Friday, August 26, 2016

From the Archives: GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on March 9, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist

Republicans can regain a majority in the U.S. Senate in the 2014 general election and even Virginia Democrat Mark Warner is vulnerable, said strategist Grover Norquist in an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which ended its three-day run on March 8 in suburban Washington, D.C.

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and author of Leave Us Alone: America's New Governing Majority, told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner that he was encouraged by the CPAC turnout of more than 11,000 participants, including “a majority of people under 25,” which he characterized as “extremely, extremely healthy.”

'Dull roar'
In contrast to past years, he said, “the whining is down to a dull roar.” In terms of content – speeches and panel discussions – “we've really covered a whole host of broad center-right issues.”

Overall, Norquist said, "I'm pleased, I'm happy. It's going well. People are excited. We've got all these Senate races and the candidates are being highlighted, so it's good stuff.”

With regard to the prospects of the Republican Party taking control of the U.S. Senate this year, Norquist is optimistic.

Gaining a GOP majority is “more likely than not,” he said.

Republicans “need to pick up six for control. There are seven that look very, very good.”

The likely pick-ups are in “overwhelmingly Republican states with weak” Democrats holding those Senate seats, and there are “competent Republicans running."

Seven probable pick-ups
Norquist ticked off the names of the seven states: “Alaska, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas.”

In each of those seven, he said, there is “a fine candidate who's been nominated or will be nominated” and in “each of them, the Democrat is not as strong as they might like.”

All those states, he added, were won by Mitt Romney in 2012 with a margin of more than ten percent, and they have all been trending Republican “where our guys are pulling ahead.”

In addition to those likely seven pickups, Norquist continued, “you have a series of states like Michigan, where all polls have the Republican candidate ahead.”

He also mentioned New Hampshire, “where the Republicans have a real shot” and Iowa, “where you have to decide who the Republican [nominee] is but they all poll OK against” the Democrats' candidate.

In Iowa, he averred, “I suppose it's possible to nominate the guy who could lose” but in Colorado, “we have a weak Democrat and a [Republican] congressman who wasn't going to get in” has now entered the race, “clearing the field – so Colorado is in play with every reason to think we could win that one.”

Worrisome Georgia and Kentucky
There are two Republican-held seats to worry about, however.

First is Georgia, “because if you nominate the wrong guy, you could lose that, but there's a runoff, so I don't think they will nominate the wrong guy.”

The other is Kentucky, “where some people think [Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell should have passed a bunch of laws with 45 Republicans because they haven't learned to count.”

Instead, “they think it's because he's a liberal that he hasn't been able to beat the guy [Majority Leader Harry Reid] with 55 votes with [McConnell's] 45 votes. There are many things, perhaps, to criticize Mitch McConnell on. Not being able to win votes in the U.S. Senate with 45 [Republicans] is not one of those things you can fairly whine about.”

Still, Norquist cautioned, McConnell has “been damaged by his challenger in the primary. I'd keep an eye on that seat but I think Republicans should be able to take the Senate.”

Virginia's vulnerable Warner
Even in Virginia, where popular former Governor Mark Warner is seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate this year, Norquist sees reason for Republicans to be hopeful.

Warner is vulnerable, he said, basing his assessment on having spoken with the incumbent Senator at a recent event in Washington.

“I ran into Mark Warner at a party the other day and, he said, [he] wasn't in Davos” for the annual global economics conference because Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is running for office.

“'So I'm here,'” Norquist quoted Senator Warner.

Gillespie, who has three rivals for the GOP nomination (Tony DeTora, Shak Hill, and Chuck Moss) “is a competent candidate,” he explained. “He can raise money. He's uniting the party.”

Norquist concluded that, “with any sort of a good Republican year,” Virginia has “a Senate seat that Gillespie could win and Mark Warner could lose.”

Warner will face Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis in the November election, as well as the eventual Republican nominee, who will be chosen at a convention in Roanoke on June 7.

The full audio interview with Grover Norquist will be available soon on Bearing Drift radio, The Score.

