Shark Attack

FEB 16, 2017 | Reprinted from

It is no secret that I have not been Donald Trump’s strongest supporter.

I do not think this keeps the President up at night.

But, watching the breathless coverage of The Russian Connection, all I can say is: I’ve seen this movie before.

The Trump-Flynn-Russia story is at the point where the news media in Washington are falling all over one another working their friends, their sources, the guy who makes their toasted bagel with a little cream cheese in the morning … anyone who might have a sliver of information – real or not – that can get them a headline on the web version of their news organization. Continue reading

Part II: Lying Has A Lot of Moving Parts


“There are three types of lies—lies, damn lies, and statistics.” — Benjamin Disreaeli, 19th Century British Prime Minister

Lying, which was covered in Part I, is just one form–the worst form–of deviation from truth. Short of Webster’s definition to “make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive,” there are a number of derivations of lies and damn lies.

Differentiating between them is important in politics. Some of our most capable and honorable leaders in America had a hard time constructing a simple sentence without cue cards or a teleprompter. Members of the Bush family come to mind. Their seeming inability to communicate well, in this hyper-critical, media-intensive age, is often interpreted as a lack of intelligence or honesty. At the other end of the speaking spectrum are those public figures whose smooth-sounding, phrase-making, glittering generalities just exude great profundity and trustworthiness. President Bill Clinton comes to mind.

As a result we sometimes treat unfairly those who innocently trip over their tongue and treat too forgivingly those who speak with forked-tongue.  Continue reading

Part I: Dying Art of Truth-Telling


“I will love you in the morning.” or “The check is in the mail.” or “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

They were called the three great lies.

Not anymore.

It may depend upon where and when you grew up, but lying has always been “wrong,” something you were taught not to do. It was taboo; a step too far, an unsavory and unacceptable element of human behavior. In court it’s a crime. In church, it’s a sin.

A lie, according to Merriam Webster, is to “make an untrue statement with the intent to deceive.” Continue reading

Deadlines Begin to Hem in Congress

FEB 2, 2017 | Reprinted from

Despite the rousing reassurances by Republican congressional leaders at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia last week, it remains clear that Congress’ schedule is so jammed that the “first 200 day” pledges will never materialize. How President Trump reacts to this inevitable reality will reveal how deep the rifts remain between the president’s timetable and Congress’ legislative processes.

The first deadline Congress set for itself as it began the “repeal and replace” effort on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has come and gone. Committees were instructed under reconciliation to report legislation to repeal much of the ACA by January 27. They reportedly remain hard at work to produce these bills as soon as possible. Continue reading

Why Trump Won: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs & Change

JAN 21, 2017 | Reprinted from the National Journal

Late-deciding voters did not care about the same things the media cared about.

Democrats and the media continue their political postmortem of the 2016 election, trying to understand how they missed what the American electorate was thinking. The latest attempt revolves around a Comey-Putin narrative to explain the Democrats’ unexpected loss.

But an analysis of the national exit polls and a post-election Winning the Issues survey, done by the Winston Group on Election Night before the results were known, should put to rest the question of whether James Comey or Vladimir Putin tipped the scales against Secretary Clinton. The answer is no, and that conclusion isn’t speculation. It’s based solely on data. Continue reading

Dear Mr. President

JAN 19, 2017 | Reprinted from

Mr. President.

I know I’m a day early, you won’t officially own that title until noon tomorrow, but I wanted to get the hang of it. President Donald Trump. The 45th person to own that title in the history of the United States.

Forty Five people out of the 545 million Americans who have ever been. Pretty select group.

Like everyone else in the U.S. today with a Twitter, Facebook, and/or email account I have some thoughts about this.

