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Great American Outdoor Show Day Six – Fired Up Trump Supporters

Having worked as a volunteer at two different booths and at a separate nearby event at the Great American Outdoor Show here in Harrisburg this week, there is one big takeaway: Attendees are overwhelmingly passionate about President Donald Trump and seeing him be re-elected.

At first the constant parade of Trump 2020 hats going past my eyes did not hit home. Ya know, it’s the biggest outdoor show and gathering in the world, and outdoors folk are naturally conservative, so why not expect to see them…is what I unconsciously thought.

And then as the first day ticked through the first hours, my mind began to start its own “clicker” count of Trump and Trump-Pence hats going by. And mind you, this particular booth is in the Fishing Hall, and a lot of GAOS visitors are there for the hunting guides, the demonstrations, and the opportunity to handle and try out lots and lots of firearms. So this spot I was in is hardly representative of the overall visitor population.

And the mental “clicks” immediately surpassed my ability to keep counting. Somewhere around 150 my mind said that it had had enough of trying to keep track of Trump hats while also greeting visitors and engaging with them on issues of wildlife policy and politics and raffle tickets for guns. So if I saw 150 Trump hats on heads in about 30 minutes, and the rest of the day was just as filled with them, then about 2,600 went by in the day in that particular location.

Another stint at another GAOS booth on another day reinforced the same observation, except I have to admit up front that it was the Trump Campaign booth I was volunteering in. And of course the visitors here naturally self-selected for visits, and about fifty percent had Trump hats. Even those visitors to the Trump Campaign booth who did not have Trump hats were just as FIRED UP as the hat wearers, however.

The Trump Campaign booth was a non-stop feeding frenzy of activity. If you sat down to take a breather, you had to get right back up again to help someone fill out a form. And at any given time there were half a dozen of us working that booth. We were constantly busy.

I know, I know, the GAOS naturally attracts exactly the kind of people who are going to support president Trump anyhow – outdoorsmen, gun owners, pickup truck drivers, etc. But, having attended and volunteered at this show in both of its forms for many years (I started the 2012 vendor boycott that ended the prior Reed Expositions representation of the show, and which eventually resulted in the NRA taking over) I have never before seen anywhere near this level of politicized, politically aware, FIRED UP attendees.

In fact, in years past, it was rare if you got into any kind of political discussion with attendees beyond wildlife policies. Even Second Amendment rights were largely passe to the vast majority of past attendees, who seemed to just want to look at new RVs, camping gear, duck calls, and hunting rifles without being hassled about politics. Politics was off everyone’s radar in the past.

So if this politicized crowd with its nonstop stream of Trump hats is any indication, Trump’s voter base is both larger than in 2016, and a lot more passionate and politically involved. In fact, all of the people I registered to vote or spoke with felt personally invested in the outcome of this November’s election.

And personally dedicated to Donald J. Trump’s re-election.

This bodes very well for President Trump’s re-election prospects.

So God bless flyover country and the NRA.

The McCain in my soup

What seems like a hundred years ago, in the summer of 2000 I served as a volunteer at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Staying with my old Philly friends Mark and Bill in their back bedroom, I was able to easily access the convention center by foot.

Being a burly lad, I was put on “security,” which involved wearing a special yellow or red shirt, standing at certain choke points and doorways in the convention center, checking credentials before allowing people to pass to some next destination, and answering questions about the location of bathrooms.

Most of my security role was done at the entrance to the main stage, where speakers and media activists (“reporters”) entered and exited. From this doorway, the speakers walked out onto the stage to speak from the main podium, and the media things sauntered, pranced, sashayed their ways to nearby desks set up to look at the podium and speaker.

Cameras were set up to capture both the speaker and the media commenters looking at the speaker.  Sitting en banc like a panel of judges, the media personalities were represented as a real-time source of expert analysis and useful commentary. Of course, that is exactly the role the mainstream media plays at a Republican convention: Judge, jury, and executioner, heavy-duty criticism. At Democrat conventions the same media people are giddy cheerleaders.

Why anyone thinks that these celebrity personalities add anything useful or valuable to the experience is beyond reckoning, except that the mainstream media have done a very good job of arranging their own roles at these conventions. The political parties do not necessarily need them there. The Republicans would do well to not have them at their conventions.

Anyhow, three distinct memories of that 2000 Philadelphia convention stand out in my head, all of them from my unique VIP security role at the entrance on to the main stage.

The first memory was NPR activist Cokie Roberts. Like all the other VIPs at that stage entrance, my job was to walk from the stage entrance and get her at the far end of the tunnel where a temporary FBI office was located in a small room. Police officers and FBI agents populated this end of the tunnel, providing heavy protection for the VIPs. From there I would then accompany her back down the tunnel to the stage entrance. Once there, the protocol was to look around and make sure everything was clear, no unpermitted people around, and then point the VIP toward their destination: the main podium, or, with Cokie Roberts, the press desk ahead and slightly off to the left.

