Archive for December, 2008

RR: Rivals fry up Mississippi politics

Friday, December 26th, 2008

This week in Reasonably Right, I write about a new addition to the storied ranks of Mississippi political books.  Here are some excerpts, but for the best parts, you’ve got to read the book.

If you like politics battered Southern style with humor and jocularity, stop by the bookstore when you exchange gifts and pick up “Mississippi Fried Politics: Tall Tales from the Back Rooms” by Jere Nash and Andy Taggart.

You can read about the time WLBT’s Bert Case and his cameraman caught legislators at a pool party with whiskey and women, and how that broadcast ended his relationship with Speaker of the House Buddy Newman. The book includes the curious story of how former NAACP leader Aaron Henry interceded to help former Gov. Ross Barnett check-in to a resistant Washington, D.C. hotel. Find out about how an irate good ole boy from Itawamba County confronted Gov. Bill Waller because he was sure the dog pictured in the Waller family Christmas card actually belonged to him. Mississippi oratory recounted includes Soggy Sweat’s whiskey speech, Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Democratic Party convention testimony, and a transcript of the conversation between President John F. Kennedy and Gov. Barnett that began with riots in Oxford and ended with thanks for supporting poultry programs.

Nash and Taggart recount 120 anecdotes over 232 pages. Photographs of memorable Mississippi moments flavor the book including the cover shot of Gov. Cliff Finch and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Harland Sanders, from which comes the title.

With vignette titles like “Scounelbooger,” “Never kiss the ground when the governor is looking,” and “Cuba & Ole Miss,”…

Of interest to Mississippi political readers, is also the news that their previous book, “Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976-2006,” will so be released in a second edition with new chapters covering politics in 2007 and 2008.  I also mentioned a few other Mississippi political books on the shelves or soon to be released.

Recent years have witnessed the publication of “Amidst the Fray: My Life in Politics, Culture, and Mississippi” by William D. Mounger and Joe Maxwell, “Straight Ahead: The Memoirs of a Mississippi Governor” by Bill Waller, and “The Measure of Our Days: Writings of William F. Winter” by Winter and Andrew Mullins. Two more books by founders of the modern Mississippi Republican Party are in works with Nash assisting Clark Reed of Greenville, and Maxwell assisting Wirt Yerger of Jackson.

Combine those above with the Erle Johnston trilogy - “I Rolled With Ross,” “Politics Mississippi Style” and “Mississippi’s Defiant Years 1953-1973” - and other recent books by Mississippi politicos - Trent Lott’s “Herding Cats: A Life in Politics,” “Twice Told Tombigbee Tales” by Judge Michael Mills as well as two books I was honored to assist with, “Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation & the Culture War” and “A Price Too High: The Judiciary in Jeopardy” both by Charles Pickering - and a student of Mississippi politics has a book a month for 2009 to read and get the inside scoop on governors, senators and judges.

But, to get started, pick up a copy of “Mississippi Fried Politics” as a political appetizer

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal online: Perry/Taggart, Nash fry up Mississippi politics

Governor’s Economic Symposium

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Tuesday, Governor Haley Barbour hosted an economic symposium in Jackson.  The impressive event featured Bob Allsbrook, chief economist for Regions Bank, kicking off the discussion with a presentation many investors and corporate leaders would pay good money to hear. His sobering but optimistic presentation presented today’s economic challenges in context of modern and current trends.

The symposium was free and open to the public and mostly attended by business and political leaders.  Governor Barbour’s office has posted the presentation materials by the speakers which included Tommy Dale Favre, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security; State Economist Dr. Phil Pepper; State Treasurer Tate Reeves; Mac Deaver, President and CEO of the Mississippi Bankers Association; Jay Moon, President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association; Steve Rogers, President and CEO of Parkway Properties; Gray Swoope, Executive Director of Mississippi Development Authority; and Dr. Cecil Burge, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Here was some coverage of the event:

WLBT - Government, business leaders face troubling economic prospects (watch video here) (12/16/2008)

Commercial Dispatch - Economy session brings bleak news about state trends (12/17/2008)

Mississippi Public Broadcasting (audio file) - Governor’s Economic Summit Looks at Jobs and Economic Growth (12/17/2008)

Mississippi Public Broadcasting (audio file) - Economic Summit Has Business Looking at Dim Future (12/17/2008)

Clarion Ledger - Economic troubles worst in decades (12/17/2008)

RR: The first decade of online politics in Mississippi

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

This week I write in Reasonably Right about milestones in the first decade of Mississippi online politics.  Here are some excerpts:

In early 1998, Richard Bishop was interning at the Mississippi Republican Party, working on the United Republican Fund, a monthly giving mechanism that funds the party’s operations. “I had been learning HTML and building web pages for about six months. I thought if people could get an e-mail and sign-up for the URF online, it would be easier to increase response. So I got permission from Chairman Mike Retzer to register the domain, and put up news about the party, upcoming events, how to e-mail the staff.” was the first party web site in Mississippi.

