Exactly what the state hawks to raise $10 billion for education doesn't matter to State Sen. James Meeks, as long as there's some kind of school funding plan in the budget this fall.
"I don't care what they sell," he said. "I don't care how they get the money. If (Blagojevich) goes back on his promise, it's his reputation that's at stake, not mine."
Meeks, whose threat to mount an independent run against Blagojevich helped spur the lottery plan, said the governor's office initially came to him with several proposals to raise the $10 billion in school money.
Meeks declined to say just what those "Plan Bs" were and Blagojevich's office insisted it focused exclusively on using the lottery to raise money for education.
The source of the money doesn't matter to Meeks.
But if there isn't a solid funding plan in the budget come November, Meeks promised to use all his power as leader of the Black Caucus to hold up the state budget.
The governor's office said it's committed to selling or leasing the lottery.
"This is our plan," spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said. "We believe it will work. We absolutely support it."
But it's likely the privatization plan will face a tough road through Springfield.
After days of lashing from Republican critics, even the Illinois House's top Democrat, Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), began asking tough questions about the proposal this week.
In a letter to his fellow House members, Madigan laid out a series of detailed questions about how the lottery sale might take place and how education will be funded in the long term after the up-front money runs out.
"We must consider our obligations not only to those who need help today, but also that we keep the state on a sound financial footing so that we can meet our responsibility to those who will need help tomorrow," he wrote.
Meeks said he had many of the same questions as Madigan. The senator said Blagojevich assured him the concerns would be answered in the next couple days.
Even vocal supporters of the education funding proposal have some major questions.
State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) said she's wary of selling such a large state asset, but thinks the plan has great promise once the details are sorted out.
"This whole issue is something we're going to have to talk about, have meetings about, because the whole package isn't yet put together," she said.
Some critics think Meeks and Blagojevich hashed out many of the finer details behind closed doors.
"Meeks is an extremely, extremely intelligent, conscientious legislator," said State Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox). "I'd be surprised if these questions haven't been answered already, unless (Meeks) knows the answers and we don't."
On some of the most important questions, however, Meeks said he simply doesn't know the answers.
Like the rest of us, Meeks has never seen the Goldman Sachs financial report that explains how the state can find a buyer willing to pay $10 billion for the lottery. He took Blagojevich's word that the numbers would work.
Still, Meeks isn't worried about the details. And he doesn't expect Blagojevich to call a special session of the General Assembly before the November election just to address education funding.
In the heat of a campaign against Republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka, the financial and political costs of such a move would be too high, Meeks said.
But Blagojevich better start lining up supporters soon.
Meeks pointed out he still has three weeks to file signatures to be an independent candidate for governor.
Asked if he had closed the door completely on entering the race, Meeks was coy.
"Never say never," he said.
They just might have 6th District Congressional Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth to thank.
For the first time in years, DuPage Democrats will have no candidates seeking countywide offices. And while the local party had the chance to slate candidates last week, it only added a few county board and forest preserve hopefuls.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Gayl Ferraro said she worked hard to recruit candidates. But many declined her offer, saying they wanted to help Duckworth’s campaign.
“A lot of the people that we had encouraged to run — that we were hoping would run — are involved with the Duckworth campaign,” Ferraro said. “They want to remain focused on it.”
As a result, the Democrats have only eight candidates for 21 county races.
County Clerk Gary King said he’s surprised he won’t have a Democratic challenger for the first time in six general elections.
“This is the first I can remember the Democrats not having a candidate for a countywide office,” King said. “It’s almost as if they are saying, ‘Forget it.’æ”
GOP officials said they were expecting the Democratic Party to fill the November ballot with names in order to keep Republican candidates busy with their own campaigns.
Now uncontested Republicans say they plan to work to help state Sen. Peter Roskam, Duckworth’s GOP opponent, in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde.
“I intend to be a soldier for the party,” said Michael Connelly, the county board District 5 Republican nominee. “If I have to, I will go walk in Elmhurst for Peter Roskam.”
Ferraro admits she’s disappointed her party doesn’t have any countywide candidates. She said she believes excitement over Duckworth’s campaign could carry other Democrats to victory.
But she also understands why fellow Democrats want to focus on helping Duckworth.
“Everybody stands by the fact that once we get Tammy elected it’s going to give us more credibility,” Ferraro said.
