Category Archives: Republicans

Yet another reminder politicians are people

Two quick contact reports:

  • Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed a cup of coffee with Mike Cakora, who recently returned to the blog as a regular commenter after a five-year absence. It was great to have him back, and I was happy to get to catch up with him. I knew Mike from before I started blogging. He was one of the guest columnists we recruited at The State, back in the days when we had the money and staff time for such things. We’d have these column-writing contests, and I was always gratified to see the hundreds of entries that would come in (considering that the rules required submitting three columns with little hope of their being published). Then we’d pick 8 for a year, and they’d each write a column a month, and we’d pay them a nominal amount for the columns. Mike was one of our winners one year. Anyway, we had a wide-ranging conversation about politics, working for a living in the New Normal, espionage (specifically, the TV show “The Assets”), and the social alienation that forms people like Edward Snowden. Mike and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but not everything.
  • Earlier, I’d had breakfast with Rep. James Smith. We talked about a number of things, too, such as whether he might run for governor in four years (he doesn’t know) and if he did, what lessons he might have learned from his friend Vincent Sheheen’s failed campaigns. (As it happened, Sheheen texted James while we were eating. He was in a deposition, and trying to adjust to getting back to earning a living with the campaign over.) At one point in the meal, Attorney General Alan Wilson came over to say hey. Any casual observer could see he and James get along well. But then, I’ve noticed Alan gets along well with a lot of Democrats, and James does so with a lot of Republicans. Alan turned to me, pointed to James and said, “This is my lawyer!” Rep. Smith represented his re-election campaign. After Wilson left, James said he has a lot of clients in the Legislature, including a number of Republicans. (So obviously, Kevin Hall and Butch Bowers don’t have all of them.) I noted that if he did run for governor, he might find a formidable opponent in his client Alan Wilson. He agreed. He said the same might be true of Tommy Pope (whose Twitter feed says he’s “working toward sc governor in 2018“).

Anyway, it was a perfectly ordinary slice of life, illustrating gently the point I try to make so often, because so many voters don’t seem to understand. Politicians aren’t just Democrats or Republicans. They’re not monolithic. At least, the good ones aren’t. They’re many-faceted. They’re actual, complete, three-dimensional people, who are capable of interacting with each other in normal, human ways, instead of as partisan automatons.

But y’all probably get tired of me making that point. Which I know sounds like such a stupid point: Of course they’re people, right? Well… I often think we don’t get that, going by what I see written and hear said about politics.

And maybe I do it in part because, after another election season in which most elections are foregone conclusions because of the way we’re separated into districts in which one or the other party dominates, I need to remind myself…

 

Joe Wilson questioning SecDef Hagel about ISIL

Just a little slice-of-life from Washington today. I’m listening to it myself as I post this. Here’s a release Wilson sent out with the clip:

WILSON: PRESIDENT NEEDS TO DEVOTE MORE ATTENTION TO ISIL

(Washington, DC) – Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statement after questioning Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about the Administration’s strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East.

“The complete and systematic defeat of ISIL is imperative for the United States’ national security and the safety of our allies around the world,” Chairman Wilson stated.  “Achieving this outcome is growing increasingly difficult due to ISIL’s changing tactics and the President’s reluctance to listen to the advice of his experienced military advisors.  After today’s hearing, I am further convinced that the President needs to devote more resources and attention to effectively destroy ISIL. Additionally, I believe that a comprehensive plan, which considers all options presented from our military leaders, is critical to complete our mission, protect our national interests, and bring peace to Iraq and Syria.”

The Quinn sweep

FYI, Richard Quinn and Associates has been celebrating for the past week:

RQ&A Celebrates Election Sweep

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) Richard Quinn & Associates (RQ&A), celebrated another successful election on Tuesday.  Our firm helped lead numerous Republicans to victory in the Nov. 4 General Election.

“It truly is a great honor to work with such talented leaders at every level of government,” said company founder and president Richard Quinn.  “We regard playing a small part in helping them win election as our own special form of public service.”

RQ&A’s roster of winners was led by five successful statewide candidates — a list that included nearly half the state’s Constitutional officers.  RQ&A clients U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis all won re-election, while clients Henry McMaster and Molly Spearman were elected Lt. Governor and State Superintendent of Education respectively for the first time.

