A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Odds & Ends

  • I need a break from the Health Care aftermath.

  • This edition of MULLINGS has nothing which will cause you to paint a sign and stand in front of someone's Congressional office chanting things like:
    Hey, hey;

    Ho, ho;

    H.R. 3590 has got to go

    Which, while technically correct, seems to lack a little something in connecting to the people.

  • March, it turns out, is one of those "hath 31" months. We name each of the "30 days hath" months, and we make a special case out of February which stands alone, but those "hath 31" months are just lumped together.

  • You don't have to memorize the "hath 31" months and you can't recite them without writing all the months and crossing out the "hath 30s" and February.

  • Go ahead. Try it. Try to name the "hath 31" months.

  • Good bar bet, though.

  • This is another one of those self-inflicted LeRoy Jethro Gibbs head-slaps deals that I inflict on myself: Every college has a nickname. Marietta College's nickname, as you probably already know, is "The Pioneers" because … well, it just is.

  • During the course of the NCAA basketball tournaments (men's and women's) I keep hearing and reading about the University of Connecticut Huskies. Why, I wondered, did a team from Connecticut choose the nickname "The Huskies?"

  • After 63 years of following college sports, it came to me.

  • The University of Connecticut is known as UConn.

  • Yukon.

  • Huskies.

  • Head-slap.

  • Speaking of self-inflicted head-slaps, Carly Fiorina is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California to run against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer in the Fall.

  • In the way of campaigns trying to show they are so sensitive to every minority, the Fiorina campaign e-mailed a Passover greeting to Jewish supporters - the holiday celebrating the Jews' escape from Egypt in, I think, 1734 - which began at sundown Monday night.

  • A reeeeeaaaalllly big part of the Passover tradition is to forego eating anything which contains a leavening agent (like yeast) in remembrance of the Jews having high-tailed it out before the bread they were preparing had a chance to rise, leading to the tradition of eating matzoh during the eight days of this holiday.

  • The rule? No bread.

  • Carly sent out an e-mail which said:
    This week, as we break bread and spend time with our families and friends, I hope we also take a moment to say a word of thanks for our freedom and for those who have given their lives in freedom's name.

  • Slap.

  • On Monday I drove from Alexandria, Virginia to New Jersey where I joined with my brother and my mom for the trip to the traditional Passover meal (the Seder) hosted by my Aunt and Uncle at their home on eastern Long Island.

  • Getting from New Jersey to Suffolk County, New York entails a trip along the Long Island Expressway. Having to endure the L.I.E. during rush hour is one of the two ways God reminds us of the difficulties our forebears encountered during their 40 years in the desert.

  • The other is the aforementioned matzoh.

  • Dear Ms. Fiorina: If you really want to show your interest in Passover, please charter a helicopter for me to get to next year's Seder.

  • I can't find out why, in that pesky H.R. 3590, of all the things the Congress could have chosen to tax to help pay for the 30 million additional people to be covered by health insurance, they decided on … tanning salons.

  • According to CNN the tanning salon tax "is expected to generate $2.7 billion over ten years."

  • Ok. Big bucks. But the tab for the health care bill - by Democrats' accounting - is going to be $940 billion.

  • Even someone mathematically challenged as I am knows that, at $270 million per year, it will take 3,481 years of tanning to pay for health care.

  • Put another way, health care will be fully funded by the year 5,491.

  • Sounds like a Zager and Evans song.

  • I wonder if anyone in the intra-mural Democrat negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever suggested taxing Botox injections to raise money.

  • Now that would have been worthy of a chapter in the next edition of "Profiles in Courage".

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the text of the health care bill (which you've probably already read and annotated), to CNN's analysis of the tanning salon tax, and to Zeger & Evans.

  • Also, a pretty cool Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Recess Appointments

  • I know the Conservative ecosystem is in a tizzy about President Obama's making 15 recess appointments as soon as the Senate packed up for its Spring recess, but it is allowed by the Constitution and was utilized by President George W. Bush.

  • From Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:
    The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

  • One of the most famous recess appointments made by President Bush was that of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. Democrats had filibustered Bolton's confirmation, so the President waited until the beginning of the August recess in 2005 to appoint him.

  • Ambassador Bolton was not likely to win Senate confirmation when his recess appointment expired, so he resigned effective the date of the adjournment of the 109th Congress in December, 2006.

  • After the GOP lost control of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) prevented any further recess appointments by simply not having any recesses. When the House and Senate were on a break, one Democratic Senator would take the floor every three days to conduct a pro forma session during which no business was transacted, but no recess appointments could be made.

  • One person who did not receive a recess appointment was the President's second attempt to get an administrator of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) confirmed. This time the guy was a retired Army two-star general named Robert A. Harding.

  • Seems that MG Harding (Ret.) had a company which won contracts with the Pentagon totaling as much as $200 million. One of them, according to, was a "$54 million contract to provide the Defense Intelligence Agency with civilian interrogators."

  • Ok. He knew something about that kind of work, so maybe the contract was legit.

  • But then, according to the Politico piece by Kasie Hunt:
    The government terminated the contract after only a year and ultimately paid Harding's outfit about $6 million, triggering an audit that revealed the company had overbilled the government by at least $860,000.

    When the firm appealed the audit … negotiations resulted in Harding Security Associates repaying an additional $1.8 million to the government - a total worth more than one-third of the total contract cost."

  • Getting fired after one year and failing at least one audit wasn't what got my attention.

  • This was: According to a Washington Post piece yesterday, Major General Harding "as the owner of Harding Security Associates received a consulting contract worth almost $100 million from the Army after certifying he was a "service disabled veteran" as part of a set-aside for firms owned by service disabled vets.

  • That's good, the government giving preference to disabled veterans. Who could be opposed to that?

  • Oh. His disability? Swallow your coffee first.

  • Ready?

  • Sleep Apnea.

  • Over 37,000 American service members have been killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. How many, do you suppose, were send home because of sleep apnea?

  • And, in any case, how could sleep apnea possibly be defined as a service-related condition?

  • Turns out sleep apnea is a little more serious than what I shouted when I read the headline in the Washington Post yesterday morning:
    "He got $200 million in contracts because of being a heavy snorer?"

