Saturday, May 31, 2008

Can I Get Some Religious Instruction With My Diatribe?

When I was a kid, my sister and I were channel surfing through a mind-numbing range of THIRTY-SIX options from the “cable TV” my parents had just installed. (Back then, more than 6 channels was MAJOR). We halted when we saw an astronaut floating on the moon before he staked a flag into the ground. The flag changed colors repeatedly to some guitar riffs. Then some quirky little techno-pop ballad started to play:

“I heard you on the wireless back in ’52,
Lying awake intent on tuning in to you,
If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through…..
Oh-a Oh!”

It was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, an apropos song for the launch of MTV, which my sister and I actually saw by dumb luck. The Buggles should do a follow-up song called "Video Killed Quality Music," but the prevalance of talentless though attractive slutteens in "the biz" is a discussion for another time.

Wikipedia tells me the MTV kick-off was August 1, 1981, and it seems that the 1980s were the last time I actually SAW a music video on MTV.

Institutions, even those that are culturally iconic, often morph to "keep up with the times." But sometimes they shouldn’t. They need to stick with their “core competencies.” Puck on the Real World and the lineage of losers that followed never fascinated me like the video for “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo. I could never figure out why the guy was wearing a raccoon skin on his head (was that his hair?!?) and why he’s shoeless. Also, why didn’t the waitress just take some Tylenol already? It was clear she had a headache.

But I digress. The same thing about “core competencies” applies to churches. Remember when they actually did sermons about the Bible? Those were the days! Now, apparently, they would rather do political screeds for their congregants. Father Michael Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton at Barack Obama’s church, which prompted an angry response from the Catholic League.

According to CNN...

"The Catholic League is an influential non-partisan organization that says its mission is to protect the free-speech rights of Catholics 'whenever and wherever they are threatened.' The League was an early critic of the Rev. John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor whose endorsement was sought by John McCain but later repudiated."

(Editors Note: Even if you agree with the Catholic League, as I do, you have to admit that it's pretty funny to have a "free speech" group telling a guy to shut the hell up. Also, I have to think that working at the Catholic League must be like being a Maytag repair man. Is there really that much suppression of Catholic speech? And no, all the people yelling at Marge at the Bingo Hall to quit blabbing about the "cover all" she won last Friday doesn't count.)

Father Pfleger’s comments prompted another apology from Senator Obama who called the comments “divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause."

There’s always been a fine line between showmanship and theology, but I’m not sure I’m keen on a church service being like Def Comedy Jam. But what REALLY bothers me is the blatant stupidity. Obviously, every member of the Trinity Church must now know everything that they say or do is being recorded and broadcast on Youtube. So, in the future, PLEASE stick to Moses.

Not since the Spanish Inquisition has one church so tortured a man.


Friday, May 30, 2008

I Put the Whine in Weinzapfel

Crap! Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long-Thompson’s best running mate just went out the window. Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel says he will not accept the number two slot.

This is a blow to the JLT campaign. You could not have designed a better complement to a JLT candidacy. Weinzapfel is a young, attractive, bright, Southern executive in a large city he dominated in November with a staggering 85% of the vote. Moreover, job creation is a key issue in this campaign, and one of Weinzapfel’s primary duties is to “bring jobs” to Evansville.

In Weinzapfel’s statement, he noted the unfinished tasks facing Evansville, but you have to believe his decision included some handicapping.

I’ve never subscribed to the belief that you’re “finished in politics” if you lose in a supporting role. However, in this case, while all might have been forgiven had he ran and won, he'd have irritated a LOT of people who put faith in him six months ago if he ran and lost. He’d be your typical “office jumper.”

The smart play was to wait, so JW's decision shouldn't surprise anybody. After all, if JLT loses, Mayor Weinzapfel is looking at an open field in 2012. And make no mistake, Jonathan Weinzapfel IS the presumptive nominee. For what office? Anyone he wants. Any statewide office, any year. The Mayor IS the golden child of an IDP that doesn’t have many obvious superstars on its bench. JW isn't going to jump into a potential bowl of tarnish after he spent so much time building a profile statewide speaking at JJ dinners.

In addition, there is still a lingering sentiment that JLT’s campaign is an “anti-establishment” insurgency. (Of course, this sentiment is mostly shared by “the establishment”). Regardless of whether the perception is real or just…uh…a perception, Weinzapfel was, no doubt, reluctant to hitch his sail to a boat that many of the IDP brass have put out to harbor.

So who’s left? The other names most bandied about are State Representative and former prosecutor Trent Van Haaften from Mount Vernon, Representative Dennis Oxley from English, Former Speaker of the House John Gregg, and Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez.

Roy Dominguez would be a mistake, as would anybody from Lake County this year. The county is more fractured than ever, which is REALLY saying something about a place that made Bob Pastrick a legend. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott was once talked about as a potential running mate, but that probably went out the window when he made Rudy Clay, the Mayor of Gary, look like an idiot on CNN over the handling of primary night election returns. McDermott will NOT be getting a Christmas card from Clay this year.

But as bad as the Clay/McDermott row was, Dominguez’s blood feud with former Lake County Sheriff John Buncich makes it look like child’s play. Buncich’s ill will toward Dominguez was most evident when Buncich orchestrated Dominguez’s ouster from the Fraternal Order of Police. I swear to God, the Lake County Sheriff got voted out of his own FOP lodge.

Here’s why that’s bad. Governor Daniels received the Firefighters endorsement earlier this week, meaning JLT badly needs the FOP on board to avoid the “public safety sweep.” But given Lake County’s juice with the state FOP, how likely is Buncich to push for the endorsement if Dominguez, his sworn enemy, is on the ticket?

Moreover, Dominguez has quite a few lawsuits pending against him for his management of the Lake County Jail. Most of them are “prisoner lawsuits,” and these tend to be inmates complaining about not having enough crunchy peanut butter and the like, but JLT needs somebody squeaky clean who isn’t embroiled in any local political flaps. For people outside of Lake County, though, there IS no squeaky clean in Lake County. Any allegation sticks.

But more importantly, JLT performed poorly in the southern part of the state. If she picks a northern running mate, it would be horrible tactically.

Indiana House Speaker John Gregg fits the bill. He’s charismatic, “Southern,” and loyal as a party solider. He’s carried more water for “up ticket” candidates than Gunga Din, and nobody pumps up a room better than the party’s de facto cheerleader-in-chief. The only downside, which, depending on his specific clients might be not all that significant, is that some of his Southern gentleman air wore off when he left the Indiana General Assembly to join the Bingham McHale's Indianapolis lobby shop. Daniels could pitch him as arguably part of the “Indianapolis power elite." That would certainly make it harder for JLT to attack the "status quo" and the "Indianapolis power brokers." And then, there's the question of whether JLT would forgive and forget, since Gregg spoke highly of Schellinger on his website.

State Representative Dennis Oxley is an intriguing pick. He has an adorable family, he’s in the leadership at the House, but his background is in education, which has not been high on the radar during this campaign. Moreover, Oxley left his job as an education administrator near his home to become a “project manager” at Beam, Longest, and Neff, LLC, an engineering firm out of Indianapolis. (As an aside, how do all these representatives who allegedly live in Southern Indiana hold these Indianapolis jobs?)

If JLT is looking at Oxley, she’ll need to do a real study of BLN projects to see whether Oxley can get “Schellingered” by Daniels in November. As you may recall, JLT attacked Jim Schellinger for allegedly “lobbying” for school projects that raised property taxes while making money for his architecture firm. If Oxley’s fingerprints can be found on any similar project, Daniels will eat him for lunch by using JLT’s own add and superimposing Oxley’s face.

This leaves Trent Van Haften. He has no obvious downsides (except for being a lawyer), but like Oxley, he is not generally known out of his house district. Moreover, his background in law enforcement won’t be a big bonus in a year when crime isn't a major issue.

In conclusion, the best running mate for JLT is a young, southern white man with a thriving business who treats his employees well and who has the independent wealth to overcome JLT's fundraising deficit.

Can anybody get Bill Cook to a time machine?


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The "800 New Case Manager" Gorilla

Let’s start with a humanitarian principle that nobody (sane) will dispute:

“Children shouldn’t die.”

Now let’s add a political principle that is equally above dispute:

“If you are a politician, and your office is connected to a child’s death, even remotely, nasty headlines follow and angry citizens will want you charged with criminal offenses and inflicted with the same injuries suffered by the child.”

Yeah, none too pleasant for a public servant. And here begins your lesson in “political fecal gravity,” gentle readers. It is stated thusly:

"When the dookie hits the oscillating unit, it always trickles down."

Too many children were dying in DCS’ care, so the Governor decided he wanted to double the number of family case managers. The thinking was that each case manager had too many cases to visit enough with foster parents or biological parents who were close to reunifying with their children. As a result, corners were cut, indicators were missed, and bad things happened. Sure, it signaled a huge growth in government, but the premise seemed logical.

But here are three things you don’t know that apparently the Governor didn’t care about when he made his “Star Wars” campaign ad touting “800 New Child Protection Workers!!!”

1. There is a huge difference between having 800 new slots allocated statewide for case managers and actually HAVING 800 new case managers on the job. At the Marion County Department of Child Services, the job pressures so greatly outpace the financial rewards that to call the office a “revolving door” doesn't capture the fact many new hires jump through the glass mid-rotation.

2. The Marion County Department of Child Services has just increased its caseloads substantially. When a hospital, daycare, school, or good guy citizen calls CPS to report potential abuse or neglect, that call generates what is called a “310 report.” CPS then decides whether to investigate the allegation or to "screen it out.”

If someone, for example, reports, “My next door neighbor’s kid watches The Simpsons eight hours a day,” it might be suspect parenting, but it doesn’t mean Mr. State gets to kick down their door. These calls get screened out, along with questionable allegations made during child custody disputes.

For reasons that are unclear, until about a month ago, the Marion County DCS office screened out 40% of all 310 reports. Now, with the creation of a new 310 review team, that percent is down to 20% screened out, which is consistent with the state average for other counties.

What does this mean? A lot more CHINS (Child in Need of Services) cases and more kids taken from their parents. Right now, Marion County DCS is filing 50 new CHINS cases filed per week.

