Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kasich: Read no evil, see no evil

IT'S A LITTLE EARLY to be Ho-Ho-Ho-ing, I know, but it's the only way I know how to respond to the latest utterance from Gov. Kasich. I refer to his comments in a Columbus speech in which, with straight face, he declared that he never reads newspapers. That's a politician's standard cover-up when things are not going well - no curiosity at all to know how he's doing in the media. The other cover-up for the pols is that they will tell you they never look at the polls. Particularly when they don't favor you. To repeat: Ho-Ho-Ho.

In his rejection of the media, our governor, with straight face, informed us: "You should know that I don't read newspapers in the State of Ohio" because one doesn't need to be "aggravated by what I read in newspapers." This is spoken in a town where the daily newspaper, the Dispatch, helped him get elected by endorsing him, thus aggravating to this day a whole lot of other folks who have a dismal view of him.

He also complained that he doesn't find newspapers to be "uplifting". Uplifting?

Here's one former newspaperman who will tell you that I never once heard that word applied to a newspaper's mission, which is to be "informative". However, sadly I do find that to be less so today. So go ahead, governor, read the papers. You might help somebody in the newsroom save his or her job.

Connie Schultz: A post-PD career

STUART WARNER'S excellent piece in Cleveland Magazine on Columnist Connie Schultz's resignation from the Plain Dealer deserves your attention as a peek into the ways of modern newsroom culture. It never helps a newspaper to lose a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, but Connie's workaday world was never simple since her husband, Sherrod Brown, was elected to the U. S. Senate in 2006. A brassy liberal with a strong social conscience who independently fashioned her own reporting career, she was immediately branded as a shill for her husband by certain critics on the staff. Warner, her editor and friend at the PD, described the growing tension as "awkward". It reached the point where she decided to leave.

Too bad. God knows, the conservative side of the PD writers is quite visible, beginning with an op-ed columnist/editor whose political assumptions would even make some Tea Partiers blush. (But he doesn't have a spouse in the Senate.)

Actually, Schultz was having a problem with an editor before Brown , a congressman, went to the Senate. She once told me that the only thing that kept her from being fired by the former editor was the announcement that she had won a Pulitzer Prize. That would have been an embarrassment for the paper, but most newspaper editors are not known for their social skills.

The messy situation that Schultz has left behind by choosing to clear out her desk will in no way impede her career as an author and national columnist; that's what grit and talent will do for anybody in this business. Connie has both, with plenty to spare.

Her epilogue to her colleagues and friends said in part:

"In recent weeks, it has become painfully clear that my independence, professionally and personally, is possible only if I'm no longer writing for the newspaper that covers my husband's senate race on a daily basis. It's time for me to move on."

As for her 18-year experience at the PD, she described it in three words: "What a ride".

That's vintage Connie Schultz.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Urban America arrives in Columbus

Ohio State hires Urban Meyer as the new football genius and so let us begin the new millennium in the Scarlet and Gray's iconic history. We can confidently tell you that is true because the morning papers reported it in headlines that would normally announce a war or a tsunami on Lake Erie. (See above photo in Beacon Journal)

Add this from the front page of the Plain Dealer:

After a difficult season, Buckeyes get their man

For a winner-starved sports crowd in northern Ohio (albeit, the OSU campus is in Central Ohio!) the media's overly-expressive reaction was based on the employment of a coach with a winning record in an earlier life that has now earned him a six-year contract worth more than $25 million. In some respects, Meyer is the new kid on the block to replace LeBron James, another icon who shattered his blessings by the fans in these parts by skipping town to Miami.

And now we come to what some people will call the apples-and-oranges section of this short Urbanized piece:

The Buckeyes hometown Columbus Dispatch declared on Page One: MEYER ERA BEGINS

But there were a couple of other much less prominent items on the same page, one was headed Parks have to wait for improvements, which reported that the Metro Parks could not upgrade their conditions because of state budget cutbacks; and another: Westerville schools eliminate 62 positions., the result of having to strip $23 million from the budget during these, eh...hard times.

I have a problem dealing with the two universes, folks. As a political writer for decades, I realized that - optimistically speaking - based on election day turnouts, no more than 50 pct. of the readers gave a damn about politics. As for readership, that may have been wildly optimistic.

So is it fair to ask whether the Urbanization of a college football team is worth so much notice in view of all of the other realities of the workaday world?

I think not, but I do follow the happenings in the sports world, even on days like today when I can't avoid it with my morning coffee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are we again in the midst of Darkest Ohio?

