This is a blog of populist and liberal information and ideas, advancing the cause of truth and justice while fighting the ugly tyranny of right-wing oppression in Oklahoma and its surrounding environs.

Fight Democrats Fight!

Image of John McCain and George Bush hugging

John McCain is a serial liar and a kept man who does not even know how many houses he owns. McCain is so out of touch he is just now learning about the Internet, and, really, it seems more than a little creepy that he talks obsessively about his prisoner-of-war experience in the Vietnam War so much.

McCain’s proposed political policies and programs may be framed in different language, but they clearly follow President George Bush’s pattern to reward the ultra rich at the expense of the middle class and to continue the botched Iraq occupation. The idea that the 71-year-old McCain cares about ordinary Americans is simply ludicrous. The vast majority of people who will vote for McCain will do so against their own economic interest.

Given all that, along with the disastrous Bush presidency, you might think this would be the year for Democrats to recapture the presidency.

Yet as the Democratic National Convention opens in Denver today, there remain questions that have plagued the party for years now: Will the Democrats fight? Do they even have “fight” in them? Why does the Democratic Party leadership always let the Republican Party define the terms of the fight? Why are Democrats always on the defensive? Why do they always play it safe?

Here are three specific concerns of many Democrats—do not be fooled by the mainstream media gibberish—as the convention opens:

(1) Will presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama fight McCain in a down and dirty campaign? He must do so to win. In recent weeks, Obama and his campaign have shown they may lack gumption. Obama should have been traveling the country in recent weeks attacking Bush and McCain at every stop for their reckless policies related to the economy and the Iraq occupation. Instead, many people will remember Obama’s nuanced answers at the right-wing Saddleback Church, where McCain trounced him in the image war. The decision to appear at the Saddleback Church forum was ill-advised, and it shows how the GOP—and this includes the millionaire Rev. Rick Warren—will treat appeasers and bipartisan politicians. There is not a shred of bipartisanship in Warren or McCain. So will Obama fight?

(2) Why did Obama’s campaign start tilting to the right? It has accomplished nothing but a growing alienation of the Democratic Party base and especially its younger voters. Seriously, when Democrats go to the so-called center these days, they are really going way to the right. All the polls show Americans want a true Democratic Party economic program and they want out of the costly Iraq occupation. So why is Obama running around making sure he falls in line with GOP ideology about offshore drilling? Why does he consistently praise U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, one of the most right-wing members of the Senate? Obama needs to back away from the bipartisan rhetoric and start standing up for his own political party. He will not win without an enthusiastic base.

(3) Why did Obama choose U.S. Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate? Many Democrats I know believe it was a “safe” to negative decision. Biden, for example, was once a major player in ensuring the nation’s bankruptcy laws were changed to help credit card companies at the expense of ordinary Americans. Biden’s son was actually getting paid by MBNA at the time he crammed this bill down everyone’s throat. The selection of Biden will be marked as one of the great political gaffes in all American political history if Obama loses the election. Obama and his campaign staffers had a chance to truly unify the party, make more history, and, in many people’s minds, ensure a victory by selecting Hillary Clinton. They did not choose to do so. Why?

A few short months ago I was fortunate enough to hear Obama speak on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Simply put, it was the best political speech I have ever heard, and it made me feel hopeful for the future of this country for the first time in eight or so years. The Austin crowd adored him, and they chanted and cheered.

All that is left from that night now is extreme worry. McCain gains in the election polls on a weekly basis as Obama moves further to the right and as he alienates many Democrats with his safe choice of vice president. Will he fight? Will he stand up? Maybe we will learn the answers to those questions over the next few days.

Character Issue Follows Inhofe

Image of logo The Case Against Jim Inhofe

(In the coming weeks, Okie Funk will set the record straight when it comes to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. This blog will be publishing an open-ended series titled “The Case Against Jim Inhofe.” The series will comment on Inhofe’s political and business escapades, from his earlier lies about when he graduated from college to the insurance company he ran into insolvency to his dirty campaign tactics. It will focus as well on Inhofe’s atrocious record on economic, health, energy, environmental, military and government spending issues. It will show how Inhofe has consistently hurt the state’s image.)

