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Random Thursday Night Thoughts

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 9:28 pm - May 31, 2007.
Filed under: Movies/Film & TV,Random Thoughts

I can’t decide who I hate more… the Geico cavemen or the blond Alltel boy and his gang of ambiguously homo band of geeks.

-Bruce (GayPatriot via mobile phone)

Quote of the Day

“The concept of ‘fairness’ to Democrats means spreading their misery equally among the rest of us.”

-Rush Limbaugh, May 31, 2007

Billy Graham Library Dedicated — Carter, Bush I, Clinton In Charlotte


It has been quite a day in Charlotte as three former Presidents have visited our fine city to help dedicate the new Billy Graham Library.

Our NBC affiliate in Charlotte, WCNC-TV, was live-blogging the event.  Here are some highlights.

Former President Clinton said “Billy Graham has known me since 1985, but I have known him for nearly 50 years,” saying he attended Graham crusades as a young man in Arkansas.

“I have seen, firsthand, his kindness,” Clinton said. Clinton talked about Graham preaching a crusade in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., while Clinton’s church pastor was dying. Billy Graham went to the pastor’s home to minister.

“I listened to them talk about life, and afterlife. It was a conversation that will stay with me until the day I die,” Clinton said. “He didn’t have to do that… he did it because of who he is.”

Former President George H.W. Bush, who Franklin Graham described as a “close friend” of his father’s, took the stage to deliver the dedicatory address. He described Graham as “America’s pastor” and a “man who has comforted four generations of my family.”

Bush also talked about when Graham spent the night at the White House as Desert Storm was being launched, during what was “the hardest decision I had to make as president.”

Bush became tearful when talking about Graham’s influence, saying he “is a spiritual gift to all of us.”

Billy Graham took the stage. “I feel as though I’ve been attending my own funeral,” Graham joked. “I feel terribly small and humbled by it all.”

Graham talked about missing his wife Ruth, who has been bedridden for the past six months.

“Today I want to honor her, and tell you how much I love her, and tell her what a wonderful woman she has been… More than me, she deserves to be here today,” he said.

Reverend Graham has been an honest and true American spiritual leader — untouched by the trappings and temptations of power that have led other preachers down a personally sinful path, or a path of political religiousness.  Billy Graham has always stayed true to his country and to his God’s teachings.

I cannot wait to visit the Billy Graham Library when it opens to the public next week.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

American Hero: Brian Morgenstern

Brian Morgenstern has come forward and despite his modesty, he truly is an American hero.  Brian was one of the two “tipsters” who alerted authorities about a pending terror attack on Fort Dix by Islamic radicals in January 2006.  The members of the terror cell were arrested on May 7, 2007 after a 15-month investigation.

Fort Dix Tipster Steps Into Limelight – Associated Press

An electronics-store clerk credited with providing the tip that broke up an alleged plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix went public Tuesday, saying he spent a day pondering his suspicions before going to authorities.

Brian Morgenstern said he was alarmed when he watched the video that two men brought him to have transferred to a DVD but also worried about invading the customers’ privacy.

At a news conference, J.P. Weis, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia office, called Morgenstern “that unsung hero … who saw a video and said, ‘You know, somebody needs to know about this.’

“And that’s why we’re here today, thanks to the courage and heroism of that individual.”

But that’s not how Morgenstern sees his action: “I don’t feel like a hero,” he said.

“I feel like I did the right thing, but I think the real heroes are the men and women overseas and the people in our law enforcement who handled the situation.”

The CNN interview with Brian, which aired on Tuesday May 30, can be seen at

Thank you Brian.  You ARE a hero.

He should receive a Congressional Medal of Freedom… but Congress wouldn’t know a true American hero if it tripped over one.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Fred Thompson to announce on July 4th?

