Monthly Archives: December 2011

Caucuses & Primaries: Let Them Begin!

Reprinted from

We know the Iowa Caucuses will be held next Tuesday. A week after that, New Hampshire will hold its primary. What’s the difference?

One week. Very funny. Not counting that.

A caucus…

The plural of “Caucus” is not “Caucii,” as someone – probably someone who OD’d on cable news programs over the New Year weekend – will likely say at the Keurig machine with great authority on Tuesday.

Caucus is not a Latin word. According to the Merriam-Webster 3rd Unabridged, the etymology of “caucus” is: probably of Algonquian origin; akin to caucauasu elder, counselor; and was first used in 1760.


… is a meeting of people from the same precinct held at a specific time in a specific place.

Under the GOP rules in Iowa people will go to a site representing one of 1,774 precincts; will check in to ensure they are really registered Republicans in that precinct and not members of the “Occupy the Caucuses” thugs, will listen to people speak on behalf of one candidate or another, and will write the name of the candidate they are supporting on a piece of paper which will be collected in some approved manner.  Continue reading

Ron Paul Wins With Losing

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In the Feehery family primary, held over the Holidays, Ron Paul won a surprisingly high percentage of votes. While he didn’t win, he had committed delegates who argued forcefully for his positions.

Mitt Romney won the primary, but just barely.

Ron Paul may be a conspiracy theorist. He might be a nut job. He might be a racist, homophobe, anti-semite and a variety of other things that he has been charged with over the last month or so. I don’t know. And I can tell you that the Ron Paul supporters don’t care.

What Ron Paul brings to the equation is the pure philosophy of the populist Republican. He is running against government, which is smart, because the government is less popular than the bubonic plague right now.

He is against the Federal Reserve, which is politically smart, because most Republicans hate Ben Bernanke.

He is against the police state. He wants to legalize drugs, internet gambling and a variety of other victimless crimes.  That fits in with the voters who are sick and tired of cops telling them what to do. Continue reading

Why Iowa?

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We are now inside of a week until the waiting-with-baited-breath Iowa Caucuses.

Every four years everyone looks at who has won in Iowa and who ended up as the nominee and makes the very persuasive case that the Caucuses are not predictive of the ultimate primary process outcome. I said on Anderson Cooper last night that Iowa caucus voters don’t pick winners, but they do a great job of identifying losers.

The reasons are: There are 49 more primaries and caucuses to go after Iowa – more if you include delegates from Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the District of Columbia. So, a victory in Iowa punches a candidate’s ticket at least through South Carolina, but there are no guarantees after that.

Second, this only happens once every four years and there is almost always an incumbent running in one of the party caucuses so they don’t count. Continue reading

Saving Christmas Spirit


The top headlines in some American newspapers on Christmas Eve:
“Bombings in Syria Cast Doubt on Ability of Arab Monitors to Stem Violence”
“Wave of Street Robberies”
“DC Air Jordan Frenzy Leads to Arrests”
“Payroll Tax Fight Leaves Hill Republicans Divided and Angry”
“Clash Over Regional Power Spurs Iraq’s Sectarian Rift”
“Justice Department Cites Race in Halting Law over Voter ID”
“Protesters Flood Moscow Streets”

Those headlines reflect only one of many worlds in which we live.

While negative news permeated the media, people all over the country, young and old, toured neighborhoods gazing at homes decorated with lights, wreaths, and plastic reindeer, or listened to Christmas carols on radios, in churches and schools and shopping malls. Normally sedate people were adorned in Santa hats, Christmas ties, red and green clothes, with smiles directed at complete strangers.

Thousands of people went to K-Mart and Walmart stores and paid off the layaway plans of hard-pressed parents buying Christmas gifts for their children. Continue reading

When I’m 65: Then is Now

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Allow me a day of what, bragging? Whining? Maybe both.

Today I turn 65.

When I was a kid I don’t think I knew anyone who was 65. I thought people who were 35 were old. When I was a kid 35 was the new 65.

I am not one of those people who rue birthdays that are divisible by five. Thirty bothered me because it was the passage between being young and being a grownup, led by the fact that The Lad was born. None of the next six have given me pause.

This one didn’t either, until last Thursday. Continue reading

Sondheim Rhyme & Tebow Time

Reprinted from Loose Change at

Carnac holds an envelope to his forehead. “Sondheim Rhyme & Tebow Time,” he says. Ed McMahon echoes, in his trademark basso mundo, “Sondheim Rhyme & Tebow Time.” Carnac looks askance and then blows open the envelope to read the question . .

