William Marvel: Mowing

Fifty years have passed since I read "Look to the Mountain," written by one of Tamworth's early summer residents. The novel opens a quarter of a millennium ago in a Merrimack River town during the haying season. One of the first scenes involves a mowing contest in which the rival suitors of a teenage girl crossed scythes — as it were— to determine which would have her help with the metaphorical task of raking. The protagonist, who won the girl and later took her to a wilderness homestead in the shadow of fictional Mount Coruway, answered compliments on his mowing by praising his blacksmith's skill. "I got a good blade," he would humbly shrug.

Susan Bruce: The Fraudulent Fraud Commission

On Oct. 31, 2016, right-wing talk radio show host Howie Carr asked his guest, New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu, why Democrats have repeatedly won gubernatorial elections. Sununu responded by saying that N.H. Democrats have repeatedly engaged in voter fraud.   

“We have same-day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place,” Sununu said.

He also said the system was rigged. A week later, Sununu was elected governor of New Hampshire and had to pedal backwards furiously. After all, if all those buses from Massachusetts came to New Hampshire and voted — it meant they voted for him, and he didn’t want anyone to question HIS win. Days after the election, Brave Sir Robin announced that he no longer believed the system was rigged.

On right-wing talk radio, Sununu was asked how come Democrats have repeatedly won gubernatorial elections. His response was to lie and blame voter fraud. Too bad he wasn’t honest enough to point out that one-term Gov. Craig Benson’s corrupt shenanigans poisoned his party for several cycles. The N.H. GOP couldn’t manage to find strong candidates. In 2014, they tried to pass off a guy from out of state as a viable New Hampshire candidate. Then of course, there was the phone jamming scandal of 2002, which poisoned the brand – but given that is how his brother was elected to the U.S. Senate, one wouldn’t expect him to mention that. Easier to blame mythical fraud.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump announced in January that he was going to investigate voter fraud. Winning the election wasn’t enough for him. That anyone else got any votes had to have been a result of “widespread voter fraud.” In February, Trump announced that the reason he lost New Hampshire was because of widespread voter fraud and thousands of people were bused in from Massachusetts. Did the bus hide behind a tree in Jackson? Where did they park that bus in Hart’s Location?

Trump was (and still is) miffed that everyone in the United States didn’t vote for him. He’s an insecure little tyrant, and he desperately needed the validation of a New Hampshire win. Trump’s acolyte, Gov. Chris Sununu was again forced to say that there was no widespread voter fraud because, again, he didn’t want his win to be questioned. Since then, Trump the sore winner, has continued to complain about the election on Twitter, as world leaders do.

In May, Trump issued an executive order establishing a commission on election integrity. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the commission. He spouts the same false claims Trump has made about voter fraud. As governor of Indiana, he supported a crackdown on a statewide effort to register African-American voters. The commission’s vice chair is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kobach continues to insist that voter fraud is widespread. A number of his voter ID provisions have been struck down in federal court. He’s been fined for misleading a federal judge in a voting rights case, and is currently the subject of a Hatch Act complaint that alleges he’s exploiting his position on the commission to promote his candidacy — he’s running for governor of Kansas.

This is how we know the commission on voter fraud is fraudulent. Frauds are in charge of it. Regrettably, New Hampshire’s own Secretary of State Bill Gardner has allowed himself to be used by the fraudsters. He’s on the commission, too. Gardner has been serving as Secretary of State since 1976. He’s been making inconsistent noise about voter fraud for a few years and now claims he wants to clear up any doubts about election integrity. That the same people who are using him created the doubts about election integrity appears to have escaped his notice.  

The commission intends to create a national voter database, and has begun by requesting a lot of information from every state about voters, including: names, addresses, birthdates, party affiliation, electoral participation history, felon status and the last 4 digits of their Social Security numbers. So far, 44 states have refused to comply with some, if not all, of the demand to produce this information. Bill Gardner is willing to provide it all. Only a court challenge is preventing it from happening.  After a lifetime of public service, this will be Gardner’s legacy.