Columbia-based RQ&A also assisted Congressman Joe Wilson, the dean of South Carolina’s Republican federal delegation, in his re-election victory, as well as a group of victorious State legislative races, including Reps. Kenny Bingham, Jenny Horne, Ralph Kennedy and Rick Quinn.

The 2014 elections may be over, but the RQ&A team isn’t taking any time to rest.  We are already planning for next year’s local elections and the upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary.

 

Of course, it helps to be a Republican consulting firm in a year such as this, and a number of their clients had no, or only token, opposition.

But you can certainly see why they’re celebrating. A year such as this is good for business.

Happy Elephant Day, Republicans (courtesy of Thomas Nast)!

Nast elephant

I learned this from a Tweet today:

On this day in 1874, in a Thomas Nast cartoon, the Republican Party was symbolized as an elephant for the first time

You know, that’s gotta be a bitter pill for some in the GOP to swallow — their symbol was given them by a hero of the MSM.

I must remember to mention this to Robert Ariail, who has a special bond to Nast — he was judged best cartoonist in the world in 1997 by the Overseas Press Club, which gave him their prestigious Thomas Nast Award.

By the way, here’s an explanation of the Nast cartoon that ran on Nov. 7 1874.

Obama reaches out to Graham, wants to work together

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks to reporters in his Columbia office.

Last night, President Barack Obama called Sen. Lindsey Graham. They spoke for about 20 minutes, which suggests that the president didn’t make very many such calls.

Graham told reporters in Columbia today that the president wanted to find a way to work with him and other Republicans so that the next two years aren’t just a continuation of gridlock of the last two.

Obama wasn’t looking for miracles. He wanted “a medium or small-sized deal” or two that could build confidence, persuade everyone that it’s possible for the two sides to work together for the good of the country and then who knows? Maybe a big deal would be possible.

“The President wanted to find ways to create momentum for problem-solving because he believed rightly that it would help the American people, restore their belief that the government is not hopelessly lost, and would increase our standing overseas,” said Graham. “And I think he’s right about that.”

What sorts of things might constitute such a modest deal? The first thing Graham mentioned was the fact that the highway trust fund is depleted — as on the state level, the gasoline tax no longer brings in enough to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs. He said he and Barbara Boxer are already working on a deal that would put a 10 percent tax on money earned by American corporations overseas, to replenish the fund.

He said he and the president also spoke about port modernization, the Keystone pipeline, tax reform — and immigration.

The senator suggested that Republicans would be wise to accept the president’s offer:

“President Obama’s biggest problem is that he campaigned as a centrist, but he’s governed from the left ditch,” Graham said. “Here’s gonna be our problem: If we take the car from the left ditch to the right ditch, we’re gonna be in trouble, too. People want the car in the middle of the road — they want it in the right-center lane of the road — and not in the right ditch.”

Could the two sides ever reach that big deal on the major challenges facing the country? Graham doesn’t know, but “Without the small and medium-sized compromise, there will never be a big deal.”

“So, Mr. President: Here I am. I’m ready to go to work…”

He said as soon as he got done with the presser, he was going to return a call to Harry Reid…

A couple of broadcast ads from House District 78

The above Beth Bernstein ad came out a couple of days ago. Just getting around to sharing it now.

And as soon as I posted it, Beth’s opponent, Republican Jeff Mobley, commented below to call our attention to his radio ad, below. So I rewrote the post to include that prominently…

Prosecutors really had Harrell over a barrel

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn't mind my sharing it here...

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn’t mind my sharing it here…

There’s a country song in there somewhere.

The man who was arguably the most powerful person in state government, boasting only a few weeks ago about how the attorney general had failed to bring him down, pleaded guilty today to six counts against him, and still has other charges hanging over his head. The terms, as reported by John Monk:

In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was given six one-year prison sentences but all were suspended by circuit court Judge Casey Manning after Harrell, 58, agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:

• Harrell agrees not to seek or hold public office for three years. He also will be on probation during that time. The Charleston Republican was first elected to the House in 1993.

• Harrell will pay a $30,000 fine plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell will also turn over all of his remaining campaign account to the state’s general fund. That amount was not immediately available.