In some respects, this is expected. Supply creates its own demand, as new workers and entities seek to justify their own employment existence. Talk to any lawyer who practices at the juvenile court, and they will all tell you that as soon as a special “domestic violence” unit was created at Marion County DCS about six months ago, the number of domestic violence cases filed as CHINS actions increased noticeably.

Instinctively, you might say, “Hey, isn’t it good to investigate MORE?” Sure, but it has to make you curious about the initial premise justifying the expansion of government, doesn’t it? If we say we want to increase case managers to decrease average caseloads, but then we increase caseloads without adding (and more importantly, without actually KEEPING) more case managers, how do we hit our target?

This leads me to the third point.

3. When we added these new case managers, why didn’t the Governor also come up with additional money to pay for more court Magistrates, DCS attorneys and public defenders, DCS supervisors (somebody has to get promoted to train the newbies), additional court space, foster placement per diems and foster parent training?

The Governor is not stupid, so how could he have assumed that adding new case managers wouldn't have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the system. Wouldn't that be like doubling your police force while thinking you wouldn't need more courts, prosecutors, public defenders, and jail space?

If there is any benefit to the fact DCS has not actually reached 800 new case manager, it's found in the delay of enacting human nature. If you have somebody in a "policing" role, they ARE going to make more arrests, even if now you're enforcing smaller offenses. I promise you that if we quadruple IMPD's workforce, we'd all be getting tickets for driving 56 in a 55. Once DCS actually gets to its "fighting weight," I predict you will see more people coming in the system ever before, and they'll stay in it longer as well.

What makes increased caseloads terrifying from a taxpayer perspective is that each new case increases the already insane amounts we pay for the stuff we make parents do to get their kids back, including drug testing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation classes, parenting classes, anger management classes, domestic violence classes, individual and family counseling, home-based counseling, and supervised visitation. I promise you, ladies and gentlemen, unless we revolutionize how we do things in the Marion County child welfare system, these costs will ALL go through the roof.

That means the next time you want to complain about your property taxes, look at your child welfare budget, and thank the Governor for crushing your wallet.

Some things are worth it. Is this one of them?

Stay tuned for Part Deux (a/k/a “Who Will Save the Children?”)


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who Said Bush Wasn't Cultured?

Scott McClellan, President Bush’s press secretary from 2003-2006, now free of the restraints of an administration that never wanted bad news, delivered some in his new book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”

Well, at least we can now officially credit Bush for having SOME culture.

Excerpts from the book are nothing astonishing or even revelatory. For example:

On Katrina:

“One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response would largely come to define Bush’s second term.”
(Is there anybody who doesn’t know that Katrina was FUBAR?)

On Bush:

“He and his advisors confused propaganda campaign with a high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and sustain public support during a time of war.”
(Is there anybody who doesn’t know the Bush administration approached the Iraq war as a foregone conclusion for which it needed to drum up public support through patriotic manipulation?)

In fact, the only thing shocking about the book is WHO is saying it. But equally interesting is the White House's reaction of total shock. Karl Rove accused McClellan of sounding like “a liberal blogger,” and of "not sounding like the Scott I know."

Of course, he doesn't. The Scott you knew kept quiet until it was time to carry the party line, regardless of the distortion necessary to fulfill the task.

The White House called McClellan's remarks "self-serving, disingenuous, and unprofessional."

Riiiiiiight...the people who let McClellan lie about Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame case are going to give us all a lecture on professionalism.

Some may chastise McClellan. After all, how can you give him a medal (or even $15.37 at Amazon for his book) for coming forth now when he might have saved lives coming forth earlier on the war.

At the same time, though, I don’t see how his silence in an administration that has shown uncanny ability to crush dissent serves to automatically discredit him.

This much we can say for certain. Somebody closer to George W. Bush than any of us thinks he and his advisors were not forthright with America. That’s a politically correct way of saying, “They lied.”

So, should we focus on that, or spend our time on Obama allegedly “lying” about which concentration camp his GREAT uncle liberated? To quote the bumper sticker: “When Clinton lied, nobody died.” Can Bush say the same?


A Crucial Political Lesson

Anybody who has worked on a political campaign will likely have compiled some “political lessons learned,” even if just mentally. I know I have. Periodically, I like to share mine in the form of “Worden’s Rules.” Here’s a classic one.

"NEVER let someone 'pimp you.' "

This happens when somebody makes faux derogatory comments about another to induce you to join them in a bash fest. They then use the intelligence you handed them to incise your back with finely-sharpened cutlery.

It was 1996, and I was managing Jeff Modisett’s campaign for Attorney General. I was distraught over the lack of progress by Vendor X, and I had apparently grumbled enough in-house to unknowingly draw the attention of a very influential D politician who is now a township trustee.

He came to my office and started asking questions about how things were going, and, almost as if he had read my mind, asked me who we were using to provide the service in question. He even cleverly threw in a name of a rival vendor instead of X.

“You guys are using Y, right?”

“No,” I said. “We’re using X.”

He replies, “I heard they’re (insert harsh critique of their work here).”

Fully thinking this person and I are simpatico and bonding, I made a joke about the irony of the vendor’s name in relation to our problem. Think along the lines of a vendor named “Stellar” who does sub-par work, but make it a cleverer riposte.

What I didn’t know at the time was that this politico was best friends with one of the principals of Vendor X. My comment was relayed before the pol had left the building.

I know this because within ten minutes, the principal (whose company did a fair share of complimentary work for the Indiana Democratic Party) had called then-chairman Joe Andrew and ripped him a new one, Joe had “passed it on” to my boss, and fecal gravity being what it is, Jeff gave it to me.

That, my friends, is major league pimpage courtesy of one of the game’s finest. This politician knew what he wanted to get before he got there, and he played me like a Stradivarius. I was never sure why he did this, but I later took it as a favor because he taught me a crucial lesson in politics.

I’ll never forget that episode, and I haven’t trusted him since. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize his political savvy. He has moments of brilliance. But I wouldn’t believe him if he told me he was standing in front of me, even if I actually SAW him standing in front of me. I would just assume he figured out a way to project a holographic image just to put one over on me.

He apologized to me later, and I almost laughed because he acted like he had no connection to what happened, but rather, had just heard about it “through the grapevine.”

The absurdity of his apology reminded me of comedian Chris Rock talking about his next door neighbor stealing from him on the sly and acting innocent about it.

Neighbor: “Hey, man, I heard you got robbed last night.”

Chris Rock: “No, you weren’t hearing sh*t…because you were too busy doing sh*t.”

This guy pushed the boulder from the top of the hill and then had the gall to act like he had no idea how it got rolling fast enough to plow me over.

But this leads me to another Worden Rule.

“You can’t survive in politics with sworn enemies, so don’t make any.”

You might need that person tomorrow to further your own interests. When you encounter “the pimps,” just adjust your expectations so you can read between the lines. This will sound crazy, I know, but once you know you’re dealing with a chronic liar and/or manipulator, you can really establish a healthy relationship with him/her because you’ll be sensitive to the “real” meanings to his or her words. It's like you'll develop "spider senses." They may even become your best source of political information unknowingly because you can read them like a bad card player.

This was illustrated recently with crystal clarity by the very individual who burned me. This politician addressed a bunch of Democrats and told them to stop worrying about an upcoming vacancy in a political office because we all needed to focus on winning in November.

Had I never met this guy, I might think, “Wow, what a truly committed party man! He wants us to keep our eyes on the November prize.” BUT because I knew him well, I was able to easily translate his comment from bullsheeteeze into English, thereby discerning what he REALLY meant, which was:

“I have somebody I want in this soon-to-be open position, so I’d appreciate it if all of YOU focus on November. That will make it easier for me to get a leg up on you because you will be standing still while I’m working like a madman behind-the-scenes to line up enough big name support that by the time you actually create a campaign committee, my protégé and I will have this thing locked up.”

Class dismissed.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mitch, Did You Get a Release?!?

I bet Mitch Daniels doesn’t know Trent Harris appears in his “Spirit of Optimism” TV commercial.

You'll see Mr. Harris at :32 seconds in the NBA jersey and black baseball cap. He looks like he's literally giving the Governor an ear full. Why might he be doing that, you ask?

Because on September 28, 2005, the Indiana Department of Child Services made Mr. Harris a casualty of their “800 new case managers” that Daniels is touting in other ads.

You see, Mr. Harris lived in a not-so-stellar neighborhood. For personal protection, he owned a handgun, which he kept on the top of his refrigerator “in the back.” You may say, “Well, that wasn’t the smartest place to put a gun.” I agree in the abstract. But Mr. Harris’ children were 4 and 5 at the time and unable to get on the adjacent counter to access the refrigerator top, which was over six feet tall. Moreover, even if they could get to the gun (of which they had no knowledge), they couldn’t have pulled the trigger.

I know this because I was Mr. Harris’ lawyer. I located the original craftsman who designed the gun in question (which was no longer in production) to inquire about the “trigger weight.” Basically, some guns are harder than others to fire, in particular, when they are semi-automatic revolvers because the extra length the trigger must travel. I had read studies that toddlers can fire a gun, and I wanted to know if I was being naïve now.

The designer advised me that as an adult male, he still needed two hands to pull the trigger. Ultimately, I visited Mr. Harris, and I could not dry fire without holding the gun with a second hand either. The other thing DCS apparently didn’t consider is the size of the children’s fingers in relation to this gun. They wouldn’t have been able to hold it in the manner I did, which was the only way TO fire it. But, hey, guns are evil, right?

So in April of 2005, DCS had Mr. Harris’ gun removed by IMPD. DCS then told Mr. Harris that if he would agree to “perform services” such as going to a drug testing facility for a weekly urine drop and meeting weekly with a home-based counselor, they would let his children stay in his home. Mr. Harris adamantly disagreed he needed services, but to “get DCS off his back” and keep his kids in the home, he went along.

He started participating in the services and, per DCS’ instructions, he put a safety lock on the gun, which he then put in a gun safe, which was stored separately from his ammunition, which was put in a separate locked container. How DCS expected him to defend himself was beyond me, as he had a two-bedroom apartment with 900 square feet, at most. An intruder moving with the assistance of a walker could have pummeled Mr. Harris before he ever loaded his gun.

