Game On

While we fuss and fume about so much of the foolishness we see coming from Washington, we should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER forget that at its core, politics is as much about gamesmanship as anything else.  Like a game of chess, it is about who can outmaneuver the guy on the other side of the issue.

Power drives it all.  Sure we hear all the rhetoric about how we need to take care of the mamas and the little chillun–but we want to make damn sure that my side is calling the shots on how this is done.

For proof, just look at how these final days of the Trump administration are unfolding.  It all begins with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  At the moment–and since 2015–he has been the most powerful person on Capitol Hill.  He has had absolute power.  And he liked it.

But that now ends with the new administration and the Democrats gaining control of the Senate.  So McConnell is in a position he’s long held, how do i wheel and deal and come out the best I can.

There are 100 U.S. Senators.  This may well be the most exclusive club in the land.  Everything is based on tradition and seniority.  They do not abide “shooting stars” well.  Those who reach the top do so by paying their dues.

McConnell was elected to the Senate in 1985.  He served in local office before that.  No one from Kentucky has ever risen to this height in the Senate.  Trump was an interloper.  He had not paid the price.  He did not understand or respect the institution.  He thought everyone was only there to do his bidding.

McConnell looked at him with contempt.  He did not respect him.  He toted Trump’s water as long as he could and kept his mouth shut.  He knew Trump was a conman.  And most importantly, he knew one day Trump would be gone and he would not.

McConnell is surrounded by people like him.  Long-serving, patient, obey the rules.  Alabama’s senior Senator is Richard Shelby.  He was elected to the Senate in 1986.  He served two terms in the state senate and two terms in Congress before that.  Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware was elected in 2001.  Prior to that he was in Congress and also governor.

Let’s not forget Joe Biden.  He served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009.  He and McConnell served for 24 years together.  They were molded by the same norms.

They were mentored and nourished and counseled by stalwarts like Howard Baker, Robert Byrd, Bob Doyle, Fritz Hollins, Dale Bumpers and John Glenn.  They were men of character and integrity.  They were trustworthy, they respected their peers, they understood bipartisanship.

John Glenn asked President Obama to speak at his funeral.  He didn’t even want Trump to attend the service.

McConnell and Trump come from two different worlds.  Their marriage has been estranged at best.  It is about to cease to exist.  The signals McConnell has been sending in the last week are not unexpected.

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How Do You Take These People Seriously?

As most political campaigns near the end, we get into “silly season” when accusations become more far-fetched and ludicrous.  Which was certainly the case just prior to the Nov. 3 general election.

However, this year “silly season” went into overtime with Donald Trump and his supporters refusing to believe that more than 7 million more citizens voted for Joe Biden than for Trump.

And not a day goes by lately that I don’t just shake my head at some new far-fetched tale.

One of the best comes from Burgess Owens who defeated Democrat incumbent Ben McAdams in Utah’s 4th Congressional district.  The district includes part of Salt Lake City  He is a staunch Trump supporter and refuses to believe Trump lost.

I don’t know Owens.  But Google does.  After playing football at the University of Miami, Owens played for 10 years in the NFL with the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders.  He has been a successful businessman and is CEO of a non-profit for troubled youth.

He recently told the newspaper in Salt Lake City why he thinks Trump should get another term in office.  Basically he thinks there are several ways to decide who wins a contest.  One being that if you do your best in the game and left everything on the field, then you did not lose.  You actually won.

Do you actually believe that when the University of Alabama and Ohio State University play for the national football championship on Jan. 11, they will both adopt this attitude and that both teams will get a trophy?

For some reason, I don’t.

Owens won his race over McAdams on Nov. 3 by 3,765 votes, one of the closest Congressional races in the country..  Or did Owens really win?  What if McAdams said that since he ran a hard and strong campaign, he really did not lose and should get another term?

What tune would Owens be singing then?

Yep, it is definitely “silly season.”

 

Biden Picks Secretary Of Education

Thousands of educators have been anxiously waiting to see who President-elect Joe Biden would nominate for U.S. Secretary of Education.  He has chosen Miquel Cordona, who heads public schools in Connecticut.

He will replace Betsy DeVos who was generally looked at with disdain by public school supporters because of her opposition to public schools.  While DeVos had no background in public education, Cordona has experience as teacher, principal and administrator in public schools. Biden said he wanted someone with public school experience in the role.