In 2005, N.H. Republicans were outraged by the REAL ID Act, claiming that this would create a national identification database. In 2017, they are rolling over for Donald Trump and insisting that those who are opposed to the creation of a national voter database “have something to hide.”

To show us all how well the fraudulent fraud commission will do with handling sensitive information, they’ve just released 112 pages of unredacted emails from people commenting on the commission. Their names and email addresses have all been made public.

Susan Bruce is a writer and talk radio personality on “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen”  on WNHN-FM. She lives in Concord. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com or find the broadcast at www.wnhnfm.org.

National Perspective: The sage of the offered hand


By David M. Shribman

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — He wants to see the Houston Astros play in the World Series, which is possible this year. He wants to see the Houston Texans in the Super Bowl, perhaps a few years off. Mostly he wants to ride the high-speed rail train from Houston to Dallas, which won't be ready until 2023.

George H.W. Bush is a 93-year-old with a formidable bucket list. He's in a wheelchair, and his wife, Barbara, uses a walker and a motorized scooter. The other day, Jean Becker, his chief of staff, told him the high-speed rail project in Texas might not be completed until he is 99. "I'm in," he told her.

Nearly four decades ago, Bush, energy and urgency personified, campaigned for president by asserting that he was "up for the '80s." The 41st president, now America's most beloved senior citizen and most respected senior statesman, is still upbeat. Ask him a question and he says, "Sure." Ask another and he answers, "Yes!" Follow up with a third and he asks, "Why not?"

He's back here in Maine, in the grand compound once known as the Summer White House, which is still a tourist destination attracting dozens of visitors to a wayside viewing area a quarter-mile away. The surf crashes against the concrete wall, the mallards gather on the grassy slope.

For most of his life, he has come here in summertime, walking the rocky beach at the base of the point, cruising the inlets in a cigarette boat that still takes him a few times each summer south to the beach town of Ogunquit, there to have a shore dinner overlooking tranquil Perkins Cove.

There are five pictures of him scattered around the wood-paneled walls of Barnacle Billy's restaurant. Diners pause from their lobsters and steamed clams to inquire about "the president." No one asks which president they mean.

"President Bush is a bit like a mountain," said Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who recently wrote a biography of Bush. "You can best understand his formidable dimensions from a suitable distance." Meacham was here last week to deliver a homily — the topic, "Faith and Doubt," hauntingly appropriate for the times — at St. Ann's, the Episcopal summer church constructed of sea-washed stones and hard pine hammer-beam trusses where Bush's parents were married.

The sun rises on America here. During Bush's presidency, from 1989 to 1993, the gray clapboard house on Walker's Point, with its breathtaking ocean views, was an unrivaled seaside power center. John Major of Great Britain, Brian Mulroney of Canada, Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, Lech Walesa of Poland and King Hussein of Jordan — all figures now of history, some only dimly remembered — were feted here, felt the bracing breezes here, smelled the salt air here.

Years later, when his son, George W. Bush, was president, Vladimir Putin of Russia walked the promontory that juts into the icy Atlantic here. Later, the three presidents went fishing.

The elder president, then a mere 83, pushed the boat, a little perilously, to top speed. Until recently, it was the only speed he knew. (There apparently were no speed limits for golf carts during his presidential years at Cape Arundel Golf Club, when Bush pioneered a new sport that he called speed-golf.)

Now the speed is gone from Bush, and now his guests tend to be family members. The other day, the clouds low and the Maine sky a frosty, forbidding gray, Bush, wearing a royal blue sweater and expertly pressed khakis, was in his office. Outside, his daughter, Doro, pulled up in a car with a load of supplies. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, in plaid shorts and a light gray T-shirt, strolled by. "He's slowed down, but he's still got his game, and he's still telling jokes," the younger Bush said. Then he added: "Both my mom and dad are special people."

That is a son's tribute to his parents, a sentiment, to be sure, repeated countless times by children in their 60s about parents in their 90s. But George and Barbara Bush hold a special place in American life today, when the red-hot issues of the late 1980s and early 1990s have faded to sepia brown, when the passions of the time seem tame compared to those that spill across cable television now and when the country seems to yearn for the civility of the Bush years, today remembered fondly, even nostalgically.