In September of 2005, Mr. Harris decided he was tired of jumping through unnecessary hoops, so he quit participating. DCS took his children from his home, even though by that time Mr. Harris had disposed of the gun. Despite glowing testimony from a Head Start teacher and a kindergarten teacher that Mr. Harris took his children to school every day, was active in their school, and was always asking about what he could work on with his children, and that their educational, health, and emotional needs were being met, the trial court agreed with DCS that my client’s children should be taken. On November 20, 2006, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned that decision in DCS v. Harris. (As a side note, this same Magistrate was reversed six times in the same year).

Fourteen months passed before this injustice was righted, and Mr. Harris' children were out of his home during almost all of that time. So, yeah, I might have something to say to Mitch Daniels, too, were I Trent Harris.

On a sadly comical side note, the case manager for DCS testified at the trial that Mr. Harris’ neighborhood was so unsettling, she was afraid to enter the outside of Mr. Harris’ apartment building without an escort from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

In other words, she knew SHE wanted a gun to even walk where Mr. Harris lived...and she wasn't content to have it locked in a box.


No Backstory to JLT Lease?

So, it turns out that political intrigue is not always intriguing. Either that, or people are adept at putting on the "happy face" when it's time to rally the troops.

Two weeks ago, Jim Shella noted that Jill Long-Thompson was opening a campaign headquarters in Indianapolis on Delaware Street. This struck me as very strange. Since I started paying attention to campaigns in 1988, there hasn't been a D gubernatorial candidate who didn't have operations at state party. Rightfully so. Why pay for space you should have for free as your party's standard bearer?

So why isn't Jill Long-Thompson "over there?" Did she get snubbed? Was she paranoid about bringing her people into an Indiana Democratic Party HQ that was so strongly pro-Schellinger before the primary?

Apparently, neither. Word is that state party offered space on a separate floor, but JLT anticipated needing more, and she got a good deal elsewhere. Unfortunately, IDP doesn't have the space it did in the Bayh-O'Bannon-Kernan glory days, so there was less to offer. Of course, one might wonder whether a stronger effort would have been made to "prioritize" space for the gubernatorial race if Schellinger prevailed.

Some may also wonder, "WAS Dan Parker playing favorites pre-primary?" The better question is how couldn't he? Look at these stats from the on-line campaign finance database:

- Individual contributions by Jill Long-Thompson to ANY D candidate or party committee - 13 total - $2,429

- Contributions from any Jill Long-Thompson committee to any D candidate or party committee - 8 total - $4,375.

- Individual contributions from Jim Schellinger to ANY D candidate or party committee - approximately 75 for $200,000. (That's right... 200 G's...this includes donations to the IDP of $10,500 in 2007, $20,800 in 2006, $11,100 in 2005, and $6,600 in 2004).

- Contributions from Jim Schellinger's gubernatorial committee to state party - 17 total for $432,000. (Of course, this last figure is misleading because that $400,000+ includes (but is not limited to) reimbursement for payroll paid out by state party).

It's not a stretch to think Schellinger is pissed. I say this because he was absent at the May 14, 2008, "unity" press conference that had JLT, a very cordial and supportive Dan Parker, Pat Bauer, and Richard Young (among other members of the Indiana General Assembly). Schellinger, however, did not attend.

AP reported he was "believed to be out of town." I might be more willing to buy that story if Schellinger had endorsed JLT since then. He still hasn't.

Also, when Jim Shella suggested Schellinger was a "sore loser," Schellinger's brother roasted Jimbo. Family is more protective than a candidate is, but I can't shake the feeling that brother was echoing Jim's own feelings.

Folks around Schellinger are pretty clear he thought he was "done dirty," and given how many Democrats he's helped get into office with his checkbook, he might feel like his defeat was an ultimate expression of ingratitude. That would certainly make any astute party chairman exceedingly conscious of playing too nice with the lady who stepped on the golden goose.

JLT and state party will probably both tell you that everything is kissy face now, but one can't help but wonders if there is still an elephant in the room that isn't the GOP.

Democrats can only hope that Jim Schellinger will add a layer of skin and come out swinging again instead of foresaking the party he's help build. Schellinger is too talented to sit on the sidelines.

If he's looking for a way to "re-engage," I know a D gubernatorial candidate who could probably benefit from his job creation expertise...if he's willing to share it.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Name Combat Redux

I previously blogged my predictions for the Marion County judges' primary based on my "name combat" philosophy, which I argue occurs in down ticket races. Well, Jeff Greenfield argues the phenomenon goes all the way to the top of the ballot.

Greenfield points out that our presidents have been 43 guys with pretty Scott-Irish, Dutch, or German sounding and relatively simple names - Washington, Madison, Grant, Adams, Johnson, Kennedy, Bush - and only one has had four syllables - Eisenhower. But as Greenfield notes, everybody called him Ike, and when you have five stars and win a war, you can probably call yourself "Schlitz Malt Liquor" and still get elected. On the loserville side, you have names like Mondale, Dukakis, Dewey, and Hubert Horatio Humphrey.

Greenfield argues that names provides an opportunity for opponents to cast the candidate as "not one of us," which is why having BOTH Barack AND Hussein has been politically hurtful. Greenfield comically suggests an apostrophe might help "O'Bama" lock up the Irish vote.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Tally in Cali Mixed Bag for Same-Sex Marriage

Today, the L.A. Times reports that 54% of Californians say that they will support a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, effectively overturning the California Supreme Court's ruling from last week. This is bad news to gay rights activists. Let's be frank, if it can't get done in California, where can it be done?

But the numbers aren't all stormclouds. Ballot initiatives lose support when strong counter-campaigns are waged, and you know there will be a very concerted effort to kill this one. Starting at 54% is hardly a position of strength. Also, the polling data show that opposition is almost ALL generational. Older voters see same-sex marriage as a threat to "traditional" marriage, and are, accordingly, more likely to support the amendment.

As the Times astutely points out, this generational divide raises intriguing back-and-forth implications for the presidential race. If Obama mobilizes young Californians, he'll not only roast McCain, he'll kill this measure. BUT, ironically, the initiative also has the power to help McCain, as evangelicals (the majority of whom are R's) will definitely come out (definitely no pun intended) for this clash.

Of course, any benefit McCain might have gained will arguably be diminished following his repudiation of endorsements from two well-known religious leaders, Reverend John Hagee and Rod Parsley. Expect to see a lot of "blanks" under "president" in California.


Quit Your Bitchin' About Gas Prices!

Robert Bryce has a piece at (the best d@mn read on the internet), that encapsulates my feelings about gas prices, which is essentially that everybody should quit complaining because we've been spoiled. To summarize why we're lucky:

1) Gas only costs 20% more than it did EIGHTY-SIX YEARS AGO.

2) Gas is cheaper by the gallon than beer ($11) or Starbucks ($23).

3) In 1975, gas was 33.4% of the total car ownership cost (gas, financing, licensing, taxes, insurance, and maintenance). Now gas is only 17% because all the fixed costs have jumped fivefold.

4) Americans only reduce oil consumption after prolonged "high" prices. This year will be the first in seventeen to show a decline in gas consumption.

5) Small car sales increased 17% in April while SUV sales fell 30%, which is good for the environment. In addition, Nissan is going to sell an electric car in America because (listen up, free marketeers)..."the shifts from the markets are more powerful than what regulators are doing." (Of course, since the regulators aren't doing anything, I guess this isn't too impressive, is it?)

6) We should all be glad we're not Brits, and not just because their food is bland. They're paying $8.38/gallon. American has the second-lowest gas prices among the 32 industrialized nations.

So, in short, Jill Long-Thompson, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain shouldn't cut our gas taxes until people first move closer to their jobs, ditch their SUVs, dust of their bikes, and keep their hands off of our wildlife preserves as a quickie fix. Only true energy independence will allow us to handle the Middle East in the way we should, not the way we HAVE TO.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Feel Dirty, But I Have to Say It....

Rumor mongering is the dark underbelly of the already sordid business that is politics. When victory seems elusive, the desperate will fabricate and fan the fictitious to the fearful, who get flimflammed. Disgusting, right? But here are two “rumors” that were originally denounced as “completely despicable.”

Jim McGreevy and Larry Craig are gay.

Uh, yeah, these rumors don’t seem so “baseless” now, do they?

While false rumors can demolish people’s careers, every hidden truth starts as a rumor. Hadn’t we all heard rumors that an intern told a friend she had a tryst with the President long before we knew about a DNA-enhanced blue dress that cinched the deal?

By definition, a rumor is just an unverified statement about something or someone. In application, a political rumor can be lethal and deliciously Machiavellian. In an internet environment, knowing how, or if, to disseminate and how, or if, to respond is part of the political tactician’s toolbox.

Come along class. Professor IPOPA knows of a doozy floating around the internet that serves as a perfect case study.

Go to Google. Type in “Michelle Obama” and “railing against Whitey.” I did this three days ago, and I got 950 links. I did it this morning, and I got 21,500. Welcome to the information superhighway and all its viral tendencies.

What is this about, Professor?

A blogger named Larry Johnson (, an adamant opponent of Barack Obama, claims that four Republican sources have told him that Karl Rove possesses a videotape of Michelle Obama “railing against Whitey” at her church. One of the sources claims that Rove is showing it to big money donors while telling them that the RNC will wait to unveil it (a/k/a “the October Surprise”) after Obama gets the nomination and starts to gain traction. Wait, it gets better. Apparently, a Republican billionaire who cannot stand McCain has allegedly offered a million dollars for a copy of the video so that Obama’s people can do damage control in advance of its airing.

Here’s the post that started it all:

So, let’s dissect the levels of deviousness that could be at play here.

If you are Clinton (or a Clinton supporter), you want this rumor out there, and you want it out there huge. Even Obama fans (IPOPA included) know another unflattering race-based disclosure, even from his wife, makes Obama unelectable. He can’t win. This rumor is an IV for Clinton’s barely-breathing campaign, which should make us all rather skeptical. Clinton’s been saying all along that she can get elected but Obama can’t. Without putting the campaign’s imprimatur on this, Clinton’s people are praying it gets wide circulation, I assure you. But they might not want it to rise to the level where it gets refuted because Clinton’s folks probably doubt its veracity, and at best, they can only say they don’t know for sure. In other words, Clintonites want the “whisper campaign” to doom Obama while praying that their hoped for truth comes out.

