Speaker Robin Vos Should Not Be Dismissive Of Judge’s Contempt Ruling

I suspect Wisconsinites firmly believe that the ones who make the laws should be the first ones abiding by them. If one asked at any barbershop or diner from Mason to Muskego there would be most certainly strong agreement that our elected officials must not show disdain for the rules of law and order.

If one chatted over coffee and pie with locals I am very sure there would be agreement that a judge’s ruling should be viewed with the respect accorded to people on the bench, and not made into a partisan affair. We can almost hear the voices in this state say if the ones in top positions of government flaunt the laws what message does that send to average citizens about the way we should conduct ourselves in society?

When I pulled the snowy blue plastic bag off Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal my eyes landed on the troubling front-page story about the contempt charge against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

A Dane County Circuit judge held Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court Wednesday for failing to provide requested public documents related to the ongoing GOP-ordered review of the 2020 election.

Approached by a reporter following a pair of town halls in western Racine County Wednesday afternoon, during which Vos repeatedly told listeners that the 2020 election could not be decertified, Vos responded to being found in contempt of court.

“It’s a liberal judge in Dane County trying to make us look bad. I don’t know about you, but when you have deleted emails, how do you get deleted emails back if they’re from Gmail? We already have an expert saying they can’t be done. You have a judge who’s focused on making a name for herself, and that’s all she’s doing,” Vos said.

The news that the assembly speaker shrugged off the contempt charge by ‘a liberal judge’ sounds like what we too often hear in our politics. But if it is possible to step back and ponder the significance of that remark it will demonstrate how far away we are from the core values that need to be embraced.

It is not possible to have a healthy democracy if the public perceives that legal rulings and decisions handed down by judges are based on partisan politics rather than the rule of law. When we have not only elected officials, but top members of government who echo such sentiments, it is truly disturbing.

Simply put, Robin Vos, who is now speaker and clearly has eyes on higher office, should not in any way contribute to the further erosion of trust in the judiciary. There is nothing to be gained–other than cheap short-term partisan politics–by fostering a deeper struggle about the distinction between law and politics.

We have always had an intersection of law and politics–from Justice John Marshall forward. That is how our constitutional balancing act was created. But with increasing volume and in numerous ways the institutional legitimacy of our judges is being questioned. That is absolutely harmful to our democracy. While Vos may think he is in some way upholding the views of some of his constituents with his unfortunate remark, it is far more important that a judge properly uphold the law. That is the lesson we need to heed.

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with a ruling or seeking to better understand a law that decides a case. But it is never proper or appro­pri­ate to defy a ruling or attempt to undermine a judge with a personal attack, as Vos did with this contempt ruling.

I know this story is just par for the course these days given our politics. But in fact, this is really a sad place we find ourselves. Our democracy needs to have more citizen advocates who hold public officials accountable when they undermine our Constitutional norms and values.

And so it goes.

Former Madison ‘Mayor Dave’ Endorses David Blaska For School Board

Some speculated it was going to happen. And today it did.

Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz added his voice of gravitas and endorsed the write-in candidacy of David Blaska for Seat 4 on the Madison School Board. The election is Tuesday, April 6th.

In what can only be termed as direct and unequivocal the former leader of our city summed up the present situation that our school district now finds itself.

People, this is nuts. This is just bat-shit crazy. 

Cieslewicz gets to that point in his endorsement after reminding readers of what we read in our newspaper all too often.

Massive fights involving both students and parents. Kids bringing loaded guns to school. Special needs kids being beaten. An official policy, enthusiastically endorsed by Muldrow, that actually discourages calling police when a child is beaten.

I’m voting for David Blaska. God help me. But God help us all if we continue down the path laid out for us by the current board without at least someone to challenge the status quo.

Yeah, he’s a lot more conservative than I am, but that does not change the simple fact that what he’s saying about school safety is true. He wants to make the basic safety of students and staff a priority. He would return the SRO’s and get rid of the wrong-headed Behavioral Education Plan, which discourages staff from calling the police even when there’s physical violence. These things are just common sense.

Madison’s logical core of voters surely are saying, “Thanks, Dave”.

I have for decades argued for pragmatism in our politics. When first cutting my teeth in politics in Door County up to this moment for truth when addressing violence in our Madison schools. I am so pleased that Mayor Dave is standing resolute for common sense and honesty as we enter the final days leading to our Spring Election.

And so it goes.

