The Outsiders

outsidersUp until two months ago, most political consultants within the DC Beltway would tell you that you need a “moderate” candidate in order to win an election. That candidate, the consultants would tell you, should be a centrist, an establishment-type, someone who makes most people safe and secure. Someone predictable.

Outsiders, consultants explain, are unknown quantities; unable to steal votes from the sacred independent, middle-of-the-road voters who often carry much weight in so-called purple states like Ohio.

Conventional wisdom dictates that in order to win the general election, the primary candidate has to draw from the middle to outpace his/her opponent.

This presidential race is unlike many other races in recent history, for both the Democrats and the Republicans. But is there any truth in the theory that moderate candidates are effective for either party?

The establishment didn’t work for the GOP

Republicans bristle at the idea of an “establishment” centrist candidate. They point to the last 20 years, in which they have won only two presidential elections after unsuccessfully nominating Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

In each of those Republican primaries, anti-establishment outsiders were quickly sent packing. Sam Brownback, Jim Gimore and Tom Trancedo were all anti-establishment outsiders in the 2008 GOP race. Rick Santorum, Buddy Roema, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry were all anti-establishment, political outsiders. Where are they today?

The establishment rarely works for Democrats

In 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton’s star was shining brightly. She seemed to be the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination. She was, by definition, a Washington insider and portrayed herself in the same mold as her husband: a pragmatic moderate who could get things done.

But a war-weary electorate was looking for something fresh. They rejected all the insiders (Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Bill Richardson), instead rolling the dice on a virtual poltical unknown with almost no experience in Washington DC.

But the election of Barack Obama was an anomaly in politics. It defied conventional wisdom. Clinton’s campaign consultants wound up with egg on their faces.

In 2000, the Democrats took the safe bet with Al Gore, who is about as establishment as they come. Of course, we all know that Gore came within inches of winning that election, and that he was able to sway independent voters. But still, it was not enough.

Four years later, John Kerry, another insider and establishment type fended off political outsiders such as Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. He also beat other insiders Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich.

When outsiders make a splash

Many Republicans still blame billionaire Ross Perot for handing Democrat Bill Clinton a victory over President George HW Bush in 1992; and Democrats still seethe when they speculate about the damage that Ralph Nader played in 2000, supposedly stealing very critical votes from Al Gore.

This campaign cycle, both the Democratic Party and Republicans have their hands filled with so-called outsiders.

I don’t know how you describe Bernie Sanders as an “outsider” because he’s been a part of Washington’s infrastructure for nearly 16 years. But he is most certainly not an “establishment,” middle of the road candidate. He is a self-described socialist, but his poll numbers look good in both Iowa and New Hamshire. He will likely get crushed in South Carolina, but are Democrats fired up enough to “feel the bern” past Nevada?

And then there’s Donald Trump, a candidate who is all over the map. Trump defies every ounce of campaign logic known to man.

The establishment is beside itself. The National Review and Rich Lowry can’t stop him or slow him down. His off-the-cuff remarks about immigrants, Muslims and even war heroes only makes him more popular.

He is an egomaniac who has filed for bankruptcy four times. Yet, he describes himself as a fiscal conservative who can make “America Great Again.” (He’s just short on specifics)

So maybe, just maybe, this will be the year when Republican voters tell the consultants to just stuff it.




A plea to responsible gun owners

Note: The following was penned by my friend and former colleague Tobey Williamson who now lives in Hawaii. It is provocative, and I thought my readers may want to consider his point of view.

police lineDear Responsible Gun Owners with Good Hearts:

I know more than a few of you, and I want you to keep your guns and buy more of them. Buy as many as you want. Keep them locked up. Safe from the [mentally ill] and from the kids. Keep them ready in case we really do one day have to organize a militia to fight against an extremist government that knows everything about its enemies and employs drones to kill us remotely. At least we’ll be able to shoot a few of those fuckers out of the sky before we run out of bullets.

