Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iowa Notebook: Paul Cooks Up a Makeover

Le Mars- The self-proclaimed "ice cream capital of the world" (by virtue of being the home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream) was an afternoon stop for Texas US Representative Ron Paul's barnstorm of western Iowa.

Leading in some Hawkeye polls, Paul attracted a crowd of over one hundred people to Le Mars Convention Center. Paul was relatively soft spoken in his address, covering many of his signature promises concerning an overnight reduction in foreign aid, the establishment of a new national monetary policy and shrinking the US military presence around the globe.

What was interest in was how he presented himself. Surrounded by a retinue of suit-clad aides, the Paul operation looked very bit part of the establishment they seek to overturn.

Waiting in attendees chairs were specific instructions concerning the process of the precinct caucuses (an indication that they're counting on the participation of first-timers) and paperback copies of The Ron Paul Family Cookbook(!).

Now let's delve into this unique piece of campaign literature.

Inside the pamphlet, which resembles a copy of a Thanksgiving edition of Better Home and Gardens, are recipes for Oreo Cake, Razzle Bo-Dazzle Pork Tenderloin, Sicilian Supper, assorted casseroles and other homemade culinary creations.

In between the recipes are family photos of Paul, a picture of the congressman while he ws in the service and Bible verses.

Something tells me this literature was not also dropped in the Iowa State University Student Union.

Paul has spent the last year trying to portray himself as a sound messenger of radical ideas. His setup at the Ames Straw Poll resembled a church picnic, complete with a wholesome looking family who handcrafted dresses out of campaign t-shirts (they also made the cookbook).

Paul made a point of stressing his commitment to the pro life agenda and touted the strong support he enjoys from active military. No mention was made of his opposition to the war on drugs.

There was some political hatchetry on the stop as one of the state legislators supporting Paul took not so subtle shots at Newt Gingrich's infidelities and stressed Paul's devotion to his wife Carol ( who is not only prominently pictured on the cookbook's cover but is listed as Mrs. Ron Paul).

Judging by his advertising, Paul sees Gingrich as his biggest threat to having the opportunity to face off with the candidate who personifies the political establishment: former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Though he won delegates, Paul didn't carry a single state in his 2008 presidential bid and seems poised to claim the opening contest for the GOP nomination. He ran 5th four years ago with 10%.

His supporters in Iowa have increased and diversified beyond the conspiratorial and ganjistas. The crowd in Le Mars consisted of the elderly, young families and a smattering of young people. Take away the Paul signs and you would have thought it was a Huckabee rally.

In 1996, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan came within 3% of defeating Kansas US Senator Bob Dole. Buchanan's supporters consisted of religious evangelicals and anti-establshment types. It seems Ron Paul is trying to borrow a recipe from Buchanan's 1996 political cookbook by throwing a splash of pro life, Bible talk to his pepper steak.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sympathetic to Newt But Still for Santorum

Over the past few weeks, establishment conservatives (George Will, the National Review, et al) have increased the ferocity of their jihad against Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid.

It is surprising to see so much vitriol aimed at the leader of the national conservative counter-revolution after the country club wing of the party practically surrendered the White House to Bill Clinton and seemed to be in no hurry to end a GOP exile from control of Congress that dated back to the Eisenhower administration.

Is the anti-Newt frenzy sparked by a personal vendetta or concerns about his electability?

If the latter, I don’t understand the panic since the party has been represented by far worse than Gingrich in previous elections.

Take John McCain.


McCain championed a plan that increased the “established” media’s role in “interpreting” federal elections while simultaneously handicapping Republicans’ financial capacity to compete against Democrats, to say nothing of his campaign finance legislation’s infringements on the First Amendment.

But McCain has never let principle get in the way of a favorable write-up. And come 2008, we found out who was the real useful idiot to whom.

After emerging from a relatively brisk primary battle (it was over after Florida- the eighth contest on the GOP calendar), McCain promptly bided his time, not preparing for the general election or initiating a running mate vetting operation.

In a move that was tantamount to giving his Democratic opponent a spread, McCain stubbornly refused to recognize the obsolescence of matching funds and chose to not make the effort of competing with Barack Obama in general election fundraising, believing that the Democratic nominee’s recanting on an obscure pledge would trump a severe financial disadvantage.

At the end of the day, it could be said that Hillary Clinton worked harder to stop Obama from becoming president than the Republican nominee.

Gingrich would have to campaign in a powdered wig and breeches to be anywhere in the same zip code as the disastrous McCain campaign.

I have a tough time believing that the driving force behind the Republican take over of Congress would be any worse of a nominee than McCain, Bob Dole, Bush 41 or Barry Goldwater (who was agreeable in principle but disagreeable as a politician).

And to futurist’s credit he had the foresight to see exactly what George H.W. Bush would reap politically with his tax deal with the Democrats. That old man Bush has embraced Romney and recently publicly “tut-tutted” Gingrich for taking issue with the “Read My Lips” repeal exhibits the former House speaker’s conservative credentials.

That said Newt Gingrich is not my first choice for the Republican nomination. And he’s not my second either.

And if I find myself eventually supporting Gingrich in the course of the primary calendar, it will be because I consider him a superior alternative to others and not because he is a good candidate.

He’s not and that’s why I am supporting someone else not named Ron Paul or Mitt Romney.

Former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum remains the most consistent, credible and accomplished conservative in the Republican presidential field. Thus Santorum remains my choice for the Republican nomination.

Santorum was part of the Gingrich Revolution in Washington but unlike the movement’s leader, the young senator proved to possess the self-discipline to effectively advance conservative causes in the halls of Congress if not always in the limelight.

Though Santorum is a longshot, he’s also the best choice. As a conservative not tied into the system, I have no problem betting on the side that ends up losing so long as it’s the right side.

Santorum represents a very different visual for conservatism and of all the candidates seeking the GOP nod. In terms of his national image Santorum’s a blank slate who has not been unflatteringly framed by the media or by mush-mouthed debate performances or high profile gaffes.

And while nominating Santorum does not in itself lock up the Keystone State for the GOP, his presence on the ticket will make Pennsylvania competitive, taking the fight to the Democrats’ turf.

Santorum has wagered all of what few chips he has on a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Due to the expectations game, he does not necessarily have to win that contest- just do better than Minnesota US Representative Michele Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Only one of the three self-described social conservatives will be going on to New Hampshire without a pronounced death rattle.

Iowa Republicans a huge favor on caucus day by not creating the Paul-Romney duel that will inevitably lead to the latter’s nomination by stepping up for Santorum.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Choice for President

It’s been many years since I’ve been excited about an announced Republican candidate for the presidency. And judging by the crop of the current field, it will be a few more.

In late 2007, I campaigned for ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. I knew he had no chance of being nominated, though I suspected he could make things interesting in Iowa. Furthermore, my support for Huckabee was intended to be a social conservative protest vote as the one-time Baptist minister was the closest thing to that in the race.

The person I wanted to see run in 2012 is New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

While he is not an ideal conservative, Christie is conservative enough and, pardon the pun, had the guts to challenge the entrenched special interests who have wrecked the Garden State.

Christie personifies the kind of boldness both the Republican Party and the country needs.

But alas, Christie isn’t running and worse yet has endorsed the last candidate not named Huntsman I would support in the primaries.

So I once again find myself in social conservative protest mode.

Ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich has largely resurrected his candidacy through the free medium of the debate circuit and watching the political corpses of better-funded and better-organized candidates float past him.

Though he possesses 100% name recognition amongst likely primary voters and is the smartest presidential candidate in the room, Gingrich carries personal baggage that might make his nomination an act of party seppuku.

And then there was the Scozzafava endorsement, when Gingrich backed the candidacy of Republican Party-endorsed moderate Dede Scozzafava over Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman in a special election for a New York congressional seat.

While conservative notables embraced Hoffman, Gingrich made waves lining up behind Scozzafava, defending his choice in a “finger wagging” internet post to conservative critics of the move.

What really made the Scozzafava endorsement toxic was her decision to drop out the race and support the Democrat over Conservative candidate. To Hoffman’s credit, he put out a statement asking conservatives not to hold Gingrich’s “toe the party line” position against him.

That said, the Scozzafava endorsement is unsettling in that when the base of the Republican Party was going in one direction, Gingrich chose to stand with the politically tone-deaf country club.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign has the distinction of its high-water point being in the same 24-hour news cycle that it crashed. After an impressive demonstration of strength at the Ames Iowa Straw Poll, Bachmann had the rug yanked out of her by a candidate that didn’t even show up. While I agree with Bachmann on many of the issues, there seems to be more showmanship than substance in her candidacy.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, the one who yanked the rug out from under Bachmann, went from being instant frontrunner to Texas toast. Though his hazing of Romney is appreciated, I just can’t get past “PerryCare’s” mandatory HPV vaccinations and the bumbling debate performances.

We’re going to need more than an arrogant ambler facing off against Barack Obama next November.

Ron Paul is the ultimate protest candidate, but I don’t want my social conservative protest statement to get caught up with 9-11 truthers.

And that leaves me with the individual I had hoped George W. Bush would have picked to be his running mate in 2000: the man whose name none dare Google.

Former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum is the only candidate who has unapologetically carried water and produced results for social conservatives.

Santorum is relatively telegenic and his youthfulness represents a departure for a party with a tendency to nominate “seasoned” (or “out of touch”) establishment candidates.

He’s won two statewide contests in a state that Democrats must win in order to reach 270+ electoral votes.

