Since the birth of the nation presidents have used their constitutionally-granted power to issue pardons to Americans convicted of federal crimes.
George Washington began the long list of presidential pardons when he granted two citizens convicted of treason in the Whiskey Rebellion, largely played out here in the commonwealth. It’s grown exponentially from there, including the most recent, Donald Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza earlier this week.
The United States Constitution grants the president very broad powers, in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, to “…Grant reprieves or pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”
There’s little doubt about the right of any president to grant pardons for any reason. There’s also significant controversy surrounding many presidential pardons.
The most notable pardon was Gerald Ford’s full and unconditional pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, despite the fact that he had not been charged with any crimes. It came just a month after Ford took office and in many ways defined his presidency.
Ford believed that pardoning Nixon was vital to putting the stains of Watergate behind and “healing the nation.” Others vociferously disagreed, going so far as to claim that the pardon was part of a deal to deliver the presidency to Ford.
Forty years later Bob Woodward, the chronicler of the Watergate scandal, said that after hours of interviewing Ford and others he had concluded that it was “an act of courage” rather than one of corrupt motive.
Ford also pardoned Tokyo Rose, the only American convicted of treason during World War II, and Robert E. Lee, for whom he restored full rights of citizenship posthumously. Ford also offered conditional amnesty to thousands of draft dodgers, again believing it was important to “healing the nation.”
There have been many notable pardons, including Ronald Reagan’s of George Steinbrenner, and multiple pardons of Jefferson Davis, the presidency of the Confederate States of America, the last being from Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning and Willie McCovey.
There were many more pardons issued years ago. Franklin Roosevelt’s nearly 3,000 pardons top the list, although it should be noted that he served as president longer than any other. Harry Truman granted nearly 2,000, while Eisenhower pardoned just more than 1,000.
John F. Kennedy had pardoned just shy of 500 Americans when his life was taken and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, granted slightly less than 1,000.
Jimmy Carter, who served only one term granted more than 500 pardons, while both Reagan and Clinton, who each served two terms granted less than 400 each. Most recently George W. Bush pardoned just less than 200 (189) while Barack Obama granted slightly more (212)
All of this history brings us to the clamor over Donald J. Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza. Once again the Left has it’s rhetoric hyped up beyond reason.
To listen to some of the president’s critics you’d think the pardon of a not especially well-known writer is the beginning of a constitutional crisis.
Their overheated and overreaching charges, including wild-eyed speculation both about the motives for granting the pardons and pardons that might yet come, defy logic.
President Trump granted one pardon during his first year in office. One. Since then he’s given four more. That’s a total of five, a far cry from the levels of his predecessors.
Of those five, the pardons of Kristian Saucier and Sholom Rubashkin understandably didn’t generate much controversy. The pardon of “Scooter” Libby earlier this year caused some on one Left to again go ballistic, but Libby had already had his sentence commuted and all the palaver was clearly for partisan purposes and not much more.
Now we hear that Trump is “abusing the system” by granting “celebrity pardons.” One can only assume that his critics are referring to his pardon, posthumously, of boxing legend, Jack Johnson.
Your can call the Johnson pardon whatever you want. Simply stated it was the right thing to do. For a century presidents had the opportunity to correct a misjustice, not merely to “forgive” some transgression.
Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight champ, was convicted over a century ago of violating the Mann Act. His crime? “Transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes.”
He was charged more than once. Finally he was convicted in the courtroom of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who not coincidently preserved the color barrier as commissioner of baseball, and an all-white jury. The conviction came despite the fact that the acts alleged against Johnson occurred before the passage of the Mann Act. Johnson eventually served a prison sentence at Leavenworth.
That’s the “celebrity” pardon of the Trump Administration.
Did anyone on the Left have the same outrage when Obama pardoned Willie McCovey? Or when Bill Clinton pardoned his own brother (not to mention Marc Rich)?
Five pardons, not 500. One “celebrity pardon.” Three pardons of relatively obscure Americans whose crimes were never front page news and certainly could be granted forgiveness under the powers the Founders granted the president.
You’ve really got to wonder what the uproar is really about. I think we all know.
The tickets are now official and the starting gate in the race to November is open.
Last week voters of both major parties nominated their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, U.S. senate, congress and the state’s general assembly.
The Republican race for governor was a sometimes nasty affair. With charges and counter charges between the two leading candidates, Scott Wagner and Paul Mango. Wagner emerged with a seven-point victory and the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, incumbent Tom Wolf had no opposition. But he had an unpleasant situation of his own.
