A look back at the 2008 election and Secretary Vilsack’s role

February 23, 2011

Photo of Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

It was exactly four years ago today, Feb. 23, 2007, that then former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) announced he was getting out of the 2008 presidential race due to monetary constraints. Vilsack had also been the first to enter the race as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States, officially filing papers with the FEC to form his presidential campaign committee Nov. 9, 2006.

Vilsack kicked off his campaign Nov. 30, 2006; considered a long-shot candidate. However, Vilsack often repeated that when it came to elections he often started as an underdog, but that he had yet to lose a race.

But after just three months, the campaign was over, never really gaining much traction. He never placed any staff on the ground in New Hampshire, the first and a key primary election state. A senior campaign official said at the time the campaign simply could not keep up with the campaign funds that rivals like Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were raising.

Shortly after ending his 2008 bid for the White House, Vilsack endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and was named the national co-chair for Clinton’s presidential campaign. Clinton placed third in the Iowa Democratic caucus to Obama and Edwards. Following the final primaries on June 3, 2008, Obama had gained enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee. In a speech before her supporters on June7, Clinton ended her campaign and endorsed Obama.

On Dec. 17, 2008, then President-Elect Barack Obama announced Vilsack’s selection to be the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack’s nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate by unanimous consent Jan. 20, 2009. Vilsack’s appointment was rumored to be part of the “deal” the Clintons had brokered when Hillary reluctantly conceded the Democratic Presidential nomination to Obama.

Vilsack served as the 40th Governor of the State of Iowa, first elected in 1998 and then re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002.

Tom Vilsack is not a native son of the state of Iowa. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA, abandoned at birth and placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He was adopted by Bud Vilsack, a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and Dolly Vilsack, a homemaker.

He attended a preparatory high school in Pittsburgh, and received his Bachelor’s degree in 1972 from Hamilton College in New York, and Juris Doctor in 1975 from the Albany Law School.

Vilsack met his future wife, Ann Christine “Christie” Bell, while at college in New York. The couple were married Aug. 18, 1973, in Bell’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The couple moved to Mount Pleasant in 1975, where Tom Vilsack joined his father-in-law in law practice.

Vilsack was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant in 1987; and elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992.

Tom Vilsack narrowly won the 1998 gubernatorial general election; it was the first time in 30 years that a Democrat was elected Governor of Iowa. Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) preceded Vilsack, having served 16 consecutive years as governor. Governor Branstad was reelected to the post in the 2010 election.

For most of Vilsack’s tenure as governor, Republicans held majorities in the Iowa General Assembly. Following the Nov. 2, 2004, elections, the Senate was nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans held a 51–49 majority in the House of Representatives.

In 2001, Vilsack served as a Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association; and he was chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2004. In 2005, Vilsack established Heartland PAC, a political action committee aimed at electing Democratic governors. Vilsack left office in 2007; he did not seek a third term as governor.


Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer plans visit to Iowa to test the political waters

February 15, 2011
Photo of Buddy Roemer

Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer

A new face may be emerging in the race for President of the United States in 2012, Buddy Roemer. The former governor of Louisiana announced that he will be attending Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Spring Event on March 7.

Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III was the 52nd Governor of Louisiana, serving from 1988 to 1992. He was elected as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican party in March 1991. Prior to becoming governor, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 to 1988. Roemer is currently President and CEO of Business First Bank in Baton Rouge.

In January Politico reported that Roemer was looking to get back into politics and making a run for President of the United States. Roemer was quoted saying: “It certainly interests me. There is a lot of work to be done. I’m not running today. It will take months to work out if it happens.”

As governor, Roemer worked to boost lagging teacher pay and toughened laws on campaign finance. Roemer was also the first governor in that state’s history to make a real effort to address environmental issues. The legislature repeatedly opposed Roemer’s initiatives and he gained a reputation for being difficult to work with, something he had been frequently accused of as a member of the House as well.

In 1990, Roemer vetoed an anti-abortion bill authored by Democratic Senator Mike Cross. Roemer believed that the Cross bill, which would have banned abortion in cases of incent, was incompatible with the United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.  The veto alienated much of his socially conservative electoral base. The bill was then passed over Roemer’s veto. In 1991, United States District Judge Adrian G. Duplantier decreed that the measure was in conflict with Roe v. Wade, as Roemer had foreseen.

Biden expects to be on 2012 Democratic presidential ticket

January 30, 2011

Photo of Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden said last week he expects to be on the 2012 Democratic presidential ticket as President Barack Obama’s running mate.

“He (Obama) asked me if I would do that over a year ago. And I told him I would,” Biden said in an interview on PBS NewsHour.

Biden, a former Senator from Delaware from Jan. 3, 1973, until his resignation on Jan. 15, 2009, and Obama’s rival in the 2008 Presidential campaign, is 68 years old.

