Tag 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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Sig

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Filed under Moderates, Politics, Republican Party

Thoughts On The Health Care Speech

US Capitol 4 President Obama can make a speech. There’s no denying it. I tuned in late for the Health Care speech, but I think I saw at least half. I tuned in in time to hear Congressman Joe Wilson shout “You Lie!” when talking about coverage for illegal immigrants. Probably not the brightest political move, but it does give you some indication as to how deep the passions run over this debate. I don’t condone what Wilson did. It was grossly inappropriate. I respect the office of the Presidency, even when the guy I didn’t vote for is in it. But the comity has been gone from Congress for a long time.

Of course, that incident got the Democrats on Facebook and elsewhere all atwitter. I’ve mostly stayed away from Facebook today to avoid hiding more people from my ‘News Feed’. Dems, it seems, are still so giddy about being in the majority and winning the Presidency that it wouldn’t matter if a Republican came up with a cure for cancer and offered it to the world for free, he’d be a dirtbag, and they’d find some way to denigrate his character. One of the people now hidden from my ‘News Feed’ was talking about how cute it was that one of her kids was asking who all the “angry men” were. I read several places about what ‘losers’ Republicans are for not standing and cheering the things in which they don’t believe. These writers must not have been paying attention to the dour expressions on the faces of Democrats every time President  Bush made a speech, and how they failed to jump to their feet to cheer every time a tax cut was mentioned. Most of them looked as if they would have rather been ANYPLACE else. Every time.

Best eye roll of the night, however, goes to Vice President Joe Biden. At one point, when Nancy Pelosi jumped to her feet for the umpteenth standing ovation of the speech, Joe looked at her as if to say “I’m just too old and tired to stand up again.”

Really, I backed it up to watch it again.

Obama Joint Session I’m still very concerned about health care. I didn’t see or hear anything last night that gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling that people like me, who don’t currently work for a company that offers health coverage, will have any option but the public option, and no matter how many times President Obama says there won’t be bureaucrats and bean counters making decisions that should be made by doctors and patients … I’m skeptical. He may even believe it, for all I know. But people like Obama, or most of the members of Congress on either side in either chamber, haven’t lived in the real world for some time. I often wonder if any of them knows how hard people are struggling out here, and how frightened and skeptical they are about a massive government program. They always seem surprised when people come to town hall meetings and express their views forcefully. It’s because we’re scared about the economy, we’re scared about getting sick, we’re scared about paying our bills and looming tax increases at nearly every level of government when we can’t make our mortgage payments now, and many of us have very little confidence that the federal government can come in with a massive, one-size-fits-all program and magically make it better. If you believe that’s true, I envy you, and wonder if there are unicorns where you live. Government MIGHT EVENTUALLY get it right, but I’ve never seen one of these things that didn’t have a whole lot of unseen, unintended consequences. Many might not feel it, but if it’s you, it’s a huge problem.

It’s like the old adage. A recession is when unemployment is high, a depression is when YOU’RE the one who’s unemployed.

I would like nothing more than the opportunity to buy affordable health insurance on the open market from a provider of my choosing. Why is that such an unreasonable thing? Why is it impossible for health insurance to be like car insurance? If you drive, you have to have it, and it’s expensive for some people, but for the most part, it’s affordable. Homeowners insurance is getting to be pretty dicey, but for now I can a t least buy it and pay it with my mortgage. That’s pretty painless. What makes health insurance so special, and why is it impossible for individuals, even with pre-existing conditions, to be able to afford to get sick.

Is it any wonder emotions are high? And can the government really do something about it?

Like it or not, it appears we’re about to find out.

Sig

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Filed under Beach Living, Congress, Health Care Debate, President Obama, Presidential Speech, Thoughts

Climate Change Bill

US Capitol 4 The House of Representatives has passed a sweeping climate change bill that The Congressional Budget Office says will cost the average homeowner $175 per year. OK, so that’s just a little over $14 a month, but honest to Pete, a lot of people just don’t have an additional $14 per month. And there’s no real indication that it makes an iota of difference in actual climate change.

We’ve had this debate before. We’ll have it again. The science isn’t settled and the climate’s going to change no matter what puny efforts we might put forth. It’s just that simple.

