Written by Susan Casey

Susan Berry Casey’s new book:

A P P E A L I N G   F O R   J U S T I C E

One Colorado Lawyer, Four Decades, and the Landmark Gay Rights Case: Romer v. Evans

AFJ-frontcover

Advance Praise for Appealing for Justice

“A must-read for fans of the Supreme Court and civil rights, Susan Casey’s drama expertly tells the tale of an entire movement through one of its bravest characters.”

MICHAEL BOOTH, member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning news teams and winner of the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Nonfiction for Eating Dangerously: Why the Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe — And How You Can (with co-author Jennifer Brown) 

“By telling the story of one woman who played a pivotal role in a critical civil rights lawsuit, Susan Casey brilliantly captures the story of an entire generation–indeed, the story of America over the past half century. This book is a must read for anyone who cares passionately about social justice. It explains how epochal change can happen.”

HELEN THORPE, winner of the 2010 Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and author of Soldier Girls and Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America.

At Tattered Cover, Boulder Bookstore, at bookstores across the country and online:

http://www.tatteredcover.com/book/9780997698404

http://www.boulderbookstore.net/book/9780997698404

https://www.amazon.com/Appealing-Justice-Lawyer-Decades-Landmark/dp/0997698403/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472767216&sr=1-2&keywords=Appealing+For+Justice


HART AND SOUL: Gary Hart’s New Hampshire Odyssey . . . and Beyond.

Praise for Hart and Soul

“It is a captivating story…”   Thelma Kiser, The Sunday Independent.

“There have been millions of words written about New Hampshire primaries but never before a fascinating inside account of one of the campaigns. This book should be a must for political junkies everywhere.”  Jack Germond, nationally syndicated columnist

New York Times: Book Review of Hart and SoulHartSoul

By FRANK LYNN January 11, 1987

These are the hard basics of running for President, particularly for an underdog like Senator Gary Hart in 1984: up before a cold New Hampshire dawn in a forlorn motel or a campaign worker’s house to climb into a van driven by a campaign volunteer to accost hurrying factory workers at the plant gate or sleepy diners in a greasy spoon. Constantly scrambling for money and steeling yourself during shouting matches between campaign aides over whether Iowa or New Hampshire should get it. Doggedly persisting for nearly two years while reporters don’t mention your candidacy or, if they do, brush you off as insignificant. Susan Berry Casey, co-director of Gary Hart’s 1984 primary campaign in New Hampshire, has written a detailed – sometimes too detailed – chronicle of the New Hampshire primary. Her criticism of the press and television is harsh – and probably justified. They ignored and underestimated Mr. Hart all through 1983, overestimating at the same time Senator John Glenn’s electoral muscle. Then a 16 percent Hart showing in Iowa became a victory of sorts that snowballed into the real New Hampshire victory a week later. Later, Hart the hero gave way to Hart the hack, whose age and name change were the subjects of reportorial investigations that helped sink the candidate. Despite it all, Ms. Casey is still hooked on Gary Hart and politics. She and her family have moved to Denver and the Hart command post for the next round of doughnuts at dawn in New Hampshire, Iowa and other 1988 primary and caucus states.

Available online:

https://www.amazon.com/Hart-Soul-Hampshire-Odyssey-Beyond/dp/0961711507/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472950412&sr=1-1&keywords=Hart+and+Soul+Susan+Berry+Casey

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Susan+Berry+Casey&sts=t&tn=Hart+and+Soul


THE ELECTORAL CHALLENGE: Theory Meets Practice

ElecChallBy Stephen C. Craig & David B. Hill, eds, 2010.

Essay: “Scandal, Corruption, and Campaign Ethics”, authored by Susan Casey


ARTICLES

Casey’s columns have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, the Concord (NH) Monitor, Daily Camera (Boulder, CO) and the Huffington Post.  Below is a selected sample.

A Long Way Or Full Circle?

By Susan Casey. LIFE ON CAPITOL HILL. November 2016

Then and now. 25 years ago, Denver’s neighborhoods were in turmoil.In the fall of 1990, after the Denver City Council passed an amendment to its human rights ordinance to add protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, there was a collective sigh of relief in the LGBT community. Finally, discrimination against gays and lesbians would be illegal. But before the ink was dry, a group which Denver Post columnist Ken Hamlin referred to as “mental dinosaurs spewing bigotry and hate” worked to overturn the ordinance. Those battling for social justice began to hold their collective breaths.

