Monthly Archives: May 2010

BOOK REVIEW: “True Compass” by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, reviewed by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) in 1965 (NY TIMES).

I just finished reading Ted Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass.” A conservative does benefit from some of Kennedy’s observations, and this is especially true when he discusses how the Senate changed from 1963 to 2009. The late Senator was proud of his close friendships with conservatives Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), and said cross party friendships used to be essential to passing legislation.
He noted that rarely happens today and the atmosphere is far more partisan. One reason is that few lawmakers remain in the nation’s capital over weekends where they could develop bonds with their colleagues. The bipartisan dinner groups are long gone. Continue reading

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Iran: Sanctions Will Fail Says Colin Powell while Afghan Arms Shipments Are Major Problem Says Gen. McChrystal by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Jonathan and Jesse Leicht pose with a photo of their brother, Marine Cpl. Jacob Leicht, who was killed on Thursday while on patrol in Afghanistan. He was the 1000th U.S. serviceman killed in the Afghan conflict.

According to statements made today, the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran inside Afghanistan is continuing. This is especially apparent in weapons shipments. General Stanley McChrystal, the coalition commander in Afghanistan, today said there is “clear evidence” weapons shipments from Iran have increased. The General also said the fighting in Afghanistan will extend long beyond July 2011, which is the date for the Obama administrations planned draw down of forces to begin. The Afghan National Army still does not have the training to take over next summer.
In a press conference, the General said: “The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran. The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan.” Continue reading

New Jersey Goes to War: America’s Fiscal Future is Now Being Decided in the Garden State by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: New Jersey has the highest tax burden in the nation, and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) wants to slash the state budget. In response, public employees have declared war on his administration.

While most Americans were enjoying the Memorial Day weekend, the state of New Jersey went to war. President Barbara Keshishian of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) declared war on Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) on behalf of all public employees. The NJEA President is outraged because the Governor has proposed a 2.5% cap on future salary and benefit increases.
In March an NJEA teacher said Christie should die, and Keshishian visited the Governor’s office to apologize. The Governor asked if the teacher had been fired. When Keshishian said no, she was thrown out of Christie’s office. In her war declaration, Keshishian said: Continue reading

The Battle for New Jersey: GOP Governor Chris Christie Takes His Case to the People by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: New Jersey residents are the nations most heavily taxed. They are near the top in income, property, sales and corporate taxes. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is attempting to change that.

