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RNC Chair Race: The Lay of the Land

The fight to be the next face of the Republican party -- or at least the next chairman of the Republican National Committee -- has been defined so far by a cavalcade of announced and potential candidates and a dearth of individuals with the star power to emerge as the frontrunner.

"The race for RNC chairman is fluid and likely will be right up through the actual vote in January," said one Republican strategist who is closely following the race. "It is highly unlikely that any 'superstar' is going to jump into the race."

On Monday, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson became the latest candidate to officially enter the contest, joining Michigan Republican Party Chair Saul Anuzis and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as official candidates for the job.

Dawson sent out a DVD outlining his biography, with a strong suggestion that he is the candidate closest to the principles of former President Ronald Reagan; "Ronald Reagan's inspiring vision lives on today in Katon Dawson's heart and soul," says the narrator of the bio piece.

Dawson has picked up the support of Tucker Eskew, a longtime Republican strategist who, most recently, managed the vice presidential candidacy of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin this fall.

"He's probably the truest embodiment of grassroots politics I've ever known," said Eskew of Dawson. "His people skills are second to none, his communications skills are superb, totally eager to fundraise, and he's been tested in other ways that prepare him for the job."

How does Dawson's candidacy affect the field? Below is our latest sense of where the candidates stand.

Mike Duncan: The current RNC chairman remains undecided on whether or not he will seek a second term. While many people write off Duncan given the losses across the board by Republicans this fall, remember that this is a vote decided by just 168 committeemen and women who, according to informed sources, want a chair who comes from among them and keeps them in the loop over the next few years. Duncan is smartly employing a sort of "Rose Garden" strategy even as he remains uncommitted in the RNC race; the committee continues to function as the loyal opposition to President-elect Barack Obama, sending out press releases and statements to reporters on a daily basis.

Michael Steele: In every conversation we've had on this race, Steele's name comes up as one of the two frontrunners. (The other frontrunner is almost invariably different in each conversation.) Why? Steele has an experienced team working for him -- former RNC political directors Curt Anderson and Blaise Hazelwood -- and is the closest thing to a star in the field, thanks to his regular gig with Fox News Channel and his well-received ("Drill Baby, Drill") speech at the party's national convention earlier this fall. Steele's weak spot could be that there are questions surrounding his conservative bona fides, questions his rivals are aggressively seeking to cultivate.

Saul Anuzis: The head of the Michigan GOP is demonstrating a dogged determination in the early days of the contest -- winning kudos from neutral GOP observers for his courtship of the RNC committee members. Anuzis announced the support for five state chairs -- Connecticut, New Jersey, Virgin Islands, Nebraska and Nevada -- on Monday, a group that will help whip support for his bid in the coming months. Anuzis also has Katie Packer, who ran former Gov. Mitt Romney's (Mass.) Michigan primary campaign, leading his RNC bid. The knock on Anuzis? Michigan went strongly Democratic in 2008 as Republicans lost not only at the presidential level but also saw two House incumbents defeated.

Chip Saltsman: Saltsman, who came to national prominence as the campaign manager for former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), is going door to door these days (literally) to court RNC committee members. Saltsman is a pilot and in the last four days has visited seven states to meet and greet committeemen and women where they live. He has also hired Stephen Smith, the online communications director for Romney's presidential race to run the campaign. While the support of Huckabee is sure to help Saltsman in some quarters, he has to prove that he is not simply a stalking horse for "Huck 2012" to put together the 84 votes needed to claim the chairmanship.

Katon Dawson: Dawson's official entry into the race finally puts to an end one of the worst held secrets in Republican politics. His allies and his detractors agree on one thing: Dawson is VERY ambitious.

Jim Nussle: The former Iowa congressman and current head of the Office of Management and Budget for the Bush Administration is still in the "mulling it over" phase. The argument for Nussle is that he can speak to two groups with which Republicans have lost ground in recent years: Midwestern voters and independents. The argument against Nussle is that in an electoral environment where "change" is the name of the game, his ties to the Bush Administration could be toxic.

