Politics: May 2003 Archives

A bit of belated blogging: A week ago I attended the monthly luncheon of the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club (a misleading name, since probably half of our attendees are women). The guest speaker was Howard Barnett, former CEO of the late great Tulsa Tribune, and chief of staff for former Governor Frank Keating for most of Keating's two terms of office.

Barnett spoke about the current budget mess at the State Capitol. He said that the process is messed up because it was designed that way by Alfalfa Bill Murray. Oklahoma's founding fathers didn't trust big business and didn't trust the railroads, and made it difficult for companies to do business here. They also didn't trust government, so they hobbled the executive branch as best they could. Barnett says Oklahoma really doesn't have an executive branch, as most state government agencies are run by boards, to which the Governor only has a minority of the appointees, and he can only remove his appointees with cause. If the Governor appoints someone apparently solid to a board, but then his appointee goes native, becomes more of an advocate than an overseer for the agency, the Governor is stuck. There is no accountable executive power, and there is no means for negotiating priorities among the different agencies of government.

Barnett says he's working on a book about Oklahoma Government, and his working title is It's Amazing That It Works At All.

Barnett called for reform of the State Constitution. He headed up the effort to rewrite Tulsa's City Charter in 1989, and reflecting on that experience, acknowledged that they hobbled the City Council excessively, out of a fear that Councilors could become ward bosses. Some would say that the result under the previous administration was a city-wide ward boss unfettered by checks and balances. Barnett said that some structures do a better job of functioning when you have the wrong people in office -- so constitutional reform is important -- but the quality of the office holder is the most important factor in the healthy functioning of government.

If I can find anything on the web that Barnett has written on this subject, I'll link to it, and post an update to this entry.

This time it's the limited government advocates who feel cut out of the Bush administration:

In a memo to hundreds of fellow conservatives, a former Reagan administration official says traditional views are being edged out by a neoconservative "national greatness" ideology that accepts big government and advocates interventionist foreign policy.

"Today, most conservative pressure ends up as simple cheerleading for the White House," Donald J. Devine, who was President Reagan's director of the Office of Personnel Management, wrote in the memo. "That can be helpful, but there is nothing that pushes politics further to the right, leaving conservatism and the Republican Party to drift." ....

The close identification between the conservative movement and Republican politics is part of the problem, said former Reagan administration official Floyd Brown.

"The Republican Party is becoming more and more entangled with big government," said Mr. Brown, now executive director of Young America's Foundation. "As that trend continues, the movement needs to stand up and differentiate itself from Republican politics — not that I am not a supporter of the president's, because I am."

A similar danger may loom for conservatism and the Republican Party locally as well. We love finally having a mayor who embraces faith and traditional values and who is willing to upset a few applecarts in order to reform city government. But what will conservative Republicans do if the Mayor backs a sales tax hike to build a new sports arena? Will conservatives swallow our concerns and rally 'round him? If the Democrats come out in opposition, will we feel more compelled to demonstrate loyalty to Our Mayor, or will we join with the Democrats against a regressive tax increase, on principle? And what if Republican leaders go in two different directions on the issues?

We can only hope that the Mayor won't put the Republican Party in such a tough spot.

Stephen Glass, "who fabricated details in 27 of the 41 stories he wrote" for the New Yorker has apologized with a hand written note to the head of the American Conservative Union for a 1997 article describing orgies and drug abuse amongst the College Republicans at that year's CPAC conference, an article Glass fashioned out of whole cloth. Nice of him to own up six years later when he's promoting a new book.

Time to drain Foggy Bottom


Not a day goes by without a report that employees of our State Department (motto: "To protect and to serve... Saudi interests") is in some way undermining the policies of their nominal boss, President Bush.

Donna M. Hughes, Women's Studies Professor at the University of Rhode Island, reports on NRO that the State Department seems to be touting legalized prostitution to foreign countries as a solution to the problem of global sex trafficking:

Last week, the State Department took a Southeast Asian delegation for a tour of a brothel in Nevada. As a part of the International Visitor's Program, nine people from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia visited the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and heard lectures on legal prostitution....

