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By Tom McLaughlin
Four years ago I flew to Tucson, Arizona, rented a Jeep, and drove down to the Mexican border at Nogales. I wanted to see for myself what was going on down there. I turned right just before the Mexican crossing and drove west along International Street on the U.S. side of our primitive border fence. There, I encountered several modified, four-door, white and green Dodge pickup trucks scurrying around in a futile effort to stop the flood of illegals constantly sneaking over, under, and through the flimsy international "barrier."


The primary isn't until Sept. 9 but after editorial boards with U.S. Senate candidates Scott Brown and Bob Smith, the early consensus at the Sun is neither can beat incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

That's not to suggest Brown and Smith aren't heavyweight candidates. Both are former senators, very experienced, capable and dynamic, albeit in totally different ways.

Brown, who won a special election following the death U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, served two years representing Massachusetts before losing to Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

He's a bona fide rock star, and not just because he learned to play the guitar as an adult and played "Surrender" on stage at Hampton Beach with Cheap Trick.

Starting with a challenging childhood — his parents each were married and divorced four times — Brown worked his way up. He's a recently retired colonel in the National Guard, a lawyer, and got his start in politics as a selectman.

Conservative columnist George Will often refers to the "public choice theory" that holds that public officials pursue goals of aggrandizement as much as people in the private sector. The difference is in the public sector profit is measured by power rather than money.

That's Scott Brown. He's a top-of-food-chain guy and if he had chosen a career in the private sector he'd likely be a CEO of a multi-national company.

Instead, he's hustling for a Senate seat, taking the most convenient path through New Hampshire, a place he can lay technical claim to as home because he was born here and owns a home.

Politics, however, makes strange bedfellows, and even our own Rep. Gene Chandler, the most "native" of any politician we know, has saddled up to Brown as the candidate with the best chance of beating Shaheen.

The Odd Couple describes Brown's relationship with New Hampshire, and is personified by Chandler.

Picture in your mind's eye the two of them walking through the front door of the Daily Sun building.

Chandler, the embodiment of local New Hampshire politics, the guy whose year isn't complete unless he gets "his deer," and Brown, voted 30 years ago the "sexiest" guy in Boston having appeared in a Playgirl center spread.

Smith, meanwhile, is old-school Republican. Rock solid, a fiscal and social conservative, a man of character and his word, and totally comfortable in his own skin. One of his most refreshing lines is he says he's not a slave to polls and votes his "conscience, not his constituency."

He freely associates himself with the Tea Party, and shares its beliefs and values, but he's cut from a different cloth. Shrill, dismissive, intolerant language is not part of Smith's DNA.

He tells a touching story of his close relationship with fellow senator Ted Kennedy. Years ago when Smith's wife suffered a serious injury, Kennedy was his only colleague who offered assistance. "One out of 99," Smith said referring to the other 98 senators who didn't offer help, as he recalled one of his most meaningful personal moments in the Senate.

Smith also, and famously and infamously, is fiercely independent. He left the Republican Party while he was senator because as he says the "Republican Party left me."

And remarkably, he's not bitter despite being thrown under the bus by a president in his own party that cost him his career.

In 2002, Smith lost the primary to John E. Sununu, but only after political adviser Karl Rove publicly committed president George W. Bush's support to Smith, of which the president later reneged.

John E. Sununu's father, of course, was former governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff of George W.'s father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Smith learned a painful lesson that blood is not only thicker than water — but politics.

The day before Brown's visit to the Sun, his staff wouldn't release his schedule for publication. It didn't make sense, as Brown is skilled at retail politics.

When asked about it at the Sun's editorial board, Scott said he was being "tracked," meaning people taking video of him to make him look bad.

We discovered later that a renown British journalist from the Guardian newspaper was dogging him that resulted in an awkward moment at Priscilla's restaurant. Scott reportedly dodged the reporter by taking a trip to the bathroom rather than answering a question about the recent Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby.

That controversial 5-4 decision allowed a privately held company, for religious beliefs, to not offer health insurance that covered certain types of contraceptives.

For Scott, there is no right answer to the Hobby Lobby question. If he supports it to appease the conservative voters he needs to win the primary, the Democrats will hammer him in the general election.

Speak against it and he could lose the primary to Smith, who makes a good case that the polls showing Scott way ahead are misleading.

Smith says polls reflect the opinions of all registered voters, not just the 20 percent of the Republicans who vote in the primary, and who happen to be the most conservative of Republican voters.

Although he's willing to talk about it, Smith, however, will have his own problems with Hobby Lobby, which he supports, should he get though the primary.

