Sarah Palin

Tuesday is the fifth anniversary of then-Gov. Mitt Romney signing a universal healthcare bill into law for Massachusetts — a law that Romney used to be proud of, but now is a mark of shame for him (derided as “RomneyCare”) among the Republican base he needs to win over to get the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

President Obama and other Democrats have said that Romney’s 2006 universal healthcare law helped set the stage for the national healthcare reform law passed last year. That has led to some significant Republican backlash against Romney, because the former Massachusetts governor is now seen as basically having enacted the same law that is one of the GOP’s biggest criticisms of Obama.

While Romney likely will ignore the anniversary as best he can, Massachusetts Democrats will shine a spotlight on it by throwing a party to mark the occasion. The politically-motivated celebration will include a “Thank You Mitt Romney” cake made specially for the photo opportunity moment.

That’s the sort of political theater that makes me love politics.

* * *

With the fifth anniversary of RomneyCare tomorrow, it is puzzling why Romney chose today to announce the formation of his presidential exploratory committee. The fact that he will run for president again is no surprise, but the timing of his announcement is.

Romney is not the first Republican to announce his 2012 presidential aspirations with such peculiar timing this year. Remember Newt Gingrich made a similar announcement with a potential government shutdown looming, and it didn’t make sense why he would risk reminding people that he helped shut down the federal government in 1995.

At this rate, I expect Sarah Palin to announce she is running for president on the anniversary of her interview with Katie Couric.


My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Earlier this week when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped kick off a series of Tea Party Express rallies leading up to the election, I couldn’t help but think back to my East Coast vacation earlier this month.

No, I didn’t immediately think of the gaudy-looking lighthouse restaurant with the “Ron Paul for President” sign in the window, though that soon crossed my mind, too. My first thought was of the Freedom Trail, the 2.5-mile walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites in Boston.

The Boston Tea Party is believed to have happened at old Griffin’s Wharf, which no longer exists because of a large-scale landfill project more than a century ago. A historical marker indicates where the wharf once was, but as you might expect, looking at a plaque isn’t quite as awe-inspiring as actually seeing the place as it was in 1773 and being able to – with a little imagination – visualize crates of tea being thrown off ships into the harbor.

Regardless, for someone like me who loves history and politics and has been to the East Coast only a handful of times, I’m still fascinated by simply visiting where events occured to form the cradle of our democracy. And my recent visit to Boston got me thinking about how the current tea party movement stacks up against the Boston Tea Party protest.

At its simplest, the comparison surely can be made. In 1773, future Americans were fed up with the ruling government, boarded ships and dumped all the tea in the water below. In 2010, a sizable number of Americans are fed up with the government, so they want to board Congress and dump all the incumbent politicians into the unemployment pool.

Both movements grew, too. Just as today’s tea party movement continues to grow, the Boston Tea Party spurred disgruntled future Americans to dump tea in other New England locales, including Maine, New York and North Carolina.

Taking the comparison a step further, it would seem that the connection between the two movements weakens. I assume most tea party supporters don’t favor literally overthrowing the government, as the Boston Tea Partiers obviously did.

And, while the current tea party movement surely will achieve a sense of victory next month – very few presidents survive their first midterm election with the same level of Congressional support they began with – nobody will be erecting memorials at key places in the 21st century tea party’s history. (“Look over here, Johnny. This is where Sarah Palin joked about seeing November from her house and sent the Tea Party Express on its way to victory.”)

Frankly, I expect the tea party movement to last about as long as Ross Perot’s Reform Party movement – which is to say, not very long in the grand scheme of things. Like the Reform Party before it, the tea party is burning hot but soon will burn out. This is not a criticism of the tea party, just an historically-based observation.

In any case, the tea party will leave its mark on our political history, at least for our lifetime. And when people want a true taste of dissident tea, they always can visit Boston.

My column from this week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered:

Now that Labor Day has passed, the election season is kicking into high gear.

There’s no better time to be a political reporter – especially when there is a tight race to be covered, such as the 11th Congressional District battle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) and challenger Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno). And when it comes to pleasing readers, there is no worse time to be a political reporter.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.

The goal of any political reporter, including this one, is to give fair and balanced coverage to the candidates and the issues. Unfortunately, there are people I like to call Pavlov’s Politicos: They love any media story about their preferred candidate, and they call anything other than that biased reporting.

Case in point: Last week I covered a Halvorson campaign stop in Ottawa. As we do with all our articles, I posted a link to the story on Facebook. That’s where a Marseilles man suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I hope – I must be receiving monetary contributions from the congresswoman because I write “fluff” stories about her. I checked out his Facebook “likes,” which include Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, FOX News, the National Tea Party and nothing that appears to be remotely associated with Democrats.

