Archive for November, 2011

Newt, Elvis, and Me

November 28, 2011

Of all of  the candidates in the Republican presidential primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only one I have met.  I interviewed him a number of times when I was working as a broadcast journalist.   The fact that, even though I was rarely on the same page politically with him, I was fair when interviewing him was evidenced the last time I interviewed him.  When he was still Speaker of the U.S. House, before he got caught  in his marital hypocrisy which revealed he was conducting an adultrous affair at the same time he was working to impeach President Clinton for doing the same thing, and before he had to pay a $300,000 fine for alleged House ethics violations, and eventually was forced to resign from Congress, he came to Columbus for some event.

When WTVM News requested a live 6 p.m. news interview with him, I was told that he would do it if I conducted the interview.  Seems my good Republican friend – I even voted for  him – Mac Collins, who was Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District representative at the time, had suggested that to Newt.  Anyway, I did interview him live that evening.  I was on the news set at the studio and he was at  the Trade Center.  It was one of those split-screen set ups.

I don’t recall  any of  the content of the interview so he must have basically  behaved himself and wasn’t in his nasty mode.  He can turn that on and off.  I do remember a little of what he said when I went up to Washington to interview him not long after he had become Speaker of the House.  I threw some soft-ball  questions to him about what it was like to be Speaker of the House, but eventually got around to the meaty stuff, things like, Why were the Republicans trying to cut school lunch money for the needy?  He said that charge by Democrats was misleading, that they were not trying to cut the school lunch  budget, just an increase in it.

The reason I decided to ask WTVM to pony up the money for a flight to Washington for me and my photographer was that when a Georgian reaches a position of that national importance, we needed to interview him in that environment.  Not only did WTVM do that, it made a deal with CNN for me to use their facilities to feed back a live report from D.C. to Columbus on the 6 p.m. news.  I also taped interviews with Rep. Mack Collins and my Democratic Party friend Rep. Sanford Bishop of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Columbus.  (Mack liked Sanford, and said his only problem was he was a Democrat and he should switch parties, and later, according to Sanford, even asked him to do it, but Sanford said he couldn’t do that.) After the taped interviews, both of them had said they would try to show up for the live shot that night, but neither did. Seems they had to stick around the House for a vote.  That  meant that, at the last minute, I realized I had to, as we said in the business, tap dance by myself.  I was glad I managed to get through the ad-libbing without hyperventilating.  We ran the taped interviews with all three of them over the  next few days when I got back to Columbus.

I also remember the time I interviewed Newt at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in 1988.  That was the one when President George H. W. Bush made the ‘No new taxes!” pledge.  The fact that turned out to be an empty promise helped Bill Clinton beat him in Bush’s reelection bid.   My crew and I stayed at  the same hotel as the Georgia delegation, which included Newt.  I remember that he spotted me in the lobby the first night we were there and yelled hello.  The next day as we were walking to the  Superdome where the convention was being held,  I spotted him walking very fast behind  us. As he caught up with us, I told him I wanted an interview, and he said, as best as I can recall, “All right, but it’ll have to be later. I’m in a hurry right now because ABC wants to interview me.” That was understandable.  The WTVM audience was certainly no match in size for ABC’s.  He did, as he said he would, give me an interview later.

Now, he’s back in the  national spotlight big time.  Can he possibly get the nomination  and be elected with all  of  the political and personal baggage he is carrying?  At first blush,  my answer is certainly not.  But, in politics you just never really know.  As one famous movie producer, whose name I can’t remember, said, You should never overestimate the American public.  That is so true. Just think of some of the people who have been elected President.  Which reminds me, I just saw a really entertaining movie called Elvis Meets Nixon. It was so funny, and, as Dick Cavvitt said, “for the most part, true,” that I watched it twice.  By all means, rent it the first chance you get.

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Lasting Sound Bites

November 21, 2011

“Go get a job, right after you take a bath.”

-Newt Gingrich 

A friend’s quote dealing with the dangers of historically high income inequality inspired me to check other quotes that apply. He used the quote, “The palace is in danger when the cottage is unhappy.”

