Hi, kids! Yesterday, during our class on political corruption, we discussed "pay to play."
Friday, October 16, 2020
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Some quick observations about tonight's competing ABC and NBC town halls with the presidential candidates. We tried to watch the NBC Trump town hall on the telly while watching/monitoring the ABC Biden town hall via my computer.
Hi, kids! Welcome to civics class, and our series on corruption.
Pennsylvania's Democratic Lt. Governor, John Fetterman, has made marijuana decriminalization and legalization his cause celebre. He's spent most of the last two years, since his 2018 election, conducting town halls and participating in others, including one here just last week before our Delaware County Council (5-0 Democratic majority).
Monday, October 12, 2020
If you had the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates framing the issue that voters may well take with them into the voting booth on November 3rd (or, before) on your 2020 election Bingo card, congratulations. Who thought an obscure, 33-year old non-profit organization might provide the potential galvanizing moment just weeks before Election Day?
As former GOP presidential nominee and ex-Senate Republican Leader, Bob Dole has confirmed, the Commission is in the tank for Joe Biden, or at least against President Trump.
But you didn't need Senator Dole (disclosure: he nominated me to become the 28th Secretary of the Senate in 1995) to tell you that. It wasn't hard to decipher unless you have blinders on, or perhaps suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).
And what is this galvanizing moment? Defining the election as "country versus capitol," with a hat-tip to radio talker and columnist Hugh Hewitt for coining that term.
The misnamed Commission (it's not a "commission" in the way many Americans would define the term) personifies what a large number of Americans despise or loathe about our Nation's Capitol. And as a former 23-year resident of "the swamp" who still owns property there - and now having been away from Washington, DC for 18 years - I understand both camps. My feet are now firmly planted in the "country" camp. Not that long ago, they were planted in the swamp.
Just look at the history and makeup of the commission. It is a privately-funded, non-profit group that was created in 1987 by the chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties (Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, respectively). Fahrenkopf, who effectively chaired the RNC as I was becoming of age in DC politics, remains as one of three co-chairs. Like everything else created inside Washington's 62-mile beltway, it was well-intended. It was created as a bipartisan vehicle through which presidential candidates could negotiate debate terms, such as moderators, number of debates, stages, and formats.
And like just about everything else in DC, it lives on and has diverted from its intended purpose, now with arrogance and malice. Unfortunately, it is probably not going away unless and until its funding dries up. Not likely to happen, since they're now running debates in a number of countries.
Just check the Commission's board membership, average age 73. They are all former Washington insiders from the media (Charles Gibson, former ABC news correspondent), corporate insiders (Richard Parsons, former AOL and Time-Warner chief executive), and former US Senators (Jack Danforth, R-MO, and Olympia Snowe, R-ME). Fahrenkopf remains as co-chair after all these years. Former Presidents serve as "advisory" co-chairs, but that's meaningless.
What else explains the refusal of the commission from choosing even one moderator from outside the beltway? Are there no serious journalists from respected news outlets such as the Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, Daily Oklahoman (Chris Casteel would make a terrific moderator), or Denver Post? All three anointed moderators come from broadcast media, which as a former print journalist from small towns in Oklahoma, I find that somewhat offensive.
The blatant bias in Chris Wallace's failed performance (no moderator should allow him or herself to become a story); reports of Steve Scully's past history with Joe Biden (and apparent relationship with Trump hater Anthony Scaramucci); and even the more subtle but still evident bias in USA Today's Susan Page's largely one-sided questioning during the vice presidential debate leads to an obvious conclusion.
But the coup de grace was the Commission's ham-handed handling of the decision to turn the second presidential debate into a "virtual" one without consulting at least the Trump campaign, if not also the Biden campaign (I do not know whether Biden's campaign was contacted or consulted in advance - no one seems to be asking). Fahrenkopf appeared on Fox News' Martha McCallum's show and said it was for "health reasons." This, despite the fact that Trump's appearance would be consistent with CDC guidelines about public contact at least 10 days after infection. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley declared Trump "no longer a transmission risk" on October 10th.
The second presidential debate was scheduled for October 15th.
Hewitt, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and others are advocating for the Commission to be abolished. Yes, it's time came and went, long ago. But that's not the issue.
The Commission symbolizes DC beltway elitism, arrogance, and detachment from "normal" Americans. And this detachment is bipartisan. Just look at the list of former GOP members of Congress, former Bush and other GOP Administration officials, and a host of other "never Trumpers" who have endorsed or are supporting Joe Biden for President. And guess what - there is no shortage of lesser-known GOP lobbyists and operatives who are in the Biden camp as well, some of whom even used to work for Republicans in Congress like Bob Dole.
