Friday, October 16, 2020

Hi Kids! Today's Lesson: Responding to Accusations

 Hi, kids! Yesterday, during our class on political corruption, we discussed "pay to play."

Today, we're going to talk about the four ways to respond to accusations of wrong-doing, especially in politics or legal circles (they often overlap). And we'll use yesterday's story about Hunter Biden's "pay to play" foreign influence scandal as our example, once again.

There are four ways to respond to an accusation or attack. Here they are, in descending order of effectiveness.

1) Deny. The most effective way to rebut or respond is to claim that is not true. Having some evidence of its falsehood is useful, but the burden of proof, remember, is on the accuser.

2) "It's not what you think." If you are unable to deny the accusation because there's an element of truth to it, the second-best way to respond is to use phrases like, "it is taken out of context," or "that's not what happened" are useful. But it is also imperative, for this line of response to be effective, that you provide factual information in your defense.

3) The third best way to respond is to admit guilt and claim that you'll never do it again. To be effective, you must follow Clinton fixer Lanny Davis's sage advice: "Say it early, say it all and say it yourself."

Be careful not to mix 2) and 3), as former White House chief of staff John Sununu (President G. H. W. Bush), did when accused of using a government limo to attend a stamp auction: "It's not true and I'll never do it again." That doesn't work very well.

4) The least effective but most popular means of responding, especially in politics, is to undermine the credibility of the accuser. And that's where our Biden - New York Post example comes into play.

Notice that no one has denied or countered the facts as presented in yesterday's New York Post story. No one has denied that the laptop in question was Hunter Biden's. No one has questioned or challenged the story of the computer repair shop owner (who probably is in fear of his life right now). No one has questioned or challenged the veracity or authorship of the emails thus far presented.

But the Washington Post came to the Biden's rescue with this story last night: "White House was warned Giuliani was the target of a Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation to Trump." The story, consistent with most other Post reporting, is based on anonymous sourcing, which often proves wrong or misleading. "Anonymous sources" is a topic for a future class on how news stories get published (or not), and how to gauge their veracity.

The story has nothing to do with Biden or his laptop or the foreign influence scandal involving the payment of millions of dollars to the Biden family from nefarious sources. It is about undermining the credibility of Rudy Guiliani - a former federal prosecutor who has put members of the Mafia behind bars - who shared the contents of the laptop with members of the media.

Good consumers of information are not diverted by such tactics that seek to undermine credibility in ways that are often unrelated to the real story. Only partisans looking for an excuse are. Don't be one of those partisans. They're intellectually lazy and uninteresting.

Remember, look for one of these strategies in responding to accusations: 1) Deny; 2) It's Not What You Think; 3) I'll Never Do It Again, and 4) "The person accusing me of that is a scoundrel!"

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Quick Observations on Competing Presidential Town Halls

 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.

What a complete contrast. The Biden town hall was civilized to near boredom. The mostly, almost exclusively, friendly questions, inquisitors, and the largely slow-moving format made for a love fest. The Trump town hall? Just the opposite.
From my perspective, Biden was most impressive in his detailed knowledge of converting chicken shit into pellets for fertilizer. As a former food and ag lobbyist, I was mesmerized. Since Delaware is home to a lot of broilers and, frankly, chicken shit, Biden's 36 years in the US Senate from our First State has served him well. He knows his shit.
Not a single question about his son's corrupt foreign financial dealings or how he may have benefited. The toughest question he got was on "court-packing," which again he refused to answer but - and here's news! - promised to answer after the ACB SCOTUS confirmation process has concluded. Breath, held.
Trump was barraged with a cavalcade of interruptions and hostile questions from the execrable, screeching Savannah Guthrie, making the program almost unwatchable. I was amazed by how patient Trump was with Guthrie's hostile questions, rude and disrespectful behavior, and obvious effort to make this more about her than the citizens in the audience, or the President. I realize putting the words "grace" and "Trump" in the same sentence seems bizarre, he demonstrated a lot of it during the entire hour.
ABC's town hall lasted 90 minutes; NBC's, 60 minutes.
Both should be considered corporate contributions to the Biden campaign.

Hi, Kids! Today's Lesson: "Pay to Play"

 Hi, kids! Welcome to civics class, and our series on corruption.