Jim Greer: Chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Greer, like Nussle, has been cagey about his interest in the race -- making it clear he could be interested in running. Given the size of the field and the lack of a clear frontrunner, Greer would need to get into the contest sooner rather than later. His advantages: a strong fundraising résumé and a base in a swing state. His disadvantage: he's a moderate in a vote dominated by conservatives.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 25, 2008; 5:45 AM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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Yes it is Media Bias

However, for some reason this country wanted to ignore:

1) A reasoned evaluation of WHO is the BEST person to lead the economy of this nation

2) A reasoned evaluation of WHO is the BEST person to lead the foreign policy of this nation.

For some reason, there was a "kick" in this country to make some "affirmative action statement" - there was a notion that "all the nations of the world would love us if we elected a black"

All these ideas are completely silly.

Obama is not even close to the best person to lead the ecnomoy or foreign policy.

Obama is not even close to be qualified.

Obama is not even close to having the experience necessary for the position.

The people of this country have experienced some kind of mass insanity to chance the security of this nation on this affirmative action guy who just recently quit doing cocaine.

Go ahead. Delude yourselves some more.

It is as if the country was just electing a figure-head, that there were no decisions to be made, as if nothing was riding on having a capable person in the office of President.





Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 11:27 PM | Report abuse

The problems for Republicans have been manifest in several arenas in recent years. On the economy, they have abandoned their traditional old-school orientation toward fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets and embraced tax cuts for the wealthy without regard to the effects of such tax cuts on budget deficits. The last serious economic recession experienced in the U.S. occurred in 1980-82. The economic growth that has occurred since has benefitted primarily the top 10% of the population in terms of wealth, particularly the top 1%. Conversely, the middle three quintiles of the population as measured in wealth and income, (That's the Middle Class in case nobody noticed) have seen their real incomes and net worth fall by about 3% during that same quarter-century. Income inequality is greater now than at any point since the 1890s, and it's continuing to grow. That is not a healthy situation for the economy as a whole, though it has feathered the nests of those on Wall Street and who are executives of major corporations with incomes greater than a million dollars per year. Republicans have become identified more than ever as the party whose policies will benefit the wealthy, but who care little about those policies' effects upon middle-income Americans.

A second major problem for Republicans is the dominance of the socially intolerant far-right segment of the party. The Republican Party has increasingly become dominated by its Southern wing which is generally much less willing to accommodate diversity of opinion on social and cultural issues ranging from immigration to Civil Rights to gay rights to abortion to stem-cell research. Those who do not share the far-right perspective on these issues are often made to feel unwelcome within the Republican Party.

The third major problem for the Republicans has been the great human and financial costs of the Iraq War. The War has been controversial and has drained government resources and has been the primary contributor to massive Republican deficits during the Bush Administration.

With demographics moving against them as the nation becomes increasingly diverse, Republicans are becoming endangered of falling into a permanent minority party status provided Obama experiences governing success. Those most likely to support Republican candidates are those voters who are white, married, and are observant Christians---those who attend church frequently. The proportion of the electorate which is white, married and Christian is declining. Until Republicans find how to expand their base beyond the narrow demographic group(s) they now represent, they will be in the wilderness.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | November 25, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Mike Steele, head of the RNC?!?! HA HA HA!

After all the bashing Mike Steele did against Obama throughout 2008, he is now trying to ride Obama's coat-tails into a dominant position within the Republican Party.

One sure way to split the Republican Party up so that the U.S. political system would have three major parties is to put Mike Steele as RNC Chairman and Bobby Jindal as the GOP 2012 President candidate.

I say go for it GOP! Micheal Steele and Piyush Jindal in 2010-2012!

Posted by: AJ2008 | November 25, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

What are the things that a chair of the national committee can do that makes a difference?