During his confirmation hearing before the legislature in February in the selection process for the top state job, Cardona described himself as a “goofy, little Puerto Rican kid” born in the Yale Acres public housing complex in Meriden.
“The passion I have for public education stems from my belief that it is the best lever for economic success and prosperity in Connecticut,” he told lawmakers. “And the belief that public education is still the great equalizer. It was for me.”

Cardona’s father is a retired Meriden police officer and his brother is currently a detective in the department.

After attending public schools in Meriden, Cardona graduated from the state-run Wilcox Technical High School in the city before attending Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and earning his master’s, doctorate and superintendent certification at UConn.

“I hold five degrees or certificates from Connecticut universities and I’m a true product of the system I hope to lead,” he told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.

The 45-year-old and his wife, Marissa Pérez Cardona, have two children who attend Meriden public schools.

Cardona was just 28 when he became principal of Hanover Elementary School in Meriden in 2003. He was the youngest person in the state to hold that job.

“I recognized him as a young teacher with a tremendous amount of talent and I persuaded him to apply for an instructional associate position so he would get some first-hand experience,” Elizabeth M. Ruocco, who Cardona replaced as principal, told the Record-Journal newspaper at the time. “He just is one of the most talented young people I have seen and I know he will do a great job.”
Cardona remained with Meriden Public Schools and eventually shifted to a central office position, first to lead performance and evaluation work in the district and then, in 2013, becoming an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Cardona was one of several finalists for Connecticut’s top education job when Lamont ultimately selected him in August 2019. He was the state’s first Latino education commissioner.

“For more than two decades, Dr. Cardona has dedicated his career to the students of Meriden, where he was himself born, raised, and educated,” Lamont said at the time. “He firmly understands the challenges many of our urban areas face. I look forward to working with him over the coming years so we can fix some of these inequities and collaborate with educators, parents, and community leaders on providing the best outcomes for our schools and our children.”

After being on the job for less than a year Cardona was faced with the challenge of overseeing the state’s schools amid an unprecedented pandemic. While schools were shut down as the coronavirus took hold on Connecticut in March, Cardona and other administrators spent the summer planning for how they could safely reopen.

He and Governor Ned Lamont argued that there were numerous social and emotional benefits to in-person schooling that couldn’t be replicated by virtual classes. They were also concerned about tens of thousands of students who didn’t log on at all when schools were forced to shift to remote learning in the spring.

While the state has left decisions about school reopenings up to individual districts, Cardona and Lamont have urged against long-term closures over coronavirus concerns, saying there is little evidence of virus transmission occurring within schools.

“In-person education is too important for our children to disrupt their education further, unless and until local conditions specifically dictate the need to do so,” Cardona and acting Department of Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford wrote in a letter to school superintendents last month.

What Happened To Class?

It was Nov. 30, 2019  About 90,000 people were crammed into Jordan-Hare stadium on Auburn’s campus for the annual Iron Bowl.  It’s billed as the best college football rivalry in the land.  The state of Alabama goes into lockdown the day of this game each year

The 2019 game was a classic with the score seesawing back and forth.

Auburn led 48-45 with two minutes left in the game.  On fourth down Bama lined up to attempt a field goal to tie the game.. The ball was kicked from Auburn’s 20-yard line.  But instead of splitting the uprights, the ball clunked into the left upright and bounced back on the field.  Auburn fans went crazy.  They still led by three points.

All they had to do was make one first down to run out the clock and go roll Toomer’s Corner.

But that was easier said than done.  Bama used their timeouts wisely and with 1:09 still to play Auburn faced fourth down needing four yards to maintain possession.  This was plenty of time for Bama to get the ball back and get in position to try another field goal or score a touchdown.

But instead of going into their regular punt formation, Auburn had its punter lined up as a wide receiver with the quarterback still on the field.  The Alabama team was confused and tried to get a different group of players on the field, one better prepared to stop Auburn’s offense..

The players on both teams got set.  Then suddenly a penalty flag fluttered to the ground.  In the confusion, Bama had 12 men on the field, one more than allowed.  The 5-yard penalty against Bama gave Auburn a first down and allowed them to run out the clock and win.

Bama coach Nick Saban, acknowledged by most as the best coach in college football was livid.  He couldn’t believe what he had just seen.  But there it was on the scoreboard.  Auburn 48.  Bama 45.  No time left on the clock.

I’ve thought about the end of that game many times lately as I’ve watched with dismay the actions of Donald Trump since the Nov. 3 election.

