Editor's Notebook

Just Ask The Question!

DX38C9QVMAEDRIp.jpg largeDuring the course of my career I’ve often been asked to speak to young reporters and students regarding the art of questioning.
It boils down to “Ask the darn question.”
There is an art to crafting a question and there is a gentle way to proceed with questions depending on the subject, the topic and a variety of other variables including but not limited to the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
At the end of the day, you must simply pull the trigger and ask the question.


Happy Father's Day Mom!

IMG 0328This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day and I’ve customarily spent the time thanking my dad for a variety of things he taught me. He was my first hero. When I was younger I wanted to grow up and be just like him.
I admired his sense of humor and his love of athletics as well as the fact he held a position of prominence among the members of our neighborhood as he coached and mentored young men. He gave me sage advice and later in his life he was among my closest friends until his death.


When my dad was dying

IMG 0756When my dad was dying of lung cancer, I remember him sitting on my sofa and giving me two bits of advice.
The first was to spend time with your children when they are young – something he sadly thought he did not do enough of when I was younger.
The second bit of advice he gave me came via my mother and the Dick Van Dyke show. “Your mother was right. Never lose your sense of humor or your thumbs.”
For children of my generation that was a direct reference to an episode called “It May Look Like a Walnut” and my mother has been fond of referring to that episode since it first aired.

Dad, not so much, but he tried hard to keep his sense of humor even at the darkest hours. One of them came when he told me he heard about experimental therapy that could prolong his life. Since it wasn’t FDA approved my dad couldn’t get it. “Knowing my luck it would kill me quicker, or make me grow an extra arm,” he joked.
But watching my dad get a death sentence of three months that he suffered through and stretched into a year and half was no joke. And like most who loved their father, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t miss him. He died when he was two years younger than I am now.
I’ve always wondered if the therapy he heard about could’ve lengthened his life or if there were other therapies we didn’t know about that could’ve done the same.
Last week President Trump signed the “Right to Try” act which will give those dying a chance to try experimental drugs.
Between the low unemployment numbers announced on Friday and the “Right to Try” act signed into law, the president would seem to have had a better week than most under his belt.
Instead, we are inundated with tweets about NFL athletes, and a fake ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House attended by interns and government workers instead of Philadelphia Eagle fans. The president tweets out distractions, undermining his own agenda.
Meanwhile in the press room his surrogates, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claims she has more credibility than members of the media even though she won’t admit she’s ever passed erroneous information to the American people.
Some are upset by all this, but I’m not one to lose my thumbs.
I’m convinced the president, and his faux outrage is spurred by reading “Misery is the New Happiness” by comedian John Debellis (2018 Abuzz Press). “Always turn another person’s disaster into how they’re ruining your day,” Debellis wrote. He also wrote “Life is only as bad as we make it.”
Chaos is everywhere and the president has made political gains in this chaos and enraged his base by playing both the victim and the aggressor. Trump continues to scream “Witch Hunt” while his administration has sanctioned 13 Russians indicted by the Mueller investigation.
Rudy Giuliani admitted on national television he is engaged in a strategy to defend the president in the court of public opinion against impeachment because he believes that’s where the Mueller investigation is going to take the country.
People as different as Sen. Jeff Flake, who said, “Don’t go there,” and former FBI Director James Comey have spoken out against impeachment. Rahm Emmanuel, former chief of staff for president Obama and a frequent Trump critic warned that impeachment is a “legal constitutional standard” and not something to be tossed around merely for political reasons.

...Those issues must be dealt with honestly, openly and factually

The president, in an attempt to get out front on the issue pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator, author filmmaker and provocateur who became a cult figure on the right after proposing conspiratorial theories about former president Obama and Hillary Clinton. The pardon sends a clear message: Anyone indicted and convicted can be rest assured the president will be there with a pardon to greet them on the backside.
To top it off the President, who says he isn’t above the law, says he can pardon himself.
The idea there is he isn’t above the law because the law says he is so. Having fun yet?
Today the issue is: what did the president know and when did he know it? What actions did he take? No matter what else we consider, those issues must be dealt with honestly, openly and factually.
If at the end of the day the president is right and he has done nothing wrong, then everyone had better accept it. If, on the other hand at the end of the day he is found to have done something wrong, we’d better be able to deal with that and accept it as well – all of us.
In the meantime, remember to keep your sense of humor and your thumbs. Dad did both.


