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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 13, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – The bizarre shoe-throwing attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought to mind a whole slew of weird attacks on our political figures over the years – some rather lame, others quite serious. Since it is “Sunday the 13th,” I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of the strange and scary assaults on our political leaders over the years:

“Shoe Fly; Don’t Bother Me” – Hillary Clinton was speaking to a waste management convention, of all things, in Las Vegas last week, when a shoe went flying past her head as she began her remarks (photo above). The woman arrested for tossing the shoe – for reasons still not known – is 36-year-old Alison Michelle Ernst. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because she is the same woman who showed up in a red dress and bald-headed to disrupt a court appearance by accused Aurora, Colorado, theater killer James Holmes in 2012. (Good lord, where is the Secret Service intelligence on her?) In any case, at least the former First Lady had a sense of humor. “Is that part of the Cirque du Soleil?” she asked, as the crowd laughed.

“If the Shoe Fits” – Secretary Clinton is in good company. In 2008, President George W. Bush had two shoes flung at him during a news conference in Iraq, a severe insult in Arab culture (photo above). The thrower was Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who shouted, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." The TV journalist served a nine-month prison sentence for assaulting a foreign head of state and was released in September, 2009.

“To the Moon!” – On October 25, 1989, famed Astronaut-turned-Senator John Glenn was being interviewed on Capitol Hill by my good friend, TV reporter Gary Nurenberg. Suddenly, a well- dressed man walked up and punched Senator Glenn in the face for no apparent reason. Police arrested 31-year-old Michael John Breen of Washington. He apparently punched the Senator for failing to warn the public about earthquakes. Breen did some jail time, but is back on the street.

“Burr Under the Saddle” – Sometimes, it’s the politicians attacking each other. One of the great feuds in American political history involved Vice President Aaron Burr and his rival, former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The fierce rivalry ended in a duel in 1804. No shoes were thrown, but gun shots were fired. Hamilton missed his mark, but Burr fatally shot Hamilton in the abdomen. Burr was charged with murder, but the charges were later dropped. As fate would have it, Burr later died in obscurity, while Hamilton is immortalized to this very day as the face of the $10 bill!

“The Rough Rider” – Only in my hometown of Milwaukee could such a bizarre political attack take place. Former President Teddy Roosevelt was running to regain his old job in October, 1912, when he was shot by a disgruntled saloon keeper named John Schrank. The bullet passed through Roosevelt’s eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of his campaign speech that was inside his suit jacket pocket. The bullet was slowed by the two items, but still managed to penetrate Roosevelt’s chest, but not his heart or lungs. Even though he was bleeding from the chest, he delivered his 90-minute speech before heading to the hospital. Roosevelt lived another nine years with the bullet still lodged in his chest. The eyeglass case and copy of the speech saved his life!

“The Squeaky Wheel Gets Life” – On September 5, 1975, former Charles Manson Family member Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford at the Statehouse in Sacramento, California. Fromme tried to shoot Ford at point blank range, but her gun did not discharge. (Again, doesn’t the Secret Service keep tabs on these people?) In any case, Fromme was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled after 34 years, following the death of former President Ford.

“There Goes the Neighborhood” – In 1999, I bought a home in the Sycamore subdivision in Danville, California. Some time later I learned that a notorious woman named Sara Jane Moore had lived just up the street from my house. In September, 1975, Moore fired a shot at President Ford in San Francisco, narrowly missing him (this just 17 days after Squeaky Fromme tried to kill Ford). Moore was sentenced to life in prison, but was released after 32 years in 2007, after Ford’s death.

“The Life of Pie” – One of the most bizarre political groups I ever had to cover was the Biotic Baking Brigade in San Francisco. The group was famous for tossing cream pies in the faces of noted business leaders such as Bill Gates, and politicians such as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. No one ever got hurt. The photos and video were always a hoot, but it seems the group has since disbanded.

“Vote Them Out” – So what’s the lesson from all of this? We’ve covered the gamut from seemingly harmless shoe assaults to outright assassination attempts. We have the longest lasting democracy in world history, and one of the main reasons is the peaceful way we transition power from one party to another. The point is, if you don’t like a particular figure or movement, then vote them out. There’s no need to shoot them, let alone throw shoes! And besides, no one ever went to jail by using the ballot box to fire a politician.

