Flak Under Fire

BY RICH GALEN
FEB 27, 2017 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

By this morning you know two things: First, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screwed up the presentation of the biggest award of its year. Second, President Donald Trump is at war with the Washington press corps.

I’d love to hear from you on which you care about more.

I don’t know much about the movies, so I’ll leave The La-La-Land/Moonlight fiasco to the real news outlets.

I’ll stick with what I actually do know a little about: The “Fake, phoney, fake” news outlets around which I’ve spent most of my life. Continue reading

Quit Whining

BY RICH GALEN
FEB 20, 2017 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

The Press and the President have to quit whining about how badly each is treating the other.

If you leave out President Donald Trump’s rhetorically sticking his fingers in the eyes of his opponents and making up events like terrorist activities in Sweden; if you had awakened from the hour and 17 minute fever dream that was the press conference on Thursday; and, had he stuck to his vision for America, President Trump’s speech at the rally in Melbourne, Florida over the weekend would have been pretty good.

Alas.

Mr. Trump needs an enemy. He doesn’t have the emotional strength to operate solely on his own talent. He has to constantly compare himself, his achievements, with others. And the comparison is always taunting, derisive, and hurtful. Continue reading

Former House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  FEB 17, 2017

Originally published in The Hill

Shinny! Fudge! Son of a buck! Judas Priest!

When those exclamations echoed through the halls of the second floor of the U.S. Capitol you knew Bob Michel was upset.

He was a man of incredible calm, of combat-tested self-discipline.  His Midwestern values prevented him from cursing or speaking ill of his fellow man or breaking his word or violating the bonds of family and friends.  He couldn’t even gesture with his middle finger.  He would raise three digits and make you read between the lines.

So the outbursts were rare. He found it easy to smile, easy to forgive and he was “awe shucks” humble right up until he, as he would describe it, shuffled off his mortal coil in the early morning of Friday at the age of 93.   Continue reading

Shark Attack

BY RICH GALEN
FEB 16, 2017 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  FEB 13, 2017

“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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  FEB 8, 2017

“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

BY STEVE BELL
FEB 2, 2017 | Reprinted from BipartisanPolicy.org

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

BY DAVID WINSTON
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

BY RICH GALEN
JAN 19, 2017 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  JAN 3 2017

“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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | DEC 30 2016

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

BY RICH GALEN
DEC 29, 2016 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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

BY RICH GALEN
DEC 26, 2016 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | DEC 20, 2016

“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.

BY BETSY WRIGHT HAWKINGS
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

BY RICH GALEN
NOV 28 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | NOV 26

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

BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON  |  NOV 22

“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

BY RICH GALEN
NOV 17 | Reprinted from Mullings.com

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