SUGGESTED LINKS

Grover Norquist surveys the 2012 political and legislative landscape
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LNC executive director Wes Benedict takes Libertarian message to CPAC
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'Proselytizing for freedom,' Robert Sarvis bids for U.S. Senate in Virginia

Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/gop-can-regain-control-of-senate-2014-says-strategist-grover-norquist


Thursday, August 25, 2016

From the Archives: Former U.S. ambassador to Vatican talks diplomacy at Virginia book festival

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on March 19, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Former U.S. ambassador to Vatican talks diplomacy at Virginia book festival

Ambassador Francis Rooney came to Charlottesville on March 19 to speak about his recent book, The Global Vatican: An Inside Look at the Catholic Church, World Politics, and the Extraordinary Relationship between the United States and the Holy See. The occasion was a panel on “The United States in the World” at the twentieth annual Virginia Festival of the Book.

Rooney, who was President George W. Bush's envoy to the Holy See, participated in the discussion along with University of Virginia political scientist James Ceaser, University of Mary Washington professor Stephen Farnsworth, and Stanford University historian Robert Rakove. The panel was moderated by Sorensen Institute executive director Bob Gibson.

After the panel ended, Ambassador Rooney spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about his book and about the Vatican's politics and diplomacy.

Pope and Congress
First, he commented on the invitation issued by Speaker of the House John Boehner, asking Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress in 2015.

“Speaker Boehner,” he said, “is a devout Catholic and values the role the Holy See plays in the world.”

The idea of inviting the Pope to the U.S. Capitol “reflects the importance of Holy See diplomacy and the importance of the relationship with the United States,” Rooney noted. “It's never happened before” but it also “offers an interesting opportunity.”

Rooney said he would be surprised if Pope Francis accepts the invitation but the gesture itself demonstrates “the importance of Holy See diplomacy” to U.S. policymakers.

He added that there is a convergence of interests and values between Washington and the Vatican.

For instance, he said, the “principles of Holy See diplomacy apply to all persons.” These include “fundamental respect for human dignity, nurture of freedoms, especially religious freedom, and [seeking] to promote the natural rights of man.”

Human intelligence
Rooney also pointed out how the Vatican also is the locus of a worldwide human intelligence network, something that may be unparalleled elsewhere. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, he recalled, said the Catholic Church has “one of the greatest information gathering networks in the world.”

“One of the unique aspects of the Holy See is their global network of priests, nuns, NGOs. We get so much information from them,” he said, adding that there are “millions of vignettes of Holy See information surprising the United States in its, in what they've been able to find out.”

He gave the example of when Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then the Vatican Secretary of State, visited President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office.

When the meeting took place, Rooney said, Casaroli had just been told by some nuns “about a bridge being blown up in Lebanon.” This was pertinent because the United States and the Holy See had been working together to unify Lebanese Christians. Bush and Casaroli looked at a map together, with the cardinal pointing out where the missing bridge had been located.

The president was unaware of this information, so he called the CIA, which also had not learned about it. “How do they know that?,” the CIA asked.

'Holy See in action'
In writing his book, Rooney said, he “tried to minimize the memoir part. People's interests in ambassadorial memoirs are fairly circumscribed and, I think, justly so.”

Instead of focusing on himself, he “tried to put in the things that show the Holy See in action,” especially instances of “the Holy See and the United States working together.”

While doing research for his book, he learned “about the incredible ability of the Holy See to do good in the world diplomatically and how important this charge is,” as well as how much the United States and the Vatican have in common in terms of their foreign policy aims.

In addition, he said, prior to his experience as a diplomat and as a writer examining diplomacy, “I didn't fully appreciate the First Amendment, I didn't fully appreciate our unique concept of citizenship in the United States, until I saw how other countries work, especially European ones.”

Vatican II
Rooney also commented about how the articulation of ecumenism by the Second Vatican Council affected the Holy See's diplomacy, both positively and negatively.

Vatican II, he said, “brought it into the modern world. It would be pretty hard” for Vatican diplomats “to be taken seriously nowadays without Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate,” two key documents of the council.

“On the other hand,” he continued, there have been “three existential threats to Holy See diplomacy: one was Napoleon, one was the unification of Italy, and the third one was Vatican II – because a lot of priests wanted to turn inward and get out of the diplomatic business.”

They wanted to “have nuncios focus on recruiting bishops and appointing bishops” rather than on diplomacy, but Pope Paul VI, a graduate of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, (the Vatican's school for training diplomats) said that the Church has “an important role to play in the world.” Pope Paul, he asserted, “saved the diplomatic mission, if you will, of the Holy See.”

Ukraine and Russia
Finally, Rooney answered a question about the current dispute between largely-Catholic Ukraine and mostly-Orthodox Russia.

