Was MSU President John Engler a bully when he was in the Michigan Legislature and when he was governor?

My column about Acting MSU President John Engler when he was a House member in this twenties.
As a reporter at the State Capitol, I wrote a lot of columns with some opinion that I tried to back up with fact. Is this one about John Engler when he was in the Michigan House to irreverent?

At the MSU School of Journalism, they called it a string book.  It held clippings of what you had published in a newspaper and it was usually bound together strings in two or three places on the margin.  Over the years, my string book morphed into a several and then into a collection of good sized boxes.  It survived several moves and a couple of marriages.

I've been paring down my collection of columns and stories I wrote.  I found this one written when former Gov. Engler was a member of the Michigan House of Representatives while he was in his late twenties.  He's now the acting president of MSU.  

His leadership style morphed into what many have described as skillful bullying.  Was it intimidation or just being an effective leader?

Was Engler a role model for Trump or vice versa?  The stories are legend.  

As a lifelong Republican, here's why I voted for Elissa Slotkin for Congress


Back in the middle 1960s, my cousin and I started one of the first Teenage Republican clubs in the country.  My family was Republican.  I was a leader at Delta College of the college Republicans and my conservatism got real traction when Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964.

 My mentor during that time was a thinking conservative member of the Michigan Legislature.  My political leanings went through a period of dormancy when I became a member of the news media.

Fast forward to the election that just happened.  My allegiances have changed.  I wanted to vote for the defeated incumbent Mike Bishop, but couldn't in good conscience.  He seemed to care more for the rich and the famous than for the common people and for those in need.  Bishop appeared to avoid voters in my area which is centered on Michigan's capital city.  He had no accessibility.

Being retired and depending on my pension and social security, he seemed to give lip service to the worries and concerns of senior citizens.  I found a sentence or two on campaign mailings where he stated his desires in a very general way.  But there was not much more.  I also depend on Medicare which I've paid into all my working life.  Republicans have touted how they wanted to reduce these benefits.  Bishop seemed to be silent.

Then I saw Slotkin's television commercials.  She seemed to be a real person with a real family and an understanding of how government works.  I was impressed enough to vote for her.

Did I get any of those around me to vote for her?  You bet.  

She won.  Will she be a communicator with the people she represents?  I hope so.


Why do candidates for our state legislature hold voters in such low regard?


We moved to our condo a little more than a year ago and I am still not sure who is running for state representative from our area.  I'm registered to vote, but I'm not sure I will.

How do you decide who to vote for?  Do you wait till you walk into the voting booth and go by the sound of someone's name?  I think an incumbent county commissioner, Sarah Anthony, is running for state rep.  I saw one sign for her while driving down a main drag in our community.

It's not Sarah Anthony who is running for state rep in the Holt Mason area.  I went to the Lansing City Pulse that has a thumbnail sketch of each candidate in the Lansing area.  The Democratic candidate for state rep is Kara Hope another incumbent member of the Ingham County Commission.  Check out her campaign website.

It shouldn't be this hard to find the candidate in your area.  What role does the local political parties play in informing and educating people about their candidates?

The website for the Republican candidate Leon Clark can be viewed here.  I should have guessed that his domain name would be Leon for Michigan.  

Going to Google and searching her name, I found her website.  It says nothing about boundaries of the district that she's running for and her stand on the issues is filled with platitudes.  Hey, these issues are multi-layered and are important.  What about roads?  It is acknowledged that our state has the worst roads in the country.  Driving in our state is like driving through Haiti after the earthquake.

I see no signs of her going door-to-door and I see none of her literature anyplace.  I just saw the lone sign.

How do I decide who to vote for?  There's no daily paper to check.  The candidates are no where to be found.  Do we want them in office, if they have such a low profile?

Am I missing something?

I think I can cross off Sandy Pensler from my list for U.S. Senate from Michigan


I feel really disconnected from the Michigan political loop as we get ready to vote in early August in the primary.  Take the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate where the incumbent Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection.

Two Republican candidates are sending me mail.  Most recent is Sandy Pensler from Grand Rapids.  I believe he's a businessman.  I think I've seen a couple of his television commercials .

What grabbed me was the opening sentence a Pensler fundraising letter.  "Donald Trump is making America great again and Debbie Stabenow can't stand it," he writes.  

Has Pensler been listening to or watching the news the past 18 months.  News commentators are openly questioning whether he's guilty of treason.  He gave the finger to U.S. intelligence agencies and backed the Russian president Putin.  Hmm . . .

