Are white conservatives suffering from 'discrimination envy?'
//So I went and committed myself to taking part in this multi-part "conversation on race" over at Open Salon. (Had I known it was going to be this much work I might have thought better of it, but there you go...) Anyway, here's my entry. You can view previous parts the series here. //
I thought I'd heard it all when Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union over slavery, demanded that Judge Sonia Sotomayor... an Hispanic woman ... apologize, presumably to all white men for saying, as we've now heard umpteen times on cable news (and never in context,) that she would "hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would make a better decision than a white man who hadn't lived that experience."
The charges of reverse racism were made with such zeal and relish -- you almost begin to wonder whether the loud mouths were blowing the dog whistle or hearing it; somehow following what they knew to be an underlying and very real anxiety, even a kind of "discrimination envy" -- among white men of a certain age; plus a frustration about being the only group that doesn't get to cry "ism" when their feelings are hurt.
Indeed, for white men in America, it's been one hell of a half century. From desegregation to affirmative action to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of '64 and '65, the last 50 or so years have been a period of steady deterioration for the image of white man as America's boss and father figure. In America's collective theater of the mind, white men have traversed from Neil Armstrong and JFK to Al Bundy, Dick Nixon and Jimmy Carter. J.R. Ewing, Don Johnson and Ronald Reagan reinvigorated the brand for a while, but it didn't last.
On television in the 1970s, the fed up white guy was represented by Archie Bunker, who felt free to rail against blacks, foreigners, assertive women and all the rest of what was wrong with the Brave New multicultural world, but only inside his house. The Reagan era brought us a reinvented Archie named Rush Limbaugh -- far less lovable, louder and more blandly vicious than the Norman Lear character (and three times less capable of keeping a wife,) but still venting a real frustration at what seemed to be a world filled with teachers who want his kids to learn Spanish, Mexicans who are taking all the jobs (and not learning English), and Hollywierdos who fill his TV with blacks, browns and "queers", and who keep telling him, in ways large and small, that people like him -- meat and potatoes, Christian white men like the kind who "built this country" and who like their big cars, their cigarettes and their women in skirts -- aren't cool anymore. By the time Archie took its last Klieg lights in the late 70s, Title IX and affirmative action (whose dirty little secret is that it benefits white women more than any other group) had ripped June Cleaver from the kitchen and created a new generation of board room hustle-women who don't want to get married or have kids until they turned 40, or ever, and who don't like to be called "gal."
The 80s and 90s brought hip-hop, where a white guy pretty much has to muse about killing his mama to be taken seriously, and which stole a generation of young white college guys from good old rock and roll. Baseball was taken by the Latinos, basketball and football by the "brothas," hell even golf eventually fell to Tiger Woods (though he's not actually black according to him, he's "Coblanasian," which is black for "please don't call me black.") And there were the Cosbys, who forever replaced the Cleavers as the prototypical American TV family. (To add insult to injury, the show that for a long time was the lead in to Cosby was "Family Ties," in which the lone conservative white male character, Alex P. Keaton, was often the butt of the plot's jokes.)
It's cold comfort, it seems, that white men still controll 85 percent of the nation's board rooms, hold 84 percent of the highest corporate titles (CEO, COO and the like,) and that "just 6 percent of corporate America's top money earners are women," and "only 3 percent of board members are women of color." There is exactly one black female CEO of a major corporation in the U.S. (her name is Ursula Burns, and she now runs Xerox.)
Blacks and Hispanics may dominate on the diamond, court and field, but white men still control 95% of professional NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball franchises.
In Hollywood, Will Smith may have replaced Tom Cruise as the modern era's top earner and box office king, and Shonda Rimes ("Grey's Anatomy" creator") and Oprah may be at the top of the money market, but the majority of films featuring black actors are rehashes of "Boys in the Hood" or slapstick comedies, as Spike Lee has wryly pointed out. On television, the buffoonery is even worse, with not a "Cosby Show" in sight. (If you don't believe me, try being a black Hollywood actress for a day who isn't Halle Berry ...) And across the entertainment spectrum, don't let Diddy and Jay Z fool you, the vast majority of entertainment industry executives are NOT African-American (and neither are the vast majority of its stars.)
In fact, if you look at any statistic, from poverty, to unemployment to high school graduation rates, and on and on, and you'll find that in reality, black and brown people haven't even come close to catching, let alone eclipsing, white men.
So why all the gnashing of teeth It's called politics. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote (53%) since Jimmy Carter. And while he didn't win a majority of the white vote, he won enough of it (43%) to carry him to victory, because he swept every other demographic group, particularly minorities and young people. There was a particularly fixation with white voters and their relationship to Obama during the campaign, and for good reason. Prior to last year, the notion of a black U.S. president -- particularly one named Barack Hussein Obama -- seemed almost absurd, mainly because it was assumed that white people would never vote for such a person (remember how wrong people like Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews were about white voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio?) But the 2008 election proved a point that Buchanan, Gingrich and other seasoned politicos, and even the portly Mr. Limbaugh understand. Namely, the country's population, and voters, are shifting steadily brownward.
Thus the panic that Limbaugh, Buchanan, Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and others are exhibiting, about "racism," about Sotomayor, the Ricci case (and "Lou Dobbs" nightly jeremiads about illegal immigration,) is not the panic of people who really believe that minorities are outshining white men economically or even socially. It's the panic of men who hear the drumbeat of the next national election, one that will be held after all the damage that's been done to the GOP, by the GOP with Hispanic voters (and long since with blacks.) Meanwhile, the percentage of white voters in the 2008 voting population shrank precipitously:
"The overall message is total ballots cast by white Americans was down, while African Americans and Latinos cast way more ballots than they did in 2004," said Jody Herman, a researcher with Project Vote. "And young voters, age 18-29, cast over 1.8 million more ballots than in 2005, which is a 9 percent increase. That increase was greater than any other age group."
... In contrast, 2.88 million more African Americans, 1.52 million more Latinos, 67,000 more Asian Americans and 1.32 million members of other minorities, voted this fall compared to four years ago. That is 1.18 million fewer white voters and 6.96 million more minority voters.
