Sea Life and Senators

Roughly ten years ago, my Senator had an opportunity to attend a conference in Puerto Rico, and the kids and I tagged along because, well who wouldn’t want to go to Puerto Rico, right?

dsc_0098

Coincidentally, I had met a lovely mom friend through American Mothers from Puerto Rico and she was kind enough to show us some of the beautiful sights including the Capitol building in San Juan… which the Senator loved.

dsc_0180

And the famous fort…

dsc_0225

The look on my baby’s face!  Oh my goodness…dsc_0213

Pretending to be a pirate on the island did not get any better than this…but I digress!dsc_0217

There were lots of elected officials at this conference including our Governor.  And, let me tell you, it makes for an interesting evening when you find yourself hanging out in the hotel hot tub with the Governor of your great state, who incidentally had just vetoed your Senator’s lawsuit reform bill the day before. It’s a good thing my Senator and the Governor had been in college together so the hot tub small talk wasn’t too awkward…or, maybe it was, but it took place amidst a beautiful setting and sunset so there’s that.

The beach at this resort was just as magnificent.

dsc_0170

I have never seen such clear water that provided a window into the sea life swimming below the surface.  In fact, the entire reason for reminiscing about this fabulous trip has to do with sea life and a senator…

You see, on this same trip, our family was playing on the beach one afternoon alongside many other conference attendees. We were like kids in a candy store because the beach was simply that gorgeous.

dsc_0160

All of the sudden, we noticed a crowd gathering in the ocean and members of the hotel staff running onto the beach. Wondering what was happening and if someone needed help, my Senator headed over to the scene.

Evidently, the Governor of West Virginia had stepped on a black sea urchin and the group was attempting to clean his foot.  According to the hotel staff, you had two options to remove the poisonous needle and sterilize the area – you could either pour urine on it or whiskey.  Needless to say, the Governor chose whiskey and was letting everyone on the beach know the same!  At the time, I remember thinking this guy was quite a character and down right hilarious! His name was Joe Manchin.

In case you don’t make a habit of following politics – Joe Manchin is now the senior Senator from West Virginia and earlier today, I caught a glimpse of him on TV talking about Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.  His rational talking points and calm demeanor resembled those of a desperately needed statesman…let’s hope that ship hasn’t sailed.

This morning, I found myself wishing we had more elected officials like him….and a beach like this….

dsc_0282

 

 

 

 

Old Home Week, Part II

I spent the better part of my day today watching seven hours of Senate Confirmation Hearings for Cliff’s former colleague and friend, Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt.  He has been tapped to to head the EPA, and in today’s polarized society, has come under some pretty heavy fire from the left.

We first met Scott and his sweet wife Marlyn, back in 2002 when Cliff was elected to the State Senate.  There were only a handful of Republicans in the Oklahoma Legislature at the time and Scott was a friendly face in that lion’s den.

An attorney by trade, Scott specialized in Constitutional Law which made it especially fun to watch him debate on the Senate floor.  He was also a baseball player in college and at some point, instituted a friendly baseball game between the members of the House and Senate.  The game itself was usually held in the spring at the Bricktown Ballpark and very competitive in nature.  It was fun for family and friends too. Below is a photo from one of the games with Trump’s nominee for EPA in the middle.

Looks like my baby was hanging out with her daddy down in the dugout too….sigh.

fullsizerender
Baby Girl Branan, Big Boy Branan, Pruitt, Coffee

Having known Scott since 2002, it’s fair to describe him as extremely sharp, capable and very determined. In 1998, he ran a successful race against a sitting State Senator which is no easy feat.  Two years later, he ran for Congress finishing third in a heated Republican primary and then ran unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor six years later. It wasn’t until 2010, when Scott ran for Attorney General that he would pick up a significant statewide win.  Significant, because if he had won that Lieutenant Governor’s race or the Congressional seat before that, he might not have been in a position to challenge the EPA as he did in his role as Oklahoma Attorney General… which is what ultimately landed him in the hot seat today as Trump’s nominee for head of the EPA!  God certainly works in mysterious ways!

My Senator and I knew Scott would hold his own during what would be seven grueling hours of confirmation hearings and we watched almost every minute.  Thank goodness for being able to live stream CSPAN-2!  Best of luck to you Senator!  We’re certainly proud of all you’ve accomplished and are cheering you on from our seat on the sidelines!