Posted by Average Gay Joe at 12:52 pm - May 30, 2007.
Filed under: 2008 Presidential Politics

According to, “unnamed advisors” say the former Senator will jump into the presidential race on Independence Day. If true, he seems to present an interesting candidacy that I will be watching closely as it develops. Thompson has a good deal of that tough persona which the presidency is in need of during a time of war but seems to be more level-headed than Bush is. Do I think he will make a good president? Will I vote for him in 2008? At this point I do not know the answer to either of those questions. The man has a Reaganesque charisma to him, which is good since Reagan was the last president I felt the most comfortable with even when I disagreed with him. Yet this could be nothing more than fluff from his own political spin-machine, and a facade of the characters he has played on TV and in the movies (which I really enjoyed btw). Time will tell. Thompson will unfortunately have to pander somewhat to the extreme Right in order to win the nomination which I hate to see. Since the GWOT remains my #1 issue above any other, in order for him to get my vote he will need to convince me that he is far more capable than any other candidate of successfully prosecuting the war while not going overboard like Bush on other issues I care about. My loved ones and this country mean far more to me than anything else, including gay rights. If it comes down to it, I can grudgingly accept a status quo during a possible Thompson Administration with the chance of achieving change through Congress. That will be very difficult for me to do though since I dearly want to see the Religious Right get its comeuppance. It is too soon to say for certain until I hear more from the man and see how his campaign progresses. It could be that he will take positions or use rhetoric that I find completely unacceptable. I dunno right now. For the moment, Rudy is still my favorite on the GOP side and Richardson is on the Democrat side.

– John (AverageGayJoe)

GayPatriot Goes Mobile

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 11:49 am - May 30, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,Travel

Well, I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet…but as of today, I have the capability to post blog entries from my new mobile phone. The Cingular 8525 has Windows Mobile and is quite user-friendly. There is also a new WordPress mobile plug-in that is supposed to make this even easier… but of course it doesn’t work!

Anyway, this is my first mobile blog posting!

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

American Al-Qaeda Warns of Attacks Greater than 9/11

Is this guy channeling the Democrat Party talking points or what?

An American member of Al-Qaeda warned in an Internet video that US President George W. Bush should withdraw all his troops from Muslim land or face attacks worse than September 11. Adam Gadahn, a convert to Islam who has been indicted for treason by a US jury, issued a list of demands and warned they were not up for negotiation.“Your failure to heed our demands means that you and your people… will experience things that will make you forget all about the horrors of September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Virginia Tech,” he said in the video posted on Tuesday.

“You’re losing on all fronts and losing big time,” said Gadahn, who is the English-language spokesman for Osama bin Laden’s terror network.

But hey… American liberals… we aren’t at war, are we?  I mean his use of the phrase “all fronts” obviously doesn’t mean that al-Qaeda views Iraq as a front in World War III…. that would be crazy talk!

“We don’t negotiate with war criminals and baby killers like you. No, these are legitimate demands which must be met,” he said.

Wow, now the American terrorist is starting to sound like Democrat politicians John Kerry, Jack Murtha and Dick Durbin.  I guess al-Qaeda does listen to the American Democrats talking points.


-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Mailroom Error: Misdelivery of Left- and Right-Wingers’ Talking Points

Disgusting (albeit unfortunately unsurprising) goings-on in the Leftist blogosphere at the happy news of the birth of Mary’s new baby boy (that Dan mentioned yesterday).

NDT is keeping track of some of the hate being spewed toward the lesbian parents by the rabid gay-bashing far right-wingers tolerant and loving gay left. One in specific truly turns the stomach. Can’t beat North’s own comments, so I’ll invite you to read over there.

If Dick and Lynn Cheney were as evil as the Gay Left wants us to believe, they’d take this opportunity to come out and make an example of how wrong they think homosexuality is and their abhorrence for homosexuals having babies. After all, what better platform from which to speak, a baby born to lesbians in their own family? Quite the contrary, they are proud and happy grandparents.

On the other hand, if the Gay Left were as dedicated to forwarding the message that gay and lesbian parents are just as loving and deserving of rights because they’re just like any other family, they’d be praising the birth and looking for fans of the Vice President and his family to follow his loving example.

Crickets chirping, by the way, over at HRC. Perhaps they’re taking a tip from their own mothers, and saying nothing if they have nothing nice to say?

On Jury Duty in L.A. and Writing

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 5:29 pm - May 25, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,LA Stories,Movies/Film & TV

I’m sure that whenever anyone does jury duty in his hometown, there is something very-“that town” about his duty. And there was something very L.A. about my duty. Given that LA remains the showbiz capital of the nation (if not the world), that makes the “L.A. aspects” of my jury duty all the more interesting.

