Thursday, August 31, 2006

Democrats Need To Follow Warner's Lead

While Senator John Kerry continues to live in the past by once again complaining about the 2004 presidential election results in Ohio, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner is urging the Democratic party to rethink its electoral strategy for 2008.

In an interview with the Associated Press this week, Warner said "I got pretty frustrated after 2004. We are making a mistake if we put up candidates that are only competitive in 16 states and then we roll the dice and hope we win Ohio or Florida."

That is exactly what the last two presidential candidates did: Al Gore losing Florida and Kerry losing Ohio. What made the Gore defeat even more difficult for Democrats to stomach was the fact that he also lost Tennessee and Arkansas, his home state and Bill Clinton's home state. If you can't carry your home state, you've got a big problem.

Mark Warner recognizes that problem, which may be the biggest reason Democratic voters should take a very serious look at him as the 2008 race for the White House begins. Virginia is a state that hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964. Not only did Warner win in Virginia and leave office with a high approval rating, he worked tirelessly to get his lieutenant governor, another Democrat, elected. He succeeded.

"We do our party and the country a disservice if we're not competitive in the South and the balance of the Midwest," Warner said. "I'm disappointed in campaigns that write off the South and leave behind wide swaths of our country."

Unfortunately, that type of campaign may happen again for the Democrats if the next nominee turns out to be Kerry, Gore or any of the other potential Democratic candidates. Do Democrats really think Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Russ Feingold, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson or Barack Obama can change their fortunes in the South? Even though John Edwards hails from South Carolina, can he as a one-term Senator from North Carolina carry either one of those states in an election? And although Joe Biden likes to brag that his state of Delaware was a former "Slave State," will that really do him any good in Mississippi or Georgia?

"We've got to have candidates who can campaign not only in Ames (Iowa), but at NASCAR races, candidates who can campaign in the barrio and changing communities," Warner said. "We've got to have a message that's more focused on solutions than simply focused on criticism."

A potential Warner candidacy puts a significant number of Southern states in the mix for the Democrats which haven't been there for a while. In addition to Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia become states where Mark Warner is not only known but where conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans will give a serious listen to. Other than possibly Edwards, no one else on the radar for the Democrats can do that.

Warner knows that the last two Democratic presidents were Southern governors. "History has been pretty kind to Southern governors over the last 50 years," Warner said. Unless something changes dramatically for the rest of the Democratic presidential contenders that increases their popularity below the Mason-Dixon line, it may be best for history to repeat itself for the Democrats to have a real shot in 2008. Otherwise, that map of the United States may have a familiar pattern of red and blue once again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Nagin Apologizes But Still Won't Admit His Failures

Appearing on "Meet The Press" on Sunday, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin apologized for referring to the World Trade Center site in New York as a "hole in the ground." Nagin said "I wish I would have basically said that it was an undeveloped site, which it is."

This is just another in a long line of verbal miscues from Nagin since Katrina, with his referring to New Orleans becoming a "chocolate city" again during his re-election campaign coming quickly to mind. Rep. Peter King of New York said of Nagin "It's really disgraceful and shameful. Ground zero is sacred ground. To refer to it as a hole in the ground, to me, is shocking and inexcusable. Especially considering Mayor Nagin's own record. I mean, when Katrina was there, he was the one who had 500 school buses under water, he's the one who wasn't able to evacuate his city, he's the one who lost his composure on national television several times."

This month on HBO, Spike Lee's movie "When The Levees Broke" debuted and brought the tragedy of Katrina back into full light. As we reach the one year anniversary, if you can call it that, it still seems that many people, including Nagin himself, don't want to admit that if blame must be placed somewhere for the tragedy which was and still is Katrina, it starts with Ray Nagin.

Speaking to the National Association of Black Journalists, Nagin said "The tragedy of Katrina was awful. It exposed the soft underbelly of America as it relates to dealing with race and class, and I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, California, if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami, it would have been a different response."

While that may be true, it was Nagin and the city of New Orleans that were the first responders in Katrina, and they failed miserably. With no disrespect to Rudy Guliani, had Nagin and his administration responded with some semblance of competence, he would have had the opportunity to be considered on par with the former New York mayor who suddenly became "America's Mayor." 9/11 was a terrible day, but what really did Guliani do? What really could he have done? He reacted to an event that was unforeseen, and it was more that the brave men and women of New York's Police and Fire Department reacted, not Guliani.

Nagin had the opportunity to plan for the disaster that struck his city and to act on that plan and he did neither effectively. While the State of Louisiana and the federal government, specifically FEMA, should share much of the blame for the failed Katrina response, Mayor Nagin's failure to properly protect the citizens of his city was the first, and worst, failure of them all.

While "race" and "class" and how our nation deals with each will always be fertile ground for discussion, Nagin's inept management of the Katrina catastrophe is where the discussion should begin. An African-American mayor in a "chocolate city" should have done a better job for his citizens, all of them. That he did not is his failure. Admit that first and then we can talk about everybody and everything else.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

McCain Starting To Back Away From Bush On Iraq

Although John McCain will never have to explain his way out of the Iraq conundrum like his fellow Senator John Kerry has had to do, this week he began to distance himself from the Bush administration's pre-war and post-war declarations on how the war would unfold.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said on NBC's Meet The Press. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

McCain, obviously, will be declaring his candidacy soon for the Presidency, and like every candidate, he will have to explain to the American public what he will do to get our men and women out of Iraq, with victory and dignity. Like Kerry and Hillary Clinton, McCain supported the decision to go into Iraq, but unlike those two, he has not stated that his vote on war authorization would have been different if he knew then what he knows now about WMD in that country. However, it is unlikely that he and his advisors don't see the increasingly pessimistic polling data that show US citizens beginning to reach a level of weariness over Iraq, Afghanistan and the threat of terror, and that means it's time to start getting into the right political stance. Translation: don't blame the war or the warriors, blame the architects.

