Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    Got a question? Get an answer. Send an e-mail to Dear Mr. Mullings

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    Re: John Kerry in Switzerland: Didn't he also insult the rest of us by saying Americans see the world through an American lens? What lens should we see the world through - French?
    Washington, DC

    That whole episode reminded me of Kerry's "man 'o the people" act in Philadelphia when he went to the famous Cheese Steak place, Pat's, and ordered his with "Swiss Cheese." In Dana Milbank's WashPost article on the event he quoted a local as saying ordering a Philly Cheese Steak with Swiss (instead of the standard Cheez Whiz) was not just a campaign gaffe, it was "an alternative lifestyle."

    Which leads me to my Pat's story.

    In 1996 the Baseball All Star Game was held in Philadelphia. I scored two tickets so the Lad (who was then about 20) and I got on the Amtrak at Union Station in Washington and rode up to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station way early.

    On the way we had decided (as did John Kerry's political geniuses) that if we wanted to fully experience the Philadelphia, er, experience, then we had to have a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich.

    We asked one of the friendly people at the train station who were on duty to greet visitors where to go and we were told to go to "Pot's" (sic).

    The Lad and I went to the cab stand and asked to be taken to "Pot's" and were greeted with the cabby version of "wattadya from Eye-Ran?" We explained about the cheese steak deal and he said, "Oh, PAAAAT'S" and took us there.

    Travel Tip: If you are going to Philadelphia and decide to take a cab to Pat's so you can have a real cheese steak sangwitch, tell the cab to wait.

    Pat's is in a neighborhood. I don't know which neighborhood but, at least on this afternoon, it was in the neighborhood where no cabs came by to take us to Veterans Stadium where the game was being played.

    After ordering and eating our Official Pat's Philly Cheese Steak sangwitches wit Cheez Whiz, I walked up to a guy who looked like he was local by the way he was stuffing his Official Pat's Philly Cheese Steak wit Cheez Whiz into his mouth and asked him if he was "from around here."

    He stopped in mid-stuff; looked up at me; lowered his sangwitch; and said - not in a nice way - "who want's ta know?"

    I pointed with my thumb to The Lad and said, "He does," and ran away.

    I didn't really run away, but we did walk at a certain determined pace for many a block through a neighborhood which, now, might serve as a backdrop for a Soprano's episode with people sitting on their stoops or looking out of their windows before (a) it began to drizzle and (b) we found a cab.

    We enjoyed the game and vowed never to walk through that neighborhood again.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    The creation of a valid third party is on a lot of people's minds. What is your take on this idea?.
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Houston, TX

    Third Party candidates have been uniquely unsuccessful under the current two-party system largely because the two parties have created a system which makes is darned near impossible for a third party to compete.

    In most states there are laws which require a minimum percentage of the vote (often in the previous general election for Governor) for a party's candidate to automatically be placed on the ballot.

    Without that, candidates have to have petitions, and/or pay money, and/or go through a number of hoops which are very numerous, very tiny, have spikes on the inside edge and have been set afire by the incumbents in the State Legislature.

    In Connecticut, former Senator Lowell Weicker ran for Governor in the election of 1990 as an independent and won. The Democratic candidate got only 21 percent of the votes thus allowing Democrats to gain automatic access to the ballot by only two percentage points.

    The result of this is that third parties have almost always been cults of personality: From Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose Party to Ross Perot's 1992 Reform Party (although it was not named the "Reform Party" at the time.

    When the personality leaves the third party, it drifts and disperses into oblivion.

    After Weicker left office "A Connecticut Party" disappeared.

    My feeling is that we would do better to evolve into a FOUR party system - from Left to Right on the continuum: Liberal, Democrat, Republican, Conservative.

    That would allow the true believers at each edge to have candidates who accurately reflected their positions; while allowing the two "traditional" parties to field candidates which would draw votes from the huge middle of the American electorate.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    My very liberal sister called me and said she had her hair done next to Newt Gingrich this weekend. Shampoo and cut. How often do people that go on cable talk shows all the time, like Newt and yourself, get their hair shampooed and cut?
    Hampton, NH

    Judging from the way Newt's hair usually looks, I'd say once every six or seven ... months.

    Judging from the amount of hair I have, I'd say once every ... never.

    I can now comb my hair with my towel.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    How long will they wait before replacing South Dakota Senator Johnson? Tragically, he is missing votes in the Senate, and tragically again, he is not representing his state. Is there a law, or some sort of protocol that addresses a situation like this?
    Clancy, MT

    The Washington Post just ran a long article about this exact point last Sunday about Senator Johnson's position and condition.

    In that article, reporter David Montgomery reminds us of Strom Thurmond's lack of full participation for much of his final term in the Senate and two other cases which were more on point:

    Karl Mundt, a Republican from South Dakota, suffered a stroke in 1969, but held his seat until the end of his term in January 1973, even though he could no longer report to the Senate. Johnson holds Mundt's old seat.

    In 1988, Joe Biden of Delaware was out for seven months recovering from two brain aneurysms. He proves a senator can bounce back from brain surgery, get reelected and run for president.

    As was pointed out in MULLINGS of December 29 A Ford not a Lincoln on the occassion of the death of former President Gerald R. Ford, the 25th Amendment came into being largely because of advances in medical technology which might leave a stricken, or wounded, President alive, but non-functional.

    There is no such procedure in the US Senate. According to the Senate Historian Richard Baker, a vacancy in the US Senate can only occur by "death or resignation." "There either has to be a death certificate or there has to be a letter of resignation," he said in an interview shortly after Senator Johnson collapsed. "Nobody has the power to determine a vacancy for a person who is still living."

    Last one

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    I notice you refer to Democratic majority in the house. Shouldn't it be Democrat majority in the house? In my dictionary Democrat is a noun and Democratic is an adjective.

    I'll bring this up at the next meeting of the Republic National Committee

    See you next week.

    Got a question? Get an answer. Send an e-mail to Dear Mr. Mullings


    Click here to return to the Secret Decoder Ring page

    Copyright © 2007 Barrington Worldwide, LLC