Entries from September 2010

Post-Katrina: Louisiana Voters Look Past Race

September 30th, 2010 at 11:36 pm 4 Comments

In the years since Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana has undergone a drastic political change, abandoning racialized, identity politics for cross-racial voting. Brought together by tragedy and repulsed by the corruption and inefficiencies laid bare by the hurricane’s effects, voters of all colors rallied to candidates who could be counted on to be competent and to leaders who refrained from race-baiting and corruption.

Where before race was the defining factor in voting, black voters in New Orleans have swept out corrupt and ineffective politicians, even when it meant voting for non-black candidates. Statewide, even parishes that once voted in favor of a white supremacist in 1991 have lined up behind Bobby Jindal.

The incompetence and corruption that riddled New Orleans politics over the last few years led many African-American voters to consider non-black candidates. This didn’t happen overnight – in 2006, only 20% of black voters in New Orleans opted for Mitch Landrieu for mayor, instead siding heavily with incumbent Ray Nagin (who urged residents to rebuild “a chocolate New Orleans”).

“What you had in New Orleans was a delayed Katrina effect,” says Mike Bayham, a Louisiana-based political blogger. And by 2010, their next opportunity to pick a mayor, black voters had seen enough – they gave Landrieu 63% of the vote, giving the city its first white mayor in more than thirty years.

Over the last few years, corrupt African-American members like Rep. Bill ‘Dollar Bill’ Jefferson and District Attorney Eddie Jordan – who fired 43 white employees and replaced them with African-Americans immediately upon his election – have been thrown out. “Black voters have been very disappointed with what black representatives have done,” New Orleans businessman Bryan Wagner told FrumForum. “The era of identity politics in New Orleans is ending.”

“We saw a lot of cross-racial voting post-Katrina,” concurred long-time New Orleans resident Fenn French. “Not only were people turned off by the corruption of Bill Jefferson, but tragedy brought people together too.”

Of course, black voters did leave New Orleans after Katrina, and many struggle to return even now. African Americans accounted for 66.7% of the city’s population before Katrina, compared to 60.7% today. But that drop alone doesn’t account for the sea change in voter attitudes in New Orleans.

Not only have voters chosen a white mayor, but also in the last few years have elected Vietnamese-American Congressman Joseph Cao, and Indian-American Governor Bobby Jindal. New Orleans’ City Council, majority black since 1985, is now comprised of a 5-2 majority in favor of white politicians. Eddie Jordan, the district attorney mentioned above, has been replaced by a white prosecutor.

But African-American voters are not the only ones who have shifted in their attitudes. In 2003, Bobby Jindal performed quite poorly in Northern Louisiana in his first bid for the governorship – a largely white region. By 2007, Jindal won the governorship with strong support in parishes like Livingston Parish and St. Bernard Parish – parishes which had supported white supremacist David Duke in 1991 for governor and have remained demographically quite similar.

“No question his race was an issue that kept Bobby [Jindal] from winning in 2003,” says Bayham. “Katrina reminded people that competence mattered, and competence trumped some of the old [racial] prejudices.”

Post-Katrina, voters realized that race-based politics had not served them well, leading to a profound shift in voting attitudes – effectiveness, not skin color, is quickly becoming the dominant qualification for public office.

And Louisianans have been served well by this change – an education system in New Orleans that is fast becoming one of the premiere models for the country; the attention they deserve to fight the consequences of the BP oil spill; and more integrity than has hitherto been seen in their politics. Thanks to a new openness to cross-racial voting, voters will make future generations proud.


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O’Donnell’s 2002 Resume Listed Oxford University

September 30th, 2010 at 9:56 pm 13 Comments

Talking Points Memo reports:

One thing we know is true: Christine O’Donnell was a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute in 2002. The rest, as we’ve closely chronicled, is all a bit fuzzy.

But TPM just spoke with a Claremont official who reviewed O’Donnell’s 2002 application file. Ryan Williams, who oversees the Lincoln Fellowship program, told us that O’Donnell lists a certificate from Oxford University on her resume. “She did have a line about Oxford,” he said as he looked at her file, which also included an essay and letters of recommendation.

