Runaway Spoon

Libertarian Presidential Ticket Sounds Off

July 7, 2016

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson promised he would not smoke or ingest marijuana in the White House if he wins.   The pledge came as he and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, spoke at a luncheon Thursday at the National Press Club.

And, Johnson said, he hasn’t smoked or ingested pot for two months now, adding that he hasn’t had an alcoholic drink in 29 years. The former New Mexico governor, 63, is a physical fitness buff, an outdoor enthusiast, and is an avid mountain climber.

In a highly tell-the-truth talk, Johnson said the two candidates, Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton are so polarizing that “if Mickey Mouse ran, he would poll at 30 percent  . . . But he is not.”

Presidential VP Candidate William Weld (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Presidential VP Candidate William Weld

Johnson emphasized that he needs at least 15 percent in polls to be in the presidential debates. “We can do that,” he predicted.

Asked which candidate he would take votes from, Johnson said both.

“This is a party that needs crashing,” he said. “I think people are eager to vote for someone as opposed to between two evils.”

In listing things a Johnson-Weld ticket would do in the White House, Johnson ticked off:  honesty, no insults, no bluffs, no self-serving lectures, an end to crony capitalism, and no hesitation about delivering bad news.

“This is the craziest election we have ever seen,” he said. ”You know how crazy it is? I might be the next president of the United States.”

Weld noted that one of his running mate’s famous Libertarian saying is:  “I want to keep the government out of your wallet and out of your bedroom.”



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A Slice of Watergate History

June 15, 2016

With the reopening of the Watergate Hotel, my mind skipped back to The Associated Press and a job three of us did after the fateful break-in at the Watergate Office Building. 

Our teletype newsprint of the AP story backs up the memory.  

This was the first news story linking Richard Nixon’s re-election committee to the break-in.  Our original is now brown and musty, saved only by the expertise of a professional restorer.  But the words remain clear and readable.

I had transferred barely a year earlier to the AP’s DC bureau from my post as AP’s Atlantic City correspondent.  As still a newcomer to the bureau, I was relegated to a Saturday shift. June 17, 1972, was slow.  There was a night editor, a teletype operator (in the non-computer days), and me.

Bored, I wandered over to where the teletype operator was typing in a short, very short, sliver of a police blurb.  It reported that five men broke into the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate complex and were nabbed.  Way back then, AP had an “A” wire for national news and a “B” wire for secondary and regional news.  The editor had put the blurb onto the “B” wire rack to be sent as a minor story.

I had a gnawing hunch.  My gut said that it was a bigger thing that deserved the “A” wire.  The editor, a crusty ol’ guy, was intimidating. I didn’t want to piss him off.  But I ambled over to him and gently suggested perhaps that blurb deserved “A” wire attention. He didn’t say a word.  Seconds later, I noticed he had walked over and quietly moved the blurb to the “A” wire.

Early the next morning – Sunday -- the ringing phone woke me up.  I answered the call.  It was a young Republican friend who lived at the other end of the hallway from my apartment at the St. George, near DuPont Circle.   He (unnamed by me forever) was a lower level staffer at the Committee to Re-elect the President who was planning to launch his own fledgling computer-related equipment company.  He was laughing that one of the break-in men worked at the Nixon campaign committee.  

WHAT?!  I quickly ditched a commitment to go with a hiking group to Calvert Cliffs.

I shouted to my husband, Dick Barnes, an AP investigative reporter that this was quite a startling, if not shocking,  revelation.  We both headed straight to the AP office three blocks away.  Less than a week earlier, the first reports under a new federal campaign finance law had become available at what was then the General Accounting Office.  Most reporters had purchased the contributions list; Dick also obtained the expenditures report filed by the Nixon committee.

Bingo!  It listed the name of James W. McCord, Jr. of Rockville, one of the men arrested in the burglary.  He was the paid security coordinator for the committee that had been derisively nicknamed CReeP.  And, McCord’s private security firm in Rockville had provided equipment to the committee.

Dick had another AP investigative reporter – H.L. Schwartz, who was at home --- scurry out to McCord’s house in Rockville to try to get quotes. But Schwartz was met with refusals. Telephone inquiries were similarly stone walled.

Dick telephoned the assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case, then pounded out the major story.  One detail in the story: “Authorities investigating the case were not aware of the link to the Nixon committee until The Associated Press found McCord listed in the voluminous filing required under the new campaign finance act.”

The long 750-word story went on the AP’s “A” wire (first graphs reproduced here from the original).  As only an editor of the original piece (although I intially talked with the source), I declined (now regrettably) to be included in the double byline. 

The Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein went all the way with Watergate, of course.   But in their second day on the story, they came to their newsroom and found our AP story that, according to All the President’s Men, “made it embarrassingly clear why McCord had deserved further checking.”  

An unheralded involvement in the course of history?  Yes. Still, Barnes, Staihar & Schwartz touched history.

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A Classy Swan Song

May 15, 2016

It was a class act, in all ways. 

First Lady Michelle Obama was the guest of honor for her last time at Congressional Club’s First Lady’s lunch Thursday.  But several times she made it clear that she would like to be invited back when she is just Citizen Michelle.

In stressing diversity, she delivered a flawless talk to the two thousand or so guests on how great it is that today’s young people are so naturally attuned to the acceptance of all people -- of all origins and nationalities. 

On the arm of a military escort, The First Lady, smiling broadly, traversed the long runway – from one end of the huge International ballroom at the Washington Hilton to the other – then on to the podium. She was attired in a peach-colored dress that gave a sartorial nod to the color theme of the event: anything to do with Georgia.  The luncheon chair of the event, called "Georgia Posh, Peach Southern Hospitality," was Vivian Bishop, wife of Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Georgia Democrat.

(Photo by: Natalia Janetti)

The club's membership includes spouses of members of Congress, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices and cabinet secretaries. The club, founded in 1908, nurtures and encourages bipartisan friendships.

Mrs. Obama has attended the yearly luncheon as guest of honor for the entire time she has been first lady, a long-standing tradition for all first ladies. She was introduced by club president Vera G. Davis, wife of Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill.

“Today’s luncheon pays a tribute to Mrs. Obama’s dedication and work with military families and her program to encourage healthy eating and exercise,” read the event program.

One of the gifts presented to Mrs. Obama was a painting of first daughters Sasha and Malia done by 13-year-old Columbus, Ga., student Barbara Joy Tillman, 13.

The charitable recipient of the 2016 luncheon is the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, a service unit that provides support for both professional and family caregivers.

Among entertainers were Grammy Award winner Tasha Cobbs, Grammy Award winner Monica, and Timothy Z. Mosley “Timbaland.”   Into the swing of things, Mrs. Obama, from her chair on the dais, clapped in rhythm, gave thumbs up and blew air kisses to the performers. 

Next year, the club president is slated to be Mrs. Jennifer Messer, wife of Indiana Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind.

Guests included Cabinet spouses, Mrs. Janna Ryan, wife of the Speaker of the House; Mrs. Mary Kennedy, wife of the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Dr. Joanna Breyer, wife of the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Mr. Steven Hargrove, husband of the Attorney General, and Mr. Paul Pelosi, husband of the  Minority Leader of the House of Representative. 

Like each recent luncheon, Pelosi took to the runway with obvious glee and enjoyed every moment of his fame, even if only a minute or two, as he waived to the audience who cheered his presence.

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