  • Which scared the cat, awoke the Mullings Director of Standards and Practices, and so was not a good way to start a Sunday in any conceivable dimension.

  • Harding would have skated on his bad bookkeeping on that $54 million contract, there would have been sixteen recess appointments announced last weekend, and every TSA office in every airport in the land would have been sent a color photo of Major General Robert Harding (Ret.) as the TSA's new leader.

  • Alas, Harding bailed at the end of the week after that difficult hearing and, according to the Post, "after The Washington Post raised questions with the White House on Friday about his disabilities status."

  • Who's vetting these people, Michaele and Tareq Salahi?

  • Remember that questionnaire that everyone was supposed to fill out before they could be considered for a job in the Obama Administration during the transition? The final question was:
    "Provide any other information that could be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect."

  • Maybe they ought to put that one back in.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Congressional Research Service explanation of Recess Appointments, and to the Politico and Washington Post stories about Major General Robert B. "Snorey" Harding (Ret.).

    Also a Mullfoto that may confuse you as much as it did me and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Be Strong but Civil

  • The discussion about health care reform began to take on an edge last summer during those town hall meetings which became the "August Story." In district after Congressional district, Democrats who had been sent home with a vague theory of a new way to handle health insurance were shouted down and fed up.

  • As we noted at the time, a cardinal rule of politics is: If you don't define yourself or your issue, your opponent will do it for you.

  • And, boy, did the opponents of a federalized health care system define it for the Democrats.

  • Those Democrats who realized they had been outflanked by said that the people who attended those town hall meetings had been organized and turned-out by the GOP.

  • In just a few weeks the Republican Party had gone from being a defeated and dysfunctional organization (which was on the cusp of not just being the minority party; but a minor party) to a highly efficient political juggernaut which could identify, organize, and turn-out hundreds of people at town hall meetings all over the nation.

  • According to Democrats and the press, the GOP had gotten really good, really fast.

  • The Tea Partiers did not start not with health care. They started after an on-air rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli over the way the Obama administration was planning to bail out people who couldn't pay their mortgages.


    The Obama Administration is, today, announcing a yet another series of programs to bail out people who can't pay their mortgages. This time it is aimed at those who are suffering because unemployment is at 9.7 percent and is likely to stay in that range for the foreseeable future.


  • Random groups loosely affiliated themselves into an organization called "The Tea Party" and created a national voice of opposition to one of the many versions of the Democrats' health care reform bill.

  • Republicans in the House and Senate - cut out of the process by the large Democratic majorities in each Chamber - embraced the Tea Partiers and, indeed, came within three votes of stopping the entire process.

  • On Sunday, it was widely reported that, while walking from the House Office Buildings to the Capitol, Black Members of Congress had been spat at and had been assaulted verbally.

  • I don't believe it. There is not one cell phone picture, not one second of Flip camera video, not one digital photo, not one anything that corroborates any of those stories.

  • I am convinced that Democratic Members invented those stories to call the people who were protesting against the health care reform bill into disrepute.

  • If evidence comes to light to prove me wrong, then we'll revisit this.

  • The quickly declining state of political civility in the nation was not helped yesterday by President Obama's campaign-style appearance in Iowa City yesterday in which he employed a tone which was mocking and disrespectful.

  • The President's spoke of how good this bill is going to be for business. In fact, he challenged Republicans who want to run on a platform of "repeal" in November to "go for it."

  • Last night the Associated Press released a short analysis of how this bill will affect American companies. This is the exact text as cut-and-pasted from the New York Times website:
    COSTLY CHANGE: The new health care law will make it more expensive for companies to offer prescription drug coverage for retirees because companies will receive smaller tax deductions for those benefits in the future.

    TOUGH TO SWALLOW: One study estimates that U.S. companies could lose as much as $14 billion this year because of the tax law change.

    SIDE EFFECTS: As many as 1.5 million to 2 million retirees could lose the prescription drug benefits their former employers provide because of the tax changes.

  • I agree with the President. If Republicans want to run against a bill which imposes $14 billion in new costs to American businesses, and causes and 2 million retirees to lose their prescription drug benefits they should "go for it."

  • It wouldn't hurt if both sides took a break from the hypertensive rhetoric and let America catch its collective breath.

  • Democrats are attempting to turn the attention of independent voters away from their opposition to the health care reform bill, to aversion to the protesters and Republicans who support them.

  • The GOP needs to be careful not to be seen as inciting physical harm to public officials. Dropping the decibels will help.

  • Republicans are on the correct side of this debate. They can afford to be strong, but civil.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the video of the Rick Santelli rant (which, if you've never seen it is worth four minutes of your time), to the AP's reporting on the new mortgage relief program, and to President Obama's appearance in Iowa.

    Also a pretty funny Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Forget About Repeal

  • I have received a couple of thousand e-mails from people and organizations who want me to donate to the cause of repealing the health care legislation which the House passed on Sunday night.

  • Forget it. Ain't gonna happen.

  • President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday at the White House complete with Vice President Joe "Potty Mouth" Biden dropping the F-bomb in the President's ear, in the White House, in front of an open microphone.

  • That Biden. What a frat-boy.


    Remember when Vice President Cheney used the F-word on the hallowed floor of the U.S. Senate during a conversation with Sen. Patrick Leahy back in 2004? It only became known because some Senate staffers showed themselves to be the weenies they truly are when they raced up to the press gallery to tell all.

    The next day the Washington Post assigned not one, but two reporters to get to the bottom of the outrage which was generally condemned as the end of civilization as we know it.

    Cheney said shortly after the exchange: "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it."

    I feel better just writing about it.


  • No matter what happens to the reconciliation bill in the Senate - and I think it will pretty much sail through - the underlying bill is now law. Full (as the British say) stop.

  • The only way to repeal a law is to enact a new law cancelling the first one.

  • The only way to enact a new law (as we all re-learned last week) is for the House and the Senate to pass identical bills which are then combined, signed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate, sent to the White House, and signed by the President.

  • Except …

  • Even if Republicans were to win control of both the House and the Senate in November the House might pass a repeal bill, but such a bill would need 60 votes in the Senate, which would not happen.

  • Even if the repeal got 60 votes in the Senate it would still need the signature of President Barack Obama, which would not happen.