A few of them have their own personal reasons almost exclusively focused on Trump's aesthetics or often abrasive, belligerent style. Others, however, I suspect miss the kind of influence they had with prior administrations, or perhaps have lobbying or consulting contracts that will be advantaged under a Biden presidency. In doing so, they jettison a career of commitment to principles such as less government, lower taxes, and even being pro-life. Some have found a way to monetize their Republican "Never Trump" status (see: The Lincoln Project).
Most are DC insiders, just like the members of the Commission on Presidential Debates. They socialize with each other. They gather together at favorite DC restaurants or each other's homes, connect on the fundraising circuit, and serve on panels together at obscure events hosted by a multitude of well-connected "think tanks." After all, in DC, personnel is policy. It really is "who you know." As a former lobbyist, I get that.
And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. The business world often works the same way, although the private sector expects results and doesn't typically reward excuses and failure. In politics, elections are one-day sales every two, four, or six years. Every day is "election day" in the free market.
But what attracts someone to work and prosper in official Washington? There are many reasons, but may I respectfully suggest, for more than a few, it is because they think that they should be helping run the country. They want to influence and even to control. In a word, power. All for the common good, of course. And if you make money in the process, all the better. Four of the top six US counties with the highest median incomes - all above six figures - are found in the Washington, DC metropolitan statistical area.
For many (certainly not all), that means they believe they're smarter than you. You know, you there, unsophisticated rube, clinging bitterly to your guns and religion, who doesn't have a college degree, or ever escaped your boring little town in flyover country. How else can you explain 30+ years of federal dietary guidelines that are designed to tell you what and how to eat? How have they worked out?
It's no wonder that so many normal Americans feel disconnected to their nation's capital and think Washington despises them.
Because it does.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
I am tired of seeing this graphic on my Facebook page. I find it weird that many public officials and organizations consistently push "vote by mail" but also fret that many votes will not be counted because of errors by the postal service (1-3 percent of ballots are lost in the mail) but especially by the voters themselves. Seems a lot of people are incapable of following directions written at a 6th-grade level, or lower.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Dr. Robert Mather reached out to me following a recent appearance of mine on the Chris Stigall podcast. He was kind enough to ask for an interview for his own blog, TheConservativeSocialPsychologist.com. Turns out we have some common Oklahoma heritage, which I always appreciate.
I've linked and pasted the interview below, for those who may be interested. I discuss the Senate's role going forward to fill the vacancy left the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I've tried to gently correct a misspelling or mild grammatical error (all my fault).
Kelly Johnston was the 28th Secretary of the United States Senate, and the second youngest ever selected (1995-1996) to the position. He was born in Edmond, OK and attended the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Early in his career he served as a newspaper reporter and editor in Oklahoma. He held a number of notable Republican administrative positions during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. He gives insightful political commentary at his website (www.againstthegrain.expert/). I had the opportunity to interview him. Here is our discussion.
RM: What was your role as Secretary of the United States Senate? What should citizens know about how that body of government truly operates in governing in our interests?
KJ: The Secretary of the Senate is the chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer of the Senate. The Secretary is considered the "senior" officer, one of five, confirmed by the Senate, and the only one who is sworn in on the floor of the Senate, in session. The other officers are the Sergeant at Arms, the Secretary for the Majority, the Secretary for the Minority, and the Chaplain. The Secretary is responsible for the legislative process - the Parliamentarian, the Bill and Journal Clerks, the document room, historical office, chief counsel for employment, and more offices (some 19 in all) that fall under his/her jurisdiction. The current Secretary is Julie Adams. Most notable is the first Secretary, Samuel Otis, who still holds the record for the longest tenure in the office - 25 years. A visit to Congress Hall in Philadelphia, next to Independence Hall, features Otis's office just off the grand Senate floor. It is worth a visit for anyone living in or visiting the Philadelphia area.
Not to be overlooked is the role of the chief financial officer of the Senate, and also his/her responsibility for the Senate Office of Security. The Secretary is responsible for the handling of confidential and classified information in the Senate.
RM: Your role in the Senate came while your Majority Leader was running for President. What was Bob Dole like as both a politician and as a man?
KJ: Bob Dole was not only a serious and very hard-working legislator, but he also enjoyed enormous bipartisan respect and demonstrated a unique ability to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats, especially on agricultural and hunger issues (he, with Sen. George McGovern, are the architects of much of our nation's nutrition programs). His remarkable WWII experience, where he was seriously wounded in Italy as part of the 10th Mountain infantry division, shaped and influenced him in many ways - especially his long road to recovery and painful disabilities that have hindered him physically but not deterred him. Because of that, along with his considerable legislative and political skills, he inspired a great many of us.