Now, I’m all for a clean environment. I’m not going to sit here and write that companies should be allowed to pollute at will. I want clean air and clean water just like any sane, thinking person. And I think saving energy is a good idea. I’m all for bio-fuels as they become available and affordable. I don’t think the price of existing energy should be jacked up to make alternatives competitive. I’ve been reading a lot about a blended bio-jet fuel that is being tested for use in airliners, and I think that’s a good thing. Petroleum is a scarce resource, and once it’s gone … well … they’re not making any more dinosaurs. Conservation and renewables are a good thing.

But don’t tell me it’s about global warming. I’m not convincible.  If that makes me a cretin in your eyes, so be it.

The global climate changes. Slowly, inexorably, and regardless of what we might do. There have been ice ages and times when Greenland was actually green. And as soon as someone somewhere declared “the science is settled”, scientists started coming out of the woodwork to say, in the immortal words of Quick Draw McGraw, “Hoooooooolllllllddddddd On Thar, Baba Louie.” It really doesn’t matter how loud you say it, shouting won’t make it so.

I mean, think about it. If former Vice President Al Gore REALLY believed in climate change, he’d stop flying the private, chartered jets, do away with the motorcades, and find a way to make his Nashville mansion more energy efficient. Former President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch is far more efficient, and green, than Gore’s castle. Even Snopes, the famous internet urban legend debunker, says it’s so.

But climate change, and the cap-and-trade scheme that is the darling of the global-warming crowd, is huge business. Forget big oil. Big Carbon Credits are going to put that to shame. At least for oil, there’s a commodity, something you can touch for the money you spend. Carbon credits are just that. Credits. Businesses pay for the right to pollute. Businesses that don’t pollute get credits. Middle men, like, oh, former Vice President Al Gore, who has interests in Carbon Trading companies, will make a big, big pile of money.

Can you say “conflict of interest” boys and girls? Sure, Sure, I knew that you could.

In any event, like anything coming out of Washington, it’s unlikely that it will be the panacea that it’s supporters say it will be, nor will it be the disaster it’s detractors warn against. Is the bill a “Job Creator”, as it’s proponents say? Are those jobs “unexportable”.  I’ve not met a job yet that couldn’t be shipped offshore, or be taken over by foreign investment. But neither is it likely to be the job killer that opponents claim, and the $3,000 per year cost to the “average homeowner” has already been debunked. That debate’s fair, and necessary.

But don’t tell me it’s going to stop climate change. Because no matter how much emissions are cut here in the U.S., if the Chinese, and India, and Russia, and some other developed and developing nations don’t play, we can trade all the carbon credits we want, and the only net effect will be to make a big pile of money for Al Gore. Are you surprised that there’s no real indication that they want to play?

Nah, I didn’t think so.

40 years ago, the hue and cry was about global cooling. The Ice Age was coming. That didn’t work out so well, either. No snapshot of the weather can predict climate 10, or 50, or 100 years into the future. The planet may warm. The ice caps may melt. Sea level may rise. It’s all happened before, long before there was a single man-made emitter of so-called greenhouse gasses. And it seems to me that, on a geologic scale, if those man-made greenhouse gasses make it happen 100, or even 1000 year sooner, well, that’s kind of in the margin of error.

I’m not a scientist, and I don’t play one on TV. But I do know that there are enough credible scientists saying that climate change is a natural order of things that the skeptic in me just can’t buy into the anthropomorphic factor. We might make a fractional difference, but is it measurable? I don’t know. And I can’t just say the sky is falling until I do know.

The bill faces a much more difficult time in the Senate. Also not surprising. In the meantime, don’t stop trying to clean up the air, or the water. Don’t stop researching renewables and biofuels and fuel efficiency. Do it all. Come up with a credible energy policy. Create jobs. Green collar jobs, even. But climate change? Caused by us?

Not So Much.

Sig

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In Defense of Mustard

Hi, my name is Tom … and I prefer mustard on my hamburger.

MustardA quick check of my pantry and fridge yielded no fewer than 4 different mustards … from honey Dijon to spicy brown.  I like mustard so well that Andie even  bought the container of specialty-labeled “IU Tailgate Mustard” for me as a gift.  I couldn’t put my hands on any French’s Classic Yellow mustard because I recently used the last of it, probably in a sauce or marinade or poultice for something.    I use powdered mustard in almost every rub and marinade and sauce I make.  When I go to a restaurant, and I’m having a burger, I ask for mustard for my FRIES!!

