Thursday, December 2, 2010


I have now finished reading THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS by Curtis Wilkie, who teaches journalism at the University of Mississippi, and is a fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss. Mr. Wilkie has been a prominent journalist for many years, serving early in his career as a reporter for the CLARKSDALE PRESS REGISTER during Mississippi’s civil rights struggles that received national attention. During that time, he formed a fairly close relationship with the late Aaron Henry, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and now a historic figure in Mississippi history. Later, Wilkie was a national and international reporter for the BOSTON GLOBE, during which he covered everything from presidential elections to the seemingly endless Arab-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East.

In 1993, Mr. Wilkie returned to the South and lived for a period in New Orleans, near his childhood home in Pike County, Mississippi. Upon returning to the South, he wrote a nostalgic autobiographical account of his life in an excellent book entitled DIXIE, which I re-read in preparation for writing this review of ZEUS. In DIXIE, Mr. Wilkie wrote about why he left his home state after his stay in Clarksdale, although he loved Mississippi, and why he eventually felt the call to return home to be with “his people”, as did Willie Morris. After re-reading DIXIE and now having read ZEUS, I am convinced that Curtis Wilkie does indeed love the Magnolia State and wants the best for its people, although he may disagree with many of us as to what is best. He strikes me as a person with whom you may disagree, but he is not disagreeable in the process. I also perceive that as a citizen of Oxford and in preparing for and writing ZEUS, Mr. Wilkie was struck by the great personal tragedy that occurred in the rise and fall of Dickie Scruggs (called “Zeus” by his childhood classmates).

Like many other Mississippians, I had been looking forward to reading THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS, which also has a subtitle: “The rise and ruin of America’s Most Powerful Trial Lawyer”. As an attorney, a former judge, and as one active over the years in Mississippi politics, I am personally acquainted with many of the principle characters who appear in ZEUS, and I found it painful at times to read. It is of course a book which chronicles the now familiar rise and fall of Dickie Scruggs and those around him. According to local new articles, the film rights to Wilkie’s historical account of the illegal activities of Scruggs and others, including a brief sketch of Scruggs’ early life, how he became a wealthy trial lawyer, and his later criminal convictions after participating in two separate attempts to improperly influence legal rulings of two Mississippi trial judges in two separate cases, have now been sold to a producer and author, Sam Haskell, with the blessing of Mr. Scruggs and family members.

About one year ago, I also read KINGS OF TORT, by website owner Alan Lange and Tim Dawson, the 36 – year federal prosecutor who served as lead counsel during the investigation and prosecution of the now famous Scruggs cases. ZEUS and KINGS OF TORT give similar, yet strikingly different, accounts of the efforts of Dickie Scruggs and others to corrupt Mississippi’s judicial system. As an interested observer, I was naturally anxious to compare the two books, one written from the vantage point of the prosecutor who brought Scruggs and others to justice, and the other written from the vantage point of a prominent journalist and acknowledged friend of Dickie Scruggs. After carefully reading the Wilkie book and reviewing my notes after reading the Lange/Dawson book, I have concluded that both ZEUS and KINGS OF TORT are important works. However, one cannot grasp the full implications or the gravity of the events described by the authors without reading (and studying) both of them, one right after the other. Both books should be required reading by every law student and certainly by every lawyer who aspires to practice law or serve as a member of the judiciary. Finally, these two well-written books, which deal with the intricacies of human frailty and which clearly demonstrate how the lure of potential wealth and/or power can corrupt the best and the brightest among us, should also be read by anyone who votes in a judicial election or who has any influence over who is selected as a judge in any setting. The saga described in these books demonstrates, in crystal clear fashion, that who we allow to practice law or serve as judges is important and matters greatly.

The differences in these two books are also crystal clear. One was written by a journalist and reflects his healthy skepticism of society in general and the motives of those who live among us. Thus, those who are portrayed as heroes in the Lange/Dawson book (i.e., Judge Henry Lackey, the prosecutors, etc.) do not come across as quite so heroic in the Wilkie book. On the other hand, the Lange/Dawson book (written from the vantage point of the prosecutor) chronicles the sordid events and the attempted bribes in black and white fashion, and it focuses on the major events as they unfolded legally. Wilkie ‘s account, while historically accurate, also draws heavily on his personal interviews, not only with Dickie Scruggs, but with the members of his family as well. The reader obviously gets to hear the Scruggs side of the story in much more detail when reading Wilkie’s book, because Wilkie conducted personal interviews with the Scruggs family, while Lange and Dawson were denied access to them. It is noteworthy that Wilkie also conducted an interview with Tom Dawson and that several photographs inserted in his book were supplied “as a courtesy of the Scruggs family”.

It is also noteworthy that KINGS OF TORT focuses not only on the Dickie Scruggs cases, but also spends a considerable amount of time focusing on the cases involving Paul Minor (a wealthy trial lawyer on the Gulf Coast) and on the federal charges against him involving his attempts, through financial contributions, to improperly influence the decisions of Gulf Coast Chancellor Wes Teel and Circuit Judge John Whitfield. THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS spends little time on the Paul Minor cases, other than to describe Minor’s relationship with Scruggs.

Both books spend considerable time describing the ultimately successful efforts of Scruggs, attorney Joey Langston, former State Auditor Steve Patterson and former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters to corrupt Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter and to improperly get him to issue a favorable ruling for Scruggs in an important case involving the division of legal fees. Wilkie, however, focuses much more clearly on the shadowy activities of P. L. Blake in assisting Dickie Scruggs, and spends more time describing the relationship of Scruggs with his brother-in-law, former Senator Trent Lott, Senator Roger Wicker, and others who Scruggs described as being a part of “the force”, an allegedly shadowy network including P.L. Blake, that exists in Mississippi and Washington. Significantly, Wilkie also writes extensively about the political involvement of then Senator and now Vice-President Joe Biden with Steve Patterson and Joey Langston.

In the “Preface” to his book, Mr. Wilkie described the Scruggs saga as perhaps “the story of my lifetime.” I believe that Mr. Wilkie correctly concluded that the Scruggs story “was a remarkable story of personal treachery” with “ramifications that extended to high levels in Washington.” However, I question Wilkie’s implication that “enormous professional hatred within the legal community” and a “zealous prosecution” were somehow contributing causes of the tragedy that is so clearly outlined in his book.

The epic legal battles between Scruggs and his opponents, Charles Merkle, Alwyn Luckey, Bob Wilson, Johnny Jones, and Grady Tollison, which are portrayed by Wilkie, as well as by Lange and Dawson, were, to be sure, high stakes and ugly affairs. However, such competition and personal enmity among legal participants are not unique in American jurisprudence. In fact, they are played out at various levels in courtroom dramas, in big towns and small towns, all across America every day. It is not unusual for a defendant to complain that he has been the subject of a “zealous prosecution” or that the judge was too harsh and unbending during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial. The American legal system is well-equipped to protect the public interest and the rights of a defendant in these trial situations, so long as fair, impartial, well-grounded, and courageous judges preside over such trials.

What makes the Scruggs cases such high drama is not only the big money or the political ramifications involved, but the fact that those that went to jail mounted brazen, full-scale assaults (not once, but twice) on the American judicial system by attempting to bribe judges to achieve desired results. Just as John Grisham’s novel, THE APPEAL, is disturbing because it unveils the seamy side of judicial elections in Mississippi and elsewhere, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS fully exposes the activities of a group that totally lost respect for the American judicial system. It is noteworthy that Lange and Dawson in KINGS OF TORT expressed their belief that Scruggs, Paul Minor and the others around them convinced themselves that their opponents were “evil incarnate”, and that their ends justified their means. However, in the eyes of those who believe that the American judicial system is worth saving, those described by Wilkie, Lange and Dawson, who attacked and tried to compromise that system, are the ones that became evil in the process.

