A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fathers, Sons, and Baseball

NOTE: This is an updated version of MULLINGS originally published April 2005 on the day of the first Washington Nationals' game at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. It is being reprised here on the occasion of the first Washington National's game at the new Nationals Park.

  • September 6, 1995 I flew to Austin, Texas to watch a baseball game on TV with The Lad who was then an undergrad at the University of Texas. The occasion was Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive Major League baseball game, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.

  • Baseball has been a bond between us.

  • When the Lad played Little League I rarely missed a game. In McLean, Virginia it was not at all noteworthy to see national leaders - Administration and Congressional, Democrat and Republican - working in the snack bar or helping prepare one of the fields.

  • It was not unusual to be watching a game, leaning on the centerfield fence with the head of the President's Domestic Policy Council on one side and a US Senator on the other, discussing the most important issue of the day: Shouldn't the shortstop (who was about 11-years-old) be playing a couple of steps toward second base with a left-handed batter up?

  • Over the years the Lad and I had gone to many baseball games in Baltimore; Washington, DC having been shut out of Major League Baseball since before he had been born. One night we saw Ripken make not one error, but two errors. The Lad was - literally - concerned that we were witnessing early evidence of the end of the world.

  • We had wanted to be together the night that Ripken broke Gehrig's record. We had dinner in Austin, went to my hotel room, ordered every dessert on the menu from room service, and sobbed in concert as, at the end of the fifth inning - making it a regulation game - Cal took a lap around the stadium in acknowledgment of the fact that the fans would not let the game re-start until he had done so.

  • Some 13 years have gone by. The Lad has gone from being a college student, to being a member of the President's staff, to making his own, highly successful way, in business and politics.

  • In 2005, after 34 years, baseball came home to Washington. Two different clubs which had been called the Senators had deserted the city, so the current team is called the Nationals which is a double entendre in that they are a National League team, and they represent the Nation's Capital.

  • According to the Washington Post, in the years since the departure of Major League baseball to last night the population of the region doubled from less than three million to around six million; ticket prices went from top price of $6 to a top of $300 and gasoline has gone from 36¢ per gallon to well over three dollars.

  • At 6:52 AM, the morning of the Nationals' first game - exactly 12 hours before President Bush was scheduled to throw out the first pitch - The Lad came through the arrival doors at Dulles airport, returning the favor of my flight to Austin for a baseball game a decade earlier.

  • At 7:05 PM the first pitch from a Major Leaguer was thrown to a Major Leaguer in a real game.

  • Fathers and sons - parents and kids - have been going to baseball games for over a hundred years. This father and this son have been blessed to have shared unique opportunities over the course of our 30+ years together. That Opening Day was one of them.

  • Baseball has been a continuing thread in our relationship, The Lad and I.

  • That year, we sat along the first base line and watched a ballgame together. Ate hotdogs. Worried over defensive alignments. Ducked foul balls. And went home happy.

  • This year The Lad is in California so I sat in the press box. The game ended on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning by Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman who is the face of this franchise.

  • While I was in the interview room waiting for the post-game press conference with manager Manny Acta The Lad sent me an instant message which read: "Walk off! Go Zim!"

  • Zimmerman, who in a little over two years in the majors has had four walk-off homers, came to the interview room after his manager had finished. He was asked if this was the most thrilling walk-off home run.

  • "No," he said. "The first one was. It was on Father's Day and my dad was in the stands."

  • See what I mean?

  • Fathers and sons and baseball. Life might get better than that, but it doesn't have to get much better.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to my baseball blog about getting to the Nationals ballpark, a reprise of the Mullfoto from that first opening day and a bonus Mullfoto of President Bush throwing out the first pitch. Also a Catchy Caption of the Day which might be in questionable taste.

  • Getting to the New Ballpark in Washington

    on Saturday March 29

    Nats v. Orioles – the Final Exhibition Game

    I spent most of the week before trying to figure out the best route to Nationals Park using the Metro from downtown.

    Nats president Stan Kasten has been exhorting everyone in sight to take the Metro to the Park. Aside from the actual stadium being ready on time, the next most questionable item was whether the extension of the Green Line’s Navy Yard Station would be ready.

    If you are reading this and you are not from the DC area – don’t feel bad. We don’t know where these places are, either.

    For those who may not be heavy users of the Washington area’s Metrorail system the lines are named for the last stops on each. The Blue Line directions will send you to Largo Town Center or Franconia-Springfield. The Red Line runs between Shady Grove and Glenmont.

    I had figured out how to get to the ballpark from my office downtown, so I turned to my attention to getting there from home, which is in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

    Looking at the subway map, I realized I could come in through, essentially, the back door: If I drove up the Maryland side of the Potomac River, I could park at the Anacostia Metro Station, get on the Green Line going toward Greenbelt and be only one stop from the Navy Yard.

    One of the issues I have been thinking about has been: Where do I want my car to be after the game? Clearly, if I can walk out of Nationals Park get on the subway, go one stop and drive home from the Anacostia (with the additional excitement of a trip across the Wilson Bridge) then that will be the way to go.

    Following the old rule (never drive to Alaska or Anacostia without a full tank of gas), $70 later, at 12:45, I had the Mullmobile aimed for the Beltway.

    I carefully entered the ramp which said “Baltimore” and steered toward the first exit over the Wilson Bridge which is I-295.

    Interestingly, the exit was labeled 2A and 2B. This is how I get into trouble – I started thinking about how can it be that first exit is not 1A and 1B.

    The reason this leads to trouble is because I am a linear thinker. If I’m involved with the 2B or not 2B issue, then it is absolutely possible that by the time I remember what I am looking for, I will have gone miles past Anacostia and be well on my way to Annapolis.

    I DID snap out of it when I realized that the second exit was Exit 1. You might think this solved my mystery, but it only deepened because the exit Mapquest had told me to use was Exit 3.

    Lo and behold, the exit after Exit 1 was Exit 2, and then there was Exit 3.


    There is a scene in one of the “Hitchhikers Guide …” books by the late Douglas Adams where one of the characters lands on a planet and runs into local. The new arrival drops something and asks the native if he saw the object go up or down.

    “Down,” he says. “Why?”

    “I was just trying to determine which way time runs on this planet,” said the newcomer.

    I felt much the same way with the 2-1-2-3 exit sequence.


    I didn’t find myself in Annapolis, but I couldn’t remember whether I was supposed to get off at 3A or 3B. On the theory that … Ok, I didn’t have a theory, but I saw a sign which said “METRO” so I got off at 3A which, of course, turned out to be wrong.

    It turns out the parking garage for the Anacostia Metro is off Exit 3B and the Metro Station stretches for about three blocks underground.

    Parking is free on the weekends, so I pulled in, asked a Metro cop how to get to the station and he pointed to the end of the garage and said the escalator was right there.

    I bought a Metro Smartrip card and went down to the platform just as the train pulled in. I hopped on, got off one stop later, went up the escalator marked “BALLPARK” and was a block from the stadium entrance.

    This was a great way to go!

    As Nat’s manager, Manny Acta, had promised in his pre-game press conference he pulled his starters after six innings and I thought that would be a good time for me to leave the game, too.

    Most of the fans agreed with me and Manny and were leaving as well.

    At the Metro stop, the platform was jammed to the point where the Metro folks had turned off the escalators and were only letting a few people walk down at a time.

    I told the Metro Monitor I was going toward Anacostia, not toward downtown (where the huge proportion of riders would go to change for points north and west, and she let me go.

    The Anacostia-train side of the platform was relatively empty and I thought this was the ONLY way to this, at least on weekends when I would be coming to the games from home.

    Guess what? Metro is smarter than I gave them credit for.

    They started bringing trains into both sides of the station to take the traffic back to one of the transfer stations – L’Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place, leaving those few of us going south toward Branch Avenue to stand and wait.

    A Metro person with a microphone was instructing riders which train was going where. After the fourth or fifth train pulled into the station and left toward downtown, several people started shouting at the person with the microphone about having been stranded.

    This is the kind of thing which crowd control people know can lead to big trouble in a big hurry. Loud venting spreads like ebola, infecting everyone within earshot.

    A couple of Metro cops hurried down the platform and told the people who were upset that the very next train would be going south so please to calm down.

