January 25, 2021

Down with Up!

Posted on 09. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

My first recollections of the power of ‘Street Speech’ (protests) took place on September 2, 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas when nine black students tried to enter Central High School. They were stopped by the Arkansas National Guard that was called out by Governor Orval Faubus. The protests were initiated by whites who were opposed to integration. I was surprised to see so many black people in one place at one time but shocked by the actions the government took to keep them out of school.

Next, Vice-President Richard Nixon made a goodwill trip to Latin America (Uruguay, Peru and Venezuela) in 1958. Boy, was he surprised when his motorcade was assaulted with jeers, raised fists and flying vegetables! Seems these folks didn’t quite appreciate something called, ‘American Imperialism.’ It looked to me on our black and white Sylvania TV set like we lost the battle for the hearts and minds of our southerly neighbors. As a young man I didn’t know why people would dislike us so much that they’d throw things at Mr. Nixon.

I found out later when I read about our Latin American foreign policy. Fidel Castro came to New York City in 1959, and some folks were not too pleased to see him and protested his visit. I remember he was interviewed by Jack Paar. He seemed to be a pretty nice guy (for a guerilla fighter), but that was before I read about how the Cuban revolution went down.

Then there were protests against Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960 for being Catholic (something I thought was pretty harmless, but then I’ve never lived in Ireland, either). Fast forward to the counter-culture hippie-inspired protests in the mid-sixties and couple them with the civil rights protests AND the anti-Vietnam War protests leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. The American protest movement was at its zenith, or so we thought until the anti-Vietnam protests continued even beyond the Paris Peace talks and the Peace Accords.

Protesting had become a fixed part of American life – an industry. We could see it every time we tuned in to the evening news. There were handbooks that guided protesters like, “Rules for Radicals,” by Saul Alinsky that was published in 1971. The first chapter says, “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

If that didn’t presage what we are seeing today with angry and often violent union protests and the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ (OWS) movement, I don’t what could have. Many Americans are simply tired of the ballot box and feel that voting makes no difference anymore – that no matter who you choose, they will disappoint you once they get into office. Many of the OWS are young people, probably unemployed, and certainly angry. They may say they’re there for ideological reasons and to ‘change the system,’ but frankly I don’t think many of them know the difference between Karl Marx and Harpo Marx or understand that it’s the very capitalism they’re protesting that made America and Americans rich.

Protests do prove one thing, though. They teach us that while freedom of speech may be difficult to stomach (especially if you disagree with the person who’s holding the protest sign two inches from your nose and calling you names), it’s a whole lot better than the alternative.

- Editor

Help Wanted: One Good Man or Woman for America

Posted on 08. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

We’ve had 26 lawyers, 12 generals, 4 small businessmen and 1 haberdasher who have served as President of these United States. Most were college graduates. One was unmarried. Twelve of them owned slaves during their lives and 8 had slaves while they were President. Four Presidents were killed while in office. Two were impeached.

Judging by the numbers, it might seem to the casual observer that America’s top job has been a bit top heavy with lawyers and military men. That said, maybe we ought to re-write the qualifications for the job, especially in light of the precarious financial and geopolitical situation we find ourselves in today. I offer this sample up for your consideration.

“Wanted: One top manager with extensive experience in small-to-large business(es) preferably in a senior leadership position with direct responsibility for the motivation of employees of diverse backgrounds and skill-sets. He/she must have a proven track record of diplomacy and time-tested communication skills. Individual must have lived and/or worked overseas, be multi-lingual and have been responsible for budgets of upwards of $100 million and be able to manage approx. 2.6 million federal workers (85% of which live outside the Nation’s Capital).

The ideal candidate must be in excellent physical and mental health. He/she must have a clear vision for America and have an identifiable ideology, be able to articulate it and be able to compromise both for the good of the country. In addition, he/she must have been unsuccessful at realizing some of his/her goals during his/her formative years and have learned from his/her mistakes and applied that knowledge to new tasks. Subject must possess a good sense of humor, a winning smile, be affable, suffer fools gladly and be willing to make friends for America without apologizing for its values.

A thorough understanding of economics, world geography, history, political science and psychology is crucial as is a deeply rooted appreciation for America’s core values, its religious beliefs and its Constitution and Bill of Rights. As a consequence of the job, applicant must be willing to undertake extensive domestic and foreign travel. He/she must have been or be married to a person of the opposite sex and have been faithful to his/her spouse (children are optional, but will be scored as a plus given the value of the parenting experience).

