Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays*


Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere, and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.


This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

[These Terms and Conditions were written by an anonymous author and posted to the Internet. These Terms and Conditions are posted on this blog under the Fair Use doctrine; no infringement of copyright is intended. The reader is cautioned against taking this post as an indication of the writing talent of the owner of this blog.]

Matt Abe, MOB
North Star Liberty

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I am a Republican

After the 2006 elections, many Republicans are wondering what it means to be a Republican. On that topic, here are some excerpts from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention:

When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria. I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector. Growing up, we were told, "Don't look the soldiers in the eye. Just look straight ahead." It was common belief that the Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him back to the Soviet Union as slave labor.

Now my family didn't have a car — but one day we were in my uncle's car. It was near dark as we came to the Soviet checkpoint. I was a little boy. I was not an action hero back then. But I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I would never see them again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot. Today, the world no longer fears the Soviet Union and it is because of the United States of America!

As a kid I saw the socialist country that Austria became after the Soviets left. Now don't misunderstand me: I love Austria and I love the Austrian people. But I always knew that America was the place for me. In school, when the teacher would talk about America, I would daydream about coming here. I would daydream about living here. I would sit there and watch for hours American movies, transfixed by my heroes, like John Wayne. Everything about America seemed so big to me, so open, so possible.

I finally arrived here in 1968. What a special day it was. I remember I arrived here with empty pockets, but full of dreams, full of determination, full of desire. The presidential campaign was in full swing. I remember watching the Nixon and Humphrey presidential race on TV. A friend of mine who spoke German and English translated for me. I heard Humphrey saying things that sounded like socialism, which I had just left. But then I heard Nixon speak. Then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military.

Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, I said, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican." And I have been a Republican ever since!

To my fellow immigrants listening tonight, I want you to know how welcome you are in this party. We Republicans admire your ambition. We encourage your dreams. We believe in your future. And one thing I learned about America is that if you work hard and if you play by the rules, this country is truly open to you. You can achieve anything.

Everything I have — my career, my success, my family — I owe to America.

In this country, it doesn't make any difference where you were born. It doesn't make any difference who your parents were. It doesn't make any difference if you're like me and you couldn't even speak English until you were in your twenties.

America gave me opportunities and my immigrant dreams came true. I want other people to get the same chances I did, the same opportunities. And I believe they can. That's why I believe in this country. That's why I believe in this Party, and that's why I believe in this President.

Now, many of you out there tonight are "Republican" like me — in your hearts and in your belief. Maybe you're from Guatemala. Maybe you're from the Philippines. Maybe you're from Europe or the Ivory Coast. Maybe you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New Mexico. And maybe, just maybe, you don't agree with this Party on every single issue. I say to you tonight that I believe that's not only okay, but that's what's great about this country. Here we can respectfully disagree and still be patriotic, still be American, and still be good Republicans.

My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? Well, I'll tell you how:
  • If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican.

  • If you believe that this country, not the United Nations, is best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican.

  • And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!

Now there's another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: "Don't be economic girlie men!"

The U.S. economy remains the envy of the world. We have the highest economic growth of any of the world's major industrialized nations. Don't you remember the pessimism of 20 years ago when the critics said that Japan and Germany are overtaking the U.S.? Ridiculous!

Now they say that India and China are overtaking us. Now don't you believe it. We may hit a few bumps — but America always moves ahead. That's what Americans do.

We move prosperity ahead. We move freedom ahead. And we move people ahead. And under President Bush and Vice President Cheney, America's economy is moving ahead in spite of the recession they inherited and in spite of the attack on our homeland.

Now the other Party says that we are two Americas. Don't you believe that either. I have visited our troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia, Germany and all over the world. I've visited our troops in California, where they train before they go overseas. I have visited our military hospitals. And I tell you this: that our men and women in uniform do not believe there are two Americas. They believe there's one America and they are fighting for it!

We are the America that sends out the Peace Corps volunteers to teach our village children. We are the America that sends out the missionaries and doctors to raise up the poor and the sick. We are the America that gives more than any other country to fight AIDS in Africa and the developing world. And we are the America that fights not for imperialism but for human rights and democracy.

