Politics Can’t Split These Sisters!

This is the kind of story we need to see in these tumultuous political times.

On Fox and Friends (believe it or not)…there was an interview with two Michigan sisters who are running for commissioners seats (in separate districts) in Kent County.

They are identical twins..but not in their politics.

Jessica Ann Tyson is a Republican.  Monica Sparks is a Democrat.  They sat down together for an interview to talk about how their ideologies will not break their extraordinarily strong sisterly bond.

With all the partisan differences we see every day in our political discourse, this is the kind of story that gives a bit of hope that no matter what side of the aisle we fall on,  there is more that unites us then divides us.

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That’s What He (Allegedly) Said.

Most of you have heard about it by now.

I was taking time off when it happened.  A good buddy of mine suggested putting some thoughts on it in this space.  (Thanks, Jim)

In discussions about immigration to the United State, President Donald Trump is reported by the Washington Post to have said this in reference to people from Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries:

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

One line.  One thought.  One question.  One HUGE topic of discussion.

For us in the media world…this proved to be a great dilemma.

We have always practiced this rule..whether written or unwritten:  NEVER edit comments that are directly attributable to the President of the United States.

That means every “um”, every “uh” every coughing fit and pregnant pause stays in if encased in an important presidential quote.  But does that..and should that..include foul language?

With I’m sure a great deal of thought given to potential Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fines, here’s how the networks handled it..according to the Washington Post which broke the story.

NBC and its cable outlet MSNBC used the word..spoken on the air (after a disclaimer) and in graphics.  CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta did as well..although many of that cable network’s anchors opted for the watered-down “S-hole”.  CNN also used the unedited word in its on-screen graphics.  ABC and CBS opted to use “blank” instead of the ‘S–t” part of the word.  Fox News used an asterisk to replace the first vowel in the expletive.  However..one Fox host on one of the network’s panel shows was quoted as interpreting it this way:

“If it’s true, this is how the forgotten men and women in America talk at the bar.   This is how Trump relates to people. If you’re at a bar, and you’re from Wisconsin, and you’re thinking, ‘They’re bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorans, or people from Niger.’  This is how some people talk.”

That may be true…but the President of the United States is not at “a bar”.

The President of the United States is not one of “the forgotten men and women in America”.

The President is on the world stage, and should carry himself as being so.

This is all evidence that…one year into it…we are witnessing a presidency unlike no other.   You really didn’t need me to tell you that.

If it looks that way to us, imagine how wide the eyes of the world must be right now.

The President was also reported to have asked why can’t we have more people come here from places like Norway.

Maybe this episode…is why they’re staying home.

 

Two Days in Birmingham

Ten months after the presidential election, it’s time to start talking politics again. It’s on a much less grand scale. However, some will argue it may be of equal political importance.

That‘s what took me to Birmingham, Alabama.

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When Jeff Sessions became the U.S. attorney general, he vacated his Alabama senate seat. That state’s attorney general, Luther Strange, was appointed to fill it – albeit temporarily. This was his chance to campaign to keep it. He wound up in a Republican runoff with the state’s former Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore – infamous for his battles over the public displays of the Ten Commandments.

Strange’s quest to continue to serve beyond the end of the year was denied by Moore.  Alabamans gave Moore a 10-percentage-point victory – even as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence backed Strange. Below is a shot of Strange delivering his concession speech.

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Judge Moore moves on now to face Democrat – and former U.S. attorney Doug Jones who is known for the civil rights prosecution of the people behind a deadly Alabama church bombing. Early handicapping has Moore with a slight lead.

Look for a lot of money to be spent on this race – from inside and outside Alabama. Remember…the the U.S. Senate is majority Republican – but only by a 52-48 margin. If Democrats can steal this seat…a shift in chamber control is well within reach.

As I do at every stop, I try to find some time to look around. Birmingham is a sprawling city with a noticeable commercial, government and university presence. It’s also steeped in civil rights history (e.g. MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail). But all that is modern does surround some gems like this theater downtown.

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Needless to say — wherever you go — there is some trace of ‘Bama…or…Auburn…or even the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Thank goodness I didn’t wear any Clemson orange. That would NOT have gone over well.

Needless to say, this race garnering national attention is a signal that the first political dominoes of the 2018 mid-term election season are teetering.

Will they stand or fall?  Stay tuned.

Everybody Into the ‘Pool’

After 31 years of broadcasting, I can add another (recurring) title to my resume:

Pool Reporter.

During President Trump’s 17-day “working vacation” — split between Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ; Trump Tower in New York City and the White House — I got to be in the rotation to be the radio reporter on the ground that fed information to all the other radio outlets.  It’s exhausting..yet interesting at the same time.

August 8th was my first ever ‘pool’ day.  That was the day — during what was to be a brief photo opportunity for the President and his advisors to discuss America’s opioid crisis — when a fellow pool reporter fired off a question about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s threat to fire missiles toward the U.S. territory of Guam.

As you know by now..this was President Trump’s response.