"I think it's been well documented now that we didn't have enough (troop strength) there from the beginning, that we allowed the looting, that we did not have control, particularly, of areas, such as in the Sunni Triangle, which led to us paying a very heavy price," said McCain. "We make mistakes in every war, and serious mistakes were made here. The question is, are we going to be able to bring the situation under control now? I still believe we can."

McCain is in a strong position here. He can't be accused of flip-flopping, like Kerry has been, because he's not changing his initial position on the war, but like a majority segment of the public, he still feels some level of success is not only possible but necessary. Otherwise, what will the sacrifice of close to 3000 American troops have meant? "I want to emphasize that we cannot lose this. It will cause chaos in Iraq and in the region, and I still believe that we, we must prevail," said McCain.

The main question that remains is exactly what does prevailing look like? When will we be able to say that our military objectives have been met? Do we really believe that whenever we start to pull out, Iraq, and the region, will be more stable then it was prior to our arrival? Do we really think that the Iraqi military will be sufficiently trained so that, as President Bush loves to say, our troops will be able to stand down as their troops stand up?

"I think they're standing up much better than they were in the past," said McCain. "The question is, is can they do the job completely, and the answer is no. When American troops are with them, they perform far better than by themselves. There are Iraqi battalions which are excellent, there are some that are poor."

There are politicians on both sides of the aisle that want a specific timetable for withdrawal and there are politicians that want us to stay the course. Even the President showed signs of being discouraged at the progress of the war at his press conference this week. "Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated," said Bush. "Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and they're difficult times and they're straining the psyche of our country."

It's that kind of frustration from the Commander in Chief that worries the American public and starts politicians running for the hills looking for cover. Election day will give politicians a better idea what type of cover they need, but right now, John McCain sees the current administration as a liability and he's not going to be shy about pointing fingers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Maybe Buchanan Wasn't So Crazy After All

In 1992, after unsuccessfully challenging George Bush for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination, Pat Buchanan delivered what has since been called the "culture war speech" at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas. Buchanan took home some 3 million votes in state primary elections that year, but it was the 38 percent of the vote that he won in the New Hampshire primary that shook up the race and forced Bush to run a much more conservative campaign.

What many remember from that speech is the fierce attack he directed towards Bill Clinton's brand of liberal politics. "The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America--abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat--that's change, all right," said Buchanan. "But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God's country."

Karl Rove must have a copy of the speech taped to his office wall, because much of it has been his playbook in the last three elections. What was controversial in 1992 when Buchanan spoke about it is now what fills the dividing line that has been drawn between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican in this country for some time: abortion, gay rights, religion, the Supreme Court.

But it is what Buchanan said later in his speech that seems to be particularly prescient more than 16 years later. "My friends, this election is about much more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans," said Buchanan. "There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself."

This week, Buchanan is releasing his latest book, “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.” In it, he writes about the causes and ramifications of illegal immigration in the United States, as well as the Islamization of Europe into "Eurabia." It is getting harder by the day to refute any claim that the biggest issues facing our country, in addition to the threat of terrorism, are the problems associated with illegal immigration/border security and the growing menace of radical Muslim religious fundamentalism.

Religion and culture. Sixteen years ago, many people, Republican, Democrat and Independent, watched Pat Buchanan's speech that night and thought that he was not only wrong but a little off the mental beaten path. Now, the question of "what kind of country do we want to be" has been replaced by "what kind of country, and more importantly, what kind of world are we becoming." It doesn't seem so crazy in the daylight of 2006 anymore, does it?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hagel's Plea For GOP's Return To Roots Will Resonate In 2008

For all intents and purposes, Wednesday, November 8th, will be the first real day in the race for the White House in 2008. The day after election day 2006 will give us a clear reading, aside from unreliable polls, about the true mood of the country...where it is and more importantly, where it wants to go.

Yesterday, appearing on "FOX News Sunday," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., continued his yet undeclared race for the White House by calling on the Republican party to return to their core principles. Hagel asked: "Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in '68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined, fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government? I think we've lost our way. And I think the Republicans are going to be in some jeopardy for that and will be held accountable. Now, the people of each state and of this country will make their own decisions."

Hagel certainly isn't the first Republican or conservative commentator to express frustration with the direction his party is headed, and he has not been shy to be a leading critic of President Bush and his policies, one such policy being the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. When asked if he thought the President had overstepped Constitutional boundaries with the program, Hagel replied "I do. And I think that we need to find a new law. Of the law that we are operating with now was crafted in 1978. Technology has taken all of these issues far beyond that law, so we need a new law. And it needs a law — we need a law that is relevant to today's threats."

Hagel clearly recognizes that in order for the Republican party to continue to hold on to the White House and majorities in Congress, it must return to being the party of Ronald Reagan once again. The party of Richard Nixon was corrupted by the pursuit of limitless power, while the party of the first George Bush lost its grip on the soul of a country. It was the Reagan Revolution that cemented the resurgence of the modern conservative movement that had its first presidential candidate in 1964, with Barry Goldwater losing to Lyndon Johnson.

The core principles that Hagel discussed have slowly been under attack by the Bush administration and the Neo-Conservatives that have been so influential in establishing foreign policy. Hagel sees what that ineffective foreign policy has done to the country and to both political parties, specifically on the subject of terrorism. "Both parties are at significant peril in the election this year if they continue to define down to the lowest political common denominator this issue of terrorism," he said. "We have on the one side the Democrats running around saying well, the Republicans are warmongers, they want to take your rights away from you, you can't trust them. The Republicans...are saying about the Democrats they're cut and run, you can't trust them."