My fellow Americans, I want you to know that I believe with all my heart that America remains "the great idea" that inspires the world. It is a privilege to be born here. It is an honor to become a citizen here. It is a gift to raise your family here, to vote here and to live here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Part II

Part II of my interview with Michael Zak, author of Back to Basics for the Republican Party.

MA: In Minnesota, there seems to be a push-pull struggle between the self-proclaimed conservates in the Republican Party and those who call themselves “moderate.” There were a number of legislators who jumped the Republican Party and ran as Independence Party candidates. There was one legislator who did win in her district as an Independence Party candidate, a former Republican. The Senate Minority Leader, Dick Day, threw his support behind these incumbents because they had caucused as Republicans, even though they had chosen to run as independents. Another example was Martha Robertson. She was denied the endorsement by our [senate district] caucus for re-election, she ran for Lieutenant Governor as an Independence Party candidate. My question to you is what do you make of this push-pull within the Republican Party between “conservatives” and “moderates?”

MZ: Minesota has a special history of an independent streak, with the Democratic Party being the DFL, the Republican Party has had an “independent wing,” and you have the Independence Party. Minnesota is one of the states where third party movements have always had a lot of strength.

The two-party system has always been a pillar of strength for our country. People align themselves with one or another party. It’s a tremendously strong integrating force in our country. In Minnesota, my guess is that these third party splinters from the Republican Party will return to the fold. I think they split off because they didn’t see a sense of direction, and they thought their own political careers would be better served by not having the Republican label, regardless of whether they are going to caucus with the GOP or not. But as we go forward, I think we are going to show a tremendous surge in ’04 as well, and generally these splinter groups are going to come back to the party.

MA: During the State Republican Convention in Minnesota, there was an epic battle for the endorsement for governor between Brian Sullivan and Tim Pawlenty, who tried to top each other as being the most conservative candidate. One of the arguments that the delegates fought over that night was who is the “more electable candidate?” From a party perspective, is it more important that we field a candidate who believes in Republican values, or is it more important to field a candidate who can be elected?

MZ: Let me quote Abraham Lincoln: “I’d rather the victory of some of my policies than the defeat of all of them.” Lincoln was a big fan of Henry Clay. In fact all his life he said that Clay was his all-time hero. I quote him in my book as saying, “He was the man for whom I fought all my humble life.” But twice when it counted, he didn’t back Henry Clay, he backed the more electable candidate. So the political father of our party was very much in favor of going for the winner, rather than going down with the ship with your first choice. I think we can all learn from that example. I think it’s very much in the Republican tradition to prefer the stronger candidate rather than the “honorable defeat.” I don’t think there’s anything honorable in handing power to Democrats.

MA: After the 2002 elections, within about a week after election day, the chair of the Republican state party, Ron Ebensteiner made a comment to the effect that Minnesota’s transition to a Republican state is complete. I thought that was a pretty bold statement.

MZ: No kidding! I don’t think that you can find a state in the whole country that’s a totally Republican state. You know, we can never be complacent, we can never say, OK, we’ve done enough, we won. The Democrats never give up, and neither should we. Just because we won some key races in Minnesota doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy in ’04.

I’ll tell you something: beyond political disputes about the current issues before the electorate, one of the reasons I wrote the book is to show Republicans the totally untapped resource of the truth, which we do not use because we don’t know it. Republicans way back when would put the Democrats on the defensive, always, by just telling the truth about the Republican and Democratic parties. Once they’re on the defensive and once they’re reeling back and starting to defend themselves because you’ve taken the high ground, then it’s time to talk about particular issues. But we mount every campaign on the basis of Democrat lies about the Republican party. We just assume them, admit them, and try to go forward. So I would urge Republicans to learn their own story. As everybody knows, knowledge is power. It will make the legislature’s disuptes and the disputes with the governor go so much easier if you can put the Democrats on the defensive from the get-go.

MA: Do you think that’s the reason why conservatives have been so much so successful at talk radio programming than liberals have? Just because conservatives and Republicans seem to be the people of ideas?

