Republican governor is a hypocrite

February 23, 2009

How do you spell hypocrite?

Try Mark Sanford.

The South Carolina governor has been an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s economic stimulus program, calling it wasteful and a ticket for higher taxes in the future.

But funny thing is Sanford has no trouble taking the money.

According to Associated Press, Sanford has decided to take stimulus money to increase weekly unemployment checks by $25.

Sanford’s decision came over the weekend after he determined that every other state would be taking the extra benefit money, said spokesman Joel Sawyer. “Every other governor in the country had signed off on the request as well,” Sawyer said.

Sanford, the head of the Republican Governors Association, has been a harsh critic of the stimulus package signed into law last week and other federal bailouts. Other Republican governors have been critical of the stimulus program but they too have agreed to take the money. I think that used to be called talking out of both sides of your mouth.

According to Associated Press, the stimulus bill calls for using $145 million to increase South Carolina’s unemployment benefits. The average unemployed worker now gets $243.94 weekly; the maximum benefit is $326.

The stimulus money brings the first increase in state jobless benefits in at least two years, Employment Security Commissioner Becky Richardson said. Sanford’s decision to use the money came Saturday. The next day he was on “Fox News Sunday” with other governors in an appearance where he refused to rule out a 2012 presidential bid.

 South Carolina posted a 9.5 percent unemployment rate in December, the nation’s third highest. The state’s fund that pays benefits to the jobless has been depending for months on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal loans to stay solvent.

While he is accepting money for the increase, the governor will not likely go along with part of the stimulus plan that extends unemployment benefits to part-time workers, Sawyer said. “That’s something that’s a near certainty that we will not be taking,” he said.

Sawyer said expanding benefits to part-time workers would ultimately add more expenses to the state’s unemployment trust fund and increase the taxes businesses pay into the fund. But one thing’s for certain at this point. If Sanford can get the Obama administration to pay for it, he’ll gladly take it. And then he undoubtedly will continue to bash Obama. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

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Murtha right again

January 26, 2009

U.S. Rep. John Murtha deserves credit for speaking the truth.

Unfortunately some people don’t like what he has to say and then try to twist his words to suit their purposes.

Murtha has come under fire for saying that the suspected terrorists being moved from Guantanamo are “no more dangerous in my district than in Guantanamo.”

He added there was “no reason not to put ’em in prisons in the United States and handle them the way they would handle any other prisoners.”

Now some people apparently took that to mean that Murtha was proposing that a special prison be built in his district to house the prisoners from Guantanamo. But that’s not what he was saying. He’s just saying these guys should be treated the same as other prisoners. After all, the federal prisons are full of serial killers and mean, vicious cold-blooded killers. How could the Guantanamo detainees be any worse?

Of course, the Republican fear mongers can’t have that. They need to make people scared and frightened. So, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, who represents Lancaster and the surrounding area, led the charge.

“I know for certain constituents in my district do not want known terrorists brought to their communities, or neighboring communities for that matter,” said Pitts. “There is no good reason to willingly bring these dangerous men into the United States. I don’t want them in Pennsylvania, or anywhere in the United States for that matter.”

So, exactly what are we supposed to be scared about these Guantanamo detainees? Are they super villians able to climb walls and fly out of prisons? Or do they have x-ray eyes and super hearing? It’s ridiculous. These guys are no better or worse than the other prisoners being held in various penal institutions throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.

After all, it’s not like these guys are going anywhere soon. When was the last time you heard of a major breakout from a federal prison? You haven’t because it’s not happening. These maximum security federal prisons are just that. It’s pretty near impossible for anyone to escape. So, why all the fear about these detainees. Could it be that Republicans are just looking to scare and frighten people with tall tales of Muslim terrorists? Nah, these Republicans would never do that. Right?

Well, people would be well advised to consider carefully what Murtha’s saying and not be fooled against by the fearmongers on the Republican side.


Strange tale of Caroline Kennedy

January 23, 2009

The aborted bid by Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate from New York is certainly one of the stranger chapters in American political history.

