Monday, May 21, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
DEBATE REVEALS SOME DIFFERENCES!
by Steve Fair
On Saturday, the Stephens County GOP held their annual fundraiser, a Fish Fry in the Fairgrounds rodeo arena. The largest crowd to ever attend the yearly event listened to a gubernatorial candidate forum/debate featuring the six Republican candidates for Oklahoma governor who have been campaigning for over a year. District Attorney Jason Hicks served as moderator and asked ‘specific’ questions of each candidate on their primary campaign message and how they would fulfill it. He also asked a series of questions regarding recent legislature and if what they would have done if they had been the state’s chief executive-signed or vetoed. While the six agreed on many subjects, the careful listener heard distinct differences, which is the goal of any forum- to point out the differences, not the similarities between participants.
First, none of the six candidates hit a home run, but neither did any of them stumble. They didn’t attack one another and were respectful of the time restraints. They were adults. With the challenges the Sooner state faces, it’s critical Oklahoma have a governor who has stable temperament and it appears any of the half dozen can keep their head and not overreact.
Second, few voters made their minds up watching the debate. That is not the fault of the moderator. His questions asked for specific, detailed answers, but for the most part, the candidates gave safe answers. That is not to imply they dodged the question- they simply gave very general answers. Part of that are time restraints, but some of that is campaign strategy. All six referred to their websites to find out more information, but few in the audience will take time to access the sites and look for specific solutions to the state’s problems.
Third, Hicks closed with two questions, asking if the candidates would support the GOP nominee in the November general election. All answered they would, but Dan Fisher walked his answer back on Monday, saying his support for the Republican nominee depended on who the nominee was and what they stood for. The second question Hicks posed was if after they were elected governor, would they be back next year to keynote the Fish Fry. They all answered yes, so it appears the 15th annual Stephens County GOP Fish Fry’s keynote speaker will feature the Governor of Oklahoma.
While the governor’s race was the main event at the Fish Fry, there were multiple statewide and local candidates campaigning and making their case to the attendees. With just 33 days left until the June 26th primary, the politically savvy candidate understood the largest gathering of Republicans in the state was in Duncan Saturday night and they needed to be there if they were serious about their race.
The Stephens County GOP Fish Fry is truly a unique event. Few, if any, county GOP organizations across America can boast they plan and execute an event this large using only grassroots volunteers. There is no caterer or paid staff to do the myriad of tasks. Those are done completely and totally by volunteers- year in and year out. The debate was livestreamed and recorded. It can be viewed on the Stephens County GOP Facebook page.
Monday, May 14, 2018
MOVING OF EMBASSY TOOK GUTS!
by Steve Fair
On Monday, the nation of Israel turned seventy years old. That is of course modern Israel. Israel is the land promised to Abraham by God about 4,100 years ago. This small parcel of 8,000 square miles is about 11% the size of Oklahoma or approximately the size of the state of New Jersey. More battles over this small piece of ground have been fought than any in the history of the world. Three monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- all have sacred sites in Jerusalem. The Muslims want to spilt the city, but Israel’s parliament and current leadership do not want to concede what Abraham was promised.
For years the American embassy in Israel was in Tel Aviv, but on Monday the embassy was moved to Jerusalem. Twenty three years after the U.S. Congress passed a law moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it finally happened. President Trump, who did not attend, but sent his daughter and son-in-law to represent him at the opening, appeared via video and said, “We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace. May God bless this embassy.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move "courageous" and "momentous." "What a glorious day. Remember this moment!" Netanyahu said to the applauding crowd. "President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful." Two observations:
First, Trump’s move was courageous. Since Congress passed the mandate to move 23 years ago, three presidents from both Parties have failed to order the move. Moving the embassy was seen as so controversial because it would stir up the Muslims and they were unwilling to risk that. Trump had made the moving of the embassy e a part of his campaign promises and like it or not he fulfilled it.
Second, a nation has a right to declare where their Capitol is. Just because the United Nations says that a nation can’t put their Capitol somewhere doesn’t take away their right to do it. President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel as a nation in 1948 took great courage. Trump’s recognition they can decide where their Capitol also took courage.Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and strategic in US foreign policy in the region. During the Obama presidency the relationship with Israel was tense at best. Obama and Netanyahu didn’t mesh well and when the US refused to vote on a critical UN Security Council vote on Jerusalem, relations between the US and Israel moved to their lowest point ever. Trump did the right thing in moving the embassy and while controversial, it shows this president is not your standard run of the mill politician. He has guts!
Monday, May 7, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
BAN TAX PAYER FUNDED LOBBYING!
by Steve Fair
A lobbyist is defined as a person who takes part in an organized attempt to influence legislators. Most lobbyists represent trade and industry groups or associations. They monitor legislation that could impact their clients. Lobbyists often get a bad rap, but in reality private sector lobbyists are just representing groups of people. They have a vested interest in making sure legislators are educated on their client’s interests.