In the meantime let’s teach our kids to hit a target at 1000 yards in a gale force wind with their hearts racing at 100 beats per minute. Teach them to respect these weapons, these tools of food security, these protectors of our freedom. Make sure they know never to point them at any person unless they intend to pull the trigger—and that they understand the inevitable consequences of such a decision. Bring them hunting and show them the proper reverence when the spark leaves the eye of the animal we take to sustain our own through the winter.

However, I implore you to look into your heart and consider that it is only flesh and that it beats for your loved ones. Who are themselves flesh and blood that can never be put back together once torn apart by bullets. Think of them when you begin to change the conversation we are having as a country, when you become the voice of reason that leads us away from this chaos. No one else has the credibility or the common sense that you have. Nor does anyone else shoulder the same responsibility.

Rights do come with responsibilities; at least they do in a world that makes sense. So, as a rightful owner of as much firepower as you can buy, it is your responsibility to speak out and take real action against this mayhem and senseless violence that can strike any of us at any time. This is a deadly serious issue and at the moment not only is the violence insane, but so is the conversation about it.

The vast majority of people just want to go about our business without fearing for our lives. When we hear that new laws are not the answer because we do not enforce the ones we have, or that its because we have poor mental health services we say, “ok, lets fix all of these problems.” When we hear that a person intent on killing another person will find a way with or without a gun, we say, “ok, lets make it as hard as possible for them to do that.”

When we hear that the only answer to the problem of gun violence is more guns, we are incredulous. This is the same absurd logic that created the nuclear arms race. Must we all endure escalating shootouts started by the heavily armed people everywhere in our midst who eventually draw at the slightest crooked glance? Is that when we can decide that this default strategy is not working?

Seriously, think through the scenario of the “good guys with guns” argument. It is not like the bad guys are all wearing black and white-striped jumpsuits or something. If everyone has guns out, who knows whose got a good heart then? Just imagining the situation in the comfort of your heavily armed home should give you pause. Within the chaos, will you really know who to shoot at? Are you sure the other guys packing heat would know not to shoot you? The rest of us caught in the crossfire don’t want any part of it, thanks.

End the insanity. Stand up for your rights. But for fuck’s sake, for our kids’ sake, take care of your responsibilities. Come to the table and be a part of the solution.

A non gun owner who does not hate guns but hates gun violence.

Orange Crush

donald-trumpThere is no doubt in my mind that this blog post is going to cost me some friends.

In fact, it may cost me some other things too, but I can’t sit here and be silent.

I am watching as my country is gripped in fear. I am watching as politicians scream about safety. I am watching and listening to heated debates among my friends about the Paris terror attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the role of Muslims in the United States of America.

It is like a nightmare, and I wonder: has everyone forgotten their history?

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana.


Most of us are too young to remember the horrors of WWII, when millions of Jewish refugees fled Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party.
Then, under the authority of the Third Reich, Jews were required to register with the government and to report their movements and whereabouts.
Eventually, Jews were rounded up and sent to prison camps. They were systematically executed during Hitler’s reign of terror.
How could this horror take place? What gave rise to the Nazis? How could Hitler lead an entire nation into a campaign of loathing that eventually turned into mass murder and one of the most significant atrocities in human history?
The answers are difficult to imagine, but it was an incremental process. Germany was reeling financially and on the brink of hyper-inflation fueled by crushing debt that stemmed from their obligations for reparations after World War I.
So, Germany’s economy was in rough shape. But beyond their terrible economy Germans were also concerned about the growing threat of communism in their country. They needed some scapegoats to blame this on.
Hitler came onto the political scene as a magnetic and charismatic speaker. He promised the German people safety and security. He had a stunning ability to whip up the masses with his rhetoric. He delivered scapegoats in the form of Jewish financiers who he blamed for the country’s economic woes.
Sound familiar?
The German people were complicit, either by their silence or by their support of Hitler and the Nazis.
Polls taken in 1938 and 1939 found that the majority of American citizens did not want the government to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to settle in the United States.
A couple of decades later, another gifted and charismatic speaker came onto the political scene; this time in the United States.
Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led America through the “Red Scare” of the 1950s.
McCarthy spent nearly five years trying to expose communists and other left-wing “loyalty risks” in the U.S. government during the early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War against Russia.
Even mere insinuations of disloyalty by McCarthy were enough to convince many Americans that their government was packed with traitors and spies. McCarthy’s accusations were so intimidating that few people dared to speak out against him.
But Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, a fellow Republican to McCarthy, did stand up to him with her Declaration of Conscience speech. One part of that speech that I find especially relevant today is this:
“The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny –Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”


