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Plastic to the Sea

Many years ago our children were fascinated by a book entitled “Paddle-to-the-Sea” by Holling Clancy Holling. It told the story of an Indian boy who carved a little canoe with a figure inside and named it Paddle-to-the-Sea. In the story the canoe takes a journey in text and pictures from the Canadian wilderness north of Lake Superior through swamps, streams and the Great Lakes, finally arriving at the Atlantic Ocean. My grandchildren enjoy the book now.

Here in Columbia, Missouri, we have a different version of the story. It’s called “Plastic-to-the-Sea.” In this saga our plastic trash starts its journey when it gets washed off city streets, sidewalks, yards and highways for its own voyage to the ocean.

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Plastic trash on a logjam in Columbia’s Hinkson Creek

There’s a good place in Columbia to measure the extent of this runoff: a logjam on Hinkson Creek, just downstream from bridge number 12 near mile marker 4.75 on the MKT trail. The tangle of branches and logs has clogged up the creek for some time and has acted as a strainer or filter for all the trash swept downstream.

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An aerial photo showing a massive logjam on Hinkson Creek just downstream from the MKT Trail. The debris has become a collecting point for trash washed off the streets of Columbia. (Photo by Kristopher Corbett.)

Hinkson Creek originates south of Hallsville in Boone County and meanders southwest through industrial, commercial, and residential sections of Columbia. Both U.S. Highway 63 and Interstate 70 cross it. Along the way, Hinkson Creek is joined by Flat Branch Creek, which basically drains the downtown regions and the University of Missouri.

Eventually, the Hinkson flows into Perche Creek, which drains into the Missouri River. So plastic from Columbia has a way of reaching the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Recently, I managed to get a closer look at the extent of the plastic trash bottleneck with the help of an aerial survey conducted by Kristopher Corbett, an aerial photographer and videographer.

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Kristopher Corbett, an aerial photographer, controls his camera-equipped drone from a bridge on the MKT Trail. Former MU Professor Bill Allen (left) took part in the project.

Taking part in the project was Bill Allen, assistant University of Missouri professor emeritus of science and agricultural journalism. Corbett’s camera-equipped drone provided still images and video from a bird’s perspective of the trash-clogged logjam. Here’s a link to an interesting aerial video from Corbett’s drone.

Trapped among the logs and branches were Styrofoam coolers, a soccer ball, a football, a basketball, plastic cups from fast food restaurants, a car tire; all forms of plastic containers for soft drinks, water, juices, energy drinks and alcohol; a Christmas tree ornament, one gallon plastic milk jugs, Styrofoam egg cartons and plastic bags.IMG_7932

This logjam may have been here for years. Online, I found a post made to the River Miles Forum from Oct. 10, 2014, describing a “massive” logjam in the same vicinity, blocking the entire channel of Hinkson Creek between Twin Lakes and Scott Boulevard. “I think it’s going to be there for years,” the author of the post said.

People have been concerned about the pollution of Hinkson Creek for two decades. In 1998 two plaintiffs sued the Environmental Protection Agency to require the completion of a total maximum daily load study of the waterway. This study would produce a calculation showing the maximum amount of a pollutant allowed to enter the creek while continuing to meet water quality standards. Ken Midkiff, the former director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Water Campaign, was one of the plaintiffs. While a judge ordered the study, he gave the EPA 10 years to comply. Finally, in 2011, the study was released, and it called for a 39.6 percent reduction in stormwater runoff.

“The EPA can only recommend but can’t enforce,” Midkiff said recently. “The City of Columbia and Boone County can dither as long as they want.” The problem, he added, was that while permits for new developments can require actions to prevent runoffs, there’s nothing to cover housing, buildings and streets constructed decades ago. In the meantime, he said some portions of the Hinkson may be more polluted than before the lawsuit was filed.

As I looked at all the plastic trash at the logjam, I couldn’t help worrying that some day it might end up in the belly of a dead whale on a beach somewhere. According to scientists, the growth in plastic pollution is threatening the survival of the planet. It poisons and injures marine life and disrupts human hormones. The Earth Day Network has a campaign to end plastic pollution.