  • President Obama would veto such a bill and it would require 2/3 votes in each the House and the Senate to override the veto.

  • Which … Would … Not … Happen.

  • So, before you sign a check to help some group which claims it will help get the health care bill repealed, consider just how difficult that will be.


    I am officially changing my search engine from Google to Bing. Why? Because I , er, Googled myself on and got this result:

    1-10 of 3,170,000 results

  • If Microsoft can find 3.1 million entries for me, I'm their guy.

    BOOK PLUG - You, Me, and the U.S. Economy by Stacy Carlson

  • Now that President Obama has reformed health care, he and his pals in Congress are turning their attention to reforming the financial system, although one reform is already one too many for most of us.

  • As you may know I'm still cranky about the paying off AIG's counterparties at par (I only know what that means because of Stacy's book). Reform is probably necessary but not as a synonym for more government control and larger government bureaucracies.

  • In September of 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis, I wrote some pretty good stuff explaining why, even though we all hated it and Wall Street, the bank bail-out was a necessary evil.

  • Here's an example:
  • As far as I'm concerned Moe, Larry and Curly couldn't have done any worse than these Wall Street jerks with their slicked back hair, tailor-made shirts and suits, custom-fit shoes, gold cufflinks, and Hermes ties.

  • And that's just the women.

  • Mull-Pal Stacy Carlson was Hank Paulson's speech writer at Treasury and was in the building the whole time. She has written a book about it that was simple enough for me to understand, with humor, and with a handy crisis glossary.

  • "You, Me, and the U.S. Economy" available at Take a look by clicking HERE.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the Washington Post's breathless coverage of the Cheney-Leahy Senate debate, a Mullfoto which shows why Easter Break is the worst time to be in DC, and a pretty funny Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 21, 2010

    The Health Care Bill Has Passed

  • I am not breaking my arm patting myself on the back. I've been doing this long enough to know that when it comes to predictions, I am correct precisely 50 percent of the time.

  • The end of the fight to defeat this health care bill came at about four o'clock Sunday afternoon when the President promised Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich) that he would sign an Executive Order banning the use of Federal money to fund abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

  • When Stupak agreed to the langue in the Executive Order as an acceptable safety net for the pro-life Democrats in the House, the issue was resolved. [A link to the text of the Executive Order is available on the Secret Decoder Ring Page HERE]

  • There are several steps left to go before this is done.

  • The Speaker and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate have to sign the official copy of the legislation which will then carried to the White House where it will be signed, with justifiable flourish, by President Obama. That satisfies Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution which provides that,
    Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it …

  • But, the bill which the House passed was the exact bill which was adopted by the Senate - including the Cornhusker kick-back and a tax on so-called "Cadillac health care plans" which many in the House don't like.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    This is where my head begins to hurt. Why did the House go through all this? Why didn't they just pass the bill they wanted and come up with a bill both Chambers would accept in a Conference between them?


    With the election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) in January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) lost his 60-vote filibuster-proof majority. That meant that a bill passed by the House which was not identical to the bill already adopted by the Senate would be effectively killed by Senate Republicans.

    My head doesn't hurt any less. So, what's with this whole reconciliation thing?

    I'm on shaky ground here, but the main point is: Budget resolutions and bills which "reconcile" spending to fit within a budget resolution are not subject to filibuster and so need only a majority of those voting (51 Senators if everyone is working that day).

  • Here's what the Senate's glossary page says about the reconciliation process:
    A process established in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress changes existing laws to conform tax and spending levels to the levels set in a budget resolution. Changes recommended by committees pursuant to a reconciliation instruction are incorporated into a reconciliation measure.

  • Which makes my head hurt.

  • Anyway, the Democrats are claiming that the fix-it bill coming back from the House is really a budget reconciliation bill and thus needs only a simple majority.

  • Senate Republicans, as you might imagine, are in hearty disagreement with this theory.

  • The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the reconciliation bill can't be presented to the Senate until the President has signed the underlying bill - there has to be something to reconcile. So, the Senate will wait to take up the fixes until after the signing ceremony at the White House.

  • Here's where I think the plan fails: If I have to buy insurance to drive a car, that's fine. I don't have to drive. I can walk, ride a bike, take the bus, whatever.

  • If I have to pay an airport tax to help defray the costs of the TSA, that's fine, too. I don't have to get on an airplane. I can walk, ride a bike, take the bus, whatever.

  • This bill says that I have to purchase health insurance. I don't have to drive or fly, but I do have to live, so that that seems to be a government seizure forbidden by the Fourth Amendment.

  • If I was on shaky ground on the reconciliation thing, given the single Con Law class I took from Professor Robert Hill at Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750 I might be on quicksand on this one, but there you have it.

  • At about 10:48 last night, the vote was gaveled into history and the bill was adopted 219 - 212 - three votes to spare.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: The text of the President's Executive Order on abortion funding, a link to the Senate's glossary page, and the text of the Fourth Amendment.

  • Also a gentle Mullfoto of the season's first daffodil, and a pretty good Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Health Care Will Pass

  • I think that the health care bill will be adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday. It may need that screwy "having deemed to have passed" nonsense that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has up her sleeve or it may pass on a straight up-or-down vote.


    In 2003 the House printed 550,000 copies of a document titled: "How Our Laws Are Made."

    (A)None of them apparently made it to Speaker Pelosi's office because,

    (B) a word search did not turn up a reference to a bill "deemed" to have passed without an actual vote.


  • How do I know the health care bill is going to pass? I don't. I'm not rooting for it, but I think that is what will happen.

  • And on Monday … guess what? The sun will come up. The Earth will continue to spin on its axis. America will not be officially renamed: France; neither Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, nor Haile Selassie will not have come back to life; and Tiger Woods' return to competitive play will set an all-time record for viewers of the Masters.

  • Here's the point: The Democrats are only doing what Democrats do when they have the power to do it. If Republicans hadn't done so badly at the polls in 2006 and 2008 this wouldn't have happened.

  • Let's review the bidding: In the 109th Congress (2005-2007) there were 232 Republicans, 202 Democrats and one Independent. The GOP had a comfortable majority.

  • Too comfortable, it turned out, because following the election of November of 2006, the 110th Congress went to work in January of 2007 with 233 Democrats and 202 Republicans. Democrats had just a comfortable a majority.

