Happy 4th of July From the Mitchells

For years Mr. Mitchell and I have hosted Fourth of July picnics, some small and some that were larger. One year we had over 100 guests — family, friends, and neighbors — in the back yard celebrating America’s independence. Here’s a look back….

What is the 4th of July without American flags? They were in abundance.

Relaxing and taking photos before guests arrived.

Alex puts up flag over grilling area.

Flags, flags, flags.

The grilling area ready for
100+ guests … three grills, three cooks,
100 hotdogs, 100 hamburgers, 100 Italian sausages.

* “SWAC House” coined by Yankee Phil in his post about the cookout

Previous posts:
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 1
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 2
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 3
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … a Marine in Iraq: “Freedom Isn’t Free”
4th of July = flags, flags, flags
A Look Back at 4th of July Parades, Cookouts at SWAC House

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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First Day of Summer and Shrimping in South Carolina

It’s the first day of summer — summer solstice on the calendar although unofficially summer began with Memorial Day. Pools are open, hot summer days are here, and vacations are in full swing.

As I watered flowers on the deck this warm morning in the Shenandoah Valley, my mind drifted back to another first day of summer when my husband and I, along with our 16-month-old son, went to visit with Virginia friends who were living at the time in Charleston, S.C.

On June 21, the first day of summer, we started out early as our friends took us in their boat to explore Charleston Harbor and visit historical Fort Sumter on a small piece of land in the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the morning walking its pathways, exploring fortified areas, and absorbing the history of it all.

Leaving Fort Sumter, we pointed the boat toward the South Carolina coastline and made our way into one of the delta inlets for some shrimping, a great pastime for our friends, and something that was about to become a new experience for us.

We found a nice place with no one around and anchored the boat, then spent the next hours slathering on suntan lotion to fend off the sun’s rays, picnicking on deck, swimming with our little boy in his life jacket, and waiting for the water to recede as the time for low tide approached.

The delta flats have canals cut into them where the water rushes out with low tide … and that is where we turned our attention. Jumping overboard with nets in hand, we stretched the nets across those canals to catch the shrimp that were being washed to sea in the ebbing tide.

Shrimp were plentiful and we quickly loaded our nets, emptied them into five-gallon buckets on deck, and repeated as we hauled in enough shrimp to fill all the buckets. Since we then had plenty of time to wait until the tide returned to once again float the boat, our time under the hot sun was spent removing shrimp heads before icing them down for the ride back to dock.

The experience made an impression on me because we commented several times throughout that day that it was the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, and it was very hot on the salt water — mid 90s with barely a breeze. Thank goodness for all that water to cool off with frequent dips overboard.

It was a memorable event that I recalled today while enjoying this first day of summer in western Virginia under cloudy skies, temps in the low 80s, and an afternoon of thunderstorms on the agenda.

Both memories are keepers.

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Staunton’s Bob Campbell Joins Heaven’s Chorus


Bob Campbell is pictured singing in this video still shot.

I woke up this morning to sad news. Staunton’s Bob Campbell, who sang for years with the Coachmen, a regional gospel-country quartet, passed away last night. His nephew Chris announced it on Facebook.

It brought back some memories. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a group of local residents worked with “From Our Hearts,” organized by Dianne and Benny Rankin who owned T-Bone Tooter restaurant in Churchville, to fill care packages for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Often we would meet at the restaurant before it opened to form an assembly line to pack boxes, print mailing labels, and get another stack ready to mail halfway around the world. Occasionally we would hang around on the porch for dinner.

Sometimes Bob entertained diners. I can still see him on the front porch singing in his laid-back way, with a smile on his face because he was doing something he loved.

For some reason, the song that sticks in my mind is that old Keith Whitley tune, “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” Bob nailed it.

A lot has happened since those days. Benny passed away in March 2018 after battling heart disease. The restaurant has been passed on to others and now operates under another name. But this morning Dianne added her thoughts on Bob’s passing, posting on my Facebook page:

Heaven has gained 2 new angels these last couple months. I know Benny Rankin was at heavens gate with open arms to greet his friend along with many others. Both of these great people will be missed greatly by the community. Thank you so much Lynn Randall Mitchell for sharing the memory of such a great friend and the good times of our restaurant, T Bone Tooter. Prayers to Tracy Campbell, Wanda Campbell and all his family during this time for healing.

