will of the people”, and not an election decided by a fraction of the eligible voters.

So if you’re eligible, take 10 minutes Tuesday and go vote. The lines (sadly) won’t be long and the ballot is short, one or two races. Badda-bing badda-boom … and you’ll be done.

And get ready, because with State elections in 2010 and local races in 2011, we’re only at the start of a long political season.

For those of you in far flung places that don’t have an election today, wake up, pay attention, and know when your next opportunity to vote is rolling around. Learn about the issues and the candidates, and make your voice heard. Better yet, pick someone that you agree with and get involved. An informed, involved electorate is the key to good government (unless you think that phrase is an oxymoron). The folks in city halls, state capitals, and Washington D.C. are supposedly there to represent you. The only way you can be sure that happens it to be involved in the process.

Go Vote. You’ll be glad you did.



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Filed under Beach Living, Democracy, Elections, Life, Politics, Thoughts, Voting

Tip Of The Iceberg

imageIn a few days, the deluge of direct mail, robocalls, and television ads will stop flooding into my house.

At least temporarily.

As a Republican ‘Supervoter’, that is, one who has voted in every election to come down the pike I think since I was first eligible in 1976, in the 8th Florida Senate District, we have been inundated by campaign advertising. Not a day goes by that something political doesn’t come in the mail, the phone has rung incessantly, and the DVR makes television watchable. My choice is made, I voted early, and so now it’s just more noise in the background.

But this special election is only the beginning.

It won’t be long before the 2010 campaign season begins in earnest, and consider the number of races to be decided. At the federal level, there will be a dogfight for the senate seat now being kept warm by George LeMieux (who?). On the Republican side, the battle lines are being drawn between soon-to-be-former-Governor Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House. There are tons of others, of course, but those are the two name people will recognize. The two recognizable names on the “D” side of the ledger are Kendrick Meek and Corrine Brown, but in all, 20 candidates are listed as “active” by the Secretary of State’s Office to run for U.S. Senator.

There are 13 candidates for Governor, the best-known among them being Bill McCollum (R) and Alex Sink (D).

Every member of Congress runs again in 2010, so we’ll have candidates for at least 3 races buying TV time and sending mail in this area.

And then there are the normal State Legislative elections. This 8th District race would have been 2010, and will have to be decided again next year on the regular election cycle.

Which rolls right into the 2011 local election season, with the first unitary balloting in March.

The only reason I mention this, other than I love the process, is that a recent ruling in federal court allows 527’s to put off reporting its contributors until well after the election. You know what those are. They’re organizations that can raise and spend unlimited money on an election with (for now) no real accountability until after the fact. The ads are rarely positive, and there will be literally thousands of them.

Advertising is not a bad thing. Some of it is very creative and gets its message across. Even political advertising is not inherently bad. It’s how most people even learn a candidate’s name, which is unfortunate but a fact of political life. Particularly in a short season like this campaign, not all voters will have a chance to attend a forum or meet all the candidates face to face, which is really the only way to effectively judge a candidate. I appreciate informative advertising pieces or TV commercials that tell me something about the candidate and his or her positions. But for the next 18 months, mailboxes will be crammed with campaign literature, radio and television will be flooded with ads, and my phone will ring and ring and ring … and at least half of it will try to convince me why I SHOULDN’T vote for one candidate or the other, and portray him or her in the least flattering light possible. But (and I may be the only one) that kind of advertising simply does not make me want to vote for the person who bought it, or whom it supports.

If there’s an up side to all that, it’s that there will hopefully be some jobs created in the agencies that create all that advertising material, and maybe I can get a little work out of the deal.

But even the candidates acknowledge that it does get to be a bit much after a while. When the postman handed Andie the mail today, he said “here’s your daily dose of political stuff … just ‘til Tuesday.” But I’m thinking that he’s probably glad he’s driving a truck and not walking a route, because if he was carrying all that stuff, he’d need to be at the gym building up his arm strength for what’s to come. What those of us in Florida’s 8th senate district have experienced these past 6 weeks is just the tip of the iceberg, and I think a major floe is about to be calved.


