Tuesday, December 29, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Media Monopoly Medium

Hindsight note to failed presidential campaign strategists: If
you didn’t prepare your pre-Iowa/New Hampshire strategy
with your candidate primarily employing the media as the
overture to your campaign, you didn’t have a chance.

There are three stages of a presidential election. The first has
an indefinite beginning date. It ends in the December prior
to the election year about a month before the Iowa caucus.
The second stage is the caucus/primary season itself. It goes
from January to June, The third stage is the general election. It
goes from the party nominating conventions until election day
in November.  While there are many factors is the last two
stages, the major factor is the voters themselves. The first stage,
however, almost ignores the voters. It is managed, displayed,
defined, analyzed and concluded by the media.

If anyone doubts this assertion, I simply point out the clear and
inescapable fact of the first stage of the 2016 cycle just concluded.
Regardless of their experience, resumes, executive abilities or
native intelligence, the most successful figures in both parties
were those who spoke and acted well in and through the media.

Without question, the most successful figure of stage one in 2016
was Donald Trump. Without question, he was the candidate who
most effectively used the media. On the Democratic side, only
Bernie Sanders showed media acuity. He is not leading in the polls,
but he continues to survive heading into stage two against the
most overwhelming Democratic frontrunner in memory. Hillary
Clinton is that frontrunner, and if she had even a modicum of
media skills, she would be the only Democratic candidate left in
the race. In fact, the Clinton campaign has compulsively tried to
hide their candidate from full media view.

On the Republican side, the only candidates left who have a serious
chance to win, other than Mr. Trump, are candidates with
demonstrated media skills, including Chris Christie, Marco Rubio,
and Ted Cruz. Jeb Bush is technically still in the race because of his
name recognition, campaign cash and organizational resources. If
he could have matched his media skills with these resources, he
would be the frontrunner today, Donald Trump notwithstanding.
Two other Republicans, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, are also
still viable (but barely); yet only Mrs. Fiorina has demonstrated
good media skills in stage one.

Fortunately for the republic, the media plays only a subordinate
role in stages two and three. For this reason, Mr. Bush does still have
a chance to win, however unlikely. For this reason, Mr. Trump is
already fading from his “media lead” of the past several months.
National polls still have him in front, but state polls already have him
behind or narrowly leading.  Mr. Cruz is not only media savvy, he is
very smart. But his appeal, by his own design, has been to only one
segment of his party’s voter base. This makes his quest much more
problematic than it would have been if he had directed his skills to a
broader GOP base.

This leaves Mr. Christie and Mr. Rubio. Each are excellent debaters,
speakers and campaigners. Mr. Christie is perhaps more
experienced, but Mr. Rubio is more glamorous and younger. They
have survived stage one, although neither is a clear frontrunner.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Christie has demonstrated that where he
campaigns in person he does very, very well. Mr. Rubio currently
appears ahead of Mr. Christie in most credible polls, but stage two
is only beginning.

Stage three is too far away to discuss thoughtfully, but we can
discuss stage two as hand-to-hand combat begins in Iowa and New
Hampshire. Mr. Trump, even though he is much less prepared
for the competition in stage two, will not disappear. He has skills and
resources yet to play. I have suggested previously that no presumptive
nominee will likely appear until after Super Tuesday, perhaps not
until May or June. Mrs. Fiorina and Mr. Kasich might surprise in
stage two, but if not, either could reappear as a vice presidential
nominee. Mr. Bush could have an unlikely surprise political epiphany
in stage two. Nothing is decided.

What is decided, however, is perhaps advice to those men and
women now (or later) contemplating a future presidential run.
To wit, don’t consider the race for the nation’s highest office unless
you are prepared to employ, exploit and, yes, outwit the media
institutions which essentially manage and control stage one of an
American presidential campaign. The media, as I have pointed out
is far from dominant in stages two and three, but a candidate must
run the media gauntlet with some success in stage one to get to these
quarterfinals and semifinals and to election day itself.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Presidential Election As National Ritual

As 2015 concludes, and the 2016 presidential election cycle
commences with its first primary and caucus voting, it might
be useful to remember how much a vital ritual the democratic
manner of choosing a new president has become.

To  begin with, it is necessary to recall the first U.S. president,
“the indispensable American politician,” George Washington.
A Virginia colonial aristocrat, initially a British army major
who at 21 was sent to spy on the French forts in western
Pennsylvania, Washington, through a subsequent life of
soldiering and running his family estate at Mount Vernon,
established a new principle in the political vocabulary of
national states in western civilization of the late 18th century.

He was, of course, not alone is establishing the unprecedented
American republic. There was a remarkable team of colleagues
that came together from the thirteen original colonies in the
“new world” of the North American continent. Some of them,
including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander
Hamilton, were perhaps intellectually “smarter” and better
educated than Washington, but none of them were superior in

There was also “something in the air” in the 1770s, not only in
the British colonies of North America, but in Europe as well, and
by the end of that century, an unquenchable turmoil and upheaval
of the feudal order of the previous millenium was underway.
It continues to this day.

The original notion of most of the founders was for General
Washington, the military leader of the American revolution, to
become king of the United States, Three times he refused this
opportunity. Finally, after an unworkable “Confederation” was
no longer tenable, and a constitutional convention created an
elected presidency that was to be renewed every four years,
Washington acquiesced to return to Philadelphia and lead the
new nation. After eight years, Washington made the unexpected
and “indispensable” decision to retire to Mount Vernon. During
his presidency there were no political parties, but in the resulting
contests for his successor in 1796, 1800 and 1804, the candidates
ran not only with contrasting personalities, but with emerging
contrasts in political philosophies as well.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that our “modern”
political parties appeared, and not until the mid-20th century that
the current ritualized forms of the presidential election were
established. The coming of universal suffrage enabling all adult
citizens to vote, modern communications and advanced
transportation technology have each altered presidential
campaign strategies, but the ritual format remains a constant.

The president of the United States serves two general functions.
First, he or she is the CEO of the executive branch and the
commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Second, he or she is
the one figure who stands at the “bully pulpit, speaking daily to
and for the nation. These are essentially the same functions and
duties that George Washington assumed on March 4, 1789.

Since that time, a few remarkable men, many exceptional men,
and a few disappointing men have taken the presidential oath. The
times have obviously changed, and the nation incredibly so, but
it is a singular testament to the authors of the Constitution, and
to the irreplaceable George Washington, that the character and
role of the office remains, as does the extraordinary ritual of
renewing it.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The GOP Finalists Emerge

There was welcome news for most Republicans in recent days
as 5 or 6 of their presidential candidates emerged for the next
phase of the party’s nomination competition.

These include Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie,
Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and possibly, John Kasich.

Of course, without any voting yet taking place, this list might
change by a name or two, but it has become clearer which
aspirants have what it takes to vie seriously in 2016.

I do not include Ben Carson, although he will almost certainly
qualify for the next main GOP debate on January 15. Carly
Fiorina and John Kasich, each for different reasons, remain
significant vice presidential candidates. Rand Paul has said
that if he is not included in the next main debate, he will
refuse to participate in the second tier debate, a petulance
that spells the end of his campaign.

The other candidates, most of whom have had good political
experience and past high office, so far are not measuring up on
the campaign trail.

I base this assessment only partially on the opinion polls so
far, most of which have been evaluated as misleading, poorly
taken, and woefully inadequate about measuring what “likely
voters” will do in upcoming primaries and caucuses.

I repeat, without any real votes, this assessment is ultimately
guesswork, but I do think we have seen enough of the candidates
to date to make a list of finalists.

The next GOP debate will be on January 15. It is likely to be
even more confrontive than the earlier ones. It will be followed
by the first voting Iowa.

This does not mean that the non-finalists will all drop out soon.
Most, in all likelihood, will remain in the race until Iowa and
New Hampshire. But going to Super Tuesday on March 1, a
candidate will need campaign funds and good news to keep going.

For Mr. Gilmore, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Huckabee, Mr. Paul, Mr.
Carson, and Mr. Pataki, going beyond March 1 (if they continue
to trail badly) will likely begin to make them look ridiculous
and/or simply vain. Few politicians are willing to endure this.