MZ: Well, that’s a big part of it. Also, we owe a lot of thanks to Ronald Reagan, because Ronald Reagan made the big push to repeal the Fairness Doctrine, where you had to give equal time to some opposite view. Well, who decides what an opposite view is, and who decides what equal time is? Bascially, the leftist government types controlled political speech on TV and radio. Because no matter what you did, uh oh, the FCC is going to come by and say you have to give equal time to this or that, so it just froze things, and only the Democrats would get their message out. With the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, people were free to say whatever they wanted on TV and radio. There are only so many TV channels, whereas with radio it’s just endless. The vista opened up for conservatives, a void opened up and Republicans rushed right in and availed themselves of it.

Now, you’re right, Republicans are the party of ideas, the party of progress. The radio format is so much more conducive to that: it’s more thoughtful, it’s more give-and-take, with mutual respect with the people who call in. It’s just not Peter Jennings or Tom Browkaw ranting at you. Even on TV when they have a few “talking heads,” it’s very structured, and they’ll have three liberals and only one Republican, and they’ll cut him off, they can structure it so even if he is on TV they can structure it against him. But the Limbaughs and the Hannitys, those are the big guys, but also the locals can say whatever they want, and freedom is our best friend. And so that’s why it’s taken off so much.

MA: Has President Bush read your book?

MZ: I don’t know if he’s read my book. He should! I know that some people in the adminstration are trying to get me invited to speak to the White House staff. Senator Fitzgerald of Illinois tells people it’s one of the best books he’s ever read. Clarence Thomas cites it in the Supreme Court. Jack Kemp likes it. The lieutenant-governor elect of Maryland, Michael Steele, calls it his favorite book. So there a lot of big hitters who love it. And I know it’s circulating around the White House.

MA: I think it would be great if President Bush would use his bully pulpit to rally the Republican Party not just to win elections, but to take a look at the party’s history and what that means for the future of the party.

MZ: Well, I’ll give you one small example. Rather than history I talk about the heritage of our party. The federal judge who sided with Rosa Parks and overturned the blacks-in-the-back-of-the-bus law in the South, and desegregated much of the public schools in the South, was a Republican. Not only a Republican, he had been Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign manager in Alabama. A giant of a man, a Republican, his name was Frank Johnson, and he’s completely forgotten by the Republican Party today. And I’m just saying that’s just one small little example of how we could take the initiative permanently from the Democrats by just knowing our own story.

MA: My last question is looking further into the future for the party. What can we do to invest in and strengthen the party by involving our young people?

MZ: They’ve got to learn the truth. They’ve got to realize that they’re learning what lefty professor types are teaching them, and the NEA-approved history books, when they get to college, lefty professors trashing the Republican Party, trashing the United States, and they’ve got to break free of that. I think the Republican Party is doing an excellent job reaching out to younger people and getting them involved as much as possible. But it’s hard with the media being so pro-Democrat and anti-American.

MA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MZ: I just wanted to commend you for this, it’s a great thing that you’re using the newsletter format to educate Minnesotans about the Republican Party, past, present, and future. So congratulations to you.

MA: Thank you, and thanks for your time, Mike.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Part I

Back in 2002, I was working on an idea for a political newsletter that eventually became this blog. One of the articles in the sample issue was an interview I conducted with Michael Zak, author of Back to Basics for the Republican Party.

Since then, just about everything has changed, except Tim Pawlenty is still governor. But Zak's insights are just as timely, if not more so, than they were in 2002.

Michael Zak is a native of Chicago and resident of Washington, D.C. Before writing Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Zak was a Foreign Service Officer, serving in Mexico and Venezuela, and an international banking analyst based in Chicago and New York. In February 2003, Zak originated the U.S. Senate’s "nuclear option" for confirming President Bush’s judicial nominees. His idea was based on the Republican Party’s success in defeating the Democrat filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act.

Here is my interview, presented in multiple parts:

Matt Abe: What prompted you to write Back to Basics for the Republican Party?

