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Christine Jahnke, Speech Coach for Women in Politics, Dies at 57

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Christine Jahnke, a communications coach who prepared Democratic women to run for office and helped others, including Michelle Obama early in her White House years, become comfortable with public speaking, died on Aug. 4, her birthday, at her home in Washington. She was 57.

Her husband, Paul E. Hagen, said the cause was colon cancer.

Ms. Jahnke (pronounced YON-key) found joy in the art of political communication on behalf of female candidates and progressive causes. She spent three decades helping women find their voice, whether in speeches, interviews or debates, and whether they were seeking office themselves or campaigning on behalf of others.

In addition to advising senators, governors, members of Congress and candidates for local office, she consulted for groups like Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood and Amnesty International, and events like the Million Mom March for gun control laws in 2000 and the Women’s March on Washington in 2017.

Ms. Jahnke was a backstage fixture at the previous five Democratic National Conventions as speakers rehearsed their remarks, guiding them on how to work with the teleprompter, read the audience and sharpen their message.

“Women come into training sessions more aware of what they need to work on because they have been dealing with the tone police all of their lives,” she told The New York Times in November.

Her training sessions highlighted techniques for effective public speaking. She was a longtime admirer of Senator Kamala Harris’s communications skills, and although Ms. Harris was never a client, Ms. Jahnke frequently used her as an example to her trainees. After last year’s Democratic primary debates, she pointed to Ms. Harris’s deliberate pacing when she confronted former Vice President Joseph R. Biden over his stance on busing.

“Her pace was the delivery technique that enabled her to command the stage,” Ms. Jahnke said. “If you listen carefully, you will notice how slowly she is speaking and how she uses pauses to add drama.”

Her friends lamented that Ms. Jahnke died before Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, announced that Ms. Harris would be his running mate.

Ms. Jahnke started her own firm, Positive Communications, in 1991. That positioned her well for 1992, when a record-breaking number of women — many of them galvanized by the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings — ran for office for the first time. That year, which politicians and the news media called the “Year of the Woman,” ushered in a period of rapidly escalating change in the gender makeup of Congress and state legislatures.

“She was part of it — she empowered a lot of women to run for office,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said in a phone interview. Ms. Jahnke collaborated with the center to provide training for women candidates.

“She always looked like she was loving what she was doing,” Ms. Walsh said. “The work was about social change. She wanted to see the face of political power in this country shift to women at every level, as opposed to someone who was just generically training people to be good communicators.”

Credit…Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Ms. Jahnke helped Mrs. Obama on her delivery before she addressed the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen in 2009, when she made a pitch for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. CNN said that Mrs. Obama “clearly took the gold with an emotional speech,” outshining her husband.

Ms. Jahnke shared her own tips in articles, blog posts and training sessions, which she conducted across the country.

“Hold it together,” she advised in a 2018 blog post on Gender Watch, a political website.

“Women have been fearful of displaying emotion since Pat Schroeder was criticized for breaking down when she announced her departure from the presidential race in 1987,” she wrote, referring to the former Colorado congresswoman. “It’s OK to convey what you feel, but do it with words and not tears, especially if you hope to re-enter public life.”

She told losing candidates to look beyond the moment.

“Recognizing that the moment is bigger than you are is a way to show leadership,” she wrote in the same post, citing Hillary Clinton’s speech announcing her withdrawal from the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, in which Mrs. Clinton said, “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it’s got about 18 million cracks in it.”

Ms. Jahnke advised, “Seize the election night spotlight to remind voters why you ran in the first place.”

Christine Kay Jahnke was born on Aug. 4, 1963, in Albert Lea, a small town in southern Minnesota. Her father, Wayne Henry Jahnke, is a retired pipe fitter at a food-processing facility, and her mother, Sharon Kay (Klopp) Jahnke, is a retired administrative assistant at a community college.

In addition to her parents and her husband, she is survived by her sister, Lisa Hanson, and her brother, Michael.

Ms. Jahnke grew up in Albert Lea and went to Winona State University in Minnesota, where she studied mass communications, graduating in 1985. In 2012, she earned a master’s degree in liberal studies from Georgetown University.

After her undergraduate studies, she worked briefly at a television station in Rochester, Minn., inspired in part by “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which was set in a TV newsroom in Minneapolis. Feeling more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, Ms. Jahnke left to join Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign as an organizer and press aide.

That led her to Washington and a job with Sheehan Associates, a firm that specializes in media training. Ms. Jahnke was among the first to focus on women almost exclusively, as they started to enter politics in significant numbers.

“She saw this need for women to have a more prominent role in public life, and she purposefully focused on that,” Mr. Hagen, her husband, said. “Few people have that clarity,” he added, “where they see a need and step in and advance that vision.”

