Archive for February, 2009

Meeting Norm Coleman–A Mensch Among Men

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman.

Senator Coleman is locked in a tight recount battle for his senate seat. He is fighting for his political life, and I am praying for him.

https://www.colemanforsenate.com/contribute/

http://tygrrrrexpress.com/2008/10/norm-coleman-saves-the-day-guatememala-adoption/

I have met Senator Coleman before, and will most likely see him again next month in Florida. Yet this event in Los Angeles was blocks from my home, and it was a truly special event. This is because Norm Coleman is a truly special man.

I have taken great pride in his career, since he is a Jewish Republican. Yet while I agree with him on issues, my affection for him goes beyond politics. It is personal.

One issue that Senator Coleman has taken an interest in is the issue of Guatemalan adoptions. My close friend and his wife were in the process of adopting a baby from Guatemala in 2007. Despite following all the proper procedures, the adoption became bogged down in bureaucracy. On the day after Thanksgiving, Senator Coleman flew to Guatemala, and worked with the Guatemalan government to help the process flow more smoothly for families that were already far along in the process. In February of 2008, on Valentines Day of all days, my friends got the official word that the loveliest boy on the planet would forever be their son.

“The boy,” as we affectionately call him, was in my home watching the Super Bowl. He knows how to raise his hands after a touchdown. While I am trying to make him a Raiders fan, if Senator Coleman requests it, the Vikings will get positive mentions in his toddler ears.

When I look in the boy’s eyes, I see the great work that Senator Coleman did to make my friends’ dream become a reality. Last night I looked into Senator Coleman’s eyes, and could not thank him enough. When I told him how much his work on the issue was appreciated, he responded in a way that was warmer than I could have possibly expected. Before getting to that, below are some of his remarks from the event itself.

“I have been in public service for 32 years, and these are challenging times. They might be the most challenging times I have seen in my three decades of public service. Times are challenging regarding Israel, and regarding the economy.”

“We cannot live through a Jimmy Carter time again.”

“The Republican Jewish Coalition brings out the best in us. The commitment to Tzedakah (charity) and Mitzvahs (good deeds) are important values. They are the values of our caring for our fellow man. Our commitment to entrepreneurship is important. People can take away our land. They can take away our property. They cannot take away what is in our head and our heart. What is between our ears and inside our heart cannot be taken away.”

“Times have been tough. 2008 was a tough election. Yet tough times like these is when we define friendship. A friend is someone who walks in when everyone else is walking out. Thank you all for being here.”

“My heart is with those that support Israel, and support economic growth.”

“The other day I was talking with Bernie Marcus, who founded Home Depot. He told me that he does not think he could start Home Depot today.”

Senator Coleman then shifted to the Minnesota recount battle that is underway.

“For those who need to know where we are, they are still counting.”

(laughter)

“I have been counting and recounting my blessings.”

(more laughter)

“One tactical error that we made was that we believed that the recount would only be about votes that were cast on election night. The other side was very quick to attempt to add ballots that were not counted on that day. We should have been quicker.”

“Democrats put more rejected ballots in that came from Democratic counties.”

“You really shouldn’t have more votes than actual voters.”

“The Democrats wanted to stop as soon as they got ahead. It would be like in the Super Bowl if the St. Louis Cardinals…excuse me, I am dating myself, the Arizona Cardinals…The Cardinals went up 23-20 when Larry Fitzgerald, a good Minnesotan by the way, scored that touchdown. Yet they were not allowed to just end the game at that point.”

“This will not be like Washington State between Rossi and Gregoire. The Democrats get ahead and want to stop. I am not going to stop. This will continue. All the votes will be counted, and counted properly.”

“One ballot issue is the rule that ballots have to be witnessed. In Harvard County, which is Republican, 181 ballots were rejected for not having a witness. Harvard County contains only 4,000 people. Yet in Democratic leaning Minneapolis County next door, out of 28,000 people, zero ballots were rejected due to witness issues. Our attorneys brought up the point that if the 181 people rejected in Harvard County had been in the next county over, their votes would have been counted.”

Senator Coleman then offered more political analysis.

“Iowa Senator Tom Harkin stated that ‘Al Franken helps us pass the card check bill.’ My seat stops that.”

“In baseball, there is a game every day. Football is once a week at a specific time. The Masters Tournament and Wimbledon are annual, at specific times. Yet foreign policy is a tug of war. It is 24/7.”

Senator Coleman then offered opinions on the Middle East and other foreign policy issues.

“Israel should bring me in as an adviser on close elections.”

“In the United States, we build coalitions, and then have elections. In Israel, they have elections, and then build coalitions.”

“There should be concern if President Obama talks with Iran. What is the starting point? They will begin with demanding that we get out of Afghanistan, get out of Iraq, and stop supporting Israel. Where can we go from there with that as a beginning?”

“Bernard Lewis said that ‘Strength in the Middle East is how people judge you.’ Jimmy Carter does not understand strength.”

“For some people, a handshake is a deal. With others, if you offer a hand, they will slap it away. Hugo Chavez is a thug. If we act nice to him, that does not mean he will be nice to us. John Bolton points out that talking does not work if the other side does not have the same mindset.”

“People should read what (the late) Tom Lantos had to say about Durban I before considering Durban II.”

“Negotiating with despots and terrorists gives them credence.”