Prayers for all Bob’s family and friends … he will be fondly remembered.

Bob Campbell sings “Sweet Virginia” beginning at 2:25.

A love song to Staunton where the Coachmen are from, written and performed by Chris Campbell. For those who were raised in Staunton, have left Staunton, have moved to Staunton and love the place … whether you’re from-heres or come-heres, you will recognize many of the landmarks in this video. If you’ve moved away, get ready to be homesick.

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Charles Krauthammer Pens His Goodbye: ‘My Fight Is Over’

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“I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.” –Charles Krauthammer

Sad news on Friday….

After the heartbreaking news from his doctors that he has only weeks to live, psychiatrist/author/news commentator/panelist Dr. Charles Krauthammer began his open letter of goodbye by explaining his absence in recent months, how he thought he was on the road to recovery, and the bitter news that he was losing his battle with cancer.

“I leave this life with no regrets,” he wrote. Read it all here.

Dr. Krauthammer’s story is not in his death, but rather in his life, a life where he took lemons and turned them into lemonade.

Now 68, he was paralyzed during his first year at Harvard Medical School in a diving board accident. After 14 months in the hospital, he returned to med school and earned his degree as a psychiatrist, graduating with his class. He once joked that he was a medical doctor, a psychiatrist in remission, and hadn’t had a relapse in 25 years.

On his road to Harvard he learned to dislike political extremism on the right and left, noting, “I became very acutely aware of the dangers, the hypocrisies, and sort of the extremism of the political extremes. And it cleansed me very early in my political evolution of any romanticism. … I detested the extreme Left and extreme Right, and found myself somewhere in the middle.”

He practiced that in life, leading psychiatric research during the Jimmy Carter administration and became a speech writer for Vice President Walter Mondale. At the time he became ill last summer, he had spent years as a panelist on Fox News with Bret Baier, and 23 years as a panelist for PBS’ Inside Washington.

In his letter, Dr. Krauthammer wrote, “I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”

He wrote extensively, both in the medical field and then increasingly, in politics, publishing in Time, The New Republic, the Washington Post (where he won a Pulitzer Prize), Financial Times, The Weekly Standard, and many others. He won extensive awards and recognition for his work in all venues.

Krauthammer’s independent streak came out in his criticism of Donald Trump. He believes there is evidence the Trump presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government.

He was married and had a son. Friends talk about how he loved the Washington Nationals and was often at their games.

His life was remarkable. When tragedy struck, he seemed to dig down deep and excel at a time when many would give up. His voice, his intellect, his reasoning were calming amidst turbulent political times. That civility will be sorely missed.

“I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.” –Dr. Charles Krauthammer, June 8, 2018

‘The Eyes of the World Are Upon You’

[Today marks 74 years since the D-Day invasion. Two years ago the small community of Bedford, Virginia, invited Virginia and the world to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord. Here are photos from that day (see also Part 2).]

DSCN1760 (2)“Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.” –President George W. Bush (at National D-Day Memorial dedication, June 6, 2001)

Monday, June 6, 2016, was a day for sights and sounds and memories and stories from some of the few remaining veterans who survived June 6, 1944. It was the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord — the allied invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day — that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Exiting the four-lane highway in Bedford and turning onto Overlord Drive, it is a quiet drive through open fields up the hill to a place of reverence and thankfulness. Surrounded by the peaceful Virginia countryside with the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Sharp Top and Flat Top mountains that form the Peaks of Otter in the distance, the National D-Day Memorial provides an opportunity to learn and reflect on a pivoting event in America’s — and the world’s — history.

The overwhelming extent of the sacrifices made as well as the huge operation that involved 150,000 Allied troops, 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft, and huge losses of more than 9,000 Allied soldiers who died, including 2,499 American soldiers, in the largest amphibious landing the world had ever seen, was sobering.

The liberation of Europe began that day and, though the war would continue for almost a year longer, the Normandy invasion gave Allied forces an opening to begin working their way across Europe to defeat Hitler.

Thankfully, the vision of D-Day veteran Bob Slaughter to have a national site to remember and honor those involved was achieved, and the National D-Day Memorial was dedicated on June 6th, 2001, by President George W. Bush.

