No doubt you’ve seen this morning’s top political story:
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said Monday that he believes Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine used an investigation into a failed insurance company in an attempt to pressure him to take a low profile in the governor’s race.
Westmoreland said Oxendine, a Republican candidate for governor, called him about an investigation into Southeastern U.S. Insurance, where Westmoreland served on an advisory board in 2003 and 2004. He said Oxendine told him that his name was found in company documents.
Westmoreland said Oxendine never said anything explicit, but the congressman said he felt a message was being sent. He said Oxendine said to him repeatedly that he would try to keep his name from becoming public as a favor.
Oxendine denied trying to pressure Westmoreland. He said politics had nothing to do with the call.
“Normally I would have had a staff person call him,” Oxendine said. “But since the guy is a sitting congressman, I thought it would be a little demeaning to have a staff person call him.”
Westmoreland is supporting Rep. Nathan Deal for governor. He said the call felt like a “shakedown.”
“I think he thought he was going to worry me,” Westmoreland said. “It smells funny.”
Westmoreland’s entrance into the 2010 race for governor – not as a candidate, but as a combatant – is likely to have several effects. First, it jeopardizes an effort Oxendine had started last week to strengthen his image as a champion of ethics reform.
More important, Westmoreland and Oxendine share strong followings among the conservative Christian core of the state GOP. One can’t credit Westmoreland and still believe in Oxendine. Or vice versa. This has the makings of a split.
Lastly, we now know that Westmoreland’s name is being bandied about in this investigation. The former House minority leader says he attended a total of three meetings of the advisory board, and was required to quit when he was elected to Congress in 2004. But Clark Fain, who served as CEO of SEUS, had other Republican connections as well. Will they be drawn in?
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson says his colleagues are about to approve the nomination of a Labor Department solicitor who misled him and other senators.
Isakson on Monday voted against the motion to end debate on the nomination of New York labor commissioner Patricia Smith, but was rebuffed on a 60-32 vote. A final confirmation vote is expected later this week.
Isakson had already asked President Barack Obama back in September to withdraw the nomination because of what Isakson called her “evasive” answers.
Specifically, Isakson was concerned with Smith’s statements regarding a program called “Wage Watch,” which deputized what Isakson calls private activist groups to inspect small businesses to look for violations of wage and hour laws.
In April 2009, Isakson says he wrote to Smith and asked if she foresaw “the possibility of instituting similar efforts on the national level.” Smith said no.
However, documents procured by the Senate committee looking into her nomination revealed that Smith wrote in January 2009 that she would like to double the number of organizations involved, “while laying the foundation to expand the program to various parts of Long Island and upstate New York.” She continued, “We’re creating a movement here, and the more the merrier.”
“The Senate should not tolerate a nominee intentionally misleading a standing committee of this body. My guess is that the Democrat majority would not have stood for that under the previous administration and they shouldn’t stand for it today,” Isakson said.
Other reports worth looking at this morning:
From the Washington Post:
Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
President Obama’s top defense officials will tell the Senate on Tuesday that the military will no longer aggressively pursue disciplinary action against gay service members whose orientation is revealed against their will by third parties, sources say.
By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product.
His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.
For Mr. Obama and his successors, the effect of those projections is clear: Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors.
Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.
To cheer you up after that, we offer Stephen Colbert’s interview last night of Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who’s looking at a change of venue to New York:
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Harold Ford Jr.|
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