I was recently asked by the Downtown Rotary Club 29 — the oldest civic organization in Oklahoma and the largest (incredibly) Rotary Club on the planet — to moderate a debate over the presidential election between Mike Turpen and Kirk Humphreys, the Flash Point stars.
I like Mike. We fought a bitter primary campaign in 1986, thinking that we were battling for who would have the right to change the world when in fact we were competing to see who would be defeated by Henry Bellmon in the general election. I won/lost. Mike was gracious and supported me in 1990 when I was elected governor of Oklahoma. We are great friends, and I love and care about him and his family.
Kirk Humphreys is also a man that I have a great deal of respect for — a staunch conservative with a giant heart and an extraordinary family. His wife, Danna, and his children, Grant, Blair and Annie, are building for Kirk a family legacy that even with all he has done in business and politics will be his most important legacy. Plus, by selling me his lake house at Eufaula, he fulfilled another bucket-list item for me: to buy a big house from a rich Republican.
Moderating their debate would be easy work, I thought, and it was. Our new club president, Terri Cooper, with program chairwomen Betsy Branstetter and Dawn Bynum, worked out all the details.
I mention their involvement because women currently and periodically run this venerable civic club, which previously in my lifetime only admitted males. Eventually, such a notation will be considered sexist, but I still find it noteworthy and, at the moment, self-serving for my current topic: Strong women can add a lot to any organization, and they need to be judged fairly.
A room half-filled with anti-Hillary sentiment
During the debate, we tried to explore why Oklahomans are more impressed by Hillary’s caricature as untrustworthy than the avalanche of horrific things Donald Trump has actually said. It was thought-provoking, but we found no easy answers.
Kirk bailed early on Trump and suggested that he was still having trouble reconciling his values with his party’s nominee, even suggesting that he and former Gov. Frank Keating were both struggling with this vote.
But he was really opposed to Hillary.
Meanwhile, Mike presented a personal and impassioned appeal to put Hillary in the context of her life of service and look past the caricatures that come from intensely negative campaigns.
I was struck by Kirk asserting as fact that Obama’s presidency was a failed presidency and that Hillary’s term as secretary of state was also a failure. Mike worked hard, but it was clear that more than half of a 400-person audience of business and community leaders in downtown Oklahoma City were Trump supporters.
These are not racist, bigoted, xenophobic nationalists. These are friends and neighbors. Like Kirk, they are not FOR Trump, they are AGAINST Hillary.
A recent Sooner Poll indicates 68 percent of likely Oklahoma voters view Hillary negatively, and only 28 percent of Oklahomans say they will vote for her. The New York Times has ranked Oklahoma and West Virginia as the two states most likely to vote for Trump. He has 99 percent chance of carrying these two states, the numbers say.
Successful is as successful does
After its conclusion, I left the debate feeling good that there was a civil airing of differences, but I was also disappointed that Obama’s presidency can be called a failure and that such a narrative is so easily accepted.
How can we pretend that we have not had a robust recovery coming out of a deeper hole from the prior administration at a greater rate than any other nation on the planet, per the Wall Street Journal?
How can we claim that the auto industry and the financial system were not saved? How do we overlook 15 million new jobs, low unemployment, low gas prices, energy independence, 20 million more people insured, renewable energy boosted, emissions improved, Iran deal struck to restrict nuclear weapons, and two wars ended?
We cannot seem to accept that more people were killed in the last 15 years from falling TVs in the U.S. than Jihadist-inspired attacks.
Looks like a hell of a successful run to me.
(Editor’s Note: The dismissal of Hillary’s accomplishments are addressed in a companion article from the same author.)