SOME YEARS AGO, New Republic, then a liberal magazine, ran an editorial that snapped at the right-wing politics of Ohio's capital, Columbus. The headline above the piece was "In Darkest Ohio". As the editor of a small political magazine in Columbus who had written a couple of articles for New Republic, I had provided some of the grist for the editorial. The headline is worth recalling only because it could easily apply to the political culture of the current General

The folly of the Kasich Era should alarm anyone who cares about the Buckeye State's much maligned post-modern image.

The daily mash arriving from the Republican governor and his coterie of theocratic lawmakers is fearsome enough to forget about the legislative days when Democrats and Republicans vigorously argued their viewpoints and then shook hands and moved on to the next issue. (I can recall sitting down to late after-hours dinners near the Statehouse with both parties at the table and not fearing for my life.)

If there is a single word to describe the current political class down there it would have to be overreach - a serious illness, come to think of it - that has infected the ruling powers in the House of Representatives in Congress, too.

But for the time being, let's stick to the overreachers at the Statehouse. Despite the slaughter of Issue 2, the collective bargaining law (Senate Bill 5), there are actually voices in the legislature overreaching for more, insisting that the time has come to make Ohio a right-to-work state. It went to the ballot in 1958 with disastrous results for the proponents. But the anti-labor lawmakers are getting strong signals from an outfit called the Liberty Council (patriotism reigns with these groups that keeping dropping into the news) to add it to the Ohio Constitution.

There are also steps being taken for another constitutional add-on next year, the so-called Personhood Amendment that declares the creation of life at the nanosecond that the human egg is fertilized. It would be the most-restrictive anti-abortion measure in the nation. (Mississippi voters earlier this month overwhelmingly rejected a Personhood Amendment.)

Since things are believed to happen in threes, we've already seen the fatuous emergence of a restriction on the national health care law on this November's ballot and was passed 2-1. It would eliminate the mandate for everyone to buy health insurance. It played to the voters like a silent movie; even its opponents largely ignored it. Why? Because a state law can't override a federal law, that's why. But it will give Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, who hates that national health care law, something to crow about.

What's going on in Buckeye Land? Unless you are a Tea Partier or right-wing religionist with a stranglehold on the Republicans in Columbus, you'll never be able to fully explain it. Nor will your state representative, who may not represent you at all.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For Gingrich, the good bad news

THE GOOD NEWS for Newt Gingrich, the new Golden Oldie to capture the media's imagination, is that he was endorsed by the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, the state's biggest newspaper (Sunday circ. 63,991; daily, 48,342). The bad news for Newt Gingrich is that the influential right-wing daily endorsed the nominations of Steve Forbes in the 2000 Republican primary and, for God's sake, Pat Buchanan in the 1992 and 1996 primaries.

The paper's front-page Sunday editorial signed by publisher Joseph W. McQuaid sent waves of breathless reports across the cyberworld, which figured it had some hard news to bestir the saliva of a politically inattentive nation caught up in the frenzy of the National Football League.

According to McQuaid's extrasensory perception, we can count on Gingrich to "improve Washington" just as he did in the 1990s as the Republican House Speaker. You can see where this is all going.

The same, though younger Gingrich, was reprimanded in 1997 by a bipartisan House vote of 395 to 28 and required to pay a $300,000 penalty on ethics violations. The Washington Post reported at the time that"Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.
Added Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican,

"Newt has done some things that have embarrassed House Republicans and embarrassed the House."
No previous House speaker in 208 years had been so disciplined.

How's that for "improving Washington"?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Once again, the Fox Crocks are exposed

SOMETHING TELLS ME that I shouldn't be too surprised about the latest polls that are not too kind to Fox News. But on the other hand, when was the last time that you learned the downside of the Fox Crocks more or less confirming that "no Fox news is good news"?

Here's what happily inspires me to mention this: According to a Farleigh Dickinson University poll, "people who watch Fox News are 18-p0ints less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew the government" than people who don't watch any news at all. There are more examples of the network's abiding slow learners. It reinforces something that the University of Maryland's research turned up last year. Alas, people who watch the Fox Crocks are more likely to be misinformed. Well, now.

We thought of this as Fox News "legal expert" Megyn Kelly joined Bill O'Reilly in putting a happy face on the pepper sprayers in Oakland. She called it a "food product". But as one commenter dared: Let's see you spray it on your own food.

And another thing: O'Reilly didn't hesitate to slip in the thought that UC Davis, where the horrendous event occurred, is a "fairly liberal" campus.

Never mind. That explains everything.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blitzer: H-he-e-e-r-r-r-e-s Romney...

I USUALLY ONLY WATCH the Republican presidential debates (No. 11 last night!) a short time before turning to a more productive moment in my life. The CNN assemblage of mean-spirited candidates was no different, despite host Wolf Blitzer's rallying cries in introducing each participant. Hyped introductions are not the usually staid Blitzer's strongest suit, if indeed he has any at all. But here he was, excitedly shouting the names of each as if they were the Chicago Bulls bounding onto the floor from the dressing room.

