It's all too easy right now to make fun of Republicans, but I can't help but point out a blog post (the only blog post) from the National Republican Congressional Committee website Tuesday. Written in uncharacteristic bold face at 3:37 PM, as the routing was just getting underway, it says in its totality: "Happy Election Day!" Happy election day to you too! Anyway, as of today, that's still the last post. Couldn't they have taken a cue from the DCCC and instead written "Get Your Vote On"? Who knows, could have helped. The Republican National Committee and Senate Committee blogs have been equally silent since the election. The last post on the NRSC reads: "The NRSC is feeling very positive about recent election night developments." It goes on to trumpet returns in Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee before concluding: "I am sure we will have more good news to share as the evening progresses, so stay tuned!"
BOISE, Idaho City voters have rejected a proposal to return a Ten Commandments monument to a public park in a referendum on religious displays on public property.
With 99% of precincts counted, the vote was 37,568 to 33,747, about 53% to 47% against moving the monument back to city property.
Boise's debate began in March 2004 after Mayor Dave Bieter and the City Council agreed to move a 40-year-old granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from Julia Davis Park to an Episcopal church across the street from the Statehouse.
Was the vote a bellwether for Midwestern social values? Maybe, maybe not. For what's it's worth, the AP notes that Boise had removed the statue to avoid a lawsuit brought by Rev. Fred Phelps of Kansas, who sought to erect an anti-gay monument in the same park. So maybe people were expressing sympathy for gays. Either way, Boise is busting out.
JR is finally dead. Dallas, the city of the eponymous TV show, the city which has (somewhat unfairly) been linked more than any other in the national psyche with everything Republican, is Republican no more. As the Dallas Morning News says: Big D Means Democrat Again.
For the first time in decades, straight ticket voting in Dallas County (the county of my birth) leaned against the GOP. The upshot? A whopping 41 of 42 Republican county judges up for reelection this year were tossed out on the curb. As I reported for Mother Jones a few weeks ago, the shift is part of a demographic trend in Texas that could eventually put the entire state back in the hands of Democrats.
But don't hold your breath. A big reason for the shift in Dallas County: white flight to exurbs such as (ironically-named) Frisco, a road stop on the Metroplex's march towards Oklahoma. The northward sprawl is giving new meaning to a common joke in Dallas: Why doesn't Texas fall into the Gulf of Mexico? Because Oklahoma sucks.
As we noted on election night with some sense of déjà vu, green and libertarian candidates wreaked terror this year on the major parties. In Virginia, independent green Gail Parker now seems to have left Jim Webb with enough liberal scraps to make a Democratic victory banner in the Senate (rumors have it that Allen will to concede today at 3:00)--but over at the GOP, Karl Rove is finally feeling the third-party blues. Rove's woe has been triggered by a Smurf-like (more on this shortly) libertarian, Stan Jones, who helped bring down the mighty Conrad Burns in Montana by snatching three percent of the don't-tread-on-me vote, quite likely tipping the race to Democratic challenger Jon Tester. The Republicans have thus far accepted this liklihood with noble restraint. Jones told me no angry red staters have called to harass him, and I couldn't find a single complaint about his race on conservative blogs. It could be Republicans are too shell shocked to notice. Or, to their credit, too preoccupied with soul searching.
That Jones could be the man who indirectly turned Montana, and thus the whole Senate, blue, is oddly poetic given that Jones is himself blue. By this I don't mean he's sad, louche, or a libertarian with Democratic sympathies (though the lattermost is also true), but that Stan Jones is blue. A few bloggers know the story: In the days leading up to the dawn of the new millennium, Jones believed the Y2K virus could cause the collapse of Western Civilization. To steel his immune system against a post-apocalypse wracked by pandemics, he began drinking a solution of ionic silver, which he believed was a more powerful armor than vitamin C. "The pioneers that crossed the plains of America used to put a silver dollar in the bottom of a bucket of milk to keep it fresh longer," he explained when I reached him at his house in Bozeman. "So anyway, I studied it, and I thought it would be a good preventative, so I just started taking it all the time. But I wasn't smart enough to figure out the whole story." He didn't realize the silver ions would bind with minerals in the Montana tap water and lodge in his cells. "The silver is nontoxic; it doesn't affect my health in any way," he says, "but I am a little blue-grey."
So what role did Jones' blueness play in helping him win the votes that turned the Senate? "I think it's a wash," he says. "People don't treat me any differently than anyone else. I mean, Bozeman's not a big town, and people that come around, they're used to me."
This month Texas Monthly published a cover story on Texas A&M University President Robert Gates, who a few hours ago replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Bush's Secretary of Defense, making this one of the magazine's most timely (or worst timed) stories ever, depending on how you look at it. The profile by Paul Burka is full of hints why Bush may have chosen Gates as SecDef, as well as odd gems about the former CIA man.
Who would have known, for example, that Gates protested against the Vietnam war? Burka writes:
He opposed the war, as did most of his CIA friends, and even marched in protest of U.S. activity in Cambodia. "Popular impressions then and now about the CIAespecially as a conservative, Cold War bureaucratic monolithhave always been wrong. " (In his book about the Cold War, From the Shadows) he writes of the influence of the counterculture, of experiments with marijuana by supervisors, of anti-Nixon posters and bumper stickers that "festooned CIA office walls." Nixon comes in for some harsh words. Richard Helms, then the CIA director, told a story about going into the Oval Office just as Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird was leaving. Nixon pointed at Laird and said, "There goes the most devious man in the United States," to which Gates adds, "Some accolade, considering the source."
Burka on Gates' personality:
As you might expect, Bob Gates is not a man who reveals himself. I have been around him three times, once in 2004 and twice for this story. He is one of the most consistent personalities I've ever met. He's all business, a man under total self-control. He doesn't fidget. He isn't a backslapper. He doesn't make small talk. He doesn't boast; neither does he engage in false modesty. He is a motivator, not a cheerleader. He is always polite. He wears an air of authority as if it were tailored by Brooks Brothers. He answers questions fully but volunteers little. Most of his laughter comes from a finely developed sense of irony. I would back him to the hilt in a no-limit poker game.
Gates was hand-picked four years ago by Bush the Elder to lead Texas A&M, a large, mediocre (ranked 67th ) university in the middle of the Texas sticks, moribund by tradition and an image as a redoubt of hicks and crackers. He set about to change the school: "The old-boy network may not be gone entirely, but it is endangered," Burka writes. "About four hundred staff positions have been eliminated since Gates became president. 'I was not brought here,' [Gates] told me, 'to be everybody's friend.'"
What may have led George W. to tap Gates for SecDef, though, is aptitude for brand management. Burka spends most of his time marveling at Gates' intense public relations push to change A&M's image:
To accomplish this, Gates has created a new position, chief marketing officer and vice president for communications, whose job will be to oversee what Gates calls the "rebranding of Texas A&M.". . . Gates is determined to see it through. "There is a huge opportunity cost if we don't do it," he said. "We need to significantly improve the public's knowledge and perception of the university.". . .
The branding process for A&M identified six core values: integrity, loyalty, excellence, leadership, selfless service, and respect. The last core value addresses a longtime problem at A&Mas Moore puts it, "respect, acceptance, and inclusion for all Aggies with respect to race, color, gender, and religion." All of these values point to a core purpose: "to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving the greater good."