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Filed under Beach Living, Political Advertising, Politics, Thoughts

The Health Care Debate Takes Over Facebook

Or at least my little corner of it. I never thought I’d have to do this, but I’ve turned off a couple of people from my Facebook “news feed” because politics has wormed it’s way into my escape.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I enjoy a spirited, debate as much as the next person. I like to listen, particularly, to other people’s ideas and express my own, though because of literally decades of trying my damndest to be neutral, I’m sometimes not as strident about expressing my beliefs as I might be. I’m one of those people who has long-held convictions, but they’re mine. You might disagree with me, but I fully support your right to your convictions, even if I think they’re wrong. There should be more reasoned debate, but there’s a place for everything, and for me, Facebook is just not it.

The debate over health care is serving to divide the nation almost like none since the last time it was tried back in the early 90’s, and both sides are guilty of taking what is the worst, most extreme example of what they think is right about their side and wrong about the other side and electronically shouting it as loudly as they can. Lucy Van Pelt said “If you can’t be right, be wrong at the top of your voice,” and that seems to be the way the debate over health care is going right now. Each side thinks they’re right, and they think if they shout it loudly enough, that the other side will magically see the error of their ways and say “well duh, of course everything I believe is wrong and you were right.” But it’ll never happen because they’re also so busy shouting that they’re unable, and obviously unwilling to hear anything.

And so, on this Labor day weekend, I had to just click the “Hide” option beside a couple of people whom I genuinely like and consider friends. Just for the news feed, it’s not like they’re ignored or anything, but the beauty of this is that the end user can completely control what he or she sees, and today I exercised a little of that control.

It’s too bad, really, because at least one was someone with whom I’ve had many vigorous and impassioned debates. But I already know their views on health care, and frankly it’s not what I’m looking for when I go to Facebook.

I truly enjoy the ability to connect with people, to keep up with their lives and their families. That’s why I have a Facebook account. There are a lot of people among my Facebook friends who have political views that are different than mine, and that’s OK. I’d never learn anything if I just listened to the echo chamber. But I need an escape, and for a while, Facebook was it. Today I just decided that enough was enough, and some of those people, while still able to contact me, are not going to be part of my daily reading.

Lest you think I’m hiding my head in the sand, let me just say without being specific that our household is facing potentially very serious health insurance issues, and employment concerns directly tied to the issue. We’re living it on the front lines. Part of my reasoning for clicking that “off” button was frankly, I don’t need your platitudes and regurgitated postings of somebody else’s talking points. Those Facebook posts seem to be becoming a lazy person’s blog, that “Hell Yeah” kind of attitude that is thrown out into the Interwebs without a lot of thought. In our house, the debate is real, and something that we could potentially struggle with for a lifetime, and that could be of a lot lower quality, if the wrong choices are made.

It would be really refreshing if everyone would stop shouting about health care and just do something about it. And I don’t think right now ANYBODY is REALLY doing anything about it but shouting. Republicans are once again being the party of “No”, knowing full well that any ideas they might have might get a courtesy glance from the Majority before being round-filed, leaving few options for them to be part of the debate, and Democrats are once again telling us that Government knows what’s best for us.

Meanwhile, with small business already accounting for something like 70% of new jobs, and more and more people trying to make it on their own after having their “positions eliminated” by the companies that could actually get into an insurance pool, millions of Americans, maybe 10’s of millions, could be dumped into a government pool because that is their only option, where bureaucrats will tell the doctors what drugs they will allow for pre-existing conditions which may or may not be the best solution for a health problem. You have to take what we offer because you’re unable to get anything else, no matter whether it actually is useful. Some will be fine, but it’s impossible to say how many will fall through the inevitable cracks that occur when government tries to create something this big. But with no opportunity to buy affordable insurance on the open market, that is the future I see. Individuals who actually need health insurance can’t buy it because they can’t get into a pool that makes it affordable. I’ve also heard, but have no empirical evidence, that some companies are screening potential employees based on the possibility that they might actually USE their insurance, and making that a basis for hiring. In this economy, they can. Many companies even though they would never admit it, have certainly based some of their downsizing decisions in part on who was using up more health care. It’s a cost center, and it’s all about reducing costs.