I don’t know to whom to attribute the “cottage” quote , but I came across another one that applies to our current social unrest situation that is attributed to Thomas Carlyle, Victorian-era Scottish author and philosopher. He said, “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.”   Thomas Carlyle

When I saw that one, I had to reflect on the Newt Gingrich quote that has been played over and over on the cable news channels. He said the Occupy Wall Street protesters should, “Go get a job, right after you take a bath.”
That quote, which drew loud applause from the audience attending a Republican presidential primary candidate’s debate, triggered a lot of angry comments on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, with panelists calling it “arrogant” and “disgusting” from an hypocritical one-percenter who took over a million dollars from Freddie Mac.
How could he use such nasty rhetoric about the  protesters and not address at all the issues that are causing their protests, some of them wanted to know. But, another one was not surprised at all.  The former U.S. House Speaker has made it clear how he feels about the effectiveness of Republican nastiness.  Check out this Newt quote from Brainey Quotes.
“I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around a campfire but are lousy in politics.” 
So, if you want nasty, Newt’s your man.

Environmentalist Ken Henson is Named Dan Reed Award WInner

November 16, 2011

Dan Reed Service Above Self winner Ken Henson

He goes into his law office every morning at 8:30 and leaves every afternoon at 6:30 just as he did when he was practicing law full-time, but he isn’t practicing full-time any more. He uses the time mainly to help others, to improve the quality of life in his community.  Some of his service includes free legal work for his favorite causes.

He is a strong environmentalist. He is a big supporter of Trees Columbus and the Coalition for Sound Growth, two organizations that work tirelessly to keep Columbus green and beautiful.

He has a generous heart.

He’s “Mr Habitat,” having helped form the organization in Columbus and continuing to work building houses for the needy over the years.

“Even though he is a lawyer, he is still a good guy.”

He is the perfect example of someone who gives back to his community.

That’s what we learned from friends and fellow Columbus attorneys about Columbus Attorney Kenneth Henson today when he was given this year’s Rotary Club of Columbus Dan Reed Award for Service Above Self.  “Service Above Self” is the Rotary motto.

Since his environmental attitude and mine are in perfect harmony, and since I just like him anyway, he certainly has my congratulations.

Mary Reed, Rotary Club of Columbus secretary, widow of former secretary Dan Reed, for whom the Dan Reed Award for Service Above Self is named, pinning this year's honoree Ken Henson. Photo by Jim Cawthorne of Camera1.

Columbus Needs a New Slogan

November 13, 2011

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT SHOULD BE?

Ask one hundred people on the street to tell you the Columbus, Georgia slogan and one might be able to tell you. The slogan, for which a public relations firm was paid tens of thousands of dollars in 2004, is “Columbus, Georgia, what progress has preserved.”

I asked a Columbus Council member – who shall go nameless because I asked the question in a private social setting – and the councilor knew the answer, but when I asked what it means, the answer was, “I don’t know.”  

 Well,  I am not sure what it means. But a friend of mine has an idea. He said it means that “if you have what you had, you had what you have.” Well, that clears it up, right.

Let’s face it, it is stated in such broad, non-specific terms, it could mean different things to different people. Not exactly desirable for a slogan to attract desirable people to our fair city.

For a new one, I came up with, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but that didn’t seem to get any traction.

Seriously, though, how about “Home of Fort Benning”? Seems I can remember whan that was used a lot.  Maybe we could change that to “Proud home of Fort Benning.”

As someone asked in the Ledger-Enquirer Sound Off column, what happened to the “Fountain City” moniker? I remember when that went into effect, and former Ledger-Enquirer writer and editor Claison Kyle, who was on the committee that came up with it, said that even though it wasn’t exactly a fountain  city at the time, it was something Columbus could shoot for, and a lot of folks took him seriously, as fountains started (pun alert) springing up all over town, including even some service stations. Nothing wrong with “Fountain City,” except that it’s Rome, Italy, not Columbus, Geoirgia.

Maybe you have some good ideas for a new slogan. Feel fee to share them with us.