Donald Trump, so far the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, endorsed the idea for a database to collect information about Muslims living in the United States. At a campaign event in  Newton, Iowa, NBC asked [Trump] whether there should be a database to track Muslims. “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems,” he said, according to The Atlantic. “We’re going to have to—we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques,” Trump added. “We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.”

When challenged to explain how his policy ideas differed from those used in Nazi Germany, Trump’s only response was ” You tell me. You tell me.”

What scares the bejesus outta me is that Trump’s leading poll numbers surged again this morning, fewer than 24 hours after he refused to elaborate on how his policy idea differentiated from those used by the Nazis.

What scares me more?

So many of my friends really like Trump.

“He (Trump) says what I’m thinking, but what political correctness won’t allow me to say,” said one friend, adding that safety is the most important thing a politician can do for the nation.

But should we sacrifice liberty and American ideals for safety?

I always thought this was the land of the free and of the brave, not the land of bigotry and fear.

What was it that Ben Franklin said?

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



Send in the clowns

donald-trumpSome 48 hours before Donald Trump “officially” announced his candidacy for president on Tuesday, I posted a quip on Facebook that I would be seeking the mayor’s seat in Biddeford.

The idea was jokingly bantered about while Mayor Alan Casavant was attending a party at my home. (Full disclosure: Casavant is serious about seeking a third term, and I support him.)

But my announcement was never intended to be serious.

For starters, I have absolutely no business running for any elected office. I can barely manage my own life, as detailed here.

While my Facebook quip generated some buzz, lots of positive comments and even comments from people willing to help my “campaign,” it was, again, a sarcastic joke.

Now that I think about it, my announcement was actually much less a joke than Trump’s escalator event on Tuesday; and many of us are left to wonder if he is truly serious or just seeking some more attention to further inflate his own ego.!/randy.seaver.3/posts/10204495391008046

Consider for a moment what Trump laid out as his agenda before a group of New York City tourists, some mentally deranged followers and a gaggle of reporters.

He hit all the hot-button topics: immigration, saying we will be build a massive wall between the United States and Mexico. How will we pay for it? Trump said he wold force Mexico to foot the tab through higher tariffs on their imports.

Umm, this is a direct violation of the North American Free Trade Act.

Trumped bragged about his wealth, pointing to what he estimates at a net worth of nearly $9 billion.

He pontificated about his fantastic business career. But riddle me this, how does a man who has filed four bankruptcies amass a fortune of $9 billion, much less describe himself as a savvy businessman? Has he directed any of his fortune to settling old debts with his creditors?

Trump says he will make America strong again, a nice talking point, but one best left for dictators.

For my friends on the right who criticize President Obama for a slew of Executive Actions; the Donald listed out more than a dozen executive actions he would take if elected.

Perhaps he’s been in his mahogany-paneled boardroom so long that he has forgotten the president must work with 535 pesky members of Congress.

Congress controls the purse strings, not The Donald.

More importantly, can Trump’s ego handle the bruising? How will he react when he comes in second, third or tenth in the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary?

Sure, Donald has a certain appeal, and he’s good at tapping into America’s growing resentment against the rest of the world. He excels at fear mongering, but he is anything but a serious presidential candidate.

And who do we blame for this phenomena? This perverse distraction?

Look in the mirror. The vast and overwhelming majority of registered voters don’t cast ballots; we leave that to the partisan fringes, where emotion so often “trumps” logic.

We are a nation more concerned about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner; television shows like Honey Boo-Boo, the tribulations of the Duggar family, American Idol and Big Brother.

We are a nation addicted to bread and circuses. Is it any wonder that we have sent in the clowns to run the country?

