A reporter’s recollection of Jay, the draft dodger

January 1, 2014

One of the holiday treats recently passed was a production by the West Virginia Library Commission that ran as a public service program on some local cable systems.

The show featured former WSAZ-TV3 and WCHS-TV8 anchorman Bob Brunner, who was talking about his book, “A Reporter’s Recollections.” The book, in publication for some time now, was discussed in detail by the retired newsman.

One item of extreme interest in the book, and upon which Brunner spent a great deal of time on the show, is the “draft dodging” performed by now-U.S.Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Many who now revere the retiring senator, including military personnel, act as though Rockefeller is the second coming of Gen. Pershing. Hardly, though. As Brunner details in his book, Rockefeller spent a decade dodging the draft board in his native New York as he sought deferment after deferment.

Then, Rockefeller got elected to the West Virginia Legislature, thanks to his benevolent work at Emmons. Once seated in Charleston, he was able to get fellow Democrat Gov. Hulett C. Smith to write a letter to the draft board here maintaining his presence was absolutely essential at the Capitol. Since Rockefeller was — and is — anti-coal, it is difficult to believe he was really necessary, but Smith said he was.

Brunner described the whole episode as a massive ruse put on by Rockefeller and his allies to keep him out of the military.

Again, many veterans stand and salute the man as if he actually had some concern for their well-being. Well, maybe he did have concern for their well-being; but he certainly was concerned about his own safety.

I am that rare breed of political commentator who will not suddenly elevate a weak leader to sainthood just because he retires or, God forbid, dies. If the man or woman was a disaster up until the very end, no deathbed profession ever saved his public career in my opinion.

Jay Rockefeller has never been one of us. As the late chemical tycoon Elmer Fike always said, “When one of us becomes one of them, he ain’t one of us any more.”

I’m not sure Rocky, the well-bred New York Republican, was ever “one of us.” I’ll guarantee you he has no stronger feelings for coal than Barack Obama and Joe Biden, although in his latter years he hid those feelings pretty well.

With Jay Rockefeller in his seat, New York had three senators; West Virginia might have had one occasionally. Meanwhile, Sharon Percy Rockefeller represented Illinois.

The Mountain State sure did well with that delegation in the field. Population shrank; coal mines closed; and the state fell further and further behind the other states. Most of our “representatives” wouldn’t have known a genuine soup bean and cornbread dinner if they sat down in it. They knew just as much about how the people survive daily life; virtually nothing.

… The glaring exception to that in the federal delegation is U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, the Democrat representing the Third District. Rahall is, in fact, one of us and he proves it on a daily basis. Rahall still returns and takes phone calls; he shows up at nearly every public event in his district; and he shows genuine compassion for his constituents.

While there is no way I ever agree with every vote a congressional representative makes, it is safe to say Rahall looks out for the folks back home most of the time. Continuous efforts by Republicans to link him to President Obama miss the point entirely.

Rahall is a West Virginian and he votes his beliefs. It is difficult to ask for more service than this hard-working congressman provides.

The 2014 election is an opportunity for voters to size up the candidates and maybe … just maybe … select some genuine Mountaineers to lead us. Rahall is one obvious choice; others need to do some convincing.

That still leads me to recall that in the first election in which West Virginia voters were free to vote for former Confederates, they elected a CSA general as governor. So much for the apologist Charleston Gazette insisting how “Northern-leaning” were the state residents. As northern-leaning, in fact, as their counterparts in Richmond, our “real” capital.

… A well-known former Mingo Countian may be a candidate for Congress this year.

Angel Moore, whose family is a familiar name throughout Southern West Virginia, is considering a run for Congress in the Second District.

That’s the seat being given up by Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Moore, also a Republican, is eyeing a crowded field that already includes seven would-be candidates.

Moore’s father, Dan Moore, was a GOP candidate for governor in 2004. He placed second in a divided primary. Democrat Joe Manchin defeated the Republican nominee, Monty Warner, that fall.

The Moores are well-respected in Southern West Virginia, where Dan Moore has been a banker and automobile dealer. Angel Moore is an attorney and has also been involved in the family’s automobile business. She was featured in Moore Chevrolet ads for many years and currently operates a dealership in Montgomery.

The Moore roots grow deep in the Southern coalfields, but Angel Moore has also had a statewide presence as general counsel and assistant secretary in the state Commerce Department during the Tomblin administration. She formerly worked in the Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love law firm in Charleston. She currently resides in the capital city.

Moore’s entry into the race would cause quite a stir for the GOP. She would clearly become an “instant” contender for the nomination.

… Meanwhile, without any logical or stated reason for doing so, a Wheeling newspaper recently proclaimed Charlotte Lane of Charleston as the “front-runner” for the GOP nomination in the Second District.

I’m willing to offer a friendly wager with anyone in Wheeling that Lane does not finish in the top two.

Would such a wager be illegal?

Not if we insisted it somehow benefited some youth athletic program.

… Dreama apparently didn’t get well enough rid of former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.

Thornsbury attempted to get Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman to toss a civil suit filed against him because, he said, it wasn’t properly served.

Process servers attempted to serve the papers on the disgraced former judge at the marital residence he shared with Mrs. Thornsbury. When she refused to accept service, they apparently left the papers in a mailbox at the house.

Thornsbury argued that he and the Mrs. were estranged. For those in Hamlin, that means they weren’t still together as man and wife. But Kaufman apparently didn’t buy that argument. Strange, he no doubt thought, but maybe not EStranged.

So, Kaufman said he is going to let the suit continue. In it, Thornsbury’s former administrative assistant, who U.S. attorneys insist is also Thornsbury’s former mistress, and her husband have filed multiple charges against His Honor.

The judge is willing, on the other hand, to plead guilty in federal court to a charge of tampering with an indictment. Charges involving the alleged mistress are being dismissed by the government.

All of which still leads me to wonder if the former assistant was really Thornsbury’s mistress. I know the feds have repeatedly said she was in indictments of others. But some in Williamson still insist she rebuffed the judge, which led to his attempts to get her husband in trouble. That “trouble” included having law enforcement lodge false charges as well as manufacture “evidence” against the man.

A trial, which will likely never happen because an insurance company will cave in and pay the plaintiffs the maximum amount allowed under their policy, might be interesting indeed.

Meanwhile, what is the marital status of Mike and Dreama, everybody’s dream couple?

… I will again be labeled as a “weird conservative Republican,” but I fail to have sympathy for Phil Robertson and his “Duck Dynasty” comments about homosexuals and other minorities. Since conservative Republicans have rushed to Robertson’s “free speech” defense, I can’t help but wonder where they all were when the Dixie Chicks were ostracized for remarks about former President George W. Bush.

The same theories hold true, except Robertson was apparently espousing conservative views while the Chicks were ranting in a liberal vein.

By the way, if Robertson’s hatred of gay and African-American folks is “conservative,” then I really don’t want to be one.

Robertson does — and did — have a right to free speech. He exercised it and there were no arrest warrants issued. And his employers — the TV network and Cracker Barrel store — also have a right to operate their businesses as they see fit. That includes suspending and/or firing Robertson.

It’s really as simple as that.

I would have fired him.

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Keep the comments, story ideas and rumors coming. Use my email address listed here or call my cell, 304-533-5185. Happy New Year to all.