“I am a businessman. And as a businessman I can tell you that I would not do business with Jim Inhofe because as his past behavior shows, you can’t trust him”—U.S. Senate candidate Tony Caldwell (“Opponent Criticizes Inhofe Financial Deals-Congressman Rebuts Caldwell,” The Daily Oklahoman, August 19, 1994)

“When political sleaze starts bubbling up, you’ll almost always find Jim Inhofe nearby. So it is no surprise that Inhofe was a key player in the scandal that dethroned Richard Roberts at Oral Roberts University.”—John M. Wylie, editor of the Oologah Lake Leader, “Political Scene,” November 29, 2007

Political and media pundits often focus on the issue of personal “character” when it comes to candidates running for office, so why has 73-year-old U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe been given a free pass during his political career?

It is well documented that through the years, the Republican Inhofe ran a insurance company into receivership, was caught in lies about when he graduated from college, engaged in slimy campaign tactics, made a bigoted speech on the Senate floor and been mentioned as a possible witness in the ongoing legal mess at Oral Roberts University.

For the most part, Inhofe has avoided careful scrutiny because the biased, rightwing Oklahoma corporate media has supported him at the expense of basic rationality and the state’s interest. Certainly, the media here has sporadically covered Inhofe’s business failure and his lies about his college degree, but it has often avoided the basic, overall character issue. The bottom line is that both the corporate media here and Inhofe are complicit in corrupting a political system that desperately needs change.

Inhofe has been a part of the Oklahoma political scene since the 1960s. He has served as a state representative, state senator, Tulsa mayor, U.S. House Representative and U.S. Senator. He has run for governor and lost. He is currently running for reelection against state Sen. Andrew Rice.

Along the way, Inhofe has been involved in a number of controversies. Some of these controversies have a direct bearing on how we should define his character. Here is a partial list:

Business Failure
Inhofe was operating the Quaker Life Insurance Company when it was placed into receivership in 1986. Inhofe was running for Congress at the time. The Oklahoma Insurance Commission had to take control of the business. A spokesperson for Inhofe in 1986 blamed the economy in exaggerated hyperbole for the company’s insolvency, saying, “Oklahoma is undergoing a depression right now . . . “ (Griff Palmer, “Candidate Reorganizes Business,” The Daily Oklahoman, August 7, 1986.) Later, Inhofe was sued by his brother, Perry, in what appeared to be a major family business dispute involving loans. Inhofe then sued his brother. There were also allegations that Quaker Life Insurance violated the law. At one point, the company’s stockholders sued Inhofe for mismanagement, though all the legal issues were eventually “resolved” in Inhofe’s favor, according to then editorial writer Patrick McGuigan writing for The Daily Oklahoman in 1994. But, remember, McGuigan was once known as one of the most conservative editorial writers in the country.

Inhofe’s business troubles were a real mess. But what is important to note is the receivership issue, which showed Inhofe’s flawed business acumen and his suspect judgment. Essentially, Inhofe operated a company that went into insolvency, much like he has allowed the federal government to accrue a massive deficit during President’s George Bush’s reign. This is a form of receivership, too, because taxpayers (rather than stockholders) have to foot the bill.

Tony Caldwell, a Republican who ran against Inhofe in his first U.S. Senate race in 1994 put it this way: “Certainly no banker with any judgment would lend him [Inhofe] money. I don’t know anyone who would buy a used car from him. . . . “

Degree Lies
So when did Jim Inhofe graduate from the University of Tulsa? According to John Greiner, writing in The Daily Oklahoman in 1994, “For 35 years, in political biographies, engagement announcements and alumni directories, Inhofe said he graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1959 with a degree in economics” (“Degree Disparity Surprises Inhofe,” The Daily Oklahoman, September 17, 1994). But later it was discovered he did not graduate from the university until 1973 when he served as a state senator. Why did Inhofe lie about his degree date on these documents? Was he embarrassed that he hadn’t graduated earlier as a more traditional student?

Dirty Politics
Inhofe is known as one of Oklahoma’s most negative campaigners. In 1994, for example, as he ran for U.S. Senate, a pro-Inhofe heckler wearing a Pinocchio nose appeared at a debate. The heckler was “a paid political thug,” according to Inhofe’s opponent, Dave McCurdy. Later the heckler was discovered to be Rob Anders, a paid Inhofe campaign worker (Chris Casteel, “McCurdy Camp Not Laughing at Paid Inhofe Heckler,” The Daily Oklahoman, October 28, 1994). During the campaign, Inhofe ran ads depicting McCurdy growing a Pinocchio nose. This is the typical political style that has defined Inhofe and much of the GOP in the last two decades.