• Harrell agrees to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors, including being ready to testify “fully and truthfully at any trials or other proceeding” in state or federal court. Harrell must submit to polygraph examinations….

Here’s perhaps the most interesting part:

In getting Harrell’s cooperation to be a potential government witness, prosecutor Pascoe agreed to “nol pros,” or not prosecute four other indictments against Harrell. However, under a written plea agreement, Pascoe reserves the right to re-activate the indictments and prosecute Harrell if the former speaker lies to law enforcement officials.

Such written plea agreements – in which lighter sentences are given, and some charges are dropped, in return for a criminal’s information about other potential crimes involving other people – are common in federal criminal court. In federal court, defendants also agree to submit to lie detector tests and they know that dropped charges can be brought again if the government catches the defendant in a lie…

So it looks like prosecutors pretty much have Bobby Harrell on a leash for the foreseeable future. How the mighty have… well, you know the rest. But who foresaw it happening so quickly and dramatically in this case?

 

A small reminder of why I like Lamar Alexander

As if I needed further evidence of the fact that Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is the kind of guy we need a LOT more of in Washington, there’s this from a story today about how President Obama doesn’t delegate much to his Cabinet:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in an interview Tuesday that Obama has not followed the lesson Alexander learned as an aide to President Richard M. Nixon in 1969: Presidents do best when they delegate most issues to their Cabinet members and empower their subordinates. By taking on so much itself, Alexander said, the White House has not invested enough in making sure agencies run smoothly and provide critical input for policy decisions.

“You get the impression that everything is run out of the White House, and that’s an understandable urge, to trust only the people 10 to 15 feet away from you. But if you want to be successful, you have to delegate,” Alexander said. “He’s often the smartest guy in the room,” he added, referring to Obama, “but the wisest guy in the room will only reserve the biggest problems for himself, and push out the other problems to members of the Cabinet.”…

It’s a small thing, but a telling one. Just try to imagine, if you can, another Republican uttering the words, “He’s often the smartest guy in the room” about the president, even in the process of criticizing him.

Alexander harks back to a day in which politicians disagreed and criticized their opposition while being able to appreciate each others’ good qualities.

I’m very glad he handily survived his primary challenge from one of those hordes of people in politics now who believe it’s all about demonization.

WOW — Bobby Harrell expected to plead guilty!

Here’s another reason to feel better about the direction of our state — a big one.

Bobby Harrell, who so recently went about boasting that he had beaten efforts to bring him down, is now reported to be about to surrender completely. John Monk reports:

Suspended S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell is expected to resign his House seat and plead guilty Thursday to charges of using campaign funds for his personal gain, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Harrell is scheduled to appear at a 10:30 a.m. hearing at the Richland County courthouse, according to a prosecutor’s press release….

Harrell, 58, who faces various charges of criminal misconduct in office, already has had a bond hearing and is free on $18,000 bond.

Harrell was indicted Sept. 10 on nine charges, including illegally using campaign money for personal expenses, filing false campaign disclosure reports and misconduct in office. It was the first time in memory that a sitting South Carolina House speaker has been indicted….

This is big stuff, people. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every century in South Carolina…

Joe Wilson says Hamas could attack U.S. with Ebola

Joe Hamas

Today, our own Rep. Joe Wilson is enjoying his biggest splash on social media since his “You lie!” glory days. A sampling:


Here’s a link to video of the congressman setting forth this theory.

Sen. Tim Scott: Ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries

And now, we have this proposal from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC:

Charleston, SC – U.S. Senator Tim Scott released the following statement regarding travel restrictions from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa. Senator Scott is a member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.Scott,Tim

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to those infected with Ebola and their families both in the United States and in West Africa. This is a terrible virus, and one the world must come together to stop.

As infections continue to spread here in the United States, the trust of the American people has been shaken by the administration’s response thus far. It is clear that a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa should be put in place. The President has the authority to do so, and we have seen that airport screenings and self-reporting simply are not enough.

While both the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health state that patients without a fever are not contagious, recent studies from West Africa show that almost 13 percent of confirmed cases did not present with a fever. Screenings have also only been initiated at five airports, and even at airports travelers’ symptoms can be masked by over-the-counter medications.

This is about the safety of the American people, and nothing more. As the fight against Ebola continues, a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from the epicenter of the outbreak is a necessity.”

