Thursday, March 16, 2017

A MAJOR SHAKE UP NEEDED IN CONGRESS!


Thursday, March16th, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana

A MAJOR SHAKE UP NEEDED IN CONGRESS!

The approval rate for members of Congress seems to be in free fall.  Few constituents approve of the dysfunction taking place in the nation’s capitol. Just 15 years ago, Congress had an approval rating of 65%.  But no more.  The most recent Harris and CBS polls show approval rates dropping to an all time low of 9%.  Like the guy sings in the Limbo Rock song, “How low can you go?”

Let me tell you just how bad it is.  More Americans approve of polygamy than they do of Congress in Washington.  At the height of the Gulf oil spill, BP had a shockingly low 16% approval rating. And would you believe that 11% of those surveyed are OK with America becoming Communist?  Just about every low-life trend or person you can think of does better than the folks you and I send up to Washington.

Apparently public cynicism is falling on deaf ears, as the Republic-can’ts and the Demo-don’ts both share the blame game.  There are tough decisions to be made regarding the new healthcare proposals, other entitlement programs and raising revenues that require urgent action, but the party bickering just doesn’t slow down. So it comes as no surprise to most of us that the favorable support of Congress continues to plummet.

How can Congress be more responsive to constituents back home? Is it necessary for members of Congress to spend most of their time in Washington?   In 2017, why can’t lawmakers use the new technology of telecommunications to create a “virtual Congress?”

During the time following the American Revolution, it was necessary for the original Congress to meet under one roof.  But why should a twenty-first century legislature be constrained by eighteenth-century technology? Why should Congressional members have to rush away from their constituencies back to Washington just to cast votes? They belong in close proximity with those who elected them, not at high-priced cocktail parties in Washington at the behest of rich special interest promoters.

If millions of Americans can telecommute, why can’t members of Congress attend committee meetings by video conference?  If I can regularly Skype or Facetime with my grandkids, why can’t my congressman add a big screen to his or her office, tune in meetings, the go back to handling problems of constituents right out of the home district?

As it is now, we might catch a glimpse of our members of Congress when they are interviewed on television.  How refreshing it would be to see your congressman at various school events or run into him or her at your local coffee shop.  Back in their districts most of the time, these congressmen will be surrounded by skeptical constituents, rather than fawning supplicants.  And they’ll continually have to justify any political decision they make that’s contrary to the will of the voters.

There are a number of other proposals out there to make Congress more responsive to those who elected them. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, during his short run for president, suggested a part-time Congress. Term limits is an idea that continues to have high favorable support. Others are saying that congressional districts have grown too large, and more members of Congress should be added. All these ideas have merit.

But there’s nothing more important than reestablishing a closer relationship between the congressman and the people he or she represents.  In the old days, it was called “retail politics.”  A handshake and face-to-face interaction.  Let a voter blow off steam or bring up what could be a good idea.

There certainly is no patent for good “common sense” emanating from Washington these days.  So come back home, Congressman, and listen and learn from those who elected you. And maybe, just maybe, your popularity will rise above being a polygamist.

*****

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.







Friday, March 10, 2017

THE CONTINUING INTEREST IN EDWIN EDWARDS!


Baton Rouge, Louisiana

THE CONTINUING INTEREST IN EDWIN EDWARDS!

Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards is approaching 90 years old and hasn’t seemed to slow down a bit.  He remains active, still speaking throughout the state, often accompanied with his young wife and 4-year-old son.  Last year, a Baton Rouge Advocate poll listed him as Louisiana’s most popular governor.

According to his biographer Leo Honeycutt, Edwards is an enigma…a puzzling political personality shaped by his background and a lifetime effort to climb to the top of the heap.  Did he cross the imaginary line of political propriety in his public dealings? Honeycutt astutely argues that the line often moves with the times and can be bent and shaped by unscrupulous federal prosecutors.

Three reasons emerge as to why there continues to be so much interest in the enduring saga of the state’s longest serving governor.  First of all, he is a likeable rogue.  Even his ardent distracters over the years found him to be funny and highly entertaining.  Few came close to mesmerizing a crowd like the Cajun from Crowley.  He could have handled a late night talk show with much more pizzazz and humor than Conan O’Brien on any night of the week.

Secondly, some naysayers disregard the Edwards years as all negative with no progressive public accomplishments by his administration.  There is no doubt Edwards became bogged down in his later terms as his legal problems with the federal government mounted. But a number of more neutral observers will stack up Edwards’ first two terms as the most productive and positive for Louisiana in the twentieth century.