Another thought that crossed my mind about the plastic trash had to do with the Missouri Legislature, which has gone out of its way to block local control over solid waste policy. If the City of Columbia wanted to do something about plastic pollution, it would have to reckon with the Missouri General Assembly, which has moved to take away the rights of communities to make their own decisions over plastic disposal.

During the 2018 session, the House considered a bill that would prevent municipal governments from restricting, taxing, prohibiting or regulating the use of any plastic bag, cup, container, bottle or foamed plastic packaging device. As a volunteer for the Sierra Club, I testified against this bill when it came before a House committee. The bill advanced but did not reach final passage. It may come up again in the 2019 session. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dan Shaul, a Republican from Imperial. Shaul has been the state director of the Missouri Grocers Association since 2006.

In 2015, Shaul sponsored a bill that prevented cities from regulating the use of plastic bags such as those used in grocery stores. At the time, a proposed ordinance had been discussed in Columbia regulating the use of plastic bags. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bill blocking cities from dealing with plastic bags. As a Sierra Club volunteer, I had testified against this bill as well. The Legislature enacted that law over a governor’s veto. Columbia did not enact a ban.

As long as big money elects those who make our laws, big business will make sure that the use of plastic containers is protected. For that to change, everyone is going to have to take a personal responsibility for plastic pollution. Citizens are going to have to organize to demand action from governments and corporations.

But until that happens, there’ll be more “Plastic-to-the-Sea.”

A Mysterious Death

Earlier this month a young man I knew died under mysterious circumstances. A family member found him unresponsive in his bedroom one morning and called 911. Investigating officers suspected a drug overdose.

The young man’s family was overcome by grief and shock. He was not a known drug abuser. At 29 years of age, he seemed to have everything to live for and to look forward to. His lunch was packed for work that day. An invitation to him to attend a wedding in the near future was on the refrigerator.

He had a college degree in biology and worked in a laboratory in St. Louis. His coworkers who attended his funeral said he was solid and reliable. A close friend said illegal drug use did not fit in with the character of the young man he knew. Moreover, the young man had recently completed all the testing and pre-screening necessary to join the U.S. Air Force. His induction was scheduled a few weeks hence.

His family was left heartbroken over the loss of a promising young life, and confused about what was behind it. Some wondered if he had died accidentally while experimenting with a powerfully lethal drug.

The county coroner’s report, when it is delivered, may provide answers. This week, the independent press offered a possible clue. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that synthetic fentanyl, a highly potent painkiller, is now involved in nearly all the drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis area. “Fentanyl has taken over as the drug that is killing people here,” said Stephen Nonn, the coroner in Madison County, Illinois. According to the news story, the St. Louis area is well above the national average with up to 95 percent of overdose deaths coming from fentanyl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were an estimated 72,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, with the sharpest increase associated with the use of fentanyl.

The Post-Dispatch news story said illegal fentanyl gets to the United States from labs in Mexico and China. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is shipped into the country through the mail. Could this be true? Is the U.S. Postal Service a conduit for lethal drugs coming into the country?

It turns out, it is. In September, a report found that efforts taken at mail facilities by the Department of Homeland Security to stop fentanyl are “inadequate to prevent illegal drugs and contraband from entering the United States.”

This issue has been on the radar screen of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri. McCaskill has heard from families across the state who’ve lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, Sen. McCaskill issued a report that highlighted the increase in the amount of fentanyl seized at U.S. ports of entry. A few days later, McCaskill’s office issued a follow-up that showed fentanyl seizures had increased at the U.S. border.

On Oct. 10, there was a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that focused on national security threats. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was there.