Taking foreign visitors to brothels in Nevada seems to be an ongoing practice of the State Department. In August 1999, I gave a presentation on trafficking of women and children for prostitution to a group of U.S. Information Agency visitors from East Asia. They told me they too had visited a brothel in Nevada as part of their tour....

The purpose of these particular State Department visitors' tours is to teach the participants about human trafficking and how the U.S. is combating the problem. One might conclude from the program of a visiting brothel and a pro-prostitution organization that the State Department is telling international visitors that legalization of prostitution is a solution to trafficking.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports on morale over at State Department HQ:

Walk the halls of the State Department's main offices in Washington these days, and you'll encounter an abundance of political cartoons — something you could not have found even three years ago. It's not that the diplomats at Foggy Bottom have suddenly developed a sense of humor, but rather a newfound contempt for the leader of the free world. The cartoons overwhelmingly lampoon President Bush as a simpleton who doesn't understand the "complexities" of the foreign policy.

Foreign Service sneering at a president is nothing new, of course, but such open disrespect for a commander-in-chief hasn't existed since Foggy Bottom's diplomats decried Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." But at least then-Secretary of State George Schultz was able to keep something of a handle on his lieutenants and foot soldiers. Colin Powell has not.

Consider an example with deep policy ramifications. On March 31, representatives of the North Korean government told State Department officials, for the first time, that they were reprocessing plutonium, a key step in developing nuclear weapons. The Pentagon and the White House did not learn of this stunning announcement until Pyongyang told them during previously scheduled talks with North Korea in China on April 18. The State Department intentionally withheld this vital piece of information, fearing that, if the White House knew, officials there might call off the meeting. The White House was reportedly furious about this deception, but it has done nothing concrete to make sure it doesn't happen again.

And if you want more reason to get mad, read through NRO's archive of reporting by Joel Mowbray, who has relentlessly covered the State Department's policy of expediting visas for Saudi nationals, obstructing efforts to release abducted American children being held in Saudi Arabia, and undermining our relationship with Turkey.

Does the State Department exist to represent U. S. interests abroad, or to influence U. S. policy for the benefit of foreign countries? Is there corruption -- bribery -- behind this behavior? Or is it that people attracted to the Foreign Service are more likely to be enamored of foreign countries and disdainful of America? Does the glamour of jetting around the world and attending peace conferences in fancy hotels lead to a preference for "peace process" over real peace (which usually only results from the measured application of military force)?

Perhaps we ought to fire the whole lot and start from scratch. A government agency charged with representing our interests around the world ought to by manned by people who identify with those interests. Yes, Foreign Service employees should have an appreciation for foreign cultures, but they ought to passionately love our culture, our way of life, and our traditions of liberty and rule of law, and seek to defend them against all threats.

If someone views himself more as a "citizen of the World" then as an American, let him go join the French Foreign Legion. He doesn't belong in the U. S. Foreign Service.

A hat tip to Little Green Footballs for the link to the Washington Times op-ed. LGF is another source for a long litany of State Department outrages.

In today's edition of NRO, Kenneth Connor, President of the Family Research Council, warns that the Republican Party is in danger of alienating social conservative voters, who see the party leadership more interested in wooing those actively working to undermine traditional values than in defending those values. Connor points out that 4 million evangelicals failed to vote in 2000 and might stay home again:

Since church attendance was the single best indicator of voting behavior, the stay-at-home evangelicals cost Mr. Bush the popular vote and very nearly the election. If these evangelical voters were not highly motivated by eight years of the smarmy Clinton presidency, and were not eager to "run to the polls" and put the whole sorry Clinton era behind them, then it is dangerous to dismiss the possibility they might stay home again on Election Day 2004 if their core issue is treated in a cavalier fashion.