James Baker, Lester Hunt, Allen Drury, And The Gay Plot Of “Advise And Consent”

To say the lightning crashed directly outside our home Tuesday night would be akin to saying the coffee poured directly into my mug this morning. Needless to say, I was most certainly awake after our first thunderstorm of the spring season. So after making scrambled eggs at 3 AM I went back to bed, pulled a book from the bedside pile, and read a chapter.

James Baker: The Man Who Ran Washington by the husband and wife powerhouse reporting team Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, received critical praise for the joint effort at bringing one of the consequential men of the later decades of the 20th century into better focus. The book landed on my pile as it is designed to show how power is attained in Washington, and once accomplished, how it is used. That same intriguing theme runs through Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson volumes, which I adore.

At the close of the first chapter, In The Magnolia City, a line I had not intended to find in a contemporary book popped off the page. James Baker and his dad were going on a hunting trip for big game. A paragraph listed the others in the hunting party.

…..and the governor of Wyoming, Lester Hunt, who later became the inspiration for one of the main characters in Allen Drury’s classic Advise and Consent.

I have read and admired Allen Drury since The Throne of Saturn in my middle school years, and in high school when I first read his famed Pulitzer prize-winning book. In time, I would read the whole series. I have them all placed in a special location on my bookshelves above my desk where I write this post.

Since I was not at all certain which of the characters in the book Hunt was to have helped create I did a fast google search on my iPad and found out a nugget not before known.

The legendary book by Drury is built around a bitter Senate confirmation battle that takes a wild turn off the pages, that in high school, I could not have predicted. A widely respected young senator is blackmailed over a homosexual affair in his past, prompting him to commit suicide in his Senate office. In later years, I would learn how this book interacted with our real-life politics and the way gay men and women dealt with being gay on the political stage. The book truly had an impact on our society.

Drury wrote the book in 1960 and used the suicide of Democratic Senator Lester Hunt, who shot himself in his Senate office on June 19, 1954, as the focal point.

Hunt wasn’t gay. But his son, Lester “Buddy” Hunt Jr., had been arrested the year before for soliciting gay sex in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House.

As Paul Harvey, another favorite at this blogger’s desk would say, “now you know the rest of the story”.

Lester “Buddy” Hunt, jr., looks directly at the camera in this undated photo of Hunt family and friends at the governor’s mansion in Cheyenne; Gov. Hunt at far right. Courtesy Buddy Hunt.

The lesson to be taken from this post, however, if when awakened in the night by a loud storm do not get up to eat, and for Pete’s sake do not pick up an interesting book and start reading…..!

And so it goes.

Donald Trump Phone Log Gap Requires A Modern “Rose Mary Stretch”

When it comes to the seditious and treasonous activity encouraged and undertaken by Donald Trump following the 2020 election it needs to be stated, much akin to the actions of the cover-up by President Richard Nixon and his White House following the famed Watergate break-in, that there is no place to hide from the light of day.

The news today showing internal White House records from the horrific day of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters has a stupifying gap in Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes!

Poor Rose Mary Woods, the thicker than thieves friend and secretary to Nixon fell on the political and legal sword, taking the blame for the missing 18-minutes of a most vital, and quite obviously highly-incriminating, Oval Office tape recording. She even performed a most illogical and embarrassing ‘re-creation’ of how the erasure occurred.

Nixon historians have long understood that Woods had intimate knowledge about the Watergate scandal. But now Trump, in light of the criminal activity that continues to unfold surrounding the insurrection of January 6, 2021, needs a modern version of the “Rose Mary Stretch.”

The crux of the latest stab at the heart of democracy is the lack of an official White House notation of any phone calls placed to or by Trump for 457 minutes, from 11:17 A.M. to 6:54 P.M. on the day his autocratic plans were put into practice. It goes without saying the audacity of destroying or hiding records plays counter to the facts which are demonstrated by broad-based reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack

In March 2016 Bob Woodward gave a presentation about Watergate. He made a statement that reflected well on the national nightmare that was all the assorted crimes and criminal spokes of the wheel that we call Watergate.

“It has been said that Watergate was a ‘lust for political power.’  True, but it was much more—a broader, organized, well-funded, mean-spirited, criminal, secret assault on democracy.

I know that same statement can lean forward in history and also sum up Donald Trump and his brazen attack on democracy.

Who can now be found to explain–akin to Rose Mary Woods-why over 7 hours of phone logs simply disappeared?

And so it goes.

Wilbur Mills Knew How To Create A Real Sex Scandal

Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images with photo of Madison Cawthorn above

I grew up in a rather conservative household. Not in any rigid or bombastic way, but in the mild and routine ways and manners that came with rural Wisconsin in the 1960s and ’70s. My mom frowned on hearing ‘damn’ used by officeholders in news clips on the radio and felt a president should wear a jacket when in the Oval Office. My dad spent 40 years in town government looking out for how tax dollars were spent.

