Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Super Bowl?

On Sunday, gazillions of Americans will huddle around whichever acquaintance has procured the largest, supped-up high-definition televisions to watch the Super Bowl. Gazillions more in other countries will also tune in, not because they care about the game or for that matter understand the mechanics of American football, but because they perceive it to be the cool thing to do. Funny how this mentality has never acted in reverse concerning the World Cup, but as usual, I digress.
I will not be one of those pretending to be interested. Why might you ask? Because I am going to be on an airplane returning home from Washington, DC. Also if the Saints aren’t playing, then it’s not that big of a game for me.
Yes, I am cheering for the underdog, mainly because of Kurt Warner, a man whose story just gets that much more interesting as he extends his lucky break en route to future enshrinement in Canton. But I won’t be heartbroken if the Cardinals, the mascot of the playground I trudged through my lone season of organized football, lose. I’ll be sure to check out the final score on yahoosports.com some time on Sunday evening.
As the sports commentators have rambled in a patois that sounds awfully like the lingo of a used car salesman or the rhetoric of a three-card monte dealer, I have been racking the lobes of my brain on what the Saints need to do to make Super Bowl Sunday mean for me something more then a day to judge the talents of America’s leading ad agencies.
Like Linus beginning his vigil at the pumpkin patch on All Hallow’s Eve, I harbor great optimism for the new year. How couldn’t I?
The Saints’ offense was tops in the NFL in overall yards (2nd time in last three seasons), passing yards and touchdowns. So long as Drew Brees stays healthy and the team retains the bulk of its receiving corps in the off-season, the Saints should remain the league’s most dangerous passing offense.
And it seems that the team will have a much more balanced overall offense in 2009, though it will probably come at a bittersweet price.
According to a source close to the team, running-back Deuce McAllister has recovered from his last trip under the knife yet he had relatively few carries this season, which leads to the biggest question in the minds of fans: why has head coach Sean Payton used him sparingly?
There are theories out there that I will not go into at this moment, but one way or
the other, it appears that #26’s days with the Black and Gold are done, though that’s not to say his playing career is finished, as I tend to believe he has some gas left in the tank.
McAllister’s departure will signal Payton’s shift to a greater, though not dominant, use of the running game in 2009. Converting on third and one and clock control were two of the team’s biggest weaknesses in 2008. By keeping the ball on the ground, the offense allows the underachieving defense to catch their breath. Too many of this season’s games looked like Arena Bowl contests in which the last team to score won, not typically in the Saints’ favor.
Example: I felt that the Saints needed to win the coin-toss in order to win in overtime in Chicago. The Saints’ inability to lay hands on the opposing team’s quarterback and lackluster secondary proved me right.
In the season finale against Carolina, I found myself entertaining the absurd theory that the Saints should simply let the Panthers get the ball into the end zone with enough time for the offense to march the ball back down the field in the final seconds.
But Carolina wasn’t biting and shrewdly ate up clock and settled for a dagger-through-the-heart field goal.
The most encouraging signs for Saints fans since was the firing of the much maligned defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs and his replacement with Gregg Williams, one of the most sought-after defense coaches on the market.
While not a fan of Gibbs (or Payton for that matter), I would like to concur with the “Boy Blunder” on one point: just after announcing Gibbs’s termination, Payton spoke words of appreciation for his former defensive coordinator’s willingness to come to New Orleans in light of our city’s image just after Hurricane Katrina and with the franchise’s future in New Orleans up in the air. The head coach was right on the mark with that praise and I hope the Black and Gold faithful take it to heart and give Gibbs his due.
Though Gibbs was not as aggressive as many thought he should have been, one could argue that he lacked the pieces necessary to have that style executed on the field. That the domineering Payton would consent to bringing in an assertive coach shows maturity and a growing desire to trade control for success. Williams’s acceptance shows that he thinks that the New Orleans franchise can go all the way.
In what will be a lean draft for a team with more needs than picks, hopefully Williams can squeeze good players out of existing fat contracts.

What to look for:

Deuuuuuuuuuce Getting Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuut
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma Re-Signed Seconds after the Start of Free Agency
Saints Shipping a Starter, Most Likely Pro Bowl Tackle Jammal Brown, for a 2nd Rounder or Multiple Mid-Round Picks
Saints Trading Down from Their Current 14th Spot to Fill in Gaping Mid-Round Vacancies
Not Breaking the Bank by Signing a Mid-Level Safety in the Off-Season
Devery Henderson Gone, though They Will Come to Regret It