"If you continue to define it down to the lowest political common denominator for both parties, then what you're going to find is the American people not taking it seriously," said Hagel. "This is a real issue. This is consuming our country, this one issue. For the last five years, we have been consumed with terrorism. We've been consumed with the concern of our security. We're engaged in two wars overseas right now, and so it's too serious to be left to headline seekers of politicians or political parties."

Reagan was successful at convincing his party and more than enough moderate to conservative Democrats that his vision, a modern conservative vision, was where the country should be headed. America may well be looking for another Republican candidate that can not only halt the Neo-Conservative movement that has consumed the Bush presidency, but also reach across the political spectrum and find common ground on issues, specifically the war in Iraq, that continue to tear the country apart.

"When it comes to war, Americans dying in a war, national security, it should never be held captive to a political agenda," said Hagel. "I think that's wrong. I've said it's wrong. I don't base my analysis and judgment and votes on war, national security, on a party position. I don't think that's the right thing to do. I don't think Americans really want us to do that. Democrats die in war just like Republicans, and we debase war and the responsibility we have when we try to make it captive to a political position or a political party. I won't do that."

That may be the kind of statement and position that Americans are looking for, and if Hagel can present it with the passion necessary to stir voters in both parties, he may make himself a truly viable candidate for 2008.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Andrew Young's Words Tell A Story, But Not The Full One

First it was Mel Gibson's drunken rant after being pulled over for DUI. Then it was Senator George Allen's sober remarks referring to a man of Indian descent as a "macaca." Now, civil rights leader, former Atlanta mayor, former UN Ambassador and newly former Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Young finds himself in hot water after an interview with a Los Angeles newspaper.

During a question-answer session with the weekly Sentinel, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller mom-and-pop stores to close. "Well, I think they should; they ran the mom and pop stores out of my neighborhood," Young said. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

Young had been hired by Wal-Mart to be chairman of its lobby group, Working Families for Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart established Working Families to help counter accusations that the company was anti-union, anti- small business and to help strengthen its reputation in the Black and Latino communities.

Young came under much criticism from the civil rights community when he decided to take the position, with many saying that he had "sold out" to the corporate giant. Now, as Wal-Mart deals with its first quarterly profit decline in 10 years, it must also deal with a public relations nightmare created by a man it hoped would help polish its image.

What hasn't been discussed, however, is how much of what Young said is supported by some in the Black community. These are not beliefs that are somehow new. One can even find it given the movie treatment in the 1989 Spike Lee film "Do The Right Thing" when three older Black men discuss whether or not to spend their money at the corner grocery which is owned by a Korean family.

There has always been a measurable level of mistrust and resentment exhibited by some in the Black community towards small business owners of other races. During the turbulent 1960's, many of the neighborhood businesses that were burned in the riots in Watts, Detroit and other large urban cities were owned by Whites, many of them Jewish. After millions of dollars of damage, inner-city incomes and property values were depressed for years to come.

Business owners fled for the now upwardly mobile and much safer suburbs. Some stayed longer in the inner city, with a few still in the same neighborhoods to this day, but there was a vacuum created when most of them left. That vacuum offered opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to start businesses of their own, like small corner groceries. I Uncle George was one such entrepreneur.

For over 20 years, he owned at least one and at times multiple corner grocery stores. With pride he, and other Black grocery store owners, served the communities where they lived. Initially, he thrived. Growing through the late 60's and early 70's. Struggling, as every business, small and large, did in the middle and late 70's. Rebounding in the 80's. Soon, new competition began to emerge. Not the corporate giants just yet, but the new Asian grocers, the new influx, the next rung on the ladder.

My Uncle's struggles didn't start because the Asian grocers did anything to his business specifically. It was just because they started doing it better. For over 20 years he didn't so much run the ran him. Where many early Black entrepreneurs struggled was in the business of running a business, and that, more than what Jewish, Korean or Middle Eastern mom and pop business owners are doing in predominately Black neighborhoods is why we are where we are today.

My Uncle, and others like him, didn't know all he needed to know about banking, accounting, finance, distribution, hiring, firing. He did the best he could, and he did damn well, but in the world of business, of supply and demand, of dog eat dog, if someone comes along and does it better, the milkbone underwear will start to fit quite snug.

Many Black owned businesses that began when my Uncle started survived, thrived, grew and continue to grow to this day. Many more young Black entrepreneurs every day decide that they want to be their own boss and begin the long and arduous task of building a business. There are more Black owned businesses in the United States then ever before. Some succeed and some don't, but most, with business education and business knowledge that was not as accessible to Black men and women in the 1960's, have a much better chance from the start.

The giant that is Wal-Mart will see profitable days again. Korean and Middle Eastern business owners will exist in Black communities, and Black business owners will continue to grow in number. There may never be as many Black corner grocers, mom and pops, as there once was, and that's okay. But should another Uncle George come along and decide that a corner grocery is his dream, I'm sure those in his community will find a way to support his business.

The Wal-Mart's and Home Depot's of the world can, and should, survive as should the mom and pop stores. It's up to individual consumers to spend their money in such a way that it happens, and hopefully it can be done in a color-blind world. That's what Andrew Young should have said. That he did not says much about where we as Americans still are when it comes to race.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Iran And North Korea Continue To Spar With U.S.

Friday at Camp David, President Bush expressed concern that the world would face a grave threat if North Korea tested a nuclear bomb for the first time. ABC News reported on Thursday that U.S. intelligence had observed activity at a potential North Korean nuclear test site and an unidentified senior State Department official said a test was a "real possibility."

"If North Korea were to conduct a test, it's just a constant reminder for people in the neighborhood, in particular, that North Korea poses a threat," Bush said. "We expect our friends and those sitting around the table with us to act in such a manner as to help rid the world of the threat."

Elsewhere, in Lebanon, Hezbollah began handing out money to residents whose homes and businesses had been destroyed in the 34-day war with Israel. It is not known how much money has been distributed yet but the move is sure to increase support for the Iranian-backed group in the war-torn country.