Bush is the last of a breed, the sort that celebrates breeding — a discomfiting notion, perhaps, in a democratic nation — but that also prizes public service and makes way, in time and with grace and generosity, for the new and for the unfamiliar, sometimes even the uncomfortable. That, above all, was Bush's ideology. "He is the personification of a great citizen," said Andrew H. Card, transportation secretary under the first President Bush and White House chief of staff under the second.

Bush — a "servant leader," in the words of Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio — was a conservative, but primarily what he conserved were the old values: modesty and manners. He did not fit Theodore Roosevelt's prescription of a president who had to know "how to play the popular hero and shoot a bear."

But he could fight fiercely; former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, whom he defeated in 1988, could testify to that, and so could former Rep. Newt Gingrich, who mercilessly pilloried the president for compromising with the Democrats on taxes in 1990. Bush — a master of statecraft if not always of speechcraft — hewed to the notion, and the hope, expressed in his Inaugural Address, that "this is the age of the offered hand." That is all the more appealing today, in the age of the clenched fist.

"His health is not good, and for the most part he is disabled," said Marlin Fitzwater, Bush's former press secretary, who visited recently. "Yet just being around him and knowing what he stands for is inspirational." And ironic, for here in coastal Maine, where the sun first hits American soil, its oldest president is in his sunset years.

David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or follow him on Twitter at ShribmanPG. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has a vacation home in Kearsarge.


Mark Dubois: Poland Spring a good business

As more and more Americans think twice about sugary soft drinks, they’re reaching instead for bottled water — and the bottled spring water they reach for most is Poland Spring.

This trend of healthier choices is good for everyone, but it is especially rewarding for the more than 850 people employed by Poland Spring, as well as the hundreds more who work for the many local vendors with which we do business.

As this trend continues, we at Poland Spring are planning accordingly and looking to grow our operations in Maine, a place we’ve called home for 172 years. While we are looking at potential locations in several parts of the state, there are several factors that make Western Maine a good location for new spring sources and a new bottling facility. This would mean more jobs and more local investment.

We’ve heard from many people across the greater Fryeburg region that a new plant and the jobs and benefits that come with it would be welcomed. Because a big investment like this often comes with many questions, we held a meeting recently in Brownfield and earlier this spring in Fryeburg with the Fryeburg Business Association. We also meet frequently with smaller groups as well as individuals. We’re proud of the way we do business and are happy to tell our story.

We do this to help explain more about who we are and how we operate. Everyone knows we bottle spring water. But how we find it, what we do to protect it, how closely we monitor it and how heavily we’re regulated are things most people don’t know.

Caring for the environment in Maine, especially its precious water sources, is our top priority. After all, if we depleted the water, harmed the environment or dealt unfairly with our communities, we would be out of business.

Bottled spring water is highly regulated on the federal, state and local levels and subject to rigorous annual reporting and inspection. Detailed reports of aquifer conditions — which are publicly available — are standard practice for Poland Spring. We leverage the best scientific tools available to track water levels and weather patterns. We do this year-round and in all types of conditions to help protect the state’s natural resources. Our heritage in Maine is rich, and we take great pride in preserving the integrity of our beautiful environment.

We’re excited about the possibility of expanding our operations here in the greater Fryeburg region, where every town plays a part in creating a business environment conducive to such a significant investment. That’s why we take the time to give people as much information as they need to better understand our needs.

What would a new bottling facility mean? An initial investment of $50 million to build the plant, which ultimately would create about 40 full-time jobs. Those jobs pay, on average, $20 per hour, and come with full benefits. That kind of investment, however, requires a degree of certainty — for all parties — about the future.

Brownfield is facing a unique opportunity as residents consider updating the town’s current groundwater extraction ordinance. An ordinance change would still preserve local control, which the town needs, but would provide a company like Poland Spring greater certainty in the permitting process for sourcing water there in the future.

Poland Spring has a great track record as a good and generous neighbor and as a responsible steward of natural resources. We hope to continue that track record in the greater Fryeburg area.

Mark Dubois is a natural resource manager at Poland Spring.