The two biggest knocks on Santorum are his blowout defeat for re-election in a terrible year for Republican congressional candidates (2006) and his endorsement of then-Republican/then-US Senator Arlen Specter against conservative Pat Toomey’s insurgent primary challenge.

But compared to the ideological gaffes and personal/political shortcomings of the rest of the candidates, I can easier look past Santorum’s.

Iowa will hold the GOP’s first actual delegate contest just after New Year’s Day and if Santorum doesn’t finish first or second in Iowa, his bid won’t leave the Hawkeye State’s frozen fields.

And if that happens it’s back to the drawing board for this social conservative. And perhaps a few more.

Until then, Rick Santorum is a presidential candidate I can support with a clean conscience.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Election 2012: Bachmann Scores Big at Ames Political Carnival

Two carnivals were taking place simultaneously in the heart of Iowa this past Saturday.

The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines was celebrating the centennial of its buttermilk cow and hawking such delicacies as fried Oreo cookies, fried butter and the ever popular (and delicious) porkchop on a stick.

Just up the road on the grounds of Iowa State University in Ames a political carnival was held. Both had cover charges ($10 to enter the state fair, $35 to vote in the Ames straw poll) and both had interesting dining selections (though no porkchop on a stick was to be found, the grub was free in Ames so long as you didn’t mind waiting in long lines). Congressman Ron Paul even provided a ride of sorts (a large inflatable “Dollar Slide”).

Below is a breakdown of how the candidates fared and in keeping with the carnival atmosphere, what each served up to prospective voters.

US Representative Michele Bachmann R-MN/IA Clearly the big winner. The TEA Party favorite nosed out Paul to receive the most votes and received the big headlines for her triumph. Though victory in the straw poll is not necessarily a sign that a candidate will win the caucuses a few months later or the nomination, Bachmann had something going for her that the 2007 victor, ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, never had: enthusiasm. Short of a major meltdown, Bachmann, who you’d never know represents a district in another state by her constant references to her Iowan background, is a heavy favorite to win the nation’s first delegate contest. Bachmann served up “meat sundaes”, lemonade, ice cream and country music star Randy Travis.

US Representative Ron Paul R-TX I know I lowballed Paul’s likely finish in the primer I penned though that was not out of disrespect for the feisty congressman nor his supporters (though it’s all too easy to harbor contempt for some of them when they are disruptive at conferences). Paul came in a distant fifth four years ago when his operation consisted of a largely empty tent and a horde of rambunctious out of state devotees.

The Paulista Ames 2.0 effort was a very different operation. Gone were the tinfoil tricorner hats and tatted up college students with the expanded earlobe rings; they were replaced by young men and women wearing suits in August (one Paul handler even sported a straw boater!) managing a multifaceted operation that was so organized that even the tent that dished out hot dogs had a professionally made banner advertising it. Five years of continual spreading revolution and launching full-scale straw poll assaults paid sizable dividends in Ames. Also of note were the supporters- instead of being heavy with college students, a large portion of those present for Paul included families (including one that had home-manufactured dresses out of Paul t-shirts) and older war veterans. You couldn’t discern the difference between them and say Romney supporters.

The Paul movement has broken beyond the kooks and the quad and almost pulled off an upset in a contest where the old trick of participants voting multiple registrations was blocked.

At a minimum, Paul won’t suffer the indignity of being shut out of debates as was the case in 2008 when FoxNews judged the quickly sinking Fred Thompson candidacy more viable than the well-financed Paul outfit. Aside from the aforementioned “money slide” and hot dogs, the Paul camp offered jugglers and Barry Goldwater, Jr.

Tim Pawlenty In what turned out to be a BBQ-laden Irish wake, the former Minnesota governor put all of his chips on Ames and crapped out. With Texas governor Rick Perry barging on to the scene that very day, Pawlenty made a big gamble. I’ll perform an autopsy later but the Famous Dave’s BBQ and Dairy Queen Blizzards were a hit.

Rick Santorum The former Pennsylvania US Senator- I find myself prefixing the word “former” a lot when referring to the 2012 GOP presidential field- claimed to supporters that his turnout went beyond expectations (which leads me to wonder if he expected to finish 7th or 8th). Considering his shoestring budget fourth place is respectable, but also bear in mind that “he whose named should not be googled” used buses to bring in people and has invested heavily in Iowa. With Pawlenty out, Santorum might be waiting for a Bachmann and/or Perry collapse to give him a sliver of a chance of breaking out the poll dungeon. Santorum had a country band and third of a pound hamburgers that proved worth standing in a long line to score.

Herman Cain The form…one-time Godfather’s Pizza executive had a modest set-up, a small tent with a stage that looked like the musician section of a hardscrabble Baptist church. The tent was SRO when the Herminator spoke and despite his not infrequent gaffes commands the hearts of many Republican activists but a smaller number of straw pollers. Cain kept the brand alive with his minimal investment and remains a part of the conversation. Naturally Godfather’s Pizza was served.

Rick Perry Banished from having an official presence for refusing to cut the Iowa GOP a check, the Americans for Perry borrowed a tent from another group and used it as the screening point for the Texas governor’s candidacy announcement. His people, Babs Janssen, Greg Marmalarde and their clones were clad in UT orange and Aggie maroon and white t-shirts. Beyond passing out flyers for Perry’s declaration of entry, the Holiday Inn-based squad slipped Aggie maroon pencils around asking Iowans to write the governor’s name in. More than a few did. Mission accomplished without great expense.

Mitt Romney To go from first to seventh shows the power of money. Last time Romney spent it and won; this time he didn’t and fell like a stone. The only time I saw Romney represented was on handmade posters carried by one-man armies decrying him as a RINO. One has to wonder if Romney is thinking about skipping Iowa altogether to avoid the ignominy of finishing second to yet another evangelical favorite and plant his flag in more favorable New Hampshire instead. It was about the only thing that worked out for McCain in 2008.

Newt Gingrich Worked the Iowa State Fair one day and then worked the straw poll area and didn’t trail Romney by too many votes. Newt will likely stay in the race until New Hampshire no matter how poorly the polls, straw, cooked and otherwise, portend. The historian in him won’t let him get out until then.

Jon Huntsman Invested in the Republican Leadership Conference’s straw poll in New Orleans and finished a “surprising” second place. But Iowa runs its polls different from Louisiana and the billionaire decided to take a pass. His campaign is reportedly in a tailspin after failing to get the jolt that Bachmann and Perry received being fellow late entires. Is he waiting on the Nevada caucuses to get started?

Thaddeus McCotter Last but certainly not least was the witty congressman from Michigan. He splurged a ton on location but not so much on vittles- two rough-looking ice cream trucks distributing bomb-pops. No more than a dozen or so people were in his area at any given time. McCotter didn’t do much speechifying (or as he put it “vent his spleen”) being content to strumming his guitar with the band he brought along. In New Orleans this writer consisted of half of his support; had I been able to vote in Ames, I would have consisted of just less than 3%. I guess I’m just ahead of the curve- the congressman’s words, not mine.

Sarah Palin Decided to make a surprise trip to Des Moines to visit the state fair the day before the straw poll. Unlike the declared candidates, Palin did not make a speech on the local newspaper’s “hay”box. The former Alaska governor was dressed casually and simply walked around the food booths while cheerfully accommodating the admiring throng’s picture and autograph numerous requests. Palin was not on the straw poll ballot though there were individuals present at the straw poll promoting her undeclared candidacy on home-made poster board signs. A Palin candidacy looks unlikely as there appears no great groundswell of support nor has she shown much interest in trading personal freedom and financially lucrative endeavors with unpaid campaigning and putting her children through another cavity search.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Election 2012: The Ames Debate

Election 2012: Ames Debate

Nobody could have accused FoxNews of cuddling Republicans tonight as the panel asked pointed questions of the GOP presidential contenders, contrasting their rhetoric with their record.

Quick notes in order of “winner”.

Mitt Romney- The former Massachusetts barely had a follicle on his scalp molested. The frontrunner prior to the debate walks out of Ames a double-winner- he retains his front runner status while not blowing the cash on the Ames straw poll shakedown that did little to help him in the Hawkeye State’s caucuses.

Rick Santorum- If Santorum had been re-elected US Senator in 2006, he’d be a big part of the conversation. Instead the Pennsylvanian is putting all of his chips on Iowa out of necessity. Santorum focused on his commitment to bring back to America manufacturing jobs that have been sailing to east Asia for years, breaking out of his familiar social conservatism. He presented well when he was given the limelight, though obviously exasperated with so much attention being given to other candidates. Santorum’s performance might allow him to slip into the top three in the Ames straw poll. Santorum also had the quote of the night, contrasting leadership with showmanship.

Michele Bachmann- She got visibly steamed, mysteriously vanished from the stage and was called out on her thin record of actual accomplishments on Capitol Hill, but the Iowa-native (as the congresswoman eagerly points out) was given a gift in the form of a question about a comment (taken out of context) related to being submissive to her husband. No doubt many people found the query tasteless though Bachmann fielded it in stride. Bachmann’s expected first place finish in the straw poll was not upset but the congresswoman showed she doesn’t handle sparring well. That doesn’t bode well as a viable candidate and should concern even those who find her positions agreeable.

Newt Gingrich- Receiving a less than enthusiastic reception before he opened his mouth, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives also showed some thin skin though he built sympathy with the audience by criticizing Chris Wallace and the media in general’s obsession with inside politics. Gingrich’s reaction to a question about his campaign operation’s meltdown brought forth a comparison to Ronald Reagan’s angry rant when a debate moderator refused to accommodate a request during the 1980 New Hampshire primary. But poor posture and a seemingly permanent chip on the shoulder attitude didn’t inspire visions of a political resurrection.

