Politics

Politics 2004Week of November 1

Pseudo-Republicans for Kerry

Apparently desperately angry over the highly publicized endorsement and campaigning that George W. Bush is receiving from Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (-Ga.), the Kerry campaign has expended considerable effort on scrounging up and trotting out trotting out Republicans who are crossing party lines for the Democratic nominee. But finding a “cross-endorser” of the stature of a sitting U.S. senator is very difficult and there is no one approaching a Miller among the Republicans for Kerry.

One of the earliest GOPers to break ranks for the Democratic nominee was liberal Rita Hauser, New York lawyer, foundation head, and socialite. Hauser last made political news in 1980 when she resigned from the presidential campaign committee of John Connally after the Texan became one of the earliest American politicians to support a Palestinian homeland. Another defector is retired Gen. John S. D. Eisenhower, former ambassador to Belgium and son of Ike, who has never been active in the GOP ( Kerry bragged about Eisenhower’s endorsement in the first presidential debate. ).

The latest Republicans-for-Kerry are two elderly past liberal governors from the Midwest: William G. Milliken, governor of Michigan from 1969-82, and Elmer L. Andersen, governor of Minnesota from 1960-62. The liberal media have lavished much attention on the backing given Kerry by the 83-year-old Milliken and the 95-year-old Andersen, both of whom denounced Bush and the conservatives around him in strongly worded terms. “Pandering to the extreme right wing,” is how Michigan’s Milliken described the agenda of the son of the man he supported for President against Ronald Reagan in 1980. “[He] has exacerbated the polarization and the strident, uncivil tone of much of what passes for political discourse in this country today.” Specifically, the former governor told the Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle that he disagreed with Bush on starting the Iraqi war, pushing tax cuts, and blocking what he called “meaningful” stem cell research.

In an open letter he posted on-line that has been widely published, Andersen charged that Bush “has led us into an unjustified war–based on misguided and blatantly false misrepresentations of the threat of weapons of mass destruction” and claimed that “this country is in the hands of an evil man: Dick Cheney. It is eminently clear that it is he who is running the country, not George W. Bush.”

Andersen, retired head of the Fortune 50 H.B. Fuller Co. and ECM publishing company, did not explain in his letter why he felt Cheney was evil.

Strong medicine from the two men all right. But to anyone who knows them, this is just par for the course for both politicians from the past.

Asked if he was surprised Milliken was backing Kerry, veteran Michigan Republican campaign consultant Dan Pero responded, “About as surprised to find out the sun’s coming up in the East and setting in the West. Milliken’s Republican Party isn’t the Republican Party of everyone else here. His is “Democrat Lite.” Pero recalled how Milliken has long disagreed with conservative on cultural issues and that in the 1970s and ’80s he was a vocal supporter of abortion while the leading pro-life voice in Lansing was that of Democratic House Speaker William A. Ryan.

“But Milliken has never been a team player for Republicans,” Pero said, recalling how he couldn’t get the former governor to sign letters for GOP legislative candidates. Pero added that Milliken’s support of Kerry “is not unexpected, when one considers his lack of support for Republicans here.” Indeed, he noted, Milliken never supported 1982 GOP nominee Dick Headlee, Republican Gov. (1990-2002) John Engler, or ’02 nominee Dick Posthumus, who narrowly lost the statehouse to Democrat Jennifer Granholm. In all of the gubernatorial campaigns since ’82, the former governor’s wife Helen supported the Democratic candidate, Pero noted.

Minnesota’s Andersen became an overnight political star in 1960, when he unseated Democratic Gov. (1954-60) Orville Freeman, who had placed John F. Kennedy’s name in nomination for President at the Democratic convention that year. In 1962, however, Andersen was turned out of office by Democrat Karl Rolvaag by a 91-vote margin. His assistant Ani Sorenson, who told me the former governor “was having a busy day” and couldn’t come to the phone. However, she pointed out that his support of Democrats was nothing new, and that he had even contributed to a number of Democratic candidates in recent years. Which Democrats? “[’02 gubernatorial nominee] Roger Moe, [the late, far-left Sen.] Paul Wellstone, and [present Sen.] Mark Dayton. Gov. Andersen contributed to all of them,” she said.