###

I find myself wondering: Did he decide independently to join the voices advocating this, or did Republicans get together and decide that his was the most sympathetic face they had for advancing such a proposal?

I say that in part because, although a number of Republicans have said it, it has tended to be those in tight races, such as Scott Brown and Thom Tillis. Sen. Scott, of course, is in the opposite of a “tight race.”

Lindsey Graham for president? He’s considering a run

Hey, why not? -- 2007 file photo by Brad Warthen

Hey, why not? — 2007 file photo by Brad Warthen

Which is not the same as saying he thinks he can win. But he might run anyway, according to The Weekly Standard. In a piece headlined, “The Return of the GOP Hawks: Not that they ever really left,” Graham was quoted as speaking of 2016:

In our interview, Graham repeatedly spoke of the challenges that will face the next president because of the mistakes made under Obama. And he suggested that he might just be the one to fix them.

“If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody’s out there talking​—​me and McCain have been talking​—​I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,” Graham said.

I asked Graham about Rubio. Hasn’t he been making many of the arguments you’d be likely to make? Graham wasn’t impressed. “He’s a good guy, but after doing immigration with him—we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” said Graham. “He’s no Obama by any means, but he’s so afraid of the right, and I’ve let that go.”

McCain likes what he sees in the emerging GOP field, but acknowledges that he’s told Graham to think about running. “I’ve strongly encouraged him to give it a look. I think Lindsey has vast and deep experience on these issues that very few others have…

I freely admit, I did not see this coming.

But after all, why not? Both of the other two of the Three Amigos have run, and both have made it onto national tickets.

That said, it sounds to me like his real purpose is to raise issues. But this is still fascinating…

This, by the way, is the second indication I’ve seen in 24 hours that Graham’s internal polling must be looking really good.

The first was this, last night:

Cindi Scoppe’s litany of the trouble Bobby Harrell is in

After crushing Bobby Harrell’s explanation that he just wrote down some wrong dates on his spending disclosures, Cindi Scoppe, in her column today, went into this litany of trouble the ex-speaker is in, even if you do swallow his “wrong date” defense:

If in fact he “did travel in his private airplane on a personal trip, transporting himself, family and friends to Florida for a high school baseball tournament” and then paid himself nearly $3,900 from his campaign account, as the indictment alleges, that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “used his campaign account to pay credit card debt and to pay for goods and services for his home, family and friends,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … changing and altering the entries in his pilot log book,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … creating schedules of flights in order to justify payments from his campaign account, when in fact some of the listed flights did not occur or were personal and not related to any official or campaign purpose,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … misinforming law enforcement officers about the purposes and circumstances surrounding expenditures,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … misinforming the House Ethics Committee about the reason he reimbursed his campaign account,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he did all that, I’m not sure why there weren’t more chareges. Much of that sounds a lot to me like obstruction of justice. Sort of like that ominous reference to his paying himself nearly $300,000 “in untaxed income” sounds a lot to me like state and federal income tax evasion…

Bobby Harrell suspends himself — or tries to, anyway

This broke earlier today:

House Speaker Bobby Harrell suspended himself Thursday from the House of Representatives and transferred his duties as speaker to his next in command.

The suspension came the day after the Charleston Republican was indicted on nine charges, including illegally using campaign money for his personal expenses, filing false campaign disclosure reports and misconduct in office….

Harrell’s suspension, he said in the letter, is effective immediately. He transferred his duties to speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas during his suspension.

But an advisory opinion by Solicitor General Robert D. Cook, requested by two Democratic House members, said Harrell cannot suspend himself because the indictments disqualify him from participating in business of public office.

Instead, the indictments require the speaker pro tempore to act immediately to suspend Harrell…

A good deal of confusion, no doubt arising in part from the fact that this is pretty much a new situation for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, I ran across this webpage from just a fortnight ago, when Harrell’s prospects for hanging on looked excellent. What a difference an aggressive prosecutor and a grand jury can make…

Harrell then

DGA tries linking Haley to Perry on ethics front

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release...