Gov. Dean of the DNC pushed hard for a 50 state strategy, but from what I can tell, had Sen. Clinton been the party candidate, she would've concentrated on the more normal set of states. So, I'd conclude that Sen. Obama had more of an impact than Gov. Dean did (although I'm sure that Dean's efforts helped Obama's campaign).

Posted by: Kili | November 25, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Any new RNC Chairman, if he/she is worthy of the position must put the GOP on the fast track to enlightenment. Get rid of or tone down the MicThugs and take the Republican agenda back from them. A GOP candidate for national office should not be mimicking divisive, hate based and nuisance laden rhetoric espoused by such thugs as we saw Sarah Palin doing. The GOP, the party of Lincoln, should cease being the primary home of racists and bigots. As the GOP is also the primary home of the “Religious Right”, this combination will always subject this party to ridicule and be pointed out as being hypocrisy laden. Finally, the GOP needs to take a new look at its philosophy on financial matters. It’s apparently no coincident that the worst financial crises have occurred under GOP administrations.

Posted by: vmonroe_valnesio | November 25, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Ronald Reagan was one of the worst presidents in the nation's history. Part of the Republican problem is the worship of this man of rather mediocre talents. Those who do worship him are forgetting the dismal failure of his first term. Farmers committing suicide because they couldn't pay their mortgages comes to my mind(does anyone remember now?). So what is Reagans remedy in his second term? He throws a party! Increase the national debt to 4 trillion smackaroos (under Carter; less that a tril.). Of couse W more than doubled that! Now, we, and our children are forced to pay the piper. Republicans, who are supposed to be the fiscal conservative gurus, should remember some of these things when picking a leader. But they won't.

Posted by: nwsjnky1 | November 25, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Making Saul Anunzis chair would mean the loss of most Ron Paul Republicans. As Michigan chair, Anunzis called for the exclusion of Dr. Paul from debates early in the primary season because he (Ron Paul) said that the war in Iraq was unjustified, unconstitutional, and plain wrong.

Anunzis thereby disqualified himself. A chair doesn't get to pre-ordain who can run; that's why we have primaries and caucuses. When you become a party chair, you agree to some extent to set aside your own predilictions and let the voters decide. Anunzis shouldn't even continue as Michigan chair, never mind take on a national role. He has shown himself to be a lesser man than the role requires.

Posted by: dangfitz | November 25, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

As a lifelong Democrat I can only comment as a member of the loyal opposition. If the Repubs insist on using the devisivness and "dirty tricks" promulgated by the late Lee Atwater, I don't think the party will be able to expand beyond the fundamentalists (I resist using the term Christians with the more rabid ones I saw in the last campaign) and die hard Republicans.

It is no longer a party of ideals or even ideas other than elect me. That is the rabbit hole the Democrats went down for a number of years, vote for me because I'm not the other guy.

Posted by: Charming1 | November 25, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I guess Steele's fabricated endorsements have gone down the memory hole. It's kind of funny that in the race for RNC chairman, even the black guy is racist.

Posted by: miket000 | November 25, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Why pretend? It's the whites-only party, hire someone with good, whites-only credentials.

Posted by: thebobbob | November 25, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I wouldn't get too excited, this party needs to step back and take a hard long look at what just happened to them. I am a McCain Democrat (if there is such a thing) I don't have a dog in this race, but I just can't bring myself to try and help lift this elephant!

Make a party that we can all be taken into..not just the Rush peeps or the Palin peeps, an inclusive party that has a solid unified and fair agenda (I don't see this happening).

Otherwise, when Obama leaves in eight years..HRC can step in without a wimper!

Posted by: newbeeboy | November 25, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse


Supply-side economics is called for in times that follows economies like we had in the 1970s - in which investment in the economy was starved and we need more investment.

You then ask, where are we now?

Good question. Do we need more investment? In certain sectors yes.




Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse


Who are these Republicans that have moved so far to the right? All I see is tax-and-spend Republicans in Washington who have lost their way.




Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I want to add an observation about macroeconomics that bears on whether the RNC should choose a moderate or a Growth Clubber.

"Supply side" economics is Big Gov economics, too. It says that government encouragement of supply - of production, will increase jobs. This works very well in a time of raging demand. But the other side of the picture is that when demand is weak we applaud just-in-time inventory. Then, government policy is better tuned to stimulating demand.

That should be intuitively obvious even to Growth Clubbers, but I think that they have taken a view originally grounded in economics and raised it to a matter of faith. An open minded conservative GOP Chair would be good for the future of that party. Even Marty Feldstein, who railed against RR's deficits, an outstanding conservative economist, now thinks we need $300B-$700B of demand side stimulus. Stay open.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 25, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

With the Republican Party having moved so far to the right in recent years it is highly unlikely that any moderate could possibly win election as head of the RNC. Activists within the party are more likely to be further to the right than the typical Republican voter.

The anti-intellectual exclusionary and reactionary wing of the Republican Party that refuses to accept individuals who are not socially and culturally far right, or who are not opposed to every effort government makes to improve the lives of ordinary people, has come to dominate the GOP in recent years.

Today's Republican Party has become more reactionary than at any other time in its history. It's as though they want to turn back the clock to the 1950s in terms of social and cultural policies, while embracing 1920s-style economic policies. That from a party founded upon principles of equality as embodied by Lincoln, and which stood for opposition to corporate "malefactors of greed" a century ago in the person of T.Roosevelt. The Republican Party of today would not be congenial to many of its most prominent figures of a half-century ago such as Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits and Clifford Case.

The Republican Party is stuck in another era.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | November 25, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse


You have basically made the case FOR the Iraq war.

If a dictator is in power, there really is no way around having to "deal" with him.

Our corporations are going to want to do business in the dictator's country, the world's diplomacy still has to be conducted.

What is it that you propose we do with every country living under a dictator? Completely boycott them and thus cause the nation to be even more radicalized???

Do you propose that we blockade the nation and prevent our multinationals from not doing business in those nations, thereby leaving openings for Russia, China and France ????

What is your program here ???

The LEFT IS OUT OF ITS MIND. Spoiled Brats - always complaining - Never considering the reality of what the world is really all about.




Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Some of you are old enough that you were voting adults during the Carter and Reagan Admins. Carter's presidency was a failure, on balance, because he mishandled the hostage crisis, the economy continued to stagnate, he underestimated the Soviets [was taken completely by surprise by the Afghan invasion], and his micromanaging style did not allow for a broad range of opinion around him. This last failing kept his Admin in disarray. So that you know that I am not being merely critical, I remeber that he got Begin and Sadat together and that he began the military build-up, after Afghanistan, in the face of opposition from his own party.

Reagan himself had only two interests near and dear to his heart: lower taxes and a stronger military. He had George Shultz and Jim Baker [good] but he also had David Stockman [very bad]. He quadrupled the national debt and proved that "deficits do not matter". He was an optimist who learned from his mistakes and he got along with a D Congress in his second term, fixed his initial screw-up with Gorby, and brought down his deficits.

I have presented a factual but overly simplistic version of history. Two points are clear to me. 1] I do not recall who the RNC and DNC chairs were. 2] Reagan became more of a pragmatist and less of an ideologue as he matured in the job.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 25, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"His tireless self-promoting quest to become RNC Chair would not benefit the moribund Republican Party."

I don't know about that. He's not a successful politician, but its hard for any Republican to be successful in Maryland. He is an outside the box thinker and charismatic as well. The fact that he is black should come into play. Chances are that he won't be succumbing to the worst elements of the Republican base and participating in the racist fear mongering that has defined the Republican party for so many years.

And that's a good thing for ALL of America, not just the Republicans.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 25, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse


The left wants to criticize every President for dealing with dictators, but the minute a Republican President takes one out, the left complains for years and years and years.