I posed the question of Edwards’ accomplishments to a group of journalists who had covered the state capitol for many years, going back to the administration of Gov. Jimmy Davis in the 1960s. When asked to name the state’s shining period of progress, they all pointed to the 1970s during Edwards’ first two terms. A new constitution, tax reform, a new ethics code, the creation of an architects and engineers selection board taking these decisions away from politics that became the prototype throughout the country, the passage of the strongest public records and open meetings laws of any state, all done under an Edwards administration.

I was hosting a radio show a few years back discussing the Edwards years and opened up the phone lines for listener observations. Former Public Affairs Research Council Director and President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Ed Steimel called in to comment.  He said during the 1970s, Edwards both embraced and worked for passage of every one of PAR’s good government recommendations. Steimel also agreed the 70s were a “special, productive time” under Edwards’ leadership. 

The third reason Edwards continues to command so much interest is the feeling by many observers that he did not get a fair shake in the federal trial that sent him to prison.  Former Governor Dave Treen, recently deceased, summed up this prevailing view in the last public letter he wrote as an introduction to the Honeycutt book.  “I believe the federal government….doubled his sentence from the prescribed five years purely out of vindictiveness.  They didn’t like him.  That’s not a good reason to double someone’s sentence and is, I believe, a misuse of power.”  Even many of Edwards’ ardent distracters agree.

Yes, Edwin Edwards is an enigma.  A complex mix of a Louisiana figure that, like Icarus, flew so high with abundant success, then fell for many reasons, including some of his own making.

Greek tragedy?  Maybe.  But the final verse of Edwin Edwards’ life is far from written. Honeycutt’s original version of Edwards’s life covered 1600 pages.  Edwards insisted much be left out, at least for the time being. 
Another book in the making?  Look for Edwards himself to have a lot more to say in the years to come. In the meantime, the current Edwards’ biography fills the gap and paints a vivid portrait of the man who many feel is the most dominant Louisiana political figure in the past century. 

                                                                   *****

“People say I’ve had brushes with the law. That’s not true. I’ve had brushes with overzealous prosecutors.”
Edwin Edwards
Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.









Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A LOUISIANA GUY THEY COULD CALL MR. PRESIDENT?



Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A LOUISIANA GUY THEY COULD CALL MR. PRESIDENT?

John Bel Edwards for president?  The Louisiana governor is being touted as a Democratic Party contender on the national front. Just a little over a year in his present job, it may be a sign of the few future contenders the Democrats have available.  Here’s what a writer for the The Huffington Post had to say last week:

“I would predict, that if he is interested, with a growing national appreciation that he’s the best Governor Louisiana has experienced in a generation, if his family allows, and if Trump remains Trump and has no Damascene moment during the early years of his Presidency, that the Democrats will win the White House in 2020 with Governor John Bel Edwards as their candidate.”

Many would consider an Edwards presidential candidacy pretty far fetched, but he is one of a number of Louisianans who once had their eyes on the White House.  How could we forget Bobby Jindal’s quixotic campaign effort? He was preceded by a presidential effort by former Gov. Buddy Roemer, whose campaign was doomed from the get go when he promised to limit contributions to $100.  A good idea, but he had no money to deliver his message.

Roemer was the longest of long shots in 2012, but he also was back in 1987 when he pulled an upset victory to get elected as governor.  He beat quite a pack of candidates back then, including incumbent Governor Edwin Edwards, Congressman Billy Tauzin, almost future Speaker of the U.S. House Bob Livingston, and some other forgettable character named Brown.

Actually, no Louisianan has ever been elected President.  Zachery Taylor might barely qualify, although he spent very little time down in the Deep South. One resident of the Bayou State did make it to the nation’s highest court.  Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft.

So who were the other candidates?  Edwin Edwards gave a national race a good look back in 1978 when the President Jimmy Carter was floundering. Edwards just didn’t like Carter and had read several books on how the former Georgia governor had come from obscurity to the presidency.  Edwards toyed with the idea for six months, and then ended up supporting Republican Ronald Reagan.

