Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: ” “Face the Nation

Half A Billion $ for Congressional Junkets

Bob Schieffer, the host of “Face the Nation” on Sunday, August 9, 2009 reported the “Wall Street Journal” story originally written by Brady Mullins ([email protected]) and Timothy Farnam ([email protected]) of the “Wall Street Journal” about Congress authorizing one-half billion dollars to enlarge the fleet of private planes that carry Congressman on junkets.

It seems that 2 of the planes were old and did need replacing. Two more were being leased. But the House wants FOUR more planes beyond that.


Well, it seems that its members are spending more and more time overseas…. 3,000 days at last count…and the cost has been $13 million, which, by the way, is a four-fold increase from just 10 years ago, and a 10-fold increase since 1995.

Since 1995, the cost of flying Congressman to Timbuktu (or wherever) has increased 10-fold and now, in these dire economic times, the House has approved a measure to buy half a billion dollars more in private planes so Congressman (and their wives) can spend more than the current 3,000 days flying hither and yon. The Defense Department is on record as saying that more planes are not needed, but Congess has other priorities, apparently,.

Case in point: Brian Baird (D, Washington) not only took a trip to investigate climate change that saw him diving and snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef of Australia but also had the group visiting a penguin rookery and the South Pole. Six members of Congress took that 11-day trip over New Year’s of 2008, with their wives. The cost to taxpayers was $103,000, but it would have been $500,000 if the flights to the South Pole (South Pole for Congressmen, only; wives had to stay in New Zealand) had not been on Air Force planes. Brian Baird is on the House Science Committee on Research and Science Education.

It’s reassuring to learn that Baird also visited the Galapagos Islands on another trip.

Then representing Alaska, Ted Stevens flew to Paris with 4 others for the Paris Air Show. Cost? $121,000. Excuse: It’s hard to get to Alaska any other way than by flying and this kept him up-to-date…(until his recent legal troubles for some unethical conduct while in office made keeping up-to-date less of an issue).

Two days in Australia cost the American taxpayers $50,000. $32,000 was spent on hotels and meals. $7,000 was spent on transportation. $10,000 was spent for “other purposes” and, we learn, each member of such a trip gets a $350 a day per diem allowance for such “other expenses.” And, on the way back, the plane stopped to refuel in Hawaii and the Congressmen were housed at the Royal Hawiian Hotel.

To co-opt a famous drug ad: “This is your Congressman. These are your Congressman on private jet planes flying to the South Pole and asking for $550 million to fly more such trips?”

Any questions?

“Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” Handicap the Presidential Race

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Debate in Austin, TexasOn Sunday, March 3rd‘s versions of “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” expert political commentators filled us in on how this year’s race for the Presidential nomination is playing out. A bi-partisan mixture of Republican and Democratic strategists had the opportunity to put in their two cents’ worth. This is how it sounded.

     Republican strategist Mike Murphy, a guest on “Meet the Press”, said, “I’ll make a cash money bet right now on Obama.” There were no takers. Murphy backed up his bet with the information that, even if Hillary wins in both Texas and Ohio, she would have to win 70% of the votes in the 12 states that remain, which represent 611 delegates. (Most of those states, for the curious, are: Oregon, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Mississippi, Guam and Puerto Rico, which has 63 delegates.)

     Bob Schrum—famous for his soaring speech work for the Democrats—commented, “You cannot go into this convention and not have some moral claim.” James Carville, the bald strategist to both Bill and Hillary, who appeared on “Meet the Press” alongside his Republican strategist wife Mary Matalin, said, “Nobody in the world can look at these polls and predict with any accuracy.” He did acknowledge, however, that he agreed with Bill Clinton, who told Texas voters during a campaign rally for his wife in Beaumont, Texas, “If you don’t deliver for her, I don’t think she can (win). It’s on your backs.” Carville agreed with his former boss, saying, “You gotta’ win something.”

     Mary Matalin, his Republican spouse, laughed at most of the comments made about the continuing Democratic death struggle on “Meet the Press”, ultimately commenting, “It’s so khumbaya that they (the Democrats) can’t pick a nominee.”

     Countered her Republican counterpart Murphy, “Turnout is his (Obama’s) demographic. The thing I’d be watching on Election Day is turnout. He creates a turnout demographic that is very powerful.  My gut tells me he’s gonna’ take ‘em both (Ohio and Texas), and that’ll be the end.”

     Democratic strategist and speechwriter “Schrummie” (Bob Schrum) interjected, “What we’re really seeing is a generational struggle inside the Democratic party.” He went on to liken Hillary to the Beach Boys when the Beatles came to America.  The analogies were flying thick and fast. At one point, Obama was even compared to the hula hoop craze! Is it a fad? Will it last? What about staying power?

    There was a lot of scrutiny of the latest ads that Hillary and Obama are running. The ads show a phone call coming in to a home with sleeping children in the dead of night. Hillary answers the pre-dawn ringing phone, dressed to the teeth (my husband wondered why she wouldn’t be in her nightgown, a valid Republican observation). The implication: a crisis call was coming in. Who is most qualified to answer it?

