Hopeful news for Meet the Press fans.

Good news from Politico:


EXCLUSIVE: “MEET THE PRESS” plans to announce new moderator soon: CHUCK TODD is the favorite

By MIKE ALLEN | 08/11/14 9:08 AM EDT
SIREN: Chuck Todd, a political obsessive and rabid sports fan, is the likely successor to David Gregory as moderator of “Meet the Press,” with the change expected to be announced in coming weeks, according to top political sources. The move is an effort by NBC News President Deborah Turness to restore passion and insider cred to a network treasure that has been adrift since the death in 2008 of the irreplaceable Tim Russert. Although Todd is not a classic television performer guaranteed to wow focus groups, his NBC bosses have been impressed by his love of the game, which brings with it authenticity, sources, and a loyal following among newsmakers and political junkies.

Gregory’s next move is unknown, but he’s unlikely to remain at the network – a stunning turn for a quick-rising star with a broadcasting polish and on-air versatility that once made him a natural candidate to be a future “Today” show host. It’s unclear whether Gregory or Todd knows about the big move, likely to be in place before year’s end.

The sources caution that nothing is definite or decided. “Meet” once dominated Sunday mornings, but ABC’s “This Week” – with 31-year-old Jonathan Greenberger as executive producer — has scored ratings wins with an increasingly eclectic lineup that emphasizes zippy packages over long interviews. CBS’s “Face the Nation,” with down-homey Bob Schieffer anchoring, has also scored ratings wins as “Meet” struggled.

Chuck, 42, now wears three hats for NBC: chief White House correspondent; host of “The Daily Rundown,” at 9 a.m. weekdays on MSNBC; and political director. The Miami native, an alumnus of George Washington University, was editor in chief of The Hotline when it was the mustest read for political insiders, and is as passionate about Miami Hurricanes college football as he is about campaign dynamics.

@ChuckTodd Twitter bio: “Political junkie; @NBCNews reporter & analyst; @msnbc @dailyrundown host; Covering politics since ’92; And, yes, I tweet about sports too.”

We Are the Frogs


Cars drives though water on road.

Driving to meet a friend for dinner, I noticed puddles on the main road. Nothing significant, they weren’t deep (yet), but they were surprisingly large given the fairly light rain earlier in the day. Although no more rain was forecast, I began constructing alternate routes home in my head in case the rains came anyway and streets did flood (again).

I live in suburban Chicago, not a third world country, not a low-lying coastal town, yet here I was plotting emergency directions home because of a few large puddles.

That’s when it hit me. We are the frogs. That old warning, made more famous by Al Gore in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” felt real. The premise is that a frog placed in boiling water will try to escape. But if the water is tepid and heated slowly, the frog will become accustomed to the temperature changes and fail to perceive the danger, eventually boiling to death.


Isn’t that about where we find ourselves today with climate change? We hear about a hurricane nearly destroying New Orleans; a super storm in New Jersey causing $65 billion of damage, rendering more than 30,000 homeless, and killing over 150 people. News programs and documentaries tell of melting glaciers, raging wildfires, droughts, and changing weather systems that alter migration patterns and destroy habitats.

But, like all politics, almost all credible evidence is local. Just a few weeks ago my 19-year old son called me as he drove late at night after a rainstorm trying to find a flood-free route home. A year before that as I tried to take my youngest son 3 miles to his high school for an early baseball practice, we drove for 90 minutes, finding every possible path to the school underwater before we gave up and searched out a relatively dry way back home.

In our area, what we used to call “100 year floods” now arrive once or twice a year, flooding basements and turning short neighborhood drives into hours-long hunts for passable streets. Seeing rolled up carpets, soggy electronics, and damaged furniture piled at curbs along our suburban streets has become the new normal.

Yet rarely do we hear anyone outside of activist groups and op-ed writers talk about the looming threat. When will we, along with our friends and neighbors, prioritize working on solutions?

Hearing a description of our current environment 20 years ago, we would have pictured a dystopian work of fiction. But we are living in it. Now. And I don’t want to be one of those frogs.

