Istook's Campaign Gets Desperate

Polls Show Henry With Commanding Lead

You know it’s a bad year for the Republicans when even The Daily Oklahoman won’t endorse the GOP candidate for Oklahoma governor.

Poster from http://oldamericancentury

The newspaper, one of the most conservative publications in the nation, recently ran an unsigned editorial (“Two good men: Race to set pace for state’s future,” October, 29, 2006) in which it declined to endorse either Democrat Brad Henry or Republican Ernest Istook.

This non-endorsement of Istook is a big slap in the face to his misguided campaign, which has been floundering for months. It also shows that the state’s oppressive, right-wing power structure is either (1) certain Henry will win and is fishing for new corporate tax cuts this coming legislative session or (2) truly believes as many do that Istook’s public theocratic religious agenda would harm the state. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Congressman Istook’s religious agenda includes his infamous Religious Freedom Amendment, which was nothing more that an attempt to break down the wall separating government and religion. If elected governor here, Istook, a Mormon, will surely propose religious legislation or enact executive decrees that would bring religion into state government.

Istook’s election would also be a serious red flag to progressives and liberals in the state. Who would want to live in such a close-minded place with an obvious religious extremist as governor?

Polls show Governor Brad Henry with a commanding lead. Henry, a moderate Democrat, obviously deserves a second term as governor. He has worked to fund public education while cutting taxes. He plays to the pragmatic center. Many people are sick of Istook’s brand of GOP extremism as the Iraq war debacle drags on.

Meanwhile, the Istook campaign is taking the low road with pathetic attack ads and ugly campaign rhetoric. Istook, for example, has criticized Henry for signing a bill allowing a few children of undocumented workers to get in-state college tuition. It seems so petty and senseless. None of the ads have gained any traction.

Istook’s campaign has also suffered because of the country’s low approval of current Republican leadership on the national level. Istook uses the immigration issue to criticize Henry, but he was actually in a position to do something about it and failed to do so. Istook merely draws attention to his failed tenure in the U.S. Congress when he brings up immigration.

Will The Dems Win?

It’s okay to be optimistic that Democrats will capture a majority in the House or Senate, and it’s fine to be optimistic about the Democrats chances here in Oklahoma from governor on down the ticket.

Public opinion shows the country is sick of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress, but does the country still have the democratic tools to force a correction? Republican gerrymandering makes it nearly impossible for Democrats to compete in some congressional districts. In addition, the GOP political machine will undoubtedly employ, as usual, unscrupulous tactics to prevent Democrats from voting in major cities.

Progressives here should realize we’re engaged in struggle against an entrenched right-wing machine that may take many more years to win. What’s important is that we vote this coming Tuesday and stay focused on changing the political landscape no matter what the outcome.


Istook Fails To Rally GOP Base

Read DocHoc’s commentary on Oklahoma poverty in this week’s Oklahoma Gazette.

Ernest Goes To Cultural Wedge Issues

U. S. Rep. Ernest Istook's desperate attempt to rally the Oklahoma Republican base around the issue of illegal immigration has been an utter failure.

Photograph of Governor Brad Henry

The problem is the Republican Party is split on the issue. The ultra-rich, business bigwigs in the GOP want some type of immigration program that will give them a cheap labor force. The so-called “law and order” Republicans want undocumented workers out of the country, no matter what the personal or economic costs.

Consequently, Istook and his own party have stood in the way of meaningful reform because there can be no reconciliation between the two positions.

But that hasn’t stopped Istook, who is running for governor here, from criticizing Governor Brad Henry for signing a measure into law that grants a handful of undocumented students in-state college tuition rates under certain strict criteria. (Remember, these are people who live here and are paying for college.) Only 200 students or so take advantage of the 2003 law, which was passed by the legislature. Henry only signed the measure, which is a good law that promotes education.

Istook’s attacks on Henry about this issue simply have no traction. It seems petty and hateful to deny a relatively small number of students educational opportunities, and it would do absolutely nothing to solve the immigration issue. Istook’s attacks create the obvious question: Why didn’t he do something about this issue while serving in Congress when he could have made a difference?

Even The Daily Oklahoman, which certainly represents the interests of the GOP wealthy, has criticized Istook on its editorial page for making this a campaign issue.

According to the newspaper, “Immigration reform is needed. But punishing students who are seeking higher education and want to become citizens for the actions of their parents isn’t the kind of immigration reform that will ultimately help our state.”

