Monthly Archives: December 2021

The Oprah Bowls

If you think participation awards are only for youth sports, think again. This year there are 44 college bowl games including the playoff games. And with 125 Division-1 schools, approximately two-thirds of all college programs had their seasons extended one more month.

You know the arguments. On the negative side:

These shiny bits of plastic have been blamed for creating an entitled generation who learned to expect adulation for the unexceptional on the playing field and later in life.

Lisa Heffernan,, august 2015

On the positive side:

A participation trophy can be a symbol of the effort and time a person put into an endeavor or it can serve as a reminder or memento for a sport or activity. 

 Jordon Roos and Brad Strand, physcial and health education america, October 2021

As I tuned into what seemed like a 24/7 parade of bowl contests on ESPN, I wondered, “How valuable is a memento of a 6-6 team playing another 6-6 team in a stadium with more empty seats than a Milli Vanilli reunion concert?” Or as was the case at today’s TaxSlayer Bowl (aka Gator Bowl) in Jacksonville, 10-3 Wake Forest scrimmaged with 5-7 Rutgers (aka Texas A&M), and even students and alumni from the competing schools were few and far between.

Lewis Black

Once again the run-up to bowl season was more exciting than the games themselves. Who will play whom? Where will they play? Who will get snubbed? It reminded me of Lewis Black’s 2008 comedy tour, appropriately titled, “Anticipation.” He opens as follows:

This moment, which we are sharing together right now, I promise you, is as good as it is going to get. So, I think we should quit while we’re ahead. It’s been great. Let’s leave well enough alone. There is no moment better than this moment when we are anticipating the actual moment itself.

Lewis black, Anticipation, 2008

How do you make the best moment when it comes to college bowls even better? On the Sunday following the conference championship games, have Oprah Winfrey host the televised bowl selection program. I can hear her now as she points to the coaches in the audience. “You get a bowl bid! You get a bowl bid! Everyone gets a bowl bid!”

Best wishes for a happy, HEALTHY and rewarding 2022.

For what it’s worth.

Dipping into the Private Dole

…Or why I oppose congressional term limits.

The recent passing of former Kansas Senator Robert Dole is one more of those occasions on which I had an opportunity to reflect on past experiences. In February 1996, I was responsible for facilitating Senator Dole’s appearance at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Responsibility for invited guests at NGA meetings is assigned to staff who do not have a major content role at that particular event.

This assignment had an added burden as it was generally believed Dole would be the Republican nominee for president and the only plenary session in which Dole could participate would also include a presence by sitting President Bill Clinton. A senior member of Dole’s staff called to tell me he would be doing the advance work for the Senator. As you will soon learn, I have since erased this individual’s name from my memory banks.

Two days before the scheduled appearance, I met this staff person at the J. W. Marriott hotel to do a walkthrough. Knowing Clinton would also be in the building, I explained the President would be going first. I had reserved a “green room” for Dole where he could wait until the Clinton entourage cleared the meeting room. He asked, “Do you know where Clinton would be exiting the building?” I did not at the time, but asked, “Why?” “Because we think it would be awkward if they ran into each other.” [HISTORICAL NOTE: Dole, then Senate majority leader, and Clinton had just spent weeks together in meetings to address the growing budget deficit. Those meetings resulted in an agreement to raise taxes which resulted in three fiscal years of budget surpluses.]

There are only two public entrances at the Marriott Hotel, the main entrance on 14th Street and one on Pennsylvania Avenue. I suggested we look at both and I would get back to him with the plans for the presidential motorcade. When we got to the 14th Street entrance, the staff person informed me, “The Senator does not like revolving doors; so, please have the doorman ready to open one of the other doors for him.” Strange, but no argument from me as I assumed it had something to do with his disabled right arm. There were no revolving doors at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.

The next day, I called my Dole contact and informed him the White House let us know Clinton would be leaving through the 14th Street entrance. I would meet the Dole party at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. However, as you might imagine, nothing is ever cast in stone when dealing with a commander-in-chief, especially true of the Clinton White House. On the morning of the session, I was informed Clinton would be making another stop before heading back to the White House, and therefore, would be picked up on Pennsylvania Avenue. I immediately called my contact and informed him of the change. Then I met with the hotel doorman to inform him to be prepared to hold the door for Dole.

