Kentucky Makes For Smiles Nationwide

I was eating a late dinner at home when the Kentucky race for governor was called.  Somewhere between shouting and swallowing, then a fist pump, and then more shouting made for what had already been a very good day–even better.

I had predicted this race would be lost by Democrats, as I had factored in national themes being used by Republicans would titillate enough voters to make a difference.  But it appears that reasonable voters decided what was best for their state was to reject Republican Matt Bevin.  Voters in the Bluegrass State moved Andy Beshear, the Democratic state attorney general and the son of Bevin’s immediate predecessor, into the governor’s office.

National Democrats are cheering a victory there, and also in Virginia where both legislative houses–the Senate and House of Delegates–are now in the hands of the people who use facts.  With this news, there is no containing the sensation that is filling hearts coast-to-coast that our nation might be at the point where the xenophobes, misogynists, and white supremacists can be turned out of office.

I know we can keep the energy level for the next year, will continue to reach out to our base of voters, promote the issues that matter to a diverse electorate, (the GOP can never claim that!) and in so doing get our nation out of the ditch.  

In the meantime let us celebrate Kentucky with their state song.

Wisconsin Residents Can Not Feel Good About Senate Action Over Brad Pfaff

Partisanship took another nasty leap forward on Tuesday when the Wisconsin State Senate voted to deny Brad Pfaff’s nomination to head the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.  There would be no story here if there was a legal or ethical claim as to why the nomination should not have been approved.

But there was nothing more than a partisan snit over how agricultural and health issues had been dealt with by Pfaff over the past months.  To bring such base motives to the floor when a governor asks for the cabinet of his choice is a very sad chapter in our state.

There are plenty of places for political clashes to occur, and legitimately so.  But to have a spectacle of this type play out in the statehouse over a cabinet nomination was unseemly.

One of the salient points Pfaff made earlier this year was a need to pay more attention to farmers who feel suicidal.  He merely pushed back in public when the GOP tried to delay funding for a farmer suicide prevention program.  Anyone who has grown up in rural Wisconsin, where agricultural economics are often unsettling, understands why such funds are much needed.  That Republicans would retaliate for such concerns over mental health issues is simply outrageous.

People around the state, who follow the news but are not overly mindful of the politics of this story, need to be reminded that Pfaff was nominated in January.  During this process, he was supported by all trade associations and also by all those Republicans sitting on an oversight committee in February.

And then today on the Senate floor the vote fell along party lines.  Each of the 19 Republicans voted against Pfaff, while all 14 Democrats voted for him.  How the five Republican senators were united in supporting Pfaff in committee, but rejected him on the floor, is why there is much to feel lousy about following this vote.  Governing in our state is in serious trouble. According to the Legislature’s nonpartisan research office, the state Senate hasn’t fired a member of a governor’s Cabinet since at least 1987.

Fair play is how most Wisconsinites conduct themselves.  Our civics classes helped us to reason why the Executive should be allowed to fill a cabinet with the choices best suited for the needs of the time.  Unless there is a strong reason such as criminal behavior, ethical lapses, or moral impairments a governor should have the cabinet selections of their choosing.

Qualifications for the job, passion for farmers, and skills based on experience all would seem to be the desire for any legislature when selecting a person to lead this part of our state government.  Pfaff’s resume had everything anyone could wish for but was rejected for purely partisan reasoning.

There will be those within the GOP ranks who will spin this vote in an attempt to demonstrate why such an outcome was required on the Senate floor.  But for those in rural Wisconsin, who still feel a handshake and their word are as good as a contract,  will feel a sense of sadness about the way governing has broken down in our state.

Gordon Sondland: Whoops, I Guess It Was Quid Pro Quo!

Dinah Washington sang What A Difference A Day Makes in the late 1950s.  That tune today has a timely feel given the headline-making news this afternoon.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators this week that he now remembers telling a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not receive U.S. military assistance until it committed to investigating the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony.

