The Collapse of the House of Cards: How the video series imploded, can it come back?

July 7, 2015

It was too good to be true.  The American version of House of Cards, as in the case of its British predecessor, was so unique in capturing the real life atmosphere and attitudes of Washington politics that it soon developed a cult following in this very jaded city.

Much of Washington laughs at Hollywood’s naive attempts to capture its elusive character, or lack thereof, but soon after the arrival of House of Cards a holy hush descended on the city with whispers of “have you been watching?”  One could see glimpses of Atwater, Axelrod, the Clinton’s, the Bushes, Panetta, Sununu, Ben Bradlee, Mary Matalin, Jim Carville, Katherine Graham and on and on the list goes.  But alas, the third season appeared and the very hubris that comes to all men of power in Washington, so ably captured by this theatrical drama, came to the producers themselves.  The third season retained its compelling drama but it knack for accuracy – the very thing that made it a masterpiece of art meets reality – collapsed before our eyes.

The one scene that symbolizes this disheartening fall better than any others, has the White House Chief of Staff driving one of the president’s political allies to the airport.  Huh?  The White House Chief of Staff is a chauffeur?  Boy did they get that wrong.  In fact, so relaxed is Remy Denton that he usually stands around the Oval Office waiting for something to do.

In the first three seasons I would often pause the show to tell my children real life stories.  “Yes, that sort of thing actually happened. This famous public figure was bisexual.  President Bush, Senior typed many of his own notes. Lee Atwater would only smoke on Thursdays to prove that he had power over the habit. This reporter slept with that Senator and actually flaunted it.  So and so runs a non profit and takes money from companies who depend on her husband’s decisions as Chairman of the Oversight Committee.”  But in this third season I was more often than not, pausing the show to tell them why it would never happen that way.

Let’s start with the cabinet meetings and work our way back to the Chief of Staff. These cabinet officers who meet with president Frank Underwood, lined up like little choir boys and girls, lacking personality or opinion, are in fact, prima donnas, Lords and Ladies of enormous ego and power.  They rule departments with hundreds of thousands of employees.

The Secretary of Interior, for example, traditionally arrives at work in her chauffeur driven limousine which parks in a private underground garage.  The Secrtary takes a private elevator to the floor of her office and walks down a long corridor to get there.  The walk is purposeful, designed to humble the visitor.  Looking down from the wall on this stunning corridor are magnificent oil portraits of her predecessors.  She knows very well that her own face will be haunting her successors for generations to come.  The building she presides over is only the headquarters, one of thousands, yes that’s right, thousands, in her vast domain.

I remember working late at the White House one night and as I was passing by the basement West Wing a breathless staffer came running up to one of the Secret Service Stations just inside the door.  Two limos were outside, their engines running.

“What time does the Secretary need to be back in the morning?” the harried staffer asked.

“The guard looked at his colleague nearby and said in an irritated and puzzled voice, “The Secretary of what?”

I giggled to myself as I passed by.

In “The Secretary’s” domain, whether it was State, or Defense, or any one of many others, the boss was simply known as “The Secretary.”  As in, “The Secretary wants this on his desk tomorrow morning.” But at the White House, simply throwing out the title “Secretary” shakes down no thunder.

Above all of those Lords and Ladies of the Cabinet is the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.  He is not shown as their boss in the flow chart but believe me he is in position.  There is no oil portrait of him.  But there should be.

Now, I have known several Chiefs of Staff.  I have never seen one stand around the West Wing with nothing to do.  He is surrounded by clamoring aides and administrative assistants. And I have never known of one to drive a donor to the airport.  Not when he was in power.  It is not that he is so prideful as much as he doesn’t have the time.

Let us hope that the House of Cards can comeback in its Fourth Season.  Having teased us with greatness, like so many newly elected presidents, we now want it badly. If we can’t have it in real life, lets have it in art.


Why I support Rand Paul and why he reminds me of Ronald Reagan.

June 30, 2015

For the first time since Ronald Reagan we have a political figure who is not just running for office to seek personal power but one who is actually leading a popular movement.   I’m talking about Senator Rand Paul who leads a diverse array of young people, free market conservatives, African Americans and Internet Geeks in what can best be described as “The Give Us Back Our Freedom Movement.”