By now, the candidates have had plenty of opportunities to craft their comments. This is not to say that they don't sound foolish. (Does anybody take them seriously?) Last night, they were to focus on foreign policy, and in the short time that I followed their remarkable insights, they wanted their audience - in house and on TV - to know that all of the world's terrorists are being ignored by President Obama. "He's a failure," asserted Mitt Romney, his favorite description of the president. Others - excepting Ron Paul - would have us looking for terrorists under every bed, much like the prescription for rooting out communists in the old days. And we all thought that it was a sign of progress if we fetched Osama bin Laden.

Yet, when I hear from Mitt, I am reminded he is the same guy whose handlers have posted TV ads accusing Obama of comments that were actually those of John McCain. It's called a hi-tech lie, and Romney will not call it that. (They've also lashed Obama for saying that Americans are "lazy" when in fact, he was referring to the federal government's efforts to lure foreign corporations to America. You need only to roll the tape to discover that!)

Still, it is Newt Gingrich who has forced me to haul out the Grumpy Abe Linguïstic Lunacy (GALL) award for declaring that school janitors should be replaced by kids. After all, on Planet Gingrich "Child labor laws are stupid."

Long ago, I referred to Newt as Crazy Guggenheim, and his current antics merely confirm that I was right. Only the First Amendment would put up with Newt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Portman: a garden variety GOP right winger

Better get used to the happy face in the photo. It's Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. He's been a gleam in the eye of some ranking party planners for the 2012 national ticket ever since his election in 2010. The drumbeat has begun in earnest as the current ensemble of GOP presidential candidates continue to chase their tails in full view of a less than enthusiastic public. Even though the senator's current term doesn't expire until 2016, the American Petroleum Institute, the powerful lobby for the oil and gas industry, is already running TV ads with its blessings for Portman, stressing that he is opposed to raising taxes.(Good grief!) This isn't to suggest that he is yet at the head of he class to lead the GOP ticket. He's merely insurance, and at least the party's logical veep candidate in its effort to carry Ohio.

That's only part of the story. Despite his low profile behavior (read: he is seen as low-key firebrand), he is a rock-ribbed right-wing conservative who votes with his party 97 pct. of the time. The votes on the other 3 pct. really aren't that important.

His ideological report card: Firmly on the side of the social conservatives from don't-ask-don't-tell to pro-life to anti-same-sex marriage His votes on issues affaecting gays are clear to see. On economics, he opposed the stimulus, and supports a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. And the ACLU gives him a a single-digit approval rating . In short, he is sort of like a Rick Santorum without saying too many dumb things in public.

His pre-Senate credentials mark him as one of the top budget advisors to President Bush. And you know where Bush economics got us. He was a member of the failed Supercommittee - which never had a chance from Day One. So now the analysts are wondering whether this will hurt his chances for the national ticket. No problem there, not with the American Petroleum Institute's dollars, probably complemented by the energy investments of the Koch brothers, on your side.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkins: the GOP treat-or-treaters

A PHOTO IN Sunday's papers told us more abut the divinely-inspired GOP presidential candidates who are fervently attempting to lead America into the grasp of evangelical
Christians. Seated at a round table were Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich (and doubtless others not shown.) Unfortunately, by the reported tone of the discussion, it hardly measured up to the level of the lively Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s, the daily luncheon group at the Algonquin Hotel that included such nimble minds as Alexander Woollcott and Dorothy Parker.

By all accounts the presidential wannabes that met for a "values" discussion in Iowa each swore allegiance to taking down the liberal miscreants of the modern world to fill in the ranks with people as spiritually pure as they are. It never stops.

Even the table props sent a message of the wholesome family affair. In full view was a pumpkin. How appropriate for the trick-or-treaters seated for the photo-op. Pumpkins? Were the panelists sitting in judgment of the pulpy seasonals as to whether a pumpkin is a blowfish or a vegetable? This isn't as silly as it sounds. There is a precedent on Capitol Hill. Many on the GOP side have already dared us to consider pizza a vegetable to placate their lobbying frozen -pizza friends.

But let's get even more serious: Reports from the values auditions for the Iowa caucuses in January said several of the candidates tearfully(!) described their own trials in life (Example: Michele Bachmann told of becoming a true Christian after the awful divorce of her parents). What is it about sobbing in this party? I thought Boehner had claimed that value for himself.)

I should also report that Rick Perry signed a pledge by Bob Van Der Plaats, the head of the Family Leader, which sponsored the event. Perry vowed never to support same-six marriage.
But when the pledge bullies ask the candidates to put it in writing, do you get the feeling there is a limit to their trust in the pols' informal promises?