Moreover, precisely which white voters stayed home was telling:
"I think absolutely white Republicans did not show up," he said. "They were turned off, disillusioned. They did not turn out. Democratic voters did come out. They couldn't wait to vote."
When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, his voters were 98 percent white. Had he received the same turnout of whites, blacks and Hispanics as we saw in 2008, he would have lost the election. Which brings us back to Lindsey Graham, Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Gingrich and others, (plus this guy) plus the right's favorite drum major: Fox News. Their two-week orgy of Sotomayor condemnation seems tailor made to target the white guys out there who really do feel like so many Frank Riccis -- victimized by "Jim Crow liberalism," having studying harder and overcoming more obstacles than the pampered Princetonians and birth certificate hiding Harvard grads living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, with their exotic childhoods and degreed pomposity, and yet, being denied opportunities at work, at colleges, in sports, and hell, in life ... wait for it ... because they're white. To those Archie Bunkers out there, who found their voices (and their pitchforks) at Sarah Palin rallies and who don't realize G. Gordon Liddy is an actual criminal (or that Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck are not actually delivering the "news,") and who wouldn't care anyway, because these people are speaking up for them, the leaders of the right -- such as they are -- are offering to lead a new civil rights movement, which shall consist mainly of voting Republican.
Newt Gingrich, the disgraced former House speaker who would dearly love to be president ... but who never will ... is one of those conservatives who has spent their adult life tisk-tisking Black and Brown people for calling people who look and think like him, "racist," and for "playing the race card," also known as "race hustling." Well, a funny thing happened when Newt did a little race hustling of his own. He got backslapped by reality. So now, Newt is walking back his "Sonia Sotomayor is a racist" tweet, while also learning that Twitter can be dangerous to the verbally impuslive. Newt emailed the following mea culpa to supporters:
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
He then goes on to try and re-explain his opposition to Sotomayor like an adult, rather than an angry, screaming kid in the mall, like he and his winger friends have done so far. Good luck with that. So why the change of heart? Why, people whose support he just might need when he runs for president in 2012 -- you know, the ones who actually have jobs in the Republican Party -- were not amused.
Not only is Newt Gingrich a rank hypocrite -- imagine, the disgraced former speaker of the House, who was fined $300,000 and sanctioned by his own party for ethics violations back in the days before he himself had to resign as speaker (for having a sexual affair with an aide at the same time he was pushing for the impeachment of President Clinton ... for having a sexual affair with an intern ...) he is also a man of shallow principle. Newt, who claims that Nancy Pelosi has "disqualified herself" as speaker, and thus, should make like a Newt and resign, got caught with his proverbial pants down by Diane Sawyer this week, abba-abba-abba'ing over the various Republicans, including some of Pelosi's accusers, who've also called the CIA a bunch of liars.
The fact is that Newt, in the end, is not all that significant (except to the credulous press corps, which insists on giving him air time.) What is significant is the fact that he, and his attacks on Nancy Pelosi, and those of his party, are not actually serous. They don't represent some genuine outrage over something Pelosi has done (after all, they're accusing her of not opposing torture -- a sentiment they share.) What this is about, is the GOP persuing a strategy dating back to January, of using any opportunity to brand and attack members of the Democratic leadership, as a proxy for attacking the way too popular President Obama.
Let's travel back in time, to January, in the weeks after the inauguration, when Republicans were trying to figure out how to respond to the popular president's economic stimulus plan. ABC News noted on January 29:
Two weeks ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., hired GOP pollster John McLaughlin to conduct a poll on the stimulus plan to define the most effective ways to frame Republican concerns.
ABC obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation prepared based on that poll, available HERE.
The GOP poll showed that Obama is popular (71 percent approval) and that an overwhelming majority (64 percent) approve of “Barack Obama's economic recovery plan.”
But it showed that Pelosi, D-Calif., (34 percent favorable) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., (20 percent) are far less popular. And when asked about the specifics of the stimulus plan without Obama's name attached, the plan loses its appeal.
The result: Congressional Republicans held together and voted unaminously "no." And the GOP has carried that strategy forward ever since. It's "Operation: Get Nancy," mostly because Harry Reid is so dull (and besides, El Rushbo usually takes care of him.) What is incredible, is not that the GOP is deploying a months-old strategy to satiate their base and in their minds, take down the Democratic Party by attacking the leadership -- while, they hope, unnerving Democrats out of really investigating torture or the other abuses of the Bush administration in the process. What is stunning is how willing the Washington press corps has been to go along with the program.
I.F. Stone used to joke that what passed for investigative journalism in Washington was actually just the restating of what was already in the public record at the appropriate time.
Indeed, and it turns out that Nichols was among the reporters who "exposed" the fact that Pelosi was briefed on torture. Only he did it in 2007. In other words: the fact that senior Democrats were compliant with the Bush administration when it came, not just to torture, but also to Iraq and overall national security policy is no new revelation. And the media has, almost to a man (or woman) failed to ask a single, quite relevant question: let's just say that Nancy Pelosi IS lying, and she WAS fully briefed about the fact that we were torturing people. What does that mean? The answer is, it would mean that Pelosi was aware of the commission of war crimes (though she claims that because her knowledge was classified, she couldn't have done anything about it) and it would mean that, ipso facto, war crimes were committed at the behest of the previous administration, with the quizzling assent of Democrats. Again, nothing new. Besides, if Pelosi's involvement is a 5 on the war crimes scale, then Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and the CIA are at about a 12, right?
So ... does that mean Republicans, and the media, at long last, are ready to see those crimes investigated? Here's the funniest part of all: Democrats outside the Beltway are ready. And so is Nancy Pelosi.
Reason #244 not to listen to Newt Gingrich: he spends a lot of time braying about things he knows nothing about.
