Friday, July 31, 2009

School Board Parties and other districts

Johnson County School Races: Parties and More Districts

I expect to be bashed for this, indeed I have been in the past, but I think the party affiliation of candidates for nonpartisan office matters. It's a broad statement about how you see the world. And in Johnson County, where even prominent Republicans cross over to vote in "the real election" Democratic courthouse primaries, being a registered Republican is precisely that: a statement.

The nonpartisan offices are also a farm team for future candidates for partisan jobs. Four of Johnson County's ten legislators were elected to nonpartisan jobs first: Sen. Bob Dvorsky and Rep. Dave Jacoby (Coralville city council), Rep. Larry Marek (ag extension board), and Rep. Jeff Kaufmann (Wilton school board). The recently retired Ro Foege also got his start on a school board.

With that said, here's the details.

  • Democrats: Josh Kaine, Sarah Swisher.
  • Republicans: April Armstrong, Mike Cooper, Jean Jordison.
  • No party: Tuyet Dorau, Anne Johnson, Jeff Manthey.

    The geography may matter just as much here with talk of a North Liberty high school in the mix and with the neighborhoods with older elementaries worried about suffering the fate of Roosevelt.

  • Armstrong: southwest rural (Weber)
  • Cooper: rural North Liberty
  • Dorau: north Coralville
  • Johnson, Manthey: North Liberty
  • Jordison: northeast side
  • Kaine: north side (Mann)
  • Swisher: Longfellow

    Iowa City dodged what looked like a battle of no one, but there will be one all write-in race: no one filed for Clear Creek Amana District 4, the Coralville-North Liberty end of the district. (All CCA voters get to vote, but the candidate has to live in the director district.) Weird write-in races have been known to happen in Clear Creek Amana, so readers, do keep me posted.

    In the District 2 race, Eileen Schmidt challenges incumbent Kathy Zimmerman, and Aimee Pitlick and Barbara Kounkel face off in the at large contest where Dan Schaapveld is stepping down. (Last time he tried to quit, in 2003, he was re-elected as a write-in.)

    Solon has four candidates for three seats and could be hot. Incumbent Laura Reed is not running, and former board member Dick Schwab is attempting a comeback after one year off. Schwab won his last term in 2005 in a close, high turnout contest against David Asprey, who came back to win in 2006 and is running again this year.

    Lianne Westcot, who was appointed to the board last November when Ben Pardini died, is making her first run. Schwab, just two months off the board at the time, applied for the same vacancy. The board initially split 2-2 until Asprey switched his vote (minutes, pdf) from Schwab to Westcot. Gene Lawson rounds out the field.

    Lone Tree is our yawner: three seats, three candidates, three incumbents.

    The whole county, except for the three dozen or so West Liberty voters, will also vote on a Kirkwood levy.
  • Thursday, July 30, 2009

    8 for school board

    Eight file for Iowa City school board

    Three late entries bring the Iowa City school board field to eight for three seats at the 5:00 filing deadline.

    Two late filers, Jeffrey Manthey and Anne Johnson, are from North Liberty. The third is Tuyet Dorau.

    They join April Armstrong, Josh Kaine, Jean Jordison, Sarah Swisher, and incumbent Mike Cooper.

    This list isn't quite final; candidates have until 5:00 Tuesday to drop out. If it holds it's the biggest field since 1987 which also saw eight candidates on the ballot for three full term seats (there was also a short term seat). Current city councilor Connie Champion (how alliterative can ya get?) topped the field.

    Boswell Drops Blue Dog Logo

    Leonard Loses Logo

    Just had reason to visit Leonard Boswell's congressional web site, and it's been redesigned. In the process, the Blue Dog Conservative Democrat logo that marred his page for many years is all of a sudden missing. Not that he's QUIT the Dawgs... but he's not bragging about it as bad.

    Both the Register and Iowa Republican had articles this AM in praise of primaries, and this little web site omission may be proof.

    Health Care Costs

    Health Care Costs

    I know this is small and anecdotal, but can someone explain why my insurance provider sent me FOUR separate envelopes of snail mail in one day?

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Josh Kaine joins school board race

    Josh Kaine joins school board race

    Josh Kaine, active in the We Love Our Neighborhood Schools group, has filed for Iowa City School Board, bringing the announced candidates to five for three seats. Kaine says his platform is:
  • Serving as a representative of the older neighborhoods and neighborhood schools, bringing a bit more balance to a board that has been represented predominantly by folks from the newer housing developments in the area. Specifically, I'm hoping to represent those of us in the community who feel strongly about the value of smaller neighborhood schools.
  • Supporting historic preservation, with an emphasis on obtaining a better balance of tax dollars spent on new vs. older schools.
  • Working for greater transparency in communications with the public from the board and the district, including an emphasis on seeking public input well before plans are written.

  • The rest of the field includes incumbent Mike Cooper, Jean Jordison, who has been on the district's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan Advisory Committee, Weber PTO leader April Armstrong, and local labor leader Sarah Swisher.

    More on Caucus Date

    Caucus Date Continued

    Iowa's two party decision to have a first-ever Saturday caucus is still rippling today. The angle I didn't think of at first is that this is part of the national deal to keep Iowa first for 2012.

    David Chung at Hawkeye GOP
    is supportive of the change, and backed the change during his just-ended stint on the state central committee (he stepped down to back Christian Fong in the primary). Reading between the lines, it sounds like it was the Republicans who settled on Saturday first, and just like 2008, the Dems followed suit and moved from the previously announced Monday the 25th.

    But Chung cautions:
    Don't expect to see Saturday caucuses in a presidential year. In order to get the maximum effect from Iowa's First in the Nation Caucuses, they need to occur during a normal weekday news cycle. The caucuses are timed so that presidential straw poll data will be available for the late news.

    Saturday puts a price on our place: OK, you're first, but you're at a time that minimizes the value of first.

    Multiple sources notes Jewish Sabbath concerns. I'm not recommending changing what we have, but one fix would be a later start time. Luckily January is near solstice with early sunsets, and since Sabbath is measured sunset to sunset a 5 p.m. start would be, well, kosher. But that would make the "I don't want to go out after dark" seniors unhappy. Like Ricky Nelson said, you can't please everyone. I went to a caucus party, to politick with my old friends... no, Deeth, let it drop there. Weird Al isn't hiring.

    You know, if we're looking for the day when the fewest people have to work, that would be SUNday, the day most of the rest of the world holds its elections. But I'm sure Jesus and Mike Huckabee wouldn't like that for some reason.

    desmoinesdem has lots more recommendations for change, recycled from last year but still relevant. Some are cribbed from the departed Yepsen: Have the auditors run it, absentees, report first alignment body counts... all of which could be summed up as "make it as much like a primary as possible but just don't call it that."

    Iowa is going to have to give on some sort of absentee procedure. And frankly, the argument that absentees would ruin the "town meeting" feel of the caucus are outdated. Attendance has grown so much that a typical site was less deliberative body and more Black Hole of Calcutta, straining ans exceeding the size limits of rooms and parking lots.

    The question is, do we want an unrestricted absentee process like we have in elections, which would make the caucuses a de facto ballot chase with no one but the off-year diehards attending in person? You might say that's fine, but there's a couple shortcomings.

    Presidential realignment (not even an issue for the GOP) is easy to address with an instant runoff ranked ballot. But that still leaves the platform, the committees, and the party structure. If only the diehards are there, the diehards will control that. But most people frankly don't care about that; the 90 percent attrition rate at my caucus once alignment was final and delegate counts were locked in was probably typical.

    But here's the bigger problem: At what point does New Hampshire say, "Nope, that's an election, not a caucus" and mess with our date?

    My preference is for absentee with a reason: I'm deployed to Afghanistan yes, I want to watch the Hawkeye game no, where to draw the line, somewhere in between. (A GENUINE effort at child care would also be nice; too often that's simply lip service.)

    As for auditors running the show I'm too biased to address it: I want to go to the caucuses, not go to work.

    I'd rather see a bit later date, into February, but I'll take three weeks later than 2008's obscene Jan. 3. At least we're late enough that the semester has started and the students are back at their campuses.

    O. Kay corrects me on one point: the NFL conference championships will both be on Sunday the 24th. So now I can watch those games, and better yet I won't have to worry about seeing Brett Favre in Viking purple.

    Becky Schmitz gearing up for 2010

    Schmitz gearing up for 2010

    "It's been phenomenal what we've accomplished the last three years with strong Democratic leadership," Sen. Becky Schmitz told Johnson County backers Tuesday night.

    The Fairfield Democrat was on the northern end of her sprawling district, which runs from the Iowa City limits to the Missouri border, raising funds for the 2010 campaign and stopping by the Johnson County fair.

    While acknowledging the failure of some Democratic priorities in the 2009 session, Schmitz cited the 2007 session's successes, including minimum wage, civil rights, stem cell research, the bullying bill and early childhood education.

    Schmitz was one of 2006's narrowest winners, knocking off incumbent Republican Dave Miller by just 184 votes and helping move the Senate from a 25-25 tie to a 30-20 Democratic margin (now increased to 32-18). She's had a target on her back from day one, but before election day Democrats have a dry run in the southern half of her district.

    House District 90 Rep. John Whitaker has resigned to take a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, setting up a Sept. 1 special election between Democrat Curt Hanson and Republican Jefferson county supervisor Stephen Burgmeier.