The remark of Cain


In case you missed it, an excerpt from the remarks of State Senator Bernest Cain:

"I got a quote the other day that I got from Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler. And I don't have the exact words, but here's basically what it says. He says, in our government we are going to put Christians in key positions of responsibility because there has been too much liberal access going on out there and we are going to straighten up and make sure that the Christian culture is back in control. Now folks, they took Jewish people and they took them out and they strung them apart, they killed them, they mass murdered some of those people, and all of the ideas that were behind that were, and they were doing this while they were having Christian music going on, while they were having hymns. They killed thousands of Jews while they were doing hymns. That is what happens when you let the right wing of the Taliban come in and try to dictate to the State how we should run our business."

You can read it all here in the context of the legislative debate, with a brief, apt rebuttal from State Senator Charles Ford.

Cain has used his position as chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee to block legislation aimed at protecting the dignity and sanctity of human life. For example, he blocked a ban on human cloning which passed the State House on a 96-0 vote and which was sponsored by fellow Oklahoma City Democrat Opio Toure. On this occasion as well, he took the opportunity to bash supporters of the bill.

"I'm not going to pass laws just so a bunch of right-wingers can go pump to their folks that they passed something," Cain said. "I'm not going to do that. We've got too much of that junk."

I see from Cain's bio (linked above) that he learned philosophy as an undergraduate at Oklahoma Baptist University. Hope they do a better job of filtering out the duds nowadays.

Separation of church and state notwithstanding, you can't separate your theology (or lack thereof) from your politics. What you believe about the existence and nature of God and the nature of mankind will shape your ideas about government and society. If we build public policy on a solid foundation of ideas that reflect the world as it really is, we will build a peaceful, happy and prosperous society. If we build policy on a complete misunderstanding of human nature, we will produce chaos and despair. That's why I like to ask candidates -- particularly judicial candidates who won't be drawn out on specific issues -- "Are people basically good, or basically evil?" If they get this question wrong, they'll make all sorts of bad decisions, and I'll end up in my house behind seven different kinds of locks, hoping the marauding hordes will leave me alone.

This is what got me thinking about this: In today's "Bleat", James Lileks tells us about a couple of Anthony Burgess's dystopian sci-fi novels (The Wanting Seed, A Clockwork Orange), and how they reflect Burgess's fascination with "the dynamic between the teachings of St. Augustine and the Pelagian heresy." Augustine said that it was not possible for man not to sin -- because of the fall, humans cannot acheive perfection, apart from God's grace. Pelagius said, yes, it was possible for man to be perfect, and Augustinians shouldn't be so lazy about attaining personal holiness. Of course, theology has implications for public policy: "...in this argument, Burgess saw the two poles of political philosophy at work in the West, and beyond. Augustinian philosophy, which saw man as flawed and sinful and basically hosed when it came to perfectibility in this mortal plain, was the conservative view. Pelagius was liberalism: our nature is not only perfectible, we can perfect ourselves here and now."

Which view you hold comes down to a matter of religious conviction but it leads you to very different conclusions about the role of government, how to educate, how to deal with crime. Some theological propositions aren't testable, but with regard to human nature, we have thousands of years of recorded history to draw from. We can see how real humans have responded to various methods of governing and quickly determine which set of presuppositions, which model, is closest to reality.

I am reminded of a Monty Python bit: The Amazing Mystico and Janet, an illusionist (and his assistant) who builds high-rise apartments by hypnosis -- they stay up as long as the tenants believe in them. In real life of course, apartment buildings stay up only if they are constructed in accordance with the immutable laws of physics, exploiting those laws to produce the desired result. In the same way, a society built in accordance with the immutable laws of human nature will stand firm, while no amount of sincere believing will sustain a society built upon an illusion.

Read the whole article. Lileks' Bleat is always worth reading, and the rest of his site is hilarious, thought-provoking, and amazing, too.

