Calling 2016 the “most unbelievable” election campaign of his career, Gerald F. Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief, slicedand diced the politics and personalities of the presidential election to a rapt Exchequer Club audience, offering up Ginsu-sharp insights at the Club’s monthly luncheon meeting.
If the 2016 election looks something like a trainwreck, Seib, known to friends as “Jerry,” started the talk with a shout-out to D.C. Councilmember and Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans for his aggressive efforts to fix the ailing Metro system. “As someone who’s ridden Metro since the 70s, I’m with you, man. Thank you for what you’re doing. I wish you luck.”
Evans, long credited for his sound leadership of the District’s finances as chair of the D.C. Council Finance Committee, is getting national recognition as he battles Congress and regional inertia to restore the nation’s fifth-largest transit system to health.
Back to the train wreck: Seib said the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump surprised everyone, including Sanders and Trump themselves. Seib, having covered presidential campaigns since 1980, said Trump says things on a weekly basis that would disqualify other candidates, but voters don’t mind “because they think he is speaking a larger truth.”
Gone are the days when the Republican party simply had to choose to be the Wall Street Party vs. the Walmart Party, as Seib described it, quoting former Minnesota governor and current CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable Tim Pawlenty. If the Tea Party “ripped the wiring” out of the house of the GOP, Trump has “landed on it” with the force of a 757, painted “Trump,” of course.
His core supporters are “frightened, angry or both,” Seib said. “Experts don’t know anything,” but they’re in charge. The voters are angry about it. “Trump validates all those feelings and makes them feel that they’re not alone.”
Sanders and Trump are feeding on voter sentiment that “free trade is bad, big banks get away with too much,” and U.S. involvement in the Middle East needs to scaled back to near isolationism.
Seib said he doubted Hillary Clinton would be indicted over her handling of a private email server. And he expressed his somewhat surprised relief to Exchequer Club Chancellor Jerry Buckley, founder of the law firm BuckleySandler, because in years of carpooling their sons to school, “We never had an accident at Chevy Chase Circle,” in thechaotic morning commute.
One big question is whether Clinton can draw back the white working class voters who supported her in 2008, Seib said. When asked by The Georgetown Dish’s Bill Rice whether the Democrats could pull off a third term at all, Seib said it was an “underappreciated question.”
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Seib said. “It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do.”
But it’s an unprecedented time in American politics. The Wall Street Journal recently studied the way people get their news in America, finding that the Facebook effect – in which people read mostly the news they want, from the perspective they want, makes them “happy and angry at the same time.”
Seib knows a little about the effects of political extremism. After graduating from the University of Kansas School of Journalism in 1978, he joined the Wall Street Journal's Dallas bureau, and left two years later to work for the Wall Street Journal in Washington D.C., covering the Pentagon and State Department. Later in 1987, when Seib was based in Cairo to cover the Middle East, he was was grabbed off the street on assignment in Iran and detained by police on suspicion that he was a spy for Israel.
In a 2002 interview with the Capital-Journal about his five-day detention in Iran, Seib said, "These risks that journalists run are still worth running. Somebody has to take upon themselves the job of communicating about the world to the world."
An emotional gathering at the downtown D.C. offices of law firm K&L Gates attracted federal officials, the media and local U.S. military veterans to highlight a hidden scourge.
Recent research shows that after serving our country, U.S. military veterans often face significant financial challenges related to multipledeployments, frequent relocation, and employment availability for military spouses and expenses related to transitioning to civilian life -- conditions that can hinder financial stability and asset building. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) released survey data during Military Appreciation Month highlighting this hidden plague facing military veterans and their families. Military participants surveyed after enrolling in NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus® (Sharpen) program were found to have:
· Higher levels of unsecured debt than the average program participant;
· Tangible assets that were 16.2% less than the overall program participant average;
· Unsecured debt balances 7.1% higher than the combined average;
· Student loan debt, as revealed by 36% of surveyed military Sharpen clients.
The survey, highlighted by the Women in Housing and Finance Foundation, showed that military veterans held credit card debt and mortgagedebt in higher proportions than other cohorts measured. While veterans held less student loan debt than the general student population or “breadwinner moms,” they had the highest amount of auto loan debt, averaging $13,708 per person, and the highest average amount of credit card debt per person, $11,071, versus $10,000 per student and $2428 per “breadwinner mom.”