Ketchup?  Never touch the stuff.  Well, occasionally as an ingredient when I don’t have tomato paste or sauce I can use instead, which is rare.  I don’t begrudge the ketchup crowd.  My wife likes it and we have it in the house. It’s just not my preference.  I rarely use commercial barbecue sauces any more, either.  It’s too easy to make your own.  And lest you think I’m some Grey Poupon-Swilling, Lear Jet-Flying, Fire-The-Butler-On-A-Whim, pampered rich guy … remember that my wife and I are both unemployed at the moment.  Not that I wouldn’t aspire to be that, but not today.  Not even this week.

I don’t know where I was when this whole mustard kerfuffle got started … but C’MON MAN!”   If this is the best that conservative talkers can come up with, would somebody PLEASE give me a talk show and pay me what Laura Ingram and Sean Hannity are paid.  Do they really think that they’re generating outrage about the President asking for mustard for his burger?  I know they all (or at least most of them) say “it’s entertainment”, but then get their noses out of joint when they’re not taken seriously, or as in this case the left (rightly) calls them on it.  Well, for me, making a condiment mountain out of a mustard molehill doesn’t move you very far down the road to “taken seriously”.  Saturday Night Live writers come up with much worse sketch material.

The left has had their moments too, casting President Bush as a chimp and Vice President Chaney as Darth Vader because it was easy.  And I seem to remember a lot of sturm und drang over Bush 41’s announcement he didn’t care for broccoli.  My point is that there is plenty on which to disagree with this or any President, depending on your point of view, without having to go down the road to the absurd.  But it seems like we can’t make our political discussions about cuts in defense spending or soaring deficits or health care or energy policy for very long because they’re hard.  They’re nuanced.  Many people don’t understand them, and they stop watching because their eyes glaze over, making ratings go down.  I guess when that happens, it’s time to make a little noise.

So a word of advice, Mr. President … free advice being worth what you pay for it.  Next time you’re in a burger joint, for pity’s sake don’t order an imported beer.  And to those who tried to make such a big deal out of the President’s choice of condiments … well the more you do that, don’t you think he’s likely to keep doing it just to tweak you … and see how ridiculous you can make yourselves sound?

I know I would.

Sig

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Another Swing?

A Rassmussen poll released today (Tuesday) shows voters would prefer a Republican candidate for congress … by a slim 1 point margin.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 40% would vote for their district’s Republican candidate while 39% would choose the Democrat.

The problem, of course, is that when it comes to the actual voting booth, it really doesn’t matter what respondents say in a generic ballot matchup.  People tend to vote for an incumbent when one is available, and in an open seat, districts are drawn so safely that turnover is rare.  2008 was the exception that proved the rule, most likely.  There seems to be a great deal of angst among the electorate about the recovery, and the various bailouts, that incumbency might not the safe haven it used to be … particularly in districts where the anti-Republican backlash in Republican-leaning districts was strongest.  Voters that would normally vote Republican might be feeling some buyers remorse over their choice.

But Gallup reports that more people identify with the Democratic Part than the Republican Party.  Gallup …

… find an average of 35% of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats and 28% as Republicans. The seven-point gap is similar to what Gallup has found since 2006, when the political tide turned in the Democrats’ favor.

That leave some 35% as independents.  The coveted “swing voters” who can turn an election.  Of course, the number of voters of a certain persuasion in a particular district can turn the tide in Congress.

Polling at this point in the cycle is something pollsters do to keep themselves employed.  The snapshots are instructive, perhaps, to see what is the mood of the country at any given point in time, but as is evidenced by the two examples given above … it really makes a difference where you take the picture.

The poll that counts, the old saying goes, is on election day.  I’m a fan of divided government.  I haven’t always been that way, but when the Republican had control of all branches, it seems like not a lot of real progress was made.  Given the very liberal leadership currently in the congress, I’m not sure an all-Dem team will do much better.  Today’s snapshot seems to indicate that there may be signs of life among the Republican party.  I hope, if that’s the case, that the electorate turns to a more moderate brand of Republican than we’ve seen in the recent past.  Demagogues of both parties seem to be in the spotlight for the moment.  Maybe it’s time to try more conservative Democrats, and more liberal Republicans, and see if something gets done.

