Underwhelmed by Hillary

By Robert Mann

Regarding the rush to give Hillary Clinton the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, put me down as underwhelmed.

I know she’s already the putative nominee. I know she’s the strongest candidate the Democrats have against anyone on the Republican side. I know she can raise more money than everyone else and knows how to run a national campaign. I know she would have a former president at her side, offering wise counsel.

I know, if elected, she would be uniquely qualified and experienced in the job, the first president who was also first lady. And I know that her nomination and election would make obvious history in other ways.

In the end, it may not matter that anyone is underwhelmed by the prospect of President Hillary Clinton. Many observers regard her nomination as inevitable – and she has not even announced her candidacy.

Of course, she seemed to have it all wrapped up in late 2007. She had the money and experience and the right supporters. But there was the small matter of Barack Obama, who ran off with the nomination she thought was hers.

If Clinton is nominated, however, I’ll be sad that the Democratic Party missed a historic moment to nominate someone capable of the bold, transformative leadership the nation still needs. Based on her 2008 candidacy and her tenure as secretary of state, there’s not much about Clinton that is bold or transformative.

She lost the 2008 nomination in large part because she had supported George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War. The succeeding years seem not to have taught her much humility when it comes to the use of America’s military. She’s almost hawkish as ever.

Democrats looking for someone to take on Wall Street and the big banks and fix a corrupt system that is rigged against the little guy might wish to look elsewhere. Nominating a wealthy, powerful former New York senator would be among the last things you would do if you wanted to reform the nation’s financial system.

To me, at least, she embodies the past (and that has nothing to do with her age). She simply exudes “privileged Democratic establishment.”

As a candidate, she is wooden in manner and instinctively cautious and guarded. I’m not sure whom she inspires, but it’s not me.

On a personal level, she and her husband are often a traveling circus of self-indulgent pathos, entitlement, scandal and disarray. Nasty staff infighting is their trademark. The Clinton Global Initiative appears to be a cornucopia of conflicts of interest.

Now, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signaling that he will enter the race for the Republican nomination, we have the distinct possibility of yet another tiresome Bush-Clinton contest. Do you realize that out of the last nine presidential elections, going back to 1980, there have only been two general elections that did not have a Bush or a Clinton on one or both of the national party tickets? And if you count Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run, there has only been one presidential election in the past 34 years without a Bush or a Clinton running for president or vice president.

Isn’t is time to turn the page and find another family or two who might run the country? Surely, in a nation of 316 million, we could consider other people.

Perhaps that is why several hundred former Obama campaign staffers, recently released a letter urging Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to enter the race. “Rising income inequality is the challenge of our times, and we want someone who will stand up for working families and take on the Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy,” the letter said.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

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Should Democrats dump Dixie?

By Robert Mann

The questions were inevitable after U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s downfall sounded a sad coda for the Democrats’ already sagging fortunes in the midterm elections: Is the Democratic Party dead in the South? Should they give up on the region?

There are no Democrats left in the U.S. Senate from the Deep South and nary a white Democrat in the U.S. House from the region. “Today, nearly all of the Democrats holding federal or statewide office in the South will represent so-called ‘majority-minority’ districts or areas with a large number of new residents from outside the region,” journalist Nate Cohn wrote in The New York Times earlier this month. “In the states of the former Confederacy, Democrats will control Senate seats or governors’ mansions only in Virginia and Florida.”

What a stunning reversal, particularly in Louisiana. Ten years ago, Democrats were thriving. Landrieu was in her second Senate term and on her way to a third. Our governor was a Democrat, as was every statewide elected officeholder but the secretary of state. Democrats controlled the Legislature.

Now, every statewide elected official is a Republican. Cedric Richmond, representing the majority-black district that stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, is the state’s only Democrat in Congress.

In 2004, 55 percent of the state’s registered voters were Democrats. That tumbled to only 46 percent last month. In the last 10 years, 225,000 white voters have abandoned the Democratic Party. Republicans and independents are now 54 percent of the state’s electorate.

