The Leadership Institute

We’re familiar with Fox, the TV propaganda arm of the Trump administration remaining a far right-wing outlet under Rupert Murdoch and his mission of using media to push an arch-conservative agenda.

And we’re becoming aware of other radical right efforts to use media to indoctrinate people. There’s the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group seeking to buy up more local TV stations to deceive and lie from, and One America News and Newsmax TV.

As the headline of a recent article in The New York Times declared: “Pro-Trump Media Keeps the Disinformation Flowing.”

Much has to be done about this radical right drive to destroy the ideal of media being an independent monitor, a watchdog taking on power—not a partisan handmaiden.

Use of anti-trust regulations and implementation of Federal Communication Commission broadcast rules are on the top of the list.

But largely flying under the radar has been the training operation for right-wingers to be taught how to work the media, infiltrate government and otherwise promote a right-wing agenda in the United States and in recent years extending itself through the world especially to Europe.

It’s called The Leadership Institute and since it was set up in 1979 “has trained,” according to its website, “more than 200,000 conservative activists, leaders and students.”

One proud graduate of The Leadership Institute is Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the U.S. Senate, who on its website, below his photo, declares: “Thanks to you (Morton) and everyone who has served on your staff. There are countless conservatives making a difference in public policy across the country. As one of your earliest students, I know firsthand what a wonderful foundation the Leadership Institute’s education provides for someone involved in public service.”

The “Morton” he is referring to is Morton C. Blackwell, who founded The Leadership Institute, and remains its president and runs it.

Another graduate is now former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

As The Leadership Institute says on a page about its “Mission” on its website: “The Leadership Institute’s mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.”

“Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year,” it says. And from it, “Conservatives learn how to…Succeed in the competitive field of broadcast media, Run successfully for elected office…Communicate a conservative message using the media…Formulate policy as elected officials or key staff members. The Leadership Institute is the center of conservative activist training. No other organization provides more training to conservative activists each year.”

Describing under “Headquarters” The Leadership Institute’s “facility” in Arlington, Virginia, the website says it includes “a training center, professional multimedia studies, dormitories.”

Blackwell’s trajectory through the years has been allied with the most conservative streams in U.S. politics as detailed on The Leadership Institute’s website.

“Mr. Blackwell was Barry Goldwater’s youngest elected delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco,” it says. “He was a national convention Alternate Delegate for Ronald Reagan in 1968 and 1976, and a Ronald Reagan Delegate at the 1980 national convention. In 1980, he organized and oversaw the national youth effort for Ronald Reagan. He served as Special Assistant to the President on President Reagan’s White House Staff 1981-1984. Mr. Blackwell is something of a specialist in matters relating to the rules of the Republican Party….He serves now on the RNC’s Standing Committee on Rules and has attended every meeting of the Republican National Conventions’ Rules Committees since 1972.”

The biography also notes that The Leadership Institute’s total revenue since 1974 is $274 million. It currently has revenue of over $16.9 million a year and a full-time staff of 70.”

Despite its political purpose, The Leadership Institute has received 501(c)(3) non-profit status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

In recent years, The Leadership Institute has extended its reach worldwide, especially to  Europe.

The British-based organization openDemocracy (yes, the “o” is not capitalized and the words are combined) which seeks “to educate citizens to challenge power and encourage democratic debate across the world,” conducted an investigation that resulted in a report it published in October of last year.

It was headlined: “Undercover with the US conservatives who trained Mike Pence. This is how the architects of America’s culture wars are trying to export their tactics to Europe.”

Its authors, Adam Ramsay and Joni Hess, write: “Our host via Zoom, the Leadership Institute, exists to ‘place conservatives in the government, politics and media’– and it says its graduates include Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence. Like a multi-level marketing scheme, the workshop taught us to recruit students to right-wing activism, who would in turn recruit others. Blair stressed a growing marginalisation of conservative ideology on college campuses, and a ‘moral obligation to save the US….Over several hours, we were taught to polarise discussions, to war game public debates, to reframe ‘anti-worker’ policies as ‘right to work’, to characterise pro-choice activists as ‘hating babies’.”

