As I walked out my front door this morning carrying my laptop bag, I pulled the door behind me with a prolonged tug that caused my index finger to mash between the door and the door pane.
I clasped my throbbing finger as my voice strained to curse loudly enough to offer relief but not so loud that neighbors could hear.
I slowly uncovered and peeked at my swollen finger tip and then went back inside for no other reason than to sigh loudly and curse louder than I had outside in hopes someone would wake up and ask me about my injured finger.
But no one did.
So I left. Again. This time with a sore finger tip and hurt feelings.
It was at this moment I realized how grateful I was for the brave men and women and who fought and died in combat so wimpy and whiny guys like me –who would never have made it in combat– can have a good life today.
And even do frivolous things like writing on Facebook this morning about mashing a finger tip.
And also to do easy but more thoughtful things like thanking the many stronger and braver American service men and women who came before me –and many others like me — and had our backs. And gave their lives for people they would never know but who someday, like today, might want to say “Thank you.”
Thank you. And thank you again. Every day, of course- –but especially on Memorial Day.
Those who fought and died so that those who came after could live freely and in peace.
I’m probably dating myself by referencing that antique, fairly offensive Virginia Slims tagline, encouraging women to embrace feminist progress by flaunting their own florally decorated brand of cigarettes. Now it comes across as hideously dated, but in the 1960s, the idea that women could do anything that men could – including poisoning themselves with nicotine – was both novel and incredibly exciting. When I was around eight years old, I remember struggling with whether I would prefer to be a world famous concert pianist or the first female president. (Yeah, I was thinking small . . . . )
I got a taste of politics as a college intern in Washington (although no one made a pass at me except for a bartender with bad breath. . . but I digress), and learned fairly quickly that I didn’t have a thick enough skin to survive in that arena. But I always wondered whether I’d get to see someone else achieve that ‘first female president’ goal.
Like all good starving artists, I was working as a waitress in New York when Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as the first female member of a major party presidential ticket, and all of us called our mothers in a collective burst of feminist solidarity. So by 2008, I was ready for some more groundbreaking – excited for Hillary Clinton to be even a viable candidate, and thrilled that I resembled Sarah Palin enough to come in 2nd in a lookalike contest.
But now it’s looking like Mrs. Clinton isn’t just a possibility, she’s already assumed to be the de facto nominee for 2016 (if she chooses to run; the suspense over that choice has been as gripping as any of the soap operas that have gone off the air). It’s fascinating to see how people react. If nothing else, she has proven that she definitely has the resilience, thick skin, and quick reflexes to rebound from whatever gets thrown at her, from insults to conspiracy theories to random shoes (to insulting conspiracy theories about how she was somehow behind that shoe throwing . . . )
Thank you– to a real public servant.
Louis Hall, a quiet and unassuming man, who went to work every day at our State Capitol for 62 years, retired today.
Louis never held elective office. And never aspired to.
Louis never helped shape public policy or wrote a Supreme Court decision or issued an executive order. And that was fine with him.
But Louis was a personality, a smile, and a sunny disposition who did his job dutifully every day in our state Capitol and made it a little bit better place to work. And has been doing so since Alben W Barkley was the vice-president of the United States and presidential candidates relied on corny musical jingles like “I like Ike” to get elected.
Lewis was a friend to everyone who took the time to say hello back to him. As well as a friend to those who didn’t. And in a place where friendliness can often be suspect, there was never an ulterior motive with Louis.
He was a constant fixture at our state Capitol for over six decades. While history was getting made –or not getting made– Lewis was quietly and graciously doing his job and never failed to deliver a kind word or humorous remark whenever he had the opportunity.
And those things are important in ways that are difficult to measure and are never fully appreciated –until they are gone.
Monday morning will start off like every other Monday at our state Capitol, for those who work there. But by lunchtime –or certainly by late afternoon–something will feel like it is missing even though it will be hard to put your finger on what that something is.
It will be the daily smile you took for granted and the friendly face you always enjoyed seeing as you turned to walk down a hallway at the state Capitol.
And could never imagine not being there.
With Crit Luallen’s announcement yesterday that she would NOT be seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2015, the field that will be jockeying for the Governor’s Mansion next year should be coming into sharper focus soon after the next Kentucky Derby winner poses with its garland of roses.
The RP’s Kentucky Political Brief is turning this political horse race into an opportunity for you to WIN BIG BUCKS. OK, actually something more valuable — two lower Rupp Arena tickets to an early season University of Kentucky men’s basketball home game. (And they are going to be stacked!)