Sorry, you’ll have to wait for it until I’m done writing this.

Stephen Sondheim, genius creator of stupendously artful, clever, and Tony award-winning musical theater, wrote a book (Finishing the Hat) a while back, and then another recently (Look, I Made A Hat). Both are really wonderful perspectives/critiques on writing, composing, thinking, and creating. Sondheim, who wrote many smash shows—Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George—pens his masterpieces using the following three mantras: Continue reading

Polls, Pundits, and Prognostications

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I understand that national polls traditionally haven’t meant much, because voters in California and Missouri are not going to their local fire stations and high school cafeterias two weeks from tomorrow to vote in the Iowa caucuses.

But, with the advent of social media and the enormous attention being paid to the debates, the ebb and flow of support for one or another of the GOP candidates in national polls can’t help but have an effect on voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states.


We’ve long since memorized the primaries that will be held in January. It’s time to begin committing to memory February’s contests:

Feb 4 Nevada (Caucus)
Feb 4-11 Maine (Caucus)
Feb 7 Colorado (Caucus)
Feb 7 Minnesota (Caucus)
Feb 28 Arizona (Primary)
Feb 28 Michigan (Primary)


The biggest effect good national poll numbers is on fundraising. Donors in New York and California don’t typically decide on which campaign to support solely based on how they’re doing in Iowa or South Carolina, but in large part how they’re doing in polls reported by Gallup and the Associated Press. Continue reading

American Politics and the Perpetual Campaign


One of the failings of our system of governance, former Republican Leader Bob Michel once observed, is that you can no longer tell where the campaigns end and governing begins.

That trend has defined American politics for sometime. The differences between campaigning and governing have gotten less and less apparent. And this year, they seemed to have disappeared all together, after a brief flurry of off-again, on-again, off again, bipartisan, bicameral, bi-branch exchanges that showed promise, but no permanency.

The combatants in American politics, conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, have dropped any pretense of governing. It is all campaigning, all the time. And no one did it in more grandly than the President.

Oregon Rep. Greg Walden said the other day that he has never seen a President step away from governing the way President Barack Obama has. Previous presidents who served in divided government where Republicans controlled one part and Democrats the other chose not to cut and run in the face of serious challenges. Ronald Reagan didn’t. Nor did George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton. When the country’s challenges demanded it, they stepped up, not away. They found common ground, sorted through the politics and partisanship, made decisions and resolved contentious issues like taxes, Social Security, budgets and welfare reform.

When President Obama was asked on 60 Minutes:  “Isn’t it your job as president to find solutions to these problems, to get results, to figure out a way to get it done?”’ the response was pretty much no. The President said it was his job to present the country with a vision, presumably so others could govern. Continue reading

Appropriations King Hal

Reprinted from

It has been a long time, but the Appropriations Committee has finally got its mojo back. And Hal Rogers, the first term Chairman of the once powerful and feared Committee, is the chief reason why.

The House completed work on all of its appropriations work for the first time in years, and that was chiefly because of the quiet persistence of Chairman Rogers.

The Appropriations committee’s work can be mind numbing. When I worked fo House Minority Leader Bob Michel, I used to have to sit on the House floor when the Subcommittees be grinding through their schedule in the dog days of summer, churning through amendments and fighting over obscure funding projects. Some of the disputes seemed pretty insignificant to a young staffer like me. Continue reading

Grades on Final Iowa Debate

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The final debate prior to the January 3 Iowa Caucuses was held in Sioux City last night. The race is no less fluid with 19 days to go than it was last summer. Newt Gingrich had jumped out to a huge lead a week ago, but that lead has (depending upon which poll you look at) has either diminished, or evaporated altogether.

After the first 20 minutes of Kumbaya, the questions turned to Gingrich. The second tier candidates were unabashed about piling on.

Here’s how I think the seven candidates did last night.

Newt Gingrich: (26.0% in the summary of Iowa Polls) Last week we were waiting to see how Newt handled being the front-runner and he handled it pretty darned well. Last night we were waiting to see how he handled watching his support erode in the face of a determined opposition. Continue reading

Congressional Salaries: Truth & Myth

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LegisStorm has just announced the first successful electronic publication of all Congressional staff salaries for the past 10 years.

Go ahead. Click on the link above (Congressional staff salaries) and type in a few names of people you have known who worked on Capitol Hill since 2000. LegisStorm seems to think they have uncovered the Holy Grail lost since antiquity.