    "Burgmeier was originally talking about running against me" in 2010, said Schmitz, "but he grabbed at this."

    Burgmeier was the driving force behind Jefferson County's resolution against marriage equality, and Democrats would like not just a win, but a big enough win to keep him out of a 2010 Senate bid. The party is bringing in its biggest guns for Hanson, with Senator Tom Harkin headlining an August 1 event. A headquarters is open (Republicans were still searching for space a couple days ago) and mailings are already landing.

    "This is a test election for the Republicans," said Iowa Democratic Party vice chair Sue Dvorsky.

    "It's going to be a close race," said Schmitz about the Sept. 1 race, calling Hanson a "terrific candidate" and a resource to he on legislation related to driver's education.

    Almost the entire Johnson County legislative delegation stopped by The Mill to support Schmitz, along with Supervisor Sally Stutsman, Recorder Kim Painter, County Attorney Janet Lyness and Mayor Regenia Bailey.

    Talk naturally turned to the upcoming school and city elections. Tidbit: city councilor Connie Champion, who was presumed to be stepping down, has been sighted passing petitions at the Johnson County fair...

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    Iowa Caucuses January 23

    Caucus Night DAY is Jan. 23

    In a just-released joint statement, Iowa Democrats and Republicans have announced a 2010 caucus date of January 23 at 1 p.m.--the first ever Saturday caucuses.

    Non-Iowans, indeed most Iowans, too, don't know that we do the caucus thing in non-presidential years. Usually it's only the party diehards who show up.

    What does this mean?

  • Keeps the parties co-scheduled which, if that tradition ever dies, could be a problem. One IOWAN VOTES TWICE headline could screw the pooch, but if the caucuses are the same time that's impossible.

  • Keeps our foot planted on an early date as the Democratic calendar commission meets.

  • Is a change from the Dems previously announced Monday Jan. 25.

  • Avoids the MLK holiday date that upset some Democratic activists in 2004 and 2006.

  • Means folks may have to skip one of the NFL conference championship games, unless a West Coast team gets home field.

  • Means more to Republicans than Dems, since six candidates will be jockeying for delegates in the possible convention scenario.
  • Tuesday clips

    Tuesday clips

  • Must see TV: Howard Dean subbing for Keith Olbermann. YEEEEEEAH!

  • One great thing about lame ducks is they can say whatever the hell they really think. Retiring Sen. George Voinovich, R-OH, on his own party's increasing irrelevance outside its regional base: “We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It’s the southerners. They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, ‘These people, they’re southerners. The party’s being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?’ ”

  • Another lame duck is Kentucky's Jim Bunning, who is, how do I say this nicely... screw it. Senile. Anyway, he's finally been squeezed out of his re-election race. Kos wants him to quit early out of spite so KY's Democratic governor can name the replacement. Don't laugh: Bunning said it first.

  • Sarah Palin is officially beyond lame duck but this cosmic re-interpretation of her resignation speech is also must see TV:

  • This is a but old but the great Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight was a number-cruncher before he was a political guy, and the first candidate he ever supported was... Dave Loebsack? It's not a big leap from crunching poker odds to crunching political odds.

  • Last week I told you that the Birthers are just channeling the Al Smith Secret Tunnel To The Vatican story. But now it's worse: it seems "not a citizen" is dog whistle politics for, and I'm not kidding here, the ultra-fundamentalists who think Obama is the antichrist. Best conspiracy since the Rotfang Conspiracy.

    "Conspiracy theorists believe the world is run by schizophrenic shadowy organizations who--despite conspiring with millions in perfect silence--can't resist putting clues in things like major public monuments and every note of currency ever printed," notes this Cracked classic. "Making the average Batman villain look like Professor Moriarty."
  • Iowa City School Board Race Shaping Up

    Iowa City School Board Race Shaping Up

    Cooper to run again; Armstrong, Jordison File, Swisher is in, More May Follow

    In the last few days before Thursday's filing deadline, the Iowa City School Board has gone from the job no one wanted to what looks likely to be a multi-candidate contested race.

    Incumbents Tim Krumm and Jan Leff are stepping down, and for a while it looked like Mike Cooper was going to join them. But Cooper has now announced he's seeking a second term. He hasn't filed yet but two have: Jean Jordison, who has been on the district's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan Advisory Committee, and Weber PTO leader April Armstrong.

    But the big name to local politicos is Sarah Swisher, former Johnson County Democrats chair and co-chair of the 2003 Yes For Kids bond campaign.

    Cooper isued this statement:
    ICCSD school board member Mike Cooper has announced his candidacy for the 2009 school board race. Elected in 2006, Cooper’s 38 plus years in the education business has been unparalleled on the ICCSD school board.

    The ICCSD district is currently faced with serious budget issues. This is Cooper’s number one concern. As a continuing board member he believes it is imperative the board and administration take the necessary actions to get our district back to financial stability.

    Cooper is also dedicated to continuing his board work regarding the current Roosevelt Elementary School site. He is totally committed to re-purposing and enhancing the current Roosevelt site so that this historic community asset retains it value as we move forward in the 21st century.

    Cooper believes ICCSD enrollment patterns and facility needs have created an imperative for a new north corridor high school. Future growth needs coupled with strong community desire mandate we move toward opening a new comprehensive high school as soon as possible.

    Cooper would like the district to move toward a comprehensive redistricting. A significant imbalance of low socioeconomic students has developed across our elementary schools. The ICCSD school board must address this inequity now. The board should develop a process which includes working with a wide range of impacted community members and also incorporate the City Councils who govern over ICCSD communities.

    As we move forward on major decisions Cooper sees a strong need for greater community involvement and inclusion at the beginning of the process.

    We have the best administration and school district in the state but we need to continue to reach higher.

    Cooper won his first term in 2007 but has to run a year early because of the transition to four year terms,

    A lengthy Armstrong mail passed on to the We Love Our Neighborhood Schools list addressed "concern over my opinions and behavior as a part of the Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC)."
    I was a member of the FAC. We were charged with addressing Roosevelt enrollment and facility decisions as well as the enrollment issues at Weber, Kirkwood, and Horn (RWKH)

    I would like to address some of those issues and clarify the sequence of events

  • I am PTA president of Weber school
  • I was added to the FAC as the Weber school representative
  • Prior to being formally on the FAC, I attended both public forums on this issue
  • I took this role very seriously.
  • As committee members we reviewed well over 100 pages of information, attended numerous meetings and listened to community input and comment
  • While Roosevelt was clearly the school facing the biggest changes, it was my desire that that Horn, Weber, and Kirkwood schools would also have their issues seriously addressed.
  • In the course of the FAC meetings, there was an independent survey presented to me, along with a request that I make it available through my office as PTA president at Weber, or through our bi-weekly newsletter.
  • I took this survey to Chris Gibson, principal of Weber Elementary, and asked her how I could distribute it.
  • Chris Gibson placed a call to the ICCSD Central Administration Office (CAO), and was told that we could not publicize any non-ICCSD created surveys through any school publications, including Friday folders.
  • That was district policy
  • It was never my intention to limit distribution of the survey, but it was not within my power to distribute it through Weber School .
  • It has been stated that "Ms. Armstrong (as Weber PTA president) chose NOT to publicize the survey".
  • I did not "choose NOT to distribute it"; I was told that I could not.
  • It was brought forth in committee discussion that the survey was distributed differently at the other elementary schools. I cannot address their rationale for distribution. I was simply following Weber school policy which follows district policy.

    There is also an indication that I was critical of the survey itself, and how the numbers were presented to the FAC . Please allow me to explain:

  • I did have concerns over the unequal numerical representations between the fours schools
  • Weber had ~5% parent response, Kirkwood had ~3%, Horn had ~20%, and Roosevelt had ~15%.
  • Also, survey conclusions state : "over 40% of Weber respondents and the majority of respondents at HKR say 'do not like' to closing Roosevelt."

    I did voice a concern at the FAC meeting that we all needed to bear in mind that "over 40% of Weber respondents" only represented roughly 17 people.

  • As a representative of all the Weber families I thought it was important for me to clarify that this 40% was equivalent in real terms to only 17 people, not the entire Weber community.

    Overall, I think the survey was very well crafted. I believe that garnering accurate public opinion and presenting core community values and opinions was the intention of the survey. I found this information to be helpful and important in our decision making. My primary problem with the data itself was that while I am sure the percentages presented were accurate; it was unfortunate that the sampling was not more comprehensive.

    I would like to add I am a proponent of neighborhood schools. I believe both as a parent and as a member of the Iowa City Community School District that neighborhood schools strengthen families and our community at large. That said, in this instance, at the end of this process I agreed with the district's recommendation to close and repurpose Roosevelt school, and build the Crossings school. I will not take more of your time to elaborate on my reasoning, however if you would like to discuss it with me I would welcome that discussion.

  • I can fill up a lot of space with this much cut and paste.

    At least two more names are in the rumor mill, and if even one of those files that's five people for three seats, and a real contest where just a week ago we were worried about who to write in.

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Grassley No On Sotomayor

    Grassley No On Sotomayor

    Means he's more worried about the base than about the opposition. Same as when he was a yes on Clarence Thomas in 1991--except that actually mattered.

