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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

15
The row started, oddly enough, with a single email. Which got answered. And counter answered. Then, boom, there was a full scale war of emails going on (with me watching copies flying back and forth) that lasted two days.  
 
At first I thought my two friends were arguing over who to support in the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate – but then it struck me what they were really arguing over was two different wars – and which war was more important.
 
Friend #1 figured the war that matters is whipping Obama while Friend #2 figured before whipping Obama the Tea Party had to, first, whip the Pachyderm Republicans in Washington who keep making deals with Obama.
 
Now, make no mistake: Friend #1 doesn’t like deals with Obama. And he wants to cut spending too. But not bad enough to shut down the government and risk losing the next election.
 
Friend #2’s view is simpler. To him all that spending is wrong. Period. Just like adultery or bank robbery is wrong. And he’s not about to go along with adultery just to win an election. He’s also a bit like Davy Crockett standing on the wall at the Alamo – he figures he’s dead right and doesn’t mind taking on a whole army to prove it.
 
In a way this whole argument’s the return of a very old fight I saw the first time back in the mid-1970s when we were trying to elect Ronald Reagan.
 
Back then, in all of Washington, we could only find two Republican Senators who’d endorse Reagan for President. Two. That was it. The rest of Republican Washington lined up behind Gerald Ford. So, in a way, the Tea Party – which, with Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, has three Senators – is way ahead of where we were then.
 
Also, back then, everybody from liberal Democrats to mainstream Republicans let fly saying Reagan was too radical and too uncompromising and too unbending and if he ran he’d sink the Republican Party. And, in a way, that was partly right: He did run. And didn’t win. And Gerald Ford did lose to Jimmy Carter in 1976. But, then, it turned out we weren’t in the Alamo at all. Four years later, Reagan ran again and started winning elections faster than General Sherman tore through Georgia.
 
Who knows if history will repeat itself with a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, but the Tea Party is a legitimate political movement – its ideas are popular within the Republican Party. And it may have to whip the Washington Republicans first.
 
Reagan did.

 

 

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14
 
The poor Tea Partiers have been getting pounded from pillar to post by the Washington political bosses and reporters and I’ll grant there’s a streak of oddness in the Tea Partiers but they also possess virtues like fighting for lost causes and having the courage of their convictions and besides, when you get right down to it, the idea Americans could do with a few trillion dollars less government over the next decade isn’t really all that unusual or radical.
 
But, that said, according to the bosses the Tea Partiers lack the one big virtue that trumps all the lesser virtues like courage and sincerity: Pragmatism.
 
Now that is a very old form of devilment.
 
The bosses don’t say the Tea Partiers are wrong. They don’t even say they disagree with the Tea Partiers. They just say they’re impractical. Which, in the end, means pretty much the same as wrong – because it means the Tea Partiers should stop fighting for spending cuts. Because, otherwise, Republicans risk losing the next election – which is impractical.
 
Now there was a time in America when we admired politicians who stood up for what they believed in and let the chips fall where they may. But, today, that’s no longer practical. When Obama says, I won’t negotiate on spending cuts – practical means saying, Yes, sir. And passing a budget with no spending cuts.
 
And that’s it in a nutshell.
 
When a Washington Republican says he’s practical he’s saying, Boys, talking about spending cuts is fine. Heck, I agree with you. But having a fight with President Obama over cuts? Forget it. I like serving in Congress and I might not get reelected.

 

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13
Last week the newspapers were full of high-sounding stories about the Senate’s gay rights bill. They reported the Senate’s:

- Completing the civil rights crusade started fifty years ago.

- Letting the bells of freedom ring.

- Advancing tolerance.

- Barring discrimination.
 
One Illinois Democrat intoned how happy he was the Senate’s ‘fulfilling Abraham Lincoln’s life’s work.’
 
Now as an aging white Southern male I’ve just naturally gotten sort of comfortable with the old ways which, I will concede, are rapidly passing as we march, not toward equality, but toward enlightened benightment for everyone from Wiccans to Whiffenpoofs.
 
Now, of course, my daughter would say tartly, Dad, what you’ve really gotten comfortable with is your old fogey ways. And that may be true. But I mean no harm. And when I read that Senate bill I just naturally thought,  So now the politicians are going to tell some poor fellow who doesn’t want to hire a transgender he’s got to or else.
 