Prior service in the military is highly desirable as is knowledge of the country’s Status of Forces Agreements, strategic basing objectives and international agreements with organizations like the U.N. and NATO, for example. Successful applicant must be willing to secure America’s borders to stem the flow of illegal aliens, but also be willing to engage the country in an open and honest dialogue about reforming the country’s immigration policy.

He/she is not required to be able to play golf, basketball, touch football, soccer, badminton or other sports, but must be willing to ceremoniously open the season for each of them if asked (travel to/from the site will be reimbursed, but not ordinary attendance at such events).

Knowledge of the country’s energy demands and resources along with new renewable energy technologies will be helpful. He/she must be able to stand for long periods of time, occasionally with hand over heart and be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and know the words to the national anthem.  Subject must know what the national motto is and be able to name the capitals of all U.S. States (and know how many there are).

The successful applicant must have strong spiritual and/or religious convictions as they are endemic to the Nation’s well-being (atheists need not apply).  Finally, subject must know the difference between right and wrong and have a steadfast belief in the inherent goodness of his/her fellow man while recognizing that evil is not a concept but a reality to be reckoned with.

Applicants should include a list of references along with a 1,500 word essay on ‘What America Means to Me.’ A final decision on the candidate will be made on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.”

- Editor

The real cost of free speech

Posted on 07. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

This is not a diatribe on the First Amendment. Everyone knows that during America’s 200 plus year existence, hundreds of thousands of men and women have died defending our liberties, chief among them our right to free speech. So we continue to thank and honor them by exercising our right of dissent by raising our voices individually or collectively whenever the grievance warrants it.

Freedom of assembly is the first cousin to freedom of speech, for without the right to gather in numbers, our voices would be diminished if not relegated to America’s back rooms. That’s not to say that louder voices improve the validity of the arguments. They don’t. It is important to realize, however, that the resonance of the argument is amplified when many voices are joined together.

They shake loose the cobwebs, disrupt decorum and make us stop and listen to points of view that we may not have heard for a long time or for the very first time. Protests are an important part of American life. For some, that statement will sound strange, because many do not remember the violent anti-war demonstrations of the Vietnam-era, but if we look at our revolutionary history, our civil rights victories, collective bargaining gains and other achievements, we realize that it’s true.

Protests are like our body’s natural warning system. Our brain, nerve endings and skin receptors work together to warn us to pull back our fingers from the flame or we’ll get burned. Without public dissent, our body politic could also suffer from staying on the wrong path too long.

Having thrown my support behind protesting in general, I must also say that every protest ought to adhere to the laws and regulations for public assembly imposed by the communities in which they are being held. Abuse of the law, whether on public or private property, should not be tolerated in a free society that is built on adherence to the law.

That brings me to the real costs of free speech.

We have seen the Tea Party protests comprised of hundreds of thousands of Americans unfold peacefully over the past few years with no arrests made and no destruction of property.  These stand in stark contrast to the protests now known as ‘Occupy Wall St’ (OWS) that have spread throughout the country leaving chaos and destruction in their wake. The media seems ever ready to focus on the grievances of OWS while almost ignoring the very real costs of their demonstrations and lawlessness to communities, businesses and individuals who live or work near the sites of those protests.

It’s hard for me as an average American who respects property rights to condone such destruction and the resulting millions it will take to repair the harm done by these protesters at a time when our society should be doing everything it can to preserve what infrastructure we have. No community, whether small or large, should be made to shoulder the financial burden of the excessive damage caused by the civil disobedience of groups that don’t respect the very laws that give them the right to dissent.

I have long feared this situation would develop. It is, among other things, the result of our unwillingness to challenge the politics of personal destruction and institutional demonization that have led, predictably, to the politics of personal property destruction. The OWS protesters have flaunted their own rights at the expense of others.’ In so doing, they have crossed the line and created a hardened committed opposition to themselves AND their cause – a cardinal sin that many protesters commit. Instead of doing their own ideological due diligence, they are flailing wildly about in Don Quixote fashion at anything that smacks of the status quo.  America’s streets must not be the proving ground for the theory that in order to save a village you must destroy it.

