Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Randy Stapilus has a pretty good round-up of the filings at Ridenbaugh Press.
So, what do Democrats need to do in Idaho that they haven't been doing? Where to start. Here are three steps that might begin to form a strategy. First, Idaho Democrats need a full-time party chairman. That chairman should then go to school on Phil Batt's playbook when he brought Idaho Republicans back from a series of defeats that culminated in Democrats reaching their high water mark of modern political success in 1990. After that election, ancient history now, Democrats held three statewide offices, both congressional seats and managed an even split in the state senate. Republicans were stunned and turned to Batt to devise their comeback. He downplayed ideology, traveled the state, held countless meetings, preached the gospel of organization and cooperation, recruited candidates and, not incidentally, positioned himself to run for governor and win in 1994.
Batt did most of this work out of his own pocket, which would be ideal for Democrats who are always strapped for money. No matter. Reality dictates that resources must be found - or donated - or the Democratic status quo will continue. The work Batt did for the GOP was hard, time consuming, under the radar organization and planning. It is the type of work that Idaho Democrats have never been very good at doing.
It's darn hard to begin a comeback without a leader and Idaho Democrats haven't really had a "face and a name" since Cece Andrus left the stage in 1995. A full-time chairman would provide a focus and a face. Second, Idaho Democrats must embrace a youth and minority strategy. At the national level, thoughtful GOP strategists realize that unless Republicans find a way to consistently appeal to younger people, Hispanics and African-Americans they will be the minority party forever. No less a big political thinker than Karl Rove knew that the GOP had to make a stronger appeal to Hispanics and he crafted an approach for his boss that did just that in 2004. The one sure demographic that will grow in Idaho over the next decade are folks of Hispanic heritage and new, first time voters. Democrats better get after them. Third, Democrats need to stand for something that has broad appeal. And they have to systematically sell to Idahoans a version that is different - and better - than not just being a Republican. They also need to shun litmus tests. Any appeal must take into account the fundamentally conservative nature of most Idahoans.
The message is about jobs, schools and a place to recreate on the weekend. As governor, Andrus was a champion of all that, but especially education. So was John Evans. Both spoke with conviction about creating a "quality of life" in Idaho that combined jobs, good schools and a conservation ethic built around hunting and fishing. The GOP-dominated legislature has just approved significant cuts in education, at every level, for the second year in a row. I know, we're in a recession and every state seems to be cutting education, but some day - I hope - the economy will improve. Meantime, what do Democrats really stand for? How do they articulate what a better education system looks like and what it will do for kids, the economy and more and better jobs? Where is the personality? Where is the brand? Without a vision - and a much more compelling message - the party perishes. Re-building ain't easy even with Republicans offering up some tempting targets and struggling with their own Tea Party problems. A Democratic resurrection in any of our lifetimes will require the small handful of real leaders in the state party to admit the obvious. What they have been doing clearly isn't working. A little public soul searching wouldn't hurt. Maybe the party need to convene a very public discussion about priorities and shortcomings. They need to take some risks and they might start by airing out the corpse. The first step on any road back is to have a plan - a real plan - that realistically puts one foot in front of another on the long slog back. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results. For Idaho Democrats, the 2010 election looks a lot like 2008, 2006, 2004, 2002...and the captives don't seem very restless.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The witty and wise Christopher Buckley doesn't think so. He notes that the recommendations of Blue Ribbon Commissions collect dust on shelves all over Washington. The last big commission - The Iraq Study Group - recommended an exit from Iraq and, as Buckley says, "What happened? The surge."That said, I'm pulling for Simpson and his Democratic co-chair, former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. For certain, Simpson will need his sense of humor to sustain him as he picks his way through this thankless thicket. Al once said, "In your country club, your church and business, about 15 percent of the people are screwballs, light weights and boobs and you would not want those people unrepresented in Congress." If Simpson's percentage figure is right, here's hoping he can appeal to enough of the remaining 85 percent to get serious about this huge national crisis. If not, bring on the bow-wows.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Additionally, the Irish Catholic Church is reeling from yet another clergy sex abuse scandal. The Irish Times called this week for the resignation of the Cardinal who, it is said, should have reported the 20-plus year old incidents to the authorities, well, 20 years ago. Predictably, Cardinal Sean Brady said he would not resign unless asked to do so by the Pope. Meanwhile, the Pope is expected any day to speak out on the Irish scandal, while he fends off questions about the growing sex abuse scandal that occurred during his time in Germany. Did you follow that?
Meanwhile, in the midst of a crisis over the Euro and the continuing fallout over the collapse of the Irish real estate bubble, an Irish writer, Ann Marie Hourihane, makes the case that ol' St. Pat himself has fallen on hard times.
The old boy, she writes, "invested heavily in property during the boom, buying houses and apartments not only in Ireland but also in Wales, Brittany and even Scotland...(and) recently St. Patrick has had trouble sleeping. The crozier is in hock. It is an ignominious position for a saint who has worked so hard for, and been worked so hard by, his country.
"It’s not that St Patrick objects to us being poor – again. He loved us most during the centuries in which we were destitute, badly fed and flirting with cannibalism. As far as any patron saint who takes the long view is concerned, things have just about returned to normal."
There you have it.
Even Guinness - remember, "It's Good For You" - is facing new competition in, of all places, Britain where a cross between lager and bitter - black lager - grows in popularity. Talk about a scandal.
Nonetheless, amid the gloom, I'll celebrate all things Irish today with a dram of Jameson (or Powers or Red Breast) and think particularly of the great Irish writers - Yeats, Wilde, Joyce, Beckett, Heaney, Shaw and one recent worthy, John Banfield. Thank God for the Irish writers.
I'll also remember, apropos to the times perhaps, this great line from the great Yeats: "Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."
Well said and so very Irish. On March 17th, we can all, at the very least, wish to be Irish. Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
In Ormsby's case, his nomination, also speculated upon for months, was slowed by questions about his role in a controversial downtown Spokane development and by what the Seattle PI correctly called "partisan gridlock" in the capitol. Now that the Justice Department and the FBI have combed over the story, he should receive - and deserves - quick bipartisan approval in the Senate.
[Full disclosure: I've known Mike Ormsby for a long time and know him to be both a quality individual and a fine attorney. That a fellow of his experience and ability is willing to undergo the months-long vetting process, with all the uncertainty and turmoil it must create for his existing practice, is a testament to his commitment to both professionalism and public service. He'll do a superb job.]
Federal prosecutors play extremely important roles in our justice system. They should be people of great experience, sound judgment and outstanding character. The advice and consent of the Senate is properly the place to double check on those qualifications.
By the same token, when an election takes place, a new president - regardless of party - must be able to make timely and considered judgments about the people he wants in important positions. We will soon have new, high quality U.S. Attorneys in place in our neck of the woods, but it certainly hasn't been a hasty process.
A better approach for these important jobs might be to do what Bill Clinton did following his election and request the resignation of every U.S. Attorney. Then during the long vetting and confirmation process a career prosecutor would be in charge of every office. The opportunity for political mischief is actually reduced under this scenario. The Obama method has left in place for months and months a gaggle of the previous administration's political appointees, with many likely going through the motions of being a United States Attorney.
Maybe the best that can be said is that the deeply flawed confirmation process in Washington, involving everything from assistant secretaries of this and that to Supreme Court judges, is so onerous and so time consuming that few people with real flaws can possibly survive running the gauntlet. Maybe that's the point. But, does it have to take so long?
Too bad we can't apply the same level of scrutiny to the Eric Massa's of the Congress. That kind of vetting would be worth the wait.