THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

GARLAND NIXON on The New GOP

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 16, 2009

images6The GOP of 2009 is quite different than the Party we have become accustomed to over the last decade or so. As odd as it may seem, today’s Republican Party is a highly concentrated form of the 2000 through 2004 Gang that brought us Iraq, a trillion dollar deficit, and Freedom Fries. While the Democrats were trouncing the Republicans in both 2006 and 2008, few seemed to notice that the Republicans who were ousted were those who made up the moderate voice of the GOP. Those Republicans who were in districts with an ideologically diverse constituency were nearly all replaced when the Country began trending blue. As the GOP loses it’s moderate voice it becomes more conservative which ultimately drives away the remaining moderates and guess what, the Party becomes even more conservative. A political trend which, if it continues, will ultimately leave a small, angry, and powerless group of White Protestant Southerners commiserating about how the minorities, Yankees, and Hippies are bringing this country to ruin.

The 2009 GOP is made up of mostly Southern and Western hard core right wingers who answer to bright red districts. Regardless of the ideological moderation which seems to have blanketed America, their home town voters are the true believers. The Sarah Palin supporters who spent the general election convinced that Barack Obama was a Muslim who sat in a Church for 20 years listening to a radical Christian preacher.

President Obama began his Presidency attempting to cross Party lines to compromise, and maybe even synergize, with his opposition. He quickly found out that the crew he faces now will not be bargained with. They will fight him on every issue and put the future at risk to win a battle against him today. The recent appearances of Jim Imhoff and Lindsey Graham spitting anger and venom on MSNBC painted a grim picture for those hoping for bi-partisan governance. That being said, I have little doubt that the President will continue his overtures towards the opposition regardless of the success.

President Obama will need to consolidate power within his own Party in order to push through many of the initiatives he proposed during his Campaign. The dozen or so Democrats who opposed the stimulus bill in the house must be brought back in line, and it may be necessary to unleash Rahm Emanuel to get the job done.

MN – Pawlenty’s Pimp for 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 11, 2009

imagesThe GOP could use a good dose of moderates in the mix, particularly as it mulls its Presidential chances in 2012.  One name that comes up constantly is Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who was rumored at many points during the 2008 election as a top running mate choice for Sen. John McCain’s (R) – before AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) stole the show.

Our gut tells us McCain wanted Pawlenty all along, but a convergence of rabid conservative activists and Palin’s … appeal did McCain in.  We wouldn’t be surprised if McCain is pushing for a Pawlenty run behind the scenes.  But, the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, at the moment, is settled on Palin.   The two Ps may define the ideological battle lines within the Republican Party.

Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza talks about it in The Fix:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty returned yesterday from a three-day trip to Germany where he attended the Munich Conference on Security Policy, the latest evidence that the Minnesota Republican is working to broaden his policy palette in advance of a potential run for president in 2012.

Pawlenty was invited to the conference, which was also attended by Vice President Biden among many, many other international dignitaries, by Sen. John McCain — a close personal friend and the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2008.

That Close to Meltdown

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 11, 2009

images22As unpopular as the Wall Street TARP bailout is in the public eye, information appears to continually leak out about how critical it is to pump some sort of cash into the financial system – between the rock of not liking this plan and the hard place of “Well – you got any other bright ideas?”. The problem, however, is with the lack of oversight and knowledge about that money – where exactly is it going and what is it supposed to do? It, of course, doesn’t help that the general American public is not that economics-savvy.

Readers should check out Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Chair of the House Capital Markets Subcommittee, cluing us in to just how serious this crisis is.  Kanjorski says the Federal Reserve told Members of Congress about a “tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the United States, to the tune of $550 billion dollars.” Interesting Kanjorski is talking about it so many months after the fact – but, at least, someone on Capitol Hill is being forthcoming.

We’ll let the transcript speak for itself:

“On Thursday Sept 15, 2008 at roughly 11 AM The Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw down of money market accounts in the USA to the tune of $550 Billion dollars in a matter of an hour or two.

Money was being removed electronically.

The treasury tried to help with $150 Billion.

But could not stem the tide.

It was an electronic run on the banks

The treasury intervened but had they not closed down the accounts they estimated that by 2 PM that afternoon. Within 3 hours. $5.5 Trillion would have been withdrawled and collapsed and within 24 hours the world economy.”

With or W/out Stimulus

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 10, 2009

images21Clearly, President Obama’s biggest political weapon is not inside the Beltway – it’s outside. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows high ratings for Obama: 76% approve of the job he’s doing.  80% saying he’s doing a good job of leadership; 61% feel he’s handling his cabinet picks well despite the cabinet melee.   He’s showing a mandate on many levels, obviously helping him pass the economic stimulus bill through the Senate.

