Thursday, August 30, 2018

Meeting John McCain!


August 30th, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

JOHN MCCAIN AND BUDDY ROEMER! 

John McCain was a rare commodity in U. S. politics.  He was a war hero, full of good-natured irreverence, and a contrarian in the Republican Party.  McCain made it abundantly clear that he put America before party politics.  And when they both served in congress, McCain and Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer became good friends.

I met and visited Senator McCain on one occasion at the invitation of Roemer. The meeting was at the former governor’s Baton Rouge office, and McCain made it very clear to me that he loved Louisiana. He told me outside of his home state of Arizona, “there’s no place I’d rather be to enjoy the great food and the company of really lively and interesting folks than down her in Louisiana.”
Buddy Roemer had been out of the limelight for seventeen years, once he stepped down as Louisiana’s Governor in 1991. But when Senator John McCain wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, Roemer found himself back in the catbird’s seat as a major player on the national scene.

Roemer signed on with the McCain team over a year before the election when the Arizona senator was just one of many in the pack. The Louisiana governor was on my syndicated radio show early on, touting McCain’s credentials when his campaign seemed to be in free-fall. By then Roemer had emerged as a key McCain adviser, and was featured in TV spots nationwide.

Buddy Roemer has always been a gambler. When he was governor, his campaign disclosure statements regularly showed winnings at poker games held at the Governor’s mansion. And Roemer has never been averse to playing a long shot, even on his own campaigns. He fought uphill races to get elected to Congress in the 1980s, and was in the rear of the pack in governor’s race when the campaign began back in 1987.

During the 2008 presidential election, Louisiana Senator David Vitter had initially pushed Louisiana republicans to support the quixotic campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But when Giuliani’s campaign crashed and burned, Roemer quietly began lining up support and raising campaign funds for McCain. If the Republican candidate had ended up being successful in that coming fall presidential election, Roemer would have emerged as a cabinet secretary, ambassador, or hold some other high post in a McCain administration. 

When George Bush was elected president in 2000, Roemer was under serious consideration to be Ambassador to China. He used to play tennis with the former President Bush 43, and stayed in touch with a cross-section of Republicans throughout the country.

After getting out of elective office, Roemer had been involved in several successful bank ventures. But the lure of public service was still there. If John McCain became the next president, the odds were pretty good that a former Governor of Louisiana was going to be heading to Washington, DC.
McCain’s presidential aspirations were unsuccessful, but he did carry Louisiana with 60% of the vote.  After being side tracked by Barack Obama, he went on to spend 10 more successful years in the U.S. Senate.  Roemer built more banks and became a popular Louisiana author.

If you had to sum up John McCain’s life in a couple of words, they would be “honor and character.” He ruffled the feathers of a number of republicans by working with democrats across the aisle on issues he felt were good for America.  His philosophy was simple - put country before party politics.
Knowing of his impending death, McCain said about his life: “ I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. … I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.  I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”

Sums up a pretty darn good life.

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.






Saturday, August 25, 2018

WHY ELECT SO MANY STATEWIDE OFFICES IN LOUISIANA?


August 23rd, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

WHY ELECT SO MANY STATEWIDE OFFICES IN LOUISIANA?

Current Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser has brought up an interesting idea.  Have the governor and the lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket.  Such a systemexists in a majority of states across the nation.

As Nugesser states:  “The ticket idea seems to work well in other states. We ought to consider it. The only way I can do the best job I can do is to have a good working relationship with the governor.”

Under the present Louisiana constitution, the lieutenant governor has no assigned duties. The person holding the office is at the beck and call of the governor.

When I served as Secretary of State back in the 1980’s, I would often make fun of my friend, Lt. Governor Bobby Freeman. If he were in attendance at a gathering, I would tell the crowd that I knew what the Lt. Governor did all day. “As best I can figure, thelieutenantgovernor gets up in the morning to see if per chance the governor died the night before. If not, he’s free go fishing, play bouree, or do whatever he wants.”

Freeman would always feign laughter, but the point was made. The job has no constitutional responsibilities. The legislature has put the lieutenant governorin charge of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, but do we really need to elect a bureaucrat to see that the trash is picked up in state parks and museum pictures are dusted off?