 

 

Old Home Week

I spent some time this morning watching the Senate confirmation hearings for Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of State, and it took me down a path to my past.

Sitting at the front table with Tillerson was Sam Nunn, former U.S. Senator (D-GA), and Bob Gates, former Secretary of Defense, head of the CIA and probably a lot of other National Intelligence entities I neglect to mention.

My knowledge of both those gentlemen (Nunn and Gates) dates back to the early 1990s when I was a research assistant on the Senate Intelligence Committee.  I was a young, naive and politically passionate twenty something year old out to save the world. Senator Nunn was a member of the Intelligence Committee and served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  He was also a very close friend of my boss, David Boren,(D-OK), Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  They worked closely together as did their staff.

Let me just say, I have the utmost respect for Senator Nunn. Total class act.  His wise words before the committee this morning reminded me of how much I loved working on that secret committee years ago.  He always asked the best questions in the closed hearings of the Intelligence Committee, and with a gracious demeanor and subtle southern accent to boot.

I learned so very much about the world from these people, but also about how Washington and politics worked. Sure, there was political posturing and partisanship up on the Hill-even in those days. But when it came to the nation’s safety and security, they worked together to find the common ground.

My memories of Bob Gates are a little more specific.  At the time, Gates was being confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee to head the CIA, and many conjured that his confirmation was going to be controversial. The Senate was controlled by the Democrats and Gates was a Republican – nominated by a Republican President (George H.W. Bush).  You can imagine there would be hearings, not just to confirm, but to question his qualifications.

My boss, along with Senator Nunn, seemed to want no part in politicizing the process and both were resolute in their belief that Gates was more than qualified for the job, maybe even the best person for the job. As a young and admittedly partisan Senate staffer, I was skeptical.

I attended those hearings, taking notes, doing my job and watching those two men skillfully and briliantly navigate such an important national security confirmation process.  I think my parents even have a tape somewhere in their basement of the CNN broadcast that showed me sitting behind the members in my role as a staffer. I should really try to find that sometime just for fun or, to show my children what a VHS tape looks like.

What I particularly remember was the loyalty I felt toward my boss, David Boren.  He came under some fire for his desire to confirm Bob Gates for no other reason than they were on opposite sides of the political aisle.  His most notable opposition came from the head of the House Intelligence Committee, Dave McCurdy, a fellow Democrat also from Oklahoma. In an attempt to derail the process, McCurdy wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post questioning Boren and his support of Gates. The inflammatory piece landed the day of the hearings.

Boren appeared to pay minimal attention, if any, to this back stabbing by a fellow Oklahoman and proceeded to chair the hearing with his concise and skilled leadership. I was so proud to be a member on his staff that day – never mind the life lessons I learned throughout the process.

Fast forward to 2014, I had a unique opportunity to meet Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee, the same Corker who has been presiding over the Tillerson hearings today as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

img_4847

I was in town for a conference with American Mothers, and went to the Hill to have a photo op with the National Mother of the Year, (pictured in white below) who happened to be from Corker’s home state.

img_4842

He is an impressive individual and possesses a great knowledge of world affairs.  He also has some cool art in his Senate office.

img_4849

We seized an opportunity to chat with him about his efforts and legislation to combat human trafficking, an area he is very engaged in, and how our organization has been involved with same. If you care about this issue – he’s your guy!

So, naturally when I turned on the TV this morning and saw all three of these men in one room talking about national security… it kind of felt like old home week on Hill. “Old” being the key word here. 🙂

 

Me, My Twitter and Meryl

Along with what appeared to be a flood of Americans, I too, took to Twitter last night debating the merits (or lack thereof) for Meryl Streep’s manic diatribe about the 2016 Election and Donald Trump.

I have been reluctant to share my politics on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook because that’s my personal space where I connect with “my friends.” The people who I have known for decades and such. They pretty much already know my political leanings and probably don’t care either way what I think on this issue or that. Honestly, who doesn’t prefer to keep Facebook full of happy vacation photos, birthdays, weddings and a safe space to brag about your kids? I know I do!