Surveying the midterm carnage, in Louisiana and throughout in the Deep South, it’s difficult to see Democrats returning to power soon. Indeed, some despondent liberals advise dumping Dixie altogether. “Forget about the whole fetid place,” journalist Michael Tomasky wrote in the Daily Beast. “Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise.”

To liberals like Tomasky, abetting Southern Democrats extracted too high a cost and forced the party to compromise its principles.

“It’s gone,” he wrote of the region. “A different country … If [Democrats] get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway.”

While Tomasky’s bitter words might appeal to some Democrats, his advice is reckless.

For starters, while the Democratic Party appears dead, the rumors of its demise are exaggerated. In the United States, political parties are almost always adept at reinventing themselves.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Did Bobby Jindal’s God send Katrina to punish us for gay rights?

Homophobes By Robert Mann

Let me get this straight: When Sen. Mary Landrieu made the blindly obvious point that the South hasn’t always been friendly to black people, Gov. Bobby Jindal and his ilk went berserk. They almost soiled themselves in outrage over what they said was a gross indictment of Louisiana as a racist state.

Landrieu’s remarks, Jindal tweeted on Oct. 30, were “remarkably divisive. She appears to be living in a different century.” Minutes later, Jindal added in another tweet, “That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana and I flatly reject it.”

So, we get it. Bobby Jindal loves Louisiana and its good, decent people. Don’t say anything that suggests otherwise or you’ll incur his legendary Don Knottsian wrath.

And, yet, when Jindal hitches up with a Christian wacko group — the Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) — to hold a January prayer rally at LSU, no one on the right questions whether Jindal should be in cahoots with a group that blames the deaths of Hurricane Katrina on gays.

As Julia O’Donoghue reported in the Times-Picayune | NOLA.com on Monday,

The AFA implied — in a prayer guide originally distributed in connection with Jindal’s January rally — that there is a direct link between the rising approval of same-sex marriage and abortion in the United States and events like Hurricane Katrina.

The prayer guide – which appeared to be a few years old and outdated — was pulled from The Response’s website Friday (Dec. 12). Before it was taken down, it contained the following language:   

“We have watched sin escalate to a proportion the nation has never seen before. We live in the first generation in which the wholesale murder of infants through abortion is not only accepted but protected by law. Homosexuality has been embraced as an alternative lifestyle. Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. Pornography is available on-demand through the internet. Biblical signs of apostasy are before our very eyes. While the United States still claims to be a nation ‘under God’ it is obvious that we have greatly strayed from our foundations in Christianity.

“This year we have seen a dramatic increase in tornadoes that have taken the lives of many and crippled entire cities, such as Tuscaloosa, AL & Joplin, MO. And let us not forget that we are only six years from the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, which rendered the entire Gulf Coast powerless.” 

Landrieu simply notes the undisputed facts of slavery and Jim Crow, and she’s an odious race baiter. Jindal’s prayer partners imply that more that 1,500 people — including, I presume, those poor, elderly people who died in a nursing home — were killed by God because of his wrath at the gays? Well, that’s irrelevant, Jindal’s press secretary says, because . . . prayer.

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Inevitable? There was really nothing Mary Landrieu could do

Screenshot of American Crossroads spot
Screenshot of American Crossroads spot

By Robert Mann

Imagine that Sen. Mary Landrieu had run a perfect re-election campaign. Imagine that she had offered a sustained, effective defense of the Affordable Care Act and her vote for it.

Imagine that she had recognized early that building a campaign around her clout and seniority was a weak argument for her re-election. Imagine she hadn’t wasted the first two weeks of her runoff period pursuing the rainbow that was the Keystone pipeline.

Imagine that Democratic operatives had persuaded the news media to write about Rep. Bill Cassidy’s questionable financial arrangement with LSU in October, instead of late November. Imagine Landrieu had all the money she needed for her runoff.

In other words, imagine Landrieu ran a textbook campaign. If so, could she have won re-election?

The answer, I suspect, is no. Landrieu didn’t lose re-election because she was a bad candidate. She certainly didn’t lose because Cassidy was a better candidate. She didn’t lose because she was outspent or because Washington, D.C., Democratic leaders abandoned her. It wasn’t her message or even the messenger.

