Friday, July 28, 2006

Well shut my mouth.

In another life I used to try to spin Brooks Jackson, a reporter for AP, the Wall Street Journal and CNN. Jackson is no fan of/nor is he an easy mark for/ political spin. He's been covering politics for years, but more importantly he understands "how" the game is played.
Jackson is director of Annenberg Political Fact Check, an arm of the Annenberg Public Policy Center which is based out of the University of Pennsylvania. Annenberg Political Fact Check is nonpartisan, not for profit, and is committed to reducing "deception and confusion in U.S. Politics."
This week Annenberg Political Fact Check called Bob Corker's recent ad that attacks GOP rivals to be "grossly misleading." The group went on to say that, with respect to Corker's arguments in defense of misleading statements about Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary, "we find that(Corker's)logic faulty, to put matters charitably."
Corker can spin his latest lies and logic behind his lies all he wants, but the simple truth is he ain't being truthful.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fill Er Up Mr. Corker?

Bob Corker - according to the Commercial Appeal this am - was getting his campaign tank filled this week with big oil $$ at an event in Washington hosted by the Independent Petroleum Association.
This raises three questions:
Q1. Bob has attacked his primary opponents for being lobbyists. If they had been big oil lobbyists, would he have treated them differently?
Q2,3. Bob has not taken a strong position on big oil profits like his democratic opponent Harold Ford Jr. Wonder if he will - assuming he's still in the race post-August 3rd, and if he does, might his taking big oil $$ while slamming big oil be considered hypocrisy?

Friday, July 21, 2006

A tangled mess of messages

In 2004 Bob Corker declared that he did not intend to spend his own money in his U.S. Senate bid. He said then - and has said up until about a week ago - that he was counting on strong grass roots support from Republicans across Tennessee to finance his campaign.

Yesterday Corker disclosed that he had spent every penny raised for his primary election and that he had been "forced" to deposit an additional $1.745 million of his personal fortune in recent weeks to keep his campaign afloat.

Who forced him to write a personal check? According to Corker its the two primary opponents he claims have no real support and who pose no real threat to his "commanding" lead in the polls.

The spin from Camp Corker was that the attacks by "Mr. Ed" and "Van Dame" were distorting Corker's "record," and that the extra cash was needed to "set the record straight."

I admire a good spin, but this political yarn is one tangled mess of messages.

Let's try to untangle it a bit.

Back then....
- Camp Corker bragged about money "pouring in from grassroot Republicans."
- Camp Corker launched a massive TV blitz months ahead of his primary opponents.
- His two primary opponents finally went up on TV with low budget, weak message ads in select markets.
- Camp Corker consistently boasted of a strong, steady lead over his primary opponents in the polls.

But now...
- Camp Corker divides the Republican party further by ignoring earlier pledges and viciously turning on his primary opponents, attacking them by name in a new ad.
- We learn that this vicious attack ad is being funded out of Corker's own personal pocket since his alleged "grassroots" well has run dry so early.
- Camp Corker says he was "forced" into "setting the record straight" in these final days before the primary election because his primary opponents' attacks seem to be getting traction.
- Camp Corker sheepishly confirms that their man dumped a wad of personal cash into campaign coffers on July 14 to keep the campaign afloat.
- Corker continues to pound the pavement and lobbyist doors on K Street in Washington for more "grassroots Republican" cash.
- And just this week a new Knoxville News Sentinel poll shows the primary race tightening between Corker and "Mr. Ed."

So what does all this tell us? Here's my take.

Corker's commanding lead over his primary opponents reflects name recognition with shallow "grass" roots.

Corker's internal polling shows voters - Dems as well as GOPers - are unsettled over his flip flopping record on issues like abortion, taxes, pay raises, immigration, etc.

Corker's efforts at pulling the GOP behind him were getting zero traction (outside of the high brow biz crowd) so he's decided to throw caution to the wind by turning on the two primary opponents whose bases he will need to win a general election.

Despite his best efforts to suck $$ from DC lobbyists, he's not had much success there.

Will Corker continue to divide the GOP further by maintaining his personal attacks against his fellow Republican primary opponents. Yup.

Will Corker continue to have to drop his own $$ into his coffers at the risk of appearing to "buy his nomination." Yup.