- Editor

The Zen of Exercise and the Euphoria of Eating

Posted on 05. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural

I’m no Jack LaLaine, but I am a proponent of exercise but not for the reasons you might think. I also believe in ‘quality eating,’ but I’m having some difficulty in sorting through the nutrition labels on food packaging. It was a whole lot easier in my childhood.

“Helps build strong bodies twelve ways” was the slogan of Wonder Bread, sponsors of the Howdy Doody Show. Back then, good old fashioned white bread, chock full of preservatives and lots of empty calories seemed like the ideal way to stave off hunger pangs and keep your kids in shape.

We gleefully wolfed down all manner of sandwiches encased in two slices of that heavenly doughy bread.  Then there were the Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies. Life was good when we opened our Davy Crockett lunchboxes and saw these characters staring back at us sharing space with a Macintosh apple or a Chiquita banana (they were a bonus because we could trade them for Fleer bubble gum, for example).

Betty Crocker was the closest thing to a nutritionist then. She spoke to our parents, so she had little impact on our enjoyment EXCEPT when it came to box cake mixes that sent us soaring to Flash Gordon heights when mom hooked up the Sunbeam mixmaster and magically created a batter that begged to be licked from the bowl. The government encouraged us to eat healthy back then – three servings of meat/day with eggs, cheese and potatoes. That was a government we could believe in!

Today, the Feds tell us we are all lucky to have survived our childhood.  The foods of our youth are now as scarce as Pteradactyl  bones.  Saturated fats, nitrates and simple sugars are now verboten, relegated to ‘America’s Enemies List.’ Gone are the days of thick milkshakes, banana splits, greasy French fries and T-bone steaks. Soon they’ll carry warning labels like ‘Meat Kills’ and ‘Sugar Maims.’

Back then, our exercise consisted up running and biking. Treadmills were for our hamsters, and exercise equipment was the province of top athletes and scientific researchers.

After a long absence from regular exercise, I re-discovered it in the mid-eighties when I began training for marathons. The popular runner/writer, Jim Fixx, wrote several books about the virtue of long distance running (before he died of his beloved sport), and this changed our attitudes towards pulling on sweats and taking to America’s bi-ways. Running became my passion, and for a period of five years I ran hundreds of miles in preparation for my eight marathons. I stop short of calling running a sport; it’s more like a lifestyle. It helped me learn discipline, set goals, plan, and put me in touch with my body.

Runners start out as ordinary people, but many become ‘Zen Runners’ (Zen: the sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation). They work through enormous pain and discomfort on long training runs as their muscles burn like fire and their arches ache with the constant pounding on flat surfaces.  Achieving the ‘runners’ high’ became a universal goal among long distance runners, and I only experienced it once. It happened when I approached the finish line at the Berlin Marathon in 1986.

After pushing myself for four hours, I saw the finish line banner high above me and off to the side was my 13-year old daughter, Ulla, cheering me on. Suddenly, time slowed to a crawl and I began to feel my heart beat through my chest while my lungs sucked in and expelled the air. Everything went silent, and my body became weightless. It was then that the tears started flooding from my eyes. For the first (and only time since) I felt no pain, only total happiness.  There is no moral to this story, only a suggestion. If you’re hungry, eat. If you want relief from it, exercise. Remember, you can always visualize a giant Twinkie while you’re doing it.

- Editor

The non-recession recession – Could it really happen?

Posted on 04. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

The Hope and Change Newswire Service reported today that the White House announced that the Administration has just solved the financial crisis.

The solution was unveiled at a signing ceremony held in the work-out room of the White House in which the President signed an Omnibus Executive Order (OEO) giving him the power to override any law that Congress passes despite their 2/3 majority. The OEO allows the President to forbid the use of words like recession or phrases like economic downturn and replace them with what Press Secretary Jay Carney calls, ‘hope words’ like Economic Adjustment Period, formerly called the recession (permission granted for use of this phrase for this article).

Carney continued, “There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to worry about job or stock losses, defaults, bankruptcies or foreclosures as those words will be outlawed too.” Pointing to the President’s leadership on the entire range of economic issues, Carney revealed that the President signed the OEO now affectionately dubbed, New Hope and New Change: WINNING after thinking about it for, “a whole day, something no other President in history has done.”