     Obama immediately countered this Mark Penn-designed ad with one that used the same imagery, but underscored his judgment as being sounder, as he had been against the Iraq War since the beginning. Carville categorized both ads as “fair.” Then the experts began picking them apart, saying that the origin of such a ringing telephone ad goes all the way back to Walter Mondale in 1984, running against Gary Hart and using an image of a red phone. (Boy! Did that phone look dated!) The problem, the strategists said, is that the “red phone” fear message has become a bit of a cliché. The implication:  this cliché charge is also true of Hillary’s entire campaign.

     Next came some finger pointing. “Mark Penn has called the strategy in this campaign, dominated it.” This from Jason Horowitz’s New York Observer newspaper article titled “Ickes: Blame Penn.” As her chief strategist, Penn actually wrote the current phone call ad.

    There were moments of mirth. After the phone ad began appearing in Texas and Ohio, someone asked Hillary during a campaign stop to give an example of a time when she had to handle a crisis phone call. There was apparently not a lot of thought given beforehand to this particular question arising.  The best answer the campaign spokesman came up with was,  “She’s on the Armed Services Committee.” Said Democrat Schrum, laughing, “You know the only crisis on the Armed Services Committee is when John McCain loses his temper.” Republican Murphy, laughing, added, “The only crisis call she (Hillary) might get is from Texas.”

     Chuck Todd, the NBC News Political Director was quoted  (“Meet the Press”) this way, “According to our delegate math, Clinton winning both Ohio and Texas by 52% – 48% would net her a combined 5-6 delegates.  Yet, toss in a potential Obama landslide in Vermont, and then her next March 4th haul could be as little as 2-5 delegates.”

    On “Face the Nation” Governor Bill Richardson was interviewed, as was former candidate Senator Chris Dodd (D, Connecticut), who noted that “If experience is the sole criteria, it should be Joe Biden and me,” something he said more than once on the campaign trail in Iowa. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, a Clinton supporter, was interviewed onscreen as well, and commented, “We’re hiring someone to do the toughest job in the country, and a big part of that job is being Commander-in-Chief. Intelligence people report renewed attacks. It’s a risky world. We need someone with the seasoning and the ability to be Commander-in-Chief. It’s a dangerous world.”

     Chris Dodd (D, CT), who has endorsed Obama, countered with, “This is a person (Obama) eminently qualified to lead. It’s not, as they say, just about who answers that phone, but about what they say.” For those of us who have heard Hillary Clinton’s shrill tone of voice, we might add, “and it’s about HOW that individual speaks when they answer.”

    From Santa Fe, New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson on” Face the Nation”, who has endorsed neither candidate, weighed in with, “I am legitimately torn (between the candidates),” saying, “The concern that I have is that the bickering is going on too long. D-Day is Tuesday. I want to see us, after Tuesday, come together and move towards the general election.” He added, “McCain cannot be taken for granted.” Richardson noted, “We haven’t elected a Senator in over 40 years. I guess we’re going to this time.”

    Many charts and graphs were used to reinforce points being made. To share just a few: In Ohio, Clinton attracts just 38% of men under 50, while Obama gets 52%. Hillary gets the vote of 54% of those over 50 in Ohio, while Obama gets only 36% of those over 50. By race (in Ohio) Obama claims the vote of 86% of African-Americans (to Clinton’s 6%), while 62% of Hispanics favor Clinton, compared to only 30% for Obama. (“Meet the Press” graphic).

     As to Super Delegates, those much-discussed 800, the change since February 5th has seen Obama pick up 38, while Clinton has lost 6, giving Obama a 111-vote lead. In a Pew Foundation Poll shown on “Meet the Press”, when asked whether a candidate was “very likable,” “somewhat likable” or “not likable,” Obama was judged “Very likable” by 50% to Clinton’s 26% and McCain’s 21%. In the “somewhat” range, the split was 35% for Obama, to 37% for Clinton, to 55% for McCain. In the dreaded “Not Likable” category, Hillary scored 33%, while McCain was at 18% and Obama at 10%.

     Republican strategist Mike Murphy on “Meet the Press,” commenting on the general election, said, “We’ve got the one different kind of Republican this year who can go to the center, and a lot of the Obama stuff—the energy behind his campaign, other than the war—is stuff John McCain built his reputation on and frankly has shown a lot more courage on than Barack Obama ever has. He’ll (McCain’ll) co-opt that middle space and beat him on experience and leadership.”

     All agreed that, if Obama were to be elected, it would “set the Conservative movement back 50 years.”

     In another interesting bit, respondents to a CNBC Current State of the Economy survey (“Meet the Press”) were asked to respond with one word to the three remaining candidates in the race. The responses to each candidate and the word used most frequently follows:


            Old                                55

            Honest                          32

            Experienced                29       

            Patriot                          21

            Conservative               14

            Hero                              13

            Liberal                          12


            Inexperienced              45       

            Charismatic                   32

            Intelligent                      25

            Change                            23

            Inspirational                  14

            Young                              12

            New                                  11


            Experienced                 34

            Strong                           16

            Untrustworthy            16

            Intelligent                     15

            Smart                             14

            Determined                   12

            Rhymes with

            “witch”                             11

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