If you are a Republican or a McCain supporter, you’ve just “gone fishin.” There are three sets of statements that are either true of false:

(1) Michelle Obama either did or did not “rail against Whitey” at her church;

(2) Republicans either do or do not have this on tape; and

(3) Michelle Obama either has or has not referred to white people collectively as “Whitey” in her lifetime.

If 1 and 2 are true, somebody in the R camp has screwed up. You would definitely want to keep a lid on this. If it breaks too soon, now you’ve got Clinton against McCain, and she'll dust him in the debates.

BUT let’s say you don’t have one or two, but you think, having read Michelle Obama’s thesis or going on Rove’s gut that she’s “militant." What if you just thought she MIGHT HAVE said something like this before. How would you make that come forth without real evidence? Well, one thing you might do is fabricate a rumor that you have something on tape while saying you’re not going to show it. If the rumor gains enough traction, at some point, it will go from viral to mainstream, and somebody somewhere is going to ask Obama about the tape specifically.

If Obama responds narrowly by saying, “My wife never used the term “whitey” in the pulpit,” the follow up will be, “Did she EVER use it?” Now, Michelle Obama is in a position of having to make a categorical denial that she has NEVER said “Whitey,” even in jest. While review of thousands of web pages helped me conclude that the word “Whitey” is mostly used by white people when they are making mocking comments about what they believe angry black people call them behind their backs, I’m sure more black people have said “whitey” in jest than Whitey thinks.

This is why, if you are Obama, you might be hoping that Al Gore does something to make the internet disappear as quickly as he created it. To acknowledge this rumor as anything more than cranksterism gives it legitimacy, and you’ll spend the rest of the campaign responded to every allegation that you are really an alien from a neighboring galaxy, or that you had a secret lunch with bin Laden at a Manhattan bistro last week. But to not deny it outright might give it ongoing “viral” life instead of smacking it down with internet Zithromax.

But that’s ingeniousness of the rumor in the first place. By NOT denying it, Obama will have people like me who now wonder. If she’s never said it, why not say so? That ends the madness, right?

And also by not denouncing this weirdness, you are able to speculate about “ulterior motives” in everything Obama does. I have to say that when Obama made the VERY strong comments cautioning the Republicans about attacking his wife, I thought, “This can’t be just about what the Tennessee Republican Party is doing” (showing film clips of Michelle’s “first time I’ve been proud to be an American” remark) because he is referring to the fall. It DID seem like Obama was expecting a much more diabolic attack in the fall.

Maybe like his wife in a pulpit.


A Message from Karl Rove to Greg Garrison

From the May GQ interview with Karl Rove:

GQ: Recently in a meeting with some people from the Republican National Committee, you said, "Do not use 'Barack HUSSEIN Obama.' "

KR: Right, right, politics....

GQ: Is that because it's not right?

KR: It's wrong. But not only that, it's counterproductive. In politics, there are argument that are seen as not factual and not fair, or trivial, and they blow up in your face. And this is one that people look at and say, "You're trying to imply something about him that's not true. I think you're going a bridge too far, and I'm reacting negatively." I mean, he didn't pick his middle name, somebody else did. And he doesn't go out of his way, like HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, to, you know, emphasize it.

When Karl Rove is telling you that you're low, you might want to rethink your whole existence.

(What I really love about this answer is that Rove can't leave it at "it's wrong." That apparently wouldn't be enough justification. The BETTER reason not to do it is that it's bad politics.)


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Garrison - Happy-Go-Lucky Prosecutor Turned Bitter and Divisive

When I tell you this, your response is going to be, "WHY???"

I listen to Greg Garrison and Rush Limbaugh. Know your enemy, I guess.

Garrison, rather fittingly, speaks only in extremes. He's the human superlative machine. Everything is the WORST or the BEST, the HIGHEST or the LOWEST, the DUMBEST or the MOST INGENIUS. Nuthing is ever, "Eh." Where Reagan was "the great communicator," Garrison is "the great exaggerator."

Yesterday was no exception. Garrison was picking apart Obama's following comment:

“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”

In a startling foreshadowing of his own spin, Garrison actually stated, "You have to flip this phrase to get its meaning," which to Garrison meant Obama is going to prohibit you from owning SUVs, have the government "in your home regulating your thermostat," and use a federal regulatory agency to fine you for not being the right weight.

There was a time, not too long ago (by which I mean "right now under George Bush") when two offices existed called the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport and the Surgeon General. Their respective goals were to get people to exercise and to eat healthier. They didn't support mandatory exercising programs, mind you. They just "used the bully pulpit" to convince people it is beneficial for them (and the nation) to engage in this kind of conduct.

I'm not trying to hurt anybody's feelings, but we, as a country, are overweight. And I don't care how many Moniques you have in the world saying "they love themselves as they are," if you are too heavy, you have greater health risks. This isn't about asthetics, people, it's about avoiding serious medical conditions that result from being heavy. Also, weight is often correlated with energy level, so you see a vicious downward spiral. I tire easy because I'm heavy, and because I'm tired, I don't feel like exercising, which makes me feel bad self-image wise because I'm not making progress, which depresses me and makes me even more lethargic. I daresay that obesity decreases American productivity as well.

If Barack Obama wants to say we need to slim down, I'm all for it. (I'm trying it myself). Same for encouraging us to drive fuel efficient cars and be more prudent about our energy use.

Government leaders have always tried to encourage us to be better than we normally are. I WANT that in a leader. In the 1970's, Republican Mayor William Hudnut of Indianapolis orchestrated a city beautification plan with a simple commercial showing him picking up a piece of trash, wadding it up, and throwing it over his shoulder into a trash can. I still remember that commercial like it was yesterday. The tag line was "Give it the Hudnut hook." And it worked (for a while). People stopped throwing trash out of their cars, and they would actually pick up trash on the street. This was a value (our streets are not your trashcans, numbnuts!) being implemented by governmental leadership, not coercion.

Garrison misses ALL of this and assumes coercion is Obama's goal. But he can only reach this conclusion, even in the faux way Garrison customarily supports his arguments, if he disrgards the entire ending phrase of Obama's comment, which is CRITICAL.

Obama says we can't eat what we want, drive what we want, burn up our fuels like we want AND expect the world to follow our lead. What Obama is essentially saying is that if we want to be a leader in any area, we have to walk the walk. That's common sense...which is why Garrison completely misses the point.

Another thing that bothers me about Garrison is that he continues to refer to Barry as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama." In what way does associating an opponent to a dictator by something as trivial as a shared NAME do anything but poison public discourse? Isn't it sufficient for you, Greg, to attack Obama's alleged "lack of experience" or his association with Reverend Wright? Why do you fan the insinuation that he is somehow foreign or even Muslim, as many people still contend. This is an astonishing whipsaw maneuver. On the one hand, many conservatives argue that Obama is a secret Muslim because he attended a school as a child and wore "funny clothes." At the same time, they attack him for putting his Christianity so front and center, as he did in Kentucky. So, in sum, Obama is a Muslim jihadist except when he's promoting his Christian faith.

This gets me back to Governor Daniels (NOT his real last name). I have said this before. UNTIL Republican commentators like Greg Garrison STOP calling him HUSSEIN Obama, I'm going to call the Governor Mitch DanielSALAAM. Your Governor, as pasty white as his is, is Arabic, something he is very pseudo-proud of it, and I know this because he keynotes at the Arab-American Institute, which gave him an award for his service.

The Governor is first-generation Syrian. You know Syria, that alleged hotbed of terrorism. If anybody has a REAL connection with the Muslim world (even though he has always been a Christian like Obama), it's Governor DanielsALAAM.

Don't get me wrong, folks. I don't care that my Governor is Arabic. In fact, I welcome it. What bothers me is that Governor Daniels has been so silent with respect to the assasination of Obama for the middle name "Hussein." That's why I contend he's only pseudo-proud, or proud when it benefits him politically raising money from the Arab community.

To his credit, I'm told Governor Daniels told a select group of Christian religious leaders that they have to stand up to all religious intolerance and to speak out when Muhammed is attacked. That's commendable. And privately, Daniels would probably call the American soldier who shot the Koran "an idiot." But during an election year, I bet you won't hear him say it publicly.

Every candidate has some version of the "my roots" portion of their stump speech. Something like, "My grandfather owned an olive oil business in Corleone, Italy, and his son, my father, came to American as a child to learn an honest trade and capitalize on the American dream while making offers people couldn't refuse."

Has anybody heard Daniels talk about his Syrian heritage in Southern Indiana? Imagine how much good it would do to combat religious and racial bigotry in our state to know our Governor is of Arab descent, to have him say, "I am a Hoosier, an American, and an Arab." The fact Daniels does not more publicly embrace his heritage makes me wonder whether, if the State knew, he WOULD be Governor. And therein lies the tragedy. It's a great opportunity for enhancing tolerance being lost to political expediency.

So, to repeat, it's Governor DANIELSALAAM, Garrison. DANIELSALAAM!


There's More Than Porn in Indiana!

Governor Daniels needs to find new jobs for Indiana, and one of California’s premier industries centered in the San Fernando Valley is threatening to up and leave, taking with it an estimated 40,000 jobs.

That industry is porn, which Democrat Assemblyman Charles Carlderon wants to tax at 25% (quite an increase from the current 8%). This tax would apply to strip clubs, pornographic videos, and “other adult entertainment.” Porn industry representatives (who tend to be “hotter” than their political opponents) held a press conference stating that because this tax will apply to each stage of the “production process,” it would put the industry out of business. The Carlderon bill would tax production, distribution, retail sales, Internet downloads, and performances of adult entertainment.

Republicans, those protectors of family values right up until it affects the value of their families’ pocketbooks, have “vowed to oppose any new tax increases” (mostly because they don't want to pay more when they download at 3 a.m. while their wives are sleeping).

So maybe this might not happen. BUT…why not set the bait, Governor.