Billy Weinberg, Duckworth’s spokesman, said people are eager to play a role in the campaign because they realize the 6th District race is going to be close.
“A vast majority of the grassroots support that we’re getting comes from people who live right here in the district who are hungry for change,” Weinberg said. “They are eager for the opportunity to show that this district can be the home to a competitive race in November.”
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, the chairman of the DuPage GOP, said he’s not surprised that the Democrats “want to put all of their eggs in Tammy Duckworth’s basket.”
But Dillard said anyone who believes there’s “a Democratic insurgency” in DuPage is mistaken.
“The reality check is they have fewer precinct committeemen today than they did a couple of years ago,” Dillard said. “They can’t even find anyone to run for countywide office.”
King agrees that conceding any office to another party isn’t a smart political move.
“If they were going to show that they are a viable party, they would have someone running against all of us,” he said.
Ferraro vowed that will be “a big focus” for DuPage Democrats in future races. “We just can’t let this ride again.”
Tollway sale could hit suburban drivers’ wallets - Eric Krolhttp://www.dailyherald.com/opinion/krol.asp
The Great Tollway Grab started this week, and from the looks of it, suburban drivers should be holding onto their wallets for dear life.
Although lawmakers technically only started hearings to study the feasibility of selling the tollway, let’s skip right to the analysis of What This Means: almost certainly higher tolls, possibly sketchy maintenance of the roads, not to mention virtually kissing goodbye any future toll roads or new lanes to ease congestion. Boiled down to its essence, selling the tollway appears to amount to a money grab to bail out the rest of the state.
Let’s tackle the issues one at a time, with most of the focus on the money-grabbing aspect. If the state sells the tollway, the buyer will need to make a profit, and one way to guarantee that is to build toll increases into the deal. So if the state sells the tollway, it’s a matter of, not if, but how much and how quickly tolls will go up. Another way to turn a profit is to skimp on maintenance. Will the potholes be filled and roads rebuilt as quickly as if the state continued to own the tollway? Doubtful, since the buyer wouldn’t have as great of an incentive as the tollway to do so. Every repair cuts into the buyer’s bottom line.
As for new tollways, that northern extension of Route 53 through Lake County would almost surely be shelved. Granted, towns still aren’t in any hurry to agree that road should be built, but the state wasn’t going to have the cash to build that stretch as anything but a toll road.
The return on a private operator’s investment in building a new road probably wouldn’t be enough to justify the cost. The state, which doesn’t have to turn a profit, wouldn’t have that worry because its incentive is to improve commuters’ lives. By the same rationale, it wouldn’t make much financial sense for a buyer to add new lanes to existing tollways to ease congestion, since new lanes don’t equal profits, just more expense.
As for why this is going to be viewed by suburban taxpayers as a money grab to bail out the rest of the state, well, they need look no further than what the money could go for.
Lawmakers already are going starry-eyed at the prospect of more money for transportation projects. Once this gets to Springfield, geographical politics guarantees most of those projects won’t be in the suburbs. The tollway sale’s sponsor, Democrat state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg of Evanston, is pushing for taking the proceeds and paying down the massive state worker pension debt. That would free up hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the state budget to spend on anything from pork projects to expansion of social programs.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s crew, for example, visited the Daily Herald editorial board last week and hinted about a Massachusetts-style universal health care program. Selling the tollway would be one way to pay for such a big-ticket program.
Will a tollway sale pass? Almost certainly. It’s a way for lawmakers to avoid raising taxes but spend more money. It’s fairly easy for downstate Republicans and Democrats to join the Chicago Democrats. The few suburban Democrats would have to weigh a voter backlash against the prospect of having more money to spend.
At this point, the only thing saving the suburbs might be the possibility that a three-fifths majority vote would be required. Will Senate GOP leader Frank Watson urge his members to stay unified in opposition, or will he, as a downstater, go along with it?
I tend to get a chuckle out of old-fashioned newspaper crusades, but this is one that could resonate in the suburbs. Suburban taxpayers tend to make more money, and thus already pay more in sales and income taxes than the rest of the state.
With gas at $3 a gallon, the prospect of steadily increasing tolls isn’t going to sit well with them. They’re going to have one question: Why should the tollway be used as a piggybank to bail out the rest of Illinois?