This morning on "This Week," the former disgraced House Speaker took his Twitter bitching about President Obama's handling of the Somali pirate capture of an American seaman to the big leagues. I suppose Newt, who gets exactly zero national security briefings or hell, briefings of any kind, wanted Obama to go out Dubya style: start blustering on television about nuking Somalia, and order the U.S.S. Bainbridge to blow the pirate dinghy out of the water with the Maersk captain still inside, or have Navy SEALs storm the ship, risking the captain's life. Just hours later, news reports said the captain had been rescued, after three dead-on (no pun intended) simultaneous shots by SEAL snipers who had parachuted in secret aboard the Bainbridge, and CNN reported that the president had on Friday given the Seals the go-ahead to use deadly force if necessary to save the captain's life.
Newt Gingrich is running for president in 2012. How do I know? The "other fat one" has waded into the GOP vacuum created, most recently, by the unmanliness of Michael Steele. Now, Newt is attempting to demonstrate that one can stand up against Rush Limbaugh -- even dare to question his role as the leader of the Republican Party, and live to tell about it. We'll see how that works out. He even used the opportunity, on NBC no less, to take a shot at Chris Matthews:
"Rush Limbaugh is in the long run an interesting radio personality," Gingrich said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"The fact is he has a large audience, the audience believes him, the audience calls their members, the audience has an affect. He's not the leader of the Republican party," he said.
"That's like saying, 'Does Chris Matthews help or hurt the Democratic party?'"
As if. Matthews, on a given day, sounds like everything from a Democrat to a Reaganite. Calling him a leader of any Democrat is like saying Shep Smith should replace Michael Steele. (Newt then went on to answer the question of whether he wants to run in 2012 with something on the order of "not particularly." But of course not...
Taking President Obama At His Word by Newt Gingrich
Presidential inaugurals are one of last aspects of our national politics that are genuinely welcoming of the American people. So much of presidential campaigning is so tightly controlled and choreographed that it works to exclude Americans. But inaugurations welcome us all in, and allow our part in the greatness of American democracy to extend beyond the voting booth.
Callista and I were fortunate enough to be present on the National Mall on Tuesday for what was a truly historic event. For as far as we could see, down the great length of the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, there were people. Americans. Possibly the largest crowd in history for a presidential inaugural.
He goes on to say this:
Regardless of who you supported in November, it was impossible not to be moved by this event, because it said extraordinary things about the United States of America.
Dictators Take Heed: In a Single Generation, the Son of an African Immigrant Rose in America to Be Leader of the Free World
The first thing the Obama inaugural said was how far American has come in a short time.
There are people alive today who were once not allowed to sit at a lunch counter, not allowed to stay at a hotel, and prevented from exercising their right to vote by virtue of the color of their skin. These Americans saw an African American man democratically assume the most powerful office in the world on Tuesday. What an extraordinary breakthrough.
And the second message about America sent by the Obama inauguration was aimed straight at the heart of all the dictators, theocrats, oligarchs and military strongmen who rationalize their tyranny with the excuse that their people aren’t “ready” for democracy: In the course of a single generation, the son of an immigrant from a poor country in Africa rose in America to be the leader of the free world.
After that he goes on with some drivel about Obama's rhetoric being "center right" and some malarky about the free market. Anyway, the first bit was good.
He got a roar of approval both inside the convention hall and across Red America for his "drill baby, drill" chant, but former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele would make an awkward -- at best -- choice to head the Republican National Committee, something the Washington Times reports he is vying with Newt Gingrich for (there's also a Draft Steele for RNC site up. Hat tip to Jonathan Martin at Politico.) Writes the Times' Ralph Hallow:
Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls.
A bevy of backers for each man, neither of whom is an RNC member, say the committee needs a leader who can formulate a counter-agenda to President-elect Barack Obama's administration and articulate it on the national stage.
"The Republican National Committee has to ask itself if it wants someone who has successfully led a revolution," Randy Evans, Gingrich confidant and personal attorney based in Atlanta, told The Washington Times on Monday. "If it does, Newt's the one."
As a Democrat, and thus a thoroughly disinterested party, I question whether either man is right for the job. As I lay out in this post, the present iteration of the Republican Party is a narrow, regional one, which is almost completely white (90 percent of John McCain's voters were white, and the Republican National Convention in September featured just 3 percent black delegates...) southern/Appalachian, and so culturally conservative that it's hard to imagine Steele having anyone to lead. At best, he'd be seen as the ultimate visual token -- a black guy to counter the Democrats' black president, and as such they'd be committing the Sarah Palin mistake twice: choosing someone for their biological charicteristics without regard to their actual potential impact on the party. At worst, he'd be looked upon as yet another George Bush -- a phony conservative in a media-friendly package, designed to lure the salt of the earth hayseeds down a dangerous path. Actually at really worst, he'd be dismissed by the base as just another city n***er they don't need to listen to.
At the end of the day, if Steele (and Bobby Jindal, or even a moderate northerner like the ousted Senator John Sununu,) represent the future, it is, at least for now, a distant one. I can no more see the hard-bitten, obsessive Palinites cottoning to Michael Steele than I can see them cheering for Barack Obama. Steele would have to fight uphill just to get respect from the base. Selecting him to lead the RNC would scream: "Hey look! We've got an articulate black guy, too!" And how sad would that be?
Gingrich, on the other hand, is both a southerner and a, dare I say, radical conservative, more aligned to who the core of the party is. But his history of failure and scandal should give the party pause. After all, if Newt is the future, then the past is prologue -- and the p0st-Gingrich past is littered with failed impeachment, felons, elected felons, commuted felons, Enron felons and massive, repeated, escalating, electoral defeat.
And yet, he'd be a better choice than Steele, if only because at least the base would listen to him.
Before I jumped into the campaign, I sat in as a reporter on a conference call held by the RNC and the McCain campaign, on which Steele was the headliner (my story from that call is here.) Steele was peevish and defensive, responding sharply to questions about why African-Americans would have any interest whatsoever in his party or candidate, given the atmospherics coming out of the conventions, and the now infamous Sarah Palin rallies. If he is the future leader of the GOP, I didn't hear any whiff of it on that phonecall.
Of course, Steele, who failed to win a Maryland Senate seat in 2006, and attracted little African-American support outside of fading Republican media honcho Cathy Hughes, might have greatness in him. It's just that it's been wasted, so far, on a party that is indifferent-to-hostile to his "type."