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release…

This seems like a bit of a stretch — Nikki Haley has a history of ethical challenges, but no indictments — but I guess this is what parties do:

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From: DNC and DGA Communications
Date: August 27, 2014
Re: Haley, Perry & the Ethically-Challenged Governors of 2014

Rick Perry and Nikki Haley have a lot in common – they’re both GOP governors from the South whose administrations have been plagued by ethics scandals. And they both eye higher office while struggling to execute their current jobs.

But while they campaign across the Palmetto State, they won’t be able to dodge questions about their ethical lapses.

Sure, Perry was recently indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official but Haley has had enough scandals during her first term to make even the most ethically-challenged Republican Governor blush.

Haley has time and again put politics ahead of being Governor.

Her administration has been rocked by a scandal at the Department of Social Services that allowed children to suffer in in unsafe and even deadly situations. Rather than take decisive action to address her administration’s inexcusable failures, Haley and her administration appear to be more focused on obstructing the investigation and covering up their failures.

And of course, that wasn’t the first time the Haley administration has tried to cover up her incompetence – millions of South Carolinians had their personal financial information hacked and children have been put at risk from a tuberculosis outbreak in public schools.

Haley has also misused taxpayer-funded resources for political and campaign travel.

As Haley and Perry campaign around the state, Governor Perry’s indictment, serves as a reminder to voters of Haley’s scandals, coverups and incompetence.  Governors Perry and Haley are just two of the many Republican Governors who find themselves under investigation or otherwise mired in scandal.

Below please find a rundown of the other GOP Governors scandals that have surfaced this cycle:

Branstad, Terry (Iowa): The Branstad administration is under investigation about whether administration officials were fired for political purposes.

Brownback, Sam (Kansas): The FBI is currently investigating potentially illegal lobbying of the Brownback Administration by former members of his inner circle.

Christie, Chris (New Jersey): Christie and his Administration are currently being investigated by no less than four separate local, state and federal agencies: the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation’s inquiry into Bridgegate and surrounding events.

Corbett, Tom (Pennsylvania): Gov. Corbett continues to receive serious scrutiny for taking thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from corporations, lobbyists and other special interests who have received big state benefits, and a political action committee set up to help Corbett win re-election received a donation of nearly a million dollars that potentially violated state law.

Deal, Nathan (Georgia): The state of Georgia was forced to pay nearly $3 million to settle lawsuits with whistleblowers at the state ethics commission who were allegedly fired for investigating Deal’s 2010 campaign. It has now come to light that the state’s ethics commissioner director claims she was threatened and pressured by the Deal administration in the summer of 2012.

LePage, Paul (Maine):  According to reports, Governor LePage met with individuals affiliated with an organization categorized by the FBI as a domestic terrorist movement, and in those meetings, it appears LePage joked with the group about “hanging” Democratic legislators. This extreme, dangerous rhetoric has no place in politics.

Snyder, Rick (Michigan): The Snyder administration allegedly favored corporate benefactors and his family over Michigan citizens by not only shielding a state contract that benefited his cousin from budget cuts but even doubling it to $41 million.

After Rick Snyder’s administration eliminated a criminal background check program for home care workers, the state hired nearly 3,800 individuals with criminal histories to take care of disabled adults on Medicaid, including over 500 violent felons and 285 convicted of sex crimes.

Walker, Scott (Wisconsin): Walker has been engulfed in not one, but two massive investigations:

  • The first John Doe investigation resulted in six of Walker’s associates have been convicted of wrongdoing, four of whom have been sentenced to prison ranging from felony theft from charities intended to benefit wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, to misconduct in public office, to doing official campaign work on county time.
  • The second John Doe investigation is ongoing and is currently on appeal. In this case, prosecutors allege that Walker himself was at the center of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups. Documents released last week show Walker personally solicited millions of dollarsfor a group that supported him during his recall election.

BONUS Massachusetts Republican Gubernatorial candidate – Baker, Charlie: Baker has been at the center of controversy over whether he violated federal and state pay-to-play laws when a venture capital firm where he is a partner received a multi-million dollar New Jersey pension contract only months after Baker contributed to Chris Christie’s party committee.

DOUBLE BONUS Former Virginia Governor – McDonnell, Bob: Sure, he’s a former governor now, but he was in the same class of governors hailed as reformers. He is now on trial over accusations that he accepted over $170,000 in gifts and loans from a donor in exchange for using his office to promote the donor’s business. McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on 14 counts of corruption, obstructing an investigation and accepting bribes.