That year Bishop also worked on State Auditor Phil Bryant’s campaign web page, the first statewide official to have a web presence apart from a government site.

Brad Morris, now chief-of-staff to First District Congressman Travis Childers, produced an early landmark in 1998 by going live with, the online version of his political newsletter that featured breaking news and a bulletin board for posting political gossip.

By 1999, every credible statewide candidate was online. A candidate in the Republican Primary for governor, Dan Gibson first provided a method to collect secure online campaign contributions by credit card (Bishop designed Gibson’s site as well). Nick Walters‘ campaign for Secretary of State combined his web site with campaign e-mails about his schedule and fundraising, an innovation at the time.

In 2000, a computer programmer named Lewis Napper from Jackson ran as a Libertarian against Senator Trent Lott. In 1993, Napper, incensed at a radio speech by Hillary Clinton, sat down at his keyboard and hammered out “The Bill of No Rights.” He e-mailed it to a few friends and it grew to an Internet legend, one of the early widespread Internet forwards.

Inspired by the egalitarian democratization of the news by folks like Matt Drudge, I launched in 2001 to provide news links, political rumors, and resources to the Mississippi’s online political consumers. The site continues today, operated by Josh Gregory at Frontier Strategies.

In 2004, Alan Lange started to track the race between Frank Melton and Harvey Johnson for mayor of Jackson. The site morphed into the broader and then migrated to in 2006. “We are probably best known for our coverage of the Dickie Scruggs scandal. We have had millions of page views driven by that story,” Lange said.

In 2007, John Leek launched Cotton Mouth to bring a pro-Democrat, pro-liberal perspective to Mississippi online politics. Jake Cooper, Jeff Walters and others joined Leek as voices from the left during the 2007 and 2008 Mississippi campaigns. Due to internal Democratic politics, Cotton Mouth was passed over as Mississippi’s official blog at the Democratic National Convention, a credential instead given to Casey Ann Hughes and her NatchezMs blog. Cotton Mouth made the trip to Denver and the DNC anyway.

Also from the left comes a project from James Thompson and Sam Hall,, managed by Blue Dot Group. Hall, a former reporter, editor, and Mississippi Democratic Party spokesman, most recently managed Jim Kitchen’s successful campaign for Mississippi Supreme Court. Hall used a campaign blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, video and an opposition attack web site as part of his online strategy.

You can read the full column at the Neshoba County Democrat: Perry/The migration of politics online

Mississippi Republicans challenge election shenanigans

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

The Mississippi Republican Party made waves last week when it amended a lawsuit against the Leflore County Election Commission and the precinct manager of Leflore’s Southeast Greenwood Precinct. The GOP alleges voters were instructed on how to vote and whom to vote for at the machines, that ballots were removed from the voting area, and that authorized poll watchers were denied proper observing distance. I write about it in last week’s Reasonably Right. Here are some excerpts:

Shortly before the election, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in a memo reminded election officials: “Only voters who are: 1) blind, 2) physically disabled, or 3) cannot read or write are eligible to receive voter assistance and then, only after the voter has verbally requested such assistance.

Republican witnesses claim the voters in question were without apparent disability, walked without assistance as though they were not blind, and did not request assistance.

If the Republican poll watchers are right, then if the voters were illiterate, they were also telepathic.

The GOP claims the some voters never spoke at the voting machine to ask or direct the person assisting them on their choices. Instead, witnesses claim the “assistors” pointed at names and told voters to “vote for that one” and “vote for him.”

Republican poll watchers say voters were told to vote for Ronnie Musgrove for Senate because he is the Democrat (the special Senate election between Musgrove and Roger Wicker had no partisan identifiers on the ballot). They say at other times, these “assistors” simply instructed, “the first one, the first one, the first one” on the ballot that listed Democratic candidates first. The GOP claims ballots were even removed from the voting area.

A Secretary of State memo [you can read the memo linked at this post at Y'all Politics] obtained by Republicans through an open records request and shared with the press, suggests the identity of two of the “assistors” is tied to a local school board race.

Republican poll watchers claim they repeatedly reported these violations to the poll manager but they say she ignored or failed to act and became angry.

One Republican poll watcher said Gail Griggs, the poll manager named in the lawsuit, told him she thought these voters were all legally using their right to assistance.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue a writ of mandamus to bind the defendants and their successors to properly execute their responsibilities in future elections. Because the GOP’s original suit, filed the day of the election, was not acted on in time to affect the conduct of the election, the Republicans maintain this suit is necessary because the misdeeds are “capable of repetition, yet evading review” in future election without action.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: PERRY/GOP challenges election shenanigans

The Republican Press Conference gathered a good deal of attention. You can view the whole press conference below.

Here is an additional interview with GOP Chairman Brad White from WAPT-16.

On the day of the election, the Greenwood Commonwealth sent a reporter to the Southeast Greenwood Precinct to investigate reports coming out of it. He spoke to the poll manager and witnesses say after he left, things got a little better. The Commonwealth wrote about the lawsuit and it has solicited some passionate local comments. The Clarion Ledger, the Associated Press, and the Jackson Free Press reported on it as well.

