Author Archives: mjohnson

Woodward, Inc.

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  SEP 20, 2020

What should have been a blinding dust storm of controversy over the pre-release promotion of Bob Woodward’s new book Rage, turned out to be a minor dust up quickly swept under the rug by most of the journalistic establishment.

The media seem to adore Woodward and largely for good reason. His stature is iconic. He paved the way for a whole class of tell-all books that have no doubt made some enterprising reporters a lot of money. He and Watergate sidekick Carl Bernstein were modern-day pioneers in a new brand of investigative reporting powerful enough to bring down a President. He is a publishing industry tycoon. What a guy.

The pre-release public relations campaign for Rage, however, raised enough troubling ethical questions that the press should not have let slip through the crack of professional courtesy so easily. Continue reading

Violent Protests, Killings Threaten Social Justice Movement

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  SEP 2, 2020

The country remembers the names of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Now the nation knows the name of Jacob Blake.

Blake and the others were all killed in incidents of alleged racial discrimination and most cases, charges of police brutality. Several of the killings were captured on amateur video. One in particular, that of George Floyd in Minneapolis depicted what was to me a horrendous and gruesome act of murder. It made you sick, sad, and angry.

There are other reasons for sadness and anger that don’t get much attention but are critical impediments to achieving the kind of national unity needed for change.

Do you know the names Italia Kelly of Davenport, or David Dorn of St. Louis or Chris Beaty or David McAtee of Louisville or Patrick Underwood of San Francisco? How about Anthony Huber of Silver Lake? Probably not. Continue reading

Will COVID-19 Restock the Shelves with Civility, Tolerance?

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  APR 29, 2020

“I get it. You’re mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad, and Luna is a golden-doodle and they don’t get mad.” — Professor Jonathan Turley, testifying on impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee December 2, 2019.

The intensity of hate and anger that Dr. Turley experienced on Capitol Hill when he testified late last year in the impeachment proceeding against President Donald Trump has been subdued by the COVID-19 pandemic…for now.

Little did we know just four months ago that while national attention was in the clutches of the political theater being staged in the Capitol, the deadly virus was already creeping into the lives of people on the west coast.

What better time for an old cliché:

If we had only known then what we know now…. think how different things might be.

But that’s water under the bridge, over the dam, down the drain. Continue reading

Coronavirus Crisis Will Pass; Then What?

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  APR 21, 2020

When you have friends and family exposed to the risk of the “novel” coronavirus, which most of us do, it is difficult to think about much else.

New data based on revised models hold out hope for a quicker- than- predicted earlier cessation of the anguish. But just as hope gets brighter the light at the end of the tunnel dims. One scientist warns of a resurgence in the fall worse than this one and other scientists warn of a resurgence now if we don’t keep our distance from one another.

Still, it is time to think and plan ahead. The COVID-19 virus experience has left us with a mountain of problems and challenges, some caused by the virus, some older simply given new urgency by the pandemic. Continue reading

Broken Branch of Government Is Legislative

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  NOV 19, 2019

Last week was an important one in the House of Representatives. No, it wasn’t because of impeachment hearings.

While former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was putting in a command performance in the Longworth Building, across the street in the Capitol the House of Representatives was voting to extend the life of its Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

I know what you’re thinking. In a desperate attempt to focus your attention on mundane news about the Modernization Committee I used a well-worn attention grabber to focus your attention on modernizing Congress. Continue reading

It’s Government, but is it Good Government?

BY RICH GALEN  |  OCT 9, 2019

As I may have mentioned to you, I think the House – run by Democrats – is doing this impeachment process all wrong.

In the House if the Ds have one more vote than the Rs (or the reverse) then the Ds get to do pretty much whatever they want within the established House Rules. That includes taking a bill or resolution to the Floor. I get one more vote than you; I win.

It is the same in the Senate at the Committee level, but as you know very well, the current filibuster rules require 60 votes to proceed on most bills and resolution.

Next time you hear someone complain about the 60 vote rule, remember how Democrats are treating Republicans in the House without a filibuster rule.

The Constitution of the United States says that a President (or any other officer of the Executive Branch) can be impeached by the House of Representatives. Continue reading

Impeachment is Back for Final (?) Run

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  OCT 7, 2019

As Yogi Berra would have likely observed, “this is deja vu all over again.”

President Donald Trump is again accused of violating the law and his Constitutional oath of office; committing impeachable offenses for which he should be removed from that office.

The clamor for his removal has been loud and angry since Nov. 8, 2016, the day he was elected. The accusations have run the gamut from tax fraud, covering up extra-marital relationships accompanied with violations of campaign finance laws, to continuing to profit from his businesses, and the catch-all for other charges–constant abuse of presidential authority. (I’ve always wondered if Mr. Trump was the kind of child who just couldn’t stay out of trouble. But I digress.) Continue reading

Good Way To Reform Government: Move It

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JUN 23, 2019

Back in January 2016, the FBI was searching Maryland and Virginia for a new location for its Pennsylvania Ave. headquarters and I wondered why the search did not include North Carolina, Kentucky, or any of the other many states in which the Bureau could be housed less expensively and more efficiently.