Sunday, January 25, 2009

RNC Chairman Race: Anyone But Duncan

If Republican politics bore any similarity with football, then “Coach” Mike Duncan would have been sacked as chairman of the Republican National Committee after a 2008 “season” that resulted in the election of America’s most liberal president and expanded Democratic majorities in Congress.
But Duncan, the Rod Marinelli of RNC chairmen, has decided to seek re-election as leader of the GOP despite the drastic losses incurred under his watch in November 2008, citing party rebounds in December in which Georgia US Senator Saxby Chambliss won re-election after his race went to a runoff and the election of two new Republican congressmen in Louisiana.
Now to put things in perspective.
The win in Georgia was not surprising as the Peach State has been trending to the GOP since 1992. Chambliss’s re-election was forced into overtime mainly due to a spike in black turnout for Obama in November. The senator himself praised Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s assistance in driving up enthusiasm for his candidacy during his time of need; Duncan and the RNC not so much.
In Louisiana, Hurricane Gustav, the reintroduction of the closed primary, $90,000 in the freezer, 16 indictments and the determination of Anh Cao’s local boosters had more to do with the defeat of Democrat Bill Jefferson than anything the RNC did for the stunning Republican upset in New Orleans.
Due to the razor-thin nature of Dr. John Fleming’s victory to retain the Shreveport congressional seat for the GOP, it could be said the national party had in the 5th district, though the seat had been Republican for the past 20 years.
But even if Duncan had indeed hit a triple (in lieu of simply being born on third), the RNC chairman’s moment of victory came after the national Democrats outscored the GOP by 6 + in the US Senate and 20+ in the US House.
Yet Duncan thinks he should be given another chance.
Now it’s obvious all of the wreckage cannot be laid at Duncan’s feet. Then-President Bush entered his second term with a tin ear and zero concern for public relations. Republican nominee John McCain acquitted himself poorly as a presidential candidate. And unless Duncan walked away from a few hundred thousand mortgages, the political fallout from the financial crisis cannot be pinned on him.
However what can was the way the RNC chairman faced the adversity. While these are extraordinary times, Mike Duncan has proven himself to not be an extraordinary chairman, which is what the current political climate calls for in a party leader if we are to combat the socialization of our industry, health care system and banks.
Mike Duncan should have recognized the dark reality ahead and tacked a different course from the White House, which would have required breaking with the very president who handpicked him as chairman.
Mike Duncan never earned his ascension and didn’t do anything to establish his worthiness to maintain the office during his tenure. That he should suffer the consequences of the failed politics (not necessarily policies) of his Godfather is just. Duncan had his chance and he blew it.
Despite the party meltdown during his watch, Duncan’s candidacy for re-election cannot be dismissed. The assembled state chairmen, national committeemen and national committeewomen will have the final say on Duncan’s future and that of the party.
Regrettably, people who ascend to such positions are generally light on practical political experience. As I know from having witnessed many an intraparty election, personal loyalties established through the dispensing of favors and positions tend to trump the box scores that delineate what a chairman or party leader had wrought.
In what has become the most wide open contest for RNC chairman since 1992, Duncan is being challenged by former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, former Tennessee GOP chairman and Mike Huckabee operative Chip Saltsman, South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson and Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis.
Originally I was for the media savvy Steele, though it seems he has been reading too much of former New Jersey governor Christie Whitman’s failed playbook of moving the party leftward. Furthermore Steele’s record at GOPAC does not inspire confidence as someone who would be an effective fundraiser and party administrator.
Blackwell, who moved up in my personal estimation after Steele went to the center, has been elected to state office and knows the all too well the cannibalistic tendencies of country club Republicans who would sooner sink the ship than let someone else steer it. Blackwell’s biggest handicap is his lack of depth at running a party, though social conservatives have gravitated towards him.
Saltsman had his 1.5 minutes of fame when he sent out a tape of Rush Limbaugh parodies out to RNC members. While he was part of a campaign that had far exceeded its initial expectations and got more bang for the buck than any of the other Republican presidential candidates, Saltsman performed poorly as a the Huckabee camp’s talking head in the media, engaging in personal and hostile sniping with Romney operatives. Furthermore, it’s unlikely the committee will turn over the keys to someone so closely identified with a potential presidential candidate in 2012.
As for Anuzis, I don’t see how someone who is party chairman in a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since I was in high school could put the party back on the winning track.
And then there is Dawson of South Carolina. Though it seems it would require a great deal of effort to be an unsuccessful chairman in a red state such as South Carolina, I’ve seen plenty of mismanagement in reliably Republican states to know that winning does not just happen on its own. Though not having the same challenges as party leaders in blue or purple states, there is no questioning that the GOP has done well in South Carolina since Republican David Beasley got thrown out. Dawson might have a similar “presidential candidate” problem as Saltsman with South Carolina’s archconservative Governor Mark Sanford entertaining a White House run.
Any of Duncan’s challengers, even Steele with adult supervision, could improve upon the incumbent’s record.
Ideally, I’d like to see Blackwell as general chairman with Dawson handling the day-to-day operations. With Barack Obama as president and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid controlling both houses of Congress by comfortable margins, there’s more at stake than patronage and parking spaces.
Survival of capitalism, our civil rights, national exceptionalism and the high standard of living Americans enjoy and obviously have taken for granted.
We cannot and should not trust proven failed leadership to lead the fight to prevent the American republic’s devolution into a facsimile of western Europe.
The RNC must dump Duncan if we are to have a chance of winning when it matters most.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Witnessing the Obama Pentecost from a Treadmill