Here’s the contest:
In the comments section below this post (note that you need to use your Facebook account to participate), guess the names of each Governor/Lt. Governor ticket that will be officially formed by the start of political speaking at the 2014 Fancy Farm Picnic. The tiebreaker will be the recorded air temperature in Fancy Farm, Kentucky at 2:00 PM CDT, Saturday, August 2, 2014. Entries can be made NOW, and you can make your guess anytime before the conclusion of the Kentucky Derby, late afternoon, Saturday, May 3.
Your entry will be judged as follows: 1 point for each correct gubernatorial prediction. 5 points for each correct ticket (Governor and Lt. Governor). You will lose 2 points for each Governor candidate you incorrectly predict (that is, if they have not officially chosen a running mate by Fancy Farm). There will be no penalties for incorrect LG picks, because those are hard.
While I won’t claim the prize if I win, here are my bets (in alphabetical order so I don’t get in any trouble):
Cathy Bailey and Matt Bevin
Jamie Comer and Ellen Williams
Jack Conway and Sannie Overly
Adam Edelen and Rocky Adkins
Hal Heiner and K.C. Crosbie
Daniel Mongiardo and Todd Hollenbach
Fancy Farm Temperature at 2:00 PM CDT, August 2: 94 degrees
OK, now your turn. And a reminder — only entries made below this post before the finish of this year’s Kentucky Derby will be eligible, and the contest is not a reflection of who makes the post next May, but rather, which tickets have been officially entered by Fancy Farm 2014.
All right — your turn:
I never thought I’d say this again, but…I’d like to ask for your vote.
Don’t worry: I haven’t fallen off the recovering politician wagon.
Lisa and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary by competing in Lexington’s version of Dancing with the Stars (sponsored by our local Rotary Club). And despite my two left liberal feet, with the awesome instruction of Arthur Murray dance teacher Rae Dunn, and the continued fitness direction of globally-recognized personal trainer Josh Bowen, we’re actually getting in pretty good shape for the competition on May 10.
But I need your help.
(Sorry for that last sentence. My fundraising letter-writing muscle is to blame)
Your vote matters. and it is easy, affordable and for a great cause. Click here and scroll down the left side of the page to my picture, enter the number of votes you want to cast (at $5 per vote), and click the button at the bottom of the page to “pay now and vote.”
Your $5 contribution will go straight to benefit an incredible local program: Surgery on Sunday, as well as to the Lexington Rotary Club Endowment Fund, which supports more than 15 local community initiatives and charitable endeavors including the Carnegie Center of Literacy and Learning, Central Kentucky Radio Eye, Saint James Place, Explorium of Lexington, The Friends of the Arboretum, God’s Pantry Food Bank, International Book Project, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Mustang Troop, OWL-Opportunity for Work and Learning, Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League, World Fit and the YMCA of Central Kentucky Back to School Rallies.
So please click here, vote for me early and often (just $5 a vote!!!), and I promise not to run any negative campaign ads against my opponents. (Of course, if independent groups and 527s join the fray, I can’t do anything about that.)
The good news for Chris Christie is that some of the country’s most prominent pundits believe that nearly three months after the George Washington Bridge scandal first broke, the New Jersey governor is in good shape.
“You go around and you talk to Republicans, and they like Chris Christie more today than they did three months ago … other than Jeb Bush, he still has the clearest path to this nomination,” said“Morning Joe” host and Politico columnist Joe Scarborough last Tuesday, apparently not as an April Fool’s joke. Scarborough reasoned that the liberal media’s Christie pile-on might have endeared the governor to some conservatives put off by his post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.
The bad news for Christie is that unlike some pundits, federal prosecutors are not persuaded by white-shoe law firms’ “independent” investigations or confrontational press conferences during which politicians are said to have regained their “mojo.” Political pundits don’t tend to think like lawyers; they’re focused on the horse race. It’s no wonder the narrative thus far has downplayed legal liability.
I noted this divide in January, when I predicted that Christie’s real problem was legal, not political, and that he would ultimately be brought down not by Bridgegate itself but by an unrelated investigation stemming from it in the same way that Monica Lewinsky had nothing to do with an ill-fated Arkansas land deal called Whitewater and Al Capone went down for tax evasion. Federal prosecutorial tentacles would make an octopus envious. And so despite two marathon press conferences, a 360-page report produced after an internal investigation by Christie’s lawyer Randy Mastro and beheadings for much of his inner circle, Christie is actually in worse shape than he was in when the scandal first broke.