Donald Trump has no business running for president. I have no business running for mayor of Biddeford. The difference between us is that one of us knows a joke when we see it.

Color me bad

Elephant_LogoYou find the weirdest stuff on Facebook.

This morning, I stumbled across a new Facebook page that is dedicated to the idea of reclaiming the color blue for Republicans.

At first blush, I thought this was one of the silliest things. But then, I started thinking about it.

Why would the GOP want the color blue versus red? Isn’t red the traditional color for Republicans? Not unless you consider “traditional” as the last 15 years.

According to the Republicans Red No More Facebook page, “center-right parties around the world are Blue, and Social Democrat parties are Red, except in the U.S. where 13 years ago the media assigned Red to the Republicans. “

The page creators argue that for more than a century, Republicans were routinely associated with Blue and Democrats with Red.

That color association was changed, they say, by NBC journalist Tim Russert in 2000 when he assigned Red to Republicans on his electoral map.

Since then, they say, the media has adopted this formula, even though it runs counter to American history and worldwide practice.

Are they right? Well, take a look at the map that NBC used to portray the 1980 presidential election results between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

1980 mapBut do colors really matter?

Apparently so. At least to color psychologists:

Color is a form of non verbal communication.  It is not a static  energy and its meaning can change from one day to the next with any  individual.

For example, a person may choose to wear the red one day and  this may indicate they are ready to take action, or they may be  passionate about what they are going to be doing that day, or again it  may mean that they are feeling angry that day, on either a conscious or  subconscious level.

Experts say the color red can cause people to feel rushed, agitated or angry. The color blue, on the other hand is generally associated with serenity. It is also associated with trust, honesty and loyalty.

So, given this information it becomes easy to see why Republicans want to “take back” the color blue.

And what about the rest of the world? Are Social Democratic political parties generally red and center-right parties blue?

That would be true in a wide range of countries, including Finland, Israel and the Czech Republic. In fact, the more you look, the more you will see that conservative or centrist parties are associated with the color blue around the globe.

But I don’t expect the U.S. Democratic Party to go down without a fight in the upcoming color war. After all, the last thing Democrats want is to be associated with the color red (Think Soviet Union, the Red Invasion and all sorts of other negative stereotypes.

Who changed the color? Was it a mainstream media with a liberal bias? Was it an oversight or an intentional switch by the GOP? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, but one thing is for sure: you can always find some strange stuff on Facebook, which relies on the color blue.


Sand in the Vaseline

the_internet_simplified1This blog is on equal footing with the New York Times.

No, I am not having a Richard Sherman moment. I am simply stating a fact. A fact that should give all of us pause as we contemplate the marvels of technology

What I write on these pages is instantly available to billions of people, anyone connected to the world-wide web. By virtue of nothing more than my registered domain, my silly and perfunctory blog is just as accessible as any other online media source.

The internet, virtually free of government regulation (at least in the United States), is the great equalizer, and it has fundamentally shifted the way we live our lives. Today, we can do things that would have seemed impossible or the stuff of science fiction just 20 years ago.

Medical records can be transmitted at lightning speed, sometimes helping doctors save a life; you can now renew your driver’s license while wearing only boxer shorts at 3 a.m. from the comfort of your own home; 12-year-old boys no longer have to suffer the humiliation of sneaking a peek at a Playboy magazine perched on the top shelf at the local drug store. There are millions of funny cat videos to watch; and you can argue politics with absolute strangers (today they are called Facebook “friends” or “followers”) 24 hours a day.

I think we can all agree that the internet is pretty cool. Thank you, Al Gore!

I write this because of a recent court decision that is considered by some as a victory for free markets and by others as a threat to humanity.

The issue is known as “network neutrality,” a terrifying concept with a very appealing name. Thank you, public relations professionals! (You’re welcome)

Those who favor net neutrality say they want to “save the internet.” Those who oppose net neutrality say they want to “save the internet.”

Enter the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals, which sided with Verizon and other telecom giants over the schizophrenic rulemaking proposed by the FCC.