“I met Mahmood Abbas. He told me that Hamas are extremists. Jimmy Carter met with leaders of Hamas while Hamas is throwing Fatah people out of windows.”

“Your support for the RJC helps the Senate stay strong on Israel.”

“God’s miracles stop when we stop doing our part. Israel is a miracle. America is a miracle.”

“We must stand strong for Israel and stand strong for America. These are tough times, but better times will come. By standing strong during the tough times, we will then be able to celebrate the good times.”

Senator Coleman then took questions. The first question dealt with the Israeli election, which the Senator spoke about.

“We don’t control Israel. Israel is a sovereign state. We think we know people, but things change over time. Benjamin Netanyahu may be different from what we remember. Our focus should be on keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Otherwise, it does not matter who is in charge.”

Somebody else asked about the bailout of 2008 and the 2009 stimulus law. Senator Coleman gave a thoughtful answer.

“We are uncharted waters. Nobody has the answers. I voted for the bailout. I took plenty of heat from conservatives in Minnesota for voting for it. I would have voted against the stimulus. People took advantage of the current climate to enact a transformation that will burden our kids. Two-thirds of the spending will have zero impact until 2011. The question is whether we get through this, or become like Japan in the 1990s. I believe we will come back, but not quickly. Real estate will come back, but not the way it was between 2001 and 2005. I voted for the bailout because I believed that we needed to do something. There are no geniuses on this. Not Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, or Alan Greenspan. Nobody knows.”

Senator Coleman, unlike many Republicans, has a spine. He does not cower when asked to defend President George W. Bush, as one questioner asked him if he could and would.

“President Bush called me the Friday before he left office. He said that we were part of a very special group that has been through recounts. He said that he ‘felt my pain.'”

(laughter)

“President Bush has a legacy. When Joe Biden had Iraq divided into three parts, President Bush stayed strong. Others said that Al Sadr would win. In the recent Iraqi elections, the secularists defeated the religious parties. Iraq without Saddam Hussein has made the world safer.”

“President Bush also has a legacy with regards to helping fight diseases including AIDS in Africa. I went with Senators Bill Frist, a licensed heart surgeon, and Mitch McConnell and Mike Dewine to Africa in 2003. The actions that were taken these past few years have resulted in millions of lived being saved.”

Senator Coleman concluded his formal remarks with what he said near the beginning of the event.

“A friend is one who walks in when everyone else is walking out. Thank you for your friendship.”

After a standing ovation, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Coleman a question about the recount. I wanted to know if the Minnesota Supreme Court was fair and honest, or if it was a kangaroo Court. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Bush vs. Gore was established precedent, was the Minnesota Supreme Court going to adhere to it, or act like the Florida or Massachusetts Supreme Courts.

I was pleased with his answer, and I hope he is right.

He informed me that he felt that the Minnesota Supreme Court was honest and fair. He pointed out that two of the justices were on the canvassing board supervising the recount, and that they honorably recused themselves. A couple of the justices out of the five are strict constructionists. He felt that the process has been and will be fair. When I cited the activism of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Senator Coleman assured me that this was not the case in Minnesota. He would know better than me. Again, I pray he is right.

Yet the real highlight of the evening is what gave me the most insight into the character of the Senator. Before his remarks, when I first spoke to him, I informed him that my best friend had adopted a Guatemalan baby. I told him the very condensed version of events.

Senator Coleman then surprised me by asking me for my friend’s phone number. I gave him the number, and he promised me that after his remarks, he would call my friend. After he was done speaking, I was on the other side of the room. I heard a voice call out, “Eric.” I turned around, and Senator Coleman said to me, “I am calling him now.”

When my friend picked up the phone, the Senator asked for him by name, and then said, “Hi, this is Norm Coleman.”

I am very grateful that my friend knew that this was not a prank. I would have been mortified had he hung up on the Senator. They spoke for a few minutes, and I deliberately wandered just out of earshot so I would not hear the conversation. I wanted it to be private, even from me.

That phone call encapsulates the kind of man that Senator Coleman is. My friend lives in Los Angeles. He has never even been to Minnesota. His wife is not even a republican. Yet politics is not about elections. It is about policy. It is about making the world a better place. It is about taking joy in helping others.

I am forever grateful to Norm Coleman. After all he has done, the least I can do is help him in his legal recount battle.

So whether one is Jewish, Republican, both, or neither but just supportive of what is decent and right in this world, please help Norm Coleman.

He stands strong for what is right. Well, he himself is right. He  is a Mensch. Let us all stand strong for a true friend of America and Israel. Let us stand strong for a fine man. Let us stand strong for a true Mensch.

Thank you Senator Coleman. I am proud to stand besides you. So do the people I know best, who are also the best people I know.

eric

Obama Fiddles While Venezuela Burns

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

President Obama signed a stimulus bill that has frightened the markets to death.

I don’t care, and neither should you. Either it will work or it won’t. If it works, Obama will take credit. If it fails he will blame his predecessor. Either way, if the legislation was that vital, Obama would not have waited five days to sign it.

There are several things that can be gleaned from watching this stimulus fiasco.

First of all, Obama is gutless. He will not stand up to Nancy Pelosi. It seems his Secretary of State is the only one with a brass pair, outside of the Pelosiraptor.

What Obama should have done is gotten the Pelosiraptor in a room, and acted like Morgan Freeman in “Lean on me.” He should have let her know that he is the H.N.I.C. (Head n-word in charge). Or he could have let Rahm Emanuel do it, since using this analogy Obama is more like Robert Guillaume (For those who remember, Guillaume, and not Freeman, was the real HNIC).