On the second day of my service, they had closed off the streets around Walt Disney Concert Hall (where we had free parking) for a film shoot. They were filming the film version of the ’60s televsion series Get Smart. I was delighted to learn that Steve Carrell would be taking Don Adams‘s role. That’s good casting.

Earlier this week, when I had arrived early for my service, I passed a gaggle of reporters waiting outside the courthouse. I wondered what trial they were covering. (It couldn’t have been mine — we never had more that two people in the audience and one of them was a legal assistant to the plaintiffs, the other was the defendant’s wife.)

My curiosity was soon sated when a familiar voice called out my name. I turned to see an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in some time. This attractive young woman, a writer like myself, was earning some extra income by covering David Hasselhoff‘s custody hearing for US Weekly. I didn’t even know that that actor had any kids, much less was subject to a custody battle.

When another friend learned I was serving on a jury, he wondered if I was on the Phil Spector jury. Yeah, people do assume our jury service is more glamorous here. And I would dare say those selected to serve on the Spector panel went through the same process as we did.

But, the case I heard could have taken place anywhere. And those involved seemed to have problems, strengths and characteristics similar to Americans in cities less “media-worthy” than my adopted home town.

Yeah, it would have been nice if my jury service could have helped me secure a book deal. That said, I did learn a lot, things which gave me increased confidence in our justice system and our fellow citizens as well an increased insight into the human condition — and to my own life.

As I learned about the parties to the case — and watched the attorneys representing them, I saw their very human qualities. Internalizing these observations should continue to help me develop something which Katharine Hepburn‘s Tracy Lord gains in Philadephia Story — an understanding heart.*


Thoughts on Jury Service & Friendship

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 6:54 pm - May 24, 2007.
Filed under: Civil Discourse,Friendship,General

Well, I completed my jury service just before noon today (Pacific Time) and have to say I was impressed with my fellow jurors. While we came from diverse walks of life, we were able to discuss the case in a civil manner and even reached unanimous verdicts on all seven counts — even though unanimity was not required in this civil suit.

We all sympathized with the plaintiff who was suing the defendant for damages because he allegedly had sexual contact with her when she was a minor. None of us, however, thought that the plaintiff’s attorneys have proven their case. And we were able find for the defendant even as we recognized his flaws and errors in judgment.

It was, to say the least, an interesting case. And it was very difficult not to talk about it.

I may well have more to say about this at a later date, but will say that I was fortunate to be on a jury with a good group of people and enjoyed our conversations outside the jury box — about all sorts of matters except the case at hand. It was quite a relief yesterday when we began our deliberations and could finally discuss the matter that had occupied our attention for the previous week. And it was remarkable that we were able to reach a consensus on the difficult matter.

It will be weird not seeing these people tomorrow, given that I have become used to using them for these past seven weekdays, almost as if they were colleagues in an office. But, I do expect to see at least two of them again. The three of us became friends, lunching together on a regular basis and talking about our families, our passions and our work.

It’s often interesting where you meet good people in this world. In a situation that I had hoped to avoid, I may well have made a few new friends.

Al-Qaeda’s Torture Manual Recovered

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 3:43 pm - May 24, 2007.
Filed under: General

Just in case you forgot that war was declared on the USA by Islamist terrorists, and that they are serious about killing and torturing civilians….here’s a quick reminder. (h/t – Drudge)

In a recent raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like “blowtorch to the skin” and “eye removal.” Along with the images, which you’ll find on the following pages, soldiers seized various torture implements, like meat cleavers, whips, and wire cutters. Photos of those items can be seen here. The images, which were just declassified by the Department of Defense, also include a picture of a ramshackle Baghdad safe house described as an “al-Qaeda torture chamber.” It was there, during an April 24 raid, that soldiers found a man suspended from the ceiling by a chain.



Oh, and please don’t forget…. it is against Sharia law to be a homosexual and punishable by death.  So if these Islamist charmers ever got a hold of a liberal, gay American…. heads would roll.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Mary Cheney’s Baby & Her Father’s Quality

If I were perhaps less drained from jury service, I might have more to say on the birth of Mary Cheney’s son, Samuel David Cheney. And if I could figure out how to do pictures, I might post the picture of the Vice President and Second Lady with their sixth grandchild.