And to that my daughter would say: Okay. I’ll concede hiring someone who is transgender is a big leap for you. But what about someone who is gay?
 
Now, to be candid, my first reaction would be to say, I wouldn’t want some Washington hotshot putting a gun to my head and saying I have to hire a gay person either. But then, on second thought, I’ve already crossed that bridge.
 
Because there’s a gay gentleman I’ve been working with in campaigns going back thirty-eight years and I’m still working with him, which establishes there are exceptions to my bias – which allows me to say with a small claim to open-mindedness that when bunch of vote-pandering Senators tell me I’ve got to hire someone transgender because transgenderism is glorious and wonderful and fulfills the dream of Abraham Lincoln’s lifetime – that’s pure bunk.
 

 

 

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12
Mitch McConnell sounded a lot like an old-fashioned political boss: He sat down with a columnist from the Wall Street Journal, whipped out a knife, and plunged it right into the Tea Party.
 
To govern, McConnell said, parties must win. And to win they have to run candidates who’re adults.
 
That was a backhanded slap at Ted Cruz.
 
Then Boss McConnell threw a haymaker: He said the Tea Party narrative that Republicans could whip Obama if they were more ‘feisty’ is a fabrication and, what’s more, the Tea Party leaders are only spreading that tale for one reason: Money. To raise millions from gullible supporters then ‘take their cut’ and spend what’s left not to help but to hurt Republicans.  
 
Why, McConnell said, one Tea Party group was actually running ads to defeat him in his primary and that one group, by itself, had elected more Democrats than the entire Democratic Party over the last three elections. (The group McConnell was talking about is the Senate Conservative Fund which was founded by former Senator Jim DeMint and helped elect Ted Cruz.)
 
So there it is, straight from an adult candidate: The folks opposing Mitch McConnell are crooks who’ve elected more Democrats than the Democratic Party.
 

 

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12
 
Polymorphous America enjoyed a boom week last week.
 
The Senate passed a bill to show any fellow who doesn’t cotton to hiring transgenders, bisexuals or gay people the error of his ways. And, overjoyed, the President announced a more tolerant America goes hand in hand with a more prosperous America – as if entrepreneurs are now going to rush out and say, Gosh, the Senate banned transgender discrimination – I better hire more workers.
 
Who would have ever dreamed gay rights is the key to prosperity?
 
Shame on Obama for keeping that secret to himself all these years.
 
There’s just no rational way to explain it.
 

 

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11
The way the Tea Partiers see it, to save the country they have to do to the Washington Republicans what General Sheridan did to the Indians during the Indian Wars.
 
Because when the Tea Partiers say, We can’t vote to raise the Debt Ceiling unless Obama cuts spending – the Republican Bosses say back, Geez, not raise the Debt Ceiling? That’s risky. Forget about it.
 
The Tea Partiers figure when it comes to saving the country a little risk is fine, but the Washington Bosses see that same risk as getting in the way of their winning elections.
 
Which brings us to a very old subject: Fiction in politics.
 
Up in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli just lost the Republican campaign for Governor and before the sun rose the next morning, the Washington Bosses were telling the press, He’d have won if the Tea Partiers hadn’t shut down the government.
 
Which sounds eminently logical.
 
The Tea Partiers shut down the government, Cuccinelli lost, so Cuccinelli lost because the Tea Partiers shut down the government.
 
The Tea Partiers didn’t take that lying down. They shot back with their own logic: The Washington Bosses didn’t lift a finger to help Cuccinelli, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because of the Washington Bosses.
 
Now there was one more interesting fact in the press: Cuccinelli’s campaign, Slate.com reported, didn’t poll in the last few weeks of the race.
 
Now whoever heard of a major campaign not polling at the end of the race? That’s political malpractice. So here’s a bit more logic: Cuccinelli didn’t poll, Cuccinelli lost by two points, so Cuccinelli lost because he didn’t poll.
 
Of course, that’s not the whole story but it’s almost surely a reason Cuccinelli lost. Which is being ignored.
 
Instead, both Tea Partiers and Washington Bosses are pointing fingers and serving up explanations that serve one purpose: To hurt their political opponents.
 
And the press, instead of cutting through the political smokescreens, is going right along debating a pair of fictions.
 

