Thursday, December 8, 2011


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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


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.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Americans are now engaging in the opening stages of a great national debate as to who we want to elect as the next President of the United States in 2012. As we go through this process, the recent words of a renowned historian resonate in my mind: “We are raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate.” So said the twice-Pulitzer Prize winning author, David McCullough, as quoted in the June 18, 2011, edition of the Wall Street Journal. “History is a source of strength” he said. “It sets higher standards for all of us.”

McCullough, who wrote the highly acclaimed biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman, is correct. In June, 2011, the U. S. Department of Education released its 2010 National Assessment of Economic Progress. The report found that only 12% of high school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history, and only 2% understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

As we go through the process of electing our next President, it is obvious that a firm grasp of American History, and the principles upon which our nation was founded, are essential to voters who want to pick the candidate for President who is best suited to preserve the principles of government that made our country great. Furthermore, a basic understanding of the differing forms and philosophies of government that have evolved throughout history in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, based upon the teachings of those who advocated non-democratic, communist, and socialist forms of government, would be very helpful to voters trying to make the right presidential choice. Armed with such knowledge, we could compare the arguments of the candidates and judge how their positions, hopes and dreams for America stack up with the ideals of those political thinkers of yesteryear.

McCullough tells us part of the problem is that too often teachers with a degree in education are assigned to teach history, about which they know little or nothing. The great teachers, according to McCullough, love what they are teaching. “[Y]ou can’t love something you don’t know, anymore than you can love someone you don’t know.”

McCullough is critical of teaching history in categories – “women’s history, African American history, environmental history. . .”, because “. . . many of the students have no sense of chronology. They have no idea what followed what.” He also says that many history textbooks “are so politically correct as to be comical. Very minor characters that are currently fashionable are given considerable space whereas people of major consequence farther back (such as, say, Thomas Edison) are given very little space or none at all.”

Still, McCullough believes teachers “are the most important people in society. . .” and need more pay and more appreciation from all of us. “It’s not their fault”, he says that our children are ignorant. “It’s our fault. . . . I mean the parents and grandparents of the oncoming generation. We have to talk about history, talk about the books we love, the biographies and histories. . . . We should take our children to historic places. Go to Gettysburg. Go to the Capitol. . . . If you play the part of Abigail Adams or Johnny Appleseed in a fourth-grade play, you are never going to forget it as long as you live.”

Hopefully, we will take McCullough’s comments to heart if we want to preserve America, as we know it, for future generations. And as we think about and study the candidates from which we must choose new leaders in upcoming national elections, we should be trying to determine which one of them has the ability and temperament to preserve the principles of government that made America the light of the world and a beacon of hope for people everywhere. Which candidate can inspire us to self-sacrifice in hard times and unite us as Americans, rather than trying to separate us into special interest groups who have tribal loyalties first and foremost? That candidate, at the end of the day and when the dust settles, will get my vote.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


“For Ronald Reagan, the easy waiting game that had lasted through most of 1975, the luxury of sitting back and letting Jerry Ford take all the heat, was over. On the morning of Thursday, November 20, he strode before a battery of microphones and television cameras at the National Press Club and staked out his position as the Gentleman Caller of Republican politics, the outsider with clean hands, the savior come to Washington to purify the waters.

‘Our nation’s capital’, he said, ‘has become the seat of a buddy system that functions for its own benefit – increasingly insensitive to the needs of the American worker who supports it with his taxes. Today it is difficult to find leaders who are independent of the forces that have brought us our problems – the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business and big labor.’

Reagan did not list [President] Gerald Ford as a member of the buddy system. Nor would he single out his opponent for any other criticism. Instead, as he had done in his two gubernatorial campaigns, Reagan pledged to honor California’s ‘Eleventh Commandment’ that said ‘Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican’.”

So wrote the journalist, Jules Witcover, in his lengthy book, MARATHON, THE PURSUIT OF THE PRESIDENCY 1972-1976. Much has been written about the election contest in which Democrat Jimmy Carter ultimately defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford (who had been appointed Vice-President by his predecessor, Richard Nixon, and ascended to the Presidency when Nixon resigned). However, Witcover’s MARATHON remains the standard.

The great sub-plot of Witcover’s historical account of the events of 1972-1976, of course, centered around the epic struggle between President Ford and Governor Ronald Reagan of California, in which the conservative Reagan sought to unseat a more moderate Gerald Ford by denying a sitting President the nomination of his own party at the Republican National Convention of 1976. As most Mississippi Republicans know, the Mississippi delegation at Kansas City, although badly split, played an important role at the 1976 convention in which Ford was ultimately nominated with 1187 delegates to Reagan’s 1070. Ronald Reagan, as we also know, went on to capture the Republican nomination four years later, defeat President Jimmy Carter, and he is now an icon of the Republican Party faithful. However, the scars remain from that monumental struggle in 1976 within the ranks of the Republican Party even today.

On the national stage today, we see those seeking the Republican nomination for President regularly taking shots at each other in violation of the Eleventh Commandment, although almost all of them speak of Ronald Reagan with reverence. Likewise, Republicans in Mississippi have recently gone through several bitter primary elections (particularly in the Lieutenant Governor’s race), hopefully on our way to victory in the general election in November, 2011. During those primary elections, Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment was also cast aside with abandon, with our candidates boldly attacking the integrity of their Republican opponents and questioning their fitness to hold public office.

As a very vocal proponent of the view that bitter and deeply personal primary fights weaken the Republican Party and cause permanent divisions that ultimately lead to Democratic victories, I decided to go back and review how President Ford and Governor Reagan conducted themselves in their marathon contest in 1976, in which the charismatic California Governor almost unseated his fellow Republican, a sitting President. My review shows that Reagan, who had for years been attacking Washington in support of his arguments that we should throw the Democratic rascals out, first attempted to reshape his anti-Washington theme as an attack on the status quo, without attacking President Ford personally, in order to avoid violating the Eleventh Commandment. Ford countered, upon the advice of his aides, by attacking Reagan with local press releases and surrogates leading up to the New Hampshire primary, thus keeping Ford “out of the cross fire” and looking Presidential.