Mary Landrieu lost because Louisiana is now, almost completely, a Republican state. In fact, as one political scientist told me the other day, maybe Landrieu’s re-election in 2008 over John Kennedy was a fluke. Maybe it wasn’t that Landrieu was such a formidable candidate, but that Kennedy was such a flawed candidate that he delayed her inevitable defeat by six years. All this time, we thought she was a masterful politician, the Houdini of Louisiana politics, usually under water but always bursting free of her chains just before she drowned.

In 2008, Landrieu not only had the good fortune to run against a weak Republican opponent; she was on the same ballot with then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, which meant a huge African-American turnout to her benefit.

Obama didn’t carry Louisiana, but he carried Landrieu. In that race, Landrieu won 52 percent of the vote and out-polled the new president by more than 200,000 votes.

This time, Landrieu enjoyed none of the advantages that Obama once could offer. She couldn’t bring him to Louisiana for fear of alienating white voters (although it’s hard to see how Obama’s presence could have depressed her white vote any further).

She apparently didn’t believe she could vigorously defend her vote for Obamacare for fear of reminding voters of her fateful relationship with the president (although Cassidy had already performed that marriage).

This time, instead of the Obama magic, she got cursed with the Obama voodoo. Instead of running 10 points ahead of Obama, as she did six years ago, she received almost the same percentage in the primary as Obama got in Louisiana in 2012 (41 percent to Obama’s 41 percent).

In the voters’ minds, Mary Landrieu became Barack Obama’s running mate. She was his Louisiana proxy. I was clearly wrong when I wrote last year and earlier this year that Obama, on the downhill side of his time in the White House, wouldn’t be much of a factor in his midterm.

Obama wasn’t just a factor, he was the factor.

In short, this election, in Louisiana and elsewhere, was largely a referendum on an unpopular president. Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Bruce Braley, Mark Udall and Mark Begich – all of them paid the price for Obama’s unpopularity.

Sure, Landrieu could have made a stronger case for her support for Obamacare. Had she done so, however, she might have performed marginally better among whites. A stronger message would have helped, but it wouldn’t have mattered much in the end.

It wasn’t just Obama. Landrieu lost because the Democrats’ run as a strong force in Louisiana politics is over, for now, at least. Beyond the immediate damage of Obama’s unpopularity, nothing has undermined the Louisiana Democratic Party more than its collapse among white voters.

Consider these numbers:

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If Bobby Jindal runs for president, does he have a prayer?

By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal says he is praying about running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. While it’s certainly possible Jindal wants heavenly guidance, color me skeptical. From all appearances, Jindal’s fervent prayers have always been more along the lines of “please let me win” than “should I run?”

Anyone with even a passing interest in the Louisiana governor will note that if Jindal has been praying for guidance, it’s been at 35,000 feet on his way to Iowa. Perhaps Jindal is using Delta to launch his supplications into heaven.

Whatever the case, Jindal will soon announce God’s will for his life. However, the real question when it comes to Jindal’s unmistakable White House ambitions is, does he even have a prayer?

Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s close adviser and former chief of staff, argues that his boss can win the nomination. “He’s an undervalued stock,” Teepell told the Washington Examiner in October, arguing that Washington pundits have devalued Jindal because of his disastrous nationally televised speech in response to President Obama’s first address to Congress in 2009. “Fortunately,” Teepell observed, “DC pundits don’t get to decide elections.”

Teepell has a point. Voters make those decisions. Unfortunately for Jindal, voters are as underwhelmed by him as are Washington pundits. At home, Jindal’s 33 percent approval rating ranks him among the least popular governors in the nation. That’s not exactly a launching pad for a successful White House campaign.

Jindal and Teepell no doubt are praying that the issues that have hobbled Jindal in Louisiana — including bungling the state’s budget and his ineptitude on health care and higher education — won’t matter much to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.

So far, however, Republican voters in those early primary states haven’t acknowledged Jindal’s enormous talents. In national surveys of GOP voters, Jindal is the perennial cellar dweller.