Interesting tidbit though that we’re not certain many people caught. The Congressional Budget Office said in its 1.8.09 testimony that the recession will last until the second half of 2009 – and this is without stimulus: http://tinyurl.com/95b2cy. See pg. 4.

AL – Rep. Davis (D-AL) to run for Governor

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 10, 2009

images11There are many indications that African American politicos are feeling a bit emboldened to run for seats that, only a few years ago, seemed unattainable.  Black politicians, upon seeing President Obama’s once inconceivable-in-a-lifetime victory, are now taking it to the next level.  Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) is making a serious bid for U.S. Senate in Florida come 2010.  Gov. David Paterson (D) in NY is already setting the stage for his first gubernatorial run.  And now we have Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), a rising pol in the House Democratic caucus who has gained national clout with his fundraising prowess, making a bid for Governor in Alabama. Writes Patricia C. McCarter in The Huntsville Times:

His tie to Obama could make Davis’ bid for the governor’s office excellent timing, even though Alabama didn’t give Obama its vote. In his meet-the-voters event at the Historic Huntsville Depot, Davis said of all places in the state, Huntsville is an area that understands and supports change.

“There was a time in this state when we’d never built a rocket,” he said.

Davis likened that hurdle to another formerly inconceivable idea that a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas would meet, marry and produce a son who would go on to become president.

The change Davis said he wants to see – which includes himself in the governor’s mansion – could happen soon, “not at some distant point called ‘someday.’ ”

This should be one of the most, if not the most, interesting race of the 2010 election season. We can’t wait to see the outcome.  Davis may exercise a tremendous amount of leverage in this race, power built up strategically during his tenure in Congress.  Clearly, he’s been running towards this goal for some time.  But, a Black Governor of Alabama? Will he have the sort of demographics similar to Obama’s national run to offset the inevitable wave of bigoted skepticism in such a deeply Southern state like Alabama? Whatever the challenge, Davis may be well prepared to take it on.

Burned Out?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 5, 2009

images51Amid much rancor and speculation, many pundits struggle to figure out exactly what’s going on at the White House.  Clearly, many observe, something’s wrong with the messaging.   From the fumbled vetting of cabinet appointments to the inability to craft a clear, solid message on how, exactly, the stimulus “package” will work. Fortunately for the President, he’s maintaining his composure and keeping it cool.  It’s also worth noting that he’s doing something somewhat unprecedented in Presidential politics over the past decade: he’s admitting mistakes.

Here are a couple of recent observations:

Maureen Dowd: “It took Daschle’s resignation to shake the president out of his arrogant attitude that his charmed circle doesn’t have to abide by the lofty standards he lectured the rest of us about for two years… The Democratic president has been spending so much time trying — and failing — to win over Republicans that he may not have noticed the disillusionment in his own ranks. Betrayed by their bankers and leaders, Americans were desperate to trust someone when they made Barack Obama president. His debut has left them skeptical about his willingness to smack down those who would flout his high standards or waste our money.”

First Read: “When Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in Springfield, IL, here’s what he said: ‘I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.’ The irony? The folks that have caused him the most trouble in the last two years have old Washington hands like Jim Johnson, Bill Richardson, and Tom Daschle. If President Obama listened to his own rhetoric, he would have avoided all three embarrassments. He’s been making the case of changing the ways Washington did business, and NOT relying on old Washington hands is one of the ways to avoid old mistakes.”

Something we’re not hearing in this wave of criticism: maybe it’s not so much Obama or his staff underestimating the ways of Washington.  Maybe it’s something as simple as the pace at which their moving.  Who knows – but, as with the debate over multi-tasking and the growing demands of a wired society, shouldn’t there be a conversation about managing speed?  Striking a balance between quickly meeting high expectations and doing so in a careful, methodical fashion?

Could we be seeing the unfortunate results of moving too fast too soon?  There are reports of a White House reviving the late night work sessions and an Administration 2.0 heavily reliant on multi-tasking and use of multiple digital tools all at once.  Already, balls have been dropped.  Should the White House slow down a bit and assess the landscape? Is it in perpetual campaign mode?  And, is that healthy? True, we’re in a crisis requiring dramatic response. But how beneficial is that response if we’re moving too fast to think it through?

