(Providence, Rhode Island) – It will be a busy week leading up to the Inauguration Day. Here are my weekly political observations.
Lame Duck – President Obama will be sworn into his second term in office next week, with the Republican Party maintaining control of the House. In many respects, this means 2013 has the opportunity for being his most productive and bipartisan year. Ronald Reagan faced a similar situation in 1985 and Bill Clinton in 1997. Anything they accomplished had to come before their second mid-term election (after which they were lame ducks). The final two years of most eight-year presidencies are packed with foreign travel. So, the first year, of the second term, provides the greatest window for opportunity. Reagan and Clinton did fine until scandal hit – Iran-Contra for Reagan, impeachment for Clinton. After that bipartisanship was pretty much dead.
Coin Toss – Well I am sad to report that the $1 trillion coin won’t be minted. Some in Washington had seriously pushed the idea of printing one, giant, platinum coin, and declare its worth to be $1 trillion (mock photo above). The coin would have been used to ease the nation’s debt crisis. According to backers, it would have passed legal and Constitutional muster, but, to me, just seemed kind of frivolous, if not down right funny. At least now no one has to rewrite the lyrics to, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
Where’s the Grassy Knoll?? – While I’ve stayed out of the highly partisan and emotional gun control debate, I just have to weigh in on Florida Atlantic University Professor James Tracy and his unusual opinions. Tracy has suggested the whole school shooting at Sandy Hook was staged by gun control advocates and the national news media. One of the things he said on his blog was, "While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place – at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described." Tracy, who teaches a course called, “Culture of Conspiracy,” has also questioned the Kennedy assassinations, 9-11, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Since he is protected by the concept of “academic freedom,” there is nothing the school can do to stop him, although it distanced itself from his odd opinions.
Rockefeller Out – It will be hard to imagine the U.S. political landscape without the name Rockefeller attached to it, but it’s one of the first big retirement announcements of the new Congress. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) has announced he will not run for another term in 2014. Rockefeller, great-grandson of oilman John D. Rockefeller, spent 30 years in Washington and his fingerprints are all over what’s come to be known as Obamacare. His wife Sharon is the daughter of former U.S. Senator Charles Percy (R-Ill.). Sen. Rockefeller was a liberal Democrat, in a family with a long line of moderate Republican members.
Herb Kohl – And finally this week, I pay tribute to my friend and former boss. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) who retired after 24 years in the Senate. Kohl – a multimillionaire philanthropist – never really sought the spotlight and, to many, seemed an odd fit in the camera-chasing crowd on Capitol Hill. Instead, Kohl led quietly and voted his conscience. He didn’t need the donations of lobbyists and other special interests to back his campaigns, since he had plenty of his own money. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, he at least was his own man. As his campaign slogan said to Wisconsinites, “Nobody’s Senator, but Yours!” To my non-Wisconsin readers, yes it is the same Kohl’s family name that dots the front of department stores all over the nation, though the Kohl family sold the chain many years ago. Happy retirement, Herb!
Trade, Off! – One of my favorite stories from my year working in Congress was the day I unintentionally negated a trade in the NBA. Herb Kohl, was, and still is, the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks pro basketball team. One day in 1993, he rather excitedly sought my opinion about a certain player the Bucks were about to acquire in a trade. I won’t name names, since I don’t want to be sued, but the player in question was a troublemaker and had had some unflattering legal problems while he attended a college I used to cover as a reporter. Kohl had no idea and tersely announced to me, “This trade is off! I don’t need these headaches!” He quickly turned around, walked into his office and called the General Manager of the Bucks and quashed the trade. My jaw hit the floor!
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