Indiana is a low-tax state, right? Let’s make a pitch to the industry. We have a lot of abandoned factories to convert into adult sex toy creation. Plus, I’ve already coined your marketing campaign slogan (see headline above).


Greg Ballard - Man of Destiny

In case you hadn’t heard, Indianapolis will be hosting the 2012 Superbowl. You remember the Superbowl? That venture that many, many Republicans (including Mayor Ballard BEFORE his election) considered a fool’s errand and waste of public money?

I want to extend my hearty congratulations to Mayor Peterson, his staff, and all Peterson’s appointments to the various boards and commissions who blazed the way on this so that Mayor Ballard could play a lay down hand on this year's bid and bask in the glory. Credit goes to where it is due, and Governor Daniels helped out as well in the prior bid, but strangely, no Republicans ever criticized him like they did Mayor Peterson. I wonder why.

Criticize Ballard if you want, folks, but the guy has an impeccable sense of timing. Never in Indiana history has an elected official's ability to be in the right place at the right time so overshadowed his own natural abilities. If he can just maintain this consistent string of unexpected positive occurrences for another three years, he might be a two-termer.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Kennedy Tragedy

Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed today with a malignant brain tumor. Prayers and thoughts go out to this iconic senator and his family.


Affair Etiquette 101

Rule number 1 in affair having. Never, ever....neva eva?!?! Yes, NEVER EVER...refer to your "sick daughter" in a police report when you didn't HAVE that daughter with your wife.

Rule number 2 in affair having. DON'T have your mistress bail you out of jail. Call your wife instead.

I can't make this stuff up. From CNN:

"A New York congressman who admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock with a woman who bailed him out of jail on a drunk driving charge this month announced Monday that he will not run for re-election.

Vito Fossella is the 30th Republican to announce he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now HERE is the unbelievable part. Read this quote:

"This choice was an extremely difficult one, balanced between my dedication to service to our great nation and the need to concentrate on healing the wounds that I have caused to my wife and family," Rep. Vito Fossella, a six-term Republican, said in a written statement.


Ladies and gentleman, this is the unbelievable legacy of having a scandal-plagued society, and yes, I'm including you Bill Clinton. Because the media actually reports these scandals now, we have a deluge of them, and they now seem "normal."

Consequently, people who have NO BUSINESS running for office still think they can. They ALL think you go on camera and do a mea culpa, and you get the big old can of forgiveness that allows you to go on. A lot of us our Christians with "forgiveness in our hearts," but this is not how it works. You might get the forgiveness (unless your Clinton, in which case the Christians will hold a grudge for the rest of your life), but then you better exit stage left to work on yourself.

I promise you, Elliott Spitzer had a discussion with someone somewhere about how he might stay in office until enough people politely asked him, "Are you out of your mind, you arrogant jackass!?!? You're going to kill the party!"

Here are the remaining details of Mr. Fossella's trangressions:

Fossella's sudden downfall (nice phrase, CNN!) began soon after midnight on May 1, when he ran a red light in Alexandria, Virginia and was stopped by police. A breath test put his blood-alcohol level at 0.17 percent, more than double the state's legal limit, according to his arrest report.

The congressman apologized the next day for what he said was "an error in judgment."
A week later, the 43-year-old, married Fossella was apologizing again to his family and constituents because of his secret extramarital affair with Laura Fay.

It became public because the police report said Fossella told the arresting officer he was going to visit a sick daughter when he was stopped, identifying Fay's street as his destination.

Fossella told reporters after his arrest that he had been celebrating the Super Bowl champion New York Giants' appearance at the White House with constituents.

This is my favorite part of the whole story. Wasn't the Super Bowl in January? Exactly how many months after that actual Super Bowl can you use the whole "celebrating with constituents" excuse for being hammered? His district IS Long Island, which has an alcoholic iced tea named after it.

Sorry, that's no excuse. What an idiot.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Water(man) World! Another Disaster in the Making?

Republican State Senator John Waterman from Sullivan County is talking about running for Governor as an independent because Southwestern Indiana is getting the shaft from the Governor’s Office.

To quote Shreck, “Join the club. We’ve got T-shirts.” The whole state is getting the shaft from the Governor’s Office, Senator.

Waterman told Brian Howey (great scoop, Howey Politics!) that the Governor’s Office won’t return calls (by which I’m sure he mostly means calls he made).

Normally, I’d write this off to a political figure having a public tantrum for a private reward when he's not going to bust a grape in a fruit fight. Because Senator Waterman has made these overtures, one might expect an emissary from the Governor’s Office, maybe even the Governor himself, to play footsy with Waterman now to calm him down.

But maybe this notion of running as an independent is not so insane.

Hear me out. Howey reports that one Republican county chair in Southwest Indiana believes Jill Long-Thompson will carry some 8th District counties by 2-1 or 3-1. That’s seriously bad news for Daniels because, if true (probably isn't an accurate prediction), it speaks to a substantial “protest vote.”

Remember how IPOPA posted that a third-party candidate always hurts the party or candidate most closely aligned with him/her because of vote dilution? There IS one exception, and that’s with hard-core protest voters.

Take a county of 10,000 voters (4,000 D, 4,000 R, and 2,000 independents).

If the R’s want to “send a message” to Governor Daniels, and it’s a good year for Democrats (it is), a two-way election might have this result:

JLT - 6,000 (4,000 d + 1,000 I + 1,000 R)

Daniels - 3,000 (2,000 Rs, 1,000 I)

Some hardcore R’s (1,000) might not vote, but some “soft” R’s will cross the aisle to scratch for JLT.

BUT if there is a non-JLT option as an outlet, you might have this result:

JLT - 4,000 JLT (4,000 D)
Daniels - 3,000 (2,000 R, 1,000 I)
Waterman – 3,000 (2,000 R + 1,000 I)

The hardcore R’s and R-leaning independents can still cast their protest ballot, BUT they’re less likely to give it to JLT now. In other words, if the votes are already “lost” to Daniels, the second best option is to have an outlet to siphon off JLT votes.

But who am I kidding? Senator Waterman hasn’t gone this deep into this type of analysis, so, yeah, it’s just a tantrum.

Looking at the Waterman photo on Howey Politics reminds me of the faux presidential campaign slogan The Daily Show writers came up with for Chester Arthur:

“The policies we want. The muttonchops we need.” (scroll down to second story)


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nels Ackerson Versus the Staggering Power of Incumbency

Have you heard of Nels Ackerson? He's the Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Congressman Steve Buyer in the 4th District of Indiana.

You remember Buyer? The soldier congressman who said in 1992 he was for term limits. Then he realized once elected that with the right amount of PAC money and some good redistricting plans, he could keep the job for life. Yeah, we call that blatant hypocrisy.

Then there’s Ackerson. On paper, the guy is impressive. In fact, if he had military experience, he might have the best resume for the 4th district of any human being alive. It's the right mix of private experience and public service, Indiana roots and international roamings.

He's a lifetime family farmer and Farm Bureau member. Purdue University Student Body President. Outstanding male graduate of Purdue with an ag sciences degree. Harvard law degree and masters from the Kennedy School. Chief Counsel for the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution under Birch Bayh. Founder of Sidley Austin’s office in Egypt, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. Legal and economic development work in 16 countries. Ackerson is in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in THE WORLD. He has a thriving national law practice (cases with clients in 48 states), but his office is based in Indiana. From his website:

“In recent years, Nels has succeeded in class actions that have made tens of millions of dollars in compensation available to thousands of Hoosier farmers, homeowners, small businesses and other property owners for property taken from them without their consent and without compensation by governments and by huge railroad and telecommunications companies.”

If this guy is good on the stump, where’s the downside?

Well, the 4th District is no picnic, unless it’s the kind of picnic where rain pours into your potato salad. In 2004, Buyer’s opponent, David Sanders, a well-meaning but way too wonkish candidate, got 28% of the vote. In 2006, Sanders got 38% while “raising” and spending only $133,000 ($100,000 from a self-loan) to Buyer’s $744,000 raised and $536,000 spent.

Here are the numbers:

Sanders, David Avram (Democratic) -66,986
Buyer, Steve (Republican) - 111,057

Sanders, David Avram (Democratic) - 77,574
Fleming, Kevin R. (Libertarian) - 6,117
Buyer, Steve (Republican) - 190,445

Sanders’ ten percent improvement from ’04 to ’06 was because overall turnout fell off in the non-presidential year. In 2004, Buyer got 30,000 votes out of Tippecanoe County. In 2006, Buyer only got 17,000. Instead of Sanders’ seeing a 13,000 vote pickup in Tippecanoe, he suffered a net loss, going from 18,000 to 15,000 votes.

In short, this district has strong R leanings, and the heavier the turnout is, in your average year, the more likely the Democrat is hosed. But this is not your average year. It is doubtful that either Obama or Clinton would fare in Indiana as poorly as Kerry did, given that both the front-runners campaigned heavily here.

Also, the Ackerson’s campaign should be jazzed by the 83,000 votes Nels’ 83,000 in a PRIMARY. That is more than Sanders got in either general election.

In a year when Republicans are seemingly in jeopardy everywhere, Ackerson could sneak up on Buyer if he can marshall the resources to compete. On that score, Ackerson is no slouch. In fact, FEC reports show that for contributions raised from the start of the election cycle until the pre-primary report, April 16, 2008, Ackerson actually OUTRAISED Buyer $306,000 to $297,000.

But sadly, this is less than half of the story. Even though Buyer had token primary opposition, a torrent of special interest money hit his bank account just before May 8. Thirty large in PAC money, folks! The “smart money” (also known as the special interest money) generally plays the odds, and with Buyer being in an R-leaning district, it will come in droves.

And therein lies the problem. By virtue of having token opposition in 2006, Buyer amassed a carryover war chest, more than half of which was raised through PAC donations. Buyer’s cash-on-hand as of the last report was $492,000 to Ackerson’s $150,000 as of 4-16-08. Ackerson has received virtually no PAC money. He will either need to find a LOT of wealthy new donors (which will require him to go out of the district more), or he’ll need $5,000 from every labor PAC in American to make a go of this thing.

In this year, anything is possible.