“We have not focused enough on adequately resourcing the ports of entry as it relates to these illegal drugs coming into our country,” McCaskill told Nielsen. “There’s been very little attention directed to this real vital need that we have. We are dying from this fentanyl, in record numbers, all across my state. I talk to families every week, Madam Secretary, who have lost a child to illegal fentanyl. And the sad thing about this is we could do this. We know how to interdict…we just have not put enough boots on the ground around this problem.”

Sen. McCaskill backed legislation and sponsored bills to toughen enforcement against illegal drug trafficking. Among them, she offered a measure that would increase the number of officers screening for contraband at ports of entry.

It’s ironic that we have a president who wants to build a border wall to block illegal migrants from coming into the country while at the same time his Department of Homeland Security allows a porous postal service to import lethal drugs from foreign countries.

I don’t know if fentanyl took the life of the young man I knew. We’ll have to await a coroner’s report. I do know someone else in the U.S. Senate will have to take up the cause of fighting fentanyl importation since Sen. McCaskill lost her bid for a third term in the Nov. 6 election.

The Doorknockers’ Adventures

Now that the 2018 general election is in Missouri’s history books, it’s time for a report on the doorknockers’ adventures. What better way to know what’s on the mind of the voters than to go door-to-door in behalf of a candidate, meet your neighbors face-to-face, and discuss politics.

There’s no better lesson in democracy. What you learn from these visits can leave you inspired, confounded or discouraged. You come across people who treat their vote as a sacred privilege, you find some who have no clue what the election’s about, and you encounter people willing to vote a certain way on the flimsiest of pretenses.

For some voters, their political pulse beats strong. Others are brain dead.

In an election campaign, the canvassers are the infantry–foot soldiers marching to measure support, round up votes, secure commitments and encourage turnout. Judy and I went on four such excursions on behalf of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on the evenings of July 2, July 9, Oct. 15, and Nov. 5.

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Sudbury Drive

Our work was focused in Boone County, the home of Claire’s opponent, Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

The campaign issued us clipboards and lists of voters to visit in Columbia neighborhoods, probably 50 or so houses each time. The neighborhoods we visited had streets with names like Audubon Drive, Sudbury Drive, Torrey Pines Drive and Clark Lane. We went to mobile homes in trailer courts and houses with back yards on golf course fairways.

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Audubon Drive

We were asked to pass out literature and record the impressions of the people we visited. Were they for or against Claire, undecided, strong Democrat or strong Republican?

Our visits took place late in the day, usually between 4 and 6 p.m., a time to find people home from work but before the sun went down. Many times when we rang on doorbells or knocked, our approaches went unanswered.

Some people who did answer the door said they were going to vote for her, some were undecided, and some were against her. Often times these encounters were brief. People are busy, fixing supper, watching Netflix, putting the kids to bed.

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Torrey Pines Drive

But there were times when folks were willing to have extended discussions about their political views. One woman who said she worked at McDonald’s told Judy she would never vote for Hawley. “He’s a liar, just like Trump,” the woman said.

On the eve of the election, Judy encountered two disabled young men who told her they thought the election was over. She said, “No, it is tomorrow. You still have time to vote.”

Sometimes people in wheelchairs answered the door. An elderly woman told me she would vote Democrat as she had all her life.

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Clark Lane

Once I was attacked by a large dog on the porch of a mobile home. I turned to avoid the lunging jaws, and the owner wrestled the animal back into the trailer home. The owner was not a registered voter.

We came away with the belief that our canvassing did some good. In an age of misleading television commercials and social media misinformation, one-on-one engagement with our neighbors provided some badly-needed authenticity. And in the end, while the state elected Hawley, his neighbors in Boone County went overwhelmingly for Sen. McCaskill, 56 percent to 41 percent.

After graduating from college, McCaskill served in the state House, was the Jackson County prosecutor, and then served as state auditor. During her 12 years in the U.S. Senate she challenged the pharmaceutical companies who were behind the opioid crisis, she defended Social Security, and worked to protect health care, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.

