Friday, January 02, 2009

Commentary: Sarah Palin understands small-town America By Ruben Navarrette Jr.


December 24, 2008

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- During the presidential election, some Democrats demanded to know how I could defend Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Simply put, Palin is my people. She's small-town folk who wound up in the big leagues.

Because I grew up in a small town with a population of less than 15,000 people, I was disgusted by the insults and condescension coming from those who think of themselves as the enlightened elite. Meanwhile, in small towns, I detected great affection for Palin. People talked about how she was "a real person" who "reflected their values."

The most significant divide in America isn't Red State vs. Blue State, it's rural vs. urban. The country mouse and the city mouse are still slugging it out.

In 1982, New York Mayor Ed Koch ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York. Some say the deciding factor was when Koch described life in upstate New York as "sterile" and said he dreaded living in the "small town" of Albany, if elected. That didn't play well in rural areas.

Now comes Colin Powell. During a recent appearance on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Powell attempted an autopsy on the Republican Party's failed presidential bid. He went after Palin, accusing her of pushing the party so far to the right that it went over a cliff.

"I think [Palin] had something of a polarizing effect when she talked about how small-town values are good," Powell said. "Well, most of us don't live in small towns. And I was raised in the South Bronx, and there's nothing wrong with my value system from the South Bronx."

You'd think the presidential campaign was about conservatives picking on urbanites. It wasn't. Sure, some Republicans probably made a mistake by using phrases such as "real America" or "real Americans" as a rallying cry for the base. Americans who live in cities might have thought they were being slighted.

But those phrases referred as much to people's politics and values as it did their zip code. I live in a city with a population of more than a million people and I never thought the GOP singled me out as not being a "real American."

If anything, it appeared that big-city liberals were tapping into prejudices about small-town America to belittle the governor of Alaska

After Powell attacked Palin, one of the governor's most vocal defenders, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, returned the favor by attacking Powell.

"What is this hatred for conservatives and small-town people and Sarah Palin?" Limbaugh asked on his radio show. "I know a lot of people that are from the Bronx, Gen. Powell, and if you think the values there in the Bronx today reflect the ones you grew up with, take a trip back and see if the street corners and the activities there are the same as when you were growing up."

Limbaugh got it. When people use phrases such as "small-town values," it's as much about time as it is place. The idea isn't that people who live in small towns have better values than people who live in cities. It's simply an attempt to recall, with nostalgia, what life was like when more Americans lived in small towns.

It used to be that more families ate dinner together and high school students worked summers and after school. It used to be that our schools didn't make excuses for why some kids don't learn because they were too busy trying to teach them.

It used to be that parents weren't interested in being their kids' best friends, only good parents. And it used to be that people pulled their own weight and would never dare ask for a handout.

During a recent interview with the conservative newspaper, Human Events, Palin was asked if she thought her humble background accounted for some of the flak she got from the media. Palin acknowledged that she didn't come from elite stock, but said that she was grateful for that.

"I got my education from the University of Idaho because that's what I could afford," she said. "No, I don't come from the self-proclaimed 'movers and shakers' group and that's fine with me. It's caused me, or rather, allowed me, to work harder and pull myself up by my bootstraps without anyone else helping me. I think it allows me to be in touch with the vast majority of Americans who are in the same position that I am."

Sarah Palin understands a lot about America. Too bad many Americans don't understand Sarah Palin. No worries. They may get another chance to acquaint themselves with her -- in say, four years.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist and a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Read his column here

Bristol Palin Welcomes a Son By Lorenzo Benet


December 29, 2008 06:05 PM EST

Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin Photo by: huck Kennedy / MCT / Landov
Bristol Palin Welcomes a Son
Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth on Saturday to a healthy 7 lb., 7 oz., baby boy in Palmer, Alaska.

"We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited."

The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston and he was born at 5:30 a.m., according to Jones.

Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years.

Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses.

Johnston is studying to become an electrician. He told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol plan to wed in 2009 and raise the child together.

Pregnancy Made News

Bristol, the eldest of Sarah and Todd Palin's three daughters (the couple also have two sons), made headlines with her pregnancy last summer, shortly after Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked the Alaska governor to be his running mate on his party's ticket.

In a statement at the time, Bristol’s parents said their daughter "came to us with news that we as parents knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned." They added, Bristol "has our unconditional love and support."

On Monday, Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Gov. Palin said, "This office will not be issuing any statements on [Bristol's baby]. We’re here to talk about state government and that matter falls outside of that."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's Just Another New Year's Eve

Dynasty: The Democratic Party's Senate soap opera.


DECEMBER 31, 2008

For those who thought the new era of Democratic governance would be dull, we present this year's Senate replacement follies. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich kept the entertainment going yesterday by defying just about everyone and nominating former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

Rod Blagojevich.

Recall that federal prosecutors had gone public with their criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich earlier this month expressly to deter him from making such an appointment. Mr. Obama had then declared that the Governor should not make an appointment, and Senate Democrats had said they wouldn't seat anyone Mr. Blagojevich did appoint. Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated that pledge yesterday regarding Mr. Burris, who lost to the Governor in a primary in 2002 but then was vice chairman of his transition team.

