The Decision of the FBI not to prosecute Secretary Clinton

I am extremely disheartened to have found out today that the FBI chose not to prosecute Secretary Clinton for gross negligence in handling our national secrets.

The very appearance of this  decision feeds into many Americans’ belief that the justice system is not blind; and that it does favor and protect those that are politically connected. The decision of the FBI has basically confirmed that there are people that are above the law, and are afforded the right to do so. We must not be naïve on this: this decision has indeed harmed the very fabric of our society, further dividing our country over someone who is not being held accountable for their actions. Even more frustrating is the fact the FBI Director has called Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” with our national secrets, which is exactly how “gross negligence” is often defined. It would seem that the FBI Director is engaging in linguistic gymnastics to try and justify not prosecuting the former Secretary of State. I personally believe the FBI Director was a coward on this matter; choosing to not go against the political pressures that were being brought to bear on him instead of pursuing justice for Secretary Clinton’s malfeasance, and choosing to set a proper standard for all Americans under the justice system that each person must be held accountable for their bad acts, particularly while holding public office.

Even though Secretary Clinton will not be prosecuted, there was malfeasance that occurred under her watch. And as a former public servant myself,  I will not use my vote to show that I condone what she did in public office. I will not be a part of awarding her a promotion for this misbehavior and betrayal of the public trust. I cannot tell you who to vote for come November, but for me, I will not be voting for anyone for president in November. This has tempted me to vote for Trump, however, I still feel he is not fit for the presidency no matter what she has done, so I will not waiver from my conviction. As I stated before, America deserves better from both parties. I still believe that the American public deserves someone who they can believe in to be an honorable president and who restores trust and faith in the American system of government, and that person is certainly not Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Defending Trump on one issue: the use of the six-pointed star

This is when I really start to  hate political campaigns; when all logical thought processes go out the window.

If you’ve read my previous articles, you would know I am no fan of Donald Trump. I think he represents the worst of our political process, and he is only helping to tear us apart as a nation.  However, I feel I have to be objective and come to his defense in one respect: the use of the six-pointed star in one of his tweets. This controversy over the six-sided star has been trending on my facebook page almost all weekend, and it finally got to the point I had to respond.

People are up-in-arms over this issue; calling it racist, saying it refers back to the yellow stars worn by the holocaust victim survivors, that it is insensitive.

Given the context of the tweet, the six-pointed star had nothing to do with holocaust victims, the Jewish faith or racism. I hate to use caps, but I’m going to in this instance: THERE ARE TIMES WHEN A GEOMETRIC SHAPE IS JUST A SHAPE! NOTHING MORE!  And then Secretary Clinton adds her two cents on the matter, calling it’ disturbing.’ NO IT’S NOT! IT’S A SHAPE THAT IN-CONTEXT, DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING! IT’S A SHAPE! IT’S A GRAPHIC!  I would have had more respect for Secretary Clinton had she simply dismissed this as a made-up controversy, recognizing that there was no context connecting the star to the Jewish faith or the Star of David, and moved on, instead of trying to score political points off of this hyberbole. But no, she joins the legions of people that sees things that just aren’t there.

Context matters, people. The tweet had nothing to do with the holocaust, or Israel or the Jewish people. It was about Secretary Clinton and her perceived corruption. This is where political correctness goes off the deep end, when it tries to read into something that isn’t there, and when it forces people to change a geometric shape from a six-pointed star to a circle. That’s the actual controversy here, of us getting to point of having to censor graphics despite the lack of any contextual evidence showing there was any kind of connection between that star and the Star of David, other than the fact that people just ASSUME Trump is racist, so the star MUST BE INTENDED TO BE RACIST.  Also, the star wasn’t even yellow, IT WAS RED!  Perhaps there would have been some validity to the argument that it was insensitive had it been actually yellow, or colored as blue and white, the color of the Star of David on the Israel flag. BUT IT WAS NOT!

Stop creating controversy where there is none. Use your heads instead of having knee-jerk reactions. Donald Trump says enough things that are controversial and gives people the right to be angry at him, this wasn’t one of them. Stop being so over-sensitive that you get so offended by every little thing, even things that were not intended to be offensive when taken in proper context.

Independence Day

I wish everyone a wonderful and safe fourth of July! Please take a moment to pray for or think about our troops. As the saying goes, ‘freedom isn’t free.’ Independence Day is always a good opportunity to express our gratitude for the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made to not only secure our freedoms, but to protect them throughout the years and to keep us safe. Thank you, members of our Armed Forces, for your brave and dedicated service!

Embarrassing stories from the congressional office?

I’m posting this as a ‘is this mic on?’ type of story.  I just want to see if anyone out there would like for me to post a few embarrassing stories from my time in the congressional office. These stories are humorous to me now, but not so much while I was there. =)  If you could use some humor, these stories might be able to lighten your mood. Comment below if you would like to hear these embarrassing stories about me, and I will post them. Otherwise, I’ll just keep posting the serious stuff I normally post. Thanks for taking the time to read my posts!

Mike

 

What should a typical Republican presidential platform look like in 2016? (pt 1)

Donald Trump is not running a typical Republican campaign, nor is he even expressing a traditional Republican platform. His platform lacks many specifics, and in many instances, is simply cringe-worthy, particularly when it comes to building a wall and making Mexico pay for it . So how hard is it to present a responsible Republican presidential platform that people can believe in and get excited about and not roll their eyes at when they hear it? Again, I want to put forth a presidential platform here that is truer to the ideals of conservatism than what Trump stands for.

Here are my ideas for a much more consistent presidential platform, one more in line with conservative ideals. This will likely be a lengthy post, so I will break this up into parts.