Getting the Politics Right

Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist I’ve had the (mostly) displeasure of reading over the past 30 years in publications from The New Republic to TIME Magazine, to the Washington Post, is a writer with whom I almost never agree and I generally find neither compassionate nor insightful. Imagine my surprise – shock even – when I saw him on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last week and he articulated, better than I ever could, my own philosophy.

Krauthammer just published a collection of selected essays from his 33-year writing career. Initially he planned to focus on, as he said, “the fun stuff, the interesting stuff, the elegant and the beautiful stuff in the world” including “the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the beauty of a perfectly thrown outfield assist. There’s a column on the proper uses of the F-word.” While I know many political writers and pundits share my love of baseball (what is the connection between politics and baseball anyway? It’s amazing how many political junkies  share a passion for baseball), I was surprised to hear that his top four topic mentions were frighteningly close to what mine might be. (And by the way, the only good use of the F-word is as an adjective ending in

But as he began putting his book together, he realized he couldn’t omit what really mattered. He felt compelled to include his thoughts on a force that drives the ultimate direction for our lives, our country, and our world.

“…I realized you can’t do that, because all these things,
all the beautiful and elegant things, in the end depend on
getting the politics right. You can have the most flourishing of cultures,
you get the politics wrong, and you’ve got Germany 1933,
you get China during the cultural revolution…in the end,
politics is the…wall which keeps away the barbarians.”

Politics is the wall that keeps away the barbarians. It’s also the philosophy that moves us toward helping those in need, educating our children, ensuring citizens have access to adequate housing and health care, and guaranteeing that we all share the benefits of equal rights and equal opportunities. Or it can be the philosophy standing between the people and those benefits. Getting the politics right, as Charles Krauthammer said, is all. Getting the politics right, in the end, drives nearly everything that matters to us.

I could say that when I thought about how I wanted to spend my free time, I considered all that and decided to become a political activist. I could say the same about choosing a subject for my writing. But neither statement would be honest. My time and my writing took their own direction without any active decision-making from me. I work and write to communicate the messages and encourage the actions I believe are important for others to be aware of, to think about, and to pass on.

In the decades I have read and listened to Krauthammer, I can’t recall ever agreeing with his political positions, although I have enjoyed some of his personal stories. But with his statements on the critical role of politics, he spoke to me.  He was “killing me softly,” as the Roberta Flack song goes. On that political point we could not agree more. You have to get the politics right. And even though, in my opinion, Krauthammer rarely does, I’m grateful to him for spreading the word about the tremendous importance of the discussion.

The Republican Empathy Deficit

I applaud Senator Rob Portman for recognizing the right of gays and lesbians to marry, but why do Republicans need personal experience with an issue to recognize the importance of others’ civil rights? How about empathy for those you don’t know or with whom you have nothing in common? And while we’re at it, how about more than one Republican senator jumping on the bandwagon?

Comments on Portman’s reversal fall into two camps, those who cheer his belated move into the twentieth century and those who wish he also had children who were poor, uninsured, living in areas with high crime or failing schools, undocumented, or members of any other slighted minority. If only those who work to limit the rights of others could see things from those others’ points of view. Imagining how a law will affect others is the type of thought experiment that leads to changes in perspective and changes of heart.

Most of us put ourselves in others’ positions, hypothetically, every day. We make decisions on what we should say or do based on what we believe will make others feel good, or help them understand something, or do what we’d like them to do. Most of us are capable of  understanding others’ feelings. We were born with empathy, weren’t we? So how did so many Republicans seem to lose it?

I’ve wondered about this for decades. When George Will, the conservative columnist who disparaged every government program, sung the praises of special education, it seemed out of character – until I learned his son had Down’s syndrome. When Sen. Orrin Hatch took a stand against mandatory school prayer I applauded his atypical enlightened stance – then found out that as a Mormon he spent his childhood feeling uncomfortable with the Protestant prayers mandated in his classrooms.

Vice President Dan Quayle, a staunch conservative and anti-choice candidate for reelection in 1992, famously told Larry King that if his young daughter became pregnant, “I would counsel her, and talk to her and support her on whatever decision she made.” Other women should have no access to abortions, but he would support his own  daughter’s right to choose, even if he disagreed with her decision.