Democrats who run the state assembly are still trying to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, but meantime they've stepped back from allowing a special election for the seat. Democrats hope to dump the Governor and then have his replacement appoint a different Democrat. No doubt they're afraid Republicans might win given this exquisite display of competent, honest Democratic government.

Meanwhile, Democrats in New York are fighting over Caroline Kennedy's campaign to be appointed to the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Democrat and former Republican and now independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg is all for the idea, as reportedly is Mr. Obama, whom the daughter of JFK and niece of Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed at a crucial moment during the Presidential primaries. Not so happy is New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of a former three-term Governor, who would like the seat himself and was once married to a Kennedy.

Caught in the middle is Democrat David Paterson, who will appoint a new Senator but is Governor himself only because Eliot Spitzer flamed out with a prostitute. Ms. Kennedy hasn't helped herself with a recent spate of interviews showing she doesn't know very much about many public issues. But then how much worse could she be than the professional politicians who populate Albany or represent New York in Washington? Democrats will outnumber Republicans in New York's House delegation next year, 26-3, and it speaks volumes about their abilities that Mr. Paterson might choose a dynastic neophyte over any of them.

Lest it be overlooked, there's also the spectacle in Delaware, where the soon-to-depart Joe Biden has arranged to have a crony appointed to take his Senate seat of 36 years. Edward "Ted" Kaufman, a former aide to Mr. Biden, is expected to keep the seat away from a more ambitious Democrat for two years, until Joe's son Beau Biden, the state attorney general, can return from his National Guard tour in Iraq and run in 2010 to maintain the family business.

And don't forget Colorado, where a mooted Senate replacement for Secretary of Interior nominee Ken Salazar is his brother, Congressman John Salazar. Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, who has benefited from the money and organization of the Salazar political machine, will make that appointment.

So to recap all of this change you can believe in: A Kennedy and Cuomo are competing to succeed a Clinton in New York; the skids are greased for a Biden to replace a Biden in Delaware; one Salazar might replace another in Colorado; and a Governor charged with political corruption in Illinois wants one of his cronies to succeed the President-elect. Let's just say we're looking forward to 2009.

New Jersey Is the Perfect Bad Example: Obama should look here to see what high taxes do. By William McGurn


DECEMBER 30, 2008

Madison, N.J.

When Barack Obama makes his New Year's resolutions, at the top of his list ought to be the following: "I will not allow America to become New Jersey."

Think of it as our gift to the nation. Other states offer promising experiments in areas such as Medicaid, taxes, education and regulatory reform. In contrast, the People's Republic of New Jersey offers America something truly unique: the perfect bad example.

As harmful as this has been for our own prosperity, our example could be invaluable for President-elect Obama. That's especially true given that his team appears to be considering some of the same things that have long been popular in Trenton. For years, the solons in our state capital have operated on the assumption that you can have high taxes everywhere -- on income, on property, on business -- without suffering any consequences.

Well, Gov. Jon Corzine is now dealing with those consequences, and his budgets show it. Earlier this year, he pushed through a budget that was one of the few in New Jersey history to be less than the one that preceded it. With revenues now running $1.2 billion short of what was expected, the next budget will undoubtedly be tougher still.

Not all of Mr. Corzine's choices have been good ones. In fairness, however, he is dealing with huge problems that have been years in the making. In some ways, we are a mini-California. That is to say, where New Jersey was once a national leader in terms of economic growth and job creation, more recently we have become a national laggard.

It seems not to have dented the consciousness of our political class that New Jersey's dismal economic performance might be linked to the state's tax policy. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, New Jersey is home to the most hostile tax environment for business in the nation. We also bear the nation's highest burden of state and local taxes. And on the list of the 10 counties with the highest median property tax, we claim seven of them.

During the last recession, we began to feel the full weight of these burdens. Other states responded by cutting back on spending and getting their houses in order. Not New Jersey. Then-Gov. Jim McGreevey added to the burden by borrowing and spending and raising the corporate tax -- including the imposition of an alternative minimum tax on business. And we've been paying for these bad choices ever since.

Mr. Obama might pay special attention to what these measures have meant for jobs, especially given his expressed concern for the struggling middle class. Though the state did ultimately emerge from recession in 2003, private-sector job creation since then has been a pale shadow of what we enjoyed after the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s.

Of course, there was one area where jobs did grow. From 2000 to 2007, says the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, the government added 54,800 jobs. To put that in proper perspective, that works out to 93% of all jobs created in New Jersey over those seven years.

So how do we respond to these new hard times? Beginning New Year's Day, New Jersey workers will see even more money taken from their paychecks. The money will support a new mandate offering six weeks of paid family leave to almost all New Jersey employees -- right on down to those working in very small operations. In itself, the family-leave tax will not be the ruin of the state economy. But the imposition of yet another new tax at this moment bespeaks a lack of seriousness about what both New Jersey workers and businesses can afford.

For the moment, Mr. Corzine, like Mr. Obama, is putting his faith in public-works spending. Indeed, he has even called on the president-elect to expand his own plans for an infrastructure stimulus to $1 trillion. And it would be hard to deny that our tired infrastructure could use some attention.