    You may have noticed I've written next to nothing about the Sotomayor nomination. That's because there's not much to write. It's been clear since about Day Three that she was going to make it, and the rest has all been a low-key dog and pony show designed to cover the committee Republicans on their right flank. Times have changed enough that we'll never see a 99-0 confirmation again. Bill Clinton must be mighty grateful that he got his two vacancies in the two years he had a Democratic majority.

    CQ Rates Latham, Boswell Races as competitive

    CQ Rates Latham, Boswell Races as competitive

    Congressional Quarterly rates Iowa's 3rd and 4th districts as among the top 100 of 435 potentially competitive U.S. House races.

    The individual district writeups are contained in the fun interactive map. Of Boswell, CQ sums up his relatively easy 2008 win over the unnamed Kim Schmett and notes:
    Yet the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has designated Boswell as a member of its 'Frontline Democrats' program, which provides additional campaign support to incumbents deemed potentially vulnerable in the 2010 campaign. The Republicans may get a comeback try by former state GOP chairman Michael Mahaffey, who narrowly lost to Boswell in an open-seat race in 1996 and has said he’ll make up his mind by Labor Day about whether he’ll run again.

    Potential opponents Mike Mehaffey and Robert Brownell, and `06 rival Jeff Lamberti, get name-dropped. But no mention at all of Ed Fallon's `08 primary challenge.

    "Democrats now are searching for a candidate who might make a stronger race of it in 2010," CQ says of Tom Latham and the 4th CD. Overall party ID seems to be what puts this race on the map.

    As for Democrats Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack and Republican Steve King: CQ Politics rates this race as "Safe," meaning the incumbent party is virtually certain to win the seat.

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Sunday Clips

    Clips on a Lazy Sunday

    The chronicWHATcles of the late week:

  • Nate the Great at FiveThirtyEight notes that Arlen Specter's votes improved after his party switch, but REALLY really improved now that he's got a primary challenge. The same principle likely explains Leonard Boswell's behavior of late; thanks, Ed.

  • Bill Maher has the best quote about health care. "How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit." Same goes for prisons and news.

  • There are of course no profits in news these days, and there's a blame the bloggers mindset in the old media. But Michael Massing at the New York Review of Books has a good defense of original journalism in the blogosphere, and locally Steve Buttry of the Gazette says the revived proposals of pay walls (which his paper used to have) are like Kevin Costner repeatedly taking a bad golf shot. I would have gone with Caddyshack: the print papers are Carl Spackler and the bloggers are the gopher.

  • At the New York Times, Stanley Fish links the Birthers and Henry Louis Gates: "The problem is again the legitimacy of a black man living in a big house, especially when it’s the White House."

  • But at long last the Birthers have their proof; say hello to President Robert Gates.
  • Friday, July 24, 2009

    Clinton's path to presidency is loyalty

    PUMA is soooo 2008

    Just a year ago the unity of the Democratic Party seemed in deep jeopardy. True, Hillary Clinton had conceded the nomination to Barack Obama, but the drama kept going as diehards demanded the vice presidency or vowed to write her in.

    That seems so long ago, eons before Obama brought Clinton onto the team as Secretary of State. Yet some observers can't resist stirring the pot, wanting to see every division, every split, through the lens of last year's primary.

    Our Johnson County Democrats are suffering a unity crisis, sure. But that's not a Hillary vs. Obama thing (Edwards was a bigger factor here). Instead, it's a matter of, in the immortal phrase of Michael Dukakis, competence not ideology.

    Divisions on health care are not over the minutia of differences between Clinton and Obama's health care plans from last year, the issue that was used again and again as a fig leaf for the identity politics of race, class and gender that actually drove that race. The health care splits are more about turf and campaign finance, and are likely one of the reasons Clinton is at State instead of the Senate. The general public may have identified her with health care, for better or worse, but Max Baucus identified her as I'm The Chairman and I've Got Four Terms Of Seniority On You. There wasn't room for Clinton to be a player in the Senate.

    So she's overseas instead, where loyal duty means catching crap from Kim Jong Il. But even Thai TV is stuck on 2008:
    Asked whether she still aspired to be the first female American president, she said, "That's not anything I'm at all thinking about," adding that she is "100 percent focused" on her role as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

    So has she given up hope of getting to the White House?

    "I don't know, but I doubt very much that anything like that will ever be part of my life," replied the 61-year-old former first lady and former U.S. senator.

    Pressed further, Clinton said, "Well, I'm saying no because I have a very committed attitude to the job I have. And so that's not at all on my radar screen."

    Ambition deferred is likely to be on the agenda on Meet The Press, where Madame Secretary does the full hour Sunday. Maybe they'll be polite and ask a little bit about, ya know, foreign policy first?

    But the low point is Monica Crowley at the Washington Times, who fleshes out a full-blown right wing fantasy about a 2012 Democratic civil war:
    The Clintons' revenge will take shape around the only thing that matters: the presidency in 2012.

    Here's how it will go down: Mrs. Clinton will stay in her job for a respectable time, maybe another year or so. Then she will resign on principle over an issue critical to national security -- perhaps Israel, maybe Iran getting a nuclear weapon. She will give a predictable speech about being honored to serve the president, how much they've accomplished together and how she's still a loyal Democrat. Then she will say that because of Issue X, she can no longer in good conscience remain in Mr. Obama's administration, so she regretfully tenders her resignation.

    She will then call together her 2008 campaign team, all of whom are already on standby. She will begin by making quiet calls to her stable of big-money contributors. She will start to call in chits from members of Congress, senators and governors whom she has helped in the past. And they, reluctant to turn their backs on their party's president but increasingly uneasy with his failing agenda, will offer her under-the-radar encouragement: "Run, Hillary," they'll whisper.

    And she will. She will run against Mr. Obama for the 2012 Democratic nomination. She will run against him from the Democratic center -- against his out-of-control spending and his flaccid foreign policy.

    Stupidest. Column. Ever. Both for the off-base argument and for the gender politics of "flaccid."

    Crowley is re-imagining 1980 and reversing the ideology, with Hillary as a moderate Ted Kennedy and Obama as the Carter of the left. But the left, not the center, is the gap in Democratic internal politics today. Obama's approval remains in the 90 percent range among liberal Democrats--you know, the kind who vote in primaries and go to caucuses.

    And those that are mad aren't mad that he's "soft on Iran." They're mad because they want the troops home now, Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed, single payer, and Bush and Cheney on trial.

    The Kennedy challenge was also based on Carter's splits with, and relative unpopularity with, Congress. Those cracks were already visible by this point in 1977, and while Obama's relations with Pelosi and Reid aren't perfect, it's clear that they're at least on the same team and moving in the same general direction.

    There's no appetite in the Democratic Party for a rerun of 1980. The only other major challenge to an incumbent in my lifetime was in 1976, when the most gifted and popular conservative of the 20th century challenged an appointed caretaker--and LOST.

    I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton still wants to be president. Indeed, if I had to bet the beret on the 2016 nomination, I say it's her. Hillary's best case is a 2000 scenario: full support from the incumbent and the party structure, with a motley coalition of malcontents backing a Anyone But, Bill Bradley type candidate. (I'm still proud of Johnson County being the number one Bradley county in the country).

    Her worst case is Obama staying hands off, like Reagan did in `88, until after she clinches. HW fended off all comers nevertheless, but it's too far away for me to envision who plays the Bob Dole role.

    But in either case, Hillary's only path to the presidency is six more years of loyalty. We haven't seen an incumbent defeated for renomination since the unelected Chester Arthur in 1884, and the last repudiation of a president by his party was Grover Cleveland and William Jennings Bryan. (We'll put an asterisk by LBJ and RFK.) Fortunately for the president and the party, she's smart enough to know that. It might not be an exciting story, but it's good strategy.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    The Birthers and Al Smith's Tunnel

    The Birthers and Al Smith's Tunnel

    It just hit me yesterday why the conspiracy theorists called the "birthers," who insist that President Obama is not a native-born citizen and thus is ineligible for his job, seem so familiar. As David Spade would have said: Yeah, I liked it the first time I heard it, when it was Al Smith's tunnel to the Vatican.

    Al Smith played Moses for FDR, JFK, and Obama, showing the Democrats the way through the wilderness but never reaching the promised land himself. In 1928 Smith was the first Catholic presidential nominee, and not coincidentally one of the first presidential politicians to rise from the rough and tumble of big city machine politics.

    It got rougher yet in the fall. The 1920's version of the Ku Klux Klan, starting to fade but still powerful, were equal opportunity bigots, hating Catholics nearly as much as blacks. The most popular attack showed a picture of Smith opening the Holland Tunnel linking New York and New Jersey, and "explaining" that it was Smith's "secret tunnel to the Vatican," so he could get his orders from the Pope who would rule America from Rome.

    Debunking this story didn't do any good, just like producing Obama's birth certificate didn't help. So that's NOT a secret tunnel to the Vatican? Don't matter. Smith's still a Catholic and therefore un-American. "Take our country back," cry the Birthers.

    And that's all this is really about. The Birthers, like their anti-immigrant allies, and like their precursors the 1920s Klan and the 1850s Know-Nothings, are defining Obama as un-American. Doesn't matter if we can see the birth certificates and the announcements in the Honolulu papers. Doesn't matter that his middle name is Hussein and not the briefly rumored Mohammed. Proving where and when he was born don't matter here because the conspiracy has its own truthiness in that it emphasizes Obama's other-ness.

