"Rigged...." A Review

September, 2020

Washington and Berlin – On Monday, September 28th, the film "Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook" will be shown in Berlin at the Lichtblick Kino, Kastanienallee 77.  The film starts at 8 PM and a discussion of it at 9:15 PM.  

For the discussion and a critique of the film, Doug Hillmer and I will be joining by Zoom from the USA (3:15 PM EDT).  

The film can also be viewed at any time at https://www.riggedthefilm.com/watch-at-home

The "playbook" is presented in nine parts to explain systematic approaches to rigging elections: 1. The Red Map Plan; 2. Gerrymandering; 3. Voter Residency Laws; 4. The Voting Rights Act; 5. Voter Fraud; 6. Voter Purges; 7. Voter Intimidation; 8. Voter IDs; 9. Change the Courts.  Each part in the film has its share of memorable characters, both perpetrators and victims.  

Some of the parts show lamentably successful election-rigging to be within the law; other parts show pure corruption at work.  Legal or not, malign intent is pervasive in all the playbook techniques.  The film benefits by drawing on authoritative sources like Jane Mayer, the author of Dark Money.    

Viewed through my métier (political science), what I see is the Republican Party being taken over by unprincipled and cynical corporate interests, falsely posing as traditional conservatives, that see election-rigging as a means to increase power and profits to levels never before imagined.  I see the Democratic Party as largely blind to this development until it became too late to stop it.  

The result is a country on the verge of losing its very democracy.

The failures of the two political parties reflect weaknesses in the constituencies of both when it comes to understanding how American government works.  

In my experience, both in teaching and in the practice of government, Republicans too often associate American patriotism with its symbols rather than looking behind what the symbols stand for.  To many Republicans, it's all about saluting the flag, cheering on the 4th of July, and interpreting the term "American exceptionalism" to mean national superiority.  That's as far as it goes.  The party has long been vulnerable to a take-over from authoritarian election-riggers who traffic in symbol manipulation while blatantly undermining the meanings behind the symbols.  Republicans now cheer voter suppression in the name of America First. 

Democrats, in my experience, are prone to misunderstanding the relationships between the different levels of government.  Their conception of American government is often a pyramid with the national government at the apex and state and local governments under it.  They put excessive reliance on winning the presidency, to the neglect of state and local offices.   They too often do not understand that the U.S. Constitution creates a system of dual sovereignty, with the states responsible for elections among other areas of jurisdiction.  This misconception became particularly pronounced after the 2008 elections and has contributed to the current crisis in American democracy.  Democrats neglected state and local elections and now have lost the presidency as well, with a diminishing chance of regaining it from a reckless autocrat and serial prevaricator who does not abide by democratic norms.

Saving American democracy will likely not come about through the traditional Republican Party, which has all but vanished.  It has been replaced by a claque directed by a power-hungry chief executive.  Democrats are in disarray, unsure how to respond responsibly to the unravelling situation.  

The film stops without moving on to discuss lawful tools available to countermand the techniques of the playbook.  Among those would be the authority of conscientious state officials to prevent rigged election returns from being certified to the Electoral College, forcing the selection of president into the House of Representatives as provided in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.  

Another tool would be the Constitutional provision in Article I, Section 5, which specifies that "Each House shall be the Judge of ... its own Members," meaning that there is no obligation or requirement to seat gerrymandered delegations.  If the House selects the president, let it be on the basis of votes NOT gerrymandered, thereby removing a linchpin of the election-rigging playbook.  

"Rigged..." enlightens us as to how democracy has been corrupted.  The next step is to identify and take countermeasures to restore our democratic ideals under the rule of law.    

Causes for Optimism

September, 2020

Washington –  Just when things look increasingly bleak for the future of the human condition and the planet itself, along come reasons for hope.  