Williams told us the item on O’Donnell’s resume reads:

Oxford University, Oxford, UK Certificate awarded Summer 2001

But O’Donnell did not attend Oxford. She received a certificate from a summer seminar program called the Phoenix Institute, which rented space at Oxford. A Phoenix spokesman told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent the use of Oxford was “misleading.”

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Max Boot: Woodward Offers “No Analysis”

September 30th, 2010 at 9:53 pm 1 Comment

Max Boot writes:

‘Obama’s Wars,” Bob Woodward’s latest epic of insiderdom, quotes National Security Adviser James Jones telling his deputy, Tom Donilon, that he had made a mistake—”he had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, or really left the office for a serious field trip. As a result, he said, you have no direct understanding of those places. . . . The White House, Situation Room, interagency byplay, as important as they are, are not everything.” Good advice. Too bad Mr. Woodward hasn’t followed it himself.

While chronicling the Obama administration’s Afghanistan policy, Mr. Woodward apparently visited Afghanistan only once, traveling with Mr. Jones. His description of the trip is inadvertently hilarious and revealing. He recounts flying “into the heart of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand province.” Here, he proclaims, “was the war without the filter of a Situation Room briefing. The cool evening air hit my face as the plane’s rear loading ramp was lowered. . . . All that was missing was the haunting and elegiac theme music from Oliver Stone’s movie Platoon.” The experience, he continues, is “exhilarating and frightening.” The camp is “supposedly safe from sniper and mortar fire,” but when he makes a midnight head call, he is decidedly nervous, “anticipating a random shot.”

You would think that Battlefield Bob had bivouacked in a foxhole a few hundred yards from an enemy position. Actually he is in Camp Leatherneck, a giant Marine base (1,500 acres housing 10,000 personnel) in the middle of nowhere. The greatest danger at Leatherneck is overeating in the chow hall. That Mr. Woodward makes it seem like a frontline position is indicative of how far removed he is from the war.

To read “Obama’s Wars” is to feel trapped in a daylong meeting in an airless room. That’s because much of the book consists of a near- verbatim account of meetings—specifically the National Security Council meetings last fall where the administration hashed out its Afghanistan policy. As we know, the president ultimately decided to send 30,000 additional troops while pledging to start pulling them out in the summer of 2011.

This decision was a compromise between Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who wanted 40,000 reinforcements to pursue a classic counterinsurgency strategy, and skeptics led by Vice President Joe Biden, who proposed a smaller troop figure (20,000) focused on a narrow mission of hunting down terrorists. The contours of the internal debate have long been known; what Mr. Woodward does is fill in details about who said what at which meeting.

He probably deserves credit for getting his hands on what appear to be minutes of those sessions—although by now one supposes that all such documents are routinely cc’d to this Washington institution, Mr. Behind-the-Scenes. As usual, the reader has to take on faith that his reporting is accurate, because the sourcing is so vague (“background interviews” with “firsthand sources”). Faith is strained when Mr. Woodward, like a novelist, tells us what various people were thinking (“McConnell worried that the temptation of covert action might entrance Obama”). But even assuming that his “revelations” are largely accurate, it is hard to know what they amount to.

Mr. Woodward tosses out facts seemingly at random, with no context or analysis. At one point he recounts a dinner conversation in a Georgetown restaurant between Gen. David Petraeus and Richard Holbrooke. Suddenly they are interrupted by White House reporter Helen Thomas, who demands, with her usual subtlety: “What the hell are you doing in Afghanistan? . . . This is Vietnam all over again.” Gen. Petraeus tries to explain, but Ms. Thomas “didn’t feel reassured.” The book then moves on, leaving us to puzzle out why this encounter was included. Does Mr. Woodward transcribe everything in his notebook? Or are we supposed to be disquieted by the fact that Helen Thomas thinks Afghanistan is another Vietnam? No one familiar with her wacky views could possibly take anything she says seriously. Yet Mr. Woodward presents her opinion deadpan, as if she were a sage worth quoting.