Not since Ronald Reagan has a Republican attracted so many Independent and Democratic voters.  His ideas transcend partisan politics, like his recent tax proposal which as he puts it, “blows up the tax code.”  It’s no surprise that he usually does better than any other GOP candidates when pitted against Hillary Clinton in national polls.

Young people support Rand Paul because he is the only public figure who talks about the corruption of the current economic system.  Regulations create contrived monopolies for some companies and keep new ones out of the marketplace.  Government subsidies favor Democrat or Republican corporations depending on who is in power.  The result?  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer no matter who is president.

Socialist solutions call for more government run businesses.  The US Post Office comes to mind.  Paul favors a  return to free markets and supply and demand.  Many young people like that.  They want a chance at the American Dream.

Most of his following comes out of his strong support of the U.S.  Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Many African Americans support Paul because he would reform the criminal justice system and make justice color blind.  While Democrats like to reminisce about their Civil Rights victories of the past, Rand Paul has picked up the torch and reclaimed the Republican lead for the first time since Abraham Lincoln.

Internet Geeks like Rand Paul because he is the Archangel of Internet freedom, standing with his flaming sword and trusty filibuster should the FCC or any other government agency make good on their promises to tax and regulate the digital age.

Evangelical Christians like Rand Paul because he is a born again Christian, himself, and he fights for their right to freedom of worship.  Paul would end foreign aid to countries that execute women who are, themselves, the victims of crime and Christians simply because of their faith.

Gays like Rand Paul because he is a fierce proponent of personal privacy and the dignity of the individual.  His opposition to government intrusion and eavesdropping are already legend.

His opponents say he can’t win because of his father’s sometimes controversial ideas.  Actually, I like his father’s ideas but presidents were never elected because of their fathers.  Reagan’s father was an alcoholic.  So was Bill Clinton’s stepfather.  Barack Obama’s father walked out on him when he was two years old.  Abraham Lincoln’s father used to chase down runaway slaves for a living.  He would sometimes beat them before returning them to their master.

If this were a contest about who had the best dad, Rand Paul would do quite well.  He can be proud of his dad’s great career in congress.  But in fact, this is a contest about who has the best ideas to run the country and at the moment Rand Paul is a fountain of ideas.

Foreign Policy?  Rand Paul sees Israel as one of American’s most important allies.  In 1978 I served as vice president of Christians and Jews United for Israel so that is no small point for me.

The biggest knock on Rand Paul is his reluctance to go to war.

Yes, he is slow to send in the same troops over and over.  American soldiers now experience the highest divorce rate in history and, as a result, the highest rate of suicide as well.  Rand Paul cares about these families, the soldiers, but also the children.

And yet, Rand Paul was one of the first public figures to call for a Declaration of War against ISIS.  Perhaps more significant, Rand Paul would not have armed ISIS in the first place.  Two years ago he was trying to block the U.S. Senate from transferring arms and vehicles to Syrian rebels.  “It could fall into the wrong hands,” he warned.    Two years later, American equipment raced across the Middle East with black ISIS flags waving, slaughtering Christians and Muslims who opposed them.

When Reagan stuck his toe in the Middle East in 1982 it resulted in the death of 241 marines.  He immediately withdrew our forces, deciding that it was not in America’s security interest to be involved in the region.  Nobody called Reagan an isolationist.

Rand Paul has made it clear that American must clean up its own messes.  So he will do what has to be done in the Middle East and elsewhere.  But I proudly support a man who thinks before he shoots. Someone who won’t get us into messes in the first place. “The soldier more than anyone else,” wrote Douglas MacArthur, “prays for peace.”


Rand Paul is right about ISIS and his opponents have become hysterical

June 11, 2015

“If you are afraid of being lonely don’t try to be right.” – Jules Renard

Lost in the recent GOP debate is the fact that Senator Rand Paul was the first public figure to call for a declaration of war against ISIS.  He did so because he said they represented a threat to the United States.  So why are so many of the other GOP candidates attacking the Senator?  What’s their beef?

The real irritant to the other GOP contenders is that Rand Paul would not only go to war with ISIS, he would have blocked the creation of ISIS in the first place.  Three years ago Rand Paul warned that American arms to Syrian rebels would would almost certainly end up in the hands of Islamic radicals.

And Rand Paul was not the only one.