    Look at all the weird stuff on that certificate. It's from a place that had only been a state two years. It's got a funny name on it. And perhaps most damning:


    Native born American? When the Birthers are saying no, what they really mean is Yeah But.

    In his 1928 defeat, Al Smith redrew the map and set the stage for Roosevelt's rise just four years later. (By then, the two onetime allies had bitterly split.) He lost places Democrats had carried even in the worst losses, like Texas and Florida, just as Obama lost West Virginia. And much like Obama made inroads into the South and West, Smith won or came close in the industrial Northeast, including Massachusetts where Yankee bluebloods had previously dominated the likes of John Fitzgerald and Joe Kennedy.

    Anti-Catholic prejudice has faded to the point that, assuming the Birther's wet dream comes true, the Catholic faith of the next two people in line, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, is scarcely noticed. But those old prejudices have merely migrated to other groups, immigrants in particular.

    Conservative intellectuals (that's not necessarily an oxymoron) are aghast at the tea party, Minuteman, Birther direction that the grassroots of the Republican Party has taken. On the occasion of Sarah Palin's regrouping, Rick Perlstein writes in Newsweek:
    Another thing that makes some elite conservatives nervous in this recession is the sheer level of unhinged, even violent irrationality at the grassroots. In postwar America, a panicky, violence-prone underbrush has always been revealed in moments of liberal ascendency. In the Kennedy years, the right-wing militia known as the Minutemen armed for what they believed would be an imminent Russian takeover. In the Carter years it was the Posse Comitatus; Bill Clinton's rise saw six anti-abortion murders and the Oklahoma City bombings. Each time, the conservative mainstream was able to adroitly hive off the embarrassing fringe while laying claim to some of the grassroots anger that inspired it. Now the violence is back. But this time, the line between the violent fringe and the on-air harvesters of righteous rage has been harder to find.

    The Birthers are part of this dynamic of the fringe becoming dominant in a shrinking Republican Party. Like a pot left to boil, the residue becomes denser as the steam rises. Republican orthodoxy gets narrower and narrower. Deny a crackpot theory and you're booed off the stage for simply saying you believe the President is a citizen, like Delaware Rep. Mike Castle was recently.

    ”Anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight,” Al Smith said of his detractors. A few conservatives, to their credit, are willing to shed light on the foolishness of the Birthers. But far too many play along. They bear an extra responsibility to make this un-American foolishness wither in the light of day.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Trial Balloon: Strawn for Congress?

    Trial Balloon: Strawn for Congress?

    Krusty floats the trial balloon of RPI chair Matt Strawn running against Leonard Boswell, and with mixed feelings:

    "We need aggressive candidates challenging the status quo, and Boswell typifies the status quo more than anyone.

    The question though is when? We need a candidate to step forward now, but he’s the party chair. How would that work? If he waits until 2012 who knows what redistricting will do since Iowa is likely to lose a seat in congress.

    I think there is little doubt that Strawn has eyes on a congressional seat. But the best course of action for Stawn is to put his head down, honor his commitment to the State Central Committee, and help guide us through the critical elections of 2010.

    But what if he doesn’t want to wait? Then what?"

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Iowa Republicans Need Governor Playoff

    Iowa Republicans Need Governor Playoff

    Rod Roberts is in now, bringing the official tally of Iowa Republicans running for governor up to -- I had to check -- five, with Jerry Behn still in the wings and the ever popular Draft Terry Branstad story getting pushed.

    Tell your players without a scorecard? Heck, they've got so many we need a bracket.

    Bracket primary reform is something the Iowa GOP should consider, if they want to avoid my scenario: Bob Vander Plaats getting nominated at a convention and losing everything east of I-35 to Culver.

    With six candidates (counting Behn) in the last Iowa Republican poll, we have to give BVP and Chris Rants a first round bye. Then we seed the rest of the field: Paul McKinley gets Behn and Roberts draws Christian Fong. Branstad is sort of an automatic bid independent, like Notre Dame in the BCS. Oops, I forgot. No playoff in college football.

    The rest could work sort of like this classic playoff between dictators. (Before you accuse me of violating Godwin's Law, we've got bad guys of both left and right here and Hitler loses a first round upset.)

    Sure, and instant runoff vote would be easier, but then you'd lose the week to week drama building up to the championship, the frustration of your 3 seed McKinley losing on a Jerry Behn buzzer beater, and the Any Given Tuesday possibility of an upset.

    Tuesday followup

    Tuesday followup

    Couple quick notes:

  • STILL no one running for Iowa City school board... and anyone heard any good rumors about city council?

  • Chief Justice Ternus is a no comment on the weekend party: "it would be inappropriate for either the chief justice or me to comment on any pending cases, including any cases involving family members of a judge." Let's hope we hear her thoughts after the case is done.

  • Special election in House 90 is set for Sept. 1. My sympathies to the Jefferson, Van Buren and Wapello county auditors who get to conduct elections in back to back weeks with school board on Sept. 8. You can't combine a school election with anything else because the lines are all screwy and based on where Grandpa wanted to send the kids to school in 1960.

    Still, they'll be hard pressed to beat Linn County's run in 1994 and 1995 when some Marion voters went to the polls five times in nine weeks:
  • November 1994 general election: mid-term state senator Paul Pate elected secretary of state and resigns Marion-based senate seat.
  • December: Just re-elected state rep Mary Lundby elected to senate seat.
  • Also in December: Linn County has special election for sheriff.
  • Also also in December: Marion and Linn-Mar school districts vote on, and reject, a merger.
  • January: Rosemary Thomson elected to Lundby's house seat.

    Thus the voters who were in the Thomson house district and the Marion or Linn-Mar school districts voted five times.

  • As for House 90, Dems look to have settled on Curt Hanson while the GOP is expected to run Jefferson County supervisor Stephen Burgmeier. desmoinesdem (who takes issue with my interest in Ternus speaking out on the drinking age) has a good roundup.
  • Monday, July 20, 2009

    Apollo Moon Landing Computers

    To The Moon on 64K

    As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, let's look at the computers that got us there:
    Even the simplest software today would far exceed the technical constraints the Apollo team worked under. The so-called Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) used a real time operating system, which enabled astronauts to enter simple commands by typing in pairs of nouns and verbs, to control the spacecraft. It was more basic than the electronics in modern toasters that have computer controlled stop/start/defrost buttons. It had approximately 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.

    While the astronauts would probably have preferred to fly the spacecraft manually, only the AGC could provide the accuracy in navigation and control required to send them to the Moon and return them safely home again, independent of any Earth-based navigation system.

    Along with the APG, mainframes were also heavily used in the Apollo programme. Over 3,500 IBM employees were involved, (pictured below). The Goddard Space Flight Center used IBM System/360 Model 75s for communications across Nasa and the spacecraft. IBM Huntsville designed and programmed the Saturn rocket instrument unit, while the Saturn launch computer at the Kennedy Space Center was operated by IBM.

    An IBM System/360 Model 75 was also used at Nasa's Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. This computer was used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to calculate lift-off data required to launch the Lunar Module off the Moon's surface and enable it to rendezvous with Command Module pilot Michael Collins for the flight back to Earth.

    At the time, IBM described the 6Mbyte programs it developed, to monitor the spacecrafts' environmental and astronauts' biomedical data, as the most complex software ever written.

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    The Ternus Party and the Drinking Age

    Seeking the Chief Justice's Opinion

    As the parent of a 19 year old myself I can sympathize with the plight of Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and her husband Dennis Drake. Dennis, their son, and the son's friends got in hot water this weekend for an "underage" (sic) drinking party on the couple's property.

    I qualify "underage" because this isn't 15 year old high school kids we're talking about: it's 19 year old ADULTS.

    When I was a late teen (back when thr drinking age was 18 like it should be), Dad used to say "I'd rather let you have a beer at home than out getting in trouble." Of course, alcohol got me in trouble no matter where I was and I quit the stuff before I was 22. But all it cost me was a relationship and a few tenths off my grade point; I never got behind the wheel.

    And that seemed to be Drake's concern, as he was positioned near the driveway at 1:30 AM to make sure no one drove home. Assuming that Her Honor was also in the parental loop (police reports don't indicate if she was home or not), that means two high-end lawyers looked at the situation and felt that the best thing to do was to let these young ADULTS have a drink or six at home and make sure they didn't drive.

    Looks like the only thing anyone did that was WRONG was to be loud and obnoxious and annoy the neighbors--a temporary injury of lost sleep that's far less than would could have happened if Ternus and Drake had been less responsible.

    This event is an opportunity Ternus should take to offer her opinion on the law. Not on the constitutionality of the law, but on the efficacy, the justice, the effectiveness of the law. Now, I'm just a dumb blogger, not a smart lawyer or nuthin' , so I don't know what the guidelines are. But from my perspective I'd love to hear Ternus say, "My son and husband broke the law, but it's a really bad law."

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    No clothes with campaign cash

    No clothes with campaign cash

    I'm so Iowa-centric that I thought of Not Tom Harkin first rather than Sarah Palin when I read this: "Candidates can't use campaign money to improve their wardrobes, the Federal Election Commission said Thursday in a ruling that nonetheless dismissed a complaint against four congressional candidates who did just that."

    These campaigns sure are expensive.

    Failed GOP Senate candidate Christopher Reed, who may be running for Not Dave Loebsack in 2010, was not one of the four candidates named in the FEC ruling, but was bashed by his own team last year for spending some of his very very limited campaign funds on clothing and haircuts.

