“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.” Winnie-the-Pooh

Twenty-five years ago, I got up early in the morning and flew from Pierre to Denver for a meeting. I then flew to Minneapolis for a meeting the next morning. When I got into Minneapolis, the airport terminals were reporting of the FBI raid of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco Texas. I got my rental car and proceeded to my hotel.

When I got to my hotel and checked-in, I was handed literally dozens of messages to call back to Pierre. As most of the messages were from my staff in GOED’s Division of Finance, I imagined one of our borrowers had a cataclysmic occurrence. My head raced with the possibilities of who it might be and problems like bankruptcy or a major accident.

I got to my room, turned on the TV which was more Waco so I put it on mute and sat at the desk to call back to Pierre. I couldn’t get through because the phone lines seemed busy which I thought odd everyone in Pierre would be that strung out over the Waco siege but whatever. So, I kept calling. When I got a phone to ring, nobody was answering, not even at my house.

Finally, I got through to Brenda O’Hara at home, wife to David O’Hara, Deputy Commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. She just said “Have you heard?” and I responded something about Waco and I then she made a sound and lost it as she repeated over and over, “They are gone. They are all gone. The plane crashed.” At that moment, it never even occurred to me what plane it might be. Did I have my staff flying on one of the small state planes that day?

Then I heard through her cries, “The Governor, Rolly, they are all gone.”

Who was she talking about?

George S. Mickelson, 52 years old, husband to Linda and father to three children. He was serving as Governor.

Angus Anson, 38 years old, husband to Cindy and father to two children. He was serving as CEO of Northern States Power of South Dakota.

Ron Becker, 52 years old, husband to Shirley and father to two children. He was serving as State Head Pilot.

David Birkeland, 54 years old, husband to Mary and father to two children. He was serving as President of First Bank of South Dakota.

Roland Dolly, 37, husband to Lane. He was serving as Commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Roger Hainje, 43, husband to Susan. He was serving as President of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and Forward Sioux Falls.

David Hanson, 45, husband to Diane and father to two children. He was serving as State Pilot.

Ron Reed, 52, husband to Barb and father to two children. He was serving as Commissioner of the Office of Energy Policy.

Since that fateful day 25 years ago, all but Rolly and Roger have become grandfathers many times over. I am sure their wives and children have lamented all they have missed. But the reality is they have missed nothing for they have witnessed it all and interceded on their behalf when necessary.

But, it is us who have missed them, more than we know. Every one of the men on that plane were people I considered my friend and some much more than just friend. As great as my sadness is for myself and the great loss of great leadership in our State, I know it pales in comparison to what these wives and children lost. My heart goes out to them and I hope they have a sense of the appreciation we have for their sacrifice.

* I am sorry that I didn’t know all the names of the children of the passengers so rather than listing those I knew and remembered, I listed none.

“It’s so much more friendly with two.” ― Winnie-the-Pooh

What gave me some of the best experiences as Senator Abdnor’s driver was the unexpected. One day after classes and getting back to Capitol Hill, I was informed tonight’s itinerary was the Senator was having dinner at Vice President Bush’s House with other Republican Senators. The issue or agenda I don’t recall if I ever knew it.

On the way, the Senator asked if I had eaten anything and I told him no thinking he’d either bring me a box of the dinner or have one ran out to me. Jim Abdnor didn’t like being hungry so he always made sure those around him were well-fed.

When we got to the Naval Observatory, Senator Abdnor told me to come along and not sit in the car. Not knowing what to expect I did as I was told but was sheepish as I walked by the other Senator’s cars as their drivers sat in their car. Drivers just don’t go to meetings with other Senators and certainly not with the Vice President.

When we got in the door, Senator Abdnor grabbed one of the waiters and told him I needed something to eat. This guy was good as he knew I wasn’t supposed to go into the dining room with the others yet not wanting to offend an obvious VIP (Senator Abdnor) so I was escorted into what I assume was the family eating area, a small functional kitchen with a kitchen table and four chairs. The waiter asked me to sit down, left the room and soon came with a salad.