Sharing the same physical space as Cokie Roberts is unpleasant. Her smug self-importance sucks up all the energy in the immediate vicinity. Cokie was like a saucy queen, and the air was full of expectation. I felt diminished in her presence. Yet I stayed close to her, walked her to the doorway, pointed her to the media desk, and there she sat, lips pursed, looking feline, watching her prey through slitted eyes.

OK, that is one memory.

The second memory is of that same exact location and security role. I walked Bob Dole down the tunnel to the stage entrance, looked around, and sent him out to the podium. I had never been in Dole’s immediate space before, but true to form he was clutching a pen in his damaged hand. Dole took a bit extra direction, and I had to step out onto the stage apron and take him by the elbow so that he was fully oriented toward the podium.

Dole spoke, and began walking back toward the doorway. I took a step forward and extended my hand to help him feel comfortable, and out of the corner of my right eye I saw a strange looking man slowly and very carefully edging his way toward us. I have no idea how this guy previously evaded my view, or how he even got there, given how well secured the back stage was. I am a keen hunter and my eyes miss almost nothing around me.

And yet here was this white haired but not terribly older man suddenly materializing out of nowhere and now bearing down on a frail Bob Dole. Dole was now a couple steps into the tunnel and heading back up toward the FBI office, where he would get an armed police escort to his next stop.

Like out of a movie, the white haired guy’s arm shot out toward Dole and the guy was suddenly hurtling through the air in a complete and very athletic dive towards Dole that did not match his somewhat older appearance.

Well, the old wrestler automatically took over in me, and just as the guy’s hand was about to grab Dole’s arm, literally just a few inches away, I was all over the guy. He was strong, but I was stronger, and within a couple seconds I body slammed him flat onto the concrete floor, his outstretched arm locked painfully sideways by my left arm, my legs intertwined with his and his struggling body splayed out and largely immobilized in a classic wrestling move.

The FBI guys came flying down the hallway and covered me in what is now called a dog pile. I was immediately suffocated beneath a steaming pile of heavy bodies smelling of dry cleaned suits and shoe polish. Whatever people may think about FBI agents today as a result of the corruption by Comey, McCabe, and Stzrok, those agents were super physical and aggressive. I loved it and hated it all at the same time. Loved it because the bad guy was stopped dead, hated it because I could not breathe, and then again happy to know the weird son-of-a-bitch underneath me was being turned into a pretzel by all the hands reaching around me. Within about twenty seconds I was pulled off by three FBI guys, while a uniformed cop and two other agents were cuffing the weirdo hand and foot.

The white-haired weirdo guy was trussed like a hog and quickly carried up to the FBI office. I, too, was hustled up there, pushed from behind as a wall of guys swarmed the tunnel and then pushed the weirdo and I into the little FBI room.

Once in the room, the guy was cuffed to a chair and the questions started flying. Within a minute or so he was identified as a Polish national who had a long history of stalking Bob Dole and trying to assault him, all around the world. The guy was an obsessive kook and already known to law enforcement.

I was asked my version of events, congratulated on stopping the weird guy, with one of the big Irish cops giving me a big smile and saying how much he enjoyed watching me slam the guy down so hard. A couple of the FBI agents said they didn’t know anything was amiss until they heard the guy’s body smack the concrete so hard.

During the melee just a couple feet away, Dole had shrunk back against the tunnel wall, still clutching his pen, looking scared (why not) and two agents took him by the arms and hustled him back up the tunnel. That was the last I saw of Bob Dole.

From the little FBI room, I was accompanied back down to my spot at the stage entrance, patted on the back, and instructed to stay vigilant. Hey, I was never so important before or again!

The third and last distinct memory I have of that convention also involved the VIP entrance, because it was from there that I got to watch Senator John McCain deliver an emotional speech about wanting the presidential nomination so badly, and yet being denied it.

McCain delivered an interesting and very personal speech. He had just been through hell, with the Bush team pulling a lot of dirty tricks to eventually stop McCain’s momentum late in that hard-fought primary race.

From my view at the edge of the stage, I could see in McCain’s adam’s apple a huge lump had appeared while he spoke. I actually watched it grow. I had never before seen such an enormous lump in someone’s adam’s apple. This moment was obviously much more emotional for McCain than I would have expected from such a battle-hardened candidate, and I doubt that the many TV cameras there captured it.