Will this all continue to be a tangled mess for Bob. Yup.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reshuffling the GOP dance card

It's been no surprise to hear and see "Mr. Ed" Bryant and "Van dame" Hilleary go at Bob Corker for being a Democrat in GOP clothing. After all, the facts are on their side when it comes to Corker's pro-choice/pro-life election year conversions, not to mention his tendancy to trash talk taxes while raising them as Mayor.
But what's up with Corker's new TV spot attacking his primary opponents by name?
Corker - the candidate who presumably has left his two primary opponents eating dust as he raced ahead of them in recent polls - has unleashed a buffet of attacks on Bryant and Hilleary.
The new Corker spot levels a series of body slams on the two for allowing illegal aliens to invade our homeland, for raising their own pay as members of Congress and for being registered lobbyists.
It seems strange that Corker would take this tact, given the fact that his own camp claims they have the primary all locked up. Attacks like these don't exactly sit well with primary opponents you may need on your side post-primary, especially opponents who represent a wing of your own party you will need to court as a prospective general election nominee.
Also, it seems the new Corker attacks serve to lay open Corker's own vulnerabilities as a potential general election nominee.
Wanna talk illegal immigrants Bob? Remember your company's hiring of illegals to build an apartment complex in Memphis?
Wanna talk pay raises Bob? Remember raising your own pay as Mayor of Chattanooga when budgets were tight?
Wanna talk registered lobbyists Bob? Remember hustling $$ from Washington's K Street lobbyists to pay for the very TV spots that now slam lobbyists?
The new Corker ad ends with a line about "career politicians." Hmm...let's see...a few years serving as Gov. Don "State Income Tax" Sundquist chief fiscal advisor; time spent as Mayor of Chattanooga; time spent running for the U.S. Senate against Bill Frist...guess the word "career" must have some time served benchmark.
Has Corker's multi-million TV, direct mail blitz paid off? We'll know in just a couple of weeks.
Has Corker burned some bridges with the pro-life, conservative wing of his own Party? That depends on Bryant and Hilleary. If they stand by their right wing convictions and want to preserve any credibility or dignity they may possess coming out this contested primary, then the answer is "no way" can Corker expect them to come to his side if he were to become the GOP nominee.
But just when I think I have the partners picked out for this GOP primary dance, the dancers either trip or reshuffle their dance cards.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Corker Chicks in happier times


Here's a not so clear photo image of the Chattanooga chicken (he's the chick on the right) snapped outside the Knoxville GOP debate hours before his run in with a Corker staffer at an early voting site in Chattanooga.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

There's more to this Corker chicken tale

Early voting for most campaigns is chance to test drive GOTV (Get Out The Vote) operations. Some camps by now have identified voters they know to be inclined to vote for their candidate, so they use the occasion to get them to the polls early to cast their votes. Early voting also affords campaigns the opportunity to do some last minute politicking using volunteers or paid staff to "gently" remind voters walking into the polling places to vote for their candidate.
On Friday in Chattanooga, however, the early voting fanfare got a bit ugly and physical between a staffer for Bob Corker and an unidentifed kid in a chicken suit outside the Hamilton County election commission.
According to an account Friday in the chattanoogan.com a Corker campaign staffer - Bryan Shannon - claims he was "assaulted" by a kid in a chicken suit early Friday as Shannon worked the early voting polling place. Shannon said he was assaulted as he innocently attempted to snap a photo of a kid dressed like a chicken who was holding a sign critizing Corker for being too chicken to debate the other Republican primary candidates in his home town of Chattanooga. The chattanoogan.com reported that Shannon claimed he attempted to snap the photo while standing in front of the chicken's car - engine running, chicken behind the wheel. Shannon went on to say that the chicken tried three times to run him over before speeding away. Shannon said he suffered some minor injuries that required some outpatient treatment later at Erlanger Hospital.
On the surface the story seems mildy plausible - innocent man run over by kid in chicken suit for merely trying to snap a photo.
But it just doesn't add up in my mind:
- Shannon, who, according to the chattanoogan.com, stands 6'3", is no small fry. Rumored to be a close confidente of Corker's campaign manager Todd Mitchell, in all likelihood, Shannon was asked to work this key polling place to ensure that nothing goes wrong in Corker's political backyard.
- The chicken shows up on Shannon's watch holding a sign for all the world to see that ridicules Shannon's candidate. Might Shannon be inclined to do something more than merely snap a picture of the chicken?
- Judging by the way the chattanoogan.com story was written, apparently Shannon mustered up the strength - in the midst of nursing his assault wounds - to speed dial select media to tell his side of things before any official police accounts had been reported.
- Also, why would a kid dressed as a chicken be camera shy? Just the night before - at Thursday's GOP primary debate in Knoxville - three kids in chicken suits (representing the three areas of the state where Corker has refused to debate his GOP primary opponents) happily posed for photos for anyone willing to take them.
- And finally, if you wanted to "innocently" take someone photo who happened to sitting in a car with the engine running, would you stand in front of the car, or would you be better off (and maybe even get a better shot) standing out of harm's way beside the driver's window? Seems to me anyone standing in front of a vehicle driven by a kid in a chicken suit was looking for something more to happen than to snap a photo.
All this to say, I was not there and have no clue what really happened.
But I do suspect that there is more to this story, and I for one can't wait to read the official Chattanooga police report that should contain eyewitness accounts of what really happened.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Vampire bunny cameo in campaign mail piece

I couldn't resist sharing an observation about a campaign mail piece that has made its way to my desk this week. It's a piece sent out by a candidate running for state representative in the upper cumberland region of the state.
The mail piece from Chuck Womack - a local Cookeville doctor - combines positives about himself ("doctor who has cared for all our families") with sharp attacks on his two opponents ("power hungry has-been politician"; "lawyer for the debt collector"). But that's not what caught my eye.
In a photo alongside the statement that Womack is the "doctor who cared for all our families" sits Womack with a sweet faced little girl in his lap, listening intently as the candidate reads from the book "Bunnicula."