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08
My grandmother, years ago, would regularly tell me, Carter, you’ve got your wants and your needs confused.  
 
It turns out reporters have the same problem.
 
What reporters need, just about every day, is a story. And what they want is a crisis to make it an interesting story.
 
Take the newspaper headlines the other morning that roared: A year after Romney’s loss, GOP woes run even deeper.
 
Of course, it would be no story at all to say, A year after Romney loses, no change for the GOP.
 
But to say, A year after Romney loses, GOP hits iceberg – now, that’s a story. And it opens the door to a whole line of good stories such as: GOP Ship Sinks. Or, Hole in GOP ship miraculously patched.
 
So ‘Republicans hit iceberg’ is a big story around Washington – which spawns a kind of mischief. Because, beneath the surface, the political tides haven’t really shifted much one way or the other. We still have an unpopular President. And slightly more unpopular Republican opposition.  And just about every time President Obama climbs into the ring with John Boehner or Mitch McConnell the same old thing happens: Obama wins.
 
So maybe there’s a better storyline that’s been missed – like: Why does Boehner lose? Or: Republicans need new champion – to beat Obama. And think of all the stories that might lead to: New Obama challenger knocked down. New challenger back on his feet. Or maybe even:  New challenger wins round – Obama shaken.
 

 

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07
Rob Christensen wrote a tribute to Jack Hawke and in it mentioned hardball politics and Jack’s run-in with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice – there’s more to the story: During Senator Helms’ 1990 campaign, when Jack was Republican Chairman, I asked him for a favor – to work with me on a ballot security program. He did. Then I made a mistake, bungled the program, and landed both of us in a mess with a tribe of very hard-hearted lawyers from Washington.
 
Now, most folks, after doing you a good turn and landing in a mess through no fault of their own, would have been, well, unhappy.  But Jack never said one unkind word about my landing him in the soup.
 
In politics it’s business as usual for folks to take different sides in campaigns, cudgel one another, then nurse hard feelings and grudges that last decades.
 
Sometimes, when people get older, the affliction of grudges passes. But in others cases it just goes on and on.
 
Jack had no capacity for grudges at all. And it was a pretty fine virtue.
 

 

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06
In a way the Obamacare rollout is proof markets – and naked self-interest – work.
 
In the past, a lot of older, sicker people have been unable to get health insurance. Or afford it if they could. Or have had to pay through the nose for it.
 
Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the old and ill are fearlessly wading through the snafus of Obamacare.com and signing up.
 
Who’s not signing up? The young and healthy.
 
For years the old and ill have been trapped in a small insurance pool – made up of the old and ill.
 
One of the grand theories behind Obamacare was to create one big insurance pool (even including oligarchs like Congressmen) where everyone would buy health insurance. But the dirty little secret was, while getting out of the little pool they’d been trapped in and landing in the big pool was fine for older, sicker folks, it wasn’t likely to be fine at all for the young (or relatively young) and healthy.
 
They were looking at paying more.
 
And that appears to be what’s happening. The young pay more. And they aren’t signing up. The sick pay less and they are.
 
The Obama administration is prophesying a rush of younger people, signing up for Obamacare, is coming. Maybe so. Maybe not.  But it’s hard to see youth happy either way.
 

 

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05
The poor Tea Partiers are finding the Republican Establishment in Washington harder to keep ahold of than a greased pig – they cornered the elusive rascals, trying to defund Obamacare, but then the wily Pachyderms slipped through their fingers and now Ted Cruz and the Tea Partiers are taking a pounding, being called pouty children with no respect for the time-honored traditions of Congress and common decencies – like never putting a fellow Republican Congressman on the hot seat.
 
But Ted Cruz and Rand Paul may have lost the battle but won the war.
 
Republicans who vote in primaries loathe Obamacare and, thanks to the virtues of democracy, every GOP Congressman who voted for the deal (to fund Obamacare) has to win a primary in Topeka or Toledo or wherever to continue to be a Washington Republican.
 
So the Pachyderms are taking evasive action – by morphing. They’re no longer Washington Republicans – instead, they’ve announced, they’re now ‘Pro-business Republicans.’ It’s sort of like a leopard changing his spots. Or the polecat who had a PR problem and decided the way to solve it was to declare he was a jaguar.
 
Of course, beneath the surface not much has changed.
 

 

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