It took another five years to beat back the local and statewide efforts of anti-gay forces in Colorado. I was at the end of my first year as a new member of the Denver City Council when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in Romer v. Evans. The court ruled any attempt to deprive homosexuals of the basic rights shared by all Americans is prohibited by the equal rights protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Denver was different after Romer v. Evans. Better. However, few would have predicted that 20 years later not only would gays and lesbians enjoy protections from discrimination in housing and employment, but they would also be allowed to serve openly in the military, adopt children and even marry one another.

When it comes to equal justice and equality, it is easy to see the gains over the decades and to celebrate them. Long before gay rights activists gained legal protections and equal access to the basic rights of other Americans, the civil rights and women’s movements dramatically changed the lives of blacks and women, making things like voting rights, the right to live where you want, equal access to jobs and positions of power standard fare.

I have spent the last three years researching and writing a book about one woman’s journey through the glass ceiling and came to appreciate how far we have come in creating a more just and equal society. But then in the past year or so the lingering remnants of sexism, bigotry and intolerance burst into full bloom in Ferguson, in Orlando, in North Carolina, at Fox News and on the campaign trail.

Gender roles were bound to become a topic of conversation after a woman became the presidential nominee of a major party. But when the presidential nominee of the other party began regularly peppering his comments with misogynistic innuendos and a steady stream of hate-filled sexual, ethnic and racial references, I began to have again doubts about just where we are as a country when it comes to equality and justice

Have we come a long way, baby? Or have we just come full circle?

Colorado will play a key role in the outcome of this presidential election. And, many of us are holding our breaths once again to see what kind of state we are, and what kind of country we will be.

http://www.lifeoncaphill.com/node/82

Romer vs. Evans jump-started gay-rights revolution

By Susan Casey. DENVER POST. May 20, 2016

Twenty years ago this month, as I was nearing the end of my first year as a member of the Denver City Council, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Romer vs. Evans. The court ruled that Amendment 2, which prevented local government from protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, was unconstitutional.

Denver was a plaintiff in the case, and there was much joy and relief at the City and County Building when the court ruled for the plaintiffs. Local and national newspaper headlines heralded the opinion as one of the most important civil rights decisions in decades.

As a city official, I should have had a greater appreciation for all that the ruling meant at the time, but it is only now, 20 years later, that I’ve come to understand the full historic impact of a case that is seldom referenced without the word “landmark” attached.

The significance of Romer vs. Evans was readily apparent to those who had been deeply involved in the case from its inception. For Pat Steadman — a young, fresh-out-of-law-school and a fresh out-of-the-closet gay man — May 20, 1996, was a very emotional day. Today, Steadman is a well-known and well-respected Colorado state senator; that day 20 years ago marked for him both an end and a beginning.

Steadman’s activism blossomed after law school when he became involved a campaign to prevent the overturning of a Denver ordinance that made discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the law. That local effort was successful, and Denver became the third city in Colorado — joining Boulder and Aspen — with an ordinance protecting gays and lesbians.

Yet, a year later, Steadman and others were battling against a statewide anti-gay initiative, Amendment 2. That amendment to the state constitution not only would have nullified all local laws and policies designed to protect gays and lesbians, it would have prohibited any future such laws.

Amendment 2 was on the statewide ballot in November 1992 in the midst of a presidential election campaign almost as bizarre as the one we are experiencing today. With a populace increasingly disaffected by establishment political leaders, the early primaries brought out all manner of non-traditional candidates.

David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, made a brief appearance as a candidate in the early Democratic primaries. Then Ross Perot, a brash, wealthy Texas businessman with no political experience, jumped into the race as a third-party choice. He led in national polls for months, over both Republican candidate George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton.

In Colorado, campaigns supporting and opposing Amendment 2 competed for attention not only with the unusually wild and crazy presidential campaign but also with a dozen of other initiatives, including a bill to protect black bears from people. Right up until Election Day, the polls had the presidential contest too close to call, but never waivered from the prediction that Amendment 2 would fail.

In the end, Clinton eked out a victory and became president, but the campaign to protect gays and lesbians was not successful. Against all predictions, the unthinkable happened: The citizens of Colorado voted Amendment 2 into law in November 1992. According to newsman Ed Sardella, it essentially made discrimination against gays and lesbians legal.

The passage of Amendment 2 not only shocked pundits, it also shook the country. Gay-rights supporters mobilized overnight. They were joined by Hollywood celebrities and, together, they launched a national boycott, urging individuals, businesses and organizations to cancel plans to travel to Colorado, dubbed the “Hate State.”

