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National Govt & Politics
In the halls of Congress, John McCain cut a unique political path
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In the halls of Congress, John McCain cut a unique political path

In the halls of Congress, John McCain cut a unique political path
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

In the halls of Congress, John McCain cut a unique political path

As news arrived Saturday evening that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had died from an aggressive form of brain cancer, it ended the career of a 'maverick' Senator who managed to frustrate both major politcal parties at times during his almost 36 years of service in the U.S. Congress.

"John’s voice will be missed in the Senate and around the world," said former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who admitted "I had my differences with John," but like many other colleagues, they saw a Senator who cut a unique path through the Congress.

"I traveled the world with John, particularly to Iraq and Afghanistan, many times and the way he was respected around the world and among the US military was always so inspirational," Chambliss said soon after word of McCain's death was announced.

First elected to the House in 1982, and then to the Senate in 1986, McCain was one the few veteran members of Congress who could honestly say they drew intense scorn from Democrats and Republicans along the way, especially during his two bids for President in 2000 and 2008.

"I want to do the hard things," McCain told voters in 2008, as his "Straight Talk Express" bus gave reporters all sorts of access to the candidate in early primary and caucus states, while the Arizona Republican rumbled from town to town.

On the campaign trail, he delighted in doing town hall meetings - especially in New Hampshire - where he relished the give-and-take with voters that most candidates seem to avoid.

"You come to the town hall meetings because you want to see the candidates, you want to examine them," McCain said in 2008 gathering in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

In Congress, he broke with Republicans on campaign finance reform, over torture after the Nine Eleven attacks, and more. But he routinely didn't go far enough for Democrats on a host of issues, especially with his hawkish views on the military and defense.

"When I'm President of the United States, the first pork barrel bill that comes across my desk, I'm going to veto it, and make the author of it famous," McCain said in 2008.

Most Republicans don't like to admit it, but McCain was a "Tea Party" Republican on wasteful spending well before many now in the Congress, as he routinely took to the Senate floor to verbally barbecue his colleagues on provisions they had stuffed in spending bills.

"$15 million to establish a new grant program to quote 'improve' the U.S. Sheep Industry," McCain said on the Senate floor, as he laid into the details of a major farm policy bill, mocking provisions that funded everything from pine tree testing in Florida to moth pheremones.

"I have no clue what a moth pheromone is," McCain admitted during his farm bill diatribe. "When did it become a national priority to study moth pheromones?"

While McCain would attract press attention as he railed against various items in giant bills, his speeches would often come just before the Senate would overwhelmingly reject his arguments, as the Arizona Republican was often a lonely voice on spending.

His colleagues in both parties often bristled when McCain would go on one of his anti-spending rants on the floor, but the Arizona Republican actually lived up to his word, always telling voters that he never asked for a home-state spending earmark during his time in office.

In the halls of Congress, McCain was a favorite of reporters for a variety of reasons - first, he took positions which often were at odds with his own party, and second, he could always be counted on for a sharp-nosed quote, as the quick-witted McCain clearly enjoyed the back and forth with reporters.

For a number of years when Bob Schieffer of CBS sat across from me in the press gallery, McCain would often stop by to chew over the latest happenings in Congress, and dispense some wisdom as well.

Told by his Press Secretary that I was having trouble on the dating scene, McCain had a quick suggestion.

“Why don't you come by the office and see the new crop of interns we've got, McCain said with a big grin.

“Maybe that will change your luck.”

Despite his good-natured ways with the press and his colleagues, McCain didn't suffer fools gladly.

"Maybe the Senator from Kentucky should know the rules of the Senate," McCain said to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a frequent target of his verbal barbs.

"Get out of here, you lowlife scum," he barked at a group of Code Pink protesters at a Senate hearing in 2015, threatening to have them arrested.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

McCain almost always stopped to talk to reporters in the hallways - the above photo (taken by Melina Mara of the Washington Post) was a great shot of him expressing his outrage over something, with me in the background getting the latest quote on tape.

McCain's scrums with reporters were often rapid fire sessions that delved more deeply into actual details of policy debates than most of his colleagues - but he also had a bit of a "Get off my lawn" feel to him as well.