Both situations show a continuing desire on the part of Iran and North Korea to rattle their sabers at the U.S. for different reasons. Iran wanting to show Israel, the U.S. and the international community their strength in Lebanon, the Middle East at large and the Shi'ite community everywhere. North Korea wanting to force the U.S. and the world into agreeing to concessions that will help their crumbling economy and infrastructure.

While both countries certainly don't want to force the United State's hand militarily, clearly they see the Bush administration fighting the worldwide perception that the U.S. is stretched thin in Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Lebanon as it works to maintain a still potentially volatile cease fire. It's also clear that U.S. citizens are beginning to show signs of becoming war-weary and are increasingly pessimistic about success in Iraq.

With mid-term elections looming that every day look more gloomy for the GOP, President Bush can ill afford to respond to the constant jabs being thrown at his administration in any way that would seem to the American public to be a military escalation. Diplomacy, which may be a dirty word to some in the West Wing, will have to be the mantra. However, should the elections in November surprise the pollsters and show continuing support for Bush and GOP policies, the call from the Neo-Conservatives to get off the ropes and start swinging will grow louder than ever before.

Losing Female Voters A Troubling Sign For GOP

The Washington Post reports today that "security moms", who were an integral part of GOP victories in 2002 and 2004, are becoming increasingly concerned about the war in Iraq, the economy and the direction President Bush and the GOP are taking the country.

While there is great concern among this important bloc of voters about the threat of terrorism, the usual electoral advantage that has materialized because of the terror threat does not seem to be coming to fruition this time around for the GOP. The study, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows that by a 50 percent to 38 percent margin, married women with children are more inclined to support Democrats than Republicans in upcoming Congressional elections.

Women still believe that national security is the issue of the day, however many are now starting to see the Iraq war as a distraction and a source for more problems rather than a solution. Additional Pew Research shows that about twice as many moderate and liberal Republicans as conservative Republicans favor bringing U.S. troops home as soon as possible (35% vs. 18%).

Not everyone believes that security moms are really the voting bloc they're cracked up to be. Karen M. Kaufmann of the University of Maryland writes in the July 2006 issue of the American Political Science Association that the myth of security moms was seized upon by the media, but it isn't true at all. Her data show that in 2000, 50 percent of mothers with children at home voted for Bush as opposed to 49 percent that voted for Bush in 2004.

As with polls, the only one that ultimately matters is the one on election day. Pre-election polls and exit polls in 2004 showed a much closer Presidential election that the final tally did not support. There is still a great deal of time for the GOP to motivate it's base and get them out on election day. The Democratic base is already mobilized. The question remains if moderate Republicans and Independents will give the Democrats the push they need to deliver the tsunami that so many polls seem to be pointing to.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

McKinney Unqualified But Distrust Of Electronic Voting Valid

Many people in Georgia, the House of Representatives and the Democratic party are breathing a sigh of relief now that Rep. Cynthia McKinney was defeated in her re-election bid last week. After her much publicized run-in with a Capitol Hill police officer earlier in the year, on top of her previous accusation that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, it was inevitable that the voters of her district decided that the embarrassment of her antics was too much to take anymore.

Her odd personality was on full display in her concession speech where one was left wondering what she did with the money her mother gave her for singing lessons. In addition, once again there was an incident with people in her "security" detail scuffling with the media.

But McKinney is actually on target when she speaks about the problems associated with electronic voting in the United States. "You won't know who won as long as we have those electronic voting machines, with the problems that have been manifested by them," she said in her concession speech. McKinney has been highly critical of Georgia officials for not requiring that paper records be kept of all votes.

Although the issue of a close contested race was not a factor for McKinney, it is without question that it will be a factor soon somewhere in the country, and the accuracy of electronic voting will be called into question. In Ohio on Tuesday, a company hired by Cuyahoga County, the largest county in the state, released a report detailing significant problems with the May primary where electronic voting machines were used for the first time.

Improperly formatted machines, disappearing memory cards, machine vote totals not adding up correctly were just some of the issues associated with electronic voting in Ohio. "The election system in its entirety exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election," wrote Steven Hertzberg, director of the study by the San Francisco-based Election Science Institute.

In 2004, the Election Protection Coalition, an umbrella group of volunteer poll monitors that set up a telephone hotline, reported some 1,100 problems with electronic voting. With more locales now using electronic voting, those numbers are sure to rise in 2006. Unless election officials can assure voters that electronic voting systems are secure from hackers, have reliable hardware and software and can verify votes with a paper trail, distrust in electronic voting will rise and people will long for the days of paper ballots again.

McKinney may not be the best poster child to lead the charge for accuracy in electronic voting, but unless it is done soon, and accuracy can be verified, the possibility of electoral fraud grows by the day. With election 2006 around the corner and 2008 looming, the United States can ill afford to let the public's distrust grow. Otherwise, it may be us who needs to have a foreign government come in and monitor our elections.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Much Ado About "Macaca"

When it comes to politicians, people often wonder what, if anything, goes through their heads before they open their mouths. May I introduce Senator George Allen.

Yesterday, Allen apologized for remarks that offended a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Senator's re-election campaign for Democratic challenger Jim Webb. S.R. Sidarth is a 20-year old, born in Fairfax VA, and it doesn't look like Allen's apology is going to be enough to quell his anger.

"If he wants to make an apology to me, he can talk to me personally rather than doing this through the press," Sidarth said.

As Allen was addressing a GOP rally near the Kentucky border on Friday, he said, referring to Sidarth, "This fellow over here with the yellow shirt - macaca or whatever his name is - he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. Let's give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

For a man who has been accused of racial insensitivity in the past (keeping a noose in his law office, a picture of confederate troops in his governor's office, a confederate flag in his living room, and wearing a confederate flag pin in his high school yearbook photo) you would think Allen would be smart enough to have the "verbal filter" always on high.