1). Set it up as a four year plan. Don’t make endless promises that you likely won’t keep. Be as realistic with the promises you make as possible. Set up goals for each year. This first part of this blog post will talk about what should be done in the first year of a proposed presidency.”

Goal 1/year 1: Paying down the Deficit and restraining government. It should be stated emphatically in a presidential platform: “no more new entitlements,” including this new proposal of Democrats to provide free college tuition for nearly everyone. We cannot afford it. We need to show restraint with the federal budget. Discretionary spending, from grants to earmarks, needs to be cut and for the money that is saved to be used to help reduce the deficit as well as to fortify our ailing military. The presidential candidate should demand no more earmarks from Congress for pet projects while we run a deficit; and the president should veto any legislation that contains unnecessary spending, even when it comes in legislation that includes any unrelated riders. Any funds going to the private sector should be gradually reduced across the board; allowing for private groups to adjust to less government funding. The president needs a firm hand and be disciplined, even if it is not politically popular to do so. Someone must think of the financial welfare of the nation, and allowing out-of-control spending does not do that. We need responsible government. A presidential candidate, in my opinion, would gain significant traction for promising responsible government.

In addition to requiring Congress to cut discretionary funding, Congress needs to break down the bill called the ‘omnibus.’ The omnibus is the main bill for government funding, and is usually so large that American citizens will not take the time read it (1000+ pages). This deliberate practice leaves much room for abuse; therefore, the omnibus needs to be broken up into smaller bills, and made much more digestible to the average American citizen. This way, it cuts back on ways to sneak things into the omnibus that shouldn’t be there, and would make government more transparent to Americans who don’t have time to read a 1,000 page budget bill. Doing so would help reduce some of the cynicism plaguing Washington right now, and could help government function more efficiently.

President Obama had over eight years when he could have held Congress’ feet to the fire when it came to government spending. He did not. His administration has allowed for “Congress gone wild.” I will admit that President George W. Bush also did the same. The next president should firmly use the veto pen to hold congressional spending accountable to the American taxpayer. Holding Congress accountable for its discretionary funding should also prevent the president from having to raise the debt limit ceiling.  Also, efforts should be made to find government programs that should either be cut entirely or severely limited, such as providing free cell phones, reduced cell phone rates and broadband to low income consumers. In a vast majority of cases, individuals should be responsible for owning and using their own cell phones or using broadband. Only extreme cases should the federal government even consider issuing and covering these services, such as remote locations where there is very limited availability, for example. Anyone getting these phones or services for low-income reasons should be limited to a maximum of 2 years before these services are turned off. The federal government must become disciplined in deciding when to provide certain services and when it should not, and in my opinion, cell phones and broadband are two services it needs to cut back. Also, the government needs to bring back the welfare work requirement, to help shrink the numbers of Americans on the welfare rolls. This requirement should never have been taken away by the Obama administration, and has only harmed the American people by taking away incentive to get off the government programs.

It is time for the chief executive to also demand salary cuts for both Congress and for those who work in the White House, including the president himself. Many of the people want this; as they believe Members of Congress make too much money as it is, and should be held accountable for the deficit they have left us in. I would suggest cutting salaries for congressional members, senior congressional staff (those that make $90,000K+ a year) and White House senior personnel by approximately 10-15 percent. Take away their automatic pay increases until such time we are out of debt. If the United States is going to suffer under this crushing debt Congress and the White House has left us, they should be the ones to suffer the consequences of this debt before anyone else.  Congress won’t agree to this on their own, it will take an executive with the backbone to demand it from them under veto threat. At the same time, the next president should get with their cabinet secretaries, and request audits by their respective offices of inspector generals’ to conduct an audit of the full federal government, to make an accounting of how taxpayer money is being spent, and to find areas where money is being wasted. The president should then request those areas be fixed by Congress. Audits should happen regularly, to help ensure taxpayer money is being properly spent, and ensure those in government who oversee how taxpayer money is being spent, are being held accountable.

When we talk about restraining government, the candidate should talk about the Department of Labor, and not allowing the Congress to raise the minimum wage up to 15 dollars an hour, as the Democrat Party is thinking about doing while they are drafting their 2016 platform. The president needs to be able to talk about making sure any business regulations from the Department of Labor are fair to both employees and that they are sustainable for businesses, both big and small, so they do not go out of business. Fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage is simply not sustainable, and would have dire consequences for the economy. If the minimum wage does need to go up, restrict it to between 1 and 1.50 dollars per hour increase. Make it reasonable so that businesses can shoulder the burden, and if they have to pass off the expense to their customers, allow them to do so in ways that will not prevent their customers from buying their goods or services and forcing them to shutter their doors permanently. The same goes for overtime rules that can become burdensome for businesses. The people should expect a responsible government that balances the needs of the workforce with the needs of business.

For each year of a presidential term, there needs to be a set goal of how much the government will pay down the deficit. I would suggest requiring Congress to pass budgets that are balanced, and find savings to be able to pay back between 1 and 2 trillion dollars per year.  This goal will not wipe out the entire debt in four years, but it would make a huge dent in the deficit, and could free up funds that could eventually go to other priorities, such as our national defense, the next goal on this list. And hopefully, reducing the deficit in 4 years will send the country on a trend that will eventually eliminate the debt all together in our lifetimes.

