Barbara Bush

By Jonathan Wackrow

Former first lady Barbara Bush once said, “Nobody likes, you know, the ugly parts of politics.” On Tuesday night, the ugliness of our current political landscape dissipated for a moment as people reflected on the life of this remarkable woman. We quietly smiled at the pictures flashing across our screens of her with her famous family, her turns in the national spotlight and the testimonials about her grit and forthright warmth.

As a special agent with the United States Secret Service, I had the opportunity to work on many protective assignments with Mrs. Bush. While I was never permanently assigned to her detail, I am thankful for two specific moments with Mrs. Bush, ones I will cherish as defining experiences in my career and testaments to her legacy, her candor and grace.

The first occurred when I was a new agent, assigned to work a midnight shift at the Bush family’s summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine. I was walking in the front yard at daybreak, preparing to end my shift, when Mrs. Bush suddenly appeared.

In my world, it was better to be unseen, but in this instant, I was in the former first lady’s full view with nowhere to hide. Mrs. Bush gave me the warmest smile and said, “Well, it is good morning for me, but it looks like you have been up all night, so I will wish you a good night’s sleep.” Stunned, I thanked her.

She was the first Secret Service protectee I had ever spoken to. That encounter is only one of scores of examples my fellow agents could give of the genuine admiration and respect Barbara Bush showed to the people who protected her and her family — and her recognition of the sacrifices the agents made for the presidential security operation. I can report that this ethos and gratitude resonates within the entire Bush family.

Many years later, I encountered Mrs. Bush again when she made a visit to the New Jersey area. This time, I was driving her limo from New York City to an appointment in New Jersey. The motorcade was small and unassuming — traits that Mrs. Bush appreciated — consisting of a few Secret Service vehicles and one unmarked New York police vehicle. But upon exiting the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey, we were joined by an assortment of New Jersey State Police vehicles and motorcycles operating with full lights and sirens.

Typically, this was not the way that the former first lady liked to travel, as it drew undue attention. However, in this instance — with her husband’s presidency behind her — she was thrilled. Taking a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, I could see an amazing smile illuminating her face as she turned to her staff in the back seat, exclaiming, “They remember me! We have not had this much excitement since the White House!”

After her meeting, as the motorcade started to travel back to New York, Mrs. Bush leaned forward and asked the head of her protective detail if we could stop before getting back into New York City, as she wanted to thank all the police officers who, she said, “so warmly welcomed me to New Jersey.”

Peering out the limo’s back windshield, I will never forget the image of Mrs. Bush shaking hands with the officers. It was a genuine moment of sincerity and unguarded kindness delivered out of the public eye, which, to me, defined this great woman.

When I was selected to the Presidential Protective Division, I attributed my desire to join the first lady’s detail to those moments with Mrs. Bush. I wanted to protect the institution of the first lady to ensure that an administration’s compassion and conscience would never be jeopardized.

With the utmost seriousness, Secret Service agents assigned to the first lady take the sacred responsibility of protecting a political and cultural icon, knowing full well that any harm that comes to the first lady could impede the President’s ability to govern.

The United States Secret Service code name for Barbara Bush was “Tranquility.” It exemplified her demeanor and its calming, humanizing and gentle effect on those around her. She will be forever missed.

Jonathan Wackrow is a CNN law enforcement analyst and former agent with the US Secret Service, serving in the Presidential Protection division. He is a managing director at Teneo Risk, a strategic risk mitigation advisory firm.

Power outage

Coming to Southern Pines on May 2, The Power of the Press is promoted as a conversation between local newspaper publishing executives. It is hosted by the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities. It surely will be enlightening to hear from former Raleigh News & Observer publisher Frank Daniels Jr., currently chairman of The Pilot, and the paper’s current publisher, David Woronoff.

The presumption that the press wields power has, through much of America’s history, been premised on a commitment to objective reporting about current events. In its relentless pursuit of the truth, the press would curry no favor with powerful people and expose deceit, ethical lapses, corruption, and crimes.

A powerful press bears a tremendous burden of responsibility, and in many communities across the land, publishers and editors remain vigilant in demanding objectivity and fairness. But any pretense of same within large, corporate-owned news organizations, both in print and broadcast “journalism”, has been deteriorating at an alarming rate. Some have declared a legitimate American mass media already deceased.

It has been death by insanity. The major news networks, and cable’s CNN and MSNBC (MSDNC, as it is known within some Washington circles), along with formerly iconic newspapers, foremost among them The New York Times and The Washington Post, have become delusional about their reason for existence. It is rooted in a singular mission: to rid the White House and the U.S. Presidency of Donald J. Trump.

What is frustrating about this pretense of legitimacy among the mainstream media among Washington lawmakers, policy influencers and at least half of the voting-age population is that it obscures real legislative progress inside the gates of “The Swamp”. The mainstreamers are drowning in breathless accounts of collusion, special counselors, dossiers, hookers, porn actors, and pre-dawn raids on citizens, even as the nation and its economy are riding a rising tide.

Consider recent developments that ought to encourage Republicans and independent voters, who still believe America’s strength lies in embracing her values and free-market capitalism.

The Washington Examiner reported late last week thusly: Manufacturing hiring rises to highest level since before the recession.

“Hiring in the manufacturing sector in February rose to the highest level since before the Great Recession began, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (April 13). Manufacturing hires rose to 380,000 in the month, the most of any month since November of 2007, the month before the recession officially began.”