How can this man stand up to Kim Jong Il when he is scared of the Pelosiraptor? He needs to remind her that he won the votes of 52% of all Americans while she received the votes of a few thousand lunatics that were torn between her and Cindy Sheehan. The Pelosiraptor bellowed, and he caved.

The second concern is that maybe Obama is not gutless. Maybe he is just lazy. He genuinely seems to enjoy campaigning. However, like his Democratic Party predecessor, he is starting to appear that he is more of a show horse than a work horse.

Governing is not sexy. It is nuts and bolts. It is often frustrating, as well as colossally and mind numbingly boring. Perhaps Obama wants to “be” President. Yet that is not the same as “doing.”

For all his many flaws, Bill Clinton liked the nuts and bolts of policy. As for the last two republican Presidents, they did plenty of things right. They just did not need the emotional validation of victory laps.

It is way too soon to declare Barack Obama anywhere near the narcissist that Bill Clinton was, but traveling across the country for an elaborate signing ceremony does seem too fit into his self-loving image. Yes, all Presidents have had such ceremonies, but given the “seriousness” of this bill, was all the pomp and circumstance enough? Perhaps he simply wants a four year inauguration.

I have little to say about the bill itself, because there is little to say. It is a mish mosh of leftist corruption. Yet I am not blaming Obama for this because he did not write the thing. He should have, but he didn’t. He outsourced it to the San Francisco Mafia.

My only question is about other issues. While the Pelosiraptor was writing this bill, what was President Obama actually doing? America is not a monarchy. Unlike the Queen of England, America cannot and should not pay a salary to somebody whose sole qualification is waving and saying hello.

I am concerned about this because while I believe the stimulus bill was a disaster, domestic policy will not end America. Foreign policy can kill us if done badly. Just ask Jimmy Carter. No, wait. Don’t. He would lie.

It is one thing for Nancy Pelosi to write leftist bills to fend off challenges from Cindy Sheehan. It is another for Cindy Sheehan’s hero Hugo Chavez to seize power for life while America says and does nothing.

For those who are more interested in arcane parliamentary procedural battles than actual actions, a quick update is necessary. Venezuelan thug Hugo Chavez has just gotten a referendum passed that moves him one step closer to being dictator for life. For those who liked Cuba under Fidel Castro (Put your hands down liberal Democrats), you will love the new Venezuela.

Some are asking what Obama could actually do. I mean he is new on the job. He cannot work miracles.

No, but he should do something. He has it backwards. On domestic policy, where he should get out of the way, he takes bold and decisive action after a five day layoff. Yet when the bully pulp[it is needed, he is taking a victory lap over a spending bill. Then again, for Democrats, defeating Republicans is more important because Republicans are the true enemy.

At the very least Obama could have offered one of his meaningless platitudes. He could have said that Chavez’s actions were “not helpful.” Heck, he could have really talked tough and called the action “unacceptable.”

Some will say that since the referendum was passed “Democratically,” that it is legitimate. These are the same people that think that Chicago and Detroit are honestly run.

So why is Obama staying silent about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez?

One theory is because he is unconcerned. His cool, aloof, and detached manner is not an act. He once joked at his own expense that he had the ears of Alfred E. Neuman. Maybe he truly does have a “what, me worry?” attitude.

If this is the explanation, then he is more naive than I thought. Yet a more sinister theory abounds.

Perhaps President Obama is pleased with Chavez seizing absolute power. Chavez is a socialist, and Democrats have tended to hate dictators unless they are leftists dictators. In all fairness, Republicans have in the past supported right wing strongmen.

We saw what happened to Cuba. Is Barack Obama going to allow Venezuela to destroy a country that was making incredible progress in terms of freedom and liberty?

Time will tell.

Again, it has only been a few days since this hostile takeover occurred. However, he needs to say something.

No, I am not advocating that we bomb Venezuela. While I would not lose sleep if some special forces took him out, I am not even advocating that. However, this is a major foreign policy event, and he has to say something. Venezuela has oil, and oil runs the world.We cannot have another oil producing nation that is hostile towards Western ideals.

The clock is ticking. Mr. President, politics stops at the water’s edge. I disagreed with you on the stimulus bill, but I will stand squarely behind you if you do something…anything…to slow the march of Venezuela from a once thriving democracy into a communist dictatorship.

eric

Animals live like this

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

For those wondering why the quality of my columns have been declining in the last few days, it is because my energy has been sapped. I have a bad cold, and God willing will be back to my old self in a day or two.

Last night I got back from Chicago. For those who have never flown when ill, believe you me it is worse than it sounds. What little strength I had left was used to kiss the ground when I got back to Los Angeles.

Two snowstorms in three days made me realize what I think of any time I am in Chicago.

Animals live like this.

That’s right, animals. It is not for people.

While most people migrate to red states due to the low tax climate, make no mistake about it. Cold weather takes a toll on the human body that is just not at all human.

Growing up in New York, every time the weather turned bad, the power would go out. LILCO )Long Island Lighting Company) was a curse word in my home. The slightest droplet of rain meant no television reception.

When it would snow, my dad would exclaim, “Oh great, now we are all going to get the flu and die.”

He was right.