Showing some initiative


Just got finished with our monthly Midtown Coalition meeting. We shifted it from our usual date and time in order to hold a discussion with area legislators. Tuesday falls in the middle of the legislative week and it's inconvenient to return to Tulsa for a meeting only to drive back to OKC the following morning. We understood, set a Thursday date at the recommendation of the legislators, who normally don't meet on Fridays, confirmed availability, got a meeting room. The only State Senator who said she would come backed out, citing the Senate's schedule, but so far no bad news from the House members. (Although Rep. Easley did warn me that so close to the end of the session, something might come up that would make the members unavailable.)

Monday I sent out reminder postcards to our members. Tuesday afternoon I sent an e-mail reminder to the legislators. Within minutes I received two replies saying that because of the addition of a session on Friday, the representatives regretted that they would be unable to attend our meeting. Wednesday afternoon another cancellation came in. I'm expecting a big crowd for this meeting, and so I started to worry, because the star attractions won't be at the meeting. So I asked Councilor Chris Medlock to have someone come to talk about the Route 66 proposal.

Thursday morning I got a phone call and an e-mail cancelling. Now we're down to one legislator left who confirmed he would be there and who hasn't cancelled. I assumed he had just forgotten or perhaps he figured that we will assume that he can't come like all the others. And since I hadn't heard if anyone could come to talk about Route 66, I called County Commissioner Randi Miller to see if she could come talk to us. At least we'll get to visit with one elected official.

Lo and behold, at 7 p.m., just before the meeting is set to begin, State Rep. Roy McClain (D) walked in. The reason he didn't e-mail with a cancellation is because he actually planned on showing up. I cast no aspersions on the others for cancelling. Perhaps some had committee meetings late into the day; for the older members, perhaps making back to back drives between Tulsa and OKC would be too much to take. But I was impressed that Rep. McClain took the time to be there and was willing to make the extra drive. (I wonder if his colleagues will scold him for showing them up.)

McClain may be just another Michael Flanagan. Flanagan, a poorly-financed Republican, beat Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, an entrenched and powerful but scandal-plagued incumbent, in 1994, but then lost big in 1996 as the seat reverted to its normal voting habits, replacing Flanagan with another Democrat.

McClain didn't wow anyone with his answers tonight, but the kind of initiative he showed just by showing up may indicate that he has what it takes to hang on to a district that is overwhelmingly Republican by tradition and character. Mark Liotta (R) and Mary Easley (D) are two examples of representatives who hang on against unfavorable voter registration numbers; they do it by maintaining contact with their constituents all through the legislative session, and by wearing out shoe leather during the campaign season.

Republicans who want House District 71 back in their column shouldn't take it for granted.

P. S. Thanks to Julie Miner of the City Urban Development Department, who came to talk about Route 66, and Commissioner Miller, for being available at such short notice.

No-runoff nightmare


The Democrat primary to replace convicted State Sen. Gene Stipe (D - Big Mac) has produced a narrow win for State Rep. Richard Lerblance of Hartshorne, with only 27% of the vote in a field of five candidates. There is no runoff in this special election, so Lerblance moves to the general election knowing that 73% of Democrat primary voters wanted someone else.

We had a similar result in the race to replace John Sullivan in the State House after his election to Congress in early 2002. Six candidates ran in the Republican primary, won by Chad Stites with only 35% of the vote. The predominantly Republican district gave him a healthy victory over the Democrat in the race, but then the man's flaws began to surface. One wonders if a runoff in that special election would have brought matters to a head earlier.

I believe in majority rule, and "winning" with 27% of the vote doesn't qualify as a majority. Given the closeness of the race, even a two-candidate runoff could fail to give the victory to the candidate preferred by the majority of the voters. The third-place finisher, with 22% of the vote, might have been the choice of those who voted for #4 and #5 if the bottom two candidates had decided not to place their names on the ballot. If all of their votes had gone to #3, he would have had 48% and far outpaced #1 and #2. A similar situation in Louisiana in 1991 sidelined the incumbent governor and left voters with a choice between "The Crook" (Edwin Edwards) and "The Klansman" (David Duke). The same sort of thing happened in Oklahoma in 1990 in both parties' gubernatorial primaries; Burns Hargis might well have placed 2nd had it been a three man race, and Steve Lewis easily could have finished 1st ahead of Walters and Watkins, if a couple of minor candidates had not been in the race.