Big deal. Congressional staff salaries and office expenses have been public knowledge ever since the first Congress sat in 1789.

Did you know that 2/3’s of the 14th Congress were voted out of office in 1816?  ‘Why?’ you might ask.

Because the 14th Congress voted themselves a hefty pay raise to the lofty sum of $1500 per year. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, got the gargantuan (for then) salary of $3000.

Mr. Clay almost was defeated himself in 1816 in which case, the nation may never have come to know just how brilliant he was as a legislator and the ‘Uncompromising Compromiser’ as the authors of the great book, ‘Henry Clay: The Essential American’, Daniel and Jeanne Heidler, chose to characterize him. Read it over these holidays and learn more about how our government matured into the form it is today under his leadership in the early days of the Republic.

Here’s the problem with the reporting of congressional salaries nowadays:  There is never any context in any reporting about them to provide the public any idea of what our elected representatives, senators and staff do on a regular day in Congress. Continue reading

Negative Ads

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We are at the point in the Presidential election cycle when the campaigns – and their allies – begin to run negative ads.

Everyone hates negative ads. Candidate after candidate vows he or she will “never go negative.” Supporters – especially donors – vow to leave the campaign if negative ads are even discussed, much less produced and put on TV.

Yet … yet … negative ads are a part of almost every campaign.

Mentor and friend Ed Rollins was a pretty fair Golden Gloves boxer when he was young. He has approached campaigns like he would a fight: You have to be prepared to throw a punch, take a punch, and throw a counter-punch. If you didn’t have the stomach for that, become a CPA, not a candidate for public office.

One of the first consultants I worked for was named Paul Newman. True.

Paul warned candidates that there would probably come a time when he would recommend the campaign – as he put it – “turn mother’s picture to the wall” and flay the skin off the opponent. Continue reading

Vlad Must Go

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The Occupy Wall Street movement has moved to Russia. How is that for some irony?

The protest movement that started in Cairo, swept through almost every Middle East Country, made its way through, Paris, London and New York has finally showed up at the Kremlin.

If I were Vladimir Putin, I would be a bit nervous.

Putin tried to steal the election for the Duma, and the Russian people called foul. Good for them. Bad on Putin.

Putin is a thug. The single worst thing George W. Bush said during his 8 years in office (and he said a lot of stupid things), had to do with seeing something he stared into Putin’s eyes. What W. should have seen was a KGB thug. Who knows what he actually did see? Continue reading

Des Moines Des Bate

Reprinted from

The thing about telling you that I watched the GOP debate that took place in Des Moines, Iowa Saturday night is I have to admit I had nothing else to do Saturday night.

Attend Joint Chiefs of Staff Christmas Party – Pentagon

Fly to New York to see “Spiderman” – Broadway

Weekend cruise to friend’s private island – Caribbean

— Feed the cat

— Make a meat loaf

— Watch GOP debate

Here’s the shorthand version of what I think happened.

Newt Gingrich won. No surprise. Gingrich is leading the pack because there have been 217 debates and he’s been great in all of them. Anyone who thought he was going to suddenly collapse under the weight of being the frontrunner simply doesn’t understand the Tao of Newt.

The Twitter-verse exploded when Mitt Romney offered to bet Rick Perry $10,000 on who was right about what was in Romney’s book regarding a national individual mandate for health care. Continue reading

Newt, News, & Palestine


Newt Gingrich apparently let loose with some puzzling pronouncements  about Palestine and Israel in a cable television interview recently and again in the Iowa debate. Before the debate, the Washington Post quoted him saying, “Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire…We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people…”

The Post reporters went to Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, for this response:  “Besides being factually and historically wrong, this statement is unwise,” and from former national security adviser Elliott Abrams: “There was no Jordan or Syria or Iraq, either, so perhaps he would say they are all invented people as well and also have no right to statehood.”

Gingrich’s remark threw the spotlight on one of the most profound, turbulent and impactful political, religious and human conditions of the 19th,  20th and 21st centuries. The hot and cold wars of the Arab-Israeli conflict have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world, as dramatically and injuriously as some of the greatest events of our time.

The Gingrich story, then, served as a wonderful opportunity for the Post to both inform and educate its readers on the history and the complexities of the conflict. Continue reading

The Plunder of Colfax

Reprinted from the Congressional Record (12/1/11)

WATCH: Click to watch video of McClintock House Floor Remarks

In the Sierra Foothills in northeastern California lies the little town of Colfax, population 1,800, with a median household income of about $35,000.