Redemption is always possible in this world, and it is true, as stated by Sam Haskell, that all of us make mistakes. However, the lessons of the Scruggs cases are greater than what will ultimately happen to Dickie Scruggs or the others. In order for our fragile system of justice to remain intact, and in order for the general public to maintain the vital and necessary confidence in our judicial system, people like Dickie Scruggs must be dealt with harshly in order to discourage others like him from attempting to bribe judges.

Hopefully, any motion picture that is produced based upon THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ZEUS will primarily dwell on the tragic assault on our judicial system which was perpetrated by Dickie Scruggs and his associates, rather than adopting a storyline emphasizing the tragic human interest story also described in Mr. Wilkie’s book.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration as President following the 2008 elections, the conventional wisdom of the political pundits was that conservatism had “not only been defeated but discredited” as a result of Obama’s election. (Sam Tanenhaus’ The New Republic). Tanenhaus also believed that Republicans further damaged their “brand” by opposing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the $814 billion stimulus package designed to lift America out of the recession. (Today, the U.S. unemployment rate still hovers around 10 per cent).

In his 2009 book, Clinton political consultant James Carville predicted that the Democrats would rule the “next generation”, because Democrats had identified themselves with the hopes and dreams of young people, women, and Latinos (the nation’s fastest growing minority). Conversely, according to Carville, Republicans were only appealing to a limited, mostly southern base.

It is now clear, to paraphrase Mark Twain, that the demise of conservatism and the Republican Party in America was “grossly exaggerated”.

As I wrote this column on an early Wednesday morning, still sleepily giddy over historic 2010 midterm elections and fending off telephone calls from friends who naturally wanted to share their jubilation and share their opinions on why Republicans won such a resounding victory, the realization finally set in that a tidal wave has occurred and that Republicans had picked up at least 63 seats in the House of Representatives, the largest swing of Congressional seats since the midterm elections of 1938, during the Roosevelt era and during the heart of the Great Depression. It set in that the new Republican Congressional seats are not only located in Mississippi, where the GOP took back seats once held by Senators Roger Wicker and Trent Lott, but also included five Congressional seats in New York and Congressional seats throughout the northeast, the midwest, and all across America – even in California.

In looking closer at the Congressional results, I found that two African American Republicans were elected – one in South Carolina (where Indian/American Republican Nikki Haley was also elected Governor) and another in South Florida near Miami. Moreover, Republican voters effectively “fired” Nancy Pelosi and took over the leadership of the House of Representatives by electing a healthy majority of the House’s 435 seats. As Ronald Reagan once said in summing up his Presidency, “Not bad. Not bad at all.”

While the Republican takeover in the House of Representatives was the big story of the 2010 midterm elections, the ecstasy does not stop there. In the 37 Governors’ races decided on November 2nd, Republicans needed to pick up only three gubernatorial seats to win a majority of the governorships, nationwide. Instead, thanks in part to extremely effective leadership and fundraising by the Republican Governors’ Association and RGA Chairman Haley Barbour, new Republican Governors were elected in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming. These new Governors will play an effective role in making sure that the Democrats do not “gerrymander” the new Congressional and state legislative lines to be drawn by the states in 2011, based on new census figures. In all, Republicans picked up at least 6 or 7 new Governors on Tuesday evening, and 17 state legislatures “flipped” to majority Republican, including Texas and Alabama for the first time in American history. Again, not bad at all.

To complete the election results, Republicans also picked up at least 6 new seats in the United States Senate, with the Senatorial results in the States of Washington, Colorado and Alaska yet to be decided at this writing. Republicans needed to gain 10 new Republican Senators to win a majority in the Senate, and they failed in this effort (Harry Reid retained his Senate seat in Nevada and served free food near the voting precincts). However, Republicans were significantly elected to the Senate from unlikely places like Wisconsin (where Johnson defeated the prominent Russ Feingold); Illinois (by taking President Obama’s old Senate seat); and in Pennsylvania (where Toomey of the Club for Growth took Democrat switcher Arlen Spector’s seat). I predict that Republicans will cobble together a working majority in the Senate on many key votes in 2011 and leading up to 2012 Presidential elections.

The question for the morning after the 2010 midterm elections is what caused the tidal wave and the major governmental shift that has now occurred? Laura Ingraham said on Tuesday night that the vote represented a repudiation of Obama’s policies since his being elected President. Sarah Palin said that the message of the election was that people do not want an “over-reaching government” to take over their lives. Charles Krauthammer opined that the repudiation of Obama on Tuesday night represented a “return to normalcy” and a rejection of a brazen attempt to move America to a socialist-style European form of government.

I agree with all of the above. I also believe that public dismay with the slow pace of the nation’s economic recovery; the ineffectiveness of the stimulus; the public reaction to Obamacare; and of course the outrage and energy of the Tea Parties, all played significant roles in achieving the results that were realized in the wee hours after the midterm elections on Tuesday evening. I am sure all of us need more time to fully digest what happened as a result of this historic election. May we all hope and pray that our state and national leaders will learn from it. The future of our great nation depends on it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


During the past several months, we have been discussing the upcoming Congressional elections which will be held on November 2, 2010. At this juncture, it is safe to say that our country is in a state of upheaval - and that many, many people are angry. Many of those who supported President Obama are angry because he has not completely transformed America into a European-style democracy that is heavy on government services and "fairness" to those that fall below a certain income level. Many on the right (and many in the middle) are genuinely disturbed and afraid that we have elected a President who really believes that the agenda of the radical left would be best for the land of the free and the home of the brave. While a substantial majority of Americans still believe that a capitalistic system of government is best for the country, a recent poll concluded that an astounding 38% of our citizens believe that a "socialistic" system would be preferable.

Simply stated, the issue all Americans must decide on November 2, 2010, is whether we want to preserve the free enterprise system in America (at least for two more years) or whether we want to travel "the road to serfdom" described by F. A. Hayek in his famous book years ago in 1944. "In that year - when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, Albert Einstein subscribed to the socialist program, and the British Labour Party was planning for a future Labour government" to replace Winston Churchill after World War II, Hayek's The Road To Serfdom "was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production".[1]

What Americans face on November 2, 2010, is a clear choice. Americans who vote for any Democrat on that date will, directly or indirectly, give a vote to the political party that is clearly traveling Hayek's Road. If the Democrats maintain the majority in Congress, the Speaker of the House and also every committee chairman that controls legislation will be Democrats that sign on to the theory that a collectivist society is best for America. Therefore, the assurances of many "Bluedog Democrats" that they will not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker if they are elected really mean nothing because their Party will remain in power, and they will, at the very least, be giving aid and comfort to those that travel Hayek's Road.

The only alternative to traveling Hayek's Road on November 2, 2010, is to "throw the rascals out" and restore control of the Congress to the Republicans. To be sure, many elected Republican officials have compromised their values in the past, and their actions led to the creation of the Tea Party movement. If Republicans do regain control of the Congress in 2010, they act at their peril if they do not heed the angry voices of their constituents. Those constituents are trying to tell them that they want no part of Hayek's Road.

