Mercury Confidential: Which member of TheBlaze team briefed the president on national security?

by Meg Storm

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Mercury Radio Arts? Just how do all of Glenn’s crazy ideas get done? Does anyone ever get a chance to sleep? Well, over the next few months we are going to take you inside MRA, giving you the inside scoop on everything from publishing to special events, 1791 to TheBlaze. We will be interviewing members of our New York, Columbus, and Dallas staff, bringing you all the info, so you can know what it’s really like to work for Glenn.

Catch Buck on Real News, weeknights at 6pm ET only on TheBlaze TV. You can listen to The Buck Sexton Show Saturdays at 12pm ET on TheBlaze Radio Network.

Not many people can say they have briefed the president of the United States in the Oval Office. Even fewer people can say they briefed the president of the United States on matters of national security in the Oval Office at 26-years-old. But, during his time in the CIA, that was just another day at the office for TheBlaze’s Buck Sexton.

“I did run Oval Office intelligence briefings for the president on subjects that I had particular expertise in,” Buck said during an interview in TheBlaze newsroom. “That was the president, the vice president, the national security advisor, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, so essentially some of the biggest government national security figures. That was really cool. I think I was 26 the first time I briefed the president.”

Since joining TheBlaze in the summer of 2011, Buck has accumulated quite a few projects. After being hired as National Security Editor of TheBlaze.com, Buck became a regular contributor on TheBlaze TV before joining the Real News panel full-time. More recently, Buck added a three-hour weekly radio show to his repertoire. He hosts The Buck Sexton Show live from the ‘Freedom Hut’ high above Times Square, Saturdays from 12pm to 3pm ET on TheBlaze Radio Network.

So how exactly does one make the jump from working in the Iraq and Afghanistan offices of the CIA to working for TheBlaze? For Buck, it was a bit of a winding road.

“I grew up here in NYC. I was born and raised on the East Side here in town,” Buck explained. “I went to St. David’s, which was a school on the East Side as well. We all had to wear a jacket and tie. It was a fun little place. Then I went to Regis High School.”

It was during his time at Regis, a tuition-free, all-boys Jesuit high school in Manhattan, that Buck began to realize his interest in politics. “Regis was amazing. That was where I first started to realize that I was different from other people in how I view things – in so far as I was more conservative,” he said. “It was not a hostile place for conservatives though. There was a strong Christian ethos behind it.”

While his high school may not have been an unfriendly place for conservative thinkers, his college experience was a little different. Buck attended Amherst College in Massachusetts, and it took just a couple of hours on campus for him to realize what he was in for.

“That was a real wake up call from the very beginning. And when I say, ‘from the very beginning,’ I mean from day one,” he recalled. “At our first events I was hearing all these things I had never really been exposed to before, even though I had grown up in New York. All of a sudden I am being told about white male patriarchy, and Western culture hegemony, and all these kind of pre-packaged ideologies that they just hammer in. I felt under assault from the beginning. I stuck it out though.”

As a right-leaning student on a left-leaning college campus, it is often easiest to just sit back and bite your tongue. But then came the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, an event that would prove to shape Buck’s thinking and career.

“All classes were canceled and everyone was kind of walking around in a haze,” Buck said of September 11. “And they held the only all-school assembly that happened while I was there. We gathered in the auditorium. I remember the president [of Amherst], who was kind of a slimy used-car salesman, got up and said something like, ‘We are gathering as a community…’ And then a professor stood up and said, ‘This is what happens when you make people angry.’ And essentially launched into – what I would hear a lot more of – which was that the attacks were a response to U.S. aggressions abroad.”

“I actually stood up and walked out, along with a few of my friends who were, if not conservative, at least sane. After that it was pretty much on,” he continued. “I had thoughts about going to join the military. I had thoughts of leaving Amherst, right after September 11, and serving and then trying to come back and finish my degree at some point.”

Instead, Buck decided to utilize his unique academic background, which included Arabic studies. “For someone who already had some Mid East politics background, who was already studying Arabic at the time, the opportunities were huge,” Buck explained. He spent time at several prominent foreign policy Think Tanks, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, and Council on Foreign Relations.

Those experiences ultimately groomed Buck for his very first job out of college at the CIA. After graduating Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Political Science in 2004, “it was a pretty straight shot into the CIA,” Buck said. “The first job I applied for my senior year – the first application I sent out – was the CIA. I got it. It took about a year to get through the clearance process, to get through the background checks and everything else.”

There isn’t a whole lot he can talk about from his four years in the CIA. He was first assigned to the Counterterrorism Center, which he described as the “tip of the spear for anti-Al Qaeda efforts in the intelligence community.” After about a year there, he was moved to the Iraq office for a couple of years before arriving at the Afghanistan office in 2009. Part of the job included spending time in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I was in the CIA a little over four years, and it was time to either get an advanced degree or at least figure out what I wanted to do,” Buck said. He ended up back to New York City as a member of the NYPD Intelligence Division, which specializes in counterterrorism work. “I worked at NYPD Intelligence for something like 18 months total,” he said. “During that period, I officially resigned from the CIA because I knew I wasn’t going to go back to D.C.”

If Buck’s time at Amherst served as a philosophical awakening to the tactics of the progressive left, working for the government was a pretty eye-opening lesson in why bigger doesn’t always mean better.

“I have very little faith or trust in the government. I believe in a government that is very simple and straightforward in task, and has the consent of the American people, and is rooted in Constitutional authority. As opposed to, now it is sort of a free-for-all power grab. I think we are much closer to that than people realize,” Buck said. “They are very quiet about it, but there are other quasi-anarchist libertarians running around the federal government. I have some friends who are still on the inside, and they won’t leave because they are well compensated and senior in the ranks now, but they secretly think it is a bloated monstrosity. People have no idea how much goes into it.”