The blog Right of Mississippi asks what will the defense argue and sugests they should, “just agree to the suit without admitting their misdeeds. After all, who doesn’t want fair elections? That question will be answered by how the Leflore County Election Commission and the precinct manager’s lawyers respond. If they fight against this, they are fighting against fair and legal elections. They will be fighting for illegal activities at the polling place.

And you can watch the WLBT/WTOK report on the lawsuit here.

RR: Capitol Press Corps recaps elections

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

At this month’s Capitol Press Corps Stennis luncheon, Clarion Ledger Perspective Editor Sid Salter, Northeast Daily Journal Capitol Correspondent Bobby Harrison and Marty Wiseman from the Stennis Institute were joined by Jackson State University political science professor Mary Coleman to recap the election.

They had interesting perspectives on Bennie Thompson’s role in elections, Jim Kitchens win over Jim Smith on the Supreme Court, the Wicker-Musgrove Senate race, and future races against Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in the First Congressional District.  You can read the full column to hear some of their perspectives: Perry / Capitol press corps recaps elections.  For other interpretations of the luncheon, you can read this piece from Emily Wagster Pettus at the Associated Press (Mississippi not a 2-party state, professor says) or this one from Adam Lynch at the Jackson Free Press (Talking Heads Reflect on Election).

I shared a couple of my own observations on the Jim Smith and Jim Kitchens race in the column as well:

Unfortunately for Smith, it was a Democratic leaning district. John McCain and Roger Wicker both carried Mississippi by strong margins, but both trailed Barack Obama and Ronnie Musgrove in the counties of the central Supreme Court District.

In 2000, Smith lost Hinds County by about 6,000 votes, but netted 4,000 votes from Madison County and carried Rankin County by 17,000 votes to win the district by 11,000 votes.

This year he trailed Kitchens in Hinds County by 37,000 votes, lost Republican Madison County, and only outpaced his top rival in Rankin County by 2,701 votes.

The Kitchens name was also an asset in Rankin and Madison counties where John Kitchens served as a popular district attorney from 1992-2000 and then as a circuit court judge from 2000-2004. Many Rankin and Madison Republicans were puzzled on Nov. 5, when they realized they had voted for Jim Kitchens, not John Kitchens.

The Stennis Luncheon is open to the public each month and costs $12. To get on the mailing list or to find out more information, e-mail Phil Hardwick at You should also check out Phil’s blog.

RR: Bush legacies and Obama opportunities

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

When I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and again in 2004, my top priority was the federal judiciary. I trusted him to make solid appointments; he did.  Two of the great legacies of Bush will be Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito.  His legacy will also be examined through the war on terror and war in Iraq. The war fatigue, coupled with an economy in recession, gave Barack Obama a great electoral opportunity, which might allow him to moderate Bush’s judicial legacy with his own appointments.  I write more about all this in this week’s Reasonably Right column. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Al Qaeda or their terrorist affiliates plotted operations against U.S. homeland targets, but American law enforcement and intelligence agencies thwarted them. A backgrounder by James Jay Carafano prepared for the Heritage Foundationlast year lists a few of the successes: Jose Padilla’s “dirty bomb” plan; the Lackawanna Six, a terrorist cell in Buffalo, New York; a scheme to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge; the Virginia Jihad Network; a plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other financial targets in New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC; a conspiracy to bomb a subway station near Madison Square Garden while hosting the Republican National Convention in 2004; an assassination plan against a Pakistani diplomat in New York City using a shoulder-fired grenade launcher; a plot to attack national guard facilities, synagogues and other sites in Los Angeles; targeted natural gas pipelines and oil refineries; an attempt to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago; a scheme to explode 10 commercial airliners headed to New York, Washington DC and California; a planned attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey; and more that we know about, as well as others undisclosed by the government.

Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, both the Bush administration and Al Qaeda recognized that country as the central battleground in the war on terror. More than 4,200 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, more than 60 with significant Mississippi ties.

And here are a few notes on Obama’s judicial opportunities.

Bush appointed and the Senate confirmed 61 appeals court justices, fewer than President Bill Clinton’s 65. Fifteen current Bush nominees will not be confirmed, those vacancies to be filled by President Obama who will make significant shifts in the judiciary during his tenure.

A report by Pamela MacLean in the National Law Journal suggests Obama’s appointments could turn seven of the 13 circuit courts into Democrat majority appointed benches, joining the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which currently has that unique distinction. Mississippi is in the 5th Circuit, which is not expected to shift from its conservative leanings within four years. Congress may create an additional 14 new federal judgeships, which would provide Obama an opportunity to even further shape the judiciary.

On the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens will be nearly 89 at the swearing-in of his fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. Stevens is two years from being the oldest justice and four years from being the longest serving justice in Supreme Court history. He, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, and David Souter, 69, all hail from the Court’s liberal wing and are most mentioned as possible retirees.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal online: Perry/Bush legacies, Obama opportunities

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