It is not just influenza that does people in. One of the most dangerous aspects of flying in bad weather is when icicles form on the wings. A tragic plane crash in Buffalo, New York would not have occurred under warmer conditions.

Snowball fights? Yeah right. Don’t throw it at me, I won’t throw it at you, and I won’t have to kill you.

Building a snowman? No. I can make enough money to buy one. They both die quickly anyway.

I remember one quiet moment indoors while visiting the previous sexual administration. We were safely indoors, and the snow was coming down hard. She pointed out that it felt like we were in a “snow globe.” She thought it was romantic. I was praying to God that the seals on her window were working perfectly.

I live in a building with underground parking, and I work in a building with underground parking. My life is set up so the bad stuff never has to touch me. On the rare occasions it rains in Los Angeles, somebody else can take down the company mail. Lunch can be delivered.

Some people love the change of seasons. I want sunny and 72 degrees every day of the year. For every person that romanticizes cold weather, I say we refuse to treat them in hospitals for hypothermia or influenza. After all, if they want to live like Canadians, they can be treated like Canadians…slowly.

I made it out of Chicago alive. Yet some people choose to voluntarily live there.

I keep hearing that living in cold weather climates toughens people up. I lived in New York 18 years. I have nothing to prove. Now I want to enjoy my remaining decades on Earth far away from bone chilling temperatures.

Yes, I watch the NFL. Yes, I know the players play in frigid weather while I cheer them on from an indoors haven in Los Angeles. Yet make no mistake about it. These players are just as human as I am.

Keith Jackson threaten to retire before the 1996 season when the Miami Dolphins wanted to trade him to the Green Bay Packers. He was at the tail end of his career, and did not want to play in frigid weather. He relented, and joined the team. After the Packers won the NFC Title Game, Keith Jackson held up the George Halas Trophy. The Super Bowl still remained, but Keith Jackson was asked if he was happy he came to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. He remarked that he was happy to be going to the Super Bowl, but that, “It is cold out here. I am going inside and getting in the Jacuzzi.”

Brett Favre became a hero in Green Bay, but he did not live there. He lived in Kiln, Mississippi.

It is not just sports. Every aspect of life is worse during cold weather. If I hear one more person tell me about global warming while I am freezing to death, I am going to deck them.

Anyway, tomorrow will be back to the world of politics, sports, and everything else that separates this blog and other columns dealing with hard news from stream of consciousness rants.

As I left snowy Chicago, I sang the song made famous by Rock Group Poison.

“I wanna go…I wanna go home now.”

I got my wish. I made it home.

In Chicago they sing “Sweet Home Chicago.” They sing “Baby Dontcha wanna go.”

No, I don’t. There is nothing sweet about it.

Off to sleep, and lord willing, soon enough, breathe.

At least I escaped the land of the savages, and made it back to where the sun shines.

Let the animals stay up north. They choose to live there. They deserve what they get.

eric

Presidents Day 2009 Musings

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Today is a Presidents Day. Let’s remember what we are celebrating when we celebrate Presidents Day. We are celebrating the fact that America is now too cheap to give us days off from work for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln separately.

For the 12 to 14 people watching MSNBC, despite what they tell you, Presidents Day is not about our current President. Yes, I know that they worship him almost as much as he worships himself. Yes, I know he and they compare him to Lincoln. Yet further discussion of our current President will be put on hold until he actually accomplishes something. Today is not devoted to speakers. It is devoted to doers.

The world of sports also has plenty of talkers that did anything. They never played the game. The trend this week is beating up on Brett Favre. (This is the first non-football weekend, and I am already grouchy. 30 weeks of misery…blah. Yes, the Daytona 500 happened yesterday, but the Chicago apartment I am staying in does not have a television.)

As for Favre, the stories are hard negative. As a born and raised New Yorker, let me bring some sanity to the discussion. The Jets were nothing without Favre, and they will go back to being nothing in the near future. They finished 9-7 this year. Last year without Favre they were 4-12.

Had the Jets started 4-7 and finished 9-7, there would be praise. Yet they began 8-3, and collapsed down the stretch. In fact, at 6-3, they then went on the road, defeated New England in a thriller, and then shocked 10-0 Tennessee on the road as well. Then they lost games at home they should have won.

Yes, the Jets fell apart, especially in the final game at home against Miami. This is what the Jets have done throughout their history since Joe Willie Namath retired. In the 1980s they had one season where they began 10-1 before losing their final five games. In 1997, Bill Parcells took a 1-15 team the year before and got them to 9-7. However, they were 8-5, and losing 2 of their last 3 cost them a playoff spot. In 2000, the Jets were 9-4 under Al Groh and in first place. They then lost the final 3 games to miss the playoffs. The last game was against the eventual champion Ravens, but the Jets led that game 14-0 before wilting. So to blame Brett Favre for a team collapse in 2008 is nuts. Without him, they were garbage. Without him, look how well the Packers did this year. They went from 13-3 and the NFC Title Game to a losing record. Aaron Rodgers played well statistially, but football is not all about statistics. It is about leadership. Favre is a leader. I hope he unretires again.

One person who should never retire is Tennessee Volunteers Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt. I do not watch women’s basketball, but I make an exception when Tennessee is in the final game. Pat Summitt has 1000 wins. This is unfathomable. I also confess to being scared to death of her, although people who have met her have said she is very friendly. Yet when she has that snarl on the sideline, I am just glad I am not the one in trouble.

