Wisconsin Embarrassed Over Senator Ron Johnson’s Election Stealing Plot

In 1787 Ben Franklin was leaving Independence Hall upon the conclusion of work at the Constitutional Convention when someone asked what had resulted from the months of work.

History records Franklin responding with “A republic, if you can keep it.”

That quip from what we all most certainly learned in our middle school years came to mind when hearing that Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson sought an avenue to undermine our electoral process and endanger our republic.

A top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson attempted to arrange a handoff of false, pro-Trump electors from the senator to Mike Pence just minutes before the then-vice president began to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

The aide, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to hand Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win. The attempt was revealed in text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 select committee during its fourth public hearing on Tuesday.

As Huffington Post strongly inferred in their reporting there is no way to not hold your nose when reading what was attempted when Donald Trump used every means possible to deny Joe Biden his duly elected office.

Trump’s team asked supporters to falsely claim that they were the electors who represented the states’ voters ― and to sign phony slates purportedly delivering Electoral College votes to Trump. The strategy sought to prevent Pence’s certification of the real Electoral College result on Jan. 6, 2021.

During its third hearing, the House committee investigating Trump supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol that day unveiled the text messages between Riley and Hodgson and an additional message from a top Republican official.

In a Jan. 4 text, Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson wrote: “Freaking trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the senate President.”

The revelation that Johnson tried to give Pence false ballots creates a clear link between the senator and the campaign to overturn the 2020 election. And it underscores the range of public and private ways that prominent Republicans supported Trump’s bid to defy voters and hold on to power while fueling the outrage that drove the assault on the Capitol.

Trump was rejecting the vote counts and also impugning the integrity of the process that our nation relies on for the peaceful transfer of power. Those actions were not only outlandish, but exceedingly un-democratic, and dangerous.

Johnson was aiding and abetting that absurd behavior by also working to subvert an election and seeking to undermine faith in the electoral process.

Throughout life many of us have political opinions, some of them strongly held. As history proves repeatedly such varying views and perspectives are what democracy requires to grow and strengthen. But what has been added in a larger dose to that mix over the past several years is out-and-out liars and demagogues in elected offices.

The platforms they are able to act from allowing for their distorted and harmful rhetoric to reach more people; some being unable to reason that everything a failed president or a headline-seeking senator says may not be true.

Johnson’s dangerous actions and continuing themes to the Republican base, which has proven to be easily deluded, have aided in creating a climate where a final and decisive outcome to the 2020 election in the minds of the GOP base is not possible. That is tremendously dangerous for our nation going forward.

To attempt at undermining a legally, and unambiguous victory for the winner of the election, is THY most damaging action of Trump’s term in office. It is the darkest skid mark of his presidency.

I understand that so much has occurred in the nation since summer 2015, but even so, try to take a step back and consider the audacity that was pointed out in the Jan. 6 hearing today. A sitting senator went out of his way to step on the rule of law, our political institutions, and the election processes of our nation.

To have the nation learn that a Wisconsin senator was involved in a plot that even James Patterson could not concoct with a straight face is more than we should have to endure. I am tired of being embarrassed repeatedly by the actions and words of Ron Johnson. I strongly suspect many of my fellow state residents concur.

The Jan. 6th House Committee is proving what happens when using the poorly informed citizenry for hyper-partisan purposes. The dagger that was placed at the heart of our republic was real and remains a continuing threat. That is why I remain so concerned about the overt messaging of continued lies and the undermining of our institutions which has become a theme among national Republicans.

The attempted subversion of our electoral system to meet Trump’s own twisted and deranged personal ends is precisely what dictators do when the voters say ENOUGH! This is what autocrats do when they feel they have nowhere to hide in the light of day or are unable to play by the rules and laws of normal society.

We do not, however, expect a Wisconsin senator to be a part of such diabolic plots. We simply must have both Wisconsin senators mindful of Franklin’s words from the 18th century.

How To Excite Students About History

Some years ago, I tutored a high school student in history for one semester. We were starting with the Articles of Confederation and the War for Independence on this side of the pond. He truly was not interested in ‘those dead men’ and looking at his textbook I could not argue that the writing was tortured and not aimed to excite a young mind.

Enter my favorite Founding Father.

I brought some copied pages from a book that told the story of the morning Alexander Hamilton and Arron Burr met for a duel that killed one and ravaged the reputation of another. I added the slice of trivia about how Dolly Madison and Hamilton’s widow, Elizabeth Hamilton, waved from carriages at the celebration when the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was put in place.