Casual acquaintances were surprised to learn I would not be on hand for Barack Obama’s inauguration. During rosier polling times, I had blocked off the date to travel to Washington to see John McCain’s swearing in. Well, we all know how that turned out, though I guess I could have “grateful gratitude” to McCain for conducting a miserable campaign and thus saving me the considerable expense of journeying to our nation’s capital.
But the interest would not have been there and thus Motel 6 rooms would not be going for Four Seasons’ rates as was the case this time with Hill staffers retiring student loans by renting out their apartments for serious coin to accommodate the assembled masses.
I had a ticket to go, but my attitude was “been there, done that” during President George W. Bush’s two inaugurations. I would have probably been beaten, or to use the Old Testament manner of executing non-believers, stoned to death for erupting in laughter after the circus clown…I mean preacher…delivered his benediction, but more on that latter in this column.
Sick of seeing Obama’s graven image everywhere, I decided to skip out altogether and retreat to the office treadmill to burn some calories. But like the telescreens in 1984, there was no escaping as someone was watching the inauguration in the work out area.
So while walking an average pace of 4 k/h in a comfortable room, I watched history go down.
I saw Rev. Rick Warren deliver what I had originally thought was the president’s inaugural address by proxy until I was saddened to learn that there would be more talking ahead.
I saw Aretha Franklin, wearing what appeared to be Christmas wrapping on her head, not improve upon her outstanding performance in Blues Brothers.
I heard a poem that I could not make heads nor tails of.
I kinda sorta heard accomplished musicians play a piece that seemed out of place.
I bore witness to the first miracle of our national savior when Joe Biden’s speaking was limited to his oath of office.
I saw the throngs waving campaign signs and chanting the new president’s name as if it were a campaign rally, behavior quite different from my past two inaugurations.
And then there was the money shot: not Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s inaugural address, but the closing prayer of Reverend Joseph Lowrey in which he ended it with a crude nursery rhyme that asked brown to stick around, the red man to get ahead, yellow to be mellow and, my favorite and what caused me to almost fall off the treadmill, for white to embrace what is right.
It was good to see the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was there in spirit if not in body. Nothing like spitting in the faces of white folks whose support was instrumental in putting Barack Obama in the Oval Office. But I digress.
And then there was the sermon from the hill itself. I found his delivery to be underwhelming and its content combative, with the president accusing the ideology of the opposition party as being stale while throwing shoutouts to the special-interest patchwork of his party, much in the same manner Bill Clinton did in his keynote filibuster at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
I am sure Obama’s voters found his inaugural address very powerful and stirring just as they find ALL of his speeches to be moving since they’ve instilled in themselves Pavlovian reactions such as shedding tears and experiencing profound euphoria upon hearing his voice. Obama could read Dr. Seuss to his people and they’d explode in ecstasy. But more about his personality cult and its dangers to the republic for next week.
Oh, I should point out that Obama set a new record for flubbing from the very beginning, and no I am not talking about the Quayling of his oath of office (I am sure SNL will parody it as they did Dan Quayle’s oath taking as vice-president about the same time Osama bin Laden embraces the Book of Mormon). Obama had his good in the 52nd word of his inaugural address when he said 44 Americans had taken the presidential oath.
I don’t know who his fact-checkers are or how much he knows about American history but while we have had 44 presidential administrations, we’ve only had 43 presidents as Democrat Grover Cleveland had served two non-consecutive terms and does not count as another person (there’s Supreme Court rulings on such a matter)
Or maybe Cleveland’s evil twin brother was his stand-in for the second trip to the White House.
In any case, that’s a pretty major error considering the occasion and if you think I’m overreacting, then imagine the merciless mocking the 43rd president would’ve received had he made the same mistake in his inaugural. There Dubya embarrasses us again, right?
And speaking of double-standards, the price-tag of Obama’s inauguration was a princely sum of $150,000,000 for his shindig while Bush’s 2005 event was almost four times less yet liberals criticized the Republican for engaging in such “lavish” spending in light of that money being better spent elsewhere.
Think of all the body armor for soldiers, soup kitchen appliances, windmills, Arabic translators for Pushtan-speaking Afghanistan and carbon credits that could have been had!

And on One Final Note…

Yesterday I had penned a column evaluating the most recent Bush Administration, though I was remiss in failing to mention that the 43rd president restored respect to the presidency and the executive mansion.
Perhaps the reason why I was not cognizant of his contribution was due to how easy President Bush made being dignified look.
I remember being in Washington in 1999 and walking past a group of grade-schoolers on fieldtrip when I overheard a few of them giggling about trying to find Monica Lewinsky. We had come a long way from George Washington’s wooden teeth and Honest Abe’s stovepipe hat being the leading presidential curiosities of interest for our nation’s youth.
Being presidential instills confidence in both the man and the office he holds. Bush banned jeans in the West Wing during work hours and nobody was allowed to set foot inside the Oval Office without a coat and tie. Cell phone yakking being the biggest no-no.
Maybe such in-house policies are considered little stuff but it went a long way towards re-establishing the White House as being more than just a government office complex or presidential clubhouse.
In what really underscored the absolute hatred and lack of civility these self-proclaimed dedicated peace activists had for political opponents that dared to be successful, Bush was taunted with “sha-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, goodbye” as he left the inauguration podium en route to returning to private life. Ever the professional, Bush took their invective in stride as he had done throughout his eight years in office.
There was no red-faced expression. No angry biting of his lower lip. Bush continued to display the same easy smile that confounded critics whose pride kept them from giving the Yale-Harvard grad the respect he deserved and thus always giving the confident Bush the advantage.
President Obama inherited a better house than 43 did in 2001, in which Ws were removed from computer keyboards amongst other instances of childish vandalism. You can bet that when the Bush Administration left the White House, they left the Os on the keyboards.
Thank you President Bush for being a class act.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Evaluating Bush in His Final Minutes

