Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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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A Blogger’s Report on Governor Deal Dealing with Columbus Rotarians

July 20, 2011

It’s the duty of the blogger to report stuff you won’t get in the mainstream media, so I’ll try to pick out a few things that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said today at the Rotary Club of Columbus that you probably won’t read in the paper or see on TV. I don’t claim they are important, just something nobody else will probably tell you about.

Take this picture, for instance.  Nevermind.  I already took it.  Hey, even retired newsmen get to be corny sometimes. Anyway…now, where was I?  Oh, you won’t get  this shot anywhere else of Jim Cawthorne of Camera1 getting his picture of Governor Deal. Usually, I use Jim’s Rotary stuff, but I thought, hey, sometimes the photographer needs to be seen, even if it is from the back.

Here’s something the governor said you probably won’t get anywhere else.  He said he was walking down the corridors of the  state capitol heading for an important meeting, when some middle school kids spotted him and wanted to get their picture taken with him.  An aide told him not to stop because he had to make the really important meeting, so they tried to just walk around the kids. However, he said, the kids decided to surround him. He explained that he couldn’t stop because of the important meeting. One little girl said, “But we voted for you.”

“You did?”

“Yes, it was just a straw poll, but you won.”

“She got her picture.”

Now why did he tell that story?  (Analysis warning!) Was it because he wanted to reenforce what Muscogee County Rep. Richard Smith said in his introduction?  Richard- I can call him Richard because we are old friends, not close, but old – said this about Deal, “He is a good man.”  Remember, you heard it here first!

You’ll probably read in the paper or hear on TV what he said about the water wars.  But, just in case you don’t,  he was happy that three federal judges threw out a lower court ruling that  Atlanta had to stop slurping up million and millions of gallons of water from Lake Lanier so the oysters at Apalachicola can stay happy, and Alabama can keep its nuclear power plant  buzzing.  But will you hear what  he said about  Columbus’ white  water theme park?  You really shouldn’t, because what he said didn’t amount to a hill of beans.  He said it will help the city economically. Who hasn’t  said that? Well, come to think of it, seems like I read in the Ledger-Enquirer’s Sound Off thing a comment by some spoil-sport who said there is no guarantee it will make money, only that it will  cost a lot..

The governor said the state has some good schools, and some really bad ones, and we need more really good ones.  Can’t argue with that.  He pointed out that the state actually increased the education budget, but, certainly, one could reason, not enough since, answering a question from the audience, he said more teachers will have to be furloughed, though not by the  state, because the state doesn’t furlough teachers. He gives the local schools systems credit for that.

You’ll probably  get some of that in the mainstream media.  But will you learn that Columbus Rotary’s new president, Rev. Jimmy Elder, who is also pastor of the First Baptist Church, said that Governor Deal “is a courageous man” because he took question from the audience. He said he would never do that after a sermon. You have to go to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship to witness that event.  Yes, it does happen often there. He didn’t say those last  two sentences. I did.

That’s all I can think of now about things you probably won’t hear or read in the mainstream media, though you might.  Just remember, you read it here.

The Power of One

May 9, 2011

Just Imagine What An Insane Terrorist Armed with Nuclear Weapons Could Do

To me, the most dangerous person in the world is a religious fanatic.  When a person believes he will go to heaven because he sacrificed his life to murder people who he perceives do not believe the way he does, I can’t think of a more dangerous person.  Logic and reason mean nothing to such people.  The fact that they are in the minority – it appears most religious people are not that fanatical – offers little comfort.

Just look at what 19 religious fanatics, armed with box cutters, accomplished.  Not only did they bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center,  killing more than 3,000 people,  they propelled the United States to go to war in Afghanistan, and were used as an excuse to attack Iraq,  all of this costing the US thousands more killed and wounded,  and more than three trillion dollars, much of which was borrowed from China because as we went to war our government cut taxes.

FBI's latest Ten Most Wanted poster of Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, the late head religiously fanatical terrorist, was not living in a cave near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, protected by heavily armed al-Qaeda guards as media speculation led us to believe.  As we now know, he was living in Pakistan in a large house – some call it a mansion, but it didn’t look like one on TV to me – with three wives, and was guarded by one courier who was quickly dispatched by US Navy SEALS.  It didn’t take jet fighters, or a drone, or artillery or thousands of troops to bring this evil man down, only two helicopters and a few Navy SEALS. This man, without a large army and no nuclear weapons, led his relatively small group of fanatics to terrorize the world.  He is gone, but his organization is not and the threat remains.

Just think of the even worse havoc he could have caused if he had nuclear weapons, even primitive ones.  And just think what the terrorists who are still with us can do if they get them.  The reason that “mutually assured destruction” has prevented any nation from using a nuclear weapon is that its leaders have been sane enough not to set off the destruction of life on earth.  If a violent religious fanatic gets hold of one he would have no qualms about ending life on earth because he thinks he would be going the heaven for doing it.

