President Bush 41: A Great Listener

Bush 41

Having been privileged to serve President George H. W. Bush as a White House Staff Assistant in the Office of Public Liaison, I got to see the President, and the man up close. He had many great qualities, as were mentioned at his funeral. The quality that impressed me, then and now, was how good of a listener he was.

Two examples were in Roosevelt Room meetings I helped organize. Part of our job in Public Liaison was to coordinate meetings with the President and constituent groups.

We were meeting with Police Chiefs and Sheriffs from across the country. One of the Police Chiefs, from a large predominantly liberal city, made a comment to the effect, “We’ve got to do something about all those guns out there.” (This was 1989, some issues seem not to go away.)

The body language in the room shifted. Half the law enforcement chiefs obviously agreed with the comment. The other half obviously strongly disagreed with it. President Bush 41, as he did many times, used a personal anecdote to make his point and diffuse the tension.

He told the story of how when Washington DC passed mandatory gun registration. He went to the city clerk’s office on the first day of registration to register his handgun. He expected for there to be a long line. To his surprise, there was no one in line. As he filed the paperwork, he asked the clerk across the counter, “Have you had a lot of people here to register?”

The clerk replied, “Just a handful of other suckers from Northwest like you.” The clerk was making the point that only a few people from the low crime area of DC were registering, none from the high crime areas, the places the law was designed to impact.

The people in the room chuckled. The tension was diffused and yet he was able to make his point about opposing gun registration as a practical matter.

There was another occasion when we were meeting with folks from the Agriculture sector. One of the meeting participants mentioned a policy issue in very intellectual terms.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. Isn’t this what that farmer in Iowa was telling me about?” he asked the staff. Some of us had worked on the campaign, some had been in Iowa. The last time the President (then still Vice President) had been in Iowa was a year and a half earlier. None of us remembered the farmer in question. The President did. It wasn’t just a policy question, it affected a person. He had listened to that farmer, and now it was impacting his decision making. He remembered that policy is about people.

There are many other stories I could share, but one thing I learned from his White House and family was reflected in the funeral today, “Keep it short and to the point.” Our briefing memos to the President were less than two pages, a three-page memo was a huge complex issue. It was terrific discipline and it forced you to focus on what is important.

We saw today what was important to President George H. W. Bush; Faith, Family and Country.

What a world this would be, if we all followed that example and focused on them too.

 

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Arizona Deserves a Senator Proud to be an Arizonan

Sinema

A few weeks back I was at an event for Congresswoman Martha McSally, currently in a tight race for US Senate here in Arizona. Standing in front of me was Frank Schmuck (yes that is his real name), a GOP candidate for Arizona State Senate and a classmate of McSally’s at the US Air Force Academy.

I leaned over to Frank and quietly said, “Faux pas faire du Cinéma!

He chuckled. His mom is from France and Frank is fluent in the language, so he got my reference. Literally translated it means “Must not make the Cinema (or movie).” But it is an idiom that is probably better translated as “Don’t be so dramatic.”

It was also a play on words with McSally’s opponent’s name, Representative Kyrsten Sinema. While I do not know Sinema personally, as a person involved in the Arizona political scene I have observed her dramatics over the last couple of decades. Drama Queen is what I have seen.

She first came to my awareness in the State Legislature where she was a self-described “Prada Socialist.” Her politics were left-wing but she dressed like a fashion forward hipster from a PR or Entertainment company. It was a good self-portrait.

Later, when she ran for Congress, she would talk to the camera in “oh so sincere” tones about her impoverished upbringing, a female Bill Clinton who could “feel your pain.” These claims have recently been debunked, by no less than the New York Times (not Drudge Report or Breitbart so hard to call that a partisan attack).

This cycle we have been besieged with ads showing a brow furrowed Sinema staring at a computer monitor with others in what looks like an Ops Center, intercut with visuals of military aircraft and ships. Did not know members of Congress personally supervise military operations (spoiler alert – they don’t) but it sure looks dramatic.

In contrast her opponent, Martha McSally was an Air Force Colonel, and was the first female to pilot combat missions in the A-10 Warthog Ground Support Aircraft in Afghanistan. McSally wasn’t staring at a computer monitor, in a staged TV ad, she was staring down a gunsight at a live enemy; dropping bombs, firing rockets and a 30 mm cannon.  Now that is dramatic.

When I made my remark to Frank Schmuck it was because of a certain disquiet I have about Sinema that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Now a Project Veritas Video has come out, showing Sinema on an undercover camera. When someone asked her about talking about an assault weapons ban in Arizona as opposed to California she said, “They will actually shoot you.”

