Posted: April 28, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

For all that Colin Powell did as a celebrated general and secretary of state, he also made his mark with some of the most memorable and succinct advice ever given.

It has come to be known as the "Pottery Barn Rule," not that the store actually coined it.

"You break it, you own it," Powell said.

There is a lot of breakage that goes on in politics. It can be a long time repairing, if ever.

At that point, the "Humpty Dumpty Rule" kicks in, namely, you can't put Humpty back together again.

People would be a lot better off if they followed a "Coconut Cake Rule." This is the way of Dave Wilson, a Republican state representative from Sussex County.

The Republicans are in the minority in the state House of Representatives, and it is no sure thing their bills will ever come to the floor, but Wilson figured out what he could do about it when Bob Gilligan was the Democratic speaker from 2008 to 2012.

Gilligan loves coconut cake, so Wilson regularly brought him one, and somehow Wilson's bills managed to be placed on the agenda, and everyone was happy.

It could be called the "Coconut Cake Rule." In so many words, you give, you get.

How simple is that? Nevertheless, it is "Pottery Barn Politics" that all too often holds sway.

POTSHOTS AND POTHOLES. Jack Markell was given political hell because of his good intentions. This was last year, when the governor proposed a hike of 10-cents-a-gallon to the gas tax to pay for work on the road system.

Maybe the Republicans, at their tax-phobic best in an election year, could have stopped it, but they never had to try. Instead, it went down in not-so-friendly fire from Markell's fellow Democrats.

In the politics of today, this might pass for bipartisanship.

Markell regrouped. In his State of the State remarks this year, he told the members of the Delaware General Assembly it was their problem. Nicely, but the meaning was clear.

"Bring me your ideas on how to fund our infrastructure responsibly, and I will work with you to pass and sign legislation," Markell said.

After I-495 nearly fell down and the winter left the roads pockmarked with potholes, the legislators are scrambling for what to do.

They broke with the governor, now they own it.

DON'T MESS WITH SPOUSES. Legislative Hall is in tumult over a bill that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life in prison.

Karen Peterson, the Democratic state senator most prominently for repeal, and Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic speaker who is glaringly against it, are the antipathy personified.

Peterson and Schwartzkopf did not exactly need a debate to divide them. Not since one of the first things Schwartzkopf did when he became speaker in 2012 was fire Vikki Bandy, who is married to Peterson, from her job as a part-time legislative aide.

What in the name of Humpty Dumpty was Schwartzkopf thinking?

The repeal bill was passed by the state Senate but does not appear to have the votes to get out of committee in the state House, the same thing that happened to it in the last term.

This is a sensitive situation in a legislature that is still getting over the "desk drawer veto," a defunct practice by which the chairs of state Senate committees could singlehandedly kill bills by refusing even to let them be considered.

Peterson is doing her best to turn Schwartzkopf into "Speaker Desk Drawer Veto."

What a cause Peterson has. Death penalty, no. 'Til death do us part, yes.

KORNERED. If there were to be a prize for "Pottery Barn" conduct, it should go to Richard Korn, the New York transplant with the Gary Hart hair.

Korn lost when he ran in a Democratic primary for New Castle County executive. He lost when he ran for state representative. He lost when he ran for state auditor.

Now he has lost in court. He tried to sue his own mother. He went after her once she cut him off and froze an investment account that once had more than a million dollars in it.

A judge found that Korn helped himself to $650,000 from the account. He not only awarded what was left of the money to Korn's mother but ruled that Korn was accountable for what he took.

In other words, Korn could wind up worse off than he was. It is like he sued himself.