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Columnists
Second Thoughts
Steve Henry: A fragmented end to 2017

I finally did it. I tossed all of my notes and scribbled remarks that have been around in my file basket for many months. Just trying to start the New Year from scratch. So here are some of the thoughts that I tossed to close out 2017.

Yes, I owe my mother and others for these wise words: My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done. “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”

My mother also had foresight: “Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”

She taught me about genetics. “You’re just like your father.”

There are a number of people who touched my life in a special way. I had a great aunt who lived in, of all places, Whitehall, Montana. Religious she was. An inspiring woman of faith who made everyone who came in contact with her feel better. Her engineering husband was killed when two trains met head-on out west.

Uncle Ted and Aunt Anna lived just across the alley from us. Neither learned to drive a car, so Dad’s little Chevy became their taxi to Sunday Mass during winter months. Dad would often grumble when Anna, quite a plump lady, would just plop down in a back seat and rock the car. I had many pleasant moments visiting them. They had a porch swing on which I could lose the time of day as I swung back and forth. And Aunty was a good cook. Her cookies just melted away in my mouth. As to Uncle Ted, during family picnics, he would often offer me a mug of suds disguised as goat’s milk.

Paul Sokol was our school’s basketball coach and phy ed teacher. He allowed me the necessary time to hone my athletic skills following a battle with polio and a one-year sabbatical imposed by my doctor. I hated to see him leave for a college coaching job after our basketball team won state honors.

Brother Don was always a hero to me. He was a Navy aviator who spent time in the South Pacific during the height of World War II. I sure missed his presence during my growing up years.

Can’t leave out Sister Norbert Ann. She taught drawing, and in those earlier years, I thought my left-handed architectural finesse may lead to a career. If there were such things as “crushes” on nuns, she ranked at the top of the list.

As to military service, I met some neat individuals who I later visited in Chicago and Madison. Battalion Commander Frank Battle was an African American officer who I respected. His presence softened the culture shock for this white kid from Minnesota.

I’ve got to get back to discarding those items that have lingered way too long in my file basket. So here goes a bunch of fragmented items:

  • When you wake up in the morning, pause for a moment to honor the gift of another day.
  • A woman has never said: “I have enough clothes and shoes. I don’t like to go
  • shopping.”
  • You know you’re ugly when it comes to group pictures and they hand you the camera.
  • When you truly love someone or something, there is no room for hatred.
  • It’s often been said that “men don’t cry.” Author Robert Brenning of Duluth once said: “Let’s turn the myth around. It takes a strong man to be able to cry.”
  • Did you know that Ole was a dairy farmer? He adopted a slogan that hung on the wall. It said: “All dat I am ... I owe to the UDDERS.”
  • A good laugh is like manure to a farmer — it doesn’t do any good until you spread it around.
  • The most memorable people in one’s life will be the friends who loved you even when you weren’t very lovable.
  • “The world will not change until we do.” Sr. Svoboda SND
  • “The three wealthiest people on earth control more assets than the combined incomes of 600 million people in the world’s 48 poorest countries.” Jim Wallis
  • “Poverty is the new slavery. Poverty and inequality are the fundamental moral issues of our day.” Jim Wallis
  • For the rich, there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s chocolate.
  • Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
  • “A baby is God’s opinion that life should
  • go on.” Carl Sandburg
  • Laugh until your socks drop.
  • In the twilight of my days, I’m still leaving space for new growth.
  • From a 5-year-old: “Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”
  • We do not need to learn how to live. We need to remember.
  • More things Mom taught:

Weather

  • : “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”

Stamina

  • : “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”

Religion

  • : “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

And for 2018: You hang in there, Sunshine!


Columnists
Commentary
Dan K. Thomasson: ‘The Post’ retells story of legendary First Amendment fight

WASHINGTON — The moment really belonged to the New York Times. But somehow, the Washington Post keeps receiving the honors for saving the nation’s free press and the constitutional declaration that protects it — the First Amendment.

