Briefs for the blizzard season



Various things that have happened before, during, after, and between the blizzards:

In the wake of the weekend tea party convention, everybody is again debating the political future of Sarah "Talk to the Hand" Palin. Will she or won't she run for president in '12? Who knows. She probably doesn't know, either. And there's no need to decide yet anyway. She can afford to spend most of '10 dropping noncomittal hints and keeping her options open. But if I had to make the case that, yes, she does intend to run, I would cite these remarks from her Saturday night tea party Q&A:

Political leaders, she said, should "start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren’t afraid to go that route, and also afraid of the political correctness that, you know, they have to be afraid about what the media would say about them if they were to proclaim their reliance on our creator."

That's aimed squarely at the religious conservatives who comprise much of the Republican party base - and who tend to turn out in disproportionate numbers for the Republican caucuses in Iowa, the first stop on the primary season calendar. Of course, that kind of overt religiosity - the notion of a president basing his or her decisions on "divine intervention" and "reliance on our creator" - does tend to turn off general-election independent voters. But the party base comes first, as do the primaries. With those remarks, Palin appeared to be putting down an early marker. Just in case she decides to go for it.


Had John Murtha lived, it would've been fascinating to see how the Democratic prince of pork might have fared in his '10 re-election race. The veteran Pennsylvania congressman, who died yesterday at 77, was toting heavy baggage into an election year that seems highly inhospitable to incumbent insiders. Murtha was facing a strong Republican challenge, at a time when his insider practices were under federal investigation.

It's questionable whether Murtha would have actually been outed from the seat he had held since 1974 - he had brought home a heckuva lot of bacon for the struggling city of Johnstown - but a narrow margin of victory would have spoken volumes about the public's fed-up mood. After all, Murtha was a guy who, among many other things, had reportedly cycled millions of dollars worth of no-bid Pentagon contracts to his nephew's defense company. The local voters had long appreciated Murtha's federal largesse, but the old bull embodied politics as usual - as evidenced by how he dismissed ethics reform legislation as "total crap."

Alas, now we'll never know how his autumn race would've gone. In his absence, the House seat will possibly become a Republican pickup; this western Pennsylvania district favored John McCain in the '08 presidential voting, even while the state itself went strongly for Barack Obama. But the reality is that any new Republican will also be expected to bring home the bacon, just as Murtha was. In a downtrodden district, pork is not a dirty word, it's a lifeline. In that sense, perhaps Murtha's tombstone should be emblazoned with the sentence he uttered to Pittsburgh reporters last March: "If I'm corrupt, it's becauser I take care of my district."


Speaking of corrupt, the Illinois Democrats just caught a break. As I mentioned here last Friday, on the eve of the (first) snowstorm, they'd been saddled with a lieutenant gubernatorial nominee whose track record for sleaze was noteworthy even by Illinois standards. Scott Lee Cohen, a pawnbroker by trade and winner of his Democratic primary, had been arrested in '05 for putting a knife to the throat of a girlfriend (who, in turn, had been facing a separate prostitution charge). What I hadn't heard, last Friday, was that he'd also allegedly knocked his ex-wife around, that he was a steroid abuser, and that he'd been successfully sued by his own brother for nearly 200 grand. Anyway, Cohen decided to step aside on Sunday night. And on Monday morning, Democratic governor Pat Quinn virtually hung a help-wanted sign in his window; in his words, "Anybody interested should contact me."

Heckuva way to pick the person who could wind up a heartbeat away from the state's top job. Too bad Rod Blagojevich (and his hair) are already committed this TV season to Donald Trump (and his hair).


Mark Sanford, the Republican love guv of South Carolina, was the exemplar of strong conservative principles nearly one year ago, when he stomped on his state's schoolchildren by refusing to accept roughly $700 million in federal stimulus money targeting public education. He even went to court last year in an effort to prevent stimulus money from flowing to South Carolina.

But what Sanford used to dismiss as "financial recklessness" suddenly seems just fine to him now. Late last week, he showed up in Washington to lobby Education secretary Arne Duncan on behalf of his state's public schools, hoping to grab a big share of that stimulus money. Care to guess what happened to his conservative principles?

One year ago, he was seen as a possible '12 presidential contender; in that capacity, he had to woo the conservative base. Standing up for ideological purity, and thus depriving South Carolina's schoolchildren of much-needed stimulus money, was part of that political bargain. But then came the sex scandal that wrecked his nascent presidential aspirations. Now there's no need to pander to the base anymore; now he's free to actually do his job and serve the South Carolinians who need help.

Perhaps the state educators should send a bouquet of flowers and a thank-you note to a certain lady in Argentina.


Let's check in briefly with the Pennsylvania Democratic senatorial primary, listen to the rhetoric, and translate accordingly.

In the midst of the Saturday blizzard, Senator Arlen Specter was officially endorsed for the May primary by the Democratic State Committee, which rejected the insurgent bid by challenger Joe Sestak. Specter then said: "I compliment and pay my respects to Congressman Sestak for his vigorous candidacy."

Translation: Joe Sestak is a dead man.

Meanwhile, a defiant Sestak brought up Specter's '09 decision to leave the Republican party, and said: "No one likes someone who runs away from a fight. And he ran from his."

Translation: Arlen Specter is a coward.

Dead man versus coward - rhetorically speaking, it should be a wild spring season. Assuming the snow ever melts.

Indeed, with a fresh snowstorm on the way here in the east, there is no need to despair. I ask you all to...what was it I was going to was something truly profound...wait, I wrote it right here on my palm!

Lift your American spirit.