    True to their words, the next train pulled in about five minutes later, we all got on, and I was back in the Anacostia parking garage four or five minutes later.

    There were two Metro police on duty in the garage who watched me walk to my car, fifteen minutes later, I was sitting in Landini’s ordering a glass of wine.

    According to the sign in the station, the last train out of the Navy Yard toward Branch Avenue leaves at about 12:15 am. I am not certain whether that will depend upon when a home game ends, but as the official opening game Sunday night doesn’t begin until 8:15, it is not unlikely that I will be writing until after the last train leaves.

    To that end, I will sample the RFK-to-Nationals-Park-Shuttle-Bus and report on that experience.

    -- END --


    Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Baby Booming

  • spoke on Wednesday afternoon to a meeting of business people who have products and services designed for Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers, for those of you born sometime after the end of the Eisenhower Administration, are people born in the midst of the post-World War II exuberance.

  • As I was born nine months TO THE DAY after my dad got off the troop ship in New York, I can tell you that I am at the outer edge of baby boomers.

  • To prove the point, I was reading the agenda of the meeting and saw a breakout session titled: "Partnering for Success."

  • Fine. Except - and this is true - I thought the agenda read: Pandering for Success," and wondered why I had not been invited to speak to that group.

  • As it happened I was scheduled to speak about politics and I wanted to make the point that nearly everything everyone says is absolutely guaranteed is going to happen - doesn't.

  • Just to test my own theory (which I generally do not do because once I have settled upon a theory the last thing I want to know is: "Is this correct?") I went back six months to look at what the polling was telling us back then.

  • First of all, back in the dark days of the Fall of 2007, there were some 19 candidates on both sides in the running.

  • Six months ago, according to national polls, Hillary R. (!) Clinton was leading on the Democratic side with 53% of the vote in September of 2007. On the Republican side the leader with 34% of the GOP vote was Rudy Giuliani.

  • But wait! There's more!

  • The second place runners on each side were Barack H. (!) Obama with 20% for the Dems and Fred Thompson with 22% for the Republicans.

  • It gets spookier.

  • The third place holders on each side were John Edwards (13%) and John McCain (15%).

  • So, just about as far back as there is to go forward before the November election Hillary R. (!) Clinton had a THIRTY ONE percentage point lead over Barack H. (!) Obama and Rudy Giuliani was cruising along with a 12 percentage point lead over his nearest competitor Fred Thompson.

  • If you are watching any of the cable news channels and someone who (including me) who pretends to be a strategist tells you they know what is going to happen in the November election switch immediately to the DIY channel and learn how to re-caulk your shower.

  • I bring that up because that is exactly what I did: I watched the DIY (Do It Yourself) network and plugged the leak in my shower by following the instructions. This is important because I have long been an adherent of the theory that, if something around the house needs to be repaired, replaced or reinstalled, I "call the guy."

  • But, what with the credit crunch and all, I decided to DIMS (Do It MySelf) and, so far, the ceiling underneath the shower has not fallen into the living room, so I am now "the guy" other people can call.

  • Opening Day for the Washington Nationals baseball team is Sunday night. I know that sounds odd - Opening Day being Sunday Night - but this is Your Nation's Capital and so it is not any more incongruous than anything else that comes out of here.

  • For the third season I will be the credentialed reporter covering the Nationals for the Alexandria Times (the publisher, Jon Arundel, has asked me to stop referring to the paper as the Mighty Alexandria Times).

  • I went to the stadium yesterday for a final tour and sat both in my season ticket seats behind the visitor's dugout on the third base side AND I sat in my seat in the press box (which is six - SIX - floors up and the elevators weren't operating yet so I walked up the 140-or-so steps.

  • I did not have to take a nitro, so this Baby Boomer intends to be around for a while.

  • I will post my columns for the Migh … the Alexandria Times on MULLINGS. If you haven't read the Spring Training Travelogues, you should so you are not disappointed when little of what I write about has to do with the actual games I am watching.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The polling referenced above, and links to the Spring Training Travelogues and my pre-season-opener essay in the Migh… the Alexandria Times, a Mullfoto from the paper and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Hillary Mis-Remembers

  • Here's what happened: Hillary R. (!) Clinton pulled an Al Gore the other day and allowed as to how something had happened to her in Bosnia which, in fact, had not.

  • According to the reporting by Jim Malone of the Voice of America:
    "Last week, Clinton said she recalled landing at the airport under sniper fire and that she and other members of her party had to run to vehicles with their heads down.

    "But news footage of the visit showed an apparently relaxed Clinton greeted on the tarmac by a welcoming group that included an eight-year-old girl."

  • Unfortunately for Sen. Clinton a CBS crew was with her on that trip to Bosnia and it was something calmer than the hair-raising experience she described.

  • You can link to the CBS coverage of the actual arrival ceremony on the Secret Decoder Ring page.

  • Far from having to run in a serpentine manner (similar to Alan Arkin in "The In-Laws") Hillary Clinton was accepting hugs from little girls, handshakes from soldiers and posing for photos with the troops.

  • I have often said that Al Gore and I have something in common: If we invent a story up and keep telling it, after a while we think it actually happened.

  • Now, it seems, we can add Hillary to our little club of Self-Delusional Dopes.


    I told the story yesterday morning on Fox & Friends of having met Sen. Clinton shortly before Thanksgiving in the Palace in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

    I said that I had had to corkscrew into Baghdad International Airport on a C-130 on a number of occasions and it was possible she had substituted Bosnia for Baghdad.

    I am not getting any younger and so am beginning to look for opportunities to atone for past sins.


  • In the give-and-take of a Presidential campaign these are the kinds of mis-rememberances which make for great political fodder. Especially since the National Political Press Corps has been beating the you-know-what out of Barack H. (!) Obama for the past three weeks and have given the Clinton campaign a pass.

  • The next test for Hillary and Barack will be in Pennsylvania on April 22. Today is March 26. The damage the two campaigns can inflict upon one another in the next four weeks is music to the ears of the McCain campaign.

  • Remember earlier this month when the Intelligencia Politica was confidently predicting that Sen. John McCain having closed out the GOP competition was actually bad news for him?

  • You may also remember that I more-or-less vehemently disagreed with that assessment in a column titled Glass Half Empty; Glass Half Full.

  • The national head-to-head polling a potential general election match-up between McCain and either Obama or Clinton has McCain slightly ahead of either one. (The lead is so tiny as to be useless except for political columns such as this).

  • Nevertheless, given the state of the economy, the sub-prime mortgage sitch, the on-going conflict in Iraq and the general malaise amongst Republicans, either Clinton or Obama should be leading McCain by 20 or 25 percentage points.

  • They are not.

  • As the National Political Press Corps whipsaws between Clinton and Obama while Senator McCain meets with world leaders and receives the endorsement of the likes of Nancy Reagan this can only accrue to the benefit of the GOP nominee.

  • As my debate partner, Bob Beckel, pointed out on Fox this morning, "This is only March and there is a long way to go to November."

  • He's right. But the only way to stop the slugfest between Clinton and Obama is to have someone convince one of them they should accept defeat.

  • Obama is leading in both the delegate count and the total popular vote. He's not getting out.

  • Hillary comes from the Johann Goethe theory of politics: "What does not kill me makes me stronger," and she is far from dead and so, by definition, is getting stronger.

  • The polling in Pennsylvania shows her leading Barack by between 12 and 26 percentage points which means the fight for the Democratic nomination is likely to go on for months to come.

  • Hillary's imagined attack in Bosnia is (to misquote yet another movie) the stuff Republican dreams are made of.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the CBS footage, to an "In-Laws" page, the RealClearPolitcs page and the "other" movie. Also a Mullfoto which I thought was terribly amusing and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, March 20, 2008

    The Speech Didn't Work

  • After Sen. Barack H. (!) Obama’s speech on Tuesday the Intelligencia Politica, largely declared it having accomplished its task of changing the national debate from the vitriol of Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Obama’s church, to a larger debate on race in America.

  • Susan Page quoted me in her USA Today piece on Wednesday morning:
    "I don't think it's going to change anybody's mind," said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant in Washington. "People who were for him before will say, 'Yes, that's right,' and people who were against him will say, 'That's not right.' "

    Galen said what he was "absolutely unmoved by the notion of going from the abomination of slavery … to somehow using that to justify the un-American and vitriolic language of Jeremiah Wright."