As we approach November 2, 2010, I remain optimistic about America. I see new young leadership slowly emerging within the Republican Party, with new ideas and new energy that will help us take our country back. These potential new leaders are articulate and have the communication skills that will be needed to warn our citizens against the dangers of collectivism in the Twenty-First Century.

[1] Introduction to Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom"" (1994, U. of Chicago)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This past week, the fault lines within the Republican Party were laid bare as Tea Party forces, led by former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska and Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, stormed the barricades during the Republican Primary elections held on September 14, 2010, and nominated Christine O'Donnell as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate in Delaware, a state that has trended Democrat in recent years and where Vice-President Joe Biden had served as Senator since 1973. Ms. O'Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a well-known moderate Republican who has been a member of Congress since 1993 and was a two-term Governor. Congressman Castle was much better financed than Ms. O'Donnell and was the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination.

The primary election contest between O'Donnell and Castle was bitterly contested with Castle and national news media pundits, including Fox News contributors Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer, raising serious questions about the truthfulness and integrity of O'Donnell, as well as her financial difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service and financial institutions. She responded by criticizing Congressman Castle for voting for President Obama's stimulus packages and proposed Democratic "Cap and Trade" legislation; and also called upon him to put on his "man pants" after engaging in "un-manly tactics" during the campaign.

After losing the primary election, Congressman Castle has now declined to support O'Donnell in the general election in November. On election night, Karl Rove pronounced that Republicans, although previously favored to win handily, will now likely lose the Delaware Senate seat and with it, the majority and committee chairmanships in the Senate to Harry Reid and the Democrats. Krauthammer recently opined on the BILL O'REILLY SHOW that O'Donnell has only one chance in ten to win in November, although adding: "I hope I am wrong." Senator Jim DeMint responded by saying that he would rather for the Republicans to nominate a losing candidate that stands for something, rather than to nominate a winning candidate that does not embrace conservative values. O'Donnell, for her part, taking note that she had been branded a "wacko", denounced her critics as "anti-American" in one of her speeches following her primary victory.

After all of this drama following the September 14, Republican Primary election, one can legitimately ask whether divided Republicans can nevertheless win the November Senatorial election in a blue state, or whether traditional conventional wisdom applies - that a divided political party traditionally loses (following the logic and advice that Ben Franklin once gave to his colleagues during the American Revolution - that "we either hang together or we will hang separately").

Although the Delaware Senate race was really not on my radar screen until a day or two before the primary election, what has happened since O'Donnell's victory is in many ways reminiscent of what happened during the Congressional race in North Mississippi (MS-01) during a special election held two years ago. In that race, after the appointment of Congressman Roger Wicker to replace Trent Lott as United States Senator, several prominent Republicans ran in a heated and ugly primary to take Wicker's seat in the House of Representatives. The race became so heated that the defeated candidate in the run-off election refused to publicly support the new Republican nominee. The result was that a Democrat was elected to Congress in MS-01 for the first time in many years. Now, chastened Mississippi Republicans are united in a spirited effort to regain Wicker's old House seat.

O'Donnell supporters correctly state that these are not ordinary times and that frustrated Americans, especially conservatives and independents, seem ready to "throw the rascals out" during this election season. If this is true, O'Donnell still has a chance to win in Delaware where her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, is a far-left attorney and county executive who has fully supported the Obama agenda and now downplays a piece he wrote for the Amherst College newspaper - "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist." However, it would help O'Donnell's chances if Castle would fully embrace her candidacy and she would graciously accept his support.

Jim DeMint is correct that Republicans want new and different type leaders who are not perceived as RINOs - Republicans In Name Only. If Christine O'Donnell is elected Senator, Republicans will certainly have found a different type leader in Delaware

Friday, September 10, 2010


What is becoming abundantly clear is that Mississippi's Governor, Haley Barbour, will give serious consideration to becoming a Republican candidate for President in 2012. This is as it should be for several reasons. Haley's past record of achievement and service to his Party have been spectacularly successful. Over the years, he took two relatively low-profile jobs, Chairman of the Republican Nation Committee and Chairman of the Republican Governors' Association, and through strong leadership transformed them into highly effective influential positions within the Party. As Chairman of the RNC and later as Chairman of the RGA, he has significantly and single handedly contributed to the growth and success of the Republican Party across this nation.

As Chairman of the Republican National Committee in the 1990s, he worked with Newt Gingrich and other Republican Congressional leaders to implement their now-famous "Contract for America", which directly led to the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives since World War II. Likewise, as Chairman of the Republican Governors' Association, he took a position, previously with little influence, and has made the RGA into the premier fundraiser and strategist for the Party nationally, as we approach the crucial Congressional elections on November 2.

As Governor of Mississippi, it is conceded by supporters and detractors alike that Haley has performed brilliantly and successfully, resisted tax increases in state government, and fought for a balanced budget, while effectively pushing for economic development and work force training, as well as for increased spending in key areas like education. He deservedly received national praise during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and his crisis leadership skills as Governor were favorably contrasted with the job performance of the hapless Democratic Governor of Louisiana, who appeared ineffective and overwhelmed by events during the disaster that descended upon the people of Mississippi and Louisiana in 2005.

However, despite all of Haley's successes over the years, there is another compelling reason why he should become a Presidential candidate: that is because, unlike many of his Republican colleagues, he speaks clearly (although with a southern accent), authoritatively, and with credibility on issues of national importance during a time when most Americans are searching for answers. They want to know (1) how to solve America's economic problems; (2) how to protect the homeland; and, (3) indeed, how to protect the American way of life after the recent economic meltdown and the imposition of Obamacare and other socialistic measures thrust upon us by the President, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats.

My best guess is that when Americans go to the polls in the November, 2010, Congressional elections, all three of these issues will be on the minds of the voters, with an emphasis on issues (1) and (3). I also believe that when the voters go to the polls in 2012 to elect a President, these same issues will be on their minds, but with an emphasis on issue (2).

When the time comes in 2012 to determine who can best protect the homeland, I believe Americans will be looking for (as Haley puts it) the "anti-Obama" - someone, like Haley Barbour, who will put American first.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


In recent weeks, various pundits in Mississippi have begun to speculate about what some have called the upcoming "beauty contest" - that is, the Mississippi election in 2011 to determine who will succeed Haley Barbour as Mississippi's next Governor. In years past many statewide candidates trying to raise money to fund their "down-ticket" races for offices such as Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner or Auditor, have lamented that donors were only interested in giving money to their favorite candidate in the "beauty contest" - which does aptly describe the fact that, indeed, the Governor's race is the "main event" in the quadrennial statewide elections.

At this juncture, it appears that both the Democrats and the Republicans will stage healthy primary elections for Governor in 2011, with credible candidates that will stir the interest of the party faithful and lead to a clear choice between traditional Democratic and Republican values. However, there has been some speculation that prominent "wild-card" candidates might enter the race as independents or representing minor political parties, which could force the election of Mississippi's next Governor to be decided by the state house of representatives if the leading candidate in the November, 2011, general election fails to receive over fifty per cent (50%) of the votes cast.

According to Article 5, Section 140 of the MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION OF 1890, "The person found to have received a majority of all the electoral votes, and also a majority of the popular vote, shall be declared elected." However, Article 5, Section 141 then says "If no person shall receive such majorities, then the house of representatives shall proceed to choose a governor from the two persons who shall have received the highest number of popular votes . . . by VIVA VOCE vote . . . ." Section 140 of Article 5, of the Constitution, which was amended in 1982, states that persons receiving the highest number of votes in a legislative district of the house of representatives are awarded "electoral votes" for as many votes in the house of representative as that legislative district is entitled to receive.