  • A majority to which they added in the election of 2008 by picking up an additional 24 seats to go into the 111th Congress with a margin of 257 to 178.

  • That's far from the worst deficit the GOP has found itself in. When I first came to Washington in 1977 (post-Watergate) the split was 292 to 143. Because you will run out of fingers and toes I did the arithmetic for you. Democrats had a margin of 149 seats.

  • Even that wasn't the worst. Since the House went to 435 Members in 1913 the lowest number of Republicans was … 88 in 1937 which was the result of the election of 1936 - the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's second term.

  • I have a theory that it is Roosevelt's first two terms upon which President Barack Obama has chosen to model himself. In those eight years Roosevelt forced through, among other programs, the following:
    - Civilian Conservation Corps

    - Federal Trade Commission

    - Agricultural Adjustment Administration

    - Securities and Exchange Commission

    - Tennessee Valley Authority

    - Works Progress Administration

    - Social Security

    - National Labor Relations Act

    - United States Housing Authority

    - Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage)

  • Nevertheless, the economy remained intractably awful. Throughout the New Deal the median jobless rate was 17.2%.

  • Adding to Roosevelt's woes, the U.S. Supreme Court kept blocking many of his programs saying that too much power which the Constitution reserved for the Legislative Branch was being usurped by the Executive Branch.

  • Roosevelt came up with a scheme to add six Justices (the legislation called for one new federal judge or Justice to be appointed for every sitting jurist over the age of 70). That plan was defeated by Senate Democrats but it showed that Roosevelt was willing to do anything he needed to do in order to get his legislative programs operational.

  • That is a lesson not lost on Barack Obama.

  • There is no record of FDR, during a State of the Union message, having pointed an accusing finger at Justices of the Supreme Court sitting 20 feet in front of him during the New Deal as President Obama did earlier this year.

  • That bit of theatrics might cost Barack Obama a great deal because it may well be that the current Supreme Court, and not the House Rules Committee, will have the final word on the scale and scope of national health insurance.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Very excellent links including "How our Law are Made," a short history of FDR, a closer look at the Court Packing Scheme, and Party Divisions in the U.S. House going back to 1789. Also an extremely rare VIDEO Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    A Better Place to Be

    From Global Strike Command Headquarters

    Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana

  • I know you are expecting a screed about the Democrats' decision to use the "deemed passed" parliamentary trick to pass the healthcare legislation without a direct vote, but that will have to wait until Friday.

  • Today, I want to share a few minutes with you of how I spent my day yesterday in Bossier City, Louisiana which, along with being the location of a bunch of casinos, is also the home of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command Headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base.

  • I was invited to speak to a conference of public affairs personnel - enlisted and officers - about why what they do is really, really important.

  • I was invited by the head of the public affairs shop, Lt. Col. John Thomas with whom I served in Iraq, and then again in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina.

  • Most of these service members were in their late twenties or early thirties. I told them about my Army National Guard career - a six year ordeal for both me and the military during which I rose to the rank of sergeant for about 90 minutes before being busted back to E-4.

  • I told them that I was in the Guard when mules were the principal form of propulsion. Hyperbole, but not by much. I suspect of the roomful of airmen not more than a handful were even born when the Vietnam war was being fought.

  • I told them that back in the day it was suggested we go to our National Guard drills in civilian clothes, and change in the armory. I pointed out the difference between those days and these when, very often, someone in line at Starbucks will order their Grande Mocha and then, pointing to the man or woman in uniform behind them, will say "and whatever he/she is having."

  • For those who may have come in late, I spent about six months in Iraq back in 2003 and 2004. Hard to believe it was that long ago. I was a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, but I formed a strong bond with the men and women who have chosen to make the military a career.

  • The public affairs activity in the military is a far, far different animal than the press or communications function in politics or government. For one thing, if we shade the truth to a reporter it is often put down as "good spin." In the military lying to the press (and, by extension the American people) is actionable by court martial.

  • Yikes!

  • The folks I spoke to on Tuesday are all assigned to bases in the United States. But, judging from the head nods when I recounted stories of derring-do in Iraq (some parts of some of the stories were actually true).

  • What most of us know about the military is either in heated action (now in southern Afghanistan) or when something goes horribly wrong (like the terrorist who opened fire at Ft. Hood).

  • What these folks have to do, I suggested, was to look for ways to promote the value of the military to work-a-day folks outside the boundaries of the base.

  • In the war-zone days if Iraq my job was to help bring non-combat news back to local U.S. markets. With the help of excellent deputies like Tom Basile (now the executive director of the New York GOP) we got footage of American service members and USAID employees rebuilding schools, fixing water plants, helping stand up the various ministries, and generally helping the Iraqi people get back on their feet.

  • It was easy interviewing a soldier in Mosul helping city officials restart services to their constituents and sending the tape to her hometown TV stations in Schenectady, or where ever. It is tougher to ferret out good stories of military personnel stationed in Louisiana, or North Dakota.

  • But, I suggested, it is no less important because what the uniformed service members do every day - Marines at Camp Pendleton, California; soldiers at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; Navy personnel at Norfolk, Virginia; Airmen at Barksdale; or Coast Guardians just about everywhere - is completely devoted to allowing their fellow citizens to go about their daily routine safe from foreign attack.

  • I could have been in Washington on Tuesday in a projectile sweat about the Democrats' plot to pass healthcare without an up-or-down vote; but I was in a much better place.

  • With some really good people.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the Barksdale AFB webpage, an interesting Mullfoto and a really good Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Beware the Ides of March

  • Today is the Ides of March. We remember all too well that Julius Caesar was warned of the dangers of this date (Julius Caesar, Act I; Scene 2 for those keeping score at home).

  • We are down to the end game on Health Care legislation. It won't come to the House floor on the Ides of March, but it won't miss by much.

  • President Barack Obama has told Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he wants a vote this weekend, postponed his trip to Indonesia and Australia by three days; and is no longer taking Mrs. Obama nor the children along to demonstrate just how serious he is.

  • The second most interesting discussions over the weekend in Your Nation's Capital (behind which men's basketball teams would be seeded where for the NCAA tournament) was: How many votes does Pelosi have?

  • Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that he doesn't believe there are enough votes to pass the bill yet but, according to the Associated Press, Clyburn "says he's confident that the legislation will pass."

  • That matches what a Republican leadership staffer I spoke with told me. He thought the Democrats might be one or two votes short right now, but by the time the vote is taken enough twists of enough arms will occur to pass it.

  • It seems disturbingly obvious that not very many of the people whose arms are in peril know what "it" will ultimately contain, but that is a small detail for the Democratic majority hell-bent on getting this thing behind them.

  • In fact, according to ABC News' David Kearley:
    "To retain votes in the Senate, the White House is now backing away from its ban on special deals for individual states, which was a promise the president made after the 'Cornhusker Kickback' was revealed - giving Nebraska extra Medicaid money to win Sen. Ben Nelson's vote."

  • Let's assume the bill passes - this will be the Senate bill, remember - which still has the bribe money for Louisiana and Nebraska which was proffered for the votes of Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb).

  • Republicans are saying that any Democrat who is running in a marginal seat - that is a District which is not a lock for either party in November - is being forced to walk the political plank by voting in favor of the bill.

  • Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said on ABC' "This Week" that if the Democrats use reconciliation to "fix" the Senate bill,
    "There will be a price to be paid to jam a bill through. The American people don't like using a sleazy process."

  • I'm not so sure.

  • My long experience is that regular people - not people who read MULLINGS or watch Cable news - but people who wake up every morning hoping they still have a job when they come back home; who work with their kids every night to see that their homework is done; who base the family dinner menu based upon clipped coupons and items on the grocery store shelves which are on sale they have already given up on this process.

  • Reports that players on both sides are preparing to spend up to $1 million a day on television advertisements for or against this bill is unlikely to produce a groundswell one way or the other.

  • The staffs in House and Senate offices know who the "pen pals" are and where they are likely to fall on any particular issue.

  • Great numbers of Americans who have not already done so, are not likely to be moved to call or send an e-mail expressing their position on health care because they are forced to sit through a gush of TV ads.

  • There may be a price to pay on November 2 when we go to the polls to vote. If there is a general "throw the rascals out" mood" that will help the GOP because there are more Democrat rascals available for tossing.

  • But, even if the GOP runs the table and takes control of the House, the leadership would be wise to look for ways - quickly - to not repeat the mistakes of the Democrats in this Congress.

  • On this, the Ides of March, they would be wise to remember the warning of Cassius in the same Act and the same Scene of the same play:

  • The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

  • They will be underlings again, if they don't learn the lesson that, in the end, it costs more to take it all, than it does to give a little to the other side.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the vote-counting process, the President's trip, and the Ides of March. Also a Mullfoto showing the flooding in Old Town Alexandria yesterday and a Catchy Caption of the Day which isn't very good.

  • Thursday, March 11, 2010

    The Heavy Weight of Scandal

    From Viera, Florida

    Spring Home of YOUR Washington Nationals

  • Republicans were fired from their control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the election of 2006 for a number of reasons. Spending too much generally was one of them. Bloating appropriations bills with "earmarks" to reward friends and supporters was another. Iraq was certainly a major contributing factor.

  • But, what weighed House Republicans down like an anchor around their collective necks was: Scandal. Duke Cunningham's written menu of acceptable bribe amounts. Jack Abramoff buying Members and staff like heads of romaine lettuce at Whole Foods. And the father of all the scandals, Mark Foley.

  • I won't regurgitate the whole sordid Foley story here (there is a link to the Washington Post's coverage on the SDR HERE) but it involved the Florida Republican having inappropriate text-message conversations with a 16-year-old male page; the House Republican Leadership knowing about it; and nothing being done.

  • The implication was that Speaker's office thought it was more important to protect the GOP brand than to protect a teenaged page from the predations of a Member of the House.

  • Foley became the shorthand for everything voters disliked - hated - about Republicans in the House. Cunningham trading votes for furniture seemed odd. Other Members trading votes for golfing trips just seemed stupid. Preying on a child - that, they understood. Protecting the predator - that, was punishable by death at the ballot box.

  • It is important to remember what that felt like, four long years ago, because House Democrats find themselves in much the same position.

  • The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful people on the planet. He writes the tax laws. A semicolon in the tax code can save (or cost) a multinational corporation tens of millions of dollars every year. For 100 years the tax code has been used to nudge, or force, Americans into a particular behavior. Want people to smoke less? Tax cigarettes more. Want people to buy houses? Make interest on mortgages deductible. And so on.

  • Charles Rangel had to give up the chairmanship of Ways and Means but not before Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended him, then waffled, then had to watch as the Committee Members tossed out the guy next in line and voted for Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich).

  • Rangel is not out of the woods. The Ethics Committee is still looking a charges of tax evasion, influence peddling, and misuse of rent-controlled apartments in New York City.

  • The big deal this past week was the Eric Massa mess. The Ethics Committee closed its investigation into what Massa did, said, or tried to do and with whom because he resigned and they no longer have jurisdiction over him.

  • House Republicans, though, forced a vote on a resolution to force the Ethics Committee to decide whether it should reopen the case to look at what members of the Democratic House Leadership knew and when they knew it.

  • Things have gotten so bad that one of the principal advisors to the Obama Presidential campaign, Steve Hildebrand, went to the White House to tell Obama's senior advisor, David Axelrod that "there is a real shot we [Democrats] are going to get slaughtered in elections this fall if we aren't leading the efforts to reform Washington."

  • In one of those surreal Washington moments documented by CNN's Ed Henry, Hildebrand went to the "White House on Wednesday for a quiet meeting with … Axelrod, to express a fear that Republicans are seizing the high ground on cleaning up Washington."

  • It is surreal because only in Washington would someone go to the WH for a "quiet meeting" and do an interview with CNN (or Fox or anyone else) before hand. I guess a "noisy meeting" would have included dressing up like a snowman and holding a sign while marching back and forth in front of the White House in Lafayette Park.

  • It is too early for Republican Leader John Boehner to start measuring for drapes in the Speaker's suite; but I might start thinking about buying options on cardboard boxes for all those Democratic Committee and Subcommittee chairs and their thousands of staff members who may have to pack up and make way for their incoming Republican replacements.

  • Democrats are swimming upstream and scandal is a heavy, heavy weight to bear.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Ed Henry piece about Hildebrand and the Wash Post report on Foley.

