Toomey Blasts Specter, Paints Sestak

Senator Arlen Specter took donors’ money “under false pretenses.”  So says, former U.S. Representative  and now Republican candidate for Senate Patrick Toomey, speaking to me on NBC10 at Issue.   The Federal Election Commission has ruled that the Club for Growth can contact Specter’s donors and let them know that they can seek a return of their campaign donations if they are not happy with Specter having turned Democrat.  I asked Toomey if that’s dirty pool by CFG, which he used to lead.  He says, “If there’s dirty pool going on, I think you ought to look right there (meaning, ,”Specter taking the money as a Republican, but using it as a Democrat.)  Adds Toomey, “He took the money under false pretenses.”  I asked if overall Specter has been good for Pennsylvania.  Toomey says, “Oh, I don’t know. Certainly, lately he has not…Unfortunately, he has become a political opportunist.”  “I think the only principle Arlen Specter has shown he believes in is his own re-election,” says Toomey.

On Democrat Joe Sestak, it’s clear what box Toomey is crafting.  “Joe’s a very liberal guy.  He has a very liberal set of ideas.”  Toomey sees a race between Sestak and him as big government vs. freedom and flexibility.

 As for the health care debate, Pat Toomey sees the passionate town hall meetings as most Americans showing that they think the Democatic House plan is too much, too fast.   He says the “extremely left wing agenda” has touched a nerve with ordinary Americans.  But he adds while it is an opportunity for Republicans, it would be a mistake for Republicans to conclude that opposition to the House/Obama health care plan also means support for Republicans. 

Toomey term-limited himself in Congress.  He pledged not to serve more than 3 terms and true to his promise he did not seek a 4th term.  I asked him if he will limit himself if elected to the Senate.  He says, “I might.  I’m going to give that some thought.”  But he adds, “I think term limits are fundamentally more important in the House than in the Senate”…because House districts are gerrymandered.

On whether the Philadelphia Eagles hiring Michael Vick was a good idea, “You know, I hope so…Michael Vick now has an opportunity to redeem himself.”  That’s something on which Toomey and Sestak agree.

Sen. Ted Kennedy

The human Voice, the Spirit of the Democratic Party is gone. For now, the Voice and the Spirit have been left empty by the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy. He lived a long life, nearly twice that of brothers John and Robert. Much more than brother Joe. Circumstance, opportunity and desire thrust Ted Kennedy forward. He grabbed it, but in the true meaning of the word tragic his flaws steered sharp turns in his life. Many will say he became even more influential by serving in the Senate for so long and so focused, and that the Presidency would never have given him such opportunity. There may be truth there, but it is a convenient one, too. Some will say he divided the Party in 1980, setting it back years. Perhaps. But, he may have been restoring it to what it had earlier started to be. I covered a few national political conventions and in years when Ted Kennedy addressed the delegates, there was a feeling, an energy, an emotion on those convention hall floors that no one else, not even the nominees would match. He was a Democrat’s Democrat. He was the voice of liberalism, of peace, of fighting for those denied quality schools, denied access to opportunity, civil rights, denied much of the promise of the Constitution. Now, that unique Voice is silent. The party’s Spirit wanders. In the forgiveness and partisanship of our society we will hear saint-like praise for the man. Failings glossed over or explained away. We will also hear, in the coarseness of our society, words like “Good riddance.” We heard those words on November 22, 1963. We heard them again in June of 1968. Not long after that, my father, a career Army officer on a post a young Senator Ted Kennedy was visiting, witnessed guns firing at a time the Senator did not expect. My father recalled to me how the Senator winced and partially ducked. The violent loss of loved ones, the burdens of being the sudden father of grief-stricken families and the inherited leader of a grand cause are not excuses for personal failings, but together with other achievements should they not be considered? And, in remembering both, perhaps we view others in a new light. To stand close to such a high-profile person, not as an insider…I was not…but to see the ruddy complexion, to see the expressions when he is listening or talking to someone else, to see the imperfections and mistakes, as well as the triumph, you see and hear more than an image. I found it true with Ronald Reagan. I found it true with Ted Kennedy. There are two transitions now. One for conservatives, one for liberals. I wish there were a third, one for reasonable people who recognize the value in both. Transitions are often not clean breaks. It may be President Barack Obama who becomes the new Voice and Spirit, not by position but by words and action. Senator Ted Kennedy seemed to wish it so in his moving 2008 endorsement of candidate Obama, but such things are chosen not only by the person, but also by the people and by circumstance.