Then there's the personal morals side of the equation.  Porn star Stormy Daniels is old news.  Now it's a Playboy model and his affair with her around the time that his youngest son was born.  He and his people are not denying it.

The list could go on and on.  And Pensler describes the president as making America great again.

I might be left with one choice.  I might make my mark for Stabenow.  There's no guessing about what side of the tracks she's on.  She's honest and you don't have to look over your shoulder and keep your hand on your wallet when you talk to her.

I need to ask President Trump if The Pentagon Papers are "fake news"


My copy of the Pentagon Papers
This is my copy of the Pentagon Papers purchased for $2.25 in 1971.



This morning was the first time in our thirty-six years of marriage that my wife and I went to a movie on Sunday morning.  We saw "The Post" with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, a story about how the Washington Post dealt with a federal government and President Richard Nixon who knew that the Vietnam War was unwinnable for our country.

The fight was over the so-called Pentagon Papers a government-commissioned study of the situation back then in Vietnam and a chronology of how we got involved.  The overwhelming evidence showed that the President Lyndon Johnson and the Pentagon knew that we had lost the war which cost us more than 50,000 men.

The struggle was over the Washington Post's efforts to public these documents so citizens would know the truth about what was really happening.  The case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court which declared the newspaper's efforts to be constitutional.

The movie laid out the tension that existed between the federal efforts to squash the publication of the papers and the Post's efforts to publish them. The rights of the governed won over the rights of the government.

These days news media is held in the lowest esteem by President Trump, most Republicans and other Tea Party types.  They put the news media on the same level as drug dealers.

I wonder what Trump would say about the Pentagon Papers.  Would he say they are "fake news?"  Would he believe the people had a right to see them and to learn how the federal government was lying?  

It's worth seeing and talking about.

What if Presidents Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea had a dance off?

This past year it has been hard to ignore the trash-talking that's been happening between Presidents Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un.  It's hard to ignore when the consequences of their verbal recklessness could result in nuclear missiles being tossed back and forth.  

What if we tried a different approach like a dance off?  Would they be able to set aside their egos for an hour and dance to Lionel Ritchie's great hits?  Would they be smiling when the music stopped?  One round could happen here in this country and the other could happen in North Korea.  You can't fight when you're dancing.

Check this video from the Charlotte airport of a woman who got stranded overnight in the terminal.  Her anger at her airline melted when she started to dance and look at the reaction of those who joined her.

Many state lawmakers joined the legislature married and came out divorced

My newspaper column about legislative marriages.
I found my column I wrote in the 1970s for Panax Newspapers.

I wonder how many candidates for the Michigan Legislature join either the State House or Senate as married people and leave divorced.  Both legislative bodies should have staff lawyers and counselors assigned to members to handle marital difficulties.  

Serving in the legislature is tough on relationships.  There's all the time spent away from home and all the people around you who want your attention and who constantly tell you how great you are.  

As a newspaper reporter working in the legislature, I saw this happen more to men than women and I saw it less when I was a staff member, possibly because I was more isolated.

I found the above column while I was going through old clippings and other papers.  It was true in the seventies and I'm sure it's true today.

Maybe candidates need to come to agreement about how they split their assets and child custody before they take office, just in case it happens. 

This is not a function of one party being better than the other.  It's purely a character issue.

Why would Republicans want to cut $500 billion from the Medicare program?



I got this news release in my email from the Michigan Democratic about how the Republicans in the U.S. Congress pushed through a budget bill that would cut $500 billion from Medicare and transform it into a voucher program.  

Upton Votes to Cut $500 Billion from Medicare, Convert to Voucher Program

House Republican Budget Also Includes Huge Giveaway to Big Oil

LANSING –– Today, Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) voted for the House Republican budget that cuts almost $500 billion from Medicare over a decade and turns it into a voucher program, which means older people will have to pay far more out of their own pockets for health care. 

How does this affect senior citizens with that insurance coverage?  Why aren't Republicans talking about it?  What about the voucher program?

It seems like Republicans are trying to slide one by people who need the healthcare the most.

Anybody got links to show the thinking.


Michigan Republicans need to go back to school on how to effectively govern this state

liScreenshot 2017-08-25 09.31.36

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the Michigan Republican insults at Democrats on a variety of bumper stickers that the state GOP is trying to peddle through e-mail.  Is it right for them to do this?

For the Christian Right in the party where in the Bible does it give permission to besmirch the name and views of somebody?  Is that okay with God?

Right now when the country is so divided and tottering on the edge of being ungovernable, you'd think barbs would be aimed at policy and not people.  This should be done too without insult.  

Is that impossible?