As the campaign progressed, the Ford camp increasingly attempted to portray Reagan as “the new Barry Goldwater on Social Security”. The President also exercised the power of his incumbency on the campaign trail by promising numerous pork barrell plums such as new hospitals, missile contracts or mass transit programs in key states. He also “invited local [Florida] television anchormen to Washington for Oval Office interviews – the weekend before the Florida primary”.

Finding himself on the defensive, and initially insisting that he was merely challenging the President’s policies and not breaking with his Eleventh Commandment pledge, Reagan began to attack Ford’s foreign policy initiatives, charging that neither the President nor Secretary of State Henry Kissenger had shown “the vision nor the leadership necessary to halt and reverse the diplomatic and military decline of the United States.” He attacked Ford’s efforts for détente with the Soviet Union and the President’s apparent desire to turn over ownership of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians – under the leadership of “Panama’s military dictator, Fidel Castro’s good friend, General Omar Torrijos [Herrera]”. From the political stump, Reagan delivered these memorable lines: “when it comes to the canal, we built it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we should tell Torrijos and company that we are going to keep it.” He added: “Under Messrs. Kissenger and Ford this nation has become number two in military power in a world where it is dangerous – if not fatal – to be second best.” Finally, paying his respects to Ford’s excessive political use of his incumbency, Reagan stated off the cuff at a rally in North Carolina: “If he comes here with the same list of goodies as he did in Florida . . . the band won’t know whether to play ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

In the course of the heated Republican Presidential primary elections of 1976, both Reagan and Ford ultimately abandoned the Eleventh Commandment in their pursuit of victory. Their justification was that they had to defend themselves against unfair attacks from their opponent. Still, the scars within the party remain. Similar scars will remain for a while among Mississippi Republicans in the aftermath of our August, 2011 Republican primaries here in the Magnolia State. Hopefully, we will be wise enough to realize that a divided party whose members are more interested in fighting among themselves than in fighting Democrats, is a sure recipé for defeat – sooner or later. Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment remains the standard in Republican politics but will be followed only if all candidates in a Republican primary agree to abide by it. They will agree to abide by it only if Republican voters demand it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eminent Domain

Unless Leland Speed, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority (“MDA”), has his way, Mississippi voters will decide on election day, November 2, 2011, whether Mississippi’s Constitution of 1890 should be “amended to state that property seized through eminent domain cannot be given to any person, non-governmental entity, public-private partnership, corporation, or other business entity, for 10 years.” (Source: Clarion Ledger, June 17, 2011). Nearly 120,000 Mississippi voters signed petitions through the state’s ballot initiative process to get the issue on the ballot in November at the time of the state’s 2011 general elections; and Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman has stated that. . . “[b]y state law, I am required, and I intend, to place the initiative on the ballot unless otherwise ordered to do so by the Supreme Court. . . .”

Mr. Speed’s lawsuit challenges the legality of ballot initiative on the grounds that it would unconstitutionally affect the Mississippi Constitution’s Bill of Rights; “gut state economic development efforts”; and otherwise hamper the development of large future projects such as the Nissan and Toyota automotive plants. Others, including the Mississippi Farm Bureau, contend that since the Governor (citing economic development concerns) previously vetoed legislation designed to prevent eminent domain for economic development, the current ballot initiative is the best available way to stop the State from taking people’s homes and private property for the benefit of speculative economic developers of all types. They believe that private property rights are sacrosanct and cite, among other authorities, the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Of The United States (written by James Madison), which mandates that private property may only be taken by the government for “public use” (and then only for just compensation), rather than for a “public purpose” or a “public benefit”.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently deferred to the states to make their own decisions as to what is a “public use” for eminent domain purposes. On a number of occasions the Court has allowed individual states to make expansive interpretations of eminent domain authority. For example, in the 2005 case of Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, the Court affirmed by a 5-4 decision the authority of New London, Connecticut, to take non-blighted private property and transfer it for one dollar per year to a private developer who promised a luxury hotel, upscale condominiums, new office buildings, and a projected $1.2 million in tax revenues.

It is noteworthy that in its Kelo decision affirming an expansive interpretation of the term “public use”, the four liberals on the Supreme Court were joined by the more moderate Justice Kennedy in order to reach a majority decision. The four conservatives on the Court, including Justices Antonin Scalia and Sandra Day O’Connor, vigorously dissented, arguing that valuable and sacrosanct private property rights had been unconstitutionally taken by the government for speculative purposes. It is further noteworthy that the proposed redevelopment in New London, the subject of the Kelo decision, proved to be a failure despite an expenditure of over $80 million of public funds. As of June, 2011, the property remained vacant.

The Kelo decision in 2005 inspired a huge public outcry that governmental eminent domain powers have become too broad; and several states enacted legislation that further defined “public use” and restricted the power of eminent domain. According to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Mississippi is now one of only seven states that have not changed their property rights laws since the Kelo decision.

The power of government to take private real or personal property has always existed in the United States, but, in my opinion, should be restricted only to condemnation for true public uses, such as roads, fire stations, schools, and other public building. As things now stand in Mississippi, and as Justice O’Conner stated in her dissenting opinion in the Kelo decision, “[t]he specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”

If Mississippians are allowed to vote on the issue in November, we will have within our grasp the power to reverse Justice O’Conner’s assessment of the status of eminent domain law in our state. We will have the opportunity to reinstate traditional eminent domain powers in Mississippi’ and restore the traditional protections written into the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution by James Madison for the benefit of all Americans, which states:

“No person shall. . . be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The statewide political season is well underway here in Mississippi and the primary elections will be held on August 2, 2011, just about 30 days from now. Outsiders need to know that we have eight statewide officeholders who are elected by the people: (1) Governor; (2) Lieutenant Governor; (3) Secretary of State. (4) Attorney General; (5) Treasurer; (6) Auditor; (7) Insurance Commissioner; and (8) Commissioner of Agriculture. All but the Attorney General are presently Republicans.