If Newt is the roaster, is John Boehner the weenie?
John Boehner went all-in on the bailout bill, and got hosed. He failed to deliver more than 65 GOP votes, and looks like he can't whip worth a damn. Some are even questioning whether he could lose his leadership post to a more "conservative" conservative.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was working aggressively behind the scenes to defeat the Wall Street rescue plan minutes before he himself released a public statement in support of the package, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported on Tuesday.
Gingrich was whipping up votes for the opposition, Mitchell said, apparently without the knowledge of the current GOP leader, John Boehner, who was responsible for recruiting enough support from his caucus to help ensure the bill's passage. Ultimately, the GOP was only able to rally roughly a third of its members.
"Newt Gingrich," she said on MSNBC, "I am told reliably by leading Republicans who are close to him, he was whipping against this up until the last minute, when he issued that face-saving statement. Newt Gingrich was telling people in the strongest possible language that this was a terrible deal, not only that it was a terrible deal, it was a disaster, it was the end of democracy as we know, it was socialism -- and then at the last minute [he] comes out with a statement when the vote is already in place."
After the vote, Gingrich played the phony and lamented the non-passage of the bill. But not everybody was buying it, especially since Newt was one of the righties urging John McCain to kill the bill, and send out a press release... From the July 23 edition of The Hill:
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Tuesday that any lawmaker who votes for the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout package, which he called a “dead loser,” will face defeat in November.
Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he thinks Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is trying to scare lawmakers into passing the bailout plan quickly and without thorough study.
“I think what Paulson hopes to do is say, ‘If you don’t do exactly what I want you to do, the whole world’s going to collapse on Tuesday’,” Gingrich said.
The former Speaker, talking to reporters at a lunch, added that he expects Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) to back the plan. He predicted that, if Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) ends up opposing the administration proposal, there will be an overnight “emergence of a McCain/reform wing of the Republican Party.”
Gingrich said that occurrence would turn the election on its head, with Republicans running ads that feature Obama with President Bush on the same team in pushing for a “nightmare” bailout plan.
Newt also predicted, 6 days before the vote, that if the bill failed to pass on Friday, it would fail because lawmakers would read it on Saturday and cringe. How clairvoyant...
So what could Newty be up to? Is he preparing to run for president in 2012, as Mike Barnacle accused on "Morning Joe" yesterday? Could be. His big "Drill Here, Drill Now" gambit is heavily funded by the oil industry, whose money would also be useful in a national election, not to mention in key states like Louisiana, Florida and out West. If he runs, the scandal-plagued Gingrich would need to build a firewall on the libertarian right, to mitigate against any evangelicals who won't be able to force themselves to stomach him, as they are with McCain because of Sarah Palin. And he very much shored up that firewall with the 130 Republicans he denied to John Boehner. Now, they listen to Newt.
And Boehner? I'm sure Newt is saying, to hell with him. After all, they have a history:
House members are no strangers to political treachery either, although you need to go back nearly a decade to find a world-class example. To get rid of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a loosely organized band of co-conspirators proved less deft than their Roman legislative forebears did in mounting their secret scheme. Although the coup fell apart the day after it was launched, the reputations of almost all those involved -- including their intended victim -- never fully recovered.
A core group of rebels, drawn mostly from the large GOP class of '94, sought to find a way to oust the imperious speaker. But to do so, they needed help from the top Republican leadership. It soon came from Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas), Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Texas), GOP conference Chairman John Boehner (Ohio) and Rep. Bill Paxon (N.Y.), then a trusted Gingrich capo.
The plan was to have Armey, DeLay, Boehner and Paxon -- each an independent actor with his own power base -- confront Gingrich with a fait accompli: step down or face being voted out of office. Armey, however, backed out when it appeared that Gingrich wanted Paxon to succeed him. In the murky aftermath, DeLay confessed his role, which helped to rehabilitate his reputation. Armey never did. And Paxon -- who was to Gingrich what Brutus was to Caesar -- was out of a leadership job. After the 1998 midterm elections, waged by congressional Republicans as a (failed) referendum on impeaching President Clinton, Gingrich himself was soon gone. (after spending some time in political purgatory, the former Speaker has once more become a hot commodity.)
With Armey and DeLay long gone, could this be Newt's little payback for the fourth member of the wolf pack, while enhancing his own presidential / populist portfolio in the process? You've got to wonder...
I have to admit, I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't heard it myself: the "drill here, drill now" ... country music theme song. A precious, precious clip:
CHORUS: Drill here, drill now How ‘bout some oil from our own soil that belongs to us anyhow No more debatin’ we’re tired of waitin’ everybody shout out loud Drill here, drill now
Every time a foreign tanker pulls up to our shore They got us over a barrel while they bleed us a little more And think how much it costs just to bring it all that way And how many American jobs that’d make if we were drillin’ in the USA Oh and God forbid if our oily friends should decide to cut us off We’d be standin’ around with our britches down now listen to me ya’ll
Tom Mazzie's new organization sends a warning shot across the bow of Republican donors: if you fund a 527 that attacks Barack Obama, we're coming after you:
... the newly formed nonprofit group, Accountable America, is planning to confront donors to conservative groups, hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.
“We want to stop the Swift Boating before it gets off the ground,” said Mr. Matzzie, who described his effort as “going for the jugular.”
The warning letter is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.
... mega-developer Mel Sembler, one of the group's top funders to the tune of at least $3 million, might have missed the memo. The Palm Beach Post recently reported that Mr. Sembler and his company are under federal investigation for a $100,000 payment allegedly used to grease the wheels of local government in Florida:
A developer paid a $100,000 fee to lobbyist Hugo Unruh after being told it would be hard to win county approval for a traffic-throttling shopping center without him.
The message came from Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor, who at the time was a trusted aide to Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty.
Now the fee and Taylor's role have drawn the attention of federal investigators.
...St. Petersburg-based Sembler is a national developer of shopping centers and residential communities. It was founded by Mel Sembler, a major state and national Republican Party fund-raiser who is especially friendly with the Bush presidential family.