His 2014 running mate, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, had never been his preferred sidekick. It was a shotgun marriage from the start and things went downhill from there.
With allegations of abuse of his staff and persistent rumors of other problems surrounding Stack, the governor clearly didn’t want to run with him again.
In a revealing insight into his leadership style, Wolf wasn’t willing to say so—at least not publicly. Instead he chose to say and do nothing and let the less than subtle message of his non-support for Stack carry the day.
The result was the defeat of Stack, the first time in the state’s history that a sitting lieutenant governor lost a primary. Not only did he lose, Stack managed to end up in fourth place, behind the party’s new nominee, John Fetterman.
Fetterman’s nomination promises to put the relatively obscure office onto center stage in the fall campaign.
Fetterman will give the Democrat ticket the charisma their standard bearer lacks. At 6’8” he’s an imposing figure. He’s got an interesting story and has done a remarkable job as mayor of Braddock, a small borough with a lot of challenges.
John Fetterman is not your typical candidate. In addition to his non-traditional look, he’s got a graduate degree from Harvard. He’s the quintessential nice guy. He’s also to the left of Wolf, the nation’s most liberal governor. There’s not much room to the left of Tom Wolf, but the man who was an early and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders might have found some.
By contrast the Wagner/Bartos team that emerged form the Republican Party features two guys who are not only very comparable, but truly want to work together. Wagner made the unusual move of naming a running mate early in the campaign, despite the fact that the two offices are on the ballot independent of each other in the primary.
Bartos, a successful businessman from southeastern Pennsylvania, originally wanted to run for the U.S. Senate, but made the switch to run with Wagner. If elected, he’d be an integral part of the Wagner Administration. His business savvy, problem-solving ability and focus on economic growth will be on full display throughout the rest of the campaign.
Wagner wants to shake things up in Harrisburg. He already has. Looking to build on his record, he’ll focus on the fact that “Harrisburg has a spending problem.”
Wolf will try to run from his record of attempting to raise the taxes of every Pennsylvania taxpayer, something he attempted to do with his first proposed budgets but throttled back with the one for election year.
Voters will have to ask themselves what Tom Wolf, should he be re-elected and knowing he’ll never have to again face the voters, would want in a second term. Pennsylvania families don’t believe their lives will be better if they have less of their own money to spend each week.
If Wagner can fully connect with the growing populist movement that rejects bigger government and the heavy tax burden that goes with it, he’s got a real shot at being the second man to defeat an incumbent governor.
In the race for U.S. Senate, Lou Barletta held off a tough challenge from State Rep. Jim Christiana and now faces Sen. Bob Casey in a race with national implications.
Barletta will need to close the funding gap and solidly his base. Then he can aggressively go after Casey, who has, like much of his party, lurched dramatically left in recent years.
Casey positioned himself as a moderate Democrat in the mold of his father early in his career. More recently he became an acolyte for Barack Obama, and has continued as a voice for the resistance strain of Trump opposition.
It’s Casey’s lack of legislative accomplishment that will haunt him during the campaign. Voters will be asked what Casey has done in the 12 years he’s served in the Senate. Without signature legislation to point to, that’s a challenge for Casey.
Democrats are still hoping for a “blue wave” in November. However, by nominating far-left candidates for congress and out and out socialist for several legislative seats, their chances are significantly diminished.
Although Democrats still outnumber Republicans by large margins in the Keystone State, self-proclaimed socialists on the Democrat line move moderate Democrats and swing voting independents into the Republican column.
Finally, the Democrats plan to run solely as the resistance to Trump may not look as good as it did a few months ago. The president’s numbers continue to improve.
There’s a lot of road to cover between now and November, but a few more left turns by the Democrats might just lead them off the cliff.
Statewide campaigns begin so early these days that it seems like there’s non-stop stumping. Mercifully, all campaigns eventually come to an end.
Tuesday’s primary will mark the conclusion of the preliminary round for 2018. Both parties will choose their nominees who will then face off in November.
On the Republican side there’s been a particularly rancorous battle for governor, marked by increasingly tough ads by the two leading candidates.
From his first day in the state senate, Scott Wagner made it clear that he viewed his seat as a way station on the road to the governor’s office. He built his own political organization, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars from his personal fortunes into local parties and candidates, garnering loyal allies as a result.
Although he positioned himself as an outsider, he worked the inside game too, culminating in his endorsement by the Republican State Committee.
With all of that going for him, Wagner should have locked up the nomination early. But he didn’t.