  • Now, it seems, many people agree with me. According to the Gallup poll track, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is sitting on a five percentage point lead over Obama 48-43. This is in contrast to the Gallup measure on March 16 (two days before The Speech) when Obama had a two point lead over Clinton – 47-45.

  • My well-documented arithmetic skills indicate that is a seven point swing in Hillary’s favor in five days.

  • Thank you, Mr. Wright.

  • On the Michigan/Florida re-do front, it is now clear that the battle lines have been drawn. The Obama camp has no reason to want to re-run primaries in two states which Hillary would probably win.

  • First, it would close the gap in delegates between Barack and Hillary. Second, because they are huge states she might win by enough (when you add in Pennsylvania) to take the lead in the popular vote over the primary season, and third it adds to the Clinton theory on Super Delegates that a late surge for Hillary supports her claim that Obama is unelectable and they should hand the nomination to her.

  • Clinton has attempted to make the case that is was the Republican Governor and the GOP-controlled legislature who put the Democrats in this position. But the Republican Party of Florida has published an excellent bit of research showing that the Democratic members of the Legislature were all for this.

  • Among them, Rep. Dan Gelber, the House Democratic leader, was reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as scoffing at warnings by DNC chairman Howard Dean saying:
    “I don't have any constituents in the DNC,” Gelber said. “I only have constituents in my district. They would like to be more relevant.”

  • The issue of if, or how, to seat some or all of the delegates from Michigan and Florida is now almost certain to be a cloud hanging over the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

  • It may well lead to fights in the Rules Committee, the Credentials Committee and, ultimately, a floor fight.

  • As a professional, sober, and experienced observer of politics in the United States I have two words for this possibility: Woo Hoo!

  • Remember all that nonsense a couple of weeks ago about what bad news it was for Sen. John McCain for having wrapped up the GOP nomination on March 4th while Clinton and Obama were going to be slugging it out for months to come?

  • The RealClearPolitics average of head-to-head match ups shows McCain essentially tied with both of his potential opponents. McCain actually has a lead of slightly more than one percentage point, but that is meaningless.

  • Given the state of the economy, the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, the lack of any positive news for Republicans at the US House or Senate level and the constant claim of the popular press that Democrats are so much more energized than Republicans, how can this be?

  • Hillary and Barack should be beating McCain by 20 points.

  • Jeremiah Wright should be beating McCain by 15.

  • At some point the national political press corps is going to come to the realization that the prospect of a Democrat being sworn in as President on January 20th next year is becoming increasingly dim.

  • To those for whom it is relevant, have a wonderful Easter weekend.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Gallup poll and to the RPOF summary of Democrats’ excitement over an early primary. Also a Mullfoto which will make you laugh and a Catchy Caption of the Day which will make you wonder about me.

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Race in the Race for the White House

    While waiting for the speech by Barack Obama on race in America:

  • I, like most of you, am loathe to pass judgment on the nature or quality of another person's faith, or lack thereof. For the most part, I just don't care so long as you don't use your faith for personal gain - financial, political, or otherwise. Then you are demanding that I pay attention.

  • On Fox & Friends this morning with debate partner Bob Beckel we talked about what effect the whole Jeremiah Wright deal. I suggested that the paradox in which Obama now finds himself is this:
    Now that the video of Wright's hate-mongering sermons have become public, Obama wants us to believe that not only was he not sitting in a pew for any of the sermons in question, but Wright's tone and language were never even a part of any conversation he had with his wife or any other member of the congregation.

    "In effect," I said, "Obama now would have us believe that all he did was slow down in front of the church on Sunday mornings and let the girls out while he went off to play paintball."

  • The Democratic Party is now in an ugly full-blown, racially-based fight between its two candidates. Without any evidence to support the claim, there is a growing feeling that the Clinton campaign is somehow behind the sudden appearance of the "Jeremiah Wright's Greatest Hits" DVDs.

  • Before you blame Fox News Channel for pushing this story, Tom Bevans - the man behind - wrote this morning that this political torpedo broke the surface after "ABC News ran a four-minute segment highlighting some of the hate-filled language of [Obama's] former pastor."

  • On CNN last Friday, Obama's campaign released what Wolf Blitzer called "a very strong statement" in opposition to the language and intent of Wright's sermons and suggested this might well put the fire out.

  • I said that in the words of the late, lamented H.R. Haldeman it was "TL2 - Too little, too late."

  • The WashPost's Liberal columnist Richard Cohen agreed in an op-ed this morning: "Why did Barack Obama take so long to "reject outright" the harshly critical statements about America made by his minister, Jeremiah Wright…?"


    After watching Obama's speech:

  • First observation is that Obama began with the words of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution - but not all the words of the preamble. "We the people … in order to form a more perfect union," the speech began.

  • Why, I wonder, would he leave out the four words: "of the United States?"

  • Obama said "I have already condemned" Jeremiah Wright, but there was NO call for "all Americans, Black and White; Brown and Yellow; Christian, Jew or Muslim to join me in this condemnation."

  • After that "condemnation," Obama then went into a lengthy defense of Jeremiah Wright.

  • And then after that lengthy defense of Jeremiah Wright he went into a long dissertation on the history of racism - in effect saying the true horror of slavery justified Jeremiah Wright's sermons which "simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning."

  • Of course, Obama blamed Conservatives:
    "Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism."

  • No slap at Liberals, though. The only time in the speech the word "Liberal" is mentioned is inferentially suggesting Conservatives are behind
    "the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap."

  • In the end, Obama did exactly what I suspected he would do: suggest that to vote for anyone but him was to further racism in America.
    We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism ... We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words … or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

  • The speech ended at 11:30 leaving me unconvinced that it was anything more than damages control; and certainly unconvinced of Obama's "new politics."

  • I am not a racist. And I'm still not voting for him for Obama.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the RealClearPolitics curtain-raiser and Richard Cohen's op-ed. Also a Mullfoto which is a cheap Spitzer joke and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Mullings' 10th Anniversary

  • In late February 2008 I joined GOPAC as its executive director at the request of Speaker Newt Gingrich. GOPAC was held in fairly low regard by the national political media and one of my assignments was to improve the relationship between GOPAC and the press.

  • I talked with the chairman of the board, Shelly Kamins, about writing a regular column based upon the irregular columns I had written as the communications director for the Speaker's political office which had been called, "Talking Points."

  • Hence, the bullet-point format of MULLINGS.

  • Shelly thought it would be worth the try so on March 11, 1998 a re-named column - MULLINGS - was faxed out to 200-or-so reporters on GOPAC's press list.

  • The concept of the "blast fax," by which a fax was sent to a service which they then "blasted" out to whatever list you had provided, has gone the way of the slide rule.

  • In 1998 the notion of e-mail being ubiquitous was unheard of - if not unthought of.

  • MULLINGS was a made-up name based upon my long-held theory that no person in regular conversation uses the verb "to mull." No one, for instance, has ever said to his or her spouse: "Honey, I'm mulling over whether we should have Chinese or Italian tonight."

  • Associated Press headling writers, on the other hand, use it all the time: "Bush Mulls Budget Cuts."

  • For several years the MULLINGS header contained the two definitions I had adopted:
    Mull v. (1) to consider; to ponder. (2) to add spice as to wine or cider

  • The earliest MULLINGS were less than 500 words each, a length which was necessary because back in the day it cost - as I remember - twenty-five cents per page to use the blast fax service so I was very careful to keep the copy to less than 500 words which would fit on one page. Even an extra line on a second page was an additional 25¢ per recipient which got pretty expensive pretty quickly.

  • There have been several gaps in production over the years. Just a month after I started at GOPAC and began MULLINGS, I had cardiac bypass surgery which cost about six weeks of output. Then in 2009, after Newt had left the House (and GOPAC) the new masters decided that MULLINGS was too edgy so I stopped writing the column until I left GOPAC and restarted MULLINGS as a for-profit operation.

  • The next big gap was during the Iraq tour of duty. If you work for the Federal government you can write or speak for pay, but you cannot get paid for writing or speaking about what they are already paying you to do.

