The former Reagan speech writer, Peggy Noonan, had it about right in her January 21, 2012, column in the Wall Street Journal, when she said:
“We have entered a new phase, the John Grisham novel, secret off-shore bank account, broken love, the testimony of anguished ex-wives; ‘He wanted an open marriage. A battered old veteran emerges from the background and, in his electoral death throes, provides secret information – ‘I’m for Newt’ – that he hopes will upend a dirty, rotten establishment. A vest-wearing choir boy turns out to be the unknown winner of that case back in Iowa. And all this against the backdrop of a mysterious firm that moves in and destroys communities – ‘when Mitt Romney came to town…’ – while its CEO pays nothing in taxes.”
I agree with Peggy’s analysis when she said: “What’s happening out there on the trail is a great story. But it’s not a good story. And the past few days it didn’t feel like a story that was going to end well.” The Republican free-for-all of 2012 has confirmed once again what many have been saying for months, if not years - that there are two major wings of the national Republican Party: the “economic issue Republicans” and the “social issue Republicans”. This schism was first clearly demonstrated on the national level in the epic Republican primary battle of 1976 between the conservative forces of the challenger, Ronald Reagan, against the more moderate forces of the sitting Republican President, Gerald Ford. In that year, Gerald Ford had served as Vice-President by virtue of an appointment by Richard Nixon, who later resigned as a result of the Watergate scandals and allowed Ford to take his place. Once he became President, Ford promptly appointed Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York as his Vice-President and kept his friend, Henry Kissinger, on as his Secretary of State.
Rockefeller and Kissinger were despised by the Reaganites and the followers of Barry Goldwater, who often said they would like to saw-off the northeastern portion of the United States and let it drift out into the Atlantic. They had particular disdain for the “Rockefeller Republicans”, and Vice-President Rockefeller ultimately agreed to step down and let Senator Bob Dole of Kansas become Ford’s running mate (after Ford barely defeated Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1976) in his campaign to be elected President on his own against Democrat Jimmy Carter.
As stated by Gerald Seib in his Wall Street Journal article dated January 17, 2012, the economic establishment faction of the Republican Party says economic growth and job creation are far and away the most important issues in the 2012 election; and all other concerns are secondary. This is essentially the Romney message in this year’s Republican Primary and the message of his supporters based in Massachusetts and the northeast. As Seib points out, Romney pushes his spectacular success in the business world, which explains why Gingrich attacks Romney’s experience running Baine Capital and charges that the private-equity firm, while making money for investors, was actually dismantling companies and “shedding jobs”.
The social-issue Republicans (often referred to in the news media as “evangelicals” or “born-again Republicans”), believe that traditional family values are of much greater importance than do most of their more secular fellow Republicans of the northeast. Gingrich and Rick Santorum criticize Romney’s record and position on guns, abortion, and other social issues. This explains why Romney emphasizes Gingrich’s ethics problems which he encountered while Speaker of the House and why Romney charges that Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House “in disgrace”.
There are two other smaller factions in the Republican Party which Mr. Seib refers to as “the deficit faction” and “the national security faction”, which emphasizes a strong military and national security. The patron saint of the deficit faction is Ron Paul, who is basically an isolationist and in favor of massive cuts in federal spending, while at the same time promoting economic growth.
So there we have it: an authentic, northeastern establishment, Rockefeller Republican pitted against the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has heavy baggage on family values and ethics issues. Waiting in the wings, yet to be fully assaulted by the Super PACS, is former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who lost by almost 20 points the last time he ran for the U.S. Senate in his home state.
I note that Michael Reagan is supporting Gingrich while most establishment Republicans, like Bob Dole and George H. W. Bush, are all supporting Romney. How will the ultimate Republican winner look to the voters by the fall? What are independents going to think of our nominee? Peggy Noonan gave the following opinion:
“We all know politics ain’t beanbag, but it’s not supposed to be clown-car Indy 500 with cars hitting the wall and guys in wigs littering the track.
There’s been a lot of damage. We lose sense of it day to day, but in the aggregate it’s going to prove considerable.”
The frenetic Iowa Republican Presidential Primary is now over, and my sense is that Republicans in general have already lost the first round of the 2012 presidential sweepstakes. The spectacle in Iowa, with the full participation of the northeastern Republican “establishment” at the highest levels; as well as their campaign consultants, “Super-PACs” and the candidates themselves, has given immeasurable aid and comfort to President Obama and those who wish to transform the United States into a European-style socialist nation where American ingenuity and our capitalistic free-enterprise system is permanently put in moth balls for future study by historians.