Among the apparent GOP hopefuls is, um, Rick Perry. Oops!

I got a release about this Rick Perry ad, a release that also told that:

Governor Rick Perry finished a four-day swing through more than a dozen Iowa cities where he campaigned and helped build support for Republican candidates and county GOP parties…

I can’t believe it. He’s out there running. I really thought we weren’t going to hear much more from him after the “oops” campaign…

The ad was released by RickPAC.

Today’s best political news: Alexander wins handily

la-speaking-photogallery

Alexander welcomes U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to Tennessee earlier this year for the unveiling of construction plans for the Joint Curatorial Collections Facility to be built in Townsend, Tenn. Imagine that — allowing himself to be photographed with a Democrat, with the Tea Party breathing down his neck. (from campaign website)

I was very glad to see this news out of Tennessee:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) easily won his primary on Thursday, defeating a conservative challenger and effectively ending the tea party’s hopes of unseating a Republican senator for the third straight election cycle.

Alexander beat state Rep. Joe Carr, a conservative insurgent who ran hard to his right on immigration. Five other candidates also fell short.

It seems that after seeing some longtime colleagues get picked off in two consecutive elections, Republican senators may have finally found the formula to keep primary competitors from defeating them: Take tea party upstarts seriously. And take them on early…

Alexander beat Carr 50 percent to 41 percent, with five other challengers splitting the other 9 percent. That’s not as good as the 56 percent Lindsey Graham received against his six challengers, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve.

Alexander’s win is particularly meaningful to me, and not only because he looms large in my memories of the first statewide election I ever covered (as you know, since I have so often bored you with the stories). Alexander is a direct connection to a better generation of political leadership in Washington, the days of Howard Baker and Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson. And for that matter, Dick Lugar, who lost to a Tea Party challenger in the last election.

This time around, not one incumbent Republican senator fell in a primary to such a challenge from the extreme fringe of his party. Most of us should be able to celebrate that.

George W. Bush and the Trivago Guy: Separated at birth?

trivago guy

Can’t you see it? It’s right there — the patented “W” smirk…

Troy Patterson says it well in Slate:

Trivago, the Düsseldorf-based travel search engine, has a most peculiar on-air pitchman—a sallow avatar of middle-aged masculinity, a found object and a cult item, an accidental enigma.

Just look at this guy. The voice is deep with command, round with Shatnerian ham gravity, rich with a Peter Graves graininess. The eyes are beseeching but confidently steady. The clothes have been woken up in. The man is seedily creased, grayly stubbled, distractingly beltless. He may be looking for a hotel after coming home at 3 a.m. to find that his wife changed the locks. These unusual ads have been attracting baffled notice for a while, but now is the season for big travel-industry ad buys, and the Trivago pitchman is, unlike the blades of his rotary shaver, in heavy rotation.

Some viewers find his ubiquity annoying, while others fail to succumb to annoyance because they are entranced by his skeevy vibe. Who is he? Why should I trust his judgment? What is his profession? Record producer? Is his travel-planning wisdom born of bitter experience? Has he got any drugs? How did this oddity come to pass?…

Shatner, yes. Peter Graves, maybe — although neither of them ever displayed this level of seediness. He looks like a bank executive who’s been on a three-day bender.President Bush attends the ceremony to commemorate foreign policy achievements

What were the ad wizards at Trivago thinking when they picked this guy to be their official face?

But there was something that Troy Patterson didn’t pick up on, something that nagged at me through most of this ad. I sensed a presence, once I had not felt since…

Aha! Right at the end, I saw it. This guy stole that smirky half-smile from George W. Bush. This actor could not have tested well among Democrats, whose teeth are always set on edge by that smile…

Remembering Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee

Lamar Hand Shaking_Display

I got this email yesterday…

Hi Brad,

I am a staff writer for Governing Magazine and came across your blog while doing some Googling about Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee. (Governing covers state and local governments across the country and our audience is largely elected officials/public employees.) I’m working on a fun piece for one of our upcoming issues about the political stunt of walking and was wondering if you were available this week to chat about the topic as you covered Alexander’s campaign in ‘78. The piece will take an overall look at some of the more famous “walks” by pols – from Missouri’s Walkin’ Joe Teasdale to Illinois’ (aptly named) Dan Walker, the public stroll has been a popular political tool. More recently, Adam O’Neal, mayor of the small town of Belhaven, N.C., took a 273-mile trek to Washington, D.C. to protest the closing of his local hospital. President Obama this spring took an impromptu stroll to the Dept. of the Interior for a meeting.