Many people probably have never even heard of the word "macaca" before, and even more may not know it's use as a racial slur, usually directed at African immigrants in some European countries. That makes it even more disturbing that Allen would use the word. Did he just make it up on the spot? Was it really a play on the word "mohawk" which now he and some of his staffers say was the nickname that they supposedly gave to Sidarth? C'mon, please.

It's doubtful that this gaffe will really hurt Allen's bid to get re-elected. Webb would need a miracle to beat Allen in November, and this a miracle does not make. But if the election is closer than expected, Allen's use of the word "macaca" in a country that grows more diverse by the day may certainly hamper his bid for President in 2008.

Bush Campaigns With Swann In Pennsylvania

While some Republican candidates may be on the fence about whether or not they want President Bush to come stump for them, Pennsylvania Gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann has no choice but to get all the help he can in his race against Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll taken in early August shows Rendell with a 54 percent to 34 percent lead, with 10 percent undecided. Rendell has not only strengthened his support within his own party, but 1 in 4 Republicans say they would vote for him while only 1 in 10 Democrats say they would vote for Swann.

Swann must call on Bush for not only campaign support but also help in fundraising. Swann lags far behind Rendell in cash on hand and if he doesn't start to show some life soon in this race, support from the RNC will not materialize.

Bush will be touring a Harley-Davidson plant in York PA, sitting in on an economic roundtable later in the afternoon and then headlining a fundraiser for Swann in the evening. Pennsylvania is critical for the Republicans...if not in the Governor's race then definitely in the Casey/Santorum Senatorial battle and in a number of Congressional races that are suddenly much closer than anticipated.

Whether Bush will hurt or help is still up in the air, but Swann has no other choice but to try to jumpstart his lagging campaign.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What 34 Days In Lebanon Taught Israel

While many will say that the 34 days of fighting in Lebanon was a victory for Hezbollah, Israel has learned an important lesson that will ultimately help to increase her safety in the years to come.

As written previously, Israel had the right to resort to military action in southern Lebanon after two IDF soldiers were kidnapped. Unfortunately, those two soldiers, and the one kidnapped in Gaza, are still unaccounted for. Most likely, a prisoner exchange at a later date will turn up all three safely.

Israel realized that it could no longer afford to allow Hezbollah to function with impunity on it's northern border. Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert also realized, and rightly so, that to unleash the full fury of the Israeli army on southern Lebanon would be totally counterproductive. Regardless of what the hawks in the Israeli parliament wanted, the Israeli army fought this war the only way they could...with restraint.

That restraint definitely put more of their soldiers at risk, evident by the number of military casualties suffered by Israel, but it also greatly reduced the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, no matter what the international community might think.

The most important outcome for Israel will be the establishment of an international peacekeeping force on the Israel-Lebanon border. That buffer is important obviously militarily, but more importantly, the pressure that it now places on Lebanon and more directly Hezbollah to cease their terrorist actions has increased exponentially. Hezbollah would no longer just be attacking Israel but the international community at large.

Israel gets more skin in the game, more commitment from the international community to help protect their border. That, unfortunately, may be the only way to prevent another outburst of the same violence we saw for the last 34 days. Israel also realizes that they can no longer go it alone, or only with the assistance of the United States. With the United Nations playing a major role in the cease fire, it is now incumbent upon more moderate Muslim nations to work towards greater stability in the region.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Gore’s Decision Worth the Weight

Former Vice president Al Gore has been out on the campaign trail recently, however, this time he’s not out stumping for votes but looking for minds to change as it pertains to global warming. His new book and movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is Gore’s methodical narrative on the threat of climate change and its current and future impact on our planet.

The movie has received positive reviews from critics and performed well at the box office since being released and the book sits on the New York Times bestsellers list. Gore has seen his movie’s world premiere in Cannes and he’s plugged it on The Tonight Show couch next to Jay Leno. Al Gore has become a star, but no matter where he goes, the same question is always asked of him: “Will you be a candidate for President of the United States in 2008?”

“I haven’t made a Sherman statement, but that’s not an effort to hold the door open. It’s more the internal shifting of gears,” Gore has said, referring to Civil War-era general William Sherman. “I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I would become a candidate again. I’ve found other ways to serve. I’m enjoying them.”

It’s natural, and politically smart, for Gore to remain coy, yet consistent, regarding his intentions about a potential candidacy at this stage of the game. He doesn’t have to show his cards, not just yet. Frankly, one could look at Gore and see a man who is probably more comfortable with himself than at any time in his life. He’s relaxed, he has a cause to pursue that he truly believes in and the pressures of politics seem worlds away. His waistline alone is proof that filet mignon, lobster, caviar and champagne are much more pleasing to the body and soul than rubber chicken. Still, many sense it’s just a matter of time before Gore throws his hat in the ring, possibly the only person that can stop the Hillary Train.

In 1962, two years after losing by the slimmest of margins to John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon lost the California Governor’s race to Pat Brown. In his concession speech, Nixon told the gathered media that this was going to be his last press conference, and he spoke words that if, maybe not coy, had a Sherman-like quality to them: “You don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.”

Well, it was just a matter of time before we did have Dick Nixon to kick around some more because the pull of the national stage of politics was just too much. After moving to New York and making a great deal of money as a senior partner in a law firm bearing his name, Nixon spent 1966 traveling the country campaigning for Republican candidates running in Congressional elections. He rebuilt his base of support within the Republican Party. He became the candidate that could reclaim the White House for Republicans. He had “Weight.” He had “Gravitas.”