After leaving the NYPD, Buck was accepted to New York University’s Stern School of Business, and he had all intentions of going, until a chance conversation led him to TheBlaze.

Buck was introduced to Betsy Morgan, President and Chief Strategy Officer of TheBlaze, through a mutual friend, and after learning more about his background, Betsy invited Buck to TheBlaze offices for a meeting.

“The first time I showed up in TheBlaze office [in the summer of 2011], there was nothing here. I met with Betsy in some office where all there were two sort of random chairs and a card table,” Buck said laughing. “We had our meeting and she started talking to me. And she basically told me that I should come to work here and not go to business school. I thought about it – I didn’t really want to go to business school.”

“I had always wanted to do conservative media. I was known in the CIA for both being avidly conservative and doing impressions of all the senior CIA officials, which I would do for people. That was nothing new for me,” he continued. “The opportunity for me to come here and do media was cool. It was a risk professionally, for sure, but risk was not something I was averse to before hand. And I am not averse to it now.”

Buck forewent NYU and joined TheBlaze as National Security Editor. From there, he started doing some commentary on GBTV [now TheBlaze TV]. He is now a regular panelist on Real News, which airs weeknights at 6pm ET on TheBlaze. And his gig on Real News led to “me telling the radio people I wanted to do a radio show,” he explained. And that led to the birth of The Buck Sexton Show on TheBlaze Radio Network.

“So now I am doing the radio show, Real News, and I am still national security editor of TheBlaze,” Buck said. “That is pretty much the soup to nuts.”

Media presented Buck with a unique challenge, considering his background in the intelligence community had basically trained him to avoid journalists at all costs. “Not only did I have no TV experience, I was actually trained to avoid journalists like they were radioactive. I was trained to not say anything,” Buck explained. “But at the Agency, we had a lot of training in how to present material, breakdown really complex material so people could digest what you are telling them. That was incredibly helpful for the job, but it was a huge mindset shift. I went from an office where you couldn’t bring your cell phone into the building with you, and to do so was a serious security violation, to an office where there are live video cameras around me and microphones everywhere. Psychologically, it was a pretty big shift.”

It was right around the time Buck really began to settle into his new job on Real News that the opportunity to host a weekly radio program presented itself. “I love hosting the radio show. I really view it as sort of a one-on-one conversation. That is kind of the embodiment of how I think of everybody who is listening. I refer to them affectionately as ‘Team Buck,’” he said. “My approach to the show has always been: I want to do the radio show I would want to listen to.”

Buck has quickly been able to cultivate a relationship with his audience by utilizing the immediate feedback mechanisms radio offers. Aside from the standard practice of taking viewer phone calls, Buck live tweets during his show and that feedback often influences the course of the show. “So when I say it is a conversation with the audience, it really is,” he reiterated. “I have a representative sample of who’s listening and what they want to hear.”

One of the primary differences Buck has noticed between radio and TV is the rhythm. While the Real News panel is “fun” and “lively,” television seldom provides the time to really dig deep into a topic. “In television, I have found that you have to throw punches right away. Not meaning you are going after people, but you have to give your best stuff,” Buck said. “You have to launch in with something that is worthwhile, interesting, moving the conversation, adding to the conversation.”

Radio, on the other hand, allows time to offer an idea but then build and construct a narrative around that hook. “I am somebody who suffers from an excess of analytic thinking, I suppose,” Buck explained. “I kind of bring my best stuff every night on Real News – try to just get out the most interesting thought or question or insight that I can offer at that time. And then, come the radio show, I can go broader or deeper and add all that together and synthesize something that is even more in-depth.”

The benefit of having a weekly show is the ability to really pre-plan the topics for the program in a way a daily show could not. Instead of relying on the news-of-day, Buck spends his week curating the best and most interesting stories he can find. Borrowing a phrase from the CIA, he looks at each program as a ‘deep dive.’

“Every day is prep essentially, as I view it,” he said. “I can really pick the subjects through the week and put together a ‘best of’ the week, which is a huge advantage for someone like me who wants to do a lot of in-depth analysis. I can really craft a three-hour narrative on Saturday. I call it the ‘deep dive’ with folks. It’s actually what we used to call big briefings in the CIA.”

If you are at all familiar with The Buck Sexton Show, you know that its breakout star has been a Soviet-inspired teddy bear. ‘Commie Bear,’ as it is affectionately referred to, adds a dose of jollity to the program. After covering a story on Real News that involved a Swedish advertising company infiltrating Belarusian airspace and dropping ‘Freedom Bears’ – little stuffed animals with messages of freedom written on them – over the country, Buck decided to parody the situation. Little did he know, his “joke story” would turn into an institution.

“That was a real story, and I figured we would do a joke story in response that my contacts in government got me quick access to the Soviet reaction to the ‘Freedom Bear,’ which is ‘Commie Bear,’” Buck said. “And from there, it just kind of took off. I thought it would be a joke segment we would do once or twice, and now it is at the point where, if I go two radio shows without doing it, I start getting a lot of emails from people who are not asking but demanding that they want Commie Bear.”

Buck’s career has taken him to some of the most dangerous places on earth and exposed him to some of the country’s most sensitive intelligence information, but he has settled in quite nicely to his ever-expanding job at TheBlaze.

“I enjoy the media,” he said candidly, “and I think if you can enjoy your job then you picked the right one.”

Catch Buck on Real News, weeknights at 6pm ET only on TheBlaze TV. You can listen to The Buck Sexton Show Saturdays at 12pm ET on TheBlaze Radio Network.

 

 

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.