  • If MULLINGS had been a gardening column, I could have continued to write it. But the DoD lawyers said that for every month I was in Iraq (on their payroll as a civilian employee) I had to extend paying readers' subscription by a month. That is the principal reason Subscription Month has moved from the Spring to the Fall.

  • The other issue about writing from Iraq was: It was impossible to find the time to write three days a week, so I saved it up for a lengthy essay which I generally wrote on Sundays. The Iraq Travelogues (there were 24 in the series) remain some of the most widely read of all the stuff I've written.

  • In 1999 we switched from faxing MULLINGS to e-mailing them and putting them up on the webpage. For almost all the ensuing nine years, three sponsors have been aboard: Becki Donatelli (at, Ed Goeas (at, and Page Moon (at

  • Some fun facts:

  • The database, as of this writing, contains just over e-mail 37,000 addresses. In addition, according to the automated statistics, nearly a half million people a month visit MULLINGS and take a look at one or more pages.

  • Because they are written three times per week, there are usually between 12 and 13 MULLINGS each month. That means that I went past the 1,500 column mark sometime last September - a benchmark I also missed.

  • There are a few columns which are repeated each year, among them:
    Back to School

    Memorial Day



  • According to my informal count, there have been 1,508 MULLINGS and Travelogues which have averaged about 700 words each for a total of some 1,055,600 words - not counting the Secret Decoder Ring page which often takes longer to construct than the actual column.

  • Speaking of the SDR, the Mullfoto began as an irregular addition to the Secret Decoder Ring page in 2002 but has become a daily feature long since.

  • My favorite Mullfoto comes from the Iraq sequence. You can see it on today's SDR by clicking on the link at the bottom.

  • That total, by the way, is not 1,055,600 different words. I have used many words - "Rodham" comes to mind - more than once over these ten years.

  • I read somewhere that the average mystery novel contains about 62,500 words. If that is true than I have written the equivalent of nearly 17 mysteries over the past 10 years.

  • It is one thing to have written MULLINGS for all these years, but the real mystery is the number of you who keep reading them, commenting on them, correcting them, and sharing them with your friends, colleagues and families.

  • Thank you. Here's to another ten.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Oxford English Dictionary's short discussion on the number of words in the English language; to the Iraq Travelogues; and to the first-ever MULLINGS. Also my favorite Mullfoto of the past decade and a contemporary Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, March 13, 2008

    The Spitzer Back Story

  • Soon-to-be Former Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer won the election for Governor as part of the Democratic tsunami which rolled across the nation on November 7, 2006. Spitzer defeated former Republican State Assemblyman John Faso by a startling majority of 69%-29%.

  • Spitzer succeeded three-term Republican Governor George Pataki whose tall, patrician good looks coupled with the absolute belief held by public officials in both New York and California that they could be and, in fact, should be President of the United States caused Pataki to begin a run for the White House.

  • As happens with alarming frequency, a Governor who serves more than two terms tends to leave the state party apparatus in shambles when he leaves. That is largely due to the Governor's closest advisors getting comfortable calling the political shots in the State, allowing (even forcing) the political party apparatus to wither into impotence.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    Was it sooo important to type the word "impotence" in this essay? Would "powerlessness" or "incapacity" not have suited just as well?


    The National E.D. Institute (NEDI)

    Probably, but sometimes I can't control my impish sense of humor.

  • When President George W. Bush appointed several former Governors to his initial Cabinet I spoke with one of them and told him that he had been the absolute ruler of his state for a long time and all anyone around him had to say was, "The Governor wants …" and whatever the Governor wanted to have happen, happened.

  • "Now," I told him, "you are but one of 14 Cabinet officers and the tens of thousands of non-political-appointees in your Department don't care what "the Secretary wants," especially if the Secretary wants it after 5:00 in the afternoon."

  • Pataki left a Republican party unable to counter the love affair the popular press had with Eliot Spitzer. The GOP nominated Faso (who had been the State Assembly Minority Leader who defeated former Massachusetts Governor William Weld by such a wide margin at the State Convention that Weld dropped out immediately thereafter.

  • In an amusing parallel to current events, prior to the New York State Republican convention, Bill Weld (according to a Wikipedia entry) offered Faso the Lt. Governor spot on the Republican ticket in November - similar, if not identical, to second-place Hillary Rodham Clinton offering the V.P. slot to front-running Barack H. Obama.

  • Spitzer, who is Jewish, recognized he might need to widen the base of his support, so he asked the Minority Leader of the State Senate, David Paterson, who is Black, to run as his Lt. Governor.

  • Paterson was, according to a Washington Post piece by Alex MacGillis, born in Brooklyn and raised in Harlem, the son of a political heavyweight who was, himself, a State Senator, Deputy Mayor, and Secretary of State.

  • Paterson not only balanced Spitzer's upper-class background with a traditional neighborhood political heritage, but also balanced Spitzer's take-no-prisoners attitude toward the rest of the human race with a man whom even a political foe (again, according to the WashPost) called, "intelligent, charming, witty … and enjoys the goodwill of people in both parties."

  • Even allowing for the fact that the State Senator who used those glowing terms knew at that point that Spitzer was resigning and Paterson would ascend to the Governor's office on Monday, that is an impressive set of adjectives in the rough-and-tumble world of Albany, NY politics.

  • Former Congresswoman and Walter Mondale's choice for his Vice Presidential running mate in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro, pointed out in a speech that Barack Obama is Black saying: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," for which was forced to step down from the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign for those remarks, a decision which I wholeheartedly endorse.

  • What she should have said was: "If Obama WERE a white man …"

  • It is that kind of grammatical error up with which I will not put.

  • Someone should point out to Ms. Ferraro that in addition to being Black, the new Governor New York is blind.

  • Let's see what she does with that.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the White House web page on Cabinet Departments, the WashPost piece on David Paterson, and a Fox News website on highlights of Spitzer's career. Also a Mullfoto showing why sometimes civil disobedience is the right thing to do and a photo of Miss Ashley Dupré as our Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Monday, March 10, 2008

    Client Number Nine

    From New Orleans, Louisiana

    Special Martha Reeves & The Vandellas Edition

  • The New York Times broke the story of the year Monday afternoon:
    "[New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer … has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a law enforcement official and a person briefed on the investigation."

  • New York Governor Elliot Spitzer has a new first name: John.

  • Federal wiretaps on a high-end prostitution ring known as "Emperor's Club VIP" led to four arrests last week on charges stemming from a 1910 law known - onomatopoeiacally - as the Mann Act, which makes it a federal crime to (again, according to the NYT) "transport a person across state lines for the purpose of prostitution."

  • Several of the wiretaps captured a communication from a man who was identified in the Federal complaint as "Client Number Nine."

  • Client Number Nine is Elliot Spitzer.

  • Client Number Nine got caught looking for a little Love Potion Number 9 at the Mayflower Hotel in Your Nation's Capital on the night of February 13.

  • I don't know much about this stuff, but don't you think he must be wondering who were Clients 1-8?

  • I couldn't care less if Elliot Spitzer goes to professionals to - as we used to say during the Great Depression - get his ashes hauled. What the press corps needs to focus on - FIXATE on - is the matter of hypocrisy.

  • Elliot Spitzer is a hypocrite.

  • Elliot Spitzer, as New York Attorney General saw himself as Elliot Ness, rooting out wealthy and powerful evildoers where ever they might be. Elliot Ness, as far as I know, did not occasionally slip into a Speakeasy for a glass or two. Spiderman doesn't shoplift from candy stores.

  • According to news reports the high-end prostitution ring was known as the Emperor's Club. According to those same reports, prostitutes charged as much as $3,100 per hour.

  • I have a fairly active imagination, but even if A LOT of Beach Volleyball were involved, I can't think of anything which would be worth $3,100 per hour.


    Do they stop the clock if you need to take a little nap?

    Does the $3,100 include the, uh, service charge?


  • According to Reuters, the complaint describes "six telephone calls between Client 9 and one of the defendants that were intercepted by wiretaps between February 12 and 13."

  • It seems the john was a little tardy in sending along the deposit so the defendants told Client Number 9 that it might be a good idea to bring along an additional $1,500 to leave as a credit balance against future action "to avoid further payment issues."