As an aside, a certain blogger I know lambasted Andre Carson for raising $30,000 in PAC money just before his primary election. This blogger, I’m sure, will be appalled to know other Congressmen in his party wear the same shoe, and he'll be denouncing Buyer soon. Look at this late-in-the-day Buyer haul:

Vectren - $1,000
Pfizer - $1,500
Jewelers of America - $1,000
CTIA PAC - $1,000
Am Veterinary Medical Assoc - $1,000
Am Electric Power - $1,000

American Chiropractic - $1,000
American Maritime Officers - $1,000
Dow Chemical - $1,000
Duke Energy - $1,000
KochPac - $1,000
Nat'l Assoc. of Psychiatric - $1,000
Nat'l Telecom - $1,000
Zimmer, Inc. - $1,000
Walsh for Congress - $1,000

Embarq PAC - $1,000
GE - $1,000
ITT International - $1,000
Lorilland Tobacco - $1,000
McKesson Corp - $1,000
Nat'l Assoc of Health Underwriters - $1,000
Nat'l Funeral Directors - $1,000
4-24-08- American Committe for Rural Electrification - $1,000

Halliburton - $1,000
Abbott - $1,000
Nat'l Fuel Gas - $1,000

DTE Energy - $1,000

Yeah, Lorilland Tobacco and Hallilburton's interests coincide with the voters of the 4th District. Might one also think that the health insurance underwriters are going to fight expanded healthcare coverage?



Gay Marriage and the Sounds of Silence

Kudos to Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star.

Her column today fleshes out two points made in my post after the California Supreme Court’s decision striking down a state law banning gay marriage.

First, Eric Miller and Eric Turner both say the California Supreme Court’s decision means we need a constitutional amendment here. Second, Republicans and conservatives are gearing up to parlay this into a November campaign issue.

From Republican House minority leader, Brian Bosma:

Republicans will be working hard to let voters know that the success of the amendment "very much depends on who controls the legislative process."

From Eric Miller of Advance America:
This will be an election-year issue," promised Eric Miller, who has lobbied hard for the amendment as head of Advance America. "We'll be distributing hundreds of thousands of voter guides letting people know how candidates from legislator to governor stand on this issue.

(As to the gubernatorial candidates, Jill Long-Thompson says she favors civil unions, while Governor Mitch Danielsalaam, in a move that might surprise some of his GLBT supporters, said that “as a voter” he would cast a ballot in favor of a constitutional amendment).

Ladies and gentlemen, this California opinion could not have come at a worse time for the Democratic Party. It will have repercussions in every state legislature in America, and to the detriment of the Democratic Party. This is because Democrats have historically been friendlier to gay interests, and this fact, respectfully, puts us ahead of the tolerance curve but squarely behind the popular opinion eight ball. In a state like Indiana, support has to be “quiet” for a lot of elected officials. Gay rights advocates might find that offensive, but pragmatism has to prevail, or there will be an anti-gay marriage amendment in this state.

Democrats win elections when we talk about economic issues – jobs and wages, healthcare, and education. Republicans know this, so they seek every opportunity to change the debate to “values” issues, such as flag-burning, gay marriage, gun rights, and prayer in school.

[As a quick aside, remember when all the Republicans - and a majority of Democrats as well - were acting like there was a flag-burning epidemic? Thank God we were able to stop that! OR…is it more accurate to say that NOBODY was doing it, and it was just a “values” distraction, kind of like whether you wear a flag lapel pin?].

Anyway, the success with which Republicans can distract depends, in large part, upon the media “echo chamber.” The more a story gets churned in the national media, the more it gets embedded in the national consciousness, and the less likely it is voters will focus on things like expensive gas and the mortgage foreclosure crisis. (This is my last post on this topic, by the way).

There is a season one episode of The West Wing that teaches a critical political lesson for every group whose position is disfavored by national public opinion. And let’s face it. That IS gay marriage. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have twenty-six states with constitutional amendments against it and another seventeen states with laws defining marriage as only a man and woman.

(Also, when my blogging compatriot Gary Welsh at Advance Indiana (no relation to Advance America) says House Republicans will lose seats if they put this issue front and center, he's in a Indianapolis echo chamber of his own. Republicans statewide will GAIN votes and money while mobilizing their base on this issue).

In the West Wing episode, a lightweight congressman has introduced a resolution to ban gays from serving in the military. A gay billionaire Hollywood executive (how cliché!) tells the President’s people that he’s going to cancel a major fundraiser set for that evening unless the President goes on national television and denounces this resolution.

President Bartlett (played by Martin Sheen) barks at the guy that if he goes public in opposition, he will become a “human starting gun.” For the President to even speak on the matter gives it legitimacy and visibility.

If I were hired by gay rights groups as a PR consultant to advise how they should speak on this ruling, I’d tell them the following: don’t. Help the story die by not fueling it. Don’t tout the meaningfulness of this decision in stories that will be researched, discovered, and sent to your opponents’ funding sources with inflammatory letters.

But people who lead groups want their moment in the sun, so you’re going to see a lot of leaders of gay rights groups going on panel discussions with the leaders of anti-gay groups in the next few weeks. As a PR consultant, I’d say, “Don’t go.” How many panels can you have with one side beating up an absent party? The media would let it die. Or send a statement saying:

“This opinion relied on the specific language of the California Constitution. While we applaud the court for protecting a fundamental right for many Californians, it won’t change anything nationally.”

If you think this is unfair advice to give to gay rights advocates to lay low, understand this is the same advice I would give to the religious right.

Do you know Andres Serrano? I do. He’s an average artist photographer, at best, and at worst, a hack. (Go to and search “Andres Serrano,” and you’ll get a jist for the man’s work). And yet, he’s taken photos of some very famous celebrities. How did he get that high profile?

Because in 1989, a mostly unremarkable photo of a crucifix seemingly emitting blurred golden hues caused a massive controversy when people realized that the “special effect” the artist used was his own urine. Yes, this was the famous “Piss Christ” photo.

I’d be the first to admit my limitations as an art critic, but this particular piece relied on external context to make it noteworthy. In other words, the reaction didn’t come from the inherent aesthetics of the photo; it came from the shock of knowing somebody had the audacity to put Jesus in a big old bucket of number one.

When religious groups got wind of it and started protesting the exhibition, this picture, which maybe 5,000 people had seen up to that point, went into Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Report (to name a few) and gave it exposure to millions. This controversy MADE Serrano a cause celebre for artistic freedom, gave him cachet in the artistic community he didn’t deserve (the guy is NO Mapplethorpe), and made him a wealthy man. Do you think that’s what the religious right wanted to accomplish?

Remember the Last Temptation of Christ? It wasn’t a good movie, and it might have passed out of the public consciousness in weeks for want of good word of mouth and reviews. Instead, it lingered because of the protests when people like me went to see it because we had to know “what the fuss was all about.”

Sometimes the best political tactic is to sit still and let something pass away. Eric Miller and his people are going to churn this as best they can. The prudent play is not to help.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Winning the battle, losing the war?

You probably know by now that the California Supreme Court ruled that Cali's law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. I know this, too, because I read the Star story.

Unfortunately, this story lacked the "local angle." So here it is.

Early this afternoon, an explosion occurred at 101 W. Ohio in Indianapolis, Indiana. EMTs and fire fighters who investigated the commotion found Eric Miller of Advance America with his head fully collapsed. Implosion injuries were not permanent, however, as three Advance America staff members worked diligently with bicycle pumps for over an hour to restore Miller's head to its normal size. Miller immediately dashed out the door..... the American Family Association of Indiana, the Micah Clark bat-phone rang incessantly, and a mainframe computer sucked up an entire power station worth of energy as it spurted out terror-stricken e-mails to pulpits-a-plenty and printed labels for fundraising pieces to be sent immediately to Evangelicalville, Indiana. Miller burst in.

"Have you heard?" Miller asked with exasperation?!?!

Clark replied, "I have. You know what we need to do, don't you!?!?"

"Form of a BALLOT BOX."



Thanks a lot, California! Today you've done more to mobilize these guys' troops than either of them could ever have done if left to their own devices. And this next go around, they might get what they want.

There are a lot of Democrats (and some Republicans for that matter) in the Indiana General Assembly who, if left to their own devices, would never support an SJR 7-type constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. BUT, they answer to constituents (and for the Republicans, party leaders) who overwhelmingly support this measure. And this California opinion is going to put the issue squarely on the radar for all candidates this fall.

The only reason SJR7 died this session was because State Representative Scott Pelath was able to bottle it up while posing this question, "Why have a hearing on this when (a) it's not needed because we already have a law forbidding it; and (b) we have more important things to deal with, such as sham property tax relief?" (Okay, he didn't say the second part).

As pointed out today by Gary Welsh, California and Indiana have VERY different "equal protection" provisions in their respective Constitutions, so the idea this decision somehow could be used by our own Supreme Court to grant this right is preposterous. But neither Eric Miller nor Micah Clark care about these nuances. They now can say the following convincingly:

(1) Judges CAN trump the law if we don't stop them, JUST LIKE IN CALIFORNIA; and

(2) Only a constitutional amendment can stop them.

AA and AFA just got funded for the next election cycle....and they're ready to put the "edge" in "wedge" issues.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Service of Not So Secret E-mails Riles Me!

People wonder why Reverend Wrong has a large congregation. Here’s one reason. The higher ups in the Secret Service are blatantly racist. To joke about a lynching? Oh, yeah. That's hilarious.

If the Secret Services’ head guys send e-mails like this, imagine what they say privately. Pay attention to the e-mail on page 5, where these guys complain about “reverse racism” and how it’s destroying America. Maybe if there weren’t guys like this running the agency, we wouldn’t need any targeted hiring programs in the first place.

And here’s a concerning thought (at least if you're not white). Is there something endemic about Secret Service culture that would make us think this is an anomaly? Is there some reason to believe the SS has more bigots than other large government agencies or companies? Seriously, I’d like to know because I'm disgusted with my government right now, and I'd like to feel better.


A Story You Won't See On Advance Indiana

On May 8, 2008, Advance Indiana continued churning the story of Larry Sinclair, a man who claims he had gay sex with Barack Obama after watching him use crack cocaine in a limousine. Welsh has repeatedly written about this allegation and accused the "mainstream" media of being negligent in not covering it.