So it follows suit that the commenter doesn’t like Halvorson. And apparently, because I covered a Halvorson event in the course of doing my job, he doesn’t like me, either. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like my writing. Doesn’t matter, really. I just wonder if, when he reads my coverage of a Kinzinger event, he feels the same way about my article.

I’m not mentioning the man’s political leanings to insinuate anything about Republicans. I mention them because a few days later, I received an e-mail message from somebody I know regularly attends meetings of the Bureau-La Salle Tea Party complimenting last week’s issue of Ottawa Delivered. Noting the spread of political stories in the issue, which included my Focus story about local political campaign volunteers and an in-depth interview with Halvorson, the e-mailer said the “good objective articles” were providing “a fine public service” to readers.

Apparently he wasn’t offended by the Halvorson article in the newspaper. Which brings me to my greater point: We don’t pander to any politicians here at Ottawa Delivered, and while I don’t expect to please everyone, I hope that readers will respect our attempt at providing them with views from all sides of the political arena: Democrat, Republican, tea party, independent, etc.

When our newspaper received compliments about its political coverage from a tea party member, a staunch Republican and a couple of union members all within a week’s time, I knew we must be doing it right. And I hope you agree. Because even if you don’t agree with the views expressed by the people being covered in a particular article, I hope you’ll at least respect the way we reported them.

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite comic books was the “What if …?” series. Each issue posed a different question, such as “What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?” These were important, alternate-reality comic-book questions for which every teenage boy wanted to know the answers.

I remembered this last Sunday while reading Peter Gammons’ baseball column on Gammons wrote an entire column playing the “What if …?” game with baseball, theorizing what might have transpired had, for instance, the Boston Red Sox traded for Alex Rodriguez or signed Mark Teixeira.

Gammons’ column got me thinking about playing the “What if …?” game with politics. There are so many different directions to take that game, but the one that popped into my head first was this: What if Broadway Bank had failed before the Feb. 2 primary election?

Broadway Bank, of course, was the financial institution owned by the family of Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate in Illinois’ U.S. Senate race. It is my opinion that unless his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, makes a major mistake, the failure of Broadway Bank has sunk Giannoulias’ campaign. That may not be fair, but I figure the bank’s failure is one of those campaign points Kirk will make last effectively until the Nov. 2 general election.

The Democrats could have put up a tougher fight for the president’s former Senate seat than this. Had the primary election been held a month later – in March as had been the case before 2008 – former Chicago Inspector David Hoffman probably would have won the Democratic primary. Giannoulias was losing serious ground to Hoffman in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 2 primary election, and barring a major misstep by Hoffman, there was a good chance Giannoulias wouldn’t have won had the vote taken place a few weeks later.

That doesn’t mean Hoffman would necessarily beat Kirk in the November election – especially when voting against incumbent politicians/parties seems to be in vogue – but at least the Democrats wouldn’t be saddled with the Giannoulias problem.

But because of Giannoulias’ troubles, Kirk can now afford to ignore Sarah Palin, too. According to published reports, Kirk reached out to the former Republican vice-presidential candidate for support before the primary election, but Palin snubbed him. Now, as Palin prepares to return to Illinois next month for a GOP fundraiser, Kirk says he won’t attend the event. Kirk says he isn’t going because he needs to be in Washington, D.C., for scheduled House votes, but in reality, he probably would’ve skipped those votes if he believed he really needed to be at that fundraiser to get Palin’s support. He wouldn’t be the first – or the last – politician to do such a thing during election season.

And you don’t need to play the “What if …?” game to know that.

Here it is, the second installment of my writing experiment, “Thursdays with Chia Obama!” This past week Chia Obama sprouted a lot of “hair,” and it’s growing in every direction! Apparently Chia Obama is going through an Albert Einstein phase — which is better than him sporting a mullet.

If you missed last week’s edition of “Thursdays with Chia Obama,” you can find it by clicking here. Once you’ve caught up, read on! And don’t forget to let me know what you think of the story.

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It is Friday afternoon and we’re preparing to leave for Kane County, where we’ll watch Chicago Cubs players Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson rehab with the Class A Peoria Chiefs. I’m heading for the door when I notice a fly buzzing around the kitchen. The winged annoyance lands on a window near Chia Obama, instantly reminding me of President Obama’s recent Swat Heard ‘Round the World. Channeling the president’s mad fly-swatting skills, I slowly raise my hand and strike quickly. Got the sucker on my first try. I expect to hear from PETA soon.