In addition to forbidding the use of 117 words that the administration calls, ‘downer words,’ it is resetting the unemployment percentage to zero and renaming all currently unemployed Americans Employment Ready Workers.

Sweeping changes in several departments of government will also result as a consequence of the new OEO. In the Department of Education, a new Czar for Textbook Harmonization will be named and empowered to review all U.S. history books with a view towards correcting inconsistencies. In the Department of Health and Human Services, a new program for Citizen Health Modeling will be implemented that will require all Americans to submit to an extensive Wellness Check. The check will be done by government doctors who will classify them as either ‘preferred’ or ‘common’ citizens.

The President has also instructed the Department of Energy to immediately shut down 90% of all gas stations around the country using right of eminent domain. The DOE will also be converting those stations to ‘Stop and Juice’ electric power relay stations that will sell electricity to the new all-electric O-Cars. The government will also be requiring owners of gas-powered vehicles not getting 200 miles to the gallon to buy the new vehicles from government-operated dealerships owned by Government Motors. Answering a reporter’s question on the legality of the mandated purchasing of vehicles, Carney had a two-word response, “Remember Obamacare?”

Finally, the Obama Administration unveiled its bold strategy for eliminating the worldwide economic downturn. Pressing a button on his podium, curtains parted behind Mr. Obama revealing a life-size image of the President on the wall. Underneath were the words ‘Si, se puede’ proudly drawn in graffiti-like style. Both were centered on a facsimile of the U.S. dollar bill. Thus the new “O Dollar” currency was born. According to Carney, the room was bursting at the seams with the White House Press Corps and ordinary onlookers (carefully vetted by the White House to be sure they were average Americans). Sitting on the edge of their seats, the Press Corps saw the President’s jaw jut forward and his face ark upwards with his eyes half-closed as if he were seeing way into the future.

With a drum roll from a lone Marine Corps Band drummer, the voice of James Earl Jones rumbled out of the twin speakers beside the President’s podium, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States proudly introduces to the world, for the very first time ever, the new ‘O Dollar.’ The One world currency that will end poverty and despair as we know it and that will replace the old outmoded U.S. dollar. Starting immediately, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be buying back your old dollars at the new rate of 25¢ for one new, improved O Dollar.”






- Editor

Permitting access to domestic resources creates jobs

Posted on 04. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country and is one of the worst in foreclosures. “In my district,” Nevada Assemblyman Hansen reports, “one in seventeen houses is in foreclosure. One in eight is vacant. The people are economically desperate. Meanwhile we have an industry that would love to open up mines and create jobs with an average salary of $80,000. Unfortunately we also have a government that takes ten years to permit a mine.”

No wonder 77% of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

“Couldn’t we streamline the process or eliminate some steps?” asks Nevada State Senator Settelmeyer. He points out that the high gold and silver prices present a huge opportunity but he’s afraid that if we do not strike while the iron is hot, gold prices may fall before the mining projects get approved and get into production. “We have the resources and people need the jobs.”

In 1900 silver and gold were found in Tonopah, Nevada. Within weeks of the discovery, there was digging and within a year the mine was fully operational. In 1900 dollars, the mine brought in $125 million. Today, it would be multi-billions of dollars.

The Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859 and during its six year run an estimated $50 million of ore was removed. The discovery was largely responsible for Nevada becoming a state and it is credited with helping the Union’s finances as it backed the paper money—assisting the Union’s ultimate victory in the civil war. If Comstock was burdened with today’s regulatory environment, the war would have been over long before an ounce of silver was legally extracted and the outcome could have been different.

Mining has played an important role in the development of the western United States—providing jobs and revenues. It should be doing the same now. In Nevada’s mining towns, the unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country: 5-7%—according to Tim Crowley President of the Nevada Mining Association who says there are hundreds of mining jobs available in Nevada. Skills from the hard hit construction industry can be transferred to mining.

General Moly plans to hire 450 people by the end of the year. There are major copper operations in permitting. Companies are looking at mining rare earths and lithium—both of which are essential for cell phones, batteries, computers, and wind turbines and solar panels.

Imagine the jobs and new wealth that could be created if mining was encouraged. Senator Settelmeyer says, “It is hard enough for companies to get through the regulatory process and get a permit. On top of that there is frivolous environmental litigation that lengthens the process—cutting off vital resources and delaying jobs.”

