GOP Notables Planning Possible Presidential Run In 2020

Six months into the four-year term(?) of President Trump and the political climate is already raining down on this White House.  The reasons are well known.  Just pick up any newspaper or turn on any newscast.  The chaos and turmoil caused by Trump which we read and hear has created this news.

Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago. President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 – as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved. The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration. … But in interviews with more than 75 Republicans at every level of the party, elected officials, donors and strategists expressed widespread uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump would be on the ballot in 2020 and little doubt that others in the party are engaged in barely veiled contingency planning. … Mr. Pence has made no overt efforts to separate himself from the beleaguered president. He has kept up his relentless public praise and even in private is careful to bow to the president. Mr. Pence’s aides, however, have been less restrained in private, according to two people briefed on the conversations.


Did Alexander Hamilton Hold This Coin?

I do love stories about my favorite Founding Father.

Old inns along the Revolutionary War trails boast of George Washington sleeping there. But coin experts say they have found the first silver piece minted by the United States — one likely held by the most en vogue of Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton.

David McCarthy figured the silver coin had to be one-of-a-kind after spotting it in the auction catalog.

Its front features the all-seeing eye of God, surrounded by rays of light. The rays shoot out toward 13 stars — one for each of the colonies that had rebelled against Great Britain. A similar coin bore two words in Latin above the starburst: “Nova Constellatio,” or “new constellation” to describe the infant United States. But this silver piece bore no inscription at all. It was the first clue that the coin was something singular, said McCarthy, a senior researcher for the coin and collectibles firm Kagin’s. 

He had a hunch it was the first coin ever minted by the U.S. government in 1783 — the prototype for a plan discussed by both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson that arguably shaped the course of the nation. McCarthy staked his company’s money to buy the coin for $1.18 million at the 2013 auction. After nearly four years of late nights sifting through the papers of the Founding Fathers and studying the beading on the coin’s edges, he is now making an exhaustive case that this silver piece is indeed the first American coin, the precursor of what ultimately would circulate a decade later as the U.S dollar.

McCarthy published the details of his findings in the August issue of a coin dealer magazine, The Numismatist, as well as in a post on Medium . He vetted and refined his findings over the years with other top experts such as John Dannreuther, a rare coin dealer who found identifying marks on another coin that indicates that it had to have been struck days or even weeks later from the same steel dies. 

“I’m 99.9999 percent certain this is the first U.S. coin,” Dannreuther said.

It was well-known among collectors that a first coin existed. Robert Morris, the Philadelphia merchant who financed the American Revolution, recorded its existence in his diary on April 2, 1783.

As first Superintendent of Finance of the United States, Morris wrote he received a delivery of “a Piece of Silver Coin being the first that has been struck as an American Coin.” Hamilton visited Morris a week later and the two corresponded on the “subject of the Coin.” The continental Congress was then presented with a fuller set of coins on April 22, which was then forwarded to Jefferson for his thoughts. 

Both Hamilton and Jefferson — now popularly known as rivals from the musical “Hamilton” — embraced the idea that the U.S. currency should be in units of 10.

The coin purchased by McCarthy had a back with a wreath identifying it as a “500” quint, essentially the forerunner of the half-dollar. It had initially been found in 1860, about 15 years after the similar coin with the “new constellation” inscription. Because the new constellation coin was found earlier, experts labeled McCarthy’s coin as “Type 2.” Over the years, that label was mistakenly believed to refer to the coin being struck after the one with the inscription.

Rollicking Life Of Reporter Ends, Richard Dudman Dead At 99

Interesting obituaries are the only ones worth reading.  (Readers know I love a well-crafted one!)

Richard Dudman, a much-traveled reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch who spent more than a month in captivity in Cambodia after being ambushed by Vietcong fighters and later survived an assassination attempt after meeting the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, died on Thursday in Blue Hill, Me. He was 99.

The death was confirmed by his daughter, Iris Dudman.

Mr. Dudman’s career in journalism lasted more than three quarters of a century. He was in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and, after oversleeping and missing a flight back to Washington, dropped by the police station where Lee Harvey Oswald was being held and watched as he was gunned down by Jack Ruby.

He covered the 1956 Arab-Israeli War, filed stories from Havana when Fidel Castro toppled the Batista government and covered wars and revolutions in Guatemala, Argentina, Burma (now Myanmar), Ireland, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Algeria, Laos and China.

He made his first reporting trip to South Vietnam in 1962 and, concluding early on that the war was a doomed enterprise, became one of the first American reporters to question the official narrative dispensed by military and government officials. In 1965, while preparing a series of pessimistic reports, he wrote to his colleague Marquis W. Childs, “The war is being lost, and in a hurry.”