Having read Mary’s Now It’s My Turn: A Daughter’s Chronicle of Political Life (which I much enjoyed), I have to say that I agree with the president on this one; “Mary Cheney is going to make a fine mom.”

While gay activists seem to love to bash the Vice President because they don’t like his conservative politics, they should bear in mind that they claim to working to improve the lives of gay Americans. They may not agree with the Vice President on a whole host of issues, notably foreign and defense policy, but they should note that the one time he has publicly distanced himself from the president (since he was tapped to be his VP) was when he came out against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Not only that. Just to see that image of the beaming Grandpa makes us realize what kind of man Dick Cheney is. That he loves his daughter, knowing she’s gay. That he welcomes her partner Heather Poe into his family. And that he welcomes their child into his family. What better way to support the mainstreaming of gay couples — and gay families — than this open and loving acceptance. Kudos, Mr. Vice President.

Mary’s right that her baby is “a blessing from God [and] not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue.

And the Vice President’s treating the baby just as he would the child of his straight daughter shows what kind of man he is. It’s time for gay leaders to acknowledge the quality of this good man. And the example he sets for all parents of gay children.

Update from ColoradoPatriot:
Dan, here’s the picture you were trying to upload of the proud grandparents:
Grandma & Grandpa Cheney

Mandate? What Mandate??

Here’s a run down of some stories today illustrating that the Democrats are worse at running the Congress than the Republicans were and have no clue as to what they are doing and what is in our national interest during a time of war.

Item # 1 – Dems Plan Iraq Bill Minus Timeline – CNN

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will present a plan to House Democrats for a war funding bill that won’t include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but will feature benchmarks with consequences, according to Democratic leadership aides.

The bill also would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour from $5.15 per hour, and fund other domestic spending programs, which were still being negotiated.

The legislation would provide more than $90 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Finally.  It is the anti-war Democrats hellbent on America’s defeat who blink.   But in the meantime, they wasted many weeks while at the same time giving a moral victory to al-Qaeda and suggesting America is weak in the War on Terror.   Brilliant move, Nanc.

Item #2 – Congress’ Reform Promises Fizzle –

It’s a familiar backpedaling pattern emerging early in the new Democratic-controlled Congress. From lobbying reforms to anti-corruption proposals to curbing earmarks, Democratic lawmakers who railed against Republican corruption a year ago have flinched from imposing the harshest standards on themselves. Consequently, this Democratic Congress may end up no better prepared to police itself than the Republicans were when the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal broke and the spate of criminal convictions it spawned surfaced as a primary reason for voters’ angst last fall.

The “most ethical Congress” in history, eh Nancy?  Yeah, right. 

Item #3 (or… Culture of Corruption, Continued…) – House to Vote on Reprimanding Murtha –

House Republicans angled Tuesday to put Democrats in a no-win position: reprimand a senior colleagues or be seen as blindly excusing legislative bullying for partisan reasons.

House leaders tentatively scheduled a late Tuesday vote on a Republican move to reprimand Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and close ally of House Speaker Hancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The GOP accuses Murtha of making a blatant threat against a Republican who challenged a pet project that Murtha wanted.

Democratic leaders said they believed they had the votes to kill the motion, but conceded that some party members were unhappy about being pressed to defend a blustery colleague known for bare-knuckled politics.

Murtha has not disputed a Republican claim that he stormed across the House floor May 17 to confront Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Rogers had tried unsuccessfully to strike a $23 million Murtha earmark—or narrowly targeted spending item—for a drug intelligence center in Murtha’s district.

In a House speech Monday, Rogers said Murtha threatened him by saying, “you will not get any earmarks now and forever.”

Nice… House Majority Leader Murtha, the Extortionist (and the Traitor). 

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Amnesty For Illegal Alien Invaders Act of 2007…

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Back From Vegas

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 6:38 am - May 22, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,Country Music,Travel,Vacation Blogging

Hey everybody….. vacation is over (well, until Memorial Day weekend!) and I’m back on the road for work.  This week:  West Virginia & Atlanta.