She and her husband, whom she married in 1995, divided their time between Washington and Quogue, on the East End of Long Island, where she painted and read fiction and history.

She wrote two books: “The Well-Spoken Woman” (2011), in which she discussed the effective public speaking techniques of prominent women, and “The Well-Spoken Woman Speaks Out” (2018), in which she sought to empower a new generation of diverse leaders.

“These different women who are running, and the way they are running, is going to change politics forever,” she told The Times in 2018. “They’re rewriting the playbook.”

She ran workshops for the Women’s Media Center, founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, to train not only candidates but also women leaders involved in the more recent gender and social justice movements. Her trainees included Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center and director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and Brittney Cooper, author of “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” (2018).

“There was true joy on her face as you went through training and you’d see a trainee get it and connect and suddenly the skills kick in, along with the comfort level and the confidence,” Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said in an interview. “She not only transformed what a person could do, she transformed a movement.”

Source: – The New York Times

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Washington Politics Could Be About To Enter A 'Post-Apocalyptic' Phase – NPR

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Protesters rally in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday. Soon after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said President Trump’s court nominee will receive a vote in the Senate.

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

As if 2020 couldn’t get any more politically contentious, a fight is underway over a Supreme Court vacancy — just 43 days until Election Day, and as Americans are already voting in some places during this election season.

Raising the stakes even more, this is not just any seat. It’s the chair formerly held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal and feminist cultural icon.

While in the minority on the court, Ginsburg became known for her dissents, and, in many ways, she embodied the spirit and strength of the resistance to President Trump. She stood against the social and cultural shifts conservatives have started to implement with Trump’s two picks making the high court majority conservative.

As NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter days before her death that read: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

A majority of Americans seem to agree with Ginsburg. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken over the weekend found that 62% of American adults felt the vacancy should be filled by whoever wins the 2020 presidential election.

That, of course, is of little concern to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Just over an hour after news of Ginsburg’s death broke, the Kentucky Republican vowed to press forward on a Trump replacement.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement.

That’s despite not even allowing a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia in 2016. That nominee, Merrick Garland, is the chief judge of the second-highest court in the country, the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Trump is vowing a replacement very soon.

“I will be putting forth a nominee next week,” Trump said at a campaign event in Fayetteville, N.C., on Saturday after taking the stage to chants of “fill that seat.” “It will be a woman. I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men.”

High on Trump’s list are Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing, NPR’s Carrie Johnson and Tamara Keith reported this weekend.

Barrett, who has been a federal judge in Chicago for three years, is seen by NPR’s sources as a front-runner. The 48-year-old University of Notre Dame law professor and staunch Catholic was a finalist for the seat Brett Kavanaugh ultimately filled.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a former longtime senator and Judiciary Committee chair, called on Republicans in the Senate “who know deep down what is right for the country — not just for their party” to vote against a Trump nominee.

“Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Sen. McConnell have created,” Biden said in a speech Sunday. “Don’t go there. Hold your constitutional duty, your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.”

He added, “If I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn.”

“Hold the tape”

There are plenty of statements Democrats will point to on how Republicans are operating with a double standard.

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in 2018 at a panel hosted by The Atlantic.

“Hold the tape,” Graham assured.

The tape has been held, but Graham has changed reels.

The South Carolina senator and current Judiciary Committee chair, who’s in a tough fight for reelection and who led the charge to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is unapologetically vowing to bring forward Trump’s nominee.

“Harry Reid & Chuck Schumer changed Senate rules to try and stack the courts for Obama,” Graham tweeted Saturday. “Now it’s coming back to haunt them as I predicted. I’m dead set on confirming.”

There has certainly been very little consistency among Republicans on this. They are arguing that 2016 was different because different parties controlled the White House and Senate. This time, Republicans control both.

All about power

As a candidate, Trump cut through all that and was blunt about his calculation.

“If I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice,” Trump said during a February 2016 presidential primary debate after Scalia’s death. “I’m absolutely sure that President Obama will try and do it. I hope that our Senate is going to be able — Mitch, and the entire group, is going to be able to do something about it.”

He added, “I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.”

Translation: It’s not OK for Obama to do it, because it’s bad for my side. But it’s OK for me to do it, because it is good for my side.

This is all about political power.

Remember, there’s no filibuster anymore for Supreme Court nominations. McConnell blew that up to get Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh onto the court. So Republicans need a simple majority to get another Trump nominee through.

If Democrats stick together, Republicans can lose just three votes and still confirm a justice with Vice President Pence coming in to break a tie.

Two Republicans have already said they would hold firm and vote against a nominee because of the 2016 precedent of not allowing a vote on Garland — Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough reelection fight, as well as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

Democrats are hoping to persuade Utah’s Mitt Romney, who has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s, to do the same. But that leaves them one vote short.