While I am not trying to compare people in sports to what great presidents have done in terms of significance, there is a common thread. That thread is leadership. Some people do things better tha everybody else. They have something inside of them. The problem is that they then get put on pedestals, which is unfair to them.

Abraham Lincoln was considered a loser during his time in office. He is only now revered. his reward for saving the Union was a bullet to the head.

Brett Favre is getting the emotional equivalent of that. People are saying that he tarnished his legacy. This is nonsense. People barely remember Johnny Unitas playing for the Chargers or Joe Namath playing for the Rams. Those men are heroes of the Colts and Jet respectively. Brett Favre can play as long as he wants. He will be a hero for the Packers long after the Jets still search for the successor to Namath.

Who the heck are we to tell people to step aside? We do this in business as well. We give older people their gold watch, their retirement dinner, and ship them off. Everybody wants new, hip, young, and cool. The problem with this is that old people know things. A lifetime of experience provides more value than any new slogan or powerpoint presentation.

Think of that when thinking about Valentines Day. Rather than try to market to every young couple, let’s honor the people that have been married 40, 50, or 60 years. They may not be telegenic, but they sure know what love is about.

Anyway, I have a plane to catch. I am leaving this dreadfully cold city of Chicago and heading back to Los Angeles. I will kiss the ground upon my return to warm weather.

While I am in the air, I wish you all a peaceful Presidents Day. Just remember to spend less time praising those that promise big things, and even less time than that listening to the critics that never accomplished anything.

Honor those that got the job done. They did not seek praise. They let their actions build their legacy.

Now if only George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were judged individually, we could have two days off again like we used to get.

eric

My Interview With Kevin Farley

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

For the next 30 weeks or so, Sundays will not have any new NFL Football games on. While the initial option of sitting in front of the television sobbing like a four year old girl was tempting, another option was to try and find something to laugh and smile about.  The world is a serious one, and comedians are vital to bringing some emblance of happiness during tough times. At the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis, I had the opportunity to interview Comedian Kevin Farley. Kevin is the brother of the late Chris Farley.

Staring at Kevin is like staring at Chris. Chris died way too young. While Kevin is a genuinely funny guy himself, he is like anybody else that lost sombody they loved way too soon.

My initial meeting with Kevin started very awkwardly through no fault of his. Kevin was promoting his movie, and he noticed that I was not smiling in a crowd of happy people. This was perceptive on his part, given that he was surrounded by plenty of people. So he asked me what was wrong. I told him thatI had an isue with somebody in his movie, but that I did not want to burden him with it, and that I wished him success.

What came next surprised me. His handler kept trying to pull him away, but he would not listen to her. She did not want to hear anything negative. Kevin wanted to hear it. I insisted again that I did not want to take away from his moment, but he wanted everything to be perfect. I explained to him that the producer of the movie, somebody I previously held in high regard, made comments that were anti-Jewish. I told him that as a Jewish Republican, I found it painful to have to criticize somebody that I actually agreed with on most issues. Kevin apologized for the producer’s remarks, but I told him that he had nothing to apologize for. We shook hands, and at this point his handler desperately wanted him away from me. He was incredibly nice, and looked at me, and I explained to him that I understood.

Later that evening, I ran into him again during a much quieter time. The speeches had ended, and I was relaxing in one of the luxury booths that he happened to be standing right outside of. He again wanted to apologize, and I again told him I had no objection with him, and found him likable. I asked him if he was up to an interview, and he said yes. Then, just before I asked my first question, something weird happened. 

Kevin was trying to make light of the situation I explained to him. I want to make it clear that he had zero malice. Comedians somtimes use humor to diffuse tense situations. Yet just before I asked my first question, Kevin pointed at me and yelled, “Jew!” He then sat back and laughed.

I forced some nervous laughter, because I was thinking, “Kevin, come on man.” I felt like he was mocking what was a very serious situation. Having said that, there is no question in my mind that he is a nice guy. In my mind, his joke didn’t work. Having said that, he truly does come across as a very sincere person. Unlike his brother, who stayed away from politics, Kevin is pretty serious isues as well. Despite the initial awkwardness, I do not regret meeting him. Not all jokes will work, and he had the best of intentions.

With that, below is my interview with Kevin Farley.     

1) What are the most important issues of 2008?

KF: “Foreign Policy, Iraq, energy, and the economy are all important. Recovering from this loan isue is very important. I’m very concerned about the falling value of the dollar. Social isues are less important.”

2) How have you been enjoying the convention so far? What is the storyline of this convention?

KF: “The storyline is that I am very lonely. I do not even need or rate Secret Service Protection.”

3) Who are your 3 favorite political heroes?

KF: “My political heroes are JFK, Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman.”

4) How would you like to be remembered 100 years from now? What would you want people to say about Kevin Farley the person? Also, how would you like people to remember your brother Chris?

KF: “I want people to love Chris, and I want them to laugh at both of us.”

One of things that is very important is that people are judged as individuals. I did not base my opinion of Kevin Farley on the low opinion I had of his producer, nor did he get a free pass for being the brother of Chris Farley.

Yet on his own, Kevin Farley is a bright guy with an equally bright future ahead of him. Despite that awkward moment, he has a warmth and a depth that make getting to know him worthwhile. Like his late brother, he can be a clown. Yet neither of them were fools.