Under a subtitle, “The US culture wars go global,” they continue: “This bare-knuckled politics is no longer confined to the US. The Leadership Institute has spent around $350,000 bringing its agenda to Europe since 2016, according to a new investigation by openDemocracy. There has been a marked increase in its European activities in recent years—and it spends more money in Europe than anywhere else in the world, outside the US. openDemocracy’s research also reveals that the organisation has worked with controversial ultra-conservatives in Europe including a Lega politician in Italy, the Spanish far-right group CitizenGo, Croatia’s anti-LGBT ‘In the Name of the Family’ coalition and the neo-feudalist Tradition, Family and Property movement’s branches in Austria and France, as well as across Latin America.”

“The Leadership Institute has also worked with a number of conservative groups and politicians in the UK—including Tim Evans, a former lobbyist for privatised healthcare; a former chair of the conservative Bow Group think-tank; and Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum campaign.”

It continues: “Speaking to openDemocracy, the prominent UK LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell accused the Leadership Institute of ‘a form of cultural imperialism’. ‘It is exporting culture wars to subvert our democracies and influence our politics. We [didn’t] even know it is happening, until now,’ he said.”

The piece goes on: “Leadership Institute was founded by its current president Morton Blackwell in 1979. Since then, it says it has trained thousands of US conservatives, from high-school students to senior politicians, in skills from email marketing to how to get jobs on Capitol Hill. In our workshop, we were told that Blackwell thought 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was ideologically correct, but saw that that didn’t help him win. So he and other Goldwater supporters launched some key institutions of US conservatism: the anti-abortion and gun-rights movements, the Heritage Foundation think tank and the Leadership Institute, which works behind the scenes, recruiting, training, connecting—pushing allies onto the front lines of US politics. In the future, they swore, they’d win. And they have: their alumni, in addition to Pence, include George W. Bush’s strategist Karl Rove and Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.”

Blackwell received the “Titan of Conservation Award” from the Heritage Foundation this past December. A Heritage Foundation press release said the entity’s president, Kay C. James, “who calls Blackwell a personal mentor,” asserted: “Morton Blackwell is a living legend of the conservative movement.”

Trump is most thankfully gone. Trumpism, most unfortunately, is still with us—as is The Leadership Institute with its arch right-wing operation now extending globally.


“This Reckless Path”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a “public meeting” today on what it titled “Development of Guidance Documents To Support License Renewal For 100 Years Of Plant Operation.”

Comments from the “public” were strongly opposed to the NRC’s desire for it to let nuclear power plants run for a century.

“I request you pause and consider before you go ahead on this reckless path,” testified Michel Lee, chairman of the New York-based Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy.

“Our position and that of our constituents is a resounding no,” declared Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at the national organization Beyond Nuclear.

“It’s time to stop this whole nuke con job,” said Erica Gray, nuclear issues chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. There is “no solution” to dealing with nuclear waste, she said. It is “unethical to continue to make the most toxic waste known to mankind.” And, “renewable energy” with solar and wind “can power the world.”

Jan Boudart, a board member of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, spoke, too, of the lack of consideration of nuclear waste.

Cited was the higher likelihood of accidents with plants permitted to run for 100 years.

Whether the NRC—often called the Nuclear Rubberstamp Commission—listens is highly unlikely considering its record of rubberstamping whatever has been sought by other nuclear promoters in government and the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power plants when they began being built were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. So operating licenses were limited to 40 years.

But with the major decline of nuclear power—the U.S. is down to 94 plants from a high of 129 and only two are now under construction—the nuclear promoters in the U.S. government and nuclear industry are pushing to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years to somehow keep nuclear power going.

Among federal officials speaking at the all-day “public meeting” was Thomas M. Rosseel of the Materials Research Pathway of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and a senior program manager in the Nuclear Structural Materials Group at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He showed PowerPoint slides including one with the heading “Sound Nuclear Materials Research Approach.” It listed in this process an “expert panel approach from the nuclear community led by the U.S. NRC and including industry, universities and international experts.”

In further discussing the “Life Beyond Eighty” scheme for nuclear power plants, Rosseel showed a U.S. Energy Information Administration slide projecting the amount of energy nuclear power would contribute to the U.S. energy supply in decline from 19% in 2019 to 12% in 2050 while renewable energy sources would jump from the current 19% to 38%.

