Archive for July, 2013

Cochran Reelection - Will he run or not?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

As we approach 2014, politicos in the Magnolia State wonder whether U.S. Senator Thad Cochran will run for reelection. I believe he will and wrote about it in my column this week in the Madison County Journal.

I have no inside scoop on Cochran’s reelection plans. I am convinced only he knows the likelihood of his choice. But when he turns a healthy 76 years old this December, I doubt he has plans for a post-Senate lobbying career, or actively serving on national corporate boards, or running for some other office. Were he not to run again, I think he would have an actual retirement in Oxford, finishing out his life as a distinguished former gentleman Senator. He would be done with his professional career. And that might be appeal to him.

But he loves the Senate. He loves it as an institution and he enjoys his work of persuading and sparring with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. For more than forty years his work has been on Capitol Hill. He admits the Senate has changed, sometimes not for the better, but his quiet leadership has built a reputation for Mississippi, his staff and himself that is not easily put aside. He could continue that service to his country and state. And that might appeal to him.

I don’t believe he is ready to retire. He is prepared for an election. He is still strong. In the first six months of this year he raised $350,000: not a staggering amount but on track to have a million dollars cash-on-hand by the end of the year. Once elected to the Senate, he has never won less than 60 percent of the vote for reelection even when challenged by then sitting Governor William Winter (1984).

If he doesn’t run for reelection, it will set off a chain of events in Republican circles that could impact congressional seats, statewide office holders and even the Mississippi Supreme Court. Jere Nash and I discuss that scenario on WLBT’s Red Blue Review this week: - Jackson, MS

November 5 Special Elections for MS House 5, 55, 110

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Governor Phil Bryant has set November 5 for the special election dates for House Districts 5 (Benton, Marshall Counties), District 55 (Warren County) and District 110 (Jackson County). The representatives (all Democrats) won election to serve as mayor of their hometowns and resigned, vacating the seats.

Qualifying Deadline: October 7
Special Election: November 5
Potential Run-Off: November 26

This will bring to nine the total number of special elections for the legislature this year. For a look at the others, check out this post.

“The nuclear option is gone for our lifetime.” Harry Reid, 2005

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans held a U.S. Senate majority with a Republican President and Democrats were refusing to allow votes on judicial nominees.  Republicans considered using - by whatever term you want to call it - the “nuclear option” or the “Constitutional option” or the “Byrd option” to change Senate rules to prevent the Democrats in the minority from blocking votes on nominees.  The Democrats howled and threatened to shut down the Senate.

Now the roles are reversed. But here is an excerpt from Judge Charles Pickering’s book, “Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War.”

The description “nuclear” is not applied because of the ruling, but due to the anticipated response by the Democratic minority. The rules change will not “blow up” the Senate; instead the Democrats’ retaliation to the rules change could grind the Senate to a halt. Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to Majority Leader Bill Frist warning Republicans if they changed the rules, “the Majority should not expect to receive cooperation from the Minority in the conduct of Senate business.”

Senator Reid made it clear he would shut down the Senate if Republicans removed the filibuster on judicial nominations. No funding bills; no education bills; no healthcare bills; no energy bills; no homeland security bills; no military support bills: the Democrats claimed they were prepared to stop business to maintain endless debate on judicial nominees. But they were not interested in debate, only in preventing an up-or-down vote. Senator Reid said, “If they, for whatever reason, decide to do this, it’s not only wrong, they will rue the day they did it, because we will do whatever we can do to strike back. I know procedures around here. And I know that there will still be Senate business conducted. But I will, for lack of a better word, screw things up.”

A bipartisan group of Senators who came to be known as the “Gang of 14″ crafted a plan that would prevent Democratic filibusters except in “extraordinary” circumstances and allow for votes in the others. More from Pickering’s book:

After the deal was announced, Senators Lindsey Graham and Mike DeWine, both Republican members of the Gang of 14, expressly announced that were the Democrats to attempt a filibuster on nominees not in “extraordinary” circumstances, they would both vote for the constitutional option. Senator Frist agreed, “Let me be very clear. The constitutional option remains on the table. It remains an option. I will not hesitate to use it if necessary.” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid disagreed, “The nuclear option is gone for our lifetime. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

Except we are talking about it because now Reid wishes to do the “wrong” thing.

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker is hoping the Senate can still work out a deal:

As the leaders clashed, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., proposed that Republicans and Democrats meet next week to try and reach a compromise. The session will likely be held in an ornate room where the Senate met before the current chamber was built, an arrangement that permits lawmakers to bar the public and the press.