It begs the question; does Gore in 2008 now possess the gravitas that Nixon claimed eight years after his first failed attempt at the White House? Will Gore, like Nixon, have the moment when those in his Party turn their eyes toward him and say, “Hey, you know what: he lost his last time out, but right now, he looks like our best shot. He can get it back for us. He’s our guy. He’s the one for right now.” There are obviously a number of soon-to-be Democratic challengers that are going to have something to say about that, but among those challenger’s greatest question marks will be whether they themselves possess the gravitas to carry them to the finish line.

Gore is going to need much more than a campaign against global warming for Democratic voters to forget about the election of 2000 and give him another shot, and he just might have it in the war in Iraq. Since the buildup leading up to the war through today, Gore has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s planning, or lack thereof, and execution of the war. He did, however, support George H.W. Bush and the Persian Gulf War. Many Democratic voters would say he was right in both cases. This would put him at odds with John Kerry who initially supported the current war in Iraq, before changing his mind. Kerry also voted against the Resolution in 1991 regarding the Persian Gulf War. That “yes” vote for the Resolution in 2002 will also be problematic for a number of Democratic Senators who have their eyes on a run for the White House. Senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer voted “yes” on Resolution 114 in 2002. Senator Russ Feingold voted “no”.

Those Senators that voted in the affirmative need only remind themselves of the difficulty John Kerry had during his entire campaign against George Bush trying to explain that vote. He was never able to coherently. Who’s to say that Hillary and the rest of the gang could do any better? And Kerry’s statement “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” regarding the supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may forever keep him to just visitor status on his trips to the White House. The rest of the potential Democratic candidates, who don’t have to fret about those votes, including Mark Warner, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark and Barack Obama, will have other issues to face, including, but not limited to, do they really think they have the stuff to win a national election?
Which brings us back to Al Gore.

“I honestly believe that the highest and best use of my skills and experience is to try to change the minds of people in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world about this planetary emergency that we simply have to confront. I have no plans to be a candidate for president again. I don’t expect to ever be a candidate for president again. I haven’t made a so-called Sherman statement, because it just seems unnecessary, kind of odd to do that,” said Gore. Odd…maybe. But until the words "If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve" come directly out of Gore’s mouth, he just might find himself getting kicked to the Democratic nomination for President.

Lieberman's Attacks On Lamont Will Backfire Badly

Although the first post primary polls out of Connecticut show Joe Lieberman with a slim lead over Ned Lamont, if Lieberman continues to attack the Lamont victory by saying it emboldens the terrorists, that lead will vanish soon.

"My God, here we have a terrorist threat against hearth and home, and the very first thing that comes out of their mind is how can we turn this to partisan advantage. I find that offensive," Lamont said Sunday.

The voters of Connecticut will take this as a slap in their face to their intelligence. Obviously, Lieberman's camp feels that if they couldn't win the primary by being the "Joe" that everybody loved they are going to take a page out of the Republican playbook and attack Lamont on the one issue that they still feel resonates with the voters...Terror.

Unfortunately for Lieberman, the voters this time around are going to do a better job of separating issues. No longer will it be easy for the Republicans to morph the war on terror with the war in Iraq, and more and more, voters are beginning to see that the war in Iraq is doing more damage than good in the struggle to kill the terrorists who really mean harm to the American homeland.

Don't be surprised to see polls in the next few weeks beginning to tighten and then start to show a Lamont lead. His job now is to stay on message, which it sounds like he's going to do.

“I’m not changing my message one iota now,” Lamont said. “It is a message that resonates. It’s not just Democrats who think that we need real change in Washington, D.C.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Term "Islamic Fascist" Completely Off The Mark

One thing learned in private school was how frustrating it was for teachers to deal with students that used words and/or terms the wrong way. The President may need to go back to school.

The hot term du jour is now "Islamic Fascists." No matter that the definition for "fascist" does not accurately define who the 'Islamic Terrorists" are, it sounds better because it compares them, ideologically, with German Nazis.

President Bush, Rick Santorum and many more Republicans will be using this term now to describe the war on terror all the way up to the mid-term elections. It must have ranked very high in the focus groups, regardless of how inaccurate it truly is.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Top Political News Of The Day

Israel To US: "Give Us More Rockets Now"

The New York Times is reporting that Israel has asked the US to speed up delivery of short-range anti-personnel rockets armed with cluster munitions, which it could use to strike Hizbollah missile sites in Lebanon.

The Reagan administration lifted a ban on sale of these munitions to Israel in the late 80's. The ban had been put in place initially after Israel had used the munitions before during it's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and had killed a number of civilians.

It's likely that this news will up the ante as it pertains to Iran, Syria and maybe even North Korea as Hezbollah will undoubtedly want to obtain more deadly weapons to use as well. Even more pressure is on Secretary Rice and the United Nations now to find a way for a cease fire to be acceptable to both sides.

Bush And Republicans Sinking Further

Two new polls are out today and both spell more trouble for Republican candidates this November. The AP-Ipsos Poll shows President Bush's approval rating dropping to 33 percent which matches the lowest rating that they have ever had for him. Also, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll shows a pessimistic public where two thirds believe that their children's future won't be better than their own.

Everything seems to be falling apart at the wrong time time for Republicans. If Bush has any coattails left, unless something dramatic happens before election day, he is going to be a significant drag in close Congressional races. The worst news for Bush and the Republicans seems to be that "Women" as a group...Democrat, Independent, and most startling of all, Republican women...seem to be turning away from them. NASCAR men aren't going to be enough to hold the fort if NASCAR women don't stand with them.

Bush's ratings also seem to have taken a hit in the South which has always been a region he could count on. Iraq, gas prices, the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, Terror...they all seem to be hurting instead of helping Bush and the Republicans this time around. Whether or not the Democrats can take advantage politically remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It Could Be 1994 All Over Again

A new Fox News Poll spells bad news for incumbents. Similar to 1994, the electorate is brimming with the "throw the bums out" fever, and as Joe Lieberman found out, it's not just the Republican bums.