Micheal Shank, a board member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution warned as early as 2013 that we were setting up another Middle East war with an even more vicious enemy.  Warning about the Syrian rebels Shank said, “Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in some unsavory hands. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria.”

Shank gave an historic litany of how the same policy had worked in the past. “Arming one side of Syria’s multi-sided and bloody civil war will come back to haunt us. Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.”

In a chilling description of the horrors that were to come, Shank profiled the type of warrior on the ground in Syria and what we could expect.  “When you lift the curtain on the armed groups with the most formidable military presence on the ground in Syria, you find the Al Nusra Front and Al Farough Brigades. Both groups are closely aligned with Al Qaeda and have directly perpetrated barbaric atrocities. The Al Nusra Front has been charged with beheadings of civilians, while a commander from the Al Farough Brigades reportedly ate the heart of a pro-Assad soldier.”

The U.S. Senate and the administration, both lavished with money from the arms lobby, ignored the warnings.  Getting rid of the weapons – even if meant giving them away and even if mistakes were made – assured that more could be manufactured and sold.

A year later, in September, 2014, the United States was still arming the rebels.  Over strenuous objections from the Turkish government  President Obama airdropped ammunition, grenades and rocket propelled grenade launchers to Syrian rebels.  Senator Rand Paul was one of the few voices of reason but there were others warning that yet again, we may be giving the enemy the bullets they will use to kill our men.  Almost immediately the airdrop was picked up by Islamic radicals and their videos showed the event to the world.

Within two years of Rand Paul’s warning ISIS emerged from the petri dish of the Syrian civil war and raced across the Middle East in American made tanks and Humvees destroying cities and Christian communities that traced their unbroken heritage back to the apostle Thomas.  Today, Senators who scoffed at Rand Paul’s warnings two years ago now bristle with indignation calling any question of their failed policies as “unpatriotic.”  Meanwhile the embarrassed Obama White House complains to media outlets that they should stop using videos that show American tanks racing across the deserts with black ISIS flags flying.

Senator Rand Paul recognizes that there are unintended consequences to American actions and that America, itself, should clean up its own messes.  And so he immediately called for the war to destroy ISIS. There is no doubt that their use of social media makes them dangerous even on American soil.  Nevertheless, Rand Paul’s political enemies, shamed by their own actions, now seek to force a different narrative.  Paul suggests that a little humility is in order.

Senator Paul has made it clear that he will commit America troops to defeat her enemies.  He has called for an increase in the Defense Budget.  But he has also made it clear that he is deeply concerned about the lives of that same tiny percentage of men and women are being sent back to war, over and over again.  Their suicide rate is astronomical and closely mimics their divorce rate, the result of the longest wars – and therefore the longest separations among military families – in American history.  And the children of those soldiers are now being raised in broken homes.

Having a president who will consider the consequences of his actions and who will only commit to war with deliberation just might be what the nation needs.  Let us defeat ISIS.  But let us not create another one.


Marco Rubio: A Demographic on Steroids

May 14, 2015

Senator Marco Rubio spoke for the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, staking out his position as the GOP super hawk, announcing that he would not be afraid to go to war.  Presumably, he will have to compete with Senator Lindsey Graham for that role.  And they both will have to find a suitable target.

Recent polls show him climbing.  A Quinnipiac Poll has him tied with Rand Paul for second place in Iowa, behind Scott Walker.  And a recent Bloomberg poll has him second only to Rand Paul in New Hampshire.

He is a fascinating candidate popular with the media.  I call him a “demographic on steroids.”

First, he is Hispanic and that is the wave of the future for this country.

Second, he is from Florida, a key battleground, must win, state for any Republican.

Third, he is a Roman Catholic, with an LDS heritage, who regularly attends a Baptist church.  Believe me, that is a highly evolved creature perfectly fitted for a modern, GOP primary process in an age of the Fox News Channel.

And finally, although he is young, he is the insider, big business, Wall Street, money alternative to Jeb Bush.  In fact, Rubio’s people are right now telling donors that a dollar given to Jeb Bush is a dollar given to Hillary Clinton since Bush will never win a head to head contest with her.  The national media and major corporations will never allow three of the last five presidents to come from the same immediate family.  Bush, we are told, is only insurance in case Hillary slips.

These above are the four major positives of a Marco Rubio candidacy.  But he has one major negative.