Last week environmental groups hailed a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld a law prohibiting roads on nearly 50 million acres of national forest. Lawyers for the Colorado and Wyoming Mining Associations contend that the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule violated the law. Previous conflicting federal court rulings have both upheld and overturned the road-building ban.

Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environmental Group’s U.S. public lands program acknowledges that the roadless rule blocks “logging, drilling and industrial development.”

Expressing disappointment with the decision, Stuart Sanderson, President of the Colorado Mining Association said, “The decision does not reflect a practical understanding of the impact that the rule will have upon mining jobs or access to needed minerals here in Colorado and the U.S. It is important to develop high quality coal and other mineral reserves, both to ensure our nation’s energy security and reduce our dependence on minerals produced in other countries.”

How does this roadless decision impact mining and jobs?

In Montana’s Finley Basin there are known tungsten deposits. An Australian company wanted to bring revenue and jobs to the state by developing the resource. While the property was successfully drilled and recognized by Union Carbide in the seventies, it is now about 200 yards inside a roadless study area. The Forest Service was willing to offer a conditional drilling permit. Among the conditions were these requirements:

The drill sites must be cleared using hand tools; the drilling equipment and fuel must be transported to the site by a team of pack mules; the mules must be fed certified weed-free hay; and drill site and trail reclamation must be done using hand tools.

The company gave up. The jobs and revenue remain uncreated. How can America remain competitive in a global marketplace when we are required to use pick axes and mules? How does this help America’s heavy equipment manufacturers like Caterpillar?

No wonder we are in trouble.

We need these resources. They are salable both in the US and in a global market. The question is will we produce our assets—creating revenues, jobs, and new wealth? Or, will we allow countries, such as China, to have a monopoly and control the price?

The issue goes beyond mining. If we are not utilizing our own resources, we will have to buy them from other countries that are ramping up to take advantage of the boom. They can produce them more efficiently without the layers of bureaucratic red tape. Some countries are working to control the market and raise prices—which increases America’s cost of manufactured goods, the deficit, and reliance on foreign suppliers.

When America is struggling with the deficit and Americans are economically desperate, we need to be looking at more than spending cuts and tax increases. We need to eliminate redundant red tape in order to create new wealth, cheaper energy, and real jobs—all of which will contribute to a stronger America.

This article was submitted by Marita Noon who is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy. Marita’s twentieth book, Energy Freedom, has just been released.



Interpreting campaignese: A consultant talks to a candidate

Posted on 02. Nov, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

As a student and practitioner of American politics, I’m fascinated at how many candidates have mastered the art of dodging tough questions . Equally intriguing is how they’ve shaped our language and combined it with sophisticated body moves into a well-choreographed rebuttal to just about anything thrown their way. This is no doubt the result of extensive focus groups, voter surveys, media testing and the advice of ‘branding’ experts (the new gurus of the political consulting world).

The whole thing can be pretty confusing, so let’s first look at ten rules for candidates that provide some context for their campaignese.  Caution: This is a full-spin zone, and truthfulness is not a requirement to enter or participate.

Ten Rules for Candidates

1.   Always assume that journalists are out to get you, so remember how you got out of that uncomfortable situation a few years back and be prepared to use the same technique(s) again.

2.  Always assume that photographers will try to snap you in the most unflattering poses (yawning, rolling your eyes, wearing stupid hats, etc.) so don’t give them the opportunity. Resist putting on the Indian headdress or the bicycle helmet (remember Michael Dukakis in the tank?).

3.  Always assume that the local person introducing you on stage wants something from you. Always ‘man hug’ him and enthusiastically thank him and the organization he represents even if you aren’t a member or would ever dream of becoming one.

4.  Always walk a fine line between being too folksy and too serious. Remember you are not a stand-up comedian, although telling a good joke (nothing too controversial and certainly nothing ethnic, gender-based, religious or racy) may get you an invitation to the Letterman or Leno shows.

5.  Always have a ‘sound-bite’ or two ready for use, especially if you’re trailing in the polls.

6.  Always be ready to invoke, ‘America is the greatest country on Earth’ and ‘Our best days are still ahead of us’ – just not in the same sentence (unless of course the crowd is right of center).

7.  Always remember to get the amendments straight. The right to keep and bear arms is not the First Amendment no matter what your audience thinks. It’s still number two, right after number one (freedom of speech, religion, etc.).

