The Optics Of Politics

The Optics of Politics

I came back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi last Friday night and saw a post from Steve Newton on Facebook.  I always read his posts because I know they are going to be interesting.  Once I read the second sentence, I knew somehow I was going to be a part of this post.  Since Steve specifically said at the end of it not to reply with reasons or justifications, I gave a brief reply acknowledging he was talking about me and fully owning my posts about one of the two people he was talking about in his post.  Since then, Steve has taken it upon himself to wage some bizarre one-man crusade against the validity of this blog.  See the comments section over on Blue Delaware.  You can read Steve’s opening salvo he posted on Facebook in that article.  I also posted an article mainly in reply to Steve’s post.  It was already in my drafts folder but I added to it due to the nature of Steve’s post.

This is what I wrote in reply to Steve’s original post:

Being the main person who went after Paul this week, I will fully own what I did. I won’t give a reason for that because you don’t want me to. And I fully accept the ramifications of those posts if Paul no longer wishes to associate with me if I go after him for what I perceive to be bad education policy. As for Mike, I was absolutely sickened by things I was reading about him on here. I too have reservations about parts of Reg 225.

This is what I would have written had rules not been put in place.  Rules that I respect since it isn’t my own feed.

I’ve known Paul Baumbach for a few years now.  Since my time as an “education thought leader” (which Paul Baumbach wrote in reply to Steve’s post but I have never come close to thinking about myself), there have been bills I’ve supported and those I most definitely haven’t.  Some of those have been Paul Baumbach bills.  I do not support the bill to lower school board terms to four years, and I certainly didn’t support the prior bill to lower them to three years.  Had the new school board term bill been the ONLY school board bill I saw this week, my reaction may not have been so strong.  But the bill about having the State Board of Education remove a school board member with 60% in favor struck a very raw chord with me.  Not because it was the State Board of Education, but because of WHO it came from.  Like I said, I don’t always agree with Paul on things.  And yes, I am a grenade throwing blogger over half the time.  I own that and even though I’ve said I would, I probably won’t stop until I just throw my hands up in the air and give up.  You said it yourself Steve, both Mike and Paul understand the long game.  But in the same breath, you stated how I couldn’t possibly understand the motivations behind his bills since I didn’t ask him first.

Blogging is NOT the same as mainstream media.  Being a former blogger, Steve would be the first to know this.  Bloggers can offer opinions where journalists cannot in a news article (at least according to the ethics of journalism they shouldn’t, but I digress).  Many bloggers do not go after all sides of the story.  We go full throttle on the attack sometimes.  We are mean and vicious and not so nice.  These are elected officials or those in power in the education arena that I blast.  While I will sit here and say it is not personal, I can understand how an elected official or someone working at the Delaware DOE can take it that way.  These are their careers or an important part of their lives, and here I am questioning their decision-making process or how they came to a certain decision.  I fully understand they can see that as an attack on their integrity.  But they are in their positions which ARE public positions.  And it doesn’t get more public than education.  I don’t go after their spouses.  I don’t go after their children.  I don’t go after their friends.  Maybe their political friends, but not their personal friends.  I don’t go to people on Facebook and say “Why are you friends with that person?”

Do I think facts are important?  Absolutely.  Do I always seek out those facts?  No.  And there are simple reasons for that.  People lie.  They cover things up.  This happens a lot.  I don’t do it for the “glory” or the “popularity” because at heart I am actually a very private person.  I have 1,453 “friends” on Facebook.  Do I consider all of them “friends” in the truest sense of the word?  No.  Have I friended someone because of their political office or their connections to education?  Absolutely!  I do that not only because I am interested in what they write but also because I want to get to know them as a person.  It isn’t so I can say, as a made-up example, “Look, I’m friends with Donald Trump!  I’m special!”  I’m friends on Facebook with a comic artist I met for two seconds in 1983 named Bill Sienkwiecz.  The guy doesn’t know me from Adam.  But I love reading his posts.  That’s just Facebook.  I’m not into blocking people or going after people on Facebook.  I use my blog for the latter.  Which I then post to Facebook pages or groups.  I have no doubt in my mind that friends who are in some of those same groups probably let out a bit of a groan when they see five posts in a row on their feed about my latest article.  I see similar things at times and I can just scroll past them.  I don’t read everything everybody says on Facebook.  I just don’t have the time.  I don’t read every section of the News Journal or The State News either.