I’d love to hear your take on the effectiveness of Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk and how it resonated with people. And I’m also curious about your broader thoughts on the gimmick as a whole. How effective has this type of stunt been? Who’s done it right and are there pitfalls?

Are you available Wednesday or Thursday for a phone call? Or you can always reach me directly at the number below.

Thanks,

Liz

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Liz Farmer | Staff Writer
Governing Magazine

… and I talked with Liz for about 20 minutes this morning.

I didn’t have anything really profound to say. Here are some of the points I hit on:

  • First, I wasn’t on the actual, full walk across Tennessee (which, if you follow I-40, is about 450 miles). I was covering him during the last weeks of the general election campaign, and he had completed the walk (if I remember correctly) well before the primary. His walk was a campaign trope in the past tense: “On my walk across the state, I found yadda-yadda…” BUT I got the general flavor of it, because everywhere he went, he’d get out and walk a mile or so along the side of the road in his trademark red-and-black checked flannel shirt, khakis and hiking boots, waving at the cars. I got some photos of him doing that along a busy thoroughfare in Nashville. The brand was working for him, so he kept it going through to the end.
  • Lamar was trying to set himself apart at a time when politicians-as-usual had a particularly seedy reputation. The state had endured four years of astoundingly bold corruption under Democrat Ray Blanton. And Lamar himself had worked in the Nixon White House, a fact that might have figured in his failure to get elected four years earlier. Nixon was the master of limited access and staged availabilities, since he was so socially awkward. This walk was the opposite, and allowed him to project as an outdoorsy, clean-cut kind of guy — he looked and sounded like Pat Boone (Boone did some PSAs that were airing on the radio at about that time, and whenever he came on, I thought it was Alexander).
  • Since she was looking for examples of politicians talking long walks for political purposes, I urged her to look into Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000 to demand that the Confederate flag come off the dome. That had an impact at the time — and was mentioned recently in a nationally syndicated column, so it should be easy to look up.
  • Even though we’re far more cynical and suspicious these days, I think Tennesseans who remember Alexander’s walk still have positive connotations connected to it, largely because he wasn’t a disappointment to them. He was open and aboveboard in his dealings as governor. He worked VERY well across the aisle, persuading Speaker Ned Ray McWherter and the other Democratic leaders to go for the kinds of education reform that were usually anathema to Dems. He harks back to a better time, when Republicans like him and his mentor Howard Baker disagreed with Democrats, but didn’t see them as the enemy, but as people to work with for the betterment of the state and country.
  • That, of course, is why Alexander has Tea-Party opposition in this Thursday’s primary (Tennessee has primaries at a much more rational and voter-friendly time than we do; our June primaries mean there’s plenty of time for mischief in the Legislature after filing deadlines). Here’s hoping his opponent does no better than his counterpart in Kansas, the president’s distant cousin. Lamar Alexander is exactly the kind of senator this country needs in Washington, and there too few like him left. (See “In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand” by Dan Balz in the WashPost.)

I wished I could have put my hands on one story I wrote, right after Alexander won the 1978 election, which ran on the front page of The Jackson Sun. It was an exclusive, and one of the best stories I wrote during my brief time as a reporter. It was Alexander’s own account of how he had come back after defeat four years earlier. A week or two before Election Day, at the end of a long day of campaigning, Alexander and a reporter from the Tennessean were relaxing over a drink on the campaign plane on the way back from an event at one of the far ends of the state. (We had access to candidates in those days that reporters only dream of now, and our papers thought nothing about paying a pro-rata share of the plane rides.) Alexander just started talking about how he come to that point, and the Tennessean guy just listened and enjoyed his drink, and I took notes like mad. Even John Parish, the gruff dean of Tennessee political writers, praised the piece I got from that eavesdropping.

That probably would have provided Liz with some insights, but this was years before electronic archiving. That clip is probably moldering in a box in my attic somewhere…