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.

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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.

ComeyTweet

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.

Who Says You Can’t Find Love…Through Politics!

And so it begins.

If you were wondering what the first effect of a possible Donald Trump presidency would be…look no further than the dating world.

Introducing:  MapleMatch.com!

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A co-worker of mine pointed me to the website…which I understand started out as a joke, but quickly earned legitimacy.  Under the (fairly obvious) tagline of “Make Dating Great Again”,  the site has a very specific mission statement:

“Maple Match makes it easy for Americans to find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.”

Funny!

The Washington Post article about the site reports — as of Monday (5/9) — the site registered more than 35,000 hits and 4,500 sign ups in just FOUR DAYS!     That’s some hard-core paranoia.

I’ve often said I hope there’s someone tracking any spikes in U.S. passport applications ahead of a possible Trump victory in the general election.   It will be interesting to see if an exodus — of any kind– could really happen.   As for opinions on what nations around the world think of a Trump White House, the Discovery Channel offering Test Tube gives us a decent overview.

We are just two months (at this writing) out from the conventions.   With the still-raging dogfight on the Democratic side and the GOP drama,  the national political gatherings in Philadelphia and Cleveland respectively will truly be (with apologies to NBC) Must See TV.

 

Campaign 2016: Feeling The ‘Bern’ In Vermont

The whole time I was in Burlington, Vermont (okay..three days), I couldn’t get out of my head the opening to the CBS series ‘Newhart’..which was set in the Green Mountain State.

 I was sent there to cover the phenomenon that is Bernie Sanders as the ‘Super Tuesday’ contests played out.  Of the 11 contests decided, Sanders won four: Vermont (of course), Minnesota, Coloraqdo and Oklahome.   I know what you’re thinking.  Four out of 11 contests won?  Not a good percentage.   I look at it from the baseball point of view.  Only in baseball can you FAIL seven out of every 10 times at bat over a career.(.300)..and go to the Hall of Fame.

Four out of 11 is actually a better percentage (.364).   Sanders’ supporters were there in big numbers to celebrate.

Sanders

I was told before I left that Burlington is beautiful.   I got a sense of that even before I got out of the airport.

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Downtown Burlington also gives you a pretty good look at the mountains and just how pretty it is.  The view can make you forget how cold it can get here.

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I can’t forget the obligatory food shot.  First night’s dinner: Meat Loaf and mashed potatoes.  As you can see..I couldn’t wait to start eating.

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And..can you leave Vermont without this?

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My brief takeaway from this trip — which was my first time covering Bernie Sanders — was the kids who support him.  They show up in droves.  What is it about the older candidates that attracts the youth?  Remember..Ron Paul pulled that off four years ago in the hot second he was in the race.   Maybe it’s a grandfatherly thing.

Bernie likely won’t win the nomination.   But at this rate…his points will be made, and his supporters heard (loud and clear) at the Democratic National Convention in late July in Philadelphia.  There is still a long way to go before we get to that point.

The numbers continue to dwindle on the GOP side with Dr. Ben Carson saying he sees “no way forward” politically.  Also..we’ve seen a sign that New Jersey governor Chris Christie may be revisiting…no…rethinking…no…lamenting his decision to back GOP front runner Donald Trump.   The expression says it all.

christiePhoto courtesy The Daily Show

Stand by, folks.  It only gets more interesting from here.

I don’t know about you..but all of a sudden, I’m craving pancakes.

Campaign 2016: Rock Solid In The ‘Granite State’

Welcome to New Hampshire — the first primary state (and that’s not redundant).

I spent five days in the Granite State as part of FOX News Radio’s coverage of the ‘first-in-the-nation’ primary.  Starting with the ABC News Republican Debate on Saturday February 6th.

Republican U.S. presidential candidates discuss an issue at the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by ABC News at Saint Anselm College in Manchester

Courtesy: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Saint Anselm College in Manchester hosted the debate.  It reminds me of my near and dear College of Charleston –only covered in snow.

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Saint Anselm bills itself (according to its website) as a ‘Catholic Benedictine liberal arts college’.  It also has one heckuva reputation as a leader in political science.  In fact..I do believe it is the only place this political cycle that has hosted both a Democratic and a Republican debate.  You can learn mere about Saint Anselm by clicking here.

That of course set up Primary Night on the 9th.  Several other FOX News Radio reporters and I were spread out with the campaigns to watch the returns.  I ended up with Ted Cruz –who did reasonably well.  We are all however a bit jealous of my colleague Tonya J Powers — who’s been assigned to the eventual winners of both contests thus far (Cruz in Iowa and Donald Trump in N.H.)  By the way, Bernie Sanders (as expected) won the Democratic primary.