Marco Rubio, like most of the other candidates in this race, has no raison d’etre.  There is no purpose in his candidacy other than naked ambition.  For too many candidates in this race it is all about them and not the voter.  Hillary Clinton says, “Vote for me I am a woman.”  Marco Rubio says, “Vote for me I am Hispanic.”  Even Scott Walker’s argument says nothing about what he would do.  Walker says, “Vote for me I am a governor.  I know how to be an administrator.”  It is meant to contrast the ineptitude of the current president.

But being a governor is a pretty empty argument.  Jimmy Carter was a governor.  If you know how to run things well and you take the country in the wrong direction you will only get us there quicker.  The missing piece is the direction.  Where are you taking us?  Why should we vote for you?

This may be why Senator Rand Paul is now leading these early swing state and battleground state polls.  He is a fount of ideas.  Young people have a reason to vote for him.  African Americans have a reason to vote for him.  Born again Christians have a reason to vote for him.  Waitresses have a reason to vote for him.  He doesn’t just raise the defense budget, he shows how he will do it while balancing the budget.

Marco Rubio needs a popular purpose to his campaign, something more than protecting insiders who are gaming the system, something with appeal to the masses.  Their are signs that he is trying to develop that.  He is using the word “conservative” a lot these days but an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations  is not the best place to make that argument.  As a candidate, he will have to come up with at least one cut in spending to justify the label.  Something he hasn’t yet been able to do.  Watch for him to distinguish himself in the debates.  Not with flash but by avoiding  self mutilation.  And see how his money helps him survive the early crush of negative ads.

Finally Marco Rubio must convince Jeb Bush to drop out of the race and quickly.  Otherwise he is locked into a huge battle in Florida.  The GOP is not likely to nominate a candidate to contest Hillary Clinton if he can’t carry his own home state in a GOP primary.   The same goes for Jeb Bush.  The two will be locked into a death struggle in Florida, like the Russo-German front in World War Two.   This drains money away from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.  They could conceivably win some of those contests and still lose Florida and get knocked out.

But then, last month Jeb Bush was beating Marco Rubio.

Most bets are that Marco Rubio will not go away early.  If he doesn’t win himself he will likely be asked onto the ticket by the winner.  Either way, Marco Rubio will be around for a long time.


David and Goliath

April 23, 2015

I first gave this speech in 1968.  Only I called it David and the Princess because that is it’s more appropriate title.  In 1975 I delivered it to 10,000 people at Dexter Yager’s great Free Enterprise Day in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Almost five million copies of that cassette tape or CD sold around the world in 30 language or more.  I was invited to share it to Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, 15,000 Muslims in Jakarta, an open air event of 40,000 – mostly Hindus – in Bombay, 50,000 at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and more than 300 other cities in stadiums and coliseums on six continents.

Now, with the release of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller on David and Goliath I thought it appropriate to bring it out of moth balls.  The truths are eternal.  And my take is still unique and unassailable.  Not a day goes by that someone in the world doesn’t email me about it.  I have been urged to monetize it but would rather make it easily available to a new generation of young dreamers.  Here you go.

 


Some Chibok Girls Celebrate Freedom, Light Candles for Lost Sisters

April 14, 2015
     Today is the first anniversary of the Boko Haram terrorist abduction and enslavement of hundreds of teenage school girls from Chibok, Nigeria.  The terrorists took the girls from a State run boarding school, driving them off  into the forests.  Several of the girls escaped.  Their names are changed to protect their identity but their harrowing stories are told in this BBC report.  One of them hid in the compound when the raid took placed, two of them jumped from speeding trucks racing away from the scene of the attack and two of them escaped from the Boko Haram terrorist camp making their way back to civilization through dangerous, terrorist held, territory.
     Today, the girls are students at Canyonville Christian Academy in Canyonville, Oregon where they continue to pursue their educations.
     Last night students, representing thirty countries, lit 219 candles at the school in Canyonville, Oregon.  The candles represented Chibok girls still missing

     The following letter, composed by students and teachers, will be read aloud at today’s special ceremony.
chibok girls
     “To the girls still held captive. You may think that you are forgotten. But you are mistaken.  We have never stopped thinking of you, never stopped praying for you and never stopped loving you.  You are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  And one day the whole world will celebrate your freedom.  Someday people everywhere will say of any lost and hopeless cause, don’t give up, be brave, remember the Chibok girls?  Remember how they finally came home?  We will be waiting for you with open arms.  You are not alone.  You are not alone.”
     Tonight, the Empire State Building will be lit up in special colors to honor the Chibok girls.  For those wishing to help the girls donations can be made to the Chibok Girls’ Scholarship Fund.