According to Reuters, the Court rejected federal rules that required Internet providers to treat all web traffic equally, a decision that could allow mobile carriers and other broadband providers to charge content providers for faster access to websites and services.

The Federal Communications Commission’s open Internet rules, also known as net neutrality, required Internet service providers to give consumers equal access to all lawful content without restrictions or tiered charges.

Which side of the net neutrality debate is right?

The sad fact is that both sides are a little bit right, and we can all agree that the internet should continue being cool and delivering porn or funny cat videos at blazing fast speeds, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not really the issue at hand. Let’s pause for a moment and watch a video:

Clash of the Titans

At the center of the net neutrality debate is a sad truth. This is not some humanistic battle on the wild frontier of technology. This is a race to the bank by two sets of very large corporations.

On one side, you have internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T. On the other side are huge internet users like Netflix, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and YouTube.

The late Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was roundly chastised for describing the internet as a “series of tubes,” but he was not that far off the mark.

The bottom line? It costs money to make the internet work. It requires infrastructure that is in constant need of upgrades and repairs to meet the challenges of an exploding market and skyrocketing volume demands. The world has a big appetite for cat videos and pornography.

Netflix, Amazon and others want to use the internet just like you and me. Equal access for all, they scream.

But does that make sense? Net neutrality opponents argue that the internet is a public domain and should thus have equal access for all users. Let’s think about that.

AA001879Can we apply that logic to other public domains? How about the post office? Should it cost as much to mail a post card as it does an air conditioner? Is that discrimination?

Or how about the Turnpike, a quasi-public piece of infrastructure subsidized by tax dollars? Tractor trailer trucks have to pay a bigger toll than someone driving a Prius. And that is fair because the truck creates more wear and tear on the road.

Proponents of net neutrality say that consumers may have to pay more for faster services or special tiered packages. Oh my!

Their rallying cry, as demonstrated by a recent op-ed in the New York Times by Susan Crawford is that the internet could end up being like (gasp) pay TV.

I don’t know about Susan Crawford, but television when I was growing up sucked. We had three channels, and I was my father’s remote control. Television today is much better. I have a huge TV and about a zillion channels that all show the same seven movies over and over. I pay through the teeth for that kick-ass, high-definition, Dolby surround-sound, 60-inch, power sucking thing of beauty, and I can pause live television. Imagine telling that to someone watching Archie Bunker in 1972.

Net neutrality is a solution desperately in search of a problem. Your internet today is better than it was five years ago. I guarantee it will be even better five years from now, . . . unless, the “Save the Internet” crowd opts for a second bite at the apple.

Bridge over troubled water

Chris Christie (AP Photo)
Chris Christie (AP Photo)

By comparison, guys like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton had it easy.

Sex scandal? No big deal. Traffic jam in New Jersey? Now that’s how you infuriate people.

It remains to be seen exactly how the controversy surrounding “bridge-gate” will impact Christie’s dreams of a 2016 presidential bid, but watching the news this morning it appeared that the world was about to slip off its axis. The talking heads were beside themselves, questioning whether Christie’s political clout could endure the scandal.

Within moments of the fateful e-mail surfacing, DNC activists were all over the blogosphere, questioning the New Jersey governor’s credibility and his ability to lead.

“Is this the guy we want in the White House?,” wrote one woman on Facebook, mocking Christie for “not knowing” about every e-mail his staff had sent or received.

Strangely, it was only a few months ago when Democrats were eager to point to Christie as a welcome voice of sanity in the GOP. They praised his bipartisan nature because he was willing (gasp) to meet with President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, only days before the 2012 election.

Republicans, on the other hand, were infuriated, stopping just short of accusing Christie of orchestrating the hurricane disaster as a way to help Obama beat Romney. Sorry, but my cocker spaniel could have helped Obama beat Romney.

Back then, my friends on the left side of the political aisle celebrated Christie. They praised him as a rare Republican. They called him a moderate. They said he was a “common sense leader.”

They used to say the same things about John McCain: a maverick . . . a man of principle. Democrats felt good about being able to heap praise on someone from the other side of the aisle, right up until he won the GOP nomination.