Their hopes for a fourth got a little dimmer on Sunday when retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander sided with McConnell. He said he would have no problem voting for a Trump nominee as long as he or she is intelligent and of good “character” and “temperament.”

“We have arrows in our quiver”

There isn’t a lot Democrats can do procedurally to stop this, but they’re going to try. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told his caucus in a Saturday night call that no options are off the table.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on ABC’s This Week did not rule out the possibility of going so far as impeaching Trump again or Attorney General William Barr. (Impeachment takes precedence in Congress, and an impeachment resolution would force the Senate to take up a trial and could, in theory, delay a nomination.)

“We have our options,” Pelosi said. “We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now.”

Asked to clarify that she wasn’t ruling anything out, she said, “Good morning. Sunday morning.” She added, “When we weigh the equities, defending our democracy requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.

Some on the left want Democrats to threaten that if Biden wins the White House and they take over the Senate, they will play hardball. That includes eliminating the filibuster for legislation; passing statehood for Washington, D.C., to likely give Democrats two more senators; and passing legislation to expand the number of justices who can sit on the Supreme Court. (One bit of evidence for how fired up Democrats are: ActBlue says it raised more than $91 million in the 28 hours after Ginsburg’s death.)

It’s just the latest chapter in the Washington political arms race. McConnell justified ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees because former Democratic leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for federal judges after record obstruction from the McConnell-led Republican minority.

As the formerly genteel modern Senate goes, that was considered “going nuclear.”

If blowing up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees was “going nuclear,” we might be about to enter a phase of “post-apocalyptic” governance in Washington.

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Coincidence and condolence: Dying together in politics – Fort McMurray Today

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Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa

Late U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner are pictured here.

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John Turner, a former Prime Minister of Canada, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifetime Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, both died on Friday night.

Dying accidentally together like this has created many historical odd couples, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third American Presidents, who both died with a poignant flourish for the calendar on July 4, Independence Day, 1826.

Sometimes one death eclipses the other in the public’s capacity for mourning, as when Mother Teresa passed almost unnoticed a few days after Princess Diana in 1997. Likewise, Farrah Fawcett died of cancer on the morning of June 25, 2009, and was the big celebrity news of the day until TMZ reported in the afternoon that Michael Jackson also died that day.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause. The civil rights leader, statesman and “conscience of Congress” John Lewis died on July 17 this year, the same day as the preacher C.T. Vivian, who was also a civil rights leader going back to the inner circle of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Others are schoolkid legends or viral factoids that are not quite true, like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who did technically both die on April 23, 1616, but in different countries, Spain and England, which were using different calendars, so in fact they died 10 days apart.

Some simultaneous exits are curious coincidences, like Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner who both died on Jan. 28, 2016, 50 years after she left the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, which they co-founded.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause

Others seem not to be coincidences at all, but somehow causally related as expressions of intense emotional intimacy, as in the occasional married couple who make headlines for dying sweetly together in ripe old age, or the parents of former star CFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Dick and Joan, who had heart attacks in short sequence on Nov. 18, 2015.

Some just seem ominous. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died of ill health in Oxford, and Aldous Huxley died of cancer in Los Angeles, tripping on LSD.

Few such death partnerships carry the political heft of the latest one between Bader Ginsburg and Turner.

The main contrast is how differently they matter to the wider public. Turner’s death casts the mind back to the past. Bader Ginsburg’s death does the same, but it also inspires urgent thoughts of the future.

Turner’s death has been treated in Canada as an opportunity to reflect on history, on the Liberal Party’s changing fortunes. Former prime ministers are under a newly critical eye. No one gets the saintly treatment any more, even in death. But Turner is someone who can be mourned at ease. He was not prime minister very long, less than three months in 1984. He had not been in the news lately, and had seemed frail in public appearances.

His death is an opportunity to appreciate a unique life of leadership, but it will not disrupt Canadian politics.

Bader Ginsburg, on the other hand, has set off a tumult by dying because her vacant seat on the top court hands an opportunity to President Donald Trump to replace her.

They have become footnotes to each other’s obituaries

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she dictated to her granddaughter Clara Spera a few days before she died.

Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell indicated over the weekend they intend to ensure that wish does not come true — Trump by nominating a replacement judge in the next month, and McConnell by speeding a confirmation vote.

Mourning Bader Ginsburg, therefore, has a sense of political urgency that mourning Turner does not.

Her death is not merely an opportunity to reflect on her role as the liberal grandee of the court, famous for her consensus building with conservatives like her friend the late Antonin Scalia, and credited by progressives with securing important votes on deeply divisive issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Rather, it is bound up in a presidential election both sides describe as the all-or-nothing struggle for America’s soul.