McCarty said Sembler is a political acquaintance whom she bumped into recently at a White House affair.
The disgraced former speaker of the House was on CSPAN this morning, and actually prompted me to pick up the phone and try to call in (I didn't get through.) Had I gotten through, I would have asked Newt Gingrich exactly who funds his "drill now!" group, called American Solutions for Winning the Future. Well... who do you think? (Hint: they're the same people that suddenly enjoy giving lots of money to John McCain...)
American Solutions for Winning the Future is a new, non-partisan organization built around three goals: to defend America and our allies abroad and defeat our enemies, to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values, and to move government into the 21st Century. The General Chairman is former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Our mission is to become the leading grassroots movement to recruit, educate, and empower citizen activists and elected officials to develop solutions to transform all levels of government.
... The American people are tired of Red vs. Blue partisan bickering and want to create a Red, White, and Blue country. American Solutions is designed to rise above traditional gridlocked partisanship, to provide real, significant solutions to the most important issues facing our country. Yet, the current political governmental system has four major flaws which block it from developing the kind of solutions we need.
First, it is dominated by daily headlines, a focus on the negative, fights rather than discussions, and sound bites and commercials so short they can't communicate anything complex or positive.
Second, the old system simply does not have the ideas and techniques for being successful. Today's politicians are trapped in old ideas, old interest groups, and old bureaucracies that simply do not have the tools for solving America's problems.
Third, consultants dominate the current system, and they are essentially technicians with very limited knowledge of fundamental issues and historic lessons. So they tend to reduce the system to clever commercials and fancy fundraising gimmicks.
Fourth, the current system focuses on the Oval Office, yet there are 513,000 elected officials in America, from school board to city council to county commission to state legislature. Real solutions have to move through all these offices, not merely the White House.
Uh huh ... and they've even got their own rejiggered version of Newt's "Contract with America"...
However, it appears that American Solutions is less of a grassroots organization than it is a clearinghouse for the same old lobbyists, staffers and think tankers propping up the stale, bloated, conservative movement. From Matt Stoler over at OpenLeft on August 5th, following that so-called "spontaneous" protest of pro-drilling Americans in Washington D.C.:
I just came back from the Capitol, where Moveon volunteers and conservative movement group staffers were holding competing rallies around oil leasing (the full flickr set is here). Patrick Ruffini, one of the smartest consultants on the right, thinks this marks a turning point for the right. For the first time, he says, Moveon has mobilizes against "the House Republicans and the rightosphere".
The problem with this formulation is that the people that I spoke from Moveon came because they were volunteers, whereas the people from the pro-drilling groups were paid staffers from groups like the National Taxpayers Union and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks. I spent some time arguing with a nice young man from FreedomWorks about oil companies (though I'll spare you the video), and he was a law student who did economic policy for the group. These two groups are by and large funded by large companies, and they were formed by recognized conservative movement elites who came to power in the 1980s.
In fact, the entire drill drill drill campaign originated with Newt Gingrich, hardly the kind of leadership you'd expect from a real grassroots uprising. His group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, got a large grant from Peabody Coal at about the same time this campaign started, and is backed by the same crew of billionaires helping Freedom's Watch. Contrast this to Moveon, which was founded by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, or Dailykos, led by Markos Moulitsas-Zuniga, or even Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie of the New Right in the 1970s. These leaders came from the grassroots, and elevated a previously unorganized constituency into a powerful new voice. The Drill Drill Drill campaign has simply helped an existing powerful voice - the oil lobby - keep winning, the way it did earlier this year when it killed the Energy Bill in the Senate (with the help of John McCain and Mary Landrieu).
Now, this is not to say that the Drill, Drill, Drill campaign isn't popular. It is. But it is not some movement breakthrough on the right; new political movements are not populated entirely with paid staffers, funded by the extraordinarily wealthy winners of a society, and led by old over the hill political leaders. What is actually going on here is that the 1970s conservative movement is still around and still dominant. Right-wing billionaires are still funding Newt Gingrich, who is still dictating our agenda just as he did in the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. Conservative 'populism' in DC is still the same old Brooks Brothers Riot we saw in 2000, ie. paid staffers masquerading as grassroots.
So who are Gingrich's sugar daddies? The Alaska Wilderness League follows the money and finds a long breadcrumb trail of billionaires, Bushies and oil men. Just for fun, try to spot the guys who will "rise about gridlocked partisanship..."
• Thomas A. Saunders III ($200,000)—Saunders is a Trustee of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank devoted to free enterprise, limited government and individual freedom. Exxon Mobil is one of the Foundation’s biggest donors.
• Dan W. Evins ($100,000)—Evins was originally an oil jobber for Shell before starting the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants.
• Michael G. Berolzheimer ($70,000)—The Berolzheimer Family began California Cedar Products in the 1920’s. CCP now produces Duraflame logs which are made by mixing saw dust with petroleum byproducts.
• Dave K. Rensin ($50,000)—Rensin is a software engineer for Reality Mobile, LLC. Reality Vision, a product of Reality Mobil, is currently being marketed to numerous industries including oil and gas production and refinement, as well as companies specializing in pipeline maintenance.
• Morton Fleischer ($25,000)—Fleischer is the Co-founder and Chairman of Spirit Finance. Fleisher is also a board member for Flying J, Inc., a chain of highway rest stops and gas stations. Fleisher also founded Franchise Finance Corporation of America which provided $15 million in capital for the merger of Miltenberger Oil Company and Jump Oil in 1999.
• Donald M. Wilkinson ($25,000)—Wilkinson is the Chairman and CIO of Wilkinson O’Grady & Co., the 15th largest investment company in the United States. They invest in numerous companies including National Oilwell Varco, Imperial Oil, Suncor Energy, EOG Resources, Schlumberger, Transocean, BHP Billiton, Apache Corporation, and XTO Energy.
• Edmund N. Carpenter II ($10,400)—Carpenter is now a retired attorney and past president of the Delaware State Bar Association. In 1977, he represented Texaco in a case involving a crash with the Texaco Caribbean and the Paracas, a Peruvian vessel.
