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.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, running for reelection and a Ph.D. historian, has proposed something I’ve been supporting for awhile now - repealing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment, which provided for the direct election of US Senators, was one of several “progressive era” Constitutional amendments, adopted in short order, a bit more than 100 years ago. Most people, I’ve discovered, have no idea that Senators where once chosen not by popular election, but by state legislatures.
The 16th Amendment instituted the income tax. The 18th Amendment instituted the prohibition of alcohol. Big winners there, all three (the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, so there’s that). As for his other suggestions in his Wall Street Journal article, I’ll pass on them for now (not a fan of ending standing committees, and broadcasting proceedings, despite its flaws, is welcome transparency).
I get why Congress and most states adopted the 17th Amendment. Previously, Article I of the Constitution provided that state legislatures chose US Senators. But the inability of state legislatures to agree on a Senator created a constant vacancies, as documented by the Senate’s Historical Office here:
“(The framers) expected that senators elected by state legislatures would be freed from pressures of public opinion and therefore better able to concentrate on legislative business and serve the needs of each state. In essence, senators would serve as “states’ ambassadors” to the federal government. Unfortunately, problems with this system soon arose, particularly when state legislators failed to agree on a Senate candidate, causing frequent Senate vacancies. By 1826 proposals for direct election of senators began appearing, but it took reformers nearly a century to achieve this constitutional change.”
How has that worked out? The states picked some pretty good Senators prior to the 17th Amendment. Daniel Webster (R-NH); Henry Clay (Whig, KY); Charles Sumner (R-MA); Steven Douglas (D-IL); and future President Andrew Johnson (D-TN), among other famous (and now infamous) Senators.
And people would still campaign for the job. Remember the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate? Their electorate was the Illinois State Legislature as Douglas’s 6 year term came to end, and he sought reelection. The selection of Senators was, frequently, very public business.
The problems leading to vacancies should be able to be fixed with state legislation proscribing how Senators are chosen. State legislatures (and legislators) are not what they used to be. Legislatures with split partisan control would be a problem, but that can fixed by having a Senator from each major party (or, an independent).
The advantages would mostly center around restoring the role of the states in the governance of our nation. As Ronald Reagan famously stated in his 1981 inaugural address, the states created the federal government, not the other way around. So much state authority and responsibility has seriously eroded over time, as we’ve seen with the near neutering of the 9th and 10th Amendments (although they’ve certainly found their footing during the coronavirus epidemic, often excessively). And Senators would not need to spend all their time fundraising for multi-million dollar political campaigns. They could actually, you know, have more time to do their real job.
Of course, none of this going to happen soon, and you can bet Democrats will oppose it since 60% (or, 59) of the state legislative chambers are controlled by Republicans. Nebraska’s unicameral legislature is non-partisan.
But let the debate begin. We all have a lot to learn and repair, because the Senate is truly dysfunctional, and with the inevitable termination of the filibuster in future years, it will have truly lost its organizational purpose.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, one of the original 13 colonies, has its shortcomings and challenges. But one of its greatest attributes is its wonderful series of township, county and state parks. They are remarkably abundant where we live here in southeastern PA, both in Delaware and Chester Counties (and I know that Montgomery and Bucks County are equally blessed), despite being a heavily populated area.
Over this wonderful Labor Day weekend, my much better half and I explored two parks we’ve never visited. The Willows, a Radnor Township park about 5 miles from our house, and ChesLen Preserve, a 1,200 acre privately owned but publicly accessible (no entrance fee, as they charge for nearly EVERYTHING in Delaware) in western Chester County (between Marshalton and Longwood Gardens, for those who know the area).
The Willows is a fantastic park. The first photos below come from that great facility. We found ourselves lost and wandered through a couple of beautiful neighborhoods in a tony section of the Main Line (St. Davids), and had to make our way past an old bridge under reconstruction along Darby Creek. But worth it.