Michael Zak: The main reason I wrote Back to Basics for the Republican Party is that it was so clear to me that Republicans placed themselves at a huge disadvantage because most don’t know their own story. They don’t know their own history. And that lack of information is what allows Democrats to outmaneuver Republicans so easily and put them on the defensive all the time.

What Republican activists think they know about the Republican party is generally a product of what "lefty" Democrat history professors have written over the years. So I said, "I’m going to tell Republicans their own story." I wrote Back to Basics for the Republican Party, which is a history of the GOP from the Republican point of view.

MA: I’m kind of student of history myself. I like your comment that the Republican party is known as “the party of Lincoln,” but beyond that, people don’t know what that means.

MZ: It is a cliché, and that’s more or less the theme of my book: what does “the party of Lincoln” actually mean? And then I say, “more importantly, what should it mean for us Republicans and the country we love?” The point is that history books — again, almost always written by Democrats — overemphasize Lincoln, and they portray him as a mythological figure. They do that to take him out of the context of being a Republican: the same as you, the same as me, the same as George W. Bush. What my book does is places him in context, as a man, a good man, but a man, and a man of his time. I talk about who were the Congressional leaders at the time? What was the GOP doing apart from the war?

Central to my book of course is the fact overlooked by so many history books: that the President of the United States, for the first four years after the Civil War, was a Democrat. The history books somehow completely ignore that fact. Lincoln was the one who put him on the ticket not his first, as his second running mate.

My book talks about what was the Republican party doing after Lincoln, and then all the way through till today. Putting Lincoln in context allows people to experience, to learn about the Republican party in its full breadth, from before Lincoln, actually, all the way through Clinton.

MA: Why were the Republicans so successful in the 2002 elections? Are we as a party getting "back to the basics?"

MZ: As far as Minnesota goes, especially in the Senate race between Coleman and Mondale, it was very clear that the Republican party, as it almost always has been, is the party of ideas. The Republican party is the party of progress. And the Democratic party, generally, is the party of elites who think they're better and smarter than other people, and want to control them "for their own good." That’s the way the Democratic party has always operated, since well before the Civil War.

So there was a very strong contrast between a forward-thinking, dynamic man like Mr. Coleman, and a sort of stuck-in-the-past, status quo, Socialist-minded guy like Vice President Mondale. It was very clear to the electorate which way they wanted to go. It was in a way a reflection of how the people see the Republicans and the Democrats nationwide. Look at George W. Bush: he’s aggressive, he’s forward-thinking, he cares about the American people, not for the sake of being "their boss," like Bill Clinton did, but just because he actually cares about the American people. And who are his opponents? Stuck-in-the-mud, status quo Socialists like Daschle and Gephart. So the American people chose, and in the case of Norm Coleman they chose wisely.

MA: That seemed to be a recurring theme nationwide, not only in Minnesota: that the Democrats seemed to be fielding candidates from the past, so to speak.

MZ: Very much so. In a lot of ways, and your readers will appreciate this, the Democratic party is the conservative party, in the sense that they want to conserve the status quo. What is the status quo? The status quo through our history has always been an elite, who think they’re smarter and better than everyone else, running the country. That's the way most countries have always been governed, and that's the way the Democratic party thinks. The Republican party has known that the country should be run for the sake of the individual. The Democratic party has just run out of ideas. They try to scare the voters and they lie, and they accuse the Republicans of all sorts of things, but they’re not putting forward any agenda of their own.

MA: A recent example of that is the assertion by some in the Democratic party that the "conservative right" has taken over the media.

MZ: One TV station: Fox News. I read this in Time Magazine just this last week, they said that "oh, it's awful, we can attribute the loss of so many because conservatives have taken over the news industry." We're talking about one TV station, Fox, that’s taking over the industry. It’s absurd. I don't know who said it, some major Democrat leader in Congress said, more or less, the majority vote for Republicans shows that the American voter is out of the mainstream! It could have been Nancy Pelosi, I'm not sure. It just shows the arrogance and the condescention of Democrats.

What the Democratic party needs is the "honorable wing" of the Democratic party has to take over. I don't see it happening yet. The decent, patriotic Democrats have to sieze control of their party. So far I'm not seeing it happening.

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