Seven states across the country do not even have a lieutenant governor, and Tennessee and West Virginia just gave the title to the president of the State Senate. In 25 states, the governor and the lieutenant governorrun as a team on the same ticket, similar to how national elections for president and vice president are selected. In fact, only 17 states have entirely separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor.  In seven states, they don’t even have a lieutenant governor.

Nungesser’s suggestion of having the two offices run as a ticket actually makes pretty good sense. The governor would then have a lieutenant governorof his or her selection, and would be able to assign duties to a colleague well trusted to work together as a team effort.

Quite frankly, several other statewide offices could also be appointed by the governor as is done in a number of states. I held two such offices that could well go on the chopping block. The Secretary of State is an appointed position in 12 states and three more don’t even have the office that some refer to as a “high end or glorified clerk of court.” The Louisiana constitution requires that the Secretary of State be the keeper of the “Great Seal of Louisiana.” I was Louisiana’s Secretary of State in the 1980s. I looked for the Seal during my entire 8 years in office, but never could find it.

And how about the office of Louisiana Insurance Commissioner? Would you believe there are only 11 insurance commissioners elected in the entire country? Commissioners spend a good part of their time raising campaign dollars from the very people they are supposed to regulate. Is this the best way to assure policyholders of reasonable insurance rates? Of course not.  I also held this elected office, and it could and should go on the chopping block.
Then there is the Agriculture Commissioner. Twelve states select, while 38 states appoint. It must make Louisianans more at ease to know that some politician is checking up on the veggies and milk that is consumed. There’s a move by a number of education groups to elect the Superintendent of Education. Oh great! Let’s put a politician in charge to screw up the education of our kids even more. Why not just elect ‘em all right down to dogcatchers and trash haulers, right?

In a time of major fiscal crisis caused by inept political oversight, does Louisiana need to elect more positions than any other state in the nation? Some consolidation would seem to make good sense for a state on the verge of going broke. The Lt. Governor is on the right track.

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.








Thursday, August 16, 2018

IN LOUISIANA, JUST TELL EM’ I LIED!


August 16th, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
IN LOUISIANA, JUST TELL EM’ I LIED!
There seems to be a wealth of fabricators at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.  Gov. Edwards is accusing U.S. Senator John Kennedy of making "untruthful comments" on the early release of state prisoners.  Kennedy has countered back calling out the Governor for “bending the truth.”  Two state senators physically squared off against each other in a local bar.  And both Democrat and Republican legislators have accused each other of “hiding the truth” as to just whose at fault over the state’s perilous financial condition.

So what gives? Is this a new confrontational attitude in Louisiana politics?  Not really. The Bayou State has been operating in a dysfunctional manner for years, with a long and colorful history of legislative brawls, viciously partisan debate and charges of lying.

I was in the middle of such a legislative altercation in my first few months as a Louisiana state senator back in 1972.  A controversial proposal to create a new trade school system was up for final passage in the waning minutes of the legislative session.  I sat next to Senator “Big Jim” Jumonville, who was as brash and tenacious in debate on the senate floor as they come.  He just never took no for an answer.  Jumonville was opposing last minute amendments that would take one of the trade schools out of his district and move it to Baton Rouge.

The legislation would die if not passed at the stroke of midnight, and the official clock high on the back wall of the senate chamber was ticking away.  With only seconds left, Jumonville pulled off his boot and heaved it at the clock in an effort to stave off the deadline.  He missed.  Off came the other boot as Big Jim hollered out to his colleague at the podium, “You are a liar.”  He then rose back to throw the remaining boot.  I put myself in grave danger by grabbing Jumonville’s arm in an effort to calm him down. He missed the clock a second time, and time ran out.  I don’t think Big Jim ever forgave me.

And who can forget the Governor Earl Long story of reneging on a promise to a group of south Louisiana constituents? The blow-by-blow account was given to me by my deceased friend, Camille Gravel, who was on Long’s staff and a witness to the Governor’s comments.  Long was reluctant to live up to a campaign commitment, and Gravel inquired as to what he should tell the group.  Without batting an eye, Long told Gravel:  “Just tell them I lied.”