The 1999 race between Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Congressman Mike Parker was the closest gubernatorial race in Mississippi history. Out of almost three quarters of a million votes cast, Musgrove won 8300 more votes than Parker in a four-way election, but fell a fraction of a percentage point short of receiving a majority, as required by Mississippi's Constitution. Since neither candidate received a majority of the popular vote, the Mississippi House of Representatives had to select the winner. They chose Musgrove - the first time in modern history the election of a Mississippi governor was decided by members of the Legislature.

It is noteworthy that Article 5, Section 143 of Mississippi's Constitution also says that . . . "[a]ll other state officers shall be elected at the same time, and in the same manner as provided for election of governor". Mississippi has eight (8) "state officers" who are elected by a statewide vote, namely: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor, Insurance Commissioner, and Commissioner of Agriculture. The upcoming November, 2011, state elections in Mississippi will be held at a time when the mood of the electorate (reflective of the national mood) is one of anger, frustration and unpredictability. Numerous third-party candidates will likely enter the fray, and they will likely get a substantial number of votes. For example, candidates from the right-of-center Libertarian Party (Ron Paul followers) have been consistently receiving at least one (1) percent of the vote in Mississippi elections where that Party has fielded candidates for some time now.

If the third party candidates in Mississippi's 2011 elections gain sufficient votes to deny the front runner a majority of the popular vote and/or the electoral vote in 2011, the legislators who are members of the state's house of representatives will decide the winner. There are 72 Democrats and 50 Republicans presently serving as members of the House. If such an election were held today by voice vote in that legislative body, the presiding officer of the meeting would be the Speaker of the House - Democrat Billy McCoy.

Monday, August 9, 2010


After the 2006, Congressional elections, President George W. Bush commented that Republicans took "a thumping" in the House races; and indeed they did, losing control of the House leadership and bringing Speaker Nancy Pelosi to power after twelve years of Republican control.

Michael Barone, the highly respected political analyst for the WASHINGTON EXAMINER, and the author of THE ALMANAC OF AMERICAN POLITICS, believes it is likely that the House Democrats will be the ones taking the thumping in the November Congressional elections this year. In fact, he states that unless the shift of opinion away from the Democrats so evident in the polls turns out to be illusory, "House Democrats are headed toward historic losses." In an article written for REAL CLEAR POLITICS, dated July 29, 2010, he tells us why.

In his article, Mr. Barone points out that in regard to the generic ballot question ("Which party's candidate will you vote for in elections to the House?") asked of voters by most pollsters, the current average shows Republicans ahead by 45 percent to 41 percent. Ten of 15 major opinion polls conducted in July asking the generic ballot question showed Republicans to be ahead; with Democrats leading in four (twice by 1 percent), and one poll showing a tie.

He then tells us that, historically, the results of the generic ballot question by pollsters "… has tended to under-predict Republican performance in off-year elections." Thus, Mr Barone boldly predicts that Republicans "… may be on the brink of doing better than in any elections since 1946, when they won a 245 - 188 margin in the House - larger than any they've held ever since."

In 1994, Michael Barone wrote an article in U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT in which he was the first to suggest that Republicans could actually gain the 40 seats then needed to capture a majority in the House of Representatives. This year, the results of the generic ballot polling, plus astounding polling results that show numerous attractive Democratic incumbent congressmen trailing their Republican opponents all across America, lead Mr. Barone to believe that a sea change of major proportions will take place in the House of Representatives elections in November.

If such a major shift occurs, Republicans would likely win not only the hotly contested congressional races such as the race between incumbent Travis Childers and Republican challenger Alan Nunnelee in Mississippi 1, but Republicans would also likely sweep aside such long-time Bluedog Democrat stalwarts such as incumbent Gene Taylor in Mississippi 4 as well.

On this past Sunday's talk show, FOX NEWS SUNDAY, Bill Kristol predicted that Republicans will pick up as many as 60 seats in the House races in November, 2010. I believe Kristol read Michael Barone's article in REAL CLEAR POLITICS before making such a prediction.

Monday, August 2, 2010


In a recent column in the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion Ledger (July 21, 2010) ("Will Legislature reassert dominance after Barbour era?"), longtime journalist Sid Salter addressed an interesting and relevant issue that has not previously been discussed publicly this year in Mississippi, although it has without doubt been discussed privately among potential candidates and others. While many of Mississippi's political pundits are focusing on the upcoming "beauty contest" (the Mississippi Governor's race), the role of the tea parties in the upcoming Congressional elections, or whether or not Haley Barbour will pull the trigger and run for President, I believe that Sid has put his finger on the single-most important issue facing Mississippians in the Magnolia State's 2011 statewide elections. How that issue is decided will shape the philosophical direction that Mississippi will take in the next four to eight years on the great issues of the day - Medicaid and Medicare; funding for public education; eminent domain and the role of government in economic development; taxation; crime; and generally the role of government in our everyday lives.
Sid is correct when he says that "[h]istorically, the Legislature has operated as the strong dominant policy maker in state government and the governor served in a more ceremonial and opinion-making role." This was certainly true in the twentieth century when virtually every Governor that held office, along with many scholars and others, proclaimed that the power of the Governor's office should be strengthened. In fact, some of Mississippi's most distinguished scholars and leaders during those years called for a constitutional convention in Mississippi with the express goal of doing away with certain elective offices and making them subject to gubernatorial appointment. In short, the Governor and the executive branch of state government appeared to be totally over-matched by the powerful legislative branch, which held the purse strings to the coffers housing taxpayers' dollars. Year after year, regardless of who held the Governor's office, the legislative branch was dominant, and its leadership was unified.
This political reality slowly began to change, however, with the coming of the two-party system in Mississippi. As more and more Republicans were elected to the state Legislature, the opportunity for conservatives to gather together and to support common goals increased. The real legislative shift, however, has taken place in the twenty-first century. In 2001, there were 86 Democrats in the Mississippi House of Representatives, 33 Republicans and 3 Independents; while in the State Senate, there were 34 Democrats and 18 Republicans. Today, the House still has 72 who call themselves Democrats but there are also 50 Republicans, who have formally organized themselves, adopted by-laws, and elected a floor leader, a conference chairman, and other officers in a manner similar to the structure of the Republican Conference in the Congressional House of Representatives. There is a real chance that there will be enough Republicans in 2011 to elect a GOP Speaker of the House.
In the State Senate, where Republican Lieutenant Phil Bryant presides, there are currently 27 Democrats, but there are also 25 Republicans. During the Barbour Administration years, Republicans have controlled the Senate with the help of a few conservative Democrats.
During the eight years of the Barbour Administration, Republicans in the Mississippi Legislature have basically agreed on most issues and maintained party discipline. In so doing, they greatly enhanced the power of the Governor. Whereas Governors were confronted in past years by a united legislative branch intent on holding tightly to the reins of state government and minimizing the power of the Governor's office, battles in state government suddenly shifted after 2001 to more healthy ideological battles between political parties on pocket book issues rather than endless fights between the Legislature and the Governor over which of the two branches of government would dominate the political landscape.
Since 2001, the elected leaders of both political parties have had healthy and constructive debates on public issues such as taxes, education, and health care; and the people have been better off for it. As a result, our citizens have been better informed and have not been distracted by side issues that have held the state back for generations. In essence, the emergence of a healthy two-party system in Mississippi has silenced any discussion of a need for a constitutional convention to enhance the power of the Governor or the executive branch.
The question has been raised as to whether a Republican Governor elected in 2011 could maintain party discipline among the Republican legislators in the years ahead. In his column, Sid asks a good question: "Does Mississippi want a strong governor like Barbour -- or a more traditional governor like former Governors Ray Mabus or Bill Waller, Sr.?" A second question might be whether the people want to continue to have a healthy two-party system in the Legislature, which will surely result in a strong support group in the legislative branch for whoever is elected Governor. The answer to these questions will determine the direction Mississippi will take in 2011 and beyond. One would think that Republicans have the advantage in 2011 - unless they get over-confident and begin fighting among themselves