There is definitely a growing opportunity for Democrats to seize at least one branch of Congress, with the best bet looking like the House of Representatives. Republicans are going to use the election in Connecticut to make the Democrats look weak on defense, but will they really be able to make Ned Lamont the face of the party on a national level?

Today's terror threat, and the threats that came before, have always been an opportunity for President Bush and Republicans in general to look strong on defense, but more and more, Americans are wondering if our investment in troops and money in Iraq is a liability in the effort to truly defeat this type of terrorism.

A November to Forget For Democrats?

A large number of political pundits, as well as Democratic strategists, pointed to the California special election to fill the House of Representatives seat once held by Randy “Duke” Cunningham as a possible barometer of voter sentiment as November’s mid-term elections approach.

In that election for California’s 50th Congressional District, Republican Brian Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby, 49 percent to 45 percent. Busby, a local school board member, also lost to Cunningham in 2004.

Those Democratic strategists saw an opportunity to steal a House seat in a solidly Republican district. It was an opportunity based on growing uneasiness of the American public about the corruption scandals that have rocked the Republican Party and the falling approval numbers of George W. Bush. That the Democratic candidate did not win is less a reflection of the American public’s mood and more a symptom of the Democrat’s inability to temper their optimism.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Republicans are going to lose seats in the House and maybe the Senate in the fall, with the only question being how many. However, if California’s 50th is any indication, and there is much debate about that, the Democrats have some significant work to do before they start handing out chairmanships.

Sure, it was a long shot for a Democrat to win in a district that has a 44%-30% registration edge over Democrats. But with 22% of independents also registered in the district, Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, saw this election as a significant opportunity to help Democrats reach their goal of retaking one or both Legislative branches. More than $10 million dollars was spent locally in the California 50th, and the DCCC was not shy about putting even more skin in the game. “We spent already about a half of a million dollars down there. So I'm committed to be competitive and try to win wherever we can win” said Emanuel.

The final numbers may prove that all that money may have been better spent elsewhere. In the last two presidential elections, Al Gore and John Kerry received 44% and 45% respectively in California’s 50th, which is exactly where Busby’s percentage fell. "Never have so many spent so much to accomplish so little," said Carl Luna, political science instructor at San Diego Mesa College.

More important than the money, however, may have been the campaign messages on which both candidates focused. Busby decided to concentrate on the self-inflicted malaise that has struck the Bush administration and the trials (soon to be maybe) and tribulations of the GOP-led Congress. She also referred numerous times to her opponent as “the lobbyist Bilbray”, an attempt to stir the voter’s emotions regarding the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Bilbray decided to concentrate on immigration reform, in such a way that it put him at odds with not only the White House stance on immigration but also directly with John McCain, who went so far as to cancel a campaign appearance with Bilbray. Bilbray has proposed a fence “from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico” and has strongly supported restrictions that will keep illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security and other benefits. Even with differing approaches on how to deal with illegal immigration, the President and the First Lady recorded campaign phone messages for Bilbray in the final days, sensing that victory was possible.

The goal of the political strategists and campaign managers now is to determine if either one of these messages resonated more with the voters, and that will be difficult to do in a Congressional district where other than the fact that the office holder won’t be a convicted felon, the status quo seems to be the big winner. "What is going on in California, in the 50th District, might be replicated in the rest of the country," said Stuart Rothenberg of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington, D.C.

In 1994, six weeks before the mid-term elections, the Republican Party released their Contract With America. They laid out in great detail the actions that they would take if they became the majority Party in the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. Although many may argue the effect the Contract had on the election, it definitely put the Clinton White House and the Democratic controlled Congress on the defensive. Ultimately, the Republicans won the House, parts of the Contract were enacted and the Democrats have been looking uphill ever since.

This fall, in lieu of a Democratic Contract With America, what will be the coordinated message that Democratic candidates will take out on the campaign trail, or maybe the better question is, will there be one? What are the issues that will resonate not only with Democratic voters but with Independents and moderate Republicans as well? In order for Democrats to defeat Republicans in those very few contested districts, like the California 50th, they’re going to need more than the campaign message that gave Francine Busby the same percentages as Gore and Kerry.

If the Democrats campaign this fall on Bush’s falling fortunes and a scandal-plagued Congress, retaking the House or Senate will remain a fantasy. Democrats must remember that they will get their share of scandal coverage as Rep. William Jefferson’s money continues to thaw since being freed from his freezer, and in five months, President Bush’s popularity is almost sure to nudge up even slightly. With the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the completion of Iraq’s government, the willingness of the Iranians to at least consider sitting down at the negotiation table, a surprise Presidential visit to Baghdad and a guy named Karl Rove that just got off the hook, that nudge just got a slight nudge.

Absent a Contract With America or something similar coming from the Democrats, the status quo may reign supreme. If this campaign is going to be contested on the issues we saw on display in the California 50th, the Republicans will trump the Democrats, because Republican candidates will run to the right of Bush on immigration, which is a winner, and they are also just beginning to dust off that old chestnut that seems to always come out around election time: opposition to gay marriage.

The Democrats won’t win bashing Bush and a scandal-plagued Congress. It’s time for Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to put forth some serious proposals that will grab the attention of the American public, and not six weeks before the election. Otherwise, the $10 million dollars spent in the California 50th is going to look like chump change if the shake-up that so many seem to predict is coming doesn’t materialize. Then, after the Democrats have wiped the egg from their faces, they get to look forward to 2008 and the possible presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. They may need to save a few extra napkins, just in case.

Terror Threats Still Affect Public Sentiment, But How?

Every time a new threat is exposed that threatens air travel, it's inevitable that the public feels the pangs of 9/11 all over again.

“We were really getting quite close to the execution phase,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Although the terrorists were based in London, the flights were going from London to the US meaning that significant American lives would have been at risk.

