30 November 2011


As one who has watched presidential elections since 1960, I have often muttered to myself, “Is this really the best we can do?” With the exception of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, I have not been enamored of any candidate and have often regretted that there were no better options to vote for. (I was not old enough to vote for either John F. Kennedy or Barry Goldwater, but would have done so gladly. Kennedy because I was still under the sway of my beloved yellow dog Democrat Mother and Goldwater because he was right.)

After Nixon’s self-inflicted fall from grace, I was so angry with the system that I actually cast my vote in 1976 for Jimmy Carter, the single worst voting mistake I have made in my life. The man wanted written guarantees that no Iranians would be hurt before he would allow the failed rescue attempt in 1980, fer cryin’ out loud. My bad!

Over the years, I have wondered why Sam Nunn of Georgia, Scoop Jackson of Washington, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut were not acceptable to lead the Democrats rather than George McGovern, Carter, or John Kerry (a particular despicable choice). The only time I ever felt any compassion for Kerry was in 2004 when my late brother told me that he would not vote for Kerry because “anyone stupid enough to fight in your (sic) war is not smart enough to be President.” (The sympathy for Kerry did not last long.)

On the Republican side, Jack Kemp, Pete Wilson, Paul Laxalt, and, until now, Newt Gingrich have been overlooked.

About 10 years or so ago, I happened on a class taught by then former-Congressman Gingrich which was running weekly on Saturday mornings on either C-SPAN or PBS. It was fascinating, and I began to read his books. Still, I lamented, this guy is too intelligent for the American electorate. He has actually thought through our national problems and has come up with pragmatic, responsible solutions.

This year, as it began to look as if the GOP had decided to settle for a pretty face and no spine, such as Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, I was unsettled at best. Why not Newt Gingrich?

And look what has happened! People are starting to listen, and when they do, they realize that Newt is speaking to them in words that make sense.

Oh, the naysayers will bring up a lot of irrelevant stuff in an attempt to derail this bid. He has had three wives. He can be a tough SOB to work for. He is a conservative.

He will never satisfy some people. If the American people had known about Jack Kennedy’s roving eye, perhaps Nixon would have been President in 1960. I am not a big fan of divorce, but it happens to the best of couples. All I can say on that point is that the Democratic Party better not go after him after insisting for years that Bill Clinton’s extra-marital escapades were irrelevant to his ability to govern. At least Newt married ‘em, and they were all well beyond the age of consent.

A President needs to be demanding. I’d rather a President who demands excellence from his people and who knows and tells the people what he believes in and stands for. We’ve got the alternative now—one who stands for whatever his most important supporters demand. I mean why would labor support a guy who thinks 20,000 good jobs in red states are less important than satisfying a bunch of tree huggers in birkenstocks?

With Gingrich, we’ve got 30 years of writing and thinking about issues that are truly important and are legitimate federal concerns: national defense, economic policy, and foreign policy. Thirty years ago, the current President was still a student at Columbia, and until 2004, he had never had any relevant experience in federal government. Even today, he reminds me more of Richard J. Daley than of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Newt is a conservative, but one who is an actual intellectual and pragmatic conservative. Witness his immigration proposal. At least, he wants what is best for America and not just for the hyphenated group of the week that will give votes in exchange for bread and circuses.

Newt Gingrich for President.

PS. Let the “hrumphhh’s” begin, Sis. 8>)

29 November 2011


Three news items converge.

First, US News & World Report reports that the President has set a new record. One year out from the general election, his job approval rating plummeted below that of Jimmy Carter’s. Carter, described by the article as “considered among the 20th century's worst presidents,” was at 51 per cent at this point, and no President in the past 60 plus years has been at lower than that one year out—until now. The President didn’t just squeak by Carter, either. He blasted him out of the way as he plunged to a job approval rating of 43 per cent.

So, what’s a guy to do?