According to Associated Press, a person who worked closely with Kennedy said she was withdrewing her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle. Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John Kennedy, had emerged as a front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton. But there were questions about her experience and her reluctance to answer questions about her finances. Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said. But by 11 p.m. Wednesday, the associate said, Kennedy decided she couldn’t take the job if appointed, and she issued a statement shortly after midnight saying she was withdrawing.

Kennedy did not decide to bow out because her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, suffered a seizure during an inaugural luncheon Tuesday, the person said. The 76-year-old Massachusetts senator was diagnosed in May with an aggressive type of brain tumor. The person wasn’t authorized to disclose the conversation between Kennedy and the governor and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The person would give no other details about the personal matter. Kennedy’s one-sentence statement ended hours of uncertainty as she appeared to waver. “I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate.” There was no comment from Paterson. So, it seems that we’ll never know what really prompted Kennedy to not seek the appointment. Was it secrecy? Kennedy, an author, lawyer and fundraiser for New York City schools, has long guarded her privacy, and the questionnaires were expected to include some closely guarded Kennedy financial data. Paterson had said he thought the candidates’ responses would be confidential because it was his personal request that they fill them out.

But the state’s open-government expert and good-government groups told the AP that once the forms were written and submitted to the governor at least some of the responses would be subject to public review under the state Freedom of Information Law. Or was it because Patterson had picked someone else? Had Hillary Clinton persuaded him not to appoint her. After all, it was Kennedy’s early endorsement of Barack Obama that severly damaged Clinton’s own bid for the presidency.

 Kennedy hardly set the political world on fire and was no sure bet to win re-election in two years. She jumped to the top of statewide polls in early December, but her public support waned following a brief upstate tour and a few press interviews.She was criticized as reluctant to answer questions, and her knowledge of New York and its issues were suspect. She was also mocked nationwide for her frequent use of “you know” and “um” in interviews and was branded a lackluster campaigner.

So, her campaign is over, about as abruptly as it began. And we’ll probably never know not only why she decided not to see the appointment but why she even sought it in the first place.


Sarah Palin at it again

January 10, 2009

Our favorite governor of Alaska just won’t go away will she?

After serving as a lightning rod for both liberals and conservatives last fall,  Sarah Palin seems determined to try and stay in the limelight.

According to Associated Press, Palin is questioning the media’s treatment of Caroline Kennedy in her bid for a New York seat in the U.S. Senate.

In an intereview with conservative radio talk-show host and filmmaker John Ziegler, Palin said, “I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope.”

Palin herself suggested class issues could be behind the differences in coverage, saying “… we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”

In the interview, Palin criticized the news media’s coverage of her and her family, telling Ziegler that CBS News anchor Katie Couric and comic actress Tina Fey had been “exploiting” her. Palin gave Couric a rare interview at the beginning of her campaign for vice president, and Fey frequently impersonated Palin on “Saturday Night Live.”

Palin singled out the Couric interview as condescending, particularly a question about what she reads and, according to the governor, “What do you guys do up there?” In fact, Couric never asked that question but did press, unsuccessfully, for the governor to state specific newspapers she read, which Palin never answered fully.

According to AP, in a news release issued Friday, Palin’s office said the governor was dismayed that her comments in the Ziegler interview were being taken out of context in the media “to create adversarial situations.”

Regarding her remarks about Kennedy, Palin said: “I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office. In fact, I consider Ms. Kennedy qualified and experienced, and she could serve New York well.”

What Palin apparently doesn’t understand is that there’s a world of difference between a presidential campaign and the appointment of a senator. I mean come on? How could you ever compare the two in any real significant way. It’s absurd and ridiculous, once again showing Palin’s lack of intelligence concerninig national politics. There’s no media arbitrariness involved in any of this. Trust me if Caroline Kennedy ever runs for vice president, she will come under the same scrutiny as Palin. And if she does a poor job as Palin did as a candidate, she will be lambasted by the media. Period.

After all Kennedy has already come under criticism for for her use of “you know” and “um,” in her first public appearances. New York news media also have published or broadcast numerous stories containing criticism of Kennedy’s lack of experience in elective office and whether she is the best choice to replace Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been asked to join the Obama administration as secretary of state.