"I'm not talking about President-Elect Trump," McCain said pointedly to reporters pursuing him in the Capitol, in November 2016. "I will not talk about Donald Trump."

https://cmgwsbradiojamiedupree.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/mccain-wont-talk-about-trump.mp3

Of course, McCain did end up talking a lot about Donald Trump, with one of McCain's final legislative moves being a late night vote against a last-ditch GOP health care bill in 2017, dooming the President's efforts to overhaul the Obama health law.

Mr. Trump - who famously said that McCain was not a war hero, because he was captured after being shot down over North Vietnam - constantly refers to that health care vote by McCain at campaign rallies, but almost never says the Arizona Senator's name.

The President paid tribute to McCain soon after his death was announced.

The final irony of McCain's life came in the timing of his death - as he died nine years to the day that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) died - both from the same form of brain cancer.

Like Kennedy, those who worked on Capitol Hill watched McCain struggle with his health problems - much as one would watch the decline of a family member - as McCain's departure in December of 2017 was a difficult sign of what was coming.

"The idea that he and Senator Kennedy can go back to arguing over policy however makes me smile," said Kennedy's long time aide Jim Manley, who acknowledged a 'complicated' relationship with McCain.

That was true of both Democrats and Republicans, one reason the 'maverick' McCain will be remembered for years in the U.S. Capitol.

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Local News

  • There is a chance of rain and thunderstorms for Athens and northeast Georgia. The threat of severe weather, apparently diminishing overnight, nonetheless leads several school districts in south Georgia—Albany among them—to cancel classes for the day.  From Channel 2 Action News… There are several metro Atlanta counties under a Tornado Watch early Friday morning as a line of storms and rain move into the area. Severe Weather Team 2 has been tracking the system all week as it moved through the country. The Tornado Watch has been issued for Troup, Meriwether, Pike and Upson counties.
  • The University of Georgia gymnastics team begins competition in the NCAA Finals: the Gym Dogs are taking part in the tournament set for this weekend in Fort Worth Texas.  “We’re peaking at the right time,” says Georgia coach Courtney Kupets Carter. Oklahoma is ranked first going into the tournament. UGA is eighth.
  • A Newton County fine arts teacher faces two felonies for allegedly sexually assaulting students last month, authorities said. Christopher Ehren Matyas, born in 1980, of Covington, was arrested Thursday and charged with two counts of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority, according to a sheriff’s office arrest report. He was a teacher at Alcovy High School, and both school employees and students reported the alleged sexual assaults on March 22, according to the police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News. Newton County School District spokeswoman Sherri Davis sent the news station a statement that said, in part:  “School officials launched an investigation and immediately reported the allegations to local law enforcement. Mr. Matyas was removed from the classroom setting and placed on leave during the course of the investigation. He will not return to the classroom.” He’s out of jail on a $16,700 bond, records show.