Mr. Walker, Mr. Jindal, Mr. Perry, Mr. Graham have already
wisely withdrawn for the race. At least one of them might be
back for another try in a future cycle, but 2016 was not their

The list of finalists, however, covers a wide range of experience,
personalities, and skills. There remains much political mystery
and probable unexpected turns ahead.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Campaign Update 12

Jeb Bush’s debate performance in Las Vegas was quite
significantly improved over his earlier appearances, and
this has many, especially his supporters, wondering whether
he can turn his campaign around in time for the caucuses
and primaries early next year. Some observers, especially
those who do not favor his candidacy, are suggesting it is
too late, but considering the hefty campaign funds he has
raised, his organization already active in many states, and
his name recognition, it might be just a bit too soon to write
him off. He shares some of his base with supporters of
Marco Rubio and Chris Christie, both of whom are
currently getting stronger. This makes his comeback more

When Vice President Joe Biden declined to run for president
in 2016, the national punditry declared the race for next
year’s Democratic nomination over, saying that Hillary
Clinton had the nomination locked up. At that point, Mrs.
had only two opponents, and it was decided by the punditry
that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders could not win (even
though he then led, and still does lead, Mrs. Clinton in New
Hampshire). If the national and state polls are to be believed,
the former secretary of state has a large lead in most areas,
although her overall numbers are remarkably weak when
compared with most other nomination frontrunners in modern
times. Controversy continues to dog Mrs. Clinton who has
high negatives, and so far seems not to have inspired much
enthusiasm in her party’s grass roots, other than with older
liberal women. On paper, conventional wisdom seems to be
correct. Although Mr. Sanders continues to run well in the
party's left base, and is expected to win New Hampshire , there
is no evidence yet that he can win anywhere else. Former
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has been ignored by the
party's grass roots throughout the campaign so far. Mrs. Clinton
leads by a big margin in Iowa, although she is barely above
50% in most polls in this caucus state where only a small
percentage of eligible voters take part in the caucus. Only a
last-minute surge by Mr. Sanders or Mr. O'Malley, or more
political problems for Mrs. Clinton, would seem able to change
the outcome in this race, but this seems to be a year when
surprises can happen.

With Donald Trump’s recent reiteration of his earlier pledge not
to run as a third-party candidate in 2016, it would appear that
2015 will be a two-person contest in November. Only former
Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has even hinted they
would consider running as an independent next year, but so far
this seems unlikely.


At the Republican national convention next year, the presidential
nomination will be made by 560 at-large delegates and 1305
delegates chosen by GOP voters in state primaries and caucuses.
While most attention now is on the early four states plus the 11
states of Super Tuesday, it is very important not to forget the
majority of states which choose their delegates mostly on a
winner-take-all basis after March 1. In particular, I call attention
to Michigan (42 delegates) on March 8; Illinois (54 delegates) and
Ohio (48 delegates) on March 15; New York (81) delegates on
April 19; Pennsylvania (54 delegates) on April 26; and California
(159 delegates) and New Jersey (36 delegates) on June 7. These
states alone, plus other northeastern and far west states, supply
more than one-third of the total elected and at-large delegates. In
recent cycles, the nomination tended to be clinched in the early
primaries, and the later primaries were anti-climactic. It would
appear, however, that in 2016 this might not be the case. Many
of the original 18 major candidates will likely be withdrawn by
March 1, but Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush,
Donald Trump, and possibly John Kasich and one or more
other candidates could still be competing after Super Tuesday,
each with a number of delegates. Most of the more conservative
southern primaries will have taken place by then, and more
moderate conservative primaries in the far west and the
northeast will be ahead. Ted Cruz might then do well in
midwestern primaries and caucuses, and Chris Christie
might do well in far western and northeastern primaries. Jeb
Bush and John Kasich also could do well in the later events.
As in the Democratic nomination contest of 2008, the 2016 race
might be decided at the very end of the voting, and even result
in a very rare contested convention. Unless, one candidate wins
very decisively in the traditional First Four and Super Tuesday
elections, a quite non-traditional, protracted contest could well
happen in April, May and early June. Just do the math.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Donald Trump's Real Predecessor

Donald Trump’s real predecessor in American history
was not P.T. Barnum, as some have suggested, but someone
in the same line of work who also lived in the mid-19th
century, and became a household word.

Dan Rice was born Daniel Maclaren in New York City in
1823. He became one of the earliest American clowns, and
through a series of entertainment jobs created the first true
American circus. He is considered the father not only of the
circus, but of vaudeville. He was the first U.S. megastar of
pop culture, and prior to the U.S. Civil War was probably the
most well-known person in the country. Mark Twain and
Walt Whitman were among his biggest fans. He created
“the greatest show on earth” before his later rival P.T.
Barnum got into the circus business. He is considered the
model for the iconic figure of Uncle Sam. Photographs of
Rice how him to be the spitting image of the early Uncle
Sam cartoons. By 1867, he was so famous that he ran for
president. The 1872 Democratic nomination went to his
friend Horace Greeley.

(Coincidentally, Greeley had lived as a young man in Erie, PA
where he held his first job as a reporter. Dan Rice, years later,
settled his circus in its winter quarters in Girard, a suburb of
Erie where “Dan Rice Days” are still observed every year.)

In many ways, Dan Rice created modern public relations as
well. An inveterate self-promoter, his personality reached into
numerous aspects of early American life. In fashion, he
popularized “French cuffs” in the U.S. He was not only a clown
and circus impresario, he was an actor, director, strong man,
animal trainer, professional dancer and song writer. He is the
origin of several phrases which survive to this day, including
“one horse show,” “Hey, Rube!” and the political term “getting
on the bandwagon” (the latter from his invitation to 1848
presidential candidate Zachary Taylor to appear on one of
his circus wagons).

Rice ran for U.S congress, senate and finally president ---
although he withdrew from each of these races before the
voting began. In 1867, when he ran for president, he was only
44 years old, but he was at the height of his fame. By the late
1870s, changes in the traveling circus, led by Barnum and
others, caused a decline in Rice’s fortune and popularity.
He died in New Jersey in 1900, virtually penniless and

Dan Rice was not only the first great American cultural
promoter and innovator, but a man of remarkable talents.
He was, in fact, the first true American pop culture celebrity
who became eventually involved, albeit unsuccessfully, in
politics. There have been figures like him ever since, not
only from entertainment, but from sports, films, business
and other walks of U.S. life.

Donald Trump is the latest version of this pop culture
phenomenon. Most, like Dan Rice, flare into fame and then
end up forgotten.  A few, most notably Ronald Reagan,
emerge from pop culture into significant success and impact
in American politics.

It will be interesting to observe in the coming months which
will be the outcome for Donald Trump.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


As we observe another presidential debate, we can ask what
it is these televised spectacles tell us and show us about the

I suggest that the debates don’t necessarily inform us
thoroughly about how a candidate would perform as president,
nor do they completely inform us abut the knowledge and
experience of the candidates. Their record in previous office or
work, and their resumes probably tell us more about these

The debates also don’t tell us much about the kind of persons
these candidates would gather to their administration or the
manner in which they take counsel from others.

What the debates do tell us is something of how each candidate
feels about himself or herself, their ability to take command,
and their skill in acting under stress. While I note that these are
not the only qualities voters need to assess in deciding whom to
support for president, they are important factors in being an
effective chief executive and commander in chief.

The debates are just one part of the presidential campaign
process, and performance in them, either good or bad, can be
critical to the outcome of the contest, especially for the
party nomination. In an era, of hyper-mass communication,
the internet, social media and round-the-clock news, the debates
have become a primary interface between voter and candidate.

As we go into the new year, and the earliest caucus and primary
voting, however, campaign organization, strategy and finances
become increasingly significant, particularly in a cycle such as
this one which has so many well-known competitors for the
political prize.

In an attempt to be fair, those conducting the Republican
debates have from the outset held two debates, one for
candidates higher in the polls and one for those with lower
poll numbers. As the next level of the campaign begins,
however, it would seem appropriate to have just one debate
with an appropriate standard for participation.

The time for each major party to decide who will lead their
national ticket in November, 2016 is now approaching. The
debates have been, and will continue to be, very important,
but a larger picture of the ability and the personality of each
candidate now takes on a greater significance, and with each
additional debate, voters will need to see that bigger picture
forming in front of them with more clarity. Earlier impressions
now undergo a new and greater scrutiny. It is well-known that
voting decisions themselves often occur late in the process,
perhaps only days before the voting itself.

This election year has only begun. Much lies ahead.


(December 16, 2015):

The latest Republican debate, I think, has narrowed the field
de facto a month before the first actual voting in the Iowa
Caucus. Donald Trump continues to lead in the national
generic polls, but much more credible polls from individual
states indicate his lead might be an illusion. Once again in
the debates, his familiarity with domestic and foreign policy
issues seemed slight juxtaposed next to most of his rivals.
Jeb Bush for the first time successfully stood up to Trump,
and seemed through most of the debate evening to be a major
player in the contest, He, along with Chris Christie, Ted Cruz
and Marco Rubio seemed to be the night's biggest winners.
Carly Fiorina and John Kasich seemed to hold their own, but
each primarily increased their chances to be the party's vice
presidential choice. Trump and Ben Carson seemed out of their
element. Rand Paul, who barely made the main debate stage this
time, was articulate about many issues, but his views do not
appear to be shared by most GOP voters, much less his rivals
on the debate stage. This might have been his last 2016 debate

It's clearly time to cancel the second debate format, and to
schedule, in the remaining debates, only one event with
appropriate and increased standards for participation.