Over the past several years, this little town has been utterly plundered by regulatory and litigatory excesses that have pushed the town to the edge of bankruptcy and ravaged families already struggling to make ends meet.

Colfax operates a small wastewater treatment plant for its residents that discharges into the Smuthers Ravine. Because it does so, it operates within the provisions of the Clean Water Act, a measure adopted in 1972 and rooted in legitimate concerns to protect our vital water resources.

The problem is that predatory environmental law firms have discovered how to take unconscionable advantage of that law to reap windfall profits at the expense of working-class families like the townspeople of Colfax. Continue reading

A Pipeline and the Political Times

Random Thoughts

The Keystone Pipeline is a project of a Canadian company intended to double the amount of crude oil brought into the United States, creating tens of thousands of jobs, decreasing our dependence on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil, and maybe even reducing the cost of energy. The pipeline would extend from Alberta, where oil is being extracted from oil or tar sands, through the American Midwest to refineries in Texas. It’s a private project but it is international and therefore needs approval of the State Department.

The project caused consternation among environmental groups and some of the communities along the path of the pipeline, particularly in Sand Hills of Nebraska. The solution for the local residents of the Midwestern states is to relocate parts of the line and increase safety to ensure, as best as possible, that the pipeline is as environmentally safe as a pipeline can be, balancing their concerns with the economic benefits.

The only solution acceptable to the more extreme environmental organizations is killing the project outright. Well that was until President Obama stepped in.

Wait. I’m sorry. The President didn’t step in. Presidential Candidate Obama did. Continue reading

What Would Founders Think?


All you really need to know about the state of Washington, D.C., are three facts:

A–a majority of Republicans in the Senate defeated a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday that was introduced by their own Senate Minority Leader last week;
B–President Obama has decided that the only real legislative item he wants passed is that very payroll tax holiday–not deficit reduction, not extension of unemployment benefits, not ending the expansion of the Alternative Minimum Tax into the middle class, not preventing a 27 per cent overnight reduction in payments to Medicare providers;
C–Congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as the White House, still have not approved the basic appropriations bills necessary to keep the government operating.

To extend what should be extended will cost about $200 billion plus. The President doesn’t want to run the risk as a big taxer, so he is watching as Congress wrangles, something that has been thematic about this President–talk and watch.

Congress fears both extending the items that a weak economy needs and not extending them. This confusion puts the rotten cherry on top of the melted ice cream sundae that has been this session of Congress.

Continue reading

Referendum on Obama: One-Term President

Reprinted from

The political geniuses around President Barack Obama have a problem: they do not – DO NOT – want this election to be a referendum on the President.

And, for good reason. According to the three-day Gallup tracking poll, Obama’s job approval is back down to 41 percent. Two months ago his approval bottomed at 38 percent, but he has not been at 50 percent job approval since May.

Gallup goes on to compare Obama’s dismal performance rating with his predecessors. In December of their third year in office here’s where they were:

— Eisenhower (1955) 75%
— Nixon (1971) 50%
— Carter (1979) 53%
— Reagan (1983) 54%
— HW Bush (1991) 51%
— Clinton (1995) 51%
— W Bush (2003) 58%

No elected President in the past half-century has entered his re-election year underwater in approval. Let’s look at how the Obama campaign has chosen to shore up these numbers. Continue reading

Secular, Liberal Egypt. We Hardly Knew Ya

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One of the nice things about human history is that no matter how much people or their leaders misjudge events and make a hash of things, within a few centuries, the debris is cleared away, and we can have another go at getting things right.

Yes, I am thinking about the Middle East. Whether or not there is a message in that turn of events, I’ll leave it to theologians.

At the moment, I have in mind the latest blunder by the experts — their assessment, just a few months ago, of the nature of the Arab Spring and its democracy movement. Back in spring, the leading experts — from the Obama administration to the neoconservatives on the right to the major liberal media to most of the academic area specialists — were all overwhelmingly predicting that all those great secular, liberal, college-educated kids with their iPhones in Tahrir Square represented the new Egypt and would bring all their wonderful values to the revolution. It was primarily us cranky right-wingers who have been writing on radical Islamic politics (and, of course, the Israelis, who can’t afford to get it wrong on Muslim political habits) who warned that this was all going to end in the rise in still-ancient Egypt of radical Islamist, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti American and anti-Western governance. Continue reading