Of all of the Republican Primary races, the race between Tate Reeves and Billy Hewes to succeed Phil Bryant as Lieutenant Governor (he is running for Governor to succeed Haley Barbour) has now clearly taken center stage and has incredibly eclipsed the Governor’s race in the minds of Republican voters. I believe there are three or more reasons for this phenomenon: (1) the Governor’s race has so far been a low-key affair; (2) there are no Democrats running for Lieutenant Governor for the first time in my memory; and (3) the Lieutenant Governor’s office is a very powerful position that can directly influence the success or failure of not only individual pieces of legislation but an entire legislative agenda as well. In this situation, the Republican Primary race for Lieutenant Governor is “winner take all” in August and only those voting in the Republican Primary will decide the winner. What a great day to be a Republican in Mississippi.

When one adds to the equation that both Tate Reeves ( a two-term state Treasurer ) and Billy Hewes ( the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate ) are well qualified by experience, are proven “vote-getters”; and both know how to raise money, it is no surprise that this race has proven to be “hotter than a pepper sprout”, rivaling in intensity the 95 – 100 degree heat that we Mississippians have been enduring for most of the past month. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment (“Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican”) has become a casualty in this race, and both sides, with the assistance of their well-paid consultants, have begun running attack ads on each other.

In my opinion, most Mississippi Republicans have not made up their minds on the Lieutenant Governor’s race. They are still waiting for the candidates to address important issues that will directly affect their lives AND the future of the Republican movement in Mississippi. As difficult as it is for some media pundits to understand, most Mississippi Republicans look at a race like this to determine which candidate can best promote Republican principles in the years ahead. Most subscribe to the view that the Republican philosophy, as best described by Ronald Reagan, is best for our state and nation; and the candidate that can best articulate and promote that philosophy will win. As Haley Barbour said in a speech when we celebrated the retirement of the debt on the State Party Headquarters in Jackson, “ Governors come and go. The Party goes on forever.” Haley was right and the same thing can be said for Lieutenant Governors.

This Lieutenant Governor’s race, therefore, should not be about personalities, but should be about who can best promote Ronald Reagan’s concept of government: (1) that government is best that governs least; (2) hard work is the key to success in life; (3) we are not victims but each of us is responsible for our own actions; and (4) we in America and Mississippi are not just a bunch of special interest groups, but we are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Never in modern Mississippi history have Mississippi Republicans had such a unique opportunity as they have in this race: the opportunity to elect the number two officeholder in the state with only Republicans voting. It is our responsibility not to blow this opportunity. We must get it right.

To be sure, the two candidates can help the party faithful make up their minds in the Lieutenant Governor’s race by forthrightly stating their positions on the various ballot initiatives that the voters will be called upon to decide on November 8, 2011, (when Democrats will be allowed to vote with us ). Where do Tate and Billy stand, for example on voter ID? Where do they stand on early voting, and on voting by convicted felons who have served their time? Where do they stand on the ballot initiative designed to strengthen our state’s immigration laws? And what penalties, if any, should businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants receive?

Where do the candidates stand on the initiative designed to strengthen our eminent domain laws, protect private property rights, and discourage using the condemnation process to aid land developers who are out to make a profit? Or do they support the recent lawsuit which seeks to take the initiative off the ballot and favors taking private property for economic development purposes if there is a likelihood that the takeover would result in more jobs for Mississippians? Where do the candidates stand on the “personhood” initiative that would have the voters make a statement on when life begins.

Finally, Republicans need to know where the candidates stand on working with the new Republican Governor who will likely be elected on November 8, 2011. Will the new Lieutenant Governor work with the new Governor and help give the new Governor a support group to help him get his programs through? Or will the new Lieutenant Governor view himself as a competitor of the new Governor and lead us back to the days of yesteryear, when legislators worked overtime to weaken the Governor’s power after a “honeymoon period” and bring him to heel at the end of his term? The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor had big problems during the Fordice Administration. We do not need for that to happen again.

Haley Barbour has been a successful Governor not only because of his extraordinary political skills, but also because we have had a united Republican Party and the fact that the two-party system has come of age in the legislature during the past ten years. Haley had a strong support group in the legislature that was willing to work with him as a team to get his programs enacted into law. In turn, he helped the Republican legislators and supported them in the things they wanted to do.

Mississippi Republicans are interested in the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor working together. They are definitely NOT interested in returning to the days when the battles in state government centered on fights between the Governor and the legislature. They want the fight to be between Democrats and Republicans over the great issues of the day, like medicaid, education, crime, or efficiency in government. To repeat, Republicans are not interested in fights between branches of government. They know that such battles divide us and work to the advantage of the Democrats.

Tate and Billy need to tell us in clear and highly publicized terms where they stand on these important issues and where they stand on Reagan’s philosophy of government. Maybe they have already told us and I just have not been listening. If so, I would wager that a large number of Mississippi Republicans haven’t been listening either, but want to hear something else from the candidates on these matters. When they do, Mississippi Republicans will be ready to make a choice.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Although Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, in Mississippi marks the beginning of the summer vacation and the statewide election season which will be held, first in the August primaries and later in the November general elections, many if not most of us here in the Magnolia State commemorate on this Memorial Day weekend our fallen soldiers in one way or another. Wikipedia reminds us that Memorial Day “is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May.”

The first recorded observance of the holiday (then known as “Decoration Day”) was in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1865, in remembrance of the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. Memorial Day was later extended after World War I (“The War to End All Wars”) to honor all U. S. Service members who had died while in military service.

