Nixon struggles with question of where ‘buck’ stops in policing Ferguson protests (AUDIO)

In a conference call with reporters from around the globe Monday, Governor Jay Nixon explained an executive order he issued Monday, saying, “the St. Louis County Police Department will have command and operational control over security in the City of Ferguson in areas of protest and acts of civil disobedience should such activities occur instead of the Ferguson Police Department in that jurisdiction.”

Governor Jay Nixon

Governor Jay Nixon

The County Police along with the Highway Patrol and the St. Louis City Police make up a unified command in charge of Nixon’s stated goals of protecting the public and allowing protesters to be heard, with the National Guard having been activated to support those agencies.

But to the issue of policing any protests that do arise, Nixon struggled when asked if, because he had put the Highway Patrol in the unified command and declared a state of emergency, the “buck stops” with him.

“Well I mean we’re um … it uh … it uh … you know … our goal here is, is to, is to, you know, keep the peace and allow folks voices to be heard, and in that balance I’m attempting … I am using the resources we have to marshal to be predictable for both those pillars,” Nixon said.

He continued, “I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time personalizing this vis-a-vis me. I’m trying to make sure that we move forward in a predictable, peaceful manner that plans for all contingencies that might occur so that people of a disparate group of opinions and actions can be heard while at the same time the property and persons of people in the St. Louis region are protected … I prefer not to be a commentator on it.”

Asked whether one agency is ultimately in charge, Nixon said, “I feel good about the … we’ve, we’ve worked hard to establish a unified command, to outline the responsibilities, and now with the additional assets provided by my order today of the Missouri National Guard, you know, we have, we’ve worked through a number of operational issues the folks have and I’ll only say that our efforts today are on top of a lot of things that have been known in the last 100 days to make sure that we’re prepared for any contingency.

Next question,” Nixon prompted.

Nixon’s apparent difficulty answering that question comes at a bad time and on an international stage as he works to stay ahead of unrest in Ferguson, after critics have accused him of being disengaged from the unrest there; a charge he has strongly refuted.

AUDIO:  Listen to Governor Nixon’s answer regarding the policing of protests, 2:34



Flying with Ike

–By Mary Furness

I woke up to news of the death of Ike Skelton today. I was startled at first — even shocked. After all, I had seen and talked with him only 10 days ago, under rather unlikely circumstances.

I had planned for a long time to travel to the Washington, DC area to visit family and friends, and leaving out of Kansas City on a non-stop flight was the cheapest and easiest way. An older, somewhat frail gentleman boarding early looked familiar, but in the context of a crowded airport, one can never be really sure. Bumping down the aisle with carry-on bags to a cramped seat in coach, I missed seeing him again, and the idea of catching up on sleep seemed a better use of my time.

Leaving the plane in Washington, I caught sight of the gentleman in First Class, sitting quietly in his seat, a blanket over his lap. A faint bell went off in my head, “Is that….?” But there were people crowding behind me, and I had to keep moving. Just inside the jetway, several wheelchairs waited, each with a hand-lettered sign, and a shiver went over me as that bell clanged louder; one had a sign that read, “Reserved for Ike Skelton”.

I broke ranks and stepped over to the gentleman holding the wheelchair, “Ike Skelton!” I nearly shouted. “Do you know who that is?”

He looked at me, and in heavily accented English said, “No, ma’am…he somebody famous?”

I smiled, realizing how I must have sounded, but pressed on, “He is a Missouri Representative. A Congressman. Retired now — an elder statesman.”

The gentleman’s face lit up, “Oh! I understand!”

I fixed him with a stern but kind eye, “Please! Take very, very good care of him, he is one of our finest people.”

I waited at the security exit, hoping to get a photo, or possibly a quick few words on my recorder, but I didn’t see him. Putting my gear away, I joined the crush of people headed toward the shuttles for rental cars and other ground transportation, and suddenly there he was. No time to grab the camera or recorder, I called out to him, went over, shook his hand, and thanked him for all he had done for Missouri.