MDA Award

IMG_0047_2He’s in to Formula One cars and coaches a power chair hockey team. He’s 26-year-old Simon Cantos and he has just received the Robert Ross personal achievement award for Pennsylvania. The honor is named after the late Robert Ross, who successfully ran the Muscular Dystrophy Association for so many years. Simon, of Lansdale, Montgomery County, is a North Penn High School graduate and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University. He recently was an environmental compliance engineer until the Great Recession caught up with job. (Contact me if you think Simon might be a good fit for your company.) Simon has been praised for his volunteerism. He has a form of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and works as a mentor for children with neuromuscular diseases. He also helps their families, doctors, nurses and therapists better understand what’s needed. He supports MDA, which adds that Simon “has made presentations at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to affected children and their families on transitioning into adulthood with CMD.” Simon Cantos, winner of the Robert Ross Personal Achievement Award!

Sestak on Health Care, Vick

What does he think of President Obama today? Of health care reform now? Of the Eagles hiring Mike Vick?  I spoke with U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Joe Sestak in an interview that aired today on NBC10.
I asked Sestak if, after an apparent weakening by the Obama Administration on the demand for a public option in health care reform, he still believes it is necessary.  Sestak responded, “I do, strongly. I do believe we need to cover everyone,which is good for America. But, I just as strongly believe that’s what’s good for America’s economy is to have a public health care plan option that’s a choice, not subsidized by the government, but by those who elect to join it.”  And later, “One of the shames, unfortunately, is that they call this public health care plan option a public health care plan option.  It was meant to distinguish that the public can join it if it wants to. It doesn’t mean that there’s any federal money. Zero federal money is being used in the public health care plan option.”
Is he concerned the President has weakened on this?  The Congressman says, “I’m a bit concerned actually. I so respect this President for having got us this far, but if we just cover everyone and don’t get sufficient reform on the cost of it…we may not get as much a bend in the cost.”
Is he, Sestak, as Republican Pat Toomey alleges, outside the mainstream?  Sestak responded, “If I believe in health care for everyone like my daughter had when she had her brain cancer, call me outside the mainstream or inside. If you want to characterize me as one who believes that every child should have an opportunity to go to college by having savings…call me outside or in the meansteam. If you believe as I, as Chair of Small Business Committee that we should have tax cuts to incentivize more jobs, call me conservative, liberal, pragmatic.  The issue here is I’m for the working family.”
Can we reduce size of military?   Joe Sestak says, “Right now,  it’s (the military) not cost efficient.” “Yes we can.”
On The Philadelphia Eagles hiring Mike Vick:  “I think it was the right thing to do. He was a footabll player. There are carpenters who go to jail. He came out and if he is going to properly show the remorse by community service then I think the Eagles did the right thing. I understand the arguments on the other side but so many people never get a second chance. I think what he did was horrible, but I also don’t think we should foreclose the livelihood that he had if he takes the next step.”