For the DOE, which inherited the role of promoting nuclear power from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, abolished by Congress in 1974 for being in conflict of interest for having a dual role of both promoting and regulating nuclear power, this decline is of great concern.

At the start of the “public meeting”—held online as a teleconference—Allen L. Hiser, Jr., senior technical advisor for the Division of New and Renewed Licenses of the NRC, said the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 gave authority to the U.S. government to license nuclear power plants for 40 years. “But nothing in the AEA [Atomic Energy Act] prohibits a number of license renewals,” said Hiser.

Using this lack of prohibition in the Atomic Energy Act, the NRC is now pushing ahead on the scheme to let nuclear power plants run for 100 years.

The NRC—which was supposed to only get the regulatory function from the eliminated U.S. Atomic Energy Commission—has also, with DOE, been a promoter of nuclear power.

Earlier, it began extending the operating licenses of nuclear power plants to run for 60 years—and most of the plants in the U.S. now are being allowed to run for 60 years. And in recent years it has given the go-ahead for nuclear plants to run for 80 years, and several have been licensed for that length.

In granting the license extensions to 60 and 80 years, the NRC has also been allowing the plants to be “uprated” to generate more electricity—to run hotter and harder—further asking for disaster.

Gunter testified about an NRC cover-up involving the extending of nuclear power plant licenses. Using PowerPoint to reinforce his points, Gunter displayed a 2017 report commissioned by the NRC made by the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The “very critical report,” said Gunter, looked at conducting research on the impacts of extending nuclear power plant operating licenses. It is titled “Criteria and Planning Guidance for Ex-Plant Harvesting to Support Subsequent License Renewal.”

The report listed many significant issues considering the “harsh” degradation of nuclear power plant components over the years, he said. It pointed to “a host of critical technical gaps.”

After he “raised questions about” issues in the report at a meeting on operating license
extensions held in 2018 at the NRC’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, the report was “taken down from government websites,” said Gunter. However, Beyond Nuclear saved a copy of the report. He spoke of an email that Beyond Nuclear obtained, after two years of trying under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, from an NRC employee saying: “Big picture, I think the entire report needs to be scrubbed.” A “sanitized” version of the report, said Gunter, was “republished” in 2019. Gunter spoke of “public safety” being threatened.

Gunter, also at the “public meeting” this week, said among the issues not being considered in the NRC’s drive to extend the licenses of nuclear power plants to 100 years is the management of the radioactive waste generated by the plants and “the advent of reliable, competitive and abundant renewable energy.”

The oldest nuclear power plant in the U.S. was Oyster Creek in Toms River, New Jersey which opened in 1969 and was shut down 49 years later in 2018.

What President Joe Biden does about nuclear power—he has said he is for “advanced” nuclear power—and the pro-nuclear NRC remains to be seen. The president appoints the five members of the NRC, and its current chairperson, a nuclear engineer and Trump appointee, is resigning.

Biden could move to have done to the NRC what was done to its predecessor agency, the AEC, to have it abolished. And to push to end nuclear power in the U.S.

Most U.S. nuclear power plants, according to a PowerPoint slide shown by the NRC’s Hiser, have already operated more than 40 years—the numbers of years they were seen as running safely when they began operating.

Donald Trump Has Been the Worst President in the History of the United States

Donald Trump has been the worst president in the history of the United States.

The attack by his supporters on the Capitol was a capstone of his presidency—lawless, an attack on democracy, a U.S. counterpart of the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.

It was a horror representative of his tenure.

Thank heavens and thanks to successful and hard political work, he will in days be out of office. And there must be criminal prosecutions on the state and local levels as well as the federal level which he’ll likely try to wrangle out of with a pardon. There must be consequences to his horrendous term in office.

“An American Tragedy” was the title of a piece by David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, right after Election Day 2016. “The election of Donald Trump,” Remnick wrote, “is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.”

There would be “miseries to come”—and there have been.

Remnick warned against an “attempt to normalize” the election of Trump. “Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader…a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right…a flim-flam man” with “disdain for democratic norms.”

The attack on the Capitol by the Trumpsters was an attempt at a coup to undo a presidential election in which a record number of voters came out to dump Trump and elect Joe Biden.