His taste for adventure occasionally led him down dangerous roads. In 1970, he and two colleagues, Elizabeth Pond of The Christian Science Monitor and Michael Morrow of Dispatch News Service International, tried to drive from Saigon to Phnom Penh to report on the developing covert war in Cambodia.

At a roadblock halfway between the border and Phnom Penh, three Vietcong fighters, brandishing assault rifles, emerged from the trees along the road and took the reporters captive, convinced that they were C.I.A. spies. Mr. Dudman turned to his colleagues and said, “If we get out of this alive, we’ll have a hell of a good story.”

A coolheaded Vietnamese general, Bay Cao, eventually intervened and ensured better treatment of the three prisoners — on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, they enjoyed a feast of roast dog. After six weeks, Mr. Dudman and his colleagues were taken to a road and left to hitchhike back to Saigon. Mr. Dudman described his ordeal in “Forty Days With the Enemy,” published in 1971.

Cambodia had not finished with him. In 1978, he and Elizabeth Becker of The Washington Post and Malcolm Caldwell, a leftist Scottish economist, secured a meeting with Pol Pot, becoming the first Western writers to travel through Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1974.

The hoped-for interview never materialized. After a handshake that Mr. Dudman found unnerving — Pol Pot had delicate, tapering fingers and soft skin — the dictator held court.

“He spoke in a quiet monotone as we sweltered in tropical sunshine that flooded the room and brushed away the flies that buzzed around the orange juice,” Mr. Dudman wrote in The Post-Dispatch in 2015. “He spoke in Cambodian, Foreign Minister Ieng Sary put the Cambodian into French, and another official translated into English. Before getting to our questions, Pol Pot launched into a diatribe against the Vietnamese.”

He added, “We tried to break in with questions, but he ignored them and rolled right on.”

Mr. Dudman did manage to take one of the few known photographs of Pol Pot.

The following night, Mr. Dudman heard gunshots in the guesthouse where he and his colleagues were staying. Stepping out into the hallway, he faced an attacker, who began shooting at him with a pistol. Mr. Dudman dashed back into his room, dodging bullets, and hid behind his bed.

Two hours later, a Cambodian escort officer appeared. “He told me that Becker was safe but that Caldwell had been killed and I should view his body,” Mr. Dudman wrote in The Post-Dispatch in 1997. “The young terrorist was sprawled dead in the doorway. And Caldwell’s body lay on his bed with a gaping wound in his chest.”

The motivation for the attack, and the identity of the gunman and two accomplices, remained unknown.

Mr. Dudman’s last day on the job at The Post-Dispatch was eventful. Word came in that a gunman had shot Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton, not far away from the newspaper’s offices. Like a racehorse hearing the bugle, Mr. Dudman ran out the door and up Connecticut Avenue, pen and notebook in hand. His story ran the next day.

He had a motto: “Reporter who sits on hot story gets ass burned.”

Diplomacy ONLY Way Out Of North Korea Crisis

There is no military path for success when it comes to stopping North Korea from gaining a nuclear missile program. But stopping it is a world-wide mission that must not fail  And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson knows that to be true.  His words last week were welcome to a world that is deeply concerned about the possibility of war.

Tillerson stated that there should be assurances that North Korea will have “the security they seek” and offered a new chance at economic prosperity if it surrenders its nuclear weapons.  He is working towards what can be the only way to manage this most dangerous situation.  That is with the path of diplomacy.

How Tillerson and North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho,  deal with each other at places such as this weekend’s annual ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, will be all important.   The art of diplomatic choreography may not be understood by the voters who cast a ballot for President Trump, but the majority of the nation knows such actions as Tillerson is now engaged in will set up the Trump administration’s moves on its top foreign policy priority for the rest of the year.

A few weeks ago I penned the following and it remains where I hope to see events take us.

While North Korea is clearly front and center in the threat category the way to resolve it is not in a military fashion.  Wise defense leaders agree.  Though I much agree the negotiation route has not up to now been the panacea for a solution that we hoped for, it still does come down to the best route left that would not potentially kill millions in that region.

Getting to the table and making some fast progress is the best idea.  Get China to deal for an interim arrangement that freezes the missile program, followed by further talks to dismantle the program. The timetable can not be seen as being used by North Korea, so a deadline for talks would need to be established.   For concessions North Korea would get sanctions relief but there would be inspections and a need to make sure nuclear material was not transported to third parties.

It is a complex matter but the devastating consequences from not committing to negotiations is a non-starter.