Category Archives: Featured

Making Bush Legacy More Than A Day


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


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


“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


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


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

Are We Better Than This? Prove It. Deal With It.


“John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: ‘We are better than this; America is better than this.’” — Eulogy for the late Senator John McCain at funeral services in the National Cathedral by former President George W. Bush

John McCain wasn’t alone wanting our politics to be better than this. It would do all of us some good to keep his memory alive more than a couple of weeks, despite what’s going on around us.

We know what ‘this’ is. It only took a few days for McCain’s legacy to turn to dust, replaced with more anger, distrust, dishonesty, hyperventilation, vulgarity, and incivility, and that, exclusive of President Donald Trump’s behavior.

The “this” has continued the erosion of American institutions and the abandonment of American values. I believe the vast majority of Americans agreed with McCain and are fed up with “this.” McCain preached the politics of inclusion and the personal behavior of courage and civility. He didn’t always succeed in putting them into practice, but they were among the values he considered critical to the survival of our grand experiment in self-governance.

Continue reading

Institutions and Values Part III: Lies and Damn Lies


Within the currency of American values, none has been devalued more than honesty. It’s become okay to lie, especially within one of America’s great institutions, our political process.

Definition of Lie_Merriam WebsterA lie, according to Merriam Webster, is to “make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive.”

A scholarly analysis of lying produced at Michigan State University cited this definition:

“Simply and broadly lying occurs when a communicator seeks knowingly and intentionally to mislead others….” and another conclusion: “Thus it is not sufficient that something is false for it to be a lie; it is the intent that distinguishes the lie.”

But in politics, as in life today, lying is becoming commonplace.

Continue reading

Institutions and Values Part II: The Pyrite Rule


“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Bible, (Matt. 7:12)

It was taught to my siblings and me by my mother back in the 1950s, but the Golden Rule or versions of it have been a lantern for life’s journey for 2000 years or more, a version of which was propounded by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, according to an Internet search. I am not sure if my mother read Aristotle. She was probably introduced to the Rule by Catholic nuns who schooled generations of us back in South Dakota, but who often let it lapse in their own behavior in the classroom where weapons-grade yardsticks were always close at hand. Continue reading

Trump Time Out To Restore Values, Institutions


We are a nation being consumed by our own anger, anxieties, disillusionment, and alienation from one another.

They are emotions widely exploited by a vast media empire that employs everyone from late night comedians to early morning news anchors. They are manifest in our tribal politics and social behavior. They are also, of course, manifest in the persona and politics of our President, who rubs them raw when he should be applying soothing salves.

It is Donald Trump, on whom we place much of the blame for this current condition, but the truth is he is not the cause; he is only the result. Continue reading

Dinner in Praise of Press? Not Really


Her monologue was repugnant, full of vitriol and vulgarity, a slew of lewd terms most of the audience would never repeat in front of their parents or children.

Yet Comedian Michelle Wolf got some laughs anyway. She was performing at the fundraising dinner for the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) last week.

Something she said, however, got no laughs, only deafening silence. In the avalanche of coverage following the event, there was scarce mention of her closing words, except in Politico and by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, who honed his craft at the Minneapolis Tribune. Wolf talked about what Blake called the media’s “codependent relationship” with President Trump. Continue reading

News is Entertainment and Entertainment is News


This is an expanded and updated version of an article published in The Hill on 4/9/18.

The United Nations described it as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the military offensive that led to the exodus of Rohingya Muslims in the Myanmar province of Rakhine. Almost a half-million men, women, and children have fled persecution or death in the region over the past year, crossing the border to Bangladesh or climbing into small boats for the trip to Thailand and Malaysia. One refugee called the slaughter in Rakhine “house-to-house killing.”

CBS brought the horrible situation back to center stage on Sunday, March 25, with a show focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, noting in particular the plight of children and the cries of the people facing gruesome government hostility. It is a newsworthy story, with so many aspects that could be reported on weekly, along with all other stories of global consequence.

Instead, the broadcast highlighted a classic problem with the U.S. news media. You see, the broadcast didn’t run on CBS News. It was a storyline on a CBS Entertainment series, “Madam Secretary.” Continue reading

Making Congress Work


Congress was burning the midnight oil once again last week, rushing to pass a resolution extending federal spending for only another month. It was the fourth time legislators have had to do that in as many months.

In Washington, that’s good news. The alternative was to shutter some government agencies until the money could be restored. It is a shame, isn’t it? Dysfunction is the norm.