A few days ago I received an e-mail from the Republican National Committee titled, and I am not making this up, “Grateful Gratitude to Our President”, asking recipients to sign a card of appreciation to the president…and also to send a donation of $25, $50 or larger to the RNC.
The last part isn’t going to happen until Mike Duncan is gone as chairman and even then I would want assurances that the $25 I send them won’t go to finance $45 worth of junk mail begging me to send more.
As for the former, my communication to the soon to be former president would not involve a blanket thank you but “thanks for this, this and this, but you really screwed up on that…and that…and most definitely that”.
While partisan self-criticism might be rare in this day and age, I think I’ve established enough credibility to not be confused with the moderate rats that the president unwisely chose to surround himself with and who repaid his loyalty by cutting out and running to the best trash book deal when they saw their opportunity to cash out.
You could say I invested a lot of time and effort on behalf of George W. Bush. I went to New Hampshire at my own expense in 2000 to help with this campaign for the nomination. Later that year I hustled in blogosphere and on the ground to move Louisiana back into the GOP’s column after Bill Clinton’s two straight victories in the Bayou State.
Despite being very sick with bronchitis, I traveled to Austin as part of a Young Republican contingent to protest the protestors outside the governor’s mansion in some of the most miserable weather I have ever experienced while Florida’s results were still being sorted out.
In 2004, I served as one of Louisiana’s 9 presidential electors and dutifully cast my ballot his re-election.
Bush’s presidency could be best summed up by what transpired in the 9th month of each of his two terms. In the first, there were the September 11th terrorist attacks, in the second, the haphazard federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
These two events serve as the bookends of his presidency as Bush proved to be determined and forceful concerning the former though appeared aloof and detached in the latter.
Only the likes of Michael Moore could possibly condemn the president’s actions in taking the fight to al-Qaeda and their Taliban allies in Afghanistan. I still remember hearing the international cries for patience and a multilateral approach to dealing with the most horrific attack on American civilians in our country’s history, and perhaps another president, maybe the man who finished second in Florida, would’ve heeded such global advice.
Thankfully, America had a stubborn leader who had a simple approach to warfare: you hit us, we’ll hit you back exponentially harder to cripple you and serve as an example to other hostile governments and networks even thinking about doing something similar. No economic sanctions. No dropping out of sporting events. Just painful consequences.
On the other hand, only the likes of a professional apologist could in any way defend the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. The federal government did not have a single person on the ground in St. Bernard Parish, the worst hit community in Katrina, until a full week after the storm. It took days to get water to evacuees huddled together at the Superdome. The bureaucratic nightmare Katrina victims went through dealing with FEMA was inexcusable.
Failure to anticipate the damage that Katrina would cause in addition to not prepositioning badly needed supplies in locations where they could get into devastated areas quickly was squarely on FEMA.
Sure state and local officials did not help, with ex-Governor Kathleen Blanco deserving the bulk of the blame for obstructing military assistance with quelling the chaos that emerged as the waters receded. But on the federal end, Brownie had not done a heckuva job and President Bush looked deservedly foolish for saying it.
Iraq is unique in that unlike the first two events, its role in defining Bush’s legacy is still up in the air. The president was golden in the eyes of his countrymen after the quick seizure of Baghdad but the glow began to fade after Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction were never found and as irregular fighters and al-Qaeda proved to be more determined and formidable opponents than the Iraqi army.
The war that was once so popular even Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted for it started to wear thin on the public as the death toll of American servicemen from roadside bombs climbed and a definitive end to the occupation seemed elusive.
But Hussein’s execution signaled to his loyalists that he was never coming back to power, the increase in civilian casualties by al-Qaeda in Iraq and the troop surge contributed to establishing stability.
If a democratic Iraq endures and proves to be an effective bulwark to Iran, then Bush will one day be considered a visionary for his bold Mideast gambit; if however, the government collapses and Iran installs a puppet regime that exacts bloody reprisals against the once ruling Sunnis then Iraq will have finally merited comparison to Viet Nam.
Bush will either enjoy later appreciation through Trumanesque revisionism or continued Johnsonesque vilification on the direction of Iraq.

Other areas:
Social Conservative: Just as his predecessor proved to be at least faithful to his party’s social liberal base, Bush consistently backed a conservative social agenda. Bush has the distinction of having appointed two solid conservative justices to the Supreme Court, even though it required an uprising by members of his own party. Some of the most liberal high court jurists were appointed by Republicans and it can at least be said that the 43rd president got it right where Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and his father had bungled.
Economics: Tax cuts: good; bailouts: bad. Economic conservatives have even longer memories than social conservatives though Bush’s steadfast support for tax cuts will at least endear him to some degree with what is increasingly becoming the GOP’s most assertive wing. Though the president did warn Congress about the dangers of people receiving home loans they could not afford, Bush should have been more vocal in his opposition and not relegate himself to “I told you so” status.
Social Security Reform: Anyone that can do simple math should realize that the system is running out of rail and the train is not slowing down. In this area, Bush was courageous for touching the political third-rail though he also backed away from the matter when he ran into roadblocks early in his second term.
Party Leader: Bush did for the GOP what Bernie Madoff did for his investors, taking the party faithful for a ride that to stratospheric heights and then a quick crash down to terra firma.
When times were good in 2002 and 2004, even Tom Daschle was trying to hug Bush in public; when the bottom fell out after Katrina, most candidates for Congress in competitive districts were removing pictures with the president from their websites.
Bush’s tone-deafness with public opinion and the media served him badly in his second term, particularly in 2006 when he arrogantly predicted victory for the GOP on the eve of an election that would be a political massacre. The president stood by Denny Hastert when it was obvious that in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal the speaker needed to go and that the GOP leadership in Congress either needed to change on their own or let the voters do it for them. Polls and the historic trend that the 6th year of virtually every two-term administration is greeted with very unfavorable mid-term congressional results should’ve served as omens but were haughtily dismissed.
Bush’s failure on the public relations end seriously handicapped John McCain’s presidential bid, since the presidential race at the end of a two-term administration is largely considered a referendum of the outgoing administration. Luckily for Bush the man who humiliated him in New Hampshire in Michigan back in 2000 had to pay that price in 2008. He also probably wrecked whatever aspirations Jeb had harbored of being president.
Bush fell victim to the Sun King mentality of that he was the party and the party was him and it served neither well.