Kirk Fordice, R.I.P.

The saddest part about Kirk Fordice’s death September 7 at age 70 after a long bout with leukemia was that almost every news story focused on his turbulent personal life rather than his solid accomplishments as governor of Mississippi (1991-99). Having reconciled with his estranged wife Pat in 1993, Fordice was seriously injured in an automobile accident three years later after returning from Memphis, Tenn., where he had been spotted eating with onetime high school sweetheart Ann Creson. In 1999, he was caught on TV returning home from France with Creson. “. . . I’ll whip your ass!” the governor threatened WLBT-TV reporter Bert Case. “You have no damn business playing these games.” Shortly after leaving office in 2000, Fordice ended his 44-year marriage and wed Creson. They later divorced.

A native Tennessean and graduate of Purdue University, Fordice settled in Vicksburg, Miss., and launched a successful contracting business. Although he never sought elective office until running for governor, Fordice had a wide network of friends and potential backers from such activities such as serving as past president of the Mississippi Associated General Contractors and being active in his local Kiwanis Club. In 1991, he entered politics and ran as a stalwart conservative against Gov. Ray Mabus, considered a “New South Democrat” like onetime Governors Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. To the surprise of pundits and pols, Fordice defeated Mabus and became the Magnolia State’s first Republican governor in 116 years.

As governor, Fordice remained true to his word and helped guide a lengthy conservative agenda through the Democratic-controlled legislature. Fordice’s measures included: a law that limited spending to 98% of revenues with the other 2% earmarked for a rainy day fund, a requirement that convicted felons serve 85% of their sentences before being eligible for parole, and the construction of larger prisons. The silver-haired governor also supported tax cuts, school choice and term limits, but could never get legislators to move on them. In his final year in office, Mississippi’s unemployment dropped to a 26-year low of 3.8%.

Self-made millionaire Fordice’s blunt way of speaking often got him into trouble. He enraged environmentalists by referring to them as “tree huggers” and once called Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards of neighboring Louisiana a “nitwit.” During an address to a meeting of fellow governors during his first term, the Mississippian referred to America as “a Christian nation.”

Nervous about the probable adverse reaction to this comment, fellow Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell of South Carolina took to the podium and said that what Fordice “meant to say” was that this is “a Judeo-Christian nation.” This only angered Fordice, who said he meant precisely what he said, that this is “a Christian nation.”

Despite negative national publicity about the remark, Fordice was easily re-elected in 1995.

Short Takes

Daub’s Back in Town: Sixteen years after he left the House on the first of two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate, conservative Republican Hal Daub will soon be returning to Washington. This time, the cerebral, hard-charging former congressman (1980-88) from Nebraska and onetime Member of the House Ways and Means Committee will be in the private sector: as president of the American Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and centers for the mentally retarded nationwide. A lawyer and certified public accountant, the 63-year-old Daub (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 94%) also served as mayor of Omaha from 1995-2001.

New Faces on the Hill: Even before the elections bring new Members and staffs to Congress, there have been some significant changes in certain offices of lawmakers. Kurt Berryman, chief of staff to freshman Rep. Thad McCotter (R.-Mich.), has recently gone back to his former Lansing company, Government Consulting Services. Berryman’s successor is a familiar face among Michigan conservatives: Andy Anuzis, former 17th District GOP chairman and state campaign operative for Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential bid. . . .Chris Jahn, top aide to Sen. Craig Thomas (R.-Wyo.), recent became president of the Contract Services Association of America. Taking over the helm in Thomas’s office is another son of Wyoming, Shawn Whitman, who has been with the senator for ten years and most recently served as legislative director.


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