She took on the U.S. military, attacking wasteful spending and reforming the way sexual assaults on women were investigated and prosecuted in all of the service branches.IMG_7909

McCaskill opposed the earmarking process, the wasteful pork barrel Congressional spending system. She played a big role in the demise of that system,  which was probably something that earned her some enemies. Now 65 years old, she will leave with no public buildings or bridges named after her.

But she did work to find money to help preserve the old iron railroad suspension bridge over the Missouri River at Boonville. Already a significant engineering attraction, the bridge will bring tourists to Boonville and Cooper County once it’s opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. But Cooper County voted for Hawley, 38, who never completed a term of office.

The 2018 election results could be summed up in a remark I heard from a female voter I met on the doorstep of her home on a street called Woodrail on the Green.

“Claire’s real smart and she’s done a lot of good for Missouri,” the woman said. “But I think it’s time for a change.”

 

From Grand to Corrupt–Republican Shame

During Ulysses Grant’s scandalous presidency, a Republican senator from Iowa, James Grimes, called his own party “the most corrupt and debauched political party that ever existed.”

The political events of 2018 could lead one to the same conclusion: The GOP, once the “Grand Old Party,” has become the “Party of Corrupters.” Five examples–with direct ties to Missouri–support this conclusion.

1. Opposition to clean government. Voters in Missouri on Tuesday will consider Amendment 1, an attempt to clean up state politics by increasing fairness, accountability and transparency. The clean government amendment would lower campaign contribution limits, eliminate many lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, and open legislative records to the public.

The clean government amendment would also require lawmakers to wait two years after leaving office before becoming lobbyists. Just as importantly, the change would promote fairness and competition for setting boundaries of legislative districts. Most people–and especially the League of Women Voters–want cleaner government.

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Many signs against the clean government amendment appear with signs favoring Republicans.

What do the Republican corrupters say about cleaner government? Republican lawyers tried and failed to keep it off the ballot. At a recent forum, all the Republican candidates for state House seats voiced opposition. Campaign advertisements against the clean government amendment accompany posters favoring Republicans.

Why does the party of corruption oppose this clean government amendment?

They don’t like Amendment 1 because it would change the state Constitution, and lawmakers wouldn’t be able to reverse it. The corrupters benefit from large financial contributions by corporations, rich businessmen and financiers. Passage of Amendment 1 threatens the legislators’ gravy train.

2. The Corrupters’ tainted candidate for state auditor. The State Auditor is the government “watchdog,” to ensure taxpayers’ funds are accounted for and spent wisely.

The person the Corrupters nominated to be state auditor has a questionable background. Saundra McDowell, the Republican candidate for this important office, has faced lawsuits for failing to pay her bills and unpaid taxes. She has also been criticized for not living in Missouri for a full 10 years, which is a requirement for the auditor’s post. McDowell apparently has also misrepresented her previous work.

What kind of government watchdog would Saundra McDowell be?

3. Josh Hawley’s deceptive campaign for the U.S. Senate. In a grab for power, Missouri’s attorney general has resorted to every underhanded maneuver he can muster in an attempt to boost himself to higher office. Hawley has lied on-camera about his stance on health care, and dodged questions about his troubled management of the attorney general’s office. Wearing jeans and cowboy boots, the 38-year-old Hawley campaigns like a robot, or as two St. Louis radio announcers put it, “a ladder-climbing phony.” It’s become clear in recent days, from disclosures in the Kansas City Star, that Hawley never intended to remain attorney general. Shortly after taking office he began plotting his political ascendency. Hawley has failed to show Missourians what he stands for, and refuses to challenge the ugly rhetoric of Donald Trump.

As one newspaper found, Hawley is “running his campaign from the gutter and is employing a shameful array of misleading tactics to make Missourians believe he’s someone he clearly is not.” Corrupters want candidates like Hawley to win office and do his damage on the national stage.

4. Eric Greitens, the “dark money” governor. The name of the scandal-plagued former Navy SEAL has seldom come up during the closing weeks of the political campaign. But Greitens’ ghost hovers over the proceedings, especially with regard to what happens to the clean government amendment.