Wagner’s brusque style and perceived personal “baggage” left some GOP leaders and rank-and-file voters looking for an alternative.
Enter Paul Mango, a highly successful businessman from the Pittsburgh area who was able to self fund a campaign.
Mango was an outsider, having never run for public office at any level. His critics were quick to point out that he hadn’t voted very often either.
Mango went up on television early and matched the vaunted Wagner machine virtually ad for ad during the early going.
Then came the nasty stuff.
What bubbled beneath the surface as a “whisper campaign” erupted into full public view when Mango launched ads boldly depicting what some folks had been quietly talking about for months.
Wagner had already taken shots at Mango, but they suddenly had thousands of dollars of media buys amplifying them.
The war of words between the two went on for weeks.
Negative campaigns tend to hurt not only the candidate who’s being attacked, but also the candidate who’s doing the attacking. Campaigns often make cold calculations based on that premise.
Those calculations get tricky when there are additional candidates in the race. Often third or fourth candidates find an opening between the warring factions in front of them.
That’s what Laura Ellsworth, a Pittsburgh lawyer, is looking for. Unlike Wagner and Mango, she hasn’t put her personal fortune into her campaign. As a result she’s only been on the air for a short time.
However, her message connected with voters, making it a three way race.
What’s amazing is that after all of the back and forth and the millions of dollars spent to promote the candidates, there remains a huge block of undecided voters among the Republican ranks.
How those undecided voters break will determine who wins the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, there’s also a very competitive race for the number two slot.
Early in the campaign Scott Wagner made the unusual move of naming a running mate. He chose Jeff Bartos, a southeastern Pennsylvania businessman who had previously announced that he was seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Bob Casey.
Paul Mango followed suit, selecting Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn. Irey Vaughn has run for statewide office before, as the Republican nominee for State Treasurer, and built a strong network of supporters across the state.
As a woman running in another “year of the woman,” you’d expect her to do well. But she’s not the only woman in the race. There are two others, both from the western side of the commonwealth.
Peg Luksik has run several times and has her own network of supporters. However, without the money to mount a media campaign, she hasn’t attracted the attention she received in previous elections. Kathleen Coder, a businesswoman who’s served as a borough councilwoman, is also in the hunt.
All of the teaming and non-teaming among the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor may not work.
Under our constitution, candidates for the two offices are selected separately. You won’t see any “teams” on the ballot on Tuesday like you will in November.
It’s theoretically possible for the GOP to end up with a Wagner/Irey Vaughn ticket or a Mango/Bartos team or any combination with the other candidates.
The Republican race for the U.S. Senate pits State Representative Jim Christiana against Congressman Lou Barletta.
Christiana has positioned himself as the future of the GOP. He’s serving his last term in the state House of Representatives, having term limited himself. However, he’s seriously underfunded and was never able to tell his story statewide.
Currently serving his fourth term term in congress, Barletta was previously Mayor of Hazleton. He’s run a low-key primary campaign but has the endorsement of the Republican State Committee.
The good news for Republicans is the large number of candidates vying for the right to carry the GOP banner in the fall and the intensity their campaigns. Republicans clearly believe they can win all three in November. Picking the right candidates on Tuesday is crucial to doing that.
This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner didn’t go exactly as planned—or maybe it did.
The show featured a relatively unknown comedian, who just happened to grow up in central Pennsylvania.
Apparently the Correspondents Association, hosts of the dinner, hadn’t vetted their entertainer very well.
What they got, when Michelle Wolf finally took the stage, was a barrage of foul-mouthed one-liners, including vulgar references to female anatomy and a line about abortion that outraged pro-lifers and made pro-choices cringe.
Her routine was so raunchy that C-SPAN radio reportedly cut away fearing FCC guidelines on indecency might have been crossed.
The biggest problem, as for any comic, was that she wasn’t funny.
Not recognizing that she’s was bombing, Ms. Wolf ramped it up and got mean.
She called members of the Trump Administration liars, something that’s not generally likely to make folks laugh. Then she decided it was time to go after the personal appearance of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Even in the too often vile culture of Washington, D.C., going after the way a woman looks is way out of bounds.
The audience reaction told the story. The body language of folks at the head table and in the audience spoke volumes. To say that they looked uncomfortable is a dramatic understatement. People seated at the head table looked like they wished they could crawl out of sight as fast as possible. Some notable Washingtonians walked out.
