Archive for October, 2008


Red, Blue and You

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

My alma mater Belhaven College conducted its Homecoming activities last week and we walked the three blocks over on Friday night for the issues forum “Red, Blue and You.” Dr. Ralph Mason, the Dean of the School of Business moderated the discussion that featured authors and Mississippi political speakers (and partisan operatives) Andy Taggart and Jere Nash. This was a unique Nash-Taggart event because it was structured on public policy rather than politics.  Questions came from the audience as well as a faculty panel of Dr. Bill Penn, Professor of Economics and Business; Dr. Kristena Gaylor, Assistant Professor of Business; and Dr. Randy Russ, Assistant Professor of Business Administration. This week’s Reasonably Right recounts the exchange. Here are some excerpts.

“It’s important to view public policy through some kind of framework,” said Nash who noted Taggart is a conservative before a Republican, and he himself is a liberal before a Democrat. “It’s important to believe in things.” Nash said his four points of viewing public policy are: freedom (individual liberty takes priority over the community); the power of the people should be vested in elected officials not unelected bureaucrats; the accumulation and centralization of power is an incurable disease; and we should seek to create institutions that compete with each other.

Both men opposed the recent $700 billion financial bailout. Nash said, “We’re skeptical of people who bring us solutions to the problems they actually caused.” He said the financial institutions grew too large. They centralized and consolidated their power, reducing competition and creating an unstable and vulnerable financial sector.

Taggart said he was never convinced of the necessity of the bailout. “They told us it was to prevent something bad from happening. What was going to happen? Was someone going to burn my house down or steal my children?” Taggart lamented we now have a government that, if you succeed, shows up to take your money in taxes. And if you fail, shows up to give you someone else’s money. “That’s not freedom,” Taggart said.

On taxes, Nash said, “I join with Joe Biden in saying it is a patriotic duty” and described taxes as a “tithe to the government,” an inartful phrase creating grumbles in a room of evangelical conservatives. Nash said we have three choices for our budget: spend less, raise taxes, or pay with a deficit. He suggested we first agree on what we are willing to spend, and then tax ourselves to that level.

Taggart added a fourth choice: growth. “When the economy grows, everybody does better.” He said the true father of presidential supply-side economics was John F. Kennedy and that his tax cuts, along with those by President Ronald Reagan, demonstrate that by reducing taxes you can spur growth and increase revenues. Taggart lamented that under Reagan, spending also increased and canceled out that growth.

As to why they hadn’t discussed issues before, Nash said, “When I drive we don’t listen to Paul Gallo. When he drives, we don’t listen to public radio.” Taggart affirmed, “We’ve both found we like rock and roll just fine.” I guess there is common ground for everyone.

You can read the full column in today’s Madison County Journal: Perry / “Red, Blue and You”.

You can buy “Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006” by Taggart and Nash at Amazon.com, as well as pre-order their new book, “Mississippi Fried Politics: Tall Tales from the Back Rooms” scheduled to be out on November 4 (Election Day).


Will Musgrove be Democrats’ #60?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The Democrats need sixty Senators to caucus with them to prevent a Republican filibuster on legislation. Were Barack Obama to win the presidency, with Democrats strongly in control of the House of Representatives, all that could stand in the way of Democratic domination would be 41 Senate Republicans. U.S. Senator Roger Wicker hopes to be one of those Senate Republicans.  But there is a reason national Democrats are pumping millions of dollars into the Mississippi Senate race.  It is because, were he to win, former Governor Ronnie Musgrove might be their #60.  That is the story in this feature by Aaron Blake in The Hill, a Washington DC newspaper that covers congress and politics.  Blake visited Mississippi and tried the catfish at The Country Fisherman in Mendenhall.

Here are a few excerpts:

The Country Fisherman restaurant couldn’t be more un-Washington; it’s rural, it’s down-home, and it’s in Mississippi. But exactly one week before Election Day, the catfish lunch buffet here was ground zero for the biggest question of the 2008 congressional election: whether Democrats will reach 60 seats in the Senate.

Mississippi is as close to a pivotal state as Democrats have in their quest for the so-called filibuster-proof majority, and it is the only toss-up race in which Democrats have not been tied or leading in polls in the last few months.

Asked twice here about the prospect of a 60-seat Democratic majority, Musgrove dodged the question both times and spoke in generalities about Washington accomplishing more. “That’s not my closing argument,” Musgrove said with a laugh. Asked if 60 seats would be good for the country, Musgrove deflected, saying “passing good policies” would be good from the country.

It’s not surprising for Musgrove to be distancing himself from his national party and the prospect of 60 seats, but it’s clear that party is playing a key role in his prospects and hoping he can help it get there.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) spent nearly $6 million on the race as of late last week.

Democrats have led in the polling for eight GOP-held Senate seats in recent months, and they need nine to get to 60.

Former GOP congressional aide Brian Perry, who writes a politics column for a local newspaper, used the analogy of voting for a team.

“The choice is between putting the Democrat team on the field, playing a liberal game, with Ronnie Musgrove on the bench,” Perry said, “or putting a conservative team on the field, with Roger Wicker being one of your starting players.”