When he left office in 1953, Harry Truman had an approval rating that was barely over 30%. But the obtuse Missourian benefited from later a re-evaluation and the plain-speaking former haberdasher is now considered one of the 20th century’s great presidents.
As he exits the Oval Office, Bush’s approval rating ranges from 22-34%, and even that’s mostly due to die-hard Republicans and social conservatives. Unlike Truman, Bush’s legacy won’t be treated much kinder as it goes from being critiqued by the liberal media to being judged by liberal academia with Iraq being the tiebreaker.It is ironic that Barack Obama, whose election was in no small part due to Bush’s low poll numbers, will have a big role on determining Bush’s legacy through the new president’s handling of Iraq.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Will W Set EWE Free?

As the clock ticks down on George W. Bush’s presidency, so does the last glimmer of hope former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards has of walking out of prison before the end of his ten year sentence for racketeering.
Edwards is scheduled for release on July 6, 2011, the same year Governor Bobby Jindal is up for re-election.
Though a fellow Democrat will be entering the Oval Office on January 20th, Edwards is unlikely to receive mercy from an image obsessed Barack Obama, whose transition has been marred with the arrest of the Democratic governor of Illinois for attempting to sell the president-elect’s US Senate seat.
Furthermore, it is doubtful President Obama will receive any request for clemency from Louisiana’s leading Democrat, as US Senator Mary Landrieu is by no means a fan of Edwards.
Landrieu’s 1995 gubernatorial bid, which in the early days of the race seemed unstoppable, crashed largely due to then-Congressman Cleo Fields’ candidacy, which siphoned away just enough black votes that Landrieu needed to make the runoff. Fields was close with Edwards, as is evident by FBI film that showed him stuffing into his pockets about $20,000 in cash from the former governor. It has been argued that Fields, aware he could not be elected, made the race at Edwards’s behest explicitly to sabotage Landrieu.
It should be noted that Landrieu’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of “who’s who” of Democrats that have stated their support for Edwards’ early release, which includes former US Senators John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston.
Those arguing for his early release have cited Edwards’s advanced age (he turned 81 in August) and that his political days are behind him.
Opponents to his commutation include Republican US Senator David Vitter, who was a vocal critic of Edwards while serving in the state legislature, and US Attorney Jim Letten, who helped convict Edwards and stands by the fairness of the sentence handed down against the former governor.
A number of Republicans have also championed Edwards’s cause, with none being more prominent or ironic than Dave Treen, the state’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction and who lost his office to Edwards in 1983. Treen had also lost a gubernatorial election to Edwards in 1972.
If rejection at the polls was not enough of an indignity, Edwards’ caustic rhetoric against Treen’s personal mannerisms made the experience a near-total humiliation.
Many Louisianans are familiar with Edwards’ quip that the notoriously deliberative Treen was so slow that it took him a half hour to watch 60 Minutes, a wisecrack that still haunts the Republican.
Edwards also mocked the incumbent’s diminishing hopes of re-election by claiming the only way he could lose was by being caught in bed with either a live boy or a dead girl. Edwards backed up his taunts by rolling up a landslide victory over Treen.
Despite Treen’s status as grandfather of the Louisiana Republican Party (and for that matter Edwards’s status as “dead beat dad” of the party for pushing through the open primary that led to a swell of Republican registrations), the former governor’s pleadings to the Republican White House were likely undermined by Treen’s endorsement of Democrat Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid for US Senator against a fellow Republican, State Treasurer John N. Kennedy, that had been aggressively recruited by the national GOP and whose candidacy was personally supported by President Bush.
Though George H.W. Bush has also signed his name to the Edwards commutation effort, the former president’s support has not resulted in his son taking action on the request.
Some time ago I asked someone fairly high up the White House food chain about the odds of Edwards being sent home early. The reply was in the negative. The source claimed that since the former governor has refused to admit his guilt, the president was not inclined to budge, since some people would infer that a commutation would mean that Edwards was wrongly imprisoned.
Edwards, who is penning his memoirs while biding his time behind bars, is probably aware that an admission of wrongdoing is a sine qua non for any hope of clemency, though he continues to maintain his innocence. At least in the matter he was sent to jail for.
Instead of petitioning President Bush, Edwards’s allies might do better to mail the former governor good health tips if they ever want to see him on the other side of a prison fence since Bush, who has shown an ultra-sensitivity about his legacy and is mindful how his predecessor’s mishandling of pardons tainted his record, seems to content to make his final mark as president by being parsimonious about pardons and commutations.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Playoffs! Playoffs? Yes, PLAYOFFS!!!