Let me introduce you to the term, "pay to play." It's been really popular for many years in places like New Jersey, but it can and has happened in governments all over the world. Even in the U.S., at the highest levels. Sometimes it just involves campaign contributions - invitations to events that happen to arrive the day after you lobby or make a request of an elected official.
Sometimes it involves much, much more.
Here's an example. A close family member trades his connection to a high-ranked government official for pay. In exchange, he makes introductions and intervenes on behalf of the special interest.
Often, the high-ranking government official is in on the con. They can indirectly get a cut of the deal, perhaps at some later time. That appears to have happened in the following example.
Usually, when the "payor" is a foreign entity with close ties to a foreign government, there's something called the Foreign Agents Registration Act, at least here in the US, that requires you to register that relationship with the federal government. Especially if you're trying to influence US officials - like your close family member. It becomes part of a transparent public record.
Oops! It looks like, in our example, someone forgot to register.
"Pay to play" ultimately means that government officials, directly or through an "agent," sell government policies and decisions to the highest bidder. When that bidder is a hostile foreign-controlled entity, that's a problem!
We'll be seeing and talking about this a lot more in the coming days. Your daily reading assignment will be follow-ups to this example in the New York Post, a newspaper in America's largest city with the nation's fourth-highest circulation.

Legalize Weed? Not So Fast. The Latest from Colorado

 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).



“Decriminalizing marijuana, in my experience after traveling all 67 counties across Pennsylvania, is a foregone conclusion,” Fetterman told the council in pre-recorded comments, adding that he encountered no statistically significant level of opposition in any of the counties.
While there's a case to be made for some decriminalization, legalization is the real goal here. And that's where Pennsylvania and other states could learn a thing a two because Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2013, has seen a thing or two. And focusing primarily on easing the impact on our criminal justice system completely ignores other consequences.
The Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area is a consortium of law enforcement agencies - federal, state, and local - that runs from the borders of Arizona and New Mexico to the Canadian border. Each year, they publish reports, using official data, to track the possible effects of legalization such things as traffic deaths and societal impacts, like suicides.
They just published their latest annual report. You can read the whole thing here. It is detailed and well documented, including providing data on population growth missing from past reports. Marijuana may not be the cause of some of these more alarming statistics, but the correlations are striking.
The graphs should give public officials some pause about how far public officials should go to legalize weed.
Of course, many politicians see dollar signs by legalizing marijuana. New Jersey got a little greedy a couple of years ago when they placed the tax so high that it turned off large segments of the population and legalization efforts failed, but it was just put on the ballot for the November election, and it's likely to pass.

Tax revenue from marijuana commercialization accounts for .85% of Colorado's budget. Are those dollars worth the consequences?

Monday, October 12, 2020

Did Debate Commission Provide a Galvanizing Moment?

 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

Ignore Calls to "Vote By Mail." The Case For Voting In Person

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.

I have a suggestion. If you want to make sure that your vote counts, securely as possible, vote in person. This is not rocket science.

Need a ride to your polling station? No problem. Scores of organizations and political parties will be glad to help you. Heck, if you live in zip code 19073, you can Facebook messenger me, no matter your party affiliation and voting preference, and I'll be honored to drive you to the polling station. Seriously. Unlike a Democratic friend told my wife recently - "don't vote" - I want everyone to be able to exercise their civic duty.

It's a fact that 37,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in our Commonwealth's primary election on June 2nd, which took several weeks to count due to overwhelmed county election offices. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes. More than 500,000 absentee ballots were rejected nationally in primary elections this year. I have personally experienced my ballot being rejected on one past occasion because it arrived "too late." I've also applied for an absentee ballot that never arrived. Not this election.

A majority of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court - each of whom is a popularly elected partisan - gave Democrats almost everything they wanted, from extended deadlines for the receipt of mail-in ballots (3 days after the election - some states provided even more time), allowing that signatures need not be included for verification purposes, and even requiring the counting of mail ballots days after the election but not postmarked. Since many Pennsylvania counties are now providing pre-paid return postage, the US Postal Service typically doesn't postmark those, according to Republicans on the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees. What could possibly go wrong?

There's one thing that Pennsylvania's Supreme Court didn't give Democrats - the ability to count "naked ballots." Those are ballots that are not placed in a security envelope that is then placed in the mailing envelope sent to county election officials. That, of course, is designed to protect your "secret" ballot. But the Commonwealth's law is so clear, even the court could not allow those to be counted. Of course, Democrats are upset and promise post-election chaos.