Nick Saban went to the middle of the field after his team lost and shook the hand of Auburn Coach Guz Malzahn.  It had to be a long and bitter walk.  But he did it because he has class and understands the rules of the game.. He didn’t go on TV and say that he was going to demand the legislature or the governor overrule what happened on the field and declare that Bama won.

He didn’t act like a spoiled brat and pitch a fit.

He demonstrated that he has dignity and is worthy of the respect he has earned during his career.

Donald Trump can not say this..

 

 

 

WARNING: Your Blood May Boil

OK.  It is not unusual for me to lose my cool in this very weird and very crazy political turmoil swirling around us.  And why not when we are engulfed in adults acting like children?

However, none of these get me stirred up like the saga I am about to relate.

The reason being I know too much about what happened and heard many of the lies and attempts at deception in person.  And certainly because at the end of the day it was the public school students of Alabama who paid the costs incurred because certain “public officials” betrayed the public trust.

This all unfolded in 2016 when the State Board of Education made one of the most bone-headed moves I’ve ever witnessed by hiring Mike Sentance of Massachusetts to be our state superintendent of education.  He was a disaster.  Not an educator, never a teacher, principal or local superintendent.  Had applied for the Alabama job in 2011 and didn’t even get an interview.

State educators were almost solidly committed to wanting Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey to get the job.  They considered giving the job to Sentance a slap in the face.

(The fact that Sentance lasted one year before packing his bags removed any doubt that he was a very bad choice.)

Sentance was announced as the choice on Aug. 11, 2016.  But even then rumors of misdoing were afoot and State Senator Gerald Dial called for an investigation into the hiring process within a week.

Someone orchestrated a smear campaign against Pouncey, obviously to hurt his chances of being selected by the state board of education.  A packet of info was distributed to each board member alleging wrong doing by Pouncey.  All board members discounted the info–except Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville.

Let’s fast forward a moment.  When the dust finally settled, Pouncey filed suit against Hunter and others

And just last week, Bill Britt at The Alabama Political Reporter filed the following:

“A defamation suit filed by Pouncey against former school board member Mary Scott Hunter was recently settled with Pouncey being awarded $100,000 by the state. According to Pouncey’s attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, no admission of liability by Hunter was offered under the terms of the agreement.

It is estimated the state spent as much as a million dollars or more on defense attorneys to protect Hunter and others. APR was able to identify nearly a half-million dollars in attorneys fees paid during the case, but assigning a final dollar figure is nearly impossible, because four contracts with top-tier law firms were for $195 per hour and open-ended.

The settlement puts an end to years of hearings, investigations, lawsuits, and recriminations.”

You can read all of APR’s story by going here.

I spent hours and hours tracking this story.  What I learned was disgusting and sickening.  It was obvious that the trust citizens had placed in elected officials to protect the interest of public school students was ignored.  This was not about helping kids and teachers and administrators and trying to find the best state superintendent possible, it was about political agendas and adults trying to cover their ass.

I am no kid.  The first ever real live political campaign I was part of was in 1972.  Which is to say that I’ve seen my share of political shenanigans.  But none more repulsive than what happened in 2016.

Former state senator Gerald Dial asked the attorney general to investigate what took place.  Then he and his colleague senator Quinton Ross passed a resolution creating a legislative committee to investigate.  I went to each of these sessions.  They were standing room only.  All kinds of folks showed up, including some of Alabama’s most recognized lobbyists.

One of the more amazing things that happened was when Mary Scott Hunter, an attorney herself, told Senator Dial that, “She did not know the rules” about how the state ethics commission was supposed to handle anonymous complaints.

So Pouncey filed suit in an effort to clear his name.  I don’t blame him.  I would have as well.

Among the things about all this that never made sense is why did the State of Alabama foot the legal bill for defending those in the suit, especially Hunter   Her actions were of her own choosing.  She became a rogue state board member.  She did not consult with other members before she began making sure the Ethics Commission had a copy of the bogus complaint.  No other board members did this.

For whatever reason, she took matters in her own hands in an effort to harm Pouncey.   She was outside the bounds of her duties and responsibilities as a state board member.

But as is common, this legal action moved at the speed of paint drying.  Then Covid-19 got in the way and civil suits got shoved to the end of the line..  The best, most recent guess as to when the case would show up on a court docket was at least two years from now.