The same dynamic began happening to Christie last year, despite his willingness to parody himself on the Jimmy Fallon Show. Because Hillary is the heir apparent for the Oval Office, and because Christie was holding his own in polling against her, he began to fall out of favor, especially with my friends on the left.

Christie, however, adamantly and repeatedly denies having any interest in the 2016 presidential race. Strangely, he sent a lot of Christmas cards to elected officials in Iowa a few weeks ago. Who knows? Maybe he just likes Iowa.

I don’t know how this crisis will impact Christie’s political future, but I do know this: I was lukewarm about him as a presidential candidate until this afternoon.

Christie did something today that is rare in today’s political world. He took responsibility. He said, “I own this.” He apologized. He held his subordinates responsible. He expressed regret. He answered every question the media threw at him . . . and then some. He talked, and talked and talked . . . and talked.

He did not run away from the problem. He faced it head on. He accepted the responsibility that comes with leadership. “The buck stops with me,” he said.

How refreshing. He didn’t blame his political opponents. He didn’t blame the media. He didn’t blame Congress. He owned the problem and pledged to fix it.

That’s leadership, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the left to give him any praise or even the benefit of the doubt.

Because today was the best day that Hillary Clinton has had in a long, long time.

Take the money and run

Stack Of CashLike a lot of other people, President Barack Obama has a New Year’s resolution.

This week Obama pledge to return his focus to the subject of “income inequality.”

According to a story in the Washington Post, the president was a bit short on specifics about how he might achieve his long-sought economic goals. Instead, the speech — coming at the end of a difficult and politically damaging year — was designed to help define a populist argument that he and other Democrats can carry into upcoming legislative battles and into next year’s midterm elections.”

While most everyone can agree that a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots presents serious problems for the country, the real battles will come as various factions argue about how to narrow the gap between the poor and rich. You can expect these battles to line up in perfect symmetry between the two major political parties.

This is the year that I will turn 50. This year is also the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a “war on poverty.”

This is where it gets tricky for Democrats. Five years into Obama’s presidency, and 50 years after our nation declared a so-called war on poverty, there is ample evidence that the war is failing and President Obama’s economic recovery measures are falling short. The poor are still getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.  This is why today’s political battles are about extending unemployment benefits, expanding Medicaid, etc.

An Inconvenient Truth

Republicans will have their own challenges in this debate.

They will be labeled, generalized and demonized as rich, fat cats. No one will talk about John Kerry, the Kennedys or the Roosevelt Family. We will ignore Nancy Pelosi’s wealth. This, as always, will be about politics . . . not about solutions. It will be about Republicans trying to beat Democrats by pointing to failures; and about Democrats blaming Republicans.

It’s just too easy for most Americans to get behind the Robin Hood concept of taking from the rich and giving to the poor without realizing that you are simply relocating wealth.

Since both parties have challenges in this mid-term election year, you can expect a lot of talk about the “top 1 percent.” But here is an inconvenient truth that I stumbled across on Twitter:

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO),  the top 1% of wage earners make 14.9 percent of all pre-tax income in the United States, yet pay 24.2 percent of all federal taxes.This is a conversation we must have. We should focus on making poor people richer, not on making rich people poorer.

The best way to achieve that goal is to 1.) Focus on educating the nation’s workforce. 2.) Stabilize family units 3.) Drive down health care costs and stop focusing on expanding insurance (make health care more affordable, efficient)

Since U.S. poverty rates continue to climb, maybe it’s time to admit we’ve lost the war on poverty. Maybe we need a new strategy and a little less politicking. But don’t bank on it.

If you would like to read or download the CBO report, you can find it here

Another Tricky Day

Angus King (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Angus King (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

It was — at best — a bit of a stretch.

The Maine Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner and awards ceremony Friday and landed U.S. Senator Angus King as its keynote speaker.

Thus, the event’s theme was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

You probably remember the 1939 movie that made actor Jimmy Stewart a star, especially the famous filibuster scene that portrays the young and somewhat naïve Sen. Smith as an adorable champion of integrity, truth, justice and the American Way.