Cory Hixson (USMC), an Iraq War veteran who now works as a financial adviser for Edward Jones in Marysville, Ohio, said his own experience reflected some of the challenges identified in NFCC’s research.
“After serving in Falluja 2004-2005 and returning home, I hit the fast forward button on life. I had seen how short life could be. I set out to have the house, the new cars in the driveway, the picket fence and a family. My savings quickly went to zero and I found myself in financial trouble,” said Hixson. “But along the way I realized I could help people because of my experiences. I found my calling as financial adviser to serve others. If I can help fellow veterans as well as individual investors avoid any of the mistakes I made and set their families up for financial success, that’s what I intend to do.”
WHF Foundation board member and Army intelligence veteran Brandy Schantz, now of Arlington, nodded her head. “I am a former U.S. Army Officer and Army wife. My husband retired from the Army in 2008 and we settled in Rosslyn. We would be trading places here because we faced similar problems alternating deployments. I would go, then he would go. It was constant,” she said. Schantz is now a real estate agent with Synergy Home Sales.
Statistics show that veterans face financial hardship to a greater extent than others, but there are resources.
Programs like NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus serve civilians as well as active duty, reserve, guard, retired, veterans, and family members associated with all branches of the military. In the first two years of the Sharpen program (September 2013 – August 2015), 13% of the program’s clients were military. That figure has risen to 36% during the first quarter of 2016.
Officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Treasury Dept. attended the event, introduced by WHF Foundation President and former National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors President Mary Martha Fortney.
“It is vital that our military veterans get the support they need to build financial security after all they have done to protect our national security,” said Ann Estes, a mother of two military sons and a daughter-in-law military spouse as well as NFCC vice president of business development. “I've seen personally what these young men and women go through. We are proud to do our part to assist those who have served and protected our country so bravely.”
Warren G. "Bud" Schneeweis (USCG, Ret.), director of the Military Financial Readiness Project of the FINRA Foundation, said more data would be released this summer, and resources are available. Schneeweis is former U.S. Coast Guard officer and a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor.
Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s financial well-being. With 600 member offices serving 50 states and Puerto Rico, our NFCC® Certified Credit Counselors are financial advocates, empowering millions of consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions and overall money management. Make one of the best financial decisions of your life. For expert guidance and advice, call 800.388.2227 or visit nfcc.org today.
About the Women in Housing and Finance Foundation
For 35 years, Women in Housing and Finance (WHF) has provided an open forum on national financial, economic and political matters affecting the fields of financial services and housing, especially for women. The WHF Foundation commits volunteer and financial resources to help women and families in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area through charitable and educational services including financial empowerment training.
They've traded punches in knockdown brawls, crashed biplanes through barns, and raced to the rescue in fast cars. In STUNTWOMEN: The Untold Hollywood Story, author Mollie Gregory presents the first history of stuntwomen in the film industry from the silent era to the 21st Century. Gregory will be featured this week by Women in Film & Video in a book talk Tuesday, Jan. 12 6:30-8:30 pm at Interface Media Group, 1233 20th St. NW. More event info here.
Why did you write your book, STUNTWOMEN: The Untold Hollywood Story?
The short answer is--a stuntwoman talked me into it.
When my nonfiction book WOMEN WHO RUN THE SHOW was published, a stuntwoman, Julie Ann Johnson, asked me to sign her copy. She told me some amusing and hair-raising stories about stunts and wondered if I'd write a book about stuntwomen. I didn't want to write another nonfiction book, I was drafting a novel. When she started to talk about discrimination and harassment and how the business of stunts really worked--that's when I began to realize maybe I could take a year to write about stuntwomen. Ten years later, after interviews with 65 stuntwomen and a number of men, this book is published.
What other books have you written?
The first was MAKING FILMS YOUR BUSINESS, nonfiction, about my experiences as a documentary filmmaker. Then novels -- TRIPLETS, BIRTHSTONE, PRIVILEDAGED LIES, EQUAL TO PRINCES -- all were in some way based on real events or conflicts in the movie /TV industry. WOMEN WHO RUN THE SHOW traced the work of women in the entertainment industry -- what they really had to contend with from 1970 to 2000. I interviewed 125 women, and about 10 men.
What were the biggest challenges in writing the book about stuntwomen?