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


As we approach November, 2010, the nation's attention is beginning to turn to the Congressional elections which will take place on November 2nd. Here in Mississippi, two of our four Congressional seats are being hotly contested - both presently held by Democrats. In Mississippi's First Congressional District, Travis Childers, the Blue Dog incumbent who was elected two years ago to replace Republican Roger Wicker after Wicker was appointed to the United States Senate, is facing a strong challenge from Republican State Senator Alan Nunnelee. Childers is a former Chancery Court Clerk, a powerful position in county government in Mississippi, and he hails from rural Prentiss County, near Tennessee in the extreme northeast corner of the State and in the foothills of Appalachia. Nunnelee comes from the more urban and Republican-leaning City of Tupelo, which is located just south of Prentiss County and also in the northeastern portion of the Congressional District.

Childers is a friend and associate of the Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Billy McCoy, who also is a native of Prentiss County. Childers is also the logical heir of longtime former First District Congressman and populist Jamie Whitten, who was known for "bringing home the bacon" for his constituents while at the same time attacking the "left-wingers" in Washington. Nunnelee, on the other hand, is a fiscal conservative who has served effectively as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee in the Mississippi Legislature during trying economic times; and, in cooperation with Governor Haley Barbour and Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, has helped the State balance its budget and preserve its rainy-day fund while at the same time preserved and increased Medicaid payments for the needy and enacted increased spending for education. Just as important, Nunnelee apparently has a united Republican Party behind him as he approaches the general election and has received the endorsements of his two opponents in the Republican Primary, who he defeated without a run-off after a spirited primary election contest. Mississippi Republicans will recall that Childers, the Democrat, won the Congressional seat to replace Wicker two years ago, after a bitter Republican Primary in which the Republican nominee failed to receive the endorsement of his defeated Republican opponent.

This year, Republicans as well as Tea Party conservatives, appear to be lining up behind Nunnelee although the National Rifle Association has endorsed Childers. On the other hand, Democrats also appear to be united in backing Childers, as evidenced by a recent fund-raising invitation sent out for Childers by a group of traditionally Democratic sponsors, including the Second District Congressman, Bennie Thompson who has great influence over the substantial African-American vote in the First Congressional District.

Recent polls have been published which show that Nunnelee presently leads Childers by less than 10 points, but most observers understand that this Congressional race is only just now beginning, although the candidates have been campaigning for months. What is clear at this juncture is that the majority of the citizens of the First District are upset and concerned about the economy and the future of America in general. Many now link Childers with President Obama, which is a plus for Nunnelee at the present time.

The race between Nunnelee and Childers is now clearly on the radar screens of both national parties and their Congressional campaign committees; and both candidates will be well financed as they campaign to the wire on November 2nd. Democrats understand that they must hold on to Congressional seats currently occupied by Blue Dog Democrats such as Childers, and must give him some latitude to take public positions on issues such as health care and gun rights that will appeal to conservative voters, without threatening to strip him of party seniority benefits. On the other hand, Republicans understand that if they are to recapture a Congressional majority in the House of Representatives and stop the out-of-control spending and government bailouts that have been a part of the Obama agenda, they simply must win districts where the voters are basically conservative. Simply put, if Republicans cannot win this year in the First Congressional District in today's environment, the District is likely to remain in the hands of the Democrats for the foreseeable future.

In my judgment, the race between a Nunnelee and Childers will be close and a "trend-setter" nationally. If Childers wins, look for the Democrats to lose some seats in the House of Representatives but retain substantial control with Nancy Pelosi re-elected as Speaker of the House (with the support of Childers). If Nunnelee wins, look for the Democrats nationally to have a long night.

If Mississippi Republicans can stay energized and united in the months ahead, Nunnelee should win this election. However, it is important that Republicans have a strong voter turnout in Tupelo and the northeast Mississippi area surrounding populous Lee County, where many self-styled "yellow dog Democrats" reside (citizens who would vote for a Democrat even if the candidate is a yellow dog). Just as important, it is crucial for Nunnelee that Republicans have a strong turnout further west in populous DeSoto County as well, which enjoys the fourth largest population in Mississippi and where most of its citizens work in Memphis and look to the Memphis media for their news. On occasions in the past and particularly in Presidential elections, voters in DeSoto County have turned out to vote in tremendous numbers and with substantial Republican majorities. In other elections, without national impact, voter turnout in DeSoto County has often been abysmal.

Voter turnout will likely determine the winner of the Nunnelee-Childers race on November 2nd. If Republicans want to win badly enough, this is our chance to take back the seat we should not have lost in 2008.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


In May, 2010, three members of Congress were beaten in their bids for re-election within their own Party elections - a Republican Senator from Utah, a Democratic Congressman from West Virginia, and a Republican-turned-Democrat in Pennsylvania. Among them, they served 76 years in Congress (their fathers served another 42); and they all had one thing in common: They were members of an Appropriations Committee. It is also noteworthy (and shocking to some) that House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-MI) suddenly decided to retire from Congress after a career of 41 years, rather than face the energetic campaign of a young Republican in his district.

In his recent article ("The Gathering Revolt Against Government Spending") in the EXAMINER, political analyst Michael Barone reminds us that on Capitol Hill, there is an old saying that there are three parties in Washington - Democrats, Republicans, and appropriators. However, Barone also takes note of these recent developments and concludes that "pork is not kosher" in this election year.

Barone correctly states that we have been told for many years that American voters are "ideologically conservative" and "operationally liberal" . . . another way of saying that they tend to oppose government spending in the abstract but tend to favor spending on particular programs. Anyone who has had any experience with county government knows this to be true. In my home county in Mississippi, we have not one but two paid lobbyists (one Democrat and one Republican), whose job it is, in part, to arrange face time with the members of our congressional delegation for county officials in search of funds to finance the latest road projects, water and sewer treatment facilities, etc.

In years past, Vice-President Walter Mondale once stated on a campaign trip to Mississippi that the State's two powerful Senators (Eastland and Stennis) were very even-handed in their efforts to control the flow of federal dollars to proposed worthwhile capital improvement projects across the nation. Mondale joked that their formula for dispensing federal funds was simple: one-half for Mississippi and one-half for the rest of the country.

Spending by the federal government on local projects began in a big way during the Great Depression and has thrived ever since. As stated by Barone, past rebellions against fiscal policies have concentrated on taxes rather than spending - such as the California tax revolt in the 1970s that led to Ronald Reagan's popular tax cuts after he became President. However, spending cuts did not follow under Reagan as he led the effort to dramatically increase the defense budget to confront the Soviet military buildup. Likewise, Bill Clinton's tax increases led to a Republican takeover and tax cuts at both the federal and state level. However, spending boomed under George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11.

Unlike previous rebellions against fiscal policies, the fiscal revolt in 2010 appears to be focused on the spending policies of the Obama Democrats. Barone says that what we are observing is "a spontaneous rush of previously inactive citizens into political activity . . . in response to the vast increases in federal spending that began with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the fall of 2008; and accelerated with the Obama Democrats' stimulus package, budget and health care bills." It is a fact that federal spending is rising from about 21 percent to 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is high in historic terms.