Governor Christie, who has made some of the most dramatic
recent gains in the presidential field, particularly in New
Hampshire, now needs to increase his standing in other states,
including Iowa and South Carolina, as well as some of the
Super Tuesday states, if he is to maintain momentum going
into the actual voting in the new year.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


For more than a year, I have been suggesting in print and
on the air that the Republican candidate to watch in 2016
was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. I wasn’t the only
one to say this, but I was one of the very, very few national
journalists to consistently predict that he would re-emerge in
the presidential campaign after the notorious “bridge scandal”
seemed to derail his presidential ambitions.

I did not ever say he would be the nominee, but I have
intuitively felt that his unquestionable (though sometimes
controversial) communication skills, combined with his
political resume, would make him a finalist in the contest once
it was underway in January, 2016.

For several months, his poll numbers  have drifted in the very
low single digits and, except for noteworthy performances in
the television debates so far, he has lingered in the background
while Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush,
Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ted Cruz received the most
headlines and attention.

Presidential politics is primarily about timing, assuming that a
candidate has the basic skills, experience and temperament to
be president. Some describe this factor as “luck,” but I think it
is more a sense of timing, and knowing when and where to make
a successful move in the game.

While I have received “rolling eyes” from even some of my
most faithful and supportive readers during these months when
Mr. Christie remained clearly in the background, I knew from
many years of writing about presidential politics (since 1972)
that the temporary emergence and flare-ups of other
candidates was a gift to the Christie campaign. That’s because
it is always important to make the most significant moves only
when the actual voting begins.

Now, in mid-December, the real campaigns in Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina (where the earliest voting will
take place) are beginning in earnest. While early frontrunners
Donald Trump and Ben Carson were exploiting the free media
phase of the presidential pre-campaign, Chris Christie went
to New Hampshire and campaigned the only way to be
successful in that first primary state --- hand to hand, village
to village, town meeting to town meeting.

And what was the result? Today, Governor Christie stands in
second place in New Hampshire, having dramatically risen
from 1% to low double digits. He has been endorsed the leading
and most influential newspaper in the state. He has restored
himself to the main debate stage (after being relegated to the
minor one where he stole the show). His strategy in New
Hampshire is now being repeated in Iowa, but it is New
Hampshire where has needed to shine all along.

After New Hampshire and Iowa, it is not clear that Mr. Christie
will emerge, along with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and
(possibly) Texas Senator Ted Cruz to grapple for the nomination.
It is also not clear when or if Donald Trump will continue to lead
the pack or fade, as Ben Carson and others have.

This is a most unusual presidential cycle so far. Anything can
happen. But, for now. Chris Christie is on the move.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Debate Miscalculation

After the large number of Republican presidential debates in
2012, and the subsequent loss of the election by the GOP
nominee, it was widely assumed there had been too many
debates. It became a commonplace that the conservative
party would reduce the number of debates dramatically in
2015-16 to avoid the “overexposure” of 2011-12.

This was, in fact, done. Only 5 debates were sanctioned
for this cycle before January 1, 2016.

It turns out that this was a classic case of fixing a past mistake,
without anticipating new circumstances.

The new circumstances included the “underexposure” of at
least one candidate who effectively has used the “free media”
period of the campaign (the period prior to January, 2016).
Businessman Donald Trump’s poll numbers have repeatedly
gone down immediately after most of the debates so far, but
rebound in the usually month-long intervals between debates.
In that interval, Mr. Trump makes statements which apparently
shock and dismay most of his opponents, the GOP establishment,
as well as provide the media (most of whom oppose him) with
daily fodder. Lots of folks, but not necessarily voters, however,
either think they agree with Mr. Trump or find him sufficiently
refreshing to choose him in the polls or show up at his rallies.

Then there is another televised debate, and Mr. Trump is shown
to be lacking in information and experience, especially when
compared with some of his rivals.  The first “anti-Trump” was
Carly Fiorina, but she has not yet managed to catch on. Then it
was Ben Carson, but he has already faded. Then it was John
Kasich, but he produced a backlash. Then Jeb Bush joined the
anti-Trump fray, but he, too, has failed to gain support.

The GOP has now scheduled an additional debate as the voting
begins next year, but I don’t think this tactic alone will work. One
of the remaining “major” candidates will have to take on Mr.
Trump, and be seen by GOP voters as their better choice to be the
conservative nominee.

In spite of the numerous candidates remaining in the GOP field,  it
would appear now that there are three who might most successfully
turn the nomination contest around and in their favor. They include
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Each of them has demonstrated
debating skills, and has a serious resume with political experience.
Of course, one of the other candidates could suddenly rise and win
the nomination, especially if no one clinches the nomination before
the GOP convention, but if the “Trump phenomenon” is to be
stopped, it seems that one of those three will have to do it. Each of
them is currently rising in various polls --- Mr. Rubio in many states,
Mr, Christie in New Hampshire, and Mr. Cruz in Iowa.

There are those who argue that the “Trump phenomenon” is an
illusion, a visceral response by those polled to his blunt talk and
defiance of political correctness. When the actual voting begins,
this argument continues, real voters will choose someone else.
Perhaps this is so, it’s a reasonable argument, and yet Mr. Trump,
only facing his rivals once a month in debate, has contradicted it
for some time, and remains apparently well ahead of the pack.

It would seem that if Mr. Rubio, Mr. Christie or Mr. Cruz can now
overcome Mr. Trump, they will --- out of sheer gratitude ---
overcome some hurdles now put in their way by many grass roots
voters and in the Republican establishment. Mr. Cruz perhaps has
the hardest task, having made his appeal so far mainly to only one
wing of the party.

Recently, Mr. Trump has revived his “threat” to run as an
independent candidate in November if he does not feel
“well-treated” by the Republican Party. On paper, it seems a
real threat. But as my friend Nathan Gonzalez of The Rothenberg
Gonzalez Report
has written, this might be an empty threat of a
“sore loser” who would likely only receive a small percentage of
the vote in November and be humiliated by it.

Donald Trump is in the race to be the Republican nominee for
president, He has done remarkably well so far, but not a single
vote has been counted, and many primaries and caucuses are

The Democrats can still win the presidency again in 2016. If the
Republicans want to reclaim the White House, hard work, good
strategies and above all, cool heads are needed in the days

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Channeling 1937

I don’t want to overdo the parallels, but there is now in
2015 a certain “channeling” another time in world
history, an average man’s lifetime ago, that is, in the
mid-to-late 1930s when world consciousness was
beginning to sense an imminent, sudden and
tremendous alteration in global human history.

In 1937, the cataclysmic traumas of World War I were
still fresh. The world powers at the time, the
largest nations of Europe, were in definite, if not
fully realized, decline. Two new political forms of violent
“direct action,” totalitarian fascism and totalitarian
communism, were recently gestated and suddenly on
the rise.

Technology, too, had also upended 19th century
consciousness, itself disrupted by the industrial revolution,
and had accelerated the formation of mass urban societies,
especially in the developing worlds of Europe, North
America, and parts of Asia. The introduction of the
telegraph, mid-19th century, was followed in the late 19th
century by the telephone. In the post-World War I era,
radio and motion pictures had dramatically altered
communications worldwide.

The United States of America, then only 150 years old,
had been the first modern democratic republic, and an
early growing industrial force, but only after World War I
was it more obviously going to be a major world power.
In 1937, its wartime prowess of 1918 had been disbanded,
and the nation had suffered an almost decade-long
economic depression, circumstances which it shared with
most of the then developing industrial world.

This economic tribulation, and its accompanying
unemployment and suffering among the masses of
population, combined with aftershocks of the world war
which had not really ended, led to disturbances in almost
all nations, and seemingly incoherent assaults on personal
and national conduct. Nazism, fascism and communism
took hold increasingly in a decadent Europe. Religious and
ethnic prejudices, the seeds of which had been planted
centuries before, now bloomed in dark and violent colors.
The value of a human life, which had escalated in the
idealism and humanism of earlier modern culture was
suddenly devalued like an old currency deemed worthless.

But in 1937, few shots had yet been fired. The huge empire
which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was scheduled to
inherit before that summer day in Sarajevo was now a tiny
hapless nation sandwiched between the awakening
totalitarian forces that would soon overtake most of the
civilized world. Americans and Canadians read almost
incredible reports of disruptive and unspeakable events
across the ocean.

It was a year of willful suspension in the minds of most
Americans. World War I had not been fought on any U.S.
territory. Americans read the reports, but they seemed far

Very few persons who were old enough possibly to
understand that world of 1937 are alive today. The few
who are alive are at least 95 years old.