Which is it?

The left can not have the luxury of complaining about dictators all the time and saying how bad our government is - AND then when the US takes out a dictator complaining about what it actually takes.


Your position is a complete joke. Taking out a dictator involves roadside bombs, setting up a new government, and LISTENING TO THE LEFT SNIPE AT THE ADMINISTRATION FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS.

Your positions is ridiculous.

What is wrong with you? Seriously. You can not be serious with your posting. If the left wants to complain about Iraq, it certainly can not complain about "dealing with dictators" who stay in power because you don't want to take them out.




Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

The GOP has strayed too far from the principles laid out by The Great One (Reagan)? Does NO ONE in the party even comment on Reagan's cozying up to murderers around the world, including Marcos in the Philippines and right wing death squads in El Salvador, his bargining with terrorists over hostages (even sending guns to Iran-- and conservatives pilloried Obama for suggesting talking with Iran's leaders), even though he swore he had done no such thing, and his retreating from Lebanon when the Marine barracks was attacked? Let's not go overboard about how Republicans would get back into power by just being more conservative. Michael Steele's election would be laughable-- the GOP trying to portray itself as diversified.

Posted by: Sutter | November 25, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

To Novamatt: if you're looking for a solid African American to become the face of the 'new' Republican Party, don't pin your hopes on Michael Steele.

Michael Steele may be popular with the Maryland GOP but his name is now synonymous with sleaze among most voters in the state, esp. PG County.

His tireless self-promoting quest to become RNC Chair would not benefit the moribund Republican Party. As an often independent who voted many times for Mac Matthias, Larry Hogan--and who would have voted for Helen Bentley had the MD Republican party been intelligent enough to nominate her instead of Ellen Sauerbrey, I think I can tell you what the Republican party needs. We need real problem solvers like Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal, Republicans of untarnished character, who have worked bi-partisanly on many issues. Mr. Steele never accomplished the only real project given to him by Bob Ehrlich--reporting on death sentencing rates by race--and merely served as Ehrlich's hatchet man. This past election proved Barbara Mikulski's famous quote after defeating Linda Chavez--"in Maryland, dirty politics is losing politics." Steele's participation in Ehrlich's slimey actics in PG County, where homeless Philly men distributed fraudulent election flyers left his state's citizens with a bad taste in their mouth. Please don't think he will save the Republican Party--far from it. He and Palin will bury it.

Posted by: commonsense101 | November 25, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse





I am sick and tired of some elitist-wanna-bees talking down to the Religious Right.

The elitists in this country are not elite - they are latte liberals who are spoiled brats who have benefited from corporate greed and indulgence.

The truth is this economic mess has been created by the CULTURE OF GREED which the latte liberals love - they love their McManions, their MBAs, and the cars - AND ALL THEIR CREDIT CARD DEBT.

See although the latte liberals think they are better then everyone else, their characters are devoted to the Culture of Greed and therefore they are a net drag on the rest of society.

Economic drag and moral drag. Morality is important in life - Sprituality is important.

Those who devote their entire lives to the Culture of Greed (and Credit Cards) who live in McMansions, make a sport of putting down the Religious Right.

Well the truth is they have to do that in order to justify their greedy, empty lives.





Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse


YOU are out of your mind - the problem with the Repbulican Party is that it has strayed from the course Reagan set out.

First, the democrats in Congress in the 1980s did not allow Reagan to fully implement everything in his program.

Then under the second Bush, first the wars got in the way, then the Republicans in Washington strayed and did not reign in spending like they should have.

Ronald Reagan's program has never been fully implemented.

The Republican Party should adhere to its purity - the Purity of Cutting Government Spending, cutting government waste, reigning in the lobbyists, keeping true, Cutting Taxes to their barest minimum. That is the way out.




Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

When are the Republicans going to abandon Ronald Regan? They sound like kids pulling for straws. I left the Republican Party when Regan ushered in supply side economics (trickle down) and moral majority (Christian Right). See where that put us! In debt and a moral compass that cant find the middle or tolerance.

Now I am an independent. Don’t the republicans understand that they need to move forward? Every time they mention Regan, the rest of America says - here we go again. Regan carries the same weight as the term “entitlement” does to the right wing. How about fresh ideas that solve today's problems and work with real Americans. All my republican friends think they are billionaires and act like it!

You have already hijacked the Republican Party then America has taken it back! But you can’t see what happened - greed, corruption, power mongers. Its not about Christianity, its about your own rule and that is not what America is all about!

You have come to hide in community standards and right wing beliefs to stuff your laws down America’s throat. No more Tom Delay Hammers! You hoodwink America and are able to pass your laws, rather than embracing America, preaching tolerance and compromise!

Posted by: dalrob | November 25, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

The Republican party still worships Reagan, even though, as Cheney put it, he "taught us that deficits don't matter". This undercuts their alleged fiscal conservativism.
Their experiment in unrestrained capitalism has brought our economy to its knees, which undermines their theory that they know what they're talking about in the economic sphere.
The third leg under the Republican platform, their anti-abortion stance, is too extreme for most Americans, and anyway, the Republicans have delivered nothing significant in this area.
It's hard to see how anyone can put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Posted by: sobe53711 | November 25, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Steele and Saltman are clearly the frontrunners in this race. To be fair you can't really slate Steele for doing nothing in P.G. County, unless someone develops a change your mind ray Republicans in P.G. will always be the oppressed minority. The republican party isn't dead, it can rebound quickly if it tailors its message to the center rather than the religious right, not that there isn't any room for the religious right but they can't cater to them. They will either vote Republican or not at all. the challenges facing our world at this time and for the foreseeable future are too great to be sidetrack by issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and other nonsense.

Posted by: Penseur | November 25, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

That the race is so jumbled and filled with rancor is a testament to the bad shape the GOP is in.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | November 25, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

The next face of the Republican party should be hidden behind a white hood with two holes cut out to see through.

Posted by: hamishdad | November 25, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

JD - If you ever look in, pls eml me at

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 25, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

FL posters, please tell us about Greer. Is he close to Crist? To Jeb? What positions has he held and what have been his accomplishments?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 25, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm hoping they pick Michael Steele. The RNC has no worries regarding policy, organization, strategy, or fundraising. They're exactly where I think they need to be on those.

What they've been lacking is someone who looks good on the teevee and is a smoove talker. Had Michael Steele been running the RNC since '06, I can say with some confidence that the RNC would have gotten exactly the votes and seats that it deserved.


Posted by: novamatt | November 25, 2008 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Another problem with Steele is his lack of achievement.
Look at the state of the Prince George's County republican party.
How many Republicans did he help get elected in PG?
The same for Maryland.

Posted by: edlharris | November 25, 2008 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: | November 25, 2008 6:26 AM | Report abuse





The RNC has completely failed in the communications department - now obviously the White House has had to take the lead in recent years - however the communiciations out of the RNC has been so ineffective.

The democrats have been allowed to set the agenda.

The RNC never really defended the war. A story about how story about aluminum tubes gpt in the New York Times appears to have derailed five years of communications AND demoralized the RNC communications to the point where they did not want to defend the war.

We are sitting there with troops on the groud fighting, and the RNC basically ceded the public relations war.

In the run-up to the war, the CIA director had it right: they did not have to make the points they did --- there were much better points to be made to make the case for war.

The war is over. There is no front.

The media keeps on saying war war war.

The war is long over. All that remains is random roadside bombings.

That is the stuff of holding a territory, not war.

Anyone who thought that holding a country in the Middle East was going to be a cake-walk is not being honest with themselves. The democrats are bascially claiming that the world is candyland, that there never has to be any war, and that the Middle East is pepermint wonderland.





Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 6:07 AM | Report abuse

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