Goal 2/Year 1:  National security.  When a close friend of mine and I were talking this, we were talking about Trump’s promises of making the military much bigger, and making it the best so other nations in the world would not challenge us. Expanding the military and seeing to its needs are issues I agree with Trump, but at the same time, my friend asked me ‘how do we do this?’ This is an important question to ask.  My answer would be we start by making the military a priority again. It is clear military spending has not been a priority for President Obama or the democrats in Congress. Why do I say this? Because it was democrats that were insistent on the sequestration cuts for the military, and it was President Obama that allowed them to pass, harming the military in the process. Now we are dealing with military force strength levels that are at pre-World War II levels. This is not sufficient, in my opinion, if we have to deal with conflict on a large scale in this day and age. The military is also suffering from aging infrastructure. There have been reports of fighter squadrons being unable to fly because they are unable to secure the parts necessary to make them ‘flight ready.’ According to this article, nearly 70 percent of Marine Corps fighters are no longer capable of flight status: https://www.rt.com/usa/339768-us-marines-aircraft-aging/.  These numbers are not only shocking, but are utterly disgraceful for America, with the world’s largest and most powerful military, to be suffering such embarrassing problems. These problems have to be affecting troop morale and must be addressed.

We must make our military a priority again, and we must find the funds within our budget to rebuild our military (adding new battalions and divisions for the army, marine corps) and its infrastructure (new fighter jets, new ships). We have to remember that the smaller we make our military, the larger the burden we put on each individual service member, forcing them to endure even more tours of duty during times of conflict. As Americans, we need to honor the service of our troops by doing what we can to reduce the number of times we call upon them to go into combat, which requires having a larger military to spread the burden; one where we do not need to call on the National Guard or the Reserves as much. We need to take some of the savings from cutting spending in other parts of the government and return it to the military.

This is just something that has to be done, and something we have to find the political will to do. In World War II, the population was noted for making sacrifices for the war effort, such as collecting scrap metal to rationing of food, gas and clothing; a spirit of sacrificing for the common good. We need to find that same spirit again; to make sacrifices in other government spending to expand our military and make sure it has everything it needs to keep us safe.  Within national security, we need to include cybersecurity. Given the fact that outside forces continue to try and hack the U.S. government on a daily basis, many of which are state-sponsored, we need to find ways of protecting our data and discouraging such attacks. Cybersecurity needs to become an even bigger priority for us.

As for ISIS, it should be clear: we must eliminate and destroy terror groups like ISIS, and their ideologies. We need to step up air strikes, and in areas where air and drone strikes are not doing the job, we should consider boots on the ground, to help our allies, the Iraqis, push them out of their territory. This should not be a major deployment, but large enough to get the job done. It would also be good to start taking ISIS/ISIL troops into custody, not just for intelligence gathering purposes, but to put many of these fighters on trial for crimes against humanity. Send them to The Hague, and make sure the message is clear that this ideology of murder and brutality will not be tolerated.

A president would also need to talk about the issues around Russia, China and Iran. Russia continues to provoke with its cyber attacks and with its saber rattling. The United States should send a clear message to Russia that it still stands with NATO, and should make sure it gets all the support it needs. The United States should also consider ratcheting up sanctions against Russia, particularly since they continue to hack away at the U.S. government with impunity, allegedly even hacking the Democrat headquarters computers. These kind of cyberattacks must be stopped. The Russians also continue to perform provocative maneuvers with their fighter jets and their naval vessels. We should do something to not encourage this to continue, lest an international incident happens because of these actions.

For China and the problems arising with the South China Sea, we should be pursuing diplomatic resolutions to the crisis, but should not back down and should not be afraid of imposing sanctions on China if they continue to show aggressive behavior. The U.S. also needs to get tough with China for its alleged hacking efforts against U.S. cyber interests.

Goal 3/Year 1: Jobs and the economy. Any presidential candidate needs to focus on jobs and the economy; on getting more people back to the work force. First of all, the government needs to do a better job tracking those who have left the workforce. Their job reports must more accurately reflect who is no longer participating in the workforce to get a better reflection of the state of the economy. The Department of Labor should do what it can to try and help those that have fallen out of the workforce and help them back in, likely with job fairs or training workshops designed to help people get in touch with companies that can use their skill sets, and help them find full time employment. I also think the Department of Labor needs to work more closely with colleges and universities and helping students be better prepared for the job market after they graduate, making sure they have the skills to write resumes and how to conduct themselves in interview. I will talk about reforming the Department of Education in a future blog article. Also, showing restraint in government will help businesses to grow, without interference and intrusion from big government, something that has been hurting businesses over the last eight years.

Goal 4/Year 1: Comprehensive Immigration Reform. As I pointed out in my post about fixing the Republican Party branding, this is an issue the Republicans need to embrace to try and win over new voters, particularly Hispanics. They cannot continue to block immigration reform, without suffering serious consequences from the electorate. If the Democrats manage to get the presidency and both chambers of Congress and pass immigration reform without Republican support, it could be disastrous for the party for generations. Republicans, if they want the presidency, need to make choices that show they can govern everyone, as a part of one, indivisible nation. Here are my ideas:

  • The United States should still continue to deport anyone who is caught illegally crossing the borders.
  • For those who have been here illegally for at least four years and can prove it with apartment lease agreements, W2 forms, 1040 tax forms or other documentation, they should be allowed to apply for legal residency. The application should require a background check and fingerprinting. If the person has any kind of DWI or violent crime in their history, they should be permanently prohibited from being about to obtain legal residency. For those who are here illegally, the individual should pay a base fee of $250. If a background check shows the individual has been deported in the past, the fine that must be paid goes up by $200 per offense, with a maximum of $1,200 to be paid before they are able to receive the legal residency status. This fee could be paid in payments, however, until the fee is fully paid, they will only have probationary legal residency, pending the full payment of the fee. If payments are missed, this probationary legal residency is revoked, and the individual can be deported if caught without this legal status. This fee is important to tell the immigrant they have violated our laws, and must pay a penalty to get right with the law. Those coming here through the legal process would not face this penalty.
  • If the person commits a crime as a legal resident, and it is a violent offense or a DWI, legal residency status should be revoked immediately, and after serving their sentence, should be deported, and permanently barred from obtaining legal residency status again.
  • If a person is caught here illegally on private property, the property owner should be able to file a claim with the government. The government should pay that property owner for that damage. If that undocumented immigrant later on chooses to seek legal residency, in addition to paying the fee, the immigrant must repay the government for the damage they caused coming into this country. That restitution must be paid before they can get legal residency status.
  • When they become legal residents, the undocumented immigrants may choose to stay as legal residents, knowing that they do not have all the rights of a citizen, but they will not have to live under the fear of being deported. If they wish to apply for full citizenship, the previously undocumented immigrant must wait a mandatory amount of time before beginning the process to become a citizen; allowing for those who came here legally to be shown preference to become citizens. This mandatory wait time should be about 7 years, and after that time, the legal resident may then apply for citizenship, but will be put at the bottom of the list. Again, this is meant to penalize those that come here illegally. Minors who live with the undocumented immigrant who has received legal residency will also be granted legal residency. Minors that turn eighteen should have less of a wait time to become citizens, perhaps 3 years to wait to begin that process. If they choose to join the military, they should be allowed to become a citizen upon being sworn into the military.
  • Efforts must be taken to streamline the process for applying to come here legally, and to reduce the time it takes to be approved. The process for verifying individuals’ backgrounds must be scrutinized, and must be designed in such a way that makes it difficult to come here legally if there are issues with an individual’s background.
  • The government must pass longer prison sentences for those that would smuggle people into this country illegally. Perhaps even have mandatory minimum sentences for these types of criminals to discourage efforts to smuggle people into the country.
  • Border Patrol and Coast Guard must be given the tools needed to hunt for and shut down tunnels that are being used to bring people and drugs illegally into the United States, and to have the capability of intercepting individuals trying to come into the United States via boat, or submersibles that are carrying drugs for the cartels.
  • Stringent efforts must be made to deport all undocumented immigrants with violent historys. There should be consequences for sanctuary cities that do not comply with reporting these offenders to ICE, including losing federal funding for their city.
  • The individual running for president should make it a point to go after anyone who overstays their visas.

Goal 5/Year 1: Gun Control. The final goal I would set for a presidency in its first year would be gun control. The Republican Party has to admit that after the Orlando shooting, there is real anger from the public over someone who should not have been allowed to have a gun was licensed, and used that gun to mass murder. As I talked about gun control in an earlier post, in order to properly govern everyone in this country, one must take into account their interests at being kept safe from this gun violence. It is impossible to stop all instances of gun violence and mass murder, but efforts must be made to diminish the chances of it happening. I would want a presidential candidate that supports authorizing the Department of Justice for taking an individual to court which it believes has shown reasons for their rights to purchase or own guns to be taken way, and will provide a federal judge ‘just cause’ for taking such an action. Doing this would allow the individual due process, and would approach gun control for individuals on an individual case-by-case basis. I personally do not support banning guns, such as semi-automatic rifles, as it harms both the responsible gun owner and those that would break the law with these weapons. A more targeted approach to gun control is something I would like to see a presidential candidate put forth, and to show that this issue is a serious matter for both sides of the aisle.

Anyway, that’s it for now. My next post would deal with the second year goals of a presidential candidate’s platform.

My Origin Story: of becoming a congressional staff member

So, as I said in my inaugural post, I wanted to spend some time talking about stories relating to my time as a Congressional staff member. Having talked a lot about heavy/serious issues important to me, from my take on the current presidential candidates, gun control to trying to fix the branding of the Republican Party, I thought this would be a good time to share a story from my past; the story of how I became a congressional staff member. This will be some lighter fare for my blog.  So this was my origin story.

In 2001, the year I graduated from the University of New Mexico, one of my Political Science professors (I was taking the class as an elective) mentioned internship opportunities in the congressional and senate offices. And so, looking into it, I decided to apply for a college internship in Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s district office (and to me, that’s one of the best choices I ever made). I filled out the application, attached my writing sample, and to my surprise, I got a call from the District Director, and wanted to interview me for the internship. And so I did the interview in April 2001, and I was given the internship. I was so excited at that point. The District Director and I went over their checklist (which I still have in one of my scrapbooks), and then went to work.

As an intern, data entry was a big part of my day-to-day work, as well as periodically answering the phones, helping prepare mass mailings (folding letters and sealing envelopes) and letter-drafting, usually the letters were for retirements or special events, such as someone winning a distinguished award, and the congressional office wanted to send a letter to them acknowledging the individual’s accomplishment. One of the things that distinguished me in this role was my letter writing skills. Although most of it was following a specific template, I got a few letters here and there that allowed me to show off my writing style. And I do believe that was one of things that allowed me to leave an impression with the District Director. Towards the end of the internship, I had my picture taken with Congresswoman Heather Wilson. Just being new to the system, and basically being an outsider who had only met one other elected official before, I was so excited and thrilled. I was very sad to see my internship end, and I thought that would be the end of my interactions with Congresswoman Wilson’s office. I of course would be very wrong.