When I heard that I realized what bothered me about Sinema. She said “they” when talking about Arizonans. This matches other videos that have come out. When she is not in Arizona she speaks disparagingly about our state, calling it the “meth lab of Democracy,” or saying the word “Arizona” and pausing (dramatically) to make a face.

Yet I have never heard her say, “We Arizonans” or “Us in Arizona”.

It’s like she doesn’t think she is one of us. Or worse she is ashamed of us like a family member that denies they are related to someone.

I moved to Arizona twenty-seven years ago because I wanted to live here. I am proud to be an Arizonan.

I don’t want to be represented in the US Senate by a Drama Queen that is ashamed of my state. That is ashamed of me, my family and my friends and neighbors.

Faux pas faire du Sinema!

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Bundy cattle, Harry Reid, Eric Holder, Jaywalking and enforcing the law.

“We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it.”

– Senator Harry Reid talking about Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy.

Used to be that elected members of Congress would stand up for their Constituents when they have a problem with the Federal Government. Based on the statement above, it seems that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid views his job differently.

 “There is a vast amount of discretion that a president has — and, more specifically, that an attorney general has,”
– Attorney General Eric Holder testifying before Congress regarding the enforcement of Federal laws. 

Seems that Sen. Reid and Att. Gen. Holder need to get on the same page. Holder has been responding to criticism that the Administration and he in particular have been very selective in which Federal laws they enforce when it comes to illegal immigration statutes, criminal marijuana laws, the Defense of Marriage Act and other measures.  Holder has been arguing that some laws do not need to be vigorously enforced due to conflicts with State law or changes in Federal court rulings.

Reminds me of the enforcement of Jaywalking in downtown Los Angeles. When visiting our daughter who was in college in central L.A. as I was about to cross the street against the light a passing pedestrian yelled at me, “Don’t do it! The cops fine you for Jaywalking here! They are very serious.”

As someone who grew up in New York City I found this baffling. There’s no way to get around town in Manhattan in a reasonable amount of time on foot unless you Jaywalk. New York City’s Finest recognize this fact –  at least when I was growing up – and ignored the pedestrian traffic violation thousands of times a day. A New York cop would tell you, “I got better things to do.” I thought that LAPD should have “better things to do,” as well.

Attorney General Holder seems to be expressing the NYPD view when approaching some of the above mentioned laws. (I disagree with him on some but not all of them.) Given that attitude, it begs the question:

Why was the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) willing to spend, according to a Washington Post timeline of the Bundy cattle controversy,   over $1 Million in a cattle roundup? Yes, according to the BLM Bundy had run up $1 million in unpaid grazing fees – over a period of decades – now the BLM was going to spend that amount in a several day round-up?

Some are pointing to connections to Senator Reid’s son and a Chinese energy company with designs on the land as the real reason and connections to a BLM director who was a Reid staffer. Accurate or not, it still does not seem right at all that a Nevada senator would take a position against a citizen of his home state in favor of the Federal government when it comes to the rancher’s private property – his cattle.

For now the BLM has stood down. Senator Reid says it is not over. Meanwhile Eric Holder is explaining to Congressional oversight that the Executive Branch has a “vast amount of discretion” in enforcing laws. All while stalling on releasing information regarding Fast and Furious – a case where US Federal Border agents were actually killed.

Listen to the New York Cop – seems to me all of these Federal law enforcement personnel “have better things to do.”

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If I only had a brain…or at least a PMP.

“They have one thing you haven’t got. A diploma!”

– The Wizard of Oz

Scarecrow gets diploma

Recently I received my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). As I posted on Facebook, friends and family have claimed for years that I was certifiable – now I am actually certified.

The experience of receiving my PMP made me feel a bit like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. For years he wondered if he had a brain; the Wizard informed him that it was not a brain he needed, it was a diploma.

In a similar fashion, it had been difficult for me to explain what I have done throughout my professional career. I have done Film and Video Production, Political Campaigns, Book Writing, Digital Media and a great deal of consulting for both for profit and non-profit companies – in the US and overseas. I have even been in government positions and in corporate structures. The thing was, I was usually the person on the organizational chart where a line ran from either THE top person or A top person and did not intersect or fall under any other category in the organization.

The reason was that I was usually either a Program Manager or Project Manger doing special projects to meet the strategic goals of top management. These were often projects outside of the functional or operational scope of work in the organization, yet required me interacting with numerous parts of the organization – IT, Legal, Marketing, Public Relations, Accounting and Finance, Human Resources, Operations and Product Development. I was the box outside the other boxes.

This why I was so pleased when I found out about the PMP certification. Finally there was an acknowledgement of my profession. Film and Video Productions, Political Campaigns, and other consulting I have done have all been projects. At last I was able to tell people what it is I do – as diverse a background as I have in many different fields and industries, the one thing I have been consistently is a Project Manager.