When I introduced myself and said I work for Missourinet, he nodded, chuckled quietly, and asked for my name again, as if going through his mental file and to pull out anything we might have said to one another. I mentioned my esteemed News Director Bob Priddy, and he grinned. Then he, his wife, and I chatted for a few moments about Missouri, as well as my beloved hometown of Arlington, Va., where they now make their second home.

I stood for a moment, smiling, and waved as they went through the doors, down the sidewalk and disappeared into the crowd. I thought about that grand old man — a true “gentle man” — who served so long, touched so many people, and yet was so down-to-earth.

Rest in peace, good and faithful sir, and thank you.

Covering Obama: three presidents, three generations

Covering the president can mean drawing the newsroom short straw. It means an early morning and a late night, hours of standing, getting searched, getting credentialed … and more standing. The phrase “Hurry up and wait” was coined by journalists covering the Commander in Chief.

So this time around, I brought my teenage daughter to share in the joy.
We started our day at 6 a.m., tempering the blow with a stop at the coffee shop before hitting the road. I pulled over to do a couple of call-in advancers for our affiliate stations in Quincy, Ill., and Columbia.

We arrived in Warrensburg and parked in the press lot to check in our equipment around 9 a.m. so that Secret Service could do a bomb sweep. We weren’t allowed back in until several hours later.

obama preset

So we went downtown, which was a veritable ghost town. So much so that a reporter stopped me on the sidewalk and asked if I would do an interview about the presidential visit. In fact, when we got inside the bakery to get a muffin and use their wireless, we found that at least a dozen other reporters were doing the same thing. Monte Schisler from KRES in Moberly joined us. My coffee was served in a KCMO mug, which is coincidentally another one of our affiliate stations in Kansas City.

obama bakery web
We all got busy, meaning Monte and I interviewed locals, cut up soundbytes, sent in voicers. Claire killed time by surfing YouTube. Or something.
clurrtwitWe found a nearby restaurant, where we ran into Rep. Rory Ellinger from University City. I scheduled an interview with him for after the speech to get what we call “reax.” After that, onto the auditorium. I’ll let Claire tell you how the events unfolded from there.

“There were a lot of people there, but my mom and I went as Learfield press, so it didn’t take as long to get in. The security was really tight, and all around getting in and getting all the equipment set up took probably 40 minutes.”

obama press line

“I was really excited when we got to Warrensburg around 9 a.m., but he didn’t actually even get there until around 5 p.m. or so. He was supposed to get there at 4 p.m., and everyone was probably waiting in the auditorium since like 2 p.m. Three people even passed out from the heat,” Claire recounts.

Waiting for the pres

I asked her to write for me a paragraph about the speech. What was relevent, what stuck.
“Obama discussed issues about the economy,” she said. “And I think he made some very good points. About how the system of government we’ve been under for the past 15 years, and how under the Bush administration we’ve been so reliant on foreign oil, and foreign imports for so long that we have basically been in a downward spiral for a long time. Whenever Obama took office the country had basically hit rock bottom. And in the past five years since Obama has been president, we are less reliant on foreign oil then we’ve been in 15 years. The stock market is better than it’s been in a long time, and it will take maybe 10 years to get the economy not only on track, but better and stronger than ever.”

obama cam

Here’s the part of Obama’s speech she’s referring to.

“And then what happened was that engine began to stall. The bargain began to fray. So technology made some jobs obsolete — nobody goes to a bank teller anymore. You want to schedule a trip somewhere, you get online. Global competition sent some jobs overseas. When I was in Galesburg, we talked about the Maytag plant that used to make household brands there and people — thousands of people used to work in the plant and it went down to Mexico. Then Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to folks at the top income brackets, smaller minimum wage increases for people who were struggling. You combine all of this and the income of the top one percent quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, but the typical family’s incomes barely budged.”

“So a lot of middle-class families began to feel that the odds were stacked against them — and they were right. And then for a while, this was kind of papered over because we had a housing bubble going on, and everybody was maxing out on their credit cards, everybody was highly leveraged, and there were a lot of financial deals going around. And so it looked like the economy was going to be doing OK, but then by the time I took office, the bottom had fallen out. And it cose, as we know, millions of Americans their jobs or their homes or their savings. And that long-term erosion of middle class security was evident for everybody to see.”