• Clark Wamberg, LLC ($10,000)—Clark Wamberg, LLC is a consulting firm comprised of many different small businesses. One of these businesses is Federal Policy Group. In the first half of 2007, Federal Policy Group was paid $120,000 by Hess petroleum to lobby the federal government. Other clients of Federal Policy Group include GE and Teco Energy.
• Jack Caveney ($10,000)—Caveney works for Panduit, a provider of network and electrical solutions to a variety of markets including the oil, gas, and petrochemical market. Panduit strives to find solutions to problems with offshore platforms, refineries, and floating production storage-offloading (FPSO).
• Lewis Lehrman ($10,000)—Lehrman was one of the original investors in George W. Bush’s oil business, Arbusto Energy.
• Foam Fabricators, Inc. ($5,000)—Foam Fabricators, Inc., a state-of-the-art molding and fabricating plant, provides a variety of industries with economical and efficient shape molded and fabricated foam products, packaging and components. These products are made from expanded polystyrene manufactured primarily from petroleum.
• William T. Wolf ($4,000)—Wolf is employed by Allied Capital. In 2003, Allied Capital invested $18.4 million into Geotrace Technologies--a leading provider of subsurface imaging solutions and sophisticated reservoir analysis for the oil and gas industry worldwide.
• Kathleen Huff ($2,500)—Huff is employed by the Navteq Corporation. Navteq’s customers include Statoil, one of Scandinavia’s leading suppliers of fuel oil and gasoline.
Other Interesting Finds
• Sheldon Adelson ($4,597,632)—Adelson, of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is the founder of Freedom’s Watch, a right-wing lobbying group which advocates to continue the war in Iraq and many other mainstream conservative ideas. [More on Sheldon and other bigwig donors from ThinkProgress.)
• Terry J. Kohler ($50,200)—Kohler, of Windway Capital, is a contributor to GOPAC, Gingrich’s PAC.
• Stanley Gaines ($25,000)—Gaines is on the Board of International Coal Group, Inc.
• Frederick C. Palmer ($25,000)—Palmer is the Vice President of Government Relations at Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company. Palmer is responsible for advancing state and federal policies related to the production and use of coal.
• Howard H. Callaway ($10,000)—Callaway was the Chairman of GOPAC from 1987-1993.
• Mel Sembler ($10,000)—Sembler was the former Ambassador to Italy and a founding donor for Freedom’s Watch. He also helped to finance the 2000 Florida recount battle between Bush and Gore.
• Tucker Anderson ($10,000)—Anderson is on the GOPAC Board.
• Frederic V. Malek ($5,000)—Malek, of Thayer Capital Partners was co-owner of the Texas Rangers with President Bush.
• Melvyn J. Estrin ($5,000)—Estrin serves on the Board of Directors of the Washington Gas & Light Company. He is also the director of WGL Holdings, Inc., a public utility holding company serving the D.C. metropolitan region.
American Solutions, which is a 527 group, has taken in more than $13 million this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. They also helpfully rank the donors in dollar order (Adelson is the biggest.) CRP also tracks the organization's spending, and finds that the single biggest expenditure has been travel. Gingrich's group is spending more money raising money and hiring consultants than they are on advertising.
Salaries & Benefits
Supplies, Equipment & Furniture
Campaign Direct Mail
Fundr Direct Mail/Telemarketing
Instead of buying ads, the Gingrich oil salesmen are relying on all the free media they're getting, on CSPAN this morning, on the cable networks, but especially on right wing blogs and talk radio, which has picked up the "drill here, drill now" message full bore. In fact, tune in randomly to ANY right wing talk show (or to Fox News) at any time of the day or night, from Limbaugh to Hannity to the local wingnuts like Todd Schnitt down here in South Florida, and you'll find the hosts talking about little else besides the need to drill, ludicrous arguments that the oil companies really aren't making that much money, and the total canard, put forward with hilarious results last Saturday by Mike McConnell, that more drilling would actually LOWER oil companies' profits (he got his clock cleaned by a guy from Public Citizen.)
So far, American Solutions (with the help of Big Oil's newly minted talk radio shills,) has been able to get more than 1 milliondimwits Americans to sign their petition demanding that the oil companies be given drilling rights in the Rocky Mountains, off our coasts, and in the Alaskan wilderness (I can just see the Colorado rockies now, pock-marked with dirty, belching oil rigs. Great for tourism!)
And interestingly enough, NONE of the "Drill Now!" talk show hosts or civilians appears interested in demanding that the good capitalists at the big oil companies actually sell any oil they extract in the U.S., to Americans. In fact, the idea that oil companies would extract oil, and then sell it at lower prices here, when they could make more money selling to the highest international bidder (probably the same Indian or Chinese markets that are driving up demand today,) is not only crazy, it's downright anti-capitalist. Perhaps that's why John McCain opposed a measure that would have demanded that newly extracted oil be sold in the U.S. The American Solutions petition reads:
We, therefore, the undersigned citizens of the United States, petition the U.S. Congress to act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.
Not a word about "drill here, SELL here..." because that's not what Newt's friends in Big Oil intend to do. Meanwhile, the idea that oil companies really don't make that much money when you look at their profit margins is equally daft, as Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum points out:
In most industries, when the main component (crude oil) of a product (gasoline) skyrockets in price, those higher costs eat into profit margins. But not the oil industry because ExxonMobil and the other major oil companies operate as a type of monopoly, with massive oil production, refining and retail marketing operations.
It isn't just Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who gets rich when a barrel of oil hovers at $60/barrel; it's ExxonMobil and the other oil companies, since collectively the five largest oil companies produce 10 million barrels of oil a day - more than Saudi Arabia's 9 million barrels of oil a day. And much of the oil ExxonMobil et al is producing is coming from land owned by U.S. taxpayers (more than one-third of the oil and natural gas America produces every day comes from federal land). It only costs a company like ExxonMobil about $10 to produce a barrel of oil, but they're selling it to Americans for close to $60/barrel - a huge windfall profit.
