3 years ago

Happy Warrior: A little-known Alabamian is conservatives’ secret weapon in DC

Congressman Gary Palmer's Chief of Staff William Smith.
Congressman Gary Palmer’s Chief of Staff William Smith.

For the past 15 years, a little-known Alabamian has been a secret weapon for some of Congress’s most conservative lawmakers. He calls himself a “Happy Warrior,” who is a level 15 conservative on scale of 1-10. And he has a famous name, though he’s never been confused with a movie star while walking around Capitol Hill.

His name is William Smith. And at first blush, his life probably sounds pretty familiar to many people from the South.

“I center my life around 3 things: faith, family, and football,” Smith explained while sitting in Yellowhammer’s downtown Birmingham offices.

But a deeper look into his life story reveals a fascinating journey that has taken him from the fields of rural Alabama, to the golden coast of California, to the halls of power in Washington D.C.

After growing up in Ozark, Alabama, Smith attained his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Alabama. He went on to earn a masters degree in library science from UNC Chapel Hill before moving to the west coast to be a research librarian at the University of Southern California Law School.

It was while he was soaking up the SoCal sun that Smith received a phone call that would change his life.

“About 10 months into the job I received a phone call from a guy named Ed Haden, whom I had worked with at the Alabama Supreme Court,” Smith recalled “He said, ‘I’ve got a job and I want you to take it.'”

The job was a staff position on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which included one of Smith’s home-state senators, Jeff Sessions.

Committee staffers are tasked with crafting much of the policy that gets enacted into law. It’s often an arduous job that includes long hours, intense research and very little fanfare. It was right up Smith’s alley.

“I must have been insane (for taking the job) because at the time I was literally working 35 hour a week and playing a lot of golf,” he laughed. “But I said I’d take it.”

Smith immersed himself in the work for the next four years (2001-2005), quickly becoming a highly respected policy expert before deciding to return to his home state to practice law. It proved to be a short-lived detour. Just over two years later he returned to D.C. and soon found himself back in familiar surroundings. Sen. Sessions had risen to become the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and asked Smith to join him once again, this time as his chief counsel. When Sessions became the ranking member of the Budget Committee, Smith joined him once again as chief counsel on the committee tasked with the monumental undertaking of crafting the federal budget.

Although African-Americans have for generations tended to support liberal Democrats, Smith said being a conservative Republican came naturally to him, thanks to the values instilled in him while growing up in rural Alabama.

“Why aren’t more (African-Americans) Republicans?” He asked rhetorically. “You could look at some people who are out to make a profit and prey off people, like some of the national leaders, like Al Sharpton. But down in the local area where I grew up the values are more consistent (with conservatism). You would find traditional marriage, pro-life and all of those values that are consistent. I think anyone who thinks their values are inconsistent hasn’t really examined the (African-American) community that well.”

How to turn the appeal of conservatism into a “30-second sound bite,” Smith lamented, is the difficult part.

“The difficult thing is when a liberal says, ‘I’ve got a government solution for you,’ it’s hard to come back and say, ‘Well, I’ve got a limited government principle.'”

But while Smith may struggle to boil his conservative ideas down into made-for-television soundbites, he has flourished while helping Sen. Sessions and other conservatives craft key reforms, from entitlements to immigration and countless issues in between.

In late 2014, Smith’s work caught the attention of a fellow policy wonk, Gary Palmer, the former think tank president whom Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District had just elected to represent them in the United States House of Representatives.

Palmer invited Smith to be his chief of staff, the top post in congressional offices. Smith accepted, making him the only black Republican chief of staff in Congress, although it’s a distinction he has not spent much time thinking about.

“Most of the interactions I have with people have to do with policy,” he explained. “I think most of the people who have interacted positively with me is because they share my philosophy. Most of the people who have interacted negatively with me is because they are not as conservative as I am. If I have received any resistance it has to do with the philosophy that makes me say, ‘No, just because we (in government) can do something here doesn’t mean we should.’ I don’t think it has anything to do with race.”

So, how does one of the most conservative people on Capitol Hill fill out his staff? A tough interview process that weeds out the unprincipled applicants from the “Happy Warriors.”

One of the questions he asks all interviewees, Smith revealed to Yellowhammer, is “On a scale of 1 to 10, with liberal being 1 and conservative being 10, where do you rate yourself and why?”

Where does Smith himself rank?

“I would say on a scale of 1 to 10 I would probably be a 15,” he quipped, garnering a chuckle from everyone in the room.

Once those applicants make it through Smith’s crucible and onto the team, he runs a different type of office than many veteran staffers may be used to.