The situation there, he said, does not stem from religious differences but rather from geopolitics.

“It's Obama's weakness and the fact that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, in some ways, even had President Bush's number – but he for sure has Obama's number.”

President Obama, he said, “has brought [Putin] to a point where he feels he can take actions which are against international law” without fear of serious reprisal.

The complete audio version of this interview will soon be available on Bearing Drift radio, "The Score."

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Original URL:  http://www.examiner.com/article/former-u-s-ambassador-to-vatican-talks-diplomacy-at-virginia-book-festival


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

From the Archives: UVA political scientist analyzes 2012 election, looks toward 2016 GOP nominee

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on March 19, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

UVA political scientist analyzes 2012 election, looks toward 2016 GOP nominee

James Ceaser teaches politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and is co-author (with Andrew Busch and John J. Pitney, Jr.) of the recent book, After Hope and Change: The 2012 Elections and American Politics.

Ceaser spoke about After Hope and Change at the 2014 Virginia Festival of the Book on March 19, participating in a panel discussion on “The United States in the World” with political scientist Stephen Farnsworth, historian Robert Rakove, and former ambassador Francis Rooney. The panel was moderated by Bob Gibson, a former political reporter with The Daily Progress.

After the panel, Professor Ceaser answered questions from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about lessons learned in the 2012 presidential campaign, the outlook for factional divisions in the Republican Party, and who the GOP presidential nominee might be in 2016.

'A different era'
In summing up his book, he explained that “After Hope and Change makes a comparison between the 2008 election, where 'hope and change' was the theme, where enthusiasm and uplift accompanied Obama's election, and 2012, which was kind of a letdown, [with] no inspiring theme [and] little enthusiasm.”

Those differences, he said, were recognized “by the Obama people themselves. They were contentious to win but” they knew that the electorate "had moved into a different era.”

The defining figure “was no longer the Obama of 2008,” Ceaser explained. “It was Obama elected in 2012 as a politician, not a cultural or moral leader of the whole world.”

One of the lessons learned from the 2012 election is that “the Democratic Party, as a base, has a slight advantage over the Republican Party,” he said. “I think that was confirmed. The Republicans went in thinking this was an election they could and should win, and they lost it.”

Swingers
Ceaser cautioned, however, that there is “still enough of a swing group in the American population that any election can swing to either party, given how people process the events under which they live. We may be seeing in 2014 a swing back to the Republicans. Who knows what will happen in 2016?”

What 2012 teaches us, he noted, is that the Democratic base has a slight advantage over the GOP but “enough people who still swing to make every election a struggle, the outcome of which is unknown.”

Divided Republicans
Factional differences between libertarians and social conservatives have been “part of the Republican Party for a long time,” Ceaser pointed out. “It all goes under the label of conservative, but you pick up the hood and you see that conservatism means different things to different people – hence conflict.”

This has historically “been the way things are,” he said, “but basically the Republicans have been able to come together sufficiently because of their opposition to the Democratic project to hang together, more or less.”

He warned, however, that people should not “expect the Republican party to be holding hands as various pieces are opposed on many issues.”

He pointed out that “perhaps the greatest division within the Republican party has been on foreign affairs,” and that it is significant that “the libertarian position [is] closer to a sort of softer isolationism than the rest of the party.”

GOP's 2016 nominee
Within this context, Ceaser has some general predictions about what to expect during the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest.

“The libertarian candidate will do well, that is, maybe even have a plurality over a spread field but in the end will not have enough support to achieve the nomination, he said.

Ceaser said the 2016 candidate will not be someone who “will be very surprising,” but rather will be someone like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, or Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

The nominee, he predicted, will be “someone who has some elements of respect for libertarians but is not himself libertarian.”

What about Rand Paul?
If Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is a candidate, he added, “he'll do quite well.”

Expressing some admiration for Paul's political skills, Ceaser offered that “it's one of the more amazing stories of American politics: This young senator from Kentucky, whose father was regarded in many ways as an extremist, [yet] Rand Paul has been able to take this movement and make it into something a lot larger in a very short period of time and acquire status as a significant player in the Republican party.”

Rand Paul, he concluded, is a “potential very strong candidate, even though I don't think he'll be over the top in 2016.”

The complete audio version of this interview will soon be available as a podcast on Bearing Drift radio, “The Score.”