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Eric Greitens was elected with the help of millions of “Dark Money” dollars. The sources have never been identified.

Greitens was elected with the benefit of millions of dollars of “dark money,” the source of which has never been disclosed. Even after he resigned his office just a few months ago amidst allegations of a sexual scandal and abuse of a campaign donor list, the rich contributors behind his rise to power have never been identified. With Republicans in control in Jefferson City, there appears to be no active investigation into the sources of Greitens’ money. The Greitens’ saga is a part of the Corrupters’ narrative and extends to Josh Hawley, the attorney general. Hawley failed to adequately investigate the the use by Greitens and his staff of a confidential phone app that automatically deleted text conversations.

5. The Corrupter-in-Chief. Republicans have embraced a corrupt President and have stood by him despite lie after lie and scandal after scandal. Trump’s lack of ethics has been on display for all to see. As lower ranking Corrupters campaign with him, they set the stage for what Tuesday’s election will be, a referendum on Donald Trump’s first two years in office.

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U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri’s 4th District, stands with President Trump.

The GOP once stood for family values and fiscal responsibility. The Corrupters show those values are for suckers. Trump, Corrupter-in-Chief, demeans women and minorities, mocks military heroes, embraces murderous dictators, and repudiated credible evidence of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. The people he has appointed to run government agencies are cronies of the people and companies they are supposed to regulate.

No one is forgetting the abuses of power that took place during Republican Richard Nixon’s years in office. And the other political party is not entirely blameless. It has had ethical lapses, too

But now the Corrupters control all branches of the federal government: the Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. In Missouri, the Corrupters rule the governor’s office and the House and Senate.

The Corrupters’ power is absolute. What’s next?

Britain’s Lord Acton observed in the 1800s, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”

Our protection against bad men is in our hands, if voters take the steps Tuesday to throw the Corrupters out of office. Voters can also put in place a strong amendment to clean up the mess The Corrupter-in-Chief and his henchmen created.

It’s your country, your vote, our future.

Campaigning with Taxpayers’ Help

Missouri taxpayers recently boosted Republican state Rep. Sara Walsh’s re-election campaign, paying $2,600 for a mass mailing on her behalf to more than 15,000 registered voters in her central Missouri district.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, nineteen days before the general election, Walsh’s district directory–designed, printed and mailed at taxpayers’ expense–began arriving in her voters’ mailboxes. The well-timed maneuver could tilt the election to her advantage.

img_1663-e1540332319141.jpgWalsh wants all the help she can get. She won her seat by only 302 votes in a special election in August of last year. She’s facing the same opponent in the general election for the 50th District, Democrat Michela Skelton.

In only one year in the House, Walsh has voted against many people in her district on issues relating to ethics, health care and workers’ rights. For example, she supported an anti-labor “right to work” constitutional amendment, yet a few months later voters in her district overwhelmingly defeated “right to work.”

In another anti-worker vote, Walsh sided with those who wanted to eliminate Missouri’s prevailing wage law, a move that would shrink paychecks throughout the state.

Walsh also voted to repeal a law that allowed the Missouri Ethics Commission to launch independent investigations on its own authority. And she rejected funding for prescription drug coverage for 60,000 low-income senior citizens.

Walsh is also hoping voters have forgotten her association with the scandal-plagued former Republican governor, Eric Greitens. While other House members, including fellow Republicans, were calling for Greitens to step down because of his conduct, Walsh remained silent.

Walsh’s positions that differ from those of her constituents aren’t mentioned in her taxpayer-paid puff piece. The booklet also doesn’t mention that although it’s taxpayer funded, the timing makes it clear the purpose is to support her campaign.

Walsh’s office ordered the directory last March 7, but asked that mailing be delayed until Oct. 16. The choice of date implies the booklet is intended to get around a House ruleThat rule, in Walsh’s case, would have prevented her from mailing anytime later than that date.

If Walsh were genuinely interested in the education of her constituents, why did she delay distribution for six months?