That's right...Bunnicula...as in vampire bunny (Bunny meets Dracula) that sucks the juice out of vegetables and terrorizes the family pets. Titles from the "Bunnicula" series of books include "It Came From Beneath The Bed", "Nighty-Nightmare" and my personal favorite - "The Celery Stalks At Midnight."
For what it's worth, I might have chosen a different children's book title to showcase on a campaign mail piece - perhaps something more apropos like "Oh, the Places You'll Go."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

To "V" or not to "V"

As the candidates head into the home stretch - early voting starts in two days - for the August primary, I respectfully remind the three stooges running in the GOP U.S. Senate primary of the importance of being clear about what they mean when they say what they say.
Case in point - Ed Bryant (let's call him stooge #1) is questioning the "electability" of Bob Corker (let's call him stooge #2) claiming that stooge #2's flip flops on core right wing litmus tests such as abortion, taxes and immigration are liabilities going into the November general election.
Stooge #1 said "we cannot have a neutered Republican" like stooge #2 as the GOP standard bearer in the general election.
Stooge #2 had his campaign director (let's call him stooge #2's sidekick) call stooge #1's attack on stooge #2's manhood "desperate."
Van Hilleary (stooge #3 and a true soprano in his own right) said through a female spokesperson that there is no way for voters some days to distinguish stooge #2's record from the democratic nominee's - an embrace of sorts of stooge #1's "neutered" point.
Stooges #1 and #3's points are valid with respect to stooge #2's flip flop record of service. The flip flops - pro choice, then pro life; raises taxes, then rails against taxes - are well documented.
But all this back and forth raises an even more fundamental question - could stooge #1 have made the same strong point about stooge #2 without using the "neutered" analogy? Would the soundbite have had the same "bite" if stooge #1 had used the analogy of a "vasectomy" instead?
Let's study the facts.
On "neutering":
- my few seconds of exhaustive Google research today turned up the fact that "neutering" is just a fancy word for castration, which is performed on pets to prevent breeding and aggressiveness
- my exhaustive research also showed that "neutering" has side effects that may include bloating and lack of interest in any exercise
- clearly stooge #1 does not want to see stooge #2 breed or be aggressive, and he might even enjoy watching stooge #2 blow up like a pig on the campaign trail
- and even a male chimp can see that castration has got to be THE most painful procedure, not to mention the post-procedure humilation of having no "cajones".
On "vasectomy":
- things are snipped but it ain't castration
- it does prevent breeding
- stooge #2 might still be aggressive
- stooge #2 would not necessarily blow up like a pig and may still want to exercise
- the procedure is considered more humane
- stooge #2 keeps his "cajones"
Conclusion? It would appear based on the facts that stooge #1 was probably justified in referring to stooge #2 as a "neutered" Republican.
The overwhelming factor I did not reference in the above mentioned facts - but which actually holds more weight on stooge #1's behalf than anything Google can produce - is that calling stooge #2 a "neutered Republican" is a better soundbite and...is...well...funny.
Think about it - do you really think any blog or media outlet would have deemed newsworthy the claim of stooge #1 that stooge #2 has had a "vasectomy?"

Monday, July 10, 2006

The "Cash Room" takes center stage

The U.S. Treasury Department gets a new Secretary today - Henry M. Paulson.
Paulson, who has an estimated net worth of $700 million, was just awarded an $18.7 million cash bonus for half a year of work as the outgoing chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group.
In 2004, Paulson earned the title of Bush Pioneer. The Pioneers are an elite group of GOP donors who raised $100,000 for Bush's presidential campaigns in order to wear an official Pioneer badge. Another Bush Pioneer who just last week garnered headlines was the now deceased Kenneth Lay of Enron fame.
Today's swearing in of Paulson will be administered by Bush in the Treasury Building's ornate "Cash Room" where the public once could cash government checks, exchange new money for old, redeem silver certificates and gold certificates, and sell U.S. Treasury bonds. Now used primarily as a backdrop for ceremonies, the Cash Room has now become center stage under Bush for a different sort of redemption.
Nashville's congressman Jim Cooper used the occasion of today's swearing in of Paulson to renew his call on the Treasury/Administration to be more forthright and transparent in its reporting of the federal deficits. It's no secret that Bush's Treasury has used a kind of accounting method over the past six years that allows for under reporting of the size of the deficits.
While I certainly can't help but agree with Coop's call for more straight forward, honest disclosure of how bad things really are at Treasury, part of me thinks I may not be able to stomach knowing more than I already do.