Of course, the world has been altered much beyond its
circumstances in 1937. A second world war was fought, and
following it, a “cold” war,, with the two ending fascism and
communism. A series of smaller wars or skirmishes have
followed between newer political forces. The precedent for
an attack on U.S. soil at Pearl Harbor  was followed 60 years
later by September 11 in New York City and Washington, DC.

China and India now each have populations of 1.3 billion
persons. They have growing economies and technological
capabilities. Europe was the site of a post World War II
recovery and boom as it created an economic union, but that
cycle seems to have been relatively short-lived as attempts to
impose a more political union have collapsed into old and new
religious, ethnic and cultural conflicts. The U.S. which emerged
as the dominant world economic and military power after
World War II and the Cold War has reached limits to its powers,
and with only a population of 300 million, apparent caps on its
economic hegemony in the long term.

The totalitarian innovations of the 20th century are no more,
but new totalitarian forces, which are as old as human history
itself, have not surprisingly reappeared.

A thoughtful and educated young man or woman living in the
U.S. in 1937 might have sensed something very big and terrible
was coming, but how could they have imagined what actually
did happen?

I’m old now, but I wonder what the young men and young
women of today, those under 20 years old, for example, are
thinking about what they see and hear and read about what’s
happening in the world today --- their world and what it might

I have long wondered what it would have been like to be a young
person in 1937, but I could not really understand it in spite of all
that we all know has transpired since that time.

It’s late now, but I’m beginning to understand.

 Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekly Campaign Update 11


The presidential campaigns in both major parties are moving
out of low gear in the two states which will vote earliest next
year. Until now, most of the candidates have relied on free media
and the televised debates to promote their causes, but both Iowa
and New Hampshire traditionally require “retail” campaigning
by the candidates themselves with shaking hands, local
appearances, and town meetings. Success in polling until now has
been precipitated by name recognition and news media coverage.
Already a certain volatility in polling has been provoked by those
campaigns whose candidates are both showing up and effective.
TV, cable and radio advertising also now begins in earnest, and
as initiated in 2008 and 2012, nomination campaigns are relying
more and more on social media and GOTV technology. This is
also the time when campaign cash, strategy and organization
begin to count more and more.

MORE IN 2016?
Events in the world and domestic terrorist threats are enabling
foreign policy and security issues to become much more important
in the presidential election than is traditional. Perhaps not since
1956 when a takeover of the Suez Canal by the British and French,
and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, occurred just before the
election, will foreign policy issues play such an important role in
the voting.

It always happens that just before the national elections, certain
U.S. house and U.S. senate seats, earlier thought completely “safe,”
become surprisingly competitive. This naturally occurs when there
are unexpected vacancies and surprise retirements, but often
incumbent gaffes and political blunders enable this to happen.
Although it seems extremely unlikely that Republicans would lose
control of the U.S. house, conventional wisdom about senate seats
could be upended by unpredicted circumstances. In any event,
six to none months from now, the list of “safe” Republican and
Democratic incumbents is likely to change.

Latest polls from New Hampshire show New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie rising to double digits and fourth place among his rivals.
Mr. Christie’s rebound is no accident; he has been campaigning
heavily in the first-in-the-nation primary state, appearing at town
meetings and performing “retail” politics. His favorables are now
the highest among GOP candidates in the state.The governor has
just opened a campaign office in Iowa where his poll numbers have
also previously been low. He is now almost certain to be back on
the stage at the next main Republican debate. Three other GOP
candidates also have made recent gains, including Donald Trump,
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa 2016

The term “Minnewisowa” as a political megastate made
its first appearance during the presidential election of
2004 in an op ed I wrote then in The Washington Times.
It was the re-election year for President George W. Bush,
and the race was going to be close. Living in the prairie
state of Minnesota, after growing up in Pennsylvania, and
attending graduate school in Iowa, I had become aware
how similar in many important ways were the tangential
states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. I often make
up new words, so Minne-wis-owa was a natural.

With 26 electoral votes, Minnewisowa is a battleground
powerhouse in a nation where an increasing number of
states had become predictably and almost inevitably “blue”
or “red.” Recently, the three states had leaned “blue”
(Democratic), but by 2004,, they appeared to be up for
grabs. Iowa, in fact, went for Bush in 2004, and Wisconsin
was very close. Later, in the Obama years, Minnewisowa
returned to blue, but once again in 2016, these states
appear to be competitive.

A recent Survey USA poll in Minnesota surprised most
observers with its results that showed Democratic
frontrunner Hillary Clinton trailing most of the leading
Republican presidential candidates. Dr. Steven Schier at
Carleton College, one of the most impartial and acute
observers of Minnesota politics, wrote that the poll might
be slightly overestimating  the GOP turnout, but even if
that is true, Minnesota is unexpectedly competitive. Most
observers would agree that Iowa and Wisconsin are less
blue on paper than Minnesota, and there are indications that
each of these states could also be presidential battlegrounds.

Minnesota and Wisconsin particularly usually have heavier
Democratic turnouts in presidential years, but Mrs. Clinton
does not seem, as elsewhere, to be generating very much
enthusiasm so far. Both Wisconsin, with its historically
socialist enclaves (in Milwaukee and Madison) and Minnesota
with its traditional populist enclaves (Minneapolis, St Paul
and the northeastern “Range”) show some significant
support for Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.

In the end, barring the unforeseen, virtually all Democrats in
these states will vote for Hillary Clinton if she is her party’s
nominee. Mr. Obama, however, generated exceptional
turnout in the black and other minority communities, and
among independent voters (about 25-30% of the total vote).
95% of an 80% turnout, it must be remembered is not the
same as 95% of a 60% turnout. Unless Mrs. Clinton can
change her public perception in the next ten months, she
could lose all or part of Minnewisowa. Just do the numbers.

Of course, the eventual Republican nominee is very important
in this electoral equation. A GOP ticket unacceptable to
regular conservative voters could keep them home, or even
make them hold their nose and vote for another ticket. The
current state of the GOP nomination contest reveals this

Iowa, as the first state to vote in the caucus/primary season,
has already drawn considerable candidate visits and attention.
With Governor Scott Walker now withdrawn as a presidential
candidate, Wisconsin will increasingly draw candidates when
they are in the Minnewisowa neighborhood. Most candidates
now already quietly come to Minnesota for fundraising. The
Gopher State has no statewide races in 2016, and lots of liberal
and conservative millionaires who can and do contribute to
campaign war chests.

In 2004, Minnwisowa was a battleground megastate. In 2008 and
2012, it was much less so. But in 2016, with the initial advantage
to the Republicans because of “Obama fatigue” and the unusual
lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, Minnewisowa could be
decisive in an election now shaping up to be hard-fought,
historic and close.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casseman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Origins of U.S. Intelligence

In  early June, 1942, a few days after I was born in Erie,
Pennsylvania, the U.S. Army requisitioned a private girl’s school
named Arlington Hall near its World War II military
headquarters in Virginia. The original facility was soon greatly
enlarged to accommodate about 5100 civilians and more than
2000 military personnel. Many of these men and women worked
for the Signal Intelligence Service (S.I.S.), the code-breaking
branch of the U.S. Army which specialized in “cracking” the
Japanese military codes, and intercepting Japanese secret
communications. (An equivalent site called Bletchley Park in
England similarly specialized in “cracking” the German codes.) 
Soon after the German “Enigma” code was deciphered by
British cryptologists at Bletchley Park, U.S. cryptologists, led by
legendary U.S. cryptologist William Friedman initially broke the
Japanese “Purple” diplomatic code. Later, in 1943, S.I.S.
cryptologists at Arlington Hall deciphered the Japanese military
code. These code-breaking achievements, it is generally agreed,
had much to do with the Allies winning World War II agains the
Axis Powers.

President Roosevelt asked General “Wild Bill” Donovan to create
the Office of Secret Services (O.S.S.) in 1942, and many of his
personnel were stationed at Arlington Hall. There was a great
deal of top secret Arlington Hall activity during World War II,
but there was also a small hospital facility located there which
provided medical services to U.S. Army nurses, S.I.S. and O.S.S.
personnel, and to U.S. Chief of Staff General George Marshall
and his staff.

I hope the reader will excuse my mentioning the post hospital,
but it will explain my special interest in this location as the
center of World War II U.S. Signal Corps intelligence services,
and partly the early days of the O.S.S. (which later became the
Central Intelligence Agency or C.I.A.). The commandant (post
surgeon) of this post hospital was my physician father, then
Major Hyman Lawrence Casselman, and I think I might say
accurately that I was among the youngest persons ever to visit
this secret site during wartime. By November, 1942, my
mother, my older brother Tom (who later grew up to be the
physicist who became one of the fathers of post-war top-secret
infrared detection technology), and I had moved to the
recently-constructed military officers family housing (today
converted to upscale condominiums) in nearby Fairlington,
Virginia. (S.I.S. chief Colonel William Friedman and his famed
cryptologist wife Elizabeth were neighbors and friends of my
parents in Fairlington).