In America, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was correct when it said that on Memorial Day, we think of “Boy Scouts. Veterans. Relatives. Just Plain Patriots. Cemeteries in sunshine and shade. Bundles of flags. Hushed tones. Backs bent to the task. Old soldiers’ graves no longer plain but red, white and blue every one. Remembrance, one soldier, flier, marine and sailor at a time.”

On Memorial Day, we do not heed the words once uttered by General Douglas McArthur to an adoring U. S. Congress: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” The Post-Gazette correctly tells us that “Old soldiers do die, not fade way. Never fade away, not in memory, not while a flag remains…”

In America, we often celebrate Memorial Day around swimming pools, games, enjoying Aunt Bess’ potato salad. We see “Dad in an apron at the grill, hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, smiles, the blessing of peace.” But in Afghanistan, the Associated Press tells us that U. S. troops paused on this day to remember the fallen in Memorial Day services as the war, nearly a decade old after the September 11, 2001 attacks, after more than 1400 U. S. soldiers killed in combat, trudges on.

In flag-raising ceremonies at dawn on this day, Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, the commander of the Marine Division in one of Afghanistan’s southern provinces near Pakistan, stated: “We reflect today on those that have gone before us. We reflect on their service and their sacrifice on behalf of our great nation. We should also remember those serving today who embody that same commitment of service and sacrifice. They are committed to something greater than themselves and they muster the physical and moral courage to accomplish extraordinary feats in battle.” If you have ever served in the military, you know that the General speaks the truth.

According to the AP, the remembrance ceremony in Afghanistan caused some to reflect on “sharp pangs of loss”, like Maj. Erica Iverson, 33, of South Dakota, who once served as a casualty assistance officer after the death of Staff Sgt. Adam Dickmyer of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She “recounted how Dickmyer’s mother fell off her chair in grief when her son’s body returned to the U.S. His widow chased after the casket, screaming: “Don’t leave me!” “His wife has an empty house” Iverson said. “His entire unit came home today, and he didn’t come with them.”

It is said that the worst stress during times of war is that of family members waiting at home for their loved ones to return. Therefore, as the sun sets on this Memorial Day in 95º heat here in the Magnolia State, we say God bless this land of the free. God bless those served and sacrificed (and those who are still serving and sacrificing) to keep it free. Never let them fade away, not while a flag remains.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


This past week, my wife and I went to the movies and saw “Atlas Shrugged – Part One” which opened in Mississippi on “tax day”, April 15, 2011. Beverly and I seldom go to the movies anymore, but this was one I did not want to miss. I was not disappointed.

John Galt is the shadowy figure and ultimate hero of the novel, “Atlas Shrugged”, and his name is mentioned, again and again throughout the first part of the book, by numerous characters who ask the rhetorical question: “Who is John Galt?” Published in 1957, “Atlas Shrugged” tells the story of Dagney Taggert, a successful businesswoman who attempts to keep her great railroad company afloat by changing with the times and replacing the old and unsafe rail lines on her railroad system with new steel alloy lines developed by another creative entrepreneur, Hank Rearden, owner of one of the great steel companies in America. In the book and movie, Dagney and Hank demonstrate that Rearden metal is safe for public use, despite fierce opposition from her competitors and warnings of disaster by government regulators. At that point, the future looks bright for the Taggart Railroad Company and Rearden Steel. However, the government steps in and announces that the Taggert-Rearden partnership is “unfair” to other steel producers, and Congress passes a law called the “Equalization of Opportunity Act”, which regulates how many businesses an individual may own. As the story unfolds, Dagney begins to notice that many of her fellow entrepreneurs who are producing useful goods and services begin to disappear, often leaving behind a note saying simply: “Who is John Galt?” She renames her railroad “The John Galt Line”.

In a recent review of “Atlas Shrugged – Part I”, conservative columnist Cal Thomas compared the storyline of the book and the movie to our present-day circumstances: “In an age where overspending, overreaching, wire tapping and over-regulating government increasingly strangles the private sector, robbing us of our liberties and transforms the country into the model of a socialist state, Rand’s story reminds us how far ahead of her time she was and just how dangerous a time we live in now.” Indeed, liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in the newspaper’s April 16, 2011 edition, seemed to partially agree with Thomas when she wrote: “It was Ayn Rand’s nightmare: The president who gave hundreds of billions in hand-outs to homeowners, banks, car executives and various others she would have labeled ‘moochers’ was explaining his vision of why America is great. ‘It’s not the size of our skyscrapers,’ President Obama told cheering fans at a late-night rally Thursday at Chicago’s Navy Pier. ‘It’s not the size of our G.D.P.’ It’s not even just because we’re individuals, he said, adding, ‘We also have this idea that we’re all in this together, that we look out for one another, that I am my brother’s keeper.”

Ayn Rand’s philosophy has had great appeal to many of America’s most prominent public figures, including Alan Greenspan, the longtime Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and, more recently, young U. S. Representative Paul Ryan, the author of the recent Republican Congressional budget proposal, who credits Rand as “the reason I got involved in public service.”

In 2010, Ryan directed every member of his staff to read “Atlas Shrugged”. Greenspan describes Rand’s philosophy as “…one that emphasized reason, individualism, and enlightened self-interest. Later she named it objectivism; today, she would be called a libertarian.”

Cal Thomas writes that “Ayn Rand is not for everybody.” It is true that her philosophy of objectivism knows no God and does not adhere to the basic rights espoused by Thomas Jefferson, to which each American is entitled and are “endowed by our creator.” Still, her powerful argument against a collectivist society rings clear to us today. As stated on the cover jacket of the novel in 1957,

“You must be prepared, when you read this novel, to check every premise at the root of your convictions. This is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder – and rebirth – of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check.”