Well, his party is rushing to help by proposing to cut taxes, but only if they can raise them. It seems that the Senate will propose to enlarge and extend the payroll tax cut first passed at the President’s request last year. However, they insist that before they cut taxes, they must first be allowed to raise income taxes on a few people by way of a tax surcharge. Sort of a John Kerry “I was against it before I was for it” moment. The target? Milionaires and billionaires, of course.

And they know that that is a loser, even with some of their own caucus. And that grand bluffmaster, Harry Reid already concedes that he will probably have to drop the surtax to get passage. Harry, bubba, we really gotta review that negotiation tactics class.

Obama is desperate for a win on an issue that his left wing base rabidly wants. So we are condemned to hear more whining from Reid, Pelosi, and Obama.

And no one in the media is calling the President on this. According to Politico ”The payroll tax holiday extension has been a top priority for Obama, who has traveled the country in recent days to try to drum up public support for it. In Manchester, N.H., last week, he hit Republicans for opposing tax increases in general but supporting a payroll tax cut extension.” Really? Did he mention that he is in favor of cutting taxes so long as he can raise them? That line was probably cut from the speech before it went to the teleprompter.

The bottom line is this: the President is willing to work with the Congress, just so long as he gets exactly what he wants. He gets to claim a victory on cutting taxes for the middle class and the Republicans get to betray the people who elected them. Just like wrestling with a pig--everybody gets muddy and the pig loves it.

Here's an idea: If the payroll tax cut is really a top priority, and if the President wants compromise, why not just offer the tax cut?

As we used to say in the old Corps, "Nevah hatchee." If he did that, then his base will claim that he has abandoned their ardent desire for a class war.

And expect it to continue. A man who knows how to be a candidate, but not how to be President, will hit the road again tomorrow. Obama 2008 will just merge into Obama 2012 and continue the medicine show, complete with snake oil salesman-in-chief.

According to Jay Carney, the Press Secretary, in today's briefing the American people expect the President to be constantly on the road visiting them. When asked why only battleground states were being targeted, and whether or not these are really campaign stops being financed by the American people, Carney suggested that the President has a duty to get out of the office and visit the people. Any help to the campaign is just a secondary blessing, I suppose.

I would suggest that what they really need is someone who leads. Heaven knows, I’m no fan of LBJ, but before the debt limit debacle last summer, he would have had the Speaker and Harry Reid in for drinks, threats, and a little wood shedding! For both of them! For all of his ills, he knew how to be President.

But the current White House is oblivious. So, get your popcorn, settle back in your seats, and watch the next round in this farce.

11 November 2011


Today marks the 93d anniversary of the armistice which ended the fighting on the Western Front in the World War. It took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Within a few years, November 11 became an American national holiday known as Armistice Day. After we had to start numbering world wars, in 1954, Congress renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. While Veterans Day is, and ought to be, marked by solemn ceremonies such as the laying of a wreath by the President at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, it is a day to honor living veterans who may be appropriately wished "happy Veterans Day." This contrasts with Memorial Day which honors those who died on the field of honor and, by definition, ought never be a "happy" day.

10 November 2011


Today is the 236th Birthday of the finest fighting force the world has ever known, with the possible exception of the XIII Legion in Gaul and Jackson's Brigade in the Valley. I speak of course, of the United States Marine Corps.

I was privileged to lead Marines in combat as a platoon commander and executive officer of Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines. Charlie Company was the successor to John Thomason's company of the Fifth Marines in Belleau Woods in France in 1918.

The Marines and Corpsmen of Charlie Company are always with me, especially Lucas, Zimmerman, Tews, Unfried, Phipps, Wandro and, of course, Chip--2d Lt Fred Andrew Hartman, USMC. Tonight, at sunset, I stood on my deck "at sunset and was silent, over Chilean wine, . . . thinking of those days and those men."

Semper Fidelis

No. 47 (Series 1921)
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

Major General Commandant

The Leathernecks by Col John Thomason (Fix Bayonets!)