Tim Pawlenty- Though the former Minnesota governor did not have the worst performance, Pawlenty needed to almost dominate. Instead he launched into a rickety critique of RomneyCare after a patronizing setup by the panelists and engaging in a back-and-forth with Bachmann. Pawlenty’s candidacy is sinking fast (and this is coming from someone who is sympathetic to it) and might not survive a fourth place Ames straw poll finish combined with Rick Perry’s entry.

Herman Cain- The populist black conservative candidate found himself fending off questions that imply he’s a religious bigot. His concession that he was not well-schooled on the particulars of Afghanistan further undermine his candidacy’s credibility.

Ron Paul- Same rhetoric, better fitting suit. Same over-eager supporters screaming like they’re at a pro-wrestling match that marginalizes Paul as a candidate. Surely his movement has to have a better pitchman.

Jon Huntsman- So former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer and ex-New Mexico governor Gary Johnson get left out the debates but this guy is invited? Huntsman had an erratic delivery and seemed unprepared and unpolished. A poor introduction to Republican primary voters.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Election 2012: Will the Ames Straw Poll Play Widow Maker?

The August straw poll in Ames, Iowa is the first unofficial contest on the presidential campaign calendar.

Though no delegates are on the line candidates have invested tens of thousands of campaign dollars on an event that is not much more than a shameless money grab by the Iowa GOP and the Hawkeye State’s political operatives.

The straw poll has had a winnowing effect on the Republican field. Four years ago former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson and Kansas US Senator Sam Brownback’s candidacies came to an end after disappointing showings.

Eight years prior, ex-Red Cross chief Liddy Dole, former Vice-President Dan Quayle and ex-Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander ended their White House bids after the straw poll.

Going into the 2011 gathering of Republican activists, buzzards are circling over the campaign of ex-Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who has yet to break out of the lower tier of candidates despite his organizational strength and relatively strong conservative and governmental credentials.

The Minnesotan’s geographic advantage was trumped by the entry of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose candidacy began to surge in the polls during the same debate where Pawlenty failed to assert himself as the alternative to GOP front runner and ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Can Pawlenty survive a poor third place finish in Ames and Texas governor Rick Perry’s expected entry into the race? Probably not. Anything short of coming in second is going to put Pawlenty’s presidential aspirations on life support. Pawlenty is making a substantial investment in the straw poll and he needs to realize a significant return.

Otherwise, it’s a short drive north.

Bachmann is expected to win the straw poll; coming in second would be considered a disappointment, especially with Romney officially staying out of it.

Romney publicly said he would not participate in the contest- in contrast to the considerable sum he plowed into luxury buses to haul in supporters from across the state in 2007.

Romney is right to be leery about putting too many of his eggs in the Iowa basket as the wheels began to fly off his campaign in the cornfields at the hands of the underfunded but charismatic Mike Huckabee. The Baptist preacher/ex-Arkansas governor scored a surprising second place finish in the straw poll and then won the actual caucuses a few months later.

As expected Perry is looking to play the spoiler by ignoring the Iowa GOP chieftains and creating his own newsmaking events in the early states of South Carolina and New Hampshire. The Texas governor, who has been less coy about a presidential run, is expected to expound on his candidate status this weekend.

With the straw poll not expecting to generate any big news due to Romney’s absence, Perry’s media coverage is almost certain to steal some of Bachmann’s thunder without blowing the absurd amounts of money candidates spent on “renting” premium frontage.

The Ron Paul forces will once again make a show of force at the straw poll though it would be surprising if the libertarian finished in the top three. Since participants must be Iowans, the legion of Paulistas who travel across the country rolling up easy straw poll wins at other Republican events for their hero will be frustrated in Ames.

Despite having a large force of out of state volunteers on the ground (one of the images from the previous straw poll is that of random Paulists stoically holding their candidate’s signs in the midst of a large empty parking lot), manpower doesn’t equal votes.

Paul just nudged past Tommy Thompson in the 2007 straw poll by 2 percentage points to place a distant fifth.

For the increasingly shrinking campaigns of ex-Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum, one-time Godfathers Pizza executive Herman Cain and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ames won’t matter much as they’re already living off the land. However if any of the three were to slip past Pawlenty, it would be fatal to the Minnesotan’s candidacy while providing a second gasp of air in a political room that is running out of oxygen.

Since Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman are just launching their campaigns, they’ll be immune from bad news out of Ames but need to figure out a way to prevent their nascent efforts from being engulfed by Perry’s entry.

Note- I will be tweeting the results (mikebayham) of the straw poll and posting them on from Ames about 6 PM CST on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How a Bill Became a Law

The best scene in the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back to School was Dangerfield’s first day in business class where the professor outlined how a factory is constructed…in theory.

Taking issue with the “textbook” explanation, Dangerfield’s character, a successful Big & Tall haberdasher, laid out how it works in reality, warts and all.

Now most of us are familiar with the old stick figure sketches that appear in high school civics books showing how a bill becomes a law.

Several weeks ago I witnessed, or didn’t witness on one day in particular, how a certain bill became a law. And what happened didn’t look anything like the standard flow chart nor did it resemble the process as described in the “I’m Just a Bill” musical short from ABC’s School House Rock.

Though it would have been a hell of a lot more enjoyable if Jack Sheldon had provided the lyrics in his signature raspy voice.

Below is a point-by-point chronology how House Bill 509 was conceptualized, proposed, introduced, processed, almost aborted, rescued, advanced and finally made into law. Viewer discretion advised.

1) Louisiana Republican State Central Committee passes resolution in early 2011 calling for moving the Louisiana Presidential Primary to March to avoid losing half of the state’s delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention.

2) As the filing deadline ticked down and furiously dialing away on my cell phone, I finally found a legislator who had a “vacancy” and was willing to sponsor the bill. During a fiscal session legislators have a limit on the number of non-fiscal, non-local bills they are allowed to introduce.

3) Bill language is drawn up and then prefiled in the House of Representatives.

4) Bill is then assigned to House and Governmental Affairs for consideration.

5) Bill goes to purgatory for a few weeks as I work to get the Louisiana Democrats on board. Over a dozen calls are placed to their officials and leaders in the hope of putting together the same coalition that passed the previous primary date change five years ago.

6) Finally someone with the state Democratic Party fields a phone call and punts to the matter to the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee, which meets infrequently. The clock continues to tick on the session as the bill has not yet left committee.

7) Word gets out that the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee is not expected to meet due to concerns about the rising Mississippi River. It becomes apparent that the Democrats have been stalling for weeks and have no intention to cooperate. With a Republican majority in both houses, the decision is made to have the bill heard before time runs out.

8) On the same day I am flying out of town, the bill is heard before House and Governmental Affairs. The chairman kindly allows for the bill to be considered first so I can then proceed directly to the airport. Minor technical amendments are added and the bill passes committee without exception.

9) The bill is reported from committee and then sent to a third reading and placed on the calendar with debate scheduled for a week later.

10) The bill passes 84-0 on the House floor.

11) Five days later the bill is sent over to the Senate, given two readings and then sent to the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

12) Reenters purgatory for two and a half weeks.

13) Bill is to be considered on the last scheduled Senate and Governmental Affairs meeting to vote on legislation. Joining the presidential primary bill that day are measures calling for the passage of a constitutional amendment regarding the federal debt and for placing a monument of the Ten Commandments on the State Capitol grounds. As the presidential primary bill is to be heard after these high-profile measures and that three of the legislature’s most partisan Democrats serve on the committee, I get a bad feeling how things are going to turn out. Witness card turned in before the meeting commences.

14) After much acrimonious debate on the aforementioned bills, the bill is called up for a hearing several hours later. The bill’s sponsor occupies one of the three seats at the testimony table with representatives of the Secretary of State’s office sitting in the other two. I am stuck sitting behind them.

15) After a line of questions posed by a senator who is favorable to the bill is completed, Democratic senator moves to have the bill deferred. By a 6-1 vote (four Democrats joined by two Republicans on a committee with a 5-4 GOP majority), the bill is deferred. No explanation is given. My witness card was apparently lost.

16) After speaking with one of the senators I am allowed to hurriedly address the committee after the fact. The bill is not reconsidered effectively killing it being so late in the session. Democratic opponent to the measure pipes up that it is merely deferred and not dead.

17) Bill sponsor claims he will tack the language on to another piece of legislation, but that bill is defeated. Options become limited.

18) While driving to New Orleans I start counting the days needed for a bill to get out of committee with time to make it back over to the house for concurrence (as another set of amendments are brought forth by the Secretary of State’s office AFTER the bill left the House of Representatives). Last shot would be a rehearing in committee.

19) Call is placed to a state senator on the floor who then meets with the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman and requests that another hearing be held in light of the nature the bill was dismissed and the prospect of a $6,000,000 election being held of no value as the state GOP declared they would boycott the primary if it is not moved. A meeting is rescheduled only hours after the bill was deferred.

20) Emails go out to Republican activists from GOP leaders around the state to the Republican senators who voted against the measure in committee asking that they reconsider the vote. TEA Party activists join in as well.

21) Less than 40 hours later with all GOP members of the Senate and Governmental Affairs present, the presidential primary bill leaves the committee on a straight party line 5-4 vote. Hopefully the Republican Party and delegation has learned a valuable lesson on having so many partisan Democrats on a committee that handles reapportionment and other important political matters.