The oil companies' windfall profits don't end there. Because the largest five oil companies also own half of America's oil refining capacity, they're more easily able to manipulate markets. The Federal Trade Commission confirmed this when it investigated the industry in 2001 and concluded that U.S. oil companies "withheld or delayed shipping additional supply in the face of a price spike" and that one oil company executive "made clear that he would rather sell less gasoline and earn a higher margin on each gallon sold than sell more gasoline and earn a lower margin. Another employee of this firm raised concerns about oversupplying the market and thereby reducing the high market prices."
The proof of these uncompetitive markets stemming from recent mergers is in the numbers. As late as 1999, U.S. oil companies made 22.8 cents for every gallon of gasoline they refined. By the summer of 2005, they made 99 cents on every gallon.
And while the Republicans are pulling off a pretty good marketing stunt that is moving the needle of public opinion in favor of Big Oil (for perspective, think of Marie Antoinette's press team in 1789 convincing the bourgeousie to revolt, not against the royals, but on the side of the royals against the peasants...) and Republicans are enjoying a lot of free publicity for their lights out stunt on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are diametrically opposed to forcing oil companies to sell any oil they "drill here" ... here:
(July 17) Today, Congressman Wexler voted for the Drill Act, which would bring 10.6 billion barrels of oil immediately to American consumers by requiring oil companies to being producing oil from acres of land already leased.The legislation would have allowed other companies to take over these leases if the oil company currently in possession failed to begin oil production.
The Drill Act would have also required the Administration to oversee the construction of a pipeline from these Alaskan reserves for the transport of oil and gas to the lower 48 states.The pipeline project would have created an estimated 10,000 new jobs.In addition, the legislation banned the export of this American-made energy, reserving resources for here at home. Unfortunately, House Republicans blocked the Drill Act, which required a two-thirds vote of support in order to pass."Oil companies are actively holding 10.6 billion barrels of oil hostage from the American people and this legislation would have required them to begin production immediately,” said Congressman Wexler. “While House Republicans claim they want to increase domestic supply of oil and gas to the market, by blocking this legislation they took a hard stand against the development of our domestic resources.
So the next time you hear Newt Gingrich talking about his "grassroots movement," think oil-soaked grass in the Antarctic after all the snow melts from global warming ... think big, fat profits for the Big Six oil companies. But whatever you do, don't think of lower gas prices, 'cuz if the GOP's clients in the oil industry have it there way, they ain't coming.
Newt Gingrich, not the most moral guy in the world, but certainly one of the smarter tacticians on the right, issued his weekly "Winning the Future" newsletter to conservatives on Tuesday. What he had to say to his side is instructive for the fall. (Cliffs Notes version: OH GOD, WE'RE GOING DOWN'! MAN THE LIFEBOATS! HEEEEEEELP!!!!)
Ahem. First, on Congressional seats:
The Republican loss in the special election for Louisiana's Sixth Congressional District last Saturday should be a sharp wake up call for Republicans: Either Congressional Republicans are going to chart a bold course of real change or they are going to suffer decisive losses this November.
The facts are clear and compelling.
Saturday's loss was in a district that President Bush carried by 19 percentage points in 2004 and that the Republicans have held since 1975.
This defeat follows on the loss of Speaker Hastert's seat in Illinois. That seat had been held by a Republican for 76 years with the single exception of the 1974 Watergate election when the Democrats held it for one term. That same seat had been carried by President Bush 55-44% in 2004.
These two special elections validate a national polling pattern that is bad news for Republicans. According to a New York Times/CBS Poll, Americans disapprove of the President's job performance by 63 to 28 (and he has been below 40% job approval since December 2006, the longest such period for any president in the history of polling).
A separate New York Times/CBS Poll shows that a full 81 percent of Americans believe the economy is on the wrong track.
The current generic ballot for Congress according to the NY Times/CBS poll is 50 to 32 in favor of the Democrats. That is an 18-point margin, reminiscent of the depths of the Watergate disaster.
Next, on why John McCain's current durability in the polls should be no comfort to Republicans for the fall:
Senator McCain is currently running ahead of the Republican congressional ballot by about 16 percentage points. But there are two reasons that this extraordinary personal achievement should not comfort congressional Republicans.
First, McCain's lead is a sign of the gap between the McCain brand of independence and the GOP brand. No regular Republican would be tying or slightly beating the Democratic candidates in this atmosphere. It is a sign of how much McCain is a non-traditional Republican that he is sustaining his personal popularity despite his party's collapse.
Second, there is a grave danger for the McCain campaign that if the generic ballot stays at only 32 % for the GOP it will ultimately outweigh McCain's personal appeal and drag his candidacy into defeat.
And third, on whether the GOP can win with an all-Wright, all the time strategy in November:
The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.
This model has already been tested with disastrous results.
In 2006, there were six incumbent Republican Senators who had plenty of money, the advantage of incumbency, and traditionally successful consultants.
But the voters in all six states had adopted a simple position: "Not you." No matter what the GOP Senators attacked their opponents with, the voters shrugged off the attacks and returned to, "Not you." ...
A February Washington Post poll shows that Republicans have lost the advantage to the Democrats on which party can handle an issue better -- on every single topic.
Americans now believe that Democrats can handle the deficit better (52 to 31), taxes better (48 to 40) and even terrorism better (44 to 37).
This is a catastrophic collapse of trust in Republicans built up over three generations on the deficit, two generations on taxes, and two generations on national security.
Newt wants House Republicans to call an emergency "members-only conference" at which they should propose an immediate schedule of votes on "real change" issues -- sort of a 2008 version of his 1994 "Contract with America." Newt's 9-point plan will sound familiar to McCain watchers. It includes:
A summertime repeal of the federal gas tax, paid for by radical cuts in discretionary (read non-Social Security, non-Medicare) spending. In other words, kill all the local projects that inject cash and jobs into the Districts of these House members, and then ask those same members to go home, sans "the bacon" and ask for votes based on a gas tax cut that nets their constituents $30 bucks for the entire summer ... did I say Newt was one of the smarter ones...?