 

 

 


The difference between Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

March 25, 2015

So what’s the difference between presidential candidates Rand Paul and Ted Cruz?

Ted Cruz is running against Barack Obama.  Rand Paul is running against Hillary Clinton.  One represents the past.  The other represents the future.

Both men are U.S. Senators running for president in 2016.  Rand Paul is from Kentucky, Ted Cruz is from Texas. (Rand Paul is expected to announce on April 7, 2015.)

Both men are conservatives whose careers were launched during the rise of the Tea Party.  Both are born again Christians. And both signed the controversial Senate letter supporting Israel.  So if they have the same base of support, what’s the difference?

Rand Paul excites that base and motivates them to action.  Ted Cruz has all but given up on that base and is focusing exclusively and only on born again Christians.  He is betting that he will take that vote, and only that vote, and win it all.  It is a high stakes gamble that counts on driving out of the way born again Christians such as Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio and yes even Rand Paul.

Bottom line, Rand Paul can win a national election.  Ted Cruz cannot.  Early polling bears that out.  Polls can be fickle and don’t always reflect reality this far in advance but most polls show only Rand Paul close to Hillary Clinton in any of the battleground states.  Not Bush, Christie, Rubio, Perry, Huckabee and not Cruz.

There is more bad news. Ted Cruz, like Rand Paul, once championed the cause of the growing Libertarian wing of the GOP, taking on the corruption of the free enterprise system with its corporate welfare and calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve.  Now Libertarians charge that after arriving in the U.S. Senate Ted Cruz sold out fast and cheaply.  It seems that his wife was hired by Goldman Sachs.  It is the banking firm that has become the poster child for insider, establishment, power. Goldman Sachs was the major donor to both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the last election.

The day after announcing for president, Ted Cruz openly attacked Goldman Sachs and said his wife would take a leave of absence from her job to help on his campaign but the damage was done.  Whatever hope Ted Cruz had to lead the Libertarian Wing of the Republican Party is now dead.  “Mrs. Cruz,” a Libertarian leader told me, “Is the Claire Underwood of this campaign cycle.”  She will leave behind Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law who works for the same Goldman Sachs firm.

Meanwhile, the Ted Cruz announcement brought fierce reaction from Hispanics who see the Senator as having betrayed his own roots.  “His family got their freedom,” said one Hispanic evangelical leader, “Now they want everybody else to do it strictly by the book.”

Rand Paul has real, organic support from the young, from Hispanics from African Americans and from Liberal Democrats.  The latter care about civil liberties.  African Americans care about Rand Paul’s criminal justice reform.  Many Hispanics who support Paul care about insiders gaming the system and the loss of the American dream for the new American.  Under both Democrat and Republican presidents the poor continue to get poorer and the rich richer.  The young now see “free markets” as “fixed” by advantages created by powerful lobbies.  The young care about a free Internet and Rand Paul has become the guardian of the Internet.

The Ted Cruz presidential launch at Liberty University last Monday may have been a metaphor for the coming campaign.  Cruz, who cannot attract the crowds of a Rand Paul, choose the only forum that could guarantee a large audience, a university convocation with mandatory student attendance.  Nevertheless, sitting very visibly behind the Senator, in their red shirts declaring, “Stand with Rand”, were quietly defiant students.  They were not rude like the Libertarians one sometimes sees online.  They represent the new Christian Liberty Movement. This week RandPac will mail out thousands of their videos with Senator Rand Paul’s born again testimony.

The Cruz machine was careful to point to spectacular fund raising after his event.  It was a calculated attempt to shore up a very real weakness.  “Evangelical only” candidates cannot raise money.  Ask Mike Huckabee.  Christian leaders will give verbal support but they need their people’s money for their own projects.  Sorry.  Meanwhile, Rand Paul with his diverse, motivated base will have money and a ground game.

The message is clear for Ted Cruz.  His path is fatally blocked by those young people in the red shirts standing before him.  They can be made to hear him speak but they will get to vote the way they want.

Here is the video produced by the American Liberty Association, going out this week.


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