It was the Times that first printed the Pentagon Papers, having received them from Daniel Ellsberg, a reformed hawk on Vietnam, who worked for the Rand think tank that had been commissioned by the Defense Department to compile a lengthy history of the conflict up to 1967, including how we got there. Beginning on a Sunday, the story in infinite detail ran several days before the White House blundered badly and ordered a shutdown of further publication on grounds of national security and went to court to enforce the order. By that time much of the public outside the Beltway had lost interest in the turgid recounting.

A paranoid Nixon and his minions, however, regarded the publication as just another disloyal, left-leaning mainline press effort to undermine not only the war but the administration entirely. Sound familiar?

Enter the Washington Post whose owner and its editor not only weren’t Nixon fans but were chagrined at the “scoop” by the paper they considered (grandiosely) their only competition … and right under their noses. They were desperate to find a way in, and Nixon gave it to them. Their lawyers informed owner Katherine Graham and her “ruggedly dashing” executive editor, Ben Bradlee, that the president’s actions amounted to “prior restraint” — a decidedly constitutionally challengeable action. The newspaper defied the embargo and printed their own copy of the papers.

Suddenly, it became the Post’s story and the historic significance and relevance shifted to freedom of the press and the validity of the bedrock amendment to the Constitution and, of course, the stuff from which Hollywood makes movies. And that is what the filmmakers have done in a prequel to the Watergate saga, which was to stimulate another world-saving effort by the Post in “All the President’s Men.”

Let me make it clear I have not seen “The Post,” the latest Hollywood vision of great journalism as it may or may not have taken place. But I did cover the entire momentous business at the time.

I have read reviews and if they are accurate, the movie while compellingly dramatic with its first-line actors and directors, raises concern that some liberties have been taken with the Post’s motivation based on Bradlee’s autobiography. The newspaper’s constant recalling of those days of fame and glory including the later Watergate incident has become, at times, overbearing to say the least.

It’s rather like a reporter I once complimented on the jacket he was wearing. He replied: “Thank you. I was wearing this when I won the Pulitzer Prize.”

There are bound to be small inaccuracies that creep into most biopics. And Hollywood always takes every opportunity to increase the drama. It’s why producers put “based” on a true story in the opening credits rather than just “a true story.” For instance, Katherine Graham, whose father bought the paper in 1933 at auction, is quoted as saying it was the only job she ever had.

That isn’t true. Her father arranged for her to take a job at the San Francisco News, where she worked as a leg person on the docks for the paper’s renowned labor reporter. She became a close friend of a union leader, but the relationship was abandoned when she returned to marry Phillip Graham, who her father had installed as the newspaper’s chief executive. Graham was reportedly abusive, allegedly flaunting his mistress among other things. He later killed himself, forcing her to take over as an inexperienced manager of the Post. Her brilliant autobiography holds little back.

It was a rather shy, insecure wife and mother — bolstered by Bradlee — who sanctioned the Pentagon Papers decision. And the Supreme Court’s 6-3 endorsement of her argument made her more assured when it came to the Watergate investigation. In that incident, she wisely refused demands and entreaties to remove Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein from the story and replace them with more experienced national staffers. The Post is now owned by Jeff Bezos, the billionaire entrepreneur of Amazon fame.

Will I see “The Post” movie? Certainly, since I’m addicted to this kind of drama. Anyway, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend or something like that. One has to wonder how Bezos might have met the challenge.


Columnists
Commentary
Dana Milbank: Why America needs Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney: Your country needs you.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee has been reluctant to announce a primary challenge to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Republican senator in history. But America needs Romney to step up, to restore dignity to the Senate—and to save the country from the embarrassment Hatch has become.

Hatch, long the picture of conservative rectitude, was once a conscientious legislator, even partnering with Ted Kennedy when he thought poor kids were getting a raw deal. But Hatch, the Senate president pro tempore, has undergone a grotesque transformation this year, his 84th on earth and 42nd in the Senate. He has become chief enabler of and cheerleader for President Trump.

“You’re one heck of a leader,” Hatch gushed to Trump on the White House lawn this month, hailing “all the things that he’s been able to get done — by sheer will, in many ways.” Hatch, declaring Trump a man “I love and appreciate so much,” urged his colleagues to “get behind him every way we can” and vowed: “We’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever.”

