Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rand Paul: The GOP’s Cup of Tea (Party)?

Election night here in Kentucky was earthshaking for one main reason: Rand Paul won the Republican nomination of US Senate. Paul lead every poll almost from the start against Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and in the end, it was Rand Paul over Trey Grayson by 59% to 35%. That’s as sound of a thumping as it gets. But what made this so earthshaking was what happened, and what did not happen.

First, no one can say that Trey isn’t a great guy. He is. Trey has worked hard as our SoS. He made a lot of improvements in the office. But, Trey is known as a being part of the Republican establishment. GOP powerbroker, Senator Mitch McConnell was his chief supporter. As for Rand Paul, he was an unknown. All that anyone really knew about him was that, aside from being an eye surgeon was that he was the son of Congressman Ron Paul (who is very popular in Kentucky because of his libertarian ideas). Rand Paul’s victory was due to his ability to able to latch on the growing anti-intrusive government sentiment here in Kentucky. People, mostly conservatives of all stripes, are sick and tired of being sick and tired of empty promises from Frankfort and Washington. Part of it was the large Tea Party movement here, which keeps growing. Part of it was the increasing numbers of independents, as well as frustrated Republicans.

Grayson’s campaign was the first to go negative. I don’t know who’s idea that was, but it was a huge mistake. Grayson’s camp tried to paint Paul as a fringe candidate with kooky ideas. It took the usual approach popular in today’s campaigns of taking comments out of context and using distorted or grayed images to create an “ugly” or unappealing image of the opposing candidate. Unfortunately, for Trey, the tactic backfired. First, voters have been complaining for sometime about how tired they were of negative campaigns. Exit polling in this case seemed to bear that out with voters saying they were turned off by Grayson’s attempts to “mislead” voters. Some commented that candidates should focus on themselves and what they intend to do if elected rather than smearing their opponent. This turned out to be a classic example of a campaign being out of touch with the voters and relying on outdated tools to get their message out.

The second factor which hurt Grayson’s efforts may have been Senator McConnell’s open endorsement. McConnell has long been the puppet master in GOP politics. However, many Republicans have been getting tired of the senior senator’s stranglehold on the party. Many see McConnell as part of the problem. The moderates (and yes, there are moderate Republicans here in Kentucky) see McConnell as a barrier to getting things done. They are tired of the partisan “politics as usual”. They are looking for someone with fresh ideas and who is willing to work with Democrats and Independents to bring real change to America. The conservative, especially with far Right variety, see the senator as failing to protect our national interests on such issues as illegal immigration, a national language, energy independence, tax reform, bail outs of automakers and banks (over the objections of the American people I should add). Tea partiers and Indies, who are part of Paul’s base, also don’t have a high opinion of McConnell.

In short, I think Trey Grayson’s loss may signify the first major crack in McConnell’s machine. Personally, I think Trey shouldn’t have run. I think his best chance for higher office was, and remains, the Governor’s Mansion, but only if he’s willing to step up and become, like his former opponent, the “non-establishment” candidate. People want solutions regardless of party label or ideology. The candidate of the future who can best articulate that will win. Politically, Americans live in the middle. Neither party is there. The party which makes the political center its home will dominate all others.

As for the Rand Paul, his most challenging opponent this fall may not be Jack Conway, but his own mouth. During a recent appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show”, Paul said that he thought the federal government had no role ensuring private businesses did not discriminate on the basis of race. Page One Kentucky, a news and political website, reported that Paul made a similar comment regarding the Fair Housing Act in 2002 to a local newspaper, say, “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination---even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based in the color of their skin”. Paul has since clarified his comments and said he does not favor repealing the Civil Rights Act. Paul said, “Let me be clear. I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws”. He added that “I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964”.

Paul went on to say, “The issue of civil rights is one with a tortured history in this country. We have made great strides, but there is still work to be done to ensure the great promise of Liberty is granted to all Americans. This much is clear: The federal government has far outreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent (Democrat Jack Conway) supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state’s rights must stand up to it. These attacks prove one thing for certain: the liberal establishment is desperate to leaders like me out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign.”

That’s a good response, but come on, Rand you’re running for the US Senate, you know the media is watching everything you do and say. You can’t be making comments like that and expect to win. You have to be taking the fight to your opponent, not spinning your past remarks.

On the issue of Social Security, Paul has said that he favors raises the eligibility age to 70. The reason is to keep the Social Security solvent, especially in light of the pending mass retirement of baby boomers over the 10 to 20 years. That’s 78 million people (Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964). Remember too that when it was originally established, the average life expediency of a male was only 55 years of age. Therefore, to qualify for Social Security, you had to live 10 years beyond that to age 65. To bring the same idea current, you would need to raise the retirement age seven additional years to 72. But, despite the aging Boomers, surveys indicate that most have no intention of retiring. Approximately 76% say they intend to keep on working, at least part time. It should also be pointed out that most Boomers are well educated, more financially diverse, and healthier than any generation before. As a result, while there will huge number of individuals hitting that 65 mark, many will keep on trucking.