Shortly after I received the main meal, a “side door” which I presume went into the family living quarters opened and in entered the Vice President’s wife, Barbara Bush. As surprised as I was to see her, she was even more surprised to see me as she was dressed not quite in lounge wear but certainly not what a person of her background would wear to meet a stranger or entertain guests.

After finding out who I was and how I got there, she said she was getting a snack, poured herself a glass of milk and got a couple of cookies from the pantry and proceeded to sit down with me. What struck me about the entire exchange is she not once made me feel uncomfortable for being there, made it seem natural she’d eat her snack with me, and, most importantly, she acted like my grandmother would have treated a stranger in her kitchen, with kindness and hospitality. Two other times I saw her up close. While we didn’t ever talk again, she acknowledged me both times with a big smile and a wink.

There has been much said about Mrs. Bush’s steely resolve and capacity to chop off heads of anyone threatening her family, her humor, and her public interest in literacy. What I hoped to confirm what I think we all suspected- she was also a kind and gentle grandmother.

May the soul of Barbara Bush, by the Mercy of God, Rest in Peace.

“We kill all the caterpillars, then complain there are no butterflies.” ― John Marsden

Finally, another RINO is gone- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

The architect of the only comprehensive entitlement reform legislation introduced in the last 15 years, the architect of the only detailed Balanced Budget legislation introduced in the last 15 years, the architect of the Trump Tax Cuts, most effective fundraiser for Republicans in Congress, and a stalwart unwaverting defender of life from conception to natural death has decided to not run for re-election this November.

We need politicians who yell and scream and can only speak in simplistic bromides. Big thinkers who can actually draft legislation more than five pages long that has a chance of passage are RINOS

Now the seat is considered a “lean Democrat” this November and odds the GOP will lose control of House have surpassed 50%.

To “real conservative Republicans” this all makes sense.

“People call this the elusive obvious: It’s right there in front of your face, so close that everyone can see it but you.” Kevin Hart

Beginning tonight through Friday, the NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Basketball Elite Eight, Final Four, and Championships are being held at the Pentagon here in Sioux Falls. The best 8 Men’s and Women’s Division teams are coming from around the nation to crown National Champions. One of the competing teams is our own Northern State University Men’s team from Aberdeen. Pretty exciting, huh? Let’s get out there and cheer on the Wolves.

Here is a link to today’s article in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the schedule of play in case you want to go out the Pentagon tonight and the rest of the week:

Basketball schedule and article

“I live in the sky as a pilot, so it has great meaning to me.” (James Turrell)

Just a few minutes ago, I got a text informing me former legislator and commercial airline pilot Hal Wick is about to embark on his greatest ride into the sky as he succumbed to cancer earlier today.

Hal was first elected to the House in 1976 and last served in the House in 2014. In many ways, Hal embodied the concept of a citizen legislator. He’d come to Pierre serve, “retire,” come back for a few terms, “retire”, come back. He served 20 years and “retired” four times.

Because I was planning to graduate high school mid-year, I was looking for something to do and in Pierre in the winter, being a Legislative intern was ideal. But, I wasn’t yet in college so LRC wasn’t hiring me. Somehow my mom’s college sorority sister and Redfield State Senator Mary McClure found out about these two Junior House members not in leadership who wanted a private intern they’d pay personally out of their own pocket.

So, the night before session started, I went to the King’s Inn and met a lawyer from Kimball named Ron Miller and a Sioux Falls airline pilot named Hal Wick. After Ron told me how he read every bill every night, he would give me his notes and wanted me to type up his amendments. Some of which were clean-up, some of which were substantive, some he submitted, and some he didn’t.

Hal then said he was exactly the opposite. He was not going to know a little bit about everything but had a single focus on State Constitutional and legislative limits on regulations and tax increases. Additionally, he was going to promote a federal Balanced Budget Amendment and to show its viability he was going to point out how our less frugal approach to “federal dollars” was a betrayal of fiduciary to our nation.