As good and prepared as the USPS may be, do not trust voting by mail unless you must, due to travel, or medical reasons. How about scores of "drop boxes" being installed, often subsidized by nonprofit organizations? At least federal law protects USPS mailboxes. Who regulates and monitors these privately-subsidized drop boxes? How will they enforce laws against "ballot harvesting" (collecting and depositing mail-in ballots on behalf of many people) at such boxes?

Some so-called election experts and the media claim, reflexively, that voter fraud is not "widespread." That's because they're not looking. Ballot fraud is hard to catch and harder to prosecute. But it does happen. The Heritage Foundation has chronicled over 1,200 cases of voter fraud in recent years across the United States. And they call that a "sampling."

And for the record, primary elections in WI and MA, among other states, demonstrate that there is no evidence of COVID spread from voting in person.

If you do not vote, there is a chance your vote could be cast by others. It happens. Why do you think hundreds of people who've been dead since 2004 are still voting in places like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago? The opportunities to cheat are enormous. In all, there are nearly 350,000 deceased persons still on voter rolls in 42 states and thousands of them have voted, according to this new study.

Even though one of our sons is registered in Colorado, he's still showing up (and receiving mail) as registered in PA (PA's fault for failing to follow Sec. 8 of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act). I could literally show up and vote for him if I wanted to cheat. For the record, I will NOT do that.

It reminds me of something the late, great Governor of New Jersey, Brendan Byrne, once said. "When I die, I want to be buried in Hudson County, so I can remain active in politics." This is not a new phenomenon.

Vote in person, no matter your party or preference. Please.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Interview with Dr. Robert Mather

 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).

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Kelly Johnston, 28th Secretary of the United States Senate

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

On the Passing of Notorios RBG - Her Record, and What Happens Next

I’m combining a couple of posts here: one on my very non-political tribute to the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, then a link to a podcast I just recorded with pal Chris Stigall, that also featured noted townhall.com columnist and podcaster/broadcaster Kurt Schlichter. 

Like many Americans, I mourn the loss and pay tribute to the life and accomplishments of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a few days, I will share thoughts on the Senate and politics going forward, but this is no time for that. 

I know many of you saw, as my wife and I did, “On the Basis of Sex,” the biopic on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We may watch it again. So should you. It is a terrific movie.

Pondering her legacy, I revisited the story of the law case that made her famous, especially since she had no prior courtroom experience. While I loath Wikipedia, their description of her landmark case is worth repeating, below. It beats anything she did on the Supreme Court, where I find her legacy a bit less attractive. I’ll leave it at that.

Consider, she helped a man overcome a sexually discriminating tax case in the 10th Circuit (Colorado). Posted below:

“In 1970, Martin Ginsberg (Ruth’s husband) brings Moritz v. Commissioner, a tax law case, to Ruth's attention. Charles Moritz is a man from Denver who had to hire a nurse to help him care for his aging mother so he could continue to work. Moritz was denied a tax deduction for the nursing care because at the time Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code specifically limited the deduction to "a woman, a widower or divorcĂ©e, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized". 

“The court ruled that Moritz, a man who had never married, did not qualify for the deduction. Ruth sees in this case an opportunity to begin to challenge the many laws enacted over the years that assume that men will work to provide for the family, and women will stay home and take care of the husband and children. She believes that if she could set a precedent ruling that a man was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex, that precedent could be cited in cases challenging laws that discriminate against women—and she believes that an appellate court composed entirely of male judges would find it easier to identify with a male appellant.

“Ruth meets with Mel Wulf of the ACLU to try to enlist their help, but he turns her down. Ruth flies to Denver to meet with Moritz, who agrees to let the Ginsburgs and ACLU represent him pro bono after Ruth convinces him that millions of people could potentially benefit. After reading the draft of the brief, Dorothy Kenyon, who was cold to the idea at first, meets with Wulf in his office and convinces him to sign on. The Ginsburgs and Wulf file an appeal of Moritz's denial with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Department of Justice Attorney James H. Bozarth asks to be the lead counsel for the defense. He does a computer search to find all of the sections of the US Code that deal with gender. His defense will contend that, if section 214 is ruled unconstitutional, that will open the door to challenge all of America's gender-based laws. Ruth, having no courtroom experience, does poorly in a moot court, and Wulf convinces her to let Martin lead off arguing the tax law, with Ruth following up with equal protection arguments.”