  • You an read this stuff as well as I can, but this being a Presidential election year there are implications. Political implications. Inasmuch as Elliot Spitzer has been a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton it has really BIG political implications.

  • If I were advising the Republican Party of New York, I would grab news accounts of Spitzer raising money for and/or campaigning with every Democrat in the State. I would demand that every one of those candidates (who are now, because of the political tsunami in New York in 2006, public officials) give back whatever money was raised with Spitzer's aid back to the donors or to charity.

  • You may remember that Hillary Clinton first supported, then opposed, then supported, then opposed again Spitzer's plan to give illegal aliens New York State drivers' licenses. And she did that all within the same question at one debate.

  • As for Republicans in New York? They should hire Martha Reeves and the Vandellas to travel up and down Broadway singing, "Dancing in the Street."

  • As for me? Forget everything bad I've ever written about the New York Times.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A definition of "onomatopoeia," and links to a summary of reaction to the Elliot Spitzer story and the song, "Dancing in the Street." Also a Mullfoto which I captured yesterday afternoon after the Spitzer story broke, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 9, 2008

    Spring Training

    Washington Nationals
    Cleveland Indians

    Sunday, March 9, 2008

    Third and final day of the Mullings 2008 Spring Training tour. This is a home game for the Washington Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida. Viera is about 15 miles from Melbourne where I have been camping out at the Hampton Inn and 10 miles from Cocoa Beach (where the Hampton Inn was sold out or I would have stayed there).

    This is in the general area of Florida known as the Space Coast (hence the name of the stadium) for its proximity to Cape Canaveral.

    According to my Delorme mapping program, it is 34.22 road miles from Space Coast Stadium to the end of NASA Parkway which is right at Launch Complex 14.

    Where else do you get this stuff? Nowhere, is the correct answer.

    I got here early today - about 10 AM for a 1:05 start because I wanted to hang out at the ballpark and watch batting and fielding practice with no reason to have to talk to anyone.

    The real reason was because if I'd stayed at my motel I would have felt compelled to watch the Sunday shows which were, I'm certain without even having seen them, were consumed with Obama winning the Wyoming caucuses yesterday.


    I have been shepherded over these three days by Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times and Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post.

    At RFK I sat in the tier above them in the press box. The front row is not accessible from the second and third tiers without going completely outside the press box and down a flight of stairs, so the lesser lights (or dim bulbs as I am) are physically separated from the big-time writers.

    Nevertheless, for the past three days Zuckerman and Svrluga have answered my questions, put up with an extra microphone stuck into the scrum, and generally having someone around who has not been here for the past three weeks and will not be here for the next three.

    I bought them each a bottle of wine for their patience and good will.


    The National Anthem was sung by Melinda Lebo, the 2007 Brevard County Idol winner. Unfortunately she suffered from the same issue which dogged Sen. John McCain when he was here in Florida the other day: Their wireless microphones kept cutting out.

    McCain was handed a different microphone (which also didn't work very well) but Ms. Lebo toughed it out and continued to sing.

    Somewhere between watching oer the ramparts and the bombs bursting in air, the crowd decided to help out and by the time there was proof that our flag was still there, the crowd was lustily singing the Anthem along with Melinda then cheered her and itself with heartwarming gusto in the home of the brave.

    While sitting in the press box with the columnist from the Washington Times, Thom Loverro, pitcher Jason Bergmann wandered in and sat down to chat. He talked with Thom and me for about 25 minutes. A 26-year-old major leaguer worried, like many of those in camp here, about whether he will start the season at the new ball park in Washington or with the AAA team in New Orleans.

    He talked about the difference between being a starter and being a reliever. About the strengths of the Nationals' pitching staff. About the chances of some of the younger position players (non-pitchers) of making the team. And like that.

    He got up and left, Thom and I talked about the fact that we forget that most of these players are kids and most of them are pretty nice kids like Jason.

    About an hour later, the lineups came out and neither Thom nor I had realized that Bergmann was to be the starting pitcher today.

    This behavior is unknown in the annals of professional baseball. Starting pitchers often have pre-game routines which, if they stay around long enough, develop into highly-developed, almost religious, rites. One of the many unwritten rules of the press box is: NEVER TRY TO TALK TO THAT DAY'S STARTING PITCHER BEFORE THE GAME!

    I learned about this rule two years ago when John Patterson was making a rehab start with the AA Potomac Nationals and I went out to Woodbridge, Va to cover it.

    Patterson was sitting in the dugout prior to the game, so I drifted by and chatted for a few minutes. When I got up to the press box I told someone who expressed surprise that he would have talked to me because of the aforementioned RULE.

    When Zuckerman and Svrluga came back from watching the minor leaguers and found out about the visit from Bergmann they expressed the same shock and surprise.

    In the game itself, Bergmann gave up no runs on two hits, struck out four and walked one in four innings of work - a most excellent outing. Loverro and I decided we should make ourselves available to Bergmann to be hired as his pre-game good luck charms.

    By the time Bergmann left the game, the Nats were leading 7-0 but that wasn't what had everyone buzzing.

    A crane was.

    A sand hill crane drifted onto the field near the end of the bottom of the first inning and hung around until the end of the fourth.

    Here's a shot through the screen at the crane standing in short right field behind Nats' first baseman Nick Johnson.

    At the end of the inning, when the Nats trotted off the field toward their dugout outside the first base foul line, the crane walked over with them. After chatting with the Nationals' bench, he wandered down to the on-deck circle to have a word with Nats left fielder Jose Peña.

    He (or she; I'm not that clear on how to determine the gender of a sand hill crane) flew to the third base side of the field and then, deciding that maybe the pace of the game wasn't to his liking he flew off, perhaps, to look for a professional soccer match.

    Which led the conversation in the press box to how many players named "Crane" have played in the majors. The answer is four. An Ed, a Fred and two Sams.

    The last Sam Crane ended his Major League career in 1922 playing for the famous Brooklyn Robins. You don't know from the Brooklyn Robins? Maybe you remember them from their previous names: Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Brooklyn Superbas and more recently, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

    The Brooklyn Dodgers were known as the Robbins from 1914 until 1931.

    I had never heard that before and even though I've checked it on three websites (including the official Dodgers' historical website I still find it hard to believe.

    Where was I? Oh, yes, Cranes in baseball. The conversation ended with a brief discussion of Ed Kranepool who first played for the New York Mets in 1962 at the tenger age of 17 and spent all or parts of the next 17 seasons as a player for the Mets until retiring in 1979.

    After Bergmann had a chance to get organized, we were directed to the Nats' locker room for the post-appearance presser. Unlike Tim Redding the day before who had had a dreadful outing and made the case for why it was such a valuable learning experience, Bergmann had a great appearance and so was careful to downplay how good it really was.

    "How' it go?" he asked himself rhetorically. "I thought it went pretty good. I was able to throw some strikes today. But there's a lot of room for up and down movement. There's a lot of guys in camp who want this job so I've gotta keep working hard.

    He was asked if the bird helped or hurt. "The bird was pretty cool. I was afraid for Ronnie [Belliard] though, it was standing right behind him."

    Nationals' bench coach Pat Coralles has had knee surgery and is still using a cane. Bergmann said, "It stared Pat down when it was right next to the bench. Pat almost had to use his cane. A lot of people in the stands would have been witness to it."

    After the game, Manager Manny Acta answered the usual questions about Bergmann and shortstop Cristian Guzman's three-for-four day (two home runs, a single, four RBI) and also talked about the crane saying it brought with it a lot of offense.

    Walking away he said over his shoulder, "That bird wouldn't last three seconds in the Dominican Republic. It would end up in a pot somewhere."

    That's it for the Spring Training tour. Back to real life tomorrow.


    Saturday, March 8, 2008

    Spring Training

    Washington Nationals
    Houston Astros

    Saturday March 8, 2008

    Today's game is another away game, this time against the Houston Astros at their spring training center in Kissimmee, Florida which is just outside Orlando. Kissimmee has a city slogan which, according to a local internet site is: "Favored by Nature; Developed by Nerve."

    According to the same site, "In 1912 Kissimmee had a population of only 4,000 people; now it has well above 5,000" which I suspected may have been a typo on an order of magnitude so I went the official site of the City of Kissimmee and, indeed, the 2007 census had the population at just over 61,000.