“When I say the philosophy is faith, family, and football, that’s really what it is,” he explained. “So we live out our faith, we care for our families, and we talk about football. If we do all of that we are going to have fun. Nothing is so serious in the office that we need to have a crisis moment. Now, the stuff we are working on is serious. We want to see the debt reduced and religious liberties protected.

“You have to be a ‘Happy Warrior,'” he continued. “We have to go in and fight to limit the size and scope of government. When we win, we are going to high five. When we lose, we are still going to high five because we enjoyed the battle. That’s kind of the mentality we need to have in the office. We want people who come in, roll up their sleeves and work hard. But you have to have joy, whether you win or lose. Those are the people we try to recruit.”

We had to ask Mr. William Smith if he ever got confused with the Hollywood actor of the same name.

“Well, I don’t think anyone has ever confused me with being Will Smith the movie star, except for when I first moved to Los Angeles,” he laughed. “Anytime you have the name Will Smith and your name goes into the phone directory the young girls begin to call. So when I moved to L.A. I had to disconnect my answering machine because everyday I would receive a number of phone calls from Will Smith fans wanting me to call them back.”

Smith’s phone is still ringing, even though he’s in D.C. But now, Alabamians can rest assured he’s advocating for a limited government solution to whatever problem is being thrown at him from the other end of the line.


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2 hours ago

Alabama figure skater-turned-coach back home after Olympic, World Championships run

John Zimmerman IV says he wears his emotions on his sleeve. They were never more apparent than they were recently as he spoke at the  Homewood Grown fundraiser for Homewood schools.

“There are certain trigger points that just overwhelm me,” the Homewood native said. “I hold dear to what people do, how they support you. I think about it as they do it and I appreciate it.

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“Being in this environment, seeing all the great work teachers are doing, you are impacted by watching them touch lives.”

The figure skater-turned-coach was most moved as he talked about former Homewood High School Principal Jack Farr, who adjusted Zimmerman’s curriculum to allow him to pursue his dream. He followed that dream, with skating partner Kyoko Ina, to a fifth-place finish in the 2002 Olympics in pairs figure skating and a third-place showing that year in the World Championships.

“I found a few old stories but the main impact was the vision the principal, Jack Farr, had for me in the mid-‘80s,” he said. “It wasn’t the norm, especially in the pre-Internet age, to have that vision.”

These days, Zimmerman lives in Wesley Chapel, Florida, which is part of the Tampa Bay metro area. He and his wife, Italian-American skater Silvia Fontana, have two daughters, Sofia and Eva, and a son, John Luther, who’s known to most as Jack.

The couple teach and coach figure skating in Wesley Chapel but Zimmerman’s coaching has taken him to the same heights he reached as a skater.
He coached the French team of Morgan Ciprès and Vanessa James to a fifth-place showing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Shortly thereafter, the coach and his skaters were getting set for the World Championships in Milan, Italy. Their preparation for that event was complicated by a commitment to skate in an exhibition in Grenoble, France, for the French Federation.

Their dream of earning a medal at the World Championships took a hit when Ciprès hurt his neck, which kept him from performing any of the lifts in their routine.

“(They did) just enough to get through the obligation they had to do in France,” Zimmerman said. “When they got back, there were 2½ weeks before we had to leave (for the World Championships). He couldn’t move at all. My sister’s a massage therapist and we had the Tampa Bay Lightning chiropractor working on him for about a week. They finally got enough movement going so he could do a few lifts right before we left.”

The pair wound up placing third at the World Championships, coincidentally matching what Zimmerman and Ina had done in their competitive days.

“Now they plan to stay for another year or two, as opposed to retiring as they thought they were going to do,” Zimmerman said. “They are finally feeling their groove and they’re going to stick with it for a while. Maybe we can get the world title.”

The coach is pleased to continue his work in Wesley Chapel. But there was talk of him coming home to Homewood.

“The to-be-continued thing would be if we could get an ice rink built in Homewood,” he said. “We joke about it in conversations on nights like this, but I think that would be interesting to talk about in the future.

“They joke about trying to get me back,” he continued. “They need to build an ice rink to get me back. I’d help them plan that out.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

VIDEO: GOP candidates debate without Ivey — Birmingham claims the legislature is racially discriminating — Donald Trump has a great week … and more on Guerrilla Politics!

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including:

— Did any of Gov. Kay Ivey’s challengers damage her in the latest GOP Gubernatorial debate?

— Can Birmingham actually block legislation from the state legislature over perceived racial issues?