  • A White County judge denies bond for Mitch Simpson. The former Cleveland car dealer closed his auto lot earlier this year; he was arrested in March on theft charges.From WSB TV…   A north Georgia car dealer was denied bond Thursday in what’s now being described as a more than $2 million fraud and theft case, prompted by a Channel 2 investigation. Mitch Simpson was arrested and charged with three counts of felony theft by conversion late last month. They were tied to unpaid state vehicle taxes in which nearly 60 buyers say they paid Mitch Simpson Motors for their purchases, but their TAVT taxes were left unpaid and their titles were never delivered. Those purchases spanned a time period between late 2018 and early 2019, right before the Cleveland dealership shut its doors, and the buyers came to Channel 2 after unsuccessful attempts to contact Simpson. Soon the Georgia Department of Revenue began working with the White County Sheriff’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office to investigate the case. On Thursday, the Georgia DOR filed two additional theft charges in the case and argued against bond in Simpson’s case. A prosecutor revealed a much larger, complex case while highlighting Simpson’s 2011 federal conviction in a car loan scam. He served probation in the case, while several other co-defendants went to federal prison. In addition to $385,000 in unpaid vehicle taxes that were collected, prosecutors say Simpson failed to pay multiple floor planning companies $780,000 for vehicles they financed. Those companies essentially act as a bank for car dealerships, lending them the money to provide inventory on car lots. In a third tier of the ongoing investigation, prosecutors allege Simpson double and sometimes triple-financed the same vehicle through the lenders, pocketing about $1.3 million. Simpson’s attorney hit back at those allegations after a state investigator told the court Simpson’s personal bank records had been subpoenaed but not yet analyzed. Search warrants netted titles and documents from Simpson’s Habersham County home, as investigators say evidence was taken out of the car dealership building. “He has a compelling story, and there are certainly issues with the state’s case,” defense attorney Jeff Wolff told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. Wolff highlighted in court that Simpson simply managed the namesake lot and that it was owned by his former in-laws.  No one else has been charged in the case, and employees of McGregor Financial, the dealership’s in-house financing company, have cooperated with investigators. They’ve maintained their role was financing and Simpson had access to accounts and paid the bills, according to investigators’ testimony. “It was an underfunded business,” Wolff said. “And that’s a large gap between an underfunded business and criminal enterprise.” About a half-dozen friends and family members served as character witnesses for Simpson, arguing against a notion that he’d serve as a flight risk in this case. Perhaps his strongest supporter was his 86-year-old mother, Elsie Hogan, who said Simpson never had a desire to leave his north Georgia roots, even when he faced trouble in his earlier federal case. “He says he’ll never fly until he gets his wings and goes to heaven,” Hogan said. Hogan also revealed she’d used yard sale money to pay for Simpson’s heart medication while he was in jail. She pushed back against any suggestion that he’d profited from stolen car lot funds. “He has no money at all. He has nothing. He has nothing, sir,” Hogan said, answering Wolff’s questions. Nonetheless, Superior Court Judge Joy Parks ruled against bond in the case, citing the complexity and seriousness of the newly-revealed allegations. A grand jury is set to convene in June. The good news for Simpson’s car buyers is that they are receiving their titles. Fifty-three of the car buyers affected are from Georgia, and the state says it worked with those floor planning companies to get the missing titles. “We've been able to obtain 52 (titles) with the help of the Attorney General's Office. It's been a great win for us,” said Josh Waites, director of special investigations for the Georgia Department of Revenue. The department says it continues to receive complaints tied to purchases from Simpson. Outside of court, car buyers Paul Cleiman and Justin Mathis thanked Channel 2 for exposing the case. Both men have either received titles or expect them any day after four months of uncertainty. “It’s been a long battle,” said Mathis. “We appreciate you, Nicole. We wouldn’t be here today without you.” 'I don’t think it was getting any attention until you stepped in and got the Department of Revenue involved,” Cleiman said. “We need justice, and I think that’s been served today for now.”