Spending the first four years of my life there became a central
experience of my immediate family’s history, and although I
have only a few fleeting memories of that time, its narrative,
especially of my father’s fascinating experiences, has created
my lifelong interest in the origins of U.S. intelligence services.

The lore from World War II often construed the creation of the
O.S.S. as the beginning of the American spy system. It was true
that the U.S. had no organized or official spy network prior to
Pearl Harbor, (the FBI was supposed to do only domestic police
work), but we did have spies working for us in previous war
periods, including the Mexican War, Civil War,
Spanish-American War and World War I.

But what about before that? Particularly, did we have an
intelligence system in the Revolutionary War? The British
colonial army certainly did under the legendary Major John
Andre, who among other feats, lured Continental Army General
Benedict Arnold to defect and become our nation’s most
notorious traitor. (Major Andre was caught behind Continental
lines, and subsequently hanged as a spy.)

What did our commanding general, George Washington, have
to keep him abreast of secret British military movements?

Until relatively recently, we only knew about individuals such
as Nathan Hale (hung by the British as a spy at age 21 after
declaring “I regret I have but one life to give for my country.”)
Scholars and historians, however, have unearthed a large-scale
and very secret spy network that reported directly to General
Washington and his staff throughout most of the Revolutionary

Known as the “Culper Ring,” a relatively large number of
patriots and apparent loyalists were recruited by Major
Benjamin Talmadge beginning in 1776 in Setauket, New York.
The fascinating story of this important part of the
Revolutionary War has now been told in books, documentaries
and a partly fictionalized TV series called “Turn: America’s
First Spies”
(available on a DVD set). [The TV series, based
on a novel, is centered on the character of Abraham Woodhull,
one of Talmadge’s actual first recruits in Setauket, who is
portrayed as a married man having an affair with another
man’s wife. The real Abraham Woodhull was actually
unmarried through the period of the series, and is not known
to have carried on any affairs, but that’s show business.]

Operating initially without organized military intelligence in
1776, Washington was at a distinct disadvantage. There were no
modern communications then --- no telegraph, no telephones,
no radio or television, nothing but handwritten or verbal
communication carried by foot or horseback. Major Benjamin
Talmadge organized, at Washington’s order, not only a true spy
network, but developed a secret code for its communications.
(Washington did not ever know the true identity of most of his
spies, and some of their identities are still not known today.)
It was nothing like the vast operation at, and emanating from,
Arlington Hall more than 150 years later.  The Revolutionary
War network had failures and tragic losses, but it also had
notable successes that enabled General Washington and his
Continental Army to turn the war around and ultimately
succeed against the mighty British army.

Cryptologists in 1942 or today would have little trouble
“cracking” our earliest secret code (General Washington was
known, for example, by the numbers “711”), but it worked just
fine in 1777-1781.

We live in a time when codes, spies and intelligence operate
technologically “light years” ahead of those earliest days of
our history, or even of those days not so long ago during
World War II. We also live in a time of global and national
threats when good intelligence might well mean the difference
between survival and annihilation.

That is why I think the brief history recounted above is worth

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 27, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend Update 10

New York businessman Donald Trump continues to top the
polls in the Republican race for president. He was briefly in
2nd place when Dr. Ben Carson lead in a some polls, but
Carson now seems to be fading. Other candidates who seem
on the rise include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
After weeks of decline, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
has seen his polls rise slightly. Almost perpetually involved
in controversies, many of his own making, Mr. Trump’s
support persists among many who are polled regardless of
his statements, claims or attacks on other candidates. His
persistent support appears to be tied to his larger-than-life
personality, his deliberate political “incorrectness,” and his
ability to grab headlines and free publicity in the media.
This indicates he will probably continue to lead in the polls
until the voting in Iowa and New Hampshire. Should his
popularity survive until Super Tuesday on March 1 and
beyond, his candidacy could become much more formidable.

Incumbent GOP Senator lost his bid to be elected governor of
Louisiana, and has announced his retirement from the senate
as well. As a result, his seat will be open in the 2016 election.
While the Democrat won the governorship, a Republican won
the off ice of Louisiana attorney general, and the seat is
expected to remain in conservative hands. Nontheless, if New
Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (with one of the best-known
political surnames in the state) decides to run for the seat, the
race could be competitive.

The publicity surrounding student and faculty protests at
big-name public colleges and universities, as well as private
prestigious higher learning institutions, including Ivy League
schools, is approaching a coverage of a “cult of an historical
purge.” The irony of this is that the protests arise from the
accurate historical revelations, most of them already known, of
the mistakes and prejudices of major figures in American
history, most of them being Democratic Party icons. But instead
of a calm and thoughtful contextual discussion of these flaws,
the conversation has been transformed into the compulsion to
purge the names of these figures, which include Thomas
Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson, from the
history of the Democratic Party and the nation. Years before,
some university professors launched an attempt to impeach the
memory of Abraham Lincoln for his shortcomings, and since
the most “indispensable man” in the American revolution, George
Washington, was a slaveholder, it is probably only a matter of time
until the radical left attempts to “erase” him. too. Next on the
list, of course, would be Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and
Lyndon Johnson whose human frailties are already well-known,
but who remain liberal icons. Not all Democrats, of course, agree
with this cult of denial, but unless many of them speak up soon
to stop the purging, the Democratic Party will become a party of
ciphers with unknown parentage.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Numbers That Really Count In 2016

It’s almost a year away now, but it might be useful and sobering
to remember what will be the numbers that really count on
Election Day, 2016.

Those number s won’t be demographic figures, pre-election polls,
exit polls or even the actual popular vote. The numbers that will
count will be the numbers in the electoral college. There is a total
of 538 electors from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Each state is allotted  two electoral votes for  their two U.S.
senators plus one electoral vote for each of their members in the
U.S. house. The District of Columbia has no voting members of
Congress, but has been allotted three electoral votes.

In order to be elected president of the United States, a
candidate must receive 270 electoral votes, or a simple majority.
If no candidate receives 270 electoral votes, the election goes to
the U.S. house of representatives where each member of that body
votes for their choice by a majority vote. By law, they need not
follow the popular vote in their state. By custom, they vote for the
candidate of their own political party.

Technically, any elector might vote for any candidate he or she
chooses, but almost always electors vote for the candidate who
receives the most popular votes in their states. Two states now
have a variance on this, and divide their electoral votes by
congressional district. (A national movement which is gaining
steam now in the states would in effect eliminate the  electoral
vote in favor of the popular vote, but this will have no impact in

So what does the landscape of the electoral college vote look like

The electoral college numbers currently are up in the air. The
conventional wisdom is that its totals are very similar to the
actual totals in 2012 when Barack Obama was re-elected
president with 332 electoral votes to 206 for Mitt Romney.

It would appear, however, that the results of the 2016 electoral
college might be more divergent than conventional wisdom now
suggests. In the traditional scenario, the only states which might
change sides in 2016 are Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado
and Nevada (all won by the Democrats), and North Carolina,
Missouri and Indiana (all won by the Republicans). This scenario
suggests an advantage for the Democratic ticket.

Another scenario, now perhaps as likely as the conventional one,
has an expanded list of battleground states, and adds Wisconsin,
Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Mexico.
Each of these states cast their electoral votes for Democrat
Obama in 2012. If they become competitive in 2016, it strongly
suggests a Republican advantage in the presidential election.
The current poll weakness of  Democratic frontrunner Hillary
Clinton supports this scenario.  Even in very “blue” (Democratic)
Minnesota, a major recent poll has her trailing most of the GOP

Of course, these scenarios can change, but we are now only two
months from actual voting (in the Iowa caucus), and both fields
are shrinking (although the GOP field remains overlarge).

Recent international events have so far not helped either
President Obama or those Democrats who wish to succeed him.
The economy remains fragile. On the other hand, Republicans
continue to dally with inexperienced presidential candidates,
and risk throwing away the critical votes of independents.

What has remained constant so far in this cycle is the strong
winds of electoral unrest among voters on all sides. This will be
the key to which direction the political hurricane, now forming,
goes when it hits land only a few weeks from now.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.       

Saturday, November 21, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekly Campaign Update 9

Seemingly long ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was
among the brightest lights shining ahead for the 2016 race for
president. Then a local scandal was used to attempt to
derail his ambitions. As next year’s election approaches, Mr.
Christie seems to be making a comeback, especially in the early
caucus/primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa where he
has been campaigning hard. At least two major media
commentators have quite recently suggested he is making a
comeback, and poll numbers, for whatever they are worth,
show sharp rises for him among his field of rivals, and in his
favorables. Along with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Mr. Christie
is making the biggest recent gains only weeks before the
formal campaign season begins in earnest.

