WHAT’S a popular lame duck to do? Normally he’d position himself for higher office, but Gov. Brad Henry hasn’t moved in that direction. For him, the higher office would be in the U.S. Senate, where he would join other Democrats who enthusiastically embraced Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. Therein lies the rub. Henry’s job approval rating is 67 percent, two points higher than U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. Coburn’s name will be on the 2010 ballot as he seeks a second term. Henry’s name could also be on the ballot but for the fact that Obama’s approval rating in Oklahoma is an abysmal 36 percent. Oklahoma voters seem in no mood to send a Democrat to the Senate and give Obama another vote. This is why no serious opposition has developed against Coburn and — perhaps — why Henry isn’t interested in the job Coburn seems destined to win. Surveys from the Oklahoma Poll, sponsored by the Tulsa World, show Oklahoma’s other Republican U.S. senator, Jim Inhofe, has a 61 percent approval rating. Henry will leave office in a year as one of the most popular Oklahoma politicians ever — presuming something doesn’t happen to change that. Yet despite this popularity, the governor doesn’t seem willing to put it to a test at the ballot box.
Fallin has edgeReplacing Henry will be the prime decision before Oklahoma voters in November. Early polling shows U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin has the edge in most parts of the state. As the first Republican and first female lieutenant governor, Fallin is no stranger to breaking ground. She would be the first woman to occupy the governor’s chair, but another woman — Lt. Gov. Jari Askins — has her eyes on the prize as well. Polls may not mean much this far out, but at this point Fallin is seen as the winner no matter which candidate the Democrats nominate. The front-runner is Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who’s already moving to distance himself from the national Democratic Party — at least when he’s not speaking to activist urban Democrats. Henry has shown that a Democrat can retain popularity here no matter how much Oklahomans dislike the president.
‘Edgy’ ads outIn three weeks, millions of Super Bowl viewers will tune in to watch the ads, with a little football thrown in for good measure. Super Bowl ads are always entertaining and stimulate discussion. Some are edgy, some are controversial. Madison Avenue is, after all, the domain of the Mad Men. Lately, people have been getting mad at the advertisers. This includes a garment manufacturer’s use of President Obama to tout outerwear. The White House cried foul and the image was removed from a Times Square billboard. In Australia, KFC pulled a TV ad that was labeled as racist — despite being far less so than comments made about Obama by fellow Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Green badge of courage?Sen. Jim Inhofe loves getting a rise out of environmental groups and the attention that goes with it — like Rolling Stone’s new article naming him one of the planet’s worst enemies. Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has gotten under a lot of people’s skin contesting the "settled science” of global warming and environmental regulatory efforts that carry a big economic price tag, all from his perch on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe’s main beef with the article is he thinks he was ranked too low. "My first response was I should have been No. 1, not No. 7,” he told the Tulsa World. "I am serious about that. I have spent now literally years on this thing, and it has been a long, involved thing.” And he shows no sign of easing his foot off the gas pedal.
Robertson eruptionIt’s been awhile since Pat Robertson last erupted, so it’s not surprising his latest outburst was a doozy — linking the devastating earthquake in Haiti to some kind of deal he says the Haitian people made with the devil in the 1790s to shed the yoke of French colonizers. "They were under the heel of the French,” Robertson said Wednesday, "and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’” Besides being of dubious scholarship, Robertson’s remark was off the charts offensive given the death toll and destruction in Haiti. Of course, Robertson is notorious for interpreting contemporary events as the works of God or Satan or both. He blamed the 9/11 attacks on the country’s ban on public school prayer and said Hurricane Katrina was retribution for abortion. For conservatives the hard thing is a number of Americans still think Robertson speaks for a large segment of their movement. They can only hope for another kind of miracle — that next time some calamity occurs Pat Robertson will just keep quiet.
Sense of entitlementThere’s a big special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the passing of Ted Kennedy. Actually, the seat’s not vacant. The Democratic machine in the Bay State put party retread Paul Kirk in there to keep it warm, presumably for the state’s Democratic attorney general, Martha Coakley, who faces Republican Scott Brown and independent Joseph Kennedy (not that Joe Kennedy!). The three debated Monday night, and judging by the account in the Boston Globe, it was pretty lively. Easily the best comeback of the night came from Brown, who’s running in a state where Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats 3-1. Asked by moderator David Gergen whether he felt comfortable taking Kennedy’s seat and becoming the vote that would stop health care, Kennedy’s signature issue, Brown pounced. "With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, it’s not the Democrats’ seat,” Brown said. "It’s the people’s seat.” That, as they say, is bearding the lion in his own den.
It’s politicsNew Jersey won’t be joining the short list of states allowing undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates. The effect, supporters said, is that children will be punished for the actions of their illegal immigrant parents and likely won’t attend college at all. The measure’s failure is rightfully disappointing although the in-state tuition denial has become a politically popular choice in many states. While higher education isn’t a right, it is an opportunity that ought to be as widely available as possible for those who want it. Banning students who were young and had no say when their family immigrated slams the door of opportunity for those who simply can’t afford the much higher price tag of out-of-state tuition. What good comes from that?
Fallin has edge
‘Edgy’ ads out
Green badge of courage?
Sense of entitlement