    All of which is very interesting but the central question I wanted answered: "How did Kissimmee get its name" did not come up on any of the historical websites.

    When I got to the stadium, I used the standard maneuver of waving my press credentials from the Nationals at the parking attendants and got directed to press parking. At the gate a woman asked to examine my backpack, but I showed her the same creds and got waved through. I found my way to the press box which, even though I was over an hour early for the game, had all the good seats taken with only the seat behind the post remaining.

    Reporters do the equivalent of reserving lounge chairs around the pool: they leave an article of clothing or a backpack on the chair they are claiming then go off to do their pre-game stuff.

    John Dever, the Nats' media wrangler, had a seat next to his assigned spot and he invited me to sit there. It was far from perfect, but better than having the entire middle of the field blocked out.

    No one in the press box answered to the call of "Astros Media Staff?" so I went out to find him or her.

    I was directed to the media relations office which is behind the press lounge. The office was open but no one was in it so I poked around to see what I could have stolen including the contents of a box of credentials saying MEDIA, STAFF, and SCOUT which were good for all of spring training at all locations.

    But I didn't.

    Remembering my previous discussion about not having had the confidence to get around a ball park, I couldn't find the Astros media guy, so I walked down the grandstand and let myself onto the field.

    No one stopped me, no one even questioned me. I found the Nats' media wrangler, John Dever and asked him if he'd seen the Astros' guy. He said he'd been on the field a minute ago, but didn't see him now.

    As I already had access to the field and had put my things in the press box the notion of game credentials were just as important as they had been the day before, when I never did get my day pass.

    I was preparing until the press folks game in and said that the Nats General Manager, Jim Bowden, was sitting in the press lounge and if everyone wanted to drift over …

    I drifted over in time to hear the conversation about Shawn Hill, one of the two pitchers who are supposed to be the cornerstones of the Nats' pitching staff (the other being John Patterson).

    Hill had two surgeries over the Winter but was supposed to be ready to go this Spring. He has had pain in his arm and, for good reason, the Nationals have been anxious about having him throw at full speed for fear of doing permanent damage.

    It was reported in this morning's papers that Hill was scheduled to throw yesterday and was told that if he had pain - stop.

    He had pain. And he stopped.

    Bowden was explaining that Hill's MRI did not indicate anything wrong and so they don't know why he's having the pain.

    He said that someone had suggested a cortisone shot into the area of the pain.

    The effects of a cortisone shot, according the Bowden, lasts "four to six weeks" which was a fact apparently only unknown to me as I had asked the question which - bless them - did not elicit heavy sighs of frustration from the regular reporters, all of whom did know that fun pharmaceutical fact.

    Bowden went on for a little longer, then the media guy said the obligatory "thank you" and everyone put away their digital recorders, but no one left the table so Bowden continued to hold court.

    Bowden got up to go to where ever the General Manager from the visiting team goes to watch the game when Washington Post beat reporter Barry Svrluga asked to chat with him and they walked out of the eating area.

    Twenty seconds later they came back and Bowden announced that the Nats had renewed the contract of third baseman, and fan favorite, Ryan Zimmerman.

    Someone asked if that had slipped his mind in the discussion about Hill, but Bowden said he was going to wait until after the game to make the announcement, but he didn't want to be in a position where he had to tell Svrluga - who had obviously been tipped off - that he had "no comment" only to announce it three hours later; and didn't want to make everyone else made by giving Svrluga a three-hour head start when he had just been sitting there with everyone.

    I am not at all certain that Barry Svrluga agreed with this egalitarian approach, but Bowden went on to talk about the good relationship the team has with Zimmerman and his agents as they try to work toward a long-term contract.

    Zimmerman will make a salary which is in the neighborhood of $465,000 which is not chickenfeed in real life, but it chicken you-know-what for a Major League Baseball player.

    As I understand less than nothing about how Major League salaries are structured, the rest of the conversation (which was off the record anyhow) might have been about the finer points of quantum mechanics.

    The game started at 1:06 and the press box announcer informed us that the game time temperature was 63 degrees with "the wind out of the west-northwest at 22 miles per hour gusting to 36 miles per hour.

    At just about the same moment that announcement came across, a weather alert popped up on my computer screen for Alexandria, Virginia:

    Sustained winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph are expected through Saturday evening. The strong gusty winds may lead to some power outages.

    Both pitchers had control issues in the first inning which resulted in a total of four walks, a hit batter, two runs and only one hit.

    With the wind blowing out, it was not a surprise that homeruns would abound, which they did leading to press box humor in the third inning (when the score was 5-5 on three homers) that the was beginning to look like a mid-80's run-and-gun NBA game.

    The Nats' starter, Tim Redding did not have a good outing what with the walks, the hit batter, the home run and all. After he had gotten his shoulder wrapped the word came into the press box that we could talk to him in the locker room.

    The five Washington-based reporters walked down the right field line to the Nats' locker room and Redding did what Major League players are taught to do: Speak with reporters whether they want to or not.

    He talked about the conditions, especially the wind:

    "For me," he said, "it dries out my hands and it's hard to get a grip. I was constantly going to my mouth to try and get a grip. I don't use resin that much, but I even used resin to try and get a grip which made me have too much of a grip …"

    "It was good to have get familiar with throwing off-speed pitches behind in the count with guys on base; off-speed pitches for strikes…"

    And like that.

    Everyone walked back up to the press box which had, like the stands, begun to empty.

    I decided to walk to the seat farthest from home plate down the right field line and this was the quintessential pitcher-batter scene.

    By the end of the 8th Inning the score was 12-8 and my theory about spring training games ending well before 4 PM was completely shot. As the Astros were the home team they were going to bat in the bottom of the ninth so the game would probably go until 4:30.

    In the end the time of the game was 3:10 meaning it ended at 4:16 and the Nats won 12-10.

    Tomorrow - a home game in Viera, Florida at Space Coast Stadium.

    Friday, March 7, 2008

    Spring Training

    Washington Nationals
    Florida Marlins

    Friday March 7, 2008

    I find myself in Jupiter Florida which is the summer home to both the Florida Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals.

    Sometimes, things just work out: I had a speech this morning in Palm Beach which ended at a little after noon. I had wanted it to end at about 11:45 so I could get to the game early, but I was sooooo engaging that people wanted to keep asking questions.

    Or maybe I was sooooo obtuse, that what I said needed a good deal of clarification.

    At any rate, I am kicking off my third year as a credentialed reporter covering the Washington Nationals for the Mighty Alexandria Times newspaper.

    When I started I was about five games into the regular season before I figured out how to get onto the field at RFK Stadium before the game. Why didn’t I just ask someone? I was too self-conscious.

    I can walk into any political event, anywhere on the planet and more-or-less instantly figure out what’s going on and how to get where I want to go.

    If not, I have no problem asking someone, because I am asking from a position of strength, not weakness.

    That that make any sense?

    Anyway, this being my third season, I am far from being a rookie.

    When I realized I had a speech on Friday I looked at the National’s schedule and saw they were in Kissimmee on Saturday (playing against the Houston Astros) and home in Viera (near Melbourne) on Sunday.

    “Excellent,” I thought. “I’ll spend the weekend in Florida and catch a couple of games.”


    It came to pass that I was the speaker at the annual meeting of the Hearing Industries Association on Friday morning – as opposed to Friday afternoon or Friday evening which I could have known at any point in the previous three weeks when the speech was booked if I had any capability of looking beyond the next 48 hours, which I do not.

    When I found that out I looked to see where the Nats were playing on Friday afternoon, thinking maybe Ft. Lauderdale or someplace where I could drive to from Palm Beach and maybe catch the final few innings.

    As it happened, the Nats were playing the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter which is only about 20 minutes from Palm Beach so I could make it a three-game sweep, so to speak.

    I talked to the National’s media folks in Washington who put me in touch with the appropriate person in Florida who assured me that creds at all three venues would be available.

    Here’s the part about not being a rookie.

    As I was driving to Reagan National Airport well before the crack o’ dawn on Thursday, I reached into the glove compartment of the Mullmobile and pulled out my Media Credentials for the Nats from last season.

    “Just in case,” I said aloud as I shoved them into my backpack.