Who is John Galt? Go see the movie.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Until a year or so ago, few national reporters were paying attention to the activities of Wisconsin’s Republican elected officials. However, in 2011, it appears that the Badger State (which, in recent years, has gone Democratic in presidential elections and was the home of Senator Robert “fighting Bob” LaFollette, the progressive legend who ran for President in the early 1900s to the left of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt) has suddenly become the center of the GOP universe and has produced three Republican leaders that are making a difference in three unique ways.

First, there is Congressman Paul Ryan, who, according to Paul Gigot of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, “. . . doesn’t look like the menacing sort. He’s amiable in a familiar Midwestern way . . . and he uses words like “gosh.” (February 19, 2011 edition). Yet the Democrats refer to him in almost daily press releases as “the evil genius, the cruel and mad budget cutter who threatens grandma’s health care, granddad’s retirement, and the entitlement state as we know it.” Then, there is Reince Priebus, the former Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, who led his party to unprecedented gains in the state legislature and the successful defeat of prominent U.S. Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin’s 2010 state and congressional elections. Priebus recently replaced Michael Steele as the Chairman of the debt-ridden Republican National Committee.

The new Chairman recently attended a fund-raiser in Jackson, Mississippi, where he announced that the RNC would not only put its financial house in order but would embark on a crusade to “save the country” in 2012. I was impressed with his earnest and sincere demeanor on that occasion and believe that he means what he says.

Finally, of course, we have newly-elected Governor Scott Walker, a 43-year-old former county executive, who, according to Robert Costa in his March 21, 2011, NATIONAL REVIEW article, is compared by protestors to Adolph Hitler, Hosni Mubarek, and Darth Vader. On the other hand, national syndicated columnist George Will has observed that Governor Walker’s compelling and unflinching arguments for fiscal prudence in Wisconsin state government “called up the ghosts of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who so famously tangled with union bosses three decades ago.” In fact, Wisconsin’s legislative fight over the budget, and the accompanying outcry from state employees’ unions has emerged as “the definitive state-level budget battle in the Age of Obama.” Walker is suddenly a nationally recognized fiscal hawk and, to many Republicans, a hero. His actions in Wisconsin have strengthened the resolve of Republican leaders in several other states who are dealing with union-fueled uprisings as they grapple with budget gaps and fiscal uncertainty.

Walker’s plan in Wisconsin asked state employees (who contribute generously to the campaigns of friendly legislators responsible for their funding) to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and pay 12.6 percent of their health premiums. He also called for legislation limiting collective bargaining for most government employees to wages alone (excluding pensions and other benefits). The resulting reaction from the left was immediate and dramatic.

Jill Bakken, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, opined, “State employees are shocked and bewildered about how 50 years of labor peace can be unraveled by a governor who has been in office for six weeks.” Her fellow Democrats quickly mobilized and three days later, 20,000 protestors converged on the state capitol grounds. Teachers abandoned their schools in protest and schools were shut down across the state. “We are the mighty teachers” one group proclaimed. “We teach the children,” roared another. All 14 Democrat state senators left the state in order to prevent a quorum of Senators being present to consider the Governor’s proposals. Meanwhile, upwards of 70,000 protestors attended one rally at the capitol over the weekend. Samuel “Joe the Plummer” Wurzelbacher also appeared at that rally in support of the Governor. “Recall them all,” he said.

The drama in Wisconsin is not over. The budget battle is now in the courts and “recall” petitions are circulating all over Wisconsin, asking that both Democrats and Republicans relinquish their legislative posts. The unions are even mobilizing their forces to defeat an incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge in his re-election bid, who they fear might vote against them when the budget battle (now pending in the state’s trial courts) reaches the high court.

What is happening in Wisconsin is, to some extent, foreign to what we are used to in Mississippi, where collective bargaining by state employees is not allowed and “right-to-work” laws are embedded in the state constitution. Meanwhile, in the Badger State, Costa reports that Governor Walker “shrugs off” the cries of the protestors. “These tens of thousands of protestors have the right to be heard,” he says. “But there are 5.5 million people in this state, and those taxpayers have a right to be heard. I, for one, am not going to let the protestors overshadow, or shout out, the interest of the state’s taxpayers. And I believe they are with us in trying to balance this budget.”

My goodness. That does sound like Reagan and Thatcher.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


February was the month in which we celebrated Ronald Reagan’s one hundredth birthday and remembered that he left us almost seven years ago. It is fascinating to me how this great man, who was once excoriated by the Democrats and some moderate Republicans as a “right-wing fanatic”, and an “amiable dunce”, is suddenly being transformed and accepted by his former tormentors as a political giant.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited and published Reagan’s diaries in 2007, linked the Gipper, a former Democrat, to his original political hero, President Franklin Roosevelt. “People really used to loathe FDR, and now everybody considers him a great president”, said Brinkley, adding: “We in America like winners. FDR won World War II. And Ronald Reagan, it is thought, won the Cold War. That’s hard to overcome. It transcends politics.”

Even President Obama and TIME magazine have gotten in on the act (no pun intended) when Reagan’s superimposed image was seen on the cover of TIME with his arm around the current President. “If Obama has bounced back from the drubbing his party took at the polls last November”, wrote historian Richard Norton Smith in the magazine, “it is in no small measure because he has been acting more Reaganesque as of late.” Note that Smith emphasizes “acting” but not “governing”.

It was reported by the POLITICO that President Obama has recently been praising Reagan’s “faith in the American promise” and carries around with him on his travels Lou Cannon’s biography of Reagan for bedtime reading. “He tapped in to what people were already feeling, which is, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing”, Obama said. Really?