What that huge lump in his throat brought home to me was how heavily and personally invested McCain was in his pursuit of the presidency. As opposed to Senator Bob Dole, who had torpedoed the 1996 Republican challenge to Bill Clinton by insisting that it was “his turn” to run, despite his lack of emotion, lack of energy, lack of passion.

John McCain is now dead, and with him goes a large part of strange era in Republican politics.

Like a lot of American conservatives, I retain mixed feelings about McCain. He was good and bad. He was both patriot and sell-out, warrior against and enabler of our domestic enemies, and so on. I had supported him in 2000 and 2008, but in recent times I had really disliked the guy for his policy sell-outs. He was the fly in my policy soup.

But when I think back to that huge emotional lump in his throat at the 2000 Republican Convention, I think of a man passionate about America and his cause to protect and improve it. Whatever his reasons for taking such strangely contrarian, incongruent positions in the past couple years, McCain remains in my mind as a once-principled all-American who at one time had my strong support.

Rest in piece, Warrior McCain.

Krazee K

There once was neighbor named Kathy,

Whose life was so desperately unhappy,

She said with a  yawn,

As she pounced on her lawn,

Volunteering is for those who are crappy…

******************

Folks, volunteering is service to our fellow humans.

Volunteering is the price we pay for being alive.

Volunteering  is a cornerstone of American life. Soup kitchens, homeless and battered women’s shelters, halfway houses, non-profit groups, and public health clinics are all places in need of functioning adults to make them run well.

Bethesda Mission is always advertising for volunteers. They make a huge impact on Harrisburg.

A couple hours a day or a week of your time at one of these places can greatly improve someone else’s life. If you have a specific skill, say as a carpenter, or better, a nurse, then you are doubly needed in these places. And if you are retired, and also physically functional, but you are not only not volunteering, but instead obsessively devoting yourself to every twig and leaf on your lawn, and invading your neighbors’ lives and properties, then you have bad values, you are missing the purpose of being alive, and you are leading a selfish, shallow life. Because hyper lawn care is meaningless, perhaps even a waste of time, and taking it to the extreme where it creates conflict with neighbors is nuts, frankly. It is a luxury that brings little value to the world, but much conflict.

And for the record, yes, I volunteer, a lot, serving on a bunch of non-profit boards, local, regional and state-wide, and I help maintain some elderly people’s properties when I can.  My volunteer work gives me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. If you do not volunteer, try it. You will like it. Especially if you are retired.

Why I am voting for Paul Mango for governor, and not for Scott Wagner

When I stood out for twelve hours in the freezing weather four years ago, handing out Scott Wagner for Senate brochures at a polling place in York County, I was helping Pennsylvania elect someone to state government who promised to remain independent of political party leaders and the insider dealings that are the despicable hallmark of Pennsylvania Republican party politics.

Within a few months of Wagner’s historic upset win over a creaky establishment, I began to regret his obvious character flaws. And then six months later I had the unfortunate experience of having Wagner lie through omission to my face.

“Yeah, I know John DiSanto,” said Wagner.

What Wagner did not say was that he was aggressively promoting DiSanto as a would-be candidate for state senate. Fast forward another six months, and DiSanto was on track to be the state senator for the 15th district. He has been a huge improvement over the former senator, Rob Teplitz, a political radical out of place here in this region who was also dedicated to his constituents.  I have no real hard feelings about DiSanto now bearing the burden of serving in state government, as it comes with big personal costs that I realize I would not want.

But I saw then that Scott Wagner was not the straight-up guy a lot of us believed he was when we worked hard to get him elected.

Wagner has this habit of ascribing to himself full responsibility for his material and political successes. As a capitalist I applaud anyone who can and does leave to their son or nephew a running business and millions of dollars. And I also applaud those people who are strong enough to take those inheritances and build on them, instead of squandering them, as so many Americans do.

But it upsets me to hear Wagner take credit for these things when he was simply the beneficiary of other people’s hard work.

No, Mr. Wagner, you did not win that special election in York County all by yourself.

Rather, we, the hard working campaign volunteers won it for you, by getting fired up people out to every polling place in the district and demonstrating to the voters that we, the people, wanted you to be elected. Voters saw our passion and responded by handing the GOPe a tough and well-deserved loss.

No, you did not create that trucking business as you constantly claim, you inherited a good portion of it.

Two days ago at a dog-and-pony show press event, Scott Wagner released a phony “internal” poll result saying that he already leads in this primary race by 50.2% to Paul Mango’s 20-something percent.

Flanking Wagner was the chairman and the vice-chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, the same GOPe that Wagner once opposed but which he has now shamelessly joined. Wagner’s willingness to trade his political independence for political gain with the same old political insiders is another indication that he is not a straight-up guy. Rather, Wagner is just another aggressive political opportunist willing to sell his grandma and his former supporters to get ahead.