A climate change fix, based on current technology, now seems possible.  It's not based on sketchy ideas like blocking the sun or fertilizing the oceans with iron.  It does not rely excessively on conversion to renewable energy sources, or on conservation of energy, which must be undertaken but not as the sole solutions.  The proposal is to create marine permaculture arrays (MPAs):

Marine permaculture arrays (MPAs) are man-made irrigation grids for growing kelp forests, equipped with wave-powered pumps and pipes that can restore overturning circulation — the process that moves warm and cold water and nutrients around the depths and surface waters of the Atlantic — lost due to climate disruption. They can be towed out to sea, establishing new kelp forests and restoring fisheries in what are increasingly becoming ocean deserts. MPAs are relatively inexpensive to build, and the resulting kelp and fish can be sold commercially. MPA inventor Brian von Herzen estimates that the arrays can remove CO2 at a cost of about $80 per ton, while producing kelp products that could dramatically offset the production cost and boost fisheries. ... According to von Herzen, growing new kelp forests in just 1 to 2 percent of the oceans would sequester enough carbon to restore the climate, provided we do our part to reduce the carbon intensity of our civilization.

While this would require a huge investment, it would not necessarily be larger than our current effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  This is a lesson to learn from pandemic macroeconomics.  The payoff would be enormous in savings from not having to fight the ravages of forest fires and rising sea levels.  The food produced in the MPAs would feed billions.

Which raises a question of food production in the U.S. farm belt, which badly needs new approaches. Some of those are outlined by Art Cullen of Storm Lake, Iowa, who writes:

Rural fortunes can be salvaged, along with the planet, if we pay farmers to sequester carbon by planting grass instead of corn, put their livestock back on pasture and out of unsustainable feedlots, and rotate crops with minimal tillage. Regenerative agriculture, as it is called, using old-fashioned crop-livestock rotations, can eliminate agriculture’s greenhouse-gas footprint and actually start drawing down carbon and planting it in the soil.

Those suggestions have been expressed in this blog for years, but now there seems to be more widespread acknowledgement of the need to change farming practices, which is cause for optimism.  Too bad such changes were not incorporated into the last Farm Bill, but it's not too late if Congress will only act decisively in 2021.   

But what of the coming U.S. elections, which might result in re-election a president who discounts science and technology, even in the face of avoidable disasters like pandemics and climate change?  Who can be optimistic if he is re-elected?

While such an election outcome would doubtless be a grave threat to the planet, other key countries are still in the hands of responsible, democratically-elected officials.  Foremost among them are Germany and Japan, which ironically are the major countries America defeated in WWII, but then re-created as viable democratic governments.  They are now proving themselves up to formidable challenges, meeting crises with scientific and governmental competence.  A legacy of American wisdom back then, we can hope, may yet prevail over American foolishness now.   

MPAs, regenerative agriculture, leadership from abroad:  they're causes for optimism.  

Admirable to Admit a Mistake and Correct It

September, 2020

Lincoln –  Back in the 1950s I knew of a farmer who bought three cows at a local livestock auction and brought them to his farm before he realized they did not have the proper Brucellosis paperwork to show they had been vaccinated.  They looked healthy but actually they had been intended for sale into the Canners and Cutters market, not for sale to another farmer.  

He did the right thing by having them trucked back to the auction barn, took a financial loss, and learned a lesson.  Admitting the mistake was admirable.  

Now is the time for rural voters, many of whom did not properly look into whom they chose for president in 2016, to correct their mistake and save the country from further unravelling, and perhaps from calamity.  There is no shame in owning up to a mistake; it's admirable.

No need to make excuses.  I've heard them:  Donald Trump was supposed to be a great businessman; he couldn't be bought because he was already wealthy; his language was locker-room but he told the truth; he was the friend of rural America, so he said; he was a patriot because he literally hugged the flag.

Then there was his opposition, which you said forced your hand to vote for Trump.  Hillary Clinton had a private email server; she was Secretary of State when an ambassador and three others were killed in Benghazi; the EPA was waiting to take jurisdiction over every mud-puddle in your farmyard; the Clintons had a charitable foundation that must have been a front for something.  Maybe the candidate was a murderer herself, because you saw the allegation on a commercial during a televised football game of your favorite team.  All this was too much for you, so you had to vote for Trump.  Even if he was a draft-dodger, a bankrupt, a philanderer, and had never held any previous elected office, you had to vote for him, because you couldn't leave that part of the ballot unmarked.    