Now can we get back to the nation's economy and the haloed candidates' promises to create jobs? Halloween is over.

Footnote: As long as we're on the subject, Republican icon Thomas jefferson, whose name still adorns the menus of the party's dinners, once said this:

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The chief warns of pale face invasion

TO FOLLOW UP WITH late word on the Buchanan post:

A historian has turned up an old document of turkey skin recording this mid-16th century event in the New World:

Fearful of his tribe's declining fortune, an Indian chief assembled his people with a dire warning about their status as an exceptionalist nation. As they gathered around the fires, the sachem said balefully:

"It is my duty to tell you that we are being threatened on all sides because we have been remiss in dutifully mounting our steeds at the borders of our most honorable Yakohotchee Nation."

"How can that be?" one of the braves, newly arrived from a outpost just west of Atlanta, asked. "We are brave warriors."

"That, we are,." the chief responded approvingly. "We are indeed brave warriors, blessed by the gods that have looked down upon us from our papoose days."

He paused to find the precise words. "This afternoon, however, our exceptional scout, Kemo Sabe, arrived from the distant land of sky blue waters to tell us of many strange things that are happening. Most worrisome, he said, were the visages of the people landing on our shores.

Worrisome?' the braves gasped. 'What could cause such fear in exceptional braves?.

"Their faces," the chief replied. "Their faces were pale, and they spoke in a strange language.

"Pale faces? How can that be. They will mock our exceptional ruddy skin with the deathly pallor that they bring to our hallowed ground!'

"We must act before it is too late,' the chief commanded. "I am asking you, my brave friends, to authorize a moat along the entire valley to prevent them coming any farther".

"A moat? Do you really believe that will stop this invasion of strange pale faces?

" It will," said the chief with self satisfaction, "if we fill it with crocodiles. "We cannot afford to lose a minute, or our noble Yakohotchee nation will perish.

"Why not rattlesnakes, too?"

"Those, too," the chief said. "These are perilous times. We must think of our grandchildren."

Pizzagate: fat waistlines vs. GOP fatheads

DID YOU SEE that the Republicans in Congress want pizza to be officially declared a vegetable? Yeah, that floored me, too - and I'm a pizza lover. But in doing the people's urgent business, if they can recalibrate the substance of the food we consume, don't be put out if they tell you that pepperoni is a byproduct of lettuce and pork chops pop from cucumbers.

This Capitol Hill gang has been adrift in its own universe and apparently enjoying every minute of its cash flow from lobbyists. In this instance, it responded to word of heartburn by the big frozen pizza lobby to the Department of Agriculture's move to change school menus to less fattening food. But your Republican congressmen seem to care not about the growing epidemic of obesity. Besides in the land of the free, Big Brother shouldn't tell kids what to eat, right?

The only thing worse than the expanding waistlines are the fatheads who blocked the Ag department's initiative. So if you find any anchovies growing from your cabbage in the garden, send them long to your GOP congressman. After all, during the holiday season, it's
really the thought that counts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Buchanan: White supremacist in a business suit

I GUESS NO ONE should really be surprised that Pat Buchanan, the MSNBC commentator. author and polemicist, has written another book defining America as a Manichean struggle between pure good and devastating evil, with no pastels in between. (Or as George W. Bush once declared, "I don't do nuance.") I haven't read Buchanan's "Suicide of a Super Power", which others have asserted is so much recycled white supremicist gibberish. But based on his past syndicated columns and commentaries, Mr. B is clearly on the side of the angelic forces defending a declining white America from a takeover by Hispanics, African-Americans and any other invasive non-Caucasian whom he believes has no standing in the Constitution.

That recalls the notorious Dred Scott case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Scott had no rights because he was, after all, a slave. The issue turned on whether having resided with his master for a while in slavery-free Wisconsin he could demand his freedom once he was taken to Missouri, a slave state. The notorious Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled against Scott's freedom, thus drawing the cheers of the South. Not only that, he extended the court's decision to all slaveholders who moved their "property" anywhere in America.

Check these words from a chapter titled "The White Party" in Buchanan's book , included in a list of excerpts provided by Talking Points Memo:
'"And although Howard Dean disparages the Republicans as the 'white party,' why should Republicans be ashamed to represent the progeny of the men who founded, built and defended America since her birth as a nation?"
Do you think it was a mere oversight that Buchanan overlooked all of the African-Americans and Hispanic-Amercans who died in American uniforms in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Hardly. It's not a neat fit in his rants against too much color.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anybody know a Generic Republican?

