Sweet Old Bob

That was Sen. Bob Ziegler (D, Ketchikan).  I lied when I said all the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were liberals.  Bob was a blue dog Democrat.

He’d been Ketchikan’s State Senator for quite a while when I met him, in the summer of  ’73.  We just got along.  He told me that sometimes when he got an abusive  constituent  letter he’d write back, informing the voter that some moron was sending him letters and signing their name.  He’d sign the letter Sweet Old Bob.  He was an American original.

He was the guy who introduced me to Article V.  He was carrying our BBA bill in the Alaska legislature, and he knew what he was doing.  The day it came up for a floor vote in the Senate he took me aside and explained things to me.  I was to sit down, shut up, and vote,   and that’s what I did.  It passed without debate.  At the time, we were the 32nd state.

Bob and I became personal friends.  I like thinking about him.

Donald Trump and George Wallace

On a Sunday talk show Trump refused three times to disavow support from the KKK.  This doesn’t fit the narrative, so I doubt it will be big news.  Things that hurt Trump are not publicized by the Queen and her hive.  Trump is their preferred Republican candidate.  He’s the only one Hillary or Bernie could possibly beat, so everything they’ve got on him will be closely held.  If he gets the nomination, all hell will break loose.

Most people don’t remember George Wallace in ’68.  He wasn’t just a Southern phenomenon.  I believe he won Michigan.  In contrast to Trump, Wallace was caricatured as an ignorant bigot.  The media did all it could to destroy him.

Wallace and Trump are highly similar in one respect.   Anger  — simmering, hot.  Both the candidates and their supporters enjoyed venting their frustration, rage.  When you’re royally pissed off you don’t let the small stuff  — like rationality, the facts — interfere with your rage.  You just want to vent.  This is what the Republican Party gets for 30 years of lies on illegal immigration.  I’m totally pissed off at it myself, so I thought I understood where the Trump cult was coming from.  But these people are beyond pissed off.  They’re white hot with rage, or else they’re just dopes being taken in by a con artist.  It makes a potent political combination.

Politics can get real personal.  Sen. Vitter is not the Governor of Louisiana today because the incumbent, Bobby Jindal, would rather have a Democrat succeed him than Vitter.  So that’s what Jindal helped happen, all because he hated Vitter, personally.  Now Christie, Sen. Sessions, and Maine Gov. Lepage have endorsed Trump.  Christie hates Rubio, deeply, personally.  He blames him for his loss in New Hampshire, his one big chance to break through.  Marco couldn’t help himself, when Christie withdrew, from rubbing it in.  He emailed him this totally snarky request for an endorsement.  It’s like he was trying to provoke him.  Well, he did.

Like all or virtually all of his colleagues, Sen Sessions personally dislikes Cruz.  He was willing to defend him on the Gang of Eight controversy with Rubio, but only because he and Cruz agree on this issue.  Other than that, he can’t stand him personally.  I don’t understand LePage’s endorsement.  It could be anything.  LePage is kind of a nut himself, though not in the Donald’s league.  Trump’s in a league of his own.

I can’t defend Cruz on this.  I guess he’s just an arrogant man, at least when he’s around his colleagues in the Senate.  I admit I was a little arrogant myself, when I got elected to the Alaska State Senate in ’82.  But I always had some friends.  I wasn’t a complete jerk.

My district, South Anchorage, despised Juneau Senator Bill Ray.  The big paper then, the Anchorage Times, was constantly running stories about he was screwing Anchorage and the rest of the state over.  Anything Juneau wanted, it got.  Anchorage and South Central could go to hell.

I was walking down the street in Juneau, the day before the beginning of the session.  On the other side of the street was Bill Ray.  I knew what he looked like, but I’d never actually seen him before.  So I looked him over pretty good.  I was sizing him up.

The next day I found out he’d kicked me off the Judiciary Committee.  He was the Chairman, and he could do that.  This was my one committee assignment.  I had no other.  I was a lawyer, the only Republican one in the Senate.  So I went to Senator Ray’s office to introduce myself, and ask to be put on his committee.  He relented, and as it turned out, that was good move for him.  Bill wasn’t a lawyer, and he was no liberal.  He was a union man, pure and simple.  Besides Bill and me, the other three committee members were liberal Democrat lawyers.  When legal questions came up, Bill wanted to know what I thought.  I was a valuable member of the committee, and Bill appreciated that.

So, on a personal level, Bill and I were sort of friends.  And even on the everyday politics of the Senate, we didn’t go after each other unless we really had to.  I actually went out of my way one day not to embarrass him on the Senate floor.  He appreciated it.

So Bill told me stories, and he had some good ones.  In ’66 or so, when Mike Gravel was Speaker of the House, he and Bill were staying in a waterfront hotel in Sitka, on state business.  They were at the front desk checking out, when Gravel asked him to go back up the stairs to his room and fetch his bags for him.  So Bill went back to Gravel’s room, opened the window, and threw Gravel’s bags in the ocean.  Bill liked telling that story.

I don’t know how many people I served with in my eight years in Juneau.   But there weren’t really that many that I didn’t get along with O.K.  By and large, they were good Alaskans, trying to do what was right for the people of the state.  They’d all gotten up off their ass and done something.  There was no money in it.  Our secretaries made more than we did.  The thing is, when you’re a state legislator you’re somebody.