Dutch Morial was Louisiana’s first black legislator, and went on to serve as a judge and two-term Mayor of New Orleans.  With much humor and gusto, Dutch relished telling friends of his first day at the state capitol as a new legislator.  Representatives have seatmates, with their two desks sitting side by side.  As chance would have it, Dutch sat right next to Representative Jesse McLain, who represented an archconservative district in southeast Louisiana that had been a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity.

Now Dutch was from a Creole background and quite light skinned. As Dutch told me years later of that first day — when he took his seat, Jesse leaned over and whispered: “Where’s that lyin’ N…..? (Yes the N word.)  Dutch said he just smiled, looked around the room for a minute, then leaned over to Jesse, got right up in his face, and said:  “You’re looking at him.”   Then he burst out laughing.  A flustered McClain excused himself from the legislature for the rest of the day.

So as tensions continue to mount up in the nation’s capitol, tell those congressmen from other states that they are playing softball with their inter party scrabbling. If they want to learn how to experience real hardball politics, they can certainly find a “learning experience” here in Louisiana.  We have plenty of political lyin’, cussin’ & discussin’, fumin’ and fightin’ going on in the deepest of the deep southern states.  Maybe it’s in the roux or the Tabasco sauce.  But it’s always lively here when Louisiana politics is involved. So just come on down.

********

Telling lies is a fault in a boy, an art in a lover, an accomplishment in a bachelor, and second nature in a politician.”

Helen Rowland

Pease 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.






Thursday, August 09, 2018

THE SEARING OF A GREAT CITY’S SOUL!


Thursday, August 9th, 2018
New Orleans, Louisiana

THE SEARING OF A GREAT CITY’S SOUL!

The Queen City of the South is under siege.  No, not from hurricanes. This time, the siege is from within.  New Orleans is known as the city that care forgot.  But it’s been hard to let the good times roll in the Big Easy when the dice keep coming up snake eyes.

New Orleans is in a battle to stay afloat as it deals with major street crime, inept public officials, and a dysfunctional criminal justice system where even federal officials can no longer be trusted.  Author James Lee Burke writes about this corruption and dysfunction in his novel Last Car to Elysian Fields.  “One of the most beautiful cities in the Western hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by forces of nature.”

New Orleans is a city that for years has had the highest per capita murder rate in the nation, where multiple killings often happen on a daily basis, a town that is rated as one of the five most dangerous cities in the world.  But even with such a reputation, it was hard to fathom the recent crime wave that attacked the Crescent City.  Recently, in just two weeks, 39 people have been shot, including 4 children.  Over 22 shootings in just a few weeks; a war zone. Such violence goes beyond the street shootings that seem to happen almost daily in New Orleans. When a gunman indiscriminately fires into a crowd, it’s an act of terrorism.

Many crimes go unreported out of the sense of frustration that nobody will do anything about it anyway. Recently, a young relative of mine was walking uptown from the French Quarter. Just across Canal, in one of the busier sections of the city, a man steps out of nowhere and without rhyme or reason, punches him in the face. In an instant, my relative had become a victim of the “knockout game,” a brutal ritual where street thugs approach an innocent bystander and try, in one blow, to knock him out. He suffered a concussion and had his jaw wired shut for weeks.  This type of street violence seems to happen all the time.

Drug deals gone bad play a major role in a majority of the killings according to the New Orleans Police Department. The city is a cesspool of illegal drug activity in many neighborhoods, even in broad daylight. Recently, I watched the Tom Cruise movie “Jack Reacher: Never go Back,” that was made in the Crescent City.  A local drug dealer tells Cruise: “More s--t in the streets of New Orleans then they make in Afghanistan.”

City officials are reportedly asking for state and federal help, and for good reason.  
After Katrina, the governor sent in 300 hundred national guard troops to maintain order. And this time, the current governor needs to send in a lot more.  Recently, the governor of Colorado committed more than 600 guardsmen to help feed cattle whose welfare had been threatened by blizzards. If you can bring in that many guardsmen for cattle, the state should be willing to do that amount and more for its people.

