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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Chapter 10 The Press Conference

Chapter Ten



Friday, April 21, 2017
10 a.m.


The freedom of the press works in such a way that there is not much freedom from it.

Grace Kelly


Rachel had a done a masterful job during the last week organizing the Office of the Chair of the ConProAm, as she decided to call it.  The managers of the National Building Museum were very glad to play host to the ConProAm as it would insure a future value to the building as the host of the first such Convention.


The Great Hall of the National Building Museum is the size of a football field and is almost 15 stories at its highest point.  The four massive Corinthian Columns at each end of the Great Hall are 75 feet high, 8 feet in diameter and 25 feet in circumference.  The Italian Renaissance Revival style of the building inspires awe and reverence. It was the perfect setting for the ConProAm.


The Great Hall of the National
Building Museum


A small stage with a podium had been set up with rows of chairs for the Press arrayed before the stage.  Dozens of camera were set up and trained on the podium. Dozens of reporters were seated, ready to pounce.


Blair and Rachel promptly mounted the stage at 10:00 a.m., with Rachel approaching the forest of microphones attached to the Podium.  “Good morning, and welcome to the first press conference of the Office of the Chair of the Convention to Propose Amendments. The court appointed Chair, Montgomery Blair Sibley, will make a statement and then he and I will take questions.  Befitting the solemnity of the undertaking to consider amending the Constitution which has so well served us these last 229 years, questions from the Press will be taken at the Microphone set-up in the center. Now, don’t rush to line up at that Microphone, as I will be selecting at random the names of reporters to ask questions.  Today, we will be limiting questions so this event doesn’t go on forever, but Blair and I will be available for more in depth interviews in the future. With that, Blair, you have the floor.”


“Thank you Rachel.  The first order of business is to introduce Rachel Hera as the Deputy Chair.  You may recall that she was Judge Garland’s law clerk and as such is well versed on the history and law regarding a convention of this nature.  I look forward to working with her.”


“I am very certain that this Convention to Propose Amendments, or ConProAm if you will, can only be considered legitimate if completely transparent.  Notably, the constitutional convention of 1787 was held completely in secret. Not so this ConProAm. I am pleased to announce that Rachel has negotiated a deal in principal for C-SPAN to cover not only the proceedings of the Committee of the Whole made up of the delegates from the 50 states -- and non-voting delegates from the U.S. Territories -- but also each Committee established to consider a particular issue towards the end of making a proposed amendment to the Constitution on that issue.  Simply stated, everything done will be done in the open.”


“Second, while the delegates as directed by their respective state legislatures will ultimately decide which, if any, amendments are proposed and sent on to the states for ratification, in order to facilitate the greatest number of voices in this process, I am challenging today the major technology companies to set up a public square where amendments can be proposed, debated and otherwise considered.  The fundamental core of this virtual public square must be that only identified, registered voters may speak.  No bots, foreign agents, special interest groups trying to dominate the conversation.  This country was not founded by anonymous citizens hiding their identities but those willing to sign up and ‘mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.’  I trust our corporate citizens -- who will remain mute in this process as they have neither a vote, nor a soul to govern their vote -- will nonetheless discharge their civic duty by contributing to the education of the citizens of the U.S. through sponsoring programs to that end. I have in mind Ken Burns type documentaries, school plays, public debates and the like.  Our citizenry is disgracefully ignorant of the history of this great Country and this is a great opportunity for a national history lesson.”


“Third, I challenge the universities and corporate R&D departments to demonstrate the promise of applying artificial intelligence to the database that our national dialog will create.  My hope is that by using such artificial intelligence we can be guided toward identifying areas of common concern and solutions for those concerns. Not Skynet but rather R2-D2.”


“Last, please remember that Rachel and I serve at the pleasure of the delegates to the Convention which will be the first order of business when the ConProAm is convened.  However, given the size of the delegates, we propose to firmly place our Convention rules -- drawn from the sixteen rules adopted at the 1787 Convention -- before the delegates so that chaos and time don’t sideline this very important event.  I will now take any questions. Rachel, call your first journalist if you please.”


“The first name I drew from the hat was MSNBC reporter Alex Witt.  Ms. Witt?”


“Thank you Rachel.  Mr. Sibley, do think a disbarred attorney should be Chairing this ConProAm?  I refer of course to your disbarment by the Florida, New York, Washington, D.C. and 11 federal courts in 2008.”


“Ms. Witt, first, let me say I was never disbarred, but instead only suspended by Florida for three years in 2008 which the other bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court, all rubber stamped.  You also omitted that the basis of the suspension was for an allegation that I failed to pay child support -- nothing to do with my fitness as an attorney. Moreover, you failed to mention that the 2008 suspension was for allegedly not paying child support in 2002.  In your rush for a titillating sound bite, you failed to connect the dots between that suspension -- without an adversarial hearing mind you -- with my representation of Jeane Palfrey, known as the D.C. Madam and the 13 subpoenas that I had issued on the intelligence agencies and the White House in her defense in 2008.  But ignore that appalling exercise of judicial power to remove me from the judicial playing field, let me answer your question directly.” Blair stopped and stepped down from the podium, taking the microphone with him and walked up to Ms. Witt stopping a few feet from her.