In the aftermath came shock and outrage. Journalists from Andrea Mitchell to Mika Brzezinski criticized Wolf for going after Sarah Sanders. A former president of the Correspondents Association called it, “…disgusting, despicable…” and suggested that an apology was in order. The Left was united with the Right in their condemnation, at least initially.
Slowly the farther left elements began not come to Wolf’s defense. They parsed some of her words and overlooked others to suggest that it really wasn’t all that bad but just good “clean” fun.
The left then hit their default button, declaring that it was all Donald Trump’s fault.
Tina Fey, another woman from the commonwealth, defended Wolf, saying that her brand of humor was in keeping with “the culture we’ve built now…” She right and that’s the biggest condemnation of all.
Roasts are tricky things. They generally work best when the roasters and the roasted actually know each other. Then the humor, even when sharp, is taken for what it is. Those old enough to remember the old Dean Martin roasts know what that looks like.
If the White House Correspondents Association wants a more modern example of how things can work, they should head north for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents “Gridiron Dinner.” Sure, they go over the line from time to time, but it’s generally enjoyed by all, it’s rarely, if ever, been mean and both sides take their share of pot shots.
For her part, Michelle Wolf told NPR that she wouldn’t change a single word. That’s says a lot.
Wolf will now cash in on her new-found “fame.” She’s a no-name no longer. She did what she wanted to do for herself.
That means she’ll get television appearances, maybe a show of her own, book opportunities and wads of cash to go with it all. That’s what she was aiming for.
In our modern media age, “edgy” sells. It attracts attention and ratings. The more outlandish the performance, the more likely you are to get noticed and sell your stuff.
Edgy sells. Edgier gets even more. Even over the edge, as with Michelle Wolf, gets short term gains.
The sad part is that it corrodes our culture, devalues our communities and disrupts real conversations that could lead us all to a higher and better place.
This week the Bush family lost its matriarch and the nation lost the woman many Americans referred to as “our grandmother.”
She died holding the hand of the man she’d met more than three quarters of a century before, and to whom shed been married for 73 years. Her final resting place will be beside her precious daughter whom she lost to leukemia at the age of three.
She was one of only two women to have both a husband and a son serve as President of the United States. She was our oldest living First Lady.
Her life was marked by her trademark graciousness and her tireless efforts to battle childhood diseases like the one that took her daughter’s life and her fight for literacy for all.
Barbara Bush was the consummate First Lady and a woman whose leadership, faith and patriotism inspired millions. Accolades from every corner of the globe flowed on news of her passing. Each was as well deserved as the next.
Yet the Washington Post, as unbelievable as it may seem, couldn’t resist drawing an unflattering comparison to Mrs. Bush’s predecessor, Nancy Reagan. Comparisons are always odious, but especially so when tucked inside an obituary.
Despite the Washington Post’s inability to observe the most primordial elements of decency, they invite a look into the role of First Lady, an office without official status or function, but with tremendous impact.
There is no constitutional role for the spouse of the president. The Framers deliberately omitted it from the founding documents.
The legend that surrounds the role is that Zachary Taylor, at the funeral of Dolley Madison, referred to her as “first lady,” thus coining the title that has endured. The role of First Lady has been shaped and defined by those who held it.
From the nation’s earliest days, George and Martha Washington laid the foundation for future presidential spouses. Their partnership and what historian Micheal Beschloss describes as, “the national mother,” set the stage.
The First Lady serves several vital roles.
First, she is both protector and nurturer of the President of the United States. Both Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan were well known for their abilities in that realm.
Second, the First Lady is for hostess for and ambassador to the world. She is a principle assistant to the president in his ceremonial capacity as head-of-state. Jackie Kennedy shaped and defined this role and others have emulated her elegant style.
First Ladies also take on their own trademark personal initiatives. Dolley Madison, who served not only with her own husband, but along side of Thomas Jefferson who was a widower, championed orphans. Mary Todd Lincoln made the private care of Union soldiers her cause.
Lucy Webb Hayes, the first of the First Ladies to graduate from college, made women’s education the centerpiece of her efforts. She also promoted temperance, confining her husband to ban alcohol from the White House and earning herself the nickname, “Lemonade Lucy.”
In the twentieth century Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most outspoken First Ladies, boosted equal rights. She also transformed the role, bringing in staff and more official status to the position. Lady Bird Johnson became synonymous with highway beautification, Betty Ford made alcoholism a disease that was more openly discussed and “Just say no” became the mantra linked to Nancy Reagan and her anti-drug campaign.