The only option to prevent the law from going into effect was to file what Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin called “one humongous lawsuit.” Steadman, former Denver District Court Judge Mary Celeste, and former Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky did just that, and for the next 3½ years, they led the legal battle that ultimately landed at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Romer vs. Evans decision marked an end and a beginning for Steadman and so many others because before the court ruled, gays and lesbians were often fired from jobs when their sexual orientation was discovered. Zoning laws prevented homosexuals from owning homes in certain neighborhoods, and refusing to rent or sell to someone suspected of being of being a homosexual was legal. Harassment and violence was common, with the eyes of the police and the justice system often turned the other way. And in a 1986 decision, Bowers vs. Hardwick, the Supreme Court upheld laws making sex between same-sex couples, in the privacy of their own home, a crime.

After Romer vs. Evans, legislators and courts around the country began to pivot away from laws and policies that fenced off gays and lesbians from the protections and rights that all Americans share. Slowly — and then not so slowly — gays and lesbians become freer to live and work where they wanted, and free to enjoy the same protections as all citizens. Gays and lesbians began to partner with others of the same sex, to receive health and financial benefits, adopt children, form legal and civil unions. And, because of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges last year, same-sex couples now have a fundamental right to marry.

The ground shifted because of the court’s decision in Romer vs. Evans. The shift was nudged along, however, because this Colorado case provided a four-year learning experience, an intensive introductory course, Gays and Lesbians 101, that spurred a national conversation. The ugly campaign battles, the boycott that kept the issue in the national headlines, and the advent of Court TV — which carried the two trials and the legal appeals live — opened a door. Because of that case and that conversation, more justice has come walking through that door ever since.

All Coloradans should celebrate today for the role we played in advancing the cause of justice and equality. And, we should be grateful to the elected officials, the plaintiffs, and the legal team for the courage, leadership and commitment that turned a dark time in Colorado history into one of our state’s finest hours.

When gay rights became the law of the land

By Susan Casey. DAILY CAMERA. May 20, 2016

Today’s dysfunctional political climate makes me yearn for a time when political leaders worked in concert to lead the country from economic depression, put a man on the moon, and battled against injustice.

That yearning, of course, lasts only until I remove my rose-colored glasses. In the ’60s and ’70s, too many politicians failed to stand against racism, or an unjust, immoral war. But there were occasional profiles in political courage, in the White House, the Congress and at the Supreme Court, often nudged along because of the courageous acts of ordinary citizens at the local level. An anniversary this week reminds us of one of those times.

Twenty years ago, on May 20, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Romer v. Evans, a landmark decision that swung the arc of justice firmly in the direction of equal rights for gays and lesbians. Boulder played a leading role in the drama that began as a battle over a Colorado initiative and landed on the doorstep of the Supreme Court almost four years later.

Amendment 2, the proposal to amend the Colorado Constitution to prohibit all levels of government in the state from enacting laws and policies to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, was the brain child of the religious right, determined to halt the advances of the gay rights movement toward full equality. Few expected the amendment would pass, but on Election Day in November 1992, a majority of Colorado voters approved the measure, essentially making it legal to discriminate against homosexuals.

As one of the first cities in Colorado to pass an ordinance making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal, Boulder was a target of the initiators of the amendment. But the city was ready to fight back. The Boulder City Council, under the leadership of then-mayor Leslie Durgin, joined with the cities of Denver and Aspen, and with a handful of courageous individual plaintiffs, to launch what Durgin called “one humongous lawsuit” to challenge the constitutionality of the measure.

Priscilla Inkpen was one of those courageous individual plaintiffs who also acted quickly and bravely. An ordained minister in Boulder, she had worked hard to defeat Amendment 2. But she had not told her congregation or her church board that she had a very personal reason to fight so hard against the amendment. She was a lesbian. When she was asked to join the lawsuit, she came out of the closet and agreed to become a plaintiff in the case.

Jeanne Winer, a Boulder attorney, dropped everything and volunteered to join the legal team, with no guarantee that she would ever be paid for the hundreds of hours and months away from her own clients. She was a lesbian and a gay rights activist but, most importantly, she was one talented trial lawyer.

Jean Dubofsky, the first woman appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court, was the most well- known of the Boulder residents to be a part of the Romer v. Evans drama. As the lead attorney in the case, she volunteered to lead the plaintiffs and legal team through two district court trials and two appeals before the Colorado Supreme Court. They won again and again. When the case was appealed to the highest court in the land, Jean stood in front of the nine Supreme Court justices to argue one final time.