    On Friday, I drove my rental car from the hotel where I’d delivered my speech to the stadium. I drove into the first open gate, flashed my 2007 Season creds to a guy with a yellow shirt and clipboard and asked where press parking was.

    “I guess you should park right in here,” the guy with the clipboard said, waving me through.

    I parked in an unmarked spot, slipped the lanyard holding my credentials over my head and found another guy with a yellow shirt and a clipboard.

    “Where’s press check-in?” I asked.

    The guy looked at me and said this was the Cardinals side of the field, and I should walk all the way to the other end of a long structure, inside the gates but outside the stadium where I would find the Marlins’ offices.

    I thanked him, and headed off to the direction in which he had pointed.

    I looked up and saw a foul pole, meaning I was at the outfield end of one of the baselines. If my long, long experience as a credentialed reporter covering the Washington Nationals for the Mighty Alexandria Times has taught me anything it is this: The press box is not likely to be in the outfield.

    I stood on my tiptoes so I could see the other foul pole and saw I was down the left field line so I turned left and headed toward where I knew the press box would be.

    I found an open gate and went into the stands just outside first base. I found someone with a yellow shirt but no clipboard and asked how to get up to the press box. He found another guy with a yellow shirt and no clipboard – but with a radio! That guy glanced at my 2007 Media creds twirling in the wind and told me how to go down a flight of stairs then take the elevator up to the second level.

    I hauled off to do that, walked past an elderly woman in a yellow shirt who was guarding the elevator saying, “press box second floor, right?”

    She said to turn left when I got off the elevator. I didn’t want to reprise a scene from a Lucy and Desi movie which had a lot of “turn left, right?” dialogue, so I let it go.

    I walked into the press box and walked up to a guy with a yellow shirt sitting at a table with a sign which read: “ Press Lunch $7.” The press meals at RFK were $10 but this is spring training, so I could see that it should be less.

    “You know who,” I said pointing to the two-tiered press area, “is the Marlins’ press staff?”

    He said he would be on the lower level next to the window, so I walked down the row of reporters/staff and said aloud, “Marlins’ staff?”

    A guy without a yellow shirt turned and raised his hand. I stuck out mine, told him I was Rich Galen from the Alexandria, VA Times (I left out the “Mighty” part) and he was supposed to have credentials for me.

    He said he did, but they were (pointing to the Marlins offices on the far side of the left-center field wall) in the office.

    I said unless he thought I needed them, I was fine. I asked him what the rules were for seats, he said I could take any empty seat on the second row. I found a seat in the middle and asked the reporter sitting next to it, Mark Zuckerman of the Washington Times, if the seat was open.

    “Yes, but I don’t think you’ll see much,” pointing at the pillar clearly blocking 70% of any view of the field.

    “Thanks,” I said picking up my backpack. I don’t want to have to use my x-ray vision this early in the season.

    There was a seat next to the Washington Post beat reporter Barry Srvluga which he indicated was available.

    Beat reporters have to write several articles a day. The main piece is about the game itself (called, as you might expect, “The Gamer”). They will often write a side bar piece about players’ injuries, clubhouse gossip, etc.

    During the season, when the huge majority of games are played at night game and, therefore, end near or beyond the early deadlines for newspapers, the beat reporters have to wait until the game is over to make sure they know who won, race down to the interview room for the 10-minute press conference with the manager, run over to the locker room to get a comment from a few players, then back up to the press box to put it all together in a coherent fashion while their editor is demanding to know when the piece will be ready.

    I asked Svrluga and Zuckerman if they have to tell their editors how much room to reserve. They both said that they have to write to the same length every night – 800-850 words for the Washington Times; about 900 for the Washington Post.

    The reality is, you get used to writing to a set length. Or at least I have. Mullings, goes about 750 words three times a week. Sometimes it drifts up to 800, and rarely (usually when it’s very late) Mullings will check in at around 700; but 750 or so is a good bet.

    In fact, I just checked the word-length of Mullings from this morning: 746. Innerestin’, huh?

    Spring training games, in contrast, are largely afternoon affairs and, at least at this point with three weeks to go, few starters stay in the whole game. Pitchers (who had been limited to 30 pitches last week) are up to about 50 pitches before they are taken out – this, in contrast to the modern limit of 100 pitches during the regular season.

    The pace is slower, and the games begin at 1:05 in the afternoon and so are over well before 4:00 pm.

    Today the game didn’t start until 1:13 according to the guy in the press box who keeps track of these things. He also added that the game time temperature was 83 degrees and the wind was 20 miles per hour (blowing from right to left).

    To make my point, again, today’s game ended with the Marlins winning 3-2. The time of the game, according to that same guy who keeps track of such things, was 2:21 so it ended at 3:34.

    The beat reporters missed the last two innings, getting a head start on their stories by interviewing the starters in the Nats’ (or Marlins’ depending upon which team they are covering) locker room while the lower-ranked players got in a few innings.

    Nevertheless, when they all got back to their places shortly after the game ended and the easy banter during the game (which often ended with questions like … how’d he get on second?) was replaced with a dead silence except for the muted tapping of keys on laptops.

    All in all it is a great way to spend a late winter afternoon.

    More tomorrow from Kissimmee when the Nationals take on the Houston Astros.

    -- END --

    Thursday, March 6, 2008

    Glass Half Empty. Glass Half Full

    From Palm Beach, Florida

    The Hearing Industries Association

  • All day long, yesterday, I got calls from reporters testing the theory that McCain securing the GOP nomination this past Tuesday was actually the worst thing which could have happened.

  • Here is an amalgam of those conversations:
    Galen: That's silly. Isn't securing the nomination a good thing?

    Reporter: Yes, I suppose so.

    Galen: Then how can good news be bad news?

    Reporter: But won't all the attention will be on Hillary and Obama?


    Reporters almost always refer to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as "Hillary," and Senator Barack H. (!) Obama as "Obama."

    This sexism has, as of this writing, gone unremarked upon by Gloria Steinem who is the self-appointed arbiter of these things.

    But, hope springs eternal.


  • Back to the discussion …
    Galen: Are you thinking back to Rudy Giuliani's disappearance from the scene while waiting for the Florida primary?

    Reporter: Yes.

    Galen: There were 15 candidates involved in the process before Florida. There are three now. One of them is John McCain.

    Reporter: Still…

    Galen: If McCain goes on the road will [insert the name of the reporter's news organization here] cover him?

    Reporter: Sure.

    Galen: Well, then McCain gets to make news whenever he wants. Just like - say - the President of the United States.

    Reporter: But, how does that compare to the attention Hillary and Obama will be getting?

    Galen: Clinton and Obama will be doing, what?

    Reporter: Attacking each other, I suppose.
    Galen: Right, they will be firing grenades and mortars at each other. This isn't going to be negative campaigning, it's going to be a negative campaign. Period. How is that good news for Democrats in November?

    Reporter: Ok, but what should McCain do?

    Galen: I am not advising McCain, but if I were here are three ideas:

    On the negative campaign front, I would make certain the Republican National Committee staff is closely tracking the attacks and counterattacks and keeping careful notes on what works and what doesn't.

    On the positive front, I would have a steady stream of endorsements - political figures, military, statesmen, scientists, you name it. Every 36 hours I would roll out more endorsements.

    Third, I would stick McCain back in the US Senate and have him comment on important legislation as it comes on the floor. McCain had no trouble making news when he was not the Republican nominee, but just one of 100 US Senators.

    This has the additional advantage of showing McCain's deep understanding of complex issues, as opposed to Obama's not even knowing where to go to answer the phone at 3 AM, if you catch my drift.

    Reporter: I catch it.

    Galen: There is an additional advantage to McCain's having closed out the field early.

    Reporter: What's that?

    Galen: He gets to rest his starters.

    Reporter: Huh?

    Galen: How tired are you?

    Reporter: Exhausted.

    Galen: So are the Clinton and Obama senior staffs. You saw that piece this morning in the Washington Post by Baker and Kornblut about how raw the nerves are in Clinton's campaign? [You can find the link to the piece on the Secret Decoder Ring today].

    Reporter: Yeah. Wow.

    Galen: Wow, indeed. They are staring down the barrel of at least six more weeks and probably five more MONTHS of that constant pressure. McCain's folks can throttle back and concentrate on designing, staffing and then implementing the Fall campaign.