My husband and I arrived early on June 6, 2016, and stayed into the afternoon, attending the 11:00 am ceremony, strolling the grounds, reading the historical plaques, and listening to the roll call of names. We left with a renewed appreciation for the Greatest Generation. Below are photos that capture a small part of the day. May we never forget.

Why Bedford for the national memorial? As explained in the video, the memorial is a reminder of the extreme sacrifice the small Virginia town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains made during the invasion on June 6, 1946. They lost more men per capita than any other location in America. Of the 30 Bedford soldiers in Company A, 19 perished that day and four others during the war. That sacrifice by the Bedford Boys was the reason their town was chosen as the site for the national memorial. For photos of the memorial’s tribute to the Bedford Boys, see 72 years later … the Bedford Boys.

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For the first time ever the roll call of the names of the 2,499 Americans killed on D-Day was read by volunteers whose voices could be heard throughout the memorial’s grounds. The honoring of the fallen continued for three hours into the afternoon with names read by veterans, families, volunteers, and dignitaries.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.” –Laurence Binyon

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The Bedford Boys seemed to come to life Monday.

DSCN1771 (2)Visitors began arriving prior to the 11am ceremony. Veterans were seated under shady awnings out of the sun’s glare.

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DSCN1797 (2)The 29th Division Drum and Fife band and honor guard.

DSCN1804 (2)A P-51 Mustang circled the site and made two passes over the memorial at the beginning of the ceremony. The World War II vintage aircraft was an American long-range, single-seat fighter-bomber used throughout the war and on D-Day (see Air Power Over the Normandy Beaches and Beyond). The pilots who flew the aircraft (see WW II pilot remembers D-Day, 72 years later) and gliders (see The Flying Coffins of World War II) were instrumental to allied forces, flying bombing missions and delivering troops and supplies.

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See also….

Part 2: Bedford D-Day Memorial Remembrance, Reading of Names of Those Lost on June 6, 1944

Remembering D-Day With the Bedford Boys

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

The Beauty of a Cool June Evening

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Last week I was reminded of growing up in Richmond with the hot, muggy summer weather that absolutely drains every ounce of energy out of me. On Friday it was 93 degrees with humidity about 150 percent that felt like a wet washcloth smacking you across the face when you walked outside. When I stepped out the door my hair went into its frizzy “yeah, it’s humid” unkempt look that used to drive me nuts when younger but at my age I now just go with it.

I thought of that tonight while sitting on my deck in the cool — let me emphasize, cool — evening air. It’s 68 degrees at 8:30 and my bare feet are on the edge of being chilly. Mr. Mitchell mowed the back yard — perhaps baled would better describe it after all the rain we’ve had — so it looks like a park down under the trees at the edge of the woods. The clean smell of freshly mowed grass and other earthy smells are in the air.

I’m watching a solitary deer quietly grazing under the apple trees that, by the way, should be full of fruit this fall because they were loaded with blooms this spring. For once, thankfully, a hard freeze didn’t get them this year. It’s dark in the woods although we still have about 20-30 minutes of light left in the areas out in the open. I can imagine all the creatures in the woods looking back at me as I peer into the inkiness of the underbrush and trees.

We’ve seen a lot of wild turkeys — one big male and a bunch of hens. Our yard became their refuge from something, I suspect. They angled through one day from the woods across the back yard and beside the house making their way up the hill to the road. Just before getting there, they caught the attention of a black lab that began excitedly barking at this group of winged creatures heading her way, and that male and those hens took to the air and flew over the trees back down to the woods.

I’ve seen turkeys kind of fly but this was full-out flight up and over and all the way down to the back. Amazing. Nature never disappoints in learning something new.

Today a huge crow caught my attention as it swooped across the front yard and by the window so I opened the door to see if it had been a hawk, and it was the crow on the ground eating something. And then a mockingbird swooped in — back and forth, and back and forth — attacking at the crow that was about three times the size of the mockingbird. It continued to eat what I presumed to be a baby mockingbird that it had raided from the nest. Nature can also be cruel.

