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Archive for the tag “Mitt Romney”

The Courthouse and Town of Greenville, Georgia

October 31, 2021
(photos and memories from October 2012)

Meriwether County courthouse. Greenville, Georgia

In early October nine years ago I came upon the town of Greenville, Georgia. This is a small place, population 800 or so, but only about 50 miles southwest of Atlanta. Like so many other “Greenvilles” in the United States, this town was named for Revolutionary War General and hero Nathaniel Greene, the man who drove the British army out of the deep Southern states and toward its ultimate surrender at Yorktown, Virginia. Although Greenville is the county seat, Meriwether County is best known for the town of Warm Springs, which was President Franklin Roosevelt’s vacation home, the site of his polio therapy, and the place of his death in 1945.

Meriwether County historical sign. Greenville, Georgia

The courthouse here is strikingly grand — a two-story red brick structure with a white cupola. It was built in the late 1800s, suffered fire damage in 1976, and was then refurbished. The grand building dominates the little town of 800, sitting in the middle of the town’s central square and traffic circle.

Greenville’s central traffic circle surrounds the grand courthouse

When I went inside, the security chief volunteered to give me a tour of the courthouse. The first stop on the impromptu tour was the top-floor courtroom and a wall-sized portrait of William Yates Atkinson, Meriwether county native and former Georgia governor.

William Yates Atkinson. Meriwether County courthouse. Greenville, Georgia

The second stop on the tour was a personal introduction to the local DA (district attorney) and assistant DA — a youngish black man in a dark gray suit, and a youngish woman in a purple dress. These two were standing in the DA’s office telling jokes when the security guard and I arrived. They both greeted me warmly, and their relaxed attitude gave me the impression that this small, rural county didn’t suffer from the scourge of rampant crime and violence.

For the third stop, I was taken to meet the Judge of Magistrate Court, whom the security guard told me was a full-blooded Cherokee. Unfortunately, the judge was attending to some cases at the jail and so wasn’t in her office. Her assistant greeted me and showed me her photo and some hand-made Cherokee paraphernalia hung on the walls.

Judge’s bench. Meriwether County courthouse. Greenville, Georgia

The courthouse tour ended there. I thanked the security guard for his time and let him get back to his station at the front entrance. Here’s a final photo of the courthouse, with the town’s Methodist church on the right.

Meriwether County courthouse. Greenville, Georgia
Soldiers’ memorial on the courthouse grounds. Greenville, Georgia

Generally speaking, in most Southern towns the Baptist denomination is the most prominent religious sect. In Greenville however, the town’s Methodist church, next to the courthouse, seems most prominent.

Greenville United Methodist Church. Greenville, Georgia
Memorial to John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Greenville, Georgia

Greenville is a small town of 800 residents, so the “business district” consists of the shops along the outer side of the traffic circle that goes around the courthouse. It seems vibrant enough though:

Shops across from the courthouse. Greenville, Georgia

These photos were taken in October 2012. The Greenville Cafe is now the Willows Eatery. Their Facebook page (at the link) includes a few short videos to welcome your visit.

Greenville Cafe, now the Willows Eatery. Greenville, Georgia
Southern Charm Realty, across from the bell and the courthouse circle. Greenville, Georgia

Perhaps the owners of this fine home in town bought their castle from the realtor in the photograph above. They seem to be northern transplants — notice the Pittsburgh Steelers sign.

Pittsburgh Steelers and Mitt Romney supporters. Greenville, Georgia

Here are two more fine homes I saw in Greenville:

Home in Greenville, Georgia
Home in Greenville, Georgia

The old county jailhouse is now the county sheriff’s office. Perhaps the Magistrate Court Judge was inside when I was touring the courthouse?

Sheriff’s office and old jail. Greenville, Georgia

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on October 5, 2012.

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A Quick Note to Remember for Tonight’s Presidential Debate

October 16, 2012
‎”The classic liberal,” Reagan wrote, “used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom.”
 — From “Where’s the Rest of Me?” 1965
Remember this passage. Remember it each time Obama complains tonight that some Romney policy would “leave you on your own.” When Obama says that he affirms what Reagan accused liberals of believing — that “control is better than freedom.”

