Seabrook Unveils a New Personnel Policy

The Town of Seabrook has developed a new personnel policy, which has been incorporated into a new employee handbook, distributed to all employees, and provided to any new hires. My thanks to Deputy Town Manager Kelly O’Connor and Municipal Resources, Inc. for all of their hard work on this project, the first revision since 1994. The new policy is below.

Personnel Policy Revised 2019

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Coffee With a Cop June Edition

Our thanks to the Seabrook Beach Village District for hosting the June 2019 Coffee With a Cop at the Beach District Building. Thanks to Chief Walker and Deputy Gelineau for all of their work in putting this event together. Coffee With a Cop gives citizens an opportunity to talk to members of the Police Department in a social setting. There are always lots of good questions and some great discussion. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen have been big supporters of this program, and they all were on hand for this event. Thank you to the Board!!!

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A Look at “Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party” by Jon Ward

Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic PartyCamelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party by Jon Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Jimmy Carter/Teddy Kennedy race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980 was an epic fight and Jon Ward brings us back to it with this terrific book. The Carter/Kennedy fight had both a short term and long term impact on the Democratic Party, with the contest weakening incumbent President Carter, and most certainly helping GOP nominee Ronald Reagan to victory that year. The contest, without question, impacted Democratic politics in ways still felt today.

The author brings us mini-biographies of each man to start the book, with looks that are not always flattering to either. We see Carter’s development as a politician in the deep south, and despite his reputation as a new southern Democrat we see that he was willing to at least blur his positions on race in order to advance politically. He is contrasted with Kennedy in terms of his poorer upbringing, and how hard he had to fight to get ahead. That obviously was not the case with Ted Kennedy, and the author does not shy away from making that contrast with Carter an unflattering one for Kennedy.

Carter’s race to the Presidency is covered, with the Georgia operatives he brought with him to Washington not exactly fitting in with the political class. The run-up to the Carter/Kennedy confrontation is looked at, with the political separation that led to Kennedy entering the race given a good look. Carter’s political operation was hamstrung in several important ways, many of which are covered in some recently read books. (“The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency” by Chris Whipple and “Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century” by John Farrell.) Carter’s political failings, and his inability to get along with Democratic grandees like Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neill, directly led to the Kennedy challenge. Knowing that Kennedy (and many other Dems) were not happy with the direction of the Carter Administration the President dug in and refused to make the political accommodations that might have prevented the Kennedy challenge. Carter’s rebuffing of Kennedy on health care, while not the only factor bringing Kennedy into the race, most certainly played an outsized role. Carter’s failures, in a political sense, are covered extensively in the Farrell book where we find that Ted Kennedy is not the only major Democratic officeholder to have problems with the Carter political operation. Whipple shows us Carter adopting the “spokes of the wheel” staff system, with no Chief of Staff. Everyone, including Carter, now sees that as a problem, and it had to be a factor in the sub-par performance of the Carter political operation, and a factor in the breakdown with Kennedy. My own view is that there was also some “grievance” in Carter about Kennedy, reflective of some jealousy over Kennedy’s standing in the Democratic Party, and in the nation. This grievance, in my view, led to some desire in Carter to show Teddy exactly who the boss was. In 1979 Kennedy, in national polling, was seen as an easy victor over Carter. Carter did his part to fuel the rivalry by answering a question about Kennedy’s possible entrance into the race:

“Carter remained publicly defiant about his political future, despite his tanking popularity. One day after the June numbers appeared, he hosted several dozen congressmen at the White House for a briefing on the Panama Canal treaty, which was struggling to gain support. The House members were seated at round tables, in groups of ten or so. Carter went from table to table. While he spoke to one group, he was asked by Representative Toby Moffett of Connecticut how he felt about the 1980 election. Carter claims that Moffett asked him if he was even going to run for reelection, “which was kind of an insult to an incumbent president.” “Of course I am,” Carter told Moffett. Moffett persisted. “What about Ted Kennedy?” he asked. “I’m going to whip his ass,” Carter said. Representative William Brodhead, a Michigan Democrat, was taken aback. “Excuse me, what did you say?” he said. Moffett cut him off. “I don’t think the president wants to repeat what he said,” he told Brodhead. Carter corrected him. “Yes I do,” he said. “I’m going to whip his ass.”