You can read the whole story here: Democrats fish for sixty in the Mississippi Delta


Two studies look at Mississippi Supreme Court

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

This week Reasonably Right discusses two research studies on the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Mississippi Chapter of the Federalist Society released a white paper titled “On the Side of the Angels?: Updating the Mississippi Supreme Court’s View of the Judicial Role, 2004-2008″ and the MC Law Review released their research from the 2008 Judicial Administration Project.

An excerpt from the column:

The research suggests what any political observer would note: there is a sharp divide in the Court. The civil case split generally allies Chief Justice Jim Smith with Justices Bill Waller, George Carlson, Jess Dickinson and Mike Randolph on one side. On the other side are Justices Oliver Diaz, James Graves, and Chuck Easley. Concerning criminal cases, the division remains the same except Easley joins the majority leaving Graves and Diaz on the minority. (This research does not include Justice Ann Lamar or her predecessor Kay Cobb).

The purpose of the Law Review research is to show what is, but not what should be. It makes a specific note in its civil case research that the data, “does not reflect the court’s dispositions on any particular topic” and “the Law Review is not blind to the political ramifications” of misinterpreting the data.

The Law Review is correct. Evaluating the results of a Court in a vacuum, absent the law and the facts, can be problematic. The judiciary is to rule on the law and the facts as is, not as should be. Fairness cannot be determined solely by quota with equal rulings for the prosecution and defense; plaintiffs and defendants.

The Law Review research does show that even the most opposite of Mississippi Supreme Court justices agree more than they disagree. And, the Federalist Society study shows the majority on the Court continues to practice judicial restraint. It benefits the people, particularly in a state such as Mississippi that elects judges, to have this research available.

You can read the full column this week in the Madison County Journal: Perry/The judicial role


Does Joel Gill have a shot in Mississippi’s 3rd District?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, featured the campaign of Joel Gill in today’s column “Under the Radar.” The column routinely features congressional races of interest that usually are not actually competitive. That describes Mississippi’s Third Congressional District.

Congressman Chip Pickering is retiring from the seat this year and Gregg Harper won the primary to be the Republican nominee to replace him.  Harper is a solid conservative, for a years a hard worker for Republicans, and a genuinely nice and kind guy.  Harper’s Democratic opponent is Joel Gill.  I’ve met Gill on a number of occasions and he seems to be a reasonable man. I’m sure he and I have vast disagreements on matters of public policy, but I feel like I would enjoy drinking coffee with him at the feed mill.  So nothing personal and not even political spin, but Gregg Harper will win in less than two weeks. Now I don’t expect to see landslide numbers because of the political climate of the year, but I also don’t see a path for Joel Gill to win.  Even if the race were an eight-point margin, a million dollars wouldn’t change the numbers to move Gill ahead when Harper answered him.

Here are a few excerpts from the Roll Call article:

By now voters are all too familiar with Joe the Plumber and Joe Sixpack. But perhaps they can be forgiven if they’ve never heard of Joel the Cattleman.  You see, even with his catchy campaign slogan — “all beef, no bull” — Joel the Cattleman hasn’t exactly had a lot of national television exposure lately. Then again, TV time is hard to come by when you’ve raised only $34,030.38 for your campaign and you’ve been all but written off by your own national party.

There are several really good reasons Gill wasn’t, and still isn’t, supposed to win his race against former Rankin County Republican Chairman Gregg Harper, who won the GOP primary this past spring.

First, the 3rd district is a conservative stronghold that President Bush carried by about 30 points in both 2000 and 2004. Pickering easily won all six of his elections and didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent in his previous two races. In 2002, a redrawn map pitted Pickering against two-term Democratic Rep. Ronnie Shows, a man who had served in several state offices before being elected to Congress. Despite massive Democratic spending, Pickering beat Shows that year 64 percent to 35 percent.

This cycle Gill is facing a man who proved his political savvy in a tough, multicandidate primary field. Since then, Harper has earned the firm backing of the national party and has raised more than $1 million since entering the race.

“Pickering is politically smart and popular with the voters, but there is something to be said about a district when you beat a fellow incumbent Congressman 2-1,” said Brian Perry, a former spokesman for Pickering who now serves as a partner with the Republican consulting firm Capstone Public Affairs. “The demographics haven’t changed and Joel Gill has no money, no base, and doesn’t even live in the district. Gill won’t win. It’s a bad year for Republicans, but not that bad.”

You can read the whole article, which is quite entertaining, at RollCall.com (but it is a subscription site): Joel the Cattleman Looks to Steer Way to Victory.


On Bill Ayers

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Last night in Barack Obama and John McCain’s final presidential debate, the question of Obama’s association with his neighbor Bill Ayers bubbled up and Obama described him as such, “Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago. Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan’s former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg. ”

But there is more to the story, and I write about Bill Ayers and other enemies foreign and domestic in this week’s Reasonably Right. Here are some excerpts:

I visited the International Spy Museum in Washington DC in 2005 and went through a special exhibit titled “The Enemy Within: Terror in America - 1776 to Today.” The exhibition featured domestic terrorism from turn of the century anarchists to the Ku Klux Klan to Purto Rican nationalists to the Weather Underground to radicals like Timothy McVeigh or The Unabomber.