Recently, I got the opportunity to review two outstanding books, “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton” by Rebecca Shambaugh, and “Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East” by Geoffrey Wawro. Both books are excellent. I hope you will check them out.

“Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton” by Rebecca Shambaugh

Like her or hate her, Hillary Clinton is one of the most fascinating and influential women in America, if not the world, today. Secretary of State and former Senator, Hillary Clinton was been on the public stage for decades; first as the wife of then little known Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, then as America’s First Lady. She served admirably in that role popularized by Jackie Kennedy, but Hillary’s drive and resilience didn’t stop there. She jumped head long in numerous national issues, such as education, child care, and most notably, healthcare, where she took the rarified role of leading the charge on behalf of President Clinton.

So, who is Hillary Rodham Clinton really? How did she become the women we know today, and is there anyway we learn from her what it takes to be a leader in our modern, often cynical age? The answer is yes. Author Rebecca Shambaugh has written an engrossing book about Clinton entitled, “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton”.

Now, I’ll be honest with you. Hillary Clinton is not one of my favorite people, at least from a political perspective. But, I’ve got to admit that I admire her courage of convection, knowledge, and fortitude. All of these traits and more are wonderfully detailed in Ms. Shambaugh’s book. Each chapter introduces the reader to a specific topic (such as Chapter 2 “Overcoming and Thriving on Adversity: Be Resilient” or Chapter 7 “Making Your Words Count: Awesome Communication”) and then Ms. Shambaugh guides the reader through specific steps (called “Secrets”) on how to take the lessons outlined in the chapter and make them work for you.

The 196 page book is ideally written for anyone, regardless of gender or political leanings, who wants to learn how to improve their ability to cope under pressure, whether in the classroom, boardroom, home, or in the public arena! “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton” is a “must read” for anyone interested in leadership at every level.

Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East” by Geoffrey Wawro

Few topics grab my attention more than the Middle East. Civilization began there, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, and some claim it may end there. The world’s economy is fueled by the oil produced by just a handful of countries, and yet, rather than being a stable region because of global dependence on oil, it is the world’s most volatile. The Middle East, the vortex of civilization, has in many ways become a black hole; dragging the nations ever closer to its center, and like a black hole, threatening to rip the world apart. Few nations have been able to long escape its grasp. So, how did America, and indeed, the rest of world’s industrial nations, become ensnared the shifting sands of the Middle Eastern politics?

Few books have so expertly been able to answer that question better than Geoffrey Wawro’s “Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East”. Mr. Wawro, who is a Professor of Military History at the University of North Texas, as well as director the Military History Center at UNT, has been able to unravel the Byzantine world of Middle Eastern politics, woven into the cultures and religion of the people for generations, and give the reader a clear and comprehensive history.

For example, Dr. Wawo describes the blunders of the British Empire in closing years of World War I resulting from the vacuum of the collapsing Ottoman Empire and imperialist myopia which left Britain in control of areas such as the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and Palestine, while the French, seeking to maintain its shrinking empire, gained control of Syria. As a result, Arab nationalist aligned themselves with Nazi Germany (and Nazi Germany’s policy of anti-Semitism didn’t hurt either). The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was often a guest in Berlin, and Arabs were invited to join in a SS division comprised solely of Moslem Arabs (that veneration of all things Nazi, not unexpectedly, still continues in some Arab nations to this day).

Dr. Wawo goes on to explain how the increasing Jewish presence in the region, especially in Palestine, thanks in large part to the backroom dealings of President Truman, as well as British and French incompetence, as well as a growing powerful Jewish lobby lead to the establishment of Israel, against a backdrop of the Cold War, religious hatred, and economics. Many a Prime Minister and President has sought to get a grip on the Middle East, only to find events as fluid as the shifting sands.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Anyone who wants to understand how and why were engaged in two wars in the region; why we’re drilling oil wells offshore; why we’re investing billions in alternative energy sources; why we’re under threat from terrorists; or why we’re paying nearly $3.00 for a gallon of gas needs to read this book. The threat is not just to America, but the world is real. If knowledge is power, then Geoffrey Wawro’s 551 page “Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East” is an excellent tool to have one’s arsenal.

Poll Results

We last asked if you thought we needed a comprehensive national policy dealing with illegal immigration. 16% of you said no, we were fine the way we are. Another 16% of you said yes, but only as part of a overall immigration policy. Yet another 16% thought we should let each state handle its own problems with illegal immigration. However, the majority of you thought that we needed a coherent national policy. Frankly, I agree. Illegal immigration shouldn’t be handled in a patchwork fashion, state by state. We need a single, comprehensive, and enforceable policy. However, in absence of a national policy (like now), I believe states have not just the right, but the obligation to take action to protect their citizenry, which is what Arizona has done. This is a situation where both parties have (again) failed the American People.

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