Barbara Bush worked tirelessly to eliminate leukemia and other childhood diseases. A hospital in Maine stands as a lasting tribute to her efforts. She also fought for literacy and libraries bear her name for the same reason. The Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation said she was a “tireless advocate of volunteerism.” One young man simply said, “because of her, I can read.”
Mrs. Bush served both as Second Lady, First Lady and Presidential Mom. In each she gave us reason to be proud. Hers was a life exceptionally well lived and a model for emulation by all.
With a month to go to primary Election Day, the sparks are beginning to fly. And the media is on hand to our gasoline on those parks.
This week, the molten lava that has been bubbling beneath the surface for weeks erupted. The Paul Mango campaign put money and air time behind an ad that featured a cartoonish character bearing an uncanny resemblance to St. Sen. Scott Wagner, his principle opponent for the GOP nomination for governor.
The ad invites viewers to meet characters with such charming names as “Slumlord Scott Wagner,” “Toxic Scott Wagner,” and even “Deadbeat Dad Scott Wagner.” It also features a coming attraction: “Violent Scott Wagner.”
After that, the Mango campaign put out a print piece detailing Scott Wagner’s support for and contributions to Democrat candidates in recent years. One that certainly raised more than a few eyebrows in central Pennsylvania was the allegation that Scott Wagner supported Kathleen Kane over David Freed for Attorney General, including donating $15,000 to her campaign.
That certainly qualifies under any definition of “negative ad.” The media response, and that of the Wagner campaign, was predictable.
Nobody likes negative campaigns. At least that’s what you’ll hear if you ask voters.
But there’s not a hotly contested campaign anywhere that doesn’t feature what somebody is going to call “negative ads.” Since the beginning of the nation negative political advertising has been part of the fabric of election campaigns. Take a look at some of the broadsides from the early days of the republic and you’ll read stuff much tougher than the “Deadbeat dad” ad.
“Politics ain’t beanbag,” has been around for more than 125 years.
Although voters consistently say they don’t like negative advertising, it’s a mainstay of political campaigns for a reason: it works. Until voters signal their unequivocal revulsion for such advertising—by voting against it—it’s sure to remain.
Of course, what’s “negative” to one person is merely “compare and contrast” to another. That’s especially true in primary elections when the philosophical differences between candidates aren’t as great and the personal differences play a larger role.
So what’s fair in love, war and politics?
First, the truth always wins. When ads are “negative,” viewers first need to know whether or not the allegations are true. The Mango campaign provided documentation for all of the charges they levied against Scott Wagner. Wagner did the same when he took shots at Mango. Informed voters can decide for themselves based upon the evidence each team provides.
Second, there are clear boundaries. Some things, even if true, are outside the lines of fair play. That’s especially true when it comes to the private lives and the families of candidates. The generally accepted rule is that what’s on the public record is fair game, what’s not is out of bounds. The thought behind that rule is that any voter could discover what’s already on the record whereas other material might be protected by privacy and ordinary decency.
That put’s the “Deadbeat Dad” charge close to the line. However, what’s charged there is on the public record. Voters can make the call for themselves as to what inferences they want to make about Mr. Wagner.
Third, context is important. When the Wagner campaign complained about the Mango ads they might have first reflected on some of the shots that they’ve taken, both privately and publicly, against Paul Mango. Sen. Wagner and company don’t exactly have clean hands when it comes to slinging mud.
One problem for both Wagner and Mango is that, historically, attack ads hurts both the attacker and the attackee. When there are other candidates in the field, they benefit from the back and forth bashing without having to do much on their own. With a third candidate in the gubernatorial field there’s always the possibility that Laura Ellsworth will come on saying, “Tired of all this? Take a look at me.”
That means it’s in the interest of both Scott Wagner and Paul Mango to shift to telling voters their respective visions for Pennsylvania’s future and what, as governor, they’ll do to make those visions reality.
They’d be wise to focus their fire on Tom Wolf, the most liberal governor in the nation, who’s sitting on a gigantic war chest and licking his chops over the litany of negatives that has become the GOP primary.
Censuses are as old as civilization. One of the more notable ones took place when the Romans took over Judea and organized a census for taxation. According to the Gospel of Luke, when Mary and Joseph went to be counted, their son, Jesus, was born.
Here in the United States the census, mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, has been going on every ten years for more than 225 years.
The data gathered by the census does much more than satisfy curiosity about how many people are currently living here. Census data controls both the distribution of billions of dollars and the allocation of political power. It’s used for allowing billions of dollars in federal funding and to determine the number of representatives from each state and then number of each states electors in the Electoral College.