While I loved working for Ron Miller and came to appreciate how he was a under-appreciated contributor to good government, what Hal told me sounded like I was going to change the world. It was a great session working for Hal. While other interns were sitting in boring committees, I was over at the State Library pulling economic articles written by Friedman, Laffer, and Hayek and transcripts from Bill Buckley’s PBS show.

The instructions were fuzzy- “I think about 8 years ago, Buckley had this guy on his show and he said something like this. I need the exact quote” or “Milton wrote about this. I need that article.”

At the end of the week, he took everything with him home to write his speeches. They weren’t really speeches but short points prepared to make a single point. For the life of me, I’d look at the calendar and not even imagine when he was going to use the research. But, sure enough, somebody would make an argument that sounded good but was economically unsound. And, when Hal rose to speak, half the body groaned because it wasn’t going to be short and many didn’t want to hear what he had to say.

But Hal didn’t care about being popular. He not only enjoyed a bit of his gadfly status, Hal was convinced he was saying what needed to be said. So he said it and said it and said it. And, I was so proud to be his intern.

And, the next year when I was at Augustana, I ran into Hal he told me wasn’t running again. Ronald Reagan was President and all he had to say was better said by Reagan. Plus, I think he just didn’t like the process of legislating. It wasn’t like flying Boeing 707’s. This was the first time I had a glimpse of Hal’s humility. He could walk away and it didn’t matter.

So, after I moved to Sioux Falls in 1993 (13 years after he first retired), I was surprised when he told me he was going to run again. He won in 1994 and began his off and on period of serving until he retired for what ended up being for good in 2014. As he and I lived in the same district, I teased him I expect him to serve again until they put him in the nursing home.

Now, with that background, I want to tell you about what I know about the man I knew.

Hal Wick was a very simple man.

• He loved his wife, Jane, and family. My dad was absent but Hal was one of the men who showed me what a husband and father was supposed to be.
• He loved his God and took his faith seriously. I don’t think I ever heard him try to sell a public policy by invoking God but I do remember him telling me integrity was about having a unified life. Not just being against abortion, Hal believed every policy he advocated was a brick in building God’s kingdom on earth.
• He was a good friend. During my darkest period, Hal Wick checked in on me and told me he was praying for me. I heard that a lot but with Hal’s simple integrity, I knew it was true.

Probably because his confidence in his brilliant intellect and copious research (which probably is also why he was a pilot), Hal struggled with humility. The first thing he asked me after every speech was “What came across as arrogant.” How many people do you know who know their weakness and work hard to overcome it? I can tell you not many in politics aspire to humility but Hal Wick did.

In addition to missing Jane when he served, I think it is his pursuit of his personal holiness “required” him to step away from politics. I think that is what he meant after one of his “retirements” when he told me his not being in the Legislature is “better for me.” Hal certainly loved politics, serving in the Legislature but it wasn’t who he was. Hal Wick is a child of God, a husband and a father. It was a privilege to have had him to look up to since I met him 39 years go.

With sadness, Hal now joins Bill Grams, Harold Halverson, and Joe Barnett on my personal Legislature Mt. Rushmore. May the soul of Hal G. Wick, by the Mercy of God, Rest in Peace.

Troy Jones: “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.” (Cicero)

Since becoming President a bit more than a year ago, these are just a few of President Trump’s successes on the war against radical Islam and its multi-headed monsters (ISIS, al Quaeda, etc.).

1) A virtual obliteration of the Islamic State and it’s supposed Caliphate- Instead of following the conventional wisdom the first step to defeating this borderless “State” was to have regime change in Syria and bolster the Iraqi regime. Trump took the fight direct to the “Caliphate” and they folded like a cheap suit.

2) The defeat of ISIS in Syria had the domino effect in Iraq where these cowards laid down their arms faster than Tom Brady ran off the field on Sunday.

3) Our President called their bluff and announced moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. They yelled, screamed and folded again.

4) In Afghanistan, the President said our commitment is until the Taliban is defeated (no time deadline) and embarked on a series of mini-surges which has the Taliban fleeing to Pakistan who we have warned we will cross their border to eradicate these terrorists.