As the week goes along, I’ll be doing some postings (with photos) about our trip to Vegas last week and more specifically about the Academy of Country Music Awards.  Cliffnotes Version:  Great Trip.  Expensive.  ACM Awards Show was incredible!  Lots of country music star sightings.

So just letting everyone know I’m alive and well… and I didn’t lose my house at the Poker Tournament!

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Are Debates on Important Social Issues Always as Lame as that on Gay Marriage?

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 9:33 pm - May 21, 2007.
Filed under: Civil Discourse,Gay Marriage

While I wouldn’t call myself an advocate of gay marriage,* at least not at the present time, I believe the debate on gay marriage is one of the most important of our time. And not merely for gay people. Scholars increasingly recognize the importance of marriage in promoting emotional and financial** well-being.

If traditional marriage promotes good qualities among straight people, then it should also foster similar qualities in gay people. Too few advocates of gay marriage discuss the non-governmental benefits of this ancient and honorable institution.

Indeed, it seems that most of the advocates of gay marriage (with the prominent exception of Jonathan Rauch–though I’m sure he’s not the only one) are those least likely to discuss its social (as opposed to its political) benefits. In many cases, these people hold worldviews similar to those who, in the and 1960s and 1970s, questioned the value of marriage as a social institution.

Despite the importance of this issue, it seems that whenever I read a piece of gay marriage, on either side of the debate, the advocates and adversaries merely repeat talking points, misrepresenting the other side’s points and relying on cliches (and/or slogans) rather than arguments. To be sure, there have been a number of thoughtful pieces on both sides of the debate — and (at least) one really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other.

But, on the whole the debate has been particularly lame. Just take a gander at some of the comments to my posts on gay marriage. I’ll suggest how (I believe) advocates of marriage should talk about the issue and people will respond by attacking Bush, talking about “rights” or suggesting that those who opposed gay marriage are merely standing in the path of a foreordained outcome. That history will judge them all as narrow-minded troglodytes.


The Firing of the US Attorneys & Administration’s PR Problem

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 11:21 am - May 21, 2007.
Filed under: National Politics

I haven’t said much about the kerfuffle (to us a word that James Taranto often uses)* over the Justice Department’s handling of the firing of eight US attorneys. In my post last Friday on communication skills and leadership, I said that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should resign not because I believe he did anything illegal or unethical, but because he has so far been unable to explain why it was the attorneys were fired.

So far no evidence has emerged showing that Gonzales did anything wrong (besides his failure to explain what was going on). The firing of the attorneys did not serve to prevent any cases against leading Republicans or advisors to the president (or this top aides) from going forward. Indeed, investigations against several Republican lawmakers continue apace.

Some Democrats have descended into high dudgeon as evidence emerges about cooordination between the White House and Justice Department on the firing of the federal prosecutors. But, given that these officials serve at the pleasure of the president, there is nothing wrong with such coordination. Once again, the problem has been the Administration’s ability (particularly that of the Attorney General) to explain its (perfectly legal) actions.

I’m not the first conservative blogger (or writer) to suggest that Gonzales should step down. Nearly two months ago the National Review editorialized that he should resign because he failed “defend the administration and its policies even when they deserve defense” (Via Powerline).**

This whole hullabaloo once again shows two of the key failures of the President — that he is excessively loyal to his appointees (often, it seems, putting that loyalty ahead of his policy goals) and his seeming indifference to public relations.

The job of the head of a federal agency (particularly a Cabinet Department) requires more than administrative skill (and it doesn’t seem Gonzales had shown such skill), it also involves communication. A cabinet member needs be able to explain controversial actions. And Gonzales has failed to do that.

It’s unfortunate that neither he nor his advisors anticipated that firestorm that would follow the firing of these federal prosecutors. They should have known better, given that they had been considering the actions for some time and only dismissed most of the attorneys after the Democrats had taken control of Congress. I would dare say the president would enjoy higher approval for his policies today if his advisors spent as much time as did those of his predecessor in developing an effective “public relations” shop.

Simply put, the president hasn’t learned to spin things as well as Clinton. Nor even, in the case of the firing of the US attorneys, to offer a satisfactory explanation for a perfectly legal action.