Some might argue that the presence of soldiers on the streets will dampen tourism.  Not so in my opinion.  After Katrina, I hosted a daily radio program in New Orleans and was out each evening for walks and to meet friends for dinner.  National guardsmen were prominent throughout the downtown area, and we all felt much safer because of their presence. I was in the Louisiana National Guard for 12 years, and I can tell you it would be good training for our guardsman. So turn loose the National Guard Governor, to give a good level of comfort to the millions of tourists who help drive the state’s economy.

New Orleans can be either a unique place to live and work, or it can slowly drift into the cosmos due to a justified fear of crime.  There’s a fight to keep the bright, dynamic young leadership in the city and be an integral force in molding the future of New Orleans.  But it all begins with feeling safe, doesn’t it?  And right now, the Crescent City has a long, long way to go.

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, August 01, 2018

THE LEGISLATURE AND CAESAR SALAD


Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

THE LEGISLATURE AND CAESAR SALAD

For years, legislators in Louisiana have maintained a well-deserved reputation of irrelevance when it comes to substantively addressing a host of public issues. The mantra seems to be one of keeping a finger in the financial dyke to get through the next fiscal year, and side stepping a host of idiosyncratic concerns that include bestiality, hair braiding and sports betting.But if you think Louisiana has an oddball legislature that leans toward quirky solutions to non- existent problems, check out California that has moved a notch ahead of us here in the Deep South.

There is great news to report! California has recently decriminalized the sale of Caesar salad! That’s right! It’s no longer a crime to put together a Caesar salad in the Golden State. What an important gastronomic epitome of a truly civilized state! 

To assist in this whole “war on crime,” the California state legislature last year, in its collective wisdom, created a new law that banned the sale of any food product using raw eggs as an ingredient. And what do you find in the smooth, creamy taste with a bit of a bite in the dressing that goes on the Caesar salad? Well of course, uncooked eggs! But using uncooked eggs for a Caesar became a crime in California. That’s right! Criminal penalties attached to this new important protection of the public health. Well you can imagine the public response. The rallying cry became, “When you outlaw Caesar salad, only outlaws will eat Caesar salad.” And dire predictions were rampant. Would there be a flourishing black market in contraband romaine lettuce, raw eggs, and Parmesan cheese? 

But California is similar to Louisiana in one respect. Things don’t often change very rapidly, and naysayers thought it may take some time to bring legislators back to reality. We’ve had plenty of firsthand experience with the same foot dragging here in Louisiana. So ignoring the roadblocks, a cadre of Caesar supporters took a more gradual approach, and offered several possible solutions: 

·      !Begin a slow return by implementing a five-day waiting period for Caesar salad, so the government could do a medical background check for raw-egg allergies. 
·      !Legalize only “medical Caesar salad” whereby people with a vitamin deficiency could get a doctor’s permission to buy a small amount of Caesar salad for their own personal use. 
·      !Launch an anti-Caesar salad TV advertising blitz, perhaps with a commercial showing a frying pan, and then showing the pan with a raw egg in it. The voice-over could be: “This is your brain. This is your brain on Caesar salad.” 

Allowing only adults, 21 and over, the right to buy Caesar salad on the grounds that it may be an adolescent’s gateway-salad to stronger stuff - like macaroni salad or three-bean salad. 

But actually, it was the Libertarian Party who led the fight in strongly opposing the “just say no to Caesar salad” law. And you know, Libertarian candidates are stirring right here in Louisiana. Rumor has it that former Shaw CEO Jim Bernhard, in a possible run for governor next year, may qualify as a Libertarian. I can just hear his platform now that could include a plank that says, “I support the constitutional right of every Louisianan to keep and bear Caesar salad ... or rather to buy and eat a Caesar salad. I’m not going to stand by in my race for governor and allow these political eggheads to flourish and think they have the right to micromanage every aspect of our lives.” 

Hey, this may be a pretty good approach. It can’t be any worse than some of the platforms we’ve seen candidates for governor using in recent years. The good news is that the California legislature did come to its senses, and you’ll be happy to know that Caesar salad is now legal in California. Let’s hope the previous trend doesn’t find its way to Louisiana. 

If it does, you will find me in the forefront of leading the fight against the injustices of banning the salad that I eat four or five times a week. And what will my slogan be? Simple. “Back off Legislature. Just lettuce alone.”

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