THEY tell the tale of an American lady of notable good works, much esteemed by the French, who, at the end of June, 1918, visited one of the field hospitals behind Degoutte’s Sixth French Army. Degoutte was fighting on the face of the Marne salient, and the 2d American Division, then in action around the Bois de Belleau, northeast of Chateau Thierry, was under his orders. It happened that occasional casualties of the Marine Brigade of the 2d American Division, wounded toward the flank where Degoutte’s own horizon-blue infantry joined on, were picked up by French stretcher-bearers and evacuated to French hospitals. And this lady, looking down a long, crowded ward, saw on a pillow a face unlike the fiercely whiskered Gallic heads there displayed in rows. She went to it.

“Oh,” she said, “surely you are an American!”

“No, ma’am,” the casualty answered. I’m a Marine.”

The men who marched up the Paris-Metz road to meet the Boche in the spring of 1918, the 5th and 6th Regiments of United States Marines, were gathered from various places. In the big war companies, 250 strong, you could find every sort of man, from every sort of calling. There were North-westerners with straw-colored hair that looked white against their tanned skins, and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. Their speech was flavored with navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and the ports where our war-ships go. In easy hours their talk ran from the Tartar Wall beyond Peking to the Southern Islands down under Manila; from Portsmouth Navy Yard-New Hampshire and very cold-to obscure bush-whackings in the West Indies, where Cacao chiefs whimsically sanguinary, barefoot generals, with names like Charlemagne and Christophe, waged war according to the precepts of the French Revolution and the Cult of the Snake. They drank the eau de vie of Haute-Marne, and reminisced on sake, and vino, and Bacardi Rum-strange drinks in strange cantinas at the far ends of the earth; and they spoke fondly of Milwaukee beer. Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns. They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations. They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers; collected from ship’s guards and shore stations all over the earth to form the 4th Brigade of Marines, the two rifle regiments detached from the Department of the Navy by order of the President for service with the American Expeditionary Forces. They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

It is a pleasure to record that they found good company in the U. S. Army. The 2d Division (U. S. Regular was the official designation) was composed of the 9th and 23d Infantry, two old regiments with names from all of our wars on their battle-flags, the 2d Regiment of Engineers-and engineers are always good-and the 12th, 15th, and 17th Field Artillery. It was a division distinguished by the quality of dash and animated by an especial pride of service. It carried to a high degree esprit de corps, which some Frenchman has defined as esteeming your own corps and looking down on all the other corps. And although it paid heavily in casualties for the things it did-in five months about 100 per cent-the 2d Division never lost its professional character.

Seven years after, across the world from /France, I met a major of the American General Staff, who was on the Paris-Metz road that last week in May, 1918, and saw the Marine Brigade. “They looked fine, coming in there,” he said. “Tall fellows, healthy and fit-they looked hard and competent. We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better. We knew something was going to happen-“ and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.

There is no sight in all the pageant of war like young, trained men going up to battle. The columns look solid and businesslike. Each battalion is an entity, 1,200 men of one purpose. They go on like a river that flows very deep and strong. Uniforms are drab these days, but there are points of light on the helmets and the bayonets, and light in the quick, steady eyes and the brown young faces, greatly daring. There is no singing-veterans know, and they do not sing much-and there is no excitement at all; they are schooled crafts-men going up to impose their will, with the tools of their trade, on another lot of fellows; and there is nothing to make a fuss about. Battlefields are not salubrious places, and every file knows that a great many more are going in than will come out again-but that goes along with the job. And they have no illusions about the job.

There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight. And yet-such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division. All that is behind those men is in that column too: the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation-Brandywine and Trenton and Yorktown, San Jacinto and Chapultepec, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, El Caney; scores of skirmishes, far off, such as the Marines have nearly every year in which a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap in the Argonne; traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever; and the faith of men and the love of women; and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention-all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors. Common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.

07 November 2011


This has been a bad week for the Cain campaign. They handled the report about some 1995 alleged sexual misconduct (of an unspecified nature, involving anonymous complainants) poorly, allowing the press and his opponents to speculate at will and interview each other, keeping the story alive. Yesterday, for instance, Christiane Amanpour asked former Secretary of State Rice a question to this effect: “Well, although we have no concrete information, assuming that there was some serious misconduct, is his candidacy over?” Yeah, he’s in trouble.