*Perhaps hullabaloo might be a better word to describe the fuss over the goings-on there.

**Conservatives bloggers have faulted him for delegating decision-making and not being a “hands on” Attorney General while noting that he has not pursued pushing particularly conservative policies at the Justice Department.

Bush-Hatred Blinds Left to Terrorist Threat

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 7:08 pm - May 20, 2007.
Filed under: Bush-hatred,Liberals,War On Terror,World War III

In a piece on the parallels between the foreign policy views of GOP presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul and those of the far left, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby gets at (some of) the real differences between the GOP and the Democrats. And how Bush-hatred has prevented the Democrats from understanding what is going on in the world around us — and the threats which face us:

Paul helps illustrate what may be the most significant difference between the two major parties today: Republicans who don’t take the threat of radical Islam seriously are marginalized. Democrats who don’t do so constitute their party’s mainstream. . . .

As long as the 43d president remains in office, a significant number of Americans will be so consumed with Bush-hatred that they will be unable to acknowledge — let alone defeat — the real evil that confronts us all.

That pretty much sums it up. Now, just read the whole thing!

Via RealClearPolitics

A Reason To Smile

Posted by ColoradoPatriot at 6:06 pm - May 19, 2007.
Filed under: Bush-hatred,Leftist Nutjobs

For anybody who’s wondering whether we’re doing the right thing these days vis-a-vis foreign policy (and many other matters as well), this ought to put things in perspective and hopefully inspire a sigh of relief.

Surely disappointing certain people is the best sign you’re doing things right…kind of like Rosie telling you that you should lose some weight.

UPDATE (from GPW): Once again, Jimmy Carter shows a total absence of class. He seems to give President Bush the title that he himself earned while matching interest rates climb past 20% as the economy tanked and our image around the world became increainsgly tarnished, with a one-time ally (Iran) falling to Islamic radicals and emboldening terrorists. Yeah, Nick is right, Carter lecturing us on foreign policy is like Rosie lecturing on losing weight — or promoting decorum in public discourse.

Carter has just become a bitter (and miserable) old man, still smarting over his landslide loss to Ronald Reagan twenty-seven years ago. Yes, his bile is unprecedented. Because most prior ex-presidents have had the grace to express their criticism via private channels and/or with less vitriol or hyperbole..

Carter is little more than a laughingstock, an old crank who would be ignored by the media if they did not have their own axe to grind with the Administration.

For Jimmy Carter to lecture any successor on foreign relations is like a man offering driving lessons after completing a court-mandated course in traffic school. For him to fault the Administration for not engaging in peace talks in Israel after publishing his own dishonest screed on Israeli policy! This peanut farmer’s criticism is not only dishonest, but it also ignores the nature of the Palestinian regime which supports kidnapping, launches rockets at schools and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

And Carter’s comments also ignore the change of governments in two major European countries, much more favorable now to the United States, with the new French foreign minister (Bernard Kouchner) having defended the U.S. operation in Iraq.

Yes, Carter’s comments do give us a reason to smile for they show how out of touch this unhappy man is with the state of the world. It’s unfortunate that the media does not wonder why this president who failed would level such mean-spirited and unsubstantiatd accusations. Perhaps they just want to show some sensitivity to the senile.

Communication Skills–Essential to (Presidential) Leadership

Well over a decade ago, while a student at the University of Virginia School of Law, some student publication, I believe it was the Virginia Advocate, the conservative student newspaper there, asked me to write a piece on whether or not then-President-elect Clinton’s was a strong leader. It was to appear next to that of a professor who saw that Democrat as a strong leader.

For some reason, the professor refused to have his piece appear alongside mine — and neither appeared in print. This being before blogs, I put my piece into the proverbial drawer; it never saw, so to speak, the light of day.

In that piece, I held that Clinton was not much of a leader because he was constantly shifting his positions in order to keep his standing with the public. He was not, I argued, a man of conviction. A leader stood by his beliefs and held firm even as public opinion shifted. A leader set the tone, told his followers what he believed needed be done, rather than turn to them for direction as Clinton did.