While studying for the exam I did find that there were some Project Management Institute approved terms for things I had already been doing for years – so there was some re-learning of vocabulary (for example, what I had always called “vendors” PMI called “sellers.”) Yet on the whole it did feel like the exam was testing my entire career – which worked out well since I passed with high marks.

So like the Scarecrow in Oz, I finally have the diploma that defines me – and like the Scarecrow, I too always had a brain – now I can express what I was doing with it for all these years.

Thanks PMI for giving our profession recognition and a name!

Oh and a diploma. Scarecrow has a brain

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Seven Sure Fire Ways to Fix the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – Web Site and Avoid the Dreaded Death Spiral

In this site’s never ending quest to solve problems and make the world a better place, we are going to dive – head first – into ways to help solve one of the greatest problems of the day; how to fix the screwed-up, Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obamacare, The Great SNAFU, or What-Ever-You-Want-To-Call-It web site.
Apparently there are different phases to the problem.

First problem: just plain ol’ logging on.

Then actually registering for an account seems to be trouble.

Then signing up for an insurance policy; next signing up for a policy you can actually afford (the A in ACA), and finally getting enough young healthy people to sign up for an expensive policy to pay for all the new people with chronic health problems who are desperate for insurance.
This last is to avoid the dreaded “Death Spiral” – must admit, this is the first time have heard of a government program that is not military in nature with the potential to “Death Spiral.”
After much thought (fifteen minutes at least) and a targeted focus group (talked to a guy at a bus stop) here are the Seven Sure Fire Fixes to the Obamacare web site that we were able to come up with:

NSA Logo on Floor
1) Tell the National Security Agency (NSA) that it is a way of gathering data on Americans – they’ll have it up and running in no time.

Kathleen Sebelius
2) Instead of the picture of the smiling woman on the Home Page post a video of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius twerking.

Steve Jobs
3) Hold a Séance at the White House and summon the spirit of Steve Jobs, then ask him how to fix it.

Call of Duty Ghosts
4) Make successfully signing up for a health insurance plan on an exchange one of the stages of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Google Bot
5) Make it all a subsidiary of Google.

Eric Snowden
6) Give Eric Snowden a Presidential pardon and then ask him to come back to the US; he seems to know how all this stuff works.

Happy Doctor
7) Actually let People Who Like Their Plan, Keep their Plan.

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Explaining Government Shutdown to Your Children

Government shutdown

“Dad, is it true the government is shutting down?”

“Yes son, it’s true.”

“Does that mean there’s no school?”

“No, schools are open.”

“But It’s all over Facebook that the government is shut down and so are schools…”

“So everything on Facebook is true?”

“Well…”

“Like the time your sister took your smartphone and posted on your Facebook that you have different names for your farts depending on how they smell?”

“OK, not everything on Facebook is true.”

“Besides, it is the Federal Government that is shut down, school are run by local governments.”

“What about 9-1-1 calls? And the cops? Is it going to be like that movie ‘The Purge’?”

“No, 9-1-1 and the vast majority of law enforcement on our country is done by local law enforcement. I know when you watch TV and Movies it looks like the FBI and Homeland Security are solving most of the crimes, but that is not nearly true. Local police and state police deal with the vast majority of crimes.”

“What if we are attacked? And all the soldiers are not at work?”

“The Military is Federal but even during a government shutdown they stay on duty. Just non-essential employees stay home.”

“So what shuts down?”

“Things like the National Parks and other things to annoy us. Flight controllers stay on duty so the airlines can still fly.”

“What about the courts?”

“There are Federal Courts, but most courts are local so they will stay open.”

“You sure the courts are open today?”

“Why the interest in the courts today?”

“Remember when I borrowed the car in July? Well…I went a little fast…”

“A speeding ticket? When were you going to tell us about this?”

“Well, it was a long time until my court date and I hoped it might just go away. Then when I heard the government might shut down today I thought the court might be closed and it would all go away…”

“So let me get this straight…you had a fiscal responsibility coming up because of something you did….and you chose to ignore it for a long time, and then at the last minute you hoped something would come up that would make it all go away?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Son, with thinking like that you could grow up to run for Senator.”

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Unicorns, WMD, Kerry, Obama, Putin, Hillary Clinton, and Doing the Damascus Dance

Since the current American Foreign Policy regarding Syria has swung back and forth more than a half-naked Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball, we have taken it upon ourselves to interview some of the principle players involved and attempt to clarify things.

First up, Secretary of State John Kerry:

John Kerry

Q: At first you said that there would be no “boots on the ground” in Syria but then you opened up the possibility of “boots on the ground” if we needed to secure chemical weapons. Which is it?

Secretary Kerry: Both. I was against “boots on the ground” before I was for them.

