Monthly Archives: May 2010

Was Sestak offered a job or not?

sestakThe White House and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., need to provide more information about whether Sestak was offered a job on the condition that he wouldn’t run against Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. Sestak has made that claim but won’t give any details, and the White House will only say that nothing inappropriate happened. As Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said, “Somebody’s got to come through and clarify exactly what happened.”

Moran pulling away in polls

moranmugThe campaign of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, tried to dismiss as illegitimate a poll released last week showing Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, leading Tiahrt by 26 points in their U.S. Senate race. But a new SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, has similar results. It has Moran leading Tiahrt by 52 percent to 29 percent. Moran is leading by double digits in nearly all age, race and ideology categories, including among those identified as conservative and pro-life. Tiahrt is ahead of Moran by 22 points in the southeast region of the state, but Moran is up by 37 points in northeast Kansas and 54 points in western Kansas.

Open thread 5/25

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At least one person will miss Specter

specterdefeatThough he considers Kansas native Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., “ornery, vain, disloyal and a brazen opportunist,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank said he will miss Specter. “Whatever his faults, he fought the forces of party unity and ideological purity that are pulling the country apart,” Milbank wrote. Milbank added: “While his colleagues on both sides increasingly submitted to the ritual purification of their views, Specter held the dead (in more ways than one) center, earning a lifetime rating of 44 percent from the American Conservative Union. But over the past 13 months, the heretic finally was cast out — first by the Republicans and then by the Democrats.”

Paul’s libertarianism is the media’s fault?

paul,randSarah Palin tried to blame the media for Rand Paul’s reluctance to support the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting private businesses from discriminating against minorities. “You know, they’re looking for that ‘gotcha’ moment,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” Other GOP leaders blamed Paul’s comments on a rookie mistake and suggested that he had merely stumbled on the question. But Paul has been asked this question several times over the years and has repeatedly given similar answers. Still, faced with a firestorm, Paul backtracked and now says that “there was a need for federal intervention” during the 1960s.

Soda-tax debate isn’t going away

poptaxA proposed tax on sugary soft drinks didn’t get far in the Kansas Legislature, in part because of strong lobbying by the soda industry. The industry also spent big bucks to beat back soda-tax proposals elsewhere, including New York and Philadelphia. But New York Times economics reporter David Leonhardt predicts that the soda debate is going to be around for some time. “Cities and counties, desperate to find money to pay for schools and roads, are starting to see a soda tax as a way to raise revenue,” he wrote. “The tax also appears to be one of the most promising ways to attack obesity, given the huge role sugary drinks play in the epidemic.” Leonhardt also predicted that in the future “we will probably look back on our gallon-a-week soda habit the way we now look back on allowing children to ride without seat belts or listening to doctors who endorsed Camel cigarettes. We will wonder what we were thinking. Coke and Pepsi, unfortunately, seem willing to do whatever it takes to delay that day.”

Open thread 5/24

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Don’t make graffiti rules too broad

graffitIt’s good that the Wichita Police Department is seeking new ways to combat graffiti, a growing and costly problem in Wichita. But it’s also good that Wichita City Council members are cautious about not making a new ordinance so broad that many people may unknowingly and unintentionally violate the rules. As proposed, it would be illegal for anyone to possess a graffiti tool within 100 feet of a wide range of places, and it would be illegal for anyone under 18 to possess graffiti tools on school property or within 100 feet of private property without written permission.

Tiahrt, Moran now arguing about polling

Moran-TiahrtRep. Todd Tiahrt (right), R-Goddard, and Jerry Moran, R-Hays, have been arguing about which one is the more conservative candidate for the U.S. Senate. Now their campaigns are arguing about polling. Moran’s campaign released a poll last week showing him leading Tiahrt by 26 points. Tiahrt’s campaign responded that the poll wasn’t legitimate. “We have known from multiple reports that the Moran campaign has been conducting a push poll,” a Tiahrt spokeswoman said. But Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with the Cook Political Report, told the Pittsburg Morning Sun that the polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, “has a lot of credibility” and “didn’t get that way by doing push polls.”

Open thread 5/23

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From John Brown to Brown decision

courtgavelThe inspiring interior of the Kansas Capitol promises to become more so with Gov. Mark Parkinson’s signing last week of a law setting in motion the creation and installation of a mural commemorating the state’s role in the nation’s school desegregation. State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, co-sponsored the measure, which admirably swept the Senate but drew three “no” votes in the House, including state Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita. The mural, to be privately funded, will add the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education to the history represented in the building’s artwork, which includes John Steuart Curry’s famous depiction of abolitionist John Brown. Along with the outstanding national historic site at Topeka’s former Monroe School dedicated to the Brown decision, the mural will help ensure that future Kansans understand their state’s rich legacy in the civil rights struggles.

Brownback led apology effort

brownbackofficialmugThe long and sometimes lonely advocacy of Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for a formal U.S. apology to American Indians reached its laudable conclusion last week, as Brownback read a bipartisan congressional resolution to that effect at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. With the leaders of five Native American tribes in attendance, Brownback read the resolution acknowledging “years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants” and apologizing “on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect.” It was potent symbolism and long overdue, especially in a town averse to apologies and accountability.