Clinton speaks and leaves the meeting room. No Dole yet. I get a call from my contact. They are running late but have left the Capitol and will be there in a few minutes. When the limo arrives, Dole jumps out of the back seat and whizzes through (drum roll) the revolving door. He apologizes for being late as I escort him to the plenary session.

What does this have to do with term limits? For every member of Congress there are numerous staff who often float between offices as one member leaves and another takes his place. Like my Dole contact many believe, not only do they know what their bosses want, but also what the nation wants. Far too often neither of these are true. More importantly, they are not elected and voters do not hold them accountable. If term limits are enacted, institutional knowledge and long-term working relationships, will reside with staff, not elected officials. It amazes me conservatives, who raise concerns about an unelected, bureaucratic deep state, do not see the same danger if congressional staff become more influential following the more rapid turnover of elected senators and representatives.

Let me close by explaining the title of this post. After his meeting with the governors, I escorted Dole to the Pennsylvania Street entrance where we were told the limo would meet him. It was not there. I assumed I might get to see the reported Dole temper in full display. To the contrary, as we waited for his ride, Dole asked me about my work at NGA and then shared how he was looking forward to a campaign trip to New England. As I read and listened to so many of the tributes by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know they were sincere. And do they to this day, like I, wonder why it seemed so difficult for the “private Dole” to come through in public.

For what it’s worth.

A Nation Divided

Yesterday’s Supreme Court session at which the justices heard arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was just the latest salvo in the culture wars which continue to demarcate two very distinct camps or tribes within the American populace. Perhaps it is no coincidence that, on the same day, Harvard University released the 42nd edition of its Youth Poll, a survey of 18 to 19 year-olds conducted by the Kennedy School of Public Policy. As Carl Jung might say, “Synchronicity runs deep.”

Buried beneath the headline about Joe Biden’s flagging approval rating among young Americans were the following:

  • 35 percent of respondents believe there will be a second civil war in their lifetimes.
  • 25 percent believe at least one state will secede from the union.

This raises the legitimate concern whether the United States which emerged from the first war between the states can survive in this cultural environment. One need look no farther than the editorial pages of the Washington Post or New York Times, cable news, talk radio or Facebook to know it would be a waste of time and space to add my two cents to the discussion.

What no one else is talking about is whether the union could survive a physical partition, as suggested by the Harvard survey. Forget the confederacy. Consider the following map created by the Guttmacher Institute based on current state efforts to restrict or protect a woman’s right to choose.

State Policy Trends 2019: A Wave of Abortion Bans, But Some States Are  Fighting Back | Guttmacher Institute

Does this remind you of anything, especially after Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, South Carolina and Texas join the list of pro-life states? Maybe the 1947 partition of Pakistan following Indian independence from Great Britain. How did that work out? The physical divide became problematic resulting in the creation of an independent Bangladesh 24 years later as illustrated below.

How about the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Again, the physical separation has hampered attempts to find a single broker who can negotiate a peace covering both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When it comes to love, perhaps distance does make the heart grow fonder. Not so in governance or politics.

Two states, one and other solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -  One state, two states, whatever -

Returning to the Guttmacher Institute map, there is a resemblance to one only a political scientist familiar with the history of voting behavior in the U.S. could appreciate. Following passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Democratic strategists recognized they could no longer rely on support in Southern states. To accumulate the required 270 electoral votes needed to win presidential elections they came up with the “Quad-Cali” strategy. It required piecing together a center-left coalition consisting of a quadrangle of Northeast and Midwest states plus California.

With the vantage point of hindsight from previous partitions, Quad-Cali seems not the best descriptor of this geographic configuration. Maybe we should take a cue from Pakistan. Try East America and West America on for size. Or better, the East Banks (with the capital located on Wall Street) and the Java Strip (Capital? Seattle, of course.)

The only remaining question? When Middle America realizes that residents of the states outside their jurisdiction will no longer subsidize their lifestyle through redistribution of federal taxes, will Middle America president Ron DeSantis authorize the construction of cross border settlements a la Benjamin Netanyahu?

For what it’s worth.