In late August, I got a letter from Heather Wilson’s office, asking current and former interns if they wanted to walk in the New Mexico State Fair parade with Heather Wilson. Of course I wanted that, so I told them I would come and on September 8, 2001, I got to march in the parade with my Congresswoman. It was thrilling. I loved marching down the street in the parade, throwing candy to the onlookers. It was an amazing experience. I even got to ride to ride back in the car with the Congresswoman and the District Director, taking us back to our own vehicles, and during that time, I told them about my current job; a job with Relay New Mexico, a telephone network system for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community (I was a Relay Operator for those that used TTY machines to communicate on the telephone). When we all departed and went our separate ways, I figured that would probably be the last time I would interact with the Congressional office. But it was such a great day; a day that filled me with such euphoria. It was heartbreaking that just three days later, 9/11 would happen. One of my best days, followed by one of the worst days in our nation’s history. But of course, I would be wrong about my interactions with the Congressional office. There would be yet another interaction to come.

This time, a few months later, I was working at Relay New Mexico when the office posted a flyer; a flyer announcing a business visit from the Congresswoman. I never inquired about that, but I am convinced that they chose to do a visit because of what I had told them about Relay New Mexico. Of course, when the flyer asked people to sign up to meet with the Congresswoman (and get off the phones…it was a call center after all), I gladly signed up. The Congresswoman and the District Director toured the call center that day in I believe February 2002, and we were allowed to get off the phones to meet with her in the conference room. And again, I got to visit with both the Congresswoman and the District Director. I was again so very happy to see the Congresswoman and the District Director that I later dropped off a letter to their office thanking them for visiting Relay New Mexico.  And of course, I got a personal, hand-written note from Heather on her personal stationary shortly thereafter acknowledging my letter to her (which, again, I still have. I’m so glad I decided to scrapbook a lot of this stuff). And I can guarantee that Heather personally handwrote that note, because as a staffer, I would learn that the staff would turn over letters to Heather like mine to write personal notes for, and I do remember turning over more than my share of items for Heather to write personal notes for. For me, this was really cool. And again, after their visit…well by this point in the story, you should already know what I was thinking.  And you know what, I was wrong…again.

The next time I was contacted by the Congressional Office was on Saturday, September 23rd. I was called by the District Director, Julie. I was told that the congressional office had experienced a recent loss of staff, and because it was so close to the election that year, they needed help. So Julie was contacting me and another former intern to come in and work as temporary congressional staff members. Of course, I could not pass up that opportunity given how passionate I was about politics. I gleefully told her I would take a leave of absence and come work with Heather Wilson and the congressional staff.  And that is what I did.

My favorite part of filling out the paperwork was signing my name to the oath…”I, Michael Wich, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic: that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” Even today, that still sends chills up and down my spine.

At that point, the other temporary staff member and I basically split up cases and case assignments. I started off with issues dealing with BIA, Postal Matters, IRS matters, business issues, Sunport matters, labor, education and some VA cases. It was quite challenging for me in those early days as I did not have experience with casework, and my previous internship with the office did not prepare me at all for conducting congressional inquiries. But I and the other staffer muddled our way through.

When it was closer to the election, I knew if Heather got re-elected, they would need new staffers. And so I seized upon that opportunity, and let Julie know that I would like to stay on permanently after the election. Julie informed me that there would need to be an interview process, as there would be some people wanting to come over from the campaign side. I was nervous, and did not know what would happen. I basically gave up my other job at Relay to do this so this was a gamble. Heather Wilson would get re-elected in 2002, and I would later be interviewed by both Julie, the District Director, and Heather’s chief of staff, Bryce, from the D.C. office. Afterwards, I was told that Bryce was impressed with my knowledge of my cases, and they hired me on permanently for the district office. It was an amazing experience, and provided me with many more amazing experiences.

The moral of this story should be if you see opportunity, make sure you take it. Seize the day; carpe diem. In 2002, I certainly did that, and it changed my life.

So that was my ‘origin story’ as a congressional staff member. I am certain there are more stories to be told about my experiences, for another day. But for now, thank you for reading, and I hoped you enjoyed my story!

Mike

The Need to Fix Republican Branding

I’m going to give a honest assessment: things are looking bleak for the Republican Party. As of the date this was written, the Republicans currently enjoy control of both houses of Congress, a majority of governorships and even a number of state legislatures. But for eight years, they have been locked out of the presidency. And with each new self-inflicted wound coming from Donald Trump, it looks like that trend will continue for at least another four years, despite the fact I have felt Secretary Clinton was vulnerable and could have been beaten with a stronger, more mature and more experienced candidate.

Am I throwing in the towel too early? I don’t think so. Trump’s poll numbers are tanking, and barring something like a Secretary Clinton indictment, the Republican Party has lost the presidency once again. Now it becomes a question as to whether the Republican Party can rally to keep control of the House and Senate. I’m not optimistic on that front either, given what has been happening on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, and the trend that usually happens when the losing presidential candidate suffers a bad defeat in the electoral college, which usually results in serious damage being done to House and Senate races as well.  The situation with the Republican Party is made worse by the fact that the Republican elected officials in Washington do not seem to have a cohesive message for America moving forward. They appear to be a rudderless boat, left to the mercy of the ebb and flow of the tides.

The Republican Party needs to stop being in denial and acknowledge there needs to be significant reform within its own ranks. The GOP has to admit it has a catastrophic branding problem, particularly when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, women and minorities. As it stands now, a vast majority of members from these groups have no incentive to consider what the Republican Party has to offer. Most feel alienated by this party, by many of its Republican members and by how it operates. Whatever the Republican Party is doing for outreach is clearly not resonating with the American public,  leaving many with the general feeling that Republicans are insensitive and are unable to understand what these communities need, and leaves them with the conclusion that Republicans would be poor advocates for their priorities at the federal level. This desperate situation with its branding is only exasperated with the uncouth and belligerent attacks that have been coming from Donald Trump during his campaign, alienating even greater segments of society outside of just these three groups, and has proven divisive even amongst Republicans themselves.