Bit by bit over the weeks I supplemented the staid textbook with the richer and more colorful aspects of the lives of the ones he was to learn about for classroom discussion. While I am sure the student did not become a history major, I know he passed that class.

Using outside sources to aid in teaching history would seem to be essential for teachers, as I can not imagine the school textbooks have improved to the point where they are engaging for students. Recently that thought came to mind when reading Russian history. (If you think teaching American history is tough—ponder Russian history from the early 1700s!)

Over the decades the caliber of historical writing has grown along with easier ways to research the past. Using the outcomes of such advancements in the classroom (even with the restriction on copyrights) can go a long way in creating the context for students to ‘see the past’, and better understand why it matters.

From The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Good History Reads For Your Springtime

I find myself in a really pleasant place with the current history books I am enjoying, and as often the case on Caffeinated Politics, wish to call them out for my readers. As usual, I have a number of books ‘underway’ at the same time, making it easy to pick up a chapter or two based on the mood of the day.

If you are looking for a book that is ‘timely’ and just well-constructed, then The Romanovs would be a grand idea. With the past few months of Russian military build-up and aggression, I have turned more attention to Russian history. (Russia has long been a region I love to read about.) An online friend gave me this book idea, and it is a very compelling read. As I write today Peter the Great has sent his half-sister, Sofia, far way—oh, to have such power (LOL). Simon Sebag Montefiore’s writing is excelled only by his research. Masterfully done on all counts! The narrative is tight yet expansive with tidbits and pacing of the kind I find to be superb. However, if you are squeamish about being thrown out a castle window onto a pike……

Thomas Jefferson: The Art Of Power was high up on my shelves for a number of years, just waiting to come down. Jon Meacham is a wonderful historian and writer, and while the Founders are a great interest of mine there always seemed to be another book that made for the ‘top of the pile’. The latest unnecessary dust-up over the naming of a Madison school was what brought out my footstool to reach up and start the book. I am to Part Five, 1785, and his journey to Europe as a diplomat. What attracts me now, as always to Jefferson and the whole of the Founders, is the ability to have ideals and yet know that pragmatic reasoning must be undertaken to achieve forward progress. History always bends towards modernity, then as now. Just never at the pace, we desire.

Prisoners of Geography is a short, and snappy around the world read with some background, that while not necessarily new information, is compacted and presented in such a way as to connect the ten maps that Tim Marshall presents.

For the meat of international relations, however, I head to the master. I find Henry Kissinger essential to understanding our world. Some revile him, and I understand that. But for pure realism about not only how the world is constructed with complex relationships but why that is so, there is no one better to explain it. Or pose the questions we need to ponder moving forward. One reviewer for World Order stated the book should be read by every new member of Congress. Presently am at The Multiplicity Of Asia, after Kissinger expounded on the irrationality that is present-day Iran.

Whatever book(s) you pick up to read…the main thing is to read books. I am troubled with too much of our world reading nothing more than what can be typed for a Twitter posting. The knowledge we need, the questions we should wish to be posed and answered, demand books in our lives.

Happy reading.

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.

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.

Six Years Later–Epic Ken Follett Book Series Completed–Well, Sort Of

This weekend a fabulous reading marathon was completed–after six years.

Well, not so fast, bunky! Hold on, as there is one more volume to read.

Six years ago when James and I traveled to Galena, Illinois I packed Ken Follett’s The Pillars Of The Earth into our suitcase. I recall that minivacation because the day we came back to Madison I was reading inside as the rain fell, and the thunder crashed. In time, we would know that a short distance away a tornado had hit on East Washington Avenue. ( I have an odd habit of placing books I love with the events occurring while reading them.)

The Kingsbridge Novels are tomes and given there were three of them (at the time) I spaced them out among my books of interest over the years. I finished the first volume about a twelfth-century project of building a mighty Gothic cathedral. However, I was so intrigued by the topic of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1558 and the power struggles between Catholics and Protestants, I next read the third volume, A Column Of Fire.

It should be noted these books can be read out of order. I am rather opposed–generally speaking–to skipping about with a series but in this case, it does not alter the story or take away from the joy within the pages. I guess my OCD does have flexibility!

This weekend World Without End was concluded. Starting in 1327 the book takes us into the heart of the plague and the means of taxation and deprivation of the ones tied to the land by cruel earls and landholders.