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Whitaker Resigns, Hanson Runs

    Whitaker Resigns, Hanson Runs

    It's now official: State Rep. John Whitaker has resigned for a presidential appointment as Iowa Director of the Farm Service Agency. And Democrats already have their candidate for the Jefferson-Van Buren based District 90:
    Community activist and educator Curt Hanson today announced his bid to replace State Representative John Whitaker of Van Buren County, who announced his resignation from the Iowa House earlier today to become Iowa Director of the Farm Service Agency. Hanson is a life-long Iowan who has been living and teaching in Fairfield for over 43 years.

    “My parents taught me the importance of hard work, helping neighbors, and service to community. Those Iowa values will guide my work as the next State Representative for District 90,” said Hanson, a Democrat.

    Hanson was born and raised on an Iowa family farm. He attended the University of Northern Iowa and received his masters from the University of Iowa. He and his wife, Diane, have two grown children. They are members of First United Methodist Church and Curt is also a member of the Fairfield Kiwanis Club.

    “My priorities are simple: balance the state budget, create good-paying jobs in key industries like renewable energy, make health care more affordable for middle class families, and ensure our kids have the education and skills they need to get a job in these tough economic times,” said Hanson.

    Hanson is a retired teacher and driver education instructor in Fairfield. He has been selected by his community as Fairfield Teacher of the Year and has been selected by his peers to serve those in the teaching profession at both the local and state levels. He was also runner-up National Driver Education Teacher of the Year and has served as President and Business Manager of the Iowa Association of Safety Education.

    Clearly this was ready: the web site's already up. Anyone up for a road trip to doorknock Fairfield? We need an election date first (that's up to Chet) and the formality of a nominating convention.

    Iowa Republican Polls on Branstad


    The prominent names in the Republican Party all seem to have "former" in front of their names, just like every rap record has "featuring" in the artist credit. (If Featuring ever releases his own album it'll be the biggest hit ever.) Sarah Palin will soon be joining the Mitt, the Huck and the Newt in the Former club.

    So it seems to be in Iowa as well, as Iowa Republican drops its latest poll tidbit. Former governor for life Terry Branstad has a strong lead over Chet Culver, and a very narrow lead in the primary over Bob Vander Plaats and what can best be descrived in the context of the numbers as "rest of field."

    I'm not in the best spot to judge Branstad, literally: Johnson County was one of the only places to vote for Don Avenson in 1990. I will say that in my public radio era, I interviewed a lot of the state's leading Republicans and worked with their offices: Nussle, Leach, Lightfoot, and Grassley were always very cooperative. But Branstad wouldn't give us the time of day. (Granted, I can see where Terry wouldn't see the NPR audience in Iowa City as very reachable.)

    The general election poll can't be dismissed; Culver has some work to do whether or not Branstad runs. But what's more interesting to me is the primary poll:
    Registered Republican Voters
    Terry Branstad: 35%
    Bob Vander Plaats: 31%
    Don’t Know: 19%
    Chris Rants: 6%
    Neither/other: 3%
    Paul McKinley: 2%
    Rod Roberts: 1%
    Christian Fong: 1%
    Jerry Behn: Did not register

    Compare that to the non-Branstad version:
    Bob Vander Plaats: 46%
    Don’t Know: 27%
    Chris Rants: 14%
    Neither/Other: 5%
    Paul McKinley: 3%
    Christian Fong: 3%
    Rod Roberts: 1%
    Refused: 1%
    Jerry Behn: 0.2%

    BVP loses a chunk of support, in part because he had the highest name ID of the non-Branstad Republicans. But he still lands at the exact same 31% that he won in the 2002 primary. Branstad seems to pull his support from the undecided and from the lesser-known contenders especially Rants.

    Christian Fong is a sleeper here. Sure, he's young and unknown, but some powerful folks (Ed Failor and Marlys Popma) have chosen him as The One and he'll climb. But we won't see all of the legislators file. Rants is all in, but Roberts, Behn and/or McKinley could bail if the money doesn't roll in.

    So these numbers are consistent with my pet theory: a splintered field helps Vabder Plaats because he has that rock-solid 30%. He either wins with somewhere between 35 and 40, or takes it at the convention. Only if the anti-BVP forces unite do they win. Look at the general election number as Culver vs. Credible Republican, and the primary result as Vander Plaats vs. Not Vander Plaats.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Krusty vs. Deeth

    Issue Stance vs. Issue Emphasis, or, Krusty vs. Deeth

    My spelling is notorious enough that back in college, I made it to speech nationals making jokes about it. Every New Year, my resolution is to spell-check before I hit publish; every morning I'm in such a hurry to share my brain dropopings that look, there, I just did it again.

    Krusty, now part of the Iowa Republican team, is bemused by my spelling, but takes issue with my analysis of IR's poll. I'm even worth a cute Photoshop of me and the Big Lug. The poll numbers show a big Bob Vander Plaats lead over his GOP rivals; I celebrate (too soon, chides desmoinesdem)

    "I understand that Democrats like Deeth don’t think it’s fair to have to defend Culver at every turn," writes Krusty, "but now it’s your turn to defend an unpopular elected official who refuses to deal with issues head on."

    So let's try that analysis again.

    My parents visited me this past weekend. They're from Wisconsin, not Iowa, but they perfectly capture the mindset of the vanishing moderate, the swing voter that can be persuaded by either side. They're my reality check: every-election voters but not political activists.

    "I don't like the extremists on either side," says Dad. "I don't like people why can't try to see the other side." For a long time he meant me when he said that, but not any more. "I like to look for the middle ground," he said this weekend, "and right now that's with the Democrats." (Aside: Palin was a deal-breaker for Dad last year: "I hope he (Obama) can do the job, but I KNOW she can't.")

    We weren't discussing the Iowa governor's race per se, but the principle applies. Argue as you will about the policy details, but Chet Culver is engaging the issues and priorities that people like my parents care about: jobs and the economy.

    Vander Plaats, on the other hand tells the Press-Citizen: "I'm betting my whole campaign on that executive order" overturning Varnum v. Brien and marriage equality.

    Perhaps a slim majority of Iowans still oppose marriage equality, though the pendulum is swinging fast. And perhaps some folks agree with BVP's legal reasoning, though virtually no legal scholars see it that way.

    But the question is BVP's emphasis on Teh Gay to the exclusion of other issues. Even if a narrow and shrinking majority agree with him on the underlying issue (if not the legal reasoning), very, VERY few agree that it should be the governor's number one priority.

    Yet virtually all of the people who see reversing marriage equality as the state's number one issue will be GOP primary voters. Which is why Vander Plaats can win a primary with Teh Gay, yet alienate moderates, even if they agree with him, by overdoing it in the general. The culture war politics of the 1968 Nixon-Wallace-Reagan alignment collapsed in 2006 and 2008, and Republicans will have to engage a more pragmatic set of issues if they hope to make a comeback.

    Early Huckabee vs. Palin Shots

    Huckabee vs. Palin: Early Shots for 2012

    Mike Huckabee emerged from the also-rans in August 2011, when he beat Sam Brownback for the right to be the Not Mitt choice of the Iowa Christian right at the Ames Straw Poll. Looks like his competition for 2011 is Sarah Palin, and Huck takes an early shot at her recent round of resignation mass publicity:

    "Whether she runs or not, she has an important voice, and I hope she remains -- let me be real clear -- a part of the Republican Party. I'm a little concerned when I hear her say that she may sort of branch out and go third party or go independent. That would be a big mistake because we need to rebuild the Republican Party, not abandon it."

    The party-amorphous Ron Paul had no comment.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Vander Plaats Leads GOP Poll

    Vander Plaats Leads GOP; Culver Re-Elected

    All those worries yesterday about the Big Lug's re-election prospects are tempered somewhat by this Iowa Republican poll:
    Republican Primary Voters
    Bob Vander Plaats: 46%
    Don’t Know: 27%
    Chris Rants: 14%
    Neither/Other: 5%
    Paul McKinley: 3%
    Christian Fong: 3%
    Rod Roberts: 1%
    Refused: 1%
    Jerry Behn: 0.2%

    (Republican Primary Voters N=394 - Margin of Error ±5.0%)

    We won't even need my convention scenario; they're ready to nominate Vander Plaats outright. He's near 50% and the Not Vander Plaats vote is splintered. All Gay Marriage All The Time will turn off moderates and Culver wins comfortably.

    If the GOP unites, quickly, behind one non-BVP candidate, that candidate might pull it off, but do they even want to?

    A GOP They say they're polling general election races tomorrow, but my guess is they're push-polling those instead. Given IR's question wording I'm skeptical of anything beyong a Republican primary poll.

    Sinclair Broadcast Group Nears Bankruptcy

    Whither Channel 2? Sinclair Near Bankruptcy

    One of our favorite bad media conglomerates, Sinclair Broadcasting, is in financial dire straits, notes this Kos diary.

    Sinclair earned most of its bad publicity in the 2004 campaign when it ordered all 58 stations to run a swiftboater "documentary" on John Kerry.

    They also have an atrocious sense of geography on thos corporate site map of stations. Our own channel 2, KGAN, is apparently located up around Decorah, Madison, Wisconsin is on the Mississippi, and Milwaukee is far inland from Lake Michigan...