(Gubernatorial -- doesn't that word just make you think of a peanut doing the backstroke?)

The only way to ensure that the most preferred candidate is elected is to have a series of runoffs, eliminating the candidate with the lowest vote total after each round.

Too expensive and time consuming you say? That's why they invented Instant Runoff Voting -- one ballot, one election, but all the runoffs you need to ensure that the voters' preference gets the victory.

The 2/5 cent sales tax for the use of the Sheriff's Department of Oklahoma County, opposed by the Mayor of Oklahoma City and the Chamber of Commerce as "too large ... too loose ... too long", was defeated soundly tonight, by an 80-20 margin. While the debate leading up to the vote was forceful, it did not appear to get personal, and as this Daily Oklahoman article (free registration required) shows, the two sides were respectively gracious in defeat and magnanimous in victory, with Sheriff Whetsel phoning to concede defeat, and a Chamber official offering to work with the sheriff to address the needs that prompted him to seek the tax increase. 36,000 people signed the petition to put the issue on the ballot, but only 10,059 voted for the proposition. Turnout was less than 14% of registered voters.

Last night Mikki and I attended a banquet honoring Arthur E. Rubin, a pioneer, volunteer, and elder statesman in the Tulsa County Republican Party. Art, now in his 80s, campaigned for Wendell Wilkie in 1940, helped reorganize the local party after big losses in 1958, and has been in the party leadership ever since. He got Jim Inhofe started in elective politics, and has been an encouragement and supporter of countless other candidates, including John Sullivan and Bill LaFortune. He's a man of strong convictions, and a frequent writer of letters to the editor. When he started, Tulsa County was 4-1 Democrat; today, the county is solidly Republican.

The evening included an impression performance by the Trojanaires, Jenks High School's show choir, and a slide show starting with Art's early days on the farm near Fairland, Oklahoma, through his service in World War II, his wedding, and his many travels with his wife. The photo that got the biggest laugh was of him riding bareback on a donkey while on a visit to Greece -- a humorous illustration of his life's work.

Half the fun of these events is getting to talk to elected officials and other activists and hear some of the inside scoop, which of course I can't share in this forum. I will simply say that for someone as fascinated by politics as I am, talking to these folks is like "an adult Christmas every day", as Rush Limbaugh says about his radio show.

Not many years ago, I was on the outside looking in. I was interested in politics, but felt unable to make much of a difference. I had been involved in the late '80s and early '90s, but was frustrated by some of the internal party politics and backed off to invest more time in my church.

Sometime in the mid '90s, on the ok.general Usenet group, Dale Switzer, a computer engineer who was active in the GOP, mentioned that he had been part of a group of activists and leaders who effectively chose between two high-profile candidates for a major office. Both gentlemen were interested in the office, and were viable candidates, but as a result of the influence of activists like Dale one of the two filed for office, ran, won and served for many years, and the other never filed for the race. I asked Dale how he managed to get into such an influential position, and he said it was by being a dedicated, involved foot soldier in the party. It certainly wasn't money or power.

In the intervening years, I learned that Dale was absolutely right. As I've been constructively involved in campaigns and party-building, as well as civic issues, more people have come to know and trust me, and some of the friends I've made are now in influential positions. Many activists have had the thrill of seeing a candidate elected to high office, having helped knock doors or raise money for his first city council campaign. Politicians, the good ones, at any rate, remember and remain grateful to the folks who were with them from the beginning.

So if you love politics but feel left out, go volunteer, get involved, even if what you are doing seems insignificant. No one is going to appreciate the brilliance of your ideas until they see the sweat of your brow. Once you've demonstrated your bona fides, the doors begin to open. And doggone if it isn't a hoot!