Twenty years ago, at eight o’clock in the morning, the court declared that Amendment 2 was unconstitutional and would not become part of the Colorado Constitution. By noontime, hundreds had gathered in front of the municipal building to celebrate what was a very emotional and historic day for all of those who participated in the case, for Boulder, for all of Colorado and for our country.

Anniversaries are a time to celebrate and remember. So raise a toast to yourself, Boulder, for the role you played in this pivotal moment. And remember that even in this dysfunctional campaign season when insults and ignorance seem to have replaced reason and courage in our political discourse, even when a lot is wrong in our politics, not everything is wrong in our city halls and statehouses, or even in our nation’s capitol. There is still a role for leadership and courage. Even when voices filled with hate and intolerance surround us, the voices and actions of our better angels often find a way to speak even louder.

Susan Casey served for six years on the Denver City Council and was a candidate for mayor of Denver in 2003. She is currently working on a biography of Jean Dubofsky, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Romer v. Evans.

At a humble kitchen table, Ted Kennedy plotted a comeback

By Sue Casey. BOSTON GLOBE. February 7, 2016

On a frigid snowy Friday night 36 years ago, most Americans were gathered around their television sets watching the US Olympic hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. This wasn’t the gold-medal match — it was more important than that. It was a match against our fiercest Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union.

But at 8 Myrtle St. in Somersworth, N.H., the gathering was not around the TV. It was around the kitchen table in the house with the dirt cellar where I grew up.
My parents, John and Patsy Berry, were sitting with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy and a handful of his top aides, discussing what else could be done in the final days to turn the tide in a presidential campaign that once had such promise. They were looking for a Hail Mary pass or a miracle at exactly the same moment when the explosion of celebration erupted from the TV in the adjacent den. Team USA had done the unthinkable and had found its Miracle on Ice.

I was the local Seacoast organizer for Kennedy and was not privy to private meetings with the senator or his aides. But we all had been across the street for a neighborhood house party and by the time I thanked all the supporters and drifted into my parents’ kitchen, the Kennedy advisers thought they had found their Miracle on Ice as well.

This mostly Irish clan had been sipping Krueger Ale, the only beer my father ever drank, and the plan they had concocted was to film my parents around that same kitchen table the following day and create the winning TV ad. I am sure that the look of horror on my face mirrored my mother’s. My father, on the other hand, was triumphant. He would finally get his chance to tell the world a thing or two. Oy vey!

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and a film crew did not arrive the following day. No miracle, no Hail Mary pass arrived in time to change Ted Kennedy’s fate on that primary day.

The New Hampshire primary is often the place where candidates come looking for a miracle or for redemption, although few find either. Kennedy, who lost to Jimmy Carter that year, was no exception. But in some ways that night at 8 Myrtle St. in Somersworth represents the miracle of democracy that the New Hampshire primary represents.
The primary is a time and place where the line between the most powerful and least powerful people in our country is blurred, and those who live in a house with a dirt cellar can sit around a kitchen table and share their thoughts, and a Krueger Ale or two, with those who may someday live in the White House. Maybe that is miracle enough.

Sue Casey has been a top aide to five Democratic presidential candidates. She is the author of the classic insider account of New Hampshire primary, “Hart and Soul: Gary Hart’s New Hampshire Odyssey … and Beyond.”

Richard Ben Cramer and Political Life

By Sue Casey. HUFFINGTON POST. January 16, 2013

The world of politics is peppered with uneasy relationships between journalists and the public figures they cover. However, like army buddies who have been in the foxhole together, when you share time in the bunkers of political campaigns sometimes the strong bonds that develop break all the rules. Richard Ben Cramer, who died last week, thought all those rules about the need for distance and objectivity were bunk. His unapologetic bromances with many of the candidates he wrote about in What It Takes broke all the rules. He freely admitted that he came to admire, even love, characters that from a distance might not have seemed all that deserving. As unusual as that was, the affection that was returned by those he covered was unheard of. Hard-boiled political types, trained to be wary of the enemy, could not help but love him back.

As a bit player in the 1988 presidential campaign drama, I watched Richard at work and, like so many of the hundreds of people that Richard invited into his life for his five-year reporting and writing journey, I was swept up by his warmth and his charm and his relentless quest to discover all that makes a man who would be president tick.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Richard. He could have been a character out of The Great Gatsby, dressed in a white double-breasted polyester suit, with three-inch wide lapels, colorful and decidedly mismatched shirt and tie, equally colorful suspenders holding up his trousers and a wide-brimmed white straw hat atop his wild curly hair. “You’re the book guy everyone is talking about?” I asked. “Seriously?!” He just smiled and in that soft yet gravelly voice that reeled you in, he answered. “Yes ma’am. And we are going to be seeing a lot of each other, so you better get used to me.” And see a lot of him we did. Richard didn’t just cover the campaigns, he lived within the campaigns.