Manistique — The Battle for Michigan

February 25, 2012

The Michigan primary is next Tuesday. Since political talk can sometimes become dry I thought I’d combine a travel post with some thoughts about the upcoming contest. In fact my first blog post was such a combination — “Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimarron Kansas” — and I thought it came out well, photos and all, so here goes. (All photos are my own, taken in February, 2009.)

Manistique, a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is so small that it reminds me of an Alaskan town, or what I imagine an Alaskan town might look like.  Few of the buildings here are as tall as two stories and there are just a couple of those.  Streets are lined with piles of shovelled snow that can dwarf the cars parked next to them. In fact, in the wintertime snowmobiles become as common a means of transportation as cars. When I was here in February 2009 the noontime temperature struggled to reach 17 degrees, and that was on a sunny day.

Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

At the turn of the 20th Century Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (known as the “U.P.”) was famous for its Jacobsville red sandstone, a burgundy red stone in demand worldwide. Architects loved to use Jacobsville for the facades of their best structures since artisans could carve intricate designs into the stone without compromising its strength. Jacobsville was used in the Tribune Building in Chicago and at the original Waldorf-Astoria in New York among many other places.  Manistique has one such Jacobsville building — it originally housed a prominent bank but now a home health agency occupies the first and second floors.

Corner bank building, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

Manistique is the seat of Schoolcraft County. The courthouse here is a fairly new ranch style building which does not photograph well.  The only markers are the county’s war memorial in front of the adjacent sheriff’s office.

Schoolcraft County Courthouse, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

Behind the courthouse I saw two official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department snowmobiles parked in a trailer.  So — the local police chase ne’er-do-wells on snowmobiles! Can you imagine if Hollywood was to make a tv show called “The U.P.”?  These cop snowmobiles would be on the opening credits tearing paths through the wilderness with sirens blaring and emergency lights blazing red and blue over the snow trails! Wouldn’t that put Erik Estrada’s old CHiPs motorcycles to shame?

Official Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department Snowmobile Cruisers (“Sheriff” emblem on visor)

I ate lunch at the Cedar Street Café and Coffee House. This is a fine place, built into one of the refurbished older business buildings in the old town business district. Such cafes are becoming common in small Midwestern towns. Yet they shouldn’t be called “mom and pop” places because typically they are run entirely by women entrepreneurs. The inside decor was inviting — festive Mardi Gras beads bedecked the wooden tables while oil paintings (for sale by local artists) decorated a wall of exposed brick.  Painted on the opposite wall was a country mural covering over 20 square feet from the hard wood floor to the antique pressed metal ceiling. By the way, the sausage gumbo here was just fantastic — rich brown gravy with chunks of sausage and spices over rice.  Of course I don’t know if any Louisianan would call it “gumbo” but being authentic doesn’t matter if you’re just plain good.

What’s interesting about Manistique politically is that it sits in the heart of former Democrat Bart Stupak’s 1st Congressional District, most of which was on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The majority of the people in the U.P. are the descendants of German and Polish immigrants who came here in the late 19th century to work the iron mines and rock quarries. It is a heavily Catholic, heavily Democratic, working class region. Bart Stupak has represented the district since 1993. Obama won this district 49%-48% in 2008.

Yet Michigan’s 1st District went Republican in the elections of 2010 for the first time since 1933. Here’s what happened. During the Congressional debate over Obamacare in 2009, Stupak led a group of pro-life House Democrats wary of passing Obamacare since they feared the bill would mandate government funding of abortions. They held out for a while, but long story short Stupak and his gang finally caved to pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voted for legislation. In return for their votes they were given a pledge that Obamacare would not fund abortions, but the pledge turned out to be phony and Bart Stupak became very unpopular with his Catholic, working class constituency. Stupak decided to retire rather than run for re-election in 2010 and has since taken up the lobbyist’s trade.