At least one report I heard revealed that the campaign had 10 days notice before the story broke. Why weren’t they prepared?

Instead, when it did break, in the space of one day, Cain denied the story, then “recalled” some of it, then more of it. He quibbled over whether there had been a “settlement” or “only an agreement” to pay one woman $35,000 and another $45,000 “severance packages.” By the end of the week, the “cover up” had become the story. No details of the events are available and the anonymous complainants refuse to speak publicly. A real mess!

This got me to thinking about how two other crises were handled by a presidential or campaign staff.

GENNIFER FLOWERS: During Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential election campaign, it was revealed that Clinton and a model and actress named Gennifer Flowers engaged in a 12-year sexual relationship while Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. His team quickly arranged for Clinton to appear on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. Clinton denied having a relationship with Flowers, and his wife, now Secretary of State Clinton, “stood by her man.” The Flowers accusation was generally accepted by the voting public as a publicity stunt on Flower's part and Clinton avoided any serious threat to his campaign. (Clinton was deposed in January 1998, at which time he admitted that, indeed, he had a sexual encounter with Flowers, but by then he was already in his second term.)

WATERGATE: In June 1972, during Richard Nixon’s second campaign, a burglary was committed in the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Five men were apprehended in the DNC’s offices, apparently attempting to bug, or remove bugs from, the offices of DNC Chair Lawrence O’Brien and others. O’Brien, one of JFK’s “Irish mafia” of political advisors, was then serving his second term as DNC Chair.

It was later determined that the burglars had been paid from a to a slush fund maintained in the Committee to Re-Election the President (CREEP). Evidence developed by the FBI, soon pointed to the inside of the White House.

The Senate established a Committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin (D.NC) to investigate. Counsel for the committee included Sam Dash (majority counsel) and Fred Thomson (minority counsel. In the course of the hearing, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations. A conspiracy to cover up the break-in, between President Nixon and his two top aides, Robert Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as other aides, was revealed by the tapes. Nixon resisted a Committee subpoena to turn over the tapes, resulting in a protracted series of court battles regarding the President’s claim of executive privilege. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled unanimously that the President had to comply with the subpoena. He resigned the presidency shortly thereafter.

WARNING: Shameless name-dropping follows.

Samuel Dash, the majority counsel of the Watergate Committee, was a legendary lawyer. In his 53-year legal career, he helped draft the independent counsel statute to correct the abuses of that system during the Watergate prosecution, served as ethics counsel to the Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, and was an expert on the law of electronic surveillance.

Mr. Dash joined the Philadelphia district attorney's office in 1952 and was appointed district attorney in 1955 at age 30. He went into private practice the next year and conducted a nationwide investigation of wiretapping, resulting in a 1959 book, "The Eavesdroppers," that is credited with helping change the Supreme Court's position and federal and state laws on electronic surveillance.

Beginning in 1965, he was a a professor at Georgetown University's law school where he also served as director of its Institute for Criminal Law and Procedures.  In the 1970s, he helped Chief Justice Warren E. Burger devise the American Bar Association's ethical standards for prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers. He had a well-deserved reputation for independence and was an advocate for legal ethics throughout his career.

After a scandal arose in 2002, Mr. Dash served on a task force to reform the ethical standards and organization of the United Way of the National Capital Area.

In the 1990s, he was ethics counsel for a case I was involved in with respect to federal election law. One Saturday morning as we waited for a new draft of a pleading to be prepared, we sat in a conference room and talked about some of his experiences.

“You know, Professor,” I said, “if I had been advising the Nixon Whitehouse in June of 1972, I would have done two things. First, I would have advised the President to destroy all of those darned tapes that very day, before anyone knew they existed and before the inevitable subpoenae were issued when their existence was revealed.  There would be no obstruction of justice (at least under 1972 law) because there was no order to preserve or produce them.  I would have told the President, ‘You can’t be a party to unilateral electronic surveillance of people who come into your office expecting confidentiality. It sets a bad example. If you are ever questioned about why the tapes were destroyed, you can cite your concerns for the Bill of Rights.’”