The district directory is an effective tool for boosting name recognition, especially since voters received it shortly before the Nov. 6 general election.

One man who lives near Hartsburg in Walsh’s district thought the mailing had to be illegal given its timing. But in fact the distribution just did meet the House requirement.

Each House member receives a $700 monthly allotment that may be used for office expenses including district mailings. The postage for the mailing was charged against that account. A House official said the printing cost of Walsh’s directory could not be easily itemized.

Walsh, 39, lives in Ashland with her husband, Steve Walsh, who is the press aide for Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. The 50th state House District covers most of Moniteau County, and includes parts of Boone, Cole and Cooper counties

The special election that Walsh won filled a vacancy created by the departure of then-Rep. Caleb Jones, who had been named deputy chief of staff to now-former Gov.  Greitens.

Walsh was reluctant to criticize Greitens when he was first indicted on Feb. 22. While other lawmakers were calling on Greitens to resign, Walsh was noncommittal.

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Sara Walsh (left) with former Gov. Eric Greitens and his wife, Sheena.

Then in May, a special House committee released a special investigative report that contained lurid descriptions of Greitens’ conduct. These disclosures prompted even more lawmakers to call for Greitens to step down, but not Walsh.

The Boone County Journal criticized Walsh for failing to take a stand. “The evidence provided by her esteemed colleagues tells us that Greitens can no longer provide effective, moral leadership.”

In the give-and-take during the closing days of the general election, Greitens’ name seldom comes up. Walsh wants to keep it that way. Walsh hopes her district directory puts a positive spin on her performance, which is negative for many of her constituents.

Those constituents can tell Rep. Walsh at the  ballot box what they think of her peculiar record and her use of taxpayers’ funds to campaign

Josh Hawley Owes All Missourians an Apology

Josh Hawley’s inept campaign for the U.S. Senate has sunk so low that he’s now calling on Sen. Claire McCaskill to apologize for the comments of a veteran Capitol journalist.

Yes, that’s what it’s come to, folks. The Republican attorney general, who has no program, no vision and no principles upon which to stand, has become so desperate that he is blaming McCaskill for what I wrote on my website last week.

To those readers who may have missed it, I wrote Lying in the Age of Trump about how Hawley had lied in a campaign commercial.

McCaskill’s campaign drew attention to what I had written by sharing it on Twitter. McCaskill had no involvement in what I wrote, but that didn’t stop Hawley from calling on her to answer for it. This is a political ploy that Republicans are especially good at: take something completely out of context that your opponent did not say, and attribute it to her.

Young Josh, whose campaign has no platform, instead drives interest in it by diversion. He calls on McCaskill to apologize for something written by someone else.

If anyone should apologize, it’s me. But don’t hold your breath.

Here are the facts:

  1. Hawley used his son’s medical condition in a television campaign commercial to claim that he actually supported health insurance for people with documented health issues.
  2. But Hawley’s office joined with 19 other states in a suit in federal court to demolish the law that would in fact cover those pre-existing conditions.
  3. If that suit should win, people with those conditions could lose insurance protections.
  4. Hawley is now trying to hide from the fact that the lawsuit would in fact eliminate the ability of people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance.

My story did not call Hawley’s son a prop. It said Hawley was using his son’s medical condition as a prop. I’m sorry Hawley’s son has a medical condition, but it was Hawley who inserted this matter into his campaign. I don’t doubt that his son has such a condition, but I question Hawley’s commitment to protect people in the same predicament.

It might be better, instead of calling for an apology from Claire McCaskill, for Hawley to explain his position in the lawsuit. How does suing to end the Affordable Care Act mesh with the idea that Hawley supports health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions?

Why can’t he simply tell the truth?

If I could guess, Josh Hawley has reached a moment of desperation in his campaign. On Sunday, the state’s largest and most respected newspaper endorsed Claire McCaskill for the U.S. Senate in a thoughtful, strong editorial, pointing out her long record of public service and her bipartisan voting record. The same editorial said of Hawley, “He is running a campaign from the gutter and is employing a shameful array of misleading tactics to make Missourians believe he’s someone he is not.”

