Saturday, December 19, 2020
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
(revised Jan 2021)
REFLECTIONS OF A FORMER GOP STAFFER
REFLECTIONS OF A FORMER GOP STAFFER
For nearly ten years, I served as a Senate GOP staffer (Committee counsel, Legislative Director and Chief of Staff) and had the opportunity to get a close look at how President-elect Biden interacted with my former bosses, and GOP staff, too. I have a lot of friends who are strong Trump supporters, especially from my home state of South Carolina. They believed Trump’s narrative about the election and are frightened about the prospects of a Biden Presidency. Since the election, and for those friends who were willing to listen, I have tried to recount some of my own personal observations of the President-elect and his character in the hopes that it might allay a bit of their anxiety about the future. Surprisingly, I have received some positive responses. With his inauguration coming up next week, and in wake of the tragic violence at the Capitol, people of good faith should do whatever we can to contribute to the healing of divisions in this country. Maybe in a small way and without partisan rancor, these reflections might help serve that goal.
I understand that many progressives won’t like to be reminded of
Joe Biden's friendships with Republicans. Die-hard Trump supporters will
also dislike anything positive said about the President-elect. Cynics
will think that these are thirty-year old, pollyannish remembrances, and “that
Senate” does not exist anymore. I am an optimist, and refuse to believe that
the hyper-partisanship we have experienced in the last few years has to be the
norm. I believe our new President looks for the good in people-including
Republicans. His approach is timeless, effective for legislating, will be a refreshing
change, and most importantly, might help to heal our nation---precisely what we
need right now.
I came here in 1985 to work for Senator Strom Thurmond, a strong GOP conservative. He was already 83, and there were Senators and staff who (offensively, in my view) made light of his age and even his mental acuity. Senator Biden was the opposite. He was respectful and gracious to Senator Thurmond --always. Not only in public, when the media was watching, but also behind closed doors when it was just Biden, Thurmond and a few top staff. They certainly did not agree politically on much of anything, and it well documented that Thurmond could be strident in his views. However, when dealing with Biden, he was softer and was more willing to reach an accord. I think especially in his later years, when I worked for him, Thurmond wanted to leave a more constructive legacy on race and other matters and was more willing to compromise—especially with Biden, whom he liked and trusted. Before Thurmond died, and his funeral arrangements were being planned, he asked his friend to be one of his eulogists. I am sure Thurmond wanted to show that he had garnered the respect of both Republicans and Democrats during his life. Biden could have easily said "no", which was the more expedient political choice. Instead, he was willing to be a friend. His eulogy for Thurmond was memorable and moving.
Later I worked for Senator Al Simpson (R-Wyo) as his Chief of Staff/Chief Counsel while he was the GOP Whip. In my job, I spent much time in the Senate Chamber where Senators assembled to cast their votes. Then as now, the GOP leadership staff sat on one side of the chamber (in the back) and the Democratic staff sat on the other. Only one Democratic Senator regularly came over and sat with us GOP staffers, often just to chat, to ask how we were, to find out about the voting schedule, etc. That was Joe Biden. He had an impressive ability to greet us lowly staffers by our first names. Most Senators (on both sides of the aisle) didn't treat staff of the other party so courteously. Biden stood out for us GOP aides. He and Simpson had a very warm personal relationship. They trusted each other and regularly worked together on legislation. A few years ago, then Vice President Biden personally asked his friend Simpson to co-chair the Bipartisan Commission to reduce the Federal Deficit (Simpson-Bowles). Fast forward to today-- Senate GOP Leader McConnell (who was also in the Senate then) also has a long standing, positive relationship with President-elect Biden. I think they trust each other, and that is a basis for optimism.
After the mob violence of last week, instigated by divisive rhetoric and resulting in bloodshed, death, and members of both parties huddled together in fear for their lives, maybe what is called for now is a bipartisan reaction—a concerted commitment by Members of Congress and the new Administration to lead by example-----to show that our democracy endures, and to help heal divisions. Maybe they can practice some of the values of civility, graciousness, a willingness to listen, and even to compromise occasionally, all of which are a part of President-elect Biden’s DNA.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
This was posted on my blog previously, but somehow it got deleted. Re-posting it now. Church of the Holy Apostles, Barnwell, SC. Delivered on February 8, 2012
Sunday, May 22, 2016
My firm, the TCH Group, is very pleased/gratified to be the sponsor of the Northwest Little League Challengers here in DC. This is a group of athletes with physical and mental challenges who enjoy baseball. Special thanks to the NWLL leadership and the wonderful volunteers (particularly Jim and Winnie). On May 19, 2016, ABC News 7 (Erin Hawksworth) did an excellent job of reporting on these special, inspirational athletes. Here is the link:
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Alec Tongour And His Amazing Ability for Baseball Trivia: Interviews/Quizzing by 106.7 The Fan and Billy Ripken (MLB Network)
Then in October 2015, we went to New York to watch the Nationals play the Mets. (When we bought the tickets, we mistakenly thought it would be a significant series for the NL East title). Prior to the game, we had a friend who gave us a tour of the MLB Network. There Alec met Billy Ripken, who tried to stump him on World Series trivia. Here is a spliced together snippet of that meeting. Ripken is a great interviewer, and he clearly enjoys Alec! Enjoy.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Remark's on Acceptance of Dean's Award/ USC College of Arts and Sciences March 22, 2013, Dedicated to Stella, B.A. 1977
REMARKS ON ACCEPTANCE OF THE DEAN’S AWARD/