The first reason for this is simple. As I know all too well, having gone to prison for charges related to campaign finance violations, years can elapse between the time federal agencies first begin probing a target and the time they actually bring charges, and the deliberate, exhaustive nature of federal investigations is legend. (To take one example, when I reported for my post-conviction interview with agents, they knew the dates I had visited a casino and amounts of money I had withdrawn from an ATM a decade earlier, despite this being totally unrelated to the investigation.) Just ask Vincent Gray, the soon-to-be former mayor of Washington, D.C., who has been on the defensive after a multi-year federal investigation into his campaign finances. The recent lull in the Christie case (briefly interrupted Friday afternoon by the appearance of Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak before a grand jury) may be just an illusion—a glassy ocean surface with vicious activity occurring in the depths. No one who talks to the feds would breathe a word, for multiple reasons, from the obvious (prosecutorial orders/fear of an obstruction of justice charge) to the more subtle (the shame of snitching on a beloved boss and patron).
Christie’s continuing travel and exceptional fundraising as Republic Governors Association chair and likely presidential candidate is aimed in large part at combating the impression of a weakening governor with all avenues of political advancement quickly closing. But given the length, breadth and opacity of federal investigations, this is like a surfer in the eye of the hurricane exhorting his pals, “Rain’s stopped – surf’s up!”
Perhaps there’s even a whiff of denial on Christie’s part: If I just pretend that everything’s back to normal, and wow the national Republican audiences who like me more than ever, maybe this will all fade away.
I know the psychology well: After the feds knocked on my door the morning of my re-election kickoff fundraiser, I gritted my teeth, raised $100,000 that night (on the advice of counsel, who recommended that I proceed as if nothing were amiss) and wished the successful event could make it all go away. (I ended up returning all the donations.) But while a federal target is traipsing around with billionaires in Orlando and Las Vegas, the gears of justice continue grinding away with a singular focus. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail; and for federal prosecutors focused on public corruption, the bigger the public figure, the larger the scalp. Of course, the only thing sweeter than bringing down a front-running presidential candidate would be nabbing one who made his name prosecuting public corruption as a U.S. attorney.
The second reason Christie may be in worse shape now is the accumulation of troubling information about David Samson. The Christie-appointed Port Authority Commission chairman’s continued silence in the face of emails suggesting that he wanted to “retaliate” against Port Authority staff who re-opened the lanes is disturbing enough. In another e-mail, Samson accused the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye (who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat) of “stirring up trouble” by talking about the lane closures. Both of these contemporaneous emails strongly indicate that if – as Christie has maintained – Samson denied knowing the reason for the lane closures, he was lying. If Samson, per the emails, knew the truth then and told Christie, the governor has been lying. Neither option suits Christie, which may explain why the internal investigatory report essentially ignored the emails.
But far more problematic from a legal perspective are the myriad conflict of interest questions raised by the involvement of Samson’s law firm, Wolff & Samson, in Port Authority business. First came Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegation that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Christie ally, threatened to withhold hurricane recovery aid to Hoboken – one of the state’s hardest hit cities – unless Zimmer agreed to support a billion-dollar development project spearheaded by a Wolff & Samson client. Guadagno strenuously denies that accusation as “false” and “illogical,” but MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki obtained emails related to the project sent from a Wolff & Samson attorney representing the developer to a Hoboken city attorney, pressing Hoboken’s attorney to speak with Samson and copying him on the email. If the Port Authority chairman’s law associate was trying to muscle the city into green-lighting a development—and keeping him in the loop on his activities—that would obliterate the line between Samson’s personal business interests and his public role as chairman.
Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast
Yesterday, on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., I wrote this piece at The Daily Beast declaring Robert Kennedy’s eulogy to King as the greatest speech of the 20th century.
A loyal reader, the obscenely youthful looking media personality/stand-up comic/right-wing-nut-job Lee Cruse disagreed:
Cruse makes a point: John “Bluto” Blutarsky’s most famous line:
What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!…
is certainly more quotable than RFK’s exegesis on Greek poet Aeschylus:
And let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
But it is only fair to compare the speeches as a whole. So, in the spirit of a fair competition, I post the videos of both orations and ask the RP Nation to decide. Is either the greatest speech of the 20th Century? Or does another surpass it? King’s “I Have a Dream”? Reagan’s “Tear Down that Wall”? Carl Spackler’s “It’s in the hole!”?
Let us know in the comments below:
This afternoon, The Daily Beast ran an edited version of the following piece on its home page. Here’s the unedited version, with plenty of Kentucky political color.
I used to be Jack Conway.