I was standing across the table and to the President’s right when he said it.  Not many people were discussing opioids after that.

My second day as pool reporter — a lot less eventful.  I was in New York City on August 14th…but the President was not for most of the day.  He was in D.C. doing some level of damage control..after not condemning specific hate groups for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, VA the weekend prior.   The President strengthened his condemnation on Monday..but only after sound criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

My third and final pool-reporting day was Thursday the 17th..back out near Bedminster.   This was two days following what some have described as his Trump Tower “meltdown” with the media.  He did not speak to the media at all on his final day..and understandably so.

But some of his fellow Republicans talked about him.

They include South Carolina Republican senator Tim Scott who said the President lacked the “moral authority” his office requires.  Senator Scott’s comment to VICE News was:

“I’m not going to defend the indefensible…[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”

Tennessee GOP senator Bob Corker — in his comments below (courtesy of the Associated Press) — went further.

The ouster of White House Strategist Steve Bannon on Friday (8/18) only adds to the comparison that some have made dubbing this White House — ‘Survivor: D.C. Swamp’.

As exhausting and — at times — unpredictable as it was, I enjoyed my pool reporter experience.  It does still leave me to wonder how the White House Press Corps in Washington does this day after day…

After day…

After day.

When Did We Lose Total Control?

So far…I’ve resisted using this space as a sounding board for the — shall we say — strangeness coming out of the White House.

That ends now.

What in the blue hell is going on??!!

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We are not long past 100 days of the Donald Trump presidency and what we’ve seen are a laundry list of executive orders, a massive fight between the parties on several issues, bombshell firings, a press secretary hiding in the bushes and more Trump tweets than we care to see.

Oh..and let’s not forget — very little actual governing.

The recent dismissal of James Comey as director of the FBI sent shock waves through Washington.  So much so that even members of the president’s own party were left scratching their heads.    The White House isn’t even on the same page about it.   The president’s communications staff told the press that the firing came on a recommendation from the Justice Department.  Yet, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, President Trump said — recommendation or no — he was going to fire Comey anyway.

Which is it?

It’s because Comey didn’t throw himself on the sword for the president during a congressional hearing.  President Trump says Comey told him three times that the president was not under investigation for Russian connections.  One of those times was reportedly during a dinner..when the question was asked of Comey directly.  That’s seen as inappropriate contact on an investigative matter.

It so far stands to reason that if you dare cross this president..bad things will come to you — even if you happen to be the guy (Comey) who was in charge of the probe into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.  However, a tweet from Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman during the Obama Administration may be a harbinger of things to come.

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As my wife says…using improper English for emphasis:  “It only gets ‘gooder’ from here.”

And the president’s cabinet is feeling a lot of the backlash.  Case in point: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempt to deliver the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach.

The image of the building below has long been a hallmark of a strong and stable republic.

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If we are not careful..the image we will present to the world, thanks to the doings of one man, will forever tarnish that perception.  It’s not what America needs in a very uncertain world.

The 2016 Democratic National Convention: A Look Back

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So, my first in-person political convention experience was …well..and experience.   But it was a good one.  For years I have watched on TV what the networks have been willing to show in prime time.   To be at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia was an enlightening look into the inner workings of a combination of political power, star power and enthused supporters — be they for HiIlary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

There were several moments that did stand out for me during FOX’s coverage of the Democrats.

I was assigned as the street reporter.  So I spent much of my time trudging the streets of Center City Philly (in about 97 degree heat) tracking protesters.  In other words..chasing around Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

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Also, there were the top flight speakers.  Of course Hillary Clinton’s and Tim Kaine’s acceptances of their respective nominations and President Obama’s impassioned plea to people who voiced their displeasure with Donald Trump saying ,”Don’t boo.  Vote!”  however, the two best speeches in my opinion were from First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  You’ll find them below.

But to me…the best moment came Tuesday night during the roll call vote that officially nominated Hillary Clinton — but it wasn’t about her.   In the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, it was a moment of brotherly love that got everyone choked up when Bernie Sanders’ older brother Larry cast delegates from Democrats Abroad for Bernie.

It was a great experience.  Now come the presidential debates.

Will Hillary Clinton rise past her haunting email troubles?

Will Donald Trump even show up to debate?

Tune in next time.

The 2016 Republican National Convention: Top Tweets

Really..there are too many good ones to mention.  However, here are three Twitter offerings among them that stand out. We’ll work our way backwards.

From the final night of the convention, GOP nominee Donald Trump during his speech uttered the phrase “I am your voice!”  Republican pollster Frank Luntz couldn’t resist the Star Wars reference..

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On night three, when Ted Cruz hijacked the convention by not endorsing the Trumpster, Francis Maxwell took to twitter to comment.

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And I couldn’t do this quick post without this take from night one…and perhaps the moment of the whole four-night event.

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Of course..in the interest of equal time..we’ll do this again with the Democrats and Hillary Clinton as the focus.

You gotta love the political season.  So much fodder…so little time.