8.  Always point to something/somebody in the audience as you take the stage, and smile as if their presence there is a pleasant surprise to you. (If you need a positive mental image to  focus on, think about the first speeding ticket you talked your way out of).

9.  Always make believe that you didn’t hear an awkward or potentially embarrassing question (by putting your hand behind your ear and feigning interest).

10.  Always answer a question by segueing to the point you want to make by saying, “You know, that’s a very good question and…”

Getting elected isn’t easy, whether it’s a state or federal office, but getting elected President is a bridge too far for all but the truly committed, and it should be. I can’t conceive of anything worse than a huge gaggle of candidates, all using the Ten Rules, campaigning all over the country. It would be like watching an endless rerun of the “I Love Lucy at the Candy Factory” episode or hearing the theme song from the Andy Griffith Show on a continuous loop for days on end. There would be no potential voters left because we’d have all gone nuts and committed ourselves to the booby hatch.

This year, we have about ten candidates for the ‘Big Job,’ and I have been studying them as if they were behind glass in my old childhood ant farm. Here are some of my general observations.

The candidates all started out playing nice, using the golden rule…until the pundits and bloggers wanted more contact. Then, a few ventured onto the ‘criticize the position’ battlefield, taking pot shots at the front-runners. (We’re speaking mostly about the Republicans here, because nobody on the Democrat side has come forward to challenge the President.)

Situation: Candidate ‘A’ criticizes Candidate ‘B’ on his position for being for government healthcare before he was against government healthcare before he was against his position of being against government healthcare.”

Mistake: People don’t like to be confused with the facts when they’re expecting to see blood.

Remedy: Just give them the blood. Ask him, instead, why he pulled the plug on his grandmother’s respirator.

Situation: You’ve just been accused of unfairly profiting from a road contract when you were Governor. The charge was leveled at you coming out of church on Sunday with your family by your side. Your answer is: “You’ll just have to talk with my staff on Monday.”

Mistake: The journalist has chosen the wrong venue and time. Make him pay for it.

Remedy: Your answer is, “I thought we were all supposed to keep holy on the Lord’s day!” An alternative answer would be, “I thought the press respected the first amendment!”

Situation: Hecklers are giving you a bad time. You’ve done everything you can to shut them up. Now you’re angry but you don’t want to show it, so you let your handlers give the hecklers the bum’s rush out of the room.

Mistake: Not good because the crowd sees you have hired thugs (bodyguards) and is starting to feel sympathy for the hecklers.

Remedy: Pull out your own pistol from your shoulder holster (if you’re speaking to an NRA audience) and say, “That’s alright, fellas. You can put him down and bring him back now. Thank heavens I have a concealed carry permit.”  An alternative would be to get the audience laughing by assaulting him with fourth grade epithets like, “Did your mother ever have any children that lived?” Or better yet ask him how tall he is and then say, “Gee, I didn’t realize they could pile manure that high.”

There are many more situations that require candidates to think on their feet, and they usually come during pre-primary debates. Getting eight or nine giant egos on a stage requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work by staffers – people whose careers depend on making sure the podium doesn’t make their candidate look like Mickey Rooney at a stilt –walkers’ convention.

Debates are like the TV Dating Game where each candidate tries to woo you over to his/her side with a great looking outfit, a smart one-line comeback, a joke about the opposing party and a passionate pitch for no taxes, free government stuff and an ipod for every pocket (used to be chicken in every pot).

The candidates’ handlers are a bit like zoo keepers. They keep the beast (and his ego) fed, clean his cage and make sure that the public maintains an appropriate distance at all times. They make sure the press is held at bay (or lured onto the premises with the promise of an exclusive interview). They do advance work like running ahead to check the VFW Hall for any whoopie cushions the opposition might have sneaked onto the folding chairs. They test the food and give kitchens the dietary requirements of the candidate (this doesn’t work well at county fairs, all-night diners or corner hot dog stands).

Finally, they stay up nights planning for all eventualities, running through dozens of possible ‘what if’ scenarios that might befall the candidate AND they amass new phrases and words for the campaignspeak playbook, many of which will never ever be used.

A seasoned campaigner once told me, “If you think all this campaigning is political theater, try governing!” I guess that says it all.

- Editor

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