Senator Mark Warner, a Good Man

OK, you know how I stand on Senator Warner. We are not close friends of course, but somehow history seems to be connecting us.

He's not flashy but is bright; was valedictorian at George Washington University. He started three companies as a young man, and the first two failed ... went bankrupt. At that time, he went to law school to try and find a "real job," as he has said, but eventually the entrepreneurial bug got to him again and he raised money from his fellow law school friends and started what became Nextel, which was bought out by a large company and made him a wealthy man. Mark Warner is not a career politician, although he has been interested in politics since high school.

The most recent of our "seven degrees of separation" connections occurred back in March during the hyper-frenetic South-by-Southwest in Austin, when Warner was a key speaker at one of the panels. Usually, I try to stay as far from town as possible those three weeks, but one day an email invited me to a "brunch" with Senator Warner on Sunday morning. That was unusual enough, but what made it really strange was that it was sent on Friday, or maybe Saturday! I happened to see it, and RSVP'd that I would attend. The address was something like "Unit 60 A" at a prominent high rise apartment in town. I had no idea what this meant, and assumed there would be some sort of "community room" on the top floor, with a breakfast spread for a crowd along with a great view. To my surprise, the address turned out to be an individual, private home in the high-rise, and to my utter amazement, the person who opened the door invited me into the living room where no more than four of five other guests were milling around along with Senator Warner! One or two people arrived within a few minutes, but all in all, there were only seven of so guests and the Senator, plus a small catering crew. Wow! We were treated to brunch and a broad update on the state of the government in the US, all with no notes, along with unlimited Q&As. I came away totally convinced that Senator Warner would be the sort of leader who would make a first-class contribution to this country.

But wait, that's not all. Just a day or two ago, another email arrived with an invitation to join the Senator for a discussion of topics of national interest. Or something like that. The venue was a conference room associated with a bar on the first floor of a well-known building in the very heart of Austin. The stated time was 6 p.m. on Friday, May 19. I arrived early, lucked into a parking spot four or five blocks away, and walked to the appointed location. Right after I arrived, Admiral Bob Inman walked in, and I had him all to myself for nearly twenty minutes! Now he has had a really interesting career! The Senator arrived more than a half hour late, having flown commercially; the flight was delayed and traffic was the usual horrible Austin scene. Unfortunately, the room was poor acoustically, with a concrete floor and no microphone, so Senator Warner spoke to the roughly twenty-five people there by continuously turning around and making eye contact. I had to strain to listen, although standing only five of six feet away, but got most of what he said. Following that, there  was fifteen or so minutes of Q&A, and the guests left. I had the opportunity to thank him again for helping get Virginia Tech into the ACC back in the day. He smiled, said that was one of his best "wins," and thanked me for "always being at my events." I think he really did remember me!

The main reason for this blog, and I apologize for the wordiness and hope that a few readers still are with me, is to summarize his comments last night, all of which were done without any notes. The Senate Intelligence Committee report that was just released was a unanimous conclusion. Every Democrat and every Republican signed it and is in total agreement. This is completely different from the bitterly divided House Intelligence Committee, a disgustingly dysfunctional partisan battlefield. The Senate committee's full, unclassified report, in his words, has three key conclusions:

1  The Russians, under state leadership, actively interfered in the 2016 election in the US. The effort was sophisticated, effective, and was aimed at promoting the candidacy of Donald Trump and hindering the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Warner said that Vladimir Putin personally hated Hillary Clinton, based not only on her policies, including sanctions, but also that Russian athletes were banned from the recent Olympics for doping. There were other factors, but I don't remember them. It seemed more of antipathy against Clinton than preference for Trump.

2. Twenty one states were targeted specifically, and at least several states' electronic voting systems were hacked into. There is no indication that any cast votes were changed.

3. This is perhaps the most scary one of the three. The Russians took advantage of the fact, and this is staggering to me, that half of Americans get their news primarily, or solely, from social media! Yes, you read this correctly. The Russians created fake entities, and sometimes actually hacked into "friends" accounts on Facebook, stole identities from real people, then posted under their names. Thousands of phony identities were formed, and hundreds, if not thousands of "causes" were created. Many of these were able to get huge numbers of people to "like" and "share" them, and they spread out and reached, if I remember correctly, 121 million people who read or shared or liked, etc these. There were large rallies in many parts of the country created by entirely fake groups, groups that did not exist at all, but seemed so authentic that people were that energized. They not only posted false information about candidates they wanted to hurt, but also had sophisticated campaigns to decrease interest in voting for target groups, often blacks or Hispanics in order to lower their turnout. Smear campaigns against Muslims were incorporated. Religious issues were used against some candidates.

If you think this is crazy or impossible, just remember the false information that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring operating our of a pizza restaurant in New York City! There were so many people who believed this that many showed up and threatened violence to the poor sap who was trying to serve pizza. Or think about the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, who has two million people who actually pay to get his "Info Wars" Internet empire that has declared things such as that the Sandy Hook, CT murders at the elementary school were fabricated and nothing ever happened. Let that sink in.

Senator Warner indicated that the threats to free and fair elections in this country and many other countries are threatened, and said that he considers this as the most serious dangerous thing to confront the US, even more than North Korea or Syria. Let that sink in.