As the movie began production in 1937, Stewart was only 28 years old, two years shy of the minimum age requirement to be a U.S. Senator.  Angus King, on the other hand, will soon celebrate his 70th birthday.

In the movie, a young, ambitious and principled man from an unnamed western state is reluctantly chosen by a somewhat corrupt governor to replace a deceased senator.

Back here in Real-ville, King’s trip to Washington D.C. happened much differently.  He launched his campaign only days after Olympia Snowe abruptly announced that she would not seek another term in the senate.

King, a very popular, former two-term governor, instantly crushed the hopes of more than a dozen political hopefuls who all dreamed of sugar-plum fairies and huge PAC donations. He adroitly skipped the banality of the primary process by pulling his worn and tattered “Independent” card from his breast pocket.

He quickly raised $3 million, half of which probably came from the sale of a decked-out RV that he purchased to “tour the country with my family” after leaving the Blaine House.

Maine Democrats hung their heads in shame because they knew that they’d been beat. The state GOP, full of pride after taking back the Blaine House and the Legislature a year prior, hoisted up no fewer than four candidates, including three members of Gov. LePage’s cabinet.

Cynthia Dill, a far-left Democratic state senator from Cape Elizabeth — virtually unknown outside the three-mile perimeter that surrounds her home — bravely accepted her party’s nomination for Snowe’s seat and walked dutifully — with her head held high — toward a political slaughter.

Meanwhile, King coyly teased the Maine press corps, saying he wasn’t sure which party he would caucus with if he were elected. The gag order had been issued. The emperor had no clothes, but no one seemed brave enough to say: wait a second . . . dude is a Democrat!  Instead, we lathered ourselves in the premise that Governor King would be “independent” and fix all that was broken in DC.

In essence, King won his election approximately 38 seconds after he called Congresswoman Chellie Pingree to tell her what was what.

Mr. Smith? Hardly.

One hit to the body

So, there we were on a Friday night: various members of Maine’s business community, mingling near the cash bar, sampling local foods and waiting to hear from Maine’s junior senator.

Regardless of how you feel about King’s political positions, no one can deny that he is an incredibly smart guy and a skilled politician. He exudes warmth and confidence. He is likable, smart and often — sometimes painfully so — very human; revealing an unabridged and honest insight of “how cool and fun it is” to be a U.S. Senator.

King is also an exceptional public speaker and usually a diligent student of history.

While working as a reporter, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angus King. I spent nearly 45 minutes with him, one-on-one; and it was damn hard to walk away unimpressed from that conversation. In the years that followed, I also greatly enjoyed hearing King speak at numerous public events.

Therefore, I was surprised on Friday when King — for the first time ever — didn’t mention his favorite historical figure: Civil War hero and Maine native Joshua Chamberlain. Instead, King ran through a laundry list of frustrations about the current dysfunction in Washington. And who could blame him?

Currently, public opinion polling of Congress as a whole is running just three points ahead of Osama Bin Laden’s popularity rating.

King led off his assessment of beltway politics – – quite surprisingly — by delivering a pointed jab to President Barack Obama and his signature legislation: the Affordable Care Act. It’s not like Obama needs another critic these days. The President’s own approval numbers are hovering perilously close to George W. Bush numbers.

As we feasted on our salads, King relayed an anecdote about a text message he sent to his chief-of-staff a few weeks ago, when the site was rolled out.

“If you want to know what the Soviet Union was like in the 1970s, go to this website because nothing works like it should,” King said. There were a few nervous laughs in the room as people turned to one another with puzzled expressions.

“I’m a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, but boy, have they screwed up the implementation,” King went on to say. “It’s really frustrating that they can’t even do a website right.”

Someone just got themselves removed from the President’s Christmas card list.

Shiny, happy people

King continued his rather populist bashing of DC’s political climate, focusing most of his energy into the sometimes stunning changes of a hyper-partisan Congress.

He bemoaned a lack of civility and expressed frustration about his colleagues who are genuinely worried about re-election in 2014 because of an ever-increasing gap of political polarization on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum.

