Monday, August 31, 2009

Senator Harry Reid, (D-NV) is the Senate majority leader and has been in a “war of words” with his state’s largest newspaper for quite some time. Last week, Reid took the battle to the next level. Reid told the Director of Advertising for the paper at a public reception that he hoped the paper went broke. He went on to publicly urge advertisers to patronize the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s competition. The paper responded with an editorial calling Reid’s actions “childish.”

Mark Twain said, "Never get into an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel." Twain was a journalist in his early career and he was cautioning against starting an argument with an editor/publisher of newspapers or other popular print media. Obviously the guy who prints the paper ("buys ink by the barrel") has the tactical advantage in an argument; he cannot only use his pages to espouse his side, he has the means to circulate it widely. That doesn’t necessarily mean the media is always right, but it does mean they have an advantage in getting their message out.

Reid’s actions are inappropriate and unnecessary. The free market system works and will sort this out just fine. Reid doesn’t have to publicly take a stand against a business to hurt a business. If a media outlet gets so out of touch with their market that people stop reading/watching/listening to them, the advertising wanes. They either have to adjust their business strategy or suffer the consequences of their actions, which often means they cease to be viable. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. An elected official’s job is not to tell citizens which products to buy or which businesses to shop at. That is the height of arrogance and displays a mentality that should disqualify them from public service.

This happened once in Stephens County. A former elected official- a Republican- publicly declared “war” on The Duncan Banner after they endorsed their opponent in an election. They encouraged local businesses and organizations to stop advertising with The Duncan Banner and to boycott the paper. The boycott was not effective and the paper obviously survived, but regardless of the outcome of the boycott, the actions of the elected official were categorically wrong. Public officials should not use their position to attack private industry. That is idiotic, unprofessional and un-American. Elected officials work for all of us, including the citizens and media that did not vote for them. But I have to admit watching someone “push back” can be fun.
I was sitting with former business partner and retired Putnam City West High School basketball coach Dick Close in Lloyd Noble in February of 1989 when Oklahoma was playing Missouri in Norman. Both teams were ranked in the Top 5 and the place was sold out. Early in the affair (and with the Sooners losing, 21-8), one of the game's officials asked OU coach Billy Tubbs to take the microphone and speak to the 11,734 in attendance who'd become unruly and had begun to toss items onto the court. Tubbs, who already had one technical foul for arguing with the zebras, did as they asked. When he took the mic, Billy declared, “Loyal Sooner fans, the referees request that regardless of how terrible the officiating is, do not throw stuff on the floor." Tubbs drew his second technical foul of the night, got a standing ovation . . . and OU came back to win, 112-105.

Billy’s “pushing back” fired up the team and the crowd. That is often the goal of an elected official who gets in a tiff with a media outlet- they are looking to fire up the troops. They use that very public outlet to spread their message, often playing the “martyr.” Senator Reid is up for reelection in 2010 and based on recent polling numbers, he needs to fire up his base.
According to a recent Mason/Dixon poll, Reid trails potential GOP Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian by thirteen points. Tarkanian is a real estate broker and former UNLV basketball star. Reid, a four term Senator, has a dismal 37% approval rating in Nevada.

It will be interesting to watch this play out- will Reid fire up his troops like Tubbs did and pull off a come behind victory, or will Tarkanian slam dunk the majority leader in 2010?

Monday, August 24, 2009

We are more than a year from the 2010 general election, but already candidates and campaigns are gearing up. Next year the top of the ballot will feature a U.S. Senate race. Senator Tom Coburn is up for reelection and while Democrats outnumber Republicans in Oklahoma, they don’t vote that way. It’s highly unlikely the Ds will waste a great deal of money on a race against the most conservative Senator in America. Coburn has pledged to only seek two terms in the Senate and the Dems will likely use their resources in a state where they have a better chance of picking up a seat.