The defeat of the three appropriators from both parties and the retirement of Congressman Obey is sending us a message this election year. Will Republicans come forward with a bold plan to roll back government spending? Barone tells us that "the natural instinct of politicians is to avoid anything bold." He points out that the conservatives in the recent British elections were faced with similar issues, but they were skittish about proposing spending cuts. The result was the conservatives in Britain fell short of the absolute majority they expected in their May 6 elections.

In the 2010 congressional elections, where Republicans likewise have high hopes, the issue may be whether Republicans will come up with a bold specific plan to roll back the spending of the Obama Democrats. I believe the voters are looking for such a plan, and Republicans need to supply it.

POST NOTE: I note with sadness the passing of Emett Barfield, a great man of faith and a deep religious thinker, who served as the pastor over the years of such diverse figures as William Winter and Clark Reed. I only came to know Emett well during his later years, but, like so many others, I am grateful that our paths crossed. R.I.P.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Three years ago, I received an invitation from the Office of the President to attend a Memorial Day breakfast at the White House, just before the formal ceremonies that would later take place that day with President Bush speaking at Arlington National Cemetery and placing a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The invitation stated that I could bring a guest, and I asked my son to go with me. Both of us had attended college on U.S. Army ROTC scholarships and spent time in the military. My wife and I had been to the White House before on a number of occasions, but this invitation seemed special - and it was.

As the appointed day drew near, we flew to Washington and checked into our hotel the night before, near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. The next morning, we got up early to make sure that we would not be late. Then, in eager anticipation, we walked on a beautiful sunny day to the White House, passing by the famous Willard Hotel where many Presidents had visited and stayed overnight, including Abraham Lincoln. We also passed by the Office of the U.S. Treasury.

When we arrived at the east gate to the White House, we took our places in line to go through security, and I saw one familiar face - the Republican National Committeeman from California, who I knew to have a military background. Suddenly, I realized why I had been invited to this marvelous occasion - because, like my friend from California, I was a member of the Republican National Committee who also had served in the military. How honored I felt on that morning to be an American and to be, with my son, among the special few to be invited to the White House and to formally honor those who had made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve freedom in our county.

Once inside the White House, we passed by easily recognizable famous paintings of former Presidents and First Ladies; and the Marine Band, in dress uniform, was softly playing patriotic music. In the State Dining Room, we enjoyed making our selection for a light breakfast, laid out before us, cafeteria-style, by the White House chef. Then we enjoyed meeting Americans from all over this great land who were there to honor the fallen. Those attending included the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and many high ranking Admirals, Generals, elected officials, as well as a number of enlisted personnel.

We thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of meeting and visiting with several Congressional Medal of Honor recipients who proudly displayed their medals. Every one of those Medal of Honor recipients which we met, to a man, were soft-spoken, unassuming, and thoroughly authentic American heroes who symbolized what is great about America. We also met, there in the White House under the portraits of George and Martha Washington, a number of invitees dressed in motorcycle outfits; and we learned that they were the members of the famous motorcycle organization that attend funerals of our fallen soldiers across America. When necessary, with their motorcycles, they drown out the dissident voices of those who attend military funerals with the intent of making publicized statements of protest against a war that the United States is involved in.

The morning was complete when my son and I had our pictures taken with George and Laura Bush. Later, the President made a stirring address at Arlington in defense of liberty and the debt all Americans owe to their fallen soldiers. We, along with those that attended the breakfast, were filled with pride at the accomplishments of our defenders; and we were filled with the resolve that we indeed must remain steadfast in our defense of liberty, both at home and abroad.

I read that President Obama failed to attend the Memorial Day ceremony this year at Arlington National Cemetery; and he chose instead to go to Chicago, Illinois, to spend time with friends and family. He did mark the Memorial Holiday with remarks at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, located about an hour outside Chicago.

It is my hope that, in the future and throughout his presidency, the President will chose to once again attend the Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington, a place of tremendous symbolism. Erick Erickson of CNN stated that "going to Arlington to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns has . . . everything to do with . . . showing some basic respect to the men and women, alive and dead, who have actually kept us free." I agree, particularly during wartime.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I was pleased, recently, to attend the Second Annual Pioneer Dinner of the Mississippi Republican Party in Jackson. It was a grand affair and was attended by in excess of 700 members of the Party faithful, as well as the family and friends of those being honored that evening. The Honorees were the seven men who had received the Republican nomination for Governor of Mississippi in the modern era (since the 1950's, during which the modern two party system in Mississippi began to emerge with the formation of "Democrats for Eisenhower"). Former nominees Gil Carmichael (1975, 1979); Leon Bramlette (1983); Jack Reed (1983; and present Governor Haley Barbour (2003, 2007) were in attendance. Only Rubel Phillips (1963, 1967); the late Governor Kirk Fordice (1991, 1995); and Congressman Mike Parker (1999), were unable to attend.

My wife and I were privileged to sit between Gil Carmichael and Jack Reed at the dinner; and the contributions that both made to the development and present success of the modern Mississippi Republican Party were significant. It is a noteworthy footnote of Mississippi history that when Gil was running for the U.S. Senate in the early 1970's, against Senator Jim Eastland (the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee), Vice President Spiro Agnew came to Jackson to endorse the candidacies of then- congressional candidates Thad Cochran and Trent Lott; but on the instructions of President Nixon, he refused to endorse the immensely popular Gil Carmichael, who was required to remain at Republican Party headquarters, during the endorsement festivities which were held two blocks away in front of the Old Capitol Building. Gil stood tall among Mississippi Republicans then and he is still an icon today. His fine son, who resides in Meridian, Mississippi, followed Gil's example and served effectively on the Republican State Executive Committee for a number of years.

Jack Reed was a highly respected and very influential state and community leader when he became the standard bearer for the Republican Party in 1987. Whereas prior to that time the growth of the State Party had been centered primarily in the Jackson area, large municipalities, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Jack brought new organized growth to the Party from North Mississippi and the foothills of Appalachia.

Jack's opponent in the 1987 Governor's race was the highly visible State Auditor, Ray Mabus, who had successfully spearheaded the widely publicized federal and state investigation called "operation pretense". Operation Pretense resulted in federal convictions of numerous county elected officials who engaged in fraud and received "kick backs" in exchange for favors to their constituents.

Although Jack had never previously run for any elective office, he was an effective campaigner and was able to raise the necessary funds to wage a credible campaign against his highly-favored and much more well known Democratic opponent. He ran as a successful business and community leader with a strong vision for education, and he finished the race by receiving an astonishing 47% of the vote, the highest percentage of votes received by any Republican candidate for Governor at that time in a relatively low-key race.

In retrospect, Jack Reed's strong showing in 1987 was a signal to thoughtful political observers that there was, for the first time, a "third rail" in Mississippi politics. A legitimate two-party system was emerging in the state. By 1987, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott had been elected to Congress, and Jack Reed proved that a progressive, successful businessmen who espoused conservative Republican principles had a real chance of being elected to statewide office. The old one-party system comprised of segregationists, "Mississippi Democrats", and moderates was on its way out. It is noteworthy that Kirk Fordice defeated Ray Mabus and became Mississippi's first Republican Governor in 1991.

Jack Reed remains as a highly successful and influential community and state leader today. His son is the Republican Mayor of Tupelo.