Ward, Jon. Camelot’s End . Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Author Jon Ward brings us the actual primary fight in a measured way, not inundating us with detail but covering the campaign high and low points. In this area the author does not spare Kennedy, who he paints as over-confident, with a political operation covered in rust. Kennedy’s indecision, his disastrous interview with Roger Mudd, and his failure to come up with a cogent message that resonated with primary voters, are covered. (The End of Camelot.) Kennedy had some political misfortune, as the Iran hostage crisis initially created some patriotic support for President Carter, and allowed Carter to avoid the campaign trail and debates. As Kennedy took early defeat after defeat, many of them by wide margins, many urged him to get out of the race. Kennedy’s refusal to do so, and his decision to take the fight all the way to the convention, have been widely discussed, and in some quarters heavily criticized. It is true that Kennedy performed substantially better on the campaign trail once the race was effectively over, deciding to just let it rip. He had a couple of big wins over Carter, including in the New York primary, but it simply was too little, too late. Going into the Convention Carter’s delegate lead was insurmountable.

The book gives us a good look at that Convention, and the very bad blood that existed between the Carter and Kennedy camps. This is another aspect of the Kennedy operation that has come in for heavy criticism. Kennedy’s attempt to “open” the Convention by releasing delegates from their candidate commitments accrued through the caucuses and primaries is covered, as well as the Kennedy operation platform fights and general disruption of the proceedings. (Harold Ickes gets an important cameo in this section) Of course we get the great Kennedy speech at the Convention (“the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”) as well as the refusal of Kennedy to give Carter a full embrace on the stage at the end of the Convention. This episode is now legend, and Jon Ward gives us much detail on it, including the fact that Kennedy did indeed shake Carter’s hand. Despite the handshake there was no raising of the clasped hands indicating unity between the camps, and Kennedy studiously avoided Carter on that stage. With Kennedy’s speech having worked the party faithful up in a way that Carter could not the Kennedy support was vital to Carter. Ward shows us Carter essentially being humiliated on that stage as the opening of the general election campaign he was destined to lose to Ronald Reagan. Kennedy deserves some criticism for that performance, but the hostility, by that point, was simply baked into the cake.

A very good and interesting book by Ward. Ted Kennedy only ran for President once, and this book gives you a good and fair look at that race, and how it impacted the Democratic Party, and one term Democratic President Jimmy Carter, and helped to usher in eight years of Ronald Reagan.

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Congratulations to Seabrook Water Department Foreman Herb Fowler

Congratulations to Seabrook Water Department Foreman Herb Fowler, who is retiring after 42 years of service to the Town of Seabrook. Herb has been part of a Seabrook Water Department that has grown, and is today a model water department. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen were on hand to wish Herb well as the Water Department wished him well. Best wishes to Herb for a great and well deserved retirement.

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The Seabrook Fire Memorial 2019

The Seabrook Firefighters Memorial has been moved to the Seabrook Fire Station, and the Town remembered those that have come before us in the Fire Service in Seabrook with a ceremony on Saturday. Thanks to Chief William Edwards for making this day possible with a lot of excellent planning and work. Many thanks to the Seabrook Board of Selectmen for all of their support. It was wonderful to have former Chief Jeff Brown on hand, and deep appreciation to Chaplain Craig Everett as well as bagpipers Bill Shute and Jim MacDonald, and Newburyport Chief Chris LeClair.The weather did not cooperate much but it was a great ceremony despite that.

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The David Miliband 2019 Fulbright Lecture

The David Miliband 2019 Fulbright Speech “Global Politics in the Age of Impunity” is worth a look. Axios covered the speech by the former British Foreign Secretary and looked at some of the highlights. From Axios:

Miliband contends that from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, the world seemed to be moving toward a future where such values were protected internationally.

But, but, but: “The voters in the West clearly became disillusioned with foreign policy failings, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. Economically, globalization in that period was "too unequal for its own good and too insecure for its own good, and therefore unsustainable.”

Miliband adds that leaders took advantage of the backlash. He points to Brexit (which he opposes) as an example of misleading claims meeting public discontent with explosive results.

Miliband is an extremely sober and clear minded individual, and this speech highlights some of the key political changes occurring across the world, with the negative ramifications of those changes highlighted by Miliband. From the speech:

However, the Age of Impunity is born of political changes. It reflects serious shifts in geopolitics. There is a political emergency as well as a humanitarian emergency. The political sea change is that constraints on the abuse of power are being weakened internationally and nationally at the same time. Where the years after the Cold War saw growing civilian protection internationally and a surge in accountable government nationally, so today we see the reverse. The multilateral system is under assault from its cornerstone in the US, and Brexit represents a further attack here in the UK. Meanwhile, checks on executive power at the national level are also being weakened.
This is the new arrogance of power, internationally and nationally, and it needs to be understood and then addressed if the trends towards greater protection of the most vulnerable are to be restored.

The full speech is very much worthy of a look.