You're thinking of doing it again.  Never mind Trump's appalling record of lying about the coronavirus and causing tens of thousands of deaths, insulting veterans for their military service, cheating at every turn for his own financial benefit, corrupting federal agencies thoroughly, devastating the rural economy with nonsensical tariffs, welcoming foreign interference in our elections, fomenting violence in the cities, belittling science, stoking fear and division across the land, and even turning the remaining few conservative principles of his party completely on their head.    

Which for many rural voters is apparently okay.  After all, if Biden is elected, he might check for Atrazine in mud-puddles. He might advocate a health care system like Switzerland or Denmark (aren't they socialist or communist or something?).  We also need to get to the bottom of why, like Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton had an email server for her private emails, and hold a few trials.  Let's vote for martial law while we're at it, and confiscate ballot boxes in case of voter fraud (can't be too careful).   

Please, rural voters.  Like the farmer who knew he made a mistake when he bought the wrong cows, just do the admirable thing: own up and correct it. 

Or not.  This is an election about the soul of the country.  If you believe the flag is to hug, not stand for something; that if it stands for something, it's for people like us, not for you-know-who; that more weaponized Americans with assault rifles will lead to more security; that international alliances like NATO are passé; that Donald Trump knows more than scientists; that Vladimir Putin is a model for how to run a country; that Jerry Falwell Jr. is your kind of Christian; and that QAnon may be on to something, then vote that way.  But realize it may be the last free and democratic vote you ever cast.    

UNL, OWH, and Race Relations

September, 2020

Lincoln – The Omaha World Herald and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln are embarking on a joint effort to improve race relations within their institutions, according to OWH editor Randy Essex and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green:

"In this joint effort, we will explore the history of race relations in Nebraska, give voice to community leaders and UNL scholars, and engage the public to map a path to understand the past and bring about a more equitable future."

This is a worthy endeavor, if carried out properly.  It will include a historical look at race relations at UNL itself.  I was a student on the UNL campus from 1961-1966 (B.A. '65; M.A. '66) and have many recollections about race relations from the period.

During my freshman and sophomore years I was invited to a few fraternities on campus, which were seeking members.  Before I gave them serious consideration, I asked about their charters, if they had whites-only clauses.  Most did in those days, but recruiters emphasized that other races were free to form their own fraternities, so it wasn't as if they were discriminating, in the way they saw the situation.  Indeed, at least one black fraternity was created and recognized by the University in the early 1960s, so as to provide an alternative to the white fraternities.  

In other words, separate-but-equal was very much alive in Lincoln, even though the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Plessy v. Ferguson almost a decade earlier.   Plessy was the case that had enshrined the concept as enacted in the Second Morrill Act of 1890, which set up a two-tiered land-grant university system.  

A close friend of mine in a fraternity informed me that national black organizations were trying to test and break the whites-only clauses at UNL by recruiting high-achieving black students with excellent social skills to participate in annual fraternity and sorority "rush" weeks.  He said it was hard for his fraternity to turn down one applicant, because he was obviously so well qualified, but they did so in order to preserve what he called the overall good.     

I declined fraternity invitations, saying I would not join any whites-only system, and expressed the hope things would someday change. 

As an upperclassman and graduate student, I helped organize efforts to integrate Lincoln restaurants and taverns near the campus.  This simply involved a mixed party of four or five students entering an establishment, expecting to be served.  Most Lincoln establishments were not overtly whites-only, but some had other customers who would tell parties such as ours that we were not welcome, and ask us to leave.  Sometimes sparks flew; we never left, anywhere.  Places like The Happy Hour on 13th Street and Duffy's on O Street were soon integrated.  