Kevin again let me know that he was “only kidding” about his earlier remark. I told him it was fine. Humor is about being edgy, and sometimes it will not work. Yet overall, Kevin Farley is funny. More importantly, he is very sincere, whether talking politics, or discussing his brother. It truly was a genuine pleasure meeting and getting to know Kevin Farley.

I wish him well always, and know that Chris is smiling upon him from above.

eric

My Interview With Senator John Thune

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

At the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis, I had the pleasure of meting and interviewing South Dakota Senator John Thune. 

As a heterosexual alpha male, I have to say that even I was taken aback by how tall and handsome this guy is. Yet make no mistake about it. Senator Thune is no substanceless pretty boy. He is a true conservative Republican in the Ronald Reagan mode. More importantly, John Thune did what no other Republican could do. He took down Tom Daschle.

For years Daschle was able to portray a moderate to conservative image in hi home state due to his cozy relationship with the state’s paper, the Argus Leader. John Thune came along and showed South Dakota what a true conservative was and is. With that, I bring you my pre-election interview with Senator John Thune.  

1) What are the most important issues of 2008?

JT: “Energy, National Security, and the Courts. We must remember how important the courts are.”

2) Who are your 3 favorite political heroes?

JT: “Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and here’s one for you…Jim Abner. Look up Jim Abner.”

3) How would you like to be remembered 100 years from now? What would you want people to say about John Thune the person?

JT: “I want to be remembered as somebody who tried to lead with integrity.”

4) Given that you overcame the close relationship between Tom Daschle and the Argus Leader, and beat them both, has a the Republican Party offered a bill yet to place you on Mount Rushmore?

JT: “No, although it is always good to be appreciated. Besides, there’s no more room for anybody on Mount Rushmore. We should build more room for Ronald Reagan.”

It was an absolute pleasure meeting Senator John Thune. He is telegenic, affable, but very serious when he mentions “South Dakota Values.” He is proof that if a person sticks to their principles, they can overcome powerul political and media opponents. His election should be a blueprint for every Republican in America. He walks and stands tall, because he has a straight spine.

I wish him well always. The people of South Dakota are lucky to have him.

eric

My Interview With Senator Orrin Hatch

Friday, February 13th, 2009

At the 2008 Republican Convention in Minneapolis, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

Senator Hatch is a true gentleman. He is old school. In terms of ideology, he is a conservative. Yet he simply refuses to let politics get in the way of decency. Many people do not know this, but liberal Senator Ted Kennedy credits his fellow Senator Hatch with getting him to quit drinking. It was Senator Hatch who told Senator Kennedy that he “was a good Senator, who had the potential to be a great Senator. However to be a great Senator, he had to stop drinking.”

Ask Ted Kennedy, and he will tell you without hesitation that Orrin Hatch saved his life.

In the brief time I interviewed Senator Hatch, I found him to be a kind, thoughtful, and gracious man.

With that, below is my interview of Senator Orrin Hatch, with hindsight over the election being 20/20.

1) What are the most important issues of 2008?

OH: “The most important issue is who is qualified to run the office of the Presidency. Running for President is tough. Running the country as President is tougher.”

2) Who are your 3 favorite political heroes?

OH: “I’ll give you 4. My political heroes are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and Harry Truman.”

3) How would you like to be remembered 100 years from now? What would you want people to say about Orrin Hatch the person?

OH: “I would like to have been seen as a man of integrity. I was an honest man who never gave up, and fought for what I believed was right.”

4) Ted Kennedy has credited with you getting him to stop drinking. You are wel liked and well respected on both sides of the aisle. What can be done to raise the level of discourse in politics today in the way you reached out to Senator Kennedy?

OH: “We have to love each other. We need to stop fighting. We can fight over principles, but we should not make things personal. It is important that we reach out and love each other.”

I would like to thank Senator Orrin Hatch not just for his time, but his incredibly warm nature. He practices what he preaches. He put politics aside. He did not see the giant liberal of the Senate as his enemy. He saw him as a human being. Senator Hatch himself has admitted that it was very difficult for he himself to quit smoking. This battle with nicotine allowed him to see the suffering that his friend across the aisle was going through.

Orrin Hatch is the epitome of a compassionate conservative. He does not compromise hes core beliefs. He simply keeps his ideology in the halls of Congress. When he leaves for the day, he truly means it when he sees his colleagues as friends.

We would all be better off for following the fine example set by Senato Orrin Hatch.

eric

All Hail Michael “The Real Deal” Steele

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Let us celebrate the beauty of America. A black man has reached the to of the political heap. May the confetti rain down. May the next few years be a never ending ticker tape parade. May we celebrate diversity until every human being on Earth knows that this black man is the answer to what ails us all.

Barack Obama? No, forget him. With all respect to Evander Holyfield, I am talking about Michael “The Real Deal” Steele, the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

It is one thing for the President to be black. Now we can say that the President and the leader of the opposition are also black. In addition, with Michael Steele we can celebrate the fact that along with his affable personal style, there is actually substance.

I met and had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Steele at the 2008 Republican Convention.

http://tygrrrrexpress.com/2008/09/my-interview-with-lt-governor-michael-steele/

Unlike the democrats, who judge people by the color of their skin, my affinity for Michael Steele is solely based on the content of his character. He is a true Reagan conservative that happens to be black.

I would not care if he was blue as Papa Smurf or as Green as Hillary (envy) or Barack (inexperience). Michael Steele wants to cut taxes to grow the economy. Yet in addition to being right on most issues, he has the one quality that has been missing from the Grumpy Old Party lately…likability.