The message of having the two GOP political bosses next to him at the event is simple: “Vote for our insider stooge here.”

But if Wagner is already so far ahead in the polls, then why does he need the personal presence of political bosses at his press event? The whole thing is phony – the supposed poll (two other recent polls show a statistical dead heat between Mango and Wagner, with also-ran Laura Ellsworth in the single digits), the fake political endorsement, his supposed political independence. One thing is for sure, Scott Wagner is now yet just another political insider, trying to use every object around him to gain power and prestige. Just like he used and then discarded us campaign volunteers to get into the state senate.

Wagner’s political views have spanned the full spectrum, from great to crazy left, like his transvestite bathroom bill sponsorship.

Will the real Scott Wagner please stand up? Without screaming at anyone, please.

Contrast this chaotic mess to his primary opponent Paul Mango.

Paul Mango is about as exciting as watching the grass grow.

He is soft-spoken, measured, very smart and articulate on policy, and to me, mostly boring. Though he has gotten better at public presentations as time has gone on.

Is Mango the fiery revolutionary that Scott Wagner was four years ago? Nope.

Neither is Scott Wagner.

Is Mango the political trench warfare conservative that Wagner used to be, and which many of us wish for more each day? Nope.

Neither is Scott Wagner.

Mango is a work horse, not a show horse.

Instead of having all of Wagner’s drama and duplicity, Mango is a simple guy with true blue collar working class roots, who put himself through West Point and became a real-deal warrior in the US Army 101st Rangers, and who went on to build a career for himself that put him at the financial top of American society. Not to mention his all-American family. He is a US Army veteran who served our nation, thank you very much.

Mango is the all-American rags-to-riches story every American politician wishes to be, and which Wagner has tried to falsely claim he is.

This is why I am voting for Paul Mango and not for Scott Wagner.

You make up your own mind on this race, and you should also know I made up my mind through direct experience with both candidates. Sometimes it isn’t just how great a candidate is, but also how awful the other guy is.

Mango is good enough, Wagner is awful.

Great American Outdoor Show is in Harrisburg, and it is Fantastic

The Great American Outdoor Show, which used to be called the Eastern Outdoor Show until the former promoter turned anti-gun and tried to block vendors from showcasing their modern sporting rifles, is on and happening in Harrisburg through Sunday.

I have been volunteering a bit for the PA Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, not nearly as much as I have in the past, but still contributing and selling raffle tickets to friendly people who visit the booth.

Last year the Federation raffled off a Bushmaster AR-15, and this year we are just doing cash.  Right now the pot is a few thousand dollars, and by the time the raffle is drawn it’ll be much more.  Some of the proceeds go to support the Federation, so it’s a good cause.

I stopped in to visit the Unified Sportsmen booth the other day, but the person I sought was not there and the volunteers were just leaving, but I am looking forward to hearing their perspective on sportsmen’s issues.

The River’s Edge canoe and kayak sales by Neill and Evelyn Andritz  sold me on a Hobie kayak.  But let me tell you, these kayaks today are not your Nanuk of the North kayaks of old.  My friends, these things might as well be on the space shuttle for when our guys find water on Mars, because they are nothing like the sloppy, floppy, tipsy, floating death traps we used to squeeze ourselves into.  Today’s Hobie kayak is a blended hybrid, using the best qualities of canoes, surf boards, and kayaks to bring small-craft fishing into the 22nd century.  The Mirage Pro Angler 14 and the Mirage Outback were the two I had to choose between in the end, but being a “Big Guy” means that the 600-pound capacity of the Mirage Pro Angler is a must-have.

And beyond the fat-guy-and-all-his-gear capacity, the technical bells and whistles are amazing.  Stand-up stabilizing bars, leg-driven flipper drives that look and power like an orca tail, bait coolers, adjustable seats that would be at home in a Maserati, sleek rudder controls you can use with your elbow, hand, or foot, storage lockers running the full length for stashing kit so big you can harpoon the shark of your dreams, rod holders everywhere, holes for masts, and so on.

And all this above is about just one vendor with two small self-powered boats I liked in the Farm Show complex that is loaded to the gills with gear, knives, guns, outfitters from around the world, specialty clothing and footwear, trophy services, archery gear so sophisticated I feel like I am Stone Age when I handle it, RVs, ATVs, camping gear, bug-out survival gear, and so on and on for much more.

The Great American Outdoor Show is worth visiting if for no other reason than to say you went and witnessed one of the wonders of the world.  It is the biggest show of its kind in the world, and even if our new governor, Tom Wolf, isn’t interested in attending (incredibly that is true), you definitely should.