But, Twitter… my Twitter….Wow, what a brave new world! I have made some new friends (or is it followers?) on Twitter this past year. First, let me say that Twitter is where I get most of my news. I follow lots of reporters, journalists, politicians, news outlets etc. on my tweeter feed. During the course of the 2016 election season, I met up with some trolls from the left and right on this forum. I sat up in the rafters at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and followed these same journalists and main stream media elites on Twitter to compare what was being said in the convention hall versus what was being reported on their Twitter accounts. You wanna talk about media bias? Oh my goodness. I could have compared and contrasted that little experiment for days and days. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter also intrigues me and I have yet to determine whether I think it is inappropriate or just plain brilliant… but I digress.

I am like a bull in a china shop getting to my twitter feed each morning. Just ask my Senator…I can’t wait to read all the random and wonderful and utterly outrageous even crazy on there in the wee hours of the morning. I follow a totally bizarre mix of people, places and things and I love every second of it. It is fair to say I am obsessed. One of my New Year’s Resolutions should have been a month in time out from Twitter, but I’m gonna save that one for another (less exciting) year.

About last night… The Golden Globes. I tuned in to watch Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. Two of the best.

I grew up idolizing Meryl Streep and her incredible talent to transform herself into another human being. I think she is a brilliant actress. I have seen all of her films at least once….I think?  I am a total drama geek.

But, can someone please tell me when Hollywood decided it was good to get all political? I know Meryl’s rant was not the first at an award show, nor will it be the last lecture to the American public from the actor’s bully pulpit (emphasis on the word bully) of what life should be like and how people should think, feel and behave.

But, I’m curious if these “actors” have ever once taken into consideration the hypocrisy in all of this. It reminds me of this meme/moment during the 2016 election. Thank you Twitter.

img_9505

The blatant mockery of anyone who doesn’t think like them only shows a general disdain and intolerance for half of their audience base. It also demonstrates a bigoted blindness to the reality of your average guy living outside of those gilded and gated Hollywood communities, many of whom helped elect the next President of the United States my girl Meryl was lamenting. One would assume this ‘group think’ only hinders an actors ability to create and share a variety of life stories…or are they now only portraying life as they think it should be? Life as they know it?  Lecturing the audience on their personal values because they are…..…..actors?

I read an interview recently with the (very cute) actor Mark Wahlberg, about his new movie, Patriot’s Day, where he addressed this very topic.

Here is a quote from that interview as reported on the Washington Times blog:

“A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t…..You know, it just goes to show you that people aren’t listening to that anyway. They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills. A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”

I think he is spot on. I bet his new movie will be be a huge success too. Can’t wait to watch.
Wonder how that Florence Foster Jenkins movie with Meryl Streep is fairing at the box office…because at some point, this discussion becomes all about ratings and revenue!

Bag of Skittles

I had a unique opportunity to be up close and personal with one of the candidates for POTUS this past weekend.  Well, not really “up close and personal,” but in the same room if that counts.

img_9384

Okay, maybe it was up close and personal but it was also a packed house, full of people.

img_9374

Those cute collegians with the big phones were super skilled on social media and loving the backdrop of Trump with the King of College football in Oklahoma, Barry Switzer.

Here was my lame attempt at same….clearly, I have a lot to learn.

img_9378

Before the candidate arrived, we ran into some fun friends of ours from all sides of the political aisle.

img_9363-2

I should have tweeted this pic as a political bag of Skittles (haha) because we represent a wide variety of political color, commentary and three different political parties.

But not as much color as was seen across the street.

I snapped a quick pic of the snack sized bag of protestors who set up shop across from the event. You know I couldn’t wait to photograph them.

img_9362-1

I kept thinking… I was in a college town and this is all you’ve got?

The guy holding the Trump Lies poster wins best sign award.  I am positive he was cloaked in a hybrid Bernie T-Shirt considering the irony of that statement and hope he finds a more lucrative career with ESPN Gameday.

Seriously, the mom in me would have loved to have walked across the street and talked with these kids just to see where they were coming from and why they took time out from the massive tailgating and pre-gaming taking place to hold up some signs and protest.  However, at this point I was already tagged as a hostile, so I stuck with our plan and headed into the event.

In my next life, I am going to be a journalist…just saying.