The state offered to settle for $100,000.  After careful consideration with his attorney, Pouncey reluctantly decided to settle.  I know Pouncey well.  He has told me repeatedly that this was never about money.  Instead, it was about his reputation and how certain people were willing to put politics above the interest of students.  But the expectations of such ever happening grew dimmer with each day and the suit was settled.

The truth will never be known.  A court will never render a verdict pointing out guilty parties.  We are only left with our assumptions, based on pieced together facts gleaned from discussions and paperwork.

But one truth can not be denied.  Someone was up to no good.  And their empty proclamations to put our children first were lies.

 

 

 

 

 

A Helping Of Common Sense

Editor’s note:  Dana Hall McCain writes about faith, culture, and politics for AL.com.. She is a member of the 2020 Leadership Council for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I do not know her, but find her thoughts grounded in common sense, a too unusual happening these days.

I share a recent piece she wrote.  She hit the nail on the head regarding what happened on Nov. 3.  The sooner more people come to their senses and understand this, the better we will all be:

“There’s only one person to blame for the GOP’s loss of the White House, and it’s the guy living in it. Voters sent a message to Washington last week that they are warm to conservative policies but couldn’t stomach another four years of Donald J. Trump.

How do we know? Because Republican candidates performed well above expectations down-ballot. Americans overall rejected a wholesale move toward more progressive policies, even flipping unexpected House seats to red.

So why the different outcomes for the President and congressional Republicans?

I’ve had countless conversations with fellow conservatives about Trump’s policies versus Trump’s personality in the last four years. Often, others would encourage me to set aside my concerns regarding the President’s arrogance and dishonesty, arguing that his policies made up for it.

While there were elements of his policy agenda I supported (and some that I didn’t because they were not conservative in theory or practice), I didn’t buy that argument. Character is destiny. A lack of character will eventually catch up with you, extracting a toll from you and those who depend upon you.

In the run-up to the election, focus groups and polls showed places where Trump was bleeding support. One notable weak spot was in the active-duty military. An August 2020 Military Times poll showed that Joe Biden was improving upon Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance with military voters by roughly 20 points.

While not a monolith, military voters are a crucial portion of the Republican base. But you can’t — especially as a person who has never served — denigrate the service of revered POWs and insult Gold Star families. You can’t bring top brass into your administration in an attempt to ride the coattails of their hard-earn credibility, only to publicly fire and insult them when they won’t do your bidding.

Not if you want to retain the loyalty of people who know what it costs to wear that uniform and earn those ranks.

Other data discovered a small but significant slice of 2016 Trump voters who didn’t plan to vote for him again, with many citing his character flaws and divisive nature more than any particular policy failure as the reason why. They weren’t mad about the massive influx of conservative judges into the federal judiciary and SCOTUS (easily Trump’s most significant achievement). They didn’t hate the tax cut. They weren’t angry about pro-Isreal foreign policy.

His policies didn’t cost him this election. His mouth and that infernal Twitter account did.

He’s like a quarterback who loses his composure and gets personal fouls all night, killing drive after drive and costing his team the game. You can have all the right answers and talent in the world, but if you lack self-discipline, you are a liability to your team in crucial moments.

Even some Christians found a way to soften the way they talked about the President’s failures of character in the last four years. Some used terms like “style” or “personality” to describe his flaws. As if those worst behaviors were neutral and simply a matter of taste.

In the church I grew up in, we called those things sin: arrogance, pride, a lack of self-control. And sin bears fruit.

So if your conservative heart is, like mine, concerned about the prospect of a Biden-Harris administration and what that might mean for religious liberty, or unborn children, or the economy, know this: it is Donald Trump’s fault that we now face those risks.

All he had to do was govern with the self-control of a mature adolescent. All he had to do was care more for the greater goals than for indulging his ego. But he didn’t.

And I can’t even blame him or be mad at him about it because he showed America who he was every day of his life leading up to 2016. Some of you thought electing such a man would be cute. (He’s an outsider! He’s so real! He’s a businessman! I love it when he owns the libs!) You voted in the 2016 Republican primaries with all the wisdom and seriousness of people participating in a reality show poll.

So you got a President who is a reality show personality when what America — and conservatism — needed was a statesman.

And now the show is canceled after one season.

Will we learn anything from this experience? Or will we continue in future election cycles to indulge our desire to be entertained over our need for wise, sober, humble leadership?

I genuinely don’t know. But it sure would be a shame to have endured this fiasco and to have learned nothing from it.”