In the Governor’s race, two Republican have announced their candidacies- Congresswoman and former Lt. Governor Mary Fallin and State Senator Randy Brogdon, (R,Owasso) Fallin is the clear favorite, simply because of name recognition, but Brogdon appeals to conservative grassroots activists, which could propel him to the nomination. On the Democrat side, there are also two announced candidates- current Lt. Governor Jari Askins and current Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Edmondson has a great name in Oklahoma politics and has thus far out raised Askins, but anyone with any knowledge of politics knows that Askins is a tireless campaigner and has never lost an election. (CORRECTION- ASKINS LOST HER FIRST RUN FOR STATE LEGISLATURE AGAINST FORMER STATE REP AND CORPORATION COMMISSIONER ED APPLE OF DUNCAN) If either Fallin or Askins win in 2010, history will be made. Oklahoma has never had a female Governor.

Because Askins is not seeking reelection for Lt. Governor, that position has attracted several candidates. On the GOP side, State Senator Todd Lamb, (R-Edmond) and State Representatives John Wright, (R,Tulsa), and Colby Schwartz, (R-Yukon) are vying for the nomination. Lamb is the Senate’s Majority Leader and Wright serves as the House GOP Caucus Chairman. On the Democrat side, State Senator Kenneth Corn, (D-Poteau) is the only announced candidate. Corn is a thirty three year old “political animal.” He was elected to the State House at the age of twenty-two when he was still in college. He will be “termed out” in 2010, so he is likely running to keep from getting a real job.

Since Fallin is not seeking reelection, her Congressional seat has attracted several candidates. State Representative Mike Thompson, (R-OKC) and former State Representative Kevin Calvey from Del City top the list of Republicans vying to take the seat. No Democrat has announced, with Governor Henry being the most notable name mentioned as a possible candidate for the position.

None of the other incumbents in Congressional delegation who are seeking reelection will likely be seriously challenged. Congressman Tom Cole has an announced opponent, R.J. Harris who is actively campaigning in the district, but no other incumbent has an opponent as of yet. The GOP has targeted Dan Boren, (R-Muskogee) and several Republicans will battle it out in the primary. The problem is Boren is a “blue dog” Democrat on the board of the NRA and has a war chest of money.

Because Drew Edmondson is not seeking reelection, the Attorney General seat will be open. Ryan Leonard is the only announced candidate. A Republican attorney who is married to former Governor Frank Keating’s daughter, Leonard is the son of U.S. District Judge Tim Leonard. Ryan will be able to raise a lot of money and will be competitive. Redhawks managing General Partner Scott Pruitt, a former Republican State Senator from Broken Arrow, is reportingly looking at the race as well. lSeveral others have indicated an interest in the race, including the 2004 GOP nominee James Dunn, but none have formally thrown their hat in the ring. On the Democrat side, Scott Meacham, current State Treasurer and close confidant of the Governor is said to be considering the race, but no announcement has been made.

Speaking of Meacham, he was supposed to announce his plans two weeks ago, but has yet to do so. Rumors abound as to why the delay, but whatever the reason, at least two Republicans are eyeing his current job. Former State Senator Owen Laughlin from Woodward has already announced for the seat and is actively campaigning. Laughlin is an attorney and former banker who served twelve years in the State Senate. State Representative Ken Miller, (R-Edmond) has formed a “steering committee” to help him in his race for State Treasurer. Miller is the Chairman of the State House Appropriations and Budget committee. He has a doctorate in public finance and is a professor in economics at OCC. Speaker of the House Chris Benge, (R-Tulsa) is also said to be looking at the race. No Democrat has announced and probably won’t until Meacham announces his plans.