Go back to every single Presidential campaign since the modern era of television in 1960. The guy that people were more likely to drink a beer and watch a ballgame with one the election.

Conservatism works. Liberalism fails. Yet optimism sells. Reagan had the ideology and the affability.

Times are tough, and delivering harsh messages of responsibility will not work without a true dose of empathy. While I believe in “suck it up,” as an individual, that is not  message that sells politically. To do good things, you have to get elected first. The GOP has finally removed its head from its elephant hide.

Michael Steele is a good man, and the best choice the party could have possibly made for its leadership.

He also has a great sense of humor. When I interviewed him, I pointed out that the GOP had Michael Steele and the liberals had Barack Obama. Obviously, the left is bigoted against the follically challenged. Mr. Steele pointed to his own head, and vowed that those without the crop on top absolutely could make it to the top. Well he was right, and as we all know, a fabulous head of hair cannot mask a lack of substance underneath.

Now we need to rally around him Mr. Steele. He was one of the only people (along with myself) who had the spine to be against the bailout from the very beginning. Now he is taking on a dreadful “spendulus” bill (Thank you Andrea Tantaros for that slogan).

The left canot exist without despising somebody on the right, and nobody makes for derision like a minority conservative. George W. Bush is gone, and Sarah Palin was the perfect whipping girl. Yet a black conservative…a dream demonization tool. Just ask Clarence Thomas.

So get ready to hear that Michael Steele is the devil. As he has warned us, he will be accused of hating puppies. Well he likes puppies.

So go ahead liberals. Attack this man personally. He will smile, and then kick your liberal hides.

Yes President Obama, I am totally comfortable with a black leader. I just want one who is not wrong about every issue that matters to me.

Go get ’em Mr. Steele.

eric

From Chicago to Israel–Election Dissection

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Like the nation of Israel, the Tygrrrr Express will be moving rightward today.

The Tygrrrr Express is Chicago bound for some business meetings. For those of you who have never been to Chicago in February, be thankful.

We could talk about why the stock market crashed yesterday, but the fact is the day to day machinations of the market only lead to madness. I am waiting and seeing like the rest of “experts.”

Anyway, today is about Israel. It is time for some election dissection.

For fantastic coverage, scroll down to the bottom of the link below.

http://www.realclearworld.com/blog/2009/02/israel_election_live_blog_livni_netanyahu.html

This next link is a guy who detests Benjamin Netanyahu. I included the column only because the guy lists the very reasons I love Bibi. When detractors prove my case, it saves me time.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-nightmare-of-netanyahu-returns-1547608.html

This was a right wing shellacking of the left. Forget Kadima. They are not even the true leftists, although they are far from the strong party forge by Ariel Sharon. The true leftist party in Israel is Labor (not counting fringe parties like Meretz), and they are on the verge of joining the fringe.

While Kadima candidate Tzipi Livni was slightly ahead, this was a clear victory for the right. They picked up 64-65 seats in the Knesset, more than enough for a majority. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu claimed victory, and he may even pull ahead of Livni on a stand alone basis. The military ballots have not been counted yet. Like democrats in America, Kadima is delusional if they think the military will support them based on recent history. Military people vote for republicans in America and Likud in Israel by overwhelming margins.

The thing about Israel is that nobody ever gets a majority because of the multi-party system. This means there will be plenty of horse trading and jockeying. Let’s be honest. There will be bribery. Perhaps Tzipi Livni should consult democrats in America, since she will have to steal this election to become Prime Minister. In Israel, even leftists would not dare try to throw out military ballots.

The right won, and they won big. The message is simple. Israelis want security first, and only when there is security, can peace be achieved.

Bibi will need to erase the ghosts of his past term as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999. He got elected as a hard liner and governed as a pragmatist dealmaker. Perhaps he has learned. After all, people are usually screwed more in politics by their friends than by their enemies.

The bottom line is that with George W. Bush no longer in the White House, Israel will not be able to depend on the United States. There is no evidence that President Obama is anti-Israel, but he is a completely blank slate. Also, given the current climate in America, Israel may have to take unilateral actions with at most tacit support.

There is always a chance that back door machinations could deny Bibi the Premiership, but any government not led by him would collapse in short order. The numbers for stability are not there.

Lastly, from a public relations standpoint, Bibi is the only person to lead. He speaks perfect English. Americans, fairly or not, do not like hearing “Heblish.” They want crisp diction. They don’t want to hear people like Shimon Peres talk about the “p*ss process.” Bibi is an effective communicator.

The election process will support itself out, but Avi Lieberman (far right candidate) will quickly fall in line the same way losers in primaires rally around their nominee in America.

Congratulations Mr. Netanyahu.

Make that Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The world just became a safer place already.

Well done Israel.

eric

Israel Shifts Rightward While Obama Just Shifts

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

President Obama spoke to the nation yesterday about his stimulus package. I will not covering his speech because I cover hard news. This was an infomercial.

I have stated that I would be a gentleman regarding Mr. Obama provided he did likewise. Last night he did not.

His constant criticism about President George W. Bush had all the feel of a campaign rally. I do not recall President Bush claiming that he inherited problems from his peripheral predecessor. Adults stop campaigning when the campaign ends. They get to work.