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Apprentice Star for New Jersey Lieutenant Governor

    Apprentice Star May Be NJ's First Lt. Gov.

    Randal Pinkett, the Season 4 winner of "The Apprentice," NBC's hit reality television show featuring Donald Trump, has emerged as the front-runner to become Gov. Jon S. Corzine's running mate in November, a high-ranking state Democratic official said Monday.

    I hate to say it but with incumbent Corzine trailing in polls, doesn't this set up the You're Fired punchline?

    New Jersey is one of the few states with no lieutenant governor, but saw two consecutive elected governors resign: Christie Todd Whitman to join the Bush cabinet and Jim McGreevy to join the All Time Top Ten List of Scandals. The state saw bizarre circumstances with Senate presidents taking over as governor: five governors in a week including three in one day in January 2002. So this year they're creating the post.

    Oh, and I also love those "highranking official" disclaimers *coughCorzinecough*

    Culver in Iowa City Tuesday

    Governor in Iowa City today

    As Chet Culver visits Iowa City today to talk kids health care, critiques come from both left and right:

  • Ed Fallon says Culver runs the risk of being the 21st century's Norman Erbe (1962) and losing re-election:
    While Culver may be out of favor with the vast majority of independent voters, even among Democrats, his approval rating is only 62%. That’s indicative of a profound dissatisfaction within Culver’s base.

    Candidates – even incumbents – rarely prevail if their base is not with them.

    Culver seems to have forgotten the all-important maxim “dance with the one that brought you.” A disturbing number of Party activists have told me they’ve been snubbed by the Governor, as have many elected officials. While failing to maintain good relations with one’s political base is always a bad idea, snubbing one’s base in advance of re-election is a recipe for political suicide.

    Fallon then revisits his own difficulty in getting a response from Culver.

  • On the right, Iowa Republican argues buyer's remorse with this poll question:
    If you could go back to 2006 and vote in the election again, knowing what you know today, would you vote for Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate or Chet Culver, the Democratic candidate this time?

    General Election Voters
    Nussle: 45%
    Culver: 46%
    Neither: 2%
    Don’t Know: 6%

    I wish I had the money to fund my own poll, but this is an amateur operation.

    Without even digging into the poll's demographic weighting, consider this: Because Culver won, he's actually had to deal with stuff like the flood and the tanking economy. It's easy to imply "Nussle would have done better" when he was flying below the rader as Bush's low-profle last budget director. The rage gets pointed at the top, not the middle.

    Governors across the country, in both parties, are looking at tough polls right now. "Toughest Road in Election 2010 Is Through the Governor's Mansion," headlines Steve Singiser at Kos, citing some polls of 15 real races as opposed to hypothetical rematches. Chet Culver? Not on the long list, even.
  • Monday, July 13, 2009

    Palin to Campaign for Conservadems

    Palin to Campaign for Conservadems

    The Washington Times seems to be functioning as a GOP house organ the last couple weeks, and is tacitly acknowledging that the Republican brand is so badly damaged that the only way to elect conservatives is to... run them as Democrats?

    In an Exclusive with Sarah Palin, the soon to be former says:
    "I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation," she said over lunch in her downtown office, 40 miles from her now-famous hometown of Wasilla — population 7,000 — where she began her political career.

    "People are so tired of the partisan stuff — even my own son is not a Republican," said Mrs. Palin, who stunned the political world earlier this month with her decision to step down as governor July 26 with 18 months left in her term.

    Both her son, Track, 20, an enlisted soldier serving in Iraq, and her husband, Todd, are registered as "nonpartisan" in Alaska.

    This glosses over the First Dude's time in the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party. But one interesting point is that while the headline says Palin to stump for conservative Democrats, the Palin quotes say only regardless of their party label or affiliation."

    Could she really mean independent or third party candidates? Is her "new calling" a new party? I'm just idly speculating here, but I'm not alone.

    This story of cross-party conservatism follows by a week a Times interview with Newt Gingrich, where he says, "I would urge conservatives in California to find a Democrat to run in every Assembly and Senate seat in California that can't be contested by Republicans, and then to run a Republican in every seat they could possibly win, and then have an overt goal of creating a bipartisan conservative coalition." Note that Gingrich explicity says "Democrat" and "bipartisan."

    Either way, these superstar conservatives are both acknowledging the damage to the GOP brand in the post-W era. We've had a lot of realignments since the 1850's, but it's been that long since a major party actually died. Perhaps the GOP will wither and the new Know-Nothings will emerge?

    Monday clips

    Monday clips

    Your blogger has been out of the loop with a family visit followed by an illness so while I get better here's some highlights from other people's writing:

  • Bob Vander Plaats tells Jeff Charis-Carlson at the IC P-C: "I'm betting my whole campaign on that executive order" against marriage equality. Here's hoping for that 30% primary vote and convention nomination.

  • The Iowa Republican looks at this BVP monofocus and critiques:
    His biggest mistake in the past is not going into detail about the state budget, job creation ideas, health care and education reform, and any other issue that falls under the fiscal conservative banner... Over the past few months Bob has become the one issue candidate much like Tom Tancredo in the Iowa Caucus."

    Of course, I was the guy who was convinced Tancredo would be the breakout candidate of the caucuses, and he didn't even make it to caucus night, so what do I know?

  • IR also looks at contributions to the Democratic Gang of Six (McKinley Bailey, Brian Quirk, Doris Kelley, Jerri Huser, Dolores Mertz, and Larry Marek) from the Master Builders of Iowa.
  • Sunday, July 12, 2009

    U Iowa student arrest rates

    Unanswered question on student arrest rates

    This UI study, the original of which I can't find, is popping up in the slow weekend news:

    About 4 percent of University of Iowa students were cited or arrested for criminal offenses in Iowa City between Aug. 1, 2008 and May 20, 2009, according to a UI report.

    In the last academic year, 1,194 students were charged with one or more non-traffic criminal offenses in Iowa City, according to numbers gathered by the UI Student Services office.

    UI undergraduates had a higher rate of criminal offenses — 5.5 percent — than the overall student body.

    Most of the charges — 75 percent of them —were for alcohol-related violations, such as public intoxication and underage drinking.

    Some unanswered questions here:

  • How many of those arrested for "underage" drinking were 18, 19 and 20 year old adults?

  • Multiply that out by a four to five year stay, and add a circle of friends, and how many no votes on a new jail is that if a jail goes on the 2012 presidential ballot?
  • Friday, July 10, 2009

    Obama top percentage ever in Johnson County

    Obama: top percentage ever in Johnson County

    Barack Obama fell just short of my personal goal of 70 percent in Johnson County-- 69.91 to be exact. It rounds up, so I'll take it. Obama broke the LBJ 1964 mark of 68.08 percent--but was it the best presidential result ever in the People's Republic?

    The answer, I've found, is a qualified yes.

    You can really only compare results back to 1920. For one thing, before that, only men were allowed to vote. For another, those men weren't voting for president. Iowa listed the individual electors on the ballot, and you had to cast a separate vote on each elector. (Alabama did it that way as late as 1960.) Tickets got split, intentionally or accidentally. Woodrow Wilson's 13 candidates for elector in 1916 won between 3,623 and 3,650 votes in Johnson County. So which of those is Wilson's "vote total?"

    Iowa was traditionally a Republican state back before Harold Hughes, with a couple brief Democratic interregnums in the Panic of 1893 and the Depression. (Such polarized terms to describe the same phenomenon: Panic and Depression.) But even that far back, Johnson County was a Democratic area and Wilson won twice. Harding and Coolidge coasted through the Republican `20s, but Al Smith made it close as two forces collided: Iowa City's Irish-Czech Catholic heritage vs. hometown boy Hoover. Hoover won the county by less than a point, our closest result ever.

    The FDR era was where I though Obama might have been topped. But Roosevelt peaked at 60.5 in 1932. Johnson County stayed with FDR all four times, even as Willkie and Dewey won Iowa in `40 and `44. Harry Truman held on, too (the famous whistle stop tour included a stop in Oxford) as Iowa was one of the farm states that flipped between 1944 and 1948.

    Ike set the county's Republican record in 1952 at 58.04, and slipped about a point in `56. And the one that really stands out: Nixon beat JFK, the last time the GOP carried the county for President and the only time we ever backed a losing Republican. The two times Nixon won, he lost Johnson County. When 18 year olds got the vote we luuuuved McGovern with 57.8 percent of our love.

    Republicans generally won at least 40 percent through Jerry Ford, but the last to top 40, or even 35, was Reagan in `84. Jimmy Carter dropped below 50 percent in 1980 but still won the county, as John Anderson (NOT Perot) set the modern third party peak at almost 19 percent (Fighting Bob LaFollette was a wee bit higher in 1924).

    Interestingly, the third highest Democratic percentage, below Obama and LBJ, was of all people Michael Dukakis. Perot cut into Clinton's percentages and Nader cut into Gore's, but 1988 was a weak third party year (sorry, Ron Paul).

    As for Nader, he was at 6 percent in 2000 but 90 percent of that support vanished after Florida as he was at near-identical levels in `04 and `08.

    The GOP low water mark was HW's 27.1 in 1992, with Perot at almost exactly one vote in six. But McCain was second worst, in an essentially two-way race, at 28.4. In fact, if you look just at two-party percentages, and ignore the 1964 spike, there's a more or less steady Republican decline from Eisenhower to the present.