Yep, that’s Trump: topping not just Ronald Reagan but Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

And Hatch wants colleagues to “get behind him in every way we can.” That would include backing Trump’s defense of white supremacists, his vulgar tweets, his endless attacks on the rule of law and the institutions of democracy, and, yes, his embrace of a credibly accused child molester for the Senate. Hatch, after enjoying a ride on Air Force One this month, excused Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore and said the alleged offenses “were decades ago.”

Trump will be Trump, and that won’t change. The nation’s fate depends on previously upstanding public servants such as Hatch insisting on some semblance of decency.

Hatch’s hometown Salt Lake Tribune called last this week for Hatch to step aside, citing “his utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.” Hatch, who saw that the paper had named him “Utahn of the Year” but apparently missed the explanatory editorial, tweeted that he was “grateful for this great Christmas honor.”

The paper’s editorial-page editor, George Pyle, cited the tax cut Hatch authored and other policy differences. But his problem with Hatch was more one of character. Romney would vote the way Hatch does most of the time, Pyle told MSNBC, but with Romney, “we would be spared the embarrassment of his sucking up to the president.”

Exactly. This isn’t about ideology. The trouble is Hatch’s slavish devotion to Trump, kowtowing even when the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan express misgivings. Yes, Romney briefly had kind words for Trump when Trump was considering him for secretary of state. But Hatch’s nonstop adulation of Trump legitimizes the president’s vulgarity and attacks on democratic institutions.

Consider Hatch’s applause for Matthew Petersen, one of three Trump judicial nominees who withdrew this month amid doubts about their credentials. The patently unqualified Petersen, who has never prosecuted or defended a case, was humiliated during questioning by Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., who exposed his ignorance of basic courtroom procedures. And Hatch? He scolded his fellow Judiciary Committee members for being “unfair.”

Contrast that with Hatch’s silence last year when Todd Edelman, nominated to the same seat as Petersen in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, waited eight months without even getting a hearing — an insult endured by many nominees, right on up to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Edelman, whom I first met in college years ago, had spent six years presiding over some 400 cases as a judge on the D.C. Superior Court, served eight years as a public defender and taught law at Georgetown.

Hatch for many years has been the compassionate champion of the CHIP health-care program for poor kids and the importance of legislating protections for the “dreamers,” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. But those sensibilities faded in the Trump era.

The lapsed CHIP program now hangs by a thread, and while Hatch says he favors renewing the program, he frets that “we don’t have money anymore.” This as he helped push through a $1.5trillion tax cut paid for with debt. And the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for dreamers? He urged Trump not to end the program, and when the administration set in motion plans to do just that, Hatch didn’t join GOP Sen.Lindsey O. Graham’s bipartisan effort to codify it, instead signing on to a GOP-only alternative.

Hatch was preparing to retire, but Trump pushed him to go back on his promise not to seek another term. Trump obviously prefers the obsequious Hatch to Romney, who, though as conservative as Hatch, would be no puppet. That’s why Mitt must run.


Calendar
TODAY IN HISTORY

In 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X.

In 1777, Gen. George Washington’s army routed the British in the Battle of Princeton, N.J.

In 1870, groundbreaking took place for the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1892, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

In 1911, the first postal savings banks were opened by the U.S. Post Office. The banks were abolished in 1966.

In 1938, the March of Dimes campaign to fight polio was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who himself had been afflicted with the crippling disease.

In 1946, William Joyce, the pro-Nazi radio propagandist known as “Lord Haw-Haw,” was hanged at Wandsworth Prison in London for high treason.

In 1947, congressional proceedings were televised for the first time as viewers in Washington, Philadelphia and New York got to see some of the opening ceremonies of the 80th Congress.

In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state as President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation.

In 1967, Jack Ruby, the man who shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, died in a Dallas hospital.

In 1977, Apple Computer was incorporated in Cupertino, Calif., by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Makkula Jr.

In 1980, conservationist Joy Adamson, author of “Born Free,” was killed in northern Kenya by a former employee.

In 1997, Bryant Gumbel signed off for the last time as host of NBC’s “Today” show.