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— Is this the week they FINALLY nail Donald Trump? (SPOILER: No)

State Representative Will Ainsworth joins Jackson and Burke to discuss the his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor and his controversial bill that would allow trained teachers to carry in Alabama schools.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at Democrats who keep talking about Roy Moore after GOP voters rejected him.

3 hours ago

How Christians can deal with the challenges of technology

The longer I’ve wrestled with the challenges of digital technology in my life and in the lives of others, the more convinced I’ve become that the ultimate answer is not “no technology” or “more technology,” but “more theology.”

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges.

Here are a few ways that understanding more of who God is can change our digital habits.

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God is Three-in-One

More Trinity is more effective than more technology. “Seriously?” you might say, “You think the Trinity is the solution to technology?” Partly, yes. The three persons of the Godhead enjoy perfect relationship with one another and seek to share that relationship with us, inviting us into that sacred community.

Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges.

The Father, Son, and Spirit’s relationships with one another are characterized by love, trust, openness, and communication. Isn’t that the model for our relationships, especially with our children, particularly when it comes to technology? Isn’t that what we want to cultivate and emulate? The healthier relationships we have with our children, the healthier relationship they will have with technology. Deeper relationships are more effective than more detailed rules.

Additionally, this Three-in-Oneness is not just a relationship to copy, but a relationship to be enjoyed. We are invited to enter into that communion, to live in that holy family. The more we do that, the more the Trinity will replace technology; or, at least, regulate it so that our relationship to it is more balanced and beneficial.

God is good

Sometimes we can view technology with such terror that we give the impression that it’s all “of the devil.” No, technology is a wonderful gift of God. We are blessed to live in such times and benefit so much from the role of technology in our daily lives. How many lives have been saved by cellphones? How many separated families have been kept together by Skype and FaceTime? How many sermons and lectures have been spread around the world by Christian ministries?

The devil didn’t create and invent this. God did, as the giver of every good and perfect gift. Sure, the devil abuses the gift; sure, we pervert it into sinful uses. But none of that changes the fact that God created the materials, the forces, and the brains that have produced so much beneficial technology. The more we recognize that technology is a gift of God, the more we will abhor taking his gift and using it against him; the more we will take this gift and use it as he intended.

God is all-knowing

Our parents or spouses can’t see everything or be everywhere. Accountability software can be circumvented and our accountability partners duped. But we can’t escape, circumvent, or dupe the all-seeing eye of God. He sees everything: every place, every second, every screen, every click, every tap. He has a daily report of all the sites we visited, all the messages we sent, all the Instagram accounts we follow. Remembering that he knows makes a huge difference.

The more we can remind ourselves of God’s omnipresence and omniscience, the more we will seek to use technology in a way that gives him pleasure and not in a way that provokes his wrath. Yes, our technology use can please God. He delights to see truth instead of falsehood on Facebook, to hear sermons streaming across the world, and to observe our online witness to unbelievers.

God is Judge

God’s knowledge of us is not being filed away in some dusty cabinet or distant server that will one day be lost or wiped. No, as Judge, he will one day call us to account not just for every idle word, but for every idle and idol click, for every second spent in pointless time-wasting. We may silence our internal judge, our conscience; we may outsmart our earthly judges, our parents and accountability partners; but we shall never escape the judgment of God. Let his discerning judgment help you make discerning judgments in your use of technology

God is Savior

Sometimes guilt stops sin; our consciences pain us and warn us to change our ways. More times, guilt multiplies sin; it leaves us hopeless and despairing. We’ve sinned yet again with our cellphone, failed once more on our iPad. We feel so condemned, what’s the point in trying anymore? We’ve sinned so much; what harm will another sin do?

Guilt also multiplies sin by creating distance between ourselves and God. It alienates us and separates us from God, making sin all the easier. That’s why we need to hear about salvation, grace, and forgiveness all over again.

Nothing deters sin like the forgiveness of sin because it not only removes guilt, it also multiples love for the Forgiver. The more we can embrace forgiveness, the more we embrace the Forgiver, the more love to (and from) Christ we will enjoy.

God is powerful

Sometimes we can feel like giving up the battle against the dangers of technology. We look at the forces ranged against us and our children and ask, “What’s the point?” What am I against so much?” We’re right, the forces are too many and too mighty. However, greater is he who is with us than he who is with them.

With God all things are possible, and he loves to demonstrate his possibility, especially in our impossibility. His power is made especially manifest in our weakness. When we feel and confess our helplessness, that’s when he moves in with his almighty power. He can keep us and our children. He is able and mighty to save. He can also give us and all our children the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and to do what is right and good. His Spirit is far more influential than the spirit of the age.