    So that leaves Obama on top. There were no national landslides bigger than 1920 before 1920, so it's reasonably safe to call it Biggest Ever. Unless, that is, you want to calculate percentages on Abe Lincoln's individual electors.

    Thursday, July 09, 2009

    July Johnson County Democrats

    July Johnson County Democrats

    Here we are again, a week late from the holiday: The monthly meeting of the Johnson County Dennis Roseman DFA (Dennis for... something with an A) Democratic Party. We have about 20 people here and only two elected officials: supervisor Rod Sullivan and Rep. Nate Willems. Well, technically three: labor leader Pat Hughes is an Oxford Township trustee. Supervisor candidate Janelle Rettig is also here.

    The treasurer reports that the party coffers are... I don't want to say the number but low.

    A recent comment sums up the status of the executive board:
    2nd Vice Chair (James Moody) - moving away, hasn't been to recent meetings

    Treasurer (Scott Smith) - still active from the Flaherty administration

    Secretary (Carl Fongheiser) - still active from the Flaherty administration

    Affirmative Action (Corey Stoglin) - still in Iraq, last we heard, but expecting and hoping for a return soon

    Data (Paul Deaton) - resigned

    Platform (Robin Roseman) - his wife

    Fundraising (Jean Fallk) - just elected last meeting, post had been vacant for four months

    Public Relations (Karen Woltman) - also was empty for a short time

    Membership (Caitlin Ross and Hannah Joravsky) - resigned

    Candidate Development (Sarah Swisher) - resigned

    So, in summary: he has left his wife, two of Flaherty's boys who are still trying to help, and two volunteers who are names on a sheet only.

    Local political legend Gary Sanders offers a resolution urging Iowa City Council to condemn infiltration of peace group (via letter to FBI; council member Michael Wright says votes aren't there for a resolution) AND send same to local press. (Apparently last month we forgot the "press" part.) Easily passed.

    Caucus arrangements group set up: Roseman, vice chair Chris Forbes, and Sullivan. Anyone you can think of notably not invited to that list? Roseman notes the data and membership chair vacancies. We have a parade tomorrow in Tiffin, Sullivan notes; this is the first Roseman has heard of it and says he can't make it. Carsner and Flaherty note other upcoming parades, notice how the former chairs are the ones who know what's going on?

    Dennis gets more engaged with a health care update. "Policy is my thing," he says, as befits one who came up from the platform committee. That's a very different skill set than, say, get out the vote. We may not have anyone at the parades, but we'll get signatures on petitions.

    New finance chair Jean Falk announced that the Pioneer/awards dinner is officially off now. BBQ dates and sites still up in the air.

    Bone crushingly dull half hour discussion of an audit report -- with no problems found in the finances themselves -- ends with nothing actually being done. Rod Sullivan nails it: "Look around you. See these empty chairs? THIS is why. We've been discussing this for a half hour. We have GOT to do a better job with stuff like this."

    My brand new Twitter seems to work here at the school district office but my Facebook is blocked:
    This site is blocked by the SonicWALL Content Filter Service.


    Reason for restriction: Forbidden Category "Personals and Dating"

    Nominations for membership and candidate development go begging.

    The group breaks into subcommittees for the first time under the Roseman administration (the lack of breakout groups was one of his main criticisms of the Flaherty Administration).

    The breakouts took 20 mins. or so; the old hands gravitated to the BBQ group.

    Janelle Rettig states her case and wants to start doorknocking right after RAGBRAI. Also notes that July 28 5-7 Senator Becky Schmitz is having a Mill fundraiser.

    Rep. Nate Willems has been representing UFCW workers in Muscatine who've been locked out close to a year. "The company's trying to starve us into submission." Dems weren't able to get 51 votes to get the big labor bills passed. "The impact of all our wins haven't trickled down to that picket line in Muscatine," but he's nevertheless staying optimistic. He's also throwing a 30th (!) birthday event July 20, 6-8 at Palisades-Kepler.

    John Deeth on Twitter

    I'm officially a Twit

    I'm still not sure if it's a trend or just a fad, but I'm on Twitter. For now I expect to use it mostly just to promote posts from this site, or maybe to pass on some links. But then, 6 1/2 years ago I didn't know what I was going to do with this blog, either.

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    Republicans target Senator Beall

    Republicans target Senator Beall

    The Iowa Republican reports/announces that Ft. Dodge contractor Chris McGonegle is running against Democratic Sen. Daryl Beall next year in District 25.

    The turf is roughly Webster, Calhoun and Greene counties. Beall took over the seat in 2002 when one-term Republican Mike Sexton (who beat Democrat Rod Halverson in 1998) didn't run. Beall expanded his winning margin from 58% in 2002 to 67% in 2006.

    Steele Passes Westwood Line

    Steele Passes Westwood Line

    Lost in the news shuffle of Michael Jackson, Al Franken and Sarah Palin is a significant Republican milestone that I only noticed when Michael "no relation to my in-laws" Steele alienated his own base yet again saying Palin is out for `12:

    Michael Steele has officially passed the Westwood Line, exceeding the 149 day tenure as party chair of Jeanne Westwood. She was George McGovern's choice to head the DNC in 1972 and got whacked right after the election.

    Never thought he'd make it past the Westwood Line, especially after that special election loss in New York for Gillibrand's seat that was supposed to be make and break for Steele.

    Now the only question: Will Dennis Roseman last until August 1?

    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    McKinley In for Governor

    Iowa Republican Senate Leaders or Spinal Tap Drummers?

    Well, Paul McKinley is in making four official Republican candidates for governor and Rod Roberts and Jerry Behn in the wings. Logistically, this increases the chances for my pet theory: Vander Plaats nominated at a convention. But it leaves Iowa Senate Republicans with another issue.

    "I wonder when he will step down as the Senate leader," writes commentator 'jerry' at the BeanWalker post that broke the story. "It’s only fair to them that he do it quickly."

    Fair to other candidates and to Senate Republicans; the legislative session's January to April season is poor timing for a member, particularly a leader, running in an early June primary.

    But if McKinley does step down as leader (his term in the Senate itself runs till `12), it makes Iowa Senate Republicans, down to a few but proud 18 out of 50, look like a certain fictitious English heavy metal band that's just now making a comeback.

  • End of 2006 session: Leader Stew Iverson is squeezed out by Mary Lundby in a palace coup. Iverson quits the Senate completely; Landslide Rich Olive wins his seat for the Dems that fall, part of a five seat gain that breaks the tie and leaves the Dems ahead 30-20..

  • 2007: Lundby steps down, planning to run for county supervisor back home in Marion. (Sadly, her health didn't let her do that.)

  • 2008: Ron Weick takes over, but is tossed aside for McKinley after the election costs the GOP two more Senate seats.

    So that's four different leaders in four consecutive sessions--five in five sessions if McKinley bails. Dozens of legislative leaders spontaneously combust each year; it's just not widely reported.
  • CQ Shows Iowa Dems About The Same

    CQ Shows Iowa Dems Voting Scores About The Same

    Congressional Quarterly is out with its semi-annual analysis of voting scores, and it shows the three Democrats in Iowa's House delegation lining up with very similar scores.

    Match the member with the score:
    1. BraleyA. 96% Pres. Support98% Party Unity
    2. LoebsackB. 96% Pres. Support99% Party Unity
    3. BoswellC. 96% Pres. Support94% Party Unity

    Answer at the bottom of the post, but the distinctions are really fine. What's interesting is that Blue Dog Boswell is lining up with Braley and with Progressive Caucus member Loebsack.

    On the Republican side, there's more of a difference. Tom Latham, in a dead-even district and perhaps anticipating a redistricting face-off with Boswell in 2012, is at 46 percent Obama support and only 85 percent party unity. Steve King, playing to a solid base in a safe district, is only at 19 percent Obama support (putting him in the bottom 10 percent of the House) and a 99 on party unity.

    A couple caveats: Unlike most interest group scoring which selects a few key votes, CQ counts everything. If Obama takes a position in favor of National Gopher Day and it passes unanimously, that counts as Steve King supporting Obama. And CQ weighs everything equally; Gopher Day counts as much as the stimulus package.

    It also doesn't take into account the reason for a vote. If Dennis Kucinich votes no on Gopher Day because he also wants to honor groundhogs and gerbils, while Walt Minnick votes no because his big campaign donor Carl Spackler says gophers are destroying Idaho's golf courses, both get counted as anti-Obama and anti-party unity.

    But in the meantime it's numbers and that's fun (for me anyway). CQ has fun interactive widgets to play with, and the really interesting thing is to look at the outliers who don't fit any pattern, the Gene Taylors and Joe Caos and Ron Pauls.

    Answers: 1=B 2=C 3=A.

    Can Palin Still Do Retail?

    Can Palin Still Do Retail?

    There is so much Palin commentary out there from so many angles that the mind boggles, and I wan't planning on piling on even more. But this comment from Walter Shapiro stands out:
    White House dreamers whom nobody has ever heard of like, say, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, need years to build a national fundraising network and to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties. But the joy of being Sarah Palin is that she never has to feign enthusiasm while talking to 14 elderly Iowa Republicans in a cafe in Sac City. When you are the celebrity candidate, you do not deign to speak in a venue smaller than a high-school gymnasium unless it is a real-people photo op.

    Ah yes, the strategy that worked so well for Hillary Clinton in Iowa.