GUEST BLOG: Garland Nixon on “Tax Cuts to the End”

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 5, 2009
images4When the Republican Party gained full power in 2000 they fully implemented the tax cut agenda as a rallying cry. The first order of business was to demonstrate the power of their long held position that cutting taxes was a political and economic fix for all problems. When the economy was strong and there was a significant budget surplus, the Republican answer was to cut taxes and give money back to the people who earned it. When the Country was militarily engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republican answer was to cut taxes for reasons which have never been explained to any reasonable degree. When the economy began to fade, once again the Republican answer was to cut taxes to stimulate the economy.

After eight years of cutting taxes and watching the economy crumble, it comes as no surprise that the Republican Party is fighting the current stimulus bill because it does not have enough tax cuts for their liking. It is increasingly obvious that the GOP has little else to fight with. The constant demand for tax cuts is little more than a rallying cry to excite the base and obstruct the Democrats. Tax cuts have been proposed to stimulate the economy during fiscal difficulties, and boost the economy even more during periods of fiscal growth.

The Republican Party is struggling to find an answer to a problem which they don’t understand. Massive domestic and foreign policy failures has enlightened the electorate to the politics of perception. Soundbites, rallying cries, and other tools which work to create perceptions and raise age old fears have little effect on people with serious real world problems.

I have little doubt that the Republican Party will continue their call for more tax cuts to save the economy, bring peace, and cure such ailments as arthritis and gout. However, after each election cycle there seems to be fewer of them in Congress to make that argument. At this rate, by 2013 you will need a history book to find a Republican in Washington. The Party of tax cuts seems doggedly determined to turn America into a one party State….with low taxes.

Steele’s Slippery Slope

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on February 1, 2009

images3The gregarious, former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele was clearly in his element, working tables and glad-handling the base, flashing confident smiles while occasionally busting a nervous bead of sweat or two. The RNC Winter Meeting is one of the more … non-diverse political functions to take place inside the Beltway, yet Steele made his rounds with ease. Undoubtedly, Steele is a clean, polished cat – one of the more polished in American politics. Any seasoned political junkie could predict this. History, trajectory and the crispy shine of his striped ties could tell you that. For reference, see: rather public and vocal tenure as The Free State’s Lt. Gov. For more, catch his doomed albeit promising 2006 U.S. Senate run.

As African American Republicans and conservatives go, he’s the most affable and telegenic, glistening with normalcy and that feel-good, pat-on-the-back demeanor. Basically, he can flow. J.C. Watts, perhaps, comes in a tight second, but the former Oklahoma Congressman appears a bit reticent on the televised circuit, clearly preferring behind-the-scenes to blowing-up-his-spot. And, who else? There are some notable, young and rather convincing up-and-comers to watch (from Lenny McAllister to Princella Smith), but the others are consumed by partisan-paved bitterness. Steele, on the other hand, enjoys the spotlight. His recent gig as GOPAC head was a grooming fluke, perhaps an attempt by GOPAC’s founder and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to add new flavor to the very vanilla Republican all-time hits list.

But, funny thing, Steele is both recipient and victim of being in right places at the right time. Even though his start-up tenure as Chair of the Prince George’s County Republican Committee put him on Maryland’s map for statewide office, it also raised distressing questions concerning style and substance. Did he have clout or did he just appear to have clout? And if he did, could he exercise it? Questions continue to plague his legacy in Prince George’s: how did he manage a rise to Maryland’s No. 2 spot if he was barely successful at recruitment efforts in the majority Black Washington, D.C. suburb? That’s another story for another blog; the fact remains, to Steele’s defense, that he had a near impossible job in a suburb where 70 percent of residents are African American and nearly 90 percent of those residents are registered Democrats.

Still, few can deny that Steele played position well, understanding the fine line between being Black in the GOP and being too Black in the GOP. He had a healthy shot at the open U.S. Senate seat despite his Republican brand – but, like most Black Republicans, he allowed the party establishment to dictate strategy and message in a state oozing with primarily Black Democratic political power. He failed to retrofit.

Therein lies the root of Steele’s real problem. Republicans needed a public relations break more so than a Michael Steele, a fact that will show itself much sooner rather than later. Let’s appear to shake it up, they finally decided during the Winter meeting. Ok, with a depressing sigh and shrug, let’s pick what we think is our version of Barack Obama. You could see it in the length of time it took to finally pick Steele (a record-breaking six rounds) and the grim look of rank-and-files shuffling about. Folks didn’t appear all that pleased, being forced into the corner of history and demographic shifts. It was all they could do. It was sad, yet full of raw, dark political comedy. What other choice did the party have?