SUGGESTED LINKS

Former U.S. ambassador to Vatican talks diplomacy at Virginia book festival
Sorensen Institute chief Bob Gibson assesses the state of news media in Virginia
GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist
Immigration laws may make United States poorer, says economist Daniel Lin
Attorney Bruce Fein discusses NSA lawsuit, DHS spying, and FCC intrusions

Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/uva-political-scientist-analyzes-2012-election-looks-toward-2016-gop-nominee



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From the Archives: First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams talks about free speech in Charlottesville

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on March 22, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams talks about free speech in Charlottesville

Floyd Abrams, an attorney who has argued for freedom of speech and freedom of the press before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases such as Citizens United and New York Times v. United States (the “Pentagon Papers”), came to Charlottesville on March 22 to speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

In a panel ostensibly about Abrams' recent book, Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment, he was quizzed by Ronald L.K. Collins, author of Nuanced Absolutism: Floyd Abrams and the First Amendment, and audience members. Josh Wheeler, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, hosted the panel, which was held in the Charlottesville City Council chambers.

After he had autographed copies of his book for admiring readers, Abrams answered a few questions posed by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

ACLU evolution
One concern of his is the evolution of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) towards a position that often seems at odds with free speech rather than in favor of it.

The ACLU, he said “is becoming more of a liberal organization – more of a progressive organization – than a free-speech protective one.”

That is not to say, he explained, “that they would not protect, on the face of it, the right of some conservatives who were thrown in jail for speech; they would.”

In “hard areas” such as campaign finance law, however, he said that the ACLU is “too willing to give up speech for what they consider to be other social benefits. I think that they hurt themselves as an institution and limit themselves in terms of serving as a protector of the public when they do so.”

Minority protection
Related to that, Abrams indicated that he agrees with the premise of Jonathan Rauch's book, Kindly Inquisitors (which he said he has not read), that posits that members of minority groups are better off in a robust free-speech regime than in a regime that limits speech for the purpose of protecting those same groups.

Minority groups, Abrams said, or “people who are weaker than stronger are the people who generally benefit the most from living in a free society and a society in which speech is free.”

While that may not satisfy “people who say, 'but we have some people with more power than other people because of their money,'” he argued that “anytime we cut back significantly on speech, the people who tend to get hurt most, if not first, are people without rather than with power.”

Tillman Act
With regard to campaign finance law, Abrams offered some thoughts on the Tillman Act of 1907, one of the first such laws. The Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal campaigns, has been criticized by Justice Clarence Thomas, who told Stetson University law students in 2010 that Senator Benjamin Tillman “was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.”

Abrams said the Tillman Act had “conflicting” aims.

“One was to limit corporate power and corporate control,” but, he added, “the Tillman Act also had significant racist aspects to it,” although it was “basically a reform piece of legislation designed to crack down on corporations.”

Lane v. Franks
Finally, Abrams talked about a free-speech case he is following that he expects to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There's one I'm watching very closely,” he said, and he has filed a brief in it, “which is a follow-up to the Garcetti case of a few years ago [Garcetti v. Cebalos, 2006], which basically said, if you work for the government, and you're doing something within the course of your governmental duties, they can fire you for any reason, including your speech.”

The current case, Lane v. Franks, he explained, involves a former government employee in Alabama, who observed a politically-connected person who was being paid for a government job that he did not actually do, and “who revealed the fact that the other person was essentially acting criminally. The other person was convicted, jailed, fined $160,000, and they fired the guy who turned him in.”

According to the First Amendment Coalition, which filed Abrams' brief in the case, Lane v. Franks “tests the limits of the categorical, on-off rule of constitutional interpretation that was applied in Garcetti. We think (hope) that the Court chose to review the Lane v. Franks case to reverse the appeals court and clarify the Garcetti decision in a way that permits First Amendment protection for true speech by government employees, at least in circumstances where the speech serves a public or governmental interest.”

The question raised by this case, Abrams noted in Charlottesville, is this: “Is that really consistent with the First Amendment? Is it really consistent to say that when you tell the truth in court, you can be fired for that? I don't think the Supreme Court is going to say that, but that's one case I'm watching.”

The complete audio recording of this interview with Floyd Abrams will soon be available as a podcast on Bearing Drift radio, "The Score."