Sig

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On Taxes, Tea Parties, and Free Speech

AmFlag Like millions of Americans, I filed my taxes today (Wednesday).  I handed the envelope to the guy behind the post office counter and watched him postmark it.  I was about 10 in the morning, so I’m sure it would have been fine, but I just like to see it.  Nobody want’s trouble with the IRS, and we’ve had some … not of our doing.  Maybe a bit more on that later.  I didn’t feel particularly patriotic handing over the form, but then I have a small refund due, and I’m sure I’ll wait a month and a half to receive it.  Nor did I feel particularly patriotic looking at the withholdings every couple of weeks when I was getting a regular paycheck.  It just was.  I had an accountant prepare my taxes this year, and I’m sure he found every available, legal deduction.  I don’t imagine I’ll feel particularly patriotic about paying taxes on my meager unemployment compensation, either … but I’ll pay it.

Taxes just are.  Death and taxes, the old saying goes.  Taxes are necessary for the essential functions of government.  But at all levels, from our city government to the federal morass, there are differences of opinion about what those core, essential functions of government are.  They change with changing administrations, which makes them a moving target.

Taxes are used for social engineering.  Home ownership is a good thing, so mortgage interest is deductible.   I have a mortgage, so I think that’s a good thing.  Kids are expensive, but required for the future workforce (if there’s any work), so there’s a tax credit for children.  Congress offers tax breaks for things it things are important.  Previous administrations have lowered taxes on businesses, which they said would encourage business growth and new jobs.  What has been fairly well proven is that lower taxes usually means higher collections by the Treasury because people generally will try to shelter less if the rates are lower.  Others think that “the rich”, which again is a moving target, should pay more because they have more to give.  Through it all, we have come to have a federal tax code that is by most accounts incomprehensible.  If you call the IRS with the same question more than once, you’re likely to get different answers from different advisors.

Still, I know that paying taxes is necessary.  But reasonable people can disagree as to who can best spend their money.

But disturbingly, on this tax day, I have seen a lot of derision and vitriol directed at the folks holding “Tea Parties” around the country.  These tea parties were organized by ordinary folks who are concerned about the business bailouts begun in the waning days of the Bush Administration and continued by President Obama.  While the “Taxation without Representation” signs are something of a disconnect here, most of the rallies focused on the bailouts, which were begun under a Republican President and continued by a Democratic President and approved by a Congressional majority … and the mounting debt.  I’d think that would be a non-partisian issue, and one about which we should all be concerned.

Still, many of the people I’ve friended, or who have invited me to be a friend on Facebook, have made snarky comments today about the tea parties, and I’m not sure why.  Whether or not you agree with their premise or effectiveness, the Constitution guarantees everyone the right of peaceable assembly.  The tea parties are speech, protected by the First Amendment.  They are not “Republican” events, and I don’t imagine that the people who attended were all kooks any more than people attending any such event, regardless of political bent.  Every movement or cause attracts an element that is perhaps outside the mainstream, but there are also people who are genuinely concerned about the issue.

These “Tea Parties” were grassroots movements.  They were not organized by a political party.  I’m sure conservative talk radio and the blogosphere played a role, and the participants were mostly self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives.  But what is disappointing is that some people seem to think free people peaceably assembling to promote a cause is a bad thing just because they happen to disagree with the cause.  Or at least, that’s the impression they convey.

People of both political persuasions are guilty.  It seems like these days neither side has a corner on the sanctimony or snarkiness market.

So, if paying your taxes makes you feel patriotic, good for you.  Seriously.  I’m not there yet.  I’d like to see at better accounting of how government at all levels is spending my money, and even though I know we have the lowest tax rates of any industrialized nation, I’m not a big proponent of sending in more (when I have some to send again), without that accounting.

And to you tea party folks, changing tax policy is hard.  The “Fair Tax” rally that happened recently would scrap the entirety of the IRS and the tax code and replace it with a consumption (sales) tax.  Many people say it’s regressive, and would hit people hardest who can least afford it.  Ask any smoker, many of whom are in lower income brackets.  Politicians of all stripes use federal, state, and local tax codes to shape society, and scrapping that code would take away their primary tool.

That’s going to be a tough sell no matter who you are.

Sig

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