A complex jumble of a personality, with quirks and nuances and eccentricities that only he himself could have aptly described, Richard perhaps appreciated better than most that trying to understand any individual and, in this case, any presidential candidate, was going to take a whole lot more than what you saw on the surface or what one happened to say on that long road to the White House.

He had a different view than most of the role of a journalist. He didn’t think a journalist’s job was to try to report every word that was said or to find secrets that could possibly impact the viability of a candidacy. He thought the most important job — the responsibility — was to help the public understand who these men were. His 1988 campaign book project was also much more than and much simpler than what he considered to be that sacred responsibility. It was also to take the reader on a joy ride and tell them a good story. It had to be a true story, not the story that the handlers wanted told, nor the story that garnered big headlines or sold newspapers. And most importantly, it had to be a complex human story, for that was what he was always after.

Even to most who pay attention to politics, the 1988 presidential campaign hardly registered as all that memorable. Yet Richard Ben Cramer’s masterful character study of six of the 1988 presidential candidates brings that race and the candidates alive in ways that other campaign chronicles before and since have not. And while that is legacy enough, for those who were along for the ride during that presidential campaign, with the added benefit of experiencing it through his eyes, Richard provided us — journalists, political professionals, activists and candidates — with a powerful reminder of the fundamentally idealist reasons most of us choose to live a life in the often not-so-idealistic world of politics.

We loved Richard and we will miss him.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-casey/

2008 race? Could we all just calm down

 By Sue Casey. BOSTON GLOBE. March 3, 2007  

MCCAIN losing ground! Is America ready for a Mormon? Will Hillary say the M-word? Liar, liar pants on fire!

For Pete’s sake, could we all just calm down a bit? The 2008 election is 21 months away. In a world where a day is a lifetime, we are hundreds of lifetimes away from knowing anything about who might become the next president. We have no idea what the deciding issues will be in either party’s primary process.

And unless the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus play their proper and historic role — sorting through the crowd of candidates and a long list of issues — we are sunk. These early contests are fairly peculiar and only half-sensible. But they provide a grounded, human-scale forum that serves the candidates and the country well.

Modern campaigns are a dreadful way to select a president, with their cattle calls, early debates (in Nevada no less), pretend town meetings at 1,000-seat gymnasiums, unnecessary entourages, TV commercials a year before the primaries.

It’s total media madness: candidates filling their days with microphone in hand, surrounded by hundreds, even thousands, of screaming semi-fans and hordes of reporters and cameras, answering the same eight questions with the same eight canned answers. If the presidential race turns on whether Hillary’s lips can form the big “M” (for “mistake,” as in Iraq) or whether Mitt’s big “M” religion is too scary, then the country is really in trouble.

As John Edwards likes to say, it doesn’t have to be that way. So could we all just take a deep breath and bring some rationality — that is, some traditional Iowa and New Hampshire ways — back into this campaign?

Here’s the checklist for the candidates. If you need klieg lights, a microphone, and a stage of any sort, you are doing the wrong kind of event. If you are not the only candidate in the room, you are in the wrong room. And you are in deep trouble if you need advance teams to make a path so maybe, just maybe, you can actually say hello to the one person left on the sidewalk after the hordes of Secret Service agents, camera crews, staff, and hangers-on have trampled everyone else.

That there is enormous media and public interest is no excuse. The next leader of the free world ought not plead helplessness over his or her plight. Each candidate should demand that his or her handlers allow quiet, gradual slogging from town to town, diner to diner, and living room to living room. Candidates need to experience intimate and personal conversations with ordinary people. It’s hard work and a much less glamorous path to the presidency, but a path that leads to a more substantive campaign and better-prepared candidates.

Under the old system, Governor Mitt Romney wouldn’t be running TV ads. Senator Barack Obama wouldn’t be limited to repeating his one-act rock star routine over and over. And Senator Hillary Clinton would not have landed herself in the box of saying or not saying the M-word if she had spent more time listening, learning, and earning the trust of voters — instead of offering practiced responses from center stage.

So, how about it? Let’s everybody stop and slow down and pare down and start again. Unpublicized events in homes of supporters and unpublicized drop-bys at senior centers? Yes, indeed. Unannounced stops at farm stands, coffee shops, corporate cafeterias, and large businesses? Sounds good. Spending time in small towns and out-of-the way places? Sleeping in supporters’ homes? Helping them shovel the snow and do the dishes? Now we are cooking!