Sandy Garrett, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has announced she is not seeking re-election after five(5) terms in office. Garrett also served as Governor Henry Bellmon's Secretary of Education for two years before she ran for the post. Garrett has been a frequent target of conservatives. Even though she was targeted by conservative activists in every election, Garrett's strength and support from the teacher's unions kept her in office. Janet Barresi, a dentist from Oklahoma City, is actively campaigning for the GOP nomination. Former South OKC State Senator Kathleen Wilcoxson and State Senator Clark Jolley, (R-Edmond) are reportedly considering the race as well.

Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields has an announced GOP opponent. Jason Reese, a bright young attorney who was a staffer for the State House is actively campaigning for the job. There are three other statewide races in 2010. Dana Murphy is up for re-election, even though she was on the ballot in 2008. Dana is running for a full six year term in 2010 after winning a squeaker in 2008 against Jim Roth, an openly gay man appointed by Governor Henry after former Commissioner Denise Bode resigned her post. Dana won by slightly more than 60K votes in 2008 and it's a cinch the Ds will field a candidate against her, though none have publicly announced yet.

Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, a Democrat, is also up for re-election. To my knowledge, no Republican has announced their intention to run for the seat and it's unlikely she will face opposition from her own Party. Holland has the support of some promonent Republicans, which may help propel her to re-election.

The State Auditor and Inspector of Oklahoma is Steve Burrage, who was appointed by Governor Henry in July 2008 after Jeff McMahan resigned after being found guility of federal campaign finance charges. Burrage, a banker, is rumored to be looking at the State Treasurers race if Meacham decides to not seek re-election or to run for AG. The logical Republican candidate would be Gary Jones, the current State Party Chairman and two time GOP nominee for the office. Jones, a CPA, has said he can't put his family through a third statewide race financially. Other Rs that may be eyeing the race include former State Auditor and Inspector and State GOP Chairman Tom Daxon.

J. Paul Getty once said the key to success was to “start early, work hard and strike oil.” Getty realized that his success wasn’t always dependent on how hard he worked or how early he started, but on divine intervention. Hopefully these “early birds” recognize that simple premise.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How important is political party affiliation? Some people mistakenly believe only politicians need political affiliation, which they use for support to get elected. They contend the electorate or voters, do not need to be aligned with any Party. These same people often state they “support the man, not the Party.” But whether they recognize it or not, they are supporting a party when they “support the man.”

Most of the Founding Fathers had a negative view of political parties. In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned about political parties saying, “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” In spite of Washington's warning, political parties were formed anyway.

From 1796 to 1828 the first political parties were formed. Starting with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, two opposing factions arose. Each was concerned with how the new government was to be organized. The Federalists believed in a strong central government. Their philosophy and beliefs would closely mirror the Democrat Party today. The Anti-Federalists strongly supported the rights of the states. They would more closely align with Republicans today.
Since the mid 1800s, the Ds and Rs have been the two major political parties in our country. Political parties flourished in our government mainly for legislative organization and expediencies sake. Why is Party affiliation important for the average voter? Party affiliation is important for three very simples reasons.
First, party affiliation is the first vote a citizen casts. When a citizen registers as a Democrat, then they are aligning philosophically with the values, beliefs, tenets, and positions of the Democrats on the issues. Party affiliation “defines” you are and what you stand for. It should be taken as seriously as a vote for a specific candidate. Research what each Party stands for, their positions on issues, and then align with the Party that is closest to your values. Copies of both major Party platforms are available on-line or at the local library.

Second, legislatures organize themselves and conduct business using party affiliation. The legislative branch of government is the most powerful arm of the three branches of government. Legislative bodies hold closed meeting of party members, called a caucus to decide on questions of policy or leadership. The Republicans hold a caucus meeting and the Democrats hold a caucus meeting-both at the state and federal level. Unfortunately, conservative, moderate and liberal philosophies do not hold caucus meetings or control the legislative agendas- parties do. When someone says they vote for “the man,” not the party, they fail to understand the power and function of a caucus system in a legislative body. The Party in the majority controls appointments, Chairmanships, the agenda and countless other things through the caucus.