By now, the public has been witness to a pattern of forced
history forgetting among Democrats and radical university
students and professors who want to “punish” some of the
leading figures in past American life for some of what they
said or did in their own time. The latest “target” is none other
than the previously celebrated Democratic icon President
Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, it seems, held some very nasty
views about black Americans. Similarly, George Washington,
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson are to be “deleted”
from history by Democrats and liberals for being slaveholders.
Earlier, President Abraham Lincoln was demoted by some
liberal scholars for his known stand that he preferred to
save the Union over freeing the slaves. If this keeps up,
history books will have to report that the nation was founded
and later led by shadowy anonymous figures, not to mention
that Union Civil War soldiers were led by an anonymous
drunk commanding general. If we remove “womanizers”
from U.S. history, then those acceptable for public
biographies would fill less than one page of one book. Of
course, the shortcomings and mistakes of our past leaders
are not to be condoned, but since almost every figure in
American history had one or more flaws, where is the line of
forgetting to be drawn and imposed?

Even before he was chosen to be Barack Obama’s running mate,
Senator Joe Biden, once chairman of the senate foreign relations
committee, advocated dividing Iraq into three independent
countries so that Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds could live with much
less ethnic and religious strife. His proposal was greeted with
loud disdain by both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and
conservatives. Now, many years later, Biden’s proposal seems
to be a reasonable solution not only for Iraq, but neighboring
Syria as well.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 20, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The End Of "Liberal" Higher Education?

The current spectacle of campus upheaval in so many U.S.
colleges and universities is a dark omen for what has become
in recent years a “liberal” education. (Please notice that I do
not say “liberal arts” education.) Unfortunately, U.S. higher
education on very many campuses, including virtually all of
those which have traditionally held the most prestige, has
become overwhelmingly politicized to the far left, a
consequence of the views and impositions of many
professors at these institutions.

Campus life began to change dramatically in the 1960s as
many students and professors joined a national antiwar
movement protesting our involvement in Viet Nam. This was
the time that I was attending both undergraduate and graduate
universities, one in the East and the other in the Midwest. (In
full disclosure, I participated in some of those protests.)

After Viet Nam, campus life in most institutions of higher
learning “quieted down,” only to re-heat following the end of
the Cold War in the early 1990s when aggressive U.S.
radicalism and neo-Marxism, having no power base in the
then-defunct Soviet Union and the turning-to-state-capitalism
of China, went into political hibernation on American campuses.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, this
radical impetus was revived on campuses across the nation,
and was accompanied by the rise of “political correctness”
and various “hot button” issues such as global warming and

The attempt to intimidate college administrations by student
and professor protest, of course, is not new, but one might
think that college presidents today would have learned
something from the past. The shameful spectacle of college
presidents now pandering to these protesters indicates that
they have not learned much from the past.

In the 1960s, the most expensive college education (at an Ivy
League university, for example) was about $2500 per year. Today,
that price tag is approaching $70,000 per year! By paralyzing
campuses, destroying a true “liberal education,” and wrecking
the value of higher education in the work place, the current
upheaval, it would seem, is sowing the seeds of its own
destruction. How many parents, regardless of their own views,
are willing to shell out between $10,000 and $70,000 per year
per student for a degree that will have reduced or little value?

Colleges and universities will survive, but the current sad
spectacle will likely only hasten the demise of traditional campus
life. For the first time in history, there is a credible alternative,
and that is quality online higher education.

In their quest to destruct American higher education, the radical
students and professors only hasten the exhaustion of their own
unstable and self-annihilating movement.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Political Hara-Kiri?

The Democratic Party, already at a disadvantage after seven
years of an often unpopular Obama administration in
Washington, DC, seems on the verge of making a bad political
situation even worse as many liberals are mocking the majority
of Americans who are resisting the incursion of 10,000
potentially unsatisafactorally vetted refugees from the
Middle East.

It’s still early in the 2016 national/presidential elections, but
Mr. Obama’s evasion of widespread public opinion that this
sudden and carelessly managed influx represents a national
security danger, threat and risk could be a game changer that
not only defaults the election of a new president, but also
could bring about the hitherto unlikely result of Republicans
enlarging their majorities in the U.S. house and senate.

Many Democrats, it should be fairly noted, oppose this
incursion, but few have yet dared to oppose President Obama
publicly. Democratic solidarity, also to be fair, has worked often
in the recent past, especially while Republicans have indulged in
a visible and often nasty party civil war over various issues. But
nothing in politics lasts forever, and past solidarity to cover
internal dissension has, I think, reached its limit with this issue.

Half the nation’s governors, all of them Republicans except one
(Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, who is running
against incumbent GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte next year), have
declared they will not accept these refugees. They reflect
overwhelming public opinion in their states. Before the week is
over, more state governors will join this declaration.

This is not inherently a partisan issue, but the Democrats are
unilaterally making it one, at unnecessary cost to themselves.

The three remaining Democratic candidates for president,
including frontrunner Hillary Clinton, are asserting that there is
no security threat from an uncontrolled and suddenly massive
incursion of refugees. Since the terrorists usually choose New
York City, Washington, DC, Chicago, San Francisco and Los
Angeles as their favorite targets, how will that be understood by
the large majority of Democrats who vote in those cities?
Whoever is the Democratic nominee next year, can they win
even a single state advocating unvetted, massive immigration
of refugees who would be concentrated in large urban centers?

No reasonable person should be indifferent to the plight of
legitimate refugees anywhere. But where is it indelibly proven
that the only solution to their suffering is sudden and mass
emigration from their native lands? Would it not be a better
solution to remove the cause of their becoming refugees? Or if
some immigration is a good solution, should it not at least be
carefully managed and vetted?

The frail body of the European Union, already beset by economic,
ethnic and religious tensions, has clearly overstepped its
political compact on the refugee issue. Regimes will now fall.
Borders will be sealed. Nationalism will reappear as a majority

In the U.S., the consequences are yet unknown, but with a national
election imminent, this mystery will become solved soon enough.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Order Of The World

There are many words we use to describe how “life” in the
world is organized, but one of the most basic is the word
“order.” Like all human activities, “order” is both necessary
and potentially destructive (if improperly applied). Human
history is an account of alternating periods of order and

We are now fully in a period of global disorder. It has been
75 years or so since the last true equivalent era of this kind. In
fact, the last such period saw, as its consequence, the attempt
to impose a “new order” of violent totalitarianism. The
democracies of that time, after years of provocation, finally
woke up to the danger, and responded. In a remarkable series
of “close shaves,” the free world prevailed, but (it must be
remembered) only barely.

The human race is a very complicated species. Its civilization,
scattered over the planet, is filled with triumphs of science,
medicine, technology and growth. It is also filled with
tragedies of hunger, poverty, violence, persecution and terror.

Those who call for another “new order” often actually mean
to impose an order of the past, a past of violence and
self-destruction,  We do not need such a “new” order. We need
a “re-order” of our civilization with the goals of freedom,
global trade, and a determined effort to reduce human suffering

A “re-order, “ as it has occurred beneficially throughout history,
requires innovation, imagination, courage and self-discipline.
The next president of the United States, of whatever party, will
need to determine how to lead such an effort.

We are at a turning point.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Just before I sat down to write this post, I received from one of
my long-time readers and old friends, notice of a short story
written in 1919 by the great Czech writer Franz Kafka.
Although I have been myself a devoted reader of Kafka’s work,
I had somehow not read this particular story entitled “An Old 

This very short story recounts, from the point of view of an
unnamed narrator in some unnamed European capital who tells
us readers about the sudden influx of many foreign soldiers to
his city. A fortified palace in the center of this city is
presumably where the country’s government officials reside,
and the narrator indicates that those in the palace were
responsible for the foreign soldiers having come to the capital
where they encamp themselves outdoors and intimidate the
citizens who live in the city. The narrator makes the point that
the officials in the palace have closed their gates to the soldiers,
leaving the artisans and tradespersons who live around the
palace to deal with the intruders helplessly on their own.

Tragic events in Paris have just occurred again in Paris. ISIS
terrorists have in multiple attacks murdered and harmed about
500 persons in a coordinated attack in various venues in the
center of this famous city. These events follow only a few months
another terrorist attack against Jewish Parisians. There is a claim,
not yet verified, that at least one of the terrorists was one of the
Syrian refugees who have recently been coming into France and
the rest of Europe.

Terrorism is, of course, as old as human history. Modern terrorism
can perhaps be dated from the violent French revolution at the end
of the eighteenth century. Europe was again shaken by violent
revolutions in 1848, and anarchist terrorism emerged in
the latter part of the 19th century, culminating in the assassination
of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Archduke Franz
Ferdinand. An enormous and unspeakable world war resulted, and
after it seemingly concluded, another even more violent and
murderous world war occurred. Terrorism became the language
of revolution and war after 1945, and is today a worldwide epidemic
killing far more than Ebola or any other virus.