So what is a Republican to do? Listen to Istook’s rants? Believe what The Oklahoman says? The GOP has failed the country on this issue. Istook’s attacks on Henry only reveal the hypocritical lies and split in his party. Meanwhile, Henry is running powerful campaign television advertisements that focus on his many accomplishments in his first term as governor. Current polls show Henry has a commanding lead over Istook among Oklahoma voters.

More than one political observer has noted that Istook miscalculated when he decided to run against Henry. He trails in fundraising, and he is now forced to run a negative campaign. Istook seems desperate. Meanwhile, Henry can talked about how pulled the state through difficult economic times and generated more funding for education.

Democrats Rising?

Speaking of politics, Keith Gaddie, an OU political science professor, writes about the rising fortunes of Oklahoma Democrats in the Oklahoma Gazette this week.

In a commentary titled “Boo! The Democrats might win!,” Gaddie, a local political guru, writes, “All indications are that, for the first time ever, a viable and organized Democratic Party is present the Sooner State.”

The Democrats have a great statewide ticket for the upcoming election in November. The ticket is led, of course, by popular Governor Brad Henry. (Gaddie writes that some in the GOP think Ernest Istook “will be lucky to break 40 percent” in the election.) In addition, polls show voters nationally are fed up with President George Bush and the Republican majority in the House and Senate. And I sense, too, Democrats are becoming more unified in their efforts to stop the Republican juggernaut that has seized this state and turned it into a seething battleground for right-wing, religious-based ideology. This could translate into big wins for the Democrats.


Dual Threat Faces Oklahoma Residents

Istook Hearts TABOR

Oklahoma still faces the dual threat of Ernest Istook as governor and TABOR, the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights amendment that would devastate the state’s educational systems.

Satirical photograph of Ernest Istook

As part of his gubernatorial campaign, Istook has announced he supports a state TABOR-like amendment even if the current proposal does not make it on the ballot.

An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee ruled recently that an initiative petition that would put a TABOR proposal on the ballot in November is invalid because thousands of the signatures were collected by out-of-state people. The law requires Oklahoma residents to collect signatures for initiative petitions. The full Supreme Court is now considering the referee’s decision.

If enacted, TABOR would limit the growth of state government to population growth and inflation. Colorado voters recently rescinded their state’s TABOR law because it devastated the state’s overall quality of life. Funding for higher education, in particular, was slashed and college tuition skyrocketed.

Even if the court rules that the initiative petition is not valid, TABOR supporters, such as Istook, will continue to fight to reduce taxes for rich people. Meanwhile, Istook and politicians like him, if they continue to get elected, will cut needed education programs and keep our state from prospering.

The point is the court’s decision, no matter what it is, will not mean the TABOR fight is over. The same goes for the fight against intelligent design or neocreationism. If Istook is elected, you can count on more religion-in-government initiatives. Now is the time to get busy to ensure Istook is defeated in November.

The Iraqi Civil War

Lost in all the recent news about Israel and Lebanon is the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

The country is now in a full-fledged civil war, though since the Bush administration will not officially use the words “civil war,” we will have to wait once again for the scared, baffled mainstream media to catch up to reality.

A steady stream of news reports shows hundreds of innocent Iraqis are dying virtually very week, and many are fleeing into sectarian camps or neighborhoods to escape the violence. Some experts are, again, talking about splitting the country into three sections.

If thousands of Americans were dying each month in sectarian violence would we call it a civil war? Of course, we would. But since the Bush administration and its supporters want to cover-up their extreme incompetence and lies, all we get is the same “freedom-is-on-the-march” rhetoric.

We need an exit strategy to get out of Iraq now. The war has resulted in the loss of thousands of American lives and cost billions of dollars. It has divided this country, though polls now show an overwhelming number of people now think going to war in Iraq was a mistake. An estimated 50,000 Iraqis have died. (Some groups argue more than 100,000 have died.)

President George Bush lied to this country about the need to go to war with Iraq (this is perjury and fraud), he has sanctioned the illegal torture of prisoners in American custody, and he has illegally wiretapped American citizens without a court order.

He should be impeached for any or all these reasons. If Democrats can take back the House and Senate in November, then democracy will prevail in this country. The president and his administration should be held accountable legally for damaging the country’s democratic structures.

Global Warming In Oklahoma?

Get used to the scorching heat here in Oklahoma, folks. Scientists are claiming the record heat is part of a global warming pattern that shows no signs of relenting.

What will happen when overall temperature averages skyrocket here? What will it mean for our environment and economy? What can we do to be prepared?

Sadly, the damage from carbon dioxide emissions probably cannot be reversed.