22) Bill is reported out of committee on Sunday.

23) On Monday, the last day to get House bills out of the Senate, the bill is referred to the Legislative Bureau for review.

24) Hours later the Legislative Bureau reports that no additional amendments are added and it is then passed to third reading and final passage.

25) Hours later with the rules suspended in order to move House bills out of the Senate that day, the bill is passed with bipartisan support (and bipartisan opposition) by a margin of 27-9. Three additional Democrats join three of their colleagues who voted against the bill in committee. Three Republicans who are not on the Senate and Governmental Affairs also vote against.

26) The next day the House of Representatives concurs with the bill as amended in the Senate 91-0.

27) The Speaker of the House signs the bill and sends it to the President of the Senate.

28) Senate President signs the bill.

29) Sent to governor for approval or veto.

30) Five days later, HB 509 is signed by Governor Jindal as Act 293

So there you have it, how a bill became a law in its full splendor.

Somehow the civics book forgot to include the partisan sabotage, grassroots political pressure, clock management and procedural maneuvering that are unmentioned key ingredients in the legislative process.

Perhaps Bismarck had it right when he compared the process of making laws to that of making sausage.

Monday, June 20, 2011

RLC Notebook: Paul Wins Straw Poll, Not Delegates

There’s a big difference between attending a conference for the conference and attending a conference for the primary purpose of supporting your candidate in a straw poll.

To use a sports analogy, it’s like the difference between cheering for a player as opposed to the team he plays on. And that’s why there is so much animosity between Republican activists and Ron Paul activists.

The party regulars don’t consider the Paul supporters Republicans while the Paul supporters don’t consider the GOP establishment true conservatives.

And they’re both right to some degree.

That Texas Congressman Ron Paul won yet another straw poll is no shock.

This is the kind of activity that the Paulistas/Paulistinians (don’t call them Paultards- which has a vile implication) specialize in and with “school out” for the summer, the June conference date was a boon to the college student driven effort.

These kids (and they are mostly young people, not that this once 22-year old state GOP committeeman thinks there is anything wrong with that) aren’t hauled in or bribed into going. They foot their own bills beyond the registrations and make sacrifices to travel about the country.

Rather than chasing Green Day, U2 or Phish, these whippersnappers are following the most prominent advocate of the Austrian School of Economics.

And perhaps breaking some possession laws along the way.

The Paulistas should consider making straw poll/concert t-shirts complete with the dates of the conferences they attend.

Now what’s the benefit of the traveling political carnival?

I say nothing. An ardent Paul supporter almost turned blue in the face when I discounted the value of the straw poll strategy.

But it’s true: Paul wins straw polls but loses delegate elections. Badly.

Until Paul can devise a way to breakout beyond the older libertarian/younger college campus crowd, their champion will have to settle for paper victories.

Huntsman’s Propaganda Victory

"The result demonstrates that young conservatives are responding to his record of success in Utah, willingness to take the debt problem seriously, and foreign policy message," said a spokesman for former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.


This absurd declaration would be slightly easier to swallow had Huntsman actually spoke at the event.

Let me clear something up right here: there was not enthusiastic groundswell of support for a moderate that many people, including the activists attending the conference, have not even heard of.

Huntsman has participated in no debates and his “tribute” to Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff with the Statue of Liberty in the background is yet to come.

There might have been more legitimacy in the crowds in the rafters that chanted “We Want Willkie!” at the 1940 Republican National Convention than there was for Huntsman shadow straw poll operation.

The Huntsman campaign had no visible presence at all at the conference; but they had one in the straw poll ballot box via wholesale purchase of registrations.

The gambit, which I am certain set someone back a lot of money, was intended to have a surprise showing for a candidate with low name recognition.

Huntsman did score some favorable press as the second place showing did seem to come out of nowhere but the billionaire ex-Utah Governor/Ambassador to China known for penning flowery effusive letters to President Barack Obama will need more than an orchestrated vote hauling operation to win the Republican nomination.

And he may very well be the one candidate who has much more to explain to conservatives than Romney.

As the Huntsman “surge” was a sham, one has to wonder if there are not less expensive ways to get a pop.

The Rest of the Field: The “Honest” Votes

What’s relevant about the Republican Leadership Conference’s straw poll is that it was onducted less than a week after the first major debate of the 2012 presidential campaign,

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who in 2010 ran a much more aggressive and successful “vote haul” operation than Hunstman did in 2011, has decried the expense of participating in straw polls and his decline in the two conferences is significant.

After nudging past straw poll king Ron Paul in 2010, Romney received a relatively paltry 74 votes. But here’s the good news for Mitt, unlike in 2010 when the Romney camp was buying registrations for anyone with a heartbeat that would agree to support him in the straw poll, he had an honest showing at the 2011 RLC.

74 votes isn’t bad for a candidate not expected to do well in the south and made no effort.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 191 straw poll votes are also probably “honest” when considering the reception she received by conference attendees and the major boost the plucky TEA Party favorite received from CNN’s New Hampshire Republican presidential debate.

Ex-Godfather’s executive Herman Cain, who spent very little on the event beyond having a hospitality suite off-site in a crowded hotel room, should also be proud of his 104 votes.

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s name was not on the straw poll ballot and the RLC organizers stated that write-ins were not accepted and would not counted. The policy caused some people in line who wanted to support Perry to become very irate.

It would have been interesting to see what support Perry would have received, even as a non-candidate, judging by the enthusiastic reception he received from conference attendees.

And My Vote Went To…

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter received my vote at the straw poll for two reasons.

First, I figured it would be the next best thing to abstaining. Secondly I felt obligated to express my admiration for having the guts to poke Romney on health care.

McCotter did the job that ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was unwilling to do.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Democrats Gut GOP Presidential Primary...With a Little Help from the GOP!

One of my proudest political accomplishments happened five years ago when I cobbled together a coalition of political leaders from both sides of the spectrum to support moving Louisiana’s presidential primary to a date that would make the state’s delegate contest relevant.

It was the first time ever that the Louisiana Republican Party and the Louisiana Democratic Party had ever come together to support a piece of legislation.

The bill passed and both sides benefited from the increased media exposure, voter participation in the primary and candidate visits.

Louisiana mattered.

In the summer of 2010, in an attempt to “fix things”, both party national committees decided to bring order to the calendar chaos that led to so much front loading by state parties by passing rules reordering when states could have their caucuses and primaries.

The new rules protected Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada’s early status while establishing harsh penalties for states that wanted to hold their contests before the first Tuesday of March.

That concept was sound and a welcome innovation. However getting 50 states and several federal territories to get on the same page is a bit like herding cats. Especially since elections, as we learned from 2000, are conducted very differently amongst the states.

In some states the party controls the setting of election dates; in others the legislature. New Hampshire has vested its secretary of state with power to set his state’s primary date to assure that the Granite State’s can be first.

Louisiana’s primary date is set by statute. Or to phrase it another way, it takes an act of the legislature to change it.

A bill was drafted and introduced this session to bring Louisiana into compliance with both national parties. While the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee passed multiple resolutions endorsing the move, the Louisiana Democratic Party remained cryptically silent.

That is until Wednesday.

After the primary date change bill sailed out of the House of Representatives without so much as a dirty look, the legislation was ambushed before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

By a vote to 6-1, the bill was “indefinitely deferred”. When I argued that they killed it, I was corrected by a senator that there was a difference. However with the legislative session calendar ticking down to its last days, my phrasing stated the obvious while her term merely stated the “manner of death”.

Amazingly enough the bill was rejected without comment.

In several decades of watching politics I have never seen something defeated before a governmental body without explanation.

When I chased down one Democratic senator who had much to say about a resolution that endorsed the concept of a constitutional convention and asked for an explanation, I was greeted with a silent shrug of the shoulders.

Why would the Democrats engage in such petty politics?

And why were they joined by two Republicans in their silent derailing (the other Republican being Jody Amedee)?

Were Republicans simply asleep at the wheel and duped by Democratic partisans into providing them cover for their machinations?

Let me explain the fallout from this move.

First, the Louisiana GOP will look like fools this week when presidential candidates visit New Orleans to speak at the Republican Leadership Conference and read in the newspaper how the presidential primary bill was defeated for no stated reason.

Secondly, the Louisiana GOP will simply opt out of the primary and thus turn it into a meaningless $6,000,000 “beauty contest” with no delegates at stake. Four years ago the Louisiana Republican Party was mocked for having rules that denied former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee from having a single delegate because he “only” won a plurality and not a majority of the Louisiana GOP vote.

At least this time it won’t be the party’s fault, just the party’s senators when we are once again embarrassed.

Thirdly, Louisiana will draw less attention and thus fewer visits from Republican presidential candidates, who are going to spend time where delegates are at stake. In addition to the loss of attention, Louisiana would also lose the opportunity to educate candidates, perhaps a future president, about the federal issues that are important to our region and miss out on the promises that New Hampshire and Iowa are showered with every four years.

For a state struggling with a White House imposed oil exploration embargo and losing acres of land a day to coastal erosion, we need national figures to learn about Louisiana.

Fourthly, because the primary will be unofficial Republicans looking to participate in the caucuses that will be held in a handful of locations across the state.

When looking at the Picassos the legislature drew for congressional districts in the reapportionment session, someone who lives in Washington Parish might end up having to go to Alexandria. Also keep in mind we now have two districts that run from Arkansas to I-10.