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his staff will spend hours breaking down film of the G-Day Game exhibition, and the players will, too. But there are some things that don’t require any sort of instant replay and should have been obvious to all. Here are three quick takeaways from the Bulldogs’ annual scrimmage: Backup QBs better than expected For all the hand-wringing that took place when Georgia’s primary backup transferred to Ohio State, the Bulldogs look to be in good shape at the position. Saturday wasn’t Jake Fromm’s best day, but everyone has seen enough from the rising junior and team captain to know he’ll deliver in 2019. RELATED: Jake Fromm ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ Former UGA walk-on and junior college QB Stetson Bennett and early enrollee D’Wan Mathis were two of the most pleasant surprises for many in the G-Day Game, however. Teammates saw what Bennett could do in bowl practices in 2017, and Smart said during the SEC Network broadcast that he had already seen what Mathis was capable of during spring drills. But for Bennett and Mathis to look so good — each in his own way — with the bright lights showing and fans in the stands had to help the coaches sleep easier while validating James Coley’s promotion to offensive coordinator for the few remaining doubters. Bennett was the most efficient quarterback on the team on Saturday, looking comfortable in the pocket when taking snaps for the Red Team and Black Team. Bennett was a combined 12-of-23 passing for 210 yards with a TD and no sacks. The 6-foot-6 Mathis showed off his big arm (a well-placed deep pass was dropped) and eye-popping foot speed. The freshman from metro Detroit was 15-of-28 for 113 yards with an interception, but he also had a 20-yard scramble and caught a 39-yard TD pass on a trick play. Secondary on point Georgia’s award-winning film crew has put out tremendous highlights on its Twitter account through spring and, let’s face it, the sight of a receiver skying high to catch a pass is more pleasing to the football eye than a DB deflecting a pass. But Saturday showed us what else has been happening behind the walls Smart has put up around the program, and it didn’t take long. Eric Stokes burst on the scene at Missouri last season, and since then it seems at each turn he’s making plays and standing out. Stokes’ Pick-6 of Fromm on the opening drive was a “Wow” moment, and the first-team secondary made lift hard on the starting quarterback the rest of the day. The UGA quarterbacks were a combined 43-of-83 for 489 yards with 3 TDs and 2 interceptions — and were sacked seven times. Considering the quarterbacks weren’t “live,” and the defense was laying off on big hits, those are not overly impressive passing numbers. Mark Webb had 3 pass break-ups to lead the secondary, and William Poole and D.J. Daniel each had 2. In addition to Stokes’ interception, Latavious Brini also had a pick. There were only two runs of 20 yards or more — Swift had a 27-yarder, and Mathis sprinted for 20 — and two conventional passes that went for more than 25 yards. Early enrollee Lewis Cine, the No. 3-ranked safety in the 2019 class, had 8 tackles — sharing team-high honors with returning safety starter Richard LeCounte.   Eric Stokes talking about his Pick-6 at the beginning of #GDay pic.twitter.com/Tt4gVHsLtb — 960 The Ref (@960theref) April 20, 2019   Program locked in The Georgia G-Day Game had every reason to be a flop, the cold, damp and windy weather was horrid, and one of the most electrifying players on the team was sidelined by illness. Instead, more than 50,000 Bulldogs tuned out and the Red Team and Black Team came sprinting out of different tunnels and played with great exuberance. A mic’d up Smart put the showbiz aside, interrupting questions and breaking sentences mid-stream to coach his team with every bit of the same fervor he shows in practice each day. Everybody on the team was intent on having their best day, which only seemed to make Fromm feel worse in the post game as he repeatedly beat himself up over his performance. That’s how intense and locked in the Georgia football program is right now, from the fan base, to the head coach, into the locker room and spilling out on the field Saturday. Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Matt Landers discusses his G-Day performance WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game Georgia G-Day Game football report card   The post 3 takeaways from G-Day: Georgia football quarterbacks surprise appeared first on DawgNation.
  • G-Day in Athens is much more than what happens on the field of play. 
  • ATHENS — Clearly, the Georgia Bulldogs have big plans for Matt Landers. Believe it or not, they’re not based on him throwing touchdown passes. Landers, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman receiver from Pinellas, Fla., was unable to haul in a touchdown catch during the G-Day Game on Saturday. But he threw for one. The 39-yard TD throw came on a reverse off a lateral from running back James Cook and it was caught by quarterback D’Wan Mathis midway through the third quarter. That gave Landers something Mathis wanted — a TD pass — and Mathis something Landers wanted — a TD catch. But nobody was complaining afterward. “I didn’t see that coming,” Landers said with a laugh. How could he have? Landers said they didn’t even practice the play. He said it was something that Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley drew up for the Black Team during Friday’s meeting-room preparations. Coley made it clear they were going to run it on Saturday. They just weren’t sure when or how well it would work. “It worked,” Landers