On another significant initiative, U.S. House Republicans are weathering fierce opposition to reducing by millions the numbers of Americans dependent on food stamps. Reports Politico.com:

“House Republicans unveiled on (April 12) a farm bill that would impose stricter work requirements on millions of low-income Americans receiving food stamps — a bid to enact a small slice of the GOP welfare overhaul.”

It is a sticky debate owed to the inclusion of food stamp allocation in what is essentially longstanding legislation intended to address farming industry support. Food stamps account for 80% of funding to the legislation. But entitlement reform is a battle worth fighting. It will unfold largely ignored by the mainstreamers, who will note in passing that Republicans are merely vying to “take away” food stamps from the poor. The alternative, unreported, is to liberate Americans from needing food stamps to buy food.

If the press presumes to have power it would literally press lawmakers to make their cases on key policymaking debates. Instead, it shamelessly ignores any news that might vindicate Trump era policies, and acts as an accomplice to the radical left when it attacks spending reforms as assaults on helpless citizens (which some Republicans have buckled to as evidenced by the recently passed obscene omnibus spending bill). Bottom line: The MSM allocates almost no time to policy reporting.

Across human history, every socialist government that has seized power and sought to make its citizenry 100% dependent eventually has crumbled into chaos and unimaginable poverty. And they share one other common denominator: a press entirely lacking in power, owned and operated by ruling elites.

 

Courting judicial overreach

North Carolina is one of six states facing uncertainty as to how federal court influence could change traditional procedures through which district maps — Congressional and state legislative — are drawn or re-drawn.

The outlook for 2018 is that no significant upheaval looms in our state, owed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s restraint in weighing in on lawsuits related to map redrawing with a mid-term election approaching. Yet, in three other states, SCOTUS rulings are expected to complicate voting dynamics in the short term.

This is but the calm before the storm. Writes NPR’s Domenico Montanaro: “By June, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to decide three major redistricting cases — out of Wisconsin, Maryland and Texas — that will lay some of the foundation for what the maps will look like, not just this year, but after the 2020 census that could affect control of Congress for the next decade.”

Democrats are convinced that activist judges can help them dominate gerrymandering into perpetuity. Courts are increasingly seen as willing policymakers by the left.

The Wall Street Journal, in a February 21 editorial, forecasts the ominous trend:

While the U.S. Supreme Court has held that partisan gerrymanders may violate the U.S. Constitution, it has been unable to articulate a precise legal standard. Democrats are now trying to tempt the Supreme Court into intervening in the intrinsically political redistricting process with social-science methodology that purportedly measures proper representation.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently not only was tempted, but defiantly struck down, with a 5-2 liberal majority, a Congressional map drawn by that state’s GOP legislature in 2011. “With the help of Stanford University law professor Nathan Persily they drafted their own new map (Feb. 19) for use in the May primaries after (Democrat) Governor (Tom Wolf) and the legislature failed to agree,” The Wall Street Journal explained.

And what does Pennsylvania portend? Writes the Journal editorial board:

Pennsylvania will be the future in every state if the Justices decide that judges should be redistricting kings.

 

 

A $5.7m windfall

Christmas is arriving early in 2018. About 11 months early, to be precise. On Thursday, January 25, North Carolina retirees began receiving their monthly state retirement benefit payments.

According to the office of North Carolina State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, payments to retirees have increased by a total of $5.7 million this month. The windfall was triggered by two developments. One is the very well publicized federal tax reform signed by President Donald Trump after Congressional Republicans came through with a bill late last year.

The other development flew under the radar. An obscure state entity, the Retirement Systems Division (RSD), simply did its job beating the clock on an IRS deadline that was set after Trump signed sweeping tax cuts into law.

Among those cuts are federal taxes deducted from 2018 benefit payments to North Carolina retirees and benefit recipients. The RSD Operations Team within the N.C. Department of State Treasurer was able to update the tables ahead of the IRS’s deadline.

“I’m very proud of our team for taking the initiative so quickly after the new tax law was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. While we are in the check delivery business, it involves more than just buying ink and stamps,” said Treasurer Folwell. “This is a testament to the outstanding job that our career public servants do to serve government workers.”

More than $500 million is paid out each month to more than 312,000 retirees and benefit recipients.

“Our team, led by Tom Causey and Susan Fordham, decided not to wait until February to enact this increase in our members’ benefit payments,” explained Steve Toole, Executive Director of RSD. “By updating these tax schedules sooner, our members will see larger January benefit payments.”

Betrayal

The assault on the presidency of Donald Trump began when a Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein (nominated by Trump), appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller Special Counsel to investigate unsubstantiated allegations that Trump campaign surrogates colluded with the Russian government to influence American voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Thus began, as commentator Charles Krauthammer eloquently describes it, “an investigation in search of a crime.” Continue reading “Betrayal”

Activist judges draw red line

Thousands of North Carolinians will find themselves living in a new Congressional district as of Sept. 1. The deadline to redraw districts was imposed by three federal judges in a July 31 ruling that will inevitably drive campaign strategists crazy ahead of elections in 2018. More time will be spent on introducing voters to a new district; less time devoted to issues.

TheHill.com reports the order “impacts 28 of the state’s 170 General Assembly districts, which the court said last year discriminated against African-American voters by weakening their political power.” Continue reading “Activist judges draw red line”