One of the most important legislative battles in the nation is now occurring in New Jersey. This is the height of the state budget season and a balanced budget must be produced by June 30th. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is attempting to slash spending and stop the growth of public employee salaries and benefits.
He also wants to limit annual property tax increases to 2.5 percent. Last year Christie defeated incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine (D) who spent over $30 million on his re-election campaign and President Obama made four trips to the state on behalf of the Democrat.
The Governor needs 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly to pass his reforms. This will be difficult because Democrats are the majority party in both Houses. In the Senate there are 23 Democrats and 17 Republicans. There are 47 Democrats and 33 Republicans serving in the General Assembly.
Voters would also have to approve a property tax cap. To assist his effort in passing the reforms, Christie is attempting to hold town hall meetings in every county. He is telling citizens that state pensions and medical benefits are going to be a huge structural liability for many decades. He is also describing his plan to fire 7000 state workers (the exact number hired by his predecessor), and he may have to cut staff salaries by 20%. The real problem is not salaries, but the generous pension benefits.
The Governor is one of the few politicians who has the courage to take an unpopular stand against public employee unions. He promised to do this during last year’s campaign, and has begun a meaningful discussion on what the state can not afford.
He has offered specific proposals on how to cut government spending, and plans to ease New Jersey’s tax crush. The Christie plan includes pension reforms, requirements for public employees to contribute more toward their benefits, and a two-thirds legislative supermajority for all future tax increases. Decades ago New Jersey was ranked the number one state in the nation for economic growth, but those days are long over.
Spending ballooned after passage of a state income tax. Corzine was elected in 2005 with a pledge to cut property taxes by 40%, but they ended up being increased by 20%. He left office with an almost $10 billion deficit, and Christie said New Jersey is a prime example of what happens when liberals have complete control of a state government. To his credit, Corzine now admits there was “reckless borrowing,” and says “Let’s call it like it is: Everyone’s property taxes are too damn high.”
Now that he is in the Governor’s office, Christie has signed an unprecedented executive orders to freeze and cut spending. He has revoked funds from local school districts, hospitals and NJ Transit and declared a “state of fiscal emergency.”
The Governor wants to force more than 500 school districts to spend their surpluses in place of state aid. He repeatedly tells town hall meetings that the state is on “the edge of bankruptcy. We must come to terms with the fact that we cannot spend money on everything we want. The days of Alice in Wonderland budgeting in Trenton end.”
A recent Rutgers University study demonstrated that many upper income people have left the state since 2004. The Wall Street Journal explained this, “So what happened in 2004? The study doesn’t purport to explain what caused the wealth movements. But the state’s most notable economic policy event that year was an increase in its top income tax rate to 8.97% from 6.37%, on incomes starting at $500,000. That’s a 40% increase.”
Jim Hughes, a dean at Rutgers University, says “The tax the rich solution that we often hear has only resulted in a significant decline in the state’s wealth. We’ll probably see a continuation of the trend, until there are no more high-wealth individuals left.”
Christie’s message is that the state needs lower taxes to lower unemployment, and he wants to provide hope for the over 500,000 NJ residents who are unemployed. He says “Private-sector jobs are going to be created by giving our entrepreneurs more of their own money back. The tax cut I propose is one that provides more money to small business.”
Can He Accomplish Anything With a Democratic Legislature?
In most states there are significant limits on what a GOP Governor could accomplish if they were confronted with a hostile state legislature. In California, the Republican Governor and the legislature are at a standstill. Republicans claim all they can hope for is the death of bad bills an government expansion. There is a big difference between California and New Jersey. The Garden State has one of the most powerful chief executives in the nation. Christie is able to rewrite legislation and cut spending with the stroke of his pen. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wishes he had that ability.

Undecided Voters Dominate Alabama Gubernatorial Primary by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: According to the most recent polls, Tim James and Bradley Byrne are the front runners in tomorrow’s Alabama gubernatorial primary. State Rep. Robert Bradley has been spending heavily on TV and Roy Moore has over 90% name identification. Almost 30% of GOP voters are still undecided.