The principal Honoree at the 2010 Pioneer Dinner was Rubel Phillips, Mississippi's first Republican modern day nominee for Governor in 1963, who was ill and could not attend. I was in college in 1963 and well remember Rubel's campaign slogan: "Kayo the Kennedys". He knew then what we Republicans need to remember today, which is that the vestiges and roots of the old depression-era Democratic Party remain strong and that Mississippi Republicans must tie their Democratic opponents to the ultra-liberal policies of the National Democratic Party and not allow their local opponents to "run to the right" before they go to Washington to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rubel was a true Pioneer of the Mississippi Republican Party. He was the first to "step up" in his race for Governor and publicly put his economic interests and his reputation on the line for a cause greater then himself. He was and is a great man, who has to this day remained active in the Mississippi Republican Party. We Mississippi Republicans owe him, and we owe him big.

Friday, April 30, 2010


In this period of great upheaval and when (according to a new Pew Poll, dated April 22, 2010) just 22% of Americans say that they trust the federal government to do what is right most of the time, many of our fellow citizens are asking what they can do to relieve their frustrations and help their country rebound during this difficult period. I believe that this would be good time for my fellow Mississippians and my fellow Americans to read and become familiar with “The Patriot’s Guide – What YOU Can Do for Your Country.” This Guide can be found in more detail at, a website of The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that does so much to create and promote innovative conservative ideas and solutions to America’s problems. I recommend The Patriot’s Guide to you, and I present it, in part, to you below in abbreviated form:


1. Practice The Virtues of Self Governance: a) be a responsible citizen; b) Care for your family; c) Practice your faith and defend your religious liberty; d) Join organizations and volunteer in your local community; e) Start a business and invest in America.
2. Voice Your Opinion: a) Vote; b) Write letters and comment online; c) Contact your elected officials; d) Call radio shows; e) Participate in local town-hall meetings, tea party activism and local assemblies.
3. Encourage Discussion: a) Start a blog or Web site; b) challenge liberals with fact-based arguments; c) Encourage the media to represent conservative principles; d) Encourage candidates and elected representatives to learn more about conservative ideas; e) Get conservative editorials and letters in your local newspaper; f) Support teachers, educational programs, and schools that teach the truth about America and its principles.
4. Spread the Word: a) Talk to your family and friends; b) Join social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter; c) Bring issues you care about to your civic, social, church, or business groups; d) Celebrate America's heritage and distribute pocket Constitutions.
5. Join the Conservative Movement: a) Support think tanks and institutions fighting for conservative principles and policies; b) If you are a student, apply for an internship, such as the year-round program at the Heritage Foundation. These programs are designed to foster young leaders and help them grow as part of the larger conservative movement.


1. We Still Hold These Truths: The future of liberty depends on reclaiming America's first principles. Read "We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future", a powerful overview of those principles - how they developed, what they mean, and the debate over their status today. Get a copy of the study guide that accompanies the book, appropriate for self-study, as a teaching manual or as the basis for a discussion group.
2. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution: Free citizens must understand the extent of their rights and the constitutional limits on the powers of government. Get "The Heritage Guide to the Constitution", an easy to understand line-by-line examination of the Framers' Constitution and its contemporary meaning.
3. Reading the Right Books: Keep reading and learning! "Reading the Right Books" is an annotated bibliography of thoughtful books (on history, politics, literature, economics, statesmanship, religion, public policy, and modern conservative thought) recommended as a guide for intelligent, conservative-minded readers who want to prepare themselves for a public life of thought and action.


1. Stay Informed: a) Go to and review pending legislation; b) Track local issues with organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council or the State Policy Network; c) Follow several organizations on Facebook and Twitter so you can get all sides to every story.
2. Find the Organization That is Right for you: There are many conservative organizations out there. Decide what issues matter most to you, and then support the appropriate institution. Check out to help narrow your search.
3. Go to a) Sign up for the Morning Bell at; b) The Foundry blog at Heritage promotes conservative policies and principles by marrying the best in public policy research with every day's current events; c) Read and share Heritage Fact Sheets, which give overviews of the complex issues of our day; and d) maintains a searchable database of policy research, publications, and legal actions throughout the nation.

Time is short, but there is still plenty of time to make a difference before the November congressional elections. I think the Patriot’s Guide is an excellent roadmap as to what Americans can do to help their country leading up to election day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


While I was in Italy a few days ago, Republicans held a highly successful Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, which was attended by many enthusiastic Tea Partiers; and GOP Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia issued a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month, which drew immediate criticism for his failure to mention slavery in his proclamation honoring “the sacrifices of Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens.” During that same period, Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican Governor and Chairman of the National Republican Governors’ Conference, appeared on CNN and defended Governor McDonnell’s remarks, stating that the basis for the criticism of the Governor of Virginia was “not significant” and did not “amount to diddly”.

All of this activity among Southern Republicans was apparently too much for NEW YORK TIMES op-ed columnist Frank Rich, who on April 18, 2010, took dead aim and published a withering broadside attack on Tea Party conservatives in general and Republicans in particular. First, Frank mocked those who defended against the avalanche of charges that Tea Party activists and Sarah Palin are racist; and who, by using veiled racist language and inciting words like “reload”, are “animating anti-Obama hotheads like those who packed assault weapons at presidential town meetings on health care last summer.” Frank went on to imply that “conservative leaders” who remain silent, egg-on such extremism and “pander to the Tea Party-Glen Beck base.”

Then, in an attempt to justify his claims of Tea Party or Republican racism, Frank offered indisputable proof of his claim by reporting that (gasp) Virginia Governor McDonnell “had issued a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month”. Frank referred to it as a “Dixiecrat proclamation”, which he said (in all fairness) “MIGHT have been a staff-driven gaffe rather than a deliberate act of racial provocation.” (Emphasis added).

Finally, Rich paid his respects to the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference (which he stated was “in full cry”) by stating that there were no African American, Hispanic, or Asian Americans in attendance other than “the usual GOP tokens – J. C. Watts, Bobby Jindal, and Michael Steele, only one of them (Jindal) holding public office.” To top it off, Frank criticized the opening night speakers at the conference (and implied that they were racist) for their failure to even mention Hurricane Katrina; and he excoriated Governor Barbour for later praising President Bush’s recovery efforts in Mississippi and criticizing the bumbling local hurricane recovery efforts in Louisiana, led by then-Governor Blanco and other Democratic officials.

In recent days, it has become apparent that the increasingly vocal left-wing media pundits like Frank Rich, supported by former President Clinton and the Congressional Democrats, have a national strategy leading directly to the November Congressional Elections. Their goal is to maintain Democratic control of the Congress by convincing the broad independent base of the American electorate that Republican candidates for Congress are either racist or extremists themselves, or that their base of support is racist or extremist. This is a clever strategy that has been used many times by Democrats in different ways to frighten American voters or make them feel guilty for supporting Republicans (and in this case, the Tea Parties). There is no doubt that the vast majority of Americans, north, south, east or west, do not wish to see themselves as racist.

In my recent post, (“The Gathering Storm” – April 4, 2010) I wrote that in order for Republicans to win in November, there must exist a strong and unified coalition of “economic” Republicans (primarily interested in economic issues) and “social” Republicans (primarily – but not exclusively – interested in maintaining traditional family values in America). Independent voters and many Republicans north of the Mason-Dixon Line have indisputably been susceptible to Democratic charges of Republican extremism. Therefore, as we move forward toward November in an attempt to wrest control of the Congress away from President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and their followers, Republicans should be sensitive to the strategy of the Democrats to look for and trumpet to the media any possible utterance by a Republican or Tea Party leader that might be construed by someone to be racist or extremist, no matter how tenuous, as a part of the overall Democrat strategy to divide Republicans and put Independents on a guilt trip.