In Tuesday’s primary the focus will be on Romney versus Santorum, although Ron Paul will get some votes. Gingrich isn’t campaigning in Michigan, choosing instead to concentrate his energies on upcoming primaries in the South.

Romney is the home state guy, of course. Mitt’s father George Romney was Michigan’s governor for many years. That will mean a lot. Residents of the U.P. (called “Yoopers”) are proud to be from Michigan. Local radio broadcasts Detroit Tigers games, not the Milwaukee Brewers even though Milwaukee is a shorter drive than Detroit for most yoopers.

At the same time these are exactly the kind of voters Rick Santorum is banking on. They are Catholic, working class, rural, Democratic historically but not afraid to switch parties.  Michigan’s is an open primary, meaning that registered Democrats can cross party lines to vote in the Republican primary. This might boost Santorum’s turnout in the U.P., and apparently his campaign has picked up on this possibility and has scheduled a Santorum campaign rally in the U.P.’s largest town of Marquette. (Info here. Link was good as of 2/25/12)

The Michigan Primary will put to the test two competing opinions of Santorum’s campaign strategy.  On one side is demographics expert Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute. (Henry is an old graduate school colleague of mine — he’s a very bright guy and has an unstoppable hook shot.) He wrote a piece a few weeks ago called “Two Decades Too Late” in which he described Santorum’s campaign strategy as an attempt

…to resurrect the Reagan general-election strategy of 1980 — first and foremost, to win over the conservative base on fiscal and social issues by portraying himself as a man of principle, the only candidate who will not waver.

But, according to Olsen, Santorum’s strategy is doomed to failure because the demographics of 1980 have changed during the past 30 years — a resurrection of the coalition with the old “Reagan Democrats” is no longer possible. In a nod to the timeliness of Olsen’s piece the archetypes of the 1980 Reagan Democrats were Michigan voters.  We’ll see how many Reagan Democrats turn out for Santorum Tuesday night.

On the other side of the strategy argument is Jeffrey Bell, an “early supply-sider” and author of the forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics.”  In a recent interview with James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal (“Social Issues and the Santorum Surge“), Bell argues that social conservatism is a winning strategy for the GOP because its appeal is strongest amongst not the wealthy but the working class:

Mr. Bell notes that social conservatism is largely a working-class phenomenon: “Middle America does have more children than elite America, and they vote socially conservative, even though they might not necessarily be behaving that way in their personal life. They may be overwhelmed by the sexual revolution and its cultural impacts.”

Mr. Bell squares that circle by arguing that social conservatism is “aspirational” and “driven by a sense in Middle America that the kind of cultural atmosphere we have, the kind of incentives, the example set by government, is something that has to be pushed back against.”

In an ironic twist, Santorum has become identified with the social issues mostly because of the media’s portrayal of him as such. He has not actually campaigned on contraception, abortion or gay marriage. I can personally attest to this fact as I’ve attended four Santorum events and at none of them were these issues part of the candidate’s speech. Not once.

So, Michigan will be a test. Romney has the home-state advantage while Santorum tests his campaign strategy.  We’ll see what happens in Manistique.

Snow-bound church, Manistique, Michigan, February 2009

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

Mitt Romney — The Executive

As the 2012 campaign season comes to my state with Tuesday’s Colorado Caucuses, I’ve decided to attend as many of the candidates’ local speeches as can be managed.

I attended a Rick Santorum rally last Wednesday the 1st. You can read my comments at this link: Rick Santorum — The Servant. In that post I also described each of the other three candidates with a single word: Romney is The Executive, Gingrich is The Visionary, and Ron Paul is The Ideologue.

I plan to attend a speech by Newt Gingrich on Monday the 6th. Today I am fortunate to be able to attend a rally for Mitt Romney.

Dateline: Springs Fabrication Plant, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Saturday February 4, 2:45 pm.

The event was held inside a manufacturing plant owned by a Romney supporter. There were no seats; event-goers stood behind a makeshift stage amidst various cranes and manufacturing equipment. The usable area was jam-packed but actually smaller than the space used by Santorum a few days earlier. I estimate the crowd to have been about one thousand, roughly the same size as Santorum drew. Romney’s people told me that no one was turned away for lack of space.