WE NOW HAVE a rising entry among the presidential candidates. The pollsters are seriously referring to it as "Generic Republican". It's the mysterious name they are using in matchups against President Obama. I've been wondering: Are they referring to Abraham Lincoln?Hardly, he held the Union together instead of dividing it. Oh, then it must be the immortal Ronald Reagan. Except that he presided over 18 debt ceiling increases and didn't do a thing about abortion. He would hardly do. No style points there.

Let's see. George "Read My Lips" Bush. No way. He raised taxes and spent his leisure time in a place strangely known as Kennebunkport (close by Saco Biddeford, which I'm told doesn't appear on any map in Texas, where men are men.) Besides, who can spell Kennebunkport without looking it up, which I just did? Dubya Bush? Whoa there, Tonto. Republicans hardly mention him any more, and for good reason.

So who is this "Generic Republican" running for president - the one who may be among the stand-ins for "None of the Above"? He/she may well be named by a non-elected lobbyist, Grover Norquist. He's the guy who got a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill to sign a pledge (on a slate tablet?) never to raise taxes. It was sort of a pagan covenant with Norquist, the Republican anti-tax God, and a vindictive one at that against anyone who defies him.

I'll bet all of the voters who sent an army of Republican lawmakers to Capitol Hill really believed their candidates who pledged to serve them, not Grover. At this rate, could he be the Generic Republican? And while I'm at it, what is a Generic Republican these days anyway?

Box not recommended for weak stomachs

From an alert reader: Cain vision

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

O'Reilly book: We report, you decide

UPDATE ON O'Reilly/Lincoln book:

It is now being reported that while the Ford's Theatre Museum in the basement is not carrying the book, the separately operated Ford Theatre Society's gift shop upstairs is selling the book. The Museum is operated by the National Park Service, which was critical of the inaccuracies in the book and banned the O'Reilly version of Lincoln's assassination. However, the Society was not averse to cashing in on the book, which is a best -seller. The Society's director, Paul R. Tetreault, explained: "While we understand the National Park Service's concerns, we decided to let our visitors judge the book themselves." That pathetic concession probably was driven by two things: Conservative rage by O'Reilly's allies, and the Society's interest in making a profit, historical accuracy be damned. It's the world we live in, folks.

Terry, it was great knowing you

THE PASSING 0f Terry Oblander, a colleague and friend, has opened another hole in the ranks of enthusiastic newspapermen who considered it a privilege to show up at the office every day. His disheveled presence at his desk, whether he was trying to fill in a few more blanks for a feature story or grinding out hard news, was usually a sight for the journalistically correct reporters and editors in his midst. One moment he would be bellowing, the next he would erupt in violent laughter. His gestures were broad; his personality, for better or worse, never suppressed. The world, for "The Dutchman" was never a neat place where the spoons and forks were properly placed at the sides of the plate.

He wasn't crazy, folks, Just a very good - and honorable - reporter who was happily dedicated in his work. It was serious fun, richly expressed.

He was doubtless the last demonstrative vestige of the shrinking hometown business in which newsrooms have been quieted by vanishing staffs, energized voices and clicking typewriters. Today a lot of people communicate with lowered voices, hopeful, among other things, of keeping their jobs before retirement in a few years, months or weeks.

For many years, Terry, stricken by heart failure at 64, gallantly hung on to the end despite the loss of his wife and the need for care for his kids as an everyday workingman. But his bad luck seemed to follow him in his post-Beacon Journal days at the Plain Dealer. He worked in the PD's once-flashy bureau in Montrose, joined the subsequent move to the paper's windowless office in a basement on the Medina Square that could have passed for submarine quarters and continued his odyssey to various other points that wound up in Cleveland - all with a family home in Medina. He was one of the victims of the paper's confusion over what it wanted to be if it ever sank some roots south of Cuyahoga County.

I had worked part-time(!) for the PD and witnessed the upheaval before deciding there could be a decent life as a writer free of newspapers. During the later years, Terry called from time to time, beginning with "How's it going?" (He was the sort of person who really wanted to know, instead of the usual conversation gambit.)

I began to sense that the vitality in his voice was absent. Cynicism had crept in to his gung-ho love of a reporter's life. I wish I could have told him that things were bound to improve, but that would have been a lie to one of most conscientiously honest human beings that I had ever met in the business - or anywhere else, for that matter.

So I listened. We talked. After the newspaper talk, he would tell me about his kids' love of sports, and the memorabilia of the passion. Finally, he would say, "Well, I gotta go. Let's have lunch sometime". Just like that.