A significant portion of the members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t feel inclined to be a part of the Republican establishment because of many public comments made by high profile Republicans show they are, in a best case scenario, ignorant or indifferent when it comes to issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, and at the very worst, intolerant. Many voters from that community do not feel like the Republican Party is inclusive, particularly when there are a number of Republican members who pass judgment on how the gay community define themselves, and essentially condemns who they are and what their lifestyles are as being ‘sinful.’  It may be hard for many Republicans to move past this belief when it is engrained in their religious dogma, but for the health of the party moving forward, the party must try and encourage all Republicans to realize that this is the time for unconditional acceptance, a time where we need to say, ‘we will accept how each person defines themselves without judgment or reservation, and will accept everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.’  The Republican Party needs to be able to tell the American people,  ‘We need to come together as diverse Americans from all backgrounds to advance our core values; to advance what we believe are in the best interests of the nation and to deal with the serious problems facing all of us as Americans.”

We are much stronger together than when we are apart.  The Republican Party should stop driving people away with its own rhetoric and behavior. We should encourage utmost respect for everyone and reflect that in our policies, and if a gay or transgendered person chooses to run for public office under the Republican banner, we should simply leave it up to the individual Republican voter to decide if they can vote for that person based on their religious beliefs. But if that gay or transgendered person runs as a Republican, the Republican Party should fully celebrate and embrace them and welcome their contributions to the party. If we need to use biblical references to convince our fellow Republicans to be accepting of the gay community, we should refer them back to the passage in the New Testament where Christ simply commands, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Let us become accepting of each and every American, no matter how they define themselves; let’s break down those barriers that people might be encountering from feeling welcomed into the Republican Party and let’s start advancing Republican agenda.

The Republican Party would be better served by prominently highlighting their Log Cabin Republican members on the national stage. I am sure there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know who they are, but they are the largest Republican organization that supports and advocates for Republicans that are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Beyond that, the party should take serious time to review and consider the types of legislation that are being sponsored at both the state and federal levels, and take into consideration how divisive many of these Republican-led bills are being received by the greater community; specifically, I am referring to the North Carolina bathroom law and the Religious Liberty laws of places like Arizona and Indiana that many believe are efforts to make discrimination legal against certain segments of society (the LGBTQ+ community in particular). The Republican Party also needs to be conscientious of the fact that the Orlando shooting was both an act of terror AND an act of hate against the LGBTQ+ community. And to solely focus on just the terror aspect diminishes the LGTQ+ community’s outrage and pain over this hate crime, and only shows the Republican Party as indifferent to the LGBTQ+’s concerns about their safety, welfare and about hatred coming from outside their community directed toward their members, and paints Republicans as only being interested in making this tragedy political for their own purposes.

The Republican Party must become keenly aware of what their message is, how they deliver their message, and to become sensitive to the stands we take on issues which might inadvertently alienate the general voting electorate.  It is similar to the situation with the Florida state senator that is running for Congress (Greg Evers), who has chosen to host an AR-15 giveaway on Independence Day even after the horrendous Orlando shooting. And apparently, he isn’t the only one giving away rifles like this. Problems with timing and the way our messages come across as insensitive and tone deaf only serves to make the general public question if the Republican Party is even capable of making sound judgments for the purpose of governing this country. The Republican Party needs to get its act together and be smarter with how it presents itself to mainstream America. When you are running for Congress or for president, you are not running to govern just your own constituency who agrees with you; your own little fiefdom, but you are running for office that governs everyone. You must be able to give the American public reasons to consider you to be worthy to be entrusted with the high office; and give them reasons to believe that their voices will still be heard and taken into consideration. So far, many Republicans are failing to do that, and are sticking by traditional ways of doing things that are ultimately proving to be self-defeating.

As a party, we must move past gay marriage. Gay marriage is a way for people to pursue their inalienable right of ‘pursuit of happiness,’ and therefore, the Republican Party should step out of the way, and let people of the same gender get married without opposition or judgment. Gay marriage does not take anything away from heterosexual marriage, and does not harm the sanctity of the institution; only things like infidelity and domestic abuse do that. One marriage certificate for a gay couple does not mean there is one less marriage certificate for a heterosexual couple. Opposing same sex marriage only harms long-term interests of the Republican Party by fostering the impression that the Republican Party is bigoted. The Republican Party has to work hard to overcome this impression to be able to appeal to greater numbers of new voters and to convince them of the value of our core beliefs, which the party desperately needs to do right now to be able to keep up with the Democrat Party in the sheer number of voters. Right now, the Republican Party has a problem it doesn’t want to talk about; it cannot win the presidency without significant help from Independents. In this regard, the Democrats are in far better shape; the can make do with far fewer Independent votes and still be able to win. Unable to win the presidency on its own is not a sign of a winning strategy for the Republican Party.  It must change or continue to be locked out of the presidency, and in the future, could become even further marginalized as demographics shift, and makes it even harder to win even House or Senate seats.

Women have also been leery of the Republican Party because again, many members within the Republican Party have expressed ridiculous views on abortion and rape and other women’s health issues that have greatly angered and frustrated them, many viewpoints of which have proven to be blatantly ignorant and sexist. And unfortunately, due to the internet, such statements can remain alive in the American public’s consciousness forever, and live to haunt the party.  Members of the Republican Party needs to make sure that when running for office, they are fully informed on women’s issues, so when they are questioned, they do not come off as either ignorant or sexist and continue to do harm the brand of the Republican Party.