World leaders, knowing no one is exempted from this threat,  are coming together to address it.  They started their nuclear nonproliferation efforts years ago. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty dates back to 1970, according to an article in the “Great Decisions” 2011 magazine edition.  It states that with that treaty in place, “the spread of the bomb has been limited to nine nuclear powers today.”  The fear is that the more nations get nuclear weapons the greater the chance of terrorists getting hold of them.  Not only preventing the spread of nuclear weapons concerns world leaders, but also the security of the weapons already stockpiled. The United States is leading a multilateral effort to secure nuclear material around the world in four years. President Obama hosted a 47-nation nuclear security summit last year to address the problem.

All it would take is for one terrorist armed with nuclear weapons to possibly set off the destruction of the world.  This thought leads me to the often-used excuse for not voting:  My one vote won’t make any difference. Never underestimate the power of one for good or evil.

Yearender: America’s Wars Are Somewhat Ignored in 2010

December 29, 2010

  It is incredible that our country is in very costly wars – costly in many ways – but most Americans appear not to be thinking about it. It is probably thought about more in our area, Columbus (Georgia not Ohio), because Fort Benning supplies so many troops to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.

I just checked the top 10 searches on Yahoo in 2010. The BP Oil Spill tops the list, followed by the World Cup. Teen singer Justin Bieber and American Idol made the list. But neither Afghanistan nor Iraq are on it.

More than 4,400 Americans have been killed in the Iraqi war and more than 1300 in Afghanistan. About 34,000 have been seriously wounded. In 2001 the U.S. Defense budget was $316 billion. $13 billion of that went to the war in Afghanistan. This year, 2010, it’s $693 billion, according to Time, with $102 billion going to Afghanistan and $61 billion to Iraq.

This is really serious business, but you don’t see much about it on TV nor in the newspaper. Even though I was just a child during World War II I vividly remember the constant coverage of the war. It was front page and led radio newscasts just about every day, and dominated the newsreels in the theaters every week. Just about every one had a friend or relative in the military. People were keenly interested in news about the war.

Now, it seems to be something everyone just takes for granted. We have been at war so long that it has become the norm. It is a norm that is having tremendous consequences, consequences that not many of us seem to think about very much.

Another Democrat Wins an Important Columbus City-wide Election

December 1, 2010

BRINGING UP (POLITICAL) BABY

Her political foes tried to paint Teresa Tomlinson as a Democrat. Well, she is. She is a member of the Muscogee County Democratic Party.  But, she was in a non-partisan election so she didn’t emphasize party.   Since she didn’t just win, but won in a landslide, she obviously knew what she was doing.

To win that big she had to have gotten a lot of Republican votes.  Fortunately, people don’t always vote because of party affiliation. Her husband Trip said that while he and Teresa have supported some Democrats, they have also supported Republicans, depending on who was running for a particular office. And, I do admit that I have, over time, done the same thing.

According to the Ledger-Enquirer story about her win, she told well wishers at her election headquarters last night to look around. She wanted them to notice the diversity of the people there, and she said that is the way Columbus is now, and that a new day in politics has been born.   Let’s hope it gets a good upbringing. I’m sure she’ll work to make that a reality, but, as she will soon learn, she’s just the mayor. Council and the City Manager will have a lot to do with raising that baby, also.

Buying the House isn’t Cheap

October 29, 2010

 

“We have the best Congress money can buy.”

– Will Rogers

 Newsweek reports that as of October 25th,  U.S. House candidates had raised $733,647,242.31.  Just think of the things you could buy with that kind of money.

Some of my Best Friends are Republicans

October 17, 2010

MCDP Jefferson-Jackson Gala at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center

One of the most interesting aspects of the Muscogee County Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Gala is the diversity of the attendees.  You’d expect a lot of African-Americans, whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans to be there.  The Democratic Party prides itself on its big tent. But, there were also some very prominent Republicans in the audience.

No doubt some were there because a friend of their’s was being honored. I had one tell me that he and his wife were there because retired Columbus attorney and state legislator Milton Jones was one of the Democrats honored for his service to his communty, state, and country.  I am on a friendly basis with every Republican I saw there.   

This was a Democratic Party event, but it was also a community event. More than three hundred  people paid $50-a-plate to attend.  The party did raise some money, but not as much as you might think. The Columbus Convention and  Trade Center ain’t cheap.

Rep. John Lewis, (D) GA 5th Congressional District

While those Republicans in attendance stood with everyone else to applaud keynote speaker and civil rights icon U.S. 5th Congressional District Rep. John Lewis,  they did also have to endure some partisan talks, the best of which was made by my cousin Carol Porter who is running for Lt. Governor.  She is a very articulate and forceful speaker.

Carol Porter, Democratic candidate for Georgia Lt. Gov.