ChesLen is interesting. Not as enjoyable, since it is mostly a corn, soybean, and hay farm adjacent to the West Branch of the Brandywine River, kind of like walking through Iowa (with more hills), but nonetheless a treasure of the area. We chose not to visit the “Stargazing Stone” used by the a couple of gentlemen named Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (you know, The Line) to do boundary work. So much history. And it was the site of a “poorhouse” for indigent children and adults, when it was established in 1798, which signaled a massive improvement over the way these people were treated - and previously abused - by society. There’s a “potters field” where many of them were buried, “known only to God.”
I was surprised to discover that this land was used by the owners of the legendary King Ranch in southern Texas to fatten up short-horn cross breeds on the lush fields of the area.
And after 18 years here, we have many more parks yet to explore. And I marvel at the life-time residents of this area (which are legion) who are blissfully unaware of, and have never visited, these beautiful and historic jems. So much we should learn from history, and it’s easily accessible.
I only regret that more of our friends haven’t made our way here to explore this region with us. There’s not much like this in overcrowded and overdeveloped northern Virginia.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
The usual suspects are outraged over the President’s off-the-cuff suggestion in North Carolina this week that “vote by mail” voters also show up at their polling place on Election Day to make sure their vote is actually counted.
Of course, the usual suspects are yelling (literally) that Trump is encouraging people to “vote twice,” which of course is illegal.
Here’s what this poorly researched and written story misses, especially here in PA. But chances are your state’s law is relatively similar (unless you’re in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada or another genuinely “vote by mail” state, where you cannot “vote in person”).
I have voted absentee here in PA all but twice in my now 18 years of residency. After all, I have been out of the state on Election Day every time, either in NJ, and a few times in Canada or Washington, DC.
So I know the process very well. I mail my application (now available easily on line, but both major parties do a nice job of sending absentee ballot applications, and I’ve already received one from the Pennsylvania GOP). A couple of weeks before the election, the ballot arrives (it now arrives much earlier, thanks to recent changes in the law), with all kinds of instructions, the envelope into which I place my ballot, and the other, larger envelope into which I stuff my envelope-containing ballot. I sign the outside of the envelope so the local officials can compare my signature with the one on file (an integrity procedure that many Democrats in PA are trying to get rid of. I can only imagine why).
The instructions state this very clearly (I paraphrase): even if you vote by absentee, you must vote in person if you are able, on Election Day. That law/requirement has not changed. That’s because here, mail-in ballots are returned to your precinct. If you show up on Election Day after voting by mail - as I did once - they immediately pull your ballot and destroy it (no, I wasn’t trying to vote twice).
It has been long-standing policy, at least here in PA, to strongly encourage voting in person. And it makes sense. Now, of course, our Democratic governor and his sycophants in the legislature are pushing to begin counting mail ballots several days before Election Day, and permit ballots to arrive several days after the election. It doesn’t take a genius to see how this invites mistakes if not fraud (voting twice, etc.).
The biggest reason for voting on Election Day is, of course, ensuring the integrity of your ballot. Ballots are lost in the mail (about 1.5% every election) and several hundred thousand primary ballots just this year have been rejected, usually by voters who fail to follow instructions (such as failing to place the ballot in the “secret” envelope, making illegal marks on the ballot, or failing to sign the outside mailing envelope where required). Another reason: how many times have last minute issues - like October debates - changed your awareness and perhaps your vote? I realize few if any votes will be changed this election, but do you really want to foreclose that opportunity, given how fast moving and developing these issues arise?
So, I have soured on voting by mail, at least in this election. Again, the issue isn’t necessarily the US Postal Service (based on Federal Election Assistance Administration data, some 28 million ballots have been lost “in the mail” nationally in the past four federal elections), but poorly maintained voter rolls by states, including PA, NJ and many others, who probably haven’t fully complied with Sec. 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 on voter roll maintenance. In addition, as we saw in PA during our primary election on June 5th, local election boards are easily overwhelmed and may not be prepared for a deluge of mail ballots. Do you really want to take that chance?
After all, aren’t most of you working from home these days?
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
The debate over voter fraud, or the potential for it from increasing reliance on "vote by mail" (where you're mailed a ballot you didn't ask for) and "absentee ballots" (where you requested a ballot to be mailed to your home, work, or elsewhere), is highly relevant for the Nov. 3rd election.