Morton Harris Warns of Costly Results if the Gap Between Rich and Poor isn’t Narrowed

November 8, 2011

Morton Harris,  a very smart Harvard educated Columbus attorney and old Jaycee buddy of mine, is alarmed about what can happen if something isn’t done to correct the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Speaking to Columbus State University students and some faculty members today, he explained the intensity of the economic, political, and moral crisis our nation faces. 

I was going to write a report on his talk,  but after I requested a copy of his speech outline, he not only sent that, but a note that summed it up quite well, so I am going to let him tell you about it in his own words.    

I feel we must do something soon to interrupt the accelerating rise of our country’s “underclass”  which includes not only those living in poverty, but also many retirees, the unemployed and underemployed, and the increasingly strained middle class.

Considering the current fragile status of our economy, a growing “underclass” and an ever more strained middle class will weigh heavily on our country’s economic growth, especially since two-thirds of our GDP is consumer spending.

The key issue as I see it is that although we must deal with America’s growing indebtedness ($1.5 Trillion annual deficits and $15 Trillion+accumulated debt), to do so without raising taxes on the wealthy and ultra wealthy (who do not spend a significant portion of their income on consumption nor invest a high percentage of  their wealth in new or expanding businesses) would necessitate even deeper cuts in government spending, which, during a recession, will only make matters worse.  The possible negative effect on the economy of increased taxes on the wealthy and super wealthy is slight compared to the benefit that can be created by putting people back to work which will take additional funds, i.e., the building of bridges, roadways, dams and other construction jobs which only the government can do. To say that revenues are not “on the table” in dealing with our country’s long term indebtedness may be politically popular with many, but in my opinion, would at this time, be economic suicide for the country and for millions of our Nation’s growing underclass.

In a recent newspaper article about “flash mobsters” in the U.S. there was a comment from one of those interviewed who said, “We should not be surprised to see people using social media for organizing “flash mob” robberies.  You essentially have a world where you have 25 million people who are underemployed and 2% of the population doing better than they ever have.”  He went on to say, “why wouldn’t that lead to some sort of social unrest?”  More recently, the Wall Street protestors are another expression of growing social unrest.  I’m concerned that these expressions may be just the tip of the iceberg of what could happen if we don’t solve this problem soon.

I agree whole-heartedly with what Mort said, and I thank him for sending that summary.  

Saving Capitalism

November 7, 2011

It’s good to know that the huge problem of the immense and growing gap between the rich and the poor and the shrinking middle-class is not being ignored in Columbus.

For one thing, The Banquet on the Bridge organization held its fifth annual banquet on Dillingham Street Bridge Sunday.  According to the WRBL report, a thousand people showed up, a lot of them homeless and underprivileged.  The idea is for a social that mixes the affluent with the less than.  It’s one way of recognizing the growing income gap. (I have no idea why the Ledger-Enquirer ignored this story. Just  attracting a thousand people to a banquet on Dillingham Street Bridge  should have been enough to report why.)

Then tomorrow (Tuesday, 11/8/2011), prominent  Columbus attorney, and old Jaycee acquaintance of mine (the Jaycee thing was about 50 years ago) Mort Harris is going to speak on The Growing Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: A Political, Economic, and Moral Delima What it means for America. That’s at 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Spencer Event Hall at the International House at Columbus State University.  I plan to be there.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait until then to hear an engrossing lecture by  Richard Wilkinson on the issue. You can catch it by going to the TED website; just click on this link.

It’s a really crucial issue.  When wealth becomes so concentrated that it adversely affects great masses of people, the  stage is set for revolution, the kind we had when Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt were elected president. Thank goodness, for the most part, neither of them were violent.  Teddy – the  Teddy Bear is named for him – who was a devoted capitalist embarked on a program to save capitalism by reforming it, thereby giving average and poor folks a larger piece of the economic pie. FDR, saying he was inspired by cousin Teddy’s reformation, pledge to do the same thing.

We’ll get into more on that in future posts. Feel free to join the discussion. Just click on the comments button  and let fly.