Third, party affiliation should be a matter of conviction, not convenience. Often, people align with a party so they can vote in primary elections or based on family tradition or geographies. Even candidates will align, file and run affiliated with a Party they have little philosophical agreement with. That decision is made out of convenience, not conviction. While no political party is perfect or has all the answers, there is a distinct difference between the two major parties and honest citizens should align with the Party that reflects their convictions.
The Democrat Party is more liberal than the Republican Party. Liberals believe in more government control of business, the environment and speech, using large bureaucratic programs to address real or perceived social ills and constant reinterpretation of the Constitution. Liberals are more inclined to trust government than the people themselves. They see the role of government as a great provider of goods and services and have little faith in the individual to solve his own problems.
Republicans are more conservative than Democrats. Conservatives believe in less government control of the environment and business. They want fewer and less comprehensive government programs to address real or perceived social ills. They believe in personal responsibility and trust individuals to make decisions for themselves. Republicans believe in a strict literal interpretation of the Constitution. A person should find out which of these philosophies best fits their view if they wish to actively participate in the political process.
Party affiliation is important. Washington’s prophecy has come to past, and political parties have been used to empower “unprincipled men,” on both sides of the aisle, but like it or not, political parties are a reality in our system of government. Each concerned citizen should evaluate the philosophy, values, beliefs and tenets of each Party and align their party affiliation accordingly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
Congress is in recess and most Congressmen and Senators are home in their districts until next month. Many are holding “town hall” meetings, including all of the Members of the US House that represent Oklahoma with the exception of the lone Democrat member, Dan Boren. Boren evidently doesn’t want to “face the folks” on Cap & Trade, the economy and particularly health care. Snubbing constituents is not a wise move politically and is likely what got Boren on the RNC’s hit list. His seat is one Republicans plan to target as a “pickup” in 2010.

Town hall meetings are informal public meeting where everyone in the community is invited to attend, voice their opinions, and hear the responses from elected officials. Congressman Tom Cole, R-OK, held his first town hall in Duncan on Monday August 3rd. After the meeting, Cole said, “I got the message loud and clear that my constituents do not want government run health care.” Government health care is on everyone’s mind and what was voiced in Duncan seems to be the common theme throughout the country. Many Democrat Congressman across the country are facing irate citizens at their “town halls.” Several of the town hall meetings were captured on video and are running on YouTube.

Granted, some of those in attendance on the videos were passionate and did not allow their elected representatives to “answer” their questions, but in no video did I see an elected official writing down people’s concerns, observations, or ideas while voters were talking. They were defensive, frustrated, angry, and in some cases extremely arrogant.

In Tampa, a health care forum degenerated quickly when the complaining constituents were confronted by union activists who support ObamaCare. The meeting was organized by a Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-FL who is a strong supporter of President Obama’s plan. Castor tried to speak for nearly fifteen minutes but the crowd drowned her out, chanting, "You work for us,'' "Tyranny, tyranny,'' and "Read the bill." She stormed out in a huff, with security.

The longest serving Congressman in the US House is John Dingell, D-MI. Dingell is an unabashed liberal who has introduced a government run health care bill every year since 1957. Dingell, 83, is the lead sponsor on the health care bill. Dingell was met with boos, jeers and shouts of "Shame on you!" at an event in a gym in Romulus, Michigan last week.
Congressman Brian Baird, D-WA, said, “Some of these protestors are driving people to violence like Timothy McVeigh.” To compare ordinary citizens who are concerned about an issue to a domestic terrorist is despicable and inexcusable. Baird should be censored by the House Ethics Committee at the very least.

In Monday’s edition of USA Today, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, addressed the town halls by saying, “ These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.”