George Ryan: Fair trial is no help to a guilty defendant - Lou Eisenberg
A recent letter to the editor said of the George Ryan trial, “It seems as if attorneys are always asking for continuances for one reason or another. A delay of a few days to do background checks on jurors selected in a high profile case might be advisable. (And more cost-effective, in the long run, than running the risk of a mistrial or new trial.)”
Apparently, the writer just doesn’t get it. Ryan had a very good lawyer who must have been aware that a guilty verdict was possible; it would be unworthy of him not to have a backup plan in case his client was convicted.
Suppose Dan Webb knew that some of the jurors were tainted. Since his purpose is to get his client off, would it be more prudent to let the tainted juror stay or lose an opportunity to get a mistrial if (and only if) his client was convicted?
In most instances, defendants know if they are guilty, and the last thing a guilty defendant ants is a fair trial that reaches a valid conclusion. For them, it is much better to gum up the works than to expedite them.
Judy Baar Topinka -- the state treasurer and GOP candidate for governor -- says the latest disclosure about hiring lists for low-level state jobs is further proof that from the day he took office in January of 2003 Rod Blagojevich played the same kind of politics with hiring and promotions as his predecessor -- George Ryan -- and the City Hall operatives on trial in Chicago for alleged patronage abuses.
"The governor very clearly said when he took office that there would be no names, it would all be done blind and that his office was not involved," said Judy Baar Topinka, (R) Candidate for Governor.
One Topinka ally is demanding an investigation by the Illinois attorney general
"Frankly, the people I represent are sick and tired of waiting for federal prosecutors to clean up the mess in Illinois," said State Sen. Bill Brady, (R) Bloomington.
The governor's campaign says the hiring list was a carryover from the Ryan administration and was eventually eliminated by the end of Blagojevich's first year in office.
"When he came into office, we had a $5 billion deficit, a budget issue to deal with. He had to look at everything. There have been 26 years of republican administration. He came in, took a look at the system, and then made the changes that were needed," said Sheila Nix, Blagojevich Campaign.
"I don't think anybody believes that. I just don't think anybody believes that," said Topinka.
The governor's campaign says Topinka's never answered numerous questions about her own ethics or proposed any solutions to the state's real problems.
"Whether it's minimum wage, assault weapons, whether it's issues, anything that you can think of, the first thing that we get is criticism and complaints without a lot of where is her education plan, where is her health care plan, where is her information on her inspector general and that's what we're trying to raise today," said Nix.
Cross doesn't see the missive as political, so the postage was paid by the state, not his campaign fund.
Myron Brick, chairman of the Will County Democratic Party, said it appears the letter dated May 12 was sent to all of his party's precinct committeemen. Brick himself received one.
In the letter, Cross, of Oswego, shreds "the Democrats" for raiding the pension fund, stuffing the budget with pork projects and continuing an "unprecedented streak of borrowing and spending."
Cross said nothing in the letter was inaccurate.
"This is what the Democrats' General Assembly did with our tax dollars – it's the truth," he said.
Brick thinks Cross sent the letter to demoralize Democrats going into the November election.
"This is not a good season for the Republicans, and they know that," Brick said. "They're trying to get Democrats to sit on their hands when we're more highly motivated than we've ever been."
Brick said he had received numerous calls about the letter, and he thinks it will have the opposite effect.
"It has inspired them to work even harder," he said of the party's 200 or so precinct committeemen. "He (Cross) should be a motivational speaker for the Democrats."
Because of its anti-Democrat tone, Brick assumed the letter was paid for from Cross' campaign fund.
Cross said the letter was sent to about 2,000 officials of both parties in Will, DuPage and Kendall counties, just as previous reports from him have been sent to the same group.
Cross views his letters as a way to update officials on the General Assembly's actions. In this case, Cross admitted he was furious with the way Democrats – who control the House, Senate and executive branch of state government – handled the budget.
The state is months behind in Medicaid payments, and still there are $800 million in pork projects in the new budget, he explained.
"It's criminal," he fumed. "It's nuts."
But Brick said the letter was one-sided.
"I didn't see any alternatives in his piece on how to proceed (with budget matters)," Brick said.
Cross added that he never attacked any one specific Democrat in the letter. Also, the November election is months away, so the letter cannot be viewed as campaign literature, said Cross, who is unopposed in his 84th District race.