I' m sorry I took so long to share another beer and shelled peanuts with him. Too soon, his heart, as well as his business, let him down.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For O'Reilly, an oval office isn't an oval office

To all of you conservative literati who accuse liberals of being unkind to Bill O'Reilly's unique form of, eh,... sloppy work habits, I am passing along the latest word on the topic from Ford's Theatre in D.C. (The place where Abe Lincoln was fatally shot). The Theatre bookstore has removed Billo's new book,"Killing Lincoln, " from its shelves. Seems there were an inexcusable number of factual errors in his work that stands at the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Not that this makes any difference to O'Reilly , who already has cashed in on his pseudo historical authority. One reported example - one of many - his many references to Lincoln in the Oval Office, which legitimate historians will tell you wasn't built until long after his death. I know. It's the thought that counts with these guys. But those who ignore historical truths are destined to repeatedly skew them for their audiences.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is that Millard knocking on the door?


Just as the pundits were trying to convince America that the Republican presidential campaign was a two-man race, the latest alert from Planet Gingrich is that it is now a three-man race with Mitt Romney and a third from Texas whose name will come to me any moment now. (It should be noted that not long ago it was a 9- or 10-candidate race. There are so many moving parts these days!). It is worrisome to think of a time in history when the Republic had to put up with three guys like Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. So is there any joy wondering whether one of the current serial debaters will eventually be nominated?

Pat Boone keeps coming back like a Lucky Strike Extra, right seniors? We've gotten a couple of his robocalls about the new health care reform law that he claims will strip seniors of the "coverage they deserve". That's a new one on me. He urged us to call Sen. Sherrod Brown to register our complaints about the law that Brown strongly supports. Boone is a conservative political activist for an outfit called 60 Plus, which claims to be non-partisan. Actually, it is supported by the pharmaceutical industry, which will target Brown - who just happens to be running for reelection next year. So Boone, who also does walk-in bathtub commercials, will be busier than usual next year trying to convince seniors that President Obama wants them to die in their tracks.


I found it odd that State Sen. Frank LaRose's high-sounding Veteran's Day op-ed paean in the Beacon Journal to Iraqi veterans didn't contain a word about their shabby treatment when they returned to find they were without jobs, houses and other basic amenities due the troops. LaRose continues to place himself above the political fray, but in the end you have to remind yourself that he is a garden variety Republican and that's how he votes down in the legislature.

It never ends: Michele Bachmann insisted the U.S. would be a lot better off if we emulated Communist China's economic system. One of her talking points: China doesn't give food stamps. Right. And China doesn't permit a lot of stupid talk by anybody who wants to dislodge its leader.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Here we go again, from abortion to RTW

AS THE SULLEN SUPPORTERS of the anti-union Senate Bill 5 continue to reach for noble platitudes to launder their loss in the spin cycle, we learn that 2012 will bring us further mischief from the political and religious Right. Oh, my.

Shall we begin with a fellow named Patrick Johnston, a Tea Partying Ohio doctor with strong pulpiteering tendencies? He's leading a movement to put his version of the anti-abortion Personhood amendment on the Ohio ballot next year. He says he's not concerned in the least that Mississippi voters convincingly rejected it in Tuesday's election. Undismayed - zealots always are - Johnston says: "We have science and divine law on our side. With God's help we will win through."

(Historical note: the early Romans also believed that "no enterprise could be undertaken without divine sanction", and look what's happening to Italy today. )

Let's move on. There's the right-to-work thing. It is called the "Workplace Freedom Amendment" that would be added to the Ohio Constitution if approved by the voters next year. You wouldn't be shocked to learn that it is operating as the Liberty Council (!), a Tea Party Affiliate. One of the movement's organizers is Bryan Williams, one of Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's favorites from the party's practice squad who was vanquished by Mayor Plusquellic several elections ago. Williams, a lobbyist for builders and contractors, was quoted in the Beacon Journal as saying the RTW amendment would "unleash an economic engine".

Or, on the other hand, the same union juggernaut that crushed Senate Bill 5 as it did RTW in 1958. Not only RTW but, as the late Ray Bliss had warned his party at the time, the statewide Republican ticket. I wonder if Arshinkoff, Bliss's alleged apostle, has reminded Williams of the scary odds against the GOP in 2012 with the avatar of RTW hanging around. No one , however, would appreciate another arousal of the Democratic/Labor folks more than President Obama.

I was working for the old Columbus Citizen when the right-to-workers went to the ballot in 1958 and were thrashed. The Scripps-Howard newspapers had strongly endorsed it. You should have seen the editors' faces the morning after. The first order of damage control from the editor: Start looking for positive feature stories about the city's labor leaders.

Jeez. The more I see of the GOP's political tactics, the less I understand, and it looks like we're going to have another awful year to figure them out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The GOP road show gets funnier by the minute

THE NEXT TIME those alleged Republican presidential candidates meet to debate, I would have one question for Rick Perry. Are you a real person or a knockoff of Jon Stewart?