In a lively exchange at the Sun's editorial board, when asked what would be the difference between Hobby Lobby not offering coverage on birth control, and, say, the Sun, not covering cancer, if the owners were Christian Scientists, Smith said birth control is not a medical necessity.

Biologically, he has a point, but as a matter of public health policy there is no hotter button than birth control, and determining which medical procedures and drugs are medical necessities is a slippery slope, and distinctions independent voters, who often decide New Hampshire elections, are not likely to make.

It's still early, but our money is on Shaheen.


An immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. They migrate and settle.
A refugee is forced out of their country to escape violence, persecution, war, or natural disaster.
These words mean very different things. Since the flood of child refugees knocking on the United States’ door began, the word “immigrant” is being used instead of the proper term, which would be refugee. It’s often preceded by the word “illegal.” The average age of these children is 11.
The same people who are desperate to force white women to serve as involuntary incubators because they venerate “life” so much are the same crew who are now shrieking and name calling about these children. Apparently the lives of imaginary white fetuses are far more important than the lives of brown children fleeing violence, traffickers, and rape.
The reporting on this topic is dreadful. The response is dreadful. The commentary from the far right fringe is dreadful. What these children have experienced already is worse than anything the U.S. xenophobes could possibly say.
Last week I spoke with Jen Smyers of Church World Service. CWS is a group of religious denominations that came together to help refugees after World War II. This is their mission. Jen told stories about the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – the countries these children are fleeing. They aren’t leaving their families by choice. Their families are sending them away in order to save their lives. Their families have been targeted for violence, and the governments of their countries are either unable or unwilling to protect them. The average age of these children is 11.
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Since the military coup in 2009 the violence has gotten worse. The coup was brought about by military forces that trained at the School of the Americas in Georgia, where we’ve been training the future despots and dictators for Latin America since 1946. The United States supported the 2009 coup, and we continue to send military aid to Honduras, even though they’re murdering and terrorizing their citizens. In the 1980s in Guatemala, the United States financed counterinsurgency campaigns with forces trained at the School of the Americas. Ronald Reagan supported the regime of Rios Montt, claiming he got a “bum rap” for his massacres of indigenous populations. Reagan also interfered in the civil war in El Salvador, providing exorbitant military aid to the nationalists, who used death squads to make people disappear. When Salvadorans attempted to flee to the United States, we sent them back. Many of them were never seen again.
In short, we helped create this mess. Remember what Colin Powell told President Bush about Iraq, “You break it, you buy it?” We’ve never applied that standard to U.S. interference in Central America. Now we have angry white people yelling at buses full of children in California. We have Rick Perry sending the Texas National Guard to the border. That should be a big help in dealing with traumatized children. And in New Hampshire, we recently had a group of yahoos on a highway overpass in Rochester, bellowing about illegal aliens.
They were headed up by Jerry DeLemus of Rochester, who most recently covered himself with glory out at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, where he defended the fraudulent claims of Cliven Bundy, welfare rancher. It was Jerry DeLemus who sent Jared and Amanda Miller away from the Bundy Ranch. After leaving, they headed for Las Vegas, where they killed two police officers and a civilian. DeLemus said he sensed something wrong with them, but naturally he didn’t bother to report that to law enforcement, seein’ as how he and the boys had their guns trained on the legal authorities.
DeLemus claims to be a Christian, and his wife wears a cross large enough to ward off even the most persistent vampires. Susan DeLemus distinguished herself while serving in the legislature by bellowing at an assistant AG during a ballot law hearing on whether Obama should be on the NH ballot. Mrs. DeLemus is a birther and one assumes that so is Mr. DeLemus. They’re both opposed to a woman’s right to medical privacy and bodily autonomy. Yet, there he was, on an overpass with Billy Baer, who most recently achieved renown for engineering his own “on camera” arrest over a book his daughter was reading at school. The daughter was at this protest. Apparently she was too delicate a flower to learn about date rape, but hardy enough for white supremacy.
Jason Margolis, writing about this for PRI, mentioned a protestor named Desiree Tumas. She believes that the gubmint is secretly bringing in “illegals” to the United States and placing them in New Hampshire. The far right fringe thinks that Obama is bringing the children here to vote Democrat. The average age of the children is 11. Tumas also bemoaned the idea of bringing in children when “we can’t take care of the homeless people we have.” The rest of the year homeless folks are filthy moochers, but suddenly, Ms. Tumas and her ilk are feeling all warm and fuzzy toward them. I’m certain that warmth has a very short half-life.
The most disturbing aspect of the PRI story was the quote from a 12 year old that has already assimilated the lessons she has been taught. She told the reporter that these children (many younger than she is) should be sent back because otherwise little boys and girls in New Hampshire will be kidnapped or killed because of “the illegals.” The average age of these children is 11.
These people aren’t brave enough to call themselves white supremacists. Just as well. They have no reason to feel superior. Teaching intolerance, cruelty, and hatred for children is unfathomable.
In New York Harbor the Statue of Liberty hangs her head in shame.  