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Boehner Promises Changes to Budget Process

September 30th, 2010 at 9:49 pm 7 Comments

The New York Times reports:

WASHINGTON — Representative John A. Boehner said Thursday that if Republicans take control in the midterm election, he will try to fundamentally change the way the House is run to give both parties a fair hearing while making their doings more transparent.

As minority leader, Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, is in line to become speaker if his party captures a House majority, and in his speech Thursday, he set out specific ways he would overhaul the legislative process, including upending the appropriations system to giving rank-and-file members more power and requiring that the enactment of any new program be accompanied by at least an equivalent cutback in another program.

The system as it stands, he said, was failing the taxpayer, a notion reflected perhaps in the legislative body’s approval rating. “The House finds itself in a state of emergency,” Mr. Boehner said in remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy group. “This institution does not function, does not deliberate and seems incapable of acting on the will of the people.”

Mr. Boehner placed both Republicans and Democrats in the cross hairs, arguing that both parties had engaged in the sins of earmarking, overreaching and partisan pettiness. He was perhaps trying to appeal to an electorate weary of partisan bickering and legislative inaction, and to respond directly to the calls for “changing the system” that have fueled many Tea Party candidates this year and President Obama’s campaign in 2008.

In exploring how Congress scrutinizes federal programs, for example, he said, “Republicans should not start from the assumption that all government is bad.” He added, “Nor should Democrats start from the assumption that all government is good.”

Mr. Boehner proposed a series of largely procedural measures that he said would make government both more responsive and more transparent. Many of his recommendations could be done through changes in House rules and procedure if he could win backing of a majority and overcome resistance from senior lawmakers who could see their influence diminished under the changes.

He called for rewriting the budget act, ceasing the practice of cobbling together enormous spending bills that cover multiple agencies, ending leadership-driven legislation that freezes out the vast majority of members and instituting a cut-as-you-go requirement in which any member offering a new program must “terminate or reduce spending on an existing government program of equal or greater size — in the very same bill.”

In a final smack to lawmakers who are fond of spending hours on the floor discussing things like the virtues of handcrafted beers and accompanying resolutions to honor them, Mr. Boehner said Congress ought to “consider taking all these commemorative moments and special honors, and let’s handle them during special orders and one-minutes at the end of session.”

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Pelosi Endorses Rahm for Mayor

September 30th, 2010 at 9:45 pm Comments Off

Politico reports:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw her endorsement in Chicago’s mayoral race to former House colleague Rahm Emanuel on Thursday.

After praising Emanuel at a press conference and saying she had given him encouragement at a White House meeting that day, Pelosi answered “yes” when a reporter asked whether she would endorse the outgoing chief of staff.

President Obama is expected to announce Emanuel’s departure – and the promotion of longtime aide Pete Rouse – at a White House ceremony Friday.

Emanuel, who Pelosi said had the “affection” of his former House peers, has polled in Chicago and has begun working to assemble a campaign team.

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Paladino Claims he is “Protecting” his Family

September 30th, 2010 at 9:36 pm 7 Comments

Talking Points Memo reports:

Carl Paladino’s campaign released a statement today regarding last night’s New York Post reporter-threatening incident, and defended the Republican gubernatorial nominee’s actions as “protecting his family.”

Paladino claims that Post Editor Fred Dicker was involved in sending photographers to take pictures of Paladino’s 10-year-old daughter, whom he had with a woman who is not his wife. The intrusion, the release said, makes the girl “susceptible to kidnapping or sexual predators.” It adds: “Endangering the safety of a 10-year-old child is repugnant.”

The release also calls questions about Paladino’s affairs “irrelevent,” since, as Paladino claims (without evidence), his Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo has also had affairs:

We challenge Fred Dicker to ask Andrew Cuomo this question on the record, since it has been posed repeatedly to Carl Paladino: “Did you engage in extramarital relationships while you were married?” A simple “Yes” or “No” will suffice.

Mr. Dicker will not ask this question of Cuomo, nor will Andrew Cuomo answer it.

On the threats specifically, the Paladino camp said:

Mr. Dicker gets extra Cuomo Brownie Points by claiming Carl threatened him. Carl has used this exact word choice throughout this campaign and several times on Mr. Dicker’s radio show: he’ll take out this government. He’ll take out the bad guys. He’ll take out Sheldon Silver.