Back to Paul.  I blasted Paul this week because I was absolutely shocked that he would come out with a bill like the school board removal bill.  To me, when it comes to education policy and legislation, the motivation matters.  But more than that, I found it to be an extreme insult to a) elected school board members and b) the people who vote for those school board members.  I wish like hell more people would come out for school board elections.  I do my part each year trying to get the word out.  But this bill, which Paul was quoted in the News Journal for last week, was about the Shirley Saffer situation.  It is a touchy subject for me.  She may or may not have said something three and a half years ago to a bus driver.  Even if she did say that thing, the things said about her by others far surpass the allegations against her in my opinion.  I’ve heard them and I’ve seen them.  I’ve seen things involving that situation that aren’t meant for public consumption and things said about Saffer are some of the ugliest things I’ve read about a person.  So when some of those same people start lobbying Paul for a bill that would be implemented statewide and he goes with it, that is his right.  But adding fuel to that fire, when that bill comes out during a time when Christina is under a Carney invasion and it reaches a fever pitch, AND the Governor has been having closed-door meetings left and right with Christina board members and Newark legislators, sure, I’m going to question the hell out of those motivations.  Especially since some of those SAME people that wanted to keep tearing Saffer apart have straight up said to me that they want certain other Christina board members GONE.

Steve talked about the times in America when your opponent wasn’t the spawn of Satan.  Guess what Steve, we didn’t have Facebook then.  We can have huge political arguments about things the way families do (even in those times in America) and yell and scream at each other until we’re blue (or red) in the face.  But like you, I draw the line at personal attacks.  To me, there is a very clear and distinctive line between personal attacks and motivations.  Someone going after Mike Matthews because of who he decides to love is a personal attack.  Myself going after Paul because I think there has been deep collusion with the Governor about Christina and specific board members and Paul launches a bill that could potentially remedy that in a very destructive way is a motivation.  Let’s be very honest with ourselves.  If that was Paul’s motivation, do you think he would EVER come out and say that?  Hell no.  That would cause everyone to question his motivation and integrity.  He can’t have that.

The optics of politics is a very gray area.  I’ve written about many bills Senator David Sokola has either written or torn apart with amendments.  He would NEVER come out and say why he does this.  He usually has some feeble excuses on the why that don’t hold water or later turn out to be true obstructions to education and equity in Delaware.

Steve and I have something in common.  We both ran for public office and lost.  He for State Representative and myself for the Capital School Board.  Had we won, I firmly believe both of us would have been stifled.  We couldn’t just say whatever we wanted whenever we felt like it.  Words would have to be selected with caution so they didn’t jeopardize the public office we held.  I see this with Mike Matthews now.  As President of DSEA, he has to draw the line between how he feels about something on a personal level and that of the highest position in the Delaware teacher’s union.  I would think it can be frustrating at times for Mike because he was so vocal in the past.

What my “character assassination” of Paul (as Steve put it) does not mean is I think Paul is a horrible person or that every single draft bill he writes is filled with sinister motives.  I support Paul’s death with dignity attempts.  I support his bills about libraries.  But as I wrote in the comments on Blue Delaware, one bad bill can turn over the apple cart, whether it actually gets filed or not.  The fact that Paul is determined to get this bill filed this week shows, to me at least, that he is not listening to what people have to say.  He may give the illusion that he is and he may tweak the bill, but come hell or high water, this bill will be heard!

For that matter, since the bill is not being filed this week, I can improve it without even having it officially filed.  I’ve submitted, I’ve shared a draft with my colleagues but it’s not the filed bill until it’s filed and it’s getting filed this week.

He simply cannot accept this is a bill the people don’t want nor did they really ask for it save for the select few in the Christina School District.  And I would love to know who the “we” Paul refers to.  As the principal sponsor on this bill, who colluded with Paul in drafting this bill earlier in 2017?  I believe that is very important.  In this interview, Paul ASSUMES the draft was sent to me because the sender opposed Carney’s consolidation plan.  Once again with the assuming.  Perhaps the sender sent me this draft because they saw it as a bill that would NEVER have a right time to be filed.

Paul absolutely refuses to make this a statewide bill which could essentially vote out ALL elected officials.  Just school boards.  He is stuck on that to the point of absurdity in my opinion.  If this bill has been in the planning stages since last April, why is it that the Executive Director of the State Board of Education was NEVER notified about this bill which could add substantially to the responsibilities of that organization?  Why did she just find out about it when I posted the initial article on it last week?  Paul would have us believe he did his due diligence on this when the reality is he took legislation from Maryland and carelessly copied it and waited nine months to release it.