The United States finally had its on encounter with terrorism on
September 11, 2001, and remains under threat of further encounters.

I happened to be a student in Madrid in 1966, and in Paris in 1967,
when waves of protests swept those capitals. I had been a student in
the U.S. prior to and after that when anti-war protests were common.
The Baader-Meinhof gang terrorized post-war Germany at that time,
and in 1972, terrorists murdered Israeli athletes at the Olympics
held that year in Munich. The Soviet Union, in that era, used terror
to control its satellites, the small countries of Eastern Europe.

In light of this history, Kafka’s short story resounds indeed as an
“old manuscript.” Even today, those who live in the “palace” seem
unable to control the violence, even as also today the “artisans”
and “tradespersons” (ordinary citizens) bear the burden of the acts
of violent intruders.

Is it any wonder that the citizens of the European Union are
beginning to resist the decisions of their leaders who are allowing
hordes of unvetted refugees into their individual countries? Is it
any wonder that many Americans are alarmed at the steady
stream of “illegal aliens” into the U.S.?

As my readers know, I oppose deportation of Mexican and other
Hispanic "illegal" immigrants now living in the U.S. as impractical
and unethical, but I also deplore the failure of the government to
effectively secure our borders from further incursions, and to
make ALL immigration to the U.S. legal, orderly and secure.

Some very privileged and very spoiled college students, and
some who are not, are currently sparking petulant unrest in
the American university environment, creating disorder and
destruction of many college educations in the U.S. How long
this disruption will last is not clear, nor is it clear how long
the more violent disruptions in Europe and the Middle East
will persist.

Soon after the armistice of World War I, foreign soldiers
appeared as military occupiers throughout the defeated
Central Powers nations in Europe. This included the Czech
capital of Prague where the writer Franz Kafka lived. It is a
testament to his literary genius and prescience that his story
“An Old Manuscript” so aptly and chillingly captures a
recurring theme in what we so presumptuously call “modern

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Debate 4 And The Imperative Of Command

There is now a recurrent pitch from most of the candidates
in the Republican contest, i.e., “Elect me because I’ve done
” This is an eminently sensible and reasonable strategy,
but it has, paradoxically, relatively little to do with the true
reason voters will choose their nominees in 2016.

Resumes are important, even critical, a a starting point in
voter choice, but the real criterion is a subjective one, to wit,
who do I (the voter) think is best able to take command in the
Oval Office?

In 2008, without the benefit of a resume, the successful
Democratic candidate for the nomination was someone who
convinced voters he would take command. Even though I
personally disagree with most of his decisions as president,
I have to admit that he did take command in the office, and
he has imposed his world view on it. He defeated someone
with a good resume, but who could not convince her own party
that she could best take charge. I realize that Barack Obama
gained votes in his own party because he would be the first
black nominee, but Hillary Clinton would have then been the
first woman presidential nominee. If anything, she had the
advantage. I think it is clear that whichever of the two became
the 2008 Democratic nominee was, he or she would win the
presidency in November.

In 2016, the Republicans are in a similar position. Barring
some unforeseen circumstance (including a disastrous
nominee choice), the conservative party will likely win in
November, 2016. But there are differences between 2008 and
2016. One of those differences is the critical starting point of
a credible resume. Someone of Mr. Obama’s unprecedented
inexperience is someone conservative voters are not likely
to opt for in this cycle. Donald Trump has successful
business experience; Ben Carson has successful professional
(medical) experience; and Carly Fiorina has had successful
managerial experience. But only Mrs. Fiorina’s type of
experience is truly relevant to the office of president.

On the other hand, most of the other GOP candidates have
excellent resumes. Only a few of them are doing well.
I think that’s because, in spite of good resumes, most of the
GOP candidates have not conveyed to voters, either in their
campaigns or in the debates so far, that they are capable of
taking charge. In particular, I suspect that is at the base of
former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s problem. He’s smart,
he’s a decent man, he has experience, but can he convince
voters he could take command? Donald Trump took
command of the early part of the process, but the debates
are revealing, one after the the other, that he lacks the right
experience for the job. As the alternative “outsider” candidate,
who also has an appealing persona, Ben Carson has now
overtaken Mr. Trump in many polls, but so far has not
communicated a sense he could or would take charge in the
Oval Office.

That leaves three candidates, as I see it, who are now more
likely to prevail at the Republican convention in Cleveland
next summer (or  before). The current rising star is Florida
Senator Marco Rubio. The youngest, and an Hispanic, he
has shown poise in the debates. His self-confidence implies
command. Temporarily removed from the main debate,
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has shown the most
intuitive political talent, quick judgment on his feet, and an
ability to come back from adversity. Few could by now doubt
his ability to take charge. Although campaigning to the
narrowest base within the party, Texas Senator Ted Cruz
has demonstrated an aggressive intelligence and ideological
willfulness that could bring him many supporters who now
support Donald Trump. An Hispanic-American himself, and
like Mr. Christie, a former prosecutor, Mr. Cruz has shown
himself to be someone who could take charge.

A fourth possibility is Carly Fiorina. Her political resume is
only a losing senate race in California; but in the debates
she has shown how well-informed and forceful she is, and
her managerial experience, as I have argued previously, is
germane to the office of president of the United States.

Of course, when the actual primary and caucus voting takes
place, one or more of the other GOP candidates might emerge.
I have so far demurred from trying to second-guess the
voters; I have no reason to change that now by prematurely
predicting one who is going to in.

But I do offer to the reader my sense that 2016 is not just about
resumes and past performance. The office of president is a unique
position in the nation and the world. The person who holds that
office is someone that each of us, ally or opponent, friend or foe,
must deal with, look at, and listen to every day during the
presidential term of four or eight years.

In that light, the term “commander-in-chief” takes on greater
significance as we draw closer and closer to next November.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Secret Master Artist Among Us

Vivian Maier, until very recently, was known primarily to a
few hundred persons at most anywhere, and they all thought
she was only an eccentric nanny who obsessively shot
casual photographs.

Now, only a few  years after her death, Ms. Maier, is being
acknowledged as one of the master photography artists of
the 20th century.

In a documentary film (“Finding Vivian Maier” available on
DVD)) made by the amateur historian, John Maloof,  who
accidentally unearthed her never-exhibited life work of
photographs and films, Vivian Maier comes out of the
hidden shadowy facades of her day-to-day life, and into
focus as an artist-hero living secretly among us as if she
were a kind of aesthetic Superman or Batman or

She did not have, of course, miraculous powers of flight,
hyperstrength or x-ray vision. But like the aforementioned
superheroes and their ilk, she lived quietly and unnoticed
among us until she did “her thing” almost hidden from public
view. She once described herself as “a sort of spy.”

“Her thing” was a major life work of photographic images and
portraits of urban “street” life in the middle-to-late 20th
century, and although she did not ever show her work publicly,
nor was ever recognized in her lifetime, she was an obvious
genius with the camera.

As pointed out in the film, she still is not fully recognized by the
art photography establishment, but many of our contemporary
photography masters do acknowledge her, and the galleries and
museums which now have exhibited her work report record
crowds and intense interest by the general public.

For a long time, the cliche image of the artist be they a painter,
a sculptor, a poet, a novelist, a composer, a performing musician,
a dancer, a choreographer, or (of the newest arts) a photographer
or a filmmaker, has been one of very public eccentricity, visibly
romantic self-display and self-promotion. Almost every artist,
however long or short their life and creative period, produces a
body of work. Usually they strive for recognition, approval and
fame. A few are notably private, especially about their personal
lives --- the writer Samuel Beckett comes to mind --- and some
refuse prizes and awards, but almost always, artists strive to have
their work recognized in some way. Vivian Maier is the exception,
perhaps, that verifies this rule. She was a very secret genius, an
enigmatic hoarder who stored away thousands of her own
negatives, undeveloped rolls, and reels of films --- her entire body
of artistic work.

Her daily life was preoccupied with watching over other person’s
children. She was truly a full-time “nanny.”

Hers is so unlikely a story you couldn’t make it up. But the story
itself is irrefutable. We have the photographs, the 8 millimeter
films, and the oral tapes she made, as well as the consistent
testimonies of those who did know her personally.  She was born
in the U.S., but she affected a contrived French accent. She
hoarded small objects she found. She did not marry, and had no
children of her own. There is no evidence at all that she had any
typical kind of social life. No boyfriends or girlfriends. She was a
classical loner. And yet her work exudes a profound sympathy
and sensitivity for modern human urban life, with its darkness,
its humor and its tenderness, and the many anonymous human
beings who compose it ever day.