Susan Bruce is a writer and activist who lives in the Mount Washington Valley. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com.

The Scarecrow Pub in Intervale has good food and pleasant waitresses and very large wheels in the side yard. I usually have lunch at the Scarecrow and I like to sit in a booth next to the windows looking out on the yard, and one or another of the nearby guests will often remark on the huge wagon wheels out there.
This makes sense, because they extend the barnyard motif suggested by the name of the place and by the make-believe scarecrows inside watching over the diners while they eat. That’s a reasonable thought, but those wheels in the yard are not wagon wheels, they’re much too big for any imaginable wagon, they’re tree wheels.
The first great age of building in America was done by farmers and they used wood for their houses and barns because the land was almost entirely covered with trees, not bricks. The trees were a problem, because they’d been growing forever and they were much too big for the men to handle with any of the usual grunt and tug methods. Tractors were still far away in the unimagined future, so when they’d cut a tree down they’d trim off what they called the lops and tops, and they’d go to work on the main trunk.
They’d roll their wheels over it, chain the trunk to the axle, and hitch up their team of horses or oxen. This could still be a terribly difficult pull, so if there was a son on the crew he’d go on ahead and spread grease on the roughest places.  
Cutting a tree into manageable lengths was done with a cross-cut saw, and the name is still used for cutting across the grain of wood. Cutting the logs into boards was more complicated. The men would dig a narrow trench eight or ten feet deep and a log would be rolled onto a frame that would position it lengthwise over the trench. One man would stand on top of the log and pull up on the saw and another man would be in the trench pulling down on it, so the blade would go up and down and up and down and up and down.
   There’d usually be a third person on the job, and it would often be the son of one of the men who wasn’t grown up enough for the really hard work. As the cut went deeper into the log the friction could build up to the point where it was difficult to move the saw at all. Now the young fellow would stand next to the cut and splash kerosene on the blade of the saw.
The cutting was done by men called sawyers, one of America’s favorite writers lived in Hartford, Connectucutt, and he gave that name to the family of his young hero named Tom. That fellow’s best friend was a member of the Finn family, who gave him the name of a wild fruit that grew in the area, the huckle berry.
The  story-teller’s name was Samual Clemens, but he didn’t use that name on his writings, he borrowed a phrase from the time when most commercial material, and many people, too, would travel on boats along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The depth of the water would change with melting snow in the north and with rainfall everywhere, so a man would stand in the bow of the boat taking measurements. The safe depth was at the second mark on his staff, so he used an old-fashioned word for two, which was twain, and when all was well on the river he’d call out “mark twain.”
River travel was not an important part of the economy in our part of New England. This was lumbering country to supply the builders who were at work making the places we’d work and live, and the most aggressive of the operators simply mowed the forest. Then the fallen trees would have to be cut into boards, and in the early years of the trade the first job was to dig a long narrow ditch and roll the logs onto a frame over it.
The man in the ditch pulling down on the saw was called a pitman, and an old Jackson family is remembered by that name on the road going up the hill to Black Mountain. There’s a large field on the west side of the road that we always called Pitman’s Pasture, and my weather-wise brother would mark the beginning of the spring season when, as he’d say, “The Peepers Peeped In Pitman’s Pasture.”
    The place we live on is farther up the hill. It was bought by our great-grandmother in 1902 and our family name is an old English word for hill, but I’ve never thought we should lobby the selectmen for “Hill’s Hill.”

Nicholas Howe is a writer from Jackson. He is author of “Not Without Peril.” E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

by David M. Shribman

Wow. A reputable poll shows that the public believes Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II. Worse than Richard M. Nixon, driven from the presidency by Watergate? Much. Worse than Jimmy Carter, for decades the very symbol of the feckless chief executive? Loads. Worse than George W. Bush, still a lightning rod on the left and a symbol of disappointment on the right? Definitely.

These startling poll results set loose the predictable reaction: A flurry of told-you-so nods on the right and a fusillade of this-tells-us-nothing assertions on the left. For once, they're both right.