Moving more of the Federal bureaucracy out of Washington is not a new idea. Legislators had been musing about it for years and legislation to explore the prospect was actually introduced in the last Congress by former Congressmen Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Luke Messer of Indiana. Continue reading

Senior Citizenship

BY RICH GALEN
APR 15, 2019 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

I know today is tax day. Last week, in the wake of the Great Tax Cut Act of 2017, we wrote the largest check to the People of the United States in our long history of paying taxes.

You’re welcome.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about.

There was a fascinating article in the Sunday Washington Post about what happens as we age. And when I write “we,” I mean me.

This is timely (see what I did there?) because of the age disparity among Democratic candidates. And because Donald Trump is about my age. Continue reading

Mueller Findings’ Blow to Media Worth Its Own Probe: Part II

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  APR 1, 2019

“The end of the collusion illusion should also cause the media to do some soul searching about rushes to judgment. For two years, with the help of ex-Obama officials, they spun anecdotes of contacts between Russians and Trump campaign advisors into a conspiracy. With few exceptions they went well beyond First Amendment oversight into anti-Trump advocacy. But it was always odd that those individual Russia-Trump contacts never added up to anything or went anywhere, which is why we warned about waiting for the facts.”
Wall Street Journal Editorial, March 25

The initial wave of reaction to the Mueller investigation has produced a powerful undertow of criticism over the performance of the press. It should be addressed forthrightly, introspectively, and very thoroughly. Public trust in one of our most vital institutions and the ability of that institution to meet its constitutional obligation as a reliable witness to history are at stake.

The media are in a state of denial of any lapse in their professional judgment or work product. It’s an easy state to be in when the face of the criticism is President Donald Trump. Credible critics have difficulty being taken seriously because, until now, they have been branded as pro-Trump and dismissed as defenders of his faith and creed. Continue reading

Mueller Investigation is Over, But Never Over: Part I

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  MAR 27, 2019

President Donald Trump must have choked on his Big Mac this week while watching his favorite Fox cartoons and reading his favorite comic book, the Washington Post.

We know from the media that Trump spends his mornings in “executive time” watching television in the residence, after he’s done tweeting. But I digress.

The headline was the one he had been waiting for.

No, not that one. This one:  “Attorney Michael Avenatti arrested, charged with trying to extort Nike.”

Avenatti, a darling of the media—according to Brit Hume of Fox, he appeared on just CNN and MSNBC 108 times over two months—and a seemingly prolific “anonymous source” for most major media, is accused of extortion on one coast and wire fraud on the other.

This good news for Trump, enjoying his two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a sesame seed bun, came shortly after his other gratifying headline: “Mueller Finds No Conspiracy. Continue reading

Institutions Part V: News Media Lapses in Modern Times

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JAN 28, 2019

The news media in America are spinning out of control, caught up in a powerful funnel cloud of self-righteousness, self-interest, a loss of journalistic identity, and wild-eyed illusions of grandeur about saving the planet from evil.

The media are not the enemy of the people; not by a long shot; but they are their own worst enemy, exhausting their credibility and abandoning the character and measured judgment that not too long ago was the hallmark of American journalism.

The free press is just one of several institutions absolutely fundamental to our system of self-government and our open society experiencing decline, from the Legislative and Executive branches of government to public and private education, organized religion, community, charity, and the family unit. Continue reading

Shutdown Show Should be Cancelled

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JAN 15, 2019

When we were little, my brother and sister and I would sit on the braided living room rug to watch shows on our Admiral TV. Some of the shows had names you could cut and paste onto the reality TV theater ‘now live on our stage’ in Washington: The Twilight Zone, What’s My Line?, Who Do You Trust?, The Show of Shows, and my favorite, Howdy Doody.

Playing now is the gridlocked immigration feud that has resulted in the closure of parts of the Federal Government. This extended shutdown is raising havoc with the economy, federal programs and most critically, the lives of hundreds of thousands workers, contractors, and program beneficiaries, from park visitors, to homeowners, and small businesses. Continue reading

The 116th Congress and What Lies Beyond

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JAN 7, 2019

The convening of the 116th Congress at noon on January 3, was a portal into America’s past 230 years, a reminder that our Constitution is still the longest living charter of its kind in the world. This ingeniously devised Republic is still a system of governance that is, as it was two centuries ago, a beacon of hope for those millions upon millions still suffering from authoritarian, and in some cases barbaric, rule, despite the eternal internal drumbeat of disillusionment and lost faith that dominates our discourse, and to an extent, rightly so.