    Also a link to the Nats Notes from Nationals' spring training, a Mullfoto in which I defend the 2nd Amendment and a Catchy Caption of the day.

  • Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    A Massa Dirty Laundry

    From Viera, Florida

    Spring Home of YOUR Washington Nationals

  • The biggest question I have about former Rep. Eric Massa is: How have we missed this guy for so long?

  • For those of you who have been hanging around the teacher's parking lot smoking cigarettes for the past week instead of sitting in class, there is this guy, Eric Massa, who, until Monday, was a DEMOCRAT Member of Congress from Western New York.

  • Massa resigned on Monday saying he was being forced out of office by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer because he was going to vote "No" on the health care bill when it came to the floor.

  • Without Massa, the number of votes needed for an absolute majority in the House goes down to 216 because of vacancies for one reason or another.

  • It appears Massa was going to vote "No" not because he is a moderate Democrat, but because he refused to support the bill without a public option.

  • Massa maintained that his was the deciding vote - that by voting with the Republicans the bill would have been defeated. That is like me claiming I cast the deciding vote in the Virginia race for Governor last November. If Massa was correct about that, then the bill would have been on the floor yesterday.

  • It wasn't and it isn't going to be any time soon because now that Sen. Mary Landrieu (the Louisiana Purchase) and Sen. Ben Nelson (the Cornhusker Kickback) have shown how much the deciding vote is actually worth, we have been witnessing a headlong rush by members of the House Democratic Caucus to stay undecided as long as possible.

  • The proximate cause for Massa's resignation was a complaint that he sexually harassed a male member of his staff. His explanation is not much better than whatever visions just ran through your head. Massa says it stopped at "ruffling" the hair of the staffer (while they were at another staffer's wedding) after Massa suggested he was more interested in the male staffer than in any of the bridesmaids.

  • Don't know what the bridesmaids looked like so, in fairness, we cannot not accurately judge the choice.

  • Massa resigned saying he wanted to avoid an Ethics Committee investigation which would go back to the day he was born and said he is a "deeply flawed and imperfect person" which may be, could be, might be, construed by some people of a harsher temperament as something of an understatement.

  • Wait! There's more! According to Dana Milbank's Washington Post piece, on a radio show over the weekend Massa described an … encounter … with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the shower in the House gym:
    "I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest. . . . Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?"

  • Well, no. Can't say as I do.

  • The House Democratic Leadership decided it better get in front of this story, so to speak, so they allowed it to be leaked that Massa was also being investigated for actually, sexually groping a male staffer.

  • With all this swirling around, Glen Beck decided Massa would be a great guest for his Fox News Channel program and booked him for the full hour. Beck asked Massa about the new charge.

  • Again, according to Milbank's column:
    "Now they're saying I groped a male staffer," he volunteered. "Yeah, I did. Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday."

  • Oh. It was a BIRTHday party. Well, who wouldn't celebrate their Big Five-Oh that way? I mean, really.

  • The good news, is that the GOP will probably win that district. Governor David Paterson, who is under siege himself, will probably call a special election fairly quickly if only to irritate the White House which would rather the seat remain vacant for the time being.

  • Massa has a mass o' dirty laundry of which, I suspect, this is only the first pair of gym socks.

  • I promised I wouldn't load you down with info on the Washington Nationals but if you are interested in the first two columns from Florida, you can find the links on the Secret Decoder Ring page by clicking HERE.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Milbank column and to Stu Rothenberg's thumbnail sketch of NY-29. Also those links to the Nats columns, a Mullfoto which will make you wonder, and a really scary Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Stephen Stratsburg's Debut

    Nationals Notes

    from Space Coast Stadium

    Viera, Florida

    Tuesday March 9, 2010

    It's STRASBURG DAY! The ballpark, indeed the entire East Coast, maybe all of Western civilization is abuzz with anticipation.

    In the press box at Space Coast Stadium the National's press staff is busily putting place cards in front of chairs for reporters who have called in advance that they want to be here for this once-in-a-millennium event.

    I remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was in OCS in the Ohio National Guard and we were told we had to go to bed. I said that a human was only going to walk on the moon for the first time once and tonight was the night and if I had to quit to stay up and watch it, I quit.

    A serious consult among the Tac Officers ensued and they saw the wisdom - or at least the logic - of my thinking and we were allowed to stay up.

    Today is going to be the first time - forever - that Stephen Strasburg will throw a pitch against a full slate of opposing major league hitters and there are a lot of reporters here to watch it.

    For those who have not followed the off-season activities of the Washington Nationals, let me review the bidding:

    Two years ago the Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball with 102 losses and, thus, had the first overall pick in the amateur draft. They couldn't make a deal with their number one pick which cast a pall over the Nationals' front office generally and the Lerner family (principal owners) in particular. The player, Aaron Crow, still hasn't made it to the majors, but is now in the Kansas City Royals organization and is hoping to make the jump this year.

    Then came the 2009 draft. The Nationals had 103 losses and were again rewarded with the number one pick.

    This kid Stephen Strasburg has been attracting attention since he started playing catch with his dad and a beach ball in his backyard at about two-and-a-half.

    By the time he got to San Diego State University, he was tabbed as a potential high draft choice and in his senior year he was a lock for number one.

    The Nationals went to the well and gave him a $15 million contract - the largest for any amateur athlete in history. Since the day he was signed, he has been treated like he was a $15 million property.

    Sports writers flew to the Nationals' training facility here last year to watch Strasburg take his first practice pitches as a professional. In the Arizona League his every outing was covered like he was pitching in the World Series. Since training camp opened here, every practice pitch to every catcher with or without a batter in the box (the batters were instructed not to swing) has been duly reported with accompanying quotes from players who had also stopped to watch.

    Which brings us to today. Stephen Strasburg day. Early this morning the press box crew was suggesting that perhaps he could be carried to the mount by two of the larger members of the Nationals. Someone else said they should flood center field and let Strasburg walk on the water to the middle of the infield.

    The scoop is, he appears to be a good kid who has his head on straight - or on as straight as a kid in his early 20s with 15 million in the bank can have it.