Had the Republicans attempted to do this in 2004, state Democrats would have screamed bloody murder and accused the GOP of trying to deny the franchise to poor voters by burdening them with the expense of traveling to a caucus site.

I can imagine the outcry, the protests, the demagoguery, the lawsuits and maybe even a visit from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division that would stem from that maneuver.

But since the Democrats won’t have a competitive primary as President Barack Obama will likely be unchallenged, they see an opportunity to kick the GOP in the shin.

For a party that has thus far been unable to field a candidate for governor, I suppose such cheap wins count as an accomplishment these days.

Whatever feelings of euphoria gained from this slight will be fleeting with the enmity and ill will that are the byproducts from this Democratic “victory” lasting.

Update: It’s Not Dead Yet

Senate and Governmental Affairs Chairman Bob Kostelka scheduled a rehearing on the bill for this Friday. If you know the individuals on the committee, please contact them and let your voice be heard. The senators’ contact info can be found at

Votes for deferral (no votes)

Karen Carter Peterson D-New Orleans
Lydia Jackson D-Shreveport
Rob Marionneaux D-Livonia
Daniel Claitor R-Baton Rouge
Jody Amedee R-Ascension Parish

Vote against deferral (yes vote)

Mike Walsworth R-Monroe


Jack Donahue R-St. Tammany Parish

Monday, June 13, 2011

The First New Hampshire Debate: Losers and Non-Losers

As the title implies, there were no real winners in CNN’s New Hampshire debate between the field thus far of Republican presidential contenders.

Perhaps the location of the forum (it wasn’t much of a debate) was appropriate as Saint Anselm College was where in 2000 George W. Bush conceded the Granite State primary to Arizona US Senator John McCain.

The biggest non-loser of the night was clearly former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Why? Because Romney was not challenged once by his fellow Republican candidates on his spotty record as a conservative.

Romney might as well have been reading from a Teleprompter and his aides could have handed out preprinted copies of his polished and well-delivered answers before the questions were asked. His frontrunner status both nationally and in the critical early primary state was not only preserved but likely expanded by the reluctance of anyone to lay a glove on Mitt.

For a candidate trying to create an air of inevitability, the first “debate” Romney deemed worthy of his participation was a major victory.

The second biggest non-loser was Herman Cain. The ex-pizza company executive solidified the niche he carved for himself in the earlier South Carolina debate with his sharp, concise statements. While Cain will not be the nominee, the former Godfather’s Pizza chief will be in the race well after better funded “more electable” rivals have been dispatched.

Finally the third biggest non-loser, Minnesota US Representative Michele Bachmann. Why? Because CNN said so.

The commentators didn’t exactly fawn over her (such public expressions of fealty are reserved exclusively for the Messiah-in-Chief), though the talking heads on the channel went through great pains to praise her performance and tout her potential.

Bachmann is a prolific fundraiser and a TEA Party favorite. She’s also a native Iowan and isn’t too proud to pander and cajole via pep rally-style rhetoric to win people over. Bachmann made the most of her opportunity to more or less announce she will be making a formal announcement about running for president, which wasn’t smoothly delivered but put the former governor of Alaska on notice.

The conventional wisdom is that Sarah Palin and Bachmann would cancel each other out on the same ballot and it’s apparent the three-term congresswoman is willing to play political chicken with Palin.

Bachmann repeated much of her opening address at the 2011 CPAC, which sounded more like a presidential stump speech then for good reason, once again advancing her three-legged stool of conservatism analogy (fiscal, social and security conservatives).

To her credit, the longer the debate dragged on, the better Bachmann performed.

Now for the losers. And dare I say the biggest one was the candidate I would vote for if I had to choose from one of the seven.

Ex-Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty missed his shot. CNN reporter and debate moderator John King did the job none of the other Republican candidates were willing to do: challenge Romney on his record.

When King asked Pawlenty about his previous use of the term Obamneycare as a critique of Romney’s health care record while he was governor of Massachusetts, the Minnesotan made like a golden gopher and burrowed away from the question.

Pawlenty’s punt showed both a lack of political instinct and guts. Does Pawlenty not grasp that his path to the nomination goes over Romney’s meticulously coiffed carcass?

With Texas governor Rick Perry poised to make a lack entry, Pawlenty’s window of opportunity to establish himself as a first-tier candidate is very narrow. Rather than challenging the front runner, by an inexplicable act of political pusillanimity reinforced it by avoiding a much needed discussion on why Romney should not be the party’s nominee.

Pawlenty’s one pop of the night was his vigorous comments on right-to-work but for the most part, the “other” Minnesotan lost an opportunity to make it a Pawlenty v. Romney fight and instead faded into the scenery.

Candidates who are polling in the low single digits can’t afford to remain as backdrop for long, even with good organizations set up in the early states. Especially if they lack a constituency. Sam’s Club Republicans can only do so much.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich showed he had a pulse albeit weak. Newt came off like a cantankerous professor (himself?), did not dress presidential and scowled most of the evening. Monday was not the turnaround moment his campaign bid needed. Someone needs to tell Gingrich that the presidential nomination will be determined by voters and not via standardized testing.

In another incredible act of charity, former Pennsylvania US Senator Rick Santorum refused to go after Romney when his multiple-positions on that most black-and-white issue, abortion. Rather than boldly trying to create a presence for his candidacy, Santorum struggled to fit in his bland canned rhetoric into the tight constraints allowed by the CNN host.

Finally there was Texas US Representative and political cult figure Ron Paul. The libertarian somehow managed to come off crankier than Newt. Wore, Paul wore a suit jacket that looked too big on his small frame, which made him look every bit the septuagenarian he is. Though the feisty candidate was finally pried off the issue of monetary policy as time went on, Paul clearly lacked vigor.

If Paul was selfless, he’d pass the baton off to ex-New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who has a similar constituency, and let a younger candidate with experience as a state executive borrow his impressive and energetic operation for an election cycle rather than monopolize it.

It’s not like Rand couldn’t get the keys back at the end of the day.

If the honor of “winner” had to be assigned to someone it would go to whoever passed on taking part in the debate and planned on jumping in the race later. What transpired at Saint Anselm didn’t inspire much confidence in the current crop of candidate selection.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Romney v. Romney

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney formally kicked off a campaign for the White House that never really ended even after he withdrew at the 2008 CPAC.

Romney’s “departure speech” at the annual conservative conclave was intended to put an exclamation point on a presidential bid that was dogged by questions about his sincerity regarding conservatism and he did receive some benefit, winning the conference’s much ballyhooed straw poll despite no longer being a candidate when the results were announced.

With evangelical favorite and ex-Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee out of the running for the 2012 GOP presidential nod, Romney is the closest thing to a favorite in the Republican field.

Consider the following.

Romney will be well-financed (as he was in 2008) and is the lone credible Republican candidate who can put together the money to run a national operation in the primaries and caucuses while his fellow GOP rivals are compelled to live off the harvests of the early states.

In the fight for delegates, that’s very important. In crafting the perception of possessing momentum, even more so.

Romney also possesses the double-edged sword of being the man to beat. The benefit is that many Republican primary voters tend to gravitate to the “next in line”. With the exception of George W. Bush, every Republican nominee since Reagan had unsuccessfully sought the party nomination in a previous election cycle.

(For those keeping score at home- Reagan 1976, Bush 1980, Dole 1980 & 1988 and McCain 2000).

Democrats, to their credit, learned to avoid recycling damaged presidential candidates after Adlai Stevenson’s back to back blowout losses in the 1950s.

Romney will draw both votes from conditioned GOP establishment voters and attacks from rivals who know that the best way to open up to the path to the nomination is by knocking out Romney before March 1st.

Perhaps the greatest advantage Romney has is the party’s new nomination rules.

In an attempt to make presidential nomination contest a marathon instead of a sprint, both the Democratic and Republican national committees adopted rules that would regulate how states and territories can allocate delegates.

For example, all contests held between the first Tuesday in March and April 1st must allocate the delegates through a proportional system. States and territories that wish to have a “winner take all” assignment of delegates will have to hold their primaries and caucuses in April or later.

Short of a mass withdrawal of candidates the new rules will prevent the political equivalent of Mike Tyson’s once-trademark first round knockouts.

The most significant aspects of the “nomination reform” changes have to do with the preferential placement of four states and the protection afforded them.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, ostensibly representing the nation’s four regions, are allowed to hold their contests prior to the first Tuesday in March. Any state that muscles in on the four’s privileged positioning will lose half its delegates.

For Romney the advantages of the rules are apparent. Romney not only governed a state whose media market envelopes New Hampshire’s most populous southern second but he’s also a property owner in the Granite State.

And New Hampshire voters tend to vote local.

In 2008 Romney overwhelmingly won Nevada’s caucuses. Unfortunately for Romney, McCain won the South Carolina primary the same day and thanks to the media’s decision that the Palmetto State contest was worth more than Nevada’s, McCain got the boost.

Romney is expected to fare well again in Nevada due to the state’s large Mormon population.

With two of the early four states seemingly in his corner before the contest goes national, Romney walks into the nomination fight with no shortage of weapons.

Romney also has no shortage of weaknesses.

One of the reasons why Romney didn’t win the 2008 Republican nomination, which on paper was his to lose, was because conservatives simply did not trust him. Not that they trusted McCain, but conservatives, particularly of the social variety, opted to punt in droves in the fight between Romney and the Arizonan by continuing to vote for Huckabee, who was dead in the water after South Carolina.

With nationalized health care being the biggest issue in the primaries (key word- primaries), Romney’s political liabilities grew exponentially with the advance of President Obama’s health care agenda.