Collegiate Basketball has the most celebrated one.
Baseball has one with a double-elimination.
Even women’s water polo has it.
I’m obviously talking about playoffs.
Yet college football, the only sporting event in the country that can pack 100,000 people in an open-air stadium in freezing weather in venues from Ann Arbor to Knoxville, doesn’t have something as simple and conclusive as a playoff system.
Instead of having a climactic event along the lines of the Final Four or the Super Bowl, NCAA football has a system in place that is supposed to produce an overall winner, though it has done better at generating controversy and debate before watercoolers and on talk radio.
Granted college football isn’t the NFL. There are 11 conferences in Division I football plus the independents making it impossible for the NCAA to have something as succinct as pro-ball’s post-season set-up. And that’s where the sportswriters and head coaches are supposed to come in to separate the wheat from the chaff, since, the theory goes that a 12-2 team from the mighty Southeastern Conference is superior to an undefeated team from the lowly Mountain West.
There’s nothing like the reality of actually playing out such a match-up to show the folly in making such an absolute assumption.
And that is what we have. A running debate, injustice to athletes striving for on-field excellence and three-dozen or so bowls whose obscure sponsors belie their true significance in the grand scheme of things, since the bowl games mean little further down the Top 25.
To invoke a personal grievance, how is it that Louisiana State University demolished Georgia Tech by a score of 38-3 in the Peach…scratch that though I will get back to this travesty of commercialization…Chick-Fil-A Bowl yet the Tigers didn’t crack the AP 25 while the Yellow Jackets are able to cling to 22nd. If a bowl game does not determine which of the two teams competing is better, than what is the game about?
Aside from money and an ugly trophy, apparently nothing.
And while everyone comprehends footballs’ physical strain that basketball, baseball and, yes, water polo do not have, and thus putting limits on the calendar, there is a better way. And here it is.
1) Go to a ten-game schedule.
2) Start the season earlier.
3) End the meaningless conference championship games and assign this empty distinction via tiebreaker rule or worst-case scenario, recognize co-conference champs.
4) Let the sportswriters and coaches pick the top sixteen teams in the country in a single-elimination tournament.
5) Call those playoff games bowls, thus allowing the parochial Don Fanuccis that run the bowls to wet their beaks in a game that actually means something and thus generating more interest and revenue.
6) The whole exercise would last 4-5 weeks pending the desire of the avaricious NCAA wish to spread things out for money sucking purposes.
7) As a sop to both tradition and the gross commercialization that has trivialized this whole process, make the seven oldest bowl games permanent playoff bowls with the current big four continuing their championship game rotation, allow the next ten oldest to alternate as five playoff bowls every other year while giving each of the new bowls a shot with the remaining three playoff bowls over the course of the cycle. This will also necessitate capping eligible bowls so new bowls don’t keep springing up to take advantage of this inclusion. (The Port Allen Raisin’ Canes Chicken Finger Bowl?)
8) Those bowls that are not part of the playoff system are allowed to keep their contests though the winners of the bowls cannot be ranked in the final standings below the teams they beat in the games.
An added bonus to a playoff system is that college teams would be more likely to
schedule competitive non-conference opponents for their regular season games as a loss in the regular season would not necessarily knock them out of contention for a shot at the national title. Fear of losing one’s season early on keeps this LSU fan from ever having the extreme privilege of seeing his team play at Happy Valley.
Now I am certain for a bevy of reasons, the Bayham System of Collegiate
Football Excellence will be viewed as unworkable, impractical, environmentally unfriendly, etc., etc., etc. However, my playoff theory is far superior to the reality that exists today.
The reason why a playoff system won’t ever come to be is that it requires people relinquishing power and authority, including the bowls, conferences and media. The upshot is that a playoff system would empower the players to determine on their own who is truly the best in lieu of allowing this flawed “League of Nations” system’s manner of determining an overall winner that is heavy on favoritism and light on actual football playing.
And one more thing.

Why the hell are old bowls having their names totally bowdlerized with absolute corporate sponsorship? The Peach Bowl, which started in 1968, no longer exists and is now the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Not the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, which it was between the years 1998 through 2005. I don’t mind a business that invests heavily in an event to have their name broadcast all over the game but to totally supplant Peach, which is symbolic of the state the game is being played in is classless and undermines tradition. Shall our neighborhood streets one day fall victim to this crass commercialization so that Ferncrest Way is replaced with Taco Tico Trailway in the future? Protect tradition; keep the old names on our public schools and our college bowl games!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Case for Seating Roland Burris...and for that matter, following the Constitution!