Last week the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau, announced that it was adding a simple question to the decennial census to be held in 2020. The census will ask whether or not respondents are American citizens.
If you thought that question was already being asked you can certainly be excused for your error. After all, it seems like a pretty common sense and straightforward question, especially given the long list of personal questions the census routinely asks.
In fact the question of citizenship was part of the census from the earliest days of the Republic until 1960. It was then added to the “long form” questionnaire but dropped from the shorter form used for most people. The two questionnaire system was employed until the 2010 census when the citizenship question was dropped altogether. However, the Census Bureau continued to ask the question in their annual “American Community Survey,” not part of the official census but nevertheless required by law to be answered.
The reaction to the announcement of the reinstatement of the citizenship question was swift and just a little over the top. California’s Attorney General, Xavier Beccera, took less than 24 hours to let the world know that he was filing a lawsuit to block the question from, once again, being asked. By weeks end he’d talked attorneys general from mostly larger and very blue states into joint him.
California, which boasts “sanctuary state” status and more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants, believes it has political interests to protect. Considering that more than a dozen states don’t have a total population of 2.5 million, it’s easy to see why.
The theory advanced by those opposed to asking the citizenship question is that it will somehow suppress the count because people will be afraid to answer and will drop out of the census. That’s a theory, though, not a fact. As Secretary Ross clearly pointed out, there’s no empirical data whatsoever to support their theory.
On the contrary, there’s a lot of evidence that the theory doesn’t hold water. Many nations, from Australia to Canada routinely ask about citizenship without much difficulty. Furthermore, participation in the census isn’t voluntary, it’s mandatory. If someone chooses not to respond to the questionnaire, the Census Bureau employs a variety of methods to get the data. Folks who refuse to participate are even subject to prosecution and fines, although that rarely happens.
There’s also the fact that responses to the census are highly confidential. A “72-year rule” prevents the disclosure or distribution of personal data for 72 years. Maybe that’s why there’s been relatively little squawk about much more intrusive questions asked by the census takers.
The question being asked is about citizenship not legal status. But the issue of counting illegal immigrants in the census is really at the heart of the controversy, although the Democrat attorneys general aren’t likely to admit it.
The controversy over counting illegal immigrants for the purpose of determining congressional representation isn’t new. More than a generation ago a relatively obscure young congressman tried to stop it. Unfortunately a federal court found he didn’t have “standing” to bring his lawsuit and kicked the legal issue down the proverbial lane.
That congressman was Tom Ridge, who went on to be our governor and the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security. Had Governor Ridge prevailed we wouldn’t have the current controversy.
There’s nothing wrong with the census asking about citizenship, either legally or practically. It was asked for virtually all of our history, is still asked by many of our allies and makes comments sense to be asked again in 2020.
Conor Lamb’s narrow, declared victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district special election may or may not ultimately hold up. Regardless, there are some take-aways from Tuesday’s results.
For the first time since Donald Trump was elected president, Democrats appear to have won a congressional special election. In each of their previous attempts, Democrats ran progressive candidates, promising that the “resistance” to Trump would carry them to victory. They lost every race.
This time they tried a different approach. Democrats nominated a young, Marine and former federal prosecutor with matinee idol good looks. He came from a long line of Pittsburgh area pols and had strong ties to organized labor.
Conor began his campaign by running as far away from the far left of his party as he could. He immediately went so far as to say he wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi if he got elected. His campaign material pictured him firing an AR-15. He positioned himself as not only pro-gun but also pro-life (at least “personally” so) He was defined as a prettier version of Joe Manchin, the U.S. Senator from West Virginia which borders the 18th both to the south and west, closer to Trump than to Pelosi and Schumer.
Lamb’s strategy worked. This election should never have been close. While it is true that it is still registered Democratic, it’s been voting Republican for decades. President Trump won there by 20 points just 16 months ago. It was no aberration. Mitt Romney carried the district by 17 points. In the previous two congressional races the democrats didn’t even field a candidate. The last time they did, he lost by nearly 30 points.
On the other side of Lamb was Rick Saccone, a stalwart conservative state legislator. He wrested the Republican nomination in a rough-and-tumble “conferee” process. He won the nomination on a second ballot. With it went some dashed ambitions, bruised egos and hard feelings. Unfortunately for him his campaign wasn’t able to heal those wounds as quickly and extensively as they hoped.
There was a spoiler in the race. A Republican turned Libertarian managed to get enough votes to make the difference as the race now stands.