You come into office at a good time. You have majorities in the House and Senate who, even if only for their own selfish purposes (the 2018 mid-term elections) want you to succeed. But, on this Inauguration let’s be charitable toward all and say they want you to succeed because they ran to build a better America and a better world, and you are the general contractor. Continue reading

CURES Act: Lessons Not learned; Credit Unrewarded


“If you don’t concern yourself with who gets the credit for what is accomplished, you can accomplish much more.” — Former House Republican Leader Robert H. Michel, R-IL

Bob Michel would admonish me with that observation when, as his press secretary, I struggled to win him credit for what he accomplished and especially for the tone he set. He knew that while patting yourself on the back on occasion was an honest gesture, there was a lot more to our lives in politics than shiny medals and silver trophies.

As renowned author of the Chronicles of Narnia and lay theologian C.S. Lewis observed: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I was reminded of credit given and credit denied a few days ago while force-feeding myself the NBC Nightly News. Most network news, which feigns objectivity, is far from my comfort zone ideologically, but as ancient Chinese philosophy reminds us, there is bad with good and good with the bad. So I watch it all. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions


The American media did not have a good year. Their favorability ratings remained in the cellar, on a par with politicians and Congress. Not so good, and, worse yet, they may have actually contributed to the election of their evil nemesis, Donald Trump.

Well, there’s nothing like reflection and reconciliation to make things better.

That may have been the spirit that prompted columnist Jennifer Rubin to offer her media colleagues resolutions to ponder over champagne and caviar this New Year’s Eve (media did not have a bad year financially; they made a bundle on their campaign coverage). Continue reading

Mark Halperin was Right

DEC 29, 2016 | Reprinted from

Three weeks from tomorrow – the Trump era will begin. That means the Obama era will come to an end.

At this time one year ago, Barak Obama’s approval rating was four percentage points underwater, 46-50 according to the Gallup Tracking Poll. Then, the calendar clicked over into the Presidential year, the spotlight turned to Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, et. al. and Obama’s approval ratings rose in the shadow thus created.

Today, a year later, President Obama’s approval record stands at 56-40 a swing of 20 percentage points. Continue reading

Christmas 2016

DEC 26, 2016 | Reprinted from

This is an edited version of the Mullings column of Christmas 2003 which was written from Tikrit and Baghdad, Iraq. At the time, according to the Congressional Research Service, there were 130,600 U.S. troops in Iraq.

This Christmas, while most of them are home, the sound of sabers rattling echoes again throughout the land.

As we close 2016, the Department of Defense estimates there are “roughly 220,000 American service members serving overseas this holiday season. They operate in more than 100 countries, on every continent.” There are also tens of thousands of American civilians stationed around the globe. They won’t be home for Christmas this week, either. Let’s not forget they are all still out there. Continue reading

Among Globe’s Greatest Failures


“My belief is that when the military is used as the sole instrument of power, that never has a good outcome. If there’s no one to take ownership and develop that failed state, human suffering can be even worse than that created by the conflict itself. “
— Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Army General Martin Dempsey

For decades the sole instrument of power in Syria has been the military, an instrument of death and destruction wielded by the dictatorial family of Assad, a father and son who have carried out unimaginable atrocities against their own people illustrating the unlimited potential of man’s inhumanity to man. Continue reading

Drain the Swamp, It Fills Back Up Again

BY STEVE BELL  |  DEC 15, 2016

The legendary Speaker of House, Sam Rayburn of East Texas, once said, “If you can’t run an election against big banks and big oil, it must not be America.”

A variation of that theme animated the successful campaign of President-elect Donald Trump—another incarnation of long-running political theater starring Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryant, and Huey Long. And the billionaire, Ivy League-educated, casino maestro played his role well.

He would lead the rebels against the swamp. Continue reading

Fix Washington? Here’s the Bill.

DEC 14, 2016 | Reprinted from Real Clear Policy

When we at the Democracy Fund Voice set out to identify the roots of congressional dysfunction through our systems mapping project, we didn’t worry too much about making our case. Fewer than 2 percent of the bills originating in the House of Representatives become law; nearly two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey of Washington-based congressional staff reported that they were looking for new employment; and fewer than 10 percent of Americans recently polled by Gallup say they have a great deal of trust in Congress. Clearly, Congress needs help. The question is what to do about it.  Continue reading

Poor Winners & Sore Losers

NOV 28 | Reprinted from

As if we needed even more evidence that the system has been fractured like a giant egg having fallen off a wall, both major candidates in the November 8 elections are demonstrating bad form in the aftermath.