On the other hand, Republicans, and particularly Southern Republicans, should not be afraid to stand up for their beliefs and values, including the fact that Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were storied American heroes, who, within the context of the times in which they lived, chose to defend their home state of Virginia during the great and tragic American Civil War. In the context of the times in which they lived, Lee and Jackson were no different from their fellow Virginians, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (as well as Ulysses S. Grant from Illinois for that matter) – they were all slaveholders who desired for the abhorrent and inhuman system of slavery to end. As any rational historian and American knows, the issues surrounding the American Civil War and American History are complicated, and in our words, we should always stress those things that we agree on, rather than those things that divide us when it comes to matters of race.

In a broader context, Republicans should continue to make diligent efforts to nurture, encourage, and recognize the growing number of Republican African Americans (like Kim Waide, a radio talk-show host and Tea Party leader in Jackson, Mississippi) who subscribe to conservative principles. With their help, maybe we can hold on to the principles that made our country great and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

Monday, April 5, 2010


As I head to Italy for two weeks, the Democrats in Congress are celebrating their victory and the passage of the historic new health care legislation. However, they seem (at least on the surface) to be missing the adverse deep and heartfelt reaction that is settling in among the American people as they begin to face the social and economic upheaval that is being forced upon them and their children.

My old friend, John Eames, who moved to the United States from England over twenty-five years ago to get away from British socialism and has been a recent contributor to this blog, is deeply frustrated with the economic consequences of Obamacare. I recently visited with my good friend and a great American, Jim Burnett, who is the Republican National Committeeman from Arkansas and is gravely ill in a hospital in Little Rock. Jim told me that Republicans now have an excellent chance to take back the Senate seat in November which is held by the Democrats. My sources also tell me that the “Monday Meetings” in Manhattan (a meeting held each week composed of fiscally conservative Republicans in New York City) are now attended by record numbers easily reaching into the hundreds; and the New York Republican Party is experiencing a rebirth of sorts under strong new leadership. Republicans in Illinois and California sense that they have a real chance to capture the Senate seat once held by Senator Obama and (gasp) even the seat held by the ultraliberal Senator Barbara Boxer. And while Democrats refer to those who attend Tea Party events as “narrow minded…nut jobs” or “wing nuts”, the Tea Parties are organizing. I was recently sent a copy of the recently adopted by-laws of a tea party organization in North Mississippi which affiliates with a national tea party organization. It was very detailed and the passion was evident.

Even more telling to me as an indication of the political unrest in our country is an email that I recently received from a very responsible and successful businessman who, to my knowledge, has never been involved in any organized political activity. He informed me that in order to quell the very deep anger he was experiencing, he wanted not only to contribute financially to defeat the Democrats, but he also wanted to take a leave of absence from his business and become involved, day to day, in one of the congressional races around the country where a Republican had a chance to replace a Democrat. He was willing to do whatever was needed – including licking postage stamps.

This type of far-reaching reaction to the President’s health care legislation is significant to me. I have stated in the past that the Republican Party is basically composed of two groups. The “fiscal Republicans” are primarily concerned with economic issues, and want low taxes, minimal government control, and a free market economy. Then there are the “social Republicans”, who are primarily concerned with social issues; are generally pro-life and want to maintain traditional family values. It has been my experience that when these two basic Republican groups are divided or are not easily working together in a given election contest, Republicans usually lose the election. On the other hand, when fiscal and social Republicans are energized and working together, they are hard to beat.

I believe that as we speak, we are witnessing a gathering storm. There is no doubt that Republicans of all types are angry and frustrated as they watch the U. S. Congress, top-heavy with Democrats, attempt to ram though to passage social and economic measures that are abhorrent to them. Social and fiscal Republicans are suddenly of common purpose, while Democrats in Congress are on the defensive and know that they have passed a flawed health care bill that was opposed by a majority of Americans.

Karl Rove tells us that the Democrats will be disappointed if they believe that passage of the health care reform bill will help them politically, because Obamacare only helps a small number of people in the short run and everyone’s insurance premiums will rise due to new mandates and changes in insurance regulations in 2011 and 2014. I agree. Look for big Republican gains in the Congress after the November, 2010, elections if the fiscal and social Republicans stay together. I will look forward to visiting with you again when I return from Italy in two weeks. Arrivederci!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As I went about my normal activities on a typical Sunday morning, it seemed that everywhere I went, I was confronted by anxious and angry people who understood that a monumental event was about to take place that would change the course of the nation forever. Many people between church and Sunday school at the Grace Chapel Presbyterian Church were deeply offended because the vote in the Congress on nationalized health care was to take place on a Sunday. Others were concerned about the tremendous debt and tax burden that was about to be placed on their children and grandchildren. Still others were outraged by the procedural maneuvers that were taking place to make it appear that Democratic congressmen were voting against Obamacare when in fact they would vote for it. But to a man and woman they were uniformly worried about the socialistic direction that the country was taking and were outraged at Mississippi's two supposedly conservative "Blue
Dog" Democratic congressmen, Travis Childers and Gene Taylor

On March 19, 2010, when it became apparent that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had in hand, through various back-room deals, the sufficient 216 votes to adopt the Senate approved version of nationalized health care, Childers and Taylor finally issued weak and tepid statements saying that they would oppose the national health care legislation pushed by the Democrats, thus attempting to appear to their constituents that they were trying to uphold conservative principals and support the views of the voters of their congressional districts. Childers, who is facing a tough re-election challenge from Republicans, issued a carefully worded statement saying that he is "deeply concerned about the legislation's large price tag and the absence of sufficiently strong language to prohibit funding of abortion." Taylor said the country can't afford a new federal health insurance program . . . "[w]ith the national debt nearing $12 trillion and projected to grow far into the future . . . ." Incredibly, according to Mississippi's CLARION LEDGER, both stated that "neither Democratic leaders nor administrative officials" had tried to sway them to vote for the landmark health care overhaul.

Childers and Taylor tried mightily to appear to their constituents that they had "stood up" against Nancy Pelosi (who they had both voted for in the current term of Congress when she was elected Speaker) and had kept faith with their constituents in Mississippi who overwhelmingly opposed Obamacare. However, the people who talked to me were not fooled by the thinly-veiled charade put on by Childers and Taylor. They knew that, throughout the highly publicized and stormy debate over nationalized health care that has been going on for months, both Childers and Taylor have been missing in action and showed no leadership at all on the issue. They knew that in the early stages of the health care debate when congressmen returned to their districts to hold "town meetings" and had to confront angry representatives of newly formed "tea parties", Childers avoided the process altogether and held a "call-in session" instead. And they also know that "Blue Dog" Democrats, while posing as fiscal and social conservatives, either have (like Childers and Taylor) been rendered irrelevant to the congressional process and ignored altogether; or have engaged in routine support of their House leaders through subterfuge - as they did in this case - making it appear that they held out for constraints on abortion but nevertheless voted for the national health care package.
Voters in Mississippi (and I suspect elsewhere) are becoming increasingly aware that congressional Blue Dog Democrats are essentially toothless - and do not bark very much either. As stated by Professor Kenin Unter of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Childers ". . . needs to vote against health care if he wants to keep his seat." Obviously, Speaker Pelosi gave Childers enough slack on his leash to do so and will allow him to continue to pose as a conservative as long as he keeps voting for her as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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