As well, in the interview, Paul casts aspersions on those who opposed his bill by saying they didn’t offer any alternatives.  Paul knows damn well I suggested putting forth legislation which would make the State Board of Elections an elected body, not Governor appointed.  Which is something the people of Delaware have been wanting for a long time.  Much more than casting out school board members who are naughty.  But Paul declared he would NEVER put forth a bill like that because the Governor would veto it and there is not enough support in the General Assembly to support it.  He expects me to take his word for that but refuses to mention it once in the days after in interviews he had with blogs or the media.

Politics is a very tricky beast.  People tend to see what is presented to them and often, that truth is clouded.  Do I know for an absolute fact that Paul came out with this bill because the Christina board is putting pressure on Governor Carney’s office cause of the whole school consolidation/MOU thing?  No.  But I don’t believe Paul would say that even if he did think it.  It would be political suicide.  I will call out any legislator who signs onto this bill and will give them hell for it.

This happens a lot.  On both sides of the aisle.  Republicans are not exempt from these types of shenanigans.  As an example, I firmly believe the whole Regulation 225 controversy was played up by certain Republicans in Delaware.  For years, many Republicans have wanted Right To Work laws in Delaware.  When DSEA announced their support of the regulation, it became pounce time on Mike Matthews and DSEA.  They didn’t go after the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union or groups associated with gender identity, but they went nuts over DSEA.  Why?  Politically, it makes sense.

I have no idea why Steve Newton is adamant on casting doubt on my blog, going so far as to call it a “hate site”.  Perhaps it is because I didn’t back down from his original Facebook post and called him out on it.  Only Steve can answer that.  I now question Steve’s motivations which is something I never thought I would have to say.  I think Steve, at heart, is a good person.  I think he believes what he says.  He brings up many valid points about subjects I will fully admit I don’t know the first thing about.  But his hypocritical stance on this issue with Paul Baumbach pissed me off.  He also made it a point to repeatedly point out my “error” about a FOIA technicality and my reporting of this issue even though the same thing appeared earlier that day in The News Journal.  Which was my primary source for that information.  I wouldn’t have even known about that situation had Jessica Bies not written about it.  Therefore I wouldn’t have known the meeting was planned in advance or bothered to look at the Mayor of Wilmington’s itinerary.  But Steve wants to shout from the rooftops on how wrong I was even though our private conversation about it consisted of an apology on my part, my willingness to correct it, and Steve agreeing with me the meeting shouldn’t have gone ahead because of the agenda error.  But Steve will NOT write about that because he has this overwhelming desire to make me look like an unworthy source of education news.  Why Steve?  Your insistence on turning my own “grenade launching” description of my blog into a belief that I may post things that aren’t true shows more about your motivations than anything else.

The last thing I wanted to do was engage in a blog/social media ruckus with Steve Newton, but the situation demands it.  I will be damned if someone is going to make a claim against my credibility and this blog because I dared to go after (politically I may add) one of their friends.  You don’t like what I write Steve?  Then don’t read it.  You don’t like my Facebook posts?  Block me or skip over it.  But don’t you dare question my honor and suggest that I am a liar out to fool the people of this state.  Sure, I write satirical articles at times which should be obvious to most folks.  You could even sit there and say “Isn’t that the same thing you did with Paul?” while ignoring the fact that there are dozens of other legislators, DOE employees, non-profit company employees, and members of the Executive Branch that I have been writing about for over three years without so much as a bark from you.  The optics of politics.


2 thoughts on “The Optics Of Politics

  1. Well, this certainly needed to be said, Kevin. Thank you!

    But you wrongly conclude that Newton’s hate site is yours. “I have no idea why Steve Newton is adamant on casting doubt on my blog, going so far as to call it a “hate site”. ”

    He is talking about DE Politics blog…”you continue to post on Delaware Politics Facebook page, which has become one of the most homophobic, red-baiting social media pages in Delaware, but because they mouth the words “parents’ rights” you are apparently ok with that.”


    1. I didn’t really see it that way. “He continues to post and validate a hate site.” If he meant “to post to” that I could see. But he doesn’t draw that distinction. Only Steve could correct me on that. Steve?


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