Most people with a basic knowledge about Louisiana political history (or at a minimum having seen the movie Blaze) are familiar with one of the most famous “escapes” by a patient from a mental institution.
Earl K. Long was arguably Louisiana’s most flamboyant politician. Huey Long’s scrappy younger brother served as Louisiana’s governor on three occasions. His ferocity in politics was legendary and not even the opponents’ health maladies were spared in Earl’s vitriol, nor was the Kingfish.
In what was one of the worst kept secrets in political circles, Earl also had a thing for strippers.
During his third term, Long was dragged kicking and screaming to the Southeastern Louisiana State Hospital, a psychiatric treatment facility in Mandeville, by members of his family after the governor’s erratic behavior reached a new low while delivering a speech before the legislature.
Though he had been committed against his will to an asylum, Long was still governor and one of the state executive’s powers was the ability to unilaterally fire and hire the head of the state’s hospital board, which had authority over the hospital where he was confined. Long axed the state hospital chief and replaced him with someone who then swapped out the head of the very hospital he was being held with a new director who then obligingly ended the governor’s 9-day forced convalescence.
While Long was a very sick man, mentally and physically, he retained his office until his term end, whether he was in the State Capitol, a Bourbon Street burlesque bar or a padded cell.
Though Uncle Earl was crazy, he was still governor.
Five decades in the future and 900 miles up the Mississippi River, another controversial state executive has tested his authority under unfavorable circumstances as Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich continues to be the 400 pound skunk in the Temple of Obama.
Accused by the feds of trying to auction the president-elect’s vacant seat in the US Senate to the highest bidder, Blagojevich was arrested and released on bond.
Rebuffing calls from the media and his own party to resign, the embattled Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to an office that he allegedly referred to as a “BLANKING-valuable thing” that he estimated its worth to range between a patronage-laden cabinet post in the Obama Administration to a six-figure annual salary for his wife.
Unfortunately for the opportunistic Burris, his fellow Democrats have stopped him from assuming office.
According to this prop from the movie National Treasure (Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution and I hope you are paying attention Vice-President-elect Joe Biden), the qualifications of a United States Senator are as follows: one must be 30 years old, a citizen of the US for a minimum of 9 years and an inhabitant of the state of the seat. Burris meets these criteria.
The Seventeenth Amendment providing for the popular election of US Senators contains the following language: “When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
So while Blagojevich will assuredly be sent to a penitentiary in the future, he is presently governor and thus has the legal authority to appoint anyone meeting the qualifications established in Article I of the US Constitution to fill the empty Illinois Senate seat in Congress.
Now why should Harry Reid playing George Wallace to the duly appointed Burris trouble everyone?
Because it sets the precedent that the US Senate can ignore the law and arbitrarily block whomever they wish, even if the embargoed individual meets the constitutional qualifications and went through the proper process.
The only other true concern that the Democratic caucus should have is if Burris attained his appointment through nefarious means and at this writing no evidence has been uncovered of a quid pro quo between Blagojevich and his appointee.
The Burris fiasco is just the latest example of Democrats throwing out the rules (including the ones encased in that giant vault at the National Archives) in the name of good public relations and political expediency. Remember how the New Jersey Supremes rewrote the law so the Democrats could swap out a sagging Bob Toricelli with a more electable seventy-something year old after the deadline to do so?
There are worse things than having a kleptomaniac for a governor, namely having jurists with wild legal imaginations on the bench and high-ranking lawmakers in Congress with no regard for the document they swore an oath to protect and support.
Illinois, like California in 2002, got the governor they elected and, pardon my ruthlessness, deserved. Knee-jerk acceptance of anything with a D next to his or her name makes for bad politics and worse government and is not much different than walking into a West Palm Beach voting machine and automatically puncturing the second chad without bothering to read the name next to it.
To paraphrase Cardinal Lamberto from Godfather III, the sins of the Illinois electorate are terrible and it is just that they suffer. The same goes for the Democratic Party that was aware of what kind of politician Blagojevich was and supported him just the same.
Don’t like Blagojevich as a governor anymore? Impeach him or convict him, whichever comes first. But until that process is initiated and runs its course, he’s still governor and has the authority to exercise the duties of his office.
If crazy Earl Long could appoint his way out of a mental hospital then crooked Rod Blagojevich can “give away for nothing” the vacant Illinois senate spot to a constitutionally qualified individual.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Early Look to 2012