Taxpayers pay a heavy price for the dysfunction of their government. It runs into the billions upon billions of dollars, mind-numbing figures to average taxpayers who clip dollar-off coupons every Saturday. The most recent extended shutdown—there have been four in the last 10 years—was in 2013 and lasted 14 days, costing taxpayers an estimated $2 billion. Continue reading

The High Price of Being First

DECEMBER 11, 2017 | Reprinted from

There is no other way to put this: The press frenzy to get Donald Trump is causing mistakes. Big mistakes.

Moreover, it is providing ammunition to the Trump family and friends that the press, as Don, Jr. Tweeted over the weekend, “couldn’t care less about the truth.”

As an example, on Friday, CNN spent the day breathlessly reporting that on September 4, 2016, “Candidate Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and others in the Trump Organization received an email…offering a decryption key and website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents, according to an email provided to congressional investigators.” Continue reading

Egregious Political Ad Harbinger for 2018


There’s a critical piece of business regarding the election of Democrat Ralph Northam as Governor of Virginia Nov.  7, that needs to be addressed. It has to do with a campaign ad.

The ad’s message and what it says about the state of American politics is important. Campaign advertising is one aspect of American politics that needs to be fixed, soon.

But before talking about today, it may be helpful to look back a half century to where it all began in the modern era on September 7, 1964.

That evening, NBC’s popular Monday Night at the Movies was on television. During a commercial break what came to be called the “Daisy Girl” advertisement ran for the first time.  Continue reading


OCTOBER 23, 2017 | Reprinted from

Give me a day to get back up to speed with all the wonderful political news I have missed. There will be a regular MULLINGS tomorrow covering what you have been cringing about.

A number of you – a gratifying number of you – sent me emails over this past week wondering if I was ok.

There was no MULLINGS on Thursday, and my Tweets (and corresponding Facebook entries) dropped to near zero.

The reason is, I was elected to the Marietta College (Marietta, Ohio 45750) Board of Trustees. This is a very big deal to me. For those who have followed me for some time know that my checkered commercial career is a paragon of smooth sailing compared to my academic career. Continue reading


AUGUST 31, 2017 | Reprinted from

If you’ve never been in a flood, you have no idea of the devastation it brings with it.

A flood that makes its way into your house is not like the bathtub overflowing. It is like a swamp came into your house bringing with it the mud, the smells, sometimes the critters and it gets into every nook and cranny.

A minor flood only exists in newspapers and on TV. Any flood in your house is a major disruptive event.

Look around the first floor of your house and measure up two inches from the floor. Continue reading

Trump Hysteria and A Little History


“The election of this man as President filled him with ‘smoldering dread.’ He believed that the worst said about this man was all too true. He had not only lied but had been caught in that lie, and the great majority of voters didn’t care.”

President Donald Trump? No. It is an excerpt from a new book describing how Henry Clay felt about the election of President Andrew Jackson, 190 years ago. The book by David and Jeanne Heidler is a vivid look back at the life of one of America’s greatest political figures.

Continue reading

A National Article 5

JUNE 15, 2017 | Reprinted from

One of my many self-invented theories is this: Reaction to a news event diminishes, like sound, as a square of the distance between you and the source.

If there is an earthquake on the West Coast, we on the East Coast will feel empathy, but it will not have the same emotional zetz as it does for those of you whose dishes vibrated off the breakfast table.

If there is a major fire in the East, the same level of emotion will be experienced by TV viewers in the West.

My house is less than two miles from the baseball field and YMCA where people were shot Wednesday morning.

That, to my ears, was a very sharp, loud sound. Continue reading

Trump Had A Right to Fire Comey. The Question Comes: Who’s Next?

MAY 11, 2017 | Reprinted from

Donald Trump had every Constitutional right to fire James Comey if he thought he wasn’t doing a good job.

Comey himself said that in his resignation letter.

Trump had the right to fire him for any reason. He could fire him if he didn’t like the tie he wore to a Committee hearing. He could fire him for putting ketchup on a hot dog. He could fire him if he perceived he wasn’t loyal to him. Or he could fire him for incompetence.

Under the law, Donald Trump had the power to fire James Comey.

The question is not about the legality of the action. This firing has not sparked a Constitutional crisis. Continue reading

The Healthcare Vote

MAY 8, 2017 | Reprinted from

A Tweet of mine from May 4: Here’s what I know that I know: When everyone says THIS is going to happen … THAT happens. Healthcare vote today may prove that again.

You may have heard, seen, or read about the House voting on its version of “repeal and replace” last week. It passed by a vote of 217 – 213. No Ds voted for it. 20 Rs voted against it.

The popular press made a big deal about how the vote was soooooo close. Well, it was. It got one more vote than required for an absolute majority. Because of four vacancies in the House (Georgia 6, Montana At-Large, South Carolina 5 and California 34) Republicans needed 216 votes to assure a majority. Continue reading