In a poll released this month and taken to coincide with Presidents’ Day, Gallup asked 1015 adults to name the president they regard as the greatest in history. Ronald Reagan finished first with 19 percent, followed by Abraham Lincoln at 14 percent and Bill Clinton at 13 percent. Even taking into account that recent presidents tend to dominate the list (in part because their names are the easiest to remember and also because partisan leanings also influence people’s choices), the results are still startling to me. One of three presidents – Lincoln, Reagan or Kennedy – has been on top the past 12 years. Franklin Roosevelt finished sixth, Obama finished seventh, and George W. Bush finished tenth.

In an article entitled “Reagan’s True Legacy” in REAL CLEAR POLITICS dated February 2, 2011, Ed Feulner, the President of the Heritage Foundation, correctly points out that “what passes as praise of Reagan today is veiled criticism.” In other words, Reagan is hailed by Democrats as a “great communicator” but not for his accomplishments or his philosophy. They believe that by studying his methods, perhaps some of the “Reagan magic” will rub off on their liberal policies that have been such a hard sell.

Feulner says this transparent attempt to dress up the liberal agenda in Reaganesque terms is “condescending nonsense”. It was not just Reagan’s optimistic style that endeared him to millions of Americans, it was also (and primarily) because he articulated their most cherished beliefs. He said, “Taxes are too high – let’s cut them. Inflation is too high – let’s tame it. The Cold War can be won, not managed . . . let’s do it.” In the process, Reagan created an economic miracle and our nation experienced its longest peacetime expansion in history. He beefed up the military, declared it was “Morning in America”, and brought the Soviets to their knees without firing a shot.

I agree with Feulner that only a presidential candidate in 2012 who agrees with Reagan’s farewell address (and governs accordingly if elected) can be considered the Gipper’s true heir:

“ ‘We the people’ tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us. ‘We

the people’ are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide

where it should go, and by what route, and how fast.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. R. I. P.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I thought Haley Barbour acquitted himself well on Saturday, February 12, 2011, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) when he delivered a thoughtful speech in Washington to the large annual gathering of conservative activists. Predictably, he stated at CPAC (and on the next day on Fox News Sunday) that he was exploring the possibility of running for President of the United States; but he also showed me a glimpse of what his message would be if he does take the plunge.

Basically, Haley stated that the country is in deep trouble and is crying for a new leader. “The main thing is electing a Republican President”, he said. “We cannot put America on the right track until we elect a Republican President in 2012 and a Republican Senate to join the Republican House.”

While most other potential presidential candidates were vague at CPAC (and on the next day’s talk shows) on how to cut spending, POLITICO correctly observed that Haley “spent considerable time explaining how he had governed as a conservative and not just given lip-service to small-government principles.” He explained to the national audience (carried on C-SPAN) how Mississippi eliminated its $720 million budget short-fall in two years without raising anyone’s taxes; and how he found “cost savings in Medicaid” over the objections of the usual suspects - the “liberal media elite”.

In concluding his remarks on fiscal issues, Barbour made a statement which, to me, reflected a clear understanding of the fiscal problems that the next President will face after 2012: “you can save money on entitlements, you just gotta have the will to do it.”

In his speech, Haley also made an appeal to social conservatives by noting that “Mississippi [is] the safest state in America for an unborn child. And he also paid his respects to the Tea Party movement by stating that Tea Partiers are concerned about the same policy issues that Republican volunteers and leaders are concerned about. “Rather than divide us” Barbour said, “these are the issues that unite us, unite us as conservatives, unite us as Republicans and unite us as Americans.”

Some, like Walter Shapiro of POLITICS DAILY, thought Haley’s speech was “clunky” and “boring”, while praising an equally “boring” speech by Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels, as an “intellectually compelling call to arms against the red-ink forces of the nationals debt” which required “listening rather than pep-rally applause.” Others, like the GOP strategist quoted by the POLITICO, thought Haley’s address “was a speech full of signifiers and markers for primary.” As I listened to my fellow Mississippian, I agreed with the strategist: here is a candidate who has “walked-the-walk on spending, restricted abortion, and welcomes Tea Partiers”. As a Southerner, I also saw another signifier and marker when Haley closed his speech by stating that Lincoln was the father of the Republican Party; and that the Republican Party stands for freedom in today’s society. As Reagan once said, “Not bad, not bad at all.”

As I have stated in this space before, if the voters are as aroused as they were in the last congressional elections and are looking for a presidential candidate who is capable of steering the national ship of states through troubled waters, Haley Barbour will assuredly be a “top-tier” candidate for President in 2012.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Southern Elephants

A recent article in the January 27, 2011, edition of the Madison County Journal took note of the recent conversion of two more members of the Mississippi State House of Representatives to the Mississippi Republican Party. On the previous Thursday, both Russ Nowell of Louisville and Margaret Rogers of New Albany announced at Republican Party Headquarters that they would run for re-election as Republicans. I was especially pleased to read about the decision of Margaret Rogers, who I came to know well during my tenure as Republican State Chairman.

As noted by the Journal, Russ and Margaret “are the fourth and fifth former Democratic representatives to change to the GOP since January of 2009…” and “nearly 30 Democratic elected officials have switched to the Republican Party in that time.” The reality is that Republicans now claim 53 of the 122 members of the Mississippi House of Representatives with 62 being the magic number for Republicans to be able to elect a Speaker of the House without having to negotiate for Democratic votes.

Mississippi Republicans rejoiced and were justly proud of their achievements in November, 2011, when a sea change occurred in the national congressional elections. That is when Republicans Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo were sent to Congress to replace two able and well-financed Democrats. The defeat of long-time Democratic “Blue-Dog” Congressman Gene Taylor was especially startling and gratifying. I was quoted in the January 27, 2011, article in the Journal as attributing “the recent turnovers to the divergence of Democratic and conservative ideology” and the fact that many local Democrats “have found themselves at odds with the National Party’s message.” These incontestable facts, together with hard work of outstanding Republican leaders over the years, beginning with Wirt Yerger in the 1950’s, have brought the Mississippi Republican Party to a position of unprecedented political dominance that would have been hard to imagine as late as the year 2001, when the Party had only one statewide office holder, Auditor Phil Bryant.

