An unfamiliar place: Making sense of the current political landscape

Our political panel in Austin included Ted Jarrett, Josh Phoebus, and Major General Tom Carter.

Time and again the current presidential campaign has defied tradition, shedding any familiarity to previous election cycles. After a brutal primary season for candidates, the two presidential nominees and their running mates are ramping up the rhetoric.

The next 100 days are sure to mired in mudslinging, with more tweets, nicknames, and distractions from the real issues facing the nation.

Not all political discourse is petty. This weekend, I had the great opportunity to moderate a round table discussion in Austin, Texas. Three panelists with extensive backgrounds in politics and government provided a fascinating look at what is steering the national conversation into uncharted territory, including what one panelist called our “Kim Kardashian culture” that invents drama for entertainment.

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One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

What will likely be remembered as one of the longest and most unpredictable presidential races in history is nearing an end. With absentee voting already underway, voter turnout could reach levels exceeding the record turnout in the 1960 presidential election between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Until recently, this campaign cycle actually focused on issues, rather than mudslinging candidates and media mediation. For many of the candidates, campaigning started almost two years ago. It’s hard to believe we’ve been talking politics for this long. Issues like immigration, rebuilding the image of America abroad, social security, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Interestingly, both candidates were written off in the early stages of the race. Barack Obama was pounded by front-runner Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s campaign was disorganized and almost bowed-out altogether. Now the media refuses to hold the candidates to the issues and is pandering to their own wants by turning this into an extended episode of Entertainment Tonight. Continue reading

Governor Jindal vetoes legislative pay raise

Governor Bobby JindalToday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed Senate Bill 672, which would have more than doubled the salaries of state legislators.  The bill would have increased legislator’s pay from $16 thousand a year to over $37 thousand.

Sponsored by Senator Ann Duplessis of New Orleans, the bill originally proposed tripling legislator pay.  That proposition was later amended to only double the increase.  If the bill had been signed into law, Louisiana legislators would be among the highest paid in the South. Continue reading

NBC News’ Tim Russert dead at 58

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

I was just informed of the death of Tim Russert, long-time moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press.  As we approach Father’s Day on Sunday, I can’t help but think of the many stories I remember hearing in interviews about his close relationship with his father.  This is certainly very sad news to learn.

Meet Raymond Strother: The Father of Political Consulting

Using the word “colorful” to describe Louisiana’s political scene has become so cliché. With grandiose political personalities in every corner of the country from Senator Robert Byrd, to Governor Schwarzenegger and Senators Larry Craig and Ted Kennedy, Louisiana isn’t the only state with famous politicians. Louisiana, however, still maintains control of its own style of government. If American politics is “colorful,” then Louisiana is like a page ripped from a three-year-old’s coloring book. Imagine the picture- smudges and scribbles using each crayon in the box, without no attempt to stay inside the lines.

For someone looking for unmatched career experience related to government, there’s no better place. The good, the bad, the ugly; they all co-exist beautifully in what we call “The Bayou State.”

Louisiana has produced its fair share of decent, honest public servants, along with back-room, wheeling and dealing scoundrels. Sometimes it just depends if you’re a “half-empty” or “half-full” type of person.

Climbing the political ladder isn’t as simple as having name recognition and a sizeable war chest.  While the candidate provides the raw elements, political consultants help paint a picture using the most vibrant qualities they can muster.  From newspaper and television ads to polling and focus groups, targeting specific groups using persuasive communication is essential to mounting a legitimate political campaign. Continue reading

Day 8: Living in Cowboy Country

After only one week in the Lone Star State, I’m starting to immerse myself in the culture of Cowboy Country. This morning’s DART Rail commute to the station led to a surprise discovery on my iPOD.

I don’t recall having 45 minutes of country/western music on my playlist, but apparently it was just what I needed to jump start my Monday morning. Don’t expect to see me wearing boots and a cowboy hat just yet.

My mentor, David Schechter and I arrived in the newsroom at the same time this morning. As he unpacked, he told me about his weekend in Phoenix, Arizona, where he and another reporter from WFAA attended the IRE National Conference. Investigative Reporters and Editors, or IRE, is a professional organization for investigative journalists.  Continue reading