If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Confederate General Robert E. Lee did not win the Battle of Gettysburg. But in what Shelby Foote called the only “What if?” story he ever admired, Winston Chuchill wrote an essay from the historic vantage point of a victorious Lee and what it could have meant, had he not won.

On this 150th anniversary of Pickett’s charge, I re-read Churchill’s “If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg”.  An excerpt for the occasion:

It always amuses historians and philosophers to pick out the tiny things, the sharp agate points, on which the ponderous balance of destiny turns; and certainly the details of the famous Confederate victory of Gettysburg furnish a fertile theme. There can be at this date no conceivable doubt that Pickett’s charge would have been defeated in Stuart with his encircling cavalry had not arrived in the rear of the Union position at the supreme moment. Stuart might have been arrested in his decisive swoop if any one of twenty commonplace incidents had occurred. If, for instance, General Meade had organized his lines of communication with posts for defence against raids, or if he had used his cavalry to scout upon his flanks, he would have received a timely warning. If General Warren had only thought of sending a battalion to hold Little Round Top the rapid advance of the masses of Confederate cavalry must have been detected. If only President Davis’s letter to General Lee, captured by Captain Dahlgren, revealing the Confederacy plans had reached Meade a few hours earlier, he might have escaped Lee’s clutches.

Anything, we repeat, might have prevented Lee’s magnificent combinations from synchronizing and, if so, Pickett’s repulse was sure. Gettysburg would have been a great Northern victory. It might have well been a final victory. Lee might, indeed, have made a successful retreat from the field. The Confederacy, with its skilful generals and fierce armies, might have survived for another year, or even two, but once defeated decisively at Gettysburg, its doom was inevitable. The fall of Vicksburg, which happened only two days after Lee’s immortal triumph, would in itself by opening the Mississippi to river fleets of the Union, have cut the Secessionist States almost in half. Without wishing to dogmatize, we feel we are on solid ground in saying that the Southern States could not have survived the loss of a great battle in Pennsylvania and the almost simultaneous bursting open of the Mississippi.

In Churchill’s alternative history, within three days of his victory at Gettysburg, Lee captured Washington, D.C. (Lincoln flees with the Union government to New York).  Now a Southern hero putting Jefferson Davis and the civil government in his shadow, Lee abolishes slavery in the Confederacy and within a month, no longer impeded by the immorality of slavery, the British Empire signs an alliance with the Confederacy. The British provided the naval advantage lacked by the Southern States to break blockades, reestablish trade, and isolate Union forces in Southern territory (like New Orleans). The United States and Confederate States signed The Treaty of Harpers Ferry on September 6, 1863 with “two fundamental propositions: that the South was independent, and the slaves were free.”

In the coming decades, the South had through military incursions annexed and reorganized much of Mexico. The North, in fear of the Southern military, invested in their armed forces to protect themselves from those south of the Harpers Ferry Treaty line. Two American nations grew in innovation, commerce, wealth and military strength.

In 1905, it appeared Britain and her Southern ally would be pulled into the Russo-Japanese War on the side of Japan while the United States lined up with Russia. Eventually, Prime Minister Balfour, U.S. President Roosevelt and and C.S.A. President Wilson signed the Covenant of the English Speaking Association.

The ESA stepped in to force peace when Europe faced a collision of alliances in 1914, preventing what could have been a world wide war and the lack of stability in the ruling status of many nations.

Who knows what could have happened? There may have been a great European war, leading to a continent in economic ruin, communist upheaval in Russia, fascists coming to power in Germany, more war from an unsettled peace, all if Lee had not won the Battle of Gettysburg.

Churchill’s essay is worth the read. My copy is an epilogue in Churchill’s “The Great Republic: A History of America” - another great read as we approach Independence Day on July 4.

MS Press Convention

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

I enjoyed my annual visit with members of the Mississippi Press Association at their summer convention. It is always a chance to hear from publishers how the print news business is doing, and from editors on challenges and successes of reporting and delivering news. While newspapers are not out of the recession woods, things are getting better.  I talk about that and good news from a survey commissioned by the MPA on the state of readership in a recent column: Mississippi newspapers strong.

Capstone's Brian Perry, Louisiana Press Association President Norris Babin, Mississippi Press Association President Jim Prince, and former editorial director for the Clarion Ledger David Hampton.

Capstone's Brian Perry, Louisiana Press Association President Norris Babin, Mississippi Press Association President Jim Prince, and former editorial director for the Clarion Ledger David Hampton.

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