Several years ago, I wrote a column regarding lobbying titled, “There is no Such Thing as a Free Lunch.” It pointed out the fundamental economic principle that someone is always paying(there is no free) and the payor usually expects a return on their investment. When a lobbyist pays for the cheeseburger a legislator eats, it has strings attached. So long as a legislator understands that simple principle, then fine.
After I wrote the column, a prominent lobbyist in OKC responded in a Letter to the Editor with outrage, writing that he never expected a return on his investment and every lunch, dinner, ticket, or trinket he gave a legislator had absolutely no strings attached. I responded that was likely not what he told a potential client when he made his pitch to present them before the legislature.
A popular vocation after leaving a legislative body- both at the federal and state level- is lobbying. It makes sense. Former lawmakers understand the process. They have friends in the chamber and usually have immediate access to them. The Oklahoma constitution has a provision stating a former lawmaker can’t go to work in a state agency or lobby until they have been out of office for two years(not that it is enforced).
In February, the State Ethics Commission voted unanimously to enforce a two year ban and to add state agency heads to the prohibition. Last week, the Oklahoma legislature voted overwhelmingly to reject the Ethics Commission’s recommendations. There is bad blood between the Commission and the legislature, but that is for another column. Three observations about lobbying:
First, the Ethics Commission did overstep their authority. They were established to enforce the rules, not establish them. While the idea of expanding the ban to include agency bureaucrats makes sense, that reform should be done by the legislature, not by the Commission.
Second, far too many elected officials never return to the real private sector. Once they get a taste of the political industry, most elected officials are hooked and finding a real job and returning to the real private sector fades into the past. If the two year ban were enforced, it might force some of the politicos to get a real job.
Third, real reform would be banning taxpayer funded lobbying and lobbyists. When state agencies and other taxpayer funded entities hire lobbyists with my tax dollars to lobby for more of my tax dollars, it’s immoral. Thomas Jefferson said, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." It is past time for the state legislature to ban taxpayer funded lobbying.
Monday, April 30, 2018
UNSELFISHNESS IS RARE TRAIT!
by Steve Fair
It is less than eight weeks before the June 26th primary election. Between now and then, where two or three are gathered, there in the midst will be political candidates, extolling their honesty, integrity and experience. They will be smiling, friendly and accessible. Enjoy it because there are many you will not see again until they are up for re-election. Accessibility and interest in you and yours often ends once a politico has your vote.
There are ten Republicans running for Governor in 2018. Six of those candidates have been running for a year. Those six will be participating in a forum in Duncan at the 14th annual Stephens County GOP Fish Fry on Saturday May 19th at the Fairgrounds. This event has become the largest single gathering of Republicans in the state outside of a state GOP convention. Because of the number of primary voters attending, every serious candidate for statewide office will be in attendance. The SCGOP intentionally keeps the admission price low to insure affordability for anyone interested in attending.
While the GOP governor’s race has a crowded field, there are also GOP primary races for 4th district Congress, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, State School Superintendent, Labor Commissioner, Insurance Commissioner, and Corporation Commissioner. There are a total of twenty two (22) candidates are on the ballot for those offices. The Stephens County Fish Fry presents a unique opportunity to meet, visit and question those candidates one on one before the primary. Everyone is invited, but registered Republicans should seize this opportunity to see some many candidates in one spot at the same time- and of course, they get to eat some fish.
In my opinion, political candidates should be evaluated using the C.E.A.T. method. C is for character. It goes without saying that a candidate must be honest, a person of integrity and character. It is amazing how many people run who have skeletons in their closets and those doesn’t always fall out until after their election. E is for experience. A candidate must be qualified to do the job they are running for. If they don’t have the background, training, or education, then they shouldn’t be considered. Elected officials should not be novices and learn on the job. A is for accessibility. They be responsive after they are elected. They should return phone calls and follow up in a timely way. There shouldn’t be a firewall of staffers, protecting them from their constituents. T is for temperament. They should be able to keep their head when those around them are losing theirs. They should be able to maintain their composure under pressure. They should take their work seriously, but not themselves seriously. Of all the attributes, temperament may be the most important. Can they stay in the background and let others take the credit? Unselfishness is a rare trait in modern public servants, but if the voters made it a prerequisite for election, Oklahoma would be a better state.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
RAID ON POTUS LAWYER SHOULD CONCERN EVERYONE!