"In my opinion, their public policy is bad," he said of Springfield Democrats. "Is that political?"
Cross said he sends such letters to inform, but also to get feedback from Republicans and Democrats alike who live in and around his district.
"It wasn't meant to irritate local Democrats," he said.
Dan White, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said the letter appears to abide by a state law that prohibits using public funds on campaign literature. Cross would have had to call on letter recipients to vote for or against a specific candidate or a ballot proposition for it to be inappropriate.
"I do not believe it crosses that threshold of urging a vote for or against a candidate," White said.
Even so, Brick had one piece of advice for Cross: "If the bottom line is so important to him, he shouldn't waste stamps."
A not-for-profit Christian conservative group has been fanning the flames of District 214's book controversy.
Prior to the vote, Culture Campaign, a not-for-profit group, had promoted District 214 School Board member Leslie Pinney's proposed book ban on its Web site.
Although the site supported her cause, Pinney said she is not affiliated with Culture Campaign.
Several speakers at the May 25 District 214 Board meeting referenced the Web site during the controversial book debate, some citing it and some condemning it.
After the vote, the group's Web site, www.culturecampaign.com, posted this: "By a margin of 6 to 1, Cook County District 214 Board of Education voted at the May 25, 2006 meeting to continue to require students to read books that include excerpts that can only be characterized as pornographic. Board Member Leslie Pinney was the lone dissenting vote."
The headline was even more blunt: "Illinois District 214 schools require pornographic reading,"
On the Web site, Culture Campaign states it "exists to help church and para-church organizations re-enlist believers into the culture war one believer at a time."
The Wheaton charity is headed by conservative Sandy Rios.
Noted in recent news accounts for her inflammatory comments regarding Islam during a National Day of Prayer speech last month, Rios is listed as president of Culture Campaign, Inc. on its Web site. According to the Illinois secretary of state's office, the organization registered as a not-for-profit in September 2003.
Rios is the former national president of Concerned Women of America, a national conservative Christian advocacy group.
In a May 4 National Day of Prayer speech in Wheaton, she was quoted by a local newspaper as saying she understands multiculturalism and respect for other religions, but that the Christian God is supreme.
"If you were to go God shopping, you would choose (the Christian) God," she said. "He is a God of grace and mercy. He does not demand the blood of innocents to satisfy him. There is no other God like that. No Hindu God; no other God. Allah is not like that. Allah is a God of vengeance."
10th race becoming competitive - John Roszkowski
Supporters of Democratic congressional candidate Dan Seals say they are heartened by an independent report which shows the race against Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk for the 10th Congressional District becoming more competitive.
The same report also predicts a competitive race in the 8th Congressional District, where Republican David McSweeney of Barrington Hills is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, D-8th, of Barrington.
The Cook Political Report, a Washington-based non-partisan on-line analysis of congressional races across the country, now lists the 10th District race as one of 54 Republican seats nationwide that could be competitive in November. The seat is still listed as "likely Republican," the least competitive of three categories identified in the report. It was previously considered a safe seat.
Meanwhile, the 8th Congressional District race is one of 21 Democratic held seats across the country and two in Illinois that are listed as competitive in the report. The race is listed as "lean Democratic," which is the second most competitive category.
The Cook Report is one of many independent barometers of the competitiveness of races, which national party leaders use to determine whether to pump money or resources into a political campaign.
The Rothenberg Political Report, another non-partisan political report that analyzes races, does not yet have the 10th District race on its radar screen of competitive seats.
"We're watching it," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Report. "We met with Seals and thought he was a good candidate but right now we don't see the seat being in danger,"
Amy Walter, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, said "the reality is Mark Kirk is very difficult to beat one on one" during a normal election year and he's still favored to win the race at this point.
However, nationally it could be "a very tough year for Republicans," particularly in congressional districts trending Democratic like the 10th, Walter said.
"It's not really about Mark Kirk or Dan Seals," she said. "It's about the political climate."
Lauren Beth Gash, chairwoman of the 10th Congressional District Democrats, said she thinks the report is an indication Seals is a very strong candidate and that voters in the 10th District are dissatisfied with the current Republican leadership in Congress.
"I think it's clear what it means that this race is becoming one of national importance," she said. "It's a race that started out as a safe seat for Republicans and is now a district that is clearly in play."