In his excellent autobiography A Courageous Cause, Wirt Yerger describes his role as the first Chairman of the modern Mississippi Republican Party and how he worked with other young Republican Chairmen in the surrounding southern states to help Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona defeat eastern establishment Republicans, led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, in 1964. The differences between Rockefeller and Goldwater were philosophical, and Goldwater’s conservative economic message in 1964 appealed to conservative Mississippians of those years. As a result, the Mississippi Republican Party began to grow in the face of stern and sometimes vicious opposition from Mississippi’s Democrats. They claimed that a split in the “white vote” in Mississippi would lead to integration of the races and wide-spread black voting in local elections. Not withstanding this type of racial argument, Mississippians elected their first Republican in modern history (Mack McAllister from Meridian) to the state legislature in 1963. The rest is history

The overwhelming Republican victory in the Congressional elections in 2010 was also driven by differences in ideology and a rejection of President Obama’s economic policies . In Georgia, Republicans carried every state-wide race from Governor to Public Service Commission for the first time in the state’s history; and in Arkansas, the headlines on the editorial page of the Benton County Daily Record from heavily Republican northwest Arkansas, stated “ARKANSAS TURNS RED”. The newspaper took note of the fact that Arkansans (who, like Georgians, were voting not only for members of Congress but also in their statewide elections) defeated a sitting United States Senator, Blanche Lincoln, and also elected two new Republican Congressmen leaving only one Blue Dog conservative in office to represent the interests of the Democratic Party. In addition, Arkansas Republicans elected a Secretary of State and a Lieutenant Governor, which was, according to the Daily Record, “unheard of for Republican candidates in down-ballot elections – until now.” On the state level, the Arkansas House Republican caucus grew from 28 seats to 44 seats with similar gains in the state Senate, which means that House Democrats in Arkansas will no longer be able to garner the required three-quarters of the votes in the House necessary to raise taxes.

Summing up the election results in Arkansas in November, 2010, the Daily Record concluded:

“The last Southern state the Democratic Party had left voted Republican Tuesday night. The shift took 20 years longer than other states in the region. It took a lot of blind determination by the Democratic Party’s national liberal base. It took a lot of persistence by the outnumbered, outgunned Republican Party of Arkansas. While we believe voter frustration with both parties drove the results, that doesn’t change the new political reality in Arkansas. The Democratic spell here is broken.”

The Democratic spell is indeed now broken throughout all of the southern states and the Benton County Daily Record correctly gave us the reasons why. May all southern Republicans remember the reasons for our successes and never abuse the trust that the voters have placed in us. My sincere thanks to Reta Hamilton, the excellent Republican Nation Committeewoman from Arkansas, and Sue Everhart, the outstanding Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, for furnishing me the data as to what happened in their states on November 3, 2010.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


On November 2, 2010, the voters in the United States Congressional elections delivered a smashing victory to the Republican Party, augmented by the tea parties. It is now well documented that not only did the Republicans gain significant seats in the Senate, they also gained an outright majority in the House of Representatives, removed Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and reduced her to minority leader status. All in all, election day in November, 2010, was a great day for those who fervently believe that government is at its best when it governs least, thereby giving all citizens maximum freedom from the boot of government on their necks as they pursue the American dream for themselves and their families.

In 2010, Americans were clearly focused, like a laser beam, on rejecting Obama’s socialistic solutions to the 2010 economic recession, on cutting spending, and on reducing the size of government. They were disturbed and genuinely frightened by the massive bailouts and other spending initiatives of the Obama Administration, and they watched with horror as the federal government literally went into the automobile business through the takeover of General Motors, an authentic American icon (the nation’s Secretary of Defense once said “what is good for General Motors is good for the country”). They watched the government’s bailouts of quasi-federal financial institutions like the politically active Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which openly supported Congressional candidates of their liking, even though their financial operations were backed by the federal government. Finally, they watched, with fear and trembling, what appeared to be the teetering of the nation’s financial system, with the demise of Lehman Brothers and billions of government dollars loaned to Morgan Stanley, Citibank and other investment banks and banking institutions across the country in an effort to avoid a financial crash similar to the l932 crash which resulted in the Great Depression.

The voice of the people was heard in 2010, but the 2010 elections are now in the rearview mirror, and the 2012 Presidential elections loom down the road. The single most important question now facing the American people is whether they can maintain their focus for the next two years on the issues they voted on in 2010; or will their thinking be diverted as President Obama attempts to “triangulate” his agenda and, all of a sudden, stresses “bipartisanship” and compromise with Republicans on the great issues of the day. His strategy, of course, is to regain the trust of independent voters that once supported him as he prepares to run for a second term as President in 2012.

Will the American people somehow become convinced once again that President Obama is fit to be the Commander in Chief and leader of the free world for four more years? Or will they conclude that the future well being of America depends upon electing someone who genuinely believes in the genius of the American free enterprise system; one who believes in American first; and, significantly, understands and embraces the concept that the most important job of the next President is to protect the homeland?

The answer to these questions depends in part, of course, on who the Republicans nominate to oppose President Obama in the 2012 Presidential election. If the Republicans field a well-meaning but weak candidate – one who is not a strong leader, has difficulty in communicating with the American people, or has difficulty in effectively presenting the Republican economic alternatives to Obamacare or the massive Democratic spending programs, then it is likely that Republicans will lose in 2012. On the other hand, if the Republicans field a candidate who is a strong, steady leader, one who can communicate his message, and one who is clearly capable of running the government and of stabilizing the ship of state in hazardous waters, then the GOP has a clear chance to defeat Obama, cut the massive deficit, and win the War on Terror.