By Steve Fair
The sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a citizen the assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions. Implied in that guarantee is the confidentiality of attorney-client privilege. A client should be assumed confidentiality when they are talking with their attorney and preparing a defense. In other words, what you tell your lawyer should remain between you and your lawyer. In fact, according to a Supreme Court ruling in 1998- Swidler & Berlin vs. United States, it is even in effect after the client dies. Swidler & Berlin were Vince Foster’s lawyer and President Clinton wanted his lawyer’s handwritten notes, but the court said attorney-client privilege was still in force.
Two weeks ago, the offices and hotel room of President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen were raided by the FBI in conjunction with the New York U.S. attorney’s office and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Reportedly Cohen’s cellphones, tablets, and laptop were searched for incriminating evidence regarding a payment to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, who claims she and Trump had an affair. Cohen, who has a long history with the POTUS, has said he would go to the mat for Trump. We may soon see when the FBI and the Special Counsel throw the white light on him. Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a ‘witch hunt,’ and defended Cohen as a fine man.
Alan Dershowitz is a political liberal, was the youngest law professor in Harvard history, and no fan of President Trump. “I am a liberal who voted against Trump, but who insists that his civil liberties must be respected for all of our sake.” In an editorial in The Hill, Dershowitz said that if Hillary Clinton’s lawyer’s office had been raided, the ACLU, and privacy advocates would have been up in arms. He says it is because they disagree with Trump’s policies. “That (remaining silent) is a serious mistake, because these violations establish precedents that lie around like loaded guns capable of being aimed at other targets,” Dershowitz wrote.
Dershowitz is right- all citizens, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Democrats, Republicans alike should be united in their outrage. Violating a constitutional right of one citizen weakens our system of government. If the POTUS’s constitutional rights can be violated, it is certain it can be done to us. Where is the outrage from the legal community? Why haven’t the barristers, the stewards of the law, been more vocal?
President Trump called the raid a disgrace. “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” Trump said. Whether you agree with Trump’s policies or personality or not, every citizen should be concerned. Even if you believe the POTUS did something illegal, Mueller’s raid of Trump’s lawyer violates the very core of who we are as a country- the right to privacy and attorney-client privilege. If this is allowed to stand without consequences for those responsible, it will change America and not for the better.
Monday, April 16, 2018
RECORD NUMBER OF CANDIDATES FILE!
by Steve Fair
Last week 794 candidates filed for state and federal offices at the state Capitol. That is the highest number since 2006, when 594 filed. Of the 101 state House members, only 15 were unopposed. One half of the state Senate is up for re-election(24 seats) and just four were re-elected without opposition. Of the 19 legislative seats that were unopposed, 14 were Democrats.
Many of the new candidates were from the education field. Since teachers were at the Capitol during the filing period, some threw down their $750 or $500(depending on the office) without premeditation and cast their hat into the political arena. The Oklahoma Democrat Party Chair was excited about all the candidates, both at the legislative and statewide level. Four years ago, three statewide offices went uncontested by Democrats. This year, Democrats didn’t file for the State Treasurer and State Auditor positions.
Several legislative Republican incumbents drew primary opponents after an organization called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! recruited challengers to lawmakers who voted for the recent tax increases. Expect some upsets in the GOP primaries. Those incumbents face the challenge of convincing fiscal conservative Rs they haven’t abandoned GOP principles when they voted for the largest tax increase in Oklahoma history.
Ten Republican candidates filed for Governor, six were expected. They join two Democrats and three Libertarians for a total of fifteen seeking the state’s chief executive position. All but one are male. former State Senator Connie Johnson is running as a Democrat. In total, thirty two Republicans filed for statewide elective office and only thirteen Democrats.
First, expect a runoff in the Republican gubernatorial race. With ten candidates, it is an almost a mathematical certainty no one candidate will get 50% plus one vote in the June 26th primary. If the four candidates who filed unexpectedly pull just 10% of the vote combined, they will have a major impact on the race.
Second, spontaneous candidates seldom win. That doesn’t mean they never win, but success in politics requires planning and timely execution. While the Ds may field candidates, most of those who impulsively filed will not be elected.
Third, Republican voters need to start paying attention. The primary is Tuesday June 26th- just seventy days/10 weeks away. With 32 statewide candidates, expect your mailbox to start filling up with campaign propaganda. Every candidate will tell you what you want to hear, but it is the responsibility of the voter to vet candidates. Most of the statewides will be at upcoming events sponsored by your local GOP. Make an effort to meet those candidates, ask them hard questions and determine if they have the ability and the temperament to do the job.Modern politics has evolved into slick marketing and voter/consumer behavior science. That has resulted in candidates elected who can’t or won’t do what they claim they will. After they are elected, they ignore you because they are obligated to the special interests that financed their campaign. The only way to stop that cycle is to show up and ask questions. Until a groundswell of citizens start paying attention all the time and not just 90 days every two years, Oklahomans will get the government they deserve.