Not all of the press conference was blather, but enough of it was. He did manage to get away with evading an obvious attempt by Arab Terrorist Sympathizer Helen Thomas to criticize Israel for its nuclear ambiguity. Her rantings about so called “terrorists” were rightly ignored. Yet a republican President would never get away with brushing her aside, as much as she deserves it.

Yet his claim that his plan would be considered to have failed if he does not create four million jobs is pure nonsense. Again, by doing nothing, the economy will create that many. If a stock drops from $100 to $5, Obama cannot get credit if that stock then reaches $10. It is called a dead cat bounce. The economy will create more jobs than that no matter what.

So again, anything good that happens is because of him, and anything bad is because of his predecessor.

When the current President starts showing some class, that class will be returned.

Anyway, today is not about trying to nail Jello to the wall. It is about important events actually occurring. Regardless of who wins the Israeli election, the country has shifted to the right. Thank Heavens for this. “Not a moment to soon” is an understatement.

I was on a conference call with a senior adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu. Unless given clearance, I cannot discuss the identity of the adviser.

Nevertheless, his analysis was as uplifting as it was sobering. He made three basic points.

The first point is that there has been a big shift in Israel to the right.

Kadima should drop from 70 seats to 55 seats. Likud (the mainstream conservative party in Israel, akin to the republicans) has lost 4 or 5 seats to the far right.

There is confusion over the idea of only one vote. If people think they can vote for the Likud Party, but then a far right candidate for Prime Minister, this is not the case. They only get one vote.

Kadima is getting 2 to 3 seats that were held by Labor.

The right will win, but maybe not Likud. 70% of people think that Bibi (Netanyahu) will win. This makes them comfortable to support the far right. Bibi would win over Tzipi Livni (Kadima candidate) by 15% without the far right.

The second point is that far right candidate Avi Lieberman is gaining. He has said that “there is no citizenship without loyalty.” This means he will take a very hard line regarding Israeli Arabs. Russian Jewish Emigres like him. He has gone from 12 to 13 seats to a projected 18 to 19 seats.

The third point is the prediction of 66 seats for Likud. Arab turnout is expected to be very low.

Either Labor gets 15 seats, or Ehud Barak (Labor Candidate) is gone.

The polls are narrowing (Between Livni and Netanyahu), but the block on the right is strong.

If Bibi loses by 1 or 2 seats instead of winning by 3 or 4 seats, Lieberman will still prop him up.

The right is more homogenous than in the past. In 1996, Likud was more Dovish. Now, Likud is more to the right.

The adviser offered some more analysis.

80% of Israelis don’t believe that a peace agreement is imminent. Israel has rejected the approach to peace that has brought more terror. Israel is not anti-peace. They are anti a failed approach.

There will be a strong right wing knesset. The left has moved to the center and the center has moved to the right.

However, Lieberman is a one person party, not an ideology or an ethnic bloc. Most far right parties, and there are 6 of them, have something beyond the personality of the leader.

Unity comes in the form of the rejection of unilateral Israeli withdrawal.

At the risk of overexplaining the commentary, I will do so only because it was a fascinating learning experience for me. Also, it reminded me why I feel Israel is ungovernable.

I believe in the two party system. Coalition governments often fail because people with 5% of the vote can blackmail parties with 40% of the vote. Despite rhetoric on both sides, extremists normally do not get elected in America. Even if they do slip through, realities of a moderate center-right nation force moderation.

Israel caters to the extremes. A straight up match between the center-right and center-left would give the center-right a landslide victory at this stage in Israeli history. Yet in theory, the right could win many more seats, yet the center-left could take the Premiereship.

The key is whether or not people feel safe that Netanyahu will win on election day. The narrowing polls actually help him. Support for Likud slipped when people felt that their win was “in the bag.” The possibility that Bibi could somehow lose is forcing people to do what happens in America. Starry eyed dreams are being replaced with cold eyed pragmatism.

If Bibi loses, it will not be because Israel has stayed left of center. It will be because Bibi was considered too moderate. Yet Livni is spending her final days on the campaign trail cozying up to the left, holding rallies with transsexuals in a last ditch attempt to coopt a truly dying labor.

Livni is trying to forge the “Third Way,” that Bill Clinton and Tony Blair forged in the 1990s. Yet war cannot be triangulated. This is what Hillary Clinton found out.

Israel would face plenty of controversy if Livni won over Bibi by one or two seats, but did not become Prim Minister. Avi Lieberman would not want to destroy his own future by dealing with anybody but Bibi. Bibi will still ascend, but the left will have so much venom that it will make Al Gore voters seem adorable by comparison.

It would be better for the country from a governance standpoint if Bibi wins decisively, only because the right is expected to win big.

The issue will not be one of ideology, but of degrees.

Israel has shifted to the right. The only question is how much.

For this, with or without a Bibi majority, the non-terrorist world will be better off. After all, Israelis want peace. They just want security first.

Unlike Barack Obama, who does not want to deal with Likud, Israelis have to live there. Terror does not get cured with platitudes.

Like Barack Obama, the opponents of Bibi try to do their impersonation of Jello. Like Barack Obama, Bibi’s opponent’s truly are Jello. Yet somehow, unlike Barack Obama, Bibi’s opponents have been caught against the wall. Their policies have failed to deliver peace or security.

Ironically enough, the only hope for the left is that voters go so far to the right that they neglect to elect Likud.

No matter what, Israel is now a conservative country.

Good luck Mr. Netanyahu.

eric