Alabama voters go to the polls on Tuesday, and all eyes are on the gubernatorial primary. The state has voted Republican in five of the last six gubernatorial elections and Gov. Bob Riley (R) is stepping down after two terms because of term limits.
Governor Bob Riley (R) Retires
In 2002, Riley, 65, narrowly defeated incumbent Don Siegelman (D) in what was the closest gubernatorial election in state history. Riley won by 3000 votes and was re-elected with 58% in 2006 when he defeated the Democratic Lieutenant Governor.
Riley is leaving office after seeing the creation of over 150,000 jobs, and he is the first governor in over 70 years to sign an income tax cut into law. The Governor’s biggest setback occurred at the start of his tenure in 2003 when his $1.2 billion Amendment One tax plan was defeated by state voters.
Leading the opposition was Riley’s former primary opponent, Tim James, who is once again seeking the nomination. During Riley’s tenure both Honda and Hyundai expanded auto manufacturing in Alabama and all Mercedes Benz SUV’s are constructed in the state.
The departing Governor can also claim credit for an additional 29,000 jobs being created by German-based ThyssenKrupp steel manufacturing company. They are constructing a $4.2 billion plant which will be opening this year. Riley is also a firm opponent of gambling and has clashed with the GOP state Attorney General in an effort to rid the state of slot machines.
Republicans: Bradley Byrne, Tim James, Robert Bradley and Roy Moore
This year there is no clear frontrunner in either party. Many supporters of the retiring Governor are backing Bradley Byrne, a former State Senator who previously served as chancellor of the state’s two-year college system. Byrne, 55, an attorney, has raised $4.7 million. Byrne has been endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers as well as former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and former Rep. Jack Edwards (R-AL).
Tim James, 48, has never held elective office. He is the businessman son of former two term Gov. Fob James, and was defeated by Riley in the 2002 primary. James has raised $4.4 million, but $3.2 million of that is in the form of loans to his campaign.
James has received national publicity because of his tough ads opposing illegal immigration which have received over 800,000 online hits. The Alabama driver’s license exam is now available in eight languages and James wants to change that to English only. He has been endorsed by Rep. Robert Aderholt, former Rep. Sonny Callahan and Americans for Tax Reform. Many organizers of the 2008 Huckabee presidential campaign in Alabama are now supporting James.
Another major candidate is Roy Moore, 63, who seven years ago was removed as the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. He was kicked out after defying a judicial order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments which he had erected on the court’s lawn. Moore unsuccessfully challenged Riley in the 2006 GOP primary and was defeated by a 67% to 33% margin. This year his contributions are far below the totals received by Byrne and James. Moore has been accused of advocating a “Christians only theocracy.”
For example, he said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to the US House of Representatives, should have been barred from sitting in Congress. Moore believes a Muslim can not honestly take the oath of office because the “Qur’an did not allow for religions other than Islam to exist.” The Judge went on to say that “common sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine”.
State Rep. Robert Bentley is a medical doctor who has been financing his own campaign. While the media has been focusing on Byrne and James, Bentley has been rising in the pools. A Research 2000 poll conducted in mid May had Byrne in front with 29%, Moore at 23%, James with 17% and Bentley 9%. 30% of Republicans are still undecided and a July 13th runoff will occur between the top two candidates. In the general election Byrne has a 17% lead over the top Democrat.
Democrats: Rep. Artur Davis vs. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks
Blacks represent nearly half of the state’s Democratic primary voters, so it is not surprising that the first African American gubernatorial candidate could be nominated. Rep. Artur Davis is black and has served on Capitol Hill since 2002. He is a Harvard graduate and is the first well funded black gubernatorial candidate in Alabama history. He has raised $2.6 million.
He is running to the right of State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white. Davis is the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against Obama’s health care reform package. He endorsed Obama in 2008, but when the President visited the state this year, Davis would not appear with him.
The surprise is that four well respected black organizations have endorsed Sparks, and they are opposing Davis because of his conservative views. Davis says these organizations are ineffective and he is ignoring them because they are requesting large sums of money to receive their endorsement. Sparks’ plan to expand gambling and to create a state lottery to provide college scholarships is proving to be popular with many Democratic voters. Sparks has raised $1.9 million.
A Research 2000 poll conducted last week gave Davis an 8 point lead, 41% to 33%. A poll conducted by Capital Survey Research Center for the Alabama Education Association indicates 46% of Democrats were undecided one week before the primary.