The lack of humidity makes it particular refreshing sitting out here, something we haven’t been able to do recently with all the rain. I’m looking forward to back porch sitting and entertaining and visiting. The trees are fully leafed out and deep green, bushes have gone wild with all the rain, and we will need to tame the jungle this week by pruning limbs and shrubs and vines.

Ahh … and I just saw a lightning bug, first of the season. A cricket is chirping and a far-off bird — I can’t tell what it is — is twittering. Other than that, the quiet is mesmerizing.

Wait — there it is … the deep guttural croaking of a bullfrog in our neighbor’s pond. I was wondering why I wasn’t hearing them. Missing are the tree frogs … only quiet from the edge of the woods.

It’s after 9:00 … the temperature has now dropped to 64 degrees and it’s completely dark out here … time to take my chilly naked toes inside. Get ready because summer is only a couple of weeks away in the Shenandoah Valley….

Cover photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Sunset over the Appalachian Mountains

The Price of War

Today is the 73rd anniversary of V-E Day — victory in Europe — marking the end of World War II in that part of the world. Six weeks earlier, on March 21, 1945, a Virginia soldier was killed by Germans while battling along the Siegfried Line. He was 27 years old, my mother’s oldest brother.

His name was Clarence Osborne, the oldest of nine siblings. My mom was the baby of the family, a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, when her brother was killed. She still remembers her mother’s reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of their Chesterfield County farm many decades ago, and how her mother’s knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son had been killed. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never completely got over the loss.

After retiring, Mom spent hours researching to fill the void of not knowing exactly what happened to her brother and eventually found Clarence’s sergeant, Dock Roberts, living in Texas. Another soldier buddy, Emelio Albert, lived in California. She traveled to both places to talk with them to learn about her brother’s journey as a U.S. Army soldier through war-torn Europe and his final hours, and she documented the treasured research for our family history. Here are her words about her oldest brother’s final months at war … by Eula Osborne Randall Lucy.

Italian Campaign
The Italian Campaign was one of the most difficult of World War II, and some of the most difficult battles for foot soldiers were in Italy which was very mountainous with heavy snows in the winter of 1943 and heavy cold rains in the late winter and spring of 1944. The earth turned into a quagmire and foxholes were filled with water. Mud was so deep it was nearly impassable for vehicles as well as men on foot. In the summer of 1944, the ground turned to dust which swirled at the least disturbance. The unit veterans’ most vivid memories of the Italian fighting was the weather and terrain.

Clarence spent 15 months as a First Gunner in a Mortar Squad, part of the American forces who freed the little town of San Pietro in southern Italy from the Germans. From there they battled their way to the Riviera in southern France and on to the northern border of France, plus one day on Germany. He was killed in the last great battle the 36th Division of the 1st Battalion, Company D, 143rd Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard.

Clarence’s first battle was December 15, 1943. Starting December 8th, the 36th Division had been trying to take 4,000-foot Mt. Summacro (Hill 1205) so they could liberate the little town of San Pietro at the base of the mountain. Dock Roberts, Clarence’s sergeant, and Roy Goad, Commanding Officer of the 143rd Regiment, were wounded on Hill 1205. San Pietro was at the entrance to the Liri Valley and was heavily fortified by the Germans. It had to be taken by the Allies before they could enter the Liri Valley in the drive to liberate Rome.

The men of the 36th Division had come into Italy after fighting in the deserts of North Africa and were still wearing their summer uniforms. They were not prepared for the bitterest winter Italy had experienced in years. Most had no overcoats, raincoats, or even gloves.

Much of the fighting for Hill 1205 was by climbing, literally hand over hand, straight up the side of the mountain which was very rugged with sharp, jagged rocks. Germans were entrenched on the top, protected by large boulders along the edge of the top of the mountain. When the first Allied soldiers reached the top and surprised them, the Germans started rolling large boulders off the mountain.

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The 1st Battalion of the 143rd Infantry Regiment moved on from Hill 1205 to the battle to liberate San Pietro at the bottom. Clarence was a replacement for the 36th Division and entered the fighting on December 15th. The next day they finally succeeded in capturing San Pietro but a high price was paid with 1,100 casualties.