As Karl Rove noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article (Dec. 22, 2011): “Obama will frame this election as a fight for the middle class. He told his Kansas audience that America was once a place where ‘hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried.’ Now, as he informed ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Steve Kroft, ‘the rules are rigged’ against ‘middle class families’”.
If Rove is correct (and I believe he is) the realization that the 2012 Obama re-election strategy will be a frontal assault on the American way of life and the free market society, should send cold chills up the spine of every Republican and every person who loves and considers America to be the last real beacon of hope for freedom in this world. Accordingly, one would think that responsible Republican candidates for President (and their advisors and supporters) would have recognized the stakes we are playing for in this election, and would have conducted themselves in a civil manner when debating each other so as not to do permanent damage to the Republican cause once the primary season is completed. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Iowa.
Instead, each of the candidates at one time or another were subjected to brutal attacks if they showed any sign of gaining traction with their message, and breaking out of the pack. These attacks took many forms. Some became deeply personal (my favorites: “If you cheat on your spouse, you could cheat on your business partner”; and “my opponents are anti-muslim”). Other attacks described their victims as being of such low character as to be basically unfit to be in the presence of decent, god-fearing men and women, much less to be President of the United States.
The northeastern Republican “establishment”, the national conservative media, as well as the “Super-PACs” (those anonymous organizations created for special purposes or to support a certain candidate) and their consultants also fully participated in the negative onslaught through paid direct-mail and television advertising designed to bring down certain candidates without their opponents having to dirty their hands in the process.
Undeniably, negative advertising works in political campaigns but negative advertising is also divisive and drives down voter-turnout, because the voters are often disgusted with the tactics employed to attack a victim. They are also often repelled by those making the attacks. In my opinion, the negative attacks by candidates on fellow Republicans in Iowa became so widespread, so divisive and so deeply personal, that I fear the Republican Party and its ultimate nominee for President have been permanently and unnecessarily damaged, all to the benefit of President Obama.
It has been said by some that politics is a “contact sport” and while Republicans may fight hard against each other in the 2012 primaries, they will come together in the fall to oppose President Obama in the general election. Undoubtedly, many (if not most) Republicans will come together in the general election. However, if the Republican base is divided, disheartened and unenthusiastic in November, 2012 (as it was in 2008 when John McCain was the nominee), President Obama will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat once again.
In the preface to his book of memoirs – “Straight Ahead” – Bill Waller, Mississippi’s fifty-sixth governor, stated that when he first ran for Governor in 1967, Mississippi’s “political system had been virtually unchanged since the horse and buggy days of the late nineteenth century.” He was right. Waller went on to say that “Mississippi was standing still”, and the “political power was vested in the legislature, whose members were not term-limited….” He said that “a small group of powerful legislators…in combination with the social and business leadership of the state, formed a ruling elite that determined public policy and perpetuated the racial traditions that had been in place since Reconstruction.” He also noted that Mississippi’s Constitution of 1890 “did not allow the Governor to succeed himself and strictly limited the authority of the executive branch….” He might have added that in 1967, Mississippi was still virtually a “one party state” although Republican Rubel Phillips (the first Republican to run for Governor since Reconstruction) ran unsuccessfully for Governor in the general election that year.
As we know, John Bell Williams was elected Governor of Mississippi in 1967, and Bill Waller finished fifth in the Democratic Primary, behind William Winter, Jimmy Swan, and former Governor Ross Barnett. But Waller ran again in 1971 and this time was elected Governor in an upset victory over Lieutenant Governor Charles Sullivan in the Democratic Primary and a victory over independent Charles Evers in the general election. In his 1971 campaign, Waller again attacked the “old guard” and called them “the Capitol Street Gang”.
I agree with those who say that Bill Waller was a transitional figure in Mississippi politics who, as a candidate, began the movement away from the oppressive, and racist politics of the past, and introduced modern campaign techniques into Mississippi statewide politics. He also was unquestionably a courageous public servant with great vision and leadership skills who, although clearly a conservative, bucked the tide of public opinion at the time and showed his respect for the rule of law by prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith on two occasions for the murder of Medgar Evers. As we know, both prosecutions ended in a mistrial.