The TPM Poll Average shows Cuomo leading 52.8%-38.4%.

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Chambliss Fires Staffer Who Wrote Gay Slur

September 30th, 2010 at 9:28 pm 5 Comments

Talking Points Memo reports:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said in a statement this afternoon that he has fired the staffer who wrote an offensive comment on a gay rights blog last week. His office declined to identify the staffer.

The unidentified staffer wrote, “All faggots must die,” on a post at Joe.My.God, just after the Senate’s failed attempt to start debate on a bill that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Joe Jervis, who runs the blog, traced the commenter — who called himself “Jimmy” — to an IP address in Atlanta, Ga., that had been registered by the U.S. Senate.

Chambliss’ office said he was investigating the matter. A day later, the senator admitted the comment had come from his office and announced that he had asked the Sergeant at Arms, who runs the Senate’s IT system, to investigate.

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McMahon: Time to “Review” the Minimum Wage

September 30th, 2010 at 9:23 pm 14 Comments

Arthur Delaney reports:

Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, suggested Thursday that the U.S. ought to take a second look at the federal minimum wage.

“The minimum wage now in our country, I think we’ve set that, so there are a lot of people have benefited from it in our country, but I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage,” McMahon said at a press conference.

After the event, “McMahon admitted she didn’t know what the current minimum wage is or if any of her employees at World Wrestling Entertainment are paid it,” CTNewsJunkie.com reported. McMahon was CEO of the WWE before launching her Senate campaign.

The minimum wage rose in 2009 to $7.25 per hour from $6.55 per hour, the first increase in a decade. Among workers paid an hourly wage, 980,000 earned the minimum wage in 2009, and 2.6 million earned less, according to the Department of Labor. Those groups together comprise 4.9 percent of all hourly workers.

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House Passes 9/11 Survivors Bill

September 30th, 2010 at 9:17 pm Comments Off

The New York Times reports:

The House approved legislation on Wednesday that would provide billions of dollars for medical treatment to rescue workers and residents of New York City who suffered illnesses from breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero.

The vote was 268 to 160, with 17 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. Opposing the measure were 157 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Republicans raised concerns about the $7.4 billion cost of the program.

But the bill’s fate in the Senate is unclear. Republicans have enough votes to filibuster the measure, and Senate Democrats have not shown great interest in bringing it to the floor.

The bill aroused impassioned debate on the House floor as 9/11 responders and their relatives watched from the gallery.

The vote occurred as Congress moved to finish its legislative business quickly and adjourn this week to allow lawmakers to head home to campaign before the elections on Nov. 2.

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NRA Endorses Brad Ellsworth for Senate

September 30th, 2010 at 9:10 pm 1 Comment

The New York Times reports:

Representative Brad Ellsworth’s Senate campaign has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

Chris W. Cox, the gun rights group’s chief lobbyist, said in a statement that Mr. Ellsworth “has defended the Second Amendment freedoms and hunting traditions of Indianans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Mr. Ellsworth, a Democrat, indicated via Facebook and Twitter that he was “proud” to receive the N.R.A. endorsement.

Representative Brad Ellsworth’s Senate campaign has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

Chris W. Cox, the gun rights group’s chief lobbyist, said in a statement that Mr. Ellsworth “has defended the Second Amendment freedoms and hunting traditions of Indianans in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Mr. Ellsworth, a Democrat, indicated via Facebook and Twitter that he was “proud” to receive the N.R.A. endorsement.

Mr. Ellsworth was seen as his party’s preferred candidate for the Senate once the incumbent, Evan Bayh, also a Democrat, announced this year that he would not seek re-election. But his Republican opponent, former Senator Dan Coats, is widely viewed as having the upper hand in the race right now.

Mr. Ellsworth was seen as his party’s preferred candidate for the Senate once the incumbent, Evan Bayh, also a Democrat, announced this year that he would not seek re-election. But his Republican opponent, former Senator Dan Coats, is widely viewed as having the upper hand in the race right now.

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