In addition, the Republican Party needs to tone down its rhetoric in regards to the abortion issue. The Republican Party should emphasize its belief in protecting life at conception and finding ways of discouraging abortion by promoting adoption as the better option, and working to find solutions on issues that could lead to unwanted pregnancies and abortions, such as teen pregnancy. If laws need to be changed or there needs to be improvements made to the adoption process to make it more appealing to women, than that is where the Republican Party should focus its energy. However, the Republican Party should also recognize the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter on women’s’ rights, respect it and just focus on drawing attention to the option of adoption; on the option of allowing new life to be brought into this world. This likely won’t appeal to many pro-life Republican voters who want to do more than that, but by taking a step back and leaving the choice up to the woman and giving her the respect of honoring her choices, it could allow for a greater number of women to consider the Republican Party platform who otherwise would not give the party a second look based on the party’s heavy-handed approach to abortion. Besides, for the religious Republican (which I count myself as being a religious Republican), we should remember that God gave us free will. We should honor that fact, and allow women to be able to exercise their free will. We may not agree with the decision, but all we can do is try to convince women considering abortion that there is an alternative, and urge her to take that option instead. And what the Republican Party really needs to do is to take the abortion issue away from Democrats that have been giddy at being able to frame the debate that the Republicans are waging a “war on women.” Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot, and start instead putting ourselves on better footing with the broader electorate by trying to appeal to women voters with our stands on limited government, accountability and national security. And let us encourage articulate, strong women to start running for offices under the Republican Party banner so we can continue to erode this “war on women” mentality. For over five years, I severed under a strong Republican Congresswoman. Strong female Republicans are out there; we just need to encourage them to step forward and to run for public office, and to help us disprove the impression that the Republican Party somehow stands against women.

The Republican Party also continues to have issues with minority groups, likely because we do not have enough Republican minorities running for public office, and the party itself has not been expressing views and policies that are in line with issues that minority groups are concerned about, such as comprehensive immigration reform and reforming local police departments so that they are more responsive to minority community needs. For far too long, the Republican Party has turned a deaf ear to these issues, and has actively blocked comprehensive immigration reform from being passed; all the while alienating all those who hold this issue as a priority. To help with the branding problems of the Republican Party, leaders within the party should also speak out publically and with one clear voice whenever one of their candidates says or does something that is utterly offensive and is disparaging to minority groups, the LGBTQ+ community or women.

This statement has never been truer with this year’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Whenever Donald Trump uses divisive language, such as when he uses the name ‘Pocahontas’ to refer to Elizabeth Warren, or when he attacks a federal judge based on his family’s Mexican heritage, or when he has used callous language to put down women, the Republican Party should have stood united and disavowed such rhetoric immediately, and told the American people that such language does not represent the party and it is unbefitting a presidential campaign.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party’s inconsistent message on Trump’s behavior has been extremely disheartening. Some in the Republican Party have bravely chosen to speak out, but many others have chosen to stand in silence or have chosen to make excuses for Donald Trump. Trump’s antics during the campaign has gone well beyond the excuse that he’s ‘a new breed of candidate;’ his behavior has been deplorable to women and minorities, and the Republican Party has failed to send the right message on this matter.  For me, as a Republican, it appears that the party is silently condoning this despicable behavior just for the chance of winning the presidency. Winning by violating your principles is not winning at all. For a person who should understand the basic concept of branding from his own business background, Donald Trump hasn’t seemed to care that his actions have already grievously harmed the Republican Party’s image, perhaps for generations to come. The negative impressions left with today’s voters about the Republican Party will likely be passed onto their children, and further down the line, to their grandchildren. Not only do elections have consequences, so does failing to take action when your candidates start offending the LGBTQ+ community, minority groups, and women. That is a lot of potential voters to be hemorrhaging because you will not take a stand against your own candidates when they express things that are sexist, ignorant, or bigoted.

The Republican Party needs to re-focus its message on its core values, and needs to be able to explain our true values to the American people. These core values should include limited government and why it is important. We need to explain to them why we are fighting for less intrusive government that encourages individuals to do for themselves and to strive for extraordinary things in their lives, and not simply settle for a government hand-out. We need to explain to the American people that big, bloated government is not sustainable, particularly with our out-of-control debt. Restraint must be placed on government, both financial and in terms of government expanse for the betterment of future generations. We need to explain to the voters that we want no more new entitlements, such as free college tuition for all. No matter how well intentioned, we cannot afford it. What we should be demanding instead is for responsible government to be paying off the 20 trillion dollars worth of debt that we as Americans are currently saddled with, and to start dealing with this debt by cutting government spending.

The Republican Party should be calling for an audit of the entire federal government now to see how taxpayer money is being spent, and what areas we can focus on to reallocate taxpayer money that is currently being wasted so it is actually spent wisely and can be used to the benefit of taxpayers and potentially be used to pay off this crushing debt. Audits of the federal government should happen on a regular basis to cut down on waste, fraud and abuse. We need to focus on the problems of over-taxation, and emphasize how taxes are a finite resource, and that we cannot continue raising taxes indefinitely to sustain out-of-control government. Between federal and state taxes, property and sales taxes, the government is ‘nickel and diming’ people to death, and taking away their ability to obtain the quality of life they desire. We are taking money that could be used as disposable income by families to improve the economy and are instead using it as life support for big government. We will deny many people the American dream through the continued practice of over-taxation. And if we can’t tax more, we will force the government to print more money to pay debts, which will eventually lead to our currency becoming devalued to the point of being worthless. All these issues must be brought to the forefront in our conversations with our fellow Americans; issues I feel many Americans will be able to relate to and support the party for championing instead of a Republican Party trying to ban gay marriage or make some stupid remarks about rape or abortion; and continuing to fight the completely wrong fights and once again losing the support of the American people.