If Republicans nationally do not tear themselves apart in the Presidential Primary season leading up to the 2012 elections, and if they decide that they want to field an opponent to Obama who is an accomplished leader with a record of achievement, who can effectively communicate the Republican message as an alternative to Obama and his socialistic agenda, then Haley Barbour clearly has a chance to gain the Republican nomination for President in 2010. His record of accomplishment as Governor of Mississippi, as Chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association is well documented and his actions have been widely praised. His spectacular performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina clearly demonstrated that he knows how to lead in times of crisis. Still, as the Presidential election of 2012 is now entering its preliminary stages, Barbour has been criticized for remarks made by him that some local and national pundits, as well as backers of other potential candidates, have deemed to be racially insensitive.

There is no doubt, as stated in the December 22, 2010, edition of the Wall Street Journal and as acknowledged by Governor Barbour and his legion of supporters nationwide, that Mississippi’s civil rights history is sure to be a topic of wide discussion if he runs for President. Thus, he obviously must choose his words carefully on the topic of civil rights and be well-armed with the facts as he answers questions on that subject in the months ahead.

I think Haley Barbour, like his fellow Yazoo City resident and author, the late Willie Morris, is genuinely proud of the fact that Yazoo City integrated its schools without violence in the 1960s; and I also believe that Republicans nationally will not turn their backs on Haley in a Presidential contest because of events that occurred when he was a teenager. He knows, however, that there are many that suffered and lost their lives during the civil rights struggles of those years and that Republicans nationally will not grant him the Republican nomination for President if he appears insensitive to what occurred fifty to sixty years ago in Mississippi and elsewhere. I am betting that Governor Barbour, despite intensive efforts to deflect the thinking of Republicans nationally, will transcend the issue of race in the upcoming Presidential campaign, and that Republicans will focus on who can best present and communicate the Republican alternative to Obama in 2012.

In his brilliant work, “Master of the Senate”, the third volume of Robert A. Caro’s account of the years of Lyndon Johnson, the author spends considerable time writing about another famous and highly capable southerner who grew up on Georgia, Richard Brevard (Dick) Russell, whose family was plunged into poverty in the aftermath of the War Between the States. He became a member of the legislature at an early age and Speaker of the House of Representatives as his traits of integrity and independence became apparent. One Georgia legislator said, “Dick Russell is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to be an honest politician.” Not only would he “tell you it’s impossible to get what you want,” he would “tell you if he doesn’t think you should be asking for what you want.” “He also had the ability . . . to persuade men to cooperate and unite behind his aims. . . .” “He always gave credit to others”, and they came to “love him and trust him.” (Master of the Senate, pp. 170-171).

Dick Russell ran for Governor of Georgia in 1930 at age 32, and his brother, Robert E. Lee Russell, was his campaign’s public relations man. At age 33, in 1931, Russell became the youngest Governor of Georgia in the state’s history.

During his brief tenure as Governor, Russell read and re-read War and Peace and the works of Greek historians and Roman historians to learn how emperors and other government leaders handled issues. As Governor, Russell attacked Georgia’s woeful financial situation eroded by the Great Depression. The state at that time could not meet its obligations to public schools or public institutions, and he reduced the state’s debt by one-third. During his tenure as Governor, he reduced the number of public agencies in Georgia’s bloated government from 102 to 18, created the state’s first central purchasing agency, and required “sealed bids” for all state purchases.

After serving as Governor for only 18 months, Russell ran for and was elected United States Senator at age 35 and became the youngest Senator in the United States in 1933. He went on to become a powerful leader in the Senate (Chairman of the Armed Services Committee) exhibiting the same traits that endeared him to his fellow Georgians. “He told the truth” said Senator Sam Erwin of North Carolina – “what the contents of a bill were or what the effects of that bill would be.” (Master of the Senate, p. 178). The Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. was ultimately named after him.

Dick Russell’s influence in the Senate became so great (and the respect and affection for him by his fellow Senators so heart-felt) that he became the acknowledged Democratic leader in the United States Senate. He indignantly defended himself against implications of racism, and his biographer reported that Russell did not deliver racist diatribes on the Senate floor. “He aimed to educate and convince northern senators that the south should be left alone to handle racial problems.” (Master of the Senate, p. 185). And he did convince them, for a time.

1952 was the year Richard Russell ran for President. His opponents in the Democratic Primary were Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee (not well-liked in the Senate), Vice-President Alben Barkley (too old at 74); New York’s Governor Averill Harriman; and the reluctant Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson (backed by retiring President Harry Truman).

At the 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, it took 616 convention votes of the 1230 delegates to win the nomination. Russell had a solid base of 262 votes (every southern state except Tennessee) and he won the Florida Primary, to great fanfare. However, when he ventured north, he met the following reaction from New Jersey: “My God, Senator, we’d like to support you. You’re the best man around, but we can’t vote for a southerner.”

Russell received no support from Maine, Pennsylvania, or any other northern or western state to which he traveled. In the end, the diminutive and reluctant Adlai Stevenson was nominated and went on to be soundly defeated by the Republican, Dwight David Eisenhower. Russell got only 268 votes after the second ballot. (Master of the Senate, pp. 465-470)

The message of 1952 was clear. The candidate who had the leadership skills to run the country lost the Democratic nomination because a southern segregationist could not win during the civil rights struggles that were beginning in that era. The Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education was rendered in 1954.

Today, integration is a reality, and the issue for Republicans to decide is whether they should select, as their candidate to face President Obama in 2012, that person who is best capable of solving the nation’s problems and who is best able to communicate the Republican message. Or should they be diverted by sectionalism or fear that their candidate might be criticized, justly or unjustly, for events that occurred fifty years ago?

Haley Barbour was spectacularly successful as Chairman of the Republican National Committee. He knows the Republican message and how to deliver it. He would be a spectacular Republican nominee for President as well; and an honorable representative of the Party of Lincoln.

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