(No food was offered to the crowd at the Romney event; Santorum’s people provided a plate of homemade cookies (snickerdoodles) next to their sign-up sheet. These were much appreciated.)

Attending the Romney event were several significant GOP office-holders and endorsers such as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams, and Colorado State GOP Vice-Chairman Leondray Gholston.

Gholston introduced an Iraq War veteran who led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance which was followed by an invocation (led by Gholston). Gholston then introduced United States Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who introduced Mitt Romney.

I’m not a professional reporter. First I’ll do my best to recapitulate the speech objectively and then offer my opinions of it at the bottom of the post.

Wearing a white shirt and jeans, Mitt Romney spoke with a microphone in one hand and no notes.

Romney began by thanking the owner of the Springs Fabrication plant who hosted the event. He then introduced some members of his family behind him, although Mrs. Romney was not among those present. He thanked members of the nearby US Air Force Academy, and recognized dignitaries present including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

Romney then launched into current issues, reminding the crowd that it is nearly three years to the day since Obama told an interviewer that he would only serve a single term if he was unable to turn the economy around. Romney reminded the crowd that these are tough times in America and then reeled off a series of statistics to buttress that claim. He remembered that it was Thomas Paine who said “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Romney then delivered the punch line: “Obama has shown he can’t lead, he won’t follow, not we must get him out of the way!”

The crowd cheered.

The build-up and the punch line of the opening remarks clearly showed me that Romney was reciting a well-practiced stump speech. This is of course the norm at such campaign rallies. Romney’s cadence is smooth; he delivers his facts and statistics dexterously.

Referring to recent positive jobs data Romney said he is happy that the American economy is slowly improving. However, he insisted, this is thanks to the entrepreneurship of businessmen like the owner of the Springs Fabrication plant and not to the policies of Barack Obama. Obama is borrowing too much money and that will never grow an economy.

Romney then reeled off a laundry list of promises and slogans after which each was met with loud cheers from the crowd. “Government is too big.” Cheers. “I will not slow government growth; instead I will cut the size of government entirely.” Cheers. “I will cut programs.” Cheers. “It is immoral to pass along debt to our kids for them to repay.” Cheers.

Romney decried Obama’s record of “crony capitalism” including the federal government’s 500 million dollar loan lost to bankrupt Solyndra. He then contrasted Solyndra with his successful shepherding of start-up company Staples, where “we invested only 5 to 10 million dollars and built a great business while holding our meetings in cheap, rented offices.” He asked the audience to compare his capitalistic successes to Obama’s delivery of car companies to the control of the UAW.

“With regard to health care,” Romney said quickly changing subjects, “I will repeal Obamacare as my first act. In energy I will expand drilling, the use of coal, and natural gas.”

Romney attacked Obama on foreign policy. He said Obama thinks America is in decline and so he reaches out to appease dictators: Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un in North Korea. He said Obama plans to cut the military by 1 trillion dollars yet we have fewer ships in our Navy and fewer planes in our Air Force than we’ve had in decades. I (Romney) will add 100,000 troops and expand our Air Force and Navy building and modernization programs.

Obama, Romney said, wants us to become like Europe.

Finishing his speech, Governor Romney reminisced about the time in his boyhood when his parents “drove us across the country in a Rambler.” “It was then that I fell in love with this country and its people.” He referred to the patriotic song “America the Beautiful,” quoting a number of the lesser known verses full of paeans to the American experience. (Full lyrics here.)

Unfortunately Romney failed to mention the fact that “America the Beautiful” was written here in Colorado Springs. Had he done so it would have proved that he was truly attentive to his audience. The crowd didn’t seem to notice, but I did.

As a denouement Romney reminded the crowd that in the Declaration, God endowed us with Rights, that among these are the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness as WE choose, not as the government directs. These principles make us who we are. “Hold true to principles of the Constitution and the Declaration and we will overcome all obstacles!”

The crowd roared and some chanted USA! USA! as Romney waved in appreciation.