“Well,” he replied, “you just ended our investigation.”

I continued.  “‘Second,’ you need to fire anyone, including Haldeman and Ehrlichman, who might have had anything to do with the break-in. Then, call a press conference to announce right there the firings. Say something like this:

My fellow Americans. One of the things about being president is that everyone wants to please you. If I were to mutter to myself at 2 am that I would like a strawberry baked Alaska, one would appear momentarily.

Now, a few weeks ago, I was talking with my staff about the upcoming election. As you know, after the primary elections, the Senator from South Dakota appears to be the presumptive nominee of the other party. I mused to myself, “I sure would like to be a fly on the wall of Larry O’Brien’s office right now to see how he and the rest of the old Kennedy hands plan to take the nomination away from Senator McGovern and give it to Teddy Kennedy.”

I now believe that those staffers—misguidedly and improperly—took my musing as an order. I have, sadly but necessarily, asked for their resignations and they have tendered them. It is now a matter for the police and the courts to resolve.

But I still do wonder how Mr. O’Brien plans to take the nomination from Mr. McGovern and give it to Mr. Kennedy.

Thank you and good night.

Professor Dash grinned and shook his head. “I’m glad you weren’t there,” he said. “The whole story thereafter would have been about an attempt to overturn the primary results by the old guard in the Democratic Party.”

I will never forget that conversation.

Fast forward to last week. Here is what I would have had Cain do as soon as the story broke—or preemptively, as soon as I heard that Politico was going to run it.

Background: In the last quarter of the 20th Century, sexual harassment in the workplace became an issue. Several high dollar claims were settled in the late 1980s and early 90s that made more employees aware of the “benefits” of alleging sexual harassment as a basis for dismissal. For instance, between 1997 and 2009, the EEOC dismissed roughly half of all harassment claims filed as “no reasonable cause” claims. In 2010, that percentage rose to nearly two-thirds.

In the 1990s, sexual harassment claims were popular with employees who were being terminated because the claim itself was damaging to a company and thus, the employee had a good bargaining chip. The spectre of bad publicity led many employers and their insurers to be more likely to settle claims early in the process for the “nuisance value” of the claim, i.e., the potential cost of investigation and defense of a suit dwarfed the settlement amount.

In Cain's case, the settlement amounts appear to me to be nuisance value settlements.

All that being said, I would have recommended that Cain say something like this.

In the mid-1990s, while I was CEO of the National Restaurant Association, I became aware that a couple of soon-to-be-dismissed employees were alleging that I had somehow improperly harassed them. While I deny that claim now and denied it then, I knew that the mere allegation was serious and could affect both the morale of the Association’s employees and the reputation of the Association itself.

I promptly recused myself from taking any further part in the matter, assigning it to the director of our human resources department and our general counsel.

I seem to recall that the claims were deemed to be of no substance, but to avoid any damage to the Association, it was decided by those responsible for making the decision (and perhaps our insurers) to “settle” the claims for the value of a few month’s salary for each of the terminated employees. In business, these low dollar settlements (each was around $40,000) are known as “nuisance value settlements.” That means that the company, association, or insurer thinks the claim is meritless, but the cost of investigating the claim and litigating it would far exceed the amount of the settlement.

I had no part in making any settlement decision, but, as an experienced businessman, I think that it is better to spend a few dollars to settle unfounded claims such as these rather than 10 or 20 times the amount to win a legal “victory.”

I do recall that when settling claims such as this, our counsel often suggested that the settlement amount be easily divisible by 3 so that the attorney’s one-third share of the claim could be easily determined.
The filing of unfounded suits or claims such as these, often as a revenue-generating action by trial lawyers, continues to be a real problem in American business. That is why I support tort reform and other reforms to cut the costs of such trivial litigation in American business and medicine, even as the trial lawyers seek more ways to make their fortunes on the backs of plaintiffs who have no real claim.

Thank you and good night.