    Reporter: I hadn't thought of that.

    Galen: That's why you called me.

  • It has become an article of faith that pressure from the Clinton campaign (aided and abetted by Saturday Night Live) got the press corps to ask questions of Obama and about Obama in the days leading up to the Ohio/Texas primaries.

  • Clinton's comms director, Howard Wolfson (one of the best in the business) is credited with directing the "How come you're not asking Obama the tough questions?" campaign.

  • Wolfson, to prove my point about how this is not going to be a kinder-gentler campaign, was quoted at (and elsewhere) yesterday comparing Obama to … Ken Starr!
    "When Sen. Obama was confronted with questions over whether he was ready to be commander in chief and steward of the economy, he chose not to address those questions, but to attack Sen. Clinton," Wolfson said. "I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president."

  • Note to RNC researchers: Nix on the Ken Starr attacks.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the WashPost article and the Politico piece. Also a Mullfoto of the day showing why parking in Your Nation's Capital is such a challenge and the season's first Beach Volleyball Catchy Caption of the Day!

  • Wednesday, March 5, 2008

    John, John, He's Our Man ...

  • Big – BIG – night for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not only did she stop the Obama run of eleven straight primary victories; but she clearly planted the “Big State” flag into the middle of this nomination process.

  • In her victory speech last night Clinton mentioned the big states she has won, including California, New York, Michigan and Florida.

  • Michigan and Florida, you may remember, were stripped of there delegates because they refused to obey the Democratic National Committee rules and moved their primaries ahead of February 5.

  • The Obama folks will be saying that the number of delegates is what counts, not the popular vote.

  • Guess what? We might not know the answer to the delegate count for days. But we do know that Hillary won Tuesday night.

  • Take Texas for example. Hillary was awarded Texas about One O’clock this morning based upon the popular vote. We may not know the delegate count for days. Doesn’t matter. Hillary won Tuesday night.

  • Obama was looking forward to knocking Hillary clean out of the electoral ring last night. Instead Hillary turned the race around.

  • This is wonderful news for Republicans. It means that the Democratic battle for the nomination will go on for at least the next six weeks and we’ll all be glued to our TV sets watching the results from Pennsylvania on April 22.

  • My debate partner on AP Television, Jenny Backus, said last night’s results made it probable that neither Obama nor Clinton would have a majority of elected delegates going into the convention in August, meaning the whole thing will ride on those Super Delegates about whom we’ve heard so much.

  • For Clinton, the secret will be to continue her momentum through Mississippi, Wyoming and Pennsylvania. The Super Delegates will act more-or-less like the people who decide who gets into the NCAA basketball tournament and where they play: Teams playing better in February and March are given more weight than those who played better in December and January.

  • If Hillary shows continued strength going into the final round of primaries, the Super Delegates might well be swayed toward voting for her, whether Obama has more elected delegates or not.

  • And while Clinton and Obama snipe at each other – probably upping the ante as Obama’s handlers demand he get nastier to match her attacks against him – John McCain gets to solidify his position as the nominee presumptive having reached the required 1,191 delegates.

  • As soon as the AP called all four states for McCain giving him the magic number, I called Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager (and Mull Pal), Ed Rollins, to congratulate him on getting Huckabee this far along.

  • Huckabee lasted longer than Rudy Giuliani who was the first major candidate out of the race. He lasted longer than Fred Thompson. And longer even than Mitt Romney.

  • But when McCain was declared the winner last night, Rollins told me that Huckabee was going “to go out in a few minutes and endorse McCain” and Huckabee did just that.

  • Later today, Senator McCain will meet with President Bush and accept the President’s endorsement. That will signal the change of command at the Republican National Committee – moving from an organization dedicated to advancing the Administration’s agenda to an organization aimed at working toward the election of the next President.

  • Democrats will try to paint a pretty picture by saying the continued one-on-one fight between Clinton and Obama will continue to generate enthusiasm in the Party. It may, but trying to get the warring parties back together after what will likely be a bruising convention in Denver will be no small task.

  • If Hillary is the nominee, Washington-based Democrats are planning for Obama to be on the ticket with her – as if that will satisfy the disappointed Obama backers.

  • It won’t they will leave Denver demanding to know why Hillary didn’t become Barack’s VP running mate.

  • As for the GOP, the McCain folks will be able to spend the next eight months building (and paying for) a well-oiled General election machine.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the AP summary of the events of the evening, a Mullfoto of the Mullmeister at the new Washington National’s Park, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, March 2, 2008

    A Name; An Ad

  • Let's take a look at that business in Cincinnati last week where a local radio talk show host, warming up the crowd for Sen. John McCain, used Barack Obama's - apparently forbidden - middle name: Hussein.

  • On CNN's Strategy Session with Wolf Blitzer, I suggested that Michelle Obama, like Shakespeare's Queen Gertrude, seemed to be protesting a bit too much about this whole middle name thing.

  • The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva quoted Mrs. Obama as saying:
    "They threw in the obvious, ultimate fear bomb … When all else fails, be afraid of his name, and what that could stand for, because it's different."

  • First, it is his name . It is not a mean or playground nickname. It is not a ad hominem attack, like "fatso," or "shrimp" or … "Jew." It's his name.

  • Second what is that about "…and what that could stand for …"? Is there something the name "Hussein" stands for which I, for one, am not aware?

  • Third, the name Hussein is generally held in high regard when applied to the late leader of Jordan, King Hussein I. For instance, King Hussein spoke at the funeral for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and said, in part,
    I had never thought that the moment would come like this when I would grieve the loss of a brother, a colleague and a friend - a man, a soldier who met us on the opposite side of a divide whom we respected as he respected us.

  • That's pretty good, isn't it? I mean for a guy named "Hussein."

  • Fourth, that nonsense about being "afraid of his name … because it's different," is just silly. As noted above there have been other men named "Hussein" on the world stage. Hussein isn't that different.

  • "Barack" … now that's different.

  • Fifth, the "ultimate fear bomb" is not saying "Barack Hussein Obama." The "ultimate fear bomb" is saying President Barack Hussein Obama.

  • Finally, remember a couple of weeks ago when Michelle Obama said for the first time in her life she was finally really proud of her country? And people like me took her to task for that. And people like me were scolded and were told "they're just words."

  • Hey, Mitchy? It's just a name. To close the Shakespeare loop, as Juliet said in Act II, Scene II:
    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose

    By any other name would smell as sweet."

  • And, who can forget that scene in the movie "Stripes" (which Shakespeare himself might have written) in which that great American philosopher, Sergeant Hulka, says to the Army recruit who has threatened to kill anyone who calls him by his real first name:
    "Lighten up, Francis."

    New Topics:

  • That "Three A.M." ad which Hillary Rodham Clinton is running against Barack H. Obama goes straight to the heart of her campaign theme: She's ready to deal with national emergencies; he is not.

  • I think, all in all, it is a pretty good ad, but it might be an ad which works better with Republicans (for whom national security remains a huge issue) than Democrats (many of whom believe the economy is Topic One).

  • But I don't care about that. What I find fascinating is the image of Hillary Rodham Clinton, answering the phone at 3 A.M., dressed in a fresh suit, fully made up with lipstick at the ready, and even wearing a necklace.

  • I think her campaign might have made real strides with rank-and-file Democrats if her staff would have had her answer the phone at 3 AM dressed in a ratty old robe, no make up, her hair uncombed, a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, and a bunny slipper dangling from one foot.

  • Which is how most of us would answer the phone if it rang at Three A.M.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    Isn't that a bit sexist?


    Michelle Obama

  • Why? I don't wear make up at Three A.M., either. And I'd prefer not to talk about my bunny slippers right now, if you don't mind.

  • Delegate Counting: According to Slate.comObama has 1,192 pledged delegates even before the four primaries tomorrow. The magic number to clinch the GOP nomination is 1,191.

  • Someone call Mike Huckabee and tell him he can drop out now. Obama is the Republican nominee.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links upon links upon links. Michelle Obama's rant; Queen Gertrude; King Hussein I; and, the Three A.M. ad. Also a Mullfoto which makes me smile and a Catchy Caption of the Day.