Today's featured article on the Wall Street Journal website is a note of thanks from Iraqi poet Awad Nasir. He says that it wasn't the Turks, the Iranian mullahs, the Arab League, or Jacques Chirac that came to free his people from the clutches of Saddam:

"No, believe it or not, Iraqis of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions were liberated by young men and women who came from the other side of the world--from California and Wyoming, from New York, Glasgow, London, Sydney and Gdansk to risk their lives, and for some to die, so that my people can live in dignity.

"Those who died to liberate our country are heroes in their own lands. For us they will be martyrs and heroes. They have gained an eternal place in our hearts, one that is forever reserved for those who gave their lives in more than three decades of struggle against the Baathist regime."

Read it all.

Chamber Pots


Tulsa Today has a powerful account of the self-destruction of the once-powerful Tulsa Metro Chamber, an organization that receives millions of tax dollars annually to promote Tulsa's economic development. The article quotes an unnamed staffer who describes Chamber CEO Jay Clemens as "a complexly bizarre kind of guy who vacillates between psychotic paranoia, arrogance, and bullying." The article goes on to detail the control-freak organizational culture that keeps employees in a state of fear and keeps board members in the dark.

The Chamber's influence has been on the wane since the November 2000 defeat of "It's Tulsa's Time", the $263 million sales tax increase for a new arena and convention facilities. I served on the Convention and Tourism Task Force leading up to that vote. It was supposed to be a grass-roots process to determine what Tulsans wanted for our city, and there were reports that the Steering Committee was developing a novel set of recommendations that would look very different from the failed 1997 proposal. The Chamber leadership and then-Mayor Savage sidelined the Steering Committee, a broad-based group which included opponents of the failed 1997 package, and created an "Executive Committee" that could be relied upon to reach the predetermined conclusion. The Chamber's campaign strategy was to avoid debate and pretend that the opposition didn't exist. The ostrich-like strategy didn't work, and Tulsa voters simultaneously turned down the Tulsa Time package and approved "4 to Fix the County", a sales tax extension for a variety of improvements to county facilities and infrastructure.

The Chamber leadership seems to still want to believe that they alone run the city, and they've rebuffed friendly overtures to include them as partners with other groups in developing a new vision for the Tulsa region. "My way or the highway," is the unspoken gist of the Chamber's response.

High praise to Mayor LaFortune and his team for setting out to scrutinize the effectiveness of the Chamber's economic development efforts. Meanwhile, the hundreds and thousands of ordinary businesses who belong to the Chamber ought to wonder if their interests are being effectively represented by the organization that receives their dues. The board's job is to hold the CEO and staff accountable; the members should insist that the board do its duty.

Hard to believe? Well, it's not happening here. It's happening in Oklahoma City, where Mayor Kirk Humphreys and the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce are joining forces to defeat a 0.4% permanent county sales tax sought by Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel to fund his department. The Daily Oklahoman quotes Humphreys as saying, "It's too large in the amount of money, it's too loose in accountability and it goes on for too long."

Approval of the tax on May 13 would create an oversight committee, but the members would serve at the Sheriff's pleasure. The tax will raise $30-$35 million a year. The Sheriff could spend it on anything. Mayor Humphreys says that having that kind of money to spend with no oversight would make the Sheriff more powerful than the Governor.

Competition over and coordination of tax elections takes place all the time behind the scenes, as overlapping government entities try to keep the money flowing. An ill-timed bond issue from, say, the Vo-Tech District could make it harder for another taxing authority, such as the city, to extend a sales tax. But an elected local official is usually reluctant to oppose another local official's tax hike, because he doesn't want to create enemies for the next time he must ask the voters for more money. So it's refreshing to see Mayor Humphreys break the code of silence of the Bureaucratic Brotherhood and take a public stand against a bad idea.

Here's the Oklahoman's collection of stories on the proposed tax hike.