Donald Trump is a poor winner. Hillary Clinton is a sore loser.

If third graders exhibit this behavior they are sent to the back of the classroom for a time out. And deservedly so.

Hillary Clinton – Continue reading

Thanksgiving Do Over


This Thanksgiving occurred in an unusually negatively-charged atmosphere. It seemed harder for some to open the chest cavity and let the heart breathe, tell friends and family you love them, pause long enough to be thankful, forgive and forget.

Not even for a day. This condition was particularly acute near the epicenters of American politics, where people seem more entitled to be angry and righteous in their indignation against others. Continue reading

American Media: A Time for Change


“As a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to corporate media…The less significant it is to ordinary people, the more attention the media pays.”
Vermont Senator and socialist Bernie Sanders, quoted in the Washington Post in his new book, Our Revolution.

The media never translated the story. This was the first time media went without attribution.  Panel members on news shows are no longer analysts but propagandists. Will the media change? No. Look at the numbers. Profits are up.
Paraphrasing the assessments of a former broadcast journalist now a university faculty member, whose comments were not for attribution.

Continue reading

Whiskey Rebellion

NOV 17 | Reprinted from

I did a post-election panel for a telecommunications group earlier this week during which the Democrat, former Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia, talked about how he foresaw bipartisan cooperation in the House to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Not to worry. This is not a column about Title II or Section 706.

I conceded that the Congressman – a long-time expert on telecoms – knew more about that than I did, but I knew a lot about how political parties act when they’ve been knocked on their collective butts and, like Oliver Twist, meekly holding out a bowl asking for more gruel wasn’t in the playbook. Continue reading

Participation Trophies

NOV 15 | Reprinted from

The demonstrations against the results of last Tuesday’s election are the grown up equivalent of a child screaming and kicking at the Chinese restaurant because they don’t have fish sticks and ketchup.

Act out all you want. Ain’t gonna make over-battered, pre-formed fish and a bottle of sugary tomato sauce show up at your table.

The anti-Trump protesters can act out all they want but it’s not going to cause the election to be re-run. At least not for the next four years. Continue reading

Trumpism, Media, & Egalitarianism: Part I


“And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.”    — President Richard Nixon, November 9, 1969

‘Silent majority’ is a term used to describe people who do not speak out, do not make themselves known and whose opinions are overshadowed by those who do. President Richard Nixon coined the phrase in defense of his Vietnam policies and generated favorable ratings above 70 percent.

And, today, it turns out there is a silent majority in this country and it, they, just elected the next President.

A good many of those locked inside the Washington beltway or high up in Rockefeller Center or in Hollywood or in any number of college faculty lounges did not get or did not want to acknowledge the silent majority, so to them Trump’s election was a shocker. The loudest voices of mainstream media, pollsters, pundits, American liberalism, and a community of ‘establishment’ Republicans, instead produced, directed, and sold a narrative that Trump was unfit for office, a clown, a charlatan, a liar and a cheat, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, and sexist, and also really uncouth. Not since Andrew Jackson has a candidates’ wife been dragged Continue reading

Idiom For A Distracted Public


Most of us use idioms in our daily conversations.

‘I would give an arm and a leg for that.’
‘Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.’
Here is one I hear from readers: ‘Don’t give up your day job.’

There’s one idiom that is especially pertinent today: ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees.’

Its origin is not clear, but it means you are so busy paying attention to detail, you are missing the larger picture. You see the pine needles, but not the tree; you see the tree but not the forest.

In presentations on political survey research, professional Dave Winston displays a slide of a white wooden-frame house in need of a paint job, with broken windows and a leaky roof. The House is also on fire. Winston makes the point that we spend too much time fixing the roof and replacing the windows, but ignore the fact that the house is burning. Continue reading