Dick Cheney – “I Expect That From MSNBC But Not From Fellow Republicans”: Will TARP Doom Another GOP Candidate by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: The candidates in the June 8th South Carolina GOP gubernatorial primary include State Rep. Nikki Haley, Lt. Gov. André Bauer, Rep. Gresham Barrett and Attorney General Henry McMaster.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has just released a hard hitting statement endorsing Congressman Gresham Barrett for Governor of South Carolina. Barrett’s has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 98% and is a former Army field artillery captain. Nevertheless, his campaign has been struggling in the polls all year.
A PPP survey released last weekend gave State Nikki Haley a huge lead with 39%, while Attorney General Henry McMaster had 18%, Barrett was at 16%, Lt. Gov. André Bauer 13% with 14% undecided. The survey was conducted before allegations were made against Haley about an extra martial affair.
Barrett’s major problem is primarily due to one issue, his vote for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008. Barrett has been booed in front of Tea Party crowds, and has consistently been on the defensive. The first time TARP came up for a vote, Barrett did not support it.
Then he saw the stock market immediately collapse by an unprecedented 1000 points and was told the entire American banking system was in danger of shutting down, and the result would be another great depression. Barrett changed his mind and supported TARP on the second vote.
The TARP vote has already been a significant factor in primary defeats suffered by Senators Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Kay Baily Hutchison (R-TX). Her opponent, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), often referred to her as “Kay Bailout Hutchison.” TARP is also being used against Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) in his gubernatorial campaign.
Joining Cheney in support of Barrett is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence, Gov. Bob Riley (R-AL) and the American Conservative Union. State Rep. Nikki Haley has the support of retiring Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) as well as former Governors Sarah Palin (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-MA). Romney says supporting TARP “was the correct and courageous thing to do,” and the legislation was also endorsed by the conservative magazine National Review. Lt. Gov. André Bauer has been endorsed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) while Attorney General Henry McMaster has the backing of Sen. John McCain. The Cheney statement said in part:

Today, I am strongly endorsing Gresham Barrett. He is is one of the most conservative leaders I’ve ever worked with. No one in South Carolina has done more to fight President Obama’s reckless agenda than Gresham Barrett. On issues of national defense, spending reductions, tax cuts, and eliminating the national debt, his record fighting for the conservative cause is unmatched. Gresham has opposed and fought against every single wasteful Obama spending proposal. Every one.
But there’s a lot of revisionist history going on in South Carolina these days. I expect that from MSNBC, but not from fellow Republicans. So let me set the record straight. I’m certain Gresham knew his vote in support of President Bush and our plan wouldn’t be popular, but he did something far too novel in American politics today: He put the interests of his country ahead of his own. That’s why voters should not believe the false attacks from his opponents. When it was time to make decisions and show leadership, Gresham stepped up while they all stayed silent and ducked for cover. That may make for good politics today, but it certainly isn’t leadership.

Congressman Barrett has had to devote a huge amount of time to defending the TARP vote, and it is always used as a principle attack weapon by his opponents. Attorney General Henry McMaster often refers to the Congressman as “Bailout Barrett.” The Congressman devoted an entire 60 second TV ad to TARP in which he said:

I honestly believe with all my heart that we were at a point where men and women were going to reach into their back pocket and pull out a credit card or ATM card and stick it into a machine and nothing was going to come out. I listened to my president, George W. Bush. I listened to businessman and leaders in South Carolina.
As a leader, I made a decision. Did we stop something that could have happened? Yeah, I believe we did. Has it been implemented like it should have been? No, absolutely not. You can always be a Monday morning quarterback. But leaders make decisions based on the best information that they have, and they go with it. That’s what I did.

If Barrett fails to make the runoff on June 8th the next Governor may want to hire him to assist with business development. Barrett has an impressive jobs creation record and had a key role in luring aircraft manufacturer Boeing to the state. The Congressman is regarded as an anti-union activist on Capitol Hill.
Gov. Mark Sanford (R) is leaving office with high negative ratings primarily due to an extra-marital affair, but South Carolina in a far better fiscal position than most other states. South Carolina has low property and business taxes, and labor unions have little power in the Palmetto State.
Boeing has long been associated with Washington state, but last October they announced plans for a second 787 Dreamliner plant to be constructed in South Carolina at a cost of over $700 million. The plant could mean as many as 35,000 spin off jobs. To remain in Washington state, Boeing had asked the International Association of Machinists (IAM) for a 10 year no strike pledge. When the union failed to meet the demand, Boeing followed through with its threat to build the facility in South Carolina. Companies such as BMW and Michelin also appreciate the state because the chances of a crippling production strike are low.

The GOP Has Won, But Will They Be Able to Keep Hawaii? by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) is shown addressing the House of Representatives for the first time immediately after being sworn into office. Djou was given a standing ovation by members of his party.

Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) is now experiencing his first full day as a Member of Congress. The newest Congressman was introduced yesterday by Speaker Pelosi and it was noted that President Obama and Djou are both graduates of the Punahou School.
Djou said he was the “exact opposite” of Obama. At the swearing-in ceremony a jesting Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the Chairman of the Banking Committee, asked to see Djou’s birth certificate. Frank told reporters “Do your job, demand to see his papers!”
On Saturday, Djou broke the string of seven Democratic victories in special elections, and many liberal activists are now predicting his tenure on Capitol Hill will be brief. In an interview with Fox News, Djou said:

Back in January when this seat became an open, I was polling in the teens. Everybody told me the district was purchased and the wholly-owned property of the Democratic Party, but voters voiced their concern that Washington is taking America in the wrong direction.” He later told reporters his message of “too much debt, too much taxes, too much wasteful spending” resonated with Honolulu residents. He said there is a “mentality in Congress to tax and spend the country to recovery. I have far more faith in hundreds of millions of Americans spending a few hundred dollars, than a few hundred bureaucrats spending hundreds of billions of dollars.

Djou will have a difficult time holding this seat in November, but the task is not impossible even though Obama received 70% of the vote in this district in 2008. In 2004, John Kerry defeated George Bush by only a 53% to 47% margin, and Gore won with 55% in 2000.
Democrats will be preoccupied with a bitter primary which will not be held until September 18th. Djou, 39, is hoping his opponent will be Colleen Hanabusa, the liberal President of the State Senate who does not live in the district.
Her primary opponent is former Rep. Ed Case, a self described moderate. Case served from 2002 until being defeated by a 55% to 45% margin in his 2006 Senate primary challenge against incumbent Senator Daniel Akaka. Case was officially endorsed by the House Blue Dog Democrats.
In the special election, Djou received 39% to 31% for Hanabusa and 28% for Case. 54% of eligible voters participated which is a significant increase from the 13% who went to the polls in the last special election in 2002.
Hanabusa has solid support from organized labor, both U.S. Senators and the party establishment. She says higher taxes are the cost of living in Hawaii. One of her ads claimed Hanabusa worked to cut legislative salaries when in fact she supported raising them 36% which gave Hawaii the most highly paid part-time legislators in the nation. Now Hanabusa says if she had known how bad the economy would become, she would not have supported the salary increases.
Teachers were one of many unions endorsing Hanabusa. Djou said it was not a surprise since Hanabusa always supported higher taxes and increased union control by public employees. He said the result of labor control was that Hawaii had the third worst public schools in the nation.
Survey data for the September Democratic primary continues to show a close race. Case supported the U.S. mission in Iraq and during his tenure on Capitol Hill broke with other Democrats by saying it would have been irresponsible to establish a time table for troop withdrawals. Foreign policy was a significant issue during Case’s 2006 Senate campaign, but it was not prominent during the special election where all three candidates were in support of the U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Case, 57, is a former state House majority leader who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002. During his four years on Capitol Hill, Case’s voting record was significantly more conservative than the three other Hawaii Democrats. However, ads during the special election sponsored by Independent Women’s Voice said Case had voted 72 times for higher taxes and received an “F” from the National Taxpayers Union.
While Djou received far less than the 50% necessary to win a majority, he could easily be the second choice of Case supporters. This will be especially true if they are annoyed by tactics used in the September primary. If Case is the nominee, he will have the disadvantage of high negative ratings. Hawaii also has a record not matched by any other state. It has never voted to defeat an incumbent Member of Congress.
UPDATE
Case has withdrawn and that substantially adds to Djou’s challenge. The Republicans chances would have been greatly aided by a late, divisive Case-Hanabusa primary which would have drained Democrat coffers while offering only a few weeks to heal wounds in time for the general. When Case lost a gubernatorial primary, some 40% of his voters crossed over to the Republican in the general.