    More on Taiwanese right hander Chein-Ming Wang. Once again the press box was jammed with reporters, camera men, photographers, and producers speaking what I think was Chinese. Adding to that the number of out-of-town baseball writers who are in for STRASBURG DAY today and I got tossed out of my seat in the press box.

    Members of the Baseball Writers Association have first dibs on press box seats, and even with the overflow areas which the Nationals' press staff had organized, there wasn't any room for me. The Nats press staff took it seriously, though and I ended up in the Nationals' executive suite overlooking home plate one deck above the press box.

    Please don't throw me into the briar patch.

    Here's the shot from a balcony down the first base line, of Strasburg's first pitch:

    This is how Bill Ladsen (writer for saw Strasburg's first inning facing major league batters:

    Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made his Spring Training debut against the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and pitched two scoreless innings.

    In the first inning, Strasburg retired the Tigers in order. His pitches were clocked no lower than 96 mph.

    In the second inning, Strasburg faced the tough part of the order. He threw two 81-mph curveballs to Miguel Cabrera before striking out the slugger on a 98-mph fastball.

    The next hitter, Carlos Guillen, grounded out to Ryan Zimmerman on a 97-mph fastball. After giving up consecutive singles to Don Kelly and Alex Avila, Strasburg regrouped and struck out Brent Dlugach looking on an 81-mph curveball.

    Strasburg threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.

    In the end, the Nationals lost the game, 9-4 but it was a great day for the franchise.


    More tomorrow.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Arm Twisting

    From Viera, Florida

    Spring Home of YOUR Washington Nationals

  • Last week was not a good one in the Obama Administration's drive to have one more crack at a health care bill in Congress.

  • First: Of the six national polls measuring President Obama's job approval taken over the past three weeks only one is over 50 percent. None of the others have him over 48 percent.

  • To successfully twist arms on the Hill, any White House needs political leverage which is measured by public approval (or, in the case of the Obama team, public adoration). With the President's approval ratings under water, using the real or implied threat of Presidential unhappiness is not likely to gain many votes among recalcitrant members of the Democratic House Caucus on the health care bill.

  • Second: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has rolled-out a full-scale "None-of-This-is-My-Fault" PR campaign which, in Washington, is always viewed as the precursor to a resignation ruefully submitted and regretfully accepted.

  • If Rahm is on his way out, or people believe he's on his way out, he is not useful as an arm twister.

  • David Axelrod is the most Senior of Advisors at the Obama White House. In a NY Times piece yesterday, Emmanuel and Axelrod were compared this:
    "Recent news reports have cast the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as the administration's chief pragmatist, and Mr. Axelrod, by implication, as something of a swooning loyalist."

  • Can't send a "swooning loyalist" up to the Hill to twist those arms. No Independence Avenue cred.

  • A couple of months ago, President Obama called in his campaign manager, David Plouffe, to work out of the Democratic National Committee offices and oversee the 2010 House, Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns.

  • According to the Atlantic's Mark Ambinder:
    Here's the key: Plouffe doesn't report to David Axelrod, or the deputy White House chief of staff; or to the DNC executive director; or to Gov. Tim Kaine, the DNC chairman; or to the White House political director.

    He reports to the president. Informally. But this informal channel is Plouffe's and Plouffe's alone. Plouffe is the one who has the power to make the gears move more efficiently.

  • Here's how this works. Plouffe works out of the DNC but chats on a regular basis with the Democratic House, Senate, and Governor campaign committees. They NEED the President to do mega-events to raise money for those running for re-election in a tough year.

  • A nod or a shake-of-the-head from Plouffe and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raises 10-15 million dollars at a DC fundraiser; or it doesn't.

  • Plouffe can - as Ambinder puts it - informally suggest that any House Dem who doesn't vote for the next version of the health care bill doesn't benefit from any funds raised via the President's appearance, image, voice, or signature.

  • No one would ever admit that had ever happened, but that's leverage in Your Nation's Capital.

  • Meanwhile, those very same House Democrats are lining up at the House Ethics Committee like s'mores at a summer camp color-war kick-off bonfire.

  • At the beginning of the week, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York City, had to "temporarily" step down from his post following an Ethics Committee finding that he allowed private entities to pay for his travel, and a slew of pending ethics investigations into his fund-raising, tax-paying, and influence-peddling activities over the past years.

  • No one is betting Rangel will ever regain his post.

  • That was in the beginning of the week. At the end of the week a Democratic Congressman from upstate New York, Eric Massa, announced he would resign effective today rather than undergo an ethics investigation into charges he had sexually harassed a male staffer.

  • Finally, the Democratic Governor of that fine state, David Paterson, is mired in not one, but two ethical bogs; one involving his being accused, according to the Albany Times-Union of
    "interference in a domestic violence case … while a new ethics controversy raises the question of whether Mr. Paterson improperly solicited tickets to the World Series."

  • Paterson's original sin, of course, was irritating the NY Times by not appointing Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate seat.

  • A few more weeks like the last one, and the Democrats will run out of arms to twist.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links upon links upon Links including one which has a recipe for s'mores.

    The Mullfoto of the day is the new post-Tiger Accenture airport advertisement. And a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, March 4, 2010

    A Dark Could on the GOP Horizon

    Spring Training Alert!

    I'm off to Florida on Sunday for a week of watching, and writing about, the Washington Nationals at their Spring Training HQ in Viero, Florida.

    For those few of you who do not care about the Nats, I will not be MULLING about them, but I will be providing Facebook and Twitter feeds about the exciting life I will be leading staying at the Melbourne Hampton Inn, driving the two-door whatever I get from Hertz, and dining at the finest sports bars and fast food restaurants in the area.

    Both my Twitter and my Facebook IDs are: RichGalen.

    I was trying for something in a screen name that was really cool like CryptoThor or BeowulfsDragon, but I kept forgetting what they were.

    I still sometimes forget my current screen name.

  • In Texas on Tuesday a little known woman named Debra Medina ran as the Tea Party candidate and got nearly 19 percent of the vote in the GOP primary for Governor.

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison got about 30 percent and Gov. Rick Perry got 51 percent meaning Medina was far closer to Hutchison than Hutchison was to Perry.

  • In this era of euphoria for the GOP, this result could well portend a huge problem next November.

  • Here's why.