This sense of historical import came through in the impromptu singing of Amazing Grace by mourners on the steps of the Supreme Court, a Christian hymn for a Jewish judge in a distinctively American irony. Moments like this illustrate how different America can be from Canada, where judicial appointments are not unto death, let alone so nakedly politicized.

Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa, coming chronologically first and to far greater hoopla. They have become — like the filmmaker Orson Welles and the actor Yul Brynner who both died on Oct. 10, 1985 — footnotes to each other’s obituaries.

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Mitch McConnell is the apex predator of U.S. politics – The Washington Post

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Howard Fineman is an NBC News analyst and a RealClearPolitics contributing correspondent.

When Minnesota Democrat Al Franken was in the Senate, the only way he could even briefly befriend Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was to compliment the Republican leader on a speech. One day, after McConnell had given what passed for heartfelt remarks in praise of Senate spouses, Franken approached him to say it was a “lovely speech.” A comedian in an earlier life, Franken then proceeded to kid him on the square. “Mitch, I have to say, I really like your speeches better when they aren’t in the service of evil.”

“I like the evil ones better,” McConnell replied, with a thin smile.

No joke. At 78, after a half-century in politics, Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. now stands at the precipice of what most Republicans only a generation or two ago would have said was impossible: conservative domination of the Supreme Court.

For McConnell, this is a personal triumph worthy of the history books. But history may record it differently. It seems probable that McConnell’s epitaph will note instead that no one since the Southern segregationists of the 1940s and 1950s did more to cripple the proper functioning of all three branches of government, not to mention faith in the very idea of one America.

Historian Rick Perlstein has long described this chapter in the American story as “Nixonland,” a jagged terrain of White racial fear and populist resentment of the federal authority that began in the mid-1960s. But while GOP presidents from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump have tilled that soil when it suited their purposes, McConnell has been, over the years, its most constant gardener, mixing arcane, cynically hypocritical legislative procedure and judicial appointments to turn emotion into lasting policy.

He has jammed hundreds of conservative judges onto the federal bench, making it younger, Whiter and more male — and far more partisan — in the process. In concert with the Federalist Society, McConnell is transforming the federal judiciary from sometimes-defenders of the poor, immigrants and people of color into the Praetorian Guard of corporations, the wealthy, and those whose cultural and racial privileges make them, at best, oblivious to their collective responsibility to all Americans. At the same time, McConnell is standing in the schoolhouse door of dozens if not hundreds of pieces of needed legislation, rendering the “world’s greatest deliberative body” an empty pantomime of itself.

And if he succeeds in forcing another pliable justice onto the Supreme Court, he may prove responsible for undercutting whatever legitimacy a possibly disputed presidential election might have if, as many suspect, it must be settled by that court. One reason to move fast and give the court a 6-3 conservative majority? To take the relatively independent (and therefore unreliable) Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. out of the equation.

McConnell has been around so long people think they know him. But they don’t, and that is by design. When you are the apex predator of U.S. politics, you don’t really care what anyone thinks. In Kentucky, where I worked for six years as McConnell was beginning his rise, he is not so much loved as endured. People talk about him like the rainy Ohio River Valley weather: It’s a pain, but it waters the crops. He retains an iron grip on state politics, has been elected statewide six times and is likely to win a seventh term in November. Democrats are pouring millions into defeating him. It’s not a great bet.

McConnell, reduced to his essence, is a state party chairman on steroids. His eye for detail, and his feral sense of approaching threats, is total. In the summer of 1968, working for a U.S. Senate candidate that year, he traveled the state from Pikeville to Paducah with another young Republican, Jon Yarmuth, now the Democratic member of the U.S. House representing Louisville. After work, as they hunkered down at yet another rural motel, Yarmuth would suggest that they go out for a drink. Mitch would have none of it. “What he wanted to do was sit in the room,” Yarmuth recalled, “and read every report and statistic about the county.”

His granular focus on local matters derives in part from the fact that McConnell isn’t Kentucky-bred. He was born in North Alabama and spent his childhood there and in Georgia before moving to Louisville as a teen. He and his family lived in the city’s South End, where newcomers from the Deep South settled in a city whose moneyed ruling class saw itself as tweed-clad country cousins of the Eastern elite. McConnell absorbed the middle-class resentments of his neighborhood.

From boyhood on, he pursued every title he could find: high school student council president; college student president, law school bar association president, state president of the Ripon Society and so on, up the ziggurat of perches and entitlements, all the way to Senate majority leader.

These days he pitches himself to historians as the heir to the godfather of distributed power, James Madison. McConnell has a point, in one sense. The contrapuntal effect of the federal courts is valuable, even indispensable; a piece of Newtonian balance that the founders knew was important. But McConnell is not interested in balance: He is interested only in total dominance, and in a bulwark against change, whatever the cost to the country.

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