    I remain absolutely convinced that the resignation is a 2012 move and that Palin is not only a significant contender, she's a plausible nominee. (Not a plausible president or an electable general election candidate, but it's not my job to save the GOP from its mistakes.)

    What else have they got? Huckabee and Romney are undamaged, but my Grand Unifying Theory remains: The Money Republicans veto economic populist Huckabee and the Jesus Republicans veto "cult member" Romney.

    So scratch them (Jindal does a second term and runs in `16) and all the Republicans have left is anti-Obama. And Palin, the second top tier national figure to emerge from my generation (she may yet prove to be a Ferraro-esque footnote) is a virtual antithesis of Obama: Rural where he is urban, state college vs. Ivy League, Wal-Mart vs. Whole Foods... I could go on, but if anti-Obama is what they want, well, there she is.

    So Sarah -- can I call ya Sarah? Good, because I practiced some zingers where I call ya Sarah -- we'll be seeing you in Iowa. We've seen you here before, but that was rallies at airport hangars. That's not Iowa. Iowa is that Pizza Ranch in Pole Bean or Courthouse Center where people actually expect to meet you and talk with you at length. They have questions and expect specific, detailed answers, and they grumble if the event was scheduled at 5:30 and you aren't there at 6:20.

    Parachuting in as a regal celebrity candidate won't work. It didn't work for Hillary, it didn't work for Fred or Rudy on your side (and speaking of Rudy, remember that farm family in Anamosa that he stood up? No? Well, they remember in Anamosa.) No, it was Mike Huckabee, the little engine who could, and Barack Obama, who drew the crowds as a rock star but won the thing as the ultimate community organizer, who prevailed.

    We know you can do retail. You wouldn't have gotten to be a small-town mayor or a small-state governor if you couldn't. But if you want to get past Iowa, you have to do it all over again. Question is, after this ten month sled ride, can you still do it? Do you still want to do it? If you don't want to do it, can you force yourself to anyway?

    Al Franken Decade Begins

    Al Franken Decade Begins

    As the Al Franken decade begins, I must ask, how will Michael Jackson's death affect him, Al Franken?

    Answer: The funeral TOTALLY steps on Franken's long-awaited swearing in.

    Also: Since Obama is in Russia negotiating arms treaties, and the soon to be unemployed Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, I think we have our verification problem all solved.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Gingrich Raiding Democratic Primaries

    Gingrich Raiding Democratic Primaries

    My tirade about the evils of Republicans crossing over to vote in Democratic primaries just. won't. go. away. Just to make me mad, who should be encouraging this bad behavior but the Newt himself:
    In his interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Gingrich sketched out a vision for conservatives and Republicans to block what he considers the Obama-Democratic march to socialism by thinking outside the party-label box. That includes building a center-right majority in Congress and the state legislatures — regardless of party identification — even if that means the heretical idea of Republicans actively promoting and backing conservative Democratic candidates in selected races where a GOP candidate would have little chance of winning.

    "I would urge conservatives in California to find a Democrat to run in every Assembly and Senate seat in California that can't be contested by Republicans, and then to run a Republican in every seat they could possibly win, and then have an overt goal of creating a bipartisan conservative coalition," Mr. Gingrich argues. "I'd do the same thing nationally."

    Can't wait to see how "Endorsed by Newt" plays in a Democratic primary...

    NRCC Targets Braley

    NRCC Targets Braley--Does That Mean An Opponent?

    Steve Singiser at Kos has a followup thought on the NRCC's campaign spots targeting House members who backed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. My first thought was that his Energy and Commerce membership prompted the spots, but Singiser has another theory:
    Some of the representatives targeted by this ad make sense. They include a group of potentially vulnerable freshmen... Others are a bit more curious, because they are incumbents in swingy districts who cakewalked to wins in 2008. This might be a tipping of the hand by the NRCC, a sign that they think that they have legit candidates at the ready for 2010:

    1. Baron Hill (IN-09)

    2. Zack Space (OH-18)

    3. Bruce Braley (IA-01)

    Names, anyone?

    Franken to Iowa in September

    Why Not Him: Franken to Iowa in September

    Senator Al Franken FINALLY gets sworn in today Tuesday, and just to give conservatives even greater fits, I'll note (behind the curve since I was off the grid all weekend with nothing but intermittent smart phone reception to follow the Palin story) that he'll be in Iowa at the Harkin Steak Fry on September 13.

    Franken's been a Steak Fry speaker before -- my 2007 research doesn't get the exact year -- but of course not as a Senator. Looking back to 2006, it was the beginning of Obama's long march... can we say Franken 16? Can we see Rush's head exploding?

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Palin quits

    Ya know, quittin' your job and bein' a full-time presidential candidate for three years is kinda like bein' a small state governor -- except you don't have Actual Responsibilities.

    Update: in an insane way this almost makes sense. Alaska is in the way of the ambition and the day job doesn't help in any way. It actually hurts; stuck six time zones away dealing with trivia like a state budget.

    Palin as Conservababe

    The Conservababe

    One of the most popular parodies of Campaign 2008 was a photoshopped image of Sarah Palin's head onto the body of a woman wearing an American flag bikini and brandishing a gun. Enough people found this image of Palin plausible that Snopes had to debunk it.

    Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum hit the streets this week with a lengthy Palin piece. Seemingly in response, though the timing is a coincidence, Palin appears in Runner's World. The takeaway quote is her complaint that Team McCain didn't schedule enough time for her morning jogs.

    But what's really interesting is the photo gallery. Palin poses in tight workout shorts, with better hair and makeup than one would normally have for jogging. Baby Trig is a prop in a couple shots. There are no shots of Palin actually exercising, the way they show Obama shooting hoops and sweating. Instead, she's stretching and posing. One pose has her hand on hip in front of a flag, and there's almost no way not to think of the bikini-gun picture.

    Physical fitness is of course a good thing. Palin and I are almost exactly the same age and she looks to be in better shape than I am (my workouts have slipped lately). But wouldn't baggy sweats have sent that message just as well as a Maxim lite layout?

    Middle-aged male candidates since JFK have had the tanned and blow-dried anchorman archetype to follow (see: Romney, Mitt and Edwards, John). Female politicians have no equivalent, so Palin is on uncharted ground. Purdum writes:
    "Another aspect of the Palin phenomenon bears examination, even if the mere act of raising it invites intimations of sexism: she is by far the best-looking woman ever to rise to such heights in national politics, the first indisputably fertile female to dare to dance with the big dogs. This pheromonal reality has been a blessing and a curse. It has captivated people who would never have given someone with Palin’s record a second glance if Palin had looked like Susan Boyle. And it has made others reluctant to give her a second chance because she looks like a beauty queen."

    Dangerous ground for a male writer. But he says in prose what the woman who parodied Palin said in punch lines.

    Fierce feminist Tina Fey backed Hillary Clinton in the primary with the rallying cry "Bitches get stuff done," yet played heavily on the Palin as Conservababe image from her very first impersonation, the famous "I can see Russia from my house" appearance.

    Hillary Clinton: But, Sarah, one thing we can agree on is that sexism can never be allowed to permeate a American election.

    Sarah Palin: So, please, stop Photoshopping my head on sexy bikini pictures!

    Clinton: And stop saying I have cankles!

    Palin: Don't refer to me as a MILF!

    Clinton: Don't refer to me as a "flurge" -- I Googled what it stands for, and I do not like it!

    Palin: Reporters and commentators, stop using words that diminish us! Like "pretty", "attractive", "beautiful"...

    Clinton: "Harpy", "shrew", and "boner shrinker".

    With 1:36 remaining in the clip, Fey actually strikes the bikini-gun pose. Her later parodies usually touched on the Conservababe image: flashing some leg or doing some "fancy pageant walkin'" in front of Palin herself. Of course, parody was difficult when Palin was winking at us in the debate.

    Meanwhile, Amy Poehler's long-suffering Hillary Clinton touches on one of the big reasons that a moderately attractive middle-aged pageant contestant was greeted in the world of politics like Jessica Alba on a red carpet: Women still generally wait until after they've had kids to run for office, and often abandon their own ambitions in favor of their husband's.

    Bill Clinton was 28 when he made his first run for office. Hillary was 53. One of the interesting things about Nancy Pelosi's rise to power wasn't just the first woman thing--it's that she rose to the top when she didn't win elected office until age 47, a decade or two older than most other recent Speakers.

    One would think, as the baby boomers approach Social Security, that our culture's notions of what's considered attractive would have aged accordingly. Instead, we've become more youth-obsessed than ever. A still-beautiful Jamie Lee Curtis is stuck at age 50 in yogurt ads because 60 year old leading men get to play opposite 25 year old starlets as love interests. Catherine Zeta Jones, meet Michael Douglas. Saturday Night Live played the idea of sex with 62-year-old Susan Sarandon for laughs in May. Faith Hill gets photoshopped into a Barbie doll, and Nicole Kidman has disfigured her 40something face until she looks like the Stepford Wife she once played.

    They say Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, and that sets the bar low enough that the physically fit but relatively ordinary Palin stands out. There simply aren't very many women in their 30s or early 40s in public office, and our society doesn't acknowledge female beauty past that age. Thus Palin's main achievement -- if you call being plucked out of relative obscurity an achievement -- is merely to have climbed so high at a young enough age that she's still seen as a woman and not an "old lady."