Conservative media gains


You have heard that Fox News won the war-coverage war, but conservative news outlets posted gains in other media as well. Local news/talk station KFAQ nearly doubled from the previous quarter, rising from 17th in the market to 11th. And the latest newspaper circulation numbers show New York Times circulation dropping 5.34% from the previous year, while Rupert Murdoch's New York Post gained 10.21%. Despite the war, the LA Times and Washington Post also saw numbers drop, although not as steeply as the New York Times. The story only showed the top 20 papers -- anyone know how the Oklahoman and the World did?

We tend to use "democracy" as a shorthand description for the relatively free and stable social, political, and economic system we enjoy, but by looking at the post-colonial experience of most Third World nations, it's easy to see that a voting system alone is an insufficient basis for liberty. Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto, in an interview in National Review Online, explains why establishing secure title to property is an essential step for "nation-building" in Iraq. He mentions a startling figure: There is no clear title to 78% of assets in Mexico, 90% of assets in Egypt. Investment and credit are impossible if no one can be sure who owns what.

Here's the website of DeSoto's organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, for more on this concept.

Christine's Lullaby


James Lileks introduced a new piece of music at this weekend's Minnesota Youth Symphonies concert, dedicated to a two-year-old girl who was on her way to Disneyland with her mommy and daddy on September 11, 2001, when her plane slammed into the World Trade Center. Lileks writes that her story "is the story that defines that day, and makes me unable to speak." Yet it was his task to introduce a piece written in her memory, with her grandparents in the audience, and then to introduce Mahler's Resurrection Symphony. Lileks wrote about Christine on the anniversary of 9/11; his words still give me chills.

We must never, ever forget. Read these columns and remember. And pray.

Interesting column by George Will in the April 28 newsweek on Oklahoma senator
Jim Inhofe. Here's the lead:

"Many members of the House and Senate say they ran for office out of love—of justice, equality, peace, the American way, etc. James Inhofe says he ran for Congress in 1986 for “vengeance.” In a city full of people who pretend to believe that politics should be kinder and gentler, Inhofe is refreshing. He does not even pretend."

Sorry about the lack of entries for the last couple of days, as I was down at the Oklahoma Republican Convention in Midwest City. It was a fun but busy time. Friday was a day-long seminar for grassroots party leaders. County party officers from across the state were there to learn about election and campaign finance laws, motivating volunteers, and fundraising. I gave a brief talk on using computers for campaigns and for off-year party building.

I went to my first State Committee meeting late Friday afternoon, where we debated amendments to the state party's permanent rules, deciding which would go before the full convention. The most controversial rule would have abolished the requirement that chairman and vice chairman not be of the same sex. It would have applied to every level of the party: precinct, county, congressional district, and statewide. I supported the move, as it would make it easier to fill precinct offices. I was surprised at the opposition to the change from the rural counties, which dominate the state committee. Some women expressed fear that women would be squeezed out of leadership if the amendment were passed. I think you'd be more likely to see women filling both top spots, given that women dominate grassroots activity in the party.

Friday night was the convention banquet. Ralph Reed , chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and Joe Allbaugh , recently retired head of FEMA and one of George W. Bush's closest advisers in Texas, were our two main speakers, both introduced by political consultant Marc Nuttle.

The connections in politics are amusing -- Nuttle and Allbaugh first met in 1974, when Henry Bellmon was running for re-election to the Senate. The '74 Senate race (Bellmon was opposed by Ed Edmondson) was one of the closest in Oklahoma's history , and there was a controversy involving the voting machines in Tulsa County, which lacked a "straight party" lever. Bellmon was finally seated by the Senate 90 days after the election. That year Allbaugh was Bellmon's driver, Nuttle was campaign manager. 26 years later, both wind up in Florida, working on the closest presidential election in recent history -- Allbaugh as an adviser to Bush, Nuttle as an attorney working on the legalities of the recount process.

More later.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from May 2003.

Politics: June 2003 is the next archive.

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