Well, to be more precise, Kentucky’s incumbent Attorney General and I used to occupy the same crowded political space: two young, big-city, over-educated, well-connected, center-left, aspiring pols, each trying to elbow out the other for the chance to grasp the political brass ring that was the opportunity to be anointed the next great hope for Bluegrass State Democrats.
Our journeys finally came into direct conflict when, in 2007, all of our political mentors withdrew their names from the gubernatorial hat, compelling Jack and I to engage in a hyper-awkward, Elaine Benes-ian dance to explore teaming up as a ticket…which ended, of course, when both of us insisted on leading. I ultimately plunged into the seven-person governor-wannabe scrum from which I never emerged, while Conway found open daylight running and easily winning the state’s top law enforcement position.
In the intervening years, as I have found a permanent seat on the sidelines as a recovering politician, I’ve watched Jack’s career with consistently wistful cognizance that “but for the grace of God go I.” During his 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate — a race that had our paths been reversed, I undoubtedly would have run…and lost — I saw Jack pilloried in much the same way I had been skewered for my own policy-wonkish, retail-politics-averse approach to campaigning. And when his ultimate undoing came at his own hands — the ill-advised decision to run the now infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that challenged Rand Paul’s faith, I could see myself succumbing to the same pressures, within the oxygen- and rationality-deprived political bubble, to employ a desperate, risky strategy in order to stop an “dangerous” opponent with a diametrically-opposite ideological worldview.
When Conway later admitted his mistake — arguing that the ad was “the only time in my political career I’ve gone against my gut,” I recalled my greatest gut-check regret. In the 2007 race for Governor, I was questioned by a newspaper’s editorial board about how I voted in the 2004 statewide referendum over what I felt was a pernicious constitutional amendment that would not only ban gay marriage, but anything that looked like it, such as civil unions. Privately, I’d supported marriage equality — strongly — ever since Andrew Sullivan introduced much of the country to the possibility in his historic 1989 essay in The New Republic. But while I had openly supported anti-discrimination laws, and was especially proud to have been the first gubernatorial candidate ever to pursue, secure and embrace the endorsement of gay rights organizations, marriage equality was a third rail that I was still too timid to touch — the amendment, after all, had passed statewide overwhelmingly just three years earlier, with 74% support.
So I did what I had done my entire political career on the issue: I lied to the editorial board. And I didn’t come out of the political closet until I had formally renounced politics a few years later.
Today, my former political doppelgänger faced a similar challenge on this very same issue. When federal District Judge John Hayburn’s recently ruled that the Commonwealth must recognize lawful same-sex marriages from other states, Conway was confronted with the decision on whether to appeal the decision — on behalf of the voters who had so overwhelmingly voted for the ban a decade ago.
For some of Conway’s Attorney General colleagues in blue states who encountered similar circumstances, this may have not been a difficult decision. But here, in an inner notch of the Bible Belt, marriage equality is still quite an unpopular position. A few brave Democrats had stepped out months earlier — including, most prominently, Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, and State Auditor Adam Edelen – but general election voters, who Conway will likely appeal to in a 2015 gubernatorial run, still oppose the practice by a 55 to 35 percent margin in a recent independent poll. (And today, a GOP candidate who had donated. $20,000 to support the constitutional anti-gay effort in 2004 just announced his entry into the 2015 governor’s race as the standard bearer for social conservatives.)
Worse yet for Conway, his client, the popular Democratic Governor Steve Beshear — who won statewide liberal plaudits for vetoing an Arizona-like anti-gay, “religious freedom” bill in 2013, and national progressive celebration for successfully implementing Obamacare in the state — wanted to pursue the appeal.
So Conway chose the route he had abandoned in his U.S. Senate race: He went with his gut. In announcing his decision to refuse to pursue an appeal, the Attorney General stated that “in the end, this issue is really larger than any single person and it’s about placing people above politics…I can only say that I am doing what I think is right…I had to make a decision that I could be proud of – for me now, and my daughters’ judgment in the future.”
Conway’s decision will not have a significant practical effect: Governor Beshear announced a few minutes after Conway’s press conference that he would hire outside counsel to pursue the appeal. But for a populace desperately seeking politicians who are authentic, who lead from their heart, even at great political risk, Conway’s choice may instill a small ray of hope that even in this most cynical of times, conviction can sometimes trump politics.
And for this recovering politician, who has forsaken the arena for many of the same reasons that so many Americans hate politics — as well as for the chance, finally, to live a life when I can always be true to my most passionate beliefs — it’s great comfort to see my former political frenemy take the kind of brave, selfless action that I would have loved to put on my political resume.