Sure, cash is nice, but it’s not everything

Voters are looking for character most of all

By Sue Casey. CONCORD MONITOR. April 7, 2007 

Truth be told, when it comes to presidential campaigns I’ve seen rich and I’ve seen poor, and, trust me, rich is better.Rich candidates can charter planes, have pollsters and consultants and organizers and advance staff galore to pave their way, spend thousands for just the right staging, just the right lighting, just the right angle for the hordes of press covering them.

Poor candidates fly commercial, economy section, hope some volunteer they’ve never met actually shows up to meet them, use personal credit cards to rent cars, sleep in supporters’ homes and are grateful when a part-time stringer from a local newspaper shows up at any event.

This time around, money is going to be even more important than in the past, as candidates will be forced to compete in so many large, expensive media states so early in the process.

This week, as the first-quarter campaign fundraising totals seeped out, we saw how much money matters. We have declared winners – Clinton (because she has more money than God), Obama, Romney. And we have declared losers – McCain, Clinton (because she didn’t meet expectations) and most of the others. We have a more defined set of candidate tiers, a new set of expectations that primary candidates will be measured against in the coming months and a readjustment in how much and what type of media coverage candidates will receive based on this new configuration of expectations and promise. And yet . . . and yet . . . history tells us that having lots or little money has never guaranteed anything. Just ask Ted Kennedy, John Connally, Steve Forbes, Jimmy Carter or Gary Hart.

Even in 2000, it was the savaging of John McCain in South Carolina, not George W. Bush’s enormous money advantage, that allowed Bush to regain his footing after losing to McCain in New Hampshire. That same year, Bush outraised and outspent Al Gore by more than $60 million in the general election yet still lost the election (sorry!).

In 2004 it was not money that determined the Democratic nominee. John Kerry struggled through most of the early campaign despite having all the money he needed. Howard Dean raised and spent $51 million, John Edwards $33 million and Richard Gephardt $21 million. It was their candidacies, not their bank accounts, that came up short.

Because of this week’s money totals, Republicans will now surely take greater notice of Romney, Clinton will no longer be characterized as the “inevitable nominee,” and Barack Obama has proven he will be a formidable opponent.

Yet lost in the focus on the chase for money have been questions of character that are more likely to presage what will really matter to voters in 2008.

For Rudy Giuliani, the story lines were these: It was discovered that his wife had a third husband she had forgotten to mention. Giuliani said he would leave it up to her to decide what Cabinet meetings she would like to attend. He also expressed his regrets but no explanation for how he could have been so blind to Bernie Kerik’s questionable ties. These stories challenged his image as America’s hero.

McCain, who captured the hearts of Americans of all partisan stripes with his refreshing straight talk four years ago, went to Iraq last week and tried to legitimize his sinking candidacy and his unpopular position on Iraq by describing life in Baghdad in terms that tested credulity.

Different questions of character arose for Edwards.

Even more important than the value of the free coverage he has received recently is the value that opening a window into his character and forging a human connection with ordinary citizens might bring. His toughest challenge may be living up to and being compared to his wife, Elizabeth, whose courage and character are extraordinary.

The money chase goes on. The realities of a near-national primary in early February and record-breaking fundraising totals will no doubt continue to make money a central story of this campaign. Will Clinton thrive or fall back now that the mantle of “inevitable” has been removed? Will McCain’s “retooling” of his fundraising operation be a substitute for or an addition to other efforts to recapture the trust of the American people?

But at the end of the day, I’d like to believe that the voters will teach us once again that their hunger for character will ultimately be the most valued coin of all.

When will the lies ever end?

By Susan Casey. DENVER POST.  March 19, 2007 

Whether you went to Holy Trinity Grammar School, P.S. 159 or Yeshiva Elementary, you learned in first grade that when you don’t tell the truth, it is called a lie. And telling a lie is wrong.

We learned that at school. We learned that at home. We learned that through our faith. And if somehow we needed even more reinforcement, watching Pinocchio’s nose grow and grow did the trick. Lying is wrong. Simple enough.

Why is it that smart, powerful people, including presidents and people who work for presidents, who have all spent more days in church or synagogue and many more years learning about right and wrong and what constitutes lying, don’t seem to have a good handle on this simple concept?