A reminder as conversations about politics gets even more nasty

Be strong- not rude

I used to enjoy talking politics with friends and relatives and just about anybody else.  I viewed the governmental process as something imperfect, but workable in the effort to govern a group of diverse people.  Not anymore.  How about you?

These days, it doesn't take long for a conversation about politics to deteriorate into a very heated session of name-calling and acrimony.  Some Christians are heard telling another believer in Jesus that they are not really saved if you don't support Trump.  

And when many of them hear that I'm a former newspaper reporter and that I ended my career by working in politics, they start belittling me and the various jobs I held.

It's hard to resist the temptation to  verbally fireback at people I've gone to church with or whom I am related to or grew up with.

That's why I saved this quote from Zig Ziglar as published on FaceBook.  For me personally, it's a reminder.  Political discourse won't get any easier.  It seems like it will only get meaner and nastier.  How do we reduce the level of heat?



Are you watching the Comey testimony live this morning?


James Comes testifies.
We are watching the Comey testimony at home this morning.

My wife and I are watching former FBI director James Comey give his testimony on television right now.  We both realize the significance of the occasion for our country and realize that history is being made.  Our grandkids will study this day in their history classes.

Are you watching too?  Where?  Are you glued to your television set?  

What does your common sense tell you about Michigan moving from a full-time to part-time legislature?

Michigan has a full-time legislature where lawmakers have their own staff people and their own offices.  They get a generous salary and with expense money can earn pretty close to six figures.

Does our state need all that just to pass laws?  How much work is actually involved in pressing either a green or red button on your desk?  

This is an issue where voters need to shift into "critical thinking."  It's way too easy to react to this issue with personal prejudice. On the surface, it makes sense to reduce the amount of money we spend on our state's 148 lawmakers.  But, are we ignoring the law of unintended consequences like when you push in one side of the balloon where will it come out the other side?

I've seen the legislature "up close and personal" for most of my adult life.  I've worked in a variety of jobs in and around the State Capitol.  

Two Republican candidates for governor want a part-time legislature.  Soon, you will be asked to sign petitions to put it on the ballot.  This is worth doing some homework about.  I too have my own political prejudices and I've learned that I needed to either discard them or substantially recalibrate my thinking.


Getting my haircut and thinking about the Michigan Legislature.
I'm thinking about the proposal for Michigan to have a part-time legislature.



Would Abraham Lincoln be the people's choice in today's partisan political environment?

Abraham Lincoln
In this office staff picture in Sen. Doug Carl's office, Abe Lincoln dominates.

I worked for the late State Sen. Doug Carl for about three years and during that whole time he had a dominant political hero and role model, Abraham Lincoln.  That's why he had a huge and compelling photo of this iconic president hung in a dominant spot in his State Capitol office.

There was definitely partisan politics when Sen. Carl served in the Michigan Legislature,  both parties had their problems with each other and they weren't always kind when talking about others.

But, in today's political environment where political poison flows easily wherever you go, one has to wonder if Abraham Lincoln ran for president now, could he win?  Was he a name-caller?  Did he lie? Could he get opponents to work with him and each other?

Our country seems too split to come back together.  Do people really want to resolve differences?  

Would you vote for Abraham Lincoln for president?

OLD PHOTO: Play "Where's Waldo" with this picture from Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus alumni picnic


Posthumus and his senior staff were masters at building community.  In this photo, staffers who worked for him through the years gathered for an alumni picnic.  It was almost like a family-gathering.  Can you find me?  I'm standing behind my son Justin.

I learned some basic lessons while working for Dick Posthumus, then the Michigan Senate Majority Leader who was a farmer from near Grand Rapids who got into politics to make the state a better place for his kids to live.

He knew what was needed to govern successfully.  Members of the state legislature needed to know each other, trust each other and appreciate the differences each of them had.  It was all centered on respect.

During this time of division in the U.S. Congress where the President freely calls names, points fingers at everybody that disagrees with him, even in his own party, Posthumus set an example that's worthy of study and emulation.

In fact, the President and his staff would be wise to seek advice from people like Posthumus.  Getting things done--governing--while maintaining partisan differences was his specialty.  Same principles apply in Washington.


OLD PHOTOS: Working with three of my journalistic heroes from the 1970s, Bob Berg, Don Hoenshell and Tom Ochiltree


A reporters' panel.
During a conference in the early 70s I participate on a panel with Berg (left), Ochiltree (second from the right) and Hoenshell.

 I'm sure that there aren't many who remember Panax Newspapers which was based out of Williamston, Michigan and started by an entrepreneur named John McGoff.  He started with a handful of daily and weekly newspapers in the state and turned it into a media company with a worldwide reach.  