A word to Gov. Palin, please try and stay out of the news for at least a little while…please.


What makes America great?

January 9, 2009

One of the things that really makes America great is how we’re able to transfer power from party to party peacefully without a hint of violence.

That fact came into clear focus this week as President-Elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush had lunch with former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bll Clinton and George H.W. Bush. It certainly was an image bound to go down in history with every living U.S. president standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the Oval Office.

The meeting was by all accounts very cordial.  Both Bushes deserve a lot of credit for taking part in the meeting and trying to give some advice to Obama, who will surely need all the help he can get. After being blistered by Obama on the campaign trail for the better part of two years, who could have blamed W for not wanting anything to do with his successor.  But instead he turned the other cheek and went out of his way to give Obama a primer on the stresses and problems involved with being the nation’s top chief executive.

According to the Associated Press, both Bush and Obama had warm words for each other.

“This is an extraordinary gathering,” Obama said. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I’m very grateful to all of them.”

“All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual,” Bush said as Obama nodded in thanks. “And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country.

“One message that I have, and I think we all share, is that we want you to succeed,” Bush added, a beaming Clinton at his other side. “Whether we’re Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country.”\

After all the ugliness of the political campaigns last fall, who could disagree with that?


Obama surprises many with Cabinet picks

November 26, 2008

Well, much to the surprise of Obama’s critics, he hasn’t so far picked any Muslims or terrorists to join his Cabinet.

In fact, according to Associated Press, he’s “assembled a national security brain trust populated by graybeard establishment figures with decades of combined experience and even a few medals. ”

Consider he’s keeping Robert Gates, the very man running the Iraq and Afghan wars for the current Republican president, as his Secretary of Defense.  According to Associated Press, Obama suggested that a critical era at home and abroad required strong Washington hands, but overseen by a chief executive pressing for change. “What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But I understand where the vision for change comes from first, and foremost; it comes from me. That’s my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing.”

“The old ways of thinking and the old ways of acting just won’t do,” Obama said.

Also consider that or the critical inside job of national security adviser, Obama wants retired Marine Gen. James Jones, a respectful critic of some Bush administration war strategy, especially in Afghanistan, and his priorities and world view seem in line with Obama’s. But he’s no lefty. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was named last year to head an energy initiative for the Republican-friendly Chamber of Commerce, and he also served as a special Mideast peace adviser for the Bush administration.

Consider also his selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. No matter what you think of Hillary personally, you have to agree she’s a respected foreign policy wonk who will lend instant credibility to the Obama presidency throughout the world.

Gates and Jones are both career public servants without a strong ideological stamp. Clinton, 61, may carry ideological baggage, but she also brings a record of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate and tested Midwestern stick-to-it-iveness.

According to the Associate Press, Gates was a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and is widely respected by Democrats in Congress, but he retains strong Republican lineage. The 65-year-old climbed the CIA bureaucracy from an entry-level position to become director under President George H.W. Bush. He also served on his National Security Council, as he had for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Gates helped lead U.S. efforts to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s while at the CIA and was deputy national security adviser during Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Gates is a close friend of the Bush family. He was interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M and became the university’s president in 2002. The school is home to the elder Bush’s presidential library.

Gates supported the Iraq war and the military buildup there, although he has also endorsed new efforts to draw down forces in Iraq and beef up troop numbers in Afghanistan _ a strategy also voiced by Obama.

Gates has won praise from Democrats for his willingness to work with all sides on Capitol Hill and his moves to swiftly can Pentagon leaders who he believed were not performing. During his brief tenure he has fired the Army and Air Force secretaries as well as the Air Force chief of staff.

Let’s see what the Obama critics have to say about these appointments. I’m sure they’ll be quick to point out how Jones, Gates and Clinton are all Muslim terrorists just like Obama.