Although President Obama has not yet formally declared his candidacy for re-election in 2012; recent staff changes at the White House and a reference to potentially headquartering his re-election campaign out of Chicago signal he is preparing to launch a campaign for another four-year term.

Biden also said on the PBS program that he and Obama were “philosophically on the same page in everything.” He went on to say, “(accepting the vice presidency was) the best decision I’ve made.”

Lack of name recognition and funding doesn’t stop presidential candidates

January 23, 2011

It seems a lack of major party backing, name recognition and significant financial support are not sufficient deterrents to Anthony Tubbs, Randall Terry and John Davis, all individuals who have recently announced they are running for President of the United States.

Anthony Tubbs: Tubbs is a Bossier City, Louisiana, businessman. Last week, standing outside the U.S. Courthouse in Shreveport in front of a small group of friends and neighbors, Tubbs announced that he was making an independent run for The White House. But, Tubbs’ criminal history will certainly be a major hurdle in his unlikely election to the country’s highest office. He has a prior conviction for arson with intent to defraud and past charge for writing bad checks. In response to his criminal skeletons, Tubbs said, “The people of this country are worried about where we’re going form here on. Not something that happened many years back that, again, I was totally exonerated from and given a gubernatorial pardon.”

Tubbs claims to have worked as a consultant in the auto industry, before opening an appliance store in Bossier City. He previously faced bankruptcy, losing his home and car. But says these personal setbacks make him better prepared…”I’m as experienced an American as it gets. I’ve gone through all the problems that plague America. So I feel the people’s pain.”

Randall Terry: Terry says he will challenge President Obama in the Democratic primaries. He made his announcement standing outside of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. While not known in political circles, Terry is an outspoken pro-life activist and founder of Operation Rescue.

Operation Rescue is one of the leading pro-life Christian activist groups, to which Terry is no longer affiliated. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said Terry does not have the group’s support and does not represent Operation Rescue in any way. Newman went on to say, “Mr. Terry’s comments are offensive and out of touch. His comments are only meant to inflame emotions and garner him personal publicity and financial support, to which he has no accountability.”

Terry was introduced by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, founder and Rabbi of Congregation Mevakshei Hashem, spokesperson for the Rabbinical Alliance of America and a member of the advisory committee of the organization Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation. Rabbi Levin said, “I’m here as a religious Jew and a proud and grateful American to support the candidacy of pro-life and family values democrat Randall Terry for President of the United States. As one of millions of disenfranchised Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals and Muslims, we want to see the party that panders to deviancy and no choice permitted, pro-newborn babies executed – we want to see that party returned to decency and respect for life and family values.”

Terry’s platform is focused primarily on “hot-button” social issues – pro-life, marriage between a man and a woman only, and human rights and freedom.

While Terry acknowledges that defeating President Obama in the primaries is a long shot, he said he has made it his goal to defeat the President Obama in the Iowa caucuses, where Terry claims anyone can become a “democrat for a day” and participate in the process by simply showing up.

Claiming he is “very serious” about his campaign, Terry has started soliciting funds by mail, will be distributing fund-raising envelopes at pro-life events taking place in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on the 38th anniversary of Roe versus Wade, and plans to visit Iowa. His official campaign slogan is, “A Democratic primary for President – to bring Americans face to face with aborted babies.” 

John Davis: A 1975 high school graduate, Davis is the head of Blue Star Industries in Grand Junction, Colorado, a construction and development business. He is also the father of six, grandfather of four and husband of 30 years. Davis said he decided to seek the presidency because “we need a change.”

Davis declared his intentions to run in a full-page ad in The Daily Sentinel and then made an announcement in front of the Mesa County Courthouse. He is hitting the road with his wife, Debra, on an 18-month “Votercade,” in which he plans to travel through all 3,200 counties in the United States. Eventually, he hopes to garner national news coverage and see his campaign for the Republican nomination take off from there.

Davis’ “Contract to America,” available on his campaign website http://www.johndavisforpresident.com, calls for a balanced budget, term limits, upholding the Constitution, common-sense leadership, less government, and border control, work visas and citizenship for legal residents.

Davis is known locally for spending about $1,000 to fashion and mail a 5-feet-by-3-feet letter to President Obama offering to meet and pray with him. Davis said, he’s had no response, “Not even a postcard.”

“I feel like the leaders of our country are taking our freedoms away,” said Davis, who carries his wrench as a symbol of fixing the country’s problems. “I believe I bring a practical, common sense approach to solving our country’s problems.”

Shameful political polarization of America

January 9, 2011

Just the mere mention of someone’s sexual orientation, gender, religion, race or political persuasion is apparently sufficient in today’s political climate to discredit everything else that person does or says.

The truth is – like all Americans, politicians are shaped by everything in their environment and the choices they make in life. They, too, are individuals with minds and political opinions of their own, which often contradict perceived notions.