One of the most telling signs that Romney is having trouble wrestling with the issue was the total omission of Obamacare from his prepared remarks at the 2011 CPAC. Romney may have been the only candidate speaking at the conference to not make a reference to health care.

With the next Republican presidential debate coming up next week, it’ll be interesting to see how Romney handles the departure from safe, scripted speeches and reacts to “live fire”.

While the myriad of not well-knowns continue to introduce themselves to the public, the front-runner will have much explaining to do over the next ten months.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Huck Shakes Up the GOP Field...By Exiting It

The big news in the grand scheme of things isn’t that The Donald has renounced a bid for the White House.

Though Donald Trump had scored well in early polls, much of that support was comparable to Rudy Giuliani’s “front runner” numbers going in 2008- a mile wide and an inch deep.

The billionaire real estate developer-casino owner-television personality-titan of self-promotion sucked the oxygen out of the room with his high media profile and public heckling of President Barack Obama over his birth certificate.

Despite confident boasting that he would have won the GOP nomination had he sought it, Trump was likely facing a tough fight in the retail political centers of Iowa and New Hampshire, particularly with his aversion to handshaking.

With other candidates struggling for “air” (read: attention/media coverage), Trump’s first appearance in a debate would have been a dog-pile, as little-known contenders would have tried to establish notoriety for themselves by aggressively challenging The Apprentice star to back up with specifics some of his flippant policy positions.

It would have been far more entertaining television watching than La Toya Jackson shuffling about on random tasks.

Embarrassing setbacks in the first two states would have done no favors for the Trump brand, something that has generated loads of money just through the The Donald’s fame.

That said Trump did the GOP a major favor not carrying out his presidential flirtations further.

The big news you won’t read on TMZ is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s decision to not make the race.

While Trump was hogging the spotlight, Huckabee was hogging the social conservatives.

The folksy Baptist preacher is making good money for the first time in his life between his television program on Fox News and book sales. Huckabee also relocated outside of Arkansas and has built a large house in the vicinity of Destin, Florida with a reported $3,000,000 price tag.

A presidential run won’t help him make the money needed to maintain that kind of manse.

Huckabee went from a minor candidate to the front tier of the Republican presidential primary fight with a surprise second-place showing in the 2007 Ames Iowa Straw Poll, a strategic victory that ended the presidential candidacy of Kansas US Senator Sam Brownback, who finished a disappointing third despite a major investment in the political carnival.

A few months later Huckabee overwhelmed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the actual caucuses though the minister failed to parlay that momentum in the New Hampshire primary. Huckabee’s last hope to contend came in the South Carolina primary where he fell short behind US Senator John McCain.

Huckabee was handicapped in that contest by the presence of ex-Tennessee US Senator and actor Fred Thompson, who split the social conservative vote with Huckabee in the Palmetto State.

Huckabee facilitated John McCain’s nomination in 2008 by remaining in the race thereby denying Romney the social conservative voters he needed to overcome the Arizona senator.

Huckabee’s departure from the race opens up the field for social conservative candidates to pursue a critical segment of the Republican electorate he had a major hold on, particularly in the first caucus state of Iowa.

By bailing out, Huckabee erased the likelihood of the primary devolving into a duel between McCain’s main two rivals from the previous election.

With the former Massachusetts governor holding his niche vote from 2008 and Huckabee holding his segment of the Republican electorate, there wasn’t much room for one of the half-dozen or so other presidential candidates break out from the crowd.

Sans Huckabee, a social conservative alternative can now emerge out of Iowa or South Carolina to take on Romney, who is the lead candidate in 2012 for the GOP nod, on Super Tuesday.

By opening the field, Huckabee has done Romney a major disservice, which in a way is appropriate and as there was no love lost between the two from 2008.

Look for Huckabee to support not the candidate with the best social conservative credentials (ex-Senator Rick Santorum) but the candidate with respectable social conservative credentials with the best hope of stopping Romney in the primaries.

A Huckabee endorsement of ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would help him fend off US Representative and TEA Party favorite Michele Bachmann in Iowa. Huckabee’s support for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would go a long way towards mitigating the Hoosier’s infamous “truce on social issues” fumble.

Though Huckabee won’t be president, he has the potential to be kingmaker in 2012 if he plays his cards right.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Person of Interest: Rising Tide author John Barry

Concerns about the rise in the Mississippi River and the possible “solutions” to the current test of the river levee system have dominated state news over the past week.

John Barry is a member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority and has written several books most notably Rising Tide, which chronicles the Great Flood of 1927.

The flood control commission member/author was kind enough to field some questions about the rise in the Mississippi River’s water level, where the water is coming from and the safety of the New Orleans area during this tense situation.

POI: How does the current rise in the Mississippi River compare with that of the Great Flood of 1927?

JB: It's actually considerably less on the lower portion of the Mississippi River. A great deal of the water is coming down is from the Ohio River. In 1927 the Arkansas River added an enormous amount-- currently it's less than 20% that.

POI: Why has there been a delay in the opening of the Morganza Spillway?

JB: I believe they were waiting for the trigger of over 1.5 million cfs to reach there.

POI: Where has all of the water come from, especially since Louisiana has been in the midst of a dry spell?

JB: Mostly from the Ohio River Basin.

POI: So heavy rains in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati affect the river here?

JB: Yes.

POI: Has the sudden rise in the Mississippi River created a need for the creation of additional outlets for the river water or does the current spillway system suffice?

JB: No, the current levee and spillway system is adequate.

POI: Speaking of spillways, who has the authority to open them: the local levee boards, the state or the federal government?

JB: The federal government.

POI: What area of the state is of the greatest concern right now with the sudden rise in the river level?

JB: The people most threatened are those that will be affected by the opening of the Morganza Spillway, especially those outside Morgan City.

POI: Is the New Orleans area in serious danger with the rising river level?

JB: Actually New Orleans is the safest area because of all of the diversions that can steer the water away from it.

POI: Let’s assume the worst happens. How would officials cope with the collapse of a section of the Mississippi River levee?

JB: They probably couldn’t. Closing a crevasse would be a nearly impossible task with a tiny sliver of opportunity to close a breach. That said once a breach got rolling, it could flow for weeks creating an enormous disaster.

POI: What effect will the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway have on Lake Pontchartrain?

JB: Mostly the proliferation of algae blooms, changes in the lake’s salinity and fish populations. However the lake will recover rapidly.

POI: What effects will the opening of the Morganza Spillway have on south Louisiana communities?

JB: It would be hard for me to paint a scenario.

POI: How predictable is a crest in the Mississippi River?

JB: The Army Corps of Engineers has good estimates based upon when the crest passes each point along the river. When the level begins to drop, the decline will be slow. A river flood crest is not like one big wave; it's gradual.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice Is Achieved in Bin Laden's Final Moments

On September 11, 2001 Osama Bin Laden brought his fanatical Islamist war against the West in an unprecedented attack on our shores.

Almost ten years later, the United States brought the war of vengeance to his living room in Pakistan.

Americans have not celebrated the death of an individual with such jubilation since Adolf Hitler’s suicide in the fuhrerbunker.

Osama Bin Laden wasn’t just an enemy; he personified evil, the greatest villain in the first decade of the 21st century.

When then-President George W. Bush launched a war of retribution against al-Qaeda and the Afghan regime that offered him safe harbor, Bin Laden had to live the life of a fugitive.

It appears Bin Laden wasn’t exactly roughing it as his last surroundings were not in a cave in the wilderness near the Afghan-Pakistani border but in a comfortable well-protected mansion in an upscale urban area not far from Islamabad.

For that our Pakistani “friends” have a great deal of explaining to do and exemplifies the need for the United States to take unilateral action and deal with the politics of upsetting diplomatic sensibilities later.

Apparently Pakistani officials were not so much concerned with an injury to national pride through the violation of their sovereignty but uncovering their complicity to aid and abet an international criminal.

Had Bin Laden not possessed a Leona Helmsley-like mentality that “only the little people” martyr themselves for Allah, he would have made a point of being taken alive and thus given his greatest forum yet to encourage uprisings and inflame the hearts of his fellow Islamic radicals.

The Navy SEAL team that killed Bin Laden spared Americans the specter of a circus trial that would have followed. Where should it have been held? What rights would he have had? Should Bin Laden appear before an international tribunal or an American military court? Not to mention establishing procedure.

Bin Laden did the world a favor by resisting capture and justifying the use of lethal force.

Bin Laden’s guilt was beyond doubt; he needed no trial, just a swift execution and a quick disposition of his remains in a place in an inaccessible location. Dropping his body off into the sea was ideal, though it’s a shame his body was afforded any religious courtesies en route to splashing down to a watery grave. Bin Laden’s remains should not have been shown the least shred of dignity.

Relatives of those who died on September 11th and Americans in general should take some satisfaction in this: moments before the fatal bullet hit him, the al-Qaeda terrorist mastermind experienced something similar to that of his organization’s victims on the top stories of the World Trade Center: absolute terror.

Those trapped between the jet fuel-fed flames that engulfed the Twin Towers’ midsections and the buildings’ roofs experienced the anguish that they would be dead in a matter of minutes before escaping the inferno raging around them by leaping to their death over a thousand feet to the concrete plaza below.

There’s the real justice: not just that Bin Laden was killed but that he was overcome with the same dread that a condemned man feels en route to the gallows. Bin Laden knew what was going to happen and that an American was going to have the honor bagging the trophy.