During the summer of 1965, I was employed by the University to welcome prospective students and their parents to the campus, give them group tours of the campus, and tell them what to expect from college life.  The University showed them a film promoting fraternities and sororities, which I always sat through as well.  One summer evening, while leading a tour group that had just watched the film, I said that not all of us bought into the idea of such organizations with their membership restrictions.  

That quickly got back to my University employers, apparently from a parent.  I was taken aside the next day by a University administrator and advised not to say such things.  My response was that they could let me go if they wanted to, but I would speak about campus life as I was employed to do.  Nothing further came of it, from my standpoint.  I suspect University officials got back to the person offended with a message that they had spoken to the offender, but I have no direct knowledge of it.   

As a graduate student I watched the University expand northward, building not only dormitories along 17th Street, but also three new houses on University property for sororities, at least one of which had a whites-only membership clause.  This was in a neighborhood that a few years earlier, when I was a freshman, was populated by the black community of Lincoln.  I pointed out to those in University administration with whom I still had contact (G. Robert Ross, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, if memory serves) that this was a problem that could be resolved by requiring the sororities to drop their whites-only requirements.  To my knowledge, that did not happen, even after University officials noted the irony of displacing black residents with houses for whites-only, acting through the power of the state to issue revenue bonds for the buildings. 

University dorms, however, were integrated throughout my years on campus. One year I lived in Selleck Quadrangle, where my neighbors downstairs were roommates Benny Nelson (later governor and senator) and Thunder Thornton (a notable athlete), white and black.  They had requested the pairing as an expression of racial progress.  There were several other examples.  

Classrooms were always integrated and, as I recall, the general tenor on campus was that we students were of a generation that would put Jim Crow practices and racial discrimination behind us.  I would not say we were woke, as the saying now goes.  Many of us had simply been raised to believe that racial discrimination was wrong and we would not be a part of it, regardless of the University leadership's indulgence of it.  

What now?  

As noted above, this joint effort is a worthy endeavor if something comes of it beyond its public relations value.  I'm not in favor of taking down the campus statue of former chancellor Clifford Hardin, who tolerated the separate-but-equal atmosphere of the time, or that of Clayton Yeutter, whose fraternity cooperated in enforcing that system.  Nor do they and others of their era need asterisks by their records, although it would be good for UNL historians to explore in much greater depth the nature of race relations on campus in the period immediately before and after the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.*  Perhaps more names of courageous individuals would emerge.  

Rather than doubling down one more time on diversity officers, multicultural centers, sensitivity training, and other measures based on identity politics (to which exercises like these often lead), I'd like to see UNL take initiatives nationally in areas that might make longer lasting contributions in matters of racial equality.  

One such place might be nutrition studies, where the University's Food for Health initiative holds great promise for addressing diseases that disproportionately affect the non-white population.  We need to look no further than the coronavirus pandemic to see the effects of the nutrition variable.  Another area that badly needs national leadership is the deteriorating condition of postsecondary student finance.  It has become increasingly clear that the nation's student loan and enrollment management systems are creating ever-greater divisions by race.  The situation cries out for leadership from major institutions like UNL, which is not doing a bad job itself in this area and would be in a position to rally others to national reforms.  

I'll be interested in seeing the role the OWH carves out for itself in this project.  May it succeed beyond expectations.  Frank Partsch, former reporter and editorial page editor of the OWH, was a good friend of mine at UNL, where he was also editor of the Daily Nebraskan.  John Gottschalk, former OWH publisher and I shared a class in freshman English.  They should be able to make outstanding contributions to this effort.


* One topic that should be of interest is the influence their years at UNL had on Hardin and Yeutter, after which each later became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  During their respective tenures as Secretary, the civil rights of black farmers were routinely violated, resulting in great losses of black land ownership.  See Pigford v. Glickman (1999).  I suspect that the record under Hardin's successor, Earl Butz, was even worse, but nevertheless the subject must be explored.  Eventually, billions of federal taxpayer dollars were paid out in settlements going back to 1981, covering the Yeutter but not the Hardin years. 