5) Using diplomatic pressures, the President got the Saudi’s to right their efforts in Yemen and ultimately got “regime change” in Saudia Arabia through the marginalization of the more extreme Wahhabi-backers in the royal family.

6) Domestically, in addition to the travel, immigrant, and refugee ban from certain nations, the President’s clear speech at the UN with regard to our vigilance to safety is international and domestic sent a message to our enemies, our allies, our military, our law enforcement (note this includes Homeland Security and Department of Justice), and our citizens this is an effort for which he has called for unity of purpose.

In short, our President knows what he is doing and has marshaled the resources of the United States toward his goals.

But, the South Dakota Senate has 16 members who doubt President Trump, don’t think his Cabinet is competent, and supported a resolution usurping President Trump’s authority. The operative final words of Senate Concurrent Resolution 13 is: “Now, therefore, be it resolved, by the Senate of the Ninety-Third Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the House of Representatives concurring therein, that South Dakota petitions the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Department of Justice to identify the root cause of global war on terrorism in order to keep our cities and citizens safe.”

President Trump has enough No-Trumpers, liberals, and mainstream media spreading innuendo about President Trump’s capabilities and leadership. It is embarrassing to have so many South Dakota elected Republicans piling on.

Here is the list of Trump-haters who are second-guessing President Trump’s Departments of Homeland Security and Justice and question President Trump’s leadership and efforts to keep us safe.

R. Blake Curd, Majority Leader, Brock Greenfield, President Pro Tempore, Jim Bolin, Gary Cammack, Phil Jensen, Josh Klumb, Ryan Maher, Jeff Monroe, Stace Nelson, Jenna Netherton, Al Novstrup, Lance Russell, Jim Stalzer, Neal Tapio, John Wiik, Jordan Youngberg.

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” ~George Burns

While the bickering and political posturing was nothing like it is now, in the 1980’s, Senator Abdnor often sat in the Senate chambers with Senator Paul Tsongas (D-MA) and they lamented the bickering. Because they both had speech impediments, I sometimes wondered if that was the original genesis of their close relationship. But, more likely is the father* of Senator Tsongas’ wife, Niki, was from South Dakota who was definitely one of Jim’s favorite wife of a fellow Senator as they hugged each other with too much genuine affection for it to be anything but sincere.

Anyway one night during an all night session the partisanship was even more rancorous than normal and Tsongas turned to Jim and said, “Let’s start our own party. It can be the party that listens to the people, listens to the facts, and doesn’t speak until we’ve learned all we can. He (referring to the Democrat speaking on the floor) doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

Jim said, “Well what about abortion? (they held diametrically opposing positions)” and Tsongas said “We are going to be the party that doesn’t’ have to agree on anything but its members are open-minded and listen.” I wish I could remember how the conversation ended and Jim’s response. So many half memories.

Why do I bring this up? US Representative Niki Tsongas just announced she is not running for re-election. I’m pretty sure there are very few issues upon which I agree with Mrs. Tsongas but I remember her fondly. Our system needs people like her. Decent people can disagree without being disagreeable.

* Anyone who knew Jim, know he loved athletics and of course Jim knew Niki’s father was an All-North Central Conference guard during his time at SDSU. I was there when Jim told her and, she remarked it was something she didn’t know about her father and asked Jim if he was sure. Jim was sure because it was an SDSU team during his high school years and Jim could name their other good players. Why do I remember this and not the rest the aforementioned conversation?

“A man does a lot of praying in an enemy prison. Prayer, even more than sheer thought, is the firmest anchor.” — Jeremiah Denton (US Senate 1981-1987 & POW 1965-1973)

As I was born in 1960, I came of age during the Vietnam War. It was the lead story every night on the news and we watched the news before sitting down for supper. Except for family, in my youth, there was probably nobody we prayed more for than the POW’s. Similar to how people say regarding the plane crash “George Mickelson seven others,” we said “Leo Thorsness* and the POW’s.”