Let me know your thoughts. Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: ABCnews.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” - April 6, 2014

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” - April 6, 2014

(Providence, Rhode Island) – A lot has been made about the prospect of electing the first female U.S. President in 2016. Right now, Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic nominatio; but that certainly could change (as it did for her in 2008). Women in both parties are being talked about as being number one or two on their party’s ticket. I recently attended a seminar called “Elect Her,” which is designed to inspire women to run at all levels of government. So, let’s “brunch” on that concept this weekend:

“A Woman’s Place Is in the House…and Senate” – There are more women serving in Congress today than ever before. According to Tasha Cole of “Elect Her,” women make up 18.5 percent of the Congress, so parity is still a long way off. There are 79 women in the House and 20 in the Senate. California, Washington, Kansas, New Hampshire and Maine have all been represented by two women in the Senate at the same time. Only four states – Delaware, Vermont, Mississippi and Iowa – have never sent a woman to Congress. By party, 80 percent of women in the Senate are Democrats; 20 percent, Republicans. Among women in the House, 75 percent are Democrats and 25 percent are Republicans.

“Take State” – While some women may not be pleased with holding 18.5 percent of seats in Congress, they are doing much better in state legislatures. Women hold 24.2 percent of all seats in U.S. statehouses. And 24 states have 25 percent or higher female membership in their legislatures. Arizona, Colorado and Vermont have 35 percent or higher women membership. Of the total female membership in all state legislatures, 63 percent are Democrats and 35 percent are Republicans.

“All Politics is Local” – According to the National League of Cities, women now make up 28 percent of local council memberships around the nation, and in the nation’s largest cities women make up approximately 35 percent of council memberships. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – the city’s first female chief executive – credited networking. Miner was actively involved in getting Hillary Clinton elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. Miner said the Clinton network of supporters, in turn, helped Miner get elected Mayor. Miner says it’s crucial that one campaign helps the other, because lower-tier office candidates are intimidated by dealing with fundraising, campaigning and media relations. “I will make my team, your team, and teach you how to do it,” Miner said of sharing resources with other female candidates.

“Staying on Message” – One of the more fascinating female office holders I met, was Jeanne Kessner, President Pro-Tempore of the Syracuse Common Council. Kessner spent decades as a TV investigative reporter, before running for public office. Kessner said that the first time you run for office your message has to be about defining who you are; but the second election and all those thereafter are about defending your record. In terms of problem-solving skills, Kessner said, “You don’t have to have a solution [for every problem], but you have to care.” Kessner cautioned potential candidates about promising to fix problems that are out of their control. “It has to be accomplishable,” Kessner said.

“Bipartisan Phenomenon” – Women have risen to power and influence in both political parties. For example, we have had 34 female governors in our nation’s history – 19 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Right now there are five women governors; 4 Republican and one Democrat. As noted earlier, Democratic women are more prevalent in Congress; but Republicans have much closer margins in state and local government. This gives female lawmakers considerable leverage and influence within both parties.

“Why All This Matters” – There’s an old saying that “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” That’s not necessarily true. While men still are the predominant wage earners in this country, women actually make, or strongly influence, 73 percent of consumer purchases. Despite that buying power, women make up only 4 percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, and occupy only 16 percent of seats on those corporations’ boards of directors. So while women have been cut out of the corporate power structure, they have had far more success in the political realm where many rules and laws are made. Women’s participation at all levels of government continues trending upward.

“Elect Her” – While much has been made of electing the first woman President, in truth political movements usually start from the bottom up, instead of from the top down. Many city councils, county commissions or state legislatures are now majority female, or close to it. Women have worked their way up the political food chain, and many who are now in Congress served at the local and state level first. So, “Elect Her” is a pioneering program, being offered at 50 universities this year, including Syracuse, where I participated. Many women get their first taste of political office in college student governments. "Elect Her" is sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start. For more information, go to: http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/campus-programs/elect-her-campus-women-wi...

What are your thoughts and opinions about the rise of women in politics at all levels? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: www.ElectWomen.com

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