In the Real Clear Politics national average of polls, Jindal now sits dead last at 2.8 percent, well behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14.3 percent), Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (11.2 percent), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (10.8 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (10.8 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (9.7 percent), Texas Gov. Rick Perry (6.6 percent) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (5.8 percent).

Jindal doesn’t fare any better in the individual state surveys. He’s at an average of 2.3 percent in Iowa, 3.3 percent in New Hampshire, and 1 percent in Florida.

Jindal surely has persuaded himself that he might eventually catch on in Iowa and New Hampshire. I can imagine he believes that a good debate performance, some inspired television advertising and gaffes or scandals that sink one or more of the frontrunners might just propel him into frontrunner status.

It’s a nice thought and a dream that inspires many an underdog. There’s only one problem with this scenario: No one has ever surged from the back of the pack to capture the nomination in the history of Republican presidential primaries.

Continue reading at NOLA.com at this link.

Sen. Elbert Guillory promotes GOP with fear, bigotry

Screen shot of Elbert Guillory video by Free at Last PAC
Screen shot of Elbert Guillory video by Free at Last PAC

By Robert Mann

There’s still a month left in 2014, but the prize for the year’s most egregious act of fear mongering in Louisiana politics clearly goes to state Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas.

Guillory has this year produced two campaign videos ostensibly designed to lure Louisiana’s black voters away from the Democratic Party, but which have also raised Guillory’s national profile. A 70-year-old African-American, Guillory might run for lieutenant governor next year. Perhaps he’s angling for an appointed U.S. Senate seat should Sen. David Vitter become governor.

Whatever the case, the Opelousas Republican cannot mask his stunning bigotry and dishonesty in these two slick videos.

While neither video contains an endorsement of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Cassidy, Guillory’s videos — sponsored by the Republican group Free at Last PAC — are direct attacks on Cassidy’s opponent, Sen. Mary Landrieu. Perhaps because he is black, Guillory believes he cannot be accused of trading in bigotry and fear. Perhaps he believes that his race means that black voters won’t question his falsehoods about President Barack Obama’s record.

Maybe there are reasons for black voters to consider the Republican Party. If so, Guillory never mentions them. Having nothing positive to say about his party, Guillory relies on what so many Republicans claim to hate — class warfare.

In his first video, released in September, Guillory stands in a poor neighborhood in Opelousas wearing a finely tailored, blue three-piece suit. In this incongruent scene, he scoffs at wealthy Democratic Party leaders who he says have ignored black voters. “You are not Mary’s cause, and you are certainly not her charity,” Guillory declares. “You are just a vote — nothing less, nothing more.” Never mind, as I noted last week, the Senate candidate of Guillory’s own party won’t campaign for black votes.

His latest video, released Monday, is far more egregious. Guillory peddles pure fear and ignorance and cynically pits blacks against Latinos. Referencing President Obama’s recent executive action delaying deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, Guillory implies that the president is more concerned about Latinos than blacks. He charges that Obama has done nothing to create jobs in the black community, hasn’t fixed declining schools nor has he reformed the criminal justice system.

Instead, he says, “President Obama has chosen to bypass Congress and the Constitution to grant citizenship to over five million illegal immigrants.”

That statement, of course, proves that Guillory knows nothing more about Obama’s immigration actions than he does about the president’s concerted efforts to create jobs and push education reforms. Obama’s order did not award these immigrants with citizenship. The president did not even have the authority to grant them Obamacare.

 Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.


‘Double Bill’ Cassidy’s Double Talk: Lamar White

Screen shot Bill Cassidy Senate spot
Screen shot Bill Cassidy Senate spot

By Lamar White

Yesterday, Rep. Bill Cassidy, an Illinois native who is now the front-runner in the run-off election for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, responded to a series of recently disclosed public records calling into question the nature of his ongoing work relationship with Louisiana State University Health Science Center while also serving in the United States Congress. In separate interviews with The HillThe Times-Picayune, and The Advocate, Cassidy directly contradicted what his campaign spokeswoman, Jillian Rogers, told E&E Daily, an energy industry news publication, in July of this year, months before these records were released. Then, Cassidy and his campaign claimed that LSU-HSC was merely covering his out-of-pocket expenses for medical malpractice insurance. We now know that in addition to paying for his insurance, licensing fees, and continuing medical education classes, LSU also provided the Congressman with a base salary of $20,000.