Before he ran for Governor in 1967, Bill Waller served with distinction as the District Attorney for Hinds, Madison and Yazoo Counties. Joe Fancher, Jr., of Canton, Waller’s longtime friend, was Bill’s statewide campaign manager when he made his 1967 race. I returned to Canton from the Army in 1966 and was elected Madison County Attorney in a special election. Therefore, I had the good fortune to assist and serve under District Attorney Bill Waller for about one year while he was gearing up to run for Governor. In those days, the District Attorney’s job was part-time, and Waller was being paid approximately $8,500.00 per year. He did have assistants, however, and the county attorneys also assisted him in Madison and Yazoo Counties. As a twenty-seven year-old boy, I had great fun and learned a lot while working for a hard-charging district attorney who was about to run for Governor. Five years later, I was elected the district attorney for Rankin and Madison Counties and fondly remember the thrill of introducing Waller at a big rally at the Canton Courthouse when he was running for Governor in 1971.
I attended Bill Waller’s funeral last Saturday, December 3, 2011, at the First Baptist Church in Jackson. It was an upbeat, dignified and truly grand affair that was attended by past governors and many, many present and past state officials, friends and former Waller staff members. The Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, Bill Waller, Jr., spoke eloquently of his father and his mother and gave, perhaps, the finest speech of his life. His words rang true in capturing the essence of his father’s life. Also, the distinguished historian, David Sansing, gave a moving account of Governor Waller’s accomplishments, while also paying tribute to the First Lady, Carroll Waller, and rightly credited her with saving and restoring the historic Governor’s Mansion for future generations.
While I was never an insider in the Waller Administration or a close personal confidant or friend, I always admired Bill Waller, his intellect, and his work ethic. He was a great Governor, a great lawyer, and, in the end, was recognized as a great statesman. R.I.P.
The 2011 statewide elections come to an end here in Mississippi on November 8. On that date, political pundits predict that Mississippians will elect Republican Phil Bryant to succeed Haley Barbour as Governor of Mississippi and will elect Republicans to most of the eight statewide elective offices in state government. The jury is still out on whether Republicans will dominate the State Legislature and elect a Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. Still, there is no doubt that the two-party system in the State Legislature is alive and well, which bodes well for the success of the programs of the new Bryant Administration, unless Republican elected officials become divided and fall into bickering among themselves. That possibility is real but would be unwise for all concerned. I predict that the principals involved will ignore the advice of some of their consultants and campaign workers (who, for personal gain, would like to see such divisions occur) and will work together on most issues. I believe they will heed the warning of Benjamin Franklin, who famously warned his fellow revolutionaries over 200 years ago that “either we hang together or we will hang separately.” Most Republicans realize that the Democrats are not dead in Mississippi. They are just, for the most part, currently in hibernation or hopelessly divided among themselves.
On the national level, however, the Democrats are not in hibernation, and the Republicans are definitely not hanging together. Some pundits, such as Peggy Noonan, celebrate the brutal debates that have recently taken place between the Republican candidates for President. In her recent article in the October 22, 2011, edition of the Wall Street Journal (“The GOP Wins by Bruising”), Ms. Noonan reports that all of the Republican debates have been “a real plus for the GOP”, because “they’ve made the Republican Party look like the alive party. There’s been jousting and predictable disagreement, but there has also been substance.” She may be right, but I do not think so.
I tend to agree with the thesis of an editorial first written in the September 23, 2011, online edition of Investors Business Daily: “Memo to GOP: The Foe Is Obama, not Perry.” At that time, Texas Governor Rick Perry was riding high in the polls, which prompted his Republican opponents to vehemently attack him in the ensuing debates. After one of them, IBD simply stated: “Republicans need to keep their eye on the prize. The target for 2012 is not Santorum, Cain, Bachman, Romney or Perry. It’s the current White House occupant…. Lost in the brouhaha over tuition for illegal aliens and mandated vaccines is the fact that we simply can’t afford four more years of President Obama.”
All Republicans agree that the debates may be necessary to determine which candidates do not have the “stamina” necessary to be President and thus should be “weeded out.” Still, IBD counsels that instead of focusing on whether one of the candidates was wise to mandate through an executive order the use of a vaccine to combat cervical cancer, we should “focus on the damage ObamaCare has done and will do to the creation of vaccines, to medical innovation and to what still remains the best health care system in the world. It’s Obama who’s destroying the country, not the candidates in Orlando. It is he who taxes too much, regulates too much, spends too much and imposes job-killing mandates through his EPA….”
I say we have had enough of the GOP “circular firing squad.” While I recognize that most of our very fine field of Presidential candidates will not take this advice, I believe that if it were taken by one of the major candidates, that candidate would be well received.