Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Charles Owens

March 28, 2012

A brief reprieve from the year of never-ending politics by Tebow, Manning

In a week with headlines dominated by Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow and the theatrical release of “The Hunger Games,” the ongoing presidential campaign felt almost like a sidenote. The lack of politics — at least for a single week — was almost comforting.

But a political storm is brewing. In the newsroom, we get lots of phone calls each day, and many of these are political in nature. In fact, we spend a good chunk of our day on the telephone talking to different people — and normally we are not the ones making the phone calls. Lately, a lot of these calls have been political in nature.

I’ve been getting quite a few in recent days from a myriad of different political groups and organizations — all of which are demanding the attention of the newspaper for their stated or unstated political agenda. They usually have catchy names that give no indication of what political party or organization they are supporting — Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or other.

I also get emails — seemingly on a daily basis now from former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine — who is locked in a closely watched U.S. Senate race with another former Virginia governor, George Allen. I’m not for sure how I ended up on Kaine’s campaign mailing list, but his email letters are always very cordial, and normally begin with the phrase “Dear Charles.” So far I haven’t received any personalized emails from Allen, but I’m sure they will be coming. In fact, a campaign staffer at Allen’s headquarters is probably reading this as we speak, and is most likely adding my email address to their campaign mass mailers. So if I start getting daily emails from Allen as well as Kaine, I guess I can only blame myself.

 Maybe Allen will remember me as the reporter who interviewed him a couple of times in the past about purchasing his favorite toothpaste at New Graham Pharmacy in Bluefield, Va. He considers purchasing toothpaste and toothbrushes from New Graham Pharmacy as a good luck charm for his campaign.

And maybe Kaine remembers me as the reporter who got him and Joe Manchin together for a joint interview and photo op in Wythe County several years ago when a new Appalachian Power line was energized for the region. Both men were governors of their respective states at the time.

It’s not unusual for politicians to launch a mass media blitz during an election year, but you can also sense that the floodgates are about to open — and open unusually early this year. Soon, more than half of my daily emails will probably be political in nature.

Politics are heating up in other areas as well. The Supreme Court is continuing its deliberations today over the legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you will for short, and protests against and some press conferences and gatherings in support of the landmark legislation are popping up across the country.

The Occupy Wall Street Protesters also are getting started again promising to add another new — and unpredictable — wrinkle to this prolonged election year. I guess it’s only a matter of time before an Occupy Wall Street protest is organized in the region. But where would they protest? I for one am still a little confused about what the group is protesting. They need a much clearer message if they are to become a legitimate political force.

Gas prices also have become the biggest political debate of the moment. They are still climbing, and folks are becomingly increasingly upset about the situation. Yes, you can travel across the state line border to get cheaper gas in Virginia, but you are still ultimately paying a small fortune to keep a vehicle on the road.

When you own two vehicles, the small fortune becomes a much larger expense. And so far, we haven’t seen much action when it comes to gas prices from Washington — just a lot of finger pointing and blame being assigned to the respective political parties.

 And this blame game is happening despite a recent Gallop poll that found 85 percent of all Americans believe Congress and the president should take action to address gas prices.

If gas prices continue to climb — look for the fuel crisis to play a significant role in the fall campaign. Everyone is impacted by gas prices, and buying a new, and smaller vehicle with better gas mileage, isn’t an option for most folks.

Wow. It’s enough to give you a headache when you stop and actually think about it. And the May primary election is now just a little more than a month away. It is too bad we can’t spend all year talking about Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow instead.

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