EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 10, 2013

Column: Hopeful signs abound as spring approaches

Barbara Anderson
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Spring is coming, I just know it! Even though after the November election I thought we might never see political hope and joy again.

Here, along with the red-winged blackbirds Chip saw last weekend, are my harbingers of better days to come.

First, the bear emerging from his den: Bob Woodward exposing lies again. My political interest began in the Watergate era, when Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post uncovered the cover-up of illegal activity by Nixon operatives during the 1972 presidential campaign. I read their book “All The President’s Men”, saw the movie with Redford and Hoffman twice, was primed at an early age to be skeptical, question politicians and admire reporters who did this sort of thing for a living. Many of our current reporters chose journalism as their career because of Watergate and until Obama ran, lived up to their calling. Now Woodward has shamed those who haven’t questioned Obama for the six years of his ongoing presidential campaign.

While writing a book about domestic policy, Woodward did extensive interviews with administration officials during negotiations over raising the debt limit last year. Republicans agreed to allow more debt in return for serious spending reductions; if the Obama administration and Democrats didn’t work with them on these, automatic cuts called a sequester would happen on March 1.

As the deadline approached, the president took to the campaign trail, blaming Republicans for the coming automatic cuts, for not managing the country while he played games. Woodward stepped forward to tell country the truth, that the sequester was in fact Obama’s idea, and that he had “moved the goalposts” by now demanding tax increases in return for the spending cuts.

The Obama administration, unaccustomed to being exposed, blamed the truth-teller; the president’s economic advisor, Gene Sperling, told him in an email that “you will regret staking out that claim.” My hope is this threat, probably to refuse the writer White House access, will inspire the rest of the media to support Woodward at this time and, in the future, the truth-telling concept itself.

What it comes down to, media, is this: Whom do you believe, one of the nation’s best journalists, or a president who insists the reporter’s notes were wrong? The answer to this could mean the end of the inappropriate love affair with the politician-in-chief.

Second happy harbinger, the thawing of the center-right activist freeze. As Obama was re-elected and their local candidates lost because they were caught up in the Obama vs. Bad Republican Image sweep, some patriotic Americans considered dropping out of political activity. Instead, I saw many of them at the March 2 Republican straw poll in Danversport, enthusiastic about the special election for U.S. Senate, supporting one of the three Republican candidates in the primary or eager to learn about them and choose one.

Incredibly, all three candidates managed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the April 27 primary ballot – in the few weeks they had since Scott Brown decided not to run, with snowstorms making encounters with voters difficult. I thought it also a good sign that so many recently-weary voters were willing to begin another political process with their signatures.

Each candidate had three minutes to make an impression. State Representative Dan Winslow won the poll with 79 votes, largely because of a barn-burner of a three-minute speech; political newcomer and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez received 59 votes, and former state representative and U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan was close behind him with 55. I’m supporting Dan Winslow but would be delighted with any of them replacing John Kerry as my U.S. senator.

They all presented their own qualifications without attacking their opponents; I hope their supporters can follow their lead throughout the primary, unlike those who used the presidential primary last year to seriously damage Mitt Romney.

Another bright spot in that weekend was the appearance on Fox News Sunday of the Romneys in their first public appearance since the election; it was great to see these two wonderful people looking relaxed and happy, holding their new twin grandchildren, though clearly when questioned, frustrated with their loss. Mitt admitted honestly that it “killed” him to see the country being so badly mismanaged; though he took responsibility for losing, Ann had no qualms about noting that media prejudice played a large role.

I myself blame those primary opponents who weakened him for the general election. That’s why the final hopeful thought I’m sharing with you is another thing that happened at the straw poll event.

The two Republican candidates running for Peabody state representative in Tuesday’s special election were invited to address the crowd. I saw something I’d never seen before: When one excellent candidate, Leah Cole, wasn’t able to attend, the other excellent candidate, Greg Bunn, along with noting his background and reasons for running, made his pitch for both of them, citing the issues on which they agree, and urging support in the general election for whichever of them wins the primary. May this be a sign of things to come in the Republican Party, and springlike hope for our state and country’s future.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a regular contributor to the opinion pages.