West Virginia daze
1. My favorite political story of the year is Texas inmate Keith Judd, winning 41% of the vote against Barack Obama in the West Virginia Democratic Presidential primary on Tuesday. Judd carried 9 counties and came close to winning one of the state's three Congressional districts. He may have earned the right to have a delegate or two at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, an odd place for a Democratic convention this year (right to work state, and now a member of the group of states that has voted to ban gay marriage and it appears, even civil unions). Don't worry, the convention will not be moved. North Carolina has 15 Electoral College votes and the race will be very closely contested there this year, as it was in 2008 (a 0.3% Obama victory). North Carolina, like much of the Southeast, has seen a large influx of Hispanics in the last few years, and they are slowly shifting the politics of some of these states (Georgia and South Carolina are two others) towards the Democrats.
The West Virginia story resonated with me, since for 4 years, from 1978 to 1982 I managed a regional office for my consulting firm in Atlanta, which covered the 11 states of the confederacy plus Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia (which technically, for part of the Civil War, was part of Virginia, a Confederate state). The two states I visited the most were Florida (the fastest growing), and West Virginia (the only one where population was dropping). I used to think that our firm had so much business in West Virginia because other firms decided traveling around the state was too difficult to justify the business. I still have memories of the 6:30 AM Piedmont flight from Atlanta to Charleston, with stops in Asheville, and Tri-Cities, Tennessee. Charleston's Airport, Chuck Yeager Field (named for one of the pilots in "The Right Stuff") was arguably scarier for takeoffs and landings, than Huntington's, the site of the Marshall University football team's crash. I am likely one of the few people in America who landed at all nine commercial airports in the state during those few years (two have since become general aviation airports). Some of these airports were open only due to subsidized flights, often with one passenger.
John Podhoretz has a very funny article on Keith Judd's electoral success on Tuesday, but he misses a key point. In West Virginia, as in other Southern states, many people who regularly vote for Republicans in November are still registered as Democrats. West Virginia is not friendly ground for the President, since his EPA and Administration have declared war on coal, the state's economic lifeblood. As the Mexican from Treasure of the Sierra Madre, if transplanted to West Virginia, might have said in an updated version of the movie: We don't need no stinkin' Solyndra."
2. The President endorsed gay marriage yesterday. I think it is naive to suggest that Joe Biden forced him to do it. Joe Biden lives in an alternate universe (wrong on every major foreign policy issue for more than 30 years), and he is the kind of Vice President who justifies John Nance Garner's description of the job as not worth a "bucket of warm piss." I think the mishandling by the Romney team of the pressure by social conservative groups for Romney to get rid of foreign policy advisor Richard Grenell, a gay man, had more to do with it. Just as Rush Limbaugh's nasty comment about Sandra Fluke converted a one day story about the Georgetown woman into a big political win for the Democrats, the Grenell story gave the Obama team an opportunity. I also do not think that Obama's stance will have a major impact on the election. It will motivate his base among young voters, and will certainly make it easier to raise money among gays, a generally well off socio-economic group. It might hurt Obama in some socially conservative areas of a few toss-up states, such as Ohio, where voters have not warmed to Mitt Romney yet. I thought Romney's remarks yesterday were better than his handling of the Grenell matter. He endorsed gay rights, without supporting gay marriage. That may not please gay rights advocates, but it is not bigotry. Barack Obama showed bigotry towards some Americans in the 2008 campaign when his remarks about the values of those small town folks was captured on audio during a San Francisco fundraiser (an easy place in which to show contempt for Americans who do not share your politics). No politician should cater to bigotry. And it exists, both on the left and the right. Over time, I think opposition to gay marriage will prove an electoral loser for the Republicans. And bigotry is always a loser. Some Republicans have figured this out.
3. Vidal Sassoon died yesterday. There is a lot I did not know about this very decent man until reading this.
4. Most voters do not care much for frauds. That is why the new details on Fauxcahontas, better known as Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, is so rich. The perhaps 1/32 Cherokee, whose ancestor helped drive the Cherokees out of Tennessee, relied on her drop of Indian blood to advance her career, until she no longer needed to (she landed with tenure at Harvard). She was an affirmative action twofer: a woman and a native American, or at least claimed to be the latter. Her very lame responses to questions the last two weeks -- that she described herself as native American so she could have lunches (pow wows?) with other tribes people, or that she knew she was an Indian because of her cheekbones, would fail the smell test with anyone other than a Harvard faculty member. Despite the ridicule, Warren is still in a tight race with Scott Brown for the Senate seat. This is after all Massachusetts, where Obama will win the state by more than 20%. Affirmative action at work- helping the less qualified.
5. Obama's war on America's energy independence, a lot bigger issue than the fake contraception controversy, or what the President thinks about gay marriage.
6. One memorable day in Israeli history.
7. Romney and race: some advice for the candidate.
8. Commentary on Bibi's new coalition
9. Abusing tikkun olam: or stated otherwise, the Bible does not have a position on cap and trade.
10. Jodi Rudoren will have a job waiting for her when she leaves the New York Times: the Electronic Intifada. Perhaps the worst Times reporter ever.