This campaign commercial in which he–as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted–“stoops” to using his son’s medical condition, is an example of the deception.

Claire McCaskill supported the ACA when it was wildly unpopular and did countless meetings around the state facing voters directly over it. She’s had 52 town hall meetings throughout Missouri to explain her position.

Hawley, on the other hand, wants it both ways. He wants to oppose Obamacare to preen for his base and later pretend he didn’t hold that position now that it’s unpopular.

Hawley is upset that someone in Claire’s camp shared my story. But the story is true.

Lying in the Age of Trump

The first U.S. Senate campaign I covered in Missouri was in 1974, when Republican Thomas B. Curtis ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Tom Eagleton. Since then, I’ve observed many political speeches, campaign appearances and national conventions.

I’ve also seen my share of political commercials. While some stretched the boundaries of truth, I never witnessed a blatant lie told to a television camera like the one being voiced now by the sincere–looking young face of Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general.IMG_4710

Apparently this is what politics have become in the age of Donald Trump, when fact checkers work overtime to separate the truth from falsehoods. Hawley’s deception was the subject of yet another Paul Krugman column today (“Goodbye, Political Spin, Hello Blatant Lies”) in the New York Times.

In the TV ad Hawley claims he favors a requirement that health insurance companies cover pre-existing medical conditions. The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate uses his son’s medical condition as a prop, even though everyone knows that Hawley was one of 20 Republican attorneys general from around the country who filed a lawsuit seeking to end Obamacare, including its popular guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 1.29.34 PM

If the lawsuit is successful it would make millions of Americans uninsurable.

Hawley’s hypocrisy is astounding. Does he believe that voters are so gullible that a lie sincerely told outweighs the facts before them?

Newspapers have called Hawley out on this duplicity. A Washington Post columnist said the campaign ad was emblematic of the 2018 midterm election. You don’t usually see a politician claiming to be the savior of the very thing he’s trying to destroy, the columnist wrote. Krugman made the same point earlier: “If you or anyone you care about suffers from a pre-existing medical condition, Republicans are trying to take away your insurance. If they claim otherwise, they’re lying.”

At 38 years of age, Hawley is trying to take a short cut to political happiness. He is a candidate cast in the mold of another young Republican with no governmental experience, former Gov. Eric Greitens. Everyone knows how that turned out.

Hawley is trying to unseat two-term U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat with a long record of public service as a state representative, county legislator, county prosecutor and state auditor.

With no term completed in any government office, Hawley has no record upon which to run. In less than two years as attorney general, he’s had some missteps. Although the law requires the attorney general to live in the state capital of Jefferson City, Hawley continued to reside in Columbia and voted in a Boone County election.

Judges have sanctioned him for not doing his job. And it wasn’t until the Greitens’ scandal pots were boiling over that Hawley decided to even enter the kitchen.IMG_4709

With no positive record to show for himself, Hawley has been on the attack. Campaigns supporting him have made an issue of McCaskill’s husband’s wealth, a tactic Republicans have tried unsuccessfully before.

Newspapers have discredited this ad as being deceiving, too. “The implication that McCaskill is getting rich at voters’ expense is false,” reported the Washington Post. “Republicans should retire this smear campaign and move on toward a debate on the issues.”

One that really takes the cake is Hawley’s claim that McCaskill, who worked her way through Mizzou as a waitress, is part of the Washington elite and is “wealthy and well connected.” This is coming from a banker’s son with a degree from Yale, and who most recently raised campaign money at the exclusive Knickerbocker Club in Manhattan.

Over the years, I’ve seen up close many Missouri Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate: John Danforth, Kit Bond, Gene McNary, John Ashcroft, Jim Talent and Roy Blunt. They had all stepped on some lower rungs on their way climbing up the political ladder.

Young Josh has decided to skip all the rungs, hoping misinformation or disinformation will overcome fact-based reporting.