Early in the campaign, Lamb focused like a laser on raising the money necessary to paint the picture of himself he wanted voters to see. He outraised Saccone by a wide margin.
As a result, Lamb was able to deliver his own message. He used well-crafted ads to portray himself tied to the Trump voters in the district he sought to attract.
Meanwhile Saccone was forced to rely on outside forces to deliver his message. That meant that, because of federal laws prohibiting “coordination” of such efforts, he didn’t control his own message.
Millions of dollars poured in to boost him, but his story wasn’t being told. Instead, ads like the “Nancy had a little lamb” fell flat and even backfired.
By the time Saccone was able to get his own ads on the air, the story had already been written.
Regardless of how this special election turns out, it wasn’t a banner day for Republicans. But it wasn’t exactly cause for ecstasy on the part of the Democrats.
First, whoever won Tuesday’s contest took a Pyrrhic victory. The district they will represent vanished on the new map drawn by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Neither Lamb nor Saccone live in the newly configured district.
Second, mid-terms are never kind to the party that holds the White House. With a thin margin in the House, Republicans have a lot to defend.
To be successful, they will need to provide a unifying theme for their candidates based on economic growth and prosperity. They’ll also need to localize each race, tying their candidates to the voters and particular interests of each little sliver of America.
In the campaign for the 18th, Rick Saccone didn’t run away from Donald Trump. Conor Lamb ran away from Nancy Pelosi.
Look for other Democrats, especially across the “rust belt” that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, to emulate Conor Lamb. That can’t be good news for Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco progressives.
For the first time in memory there’s a glimmer of hope for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile the potential for a different kind of war looms larger.
President Trump signed decrees this week placing punitive new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Last week he made a surprise pre-signing announcement that sent shock waves through the markets, caused consternation amongst our allies and alienated many of his conservative base in Washington.
Concerns over an expanding trade war were heard across the political spectrum. President Trump had earlier tweeted that “trade wars are good and easy to win,” but few were buying it.
The president fulfilled a veiled campaign promise in imposing the new tariffs. The new tariffs are clearly part of his deeply held belief that we’ve been taken advantage of by foreign competitions and that it’s time to put “America First” again. But they bring with them some very negative consequences, both foreseeable and unforeseen.
While the president’s new tariffs won’t undo all of the good that his economic policy is doing—especially through de-regulation and tax reform—but they are an unnecessary and dangerous threat to economic growth and job expansion.
The protectionists who promote high tariffs claim that it preserves American jobs and national security.
The truth is that while there may be some marginal job security and even minimal job creation as a result of imposing punitive tariffs, they are grossly outweighed by job losses in other sectors of the economy and a stifling of economic growth.
Tariffs are a tax. The taxpayers are every consumer who will pay more for products as a result of the new tariffs and workers in industries that use aluminum and steel.
There are about 200,000 workers employed in the production of aluminum and steel in the U.S. Meanwhile there are 5.5 million in businesses that use aluminum and steel to produce other products. One study noted that while the new tariffs arguably would help create some 33,464 jobs, they would erase more than 146,000. That’s not a good deal by any reckoning.
Especially with the administration’s far-sighted vision for repairing and improving our infrastructure, the added tariffs are not helpful. The steel and aluminum needed to build bridges and pipelines and upgrade ports can’t be made exponentially more expensive if we’re going to be successful.
National security has likewise been put forward as a justification for tariff barriers to trade. But look at where we get our aluminum and steel. The Number one importer of both steel and aluminum is Canada, our neighbor to the north. Hardly an adversary, they’ve been tied to us by mutual defense treaties for decades.
Following Canada are Brasil and South Korea, both allies. China, for all the bluster about them, doesn’t even crack the top ten and accounts for only about 2% of our steel and aluminum imports.
The nostalgic view of steel manufacturing, especially for Pennsylvanians and others across the “Rust Belt” is easily understood. But we didn’t lose our steel manufacturing industry because we didn’t make the best steel. It was the cost of doing so, from labor to environmental regulations, that curtailed our manufacturing.
Automation and technology took over. Today steel manufacturing facilities require a tiny fraction of the human workforce necessary a few decades ago.
Technology killed more steel manufacturing jobs than trade. Imposing high tariffs in an attempt to revive a by-gone era misses the mark.
Some speculated that the president chose to announce the imposition of tariffs when he did to boost Republican Rick Saccone’s candidacy in the congressional special election in southwest Pennsylvania this coming week.