By this standard, my man Rudy Giuliani has proven to be a true leader. Setting the tone and standing firm even (or especially) in times of crisis. But, in the first few months of this premature presidential campaign, he has often had difficulty expressing himself. Decisive when in command, the former Mayor has frequently been (until the recent debate) equivocating and indecisive in pursuing the presidency.

It’s the ability to express himself where I underestimated Bill Clinton. Whereas I basically got him right by defining him as a poll-driven politician, someone who followed (rather than attempted to redefine) public opinion (after all, he was the guy who commissioned a poll on where he should take his vacation), I didn’t realize that he could use his considerable verbal skills (and charisma) to appear as a more decisive leader than he actually was.

Communication is key to leadership. It’s one reason Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez needs to resign. So far, aggressive congressional investigations have not been able to find that he committed any crime. But, he has blundered badly in explaining how the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. Republican Senator Norm Coleman, for example, “has lost confidence in his ability to lead the Justice Department..” The Attorney General wouldn’t be in this mess had he been able to explain how the Department went about doing something which was clearly the president’s prerogative.

To be a leader in the executive branch, it’s not enough just to do a good job (and keep from breaking laws), but you also have to be able to explain yourself to the American people — and to Congress. You need to be a good communicator.

It is such communication skills which make former Senator Fred Thompson a most appealing candidate to Republicans. He has demonstrated, as I’ve said before “ability to articulate conservative ideas.” And today, I read that my Athena, columnist Peggy Noonan pretty much agrees with me that Thompson is “running a great campaign.” Makes me feel good to see that her thoughts are similar to some I have already expressed, though she expressed hers with more grace and wisdom than I ever could.

Peggy notes, for example, the skill with which Thomspon responded to Michael Moore’s challenge to debate and writes that Thompson “thinks the one essential to modern presidential leadership, the one thing you must have now, in the age of terror, is the ability to communicate, and he reads himself as the best communicator.” In this great piece on Thompson, Peggy has more to say about Thompson and his campaign, so just read the whole thing, but this point bears repetition: Communication is an essential aspect of leadership.

BIll Clinton covered up his wavering stands and indecisiveness with his skills as a communicator. Ronald Reagan and Franklin Delano Roosevelt use theirs to hold the nation together and to lead the world, improving both with their vision, their ideas and their policies. Had they not been able to express themselves as well as they did, they likely would not have accomplished nearly as much.

Unless my man Rudy shows better communication skills on the campaign trail (and he started to do so in the last debate), he will not have the chance to demonstrate as President of the United States the skills he showed as Mayor of our largest City. And it’s those very skills which make a man who has yet to show such leadership in executive office an appealing alternative for many Republicans.

Of Jury Duty, LA’s Diversity, Movies & Politics

So, I’m on the jury, drawn together with a diverse group of 14 Angelenos, 12 jurors and 2 alternates, none of whom I have ever met before, indeed have not even known about the existence of any of these people with whom I will be in close quarters for the better part of the next several work days.

We cannot take about the case — even among ourselves. (We can’t discuss it until we begin our deliberations.) So, here we are, this group of 14 strangers and can’t talk about the one thing we have in common.

Normally, when you go to a conference, oftentimes with people you don’t know and break for coffee and/or lunch, you talk about what you just experienced during the break. But, during our breaks, we have to talk about anything but what we just experienced.

Given that we can’t talk about the trial, we have had a great opportunity to get to know each other. The jury pool (as well as the final jury) is a small scale version of the great diversity that is Los Angeles County. This service offers us Angelenos a rare opportunity to come into contact with the richness that is our region.

This being Los Angeles, we have talked a great deal about movies — and the movie business, noting how tough it is to make it in that industry. And how too many filmmakers today have lost sight of the classic flicks, focusing more on the art of making blockbusters and on theories of screenplay structure than on crafting pictures which appeal to contemporary audiences and address eternal themes of the human heart.

And we’ve discussed politics. I’ve appreciated that those jurors to whom I have come out as a Republican have shown respect for my ideas, with one (at least) even reading this blog while he and another have questioned me thoughtfully about my support for the president, listening to my responses and sharing my criticisms.

I’m grateful that I’m serving with some pretty decent people — and delight in this opportunity to interact with Angelenos whom I would not otherwise met, but for the circumstances of our shared jury duty.