Still, I’m personally very skeptical that an enormous, one-size-fits-all federal government solution will fix the problem, no matter how much money they print to throw at it.

Meantime, I’m genuinely sorry if I’ve had to remove you from my “news feed” for a while. Most of you will be back, eventually. As for me, I’ll keep my politics here. There are plenty of venues for that.

So, how’s the family doing …



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Filed under Beach Living, Facebook, Health Care Debate, Life, Politics, Thoughts

What A Week

I have finally gotten slowed down enough to make a post to the blog. This has been one busy week, and tomorrow promises to be pretty full as well. I’m kinda bummed that I’m not writing here as much as I used to, because this is important to me, but I’ve got to do the stuff that pays (some of) the bills first.

“So what the heck have you been doing?”, I hear you cry.

Well, Aero News every day. Lots of Aero News, and I’m finding that aviation news is a lot like general news … August is slow. Today there was actually quite a bit to write about. The NTSB made recommendations to the FAA on the airspace over the Hudson River following the August 8th mid air. There was actually quite a bit of stuff today, which puts me a bit ahead for tomorrow, which is a good thing.

candidates Monday night was the candidates forum for the First Coast Republican Club. We had a couple of hundred people there, as well as all four candidates for the 8th district senate seat. I was fortunate to be asked to moderate the event for the club, and my hat is off to Scott Wiley and the club leadership. They made my job as a moderator easy, and each of the candidates told me it was the best event of this very short campaign season.

So why am I not posting any pictures of the event? Even my wife didn’t manage to take any pictures of me. So much for respect. If anyone from the FCRC has one they’d like to forward so I can post it here, photo credit is yours.

I know, it was all about the candidates, but I do this kind of thing for part of my living. It’s the shameless self promotion department.

 TIE logo3 Tuesday night was improv at The Comedy Zone, and I have to tell you, we had a rough crowd. For what ever reason, they couldn’t come up with a suggestion that wasn’t just innuendo, they were downright pornographic in some cases. Normally we’d try not to take those suggestions, but when it’s the only thing you get, well you’ve got to give them a scene about something. It was just very, very difficult, and not the kind of night that makes improv fun. When the audience is good, it’s a joy to be on that stage. Tuesday night was not such a night.

JORS Logo Wednesday, Aero News again,and then the Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Lenny Curry, the County GOP Chair was our guest for the first half hour, and then Congressman Ander Crenshaw joined us for the second half of the show. It was a pleasure to talk with Congressman Crenshaw again, and he had plenty to say on the subject of health care. At the very end of the program I got to dredging for the post-panamax ships coming to the port in a few years, and the status of the nuclear carrier at Mayport. The better news for me is that he remembered me, after not having spoken to him for probably more than a year. We picked up right where we left off, and if we manage to continue this show, I’m going to try to have him on regularly. The phone didn’t work so well on television, but for a radio show, it’s perfect. Of course, I hope he’ll join us in the studio from time to time as well. If you’ve missed any of our shows, you can listen to them online here.

So that’s been my week. Today, there was a lot of stuff to write for Aero-News, and I was finished relatively early. I went over to an Art Graham event, and there’s another one of those tomorrow night. Saturday, it’s dinner at Elaine and Richard Brown’s house. But I’ll make a real effort to write again before Sunday. Somewhere in there, I’ve got laundry to do, a lawn to mow, food to prepare … well, you get the idea.

I was inspired by one of my former colleagues at WJCT, who posted on Facebook that he’s lost 49 pounds in the last 39 weeks. I’ve got about 45 to lose, but have managed to get a good start this week. I’ve been complaining about it for months, and it’s time now to get serious again.

Wish me luck.



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Filed under Beach Living, First Coast Republican Club, Live Radio, Politics, Talk Radio, Thoughts, WBOB