She won. The rest, as they say, is history. RIP, RBG.

On a related note, my friend Chris Stigall is one of the most agile podcasters I know (and I know so many!). He is one of the nation’s top political podcasters and broadcasts live both on WNTP 990 (a Salem station) in Philly every weekday morning and, soon, his former station, KMCO (Cumulus), in his native Kansas City. 

He reached out tonight to include me along with the legendary Kurt Schlichter to discuss the ramifications of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing. I am reluctant to discuss the politics so soon after her passing (hours!) - bad manners - but since I’ve gone public, perhaps a few of you may find interesting my ruminating (some would say, ruminents) on the machinations that may be likely at work in the US Senate, where I have a little experience. I have no inside inside knowledge of the real “Game of Thrones” underway in the Senate as we speak. Speculative, on my part.

Enjoy at your leisure. And you really should subscribe to Chris’s podcast on iTunes. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Bad Week for a Fair Election in Pennsylvania

 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.

First, the State Supreme Court, popularly elected in partisan elections and sporting a 5-2 Democratic majority, unilaterally rewrote state election law and dictated that mail-in ballots may be received 3 days after the election, so long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3rd, which of course is election day.

Second, they bought the arguments of establishment Democrats and struck the Green Party's presidential nominee from the ballot. In 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein captured 49,000 votes; Trump won the state's electoral votes by a 44,000 vote margin. It is not hard to figure out why Democrats wanted to eliminate that choice for Pennsylvania's voters.
In and of themselves, none of these actions seem unreasonable. If the Green Party failed to meet ballot qualifications, they shouldn't be allowed on the ballot. Fair enough. And the signature issue may depend on whether counties simply put these ballots aside and give voters a chance to correct or defend their signatures, as many other states do. I'm fine with that.
But let me tell how you this might work. Just this week, we received a slick mailing at our home from the Republican Party. It was an absentee ballot application mailed to our youngest son, who hasn't lived or voted here for 4 years and is in fact registered in Colorado.
Other than the fact that I am an ethical person who wishes not to skirt the law, I can now forge Garrett's signature on the application, the subsequent ballot, and know that his ballot may not only be counted but can't be discarded without some contact with us to ensure that it is his ballot. That of course would not only be wrong, but illegal. We will not do it. But see how this works? Further, if counties are overwhelmed with mail ballots, are they equipped to contact voters, one by one, to allow them to address the signature issue? Maybe in rural "red" counties, but probably not here in blue Delaware or Montgomery Counties.
The Republican state chairman, Lawrence Tabas, reported recently that he received not one but three ballots, mailed to his Philadelphia home when applying for an absentee ballot. Philadelphia, of course, is a very blue city. Pennsylvania's voter rolls are a mess, and quite possibly in violation of the National Voter Registration Act's Section 8 on maintaining voter roll integrity. No matter to the courts here in Pennsylvania.
As for the first issue - allowing ballots to be received 3 days AFTER the election, you can imagine how mail-in ballots will be tracked by both parties, via county courthouses, up to and through election day. Would you be surprised to learn of mail ballots that suddenly appear on Nov. 6th but lacked the postmark because of a postal "error?" You can hear the plaintiffs before the judge now: "these voters (?) should not be disenfranchised because of the mistakes of the US Postal Service." Expect Louis DeJoy's name to be evoked. You know it is coming. We will never know why these ballots were not postmarked - if, of course, they ever made it to the Postal Service (get my point?).
And, of course, what if the counties can't keep up with processing because of the overwhelming number of mail ballots? It happened during the June 2nd primary, where the Governor extended the deadline for receipt of the ballot to several more days after the election (again, assuming the postmark by election day.
Here's my bottom line. If Trump doesn't win Pennsylvania on election day by at least 100,000 votes, The Democrats will find a way to juice the vote by mail system to turn the tide - you know, the "Red Mirage" theory. That is why they want to delay counting mail ballots - to see how many they need. That is why they are placing, perhaps illegally, "drop boxes" that are unregulated, compared to USPS boxes, which are protected by federal law. That is why they don't want to have ballots inconvenienced by voting officials checking to make sure signatures are verified. They know what they're doing. They've done it before.
Fortunately, Trump doesn't need Pennsylvania to win the Electoral College, but that would give him no margin for error elsewhere.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What’s Really Going On With the Bob Woodward - Donald Trump “Interview” (Hint: Book Sales)

 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.