Interestingly, he was considered an "ardent conservative" when first elected to the House and then the Senate but was considered a "moderate" as his career progressed. Dole could sometimes appear dour and even bit negative on the stump, but behind the scenes, he demonstrated a terrific and quick sense of humor and was fun to be around. He could have been a great stand-up comic (and, often was) Sadly, that reality never really emerged until after his 1996 election defeat. He was one of the most successful Majority Leaders in the Senate's history.
RM: You spent time as a local news reporter and editor in Oklahoma for many years. How has local and national journalism changed over the past 50 years?
KJ: I was a part-time newspaper reporter during my college years (1974-1976) for the Chickasha Daily Express, also serving briefly as the editor of my campus newspaper, The Trend (University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma). Little did I know, but I was auditioning for a job as The Donrey Media Group's state capitol correspondent when I was assigned, in 1976, to cover a campaign visit to Lawton by President Gerald Ford. I won the job, working from our flagship paper, the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. I would later be promoted as Editor of the Henryetta Free-Lance, then a daily newspaper (sadly no longer). I left the news business for a political campaign in late 1978, then on to Washington, DC.
I mention all that to provide a frame of reference for my answer: I no longer recognize my former profession. I was trained, both in college and my first jobs, to pursue objective truth and clearly delineate between journalism and editorializing. My news coverage focused on facts and context; I save the editorializing for my weekly column or clearly-marked editorials. I used visuals (photos) as often as possible.
The keywords here are "objective truth," which tragically have been replaced by "narrative." In our post-modern world of subjective truth ("your truth," "my truth,"), so many journalists no longer pursue objective truth but instead focus on their preferred narrative. Major news outlets color or distort their headlines and stories to favor certain narratives over others, and demand conformity from their newsroom and editorial colleagues (so much for "diversity"). And with the advent of social media since around 2008, traditional media have opted to monetize division and focus on niche markets, such as conservatives (FOX) or liberals (CNN). Print media has largely gone all-in for their leftist audiences. However, let me make an exception for "local media," which I find does a much better job at retaining their "objective truth" roots. I have canceled my subscriptions to most major national media, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, and instead turn to the Tulsa World, Daily Oklahoman, Chicago Tribune, and even the Myrtle Beach Sun-Times, among others. I also ignore most of the wire services (especially AP), although Reuters and, to a lesser extent, Bloomberg, retain some objectivity (not always).
This is why, I think, you are beginning to see explosive growth in independent journalism, such as The Epoch Times, "Just The News," and Sharyl Attkisson's "Full Measure" News. Chicago's WGN TV is now going national. People are yearning for objective journalism, I think smarter heads in the media are taking advantage of this opportunity. There is hope.
RM: I have had the chance to spend time with former Governor George Nigh, who was governor during your time covering the Oklahoma State Capitol as a reporter. Despite having different political views than me, Governor Nigh is extraordinarily entertaining. What were some of the central issues from your time covering Oklahoma politics during the oil bust? Was Governor Nigh effective in working in a bipartisan manner?
KJ: I love Governor Nigh. I first met him when I had a one-on-one interview in 1977 early in my days as a wet-behind-the-ears state capitol news correspondent for Donrey's 12 newspapers in Oklahoma, and Nigh was Lt. Gov., a position he would serve in for 16 years if memory serves. A gracious, approachable, positive, and gregarious person, he was always delightful. Nigh was an "old fashioned" Democrat; culturally and socially conservative, as Oklahoma was then and remains, but knew how to take care of Democratic constituencies and work with the business community. He hated polarizing politics, eschewed controversy, and always tried to find a common denominator. I remember voting for him every chance I had, and the newspapers I worked for always endorsed him.
RM: The United States Senate procedures will take center stage in the coming months after the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What do we need to know about the operations of the Senate to understand what is coming?
KJ: The Senate's role here is actually very straightforward, as outlined by the Constitution: The President is empowered to nominate to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court, and the Senate gets to decide whether to confirm or not, or even whether to consider the nomination. There is no law or "rule" that restricts when such nominations can be made or confirmed (during a two-year Congress). Any other considerations (whether to hold a confirmation vote before or after an election) are purely political.