“Now, the good news is, five years later, five years after the crisis first hit, America has fought its way back…”

And for her, that’s what stuck. We watched and recorded, she manned the video camera on the risers, we packed up and went home. I felt smug and good as she complained about how exhausted she was. I reminded her she did not do the entire day in heels, nor did she have to process stories, photos and sound when we got back to Jefferson City.

“All in all it was an amazing experience and I will not forget it,” she would later write.

Flashback nearly 60 years, when my father got his first (and last) close-up look at the President of the United States. He was about the same age as Claire is now, a freshman at St. Peter High School adjacent to the Capitol. The year was 1952 and Harry Truman came through Capital City on a whistlestop tour across the U.S.

Truman on train 1948

These Truman photos are from a campaign stop in Jefferson City in 1948. Photos from his 1952 stop, which was at 10:10 p.m., are not available.

Truman’s speech in Jefferson City was not so different than Obama’s speech in Warrensburg:

“One of the most fundamental issues in this campaign is the great difference in outlook and approach between our two political parties,” Truman told the crowd. “The Democratic Party has always been the party with a heart for the people-concerned about their wants and their needs. With us, the people come first.”

Truman said, “With the Republicans, property and profits come first–ahead of the people. The Republican Party has a calculating machine where its heart ought to be. And the calculator only works for the big lobbies and the special interest organizations who pay the party’s bills and call the tune.”

Truman in Jefferson City 1948

He also talked about the need to bolster federal funds for education as classroom sizes were growing and teacher salaries remained stagnant. Sixty-one years later, Obama talked about the growing concern of student debt and our country’s responsibility to make education affordable for young people.

Truman, 1952: “The Republicans are always talking about freedom — but they take their stand on the side of ignorance, every time. And ignorance is freedom’s worst enemy, and always will be.”

Obama, 2013: “So we can either throw up our hands and resign ourselves to lower living standards, or we can do what America has always done — we can adapt, we can pull together, we can fight back, we can win. And if we don’t invest in American education, then we’re going to put our kids, our workers, our countries, our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Because if you think education is expensive, you should see how much ignorance is going to cost in the 21st Century.”

But my dad, who would want me to mention that he was, is, and always will be a diehard Republican, doesn’t remember the political nuances of the time, or the in-fighting.

“President Harry Truman lost a lot of popularity because of several issues that confronted him prior to the 1952 presidential campaign,” he said. “Consequently, during that year he decided to bow out of the race for president and let Adlai Stevenson run against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Nevertheless, in 1952 President Truman made a trip through Jefferson City on the train, and as a member of the St. Peter’s band, I was privileged to play for and see President Truman give a speech.”

Dad played the trumpet, he said, and his sister Martha played the clarinet.

“He stood at the back of the last train car and addressed those assembled there,” he recalls. “It is a memory that is imprinted in my mind forever. I can still see President Truman talking to the group. He gestured with both arms up and down, up and down. The content of his speech escapes me, but as a freshman in high school in a local band, it was a memorable sight to behold. It was the first U.S. president I had ever seen in person, and to this day, the only president I have ever seen in real life.”

Not so this reporter. And to be honest, I had to think for a minute about which president I saw in person first, and where.

Bill Clinton, Paris, June of 1999.


It was sunny and there was a chill in the air for June. Coincidentally, he had spoken at Whiteman Air Force Base less than a week before.

I was on a studies abroad trip that took me all over France for a summer semester. It was a chance event. A moment that flashed by in a heartbeat. My classmates and I were waiting to cross the street near the Elysee Palace when we were stopped by security and told we could not cross. We were not told why. Soon we spotted the motorcade and I was able to pop off one blurry shot on my Pentax K-1000.

Later I would learn that he was meeting with Jacques Chirac prior to the G-8 summit in Cologne. At the center of global news and their talks were Kosovo, Bosnia, the Middle East peace process, the European economy, and NATO expansion.

Covering the president. Lessons for a kid that there’s a bigger world out there. Political philosophies that transcend generations. Much has changed over the decades, but much has stayed the same.

Namely, politics and teenagers.


obama badge