The speech had taken 21 minutes. The Governor spent the next nine minutes shaking hands in the crowd. I noticed that Romney spent less time chatting with individual well-wishers than Santorum had a few nights earlier.

Then I noticed Romney smile an odd clownish smile and zigzag from one edge of the stage to its opposite. Apparently he was trying to show a new segment of outstretched hands that he had even greater enthusiasm for them than he had for the previous bunch. In this gesture I think I detected an act. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not believe Romney has a veiled hatred of people but rather fakes sentimentality to please them.

This speech as a whole was an exercise in crowd participation like the holler and holler-back of a cheerleading routine. Mitt would offer a line, a fact or situation, and then a promise to do differently. Then the crowd would cheer.

I didn’t find myself disagreeing with much of what Romney said. Furthermore the positive statements Romney made outnumbered the negative — the speech was more about what he would do as President than what Obama had failed to do. Nevertheless it lacked a central theme beyond “I’ll do what we all think will improve us all” and so I wasn’t drawn along by his enthusiasm. Without such a central theme I left the rally with only a vague understanding of how Mitt Romney might react to future circumstances yet unrevealed to us. These will come. They always do.

In my previous post (Rick Santorum — The Servant), I described Romney as The Executive in the following terms:

Romney is The Executive. Give him a job like running the Olympics or building big companies and he gets the job done. Unfortunately he is incapable of knowing which job to do. He’s been on both sides of so many issues (abortion, cap and trade, health care mandate, global warming, gun control, etc. etc. etc.) that he obviously will need some direction as President.

Please discard the Hollywood notion that an Executive is a fat, greedy, worthless and ultimately lazy leech upon society. Such a view is a caricature made for the purpose of comedy. I’ve known a few executives in my years in the business world. They are always sharp and focused people and because of this can seem aloof and unsentimental. Yet executives come in many types. Some I have known were scrupulously honest and charitable while others were not. Some were religious while others were not. Some friendly while others humorless. But in every case the executives I’ve met were highly attentive, goal- and achievement-oriented people. That of course does not mean they were always right; sometimes their extreme focus causes them to lose sight of the bigger perspective.

Such executive characteristics have important advantages for one seeking to become the chief executive of the United States. A sharp focus combined with an energetic perseverance will get things done. The Executive is driven by the prospect of achievement and is abhorrent of failure. However, the Executive performs best when his or her goals can be empirically measured and demonstrated. In Romney’s case he has such experience when he made the Olympics profitable and built successful companies.

In the speech at the rally Romney specifically mentioned “cutting government” (not just slowing its growth) and “repealing Obamacare.” Such specifics are great news for conservatives since this means he accepts these items as personal goals to be achieved. History suggests he will actually try to achieve them rather than just move in such a direction. The more specificity that can be drawn out of Romney the better.

However, because of his focus on measurable goals, Romney will have difficulty understanding abstractions such as “the good of the country.” He may lack the prudence (judgement) to address important issues in a non-economic way. Romney has had difficulty choosing sides on social issues such as health care mandates, gun control, abortion, gay marriage and the like. His approach to the theoretical danger of Global Warming is confused. As such issues confound his focus he may seek an escape, opting for the path of least resistance rather than the path of the greatest good.

This may be most troublesome for the country. Americans are greatly divided on social issues and a Romney election will be seen as merely an economic victory for the Right and not a referendum on other issues. Romney therefore will not be capable of leading the country in this respect, and the American Culture War will continue.

Executives are often seen as obtuse. I believe this is both true and fair in the sense that their extreme focus on achievement blinds them to other concerns. For Romney, working a crowd is probably more a part of the job to be endured than an enjoyment of the moment. People will recognize that and he will certainly be attacked as distant and cold.

Unlike previous GOP “moderates” John McCain and Bob Dole, Romney is at heart a businessman unhabituated to accepting Washington gridlock as the norm. He is a determined man with a history of achievement and will be a formidable opponent during the election campaign and in the White House should he get there.

Mitt Romney (with unknown supporter waving back to him)

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