There have been 29 Supreme Court vacancies in election years in our country's history. Presidents have nominated someone in every instance, and the Senate, on 17 occasions, have confirmed them. Sometimes they have rejected them, and most recently, in 2016, they chose not to act. The Senate follows historical precedent, except when it doesn't. Given that the Senate majority (at present) is of the same political party as the President, I fully expect a nomination to be made, and the Senate to act on it with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee and, possibly, a vote by the full Senate either before or after the election, during a planned "lame duck" session. Ultimately, it is about who has the votes. We will soon find out.
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
This was a bad week for election law developments in the election "ground zero" Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But we can't say we didn't see it coming.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
My friend, Chris Stigall, a popular conservative radio host and podcaster here in Philadelphia, posted another of his excellent Townhall.com columns today on the latest broadside against President Trump. You know, the claim that Trump killed people by downplaying coronavirus. That’s what nutty media and their gullible consumers are saying.
Thing is, I know Bob Woodward. Not well, nor is he a “friend.” But we’ve had interactions that I suspect he might remember (at least one). After all, I’m in one of his books.
Like a lot of other (most) communications and journalism students in the mid-1970’s, I was enamored with “Woodstein” journalism that helped bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon. In part, it inspired me to pursue a career in journalism after I graduated college in 1976, which I did for a couple of years with the Donrey Media Group in my native Oklahoma. I had been editor of my college newspaper, the USAO “Trend.” I worked part-time for the local newspaper, the Chickasha Daily Express, and upon graduation at the tender age of 20, found myself at the flagship newspaper in Bartlesville, OK, where I was both a local reporter and state capitol correspondent for all of Donrey’s 12 (mostly small) newspapers in the state. I finished my career with a stint as managing editor of the Henryetta Free-Lance, before jumping into politics.
Scroll forward about 10 years, when I’m now in Washington, DC, working for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He wrote something, somewhere, that I found incorrect, or out of context (I can’t remember, sadly). I wrote him a letter to express my dissatisfaction. He actually wrote back with a hand-written note, no less. “You deserve a response,” he started the note. That really impressed me (this is obviously before email). Somewhere, I think I still have that letter.
Scroll forward another 10 years. I’m just departed from my favorite position ever, Secretary of the US Senate. Bob publishes another one of his biennial books, in 1996, titled “The Choice.” He chronicles, in his usual detail, the 1996 Dole vs. Clinton presidential campaign from that year. I found myself mentioned - basically, how I got my job as Secretary. It was entirely accurate. I suspect my friend Scott Reed, who had been Dole’s campaign manager, was Woodward’s source. I was never contacted, but no matter, all good. I consider it an accomplishment to have made it into a Woodward tome. I should add it to my resume.
|You’ll find me on page 171|
Scroll forward another 15 years or so. I’m on the board of the Canadian American Business Council, and I’m invited with a few others to brief him for an upcoming speech in Vancouver on US-Canadian politics and relations. He impressed. Woodward is a master at making people feel comfortable and extracting the most candor and information from his “subjects.” He is the master interviewer and journalist, even now at age 77. Formidable and impressive.
That’s a long way of saying that I have no problem with Woodward’s interview with President Trump. I have no problem with Trump agreeing to be interviewed by Woodward. And, most importantly, I have no problem, nor do I see any real news value, in the allegedly “bombshell” report that Trump sought to “downplay” the coronavirus as it invaded our country, courtesy of China’s Communist government.
First, I commend Woodward for releasing the audio transcript of the interview. It puts things in context, which so much of the “blue check” leftist media doesn’t provide. And, sadly, some of my friends here took the media bait. Thus are these times, when the real pandemic is Trump Derangement Syndrome. The last thing a President should is create a panic (or a Vice President, as Joe Biden did back in 2009 when the H1N1 virus emerged. The Obama White House was forced to do damage control when Biden encouraged people not to travel on airplanes, and more. I’ll post a link to that story a bit later).
But here’s my point. We see this pattern every two years. Woodward writes a book. He is published by Simon & Schuster, a highly successful publisher. They want to pump book sales. What better way than to leak salacious tidbits, often out of context, to garner clicks and reads courtesy of gullible or malevolent media (in this case, the Washington Post, but not exclusively), especially right before an election? I couldn’t have planned it better myself. Just read attorney John O’Connor’s book, “Postgate,” on the details of “Deep Throat” and ex-FBI deputy director, the late Mark Felt’s “coming out” (O’Connor was Felt’s attorney). Detailed and very revealing. Woodward aggressively protects and promotes his interests. Most successful people (and corporations) do.
When we finally read Woodward’s book, “Rage,” (and I’ve read nearly all his books, including his most recent, “Fear”), you can bet that it will leave a different perception, with nuance and context missing from the blue-check Twitter media.
I think even Bob Woodward would agree, in spite of his new wokeness.