But Andy McKenna, state GOP chairman, said Kirk has built broad-based support among voters in the district. McKenna said Kirk carried the district with 69 percent of the vote during his 2002 re-election bid and received 64 percent in 2004.
"Mark Kirk is a great fit for that district and that is why support for him has been so strong," he said. "He's very independent and he's been a strong voice for the environment, which is very important for that district."
Seals of Wilmette said the Cook Report is an indication that his campaign's hard work is paying off. Seals easily won his Democratic primary bid in March against Zane Smith, a Winnetka attorney.
"It's never easy to take on the assistant majority whip and I've got a lot of work ahead of me," said Seals. "This is going to be a tough race to win. Mark Kirk is part of the Republican leadership and that gives him a lot of resources but I like where I'm at."
Seals said he hopes the growing competitiveness of the race will bring more national attention to the race and financial support from the national party.
During the first quarter of 2006, Seals' campaign had raised $374,159 compared to $1.635 million for Kirk. Seals said he has several upcoming fund-raisers, including a private fund-raiser June 16 at a home in Wilmette that will feature U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Kirk released a statement pointing to his record of accomplishments serving the district.
"I was proud to save our veterans hospital and continue my work to protect our children from guns, gangs and on-line predators," he said. "We accomplished much in five years with important legislation coming, including efforts I am leading to create 401 (kids) savings accounts and to continue health care insurance for life."
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Seals has been building grassroots support in the district by speaking out on issues that concern the voters like the war in Iraq, health care and the environment.
Psaki said the national party is raising money to support strong Democratic candidates for Congress through its "Red to Blue" program. While Seals was not on the list of the first 22 candidates to receive support through the program, she expects the national party will strongly back Seals' campaign in November.
Walter said one of Seals biggest challenges is he's still relatively unknown among voters and will have to raise significant money, probably at least $1 million, to wage a competitive race against Kirk.
Meanwhile, the 8th Congressional District is expected to be one of the most hotly contested races in Illinois, as Republicans hope a win back a seat that had long been controlled by the GOP until Bean's victory over Phil Crane in 2004.
Jim Thacker, campaign manager for the Republican nominee McSweeney, said Republicans think they have a real opportunity in the 8th District, where President Bush received 56 percent of the vote in 2004.
"While it's always hard to beat an incumbent, when you have a district like the 8th it becomes a very competitive district and probably one of the most competitive in the country," he said.
Brian Herman, a spokesman for Bean's office, said Bean has been a moderate, independent voice who represents the values and priorities of voters in her district. She said the race had been considered a toss up by many independent observers like the Cook Report but now has been moved into the "lean Democratic" category.
"I think there's no question the Republican Party has a sense of entitlement when it comes to this seat," he said. "But the bottom line is she (Bean) has a history of results and representing the mainstream values of the district."
A race is on between two Republican activitst to replace him.
Robin Armstrong, a doctor of internal medicine from Dickinson, is seeking to become the highest ranking African-American ever elected to a state party post.
Armstrong has the backing of Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill, Republican National Committeeman Bill Crocker of Austin and Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams.
Armstrong is facing off against Bobby Eberle of Pearland. Eberle is a long-time Republican activist who founded GOPUSA, an internet site that claims 600,000 subscribers nationally.
Eberle was drawn into a national controversy in 2005 when questions were raised about whether a reporter for his Talon News, Jeff Gannon, legitimately dserved White House press credentials. Gannon resigned during the controversy, which included disclosures that he had posed nude on an Internet site for male escorts.
Eberle said Gannon was a volunteer reporter and had been surprised when he received White House press credentials.
'Ten Commandments' Judge on Alabama's Republican Primary Ballot - Allie Martin
The man who was at the center of a controversy several years ago over the public acknowledgment of God is in a race for governor of Alabama.
Three years ago Judge Roy Moore -- who was then chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court -- made national headlines when he refused a federal judge's order to remove a 5,300-pound Ten Commandments granite monument from the State Judicial Building. A state judicial court removed Moore from office over the incident.
Now Moore is running in the June 6 Republican primary as a candidate for governor. He is opposed by the incumbent, Governor Bob Riley. A recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA for a television station in Mobile showed Moore trailing Riley by more than two-to-one.
Moore's platform is called "Return Alabama to the People." He says special-interest groups have a stranglehold on Alabama politics.