And that’s a good feeling.


Frederick Smith Pettyjohn RIP

The last time I saw Uncle Fritz for any length of time was in Happy Camp, California.  He and Aunt Helen Mary had lost a lot of their money in a California real estate deal that went bad, and they were in a trailer.  Uncle Fritz had cancer, and the end wasn’t that far off.  Helen Mary showed me a plaque with all the decorations he’d won in the 82nd Airborne.   He’d reupped for Korea, and there were a lot of them.  He’d told me  back in Alaska that he’d won two Silver Stars, but there was no sign of them.

I asked him about it, and he said when he ran away from home when he was twelve years old he was on his own.  I knew why he had run away.  His mother, Mary McCarthy Pettyjohn, a saint, had died giving birth to her ninth child, my Aunt Rosemary Zukitis.  Rosemary was taken in by relatives in Nebraska, and has twelve children of her own.

He said he had to lie in order to survive.  Who am I to judge?

Moving on

I’m moving on from my work with the BBA Task Force, except to keep an eye on Idaho.  The best thing I can do is help Cruz.  If he wins we get our BBA Convention.  That’s my belief, and I’m acting on it.

One of our big problems in Idaho is Rep.Raul Labrador.  His district includes the Idaho Panhandle, and he’ll be with Cruz in Couer d’Alene on March 7th.  Between now and then I need to figure out how to get someone in the Cruz campaign to talk some sense into him.  Idaho adjourns on March 17th, so we’re cutting it close.

I’ve always had an inflated opinion about my persuasive abilities.  But I honestly think if I could get in a room with these two Cubans an understanding could be reached.  Cooperate on taking out Trump.  When that’s done, go at each other.  I was for Rubio before I was for Cruz. I can live with either one of them.

It would be the patriotic thing to do, and you can’t deny the patriotism of either of them.  They really need to think about this.  An understanding should be reached tomorrow.  Cruz announces he’s suspending his campaign in Florida. Rubio announces he’s suspending his campaign in Texas.  If they want to be creative they can say they’re doing this to protect the Heller decision, and the 2nd Amendment.  The kind of Supreme Court nominee that Attorney General designate Chris Christie would recommend should strike terror into the hearts of 2nd Amendment advocates across the country.   Just look at his record of judicial appointments in New Jersey.  And as far as Alaska is concerned, we really don’t like guys like Chris Christie.  He looks like a soft, fat blowhard.  He’s the kind of guy that doesn’t last in Alaska.

If Trump loses Texas and Florida he’s gone.

The more I think about it, the more I believe Trump is gone if he loses both of these states.  He’s my age, and I can assure you that what he’s doing is taking a physical toll on him.

I doubt he thought he’d get this far.  He’s burning through his own money, and it bothers him.  At that Vegas rally on Monday he called out to the owner of the casino in the audience.  He said the guy’d been begging him to take $5 million, but he’d turned him down  — until now.  Now he wants money, lots and lots of money.  He said “I want money, money, money!” or something like that.  Among other things, the man’s a vulgarian.  Naturally enough, his decision to start accepting million dollar donations went unreported.  It undercuts one of his main appeals.  Can’t talk about that. I’ve never seen the media behave so irresponsibly, and that’s saying something.  I really don’t like these people.

I’ve been working on Alaska for Cruz, and it brings back a lot of memories, starting with the day I arrived there in ’69.  I’d written Uncle Fritz, and asked him if it made sense for me to come to Alaska.  Nobody in the family thought he’d write me back, but he did.  He said we need all kinds of work done up here.  If I was a catskinner I’d be especially welcome.

I’d never seen a picture of him, so I didn’t know who to look for when I got off the plane.  It turned out to be pretty easy. Uncle Fritz and I resembled each other physically, from our facial features to our dark hair and hazel eyes.  He was about 5′ 9″, around 260 pounds, with quite a few teeth missing and long straggly grey hair. He took me back to his little apartment in Spenard and introduced me to his wife, my Aunt Helen Mary.  She was a wonderful woman, his first cousin from South Dakota.  She only agreed to marry him if he gave up drinking.  He did, and she saved his life.

I was in that apartment with Uncle Fritz and Aunt Helen Mary when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.  We watched it on their little black and white television.

I learned a lot more from my Uncle Fritz than I did at Berkeley.  He pretty much taught me how to be a man.  When I went to Alaska I was Fred Pettyjohn.  When I went back to California for law school I was Fritz.


Missed opportunities

Democrat Bill Sheffield should never have been elected Governor of Alaska in ’82.  The Republican, Tom Fink, split the conservative vote with Libertarian Dick Randolph.  And they were personal friends.

Rep.Rick Halford, running for the State Senate, had a solution, but he couldn’t get anyone to listen to him.  He wanted the Fink money people to give some money to Randolph, to be used only in Southeast, where Fink didn’t have a prayer.  Randolph would have peeled votes from Sheffield, letting Fink win the election.  Fink was practically a libertarian himself.  The only reason Randolph ran against him was because he’d made commitments to members of the Libertarian movement, nation wide, which he had to keep.  He and Ken Fanning were the only Libertarians in any state legislature in the country.  Alaska was a big deal to these people.

Rick had a great idea.  Too bad nobody listened.