The Ultimate in Checks and Balances

September, 2020

Washington – Many election prognosticators are saying that the nation will not know the outcome of the presidential election on November 3, because it will take several days to count the mailed-in ballots.

That may be true, but what the nation will know on November 3, or very soon thereafter, is the strategy candidates will likely be using to try to claim the presidency.   It all depends on the House elections.

If Joe Biden wins the popular vote but if the newly-elected House has more state delegations controlled by Republicans than Democrats, as is currently the case (by three), Donald Trump will almost certainly try to prevent Joe Biden from winning an Electoral College majority, claiming the election was rigged so as to have the election decided by House.  But if Democrats control the new House state delegations and have reason themselves to believe the elections were not free and fair, Joe Biden may try to prevent Donald Trump from winning an Electoral College majority and throw the election into the House, where he will win.  

How hard is it to prevent an Electoral College majority?  Probably not that hard; the Constitution anticipates it.  Trump lawyers are working on litigation toward that end, in anticipation that Trump may lose both the popular and electoral vote, but still be determined to remain in office.  Some of his supporters are recommending even more drastic measures.

I was pleased to see acknowledgement of this scenario (which has been the subject of previous blogs) in Daniel Baer's excellent analysis.  He writes:

According to the Constitution, if no candidate reaches a majority in the Electoral College, then the election of the President falls to the House of Representatives....  But there’s a catch: according to the Constitution, in selecting the President, the House votes not by member, but rather by state, with each state delegation receiving one vote.

How this "catch" provision has escaped so many other election analysts is a mystery.  It's in the Twelfth Amendment, plain as day, and possibly critical in choosing a president.

There's one other catch that needs more attention.  The Constitution (Article I, Section 5) provides that the House is the judge of its own members.  The House, if under Democratic control by number, but not by state, could refuse to seat members elected in gerrymandered districts, mostly Republican.  That could change the state delegation counts for purposes of electing a president. 

That would be the ultimate in checks and balances.  The House would check the Supreme Count for failing to act against gerrymandering while simultaneously checking a president determined to stay in office by any means necessary.  

Gene Budig (1939-2020)

September, 2020

Lincoln – The State of Nebraska, and the nation, has lost a noteworthy leader and, if such things still matter, a most decent gentleman.  

Gene Budig was from McCook, Nebraska, which has produced a remarkable line of public servants:  George Norris, Ralph Brooks, Frank Morrison, and Ben Nelson, among others.  

I first met Gene during my senior year at Waverly High School, 1960-61.  He was a reporter for the Lincoln Star and came out to visit our chemistry class, taught by Mr. Hult.  Why he came to us for a story, I don't know, but perhaps it was because he was just as interested in small towns as in big cities. 

Next thing I knew, Gene the reporter had become administrative assistant to Governor Frank Morrison.  Then he became an NU professor, but no stranger to the statehouse.  One day in the 1970s, he walked in on a big budget meeting of Governor Jim Exon's.  I almost didn't recognize him, as he was in his Nebraska Air Guard uniform.  He and Jim Exon were best of friends from the Morrison Administration.  He took a seat at the table and entered into our discussions.

Gene Budig then went on to lead Southern Illinois University, the University of West Virginia, and the University of Kansas.  He endeared himself to Kansans by hiring Roy Williams to coach basketball. 

Then he became president of baseball's American League.  Jim Exon, a huge baseball fan himself, was envious.  

Gene Budig was a person of unquestioned competence who knew how to get good things done whether in state government, academia, or sports.  What a talent, what a credit to his home state.  All Nebraskans should be proud.    

Labor Day

September, 2020

Washington – Labor has had another bad year.

The wage ratio of CEO compensation to worker compensation, which was 21 to 1 in 1965, was 293 to 1 in 2018 and grew to 320 to 1 in 2019.  The ratio looks to be even worse for 2020.

Speaking of 1965, it was not only the wage ratio that was more favorable for labor back then.  American society as a whole was less inequitable.