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A Review of “The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump’s America”

The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's AmericaThe Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump’s America by Jake Sherman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another look at the first half of the Trump Administration, but this time from the perspective of Congress. The authors appear to have been granted access to some key Congressional leaders from both parties, leveraging that access to produce a work that will likely confirm some of the worst public perceptions of the Congress.

The book is not Trump dominated, but most certainly shows how the interactions with the President are handled by Congress, and how Trump (and staff) himself managed the Congressional process. It is not a pretty picture for any of the players involved, even when some measure of success is achieved. The book extends beyond Trump, allowing us to see how the GOP leadership race played out after Speaker Paul Ryan announced his retirement, giving us a close view of the attempt by Steve Scalise to find a way to bump off Kevin McCarthy. Nancy Pelosi fighting off the insurgent effort to replace her as the Democratic leader is covered, and she comes off as a master, while the insurgents do not look so good. The battle for control of Congress, won by the Pelosi led Democrats, is covered extensively. In that coverage we get a good look at the Joe Crowley- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Democratic primary, and how Crowley, interested in leadership of the Democratic caucus, never saw the train coming that took him out of Congress. The role of money, and how it is allocated, and its importance in shaping the races, is shown clearly.

The leadership races, and the battle for control of Congress, is not all that the authors look at. The important legislative battles that brought us the government shutdown, the GOP passed tax bill, Supreme Court nominations, and the rather unique Trump method of dealing with Congress are all covered. Paul Ryan’s exasperation, and frustration, come through clearly on that front. Ryan, as Speaker, had to deal with the dynamic of the GOP Freedom Caucus, which wreaked all sorts of havoc on Ryan and GOP leadership. Trump back dooring the Speaker on multiple occasions by dealing directly with Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows of the Freedom Caucus created all sorts of problems for the GOP leadership. Trump’s fundamental miscalculation, against all GOP advice, on forcing the government shutdown, and then being forced to capitulate to Nancy Pelosi, is covered in some detail. The response to the shutdown, and the out of touch nature of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, is highlighted. The coverage of Kushner is unflattering, to say the least. Not sure how it could be otherwise, as this guy is a walking train wreck, with little or no self awareness. Here are some of the Kushner gems from the book.

“It was at this point that Kushner got more involved in trying to solve the shutdown. He seemed to view himself as uniquely qualified to break legislative logjams, although there was scant evidence that that was the case. Kushner had played a central role in passing a bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill, and appeared to relish his work on that front. But, to longtime aides on Capitol Hill, this wasn’t the triumph he seemed to think it was, since Democrats were always yearning to rewrite the nation’s incarceration laws. Just before the shutdown set in, Kushner told Ryan, McCarthy, and Scalise that he wasn’t focused on the immigration standoff because he was “distracted with criminal justice reform.” But now that reform was done, he expected to make short work of it. I’m on it, he told Ryan. I can quickly fix it.”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (p. 389). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Of course Kushner solved nothing, but his self importance and self delusion are astounding.

“When Sen. John McCain visited the White House early in the administration, he was in the midst of telling Trump about military procurement reform, a longtime passion, when Kushner interjected. “Don’t worry, Senator McCain. We’re going to change the way the entire government works,” Kushner said without a hint of irony. “Good luck, son,” McCain responded.”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (p. 48). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Kushner was also convinced he could solve the issue of immigration, constantly telling people that a big deal was possible. Never mind not understanding his negotiating partner, Kushner did not even grasp the actual position of his own team. Kushner’s involvement in immigration talks ended like everything he touches ends. With recriminations, bad blood, and of course no deal.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sessions, which happened over the first weekend of 2019, did not bear much fruit. Participants were struck by how many aides the White House had gathered—more than fifty, by several estimates—which made the sessions un-conducive to deal cutting. Kushner began speaking more regularly in these meetings. In one, he marveled at the fact that it costs the government $750 per day to keep an undocumented child in the United States. They might as well put them up at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, he quipped. He also said he was bringing a businessman’s mind-set to the border talks. The border needed more money because people were trying to cross it more often, he said. He brushed aside concerns about cost, and said the federal government should spend whatever it needs on security. The meetings left Democrats and Republicans alike bewildered. How, they thought, could they come to a deal with a White House that was so scattershot in its thinking? How could the president put his trust in a neophyte like Kushner?”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (pp. 392-393). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

I enjoyed the book, and I do recommend it. The authors garbled what a “pocket veto” is, but aside from that minor complaint the book is another look at the first couple of years of the Trump Administration from a different vantage point, and contributes to understanding some of the forces pulling the political system apart. It does not always take new ground, but certainly gives more detail than you will get from reading Politico, where the authors write a daily newsletter.

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