Citizens will no doubt deal with the inconveniences that they are going to experience at airports for the foreseeable future, but after the initial shock, many more are going to begin to wonder if the "War On Terror" is being fought in the best fashion and whether we are more safe or less safe.

Come November, they will let both political parties know who they are going to trust more to lead us through the next few years of terror threats like the one today.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

White House Opposition to Israeli Military Escalation Ironic

Israel's Security Cabinet today approved plans to send IDF troops deeper into Lebanon which will clearly expand the ground war. At the same time, Hezbollah rejected the U.N. peace plan which had been falling apart almost from the moment it was first proposed.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that “We are working hard now to bridge differences between the United States position and some of the positions of our allies. We want an end to violence and we do not want escalations.”

This statement sounds very much like those spoken by many individuals leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, yet, this same White House decided not to pay heed. Makes one wonder: why should Israel pay heed?

They shouldn't. Less than two weeks ago, President Bush was very definitive in comparing Israel's actions in Lebanon to the U.S. action in Iraq...both a fight against the forces of global terror. If so, Israel should press further, and harder. Unlike our military incursion into Iraq, Israel was actually attacked, and they've responded as they should. President Bush seems to be practicing "do as I say, not as I do" diplomacy.

Lieberman Must Show Some Class

As hard as it may be for Joe Lieberman to accept the results from last night's primary election in Connecticut, the voters have spoken. Already, leaders in the Democratic party are urging him not to run as an Independent candidate, but I doubt if Lieberman will heed their calls.

Just like we all used to say as kids, Lieberman lost fair and square and he needs to show some class and step aside for the good of his party. Otherwise, his Independent candidacy becomes nothing more than a vanity play. During his campaign, he received support from all the established Democratic leaders, including the top dog, Bill Clinton, and he still lost. He will no doubt lose even bigger in November if he challenges them this time around.

Coulter Goddess of Virulent Conservatism

There are obviously a fair number of people that enjoy reading books by Ann Coulter. Previous offerings from the author have been very successful and her current book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” is at the top of The New York Times bestsellers list.

In the book, Coulter skewers liberals, once again. This time, as the title suggests, she writes that liberals reject God and have a disdain for all people of faith, but it’s what she penned about four New Jersey widows whose husbands were killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 that has drawn the ire of liberals as well as some conservatives.

Coulter writes, “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefarazzis. I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”

Coulter objects to the “Witches of East Brunswick,” as she calls them, because they, like many others, called for an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks. She also points to their support of Democrat John Kerry’s presidential candidacy in 2004 as problematic.

“If people are going to use a personal tragedy in their lives to inject themselves into a national debate, I‘m sorry. You can‘t just say, we‘re off limits. We‘re going to invoke the fact that our husbands died and you can‘t criticize us,” she said.

To say that Americans have lost the ability to be civil towards one another as it pertains to political discourse would be an understatement, but it didn’t begin with Ann Coulter or Fox News or any other entity that views liberals and all else on the left as the Anti-Christ. They may be perfecting the genre, but they didn’t invent it. Frankly, fierce partisanship and strong opinions should be welcomed within political debate. Fierce partisanship from Democrats in Congress might well have persuaded more of them to bravely vote against Resolutions on the war in Iraq.

What Coulter has written specifically regarding the 9/11 widows and often what she has said on various topics amounts to very bad taste. However, the essence of what she wrote about the widows can certainly be viewed as a legitimate observation, and a cleverer author would have written it much better. But that doesn’t sell books, and Ann Coulter’s job is to sell books.

Voltaire said “I do not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Free speech should always be defended, even when it is in bad taste, because more often than not, it is uplifting and beneficial to the common good. What’s interesting is that while most intelligent people would defend free speech, even Coulter’s, she would not. “Liberals are always accusing us of repressing their speech. I say let’s do it. Let’s repress them. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the First Amendment,” Coulter said during an Oct. 21, 2005, speech at the University of Florida.

A question that should be asked is this: are Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity the best mouthpieces that the conservative movement has to offer us today? And are they truly conservatives? William F. Buckley, a man for whom the word conservative fits like a glove, once said of the current president, “Bush is conservative, but he is not a conservative.”

The same could be said of Coulter. If Buckley, George Nash, George Will, Pat Buchanan and Tony Blankley can be viewed as traditional fiscal, cultural and/or religious conservatives, Coulter and her gang should be given a new branch on the conservative tree, if they belong there at all: Virulent Conservatives.

Virulent Conservatives are more than fiercely partisan. They are hateful and bitter towards those that disagree with them and with the current administration, using words like un-patriotic and un-American to describe people that dare to utilize maybe the greatest gift the Founding Fathers gave us: dissent. Harry Truman said “once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

It was sixteen years after Barry Goldwater’s landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson in 1964’s presidential election before Ronald Reagan’s election cemented the resurgence of the modern conservative movement. In between, Richard Nixon was the first actor in Buckley’s “conservative, but not a conservative” movie, thirty-two years before George W. Bush got the leading role. Although one could argue that it was the Johnson campaign that brilliantly painted Goldwater as a dangerous extremist, Goldwater himself provided much fuel for the fire that would eventually engulf his political career.

Reagan learned well in 1964 that dangerous rhetoric and unnecessary vitriol need not be the main tenet of the conservative movement. Whether you agreed with him or not, the persuasive and stylish way in which he put forth his conservative beliefs is something that is sorely lacking from within the virulent wing of the present-day conservative movement. Coulter and her gang certainly may keep serving up the bloody red meat that their minions continue to lap up, but, eventually, liberals and conservatives will ultimately yearn for more honest, decent and thought-provoking debate. Unfortunately for Coulter, Virulent Conservatives, and the next Republican presidential nominee, that yearning might reach its peak in 2008.