Also Bin Laden died with the knowledge that he did not get away with his crimes, that he suffered a brief spate of mental hell before transitioning to an eternity of spiritual hell.

While almost all Americans would have settled for a quick air strike if it would assure Bin Laden’s demise, President Barack Obama was right to authorize this particular action and wise to not pay a courtesy call to Pakistani officials.

The operation carried great risk and could very well have turned into another Desert One. The president should be credited for having the guts to pull the trigger.

Two decades of terrorist attacks and video taped taunts were trumped by American perseverance and military might. Though the pursuit was met with years of frustrations and feelings of futility, we didn’t give up and kept hunting.

While Bin Laden is dead, the al-Qaeda network isn’t. That said, its members and affiliates are more convinced today that the United States will relentlessly pursue them across the globe and charge into their legally protected sanctuaries. And that has to make people who claim a willingness to die for a cause to think twice.

America’s enemies should pay heed to the results of the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.

Islamist terrorists might not understand western civilization, they comprehend determination and power and the United States projected both in the ten-year pursuit in the hunt for the terrorist mastermind.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Confederate Heritage's Long Retreat to Oblivion Continues

Early Tuesday morning marked the sesquicentennial of the bombardment of Fort Sumter by Confederate forces under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard. The artillery action, which resulted in no loss of life on either side, proved to be the catalyst of what would become and remains the bloodiest military conflict in American history.

Though tens of millions of Americans are descendants of people who immigrated here after hostilities ended and thus have no familial connection to the conflict, the war remains controversial from its name (Civil War vs. War between the States, the latter being the sobriquet of choice for many southerners) to its symbols, most notably the Confederate battle flag.

With the continued rise of political correctness and the growth of societal hypersensitivity, a reasonable interpretation of the conflict along with recognition of the men and women who performed acts of valor on the losing side of history and public officials who defend their commemoration will meet their own Appomattox before too long.

Were those who fought and advocated for the Confederacy traitors?

In a bit of irony those who actually fought for the Confederacy were held in higher esteem by the very people they exchanged fire with than the latter’s ancestors, as if the once-existing animosity was passed down to later generations though not their perspective.

President James Garfield, a Union brigadier general during the battle of Chickamauga, appointed William H. Hunt, a one-time Confederate lieutenant colonel, as Secretary of the Navy in 1881. Charles Crisp, a Confederate lieutenant who spent time as a POW, was elected by his colleagues as Speaker of the US House of Representatives in 1891.

President William Taft appointed Edward Douglass White, a lieutenant in the Confederate army, chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1910.

It’s plain that the northern contemporaries of these one-time rebels didn’t consider them on par with the like of Benedict Arnold.


So why did the flower of the south don the uniform and accoutrements of a different country and bear arms against the United States of America?

Were they motivated by racism or a desire to see slavery, a system that many whites in the south had no connection with, continued if not expanded?

Or was it something else altogether, such as an objection to attacking a fellow southern state, as was the case of Virginia, which didn’t leave the Union until after refusing President Abraham Lincoln’s request that states furnish the federal government soldiers to put down the insurrection in the deep south.

Though the issue of slavery was at the heart of the war, it in itself was not the cause.

In Lincoln’s mind, maintaining the union was paramount and he was willing to both compromise and fight to keep it intact.

There were slave states that opted to stay in the Union on their own volition, including Delaware, as Joe Biden giddily pointed out on the campaign trail while quixotically trying to win southern votes.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the US, as the proclamation covered only Confederate territory not occupied by federal forces. In fact individual parishes in Louisiana, including my home community of Saint Bernard, are cited by name as excepted from this executive act of mass abolition, since slave labor that can work fields can also dig military trenches for Federal troops.

That said, Lincoln’s 8/11th measure on the matter gave him and the Union army greater moral authority in pursuing the war effort and undermined the Confederacy’s desperate attempts to gain recognition from anti-slavery governments in London and Paris.

Furthermore some of Lincoln’s rhetoric on race might sound like something one would expect to hear from the Kleagle of a Klavern than the Great Emancipator.

I don’t say these things to tarnish the 16th president, who I revere as a visionary and consider only second to George Washington in the pantheon of our nation’s leaders, but to underscore the importance of judging people of the past from the perspective of their times.


Support for promoting and preserving Confederate memorials has found no allies with prominent cultural conservative leaders.

Plaques related to the Confederacy on the Texas Supreme Court Building, which was built with money from the Confederate Pension Fund, were removed from the structure while then-Governor George W. Bush was campaigning for president.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has not signed a proclamation recognizing Confederate history month, a perfunctory act that his predecessors, both Democrats and Republicans, regularly sent to the autopen machine without hesitation.

In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley was a conspicuous no-show at a concert held in Charleston to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, though the city’s 9-term Democratic mayor was not only present but also an active participant in the festivities.

And arch-conservative governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, the state that hosted the most Civil War battles and home to the largest collection of artifacts related to the CSA, engaged in a bit of political correctness himself swapping out “Confederate History Month” as the title in a proclamation to the much watered down “Civil War in Virginia Month”.

The 21st century GOP has been no kinder to the men in gray than its 19th century version.

Such nuances often go unappreciated and won’t curry any more support from the electoral segment most delighted by these snubs and semantics.

Perhaps the greatest threat to preserving Confederate heritage is the irresponsible rhetoric of liberal political activists and commentators, who make outrageous and erroneous comparisons between the CSA and Nazi Germany.

Those who flippantly refer to the Confederate battle flag as a “southern swastika” know little about the Civil War and even less about World War II and the Holocaust.


Considering the role Fort Sumter and Charleston played in the Civil War, participation in events surrounding the sesquicentennial didn’t seem that impressive.

The centennial celebration Charleston hosted in 1961 was criticized for being too festive; in 2011, those handling events related to the anniversary went through great pains to emphasize that they were hosting a “commemoration” and not a “celebration”. At times it felt more like a funeral, perhaps appropriately so for a few reasons.

The first cruise to the shelled federal military installation on the 150th anniversary of the bombardment wasn’t sold out and less than 200 people were on hand near Charleston’s Battery green area for the 4:30 AM prayer service and concert that were held at the moment the first mortar shot of the Civil War was fired.

And those holding vigil along the seawall that runs across the battery to watch a reenactment of the cannonading later that morning had plenty of room. I remember thinking that I’d seen thicker crowds at third-rate Mardi Gras parades.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford of Michigan signed a Senate resolution restoring Robert E. Lee’s citizenship. Lee had applied for a pardon after the war ended though his paperwork was shanghaied by a bureaucrat and was never processed.

Ford heaped considerable praise on the man who is considered by military historians as one of the nation’s finest soldiers. “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride,” said Ford at the restoration ceremony held on the grounds of Lee’s seized home in Arlington.

I can’t imagine a future president showering such praise on any Confederate general or official today.

While witnessing the non-event in Charleston earlier this week, I wondered how the bicentennial of the War between the States will be handled in 2061, though I’m not optimistic about how things will be presented.

I suspect political correctness, reckless rhetoric and cultural cowardice by those who know better but do and say nothing will contribute to increased vilification of anything and anyone connected with the Confederacy. They will do to history what Sherman did to Georgia.

Those who fought for the Confederacy will be derided as at best misguided ignorant poor souls duped into fighting for the preservation of a racist oligarchy or at worst, forerunners of the SS.

Statuary Hall will be cleared of all offending memorials, which will then be exiled to the far corners of unvisited museums if not warehoused indefinitely.

The remaining visible shreds of the Confederacy escaping bowdlerization will consist of the mostly unrecognizable “Stars and Bars” and street and building names dedicated to obscure figures of the Lost Cause known only to history buffs and wikipedia.


While attending a conference in northern Romania in 2006 I remember seeing a large granite obelisk parked next to the outdoor seating of a restaurant. The monument was placed there by Austria to commemorate a major military victory by that country over Romania during the First World War. When Romania picked up the territory (through tough post-war Allied negotiations and not Romanian fighting skill), the victorious vanquished decided to leave the monument stand.

While the memorial stood as a reminder of an unpleasant part of Romania’s history, it was still a part of Romanian history.

While the Confederacy will find few fans and apologists in the nation at-large, it is still part of American history, even if not a popular part.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Last "John Breaux Democrat" Jumps Ship