So far we've seen him twisting and fluttering like the last autumn leaf on the tree, or appearing as a sputtering grade schooler caught chewing gum in class. You may have seen the Texas governor laboring to remember the third Federal agency that he had hitherto promised to eliminate. It could be a first in political self-entrapment.

I know this is 2011 when people's minds are distracted by a thousand things at once. But couldn't Perry have at least brought a crib to get him through the Double Jeopardy trick question? Or taken a hint from Sarah Palin's way of writing the answers on the palm of her hand?

After 30 or 40 debates, communication remains a severe problem. And it has some of us desperately searching for the meaning of newly minted terms. Look, folks, Michele Bachmann now wants us to believe that Mitt is a "prudent socialist". I can save you some research time by reporting that the term isn't in my dictionary. Mitt, meantime, came up with "corporations are people". But he has yet to tell us that people are corporations. Not in my house! There are only two of us living in it and I can't remember the third title we would need to incorporate.

Herman Cain referred to Anita Hill as a "princess", which has certain male chauvinist connotations, if you know what I mean., particularly for a guy now being accused of sexual harassment.

It must be something in the air. The former South Carolina Republican Party executive director, Todd Kincannon, has been exposed for tweets referring to Pelosi as a "crooked whore" and "botox bitch." I will only take you so far to repeat his third raunchy insult, that she was a crabby "c--t". (Clue: Cat has only three letters; this one has four.)

If you're among those who insist that you have better things to do than watch this stuff, I would accuse you of lacking a sense of humor. Better yet, the next time you take a Republican pol to lunch, ask him or her to explain it. I'd like to know.

Plusquellic returns when he's needed the most

THE POST-ELECTION SCENE in the Guy's Party Centre for Mayor Don Plusquellic's victory party had an anticlimactic tone about it. The scattered crowd in the big banquet room milled about in muted reaction to his overwhelming victory for a 7th - and maybe toughest - term. Even some of the party notables were absent, including Democratic immortal Ray Kapper, who was recovering in Florida from a broken ankle. So far as I could tell as I wandered about the hall, that was the only news of the evening.

Plusquellic's overwhelming (70-30) victory over Republican Jennifer Hensal, who appeared to have been drawn from the Summit County GOP's practice squad, was fully expected. She was a nice enough woman who was terribly overmatched. (She would have much preferred to be appointed to a judgeship for her ad hoc usefulness in filling in a ballot blank.) So GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff will have to wait another four years to find somebody to accomplish what he hasn't been able to do during Plusquellic's 24 years as mayor.

I'm sure there was no one in the room who expected the outcome to be different. That was settled in the Democratic primary when the mayor defeated councilman Mike Williams. If they had cancelled this week's election, it would have been a meaningless gesture, and doubtless many Republicans would have sighed in relief.

Plusquellic's brief speech thanking his campaign staff gave him one more opportunity to warn the lingering gang of critics led by Akron Atty. Warner Mendenhall who have been finding various, if often mindless, ways to take down the mayor. The mayor, his well-known temper rising, called out Mendenhall with a warning that the latter had "no place to hide."

The past four years have been particularly troubling for the mayor , with his enemies forcing a recall election (which he won, 3-1) and more than surviving two party primaries and two general elections in the space of a single term.

I'd say that Akron is quite fortunate to have a guy with his competence and hometown dedication around for another four years.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kasich & Co.: overreach, and then some


The unconditional surrender of Kasich & Co. to the voters on Tuesday was a textbook example of crushed political arrogance. The mismanaged Republican-led assault on public worker unions was DOA at the polls, but its demise has been widely anticipated from the day the opponents of Senate Bill 5 filed more than a million signatures calling for a referendum to repeal it. Even with the support of the state's two biggest newspapers - the Plain Dealer and Columbus Dispatch, which lamely tried to provide cover for the law - the ill-conceived legislation was destined to land in a pauper's grave with the clearly shaken governor offering a brief TV benediction.

Good! Since his arrival in the governor's office in January , Kasich has shown little patience for rational conversation with his critics as well as the public at large. Stripping public workers of their bargaining rights has been one of his planned fail-safe initiatives in attempting to convince the corporate world that status quo is not a term you would ever find in his dictionary. Yet there he was, no more than your average chastened pol, in the gloom of painful defeat telling us that the voters have spoken and he will now need time to reflect on its meaning. It's not likely his funeral oration will remotely approach Pericles' in content and vision.