Q: What about arming the rebels fighting against the Assad regime? Do you favor that?

Secretary Kerry: I was against arming the rebels before I was for it.

Q: Finally, what about getting Congressional approval before the US Military action?

Secretary Kerry: I was against getting Congressional approval before I was for it.

Q: I see. Thank you very much Secretary Kerry.

Now we turn to President Obama.

President Obama

Q: Mr. President what do you have to say about “boots on the ground” in Syria.

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. There will be no “boots on the ground” in Syria.

Q: But Secretary Kerry said that if we needed to secure WMDs we would go in, and there has been talk of providing arms to the rebels. How can we do this with no “boots on the ground”?

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. The US Military wears boots. The C.I. A. wears shoes. We will have no “boots on the ground” in Syria.

Q: Secretary Kerry has said that any action by the US in Syria would be very limited…yet you said that the “US Military does not do pin pricks.” What about the drone strikes we have been doing around the world – aren’t those small precision strikes?

President Obama: Let me make this perfectly clear. The US Military is not in charge of the drone strikes. The C.I.A. is in charge of the drone strikes at my direction. The US Military does not do pin pricks – when I am looking for pricks, I look to the C.I.A.

Q: Are you sure you want to phrase it that way?

President Obama: Why? I didn’t draw a Red Line or anything again did I?

Q: No, no – never mind. Let’s move on. What do all of these changes signal to regimes like Iran or North Korea? What will they think about the reluctance to bomb or put “boots on the ground”?

President Obama: Iran is not Syria. You can check that on a map. Or even a globe. Or if you have a smart phone: use Google Maps. As for North Korea; let me make sure this is understood; the US Military wears boots, the C.I.A. wears shoes, and Dennis Rodman wears sneakers.

Q: That’s all the time we had with President Obama as he was off to a game of golf with Speaker John Boehner where they were going to talk about how budget negotiations are as painful as nicotine withdrawal.

Our next guest is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin

Q: President Putin, after years of being sidelined in the Middle East it seems that Russia is once again flexing diplomatic muscles. Can you tell us what led to this change?

President Putin: There is no change here. I have been flexing my muscles for years. Haven’t you seen the pictures?

Q: What we mean is that you seem to have been very vigorous in your defense of Basher Assad in Syria…

President Putin: That’s not the only place I have been vigorous. I am recently divorced. So ladies, if you are looking for vigorous, text a picture to “Comrade Danger.”

Q: I can’t believe you went there…

President Putin: OK I have to go now, very busy schedule…

Q: Doing what?

President Putin: Have a photo opportunity of me riding shirtless on a unicorn.

Q: A unicorn? Aren’t they imaginary?

President Putin: You don’t believe in unicorns?

Q: Well, no…

President Putin: But you believe that all of the chemical weapons on a civil-war torn Middle Eastern country can be identified, secured, and transported out of the country by the International Community – with no American “boots on the ground”? You Americans crack me up. It is almost as funny as sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea.

Q: Not sure that we “sent” Rodman…

President Putin: Have to go. Have the photo op and then dinner with Eric Snowden. He tells me an NSA story, I tell him an old KGB story – we drink some vodka. Good time all around.

Next we turn to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton

Q: As a senator you voted to authorize President Bush to use military action in Iraq. Later you opposed it. As Secretary of State you supported military strikes on Libya, yet when our Ambassador in Benghazi was in danger you opposed using the military. Last week, now that you are out of office, you urged Congress vote in favor of supporting military strikes on Syria by the Obama Administration, but now you agree with the President to postpone the vote?

Secretary Clinton: Exactly.

Q: Huh?

Secretary Clinton: My position as a Senator, as Secretary of State and now as a Candid – oops! I mean as a private citizen – has been consistent.

Q: How so?

Secretary Clinton: I have always been in support of authorizing the President to use military force, until I am no longer in support. Well, gotta run – like the subtle hint there?

Q: Where are you going?

Secretary Clinton: To a photo op of me riding on a lion. That Putin is a genius – even Bill said he never thought of the “riding on a wild animal” thing. It’s almost as brilliant as sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea.

Q: You mean… we did send Rodman to North Korea…? Why?

Secretary Clinton: What difference does it make! See ya – in 2016.

Finally, to try to put some perspective on all of this – we ask former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to comment.

Q: What do we know about the Syria situation?

Secretary Rumsfeld: You and I don’t know what President Obama knows. And we don’t know what President Putin knows. And we don’t know what Obama knows about what Putin knows. It looks like President Hollande of France knows something – but what it is, we don’t know.

Q: Is there any way out of this mess?

Secretary Rumsfeld: That’s what they used to ask me about Iraq – so I’ll say the same thing:

I don’t know.

Rodman in North Korea

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