These men were the heroes of my childhood. I met three of these heroes.
• I shook the hand of Leo Thorsness during his Senate campaign outside the Ben Franklin in Pierre.
• Because I dated a staffer of Senator Jeremiah Denton, his office was directly one floor above Senator Abdnor and we often saw each other at Mass during Lent and other Holy Days (took the elevator down, walked to and from Mass, sat together, and elevator again just the two of us once), I got to know Senator Denton personally which gave me some level of insight in what being a POW does to a person and their family. When I heard of his death a few years ago, I actually teared up.
• John McCain was elected to the US House and on two occasions I had the privilege to shake his hand. Like Thorsness, no real conversation but thrilling just the same.

With that background, I need to give some other background. Senator Abdnor had two “mads.” One was his “let me tell you something friend” mad which wasn’t good because you sensed he wanted to tear your head off but wasn’t going to because you were his friend. The other is hard to describe but he would pull his lips close to his teeth and almost seeth when he was talking. This was really, really bad.

Anyway, Senator Abdnor was on the House side “doing business” and I was the staffer trailing him and taking notes. One of the people he spoke to was Congressman McCain. The conversation was private so I couldn’t hear but I could see. It was heated and before it ended I could see the “seething mad.”

Later, when I had a chance, I asked Abdnor what happened with McCain that caused him to get so mad. Jim looked at me with as an ashamed look as I ever saw him have and he said, “John McCain is a hero and didn’t deserve what I said.” That was it. I don’t even know the subject much less what was said.

When I got the news text Senator McCain (with Collins, Murkowski, and 100% of the Democratic Caucus) had voted against any reform of Obamacare, I seethed. I wanted to strike out. But, I’m trying to be like Jim Abdnor. John McCain is dying and he is a hero. I’ve prayed for him both in my youth and as an adult.

I know I can never be the man Jim Abdnor was but every now and then I have my moments where I step up. But it is really hard right now. Really hard.

*Leo Thorsness was from Minnesota, graduated from SDSU, married a SD girl, and I faintly remember somehow our family knew him or someone close to him. My guess is that is why we said his name and not the others.

“Quisling. What a windfall for the English language.” (D.F.P. Hiley)

Hiley goes on to say-“It is not only because of the contemptuous sound, suggestive of “squit.” It is also clearly a diminutive.”

Yesterday, GOP got the slimmest of a majority (51 votes including a tie-breaking vote by the Bice President) to open debate on amending Obamacare, with amendments limited to taxes or spending and items directly related spending or taxes. Under Senate rules, a full repeal requires 60 votes, which would require support from over 20% of the Democrat caucus.

A subsequent vote of the most broadly possible amendment of Obamacare as allowed under Senate rules failed 43-57. Any other possible changes will be less robust because of the Senate rules. Thus, we have on the record a definitive list of Obamacare Republicans.

Senators Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, Dean Heller, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski and Rand Paul.

These Obamacare Republicans betrayed the most central GOP position advocated in the past four elections and their stature will never be the same. They are Quislings. In addition to 9 Democrat Senators in states carried by Trump, the GOP must primary Corker and Heller. No Quislings allowed in caucus.

Update: Today, the following Senators voted against “skinny repeal” (what is possible with a simple majority) without a specific replacement: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins, Dick Heller, John McCain, Rob Portman, Lamar Alexander, and Lisa Murkowski. Only Collins voted against the 2015 measure which passed both houses and was vetoed by President Obama.

Today, this adds Capito, McCain, Portman, and Alexander to the Obamacare Republican list.

“If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, it’s a rat.” (Terrell Owens)

For two Presidential elections (Obama-Romney and Clinton-Trump) and four election cycles (2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016) the #1 Republican policy objective was the repeal and replace of Obamacare.

The following US Senators opposed this objective this week and announced opposition to the GOP Senate bill:

Shelley Capito (West Virginia)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Jeff Flake (Arizona)
Dean Heller (Nevada)- Added
Mike Lee (Utah)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)- Added
Rand Paul (Kentucky)

From this day forward, they are Obamacare Republicans, liberal co-conspirators, and deserving of being aggressively opposed in primaries. I support the rumored Trump recruitment of primary opponents.