But here's what AI hasn't told you. paid Sinclair $10,000 to take a four-hour polygraph back in February, and the results showed deception as to both the sex and the drug use allegations.

Sinclair's response? To claim he passed the test but the Obama campaign bribed to have its polygrapher misinterpet the data. He further attacked the reputation of the polygrapher, who he claims lied about having a Phd to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sinclair's approach reminds me of what I learned in criminal procedure at IU-Bloomington: if you don't have the facts, argue the law. If you don't have the law either, attack your opponent's credibility.

Unfortunately, Sinclair has some credibility problems of his own. AI also reported on May 8 that Sinclair was about to give the limo driver's name. He WAS, but curiously, Sinclair changed his mind. Sinclair simply states that "the driver will testify in legal proceedings." But in the meantime, he wants to protect the driver from interference and death threats from the Obama campaign. "Riiiighhht," Ipopa says with his Dr. Evil voice.

Sorry, but this guy is out there.

Read the e-mail below from Mr. Sinclair himself in response to critics who have made reference to his criminal history, and put aside for a second that he's been convicted of forgery, check deception, and credit card fraud (all crimes of dishonesty). Instead notice that the man has had FOUR (and arguably five) different names, "Larye Avilla," "La-Rye Ashaiti Silvas," and "Mohammed Fatha Gahanan," for sure, and possibly Larye Adams. Doesn't the fact someone has repeatedly changed his legal name alone give us pause?

Apparently, not when you have a single-minded commitment to toppling Obama.


It Ain't Over Until the Blonde Lady Says!

Here’s some bluegrass fodder for Hillary Clinton. offers Research 2000 polling data from Kentucky showing that if Obama wins, thirty-three percent of Clinton supporters will flip to McCain, but only nineteen percent of Obama supporters will do a Benedict Arnold if their man doesn't prevail.

Simply stated, Obama’s supporters in Kentucky are more open to Clinton than vice versa, just like in West Virginia. We could speculate on why…and this would be precisely what Clinton would want us to do, as long as we don’t say the answer out loud.

Ultimately, though, does it matter? Clinton would still lose Kentucky against McCain by around 12% if the election were today (versus the 25% loss for Obama). So what is Clinton’s deal?

My Little League coach would loooove Clinton. His principle rule, which he ALWAYS yelled, was as follows:

“Run it out!”

When you hit a fly ball that looks like it’s going to get caught, or you hit a grounder right to somebody, or you strike out, but the catcher drops the ball, you STILL run as hard as you possibly can to first base because anything can happen. The fly ball can get dropped, the grounder can be mishandled, the throw can be errant, or the first baseman can botch the catch.

How embarrassing would it be if the ball gets bobbled, and you still get thrown out because you jogged or stood and watched?

Clinton is “running it out” while waiting for Obama and McCain bobbles. The Obama variant would have to be major, but it’s not as if he’s always avoided alienating comments about, oh, say guns and Bibles. And who knows what other Reverend Wright news might break.

If I were Clinton’s campaign, I’d be playing up the KY poll as a snapshot, and argue that Clinton is so tenacious, she will own McCain during the presidential debates. I’d also remind people of the collapses of H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis because of incoherent messages or surreal reactions during those presidential debates. Does anyone reading this who saw the Dukakis debate NOT think, “This race is over” the second Dukakis gave Bernie Shaw an icy stare and black hole of emotion after being asked about his wife being raped?

If I were Clinton, I would also engage in non-stop “call outs” to Obama to debate in Kentucky and Oregon. Normally, the debate over debates is insider politics. But the Clinton campaign can parlay this into Obama’s fear of debating. After all, Obama wouldn’t take the stage in Indiana either. Clinton can point out that it’s going to be on the debate stage, mano a womano, where she’ll seize this thing from McCain, while Obama might falter at the critical juncture. The only time Obama was on the stage with just Clinton, his performance was so-so, and I say this as an Obama guy. In fact, if I were Obama, I would be so afraid of accidentally misspeaking, I would campaign only by pre-vetted podcast. (Okay, that’s extreme. But I’d certainly stick to a script).

(As an aside, this is why you shouldn't expect Mitch Daniels to debate more than twice in the gubernatorial race, if that frequently. There's no debate upside for Obama or Daniels).

To get the nomination, Clinton will let everybody know she’s ready to capitalize on an inevitable McCain bobble, at least to the tune of twelve percentage points in Kentucky. That seems a lot more doable than catching up from twenty-five points down, doesn’t it?

She’s a shrewd one, that Clinton. The only question now is whether the remaining super-delegates will stand against the rising Obama momentum and wait for the bobbles.

[Ed Note - Pete Viscloskey won't. He joined the parade today and endorsed Obama, leaving Brad Ellsworth the only Indiana D in Congress who hasn't decided].


You Got a Purty Mouth!

Ah, West Virginia. The mountaineers handed Clinton a 41-point victory, with HRC getting 67% to Obama's 26%. John Edwards got 7%.

My initial thought is that Terry McAuliffe is quite the optimist! When I looked at the raw numbers (239,000 for Clinton, 91,000 for Obama), I wondered where the 1.1 million voters went that McAuliffe touted on Meet the Press Sunday when he was begging, "Let My People...Vote."

Silly me. He didn't mean EXPECTED voters. He meant ALL registered voters. Apparently, he expected the entire state, even the Republicans, to turn out for the D primary. If your argument is that Clinton can capture the popular vote lead, using 1.1 million voters is more impressive than 300,000.

West Virginia did as expected, though, and Clinton picked up 147,000 in the popular vote, bringing the delegate totals to 1881 for Obama and 1713 for Clinton.

Mighty White of you, West Virginia!

The New York Times today highlights the “salience” of race in this contest, which was touted in Ipopa yesterday. Keep up, NYT!

Depending on your personal views, here is an either astonishing or not at all surprising fact culled from the exit polls:

Two in 10 white West Virginia voters said race was an important factor in their votes. More than 8 in 10 who said it factored in their votes backed Mrs. Clinton, according to exit polls.

Moreover, while Obama has consistently fared better than Clinton on trustworthiness, more than half of West Virginians say Obama is not honest and trustworthy. Those voters were also likely to say that Obama shares the views of Reverend Wright.

People may say, "This is about Reverend Wright. That doesn't mean these voters have racial issues." I'm not saying they don't want to let him sit at their lunch counter. But it's certainly clear that West Virginians give less benefit of the doubt to Obama than other states, which calls into question the underlying source of the mistrust. At some point, isn't the spread between Clinton and Obama so statistically significant that you have to believe it's at least partically race-based?

Having traveled to (and talked with folks in) every Indiana county, I know there is a sense that some still battle racist attitudes. I'll never forget talking to a well-known Democrat in a southern Indiana county who said the best thing Dwayne Brown, the first black man to run for a statewide office in Indiana, could do to campaign was to NOT come to the county and to make sure his picture was not on any of his campaign literature. Another party leader in a southern county advised, "Stay North of U.S. 40." Surely, they knew their own people.

Admittedly, this was back in 1990 when Brown was seeking to become the Clerk of the Supreme and Appellate Courts, so it might be better now. Let me take a look....

Okay, I just looked at the Indiana counties that went for Clinton by 75% or more: Daviess, Dearborn, Ohio, Scott and Switzerland. Both of the counties where these gentlemen lived are in that list. Not too inspiring.

(By the way, a big shout out to Morgan County! They gave Obama 37%. Many civic leaders there are truly trying to changing Morgan County's image, and it's a welcome change. I hope you can send your "new image" playbook to the aforementioned counties).

West Virginia had a staggering number of counties with seventy-five percent or better for Clinton, and in Mingo County, West Virginia, Clinton got EIGHTY-EIGHT percent of the vote. I'm just saying......that MIGHT be a good place to hold a klan meetin.'

But who cares about West Virginia, right?

Presidential history. And it cares deeply. Since 1916, there has not been a single Democrat elected who did not carry West Virginia. Gore and Kerry both lost WV. And HALF of the D primary voters said they would not back Obama in the fall if he becomes the nominee. That's concerning to a lot of party people, and Clinton knows it.

And make no mistake, West Virginia will be lost. Obama did not campaign there, which probably compounded the "not one of us" mistrust that he will struggle to undo in the general election. In addition, The National Review posited a rather conspiratorial view that the Clintons are engaged in a slash and burn campaign to make sure Clinton can come back against McCain in four years. Listen to this coded rhetoric from Bill Clinton that certainly helped ensure that Obama won't carry West Virginia:

"Hillary is in this race because of people like you and places like this and no matter what they say," Clinton said. "And no matter how much fun they make of your support of her and the fact that working people all over America have stuck with her, she thinks you're as smart as they are. She thinks you've got as much right to have your say as anybody else. And, you know, they make a lot of fun of me because I like to campaign in places like this, they say I have been exiled to rural America, as if that was a problem. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be here than listening to that stuff I have to hear on television, I'd rather be with you. There is a simple reason: You need a president a lot more than those people telling you not to vote for her."

Bill Clinton is stoking the populist (and ominous) "they are all against you" argument, which allows WV voters to insert the hobgoblin of their choice as the "they." Clinton is also bonding with voters by telling them they're smarter than all the pundits. (Ed. Note - This is a dubious assertion, given that 70% of WV D voters never went to college. If it's Tim Russert vs. Billy Bob Bungalee from Logan County, WV on an SAT or IQ exam, I'll take Russert).

Can Obama make presidential history twice by overcoming a West Virginia loss? The Red Sox won the World Series by being the first team to ever come back from three games down in any professional sport, so sometimes history happens in bunches. Anything is possible.

The task for Obama's campaign is to come up with new "map math" to show that it can pick up "new" states, such as Colorado, to offset any potential West Virginia loss. But the longer Clinton stays in, the harder an Obama general election victory becomes. And she knows it.


Barr None! Bob is Perot-ing a Wrench In the Works

Former Republican Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, who you may recall as one of the lead "prosecutors" of the Clinton impeachment, has decided to run for president as a Libertarian, a move which compelled some Republicans to dub him "The Ralph Nader of the Right."

On CNN, Barr adamantly insisted he was "not a spoiler, but a winner," an argument that was belied by CNN's not-too-objective, bold-faced crawler headline under Barr: "SPOILER ALERT!"