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President Bush #41 in Intensive Care – Updated

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This photo (photographer Paul Morse through the George H.W. Bush office) went viral when it captured a moment in time with “former U.S. presidents and first ladies posing with former President George H.W. Bush at the funeral of his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush, in Houston on April 21, 2018.” Taken just before the funeral service: Laura Bush, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and current First Lady Melania Trump.


Twenty-one years ago this month my Aunt Ruth passed away in a hospital in Richmond after a brief battle with cancer. A little over two months later her husband, our Uncle Claude, followed after suffering a heart attack.

We weren’t surprised.

Married in the 1940s, they never had children and were dedicated to each other. In the absence of kids of their own, she had taken care of him through a heart attack in his 30s and diabetes later in life, administering his meds and monitoring his diet. After she was gone, I suspect he felt a bit lost after so many years together.

On Sunday former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized, one day after burying his wife of 73 years who had passed away four days earlier. A statement from his office shared the news:

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The nation is praying for the 93-year-old Bush patriarch as he battles this latest health setback in the immediate aftermath of his loss. Theirs is a love story that will continue long after they are gone.

Updated May 5: The former President was released from the hospital.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s Health Declining

I gravitated to the bookcase this afternoon and pulled out the 1994 memoir written by former First Lady Barbara Bush, her smiling face on the cover looking back at me as I fanned through the pages of photos from Bush family highlights throughout the years.

On this spring Sunday afternoon, an official statement was issued from the office of former President George H.W. Bush about his wife:


Barbara Bush. What a lady. Ever gracious even while being a rock who anchored her family to reality amidst their wealth, she wielded a wit that endeared her to the nation.

Her book dedication gives a glimpse of this remarkable wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother: “To faith, family, and friends; and to George Bush who taught me that these are the most important things in life.”

Indeed. Their love story began when they were 16 and 17 … and it continues to this day, as noted in an April 4, 2018, story in USA Today:

It’s been decades, but Barbara Bush is still very much in love with her husband.

The former first lady wrote about former president George H. W. Bush in a note for the spring edition of Smith College’s alumnae magazine.

“I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago,” Barbara Bush wrote in the life updates section for the magazine.

In the Preface of “Barbara Bush: A Memoir,” she wrote:

“George Bush knows how I feel. He is the hero.”

And in an earlier paragraph of the Preface, Mrs. Bush noted:

“I also note that we seem to weep a lot in this book. We are an emotional group and rather like a good tear or two. Please also notice that we cry when we are glad and when we are sad. Love brings a tear. Friends bring a tear. A smile, sweetness, even a kind word brings a tear.”

There are probably some tears today with the sad news of Mrs. Bush’s failing health, even as she is wrapped in prayers and love. Thinking of the entire Bush family at this difficult time….

Easter Egg Roll at the White House 2002

Easter 2002 White House

Easter 2002 … the White House Egg Roll hosted by President George W. Bush and First lady Laura Bush.

One of my sisters worked in the President’s administration so my mother, other sister, the two six-year-old nieces, and my 14-year-old daughter were guests for an extraordinary day.

It was the first Egg Roll after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Security was tight but there was a light-hearted atmosphere as children raced around the lawn, and special attractions invited by the White House entertained including animal specialist Jack Hanna.

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Commemorative wooden pastel-colored Easter eggs inscribed with the event and date were given to all. Every Easter they are on display at our house. The Easter Roll has been a tradition since 1878, and every U.S. President has hosted this family-friendly tradition.

It was a special day that we have not forgotten….

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library

Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter Honor Zell Miller at Funeral

Zell Miller, former Marine, Democratic Georgia Governor and U.S. Senator, and the first person in American history to be the keynote speaker at both parties’ presidential conventions, was honored Tuesday when three former U.S. Presidents — one Republican and two Democrats — honored him at his funeral: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

Republican, Democrat, and Democrat … a bipartisan respect.

In 2004 U.S. Senator Miller endorsed Republican President George W. Bush for reelection after the devastation of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. Miller did not endorse his party’s nominee John Kerry because, as he said, Kerry voted against bills for defense and weapon systems that Zell felt weakened our military as they battled terrorism at home and around the world.

“The Spitball Speech,” as we called it at GOP headquarters in Staunton that fall of 2004, was vintage Zell Miller who didn’t give a dang if you were Republican or Democrat when it came to the defense of America. (See transcript of his remarks here.)