After watching well over a century control of both houses of the Louisiana Legislature slips away through party switches and special elections that broke towards the GOP, the Louisiana Democratic Party suffered the ultimate indignity on Thursday with the departure from the party of one its most prominent in-state figures. Former US Senator and one-time de facto state party boss John Breaux made a surprise visit to his former stomping grounds in Crowley to announce that he is now a registered independent. “If I ran in a Democratic primary for Congress today, I doubt I could be nominated,” mused Breaux, who is retired from politics as a candidate though not from the political scene as one of the top lobbyists on the Beltway’s power corridor of K Street. During his time in Congress’ upper chamber was one of the most conservative members of his former party and was known for being able to work both sides of the aisle. When Breaux last sought office in 1998, he received a great deal of support from Republicans, including the Baton Rouge congressman he defeated to win a seat in the US Senate in 1986. Breaux, who resides in Maryland, cited his disenchantment with the Obama Administration’s energy policies and their impact on his native state and the overall tilt of the Democratic Party to far left. “Forget the spotted owl, the real endangered species is the Blue Dog Democrat,” said Breaux. “Increasingly conservative voters have thrown them out of office and replaced them with Republicans while those moderate Democrats who have held on are neutered by the party leadership in Congress.” “I knew that as a pro-life, pro-second amendment, business-friendly US Senator, I had a very limited future in the party. There was a leadership threshold I simply could not cross and that was frustrating to me when considering the money I raised for my colleagues,” lamented Breaux. Breaux’s defection wasn’t total since he did not embrace the Republican Party. “I have a lot of friends in the GOP though I could not bring myself to go that far. I’ve worked hard moving the Democratic Party forward from the Edwin Edwards-era and I still believe the Democratic Party is the party of the working man, though it’s also the party of elements that advocate reckless policies and positions that are bad for Louisiana and America,” said Breaux. Breaux won’t be missed by all Louisiana Democrats. Lynnda Kimball of Democrats for Progress, a liberal grassroots organization that is actively supportive of President Obama’s agenda, did not have kind parting words for Breaux. “He (Breaux) spent more time fighting for Texaco than working families,” said Kimball. “Breaux was (George W.) Bush’s favorite Democrat. That should say it all.” When informed of Breaux’s decision to become a registered independent, Vice-President Joe Biden, who served with the Cajun politician in the US Senate for 18 years offered the following statement: "John has been a friend of mine for many years and I thought he represented the state of Arkansas ably during his time in Washington. I enjoyed working with him on landmark legislation such as the Water Flume Regulation Act and the Whooping Cough Eradication Act. That said, I would like to wish him a Happy April Fool's Day."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama's "Feel Good" Rocket Attack

.One really doesn’t need much of an excuse to want to see Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi blown to kingdom come.

Gaddafi’s regime through acts of terrorism is responsible for the murder of American servicemen and civilians. And the man Ronald Reagan dubbed the “mad dog of the Middle East” has reminded the world of his willingness to order the slaughter of his fellow Libyans for the crime of objecting to his four decades plus of iron-fisted rule.

And while working to destabilize Gaddafi’s grip on power is in itself unobjectionable concept, there are questions that need to be answered, specifically how long are we going to fire rockets into Libya and what’s the ultimate purpose?

A no-fly zone and a temporary bombardment via tomahawk missiles won’t be enough to bring Gaddafi down.

Gaddafi still wields control of the Libyan armed forces and while he won’t be able to utilize his air force and send tank columns to immediately suppress the insurrection, all the colonel needs to do is wait the West out.

Give Gaddafi a bunker filled with netflicks and a few months worth of Triscuits and he will emerge from the rubble wrapped in his favorite shower curtain still holding whatever grandiose title he has apportioned to himself after the West has lost interest in Libyan human rights.

Saddam Hussein survived not only a catastrophic military humiliation as his army was quickly driven out of Kuwait but also the domestic uprising that was supposed to have been enabled with a no-fly zone that didn’t work out so well for the rebels.

Those insurgents in Basra who were inspired to revolt against the Hussein tyranny after the Allied Coalition’s pummeling of the Republican Guard were rewarded with sadistic executions once Baghdad reasserted control of the south. That bit of history probably isn’t lost on either Gaddafi or the leading rabble-rousers in Benghazi.

Hussein wasn’t toppled by an indigenous rebellion but through a full-fledged American-led “boots on the ground” invasion.

Short of the US Marines once again landing on the shores of Tripoli, Gaddafi will be able to bide his time and maintain his position of authority.

It appears the Libyan adventure is currently limited to the standard liberal noble goal of merely “doing something”.

Sure some tanks have gone up in smoke and a handful of military structures have been wrecked, but the Libyan rebels are still nowhere closer to effecting regime change.

Right now the military action in Libya is not much more than then-President Bill Clinton’s cruise missile attack on Iraq’s intelligence headquarters in response to a busted Iraqi plot to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait in 1993.

Shock and awe it isn’t; the strikes have been more like an “Aw Shucks” offensive that has shown we care but not enough to do what’s required.

Gaddafi, not trusting his native military to do the dirty work of mowing his own people down, has shrewdly recruited foreign mercenaries who have a vested interest in the survival of the current government, since the checks are sure to stop coming if the dictator is killed or books a one-way flight to Caracas.

The Obama Administration’s all-too public grasping at a Libya Policy has exhibited indecisiveness, with America following in France’s rhetorical and military wake.

Yes France, the very country that refused to allow American jets to fly over their air space while en route to paying Gaddafi a surprise visit in 1986 in the form of a retaliatory strike after Libyan agents bombed a West Berlin discotheque frequented by American military personnel.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy was the first world leader to publicly call for Gaddafi’s ouster and it was a French warplane that struck the first blow against the Libyan military in the current operation.

So what’s the objective and most importantly, who is going to decide what it is?

Will it be regime change via direct action by the western powers or will the US limit its involvement to creating opportunities for the rebels or simply keeping Gaddafi’s forces at bay, at least for the time being.

Shall the US defer to the United Nations on setting the end game or is an agreement between Washington, Paris and London a broad enough consensus?

It’s much more important that we impress with our actions not Gaddafi & Co. but the individuals occupying high military and foreign relations posts in Beijing, Tehran, Pyongyang and Moscow, as the consequences of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Libyan situation will manifest themselves far away from the Sahara.

While Gaddafi is taking his lumps, others are taking notes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NFL 2011: Greed 1 Fans 0

There was a time when my world revolved around baseball.

It was during the late eighties, an era before the internet, 24-hour sports channels with constant sports score crawlers and automatic text messages giving inning by inning play.

In order to learn how my Houston Astros fared in their rainbow-bright uniforms, I would feverishly flip channels during the 10 PM news. When really desperate I would turn on an old shortwave radio to pick up an armed services channel carrying a game and hope that the commentators would pass a score along.

The first thing I would do in the morning when arriving at school was make a bee-line for the library to peruse the USA Today Sports section (which contained more finals than the Times Picayune).

I was pretty damned obsessed but I was cured by Donald Fehr, head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. The union chief called a players’ strike over owners’ plans to implement a badly needed salary cap.

While I do still love the game, the fire that was once a conflagration is now a votive candle for the passion I once had for baseball.

The union “won” and played resumed slightly delayed the following season though the game suffered. 1994 could have been one of the most special seasons in the modern era.

So it goes without saying that I am not exactly sympathetic to player unions.

There is a single exception.

The bull the NFL owners are trying to pull over the players is ludicrous. The owners are demanding a free billion dollars, a rookie pay scale that shifts the savings back to their pockets and not deserving players who signed on the cheap and have played above their compensation level and my least favorite aspect, the 18-game regular season.

What’s disgusting is how the league has dressed the latter up as “something for the fans”. Are they serious?

If the owners wanted to be generous to those who fill the stadiums, buy their merchandise and pay $4 for a fifty-cent bottle of water, they could bring concession prices down. But that’ll happen when Al Davis gets awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (though they’ve given it to less deserving).

Their “favor” would generate additional television revenue off of week three and four preseason contests that go largely ignored. The 18-game season was a gambit intended to win the fans over to the owners’ side, though their self-interest in the matter is so blatant that there hasn’t been a tidal wave of “thank you” notes pouring into team headquarters from fans.

And what are the players asking for? The exact same deal that’s worked out so well for one and all for the past several years. And if things are not going so swell as the NFL claims, then full financial disclosure proving that this billion-dollar entertainment juggernaut is somehow just scrimping by.

I think only the folks at Arthur Andersen could produce books that say that, if you catch my drift.

The owners will probably win the standoff. First, they have more resources at their disposal from either their accrued wealth or from their other business endeavors.

By contrast, I would imagine quite a few players have lived beyond their means in the expectation that they will make more later. Or in the case of the extremely naïve, that they will actually see the full return on their incentive laden contracts.

Secondly, the owners can control the debate better than the players. They also have their own in-house spokesmen and media operation (the NFL Network). As there are only 32 owners, it’s easier for them to get on the same page while there are thousands of players out there who have had trouble reining in their tweets during football contests. To say nothing about their equally loose-lipped agents, who are also feeling the pinch.

Though times will be tight, I think the players can win this war of wills if they have discipline, curtail their personal spending and have everyone saying the same thing and nothing more, reminding the fans that unlike 1987, the players are not on strike but are being locked out by management.

Sports talk radio has simplified this dispute as a fight between billionaires and millionaires; I don’t think that’s fair since not all players see the big money. It’s about trusting but verifying and not surrendering ground just because the owners think this is a capital time to get a larger piece of the pie at the expense of shorter playing careers and defiling impressive statistical achievements by some of the games greats.

I often ask myself why I spend so much money annually to watch something in person when I could watch the same thing from the comfort of my home for free…and in the case of my nosebleed seats, with a better view as well.

There’s something about being there. When I pay my $70 or so per game ticket, I’m not just there witnessing, I’m participating. I’m making noise to disrupt an opposing offense’s huddle or contributing my fair share of racket to make the other team’s defensive line jump early. I go there to not only give energy but to immerse myself in it.

There’s an intangible I get from attending Saints games that can’t be described and it can’t be bottled. It can only be experienced.

As the owners begin sitting on our hard-earned money and obtusely dig in for a protracted hold out, they run the risk of hundreds of thousands of fans starting to ask themselves why they spend money there and not somewhere else. If you’re the NFL owners, that lucidity is no good, since they make billions off of our emotions.

Kill the season and you roll the dice on killing the magic.

Just like the MLB players did in the nineties.

I know baseball isn’t the NFL; but a long standoff might make people half the fans they used to be and it might be possible to measure that in dollars with enough financial data.

Is it wise to haggle over an extra billion on the front end if you end up losing billions on the back end?
We’re about to learn how stupid everyone is, owners, players and fans.