Pelosi and Hoyer go on to say, “it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue.”
The ugly campaign being conducted is by hard working Americans who are fed up with government officials rewarding irresponsibility and expecting them to pay the bill. This ugly campaign is not misrepresenting anything- it is exposing the health care bill for what it is- a socialist program that would be a disaster fiscally for our country.
Here is some “facts” for Speaker Pelosi. The fact is Americans don’t want government run health care for two very simple reasons. First, government does nothing better than the private sector and for us to expect government will manage health care better than our free market system is asinine. Second, it is not the function or responsibility of the government to provide health care to all citizens. There is no such thing as a free lunch and when we give someone health care, hard working Americans will pay the tab.

Elected representatives should be “listening” to their constituents, not dodging, debating, lecturing or insulting them. I don't care how much SUGAR they feed us, this medicine is not going down!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is an agency of the federal government that provides economic data and analysis to Congress. Created back in 1974, the CBO is supposed to be a “nonpartisan” agency, but the party in power appoints the director, so it still has a political connection to whichever party controls Congress.

The CBO was established to offer independent analysis of Congressional initiatives. They calculate how much these “great” government entitlement programs dreamed up by lawmakers will cost the American taxpayer. Former agency director Bob Reischauer says, “The CBO is a speed bump on the road to fiscal irresponsibility.” In other words, the CBO points out the cost of a bill and Congress largely ignores them. In thirty-five years, the CBO has retained its integrity during both Republican and Democrat majorities- until now.

When the Congressional Budget Office came out a couple of weeks ago with their analysis of President Obama’s health care proposal, they found it would not cut medical costs, but just increase debt. The CBO’s analysis said the bill would increase the federal deficit by $245 billion over the next ten years. The CBO also found the changes to Medicare would only save $2 billion over the next decade. The report was not favorable to Obamacare to say the least. They estimated the program would cost over one trillion dollars in the next ten years. Immediately the White House attacked the report with White House Budget Director Peter Orszag saying the CBO's analysis could feed a perception of the office's bias toward "exaggerating costs and underestimating savings."

So the President invited the Director of the CBO, Douglas Elmendorf, to the White House to discuss the analysis. Elmendorf, a liberal Democrat who has never worked in the private sector, said this on his blog after the visit. “I was invited to the White House to meet with the President, his key budget and health advisers, and some outside experts. The President asked me and the outside experts for our views about achieving cost savings in health reform. I presented CBO’s assessment of the challenges of reducing federal health outlays and improving the long-term budget outlook while simultaneously expanding health insurance coverage. In addition, I discussed various policy options that could produce budgetary savings in the long run. Other participants in the meeting expressed their own views on these various topics.”

Dr. Elmendorf clearly doesn’t understand the function of the Congressional Budget Office. It is not to discuss policy or brainstorm with the Executive branch on how to improve the health care system. The CBO is to analyze what Congressional initiatives will cost and/or save the American taxpayer. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said, “No one blames Mr. Elmendorf for accepting an invitation from the President of the United States. The issue is whether it was appropriate for the White House to invite him to discuss pending legislation before Congress at all.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky: "I noticed that the CBO director was sort of called down to the White House yesterday. It strikes me as somewhat akin as the owner of the team asking the umpires to come up to the owner's box. If the CBO is to have credibility, they're the umpire. They're not players in this game."

This interaction between the CBO and the White House was unprecedented. When an agency created for analysis and honest evaluation begins to participate in policy, their objectivity will be compromised.

After members of both Parties begin to criticize his White House meeting, Elmendorf wrote on his blog, "Of course, the setting of the conversation and the nature of the participants do not affect CBO's analysis of health reform legislation." Don’t be so sure- it’s clear a line was crossed and a dangerous precedent set. The CBO works for the taxpayer and reports to the Congress. When the agency began to interact with the Executive branch and discuss policy, they have a stake in the outcome, which is a clear conflict of interest.

With this meeting between President Obama and the CBO, American taxpayers may have had a speed bump eliminated that helped slow down Congressional spending. Without the CBO’s objective evaluation, it’s likely to be “pedal to the metal” for Congress.