He relayed a story about his interaction with another member of his incoming senate class, Republican Ted Cruz, by saying he found the conversation “interesting and productive” but drew a laugh when revealing that his wife witnessed them talking on C-SPAN and immediately castigated him with a call to his cell phone. “She wanted to know, why are you talking to Ted Cruz?”

It’s easy to be a populist and a centrist, but King’s story revealed that it’s a lot easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. King seems sincere about his willingness and eagerness to find bi-partisan solutions to our nation’s problems, but his own wife went ballistic when he spent just a few moments chatting with someone from the other side of the aisle — albeit someone from way over on the other side.

King also shared insights about some fellow members of the senate, revealing the human side that is often missed by MSNBC, FOX or CNN. For example, King said he learned that Senator Orrin Hatch, a patriarch of the GOP, grew up literally dirt poor in Pennsylvania. Hatch’s family lived in a home with dirt floors and one wall in their home was erected from a salvaged billboard that Hatch’s father was able to drag home.

Of course, King spent a fair amount of time Friday evening rigorously patting himself on the back, portraying himself as the great white hope in the U.S. Senate. He’s a politician, so it’s to be expected; but he conveniently skipped over some remarks he made just a few weeks ago during the government shutdown.

King, who doesn’t hesitate to show his annoyance, told a reporter earlier this year that Republicans who were stalling implementation of the ACA are “guilty of murder.”

Apparently, King’s pleas for a more civil discourse are reserved for those who disagree with him. It’s also surprising, given his penchant for history, that King buys into the half-cocked notion that our Congress is more hyper-partisan now than ever before.

King didn’t win his landslide election because of money or better television ads. Maine voters are smarter than that, especially when they speak so loudly and clearly.

Maine’s voters sent Angus King to Washington simply because they knew he was the right guy for the job. Even King acknowledges that he has difficult shoes to fill, pointing out the state’s legacy in sending remarkable people to Washington: Margaret Chase Smith, Edmund Muskie, George Mitchell and Bill Cohen.

Maine’s voters know that Angus King is stubborn, especially once he buys into an idea. They know who he is, and they respect his feisty temperament and keen intellect. They also know he’s a politician and will sometimes disappoint but rarely back down. King has a long road ahead. He’s not Jimmy Stewart.

King is a real person, complete with all the quirks and inconveniences associated with being human. He proudly led the charge to integrate technology into public classrooms, but yet goes old school with markers and an easel board to make his points. It’s damn hard not to like or respect the guy.

He’s human, and thus, flawed. And if you ask him, he will gladly tell you that being a member of the U.S. Senate is pretty damn “cool.”

Mr. King is not Mr. Smith, but if he wants another term in the U.S. Senate, all he has to do is call Chellie Pingree and tell her to wait another six years.

A whiter shade of pale

gun-k92I found it in the most unlikely of places. It was written by the most unlikely of authors. It intrigued me, and its aftermath terrified me.

It was a column headlined: “Let’s talk limits,” a well-written and balanced piece about the hype and rhetoric that surrounds our nation’s gun control debate.

It was published in Guns & Ammo, which describes itself as “the world’s most widely read firearms magazine.”

It was written by Dick Metcalf, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, who had the temerity to opine that reasonable gun regulations do not necessarily constitute an infringement on civil liberties.

“Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement,” Metcalf wrote in the December issue

“The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

Gun advocates went ballistic. They felt betrayed by one of their own.

Jim Bequette, the magazine’s editor immediately apologized to readers for his goal of generating “a healthy exchange of ideas on gun rights.”

But that did not calm the storm. Metcalf was fired, and Bequette resigned his post a month earlier than he planned.

Apparently, too many of those who so staunchly support the Second Amendment have little use for the First Amendment.

If gun advocates feel as is if they are being discounted by the so-called mainstream media as “unreasonable,” perhaps they should try listening to other points of view and refrain from shooting any messenger with a set of talking points that don’t align perfectly with their own script, especially when that message comes from one of their own.