Putting the oil headed for the Stratetic Petroleum Reserve onto the open market, which Netw claims would lower gas prices 5 to 6 cents a gallon. Unfortuately, it would also deplete America's emergency reserves of ... petroleum ... and did I mention gas has gone up about three times Newt's proposed savings in the last month?
Announcing a one-year moratorium on earmarks (See bacon notes on #1...)
This one is weird, unless you understand "conservatives": Neutering the Census Bureau and turning their function over to "Internet savvy" private companies. So-called conservatives have never believed in demography, because it allows Democrats to figure out who's being discriminated against on the basis of race. The Census also turns up inconvenient numbers, like estimates of the growing number of Hispanics, which could hurt efforts to sell a borderless North American free trade blob to white, rural Americans.
Implement a "space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system." Call it Reagan's Star Wars fantasy meets private enterprise. Here, Newt appears to want to take advantage of the Reagan-era plan to weaponize space by twisting that program to what probably was its ultimate goal anyway: making some big, Republican-leaning corporation even richer than they are today. Meanwhile, the safety of air travel will be subordinated to the profit motive, and oversight? Who needs it!
Declare that English is the "official language of government." Throwing a biscuit to the Lou Dobbs crowd, which has soured on the GOP. Maybe if they do this, they'll forget about that border fence... Meanwhile, the already blanched GOP loses whatever brown voters they might have had out West. So much for putting California in play.
"Protect the workers right to a secret ballot." This one's about pure union-busting, another GOP technique to wrestle away Democratic voters without actually offering attractive policies.
and finally, "remind Americans that judges matter." Sounds vague, but Newt wants the House to begin trying to ram through Bush's right wing judges, and mount a national scare campaign to convince unhappy right wingers that the "activists on the bench" are coming to their trailers to give their daughters abortions and take their guns, which is clearly a much more pressing matter than that job they can't find, those outrageous gas prices or the foreclosure notice in the mailbox.
That's Newt's plan. So now you know what to expect John McCain to be squawking about for the next few weeks, my friends ... and I'm sure he and Lieberman will endorse whatever the House guys come up with.
What's interesting about Newt's prescriptions is how absolutely devoid they are of the Bush formula that worked, if barely, in 2000 (compassionate conservatism, phony appeals to religious voters on gay rights, abortion and the like...) or the 2004 Bush model of scaring the bejeezus out of everyone with constant threats from "terr'rists." Instead, Newt's plan is to push corporate gimmies and the much-belittled gas tax holiday, along with schemes to twist the demographic calculus and gin up fears of "Spanish spoken here" signs popping up at City Hall. It's an interesting strategy. Let's see if the House puppies bite.
The Washington Times says evangelicals are coalescing around Fred Thompson. Says one unnamed leader:
"It's the moment of truth for conservatives ... Either social conservatives rally to stop a Giuliani nomination and victory for him in November 2008 or our issues -- abortion, same-sex marriage, the preservation of the family -- are permanently off the Republican Party agenda."
That about sums it up. And besides, do you really want the guy who allowed firefighters and other workers to breathe the polluted air post-9/11 to run our country? Signs among New Yorkers point to "no."
Rudy Giuliani -- thrice married (to a thrice married, man stealing hussy who, if God truly hates America and he is elected persident, could be running policy from an office in the West Wing), liberal on issues dear to the religious right and GOP gun nuts, and running on 9/11. But here's the problem: firefighters hate him, and the real story of his incompetence before and his callousness after the terror attacks on the Twin Towers is now coming to light, anecdotally today, in "Swift Boat" style TV and radio ads, inevitably. From this week's TIME:
"If Rudolph Giuliani was running on anything but 9/11, I would not speak out," said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was among the 343 FDNY members killed in the terrorist attack. "If he ran on cleaning up Times Square, getting rid of squeegee men, lowering crime — that's indisputable.
"But when he runs on 9/11, I want the American people to know he was part of the problem."
Such comments contradict Giuliani's post-Sept. 11 profile as a hero and symbol of the city's resilience — the steadfast leader who calmed the nerves of a rattled nation. But as the presidential campaign intensifies, criticisms of his 2001 performance are resurfacing.
Giuliani, the leader in polls of Republican voters for his party's nomination, has been faulted on two major issues:
— His administration's failure to provide the World Trade Center's first responders with adequate radios, a long-standing complaint from relatives of the firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed. The Sept. 11 Commission noted the firefighters at the World Trade Center were using the same ineffective radios employed by the first responders to the 1993 terrorist attack on the trade center.
Regenhard, at a 2004 commission hearing in Manhattan, screamed at Giuliani, "My son was murdered because of your incompetence!" The hearing was a perfect example of the 9/11 duality: Commission members universally praised Giuliani at the same event.
— A November 2001 decision to step up removal of the massive rubble pile at ground zero. The firefighters were angered when the then-mayor reduced their numbers among the group searching for remains of their lost "brothers," focusing instead on what they derided as a "scoop and dump" approach. Giuliani agreed to increase the number of firefighters at ground zero just days after ordering the cutback.
More than 5 1/2 years later, body parts are still turning up in the World Trade Center site.
"We want America to know what this guy meant to New York City firefighters," said Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "In our experiences with this man, he disrespected us in the most horrific way."
The two-term mayor, in his appearance before the Sept. 11 Commission, said the blame for the death and destruction of Sept. 11 belonged solely with the terrorists. "There was not a problem of coordination on Sept. 11," he testified. ...
Sounds a bit like Baghdad Bob.
Newt Gingrich -- dumped his wife while she was in a hospital bed recovering from cancer, so he could marry his mistress, left Congress in disgrace, but hey, he's conservative!
And then there are the wee also-rans, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, libertarian Ron Paul and such-like, but really, is it worth the blogspace to do more than mention their names?
So at this point, I'm thinking the GOPers had better lean hard on Fred Thompson to run. He may not have the "fire in the belly," but damnit, at least he's a celebrity. And to my knowledge, he never egregiously left a wife, botched the response to a terror attack, or pissed off the Cubans in Miami.