Sondland’s latest testimony — stated in a three-page declaration to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — represents an update to the testimony he gave in October and contains significant new details. That includes a fuller accounting of the role he played in personally telling the Ukrainians they needed to cooperate with the demands of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, if they wanted the aid money.

The timeline of events Sondland outlined in his opening statement in October largely absolved him of any wrongdoing or of having any foreknowledge of a scheme to use U.S. foreign policy to advance Trump’s political interests. That characterization, however, was at stark odds with both the testimony of other officials and with written records obtained by the House in its impeachment inquiry. His new testimony makes clear that he had been well aware that releasing foreign aid was conditional to Ukraine launching the desired investigations.

According to the new sworn declaration, Sondland told Congress that his memory was “refreshed” after reviewing the opening statements given to Congress by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former adviser to Trump on Russian and European affairs.

Let us again be reminded of a continuing theme that runs through the Donald Trump White House and his administration.  Over and over the slime, ooze and corruption have coated those who have come into Trump’s orbit.  Careers that had carried luster and achievement, once in the Trump climate, are turned into blemishments and then into disdain from the American public.

The turn around by Sondland surely has a legal foundation, but there should be no doubt as to the other leg of reason as to why there is such a sharp change in his memory.  He wants to be recorded in the pages of history as one who did not fully sell his soul to the dark side.

The news today underscores a truth.  Trump is becoming ever more isolated from those he thought was wedded to his corruption and abuse of power.

Seeking Trans American School Of Broadcasting Alumni Through Facebook

Radio has always been a central part of my life.  Growing up without TV meant in our Hancock home we knew the value of radio for both news and entertainment.  In my early adult years, I worked in radio (WDOR AM/FM Sturgeon Bay, WI) as an on-air announcer and also with news reporting.

Before I landed behind a microphone I spent time with some eager and bright men and women who also understood the medium of radio. I have kept in contact with some from my broadcasting school, but yearn to connect with others who have spread out over this nation.  I am hoping to locate other graduates from my broadcasting school–Trans American School of Broadcasting–located at the time in Wausau, Wisconsin.

I am currently preparing to enter into podcasting from my home on the Madison isthmus and continue to be amazed at how the functions of an entire studio board, tape decks, reels, and record players are now all incorporated into the computer program of Audicity.   For me, however, there is a fondness for the static of AM, the warmth of a radio studio on a cold winter day, and the conversation I had with an audience behind the station microphone.


All Eyes Are On Virginia And Kentucky Today

Vote Nov. 5 - Color

It is election day in a couple of key states today.  Tea-leaf readers, and for good reason, have their senses on high alert for the outcomes in Virginia and Kentucky.

In Virginia, control of the state House and Senate is up for grabs, with Republicans holding a narrow 20-19 majority in the state Senate, and a 51-48 edge in the House of Delegates.  This is the place where tonight Democrats are going to feel great as they will win, in my estimation, a resounding victory.    With this win, they will have consolidated power for the first time in 26 years.  With a Democratic governor, they will be on track to enact legislation long blocked by Republicans.

It is in Kentucky where I believe the Democrats will come up short as Republican Governor Matt Bevin will be re-elected.  He is the most irksome GOP governor, now that Wisconsin sent Scott Walker out of the statehouse.  While Democratic candidate Andy Beshear has proved to be a solid contender and coming from a powerful political family, it is the national tribalism which plays favorable to the GOP.  

Each party will have a way to spin the elections when talking about 2020.

The Work Of Modern-Day Woodward And Bernstein

Growing up during the Watergate era meant Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were household names.  In high school, I read their famed All The President’s Men about President Nixon and the illegal activity taking place in the White House.  Due in part to the journalistic duo, my fascination with Nixon, turned into a decades-long history lesson. My bookshelves contain over 70 Nixon books.  Dinner guests know to expect at least one Nixon story before the evening is completed.

Today there are reporters who are cutting their teeth on the impeachment process of Donald Trump.  There are surely new ‘Gregorys’ around the nation just starting to take an interest in national events.  The cycle of reporting on this political story with historical implications will create yet another generation of engaged citizens.