The idea of a viable third party has always fascinated me intellectually, but all America has achieved so far are periodic candidacies by "personalities." And if those recent races have taught us anything, it is this political truism:

If you run because you think America is not liberal or conservative enough, you will destroy that candidate whose views are closest to your own. Somewhere in America, John McCain takes a Tums.

Sorry, Bobbo, but if you keep pulling on the wings, you cripple the bird. Clearly, Barr knows he can't win, which means this is either about self-aggrandizement and gathering worship from his philosophically-aligned "flock," OR he's off-kilter like Perot.

Smart money says: Bob is coo coo for Cocoa Puffs.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Painfully Objective or Le Nez Brun?

When Richard Lugar sought the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 1996, he culled together perhaps the best political talent a Republican candidate from Indiana could have for a strategizing session during which the attendees were to hear his “stump speech.” The Lugar brain trust was comprised of old guard and young upstarts, business leaders and established figures in state and national politics, including individuals who had served as advisors in a very high executive office.

Richard Lugar gave his speech. The delivery was an awful monotone that lacked rhythm and consistently had the wrong emphasis. In the words of one attendee, “I don’t think Richard Lugar could read a Dr. Seuss story with cadence.”

This attendee waited for people to tell Senator Lugar that he was rather boring and that his speech needed major work. The group went around the table, each giving message emphasis suggestions. We should talk more about X, and less about Y, for example. But nobody asked for more pizzazz. Nobody asked for more energy. Nobody asked for the Senator to use more rhetorical devices to draw his audience in, to connect with them. Not one such comment.

Now, some may say that this was the correct response because these people knew that criticizing would be pointless; this was the best Lugar could do, and he was an "old dog." I don’t buy it. Every politician gets better when pressed. Frank O’Bannon was dreadful, but by his re-election, he owned the stump. Bart Peterson made incredible improvements. But this is because he had people around him to tell him he needed work.

I wonder how often someone doesn’t re-evaluate their own performance because they speak before a roomful of political geniuses who don’t want to wrinkle the feathers of a senior senator.

As good as Obama is on the stump, he’s still sometimes off, and I wonder if his principal consultant and campaign advisor, David Axelrod, has ever said, “Man, your new speech sucks,” or “You were really flat on that one.”

The world of politics is populated with “yes” men and women. And while optimism can be contagious and is, therefore, a valuable campaign resource, you do a disservice when you are too afraid to tell people what they need to know. And I believe the higher the office, the harder it is to speak up because people are trained to brown nose. This certainly applies among George Bush’s cabinet. Unfortunately, to quote one of my favorite sayings, “The only difference between a brown noser and a sh*t head is depth perception.” Are you listening Alberto Gonzalez?

Sadly, as thoughtful, intelligent, humane, bi-partisan, and well-respected as Richard Lugar is, he couldn’t win the Oval Office sounding like Howdy Doody. And he lost his chance to be our President, at least in part, when a roomful of very important people were too afraid to tell him.


Clinton Adopts Super-Delegate...shhh...(whispered) Racial Strategy

Why won't Hillary quit?

Because Hillary Clinton's brain reverberates with one thought:

"I can snag enough uncommitted superdelegates, while winning back some committed Obama delegates, to capture the nomination."

Indiana figures prominently in the Clinton superdelegate strategy. Clinton and her emissaries, including campaign chair Terry McAuliffe, are touting “the tough twenty.” These are House districts that voted for Bush in 2004 but sent D Representatives to the U.S. House in 2006. Three of these twenty are in Indiana (the 2nd, 8th, 9th). Clinton has beat Obama in these districts.

When you’re trying to convince primary voters to give you a victory that gets you “automatic” delegates, you talk about how you are most likely to beat McCain. BUT when you want super-delegates (members of Congress and party leaders), you talk about helping elect a Democratic Congress with long coattails for down ballot races.

What's noteworthy about the tough twenty districts are that they, REALLY white, a point made by Here are those districts' African-American populations:

AZ-5: 2.8 %
AZ-8: 3.1 %
CA-11: 3.5 %
FL-16: 6.0 %
IN-2: 8.2 %
IN-8: 3.7 %
IN-9: 2.3 %
KS-2: 5.1 %
MN-1: 1.0 %
NC-11: 4.6 %
NH-1: 0.8 %
NY-19: 5.4 %
NY-24: 3.4 %
OH-18: 1.9 %
PA-10: 1.9 %
PA-4: 3.4 %
TX-22: 9.4 %
TX-23: 3.0 %
WI-8: 0.6 %

"NO WAY Clinton pulls off this superdelegate swing!" you say. "Obama picked up 15 superdelegates just this week to Clinton's 1.5." True. But here's the thing. How easy will it be for the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to give Obama their support if he doesn't win "the popular vote" among Democrats? As Terry McAuliffe pointed out on Sunday's Meet the Press, IF you count Michigan and Florida, Obama only has 114,000 more votes.

That's a huge if on Florida and Michigan. But the rules committee might buy the laughable argument that not counting Democrat primary votes will somehow anger ALL Michigan and Florida voters and jeopardize the general election. Am I supposed to believe anybody in Michigan or Florida, regardless of party, will vote for McCain SOLELY to teach the Democratic National Committee a lesson on what happens when you punish a state for blatantly violating DNC rules?

Anyway, if the lead stays at 114,000 (instead of 730,000, which is the Obama lead minus Florida and Michigan), it is going to get demolished in West Virginia and Kentucky. That will give Clinton definite momentum and put MORE pressure on the superdelegates to stay uncommitted.

In West Virginia, Hillary Clinton has a staggering 43% lead, 63 to 20.

Even if Obama gets the remaining 17 % of uncommitted votes, Clinton picks up 286,000 votes (693,000 for Clinton, 407,000 for Obama) if the expected 1.1 million turn out.

In Kentucky, Clinton leads there 58-31. If Obama gets the remaining 11% of the "undecideds," and the expected 1.6 million turn out, Clinton picks up another 256,000 votes (928,000 for Clinton, 672,000 for Obama).

That's a half-mill popular vote swing in two states. How do you explain that? How do you capitalize on it?

Welcome to the Clinton campaign and its race paradox. Clinton swallowed her foot up to her thigh when she said that she was doing better than Obama among "hard-working Americans, white Americans." But even if you give her the benefit of the doubt that she didn't mean to imply that black people are lazy and un-American, she can't clean this up. Clinton can't say that a black man can't be elected by white people. That would be insulting to white people and insulting to Obama, which as of late, is played as a de facto insult to black people.

I have no doubt Ms. Clinton believes what the tough twenty data shows. Senator Clinton supports affirmative action and has been a strong proponent of civil rights, and if you asked her point blank whether she thinks discrimination still occurs against black folks, Clinton would tell you "yes" in a heartbeat. Is it a stretch to think she would believe there are still white people who won't vote for a black man for President?

Since Clinton can't say it, she'll hint at it. She'll direct us to polling data and REALLY white districts that Obama allegedly can't carry, and us (the media, bloggers, pundits, etc.), not being exceedingly stupid, will figure it out on her own. And she, being more intelligent than us, knows we'll talk about it before we realize we've become accomplices in her plan of churning the idea that there are white people who won't vote for Obama in a general election, so the whities need to bond together or McCain will be our President. See how diabolical this woman is!!?!

Hillary won't say there are racist people, so I will. I mean, SOMEBODY in West Virginia has to be racist, don't they? Obama is down FORTY-THREE points. This is the presumptive front-runner who crushed in neighboring North Carolina. There are no negative Obama stories breaking on the airwaves in West Virginia, the Clinton campaign is broke, and Obama GAINED superdelegates after Indiana. You say, "Maybe West Virginia is older, and we all know Obama's voters are young." Sorry. Obama trails by 35% in West Virginia among voters who are 35 and younger.

Obama has owned the young demographic. How do you account for West Virginia?

West Virginia has a senior DEMOCRATIC senator, Robert Byrd, a one-time young klansman who called blacks "race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." Byrd voted against Thurgood Marshall's Supreme Court appointment and fillibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. Though Senator Byrd repudiated his "abhorrent" views, in an interview with Tony Snow in 2001, he said he'd seen a lot of “white niggers."

In fairness to Senator Byrd, the NAACP gave him a 100% rating for the 2003-2004 session for supporting all 33 bills they were tracking. But the point remains. You don’t stay in Congress term after term as a racist unless you have at least SOME racist constituents, and isn't it foolish to assume that the “political apology for redemption" that a national politician might offer under a national media spotlight has NOT been undergone by every "formerly" racist person in West Virginia? Might there still be some among the ninety-six percent white population in West Virginia who still don't think a black man should be our president?

How about Kentucky then? I love this excerpt from a story today:

Joe Gershtenson, the director of Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Kentucky Politics told WKYT the Clinton advantage in Kentucky is significant, especially given the national tide that's running in Obamas' favor. Gershtenson said, "(Hillary) enjoys the Clinton legay. Her husband was a popular man in the Commonwealth. We voted for him twice. He had high approvals here. She's got that going, AND THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE STATE WORK IN HER FAVOR."

What demographics would those be, Joe? He doesn't say. He's not an idiot either.
But here's a telling stat. Fifty-six percent of likely Kentucky Democratic voters don't think Obama's race will be a factor in their vote. What?!? That means FORTY-FOUR PERCENT of Kentuckians think Obama's race WILL matter. One might assume they're either speaking for themselves or somebody they know well enough to know (s)he'd never vote for a black president.

If this is true, it matters for Clinton because Kentucky is the nation's second best bell-weather state with a perfect record of picking the winner in presidential elections since 1964, second only to Missouri. If (OH NO!) black Obama can't win Kentucky, we can't win the election, superdelegates! Do you want McCain? Vote Clinton!

Okay, but here's the grand irony of the silent Clinton racial strategy. While Kentucky Democrats give Clinton the nod, McCain STILL beats Clinton in Kentucky, 53-41. Obama loses 58-33. In other words, the new Clinton campaign can be summarized as follows:

Vote for me or we'll lose Kentucky by an even GREATER margin.

Not too compelling of a sales pitch. Sorry.