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Original URL:  http://www.examiner.com/article/first-amendment-attorney-floyd-abrams-talks-about-free-speech-charlottesville


Monday, August 22, 2016

From the Archives: Stephen Jimenez discusses Matthew Shepard's murder at Virginia book festival

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on April 1, 2014. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Stephen Jimenez discusses Matthew Shepard's murder at Virginia book festival

Investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez discussed his 2013 book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, in Charlottesville on March 20 at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Jimenez participated in a panel called “Shifting Identities” at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

In The Book of Matt, Jimenez explores alternative explanations for the 1998 beating and murder of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, which at the time was thought to be an unprovoked gay bashing and hate crime.

Shepard's murderers were convicted of second degree murder but not a hate crime. Jimenez looks into a seedy underworld connection between Shepard and one of his convicted killers, Aaron McKinney. Based on his research, Jimenez posits that both Shepard and McKinney were involved in the crystal meth trade in Colorado and Wyoming and disputes the notion that anti-gay animus motivated McKinney and Russell Henderson, who also was convicted of Shepard's killing.

Disrupting the narrative
After the panel, the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner interviewed Stephen Jimenez about his research and conclusions.

When the author began working on this story, he had no plans to disrupt the narrative of Matthew Shepard's murder as an anti-gay hate crime.

Almost 15 years ago, Jimenez traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, to write a TV movie about the Shepard murder, spending eight months working on a screenplay that ultimately went unproduced.

At the time, he “believed that the story of this anti-gay murder was really very important and deserved the long form of the television movie but” just as he thought his research for the screenplay was finished, he “started to realize there were other things going on around this crime.”

After extensive interviews with Cal Rerucha, the principal prosecutor of the Shepard case, “I felt I really wanted to look deeper. I also felt – as a gay man as I got into some of the methamphetamine side of the story, as someone who's a survivor of the AIDS era – that methamphetamine was becoming a very, very big problem in urban gay enclaves but also it was moving through a substantial part of the country: through the Midwest, through states like Missouri and Kansas and Iowa and then, in the West, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming. When I realized what methamphetamine was doing, I felt it was critical to tell that part of the story that had been largely excluded.”

'Drug laws have failed'
Asked whether his findings had implications for the wider debate about drug prohibition, Jimenez replied that “I'm quite libertarian when it comes to drugs.”

He explained that he believes that “drug laws have failed miserably” and that there is “a lot of organized crime” involved in the war on drugs.

“It's not by accident,” he added, “that some very vulnerable communities have been set up” as markets for methamphetamine.

“Meth has been a problem on native American reservations,” Jimenez said. “Meth has been a problem in the gay community. Meth has been a problem in economically depressed towns, communities across the country.”

His purpose in writing The Book of Matt, he explained, was to show how “the issues in this case are full of human complexities. Matthew was a human being. The perpetrators were human beings.”

He said “it behooves all of us to understand those complexities if we're serious about dealing with the many different manifestations of violence and hatred in our culture and in the world at large.”

Resistance and acceptance
Although there has been some resistance to his alternative theory of the Shepard murder – which upends the accepted narrative similar to the way Dale Carpenter's book, Flagrant Conduct, changed the accepted story of Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 Supreme Court case that resulted in overturning sodomy laws in the United States – Jimenez said that reception of his book has generally been positive.

“I just completed a 34 city tour” in which “city number 33 was Laramie, Wyoming. I spoke to a packed theater there on a night when it was 10 below zero. A few hundred people came out.”

There were many comments and questions at that Laramie appearance, he said, but “not one person stood up and disputed my findings.”

While he was touring the country, Jimenez said he encountered “minuscule resistance to what's in the book. In fact,” he added, “it only happened at one book store in Washington, D.C., but everywhere else I spoke in the country, people were very open to the findings of the book.”

Since The Book of Matt began as a movie project, it should come as no surprise that “there have been some initial inquiries” adapting it into a film. While Jimenez has not done anything to pursue that possibility yet, because he's working on other projects, “maybe, with the passage of time, a movie can be made,” he said.

SUGGESTED LINKS

‘Flagrant Conduct’ author Dale Carpenter discusses how sodomy laws ended
First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams talks about free speech in Charlottesville
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Former U.S. ambassador to Vatican talks diplomacy at Virginia book festival
GOP can regain control of Senate in 2014, says strategist Grover Norquist

Original URL:  http://www.examiner.com/article/stephen-jimenez-discusses-matthew-shepard-s-murder-at-virginia-book-festival