The Sinkhole at The White House

white house sinkhole 1Or the Love Song of J. Alfred Trump

In an administration running on threats, “alternative facts,” propaganda, divisiveness, and is fueled by the energy of an overweight septuagenarian and his flock of minions who seem to be straight out of a casting call for The Sopranos, The Mickey Mouse Club or Glee, this past week reached a new low.
Extensive rains caused a small sinkhole to open up outside of the press briefing room and reporters joked it was an exposed escape tunnel for fleeing staffers who were digging their way to freedom with coffee spoons. And as though they were pinned and wriggling against the wall preparing a face to meet the faces they meet or scuttling across the floor of the D.C. swamp, those same staffers who have lamented the administration they serve eagerly once again took up their ode to T.S. Eliot and headed to the network talk shows to tell us about “spies” and how great the president is though privately they continue to wring their hands, gnash their teeth and flail about with “insidious intent.”


The New Normal is neither

Nimah Nayel 2Today’s “New Normal,” isn’t new and it isn’t normal.
Sixteen-year-old baccalaureate student Nimah Nayel is a victim of the old racism and hate, long existent and awful in its scope.
This vile hatred, the antithesis of the American Spirit stayed dormant and seemingly was swept away into the dustbin of history where it belongs until the minions of Donald Trump took his racist and hate-filled rhetoric primetime and brought back the hatred with a vengeance.


Nobody’s fault but mine or ours

donaldtrumpThe only thing worse than a Republican is a Democrat. One is venal and vile. The other is clueless.
I was discussing the problems of politics with a candidate’s surrogate the other day and it dawned on me there are people who still do not understand why Donald Trump got elected to the highest office in the United States.
Many want to merely dismiss his supporters as being stupid. Some want to dismiss their neighbors as being racists or misogynists for supporting him while still others who love Trump are labeled as traitors.
The Trump supporters on the other hand have labeled those who oppose Trump traitors, racists, misogynists and stupid – but in fairness so has the president. While both sides of the aisle retreat to their side of the sandbox and act like toddlers with loaded diapers, some of us are still scratching our heads and wonder how this all came to pass.


Money is the devil in politics

MC DC The Best Money Can BuyProgramming my own music on YouTube is one the last pleasures a diehard rock n’roll fan has left to look forward to in this topsy-turvy world.
Miguel is fine, but I like my guitar solos, back beats and a signature rock lyric.
Yes, I know I’m dating myself, but Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, The Beatles, David Bowie, Lou Reed and a few others really still get my blood flowing.
And let’s face it, us old farts need to keep our blood flowing.
Everyone grows older if they’re lucky, but there are some things from childhood I absolutely refuse to part with until they pull the shroud over my eyes that one last time.
Imagine my consternation then when the Jim Carroll Band’s “Those are people who died” is interrupted by a David Blair ad.


Things my father taught me

nips wild turkeyMy dad taught me a lot of things growing up. Some I can share, but some would be best left to late night conversations after imbibing some Wild Turkey.
One of the things that sticks in my addled, aging mind is that it is best to “shut the Hell up and let everyone think you’re an idiot, rather than opening your mouth and getting your butt beat because everyone found out you’re an idiot.”
I know, there are plenty of other interpretations of that particular saying from dear old dad - but his sticks with me.
Obviously Kanye West, Donald Trump and several county candidates for council and county executive could’ve used the services of Dear Old Dad.


Creatures of scary habits

Plane OverheadSomewhere in Potomac tonight there is a family sitting in a home that cost more than $1 million, upset with the noise coming from commercial aircraft flying into Reagan National Airport and they’ve convinced the county to spend $150,000 to an aviation expert in order to come up with alternative flight plans into Reagan.
Putting aside that it is still hard for me to swallow that there is an airport named after the president who took a giant squat on air traffic controllers, I’ll happily sign up to take the money from the county because I can tell you there can be little if no change in the traffic pattern at National.
That’s not something those people living in multi-million dollar homes want to hear, but it’s something that’s going to be said.