It was an act of insurrection incited by Trump.

As he tweeted to followers on December 20th—“Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

Yes, and indeed it was wild.

And then, in a speech in front of The White House on Wednesday, addressing his backers who had arrived, said: “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue…and we’re going to the Capitol.” He added: “You have to be strong.”

His call was preceded by his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, proclaiming “let’s have trial by combat.”

Giuliani, who took an oath to be an attorney and adhere to rule of law, represented Trump in many courts in challenges to his election defeat with claims which judges found totally untrue—but Giuliani opted instead, in violation of that oath, for “trial by combat.”

Remnick warned about an “attempt to normalize” Trump, but so much of media have engaged in “both sides-ing” the situation, as Julie Hollar of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has written.

When a person tells an out-and-out lie, there is no journalistic obligation to “balance” a story with a falsehood. And Trump, The Washington Post report, has recorded, has uttered more than 20,000 falsehoods in his term in office.

And then there have been the Trump disinformation machines led by Fox —about which Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would smile.

But this is far more than a media problem.

Trump tapped into a vein of racism and other poisons in the United States.

He soon will be out of The White House but Trumpism, so horribly, is will still be here.

“You have to summon an act of will, a certain energy and imagination, to replace truth with the authority of a con man like Trump,” George Packer wrote in the current issue of The Atlantic.

Trump’s “barrage of falsehoods—as many as 50 daily in the last fevered months of the 2020 campaign—complemented his unconcealed brutality,” writes Packer.

“Two events in Trump’s last year in office broke the spell of his sinister perversion of the truth,” he says: Covid-19 and a free election.

“The beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency arrived on March 11, 2020, when he addressed the nation for the first time on the subject of the pandemic and showed himself to be completely out of his depth. The virus was a fact that Trump couldn’t lie into oblivion or forge into a political weapon—it was too personal and frightening, too real. As hundreds of Americans died…and the administration flailed between fantasy, partisan incitement, and criminal negligence, a crucial number of Americans realized that Trump’s lies could get someone they love killed,” says Packer.

He continues: “The second event came on November 3”—the election.

And that is what Trump and his followers who attacked the Capitol sought to undo. And, on the same day, Trump enablers in Congress were trying to undo it by having the votes of the Electoral College denied.

“The election didn’t end his lies—nothing will….But we learned that we still want democracy. This, too, is the legacy of Donald Trump,” Packer concluded.

Yes, most Americans still want democracy, but the history of authoritarian takeovers shows that a relatively small group of fanatics can beat the majority.

And we still are left with those toxic issues which Trump capitalized on.

Another component here is the enabling of Trump by all those Republicans.

Margaret Sullivan wrote a piece earlier this week in The Washington Post, headed “We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right.”

She wrote: “These days the true radicals are the enablers of President Trump’s ongoing attempted coup: the media bloviators on Fox News, One America and Newsmax who parrot his lies about election fraud; and the members of Congress who plan to object on Wednesday to what should be a pro forma step of approving the electoral college results, so that President-elect Joe Biden can take office peacefully on Jan. 20.”

“But instead of being called what they are, these media and political figures get a mild label: conservative. Instead of calling out the truth, it normalizes; it softens the dangerous edges,” she continued. “It makes it seem, well, not so bad. Conservative, after all, describes politics devoted to free enterprise and traditional ideas. But that’s simply false. Sean Hannity is not conservative. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama are not conservative. Nor are the other 10 (at last count) Senators who plan to object” to the Electoral College vote.

She notes Tim Alberta wrote on Politico that “’There is nothing conservative about subverting democracy.’ He suggests ‘far right’ as an alternative descriptor. Not bad. But I’d take it a step further, because it’s important to be precise. I’d call them members of the radical right.”

Members of the radical right won’t like this, of course. They soak in the word ‘conservative” like a warm bath.”

“On Jan. 20, we can still presume Trump will be gone from the White House,” she writes. “But his enablers and the movement that fostered him, and that he built up, will remain. That’s troubling. We should take one small but symbolic step toward repairing the damage by using the right words to describe it. It would be a start.”

Journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, says Trump “will be in our history books as a dark, dark stain unlike any president of the United States.” And he investigated Nixon.