* * *

It is Saturday, July 4, 2009 – our nation’s 233rd birthday. After shaking the morning cobwebs from my mind, I head to the kitchen to water Chia Obama. I am surprised to see what appear to be tears coming from Chia Obama’s eyes.

I am not exaggerating. The clay pot soaks up some of the water poured into it, and sometimes drops appear on Chia Obama’s face. This is the first time they look like teardrops.

I can’t help but think the tears are appropriate, as Chia Obama’s namesake, President Obama, obviously loves his country – otherwise he wouldn’t have run for president during such a pivotal time in our nation’s history – and today is Independence Day, the day we celebrate our country’s freedoms.

It also is possible Chia Obama is crying tears of joy because we won’t have Sarah Palin to kick around for much longer. Or so it seems …

* * *

It is Wednesday evening, and rain has been falling most of the day. The precipitation helped make this the coolest July 8 in northern Illinois in 118 years. The temperature outside the house makes today feel like a May day.

Chia Obama is growing a significant head of hair – except in one small spot on the back of his head. However, the longer his hair grows, the less his bald spot shows.

Personally, I have never had a problem with thinning hair. By that, I don’t mean my hair is not thinning. I’ve had a thin head of hair for years. But I don’t have a problem with that.

Some people needlessly worry about such things. But unless you’re a hair model or something like that, why does it matter how voluminous your hair is, especially if you are a man? You should feel blessed you have hair to lose.

Every March during the past six years, I’ve gotten my head buzzed as part of a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which collects money for cancer research. The annual event always serves to remind me and others that cancer patients don’t have the option of keeping their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. They’ve got worse things to worry about than thinning hair or a blossoming bald spot.

Think about them the next time you are unhappy with your hair.

* * *

Check back here at The Bread Line next Thursday for the third installment of “Thursdays with Chia Obama”!

Sporting a Don King hairstyle on July 4, Chia Obama appears to be crying. Though inanimate, Chia Obama likely cried more sincerely than when Fox News commentator Glenn Beck fake-wept and told viewers, "I just love my country, and I fear for it."

Sporting a Don King hairstyle on July 4, Chia Obama appears to be crying. Though inanimate, Chia Obama likely cried more sincerely than when Fox News commentator Glenn Beck fake-wept and told viewers, "I just love my country, and I fear for it."

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin must pay back taxes on nearly $18,000 in expenses she charged the state for living in her Wasilla home instead of living in the governor’s mansion in Juneau, the state capital.

According to the Associated Press, Palin collected the money in per diem payments reimbursing expenses for more than 300 nights she slept in her home in Wasilla and commuted 40 miles to her Anchorage office instead of living and working in Juneau. Wasilla is located 600 miles away from Juneau, which is accessible only by airplane or ship.

A Palin spokesman said the governor will pay back the money.

This is a great precedent that should be followed here in Illinois. Our former governor, the recently impeached Rod Blagojevich, regularly wasted taxpayer dollars by living in Chicago instead of Springfield. When Blagojevich did business in the state capital, he used a taxpayer-funded, state-owned airplane to fly 200 miles from Chicago to Springfield, and then another 200 miles back to the Windy City – all because he refused to live in the governor’s mansion.

I propose that governors who choose to live away from the state capital pay all costs of transportation between their chosen homes and the taxpayer-funded mansions where they are supposed to reside. If they don’t want to abide by that rule, they shouldn’t run for governor.

Black History Month officially began Sunday, though it actually arrived two weeks ago when Barack Obama was inaugurated as our nation’s first black president. That historic event was followed by Friday’s election of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to be the first black head of the Republican National Committee.

Of course, it remains to be seen what effect Steele’s election will have on the GOP. But for now, right or wrong, it appears that installing Steele as head of a political party largely comprised of white people is a bit of stunt casting in reaction to Obama’s soaring popularity. I am not saying that Steele is not qualified for the job, just that the timing of his election is interesting in the same way Sarah Palin’s selection as GOP vice presidential nominee was following Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary loss to Obama. The coincidence is too much to ignore in both cases.

However, the GOP seems to have done its homework better in choosing Steele. John Aloysius Farrell, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, recently described Steele as “charismatic, conservative, media savvy and, incidentally, a person of color.” Palin may be charismatic and conservative, but she sure isn’t media savvy. By that fact alone, Steele surely is a step ahead of her in the game.

It will be interesting to see if Steele’s leadership will help change the Republican Party’s image for the better. Will he call for a more inclusive political party that appeals to more minorities? Only time will tell, but it will be worth watching for the answer.

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