Part of that was due to business leaders of the post-WWII era who felt a strong responsibility toward their communities and country.  While they wanted profits, to be sure, they also had a better sense of limits.  Many business leaders, as I recall, prided themselves on their companies' pay structures.  For people at the top to take too much at the expenses of those at the bottom was unseemly, even immoral.

Businesses prided themselves on products and services that benefited people across the board.  They innovated for the greater good, not just for the good of shareholders.

The "greed is good" decade of the 1980s spoiled that.  So did colleges of business that taught a generation how to make quick profits from short-term thinking.  The business community soon came to lionize leaders that could exploit the laboring class through union-busting and moving jobs overseas.  At the top of the heap were business leaders who increasingly made money from financial instruments rather than producing any actual goods or services.

It was a Frenchman, Thomas Piketty, who jolted the world with his 2013 book on inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.   He suggested that without reforms, democracy itself is threatened.

Indeed it is.  We are on the verge of losing it in 2020, to those who are trying to install a plutocracy.

I'm among those who favor measures to restore a wage ratio that would reduce inequality.  In an earlier blog I wrote, "Growing economic inequality (the root of many of our problems) can be reversed by applying wage ratio eligibility standards to most, if not all, federal grants, contracts, tax credits, and tax deductions."

We do this for pensions; we should do it for all taxpayer spending.  Taxpayers should not be both sources of revenue and accomplices in dangerously increasing inequality.  Tax policy should be aimed at reducing, not increasing, levels of inequality that threaten democracy.

Happy Labor Day. 



Food as Medicine

September, 2020

"In America, the big get bigger and the small go out." 
–USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to farmers, October, 2019

"When you think about food being health and food being medicine, that’s really exciting to me." 

–Sonny Perdue at a Farm of the Future event, September, 2020

Lincoln – Whoa!  That's quite a turnabout, the Secretary of Agriculture in 2019 repeating the old Earl Butz prescription for agriculture ("Get big or get out"), but in 2020 taking some pages right out of the Democratic playbook for the future of farming. 

Perhaps the Secretary has been reading Congressman Tim Ryan's book The Real Food Revolution, in which he quotes Hippocrates (p. 53) "Let food be thy medicine." 

Ryan and his Congressional colleagues Sherrod Brown, Chellie Pingree, Cory Booker, Rosa DeLauro, Marcia Fudge, Ron Kind, and Marcy Kaptur have been writing and speaking on the role of nutrition in fighting diseases like diabetes and obesity, as well as the need to create more local and regional food markets and processors.  These are exactly the themes of the Farm of the Future event Sonny Perdue attended, to his apparent approbation.  

Must be an election year.  Republicans sense Democrats are onto something big and want to get in on it and claim it as their own.  Because there is no Republican platform on rural America (or on anything else), Secretary Perdue is free to appropriate the works of others, including those of Joe Biden.  Let's hope it's a permanent conversion, not a temporary political stance.  

Whatever the situation, it was gratifying to see the University of Nebraska engaging top level officials in a discussion of how agriculture must move toward healthier food and fewer steps between farm to fork.  The University is doing leading-edge research on food as medicine, as I have noted before in this blog.

In the photo below, left to right: Nebraska agriculture director Steve Wellman, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Governor Pete Ricketts, and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.  Their dour expressions suggest they have just tasted some needed medicine themselves, prescribed by realities that call for a change of emphasis away from production agriculture toward food for health.  And whose idea was it to have a big public meeting without social distancing and without masks?  It risks a super-spreader event emanating from national and state leaders, as well as sends a "do as I say, not as I do" message to thousands of television viewers. 

Fortenberry Falls Short on Veterans, Military

September, 2020

Lincoln – As a veteran, I've been watching to see how my congressman, Jeff Fortenberry, measures up to supporting the needs of veterans specifically, the military generally, and national security in a global sense.  I don't like what I see; he does not acquit himself well.