The Republican Party needs to place stronger emphasis on national security. In the past, Republicans have always made national security a top priority. But lately, the Republicans on Capitol Hill have dropped the ball. They have failed to really speak out against the sequestration of our military. No other government agency or department has been hit as hard as the military. When sequestration first hit and people were noticing the cuts in funding in other areas such as TSA, people complained about long lines in airports, and Congress relented and restored that funding. But it never did for the military, the silent victims of the sequestration process.

In these times of conflict, with Russia forcefully taking control over Crimea, destabilizing the Ukraine and threatening other former Soviet bloc nations, the United States needs to be able to stand up and support NATO. America needs to be the leader in global stability and freedom. When China makes power plays to take control over the South China Sea, our navy must be there to protect the interests of the other nations in that region and to help enforce international law. Iran must constantly be monitored and challenged, as they continue to be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

Neither Russia or China are backing down, and China in particular continues to be expanding its military capabilities. We must continue to expand our capabilities as well, to be able to keep the promise to the American people that we can always protect them and their way of life from foreign aggression. The Republican Party must explain to the American people that government must be reduced and spending must be cut, but those cuts must not be applied to the military, as there is too much as stake in our international politics today to risk us not being prepared for major conflict. And right now, with sequestration cuts in full affect, our military force strength has been drawn down to levels not seen before World War II; to levels that in my opinion, are dangerously low. This is something that has to change.

In dealing with national security, the Republican Party must place special emphasis on cybersecurity. Countries like China and Russia are trying to hack our government and private sector computers on a daily basis, with impunity. Millions of government officials have been rendered vulnerable due to the OPM data breach and the exposure of their private records. We need to take this issue much more seriously, and make this a serious platform issue for our party; an issue that many Americans can get behind as part of our national security. Steps must be taken to discourage Russia and China from continuing their relentless assaults on our firewalls.

Next, the Republican Party needs to focus on accountability. The Obama administration suffered an alarming number of scandals from government employees that didn’t feel they needed to be held accountable. If a government employee misuses taxpayer money, make sure they pay it back with interest. If the offense is too great, fire them. Hold government and the people that work in government accountable, including Congress and congressional staffs.  Work to give senior government leaders in both the White House and Congress salary cuts, and take away their automatic pay increases until such time that we have eliminated the federal deficit. Hold them accountable for the mess they have caused, and give them incentive to work toward a fix. We need a leader that will enforce a ‘no earmarks’ policy for our future budgets to get rid of pork spending. We need to look at the grants and funding that we are providing to the private sector, and look at gradually cutting these grants across the board, leaving no pet projects unprotected from these cuts. In this era of enormous debt, we must find areas to cut back, and require private sector entities to find other sources of capital to sustain themselves other than government funding. We must pay down this national debt.

We need to make it clear that there is a distinct difference between what government and individuals should be responsible and held accountable for. National security is an area that government is completely responsible for. Individual healthcare is something best left up to the individual to be responsible for and in charge of in their own personal lives. Government can try and make it as affordable as possible, but the individual should not be forced into accepting healthcare coverage out of fear they will be penalized if they don’t. Infrastructure is another function of government. Providing free college to everyone is not a function of government. Encourage students to take out loans, work through college or go through the military to get their college education, but do not make college free for everyone at the expense of the taxpayer. Our culture is already suffering from an ‘entitlement’ mentality; we should not continue contributing to that mentality and letting younger generations think that the government’s purpose is to always provide free services to them. After all, everything that the government does is not free; the taxpayer is on the hook for everything that the government promises.

Finally, Republicans should stand for balanced governing. We should acknowledge that in order to govern this great country as “one nation,” we have to take into account all people’s opinions, beliefs and values when crafting legislation. You cannot simply ignore people who cry out for gun control; who are angry at so many incidents of mass shootings and who demand their right to be free of this violence. You appear to those that desire gun control that you are tone deaf to their complaints, and are not respecting the rights of those who wish to live free of such violence. Reasonable measures should be taken to balance individual rights of gun owners with government interests of stopping gun violence, such as making sure those that are radicalized or are otherwise mentally unstable should not be able to possess or buy guns. If the mentally unstable or the radicalized already currently own guns or still have the right to buy guns because they have not committed a crime, the government should be able to take them to court to prove just cause in suspending those rights and confiscating those guns through due process. Of course, you’re not going to please everyone, especially those that are on either extreme, but at the very least, you make the effort to try and find common ground. Otherwise, we will not end up with one indivisible nation, we will end up with a red nation and a blue nation. I’m not certain that is was what the founders of this country intended, but unfortunately, that is the direction we are heading. Red and blue: the new north and south.

We need to take this balanced governance in all aspects of legislation, not just gun control. It will not be easy, and there will be a lot of disagreements, but we need to focus on legislating for both sides of the aisle to try and heal this nation of its deep partisan divisions that have formed over recent years. We just have to look at what has been happening on Capitol Hill to know all is not right with the union; with Democrats interrupting moments of silence for the Orlando shooting and even staging a sit-in on the House floor. There is real rage out there, in the American public, rage that should not be summarily dismissed as merely ” a publicity stunt.” The Republican Party must do its part to help heal our nation, listen to all constituency groups and bring all Americans back together for the common good. Then perhaps the Republican Party may regain the people’s trust, and help restore their faith in our system of government. And perhaps, one day, the Republican Party will earn the right again to have one of its members serve as the President of the United States.