Manchester itself is a nice little city.  Some modern buildings but much of it still reflective of the past.  Take for example this shot of city hall..

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..and a strip of Main Street stores.

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The food isn’t bad either.  Check out the Fish and Chips I had at the British Beer Company.

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I’m glad I got a chance to take this trip to an area that is unfamiliar.  I find it gives an insight as to how values change in different parts fo the country.  I expect that’s why candidates must sharpen their message as they tour the nation on their way (possibly) to the presidency.  It’s in those places that you see what people are passionate about and how strong their beliefs are — whether those beliefs are their own, or long held through family ties.

That’s what’s exciting to me about this election and  being able to go different places to cover it.  You don’t really realize how sheltered you are from other points of view until you have the ability to get out there among the people.

So Iowa and New Hampshire down…and so many other states to go.  The ‘Road to the White House’ is just beginning..

 

 

 

Let’s Change The Debate..By Changing The Debates

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It’s getting to be that time again.

Next month, the first of many Republican debates will take place in Cleveland.  This first debate (to be produced by FOX News) will only allow the top 10 declared GOP candidates (according to the preference polls) on the stage.   The rest..well..better luck next time.  There are projected to be 16 total Republicans vying for the nomination.

Is it really fair to exclude some of the contenders though?

That’s when a couple of co-workers (thanks Lucy and Tonya) and I got to thinking.

In 2012..there were 20 total GOP primary debates.  20!

We can get that down to 15 with one simple word.    BRACKETS!    Hear me out.

The contests would be one-on-one debates — winner moves on..loser goes home.   Panels of undecided voters would use audience reaction meters to choose a winner.

For simplicity’s sake I’ll use the latest FOX News poll as of this writing to seed the contenders.   For candidates that are tied, they’ll be ranked according to the order they entered the race.   For those that haven’t announced (that aren’t already in the top 10) they’ll be ranked for when they plan to get into the race.

That being said..here’s how the Republican Debate Bracket would set up:

(1) Jeb Bush vs (16) Lindsay Graham

(8) Carly Fiorina vs (9) Ted Cruz

(5) Scott Walker vs (12) Bobby Jindal

(4) Rand Paul vs (13) Chris Christie

(6) Marco Rubio vs (11) Rick Perry

(3) Ben Carson vs (14) John Kasich

(7) Mike Huckabee vs (10) Rick Santorum

(2) Donald Trump vs (15) George Pataki

In a perfect world..a new poll would come out after each round…and the remaining candidates would be re-seeded.   In this format, no one candidate would compete in more than four debates.  Trust me..the repetition can get boring.

Some thoughts on a few of the matchups:

Walker vs. Jindal:  A battle of sitting governors who believe they are ready for the next level of chief executive-ness.

Paul vs. Christie:  The snarkiness on both sides would be quite entertaining.

Trump vs. Pataki:  The New York factor alone would make this worth watching.

Look..I know this would never happen — but it’s a fun scenario to think about.  I’d be interested in your thoughts — tongue-in-cheek or otherwise.

 

 

 

A Tragic Turn

 

Keith Crisco  1943 - 2014

Keith Crisco
1943 – 2014

Sometimes in the world of news, things happen that you never expect.   Monday, Keith Crisco died.

You may not have known him personally or otherwise..but if you’ve followed North Carolina politics in the last few weeks, you’ve heard his name a few times.  He was the former state Commerce secretary and Asheboro businessman who was in a virtual tie with former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken for the Democratic nod in the 2nd Congressional district race.  Crisco trailed Aiken by fewer than 400 votes.

From what we know now, Crisco fell at his Asheboro home and passed away from those injuries.

Aiken released a statement saying he was “proud to have known him.”   Aiken has temporarily suspended campaigning in light of the tragic turn.

Crisco died the day before 2nd district ballots were to be officially counted.  That count confirmed what we knew to be true.  Aiken won the Democratic primary by one percentage point and will face GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers in November.

The other facts of this story are..quite frankly..irrelevant.

I’ve run into several people in the last day or so who have said in some form or another that you never know when it’s your time.

Looking beyond the mask of politics, the lesson is to enjoy the people you love while you have them.  Don’t let those last words be spoken in anger..or a simple grunt goodbye in the morning.   My father always says, “give people their flowers while they live..not after they’re gone.”   That’s something many of us can do a little..or a lot better.

Keith Crisco was 71 years old.