Not many years ago, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (while he was cheating on his wife with a staff underling) led us through the national nightmare of impeachment over presidential lying about the president’s sexual activities with a staff underling. Some continue to insist the impeachable offense was perjury in front of the grand jury while others characterize the offense as simply a dispute over the meaning of the word “is.” Whatever. Bill Clinton lied for a very long time to many people about what was going on with Monica Lewinsky. Lying is wrong. Clinton was wrong to lie.

We now know that George W. Bush lied to the American people and to the Congress many times about Iraq: the reasons for going in, the evidence of a threat, the progress on the ground. So it is no surprise that last week, when his attorney general. Alberto Gonzales, was discovered to have lied before Congress about the reasons for firing a handful of federal prosecutors, the president’s lips could not form the words, “He lied.” Gonzales “mishandled the explanation,” the president said. He wasn’t careful enough about how he “characterized the facts.” He may not have delivered “a straightforward communication” to Congress.

Why didn’t the president just say Gonzales should not have lied about why the U.S. attorneys were fired?

Why didn’t the attorney general simply tell Congress the truth, that of course politics played a role in the firing of the prosecutors? Because the other thing we learned in school and at home is that sometimes when you slip and lie and nobody makes you pay a penalty for doing so, it is easy to slip again. And again. Before long, especially when you become an adult politician, lying comes naturally and you actually fool yourself into thinking what you are doing is just “characterizing the facts” conveniently, or handling the explanation to your advantage or communicating in a way that may not be exactly straightforward.

We know it’s possible for politicians to tell the truth even when it is very difficult. When embarrassing reports surfaced last fall about that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s personal life, he stood up and said, “I want to make it clear that everything you’ve heard and read is true, and I’m deeply sorry about that.”

It is possible that the American people may be at the tipping point when it comes to being lied to. Which is why while the key issue in 2008 race may about Iraq, it will not be about one’s vote for the initial resolution, one’s support for the surge or a timetable for withdrawal. It may be about the truth: who can tell the truth about what they were thinking and what they did and why they are where they are right now on Iraq and on a hundred other matters; who know the differences between lying and telling the truth; and who knows for sure that, however inconvenient or politically difficult, the truth matters.

It may be about who went to first grade, saw Pinocchio and didn’t lose those lessons learned on the way to the White House.

The crazy season

So far, the 2008 presidential campaign has been nearly inexplicable

By Susan Casey. ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. May 26, 2007 

The sky is falling.

You don’t have to be Nostradamus or Einstein (or even Al Gore) to figure out that the world as we know it may be coming to an end. Hurricanes, floods, forest fires, Paris Hilton going to jail. Whether due to global warming or divine intervention, whatever is wreaking havoc in the world at large may also be affecting the race for the presidency.

Almost everything about the 2008 presidential campaign seems to be inexplicable, a freak of nature.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, candidates traditionally spend lonely months slogging from one country store, barbershop or living room to another, ecstatic when a crowd of 10 people show up to meet them. Not this time. Since before Christmas, even before some candidates had officially announced, these traveling political troubadours have been regularly greeted by overflow crowds and packed gymnasiums.

Television commercials, customarily relegated to the final weeks of a campaign, have started to appear a full 10 months before any voting will begin and not just from the wealthiest leading candidates but from of the least known candidates as well.

The primary calendar itself has become a joke, with so many states changing their primary date to Feb. 5 that the primary season is likely to end before primary seasons of the past had even begun. Worse, there are still states threatening to move their primary even earlier, with the prospect of primary voting beginning before we have fully digested our Thanksgiving turkeys.

Candidate debates have also historically been a late campaign feature, but this time not only have debates already begun, they are being nationally televised and all the candidates are agreeing to attend. With so many candidates crowding the stage, it’s as if some El Niño phenomenon has simply washed a large random contingent of mostly men onto various stages. These debates are not totally useless or dreadfully dull but the last time I tried to watch an entire debate I found myself wishing there was a gong on stage so that the moderators could do as Chuck Barris used to do on The Gong Show: take a swing whenever a candidate dissembled, or avoided answering the questions or said something outrageous.

And then there is the money chase. When it comes to presidential campaigns I’ve seen rich and I’ve seen poor, and, trust me, rich is better. With money you can charter planes and sleep in comfy hotels and have pollsters and consultants and organizers and advance staff galore to make your days bearable and fruitful. Without money, you must be content flying commercial (economy section), depend on volunteers you’ve never met to meet your plane and drive you around, then tuck you into some supporters’ couch for a night’s rest. So I’m all for more money in campaigns, but the money chase this time around has reached the height of immorality. A hundred million dollars to run for president? The sky is falling.