“Ms. Witt, there is no one better qualified than me to initially Chair the ConProAm.  For I, as well as anyone, understand that all voices must be heard in order for a democracy to have legitimacy.  And when the powerful silence voices, as the legal profession has attempted to silence mine, let’s just say you have a special motivation to make sure that everyone gets heard.  What better quality would you ask in a Chair of a Convention that will determine the future of the federal/state power distribution for some time to come?”


Shaken, Ms. Witt turned and sat down at her seat. Rachel spoke up.  “Next, a reporter from ABC, Tom Llamas.”


“Thank you Rachel.  Mr. Sibley, do you have any amendments that you hope the Convention proposes?”


Returning the podium, Blair responded. “Yes, but as a resident of the District of Columbia, I have no voting representation at the ConProAm.  At Rachel’s suggestion, we are inviting and will recognize and seat delegates from each of the inhabited territories of the United States to remind the assembled delegates that there exists a large disenfranchised population of U.S citizens.  So my hope in this regard is that an amendment will be worked out to address that glaring hypocrisy. Beyond that, I think that as Chair I should remain publicly neutral.”


“Next”, Rachel said, “I have pulled the name of L.A. Times reporter Paul Pringle.”


“Mr. Sibley, how will you be moving forward to convene the Convention?” Mr. Pringle asked


“Rachel, why don’t you address that question”, Blair said turning to Rachel.


“I would be pleased to do so as I have taken on many of the logistical issues of the ConProAm. A letter will go out next week to every State Legislature advising them that a ConProAm will convene on October 14, 2017, per Judge Garland’s order.  The letter will also advise that each Legislature is completely in control of how they will select their delegates and what they will charge the delegates to do as their agents. However, on the floor of this building where the ConProAm will proceed, each State will be allowed only eight seats for delegates and only one designated member to express the position of the State at a vote.  The letter will contain the initial Rules of the Convention and the opening agenda. I am consulting with C-SPAN to cover the entire convention and its committee meetings. The Smithsonian is assisting in the furnishing of the desks for the Convention and the lay-out. I wanted to bring a bit of 18th Century decorum to the proceedings.”


Rachel continued, “In that vein, the letter will emphasis that we are adopting Rule #3 from the 1787 Convention that when a delegate is speaking, ‘none shall pass between them, or hold discourse with another, or read a book, pamphlet, or paper, printed or manuscript’ adding no texting either.  Of course the letter will be posted on our website, www.conproam.us. One more question today. From Politico.com, Christian Oliver.”


“Mr. Sibley”, Christian Oliver started in, “It is admirable that you state you want diverse voices to be heard, but the State Legislatures will be selecting their delegates and instructing those delegates on what to vote on.  As is publicly known, as of November 2016, Republicans controlled the legislatures in 32 states while Democrats were in control of the remaining 18 state legislatures. Accordingly, won’t the GOP be able to ram its proposed amendments through the ConProAm and thereby impose its agenda on the Country?”


“Mr. Oliver,” Blair responded, “that is the most intelligent and important question that can be addressed.  Thank you for asking it. Remember that the ConProAm only proposes amendments. So yes, at first blush as only a majority of the state delegates need to vote in favor of any given proposed amendment and the GOP controls a majority of the State legislatures, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that the GOP agenda will show up in the amendments that will be proposed.  However, two points counter that concern. Any proposed amendment is only a suggestion, 3/4s of the State Legislatures must approve it before it becomes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That number is now at 38 states. So the GOP majority of 32 states will not be enough to add any proposed amendment to the Constitution.”


“My second point is this:”, Blair continued, “The timing of the proposed amendments, early in 2018 at best, means that the voters in each state will be able to choose state legislators with the full knowledge on how each candidate would vote on any proposed amendment thereby insuring that the will of the People is fully expressed through our democratic process.  Finally, you touch on the genesis of why I am seeking a virtual public debate on the ConProAm so that voices can be heard by those who will ultimately be accountable to them.”


Rachel then stepped up and took the microphone.  “Thank you all for coming today. We are going to conclude the Press Conference now but will be available next week for individual sit downs with members of the Press.  You will understand that we have a lot of work to do and must now get to it.”


Reverting to the herd the Press Corp was famous for, shouts of questions rang out from the Press, but Blair and Rachel left the stage and retreated to their new offices on the third floor of the National Building Museum.


***


Closing the door to their office, Rachel said, “That went well, I thought.  Alex Witt looked like she was going to faint when you walked towards her. I wasn’t sure what you were going to do.”


“Perhaps that was too much, but I found when I was in jail that a little physical intimidation commands respect.  When the Press sits back barricaded behind the wall between reporter and subject, they are like a pack of dogs attacking a carcass.  I just wanted to let them know I was alive and can bite back.”


“You were in jail?”  Rachel said, intrigued.


“Yes, but only for 78 days.  Let’s just say a judge and I had a disagreement that took a while to work out.  It was an interesting chapter of my life. Every attorney ought to spend a week in jail before they are allowed to practice.  Maybe I will suggest that as an amendment” Blair said laughing.


“You certainly are an interesting fellow,” Rachel said, her eyes lingering on Blair a little bit longer professionally necessary as a smile lit up her face.


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