said with a laugh. “We didn’t practice it at at all. We just went over it. Coach Coley drew it up and we came out here and did it today. It just worked.” To perfection, in fact. It’s nothing that we all haven’t seen in little league, or somewhere along the line. Running back James Cook went left and took a handoff from Mathis, who went right. So did Landers, coming from the left side of the field on a revers. “The DB that was on me came on a blitz and they tackled Cook, so they thought the play was over,” Mathis said. “When he pitched it to me, I saw D’Wan wide open and I knew that was my chance to throw. The ball came out good and we executed and scored.” That was a fun play, but not really what Landers was focused on coming into Saturday’s scrimmage or going out. Landers was targeted early and often in Saturday’s G-Day Game. In the end, though, he came away with only two catches for 54 yards. That 52 of those yards came on one catch did help him process the disappointment. “Really it’s just getting an opportunity,” said Landers, who was a 3-star prospect coming out of St. Petersburg High Schoo. “Seeing that a lot of guys left, I knew I was going to be the guy that had to step up. I’d been hearing I have a lot of potential, but I just wanted to go out there and see for myself.” Landers was targeted on deep balls at least two other times on Saturday. But he was unable to come down with either one, a point of contention for coach Kirby Smart. “We’ve seen flashes of really good things from Matt; we’re seeing more of those flashes; with those flashes, we’ve got to see him come down with some 50-50 balls,” Smart said. “There were a couple of balls I thought he should have pulled down early and get going. He’s become a better special teams player, too. He’s able to contribute and been more competitive. We need Matt to really step up for us.” That’s not the first time Landers has heard that. He has been hearing it from receivers coach Cortez Hankton and pretty much everybody else who sees him practice every day. With the departures of leading wideouts Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin, it’s hard not to notice the tall kid from Florida who also happens to be one of the team’s fastest players. “He’s fast, he’s got great hands, he comes out of breaks great. He’s a special talent,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said. “He’s still trying to get everything together but, gosh, he’s really good. I love throwing to him. Nobody’s telling us to do that. We just believe in him.” Obviously the Georgia coaches share that belief. They must to trust him to take a pitch and throw a bomb downfield without ever rehearsing it in practice. But that’s not what the Bulldogs are looking for from Landers. Catching balls should be good enough from now on. “Matt’s had a good spring,” Smart said. “Matt’s level of consistency has to improve. Matt has to play to Matt’s standard all the time.”   The post WATCH: Matt Landers on his TD pass and trying to crack Georgia’s WR rotation appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t take any hits in the G-Day Game on Saturday. Good thing, because Fromm spent most of the post game beating himself up. This, despite his Red Team winning the annual scrimmage over the Black Team by a 22-17 count at Sanford Stadium. “ It is what is it, everybody else on offense played really well, and I didn’t play up to the standard that I wanted to play,” Fromm said. “But as an offensive unit, we played well, we moved the ball.” Fromm was 14-of-29 passing for 116 yards with a touchdown and an interception Fromm, it’s worth noting, ranked fifth in the nation in passing efficiency last season. Sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes picked off Fromm’s second pass attempt of the game and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Junior go-to receiver J.J. Holloman slipped on the play, and that enabled Stokes to jump the route, and he out-fought Holloman for the football. Fromm, the only returning permanent captain from the 2018 season, declined to place any blame on anyone but himself. “Every now and then there’s that game,” Fromm said. “(A) ball that’s a little wet when it’s a little windy.” Fromm conceded the offensive playbook was watered down. Georgia obviously was not wanting to show the new elements coordinator James Coley has added.   But, Fromm pointed out, the defense was limited, too. “It’s a couple factors, obviously some days you have it, some days you don’t,” Fromm said of his uncharacteristically mediocre stat line. “It being a spring game, pretty bland on offense. “We definitely take a lot of things off the table, but that’s part of it, and so did the defense. They did a really good job and made some plays.” Fromm was also complimentary of a Georgia fan base that put more than 50,000 in Sanford Stadium despite temperatures in the 40s on a damp and windy day. “I’m super thankful to the fans that came out with it being Easter (weekend), “ Fromm said, “it being a rainy day, and we’re super thankful for the fans who came out today, showing their love and getting to watch the work we’ve been putting in this spring.” Georgia football QB Jake Fromm Georgia football DawgNation G-Day Game WATCH: Georgia G-Day Game beat writers breakdown RELATED: Eric Stokes experiences good and bad at cornerback WATCH: Kirby Smart shares thoughts on G-Day Game Georgia football lands major commitment on G-Day Demetris Robertson illness revealed by Kirby Smart Stock report from Georgia G-Day Game Instant analysis of Georgia football G-Day Game   The post WATCH Georgia QB Jake Fromm: ‘didn’t play up to the standard’ in G-Day Game appeared first on DawgNation.