So they said

“I can see a time when the rural health care system will consist of a Band-Aid and a bedpan.’’ — Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., also saying of Donald Berwick, President Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, “the wrong man, wrong time, wrong job”

“I didn’t go to Washington to be against everything. It just turned out that way.” — Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, campaigning in Olathe

Pro-con: Will the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill pass?

globalwarming2Two Congresses ago, 38 senators voted for climate legislation. Last Congress, 54 did. There are 59 Senate Democrats. With several Republicans looking at the American Power Act with fresh eyes, 60 votes are achievable. This year is also different. Industries that successfully opposed previous legislation stand with environmentalists behind this one. In part, that is because if Congress doesn’t legislate, the Environmental Protection Agency will regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. The House has already passed a bill. President Obama has endorsed our bill and doubled down on legislative victory. And the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has underscored the stakes. Al Gore and I held the first climate-change hearings 22 wasted years ago. Time and again, we’ve said, “Wait till next year, don’t give up.” But pastor Joel Hunter is right: It’s not enough to say “I really wanted to protect the Earth and the poor, but I wasn’t sure the votes were there.” We’re not waiting any longer; we can do it now. — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Can the BP oil spill pass an energy bill? Probably not. As the Democrats’ cap-and-trade proposal gradually morphed into a nukes-and-drilling package this year, the prospects for bipartisan agreement grew. But the thousands of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico have stiffened the spines of both sides in the offshore-drilling debate, reducing the likelihood of compromise on the broader energy issue. Public concern about the spill has yet to grow into the outrage that the White House successfully directed against insurance companies and Wall Street. That would require a sustained effort not only to demonize the oil industry but also to explain the direct role that this bill would have in preventing these types of accidents. A steady stream of photos of oil-covered tourists and shuttered beachfront hotels could grab voters’ attention in a way that the first weeks of news coverage have not. But it might take that level of public and media frenzy to penetrate a capital culture that seems much more exercised about other topics. — Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California’s Unruh Institute of Politics

Open thread 5/22

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So much for the Obama seal of approval

obamathumbsupPresident Obama might want to keep his obvious love of campaigning to himself as the midterm elections draw closer. Washington Post columnist David Broder noted that Tuesday’s primary defeat of Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., “showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.”

World according to Rand Paul

paul,randFresh from his GOP primary victory in Kentucky’s Senate race, Rand Paul caused a stir when he declined to say that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On an array of issues, it’s like libertarian father (Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas), like son. The question is whether the younger Paul’s fans will embrace the whole of the candidate, whose past statements include:
– “I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant — but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.”
– “Our national security is not threatened by Iran having one nuclear weapon.”
– “I am against any federal funding or control of education.”

Cut won’t reduce abortions

abortionprotestOdds are that Gov. Mark Parkinson, for the second year, will overrule state legislators’ cut of federal funding to Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. If so, he’ll be recognizing the reality that the pass-through federal dollars are not spent — and cannot lawfully be spent — on Planned Parenthood’s abortion services in Overland Park, but rather fund low-income health and family planning services at clinics in Wichita and Hays. A separate clinic in Dodge City also could be affected. Cutting the funding would not reduce the number of abortions in the state, but likely would increase the number of unplanned pregnancies. Is that what anti-abortion lawmakers really want?

Open thread 5/21

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Oil spill can be motivator

gulfspillThe oil spill is an opportunity that President Obama seems prepared to miss, writes Thomas Friedman. “He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections.” Friedman saw the same hopes dashed by President Bush after Sept. 11, when Friedman proposed a $1-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and slow climate change. “Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping,” Friedman writes. “So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail. Heck of a job.”

Political phonies unmasked

blumenthalIt’s been a bad week for political hypocrites and liars, with revelations that Democratic Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (in photo) exaggerated his Vietnam service and Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., cheated on his wife with a married aide while espousing family values — and even filmed a pro-abstinence education video with the aide. Blumenthal’s lie was “a grievous insult to those who did serve and fight in Vietnam,” editorialized USA Today, and at least Souder is showing the good sense to step down. But “if the many honest, hardworking but endangered incumbents want to regain public confidence,” the editorial concluded, “one place to start is to show less tolerance for the phonies in their midst, regardless of party affiliation.”

Doubts about U.S. clout

obamasuperheroIs the United States as well as its president on the wane as an influence around the globe? Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen argues as much. “In the Middle East, nothing Obama has done has made much of a difference. In Europe, the euro teeters,” he writes. Russia “shrugs off American complaints and moves progressively backward.” And “we owe Beijing money. We buy China’s goods. We respect its growing might. We rue our diminishing power. We muffle our concern over human rights. We are a superpower. But against what?” he asks, noting that “America invaded Iraq. Saddam is dust. But that brief war is now in its eighth year.” If we don’t like losing clout, he writes: “We can spend less, tax more, abjure wars of choice, reform Congress and stop confusing the celebrity of the presidency with actual power.” None of which seems likely.

Open thread 5/20

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Steineger should have known better

steineger,chrisIt’s troubling that someone who wants to be secretary of state, Kansas’ top election official, could violate campaign-finance law once last year, let alone twice. It’s worse because the candidate, Chris Steineger, has been a state senator from Kansas City, Kan., for 13 years. He’s had plenty of time to learn the admittedly tricky campaign laws. He’s also been present for legislative debates over whether to change the law he violated when he used his Senate campaign fund to pay for political work in anticipation of a statewide run for office. It’s hard to imagine that Democratic voters will be fully reassured by his statement that he “picked up the wrong checkbook and wrote the wrong check,” as Steineger said Tuesday before the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined him $5,000. The Democrats’ other choice on primary day will be Chris Biggs, currently interim secretary of state.

Late-night laughs

“British Petroleum is starting to get a little defensive. Have you heard their new slogan? ‘Yeah, like you never spilled anything before.’” — Jay Leno

“They’re going to suck all of that oil that’s leaking into the Gulf and pump it up into a tanker. Now the bad news is the tanker is the Exxon Valdez.” — David Letterman

“The Coast Guard is now saying that 20 of these things called tar balls have been found off the Florida Keys. They’re not sure if the tar balls are from the Gulf Coast spill. Seriously? It’s like finding a giant clock necklace and not being sure it’s from Flavor Flav.” — Jimmy Fallon