Among current Republican newsmakers, Sarah Palin approves of social spending on disabled children, as her own son is disabled. Senator Mark Kirk has promised to look more carefully at Medicaid, having benefited from his own government healthcare following a stroke last year. Governor Chris Christie values hurricane relief after dealing with his home state’s post-Sandy devastation. Even Darth Vader himself, Dick Cheney, supports gay marriage because he sees how important it is in the life of his daughter.

Why can some of us empathize while others can’t imagine a different point of view? A recent 60 Minutes story followed baby researchers at Yale who found that children as young as 6 to10 months exhibit empathy.  But these infants also favor those they believe to be similar to themselves over those perceived as different, even when the difference is as insignificant as choosing the same snack (cheerios vs. graham crackers). If discriminatory judgments begin in infancy, how can we identify and elect legislators who show greater compassion and understanding than fear? Most of us likely agree with the Oscar Hammerstein II lyric that “you’ve got to be carefully taught” to “hate and fear”. If you don’t, if we are born fearing, what hope do we have?

Rob Portman doesn’t want to see his son denied the benefit of married life, but prior to knowing about his son he was apparently not disturbed by denying marriage to the sons of others. In a piece Portman’s son wrote in the Yale Daily News, Will Portman shares the story of coming out to his parents……..two years ago. So for the last two years Senator Portman must have been more comfortable continuing to deny civil rights to gays than he was to publicly change his position.

The Journals of Gerontology published a study, cited in the January 9-10, 2013 Wall Street Journal, finding that empathy peaks when people are in their 50s and that women generally are more empathic than men. I’m not sure we need to elect more folks in their 50s or more women, but there is little doubt we will benefit from choosing more empathic legislators who don’t require a direct, personal experience with an issue to legislate with understanding, compassion, and fairness.

Everyone doesn’t do it.

(orig. published 10.1.12)

Frustrated w/the “everyone does it” mentality of politics?

Everyone does it. It’s an excuse I’ve often heard from my three sons. And one I’ve heard in political discussions since the 70s.

I remember when the Watergate scandal surfaced, during the 1972 election, even my fellow middle schoolers knew the argument – “Everyone does it, Nixon just got caught,” they told me. They believed it, and they clearly failed to understand the magnitude of what they described as “just cheating.”

Now when I post irrefutable evidence of Republicans lying on Facebook, invariably a “friend” or 2 comment, “They all lie,” or “Politicians!”

But have you noticed it’s always the same side claiming equality of misbehavior? When Republicans criticize the president, most of his supporters – and even objective reporters and pundits – respond with a contradicting fact or an admission that yes, he hasn’t handled everything as ideally as we might have liked. I don’t recall hearing “everyone does that” from our side. Ever.

Rachel Maddow has reported the largely ignored story of Mitt Romney’s claimed residency in Massachusetts. In 2002, Massachusetts Democrats challenged Romney’s eligibility to run for governor based on a state constitutional requirement that you have to have been a Massachusetts resident for seven years to run for governor. They stated that Romney’s tax returns would prove that he hadn’t filed as a resident of the state, and that he was therefore disqualified as a candidate for governor. Romney claimed they were wrong, but he refused to release his taxes as proof, saying (as he often has), “Trust me.”

When you ask people to trust you, especially about something that will very likely become public, you better be telling the truth.

Well, guess what? Romney wasn’t. I know you’re as surprised as I was. Actually, I was a bit surprised about this one, because seriously, who does this stuff?

Romney had listed his house in Utah as his primary residence, and he lied when he claimed he had filed tax returns in both states. Romney then amended his 1999 and 2000 tax returns to retroactively make him a Massachusetts resident. You read that right. Retroactively.

As we Jews say, OY.

Now this Republican candidate for President is asking us to trust him again. About paying all the taxes he owed. About how he’ll close loopholes so the middle class will not pay higher taxes while the wealthiest Americans enjoy the huge tax breaks that his proposed reduced tax rates imply. About how he’ll end Obamacare and replace it with something better. About his ability to lead this country.

When someone has demonstrated not just dishonesty, but a stunning insistence he is trustworthy while blatantly lying, doesn’t that go beyond “everyone does it,” regardless of how little we may trust politicians? Everyone doesn’t do it. And when a proven shameless liar asks voters to trust him, how can anyone listen?