Taking a longer-lasting hit was his triumphant exhuberance in gruff political engineering in the coming months. That also will be true of the Republican lawmakers, consumed by their own self-importance, who have left sound logic at the backstage door. Many will be on the ballot in 2112. At the same time, some current øbservers have noted that Kasich had operated on the weird notion that his anti-union handiwork would be so widely applauded that he could end up on the national ticket. Fat chance of that.

Meantime, the demolished Kasich power play has energized a once-musty Democratic labor base that is expected to have long memories. Sometimes it helps if you can depend on your opponents to lend you a hand. The unionists should be among the first to send the governor a thank-you card.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The ex-astronaut vs. the ex-Wall Streeter

HAVE YOU SEEN the TV repeal-SB 5 (No, Issue 2) by John Glenn? Quite effective, for a former senator to appear in soft voice at the age of 90 to appeal to Ohioans for reason. So the only question left in this instance for Tuesday's election:

Are you going to believe a former astronaut war hero with a Boy Scout's honor, or are you going to believe our governor, Jøhn Kasich, who spent his recent years promoting Wall Street for a company that went bankrupt?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A new name for Cleveland Touchdown Club?

NOW THAT THE CLEVELAND BROWNs have dismissed six-pointers from their playbooks, I'm hearing rumors that the Cleveland Touchdown Club is changing its name to the Cleveland Field Goal Club. Is that true?

Friday, November 4, 2011

When a history lecture is a political event

AN OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY alum sends along a notice of a lecture sponsored by OSU's Harvey Goldberg Center in the Department of History. The Nov. 10 event will be in the school's Faculty Club and the guest speaker this year is ....Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, who will be introduced by OSU President E. Gordon Gee.

The alum included the following note:
"This is bizarre. Harvey Goldberg was my history teacher. He was brilliant, the best teacher I ever had. When I took the course on the French Revolution from him, I felt I was fighting alongside the French. Why would they pick Batchelder? Gordon Gee is the most political president of OSU that can ever remember."
Why, indeed! One could believe that the Goldberg lecture deserved a distinguished historian at the lectern, not a political retread. But there might be some state (taxpayer) dollars to be had.

From this distance, I wonder whether the only other option was Jim Tressel.

But to be fair, the official notice does promise an "engaging lecture".

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Brooding Batchelder: you ain't seen nothin' yet

AS YOU MIGHT NOTICE in this Columbus Dispatch photo, Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder is not having one of his happier moments. Indeed, he is so sore about the failure of the GOP's redistricting plan to survive a required two-thirds House vote to suspend the rules that he has resorted to doing the John Kasich Rumble. If the Democratic lawmakers don't show up on his dance card, he warns, he will deliver an even more bizarre plan for them to swallow. (I'm still predicting that my place in Fairlawn will be linked to Toronto or Gary, Ind.) That will show the D's who is boss in the General Assembly these days! Such threats by the majority party troops have become increasingly common during the Kasich Era, in which the governor once declared that his critics will be run over by the bus. Kasich may be wise to reconsider such threats now that the bus is heading into his own path. Still, he is telling reporters who ask about his plans if Senate Bill 5, the one restricting public unions, is thrown out on Tuesday: "I never think ahead." That goes without saying, Guv.

As for Batchelder, what has happened to the guy who once displayed a great sense of humor with a long history of political service. In his role now as House speaker has it betrayed the nasty and illogical side that has always been muted? Whatever, can we ever take him seriously, even as the neighborhood bully?

And I'm not the only one who remembers the other Batchelder.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cain's man not alone in blowing smoke

IN MY MANY years of political reporting, I never thought that it would be nice if Harold Stassen returned to a presidential campaign in spirit long after his death. After all, the ex-governor of Minnesota had run effortlessly for the Oval Office a dozen times without a hint of success.

Still, it would be nice to have him back this year as a civilized counter-balance to the hysterical sideshow the Republicans are offering day after day. Where to begin?

Well, Herman "The Hermanator" Cain has already achieved his immediate goal with his profitable "non-political" book-signing tour. He has slickly made the New York Times' best-seller list which, of course, only reflects sales and not literary excellence. There is even some thought being advanced that his skirmish over sexual harassment charges will benefit him among some male types who grope their secretaries' shoulders. He also operates sin-free thanks to the gang at Fox News that immediately circled the wagons around him for his nightly appearances.

And how about that odd Cain commercial in which his puffing chief of staff, Mark Block, blows cigaret smoke into the screen? That reaffirmed it for me: Block, parroting his boss, is not the only one blowing smoke these days.

Meantime, among the other none-of-the-aboves, there was Rick Perry in a strange melt-down before a conservative audience, mugging with silly grins and wild arm gestures to make a point or two. It was the strangest performance I've ever seen from a presidential candidate. Some of his friends thought he might be reacting to pain-killing medication from back surgery. I don't think so. The man is nuts.