Veterans education is a big cause of mine, particularly eliminating abuse of GI-Bill recipients.  Predatory for-profit colleges have unfortunately placed targets on the backs of both veterans and active duty personnel, to take advantage of them.  These schools need GI-Bill and Defense Department revenues so as to get at least 10% of their income from sources other than student-aid under the federal Higher Education Act, or lose HEA eligibility to participate.  Many such schools cannot get enough private paying students to enroll to meet the 10% requirement, because their programs are not worth the money.  Consequently, they target veterans to take in GI-Bill revenues.  At the same time, they often load up veterans with high levels of student-loan debt.

That many veterans have been defrauded is not in question.  Under the law, they are to have their loans cancelled if they were defrauded by the schools.  However, under the current administration, Secretary Betsy DeVos (a protector of predatory schools) has made that process as difficult as she can for veterans and all other similarly situated victims.  Congress, last January, after hearing from dozens of veterans' organizations, disapproved the DeVos procedure on bipartisan, bicameral votes (H. J. Res. 76).  Jeff Fortenberry, however, voted to implement the DeVos rules in spite of united veterans' opposition.  The president then vetoed H. J. Res 76, even after organizations like the American Legion implored him to sign it, whereupon Fortenberry once again voted to disregard veterans' pleas, as he upheld the DeVos rules.  On July 1, the new rules went into effect, to the great dismay and potential financial ruination of many defrauded veterans.

Military Leadership and Discipline  

Proper support of the military is important in Nebraska's First District, especially because Sarpy County is home to a major defense installation, Offut Air Force Base.  Many Nebraska voters care about how the president and their congressional representative view the military.

On my desk, still in my possession from military officer training, is the book Naval Leadership*, which describes what it takes to be a good leader:  "A leader cannot be made from a man who does not sincerely want to become one, or from a man who is unwilling to make the sacrifices required....  To be an outstanding leader requires the hardest kind of work, for which very little material credit will be forthcoming."

I see no such leadership qualities in our current commander-in-chief, who displays the opposite on all the criteria.  Nor do I see in him appreciation of "good order and discipline" in the military services.  Donald Trump has repeatedly undermined the military chain of command and interfered with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), particularly with regard to discipline for war crimes.  He confuses war criminals with heroes.

Nebraskans expect their congressman to stand up for military leaders who know the value of sacrifice, discipline, leadership, and good order.  I look in vain for evidence that Jeff Fortenberry shares such values and expectations.  The record is silent as to any Fortenberry expression of concern to the commander-in-chief, directly or indirectly, about his behavior undermining military leadership and discipline.

A new article in The Atlantic provides more revelations of Trump's dismissive attitude toward military service:  "suckers, losers."  This will be an opportunity for Fortenberry to speak up or, as in the past, excuse the president for his behavior by ignoring it.

National Security and International Alliances

Military discipline and leadership is also a national security issue of the gravest concern for our international alliances.  When U.S. forces are stationed on foreign soil, the host country must have confidence in the American military justice system.  Donald Trump has jeopardized that.  Our alliances themselves, NATO foremost among them, are increasingly at risk under Trump, who is wont to disparage our allies while praising adversarial dictators.  Congressman Fortenberry has been ineffective in seeking to retain the Open Skies Treaty, important to our NATO allies (and partly based at Offut) but about to be killed by Trump

All of this comes on top of the conclusion from Trump's own former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, a former 4-star Marine Corps general, who this summer wrote,

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

Where is Fortenberry?  He votes to condone the defrauding of veterans by making it difficult for them to get loan cancellations.  He is nowhere to be seen when it comes to supporting our active-duty servicemen and women who are trying to work within a system of good order and discipline.  He is ignored in national security matters.

These issues are too serious to joke about, but it is illustrative of the problem that the White House recently identified Fortenberry as from Louisiana, not Nebraska.  As far as I'm concerned, he might as well be, because he does not represent my views, as a Nebraskan, on veterans and on military affairs.  I carried a Navy ID card of one kind or another for 44 years, and I want better representation. 

* Naval Leadership (1949), U.S. Naval Institute, 2nd printing.