The candidate dynamics are askew as well. The most experienced candidates are finding little success and one who was an Illinois state senator barely two years ago is in the lead. Another candidate seemed to forfeit any pretense at being taken seriously when he ended his last run for the presidency with a contest to find a wife, yet here he is again.

And speaking of wives, among Republicans – who promote themselves as being the conservative party of faith and morals – the only leading candidate with just one wife in his history is the Mormon. Stranger still, another leading Republican is actually a big-city liberal ex-mayor who ditched his second wife while she was still living in Gracie Mansion, and whose current wife had a third husband she had forgotten to mention until just recently. Go figure.

Jumping off the Berwick Bridge

By Sue Casey. CONCORD MONITOR. April 4, 2007

I grew up in Somersworth, a working class mill town that sits along the Salmon Falls River, a narrow meandering snake of dark water that forms the border between Maine and New Hampshire. In a blink of an eye you could cross from one state to another over what locals on our side called the “Berwick Bridge”, named appropriately for the Maine town across the way. The bridge was just upstream from a dangerous damn, proclaimed ominously by a giant and weathered DANGER sign strung out across the river.

When I or one of my many siblings would beg for permission to do what we were unlikely to be allowed to do, using the universal “but all the other kids are doing it” plea, my mother’s retort was always the same: “If all the other kids jumped off the Berwick Bridge, would you want to do that too?” And that would be that.

It is the Berwick Bridge that I think of each time I read that one more state has shifted its primary date to February 5. Like lemmings, California, New Jersey, and now New York continue to follow one another in a jump off the Berwick Bridge.

While the central rationale for the constant tinkering with the primary calendar (almost always by the Democrats) is to supposedly to create a process that produces the strongest nominee, attempts by individual states to enhance their own political clout has actually become the driving force. History suggests, however, that the harder states try to construct a primary schedule to enhance their own political clout while diluting the power and influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, the greater the odds that the power and influence of these two early contests will be even more enhanced.

Primaries never really mattered much until 1952, when Estes Kefauver’s victory in the New Hampshire primary probably convinced President Harry Truman not to run for reelection. Kefauver went on to win 12 of 15 primaries, yet it was Adlai Stevenson who won the Democratic nomination. In 1960, JFK saw the political potential of primaries and ran in a slew of them virtually unchallenged until late in the primary season. Although party nominations back then were still won or lost at the convention, determined by party leaders not by primary voters, these two elections planted the seed that allowed presidential primaries to grow and come to matter a great deal.

After the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention debacle, the election of Richard Nixon, and with the growing grassroots opposition to the Vietnam War, Democrats grasped at the primary straw as a key reform vehicle to make their way back from the political abyss. Just in time for the 1972 elections, the McGovern-Fraser Commission stripped old-time party leaders of their stranglehold on the party nomination and, through primaries and caucuses, gave that power to ordinary citizens who would, no doubt, select a more electable candidate.

It didn’t take very long to see that these new rules, designed to insure that the divisiveness of 1968 in Chicago wouldn’t be repeated, did nothing of the sort. The 1972 bruising nomination battle and Miami convention were no less divisive and led to, among other things, the worst defeat for a Democratic presidential candidate ever.

No matter. After almost every subsequent election Democrats, being Democrats, turned to yet another set of reforms, and another, and another, often with one or more versions of “Super Tuesdays”, leading us inexorably to the primary calendar “strategery” we are experiencing today. There were three “Super Tuesdays” in 1984. The first one was constructed to cement Walter Mondale’s nomination early in the process. Instead, Mondale survived that day only by the skin of his teeth and it was a pitched battle all the way until late spring when the final primary votes were cast.

In 1988, the “Super Southern Regional” primary on March 8 was designed to enhance the influence of the south and place it in a pivotal and powerful role in selecting the nominee, perhaps even insuring one of their own as the nominee. Of course it was Michael Dukakis from the very non-southern state of Massachusetts who won the nomination that year.

We’ve had “Mini Tuesdays” and “Super Tuesdays” and “Mega Tuesdays” in 1992 and 2000 and 2004, all meant to give candidates who did not do well in Iowa and New Hampshire a quick opportunity to reverse their fortunes. Instead, candidates without momentum coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire fell by the wayside, unable to compete in multiple states so quickly.

So here we are again. One more attempt to give other states their due clout and influence and put an end once and for all the dominance of Iowa and New Hampshire in the presidential nomination process. If my mother were alive today, she would shake her head knowingly each time she read a headline about one more state moving their primary to February 5. Just because the other kids are jumping off the Berwick Bridge, doesn’t mean it is a very smart move.