Bigot Pride
On June 6, 2006, standing on the Senate floor before a large photograph of his family, Inhofe said, “I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.”

Inhofe, of course, can oppose basic rights for gay people all he wants as part of GOP demonization politics, but this particular comment is truly bigoted, hateful and inane. It is the word “proud” that sticks out there. Why would anyone be “proud” about their family members’ sexual orientations? What type of person would make the effort to investigate the sexual preferences of their family? Is it a form of twisted narcissism, which can be part of a character or personality disorder, to stand in front of a family photograph on the Senate floor and brag about the family members’ sexuality? Inhofe’s remarks were widely distributed just because of their basic nastiness and creepiness. The state’s image suffered yet again.

ORU Scandal
Inhofe was recently listed as a possible witness in a lawsuit against Oral Roberts University brought by a professor who claimed he was forced to use his students to help get Randi Miller elected as Tulsa mayor. (You can read about the issue here.) Newspaper reports show that Inhofe urged Miller to run for mayor and had a relationship with ORU staff. One emerging issue is whether ORU violated its nonprofit status by forcing students to work on a specific political campaign. Did Inhofe know?

Richard Roberts, former ORU president, recently resigned after coming under fire for his lavish lifestyle and management of the university.

One Oklahoma editor, John M. Wylie of the Oologah Lake Leader, summed up Inhofe’s ORU connection this way, “When political sleaze starts bubbling up, you’ll almost always find Jim Inhofe nearby. So it is no surprise that Inhofe was a key player in the scandal that dethroned Richard Roberts at Oral Roberts University.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of issues related to Inhofe’s character. The fact remains that controversy surrounds Inhofe consistently, whether it is his failed business, his lies about his college degree or his outrageous comments on the Senate floor.

Rice Gains Ground On Inhofe

inhofemain

It’s no wonder state Sen. Andrew Rice is gaining ground in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe this year.

Inhofe, a shill for Big Oil and health insurance companies, has become completely absorbed in Washington politics and culture, and he has repeatedly failed the vast bulk of his constituents back home when it comes to wages, health care, living costs, energy prices, privacy rights and government spending.

As expected, Rice is steadily building the name recognition he needs to challenge a well-funded incumbent in a political system that rewards the status quo and in a state dominated by an ultra-conservative corporate media.

A recent poll conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows Rice is only nine percentage points behind Inhofe in the race. Two months ago, Rice was trailing Inhofe by 22 points. The polling results made national news. Even The Washington Post covered the poll, speculating the race might be competitive.

Chris Cillizza, writing in The Post says, “On the other hand, change is the order of the day in politics nationwide and Rice, a first term state senator, is a far more obvious change agent than Inhofe who has been in Washington since 1986.”

The Rice camp says its gains are partially because of recent television advertisements that are helping to introduce the 35-year-old State Senator to Oklahomans outside of the Oklahoma City area. Inhofe’s own television advertisements appear to be ineffective at this point. Is the race heating up? When and how will Inhofe go negative?

The 73-year-old Inhofe remains one of the most despised American politicians on the planet for his flippant and careless remarks about climate change and cultural issues through the years. Inhofe has done more damage to the state’s image than The Dust Bowl, but the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, has failed to cover the issue because it is a biased, right-wing publication. Its Washington “correspondent,” Chris Casteel, is a conservative propagandist who fails to hold Inhofe accountable, and thus Inhofe can operate without scrutiny unless the national media takes the time and expends the energy to cover Oklahoma politics.

In the coming weeks, Okie Funk will set the record straight when it comes to Inhofe. This blog will be publishing an open-ended series titled “The Case Against Jim Inhofe.” The series will look at Inhofe’s political and business escapades, from his earlier lies about when he graduated from college to his bankrupt company Quaker Life Insurance to his dirty campaign tactics. It will focus as well on Inhofe’s atrocious record on economic, health, energy, environmental, military and government spending issues.

For example, in September 1994, according to the documented historical record, Inhofe admitted “he received his college degree 14 years later than he has previously reported.” In his political biographies, Inhofe claimed he graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1959 when, in fact, he graduated in 1973. Why did Inhofe lie? Why wasn’t he held accountable?

“The Case Against Jim Inhofe” will start running soon.

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