I was particularly drawn to the exhibit’s focus on the Klan as it highlighted with pictures, videos and documents, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Sam Bowers of Laurel, Mississippi. Bowers was suspected in hundreds of bombings and attacks. He orchestrated the fire-bombing that killed Vernon Dahmer and masterminded the killings of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney in Neshoba County. Time Magazine called Bowers “the most dangerous man ever to don a white hood.”

In a critical article on the exhibit, the Washington Post noted, “the exhibit quite correctly labels as terrorism the violence of the Weather Underground and other bomb-throwing radical student groups of the ’60s and ’70s, who justified their actions as means of opposing the war in Vietnam.” The Weather Underground is described by the FBI as “a small, violent offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), created in the turbulent ’60s to promote social change.”

The Weather Underground claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks including bombings of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Pentagon, and the US State Department. In an article appearing in the New York Times on September 11, 2001, one of the organization’s founders, Bill Ayers, said “I don’t regret setting bombs” and looking back on their actions, “I feel we didn’t do enough.”

Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn, another leader and founder of the Weather Underground, unrepentant of their past domestic terrorism, are now engaged in peaceful social radicalism in Chicago where they formed political alliances with Barack and Michelle Obama: launching an Obama political campaign in their home, supporting him with campaign funds, and serving and working together on the Chicago nonprofit Woods Fund, as well as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. When Obama was a community organizer, it was folks like Ayers and Dohrn in his community.

The President of the United States is Commander-in-Chief of more than two million men and women, active and reserve, who pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Bill Ayers was one of those domestic enemies who remains unrepentant of his past crimes. Obama’s relationship with Ayers deserves a proper vetting by America’s media watchdogs. Voters can determine whether there are credible criticisms.

You can read the full column in the Neshoba County Democrat: PERRY/Enemies foreign and domestic


Wicker and Musgrove Debate

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Last week, Senator Roger Wicker (R) and former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) met in debate in their race to fulfill the remainder of former Senator Trent Lott’s unexpired term. The debate was touted as the first Mississippi debate broadcast live to every media market in the state with coverage by WTOK (Meridian), WTVA (Tupelo), WDAM (Hattiesburg), WLOX (Biloxi), WABG (Greenville), and WMC (Memphis), and WLBT (Jackson) who sponsored the event at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson.

Reasonably Right this week discusses the debate, the candidate’s responses to questions, and the issue of “negative” campaigning. Here is an excerpt:

Brad Kessie of WLOX in Biloxi asked, “Instead of throwing mud at each other, why hasn’t this campaign been about issues, and why tonight aren’t you talking about the issues of today and tomorrow, and why are you talking about the past?”

Musgrove said, “We’re answering the questions you ask us.” Wicker said, “Well, what we’ve done in the past can be instructive of what we’re do in the future.” Both men are correct.

First, campaigns are responding to the needs of the press. Don’t fault the press, newspapers don’t sell advertising reporting stories no one reads. Who wants to read about the seventeen pieces of complex and technical legislation Wicker introduced this year? Folks would much rather read about “mud slinging” so newspapers and televisions report “mud slinging” so candidates “mud sling.” If people wanted to read about the issues, then the media would report about the issues, and campaigns would talk about the issues. Call it “free market campaigning” that doesn’t need a free speech bailout.

Second, records are fair game. Talking about your opponent’s record may be negative campaigning, but it is almost a duty to voters to expose records when public watchdogs fail to do so. How can Musgrove make a case that voters need to hire him if he doesn’t make the case they should fire Wicker? How can Wicker make the case he is better for the job if he doesn’t contrast his own record with Musgrove’s history?

Still, people like to complain about negative campaigning, as does the press. The next question came from Terry Smith of WTVA in Tupelo. He spoke about the “aggressively negative” campaigning and third-party ads that are “downright nasty” and asked, “How can you sleep at night knowing those ads are running about your opponent who was at one time your roommate?”

Wicker responded, “Well of course I campaign mighty hard all day long and I’m kind of tired at night so I can sleep” drawing laughter from the otherwise silent crowd.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: PERRY/Debate contrasts candidates


S.C. Gov Mark Sanford: governing through freedom

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Monday night the Mississippi Center for Public Policy awarded Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour their “Governing by Principle” award.  Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina was the keynote speaker. (Full disclosure: I worked at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy back in 1998 when it was the Mississippi Family Council.)

Sanford was a member of the Republican Revolution class of 1994, went home to South Carolina after three terms (self term limited) and was elected governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. His speech reminded me of the principles the Republicans fought for in 1994 and the crowd was very receptive.  Were McCain-Palin to lose this November, Sanford and Barbour are both on the short list for conservatives for 2012.

You can read about the event and the speech by Sanford in my column this week in the Madison County Journal: Government through freedom.


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