Perhaps they believe in a better go at classic divide and conquer, luring just enough Black voters to get them several more Congressional seats in 2010. It goes beyond Steele’s color, obviously. It’s also an ambitious attempt to stage a Northeast comeback, to change blue states into red, to get the purples back. To look less Southern, to look a bit less White than Western states like Utah and Wyoming according to the latest Gallup poll. And not only did the RNC elect its first Black Chair, it also picked someone from a solidly Democratic state (Maryland) while Democrats have a chair from a purple state that was solidly Republican (Virginia) up until an election ago. Although he shouldn’t underestimate anything breathing on his flank, Obama is sure to have belched a healthy laugh that day at Steele’s expense.

Despite lacking organizational skill, scattered management style and questionable fundraising acumen, Steele’s real test could be his most elusive. Can he get Black Republicans elected to Congress and statewide public office? The chances and candidate pickings are real slim. In the current climate, the new RNC Chair should worry less about appeasing the party base with conservative diatribes and focus more on attracting independents and moderates with pragmatist appeal. If he can pull that off, then he and his party just might have a shot. At the moment, don’t hold your breath, fam.

How Fast You Want it, Fam?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on January 28, 2009

images12The Senegalese have a very quick-witted, simple saying that’s been nagging me for many years since I visited the poor West African nation: “You run too fast, you trip.”

Senegal was emblematic – and still is I’m told – of a nation that just chills.  2-3 hour lunches. People may be poor, but they are laid back, and the warm climate compliments the mood.  As one friend put it: “In Senegal, we work to live. In the West, you live to work.” Point taken. Off point, though.

So, fast and trip saying comes to mind when I think about Charter Communications latest announcement unveiling hi-speed broadband that’s even fast than the broadband we’re seeing now.  But, as I’m clicking around on the rather fast, click-before-I-blink-my-eye connection on the home PC, I can’t help but think if this is fast enough.  Writes US News’ Dave LaGesse: “Broadband bragging rights could go to Charter Communications, which is ready to launch a 60 Mbps service. It would apparently be the fastest available to U.S. consumers. No details yet on price or when, or where, the service will appear from the cableco.”

This might seem like a crazy question: is faster really better? But, when considering the $30B proposed for broadband expansion in the recent economic stimulus package passed by the House, one is forced to ask if it’s better sense to focus more on that digital infrastructure enhancement rather than upgrading speed.  True: can’t stop market forces.  Still, there are large portions of the American landscape, particularly in rural America, which have little or no broadband connection.  What would 60 mbps mean to a poor family in Tennessee or Mississippi?

Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves in the desire for speed.  There is a lack of balance between wanting so much speed and the need for sensible progress in technological deployment.  In getting pressed for speed we might not need, just yet, we’re not focused on laying out the platform for future advancements.  We’re like a recent episode of “Fringe” where unsuspecting Internet users have their brains liquified by a murderous digital virus while surfing.  If we don’t slow down and get smart, we’ll definitely end up tripping.

GUEST BLOG: Garland Nixon on “Obama’s Ethics Rule Waiver; Hypocrisy or “Big Picture” Move?”

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on January 27, 2009
news Two days after implementing sweeping new ethics rules President Obama has decided to waive a provision regarding former lobbyist to bring Mr. William Lynn into the Administration to fill the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense. This move attracted immediate criticism from people on both sides of the aisle. The Administration’s reasoning was clear and concise:

“Because Mr. Lynn came so highly recommended from experts across the political spectrum, the president-elect felt it was critical that he fill this position,” said Obama Transition spokesman Tommy Vietor.

“After consultation with counsel to the president,” said Director of the Office of Management of Budget Peter Orszag in a statement, “I hereby waive the requirements of Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Ethics Pledge of Mr. William Lynn. I have determined that it is in the public interest to grant the waiver given Mr. Lynn’s qualifications for his position and the current national security situation

Though appearing to be worthy of the criticism it has received, I would argue that it is a classic Obama move and reflects his focus on the big picture. The two highlighted portions of the statement: “it is in the public interest” and “and the current national security situation” are indicative of the results oriented thinking process President Obama has continually demonstrated. He created a new set of ethics rules to accomplish his Presidential mission. A critical part of the mission is to keep the American people safe and he believes that appointing Mr. Lynn in this position is the most effective move he can make to accomplish this goal. Therefore he must make a decision as to which is more important, the rule or the goal. It would be imprudent to appoint a lesser qualified person to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Defense, possibly making the unit less effective,just to keep from breaking a non-binding ethics rule, not a law… but a rule. When considering that this position is critical to the safety of our nation, what reasonable person could argue that the rule is more important.

The rule is part of a process which is designed to accomplish a mission, in this case national Security. President Obama is clearly a man who believes in rules and order, but being a results oriented thinker I doubt that he would ever hesitate to waive a rule if it would compromise the success of the mission.