What we pass by every day, and fail to notice, Vivian Maier saw
and stopped to record. It’s quite a story after all.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekly Campaign Update 8

The 2015 off-year elections just concluded appeared to give
conservative candidates and issues a resurgence one year
before the all-important national and presidential elections
of 2016. Republicans elected two governors in Mississippi
and Kentucky. The GOP winner in Kentucky was an upset
victor. At local and state elections across the nation,
conservative issues won on many ballot questions, and
Republicans increased the number of seats they hold in
state legislatures. Following the landslide for the GOP in
U.S. house and senate elections in 2014, it appears that there
is growing “Obama fatigue” and unhappiness with the
liberal movement’s lurch to the left during the president’s
administration. Some important caution might be in order,
however, before predicting the continuation of this trend
next year. The GOP seems to be at its natural zenith in U.S.
house races, and the conservative party is defending more
than twice as many senate seats than the liberal party is
defending. Presidential years also, in the recent past, have
brought out the Democratic Party base in great numbers,
although it is uncertain that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic
frontrunner, can inspire voters as Mr. Obama did. Much
depends, it would seem, on whom the Republicans settle for
their nominee and ticket. The GOP presidential races remains
very unsettled and volatile going into the new year.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, along with Florida
Senator Marco Rubio, seems to be one of the few GOP
presidential hopefuls making some gains in the polls and
on the airwaves in recent days. Working off his standout
recent debate performances, and campaigning heavily in
Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Christie has seen his
favorabilty rise dramatically. The New Jersey governor still
trails in fundraising, and his national numbers are low, but
his campaign is showing early signs of breaking out in the
large field of contestants. In a late development, Fox News
has announced that Mr. Christie and former Governor Mike
Huckabee will not be in the next main GOP debate. This
could be a blow to Mr, Christie's campaign, but it could
also be a test of how he handles adversity. This developing
story could have unexpected consequences. Senator Rubio
has had even more notable recent gains, and is drawing
increased scrutiny as a result. He will be in the next debate/
Senator Cruz had an excellent third debate, and his poll
numbers are also rising, but it is believed that many voters
who could be drawn to his candidacy are now supporting
Donald Trump (who with Ben Carson continues to lead the
field in most polls). This contest is now entering a new phase
as the primaries and caucuses draw near.

Headlines across the nation every day tout new problems
and failures of the program popularly called Obamacare as
more and more individuals are being denied coverage, and
rates in many states are rising rapidly. The Affordable Care
Act, as it is officially known, is turning out not to provide as
much care as initially promised, and where it is in effect, not
so affordably. More and more Republican figures are offering
free market alternatives, including one by former Speaker
Newt Gingrich and one just put forward by presidential
candidate former Governor Jeb Bush. New Speaker Paul Ryan
is committed to repeal in 2017. The notion that Obamacare
cannot be repealed is turning out to be a myth.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Details Are Beginning To Count

The time has come when the details of the 2016 presidential
campaign are beginning to matter. The extended preliminaries are
now almost over, the debates have begun to have impact, and it is
now that the details of campaign organization and strategy are
having increasing impact.

Although the Republican field remains overlarge technically in
number, the “weeding out” of weaker candidates has already
begun. A few minor 2016 figures remain (e.g., Rick Santorum, Jim
Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul,
Lindsay Graham, et al), but a picture of the likely finalists is
beginning to emerge. The inherent volatility in this race prior to
the actual voting in primaries and caucuses continues, and will do so
until mid-January. Currently, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the
“flavor of the week,” and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush seems
“on the ropes.” Between them are the candidacies of Chris Christie,
Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Donald
Trump, each of them with their own gyrating poll numbers.

The debates have provided a great deal of “free media” to all the
candidates, and a few of them have capitalized on this exceedingly
well, particularly Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson, and Mrs. Fiorina. But now,
as the actual voting approaches, other critically important factors
come into the dynamics of the field.

These factors include campaign funding, campaign organization
and staff, campaign priorities on issues and candidate
appearances, some (but not all) endorsements, and the
campaigning stamina of the candidate himself or herself.

The most recent state polls reveal that “details” are beginning to
count for something. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, the
favorability numbers have shown some dramatic change in some
cases, particularly for Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
In Mr. Christie’s case, for example, he has gone from troubling
net negative favorables to significant net positives. This
development happened not only because of each candidate’s
debate performance, but also because each of them is
campaigning heavily in those states.

The number of personal appearances, however, does not alone
guarantee success. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Huckabee are already
well-known (from their 2012 campaigns) in both Iowa and New
Hampshire. It should not be a surprise that their numbers
remain static.

Mr. Bush’s numbers have taken a significant “hit” in recent
weeks, primarily because of his debate performances. He does,
however, have significant resources on the ground, including
campaign cash and organization. He is considered better at the
one-on-one aspect of campaigning, and both Iowa and New
Hampshire are “one-on-one” states. It might be premature to
write Mr. Bush just now.

The key, at this point, is pace, priorities and timing. If 
presidential candidates are to survive and succeed, they must
have resilience in resources and stamina.

The “First Four” primaries and caucuses (Iowa, New Hampshire,
South Carolina and Nevada) are not very likely to settle
the contest this cycle, and perhaps even the “Super Tuesday”
that follows on March 1st will not settle it. If that is so, some very
large “winner-take-all” states in the northeast and far west
remain to be counted before the convention.

Who stands the best chance to win these delegate-rich states
if the contest is down to three or four finalists?

That is the question we all might be asking after these
preliminary rounds of the 2016 cycle are concluded. The answer
could provide us with the name of the nominee, and, perhaps as
well, the next president of the United States.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 30, 2015


It’s ”report card” time  as the presidential debate season is
now well underway. Each commentator, be they a journalist,
an academic or a political operative pass out their
subjective equivalents of “A, B, C, D” or “F” as a response
to each candidate’s performance. Like almost everyone else,
I have been doing it, too.

But I am now wondering how useful these shorthand personal
evaluations (and that is what each one ultimately is) to a
process when there can be such divergence between the
self-styled “sophisticated” appraisals and how they are
actually being received and understood by the great number
of voters who make the only grading that truly counts --- with
their votes in the primaries, caucuses and then in the general

I think these reservations are particularly pertinent in a
campaign cycle when the party establishments and the media
establishments seem so distant from the various voter groups
and bases.

In the Republican third debate, with almost entirely the same
cast of candidates as in the first two, there was, I think, only
some limited variance in the performances of the contestants.
Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie,
Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rand Paul
and Mike Huckabee performed variations on themes and
styles already established. Of course, certain of them seemed
to do better or worse than previously, and the media predictably
and understandably looked for “gotcha” comments, weak
personality projections and other moments to build a reportage

There is nothing the matter with this if it reflects with some
accuracy what the viewers/voters think. But if the polls. focus
groups and grass roots unrest have any value, I think our
“report cards” might be more off the mark than we would like
to think they are.

Let me illustrate with specific examples. After the first (and so
far only) Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton was declared not
only the winner by most pundits, but re-installed as the
inevitable nominee. Yet there were signs that Bernie Sanders
had done better than reported. After the third GOP debate, there
is almost a universal declaration that Jeb Bush’s candidacy is
finished. The left-wing flagship, The New York Times, then
editorialized that Chris Christie should give up, notwithstanding
that he had seemed to give three straight excellent debates, with
his performance in the third debate possibly being his best so far.
Many say Ben Carson, who now leads in some polls or is second
in most others, is “too laid back” or “uninformed” to continue to
be in the first tier. Another cliche is that Carly Fiorina does well
in the debates, but fades in public regard afterward. John Kasich
is trying too hard, and not connecting, goes another pundit
narrative. He had been a media favorite after the first debate.
Marco Rubio, many now say, is coming on strong, especially
after he “demolished” his mentor Jeb Bush in a particular
exchange. Mike Huckabee is a nice guy, but too “hokey.” And so
on and so on.

Needless to say, all these commentators are supposed to say
something, so I am not suggesting they are not doing the job
expected of them, nor am I saying they are necessarily wrong.
But, as we saw initially in the 2012 cycle, there is now an
ultimately contrarian “rotation” of favorites in large candidate
fields over several months. In smaller candidate fields, such as
the Democratic field this cycle, when the frontrunner has so many
controversies and such high unfavorables, isn’t it premature to
declare the race over just because Joe Biden decided not to run?

The Democratic field is not going to get much smaller. Martin
O’Malley might kick himself if he pulled out too soon, as perhaps
Tim Pawlenty did in 2011. The Republican field, however,
probably has to get smaller, sooner or later, so that voters see
how the GOP finalists (whoever they might be) do under the
pressure of the interaction of the party’s best candidates (again,
whoever they might be).

The presidential debates are important and likely critical. Mrs.
Clinton might win her party’s nomination after all. Donald Trump
and Ben Carson might fade. Jeb Bush, at some point, might
withdraw. But so far, the 2016 presidential cycle seems determined
to defy easy predictions.

The reason for this is not capricious. The reason for this is the voters.
Each of us who comments on and tries to analyze this election might
want to remember this enduring and central fact of our political life.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.