John McKeithen sought the national stage, and thought he had a commitment to be the vice presidential candidate on the Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1968.  The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago was the convention headquarters, and I had trekked up to the Windy City as an observer. I happened to be on the hotel elevator when McKeithen and Sen. Russell Long got on.  Long later told me they were on their way up to the penthouse meet with Humphrey and solidify McKeithen’s position as the vice presidential nominee.  Humphrey changed his mind from his earlier commitment, turned McKeithen down, and the Louisianan governor immediately left the convention to return home in a huff.

Don’t forget Huey Long, who had all but announced a challenge to sitting President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Though a backer of Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with the President in June 1933, and planned to mount his own presidential bid for 1936 in alliance with radio’s influential Catholic priest Charles Coughlin.  Long was assassinated in 1935, and rumors abounded that his presidential ambitions played a role in why he was shot to death.

So we have Long, McKeithen, Edwards, Roemer, Jindal and maybe a second Edwards. All served in congress except McKeithen and John Bel Edwards.

I wonder how the results would come in if Louisiana would pick one of the living contenders in a presidential primary?  Along with Roemer, Jindal and the two Edwards, let’s thrown in country singer Tim McGraw, a Louisiana native who has expressed great interest in politics. And maybe Saints Quarterback Drew Brees along with Payton Manning, and General Russell Honore’ to round out the slate.  Louisiana voters would love it. Mardi Gras just ended, so we need something way down here in the Deep South to keep us occupied.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.










 touted as a Democratic Party contender on the national front. Just a little over a year in his present job, it may be a sign of the few future contenders the Democrats have available.  Here’s what a writer for the The Huffington Post had to say last week:

I would predict, that if he is interested, with a growing national appreciation that he’s the best Governor Louisiana has experienced in a generation, if his family allows, and if Trump remains Trump and has no Damascene moment during the early years of his Presidency, that the Democrats will win the White House in 2020 with Governor John Bel Edwards as their candidate.”

Many would consider an Edwards presidential candidacy pretty far fetched, but he is one of a number of Louisianans who once had their eyes on the White House.  How could we forget Bobby Jindal’s quixotic campaign effort? He was preceded by a presidential effort by former Gov. Buddy Roemer, whose campaign was doomed from the get go when he promised to limit contributions to $100.  A good idea, but he had no money to deliver his message.

Roemer was the longest of long shots in 2012, but he also was back in 1987 when he pulled an upset victory to get elected as governor.  He beat quite a pack of candidates back then, including incumbent Governor Edwin Edwards, Congressman Billy Tauzin, almost future Speaker of the U.S. House Bob Livingston, and some other forgettable character named Brown.

Actually, no Louisianan has ever been elected President.  Zachery Taylor might barely qualify, although he spent very little time down in the Deep South. One resident of the Bayou State did make it to the nation’s highest court.  Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft.

So who were the other candidates?  Edwin Edwards gave a national race a good look back in 1978 when the President Jimmy Carter was floundering. Edwards just didn’t like Carter and had read several books on how the former Georgia governor had come from obscurity to the presidency.  Edwards toyed with the idea for six months, and then ended up supporting Republican Ronald Reagan.

John McKeithen sought the national stage, and thought he had a commitment to be the vice presidential candidate on the Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1968.  The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago was the convention headquarters, and I had trekked up to the Windy City as an observer. I happened to be on the hotel elevator when McKeithen and Sen. Russell Long got on.  Long later told me they were on their way up to the penthouse meet with Humphrey and solidify McKeithen’s position as the vice presidential nominee.  Humphrey changed his mind from his earlier commitment, turned McKeithen down, and the Louisianan governor immediately left the convention to return home in a huff.

Don’t forget Huey Long, who had all but announced a challenge to sitting President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Though a backer of Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with the President in June 1933, and planned to mount his own presidential bid for 1936 in alliance with radio’s influential Catholic priest Charles Coughlin.  Long was assassinated in 1935, and rumors abounded that his presidential ambitions played a role in why he was shot to death.

So we have Long, McKeithen, Edwards, Roemer, Jindal and maybe a second Edwards. All served in congress except McKeithen and John Bel Edwards.

I wonder how the results would come in if Louisiana would pick one of the living contenders in a presidential primary?  Along with Roemer, Jindal and the two Edwards, let’s thrown in country singer Tim McGraw, a Louisiana native who has expressed great interest in politics. And maybe Saints Quarterback Drew Brees along with Payton Manning, and General Russell Honore’ to round out the slate.  Louisiana voters would love it. Mardi Gras just ended, so we need something way down here in the Deep South to keep us occupied.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.