All I can say is that the truth needs to come out.  The current president who demeans the press, criticizes the FBI and the Department of Justice, and who can't seem to go a day without a new cruel nickname for an enemy or some personal or financial scandal, is lowering the dignity of the office of President. His approach, apparently the art of the deal, is to be an aggressive bully. Senator Warner closed with the comment that within twenty years, this country could be facing its most critical test to the institutions of governance and democracy. Let that sink in!


Please feel free to post a comment here on the blog, or email me directly at <> with any remarks.

I would much appreciate your recommendation of this blog and my books to friends, book clubs, and (if appropriate) radio clubs. In addition, I'd be pleased to appear at book clubs and/or radio clubs within a two-hour drive of Austin to discuss either book.

Author: Reunion, and Contact Sport.

5 Responses

  1. Needless to say, i completely agree. What troubles me most is why Warner's appearances and comments are so circumscribed. What he has to say should be heard by millions - not just a small group meeting in an Austin condo high rise. If he has evidence (better yet, proof) of his claims, i would expect at least some mainstream news outlets and TV programs to air them. Obviously, FOX won't cover him, but perhaps NBC or Steven Colbert or John Oliver or, yea, even PBS or 60 Minutes. Would like to meet him.
    • JK James George
      I agree, David. In fact, it was a pleasant surprise to see him as the featured guest on CBS's Face The Nation this morning. Pretty much exactly the same theme, with a tiny bit less detain due to the time restraints. Warner is an outstanding American. I'd really like to see him be able to win the Presidency, but he's not super flashy, and in this day and time, that's a characteristic that's almost required .... unfortunately. Jim.
  2. Jim after reading your two blog posts, I refer you to a recent article in TIME, which appears to be a synopsis of the author's new book. Humm...I've always felt the baby-boomers as the luckiest generation!
  3. Every American should read Mueller's indictment of the Russian hackers. I did the day it was released and published by the NY Times. It is quite detailed, well documented, and dispassionately presented. As I recall, 38 pages in double-spaced Courier.
  4. JK James George
    Here are a few emails sent directly to me. The names/etc have been hidden. * Thanks for the blog on Senator Warner. I like him a lot - he is one of the politicians I admire most in the USA and believe his forward looking perspectives on policy is what we need in leadership these days. I am glad you were able to meet someone who inspired me politically even if he and I are of different parties, I think we are of the same philosophy. I saw your book for sale today at the Dayton, Ohio HamVention and wondered how you were doing. I trust all is well. All the best * This is your friendly fact checker/copy editor responding. The blog about Mark Warner has seven matches on Warner and four matches on Warren. Hope all is well with you. (Correct. Sloppy editing my me along with apparent dyslexia on the names Warner and Warren! All of those errors have been fixed very quickly, but I'm embarrassed. Thanks for the info.) *Some people may say they are not impressed when they meet someone important. My only response is that they've probably never met anyone important. Meeting Senator Warner would be really cool. You may want to re-check your blog post. If I read it correctly Warner morphed into Warren at least four times. From the context, I don't think you met both Mark and Elizabeth. (No, nor at all! Thanks for the info.) Also, in point three of the senate report, I think "if" became "ff". A little hard to tell with the font I'm using. (Yep, guilty again. There was one additional glitch - our for out, or vice-versa. I did this one way to quickly and didn't let it "sit and bake in" long enough. Embarrassed for sure.) I have to agree that Bobby Inman is a pretty interesting guy. I've met him dozens of times. Unfortunately, we never interacted. He was a regular on the Town Lake trail. I probably saw him at least once a week for years. My brushes with fame included a short conversation Bill Clinton outside the governor's mansion in Little Rock a few days before he left for Washington and his inauguration. Add to that many of the world's most famous runners, including Grete Waitz and Joan Benoit, and I consider myself pretty lucky. None of that would have happened without the Motorola Marathon. * Jim--Thanks for the Warner blog--if a foreign country can convince that many semi-intelligent people to vote for a candidate or against another using fake news, both parties and all candidates are in trouble. Especially since Clinton spent roughly $230 million more than The Donald and the Russians a small fraction of either. Statistically that doesn't pass the smell test for me. I didn't vote for Trump and will do what I can to prevent a second term. Meantime, if the Russian stuff was really that powerful, the Dems should quit pawing through the ashes looking for consolation, and figure out what to do about it. Thank you--I enjoy reading your thoughts and admire your dedication. * Jim, just read your blog with great interest and intensity. Thank you for writing this, you are spot on about Trump and his antics, they way he treats everyone who criticizes him, the way he treats women, I could go on and on. What a privilege to visit with Senator Warner, you are one lucky and great person. * Well written note! * This was so interesting and so well researched. Since I didn't know Senator Warner I did a little research of my own. I needn't have bothered because you had most of the important information in your blog. I loved the way you started with the surprise email invitations. It drew me in and certainly made me want to know more. It still does. You handled it well without coming over like a braggart or being Starstruck with the attention from the Senator. I was impressed with his determination business wise and his equally patriotic service to his community and country. You described him in a way that made me want to know more. The Russian interest in America's obsession with social media has always been a concern. Just a side note: My daughter who works for a global advertising firm told me at least a year ago that several of China's advertising companies do exactly what you say Russia is doing. However they are interested in selling products. According to her. From their data the perfect person to believe all their propaganda is the religious right. Scary! * Read your blog with great interest. Imagine if we ran business based on emotion and bias rather than data. Hard data was the quickest to get out of the emotion. *

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