To say the books are epics would be akin to saying the Grand Canyon is deep. The weaving of characters and plots over a thousand pages with a tight narrative is not something to be started by faint-hearted writers. But Follett does it seemingly effortlessly–which is a sign of how professional he is as an author.

As I closed the cover of the paperback and took to my blog to praise the series I am truly surprised to learn that my reading journey is not quite over with Kingsbridge!

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people, and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

As Amazon alerts us….”Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, Follett’s masterful new prequel The Evening and the Morning takes us on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate, that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins.”

(I ordered the book before this post was finished.)

For lovers of books and fans of favorite authors, it is needless to say there is indeed a wonderful satisfaction to have another 800 pages waiting for that special time–perhaps a year or two away–to settle in for a journey sure to be loved.

Oh, yes, thank you Ken Follett!

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos Should Take Page From Thomas Jefferson Playbook

I am absolutely confident that the vast majority of reasonable Wisconsinites, from both sides of the political aisle, are tired of re-arguing the 2020 presidential election. The vast majority of citizens know the election was fair, the results solid, and the ongoing stirring of the partisan debate to be needless.

Oh, yes, and that same public is opposed to any use of taxpayer dollars to further stoke the partisan fires and undermine the faith that should be instilled in our electoral processes.

This past week it was reported that former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, now the special counsel in a Republican-orchestrated investigation of the 2020 election, signed a new contract with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Following that news report, Vos issued a statement praising Gableman for doing a “good job”.

We should expect any Speaker to have pointed remarks and firm stands on the issues of the day. Actual issues, that is. Like methods of raising revenue for transportation needs or how to better formulate school aid payments. But needlessly stirring the red-meat ‘election is not over’ stew for the Republican base seems not only too blatantly partisan but also just sordid.

This brings me to Thomas Jefferson and how Vos might benefit from taking some advice from a Founding Father. (Please hear me out.)

After a close friend of Jefferson’s father dies, the parentless children are added to the Jefferson household. One of those children was a boy two years older than Jefferson, and historians have theorized that it was in those years of potential conflict and tension in the combined family that Jefferson found a most useful tool.

Comity over needless conflict is the best route to take.

Throughout his entire life, Jefferson was known not to engage in unneeded conflict. While not backing down in diplomatic missions to Europe or factional fights within the early years of the nation, he also was known not to desire personal confrontation. He did not pick a fight that was not needed to be fought.

We often think of the Founding Fathers providing guidance and views on the cornerstones of democracy. But if we heed the quieter patterns of their lives we will find lessons that can be learned, that when then added to their well-known consequential actions, makes governing stronger and more productive.

It is a lesson that I sincerely believe Vos could benefit from in his duties as Speaker.

I have no doubt, whatsoever, that Vos fully knows there is nothing to be ‘learned’ or ‘discovered’ or ‘made known’ about the 2020 Wisconsin election. Vos knows this investigation is all just for the demonstration that the Wisconsin GOP has not lost touch with the base of the party.

But in so doing the Speaker has constructed a needless fight in our state over something that is not even there to be fought. It would seem a better use of the assembly leader’s time to focus on how to upgrade worker skills so to meet the needs of employers in the state. Or assist in making sure more graduates from our high schools have a better grasp of civics and history.

It just perplexes me how the platform that Vos has been given is being used too often for the most marginal of purposes.

And so it goes.

Happy Johnny Appleseed Day, With “American Canopy”

At the start of each day, I scan through a series of headlines from a variety of news sources which I have arrive in my email box. Among the news from Washington and London comes my daily snippet from The Old Farmer’s Almanac. (A tradition from my childhood—the Almanac, not the email!)

Today I am reminded it is Johnny Appleseed Day, honoring John Chapman, a native of Leominster, Mass., who introduced apple trees to parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, and Ontario. Though the actual story of this man was as much about religion as apple seeds.

Many years ago I was given the book American Canopy, which looks at the history of our nation from the vantage point of trees. As a lover of history, this fresh concept of history written with such feeling and devotion by Eric Rutkow fully grabbed my attention. I not only thoroughly enjoyed the book but have bought it for a number of friends for gifts at holidays or when they needed a pick-me-up.

The portion of the book concerning the man of the day offers an aspect to Chapman I had not known before. His deep faith in a fringe aspect of Christianity is truly interesting. So I pulled my book off the shelves today and snapped a few pics of paragraphs that I trust intrigue my readers.

Amid all the headlines of pain and suffering from Eastern Europe might this be a bit of tonic for the soul. Living life in a good way will be long recalled.

And so it goes.