That is why I found this story from Politico to be perfectly toned as it made me reflect back to the journalistic heroes from my teenage years.  The work today’s intrepid reporters are doing for their newspapers and publications will leave our citizens informed and our nation stronger.

This is the proverbial room where it happens — a storied and mysterious place in which witnesses spill secrets that could lead to the third impeachment in U.S. history — and no one on the outside will ever know the full extent of what transpired.

As Republicans gleefully point out, the Trump impeachment inquiry can best be understood by those doors, emblazoned with a scarlet sign reading “Restricted Area — No public or media access.”

For weeks, we’ve spent entire days stationed outside the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, pronounced skiff) waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of the men and women who submit to lawmakers’ interrogation and, if we’re lucky, a morsel of new information from a lawyer or a lawmaker who might be in the mood to dish.

There’s a code of camaraderie outside the SCIF, too. When lawmakers or witnesses are spotted heading toward the facility or exiting, those of us closest to the action will call ahead to our colleagues on other floors to let them know where to station themselves for a second chance to ask a crucial question. Shouts of “heads-up!” reverberating up those spiral stairs jolt everyone to attention.

When it’s clear a lawmaker isn’t going to spill his or her guts about that day’s testimony, we often ask the only thing likely to get a substantive response: How much longer will the interview go? We’ve become so jaded that even when the answer is “almost done,” we brace ourselves for several more hours of waiting and use the time to replenish our depleted caffeine.

Honoring Stephen Goddard


This morning, while reading my daily listing of political news from Taegan Goddard on his Political Wire, I came across this sad news for his family.   His father, Stephen, died yesterday.  But it was the way Taegan presented his dad, so the rest of us could glimpse a view of how his life was lived, that caught my attention.

My dear father, Stephen Goddard, passed away yesterday afternoon.

So much of what you see on Political Wire was influenced by him. Although I was just a child, he took hours to explain the historical importance of the Watergate hearings and how our system of government worked. In 1976, we sat in front of the television with yellow legal pads counting up electoral votes as Walter Cronkite called each state in the presidential election.

When the Hartford Times shut down — a newspaper where he once worked a reporter — he taught me about the importance of journalism to the workings of government. We even spent time thinking about how to resurrect the Times in the digital media era.

He was an attorney, teacher, author of three books and a devoted Red Sox fan. But his greatest legacy was his love for his family. We will miss him terribly. 

This nation would be much better off if we had more fathers raising children the way Stephen did in his home.  What a wonderful tribute.

First Banned Book In America

Banned books get some attention here at Caffeinated Politics.  I think it important to make people aware that some books are banned and challenged.  Even in 2019. Such moves are preposterous.

But it was the item I found this morning in my email, concerning a published work from centuries ago, which makes for this post.  It deals with Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan.  It becomes the first banned book in America.

Apparently, Thomas Morton didn’t get the memo. The English businessman arrived in Massachusetts in 1624 with the Puritans, but he wasn’t exactly on board with the strict, insular, and pious society they had hoped to build for themselves. “He was very much a dandy and a playboy,” says William Heath, a retired professor from Mount Saint Mary’s University who has published extensively on the Puritans. Looking back, Morton and his neighbors were bound to butt heads sooner or later.

Heath is careful to stress that the book is not a literary masterwork, but he acknowledges that it has its moments. Knol says she was particularly struck by the nicknames Morton threw at his Puritan foes, whom he called “cruell Schismaticks.” It’s hard to know who got it worse between Standish and John Endecott, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (Plymouth’s neighbor to the north): Endecott is known in the book as “Captaine Littleworth,” Standish as “Captaine Shrimp.” Even more radical than his belittling appellations were Morton’s subversive policy ideas, which went so far as to recommend “demartialising” the colonies. Unsurprisingly, the Puritans were appalled. Bradford, Plymouth’s governor, called New English Canaan “an infamous and scurrilous book against many god and chief men of the country, full of lies and slanders and fraught with profane calumnies against their names and persons and the ways of God.”