  • Medina got about a fifth of the vote in a GOP primary. She would probably have gotten a far smaller percentage in a general election, but that's where I'm going with this.

  • Primary elections and other nominating processes will be pretty much done by August. A few states go into September, but not many. So, Republican and Democrat nominees will be chosen and running against each other by, for the most part, late summer.

  • In Congressional District after Congressional District Democrats are fearing for their political lives in the face of an Obama job approval which is stuck at slightly below 50 percent.

  • Running head-to-head against the Republican nominee is going to be a steep hill to climb - Washington experience does not appear to be a big plus this year.

  • Most states have a process for an independent candidate to get on the ballot. It usually involves getting some number of signatures from some segment of the population in each county or some similar formula.

  • Someone is going to figure out that being the Tea Party candidate can get you a significant percentage of the vote, if you can get on the ballot.

  • Debra Medina got about the same percentage of the vote as Ross Perot got in the Presidential election of 1992. Perot didn't win any electoral votes, but he got enough popular votes to draw support away from George H.W. Bush and allowed Bill Clinton to win the state.

  • Another example. If Ralph Nader hadn't been on the Florida ballot no recount would have been necessary. Al Gore would have won the state fairly handily and would have been the 43rd President of the United States.

  • If Tea Party candidates can get on the ballot in close districts, they can easily do the same thing: Siphon votes away from the GOP candidate and throw the district to the Democrat.

  • Why would they do this? To demand that Republican candidates toe the Tea Party Line - or else.

  • In most states independents can gain ballot access well after the primary voting period, so they can make the threat stick: Come out against an ever-encroaching Federal government or the Tea Party candidate will get on the ballot and you can go back to your day job.

  • If I were advising the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I would tell them to set aside a fund of money to teach Tea Party candidates how to gain ballot access in the 30 - 40 Districts which the Ds think are in most peril.

  • Republican challengers in Democrat districts can preempt that plot by claiming the Tea Party mantle starting, oh, tomorrow would be just about right.

  • Republican incumbents won't lose to Tea Party candidates. They might if they were running in a GOP primary in the Northeast, but there aren't very many Republican incumbents in that region so there is not much low hanging fruit.

  • The power of the Tea Baggers can be best used in weak Democratic districts where they can threaten to get on the ballot and destroy Republican chances to take back control of the U.S. House.

  • That is a dangerous storm bearing down on GOP hopes for November.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Forget about the links. You will absolutely want to see the Mullfoto which involves a female Israeli soldier and a rifle. Trust me.

    The Women's Canadian Biathlon Team is a bunch of bearded, cross-eyed men in comparison.

    Also a related Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, March 2, 2010


    From Dallas, Texas

  • Yesterday was primary election day in Texas.

  • The biggest race of the night was between incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

  • Perry won. By a lot.

  • Long-time Mullsters know that I worked for Sen. Hutchison (who is known by friend and foe alike as KBH) for three months during the summer of 2008 and I remain a huge fan.

  • It has been clear for a number of weeks that Governor Perry would hold easily off Hutchison's challenge, but I came down to Dallas anyway. As I told one of Hutchison's advisors: "You need to show up even when the news might be bad; you can't just show up for the balloon drop."

  • The polls closed at seven. The early returns had Perry leading Hutchison about 52 percent to 32 percent. A couple of hours later, at about 9:30 Central, Sen. Hutchison addressed a small crowd made up of loyalists who hung around even when defeat was foretold, and conceded the race to Gov. Perry.

  • Under Texas law, if no candidate gets over 50 percent then there is a runoff. But it was clear even two hours into the counting, that Perry was going to be some 20 percentage points ahead of Hutchison, so she did the honorable thing and conceded outright. Even if the final tally shows Perry under the magic 50 percent; Hutchison was too far behind to be able to make up the ground in a run-off.

  • A young man stopped me and suggested that the vote totals might change and she should not concede. I said that in my experience, when the basic split between the candidates is static through a significant part of the counting; that split is likely to maintain.

  • With 89 percent of the precincts reporting - at about midnight Central - Perry still had 51 percent of the vote to KBH's 30 percent.

  • I have been doing this for a long time.

  • The NY Times wrote, in an early edition, that Perry "had courted the Tea Party movement" from the get go, but Debra Medina was the Tea Party candidate and got about 18 percent of the votes.

  • That surprised me because very often people will say they are planning to vote for a third-party or protest candidate, but when it comes to actually punching out the chad, pulling the lever, or filling in the box; people decide that throwing their vote away on a candidate who cannot possibly win is not a good idea.

  • There are a lot of Republicans in Texas and about one in five of them who went to the polls yesterday voted for the Tea Party candidate.

  • I may have to rethink my position.

  • Perry's election night do was at one of the best barbecue places on the planet, the Salt Lick in a place called Driftwood, Texas.

  • I grew up on Long Island in New York. There is no town named "Driftwood" on Long Island. It's one of the many things I love about Texas.

  • The winner of the Democratic primary here was former Houston Mayor Bill White who will face Perry in the Fall. White will not be able to paint Perry as a Washington insider (as Perry did to Hutchison), and will have to make the case that Texas is suffering under Perry's leadership.

  • Ask KBH if that argument sells.

  • Texas' unemployment rate is about 8.3 percent compared to 9.7 percent nationally. That's not great, but it ain't Michigan.

  • Texas has no personal income tax but has a pretty high sales tax to make up for it. That means you are not punished for making money; but you are taxed on how much of it you choose to spend.

  • I like that.

  • With voters in a "throw the rascals out" mood, KBH didn't make a good enough case as to why Perry was a rascal who needed to be thrown out. Nor did she make a good enough case as to why she should be the one to replace that particular rascal if, indeed, he should be thrown out.

  • Hutchison's Senate term runs through 2012. Last night was not an appropriate time to ask her if she would serve out her term, but she needs to announce her decision soon so that the people in Texas who have been bobbing up and down in the political waters waiting to see when (or if) she would step down can plan their lives.

  • I hope KBH stays in the Senate. She works hard, makes people listen to her ideas, and is a great representative in Washington for the people of Texas.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Dallas Morning News page tracking election results in Texas and to a review of the Salt Lick in Driftwood.

  • Also a Mullfoto of the sign on the window in my hotel room and a Catchy Caption of the Day.