But amid all the debate over jump-starting the economy through public works, we risk losing sight of a larger truth: What governors and citizens alike need most is a growing economy that is creating jobs for the people and sending revenue to the capital. Over the long run, the only way to have a healthy and growing economy is to do exactly what New Jersey has not: Trust the people with their own money, and create an environment where initiative and enterprise are rewarded rather than penalized.

Absent a thorough-going revolution in Trenton, New Jersey may be lost for some time to come. But if Mr. Obama can learn from our bad example and do the opposite, New Jersey's loss might yet be America's gain.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Caroline Palin


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, December 19, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Politics: As the Kennedy du jour tours New York seeking Hillary's seat, will she be asked tough questions by Couric, Gibson, et al.? We'll see what Sarah's critics say about someone who's famous for being well-known.

Read More: General Politics

Sweet Caroline (yes, Neil Diamond wrote the song about her) has announced she really, really wants to be New York's next senator. As she goes about learning the problems of the state, including those beyond New York City's Upper East Side, we hope she has a GPS with turn-by-turn instructions.

Up to now, Kennedy's interest in New York politics has been minimal. As the Daily News has reported, she skipped about half the 38 contested elections held since she registered to vote in New York in 1988, including four Democratic primaries in mayoral elections won three times by Republicans.

She also missed voting in the race for the Senate seat she now seeks. Seems she was doing something else in 1994, when Daniel Patrick Moynihan was running for re-election.

The New York Times described her qualifications thus: "Ms. Kennedy has much going for her. As a public figure, she carries the glamour and poignancy of her family." Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post gushes that our "tragic national princess," the "Cinderella Kennedy" is "finally rewarded" for "her years of quiet dignity." First a pony, now a Senate seat.

Contrast such swooning over Caroline with the full-court press the media put on Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor's experience, interest in her state and political involvement make Caroline look like a Chihuahua next to Palin's pit bull, with or without lipstick. We doubt if Katie Couric will ask Camelot's heiress how much she spends on her wardrobe.

As we have noted, Caroline's chief accomplishments seem to have been organizing a rock concert in Central Park to raise private money for New York City public schools, serving on the board of a ballet company and heading up Barack Obama's vice presidential selection committee, a panel that labored mightily and produced a Joe Biden.

Palin, by contrast, is a former small-town mayor and the governor of a major energy-rich state. She can hunt, kill and cook. Not many working moms can handle an automatic rifle, run a state and bake cookies too.

She runs a government of 24,000 employees, oversees 14 statewide Cabinet agencies and manages a $10 billion budget. She set in motion a $40 billion pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48 states. And she squeezed the oil companies to give every Alaskan a $1,200 share in her state's energy wealth.

Sarah not only voted in Alaskan elections, but also won a few, starting with her home town of Wasilla. She defeated a sitting Republican governor in the primary and a two-term former Democratic governor in the general election. No one had to appoint her.

No wonder people are cynical about politics. Merit counts less than one's bloodline. What's in a name? Everything, it seems.

Raise Some Hell


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, December 18, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Hypocrisy: With workers losing jobs by the millions and taxpayers forced to rescue banks and carmakers, how does Nancy Pelosi's Congress show it cares? By giving themselves a big pay raise.

Read More: General Politics

What a great time for taxpayers to give senators and congressmen a $2.5 million jump in their already bloated salaries. It's tough to get by on $217,400 a year if you're House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — even if, as the Washington Times reported, you funneled nearly $100,000 from your political action committee to your husband's business over a decade.

Last year, Pelosi supported a bill banning payments from PACs to congressional spouses, but that didn't stop her from doing it. Most members of Congress have to subsist on only $169,300 annually, so the $4,700 raise they're giving themselves next year should help keep them off food stamps.

It's hard to know where to start in expressing outrage. The last thing this Congress deserves is a raise. A new report from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., found over $1 billion in taxpayer funding wasted on nonsense ranging from searching in vain for Alaskan ice worms to an airplane-shaped, nonworking gas station in Tennessee to nearly $300,000 for specialty potatoes for high-end restaurants.

Then there's the tone-deaf lack of empathy for working Americans lucky even to have a job, let alone get a raise.

Finally, there's the hypocritical insistence that people outside government who actually do productive work, like those running businesses, don't make too much. "We sent a message to Wall Street: The party is over," Pelosi crowed as Congress insisted on restrictions on executive pay in October.

Two years ago a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called it "unconscionable that members of Congress would get yet another pay raise while the minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for the last 10 years," and so Democrats supported tying congressional pay to a hike in the minimum wage.

So people getting paid too little means Congress shouldn't be paid more, but people not getting paid at all via massive layoffs makes a congressional pay raise OK?

Democratic lawmakers have dragged CEOs of oil companies, carmakers and banks to Washington and blowtorched them on TV about their pay, stock options and severance deals. They pushed CEOs to make symbolic gestures like working for a buck a year.

Yet Congress itself won't take part in the sacrifice. Our representatives may succeed in raising their pay, but the price will be taxpayers raising hell.