Race issue debunked in McCain win here

November 24, 2008

When I saw the county-by-county PA election map on one of the local news stations here, I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all. There it was-Fayette blood red, thus showing me once again that many of the voters there allowed racism and prejudice to cloud their judgement. I thought that Fayette was still Democrat- tried and true, but when a black man is the Democratic candidate, the masses there shy away at the polls. Almost makes me ashamed to tell the folks over here that I’m from “good ole boy” Fayette County. Oh well! Guess Rep Murtha was right!”
Mark
Philadephia, Pa.

This comment was one of many similar postings on our Web site about the recent results of the presidential election in Fayette County where Republican John McCain defeated his Democratic Party counterpart Barack Obama by a margin of 215 votes, 26,081 to 25,866.
It all sounds somewhat true, especially since this was the first time a Republican presidential candidate won Fayette County since Richard Nixon beat George McGovern here back in 1972.
But consider this. Four years ago, George W. Bush took 46 percent of the vote here in losing to John Kerry by a margin of 27,321 to 23,403. It was the best showing by a Republican here since Nixon and probably paved the way for McCain’s victory earlier this month.
But more importantly no one mentioned race at all in the aftermath of Bush’s impressive vote tallies. So, why is anyone talking about it now? Clearly, there was much more than race involved in this election.
There was talk back in 2004 that Fayette County was becoming more conservative and Republican as issues concerning guns and abortions were coming to the forefront. Certainly with all the hunters and Catholics here, there was cause for concern among Democratic Party officials that the Republican Party could use those issues to sway local voters to their side.
With McCain, a strong proponent of both gun rights and the pro-life movement, at the head of the ticket was it really that big of a surprise that he won Fayette County? Consider also that McCain, a war hero and an established politician on the national scene for over 20 years, was running against Obama, a relatively unknown candidate to most local residents.
So, to say that people only voted for McCain because of race is a slap in the face to the overwhelming majority of those who backed the GOP candidate. It’s also an insult to Dee John, the new chairwoman of the Fayette County Republican Party, who worked hard to get out the vote for McCain.
Ironically, I think that John Murtha had the best take of anyone on the presidential election in Fayette County. Appearing before our editorial board, Murtha never mentioned racists or rednecks as he did to other media outlets. Hard to say what he was thinking when he made his comments to them, but when we asked Murtha about how Obama would do here, he said about 5 percent of the people in Fayette County would probably never vote for a black president. But overall, he said Obama would do well and would probably win Fayette County.
While, Murtha was wrong on that count, it does seem probable that he was right about the 5 percent of people who wouldn’t vote for a black president, considering that was approximately the difference between Bush and McCain’s vote totals.
I also think of two other factors. Watching MSNBC on election night, commentator Chris Matthews talked about Obama’s change theme and how it probably had little appeal to voters in Pennsylvania, especially those in the southwest.
He noted that people in this area of the state have seen a lot of changes over the years but not many of them have been good. He pointed out that many young people have to go elsewhere for good jobs, breaking up strong families, which were once the lifeblood of the area.
No matter what you think of Matthews, you have to agree he had a point.
I also sensed that even among those Democrats who voted for Obama, most did so more out a sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party rather than any passion for his cause. But I blame at least part of that on the fact Obama never came here to rally the troops as he did in so many other places. And if you figure that the odds of him coming here were pretty slim, what about Hillary Clinton, who did so well here last spring, or Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who had some appeal with his Pennsylvania roots? I think it’s possible that a stop by someone of national prominence on Obama’s behalf might have been able to keep Fayette County from going red.
But while we can probably talk all day about why McCain won here, there could be a real upside to his strong showing. For too many years, the Democratic Party has had an overwhelming edge over Republicans in voter registration numbers. It’s been so lopsided that state and national Democratic Party officials took us for granted while their Republican counterparts avoided us like the plague, figuring they had no chance of winning any votes here.
Perhaps this election will change all of that. Maybe now both sides will pay more attention to our wishes and needs. And if that happens we’ll all be winners, no matter our party affiliation.

Mark O’Keefe is the executive editor of the Herald-Standard. O’Keefe can be reached by e-mail at mo’keefe@heraldstandard.com, by regular mail at 8-18 Church St., Uniontown, Pa., 15401 or by phone at 724-439-7569.