I knew nothing about stunts or the people who did them and no book about stuntwomen from silent movies to today had ever been written. For the early period film historians Kevin Brownlow, Anthony Slide and William Drew helped me. They are experts on that period, had written key books, and they knew the names of a few women who performed in early action serials. Stuntwomen were and are athletic actresses. Producer Gale Anne Hurd's aunt, Jewell Jordan Mason, had been a stuntwoman from 1928 to 1942. And I was introduced to a few major stuntwomen who had started in the 1940s. They could recall in detail stunts they'd done fifty years before. So this history is told by the people who did and do the stunts.
What surprised you the most?
The deeply engrained discriminatory practices against minorities and women in entertainment industry.
The superb athletic abilities of stuntwomen (and men). The women's courage, tenacity, good humor, and their adaptability--because when something in a stunt changes or goes wrong, they must react in seconds. That's a skill the learn on the job.
I was surprised how much they enjoy their work despite discrimination, sex harassment, unequal pay, and lack of promotion opportunities. Their struggle just to get the work went on for decades, all the way into 2000s.
Related to surprises, I would add this: There is an attitude in this country--maybe every country--that what women do is not really important. It's not spoken or analyzed but it's there, and it applies to stuntwomen because it is linked to another attitude, which is this: stunts are not important and anyone who does them must be nuts. When the remarkable Danny Aiello III worked as a stuntman, people kept asking him, “‘Are you stunt guys crazy?’ No. We’re probably the sanest people on the set. We’re very smart. We have to be. If an actor screws up, all they do is say ‘Cut.’ If we screw up, people can get seriously hurt.”
The movie and television industry affects and influences all of us. What we watch on the screen--whether in 1915 or 2015--inspires us and gives us ideas. Movies have done that, which the book fully describes, for a hundred years.
How do you feel about the status of women in Hollywood today?
It's not where it should be. The statistics done by Geena Davis's Institute of Gender in Media, by the Annenberg School, and by Dr. Martha Lauzen are appalling - In television, 14% of women direct, 21% of editors - the figures go up and down by 2 or 5 percentage points--some are back at levels cited in 1998, 17 years ago. We are not gaining ground and that won't change until women refuse to accept that status, and until the guilds, which negotiate contracts every three years with Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP), demand increased access of women in the entertainment industry.
Give us some highlights from the book?
This book records all kinds of memorable times--from outright joy to real danger.
Stuntwomen Marguerite Happy: "As a stuntwoman, I get to crash cars, jump cars and go 110 miles an hour! I’m not a high fall person, but sometimes I get to be pushed or shot off buildings—it’s in the script! We get to hit the decks in explosions, fire automatic weapons, play cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers. We get to play aliens!”
Stuntwoman Shauna Duggins in a car submerged in a lake. She can't get door to open and she's trapped. She did get out but how did she do it? Read the book. Amazing story.
The Julie Ann Johnson case--a full chapter. She was a stunt coordinator when almost no women held that position. Julie sued Aaron Spelling Productions for unlawful termination - and won, then lost on appeal. Many stunt people were called as witnesses, and the book cites some of the testimony. Reading the transcript of that case was like a short course on stunt work.
Stuntwoman Nicole Callender’s unusual specialty inspired her. A theater major in college, she studied unarmed, hand-to-hand fights and fights with weapons. “When I picked up a sword I couldn’t believe I hadn’t held one before. It informed my work as an actor. That sword was like I’d found a missing link.” She began her stunt work in 2001. Only later did she realize her image as a woman armed with sword had impact, especially when teaching fight techniques to young actors. “On one level they know women have more opportunities now, but when they see me physically fight with a broadsword, and then do it themselves, I hear them say, ‘I can do anything now—no limits!’ They don’t have to settle for a job behind a desk.”
How can we find out more about the book and Hollywood stuntwomen?
A few stuntwomen have written their individual books, such as Julie Ann Johnson and Angela Meryl. Stuntwomen are not just in Hollywood and New York City; they're all over the country, and in other countries that produce movies--China, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, France, and many others.
Go to my website www.molliegregory.com for more details about the book and stuntwomen, and you can contact me with questions. You can get the book from your favorite bookstore or go to Amazon.com, and once you have it you can check stuntwomen's credits, biographies and websites on IMDB. In January and February I'll be on the road--New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and in Los Angeles, signing books as I go.