Remembering Rip

Rip McDonald

Rip McDonald

I visited last night with about one hundred people who loved and admired Rip McDonald. An upbeat memorial service took place at AmVets Post 77 in Northeast Philadelphia. James “Rip” McDonald had served in World War Two, including on Iwo Jima. It was an emotional moment when surviving members of the Post snapped a final salute to Rip, who had also served as the Post’s chaplain. Post Commander Matt Schimony movingly paid tribute to his friend. Rip’s son, Brian, was eloquent in telling the progression of his father’s life throughout the world of String Bands and how much Rip influenced many Mummers. Rip did many things in a long life, but as Brian said, the one giant thread was music. Mr. McDonald was a talented musician and a great guy who founded or co-founded a half a dozen bands over his long career. He first marched in 1938 and, except for his time in the war, kept marching all the way through the 2008 parade. Folks from his latest creation, Irish American String Band, and members of other bands and Mummers clubs, were on hand to take part in the farewell. There’s an old song that goes something like, “There’ll be a Mummers Parade in Heaven.”  Well, you know who’s in it and giving musical advice all the way. James “Rip” McDonald has passed on, but on this earth, he had quietly, but directly, positively affected thousands of people and will always be remembered.  His wife, Elaine (Max to her friends), and Rip’s sons, Brian, Neil, Rob and Sean and his daughter, Coral, are justifiably proud to have lived with and been nurtured by such a wonderful man…and Mummer.  


New Jersey Legend Ends Era

It’s not over till there’s a party that says it is.  Well, the party for veteran New Jersey Network News Anchor Kent Manahan is over.  The farewell party in Trenton gave me a chance to thank Kent for some great years of working together earlier in my career.  She was always professional, courteous, insightful, hard-working, a steady hand and a leader.  After 3 and a half decades with NJN News, Kent Manahan has officially said goodbye to the daily grind of NJN and broadcast journalism.  She will, however, serve as chair of the NJN Board


Saying Thanks

Saying Thanks


Original Trilby String Band

If you think it’s hot outside, you ought to feel the heat heat heat coming from Original Trilby String Band and the Latin theme it’s working up! OTSB is making progress with its plans for New Year’s Day. The Rio-like Carnival theme is more in Mum tradition than the band’s theme this past parade when Trilby was reliving 1950’s rock and roll, but the folks from Bridesburg hope to make one thing the same: the fun. There are some new faces with Trilby this year. Captain Joe Kaminski tells me they’re doing great.  The music’s also coming along. Trilby’s going to be accessible with tunes like “Living La Vida Loca.”
Joe, by the way, is marking 5 years with Trilby. He was with Greater Kensington String Band for about 15 years before that. Captain Joe is also celebrating 20 years with the City of Philadelphia. He works in Family Court and gets to witness many adoptions.
Trilby and Hog Island recently did a joint jam at the new 2nd Street Annie’s in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Hogs Captain Kenny Medeiros can beat those drums! A shout-out to OTSB’s youngest member this year, 13-year-old Mark Verela, who plays tenor. Also, a shout from Trilby to Frank Passio at 2nd Street Annie’s for the great time and opportunity.

Joe and the band have a fundraising auction and pancake breakfast you can attend Sunday morning (9/20) at the clubhouse. (Only 5 bucks. Breakfast starts at 9 a.m.) They also are working up a gig in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario, Canada, on Columbus Day weekend as Canadians mark their Thanksgiving Day.   Busy time and the heat is on at Trilby Original String Band!




Mike Vick

GVAC.  I believe in 2nd chances.   I love my dog and am horrified by animal abuse.   But, Michael Vick has served a normal sentence for his crimes.  His reputation is in ruins and,  up until now, he was bankrupt or close to it.  He’ll be booed and cursed as he proves in action whether he really is reborn.  He may fail.  If that happens, so be it.   Whether the Philadelphia Eagles hiring is a good football move, who knows.   However, as a decent gesture, a 2nd chance, even a high profile one, is often right to offer.   It’s not like it’s a new idea and one has to question why people are so selective in their rejection of  Michael Vick.   Vick is wrong if he thinks he can erase or make good for his crimes.   Those  actions will always be part of him, but he does have an opportunity to become a better person and because of his fame and wealth, yes, he might even be able to do much good.  I say, GVAC–Give Vick A Chance.