Per the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Cassidy was supposed to have been teaching part-time, 16 hours a month. Instead, his arrangement with LSU called on him to continue his clinical work for 30 hours a month.

Apparently, as his time sheets indicate, he wasn’t just being paid a salary for work he didn’t do, which has serious legal implications; he was being paid for work he couldn’t do, which has ethical implications.

The records, which were first reported here on CenLamar and by Jason Berry of The American Zombie, include 16 time sheets submitted by Cassidy to LSU-HSC, e-mail correspondence between Cassidy and LSU-HSC administrators, and Cassidy’s personnel status forms. Taken together, along with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct’s advisory opinion regarding Cassidy’s employment, the documents raise serious legal and ethical questions about the Congressman’s compensation and benefits package from LSU, as well as his actual work-related responsibilities as a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine, Teaching, and Research. According to time sheets, on at least 21 separate occasions, Cassidy billed LSU-HSC for work done on the same days as he attended committee meetings and cast roll call votes in Washington, D.C.

Cassidy downplayed those questions and refuted criticism of his work with LSU-HSC, arguing that his time sheets accounted for only a portion of the time he spent on the job and claiming that he frequently worked from Baton Rouge during the morning and flew to Washington, D.C. in time for the roll call votes in the evening. He also claimed that he occasionally checked in with LSU resident physicians working in area D.C. hospitals as a part of his job with LSU-HSC. Even if his baffling work schedule is true, it appears that he directly violated the guidelines established by the House Committee, and it raises further and perhaps even more important questions about how seriously Cassidy treated his full-time job in Congress. His same-day jaunts down to LSU-HSC’s clinics and back up to Washington, D.C., all on the taxpayer’s dime, are also troubling and profoundly hypocritical, particularly considering his relentless attacks against Mary Landrieu, his opponent in the race, for inappropriately charging $33,000 in travel expenses to her Senate office and not her campaign, an error for which she apologized and quickly rectified.

“(Cassidy) said he would log about three hours in the clinic, supervising residents who were treating patients, on Monday and three more hours on Tuesday morning,” reports The Advocate. “Then he would board a noon flight back to Washington, which would put him on Capitol Hill by late afternoon, in time to make votes.”

Cassidy, if he is to be believed, has spent his years in Congress working two different jobs, collecting checks and benefits from both the state and the federal government. As admirable as the practice of medicine may be, Bill Cassidy was supposed to hang up his stethoscope the day he took the oath of office as a Congressman. Physicians are prohibited from earning outside compensation for the practice of medicine, though they can be reimbursed for the actual expenses- not a salary- necessary to conduct charitable medical services. As previously reported, Cassidy was approved by the House Committee to teach classes for credit, on a part-time basis, at LSU-HSC. His correspondence with LSU-HSC administrators reveals that almost immediately after he was elected, he hoped to either be exempted from the “teaching” requirement or, alternately, to interpret the definition of “teaching” so broadly as to actually include his own practice of medicine.

In his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Cassidy has touted his experience as a medical doctor, often appearing in campaign commercials and direct mail pieces dressed in scrubs and a lab coat. He’s attempted to use his work as a doctor to deflect criticism over his voting record, and much to his credit, he has been effective, even if, at times, his deflections have been disingenuous. Yesterday, in his interviews with the media, Cassidy acted as if he was somehow being victimized for earning more than $100,000 from LSU-HSC since he was elected. “Cassidy said he regrets that his work at LSU — which he contends has helped many patients, some of whom ‘travel from Lake Charles and other communities to get treatment from me’ — is being made into a campaign issue,” The Times-Picayune reported. Given the hours he submitted in his time sheets to LSU-HSC, it is highly unlikely that Cassidy, while a member of Congress, actually “helped many patients” who traveled from all over the state to “get treatment” from him. But that’s not even the real issue: He was specifically and explicitly prohibited by the House Committee from earning a salary in the practice of medicine.

Continue reading this post at CenLamar.com.