Obama is in trouble, no matter how carefully you peel through the Quinnipiac University poll that is causing such a firestorm. There's almost no good news there, or anywhere else, for the president. Then again, this worst-president poll sheds little light. Almost every veteran observer of polls and presidents will likely attest to that.

First, the trouble.

Obama has it, in several dimensions. The public is split evenly — 48 percent to 48 percent — on whether the president is honest and trustworthy. It's split fairly evenly on whether he has strong leadership qualities, with a slight advantage to those who think he doesn't. The same for whether the president cares about "people like you," with the same slight advantage this time to the president.

Here's the big one. By a fairly substantial margin (45 percent to 38 percent), the public believes the nation would be better off had former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts been elected two years ago rather than Obama.

No one can possibly argue that these figures are good news for the president, who is dealing with an immigration crisis at the Mexican border, a crumbling Iraq, an uncertain Afghanistan and an economy that hasn't bounced back fully. How Barack Obama, employing the idiom of hope and change, would love to run against an incumbent president with a portfolio like that!

Now, the sobering bucket of cold water for the Obama critics.

With the exception of three occupants of the White House (all war presidents), presidents tend to grow in stature as their administrations grow more distant in the rear-view mirror. The exceptions, according to Gallup figures in The New Republic, are three of the most beleaguered modern presidents: Lyndon B. Johnson (Vietnam), Richard M. Nixon (Vietnam) and George W. Bush (Iraq and Afghanistan).

Foreign crisis doesn't assure that phenomenon, however. Jimmy Carter is rated substantially more favorably today than he was when he was in office, and he dealt with a hostage crisis in Iran that persisted for 444 days and, arguably, doomed his presidency. George H.W. Bush is also more favorably regarded today than he was while in office, and he was a war president (Desert Storm).

The canary of caution in this political coal mine is the poll rating for Harry Truman, who left office with a 32 percent approval rating — and a 56 percent disapproval rating, according to Gallup. That represented, by the way, a substantial improvement from his ratings (23 percent approval, 67 percent disapproval) a year earlier, just before Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee upset Truman in the New Hampshire primary and prompted the president's withdrawal from the 1952 race.

But the country, which was, as the phrase went, mild about Harry and had concluded, as another aphorism of the time put it, that to err was Truman, changed its mind, albeit slowly.

One of the signposts along that journey was Merle Miller's "Plain Speaking," an oral biography of the 33rd president that emphasized his down-home attitudes and attributes, a marked contrast at the time of its publication (1974) with Nixon, who resigned that year. Indeed, it is instructive to realize that "Plain Speaking" reached booksellers' shelves just a year after Arthur M. Schlesinger published his "The Imperial Presidency," aimed in large measure at Nixon.

Truman's revival was sealed less than two decades later when the historian David McCullough published his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the man whose hometown of Independence seemed to be a description of his character. Suddenly Truman, regarded as an accidental president who was also accident-prone, took on a heroic aura, one that persists to this day.

In the Quinnipiac survey, zero percent of Americans singled out Truman as the worst of the last dozen presidents. That figure applies to Republicans as well as Democrats.

Now have a look at George H.W. Bush, who was soundly defeated for re-election only 22 years ago, dismissed as a fusty symbol of the past and considered out of touch with the public, a hopeless elitist with an awkward bedside manner. This summer, Bush, at 90 a beloved figure and an unassailable symbol of American prudence, wisdom and grace, was considered the worst president by only 2 percent.

The same phenomenon applies to the man who defeated him in 1992, Bill Clinton, who left office with unusually high ratings for a president who had been impeached. Eight years ago, 16 percent of those surveyed considered him the worst president. This summer, only 3 percent do.

One final example: Dwight Eisenhower, regarded as a duffer at his departure from the White House, so much so that John F. Kennedy, who tried to make vigor a qualification for leadership, used Eisenhower as a foil. Today, only 1 percent of Americans surveyed consider Eisenhower the worst president. The revival of his reputation was begun by Fred I. Greenstein's "The Hidden-Hand Presidency" — and by the realization that, aside from wrapping up the Korean War, which he inherited, he sent few Americans into combat during his two terms in office.

The message here is not that Obama isn't troubled as he rounds the clubhouse curve and heads toward his seventh year in office. It is that Americans' judgments aren't final.

"I knew from the bitter experience of all public men from Washington on down, that democracies are fickle and heartless, for democracy is a harsh employer," said the 31st president after he was defeated for re-election. Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 presidential race to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is still waiting for redemption. But most of his successors have won it. So, too, might George W. Bush and Barack Obama — both hired twice by the country's harshest employers.

David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or follow him on Twitter at ShribmanPG. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has a vacation home in Kearsarge.



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