So it will not be surprising to learn when I was just starting out in high school the story that was talked about with disdain at home along with ‘what is the latest’ concerning an Arkansas Democratic congressman and a stripper, held my attention. Mom was born in that southern state and felt pride when something positive was reported coming from it. I can assure you that Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe, the frolicking woman in the Tidal Basin in front of the Jefferson Memorial, did not win anything other than rebukes at our home.

If such stories were reported over the years about married members of congress they were viewed as unacceptable and not how we should model our lives. The moral lessons from home were always rather basic.

I thought about Mills and the stripper this morning, and by extension what my parents would say concerning the latest sexual bombshell of a story that has riveted Washington.

North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn has stated some of his fellow elected members invited him to sexual orgies. He also claimed cocaine was used in his presence.

The first-term conservative said he received invitations along the lines of: “‘Well, hey, we’re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes, you should come’.” The 26-year-old described his response on the podcast “Warrior Poet Society”: “I’m like, ‘What did you just ask me to come to?’ And then you realize they are asking you to come to an orgy.”

The fact Cawthorn made such a public statement before any sex was actually undertaken is what needs to be addressed. If the offer actually happened what was to be gained by making it known? But since it was likely a self-generated moment of delusion one has to then ask what is the deeper problem with Cawthorn?

It is one thing to have an elected official with a zipper problem caught after his affair and embarrassed. Even a conservative one like Mills who seemed to live a rather staid life overall. The post-coitus blame game then starts with booze or pills and a lack of momentary mindfulness being the root cause of forgetting the spouse was back at home.

But how do we explain Cawthorn, who is a walking minefield of odd behavior, now creating a sex scandal out of supposed conversations? I am not sure if the one-term congressman grasps that he can not just state something like that without a whole series of reporters asking who, exactly, is he implicating and when did this party invite get sent?

Meanwhile, Washington and the rest of the nation know what a real sex scandal looks like. And what a mere attempt at headline-grabbing looks like, too.

And so it goes.

WIN: Whip Inflation Now

Here is another reason to pay heed to how books are aligned in your home library. Moving them about will perhaps give you an idea for a blog post. (I simply could not allow this space to be taken over today by the slap heard around the globe. Not giving an inch of this blog to drama queens and angry man-boys.)

Putting my White House Press Secretary books in a new order meant I had to move Ron Nesson’s book, It Sure Looks Different From The Inside, and of course, thumbing through it again was warranted. President Gerald Ford, like President Joe Biden today, was dealing with high inflation across the nation.

Ford had a plan to deal with inflation. Whip it.

On page 75 Nesson writes that Ford was earnest bout the WIN program, based on the home-spun notion that the average citizen, in little ways, could help whip inflation.

As I searched for a few photos about WIN on the internet I came across attempts to enlist people at planting a local garden to stave off high food prices. Given the small size of the seed packets, it seemed like terrace gardens were in mind. Back home in Hancock during this time period, like the years before and after, we had a massive garden with at least 40 potato plants each summer, rows of corn, tomato plants galore, and everything else that could grow in soil.

The reason to write this post, other than a trip down memory lane, is to alert us to the road we have traveled many times before, and the fact we made it through. We always do. High gas prices are not a new feature of life, nor the grousing about them.

The pandemic was most unsettling and for far too many deadly. The undermining of our economy from COVID remains staggering. But if we are smart we can traverse around new variants rather than needing to bluntly marshall the populace through them. Vaccines are still the best route to a robust economy.

Thankfully, in the United States, Africa, China, South America, and most of Europe, it can be said that we can be counted as among the fortunate ones. We can all say our homes are not being shelled by Russian invaders.

All of a sudden inflation is not so pressing.

And so it goes.

President Biden Said What World Knows To Be True: Democracy Matters

President Biden addressed the 800-pond gorilla sitting in the international living room this weekend. While he was talking about Russian aggression against Ukraine, and spoke most candidly (and correctly) about the future of President Putin, it was his clarion call for democracy that rightly stirred people worldwide.

The last point is one I have persistently addressed over the years. The United States must reassert itself not only with our military and economic might, but also with our ideals.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

We sometimes take for granted the role of a president, regardless of which party holds the office. It seems old-fashioned, perhaps, for younger generations to see our leader stand on the world stage and preach the values of democracy. But this weekend, on every television screen around the globe our President was seen speaking about the serious worldwide battle of democracy versus dictatorship, freedom versus authoritarianism, and human rights versus oppression.