We were reminded of our resiliency and continuous evolution as a Republic when the first Republican woman ever to serve as Clerk of the House presided over the parliamentary procedures, and the proletarian pageantry that led up to the swearing in of the country’s first woman Speaker. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California, succeeds 53 male predecessors, and today presides over a body of more women than any time in history, one hundred years after women’s suffrage. Continue reading

116th Congress Ushers in New Class, New Start, New Dawn

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JAN 4, 2019

“When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our Democracy will be strengthened by the optimism, idealism, and patriotism of this transformative freshman class.”
— Newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

“We’re going to impeach that motherfu—er”
— Newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tiaib, D-MI, to a crowd of cheering supporters

Okay, then.

Continue reading

Making Bush Legacy More Than A Day

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  DEC 6, 2018

My education in politics and government began in earnest working at the White House and mostly on Capitol Hill in the generational orbit of Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41 and Congressional leaders Rhodes, Michel, O’Neill, Foley, Wright, Baker, Byrd, and Dole, all of the “greatest generation.”

Seven of them served in the military during World War II, three of them—Dole, Michel, and Bush—had harrowing experiences in combat that shaped the rest of their lives.

What distinguished them from generations to follow was that most of them—but not all—had in common a strong belief that governing could only be effective in an atmosphere civil enough for opposing sides to reach consensus. They relished vigorous and contentious debate, but never let it get personal, and they engaged in tactics that would have passed muster with the Marquess of Queensberry. They knew when to put down the swords and lift the plowshares. Continue reading

Institutions IV: Electoral Process Victim of Anger, Isolation, Negativity

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  NOV 5, 2018

Up in North Dakota, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, in an uphill battle to keep her seat, personally apologized to women whose names were used in a campaign piece, which identified them as victims of “domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape.” Some on the list were not. Others had not given her campaign permission to expose them in that manner.

Out West in Southern California, Congressman Duncan Hunter was under heavy criticism for an ad that ties his opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, to terrorists. Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar, was involved in the plans to murder Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Germany in 1972. But Campa-Najjar is a Christian, son of a Mexican mother; he was a former White House aide, who had a security clearance from the Secret Service. He has denounced his grandfather’s actions, all according to the New York Times.

These are just a couple of the negative ads, which ran across the country in this campaign season, by Republicans and Democrats and everyone in-between. It has been estimated that negative ads increased by 60 percent in this cycle. Continue reading

Mighty Sears is No More

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  OCT 16, 2018

“Let’s celebrate! Put on your Sunday best. We’re going to Sears!”
Mike Brady (actor Robert Reed), dad on the sitcom The Brady Bunch

I still remember our Mom taking us to the Sears store on East 10th Street in Sioux Falls, SD. It was back in the days of Ozzie and Harriett and Wally and the Beaver. We went shopping there for clothes, sheets and towels, and other of life’s essentials, but we got to look at the toys, too.

Our Mother, Marge, had only two hands (a lot of times as a single Mom, it seemed like she had more), so given there were three of us pests, one got to roam free like a loose puppy in a store full of bones. It was usually our sister, Carol, because Mom liked her best.

The Sioux Falls Sears store was a giant place, far from home in the North end of town. The ceilings went up to the sky and the aisles were wide and endless. People smiled and there was always a friendly Ajax-clean motherly clerk in a dress or a fatherly type in a razor-thin tie around every corner to show you the goods, and ring up your cash or check. Continue reading

Governing Bar So Low You Could Trip Over It

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  OCT 10, 2018

The Senate confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was a new low in American politics and jurisprudence. The bar was set so low you could trip over it.

Senators on both sides of the partisan divide thought so, too, and said so publicly. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said on the Senate Floor we could not take a lower road, because we were already on the lowest. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called it a new low in American history. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, said “both sides horribly handled the process around this nomination.”

Maine Senator Susan Collins, said we had reached ‘rock bottom’. Cover-up and whitewash, liar, con artist, the decline in decency were a few of the terms used to describe the participants and events.

There were breathtaking invasions of privacy, unspeakable expressions of anger and hatred, ugly protests and vicious death threats. Senator Cory Gardner revealed that his wife received a graphic text of a beheading after the vote. Kavanaugh’s wife received threatening emails with incredibly vile language. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford got the same treatment and ultimately was forced from her home because of threats. Continue reading

Congress: When Success Is Still Failure

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  OCT 5, 2018

The movement to reform the U.S. Congress is like a G-rated flick that would make Walt Disney yawn. There’s no sex, no violence, no scandal, no crime, comparatively little political intrigue, and no big-time stars, just a lot of risqué talk about filibustering the motion to proceed.

It is doubtful the subject will come up in campaigns, either, beyond the patronizing and often hypocritical blather about running against Washington.

Several weeks ago the House Rules Committee held a hearing on about 40 reforms that members wanted to see brought up on the opening day of the next Congress in January 2019. The attention to it was, as you would expect, silence.

There wasn’t any news coverage, except from Paul Krawzak at Congressional Quarterly, who understands the subject matter.

The need for reform couldn’t be clearer, or more critical, or more timely.

Continue reading