But the 18th Congressional District illustrates the opposite. You’d be hard-pressed to find a steel mill in the District. The region’s economy has evolved to “Meds and Eds” over the past couple of decades. UPMC is the largest employer in the area, not US Steel. The middle class is supported by jobs in hospitals and universities these days. The big creator of new jobs there is the energy sector and natural gas in particular. Pipelines to transport that gas are vital, and they’ll cost more with high tariffs on steel.
The middle class will bear the brunt of both higher prices for goods and retaliation from other nations which has already begun.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently held up a soup can and noted that the increase in its cost would “…not be a noticeable thing.” Of course he didn’t hoist up a car or a washing machine. Nor did he hold up millions of anything, because it is across the economy that the pain will be felt, both in increased consumer costs and job losses.
Yes, there have been foreign governments that have cheated. They’ve “dumped” steel. They’ve used government subsidies we thankfully don’t offer. They’ve stolen our intellectual property.
Sadly, imposing high tariffs, while punitive, may not put a stop to any or all of that. High tariffs will, however, hurt American consumers and workers.
Free and fair trade is a much better option.
What’s the toughest job in DC? Other than the leadership of the Free World, some would say the Speaker of the House who has to hold together an often fractious caucus to get legislation passed. Others would say the Chief of Staff who’s required to make the trains run on time. Some would say the White House Communications Director.
Every job inside the Executive Office of the President of the United States is tough and demanding. Work days begin before dawn and run long into the night—every day. Few are tougher or more demanding than the Communications Director, especially in this Administration.
Since Herb Klein first set up the office back in the infancy of Richard Nixon’s administration, roughly three dozen people have held the post, few of them household names. Although David Gergen, Pat Buchanan, George Stephanopoulos, Karen Hughes and a few others were well-known, Ken Clawson, Jack Koehler, Mari Maseng and Loretta Ucelli and a lot of others toiled in more obscurity.
This week the latest communications director, Hope Hicks, announced her resignation.
Her resignation marks the departure of one of the president’s most loyal and trusted advisors.
Hicks was with Trump from the git-go of his presidential run. She tells how he approached her, in the earliest days of 2015 saying, “I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary.”
At the time Hicks was 26-years old and hadn’t ever worked on a political campaign, much less at the highest levels of a presidential one. Yet, at the time of her resignation from the White House staff she was Trump’s longest-serving political aide.
From zero political experience to the highest levels of the White House is a meteoric rise by any definition. Hope Hicks ascendancy always tracked the fortunes of her boss, Donald J. Trump.
Hicks had served as press secretary during the grueling days on the campaign trail, then in the same role with the presidential transition before taking a newly-created spot, White House Director of Strategic Communications, in the early days of the Trump Administration. She became Communications Director after the swift departure of Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted only ten days in the post, a shorter tenure than any other who held the job.
Heather Hicks came from a loving line of high-level public relations professionals. Both of her grandfathers were PR guys at major firms. Her father was the communications director for the National Football League at one time and still holds a senior position at one of Washington, D.C.’s premier PR firms.
But Heather Hicks took the path of less visibility than the few Communications Directors that were constant faces in the media. She rarely chatted up reporters or appeared on television. Instead she was the advisor to the president who helped to shape the messages of the administration, including in some very sensitive situations.
Being the communications director in this administration is especially difficult because Donald J. Trump often fills the role himself. He establishes the message and the delivery, sets the tone and creates the themes. His tweets are legion and his impromptu remarks are legend.
On the campaign trail, Hicks reportedly took dictation from candidate Trump for the stream of tweets than came from him. More recently many have reported that it was Hope Hicks that worked to control the flow of tweets.
Hicks tenure was not without a couple of wrinkles. She reportedly was the one who with the president crafted the response to Donald J. Trump, Jr.’s secret meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign. She was also involved with the poorly developed response to domestic abuse allegations against former Trump aide, Rob Porter.
Last week she testified behind closed doors before a congressional panel. It was leaked that she said she’d told “white lies.” That, of course spun through the media at warp speed. What she meant by that remains a significant question, but one definition was: “Remember when I greeted you by saying how nice it was to see you? THAT was a ‘white lie’”
Virtually all usual cadre of anonymous sources agree that Hope Hicks departure had been planned for some time and had nothing to do with her testimony last week.
Hope Hicks will quickly find other roles in which to start. She’s not yet 30-years old and her resume already looks like a veteran PR maven. Sh earned a reputation for being exceptionally well-organized, decisive, steadfast, and steady under fire.
Most importantly, she was always loyal, a character trait far less common than it should be.