Assuming the first precinct caucuses in Des Moines for delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention are not held in 2011, around this time three years from now will mark the official start of battle for the right to challenge President Barack Obama’s re-election.
Hopefully the parties will bring some sanity to a process that has been ludicrously frontloaded in 2008 in which almost half the states in the Union held contests on a single day in order to appease directives by the national committees that provided preferential treatment to four states were not representative of national demographics while providing anemic penalties that failed to discourage larger states from ignoring the guidelines.
And since the new president hasn’t even been inaugurated, some might think it’s too early to openly talk about the future, though speculation about what the 2012 ticket would look like started before the first session of the GOP convention had been gaveled to order, partly due to many people’s belief that John McCain would only serve one term while others were confident he wouldn’t get that far.
The folks at Zogby Interactive conducted their first 2012 head-to-head poll in late November, before McCain’s political corpse was cold.
The survey showed 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin comfortably leading the pack with 24% followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney 18%. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was close on Romney’s heels with 15.6%.
Other potential candidates include Florida governor Charlie Crist, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, South Dakota US Senator John Thune, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. Former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani have had their names bandied about as well.
Sarah Palin: I know I am going to be repeating myself from previous write-ups on the Alaska governor and will mention some items ad nauseam over the next few years so please bear with my repetition of factoids. Palin has the name, fame and will have a warchest well-stocked with small donations from across the fruited plain. Though she would not be the first woman to seek the GOP presidential nod, Palin is no Margarent Chase Smith or Liddy Dole…thank goodness. Palin has three years, as opposed to the three weeks she was most recently afforded, to enhance her speaking style. Remember that senators are professional bloviators; governors are not, hence state executives are rarely picked as running-mates on major party national tickets. If she seeks it, the odds are heavily in her favor that she will win the nomination.
Bobby Jindal: Palin’s selection by McCain was somewhat of a surprise…to even the Arizonan’s own staffers. I was only the phone with one close McCain aide less than 12 hours before the Alaskan was announced and he strenuously argued why she would not be picked. That source later claimed he was in the dark until he found out that morning. Palin’s lack of preparation for the national media jackals could be a sign that McCain had his heart set on someone else…and not necessarily Joe Lieberman. Perhaps McCain’s first choice had turned him down. Jindal flirted with being open to it until publicly and unequivocally slamming the door on being veep, if only to not endanger his local political end. It should be noted that McCain had spent an inordinate amount of time in Louisiana despite the fact that the Bayou State was never in doubt. Jindal is the only candidate out there that could generate the same enthusiasm Palin has been able to on the trail and though the Louisiana governor has already sworn off a presidential run, a Palin-Jindal face-off could look like a GOP reenactment of the 2008 Democratic clash of the political titans.
Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor did not win any points for congeniality as his well-funded campaign machine brutally assailed whichever candidate had just so happened to be leading in the state Romney was competing in. At the end of the day it appeared that entire Republican field was ganging up against Romney in the debates and that Huckabee chose to stick around long after his candidacy appeared unviable if only to split the conservative vote and thus assuring McCain a plurality. Romney no doubt understood this and decided to quit spending his kids’ inheritance, at least in 2008. Romney’s orchestrated bowout at CPAC was intended to give him a Reaganesque sheen, 1976 vintage, and it seemed to work as the throngs of College Republicans gathered proudly sported his campaign paraphernalia and helped give a withdrawn Romney first place in the CPAC presidential poll. In a Palin-Jindal fight, Romney is a faithful John Edwards at best, if both Alaskan and Louisianan take a powder, Romney goes in with a major edge. Romney could also experience some drag due to his closeness with the Bush family if the soon-to-be former president continues to be held in low regard by the public.
Mike Huckabee: I think Huckabee is going to talk like a candidate for the next three years, sell books, make speeches and the not run. Super Tuesday was the high-water mark of the Huckabee effort as a split field of weak candidates allowed evangelical voters to coalesce to former a plurality, including a near majority in Louisiana- where he did not get delegates (don’t get me started). Huckabee’s candidacy opened many financially rewarding doors to the Baptist preacher that has mostly lived a cash-strapped life (remember the campaign break to deliver a paid speech in the Caribbean? Or Mrs. Huckabee staying at the budget Hooters Hotel & Casino while in Las Vegas?). The Huckster is making big bucks these days on television, radio and in print and while speculation of another presidential run will drive up his public demand, a second failed run will only dry up his income.
Charles Crist: The Florida governor did not endear himself to conservatives by arbitrarily extending voting hours, the stuff most Republicans expect a Democratic judge to do. The newly wed Crist was chomping at the bit to ride shotgun on the McCain ticket and when denied proved to be not nearly as helpful in the general election than he was in the primary. For whatever reason, Floridians have not made the best presidential candidates and I cannot find a compelling reason why this guy should be on a Republican ticket let alone on top of it. As I said months ago, if you need Crist to carry Florida than then the party is already doomed in November.
Mark Sanford: The archconservative South Carolina governor went into political exile in 2008, not lending the same assistance in the critical Palmetto State primary to McCain that he did back in 2000. Word on the street was that McCain was very bitter over that thus nixing the prospect of Sanford being invited to join the ticket. Sanford made a point of being everywhere at the convention and has raised his national media profile considerably since McCain’s political demise. A favorite of fiscal conservatives, Sanford is probably going to run and could be the sleeper candidate if Jindal stays out.
John Thune: Considering his height, it’s kind of ironic to say Thune made his name playing “David” to Tom Dachle’s “Goliath”, Thune was a rumored potential running-mate for McCain as a low-risk/low-return safe choice. His ascension as party nominee in 2012 would almost have to be Hardingesque. Thune’s most immediate challenge is to avoid getting “George-Allened”, AKA “Macaca’d” when the Democrats continue their strategy of targeting the GOP’s farm team in 2010.
Tim Pawlenty: Even people in his own state were hoping the self-proclaimed founder of the Sam’s Club-wing of the Republican Party would be passed over as McCain’s running-mate, though for VERY different reasons Louisiana conservatives did not want to see Jindal tapped. It was for the best Pawlenty wasn’t asked; despite the fact his state hosted the Republican National Convention, and thus giving the GOP added exposure in Minnesota (and also providing for Minnesotans a first hand look at the radical screwballs that were backing Obama via obscene street theatre and random acts of violence against delegates and private property), the Democratic nominee won the state by ten points. Of ironic note, McCain did a little bit better in Colorado, the site of the Democrat’s conclave. Even had Pawlenty been on the ticket, it would not have been enough to make Minnesota red and would have simply been an unmitigated embarrassment for the Minnesotan, whose national ambitions would be as dead as McCain’s. Furthermore, Pawlenty or his state won’t be looking too good in the eyes of Republicans if Al Franken ends up a US Senator. Obama could only be so lucky as to face a Crist-Pawlenty tandem in 2012.
Jeb Bush: The public was told from the beginning that HE was supposed to be the president, not Dubya. But a funny thing happened on the way to Tallahassee. Florida’s incumbent Democratic governor Lawton Chiles proved to be cagier than Ann Richards in Texas. Comments from his presidential father about how he hopes he has another presidential son have made the news, though it appears a likely and successful US Senate run is in Jeb’s immediate future. But don’t think an eventual run for the White House might not be in the not too distant future.
Newt Gingrich: A brilliant political tactician that would’ve been the hands down choice for RNC chairman, Gingrich has enjoyed a major public relations turnaround thanks to the masses now directly hear what he is saying and not what the media reported he said (a big difference). Main reason why a Newt 2012 is not going to happen: the second former Mrs. Gingrich. But all the presidential talk is great for book sales.
Rudy Giuliani: Somewhere in the hereafter John Connally is thinking he got a bargain for the millions he blew on his failed presidential candidacy. Rudy’s Florida strategy appeared more like an exit strategy, maybe on purpose. The ex-mayor might have been the best hope the GOP had of winning in 2008 but definitely proved how little one should put in early presidential polls.