For a few years, I worked in their State Capitol Bureau in Lansing.  Because communications technology in the early 1970s was limited to a telephone back then, our product was mainly columns where the time element had a longer shelf life.

During that time I worked with some incredible reporters at the company.  Bob Berg was the bureau chief.  He was the former bureau chief for United Press International at the Capitol and then went to Panax and from there became press secretary to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.  He was a great teacher and friend.  

Don Hoenshell was the news director for the company.  He knew journalism and he loved reporting and writing.  He always treated those younger than him with respect.  He freely shared what he knew.

In Washington, D.C. was Tom Ochiltree who was an old school journalist who was there when Russian President Nikita Krushev took off his shoe and pounded the table with it during a meeting with Richard Nixon.  He was filled with stories while having an insatiable curiosity.



Panax Backgrounder
The four of us promo'd in a company publication.



OLD PHOTO: Guys in this 1961 picture in the Michigan House really changed the course of my life


I was 14 years old and was sniffing around the State Capitol when my mom was visiting my aunt who was in Sparrow Hospital.  We had driven earlier in the day from Bay City so we could visit with my aunt who had serious surgery.

I walked down to the Capitol building and watched a session of the Michigan House where I met my State Rep, Les Begick and Ed Good who represented much of the Thumb and grew up across the road from my mom's family outside of Gagetown.  They showed me the rostrum in the chamber and asked if I wanted a picture taken.

They both treated me with great respect and encouraged my interest in politics.  Les Begick became a mentor to me, an older brother and somebody I had a close relationship with until he died.  

This is not a picture I'd put on my study wall, but I've saved it for more than 50 years.  For me, it's an important reminder of two good people.

OLD PHOTO: The Stanley Cup and me in Sen. Dick Posthumus' office


I was working in the office of Michigan Senate Majority Leader Dick Posthumus when I heard a lot of commotion.  This was before the time that a lot of loud noise would be a signal to crawl under your desk or out a window.

It was part of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team bringing the Stanley Cup which they had just won into his office.  It was an international symbol of athletic perfection and it was familiar to everybody in Michigan.  

The iconic trophy was in the office just before the team was to be presented in the Senate Chambers during a session.

As a pretend sports fan and as the one who had to write notes for Sen. Posthumus' remarks about the team to the Senate, I had to be a quick study about the team and about the NHL.  My reward was this picture.  It's a neat memory.


OLD PHOTO: My Teenage Republican meeting with Michigan's Mr. Republican, Jerry Roe

Jerry Roe.
The then executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, Jerry Roe, was the speaker at the first meeting of the Bay County Teenage Republicans.

It was the early 1960s at a meeting room in a bank in downtown Bay City when I had my first formal involvement with the Republican Party.  My cousin Diane and I got our friends together and formed the Bay County Teenage Republican club.  I was under the impression that it was one of the first in the country.

After a notice of the meeting in the Bay City Times, we had our first meeting with Jerry Roe, then the executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.  I remember his encouragement of our interest and activism.

It was the beginning of my long journey in local and Michigan politics.  From there, we campaigned for Republican candidates at all levels, manned the Republican booth at the Bay County Fair and helped with the local Lincoln Day Dinner.

I was a teenager then and now I'm 70.  Was all that involvement worth it?  Did it accomplish anything?  I'm still trying to answer that in my mind.


For better politics in this country, do citizens need to become better at critical thinking?

IMG_0244Voters are telling poll takers that they would trust a drug lord before they would trust a politician or a news reporter.   But could the reality reflect that they are just the opposite.  They trust them and will accept just about anything that agrees with their personal bias.

Think about it.  If you're a Donald Trump supporter are you more apt to believe his screeds about how Americans are getting taken to the cleaners by just about everybody.  And the perpetrators  are everybody from liberals to reporters to jihadists, they believe.  

And when other issues come up and they lack the motivation to think them through, they give him the benefit of the doubt.

Same thing happens with the liberals, progressives and the Democrats.  If Bernie Sanders says it, then it must be right is the mantra with many people.  They believe him and they don't scratch beneath the surface to find out if it's true.  

Anybody agree?  Disagree?

The problem seems to be "critical thinking."  Many voters don't question themselves or the candidates about what they're preaching.  Nobody is asking "show me."  How can you say that without details?  

What's the truth?  Voters decide with or without even minimal knowledge?  And they're paying for it.

Check the above book, How To Think Critically In The Post Truth Era.  I haven't read it yet, but I plan to.