(Somewhere Allen Drury is surely smiling.)

There was no way not to be pleased and reassured over the past days as Biden traveled to Europe and proved the value of again having a truly powerful and passionate champion of democracy speaking for the global community. It does feel good, even in these truly horrible weeks as Ukraine has been invaded, to see our nation in a leadership role.

Biden made the point learned from history.

….Ten years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and Poland and Central and Eastern Europe would soon be free. Nothing about that battle for freedom was simple or easy. It was a long, painful slog. Fought over not days and months but years and decades. But we emerged anew in the great battle for freedom. A battle between democracy and autocracy. Between liberty and repression. Between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force. In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves of a long fight ahead.

Autocrats prattle about how democracy is not the way for nations to grow and prosper. Actions from Hungary to Brazil have left many worldwide rightly concerned about the condition of democracy. China has challenged democratic tendencies in places like Hong Kong, while we know all too well that Russia will do anything for wistful memories of an empire.

Meanwhile, many others in the world are finding a new resolve to adhere to alliances and the values of freedom. So those matters are not relics, to be left gathering dust? Was it not only a few years ago some were even willing to let NATO drift and flounder?

The world looks at the bottom line and knows the value of free markets where the United States and Europe, combined, have $40 trillion of GDP as opposed to Russia eking out just over $1 trillion in GDP. The data shows the power of working democracies.

When watching Biden on Saturday, I will readily admit, to some goosebumps as his words struck historic themes and also again demonstrated the role I have so long wanted my country to take. I firmly believe in an internationalist mindset where we connect with other countries to foster united solutions. The firming up of our international institutions is imperative. And our resolve to demonstrate an ability to be the leader of the world is without question the first priority.

I have continually stated our nation can meet the test of democracy around the world if we meet the challenges with leadership and intellect.  We did that very thing this weekend.

In my own country, a former president named Abraham Lincoln voiced the opposing spirit to save our union in the midst of the Civil War. He said let us have faith that right makes might. Right makes might. Today, let us have that faith again. [Applause] Let us resolve to put the strength of democracies into action to thwart the designs of autocracy.

And finally, most urgently, we maintain absolute unity, we must, among the world’s democracies. It’s not enough to speak with rhetorical flourish of ennobling words of democracy, of freedom, of quality, and liberty. All of us, including here in Poland, must do the hard work of democracy each and every day — my country as well. That’s why [applause], that’s why I came to Europe again this week with a clear and determined message for NATO, for the G7, for the European Union, for all freedom-loving nations — we must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after. And for the years and decades to come. It will not be easy. There will be costs. But it is a price we have to pay because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere.

And so it goes.

The Oscars Make Sunday Grand! The Power Of The Dog Will Romp Tonight

I do love movies and films. And each year I thrill to the Oscars.

Growing up in a small rural area helped instill in me the grandeur of Hollywood. Though I did not see many movies as a kid on the big screen I saw enough late-night movies to know I needed to appreciate the talent it takes to write, act, produce, and direct. How I felt as a kid is how I still now react to movies. Some make me smile, others cry, some make me think, and others are just pure fun to watch.

Due to the pandemic, the last big-screen movie I watched was in 2019. But with a nice screen and surround sound at our home the ability to escape with a tonic for the soul within the frame of a film continues.

Just like when I was a teenager in Hancock, the 94th Academy Awards tonight will be a time for movie magic. I have that same eagerness to see the men in tuxes and women in designer gowns enter with grace and hope. With so much hurt in the world right now some uplifting winds are timely.

The Oscars are for more than just looking at the films of the past year but also a vehicle for montages to again remind us of the magic that film continues to hold from decades past.  I trust there are some legends who show up and make the night come alive with memories. (With this the 50th anniversary of The Godfather I have some hopes…..)

I give plenty of political predictions each year on CP, and I love thinking through the various components that will produce a winner or loser. I have not been shy over the years about doing the same for Best Picture. As such, I am betting it all on The Power Of The Dog to take home the biggest award of the night.

The pacing of the film drew me in at once. The use of landscapes and horizons set against the epic feel of the story blend in such a way that the award for cinematography must also be carried home by this film. Ari Wegner will be applauded heartily for the win.

Taking home the Best Actor award will be Benedict Cumberbatch who was masterful in the film. I am not sure that Kodi Smit-McPhee can do the same with Supporting Actor–though his character was the one I rooted for the entire movie. One just has to love justice, in whatever form it takes.

I loved this film! And I just know the Academy of voters surely felt the same.

And so it goes.