In a country that is supposed to be a “land of opportunity” and of equal rights, it is disheartening in this editor’s opinon that Americans continue to label and pigeon-hole political candidates.

Engaging in character assassinations and smear campaigns is just plain wrong. It is a divisive weapon that oppresses people. Persons that may have something valuable to offer this country are reluctant to run for political office, or are not heard or are discounted. And, this behavior undermines our liberties and freedoms.

We need to reverse course in this country and return civility to the political process. As my grandmother always said, “if you don’t have something decent to say, don’t say it.” Reject the pointless attacks and engage in a honest discourse over diverse viewpoints.

The polarization of this country is putting Americans on a self-destructive path, when now more than ever we should be utilizing our unifying powers and great minds to address the most pressing issues, like unemployment, rising health care and insurance costs, and skyrocketing fuel prices.

Shame on any member of Congress that votes solely to remain aligned with the red- or blue-colored party, and uses political rhetoric instead of good behavior to undermine the institutions we value in this country.

It’s America: One glove or a pair – quirky characters make interesting headlines

December 26, 2010

Photo of Jimmy McMillan

Jimmy McMillan, founder of Rent Is Too Damn High Party

Michael Jackson was famous for wearing one glove. Jimmy McMillan, the man who made headlines as the Rent Is Too Damn High Party candidate for New York governor, is known for wearing a pair of black gloves. He is also drawing media attention once again after declaring he plans to run for President of the United States in 2012.

Regarding his use of black gloves during the gubernatorial debate, McMillan said: “Don’t forget I was in Vietnam for two and half years and I have three Bronze Stars, but the chemicals of Agent Orange – dioxin and a lot of other chemicals mixed up – I would get sick. When I get home tonight, I know I’m not going to be able to breathe if I take them off. It could be psychological, I don’t know, but I just put em on and wear them anyway.”

McMillan said he is not worried about going up against Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich or President Barack Obama in the election. Although previously a registered member of the Democratic Party, he declared on Dec. 23 that he would run as a Republican in the presidential election to avoid a primary challenge from President Obama.

“I can sit here and say how to control the country in 30 seconds, and they can’t say it in 30 years,” said McMillan. “Not one of them can sit on a stage and address the issues that concern the American public. Not one of them. The president has not done it,” he said. “I love you, Mitt Romney. I love all of you guys. Y’all can come and bring me some water.”

McMillan boasts that one of his greatest political strengths includes a mastery of social media and claims President Obama is familiar with the fact that he intends to throw his hat in the ring because the President is an avid Internet user. McMillan has a blog site.

In addition to being famous for the catchphrase “The rent is too dam high,” which subsequently resulted in an impersonation on the comedy show Saturday Night Live, McMillan has an intriguing biography. James McMillan was born in 1946. The quirky, lion-maned New Yorker is a martial arts instructor, former postal worker, decorated Vietnam War veteran that served in the United States Army, a former R & B recording artist in the 1970s, and perennial candidate. He is the founder of the New York-based Rent Is Too Damn High Party. In addition to running in the 2010 New York gubernatorial election, he has run for political office at least five other times since 1993.

McMillan is single and has two adult children, a daughter in her late 30s, whom he claims developed disabilities as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange, and a son in his early 30s.

The Rent Is Too Damn High Party is against high rent and property taxes for homeowners. McMillan believes that cutting taxes and lowering rent will reduce poverty, raise tax revenue and ease the financial stress on many Americans. While he doesn’t explain how it would be accomplished, he claims that reducing rent would “create 3 to 6 million jobs.”

In addition to his unusual behavior during the gubernatorial debate in New York, McMillan has made other outrageous and anti-Semitic remarks that make his chances of success in the presidential race unlikely.

Obama’s Job Approval Rating Score Sheet

December 19, 2010

Photo of Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating had been holding fairly steady in the mid-40% range since the midterm elections in November. His average rating for the week leading up to the midterm elections was 45%.

The current eight-poll average shows an erosion in approval of the President by two percentage points to 43%. Results from surveys taken last week may be reflecting the public’s reaction to the President’s deal with Republican congressional leaders on extending the Bush-era income tax cuts and federal unemployment benefits. Although Democrats have been the most supportive of the President, many disapproved of the deal with Republicans.

The task for Obama at this juncture is to win back enough support from the public for re-election in 2012. All incumbent presidents since Harry Truman that had an approval rating above 50% and sought re-election were successful in their re-election bid.

Approve Disapprove Poll
46% 45% Gallup 12/15-17
40% 51% Fox News 12/14-15
39% 53% YouGov 12/11-14
45% 48% NBC/WSJ 12/9-13
47% 47% ABC/Post 12/9-12
39% 61% Zogby 12/8-10
42% 50% Marist/McClatchy 12/2-8
47% 48% Bloomberg 12/4-7
43% 50% Average for all eight polls