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2004: Democrat Zell Miller Endorsed Republican George W. Bush at RNC Convention

“… nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.” — Sen. Zell Miller, 1 Sept 2004, Republican National Convention, NYC

With the passing of Georgia U.S. Senator Zell Miller (see Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter Honor Zell Miller at Funeral), it’s good to remember his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention held in late Augusta-early September in 2004 when Miller endorsed President George W. Bush who was running for reelection.

America had been attacked on September 11, 2001, by terrorists who piloted hijacked airplanes into New York City’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon outside D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed into a rural field due to passengers who overtook the terrorists to prevent the plane from crashing into the White House or U.S. Capitol building.

As some Democrats turned against the war, others crossed the aisle. Both Republicans and Democrats, grateful for the wartime president’s leadership after the deaths of 3,000 people on American soil, crushed our local GOP headquarters in Staunton to support the reelection of President Bush.

We opened early that year, in August instead of mid-September, to be available for those who wanted materials, signs, voter registration, or to just vent. We had held Support the Troops rallies since early in 2002; we had sent care packages to military service members deployed in Iraq. And that fall we were the busiest we had ever been for any election in the eight years that I ran the local headquarters.

At headquarters we called it “The Spitball Speech” because of Zell Miller’s line, “This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what — spitballs?”

It was inspirational, and it energized the Republican grassroots. I wrote about the speech and am reposting it here in honor of a man who selflessly served his country. He was a Marine veteran who was furious that the Democratic Party was not supporting our troops. Emphasis added:

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14 Inches of Snow Fall on Central Shenandoah Valley

The calendar said it was the second day of spring but Old Man Winter was reluctant to let go as the fourth nor’easter in three weeks hit the East Coast. This time my corner of the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia got hit with over a foot of snow — 14 inches, to be exact, in my back yard. My camera and I took a walkabout in the winter wonderland of the yard to get pictures of flocked trees and deep snow on the ground as the snow continued to fall.

There’s a picnic table under there, somewhere…..

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
March 21, 2018

Trump Was Told Not to Congratulate Putin. He Did It Anyway

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.” –U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

Americans learned of a phone call Tuesday between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump who congratulated him on his “winning” campaign. However, they learned of it only after it was announced by the Russians and word made its way back to the U.S. Reporters at a White House press conference questioned the president about congratulating Putin,  and Trump confirmed that, indeed, he had called Putin.

Trump had been warned by national security advisers with an all-caps precaution about Putin: “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Trump also ignored additional advice, as noted by the Washington Post:

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

Trump told reporters, “We’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future.”

POTUS better be careful about getting too close to Putin lest he be on the receiving end of the Russian-owned poisoning agent used on a former KGB spy and his daughter in Britain.

Fox Contributor, Ashamed, Quits the Network

On Tuesday a Fox News contributor quit the “fair and balanced” network that has become controversial in the age of Trump:

A retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Fox News contributor quit Tuesday and denounced the network and President Donald Trump in an email to colleagues.

“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” wrote Ralph Peters, a Fox News “strategic analyst.”

His words echo the thoughts of many conservatives who have turned from Fox News in the age of Trump. There was a time when many, including myself, turned to Fox for news that could not be found in other news outlets, and they were, indeed, fair and balanced by presenting supporters on both sides of an issue.

Thankfully, there are still rational voices at Fox including Shepherd Smith who have come under fire from lock-step listeners who object to hearing any version that is not the one they believe.

Peters sent an email to his Fox News colleagues to alert them to his leaving the network, and in it he wrote:

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed,” he wrote.

I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution,” and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

I do not apply the above criticisms in full to Fox Business, where numerous hosts retain a respect for facts and maintain a measure of integrity (nor is every host at Fox News a propaganda mouthpiece–some have shown courage). I have enjoyed and valued my relationship with Fox Business, and I will miss a number of hosts and staff members. You’re the grown-ups.

Also, I deeply respect the hard-news reporters at Fox, who continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment. These are some of the best men and women in the business.

As long as Fox shrills like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and others continue to mislead watchers with conspiracy theories while making 180-degree turns from their previous stands during the administration of Barack Obama, the Republican Party will continue to drown in hypocrisy.

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