God is wise

Sometimes we might be tempted to think God did not foresee this massive moral and spiritual challenge, that he did not anticipate it, and, therefore, has nothing in his Word to help us. After all, the Bible was written thousands of years ago. What can the papyrus age say to the digital age?

Thankfully God did foresee, he did anticipate, and has put sufficient truth in the Bible to guide us through this minefield. Many New Testament verses on Christian ethics can be applied to technology, but I’ve found the book of Proverbs especially helpful as a source of divine wisdom for the digital age. Why not read through it asking God for light on how to apply these ancient wisdom principles to modern times. God is wiser than the wisest tech moguls and has anticipated every development in technology until the end of time. We will never reach a day when we say, “Well the Bible has run out of truth?”

I’ve only scratched the surface here, but I hope you’re persuaded that the ultimate answer to digital technology is a robust digital theology.

(Courtesy ERLC)

4 hours ago

Pearson Education’s latest AP history textbook says Christians and Conservatives are racists

An AP U.S. History textbook slated for distribution in 2019 reportedly contains anti-Trump bias and says Christians and conservatives are racists and xenophobes.

Radio host Alex Clark of WNOW’s “The Joe and Alex Show” posted photos of the book and its contents on Twitter after publisher Pearson Education sent samples of the book to public schools to encourage school administrations to purchase it, according to Fox News. The textbook features sections on the Black Live Matter movement and the 2016 presidential elections in which author New York University Professor James Fraser portrays Christians, conservatives, and President Donald Trump supporters as bigots who fear non-white ethnicities.

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“There are specific parts where it goes off the rails from a historical textbook toward an op-ed,” Minnesota Rosemount High School student Tarra Snyder told Fox News.

“It was really, really surprising to me. I really believe that learning should be objective and that students can make their own decisions based on what they’re able to learn in a classroom; and if the facts are skewed, then students aren’t able to make well-rounded decisions on what they believe.”

A section of the book, “The Angry Election of 2016,” describes Trump supporters as “mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white.” It also calls Trump supporters from Hillary Clinton supporters’ perspective “people who were afraid of a rapidly developing ethnic diversity of the country, discomfort with their candidate’s gender, and nostalgia for an earlier time in the nation’s history.”

Clinton supporters meanwhile “worried about the mental stability of the president-elect and the anger that he and his supporters brought to the nation,” according to the book.

White Christians feared the increase of minority populations in the years after 2012, the author also claimed.

“Those who had long thought of the nation as a white and Christian country sometimes found it difficult to adjust,” the book reads.

As for Trump, Fraser ascribes not only anger to him but also “not-very-hidden racism” and “extremism.”

The textbook was “developed by an expert author and underwent rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity” and it was “designed to convey college-level information to high school students,” Pearson Education spokesperson Scott Overland told Fox News. The textbook “aims to promote debate and critical thinking by presenting multiple sides,” Overland also said.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

5 hours ago

GQ condemns the Holy Bible: ‘Repetitive, Self-Contradictory, Sententious, Foolish … Ill-Intentioned’

In an article by “The Editors of GQ,” the men’s magazine blasts the Holy Bible, declares it a book you don’t have to read, and suggests an alternative.

“It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

In its April 19 article, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” (originally, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read Before You Die”), Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) trashes 20 books (“Huckleberry Finn” is counted twice, for some reason) it deems undeserving of their literary stature:

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“[N]ot all the Great Books have aged well. Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring. So we—and a group of un-boring writers—give you permission to strike these books from the canon. Here’s what you should read instead.”

GQ’s review of the Holy Bible begins with a snarky slight of Christians:

“The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.”

As for the content of the holy book, GQ’s contempt is summed up by this one sentence: “It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”

Instead, the editors at GQ would have you read a tale of two brothers “who have to get along”:

“If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.”

Here is the complete list of famous books panned by GQ, and the magazine’s recommended replacements:

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Instead: The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – Instead: Olivia: A Novel by Dorothy Strachey
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves – Instead: Dispatches by Michael Herr
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – Instead: The Summer Bookby Tove Jansson
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Instead: Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – Instead: The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – Instead: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • John Adams by David McCullough – Instead: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
  • 9 & 10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Instead: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Fredrick Douglass
  • The Ambassadors by Henry James – Instead: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
  • The Bible – Instead: The Notebook by Agota Kristof
  • Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger – Instead: Death Comes for the Archbishopby Willa Cather
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – Instead: Earthsea Series by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker – Instead: Angels by Denis Johnson
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Instead: The American Granddaughter by Inaam Kachachi
  • Life by Keith Richards – Instead: The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – Instead: Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – Instead: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Instead: Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – Instead: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

(Courtesy CNSNews.com)