"The main thing, of course, [is] when money controls your government, the people don't have a voice," the gubernatorial candidate says. "[In that situation] the people don't control the government; the government controls them, and it answers to special interests. And we certainly have that in Alabama."
Moore states that if elected he will not attempt to return the Ten Commandments monument to a state building in Montgomery. But he says he will work for term limits for legislators to curb influence from special interests. And as for the pre-election polls, he believes he will benefit from a strong voter turnout.
"People have to understand: in this state we don't have party registration -- [therefore] you can vote in any primary that you wish," he explains. "So we encourage all people in Alabama to come in and ask for the [Republican] ballot ..., to vote so we can return a godly understanding of government to our state and representative government to our people. We need to return the government of this state back to the people of Alabama."
Moore also vows to push for tougher penalties for businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. His campaign website also states Moore's opposition to gambling, pornography, and same-sex "marriage," as well as his promise to defend individuals' rights to "publicly acknowledge God as the moral foundation of law, liberty, and government."
On the Democratic side of the Alabama gubernatorial primary, former Governor Don Siegelman appears to have a slight lead over Alabama Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley.
The silhouette of the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) -- first in the class of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that are essential to projecting American power -- dominates the harbor. Navy and Marine F/A-18s regularly roar off the runway at North Island Naval Air Station. Thousands of young Americans who have volunteered to fight our country's battles are being trained at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, adjacent to the city's international airport. On a promontory above the port, a 29-foot high cross, erected in 1954 to honor those who fought in defense of our nation, overlooks the sea. Yet, all these symbols of American strength, resolve and tradition may well be on the way out.
A coalition of developers, environmental activists and anti-military radicals is now challenging whether San Diego's vital naval base-air station complex should continue in operation. The Marine "boot camp" has been targeted for closure. And the city fathers, once proud of the cross atop Mt. Soledad, have now agreed with the ACLU and a federal judge that this memorial to those who sacrificed for this country violates some mythical barrier between church and state, and will have to go.
Apparently, the majority of people in and around San Diego no longer feel that these things are important enough to fight for. The apathy and indifference are palpable -- and not just here on the Left Coast. Unfortunately for Republicans hoping to win or keep office in this November's midterm elections, ennui is no ally.
Over the last 30 days, I've traveled the length and breadth of this great land -- documenting the courage of veterans from battles past and present for our "War Stories" series on FOX News Channel. Though the evidence is all anecdotal -- and politics is thankfully not my "beat" -- there is a disheartening similarity in what "average Americans" are saying about our political process.
In Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- all places I have visited this month -- there is a near-universal refrain: "a pox on both their parties."
Now I'll be the first to admit that if I knew so much about politics, I'd be writing this column from my office in the U.S. Senate. And "political experts" will be quick to point out that conversations with people in 17 states hardly constitutes a representative "scientific sampling" of American public opinion. But for those of us who favor Republicans in mayor's offices, and on city councils, state legislatures and governor's mansions, and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, as even Karl Rove will have to acknowledge, disinterest is not a propitious sentiment.
This is no Red State-Blue State divide. And, at least for those who cared enough to bend my ear on the subject, the disaffection seems to leap age, economic and ethnic barriers. The most common complaints: "The GOP is out of touch with us"; "They just don't get it when it comes to our borders"; and "They're corrupt. All they care about is getting re-elected."
Tough stuff -- particularly for incumbents. It makes a person wonder who these elected officials are listening to during their lengthy recesses. No two issues are more indicative of the GOP's tin ear than the response of party officials to corruption in Washington and the vulnerability created by our porous borders.
Last week, "leaders" in both parties raced to the microphones to insist that FBI agents with a proper search warrant not use evidence collected in the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.
Jefferson had apparently been videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe, and agents allegedly found $90,000 in cool cash hidden in his freezer. To say that most Americans find it hard to accept that Jefferson's office shouldn't be searched by law enforcement under these circumstances is an understatement.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate have sent an equally baffling message on border security. Though recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support border protection first, and are opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens, the White House and the Senate insist on a "comprehensive immigration bill" that will eventually grant citizenship to millions of "illegals."
The GOP has fewer than 160 days to convince Americans to vote for them. "Us or them" won't cut it. Republicans have to give Americans reasons to vote -- or find themselves losing big five months from now.
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