The problem for her is that she was only speaking to three-hundred people, people – with the possible exception of some of the Republicans there – who are going to support her anyway.  To get elected, she needs for hundreds of thousands of people to hear her message.  Roy Barnes is getting to those hundreds of thousands because he has raised the money to do it.  And some of that money came, no doubt, from some Republicans.

I think it’s generally agreed that CEOs of most businesses are Republicans, but it is a well-known fact that some give to both sides.  They want whoever wins to pick up the phone when they call.  There is a very good chance that Roy Barnes will win.

One definition of power is that it is the ability to do favors.  I suppose the corollary to that would be the ability to do harm. Governors can do both.

And so can Lieutenant Governors.  Maybe Carol Porter will benefit from those who hedge their bets by giving to both sides.  With very little media coverage, she is  running close to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the polls.  If she can get her message across to enough voters, she can win.

The point is that some Republicans do support some Democrats and visa versa.  And the point is that a lot of folks in Columbus, including me, are friends with a lot of people who identify with different parties.  They also come together to get important things done for the community.  It would be great if our representatives in Washington and Atlanta would follow the Columbus example.  The meanness of spirit and polarization that is permeating our Capitols and our country is not good for America.

Yes, it is time for the country to return to civility and sanity. It is time for political leaders to put their country first instead of their party.  It is hard to do when some powerful media personalities use hatred and fear to line their pockets with millions of dollars. But, it has to be done, or this great nation stands to lose its greatness.

Can Roy Barnes Win Back Georgia Teachers?

August 17, 2010

For former Governor Roy Barnes to be elected governor again, he is going to have to have the  support of Georgia’s public school  teachers.  You’ll probably remember that he lost those teachers and lost his reelection bid.  The teachers were enraged by his education plan that put the onus of improving student performance on their backs, and I hear that a lot of them are still mad about it. 

Former Governor Roy Barnes, Mrs. Barnes, Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington at Barne's Columbus Airport appearance during primary campaign

But, what is their alternative?  Public education’s budget in Georgia has been slashed about 3 billion dollars by the Republican controlled legislature and Governor Perdue.  What do you think?  Can Barnes get the teacher vote?

More on the Georgia Democratic Party Convention

August 16, 2010

I promised a little more on the Georgia Democratic Party State Convention, so here are a few shots that I took at the convention in Athens Saturday. I was there as a delegate.

This is my cousin Carol Porter, who is running for Lt. Governor.  She got everyone at the convention’s attention when she said that the Georgia House got rid of Speaker Glenn Richardson after an ethic’s scandal, and now it’s time to “go over to the Senate and get rid of the corrupt lieutenant governor that’s there now.”

There was a lot of cheering, music, rhythmic  clapping and sign waving when former Governor Roy Barnes accepted the nomination to run for governor.  He said that opponent Nathan Deal is  “part of the team that brought Georgia to where we are right now. The team that gave tax breaks to the special interests. His team that laid off our teachers and shortened the school year.”

And Michael Thurmond, who is running for the U.S. Senate,  got smiles as well as cheers when he said “the political odds are stacked firmly against me,” but added, “You know and I know that through faith and hard work all things are possible.

“I’ve got the heart and the soul and the spirit of the sharecropper,” he said.  He said his daddy was a sharecropper, and his daddy’s daddy was a sharecropper, and that he was a sharecropper, too, but that he is “a sharecropper with a law degree.”

He told about how he rode on the back of his father’s vegetable truck when they sold vegetables. He said his father told him that if he applied himself and worked hard that one day he would have that vegetable truck route.  He wasn’t too thrilled about that prospect, but he said when he ran for the state legislature the first time, that vegetable truck route was in his district, and that when he went to knock on doors and ask people for support they would tell him they remembered his father who was a mighty fine man and they would gladly put one of his campaign signs in their yard.

At their State Convention, Georgia Democrats Call for Ending Republican Misrule

August 15, 2010

Georgia Democrats demonstrate with music and rhythmic clapping for Democratic candidates running for state and federal offices. I took this picture at the party's State Convention in Athens.

Just check out your auto’s gear shift and that will tell you the difference in what Democrats and Republicans do for Georgia.  “D” stands for Democrats and it stands for driving forward and “R” stands for Republicans and moving in reverse.  That was one of the comparisons made at the Democratic Party of Georgia State Convention in Athens yesterday.  

It was also where former Governor Roy Barnes accepted the party’s nomination for Governor of Georgia. Barnes told the delegates that the billions of dollars in cuts to the Georgia education system is “the greatest moral retreat that’s ever been seen in our history. That other team wants to do away with the public school system. They want to take a voucher and give it to their kids, and they don’t care about ours.”

The only newspaper report on the convention that I have found online so far is an article in the Athens Banner-Herald. You can check it out by going to this link.  I will have a more on the convention later.  I was there.