I began the week with the sad news that former Secretary of Agriuculture Bob Bergland of Minnesota had passed away. As the agricultural advisor to the Presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter I had the opportunity to help Bergland get appointed to the job.
I was in New York at the Democratic Convention when I called Bergland to see if he wanted the job. I called his home number and his wife answered. She said that he was out on the farm hauling gravel. He called me back to say he was interested.
My next contact was when President Carter appointed him to the job. The Senate Agriculture Committee, where I was the General Counsel and Staff Director, had the responsibility to confirm him. We unanimously approved him immediately after the hearing.
Bergland’s tenure as Secretary was marred by President Carter’s Russian grain embargo. Angry farmers demonstrated in Washington. They invaded Congress and the Department of Agriuculture. I hated to see this, as well as the fact that Carter was a one term President. However, both were fine men. Bergland passed away at 90 years of age and President Carter is still alive at age 94.
Michael R. McLeod
Like many Americans, I was glued to the television viewing the funeral ceremony of former President George HW Bush. I never got to know him personally but I knew from meeting him a few times that he was a very good man. He was the antitheses of our current President Trump.
We could use a few of Bush’s sayings such as “a thousand points of light” and “a kinder gentler nation”. This is in sharp contrast to our current President.
This time of year also calls to mind the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre that occurred on October 27 in which 11 people were killed and 7 were wounded.
I am not saying that Trump is anti Semitic and hates Jews, but the hatred expressed in his rhetoric makes incidents more common.
At this time of year I think of my wife’s and my dear friends the Hirsch’s. The patriarch of the family was Brigadier General Edward Hirsch. He was the only person I ever met who served the nation in three major wars — World War ll, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. We always had Thanksgiving dinner together and I would propose a toast to him as my hero. He would demur and say “I didn’t do anything that anybody else wouldn’t have done. Even then he continued to serve his country by teaching at the Army War college.
My son Chris and the General’s grandson Andrew were the same age and were like brothers. Chris was only jealous that he did not get a Bar Mitzvah like Andrew did.
In my long career in the futures industry I got to know Leo Melamed, the Jewish founder of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. When I visited Chicago in February 2016 to race up the John Hancock Building I had a very good visit with him. He was surprised that I remembered the details of his book “Escape to The Futures” so well.
When Leo was a small child his parents fled Poland as the Nazi army of Hitler was taking over. They took the Trans Siberian railway to Japan . Then they took a ship to the United States.
Michael R. McLeod
This morning I awakened to the news that we lost another of the men who Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation”. This was a book that described the generation who fought in the second World War and then returned home to become productive citizens. Bush was 94 years of age.
I had two uncles, David Ramsey and Richard Ramsey, who also served in this war and returned to be very productive citizens. They would never talk about what they did in this war, but I know that they were foot soldiers who served in the Normandy invasion.
I never had the chance to get to know Bush personally, but when I did meet him I could tell that he was a good man by looking into his eyes. Bush served only one term as President, but his son George W. Bush served two terms.
I did get to know other members of this generation, such as Senators George McGovern, Bob Dole, and Daniel Inouye. Senator Dole is still alive at age 95. He uses a wheel chair but his mind is still good.
We owe a lot to this greatest generation.
There is a runoff election for the Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Cindy Hyde-Smith is in a tight battle with Mike Espy, who served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Administration of President Bill Clinton. He did more to enhance the Federal Crop Insurance program than any Secretary who ever served.
Cochran never supported the crop insurance program, and in fact voted against the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. He voted against it when he chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee, both in the Committee and on the Senate floor.
It was for this reason that I hired two Cochran protégés to help me whenI was the Executive Director of the American Association of Crop Insurers. The first was Macon Edwards who has since had a stroke and faded from the scene. The second was David Graves, a former Legislative Assistant to Senator Cochran.
My hiring of Graves to assist me on Crop Insurance proved fatal. I also had other heavy client responsibilities at the time. Graves only worked on crop insurance. He had been fired from his job as President of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, one of the best jobs in Washington.
Graves betrayed me and brought my career to an end. He convinced the current leadership that he was better at running AACI than I. This was set in motion when AACI leaders asked for a “succession plan” plan. Graves is only a few years younger than me, but not in nearly as good health. He is quite hard of hearing, and we would have to close the door of his office because he yelled into the phone.
The current AACI leadership has no idea what Mike Espy did for them. He was the best supporter of crop insurance of any Secretary of Agriculture who ever served. Unfortunately, he was brought down because it was found that he had let my late friend Don Tyson buy him some tickets to some football games.
It would be great for Mississippi to elect Mike Espy as its first black Senator. If I were still managing AACI we would be all in for Espy.
When I wrote my 2016 book “The Death of Civility and Common Sense: How America Has Become Dangerously Polarized” I had no idea how bad things would become.
At that time Donald Trump was only a candidate for the Republican nomination. Most people thought he had little chance of becoming the Republican nominee, much less our President. Moreover, most of our presidents have grown into the job after they became elected. This is a tradition that began with the election of our first president, George Washington. It has continued until modern times, when Ronald Reagan became president. He certainly grew into the job and left office as one of our most popular presidents ever.
The midterm elections were a serious setback for Trump and the Republican Party. As this is written Democrats have gained 33 seats in the House and could gain between 35 and 40 when all of the vote counting is complete. Republicans held on to their slim majority in the Senate, but this could change when more Republicans than Democrats are up for re-election in 2020.
Most alarming is how unhinged Trump has acted since his mid-term setback. He has attacked the news media, particularly CNN, more than ever. In a recent White House press conference. He had a young intern try to wrest the microphone from CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Then he revoked Acosta’s press credentials.
The freedom of the press in guaranteed in the First Amendment, which says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press —-“.
When one reads Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House”, one is more alarmed than ever. Already, Trump has fired several people. He fired Attorney General Sessions and replaced him with a crony who does not need Senate confirmation. It appears he will soon push out General John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, who has brought some order to the chaos there.
Things will get worse before they get better, but we will get through it. We will again be in the words of President Ronald Reagan the “The Shining City on the Hill”.