American Hero: Don't Call Me A Wounded Warrior. I'm Not a 'Sob Story.'

With four missing limbs and an award-winning smile, Travis Mills is a sight to behold. It's no wonder those who know Mills describe him as "tough as they come."

The United States Army Staff Sergeant who became a quadruple amputee from the war in Afghanistan joined Glenn's radio program to share his fascinating story on Monday.

"I was a staff sergeant in 82nd Airborne Division. Very proud paratrooper," Mills said.

He told Glenn when he first woke up to find out what had happened, he didn't want to call his family. When he finally spoke with his wife, among his first words to her were "Leave me."

"It wasn't because I didn't want to be with her anymore or anything, I didn't love her. I actually just didn't want to be a burden on her," Mills said. "I was embarrassed, upset."

The journey Mills took to becoming "tough as they come" didn't happen overnight. Listen to the hero's conversation with Glenn or read the transcript below.

"Leave Me"

GLENN: United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills is with us. Travis Mills is a quadruple amputee from the war in Afghanistan. And the author of the book Tough as They Come.

And you can tell already you're as tough as they come. I saw a short video of you, where -- I mean, you've -- you actually -- when you had your legs and arms blown off, you actually told your wife -- you had a new daughter.

TRAVIS: I did, yeah.

GLENN: And you said, "Leave me."

TRAVIS: And it wasn't because I didn't want to be with her anymore or anything, I didn't love her. I actually just didn't want to be a burden on her. After getting everything blown off on April 10th. The 12th, they cut my left hand off the rest of the way. Then the 14th, I woke up for the very first time. And that's my birthday. So my 25th birthday, I woke up for the very first time to find out what happened. I didn't want to call my family. I was embarrassed, upset.

STU: You didn't want to call your family?

TRAVIS: Didn't want to call my family. My wife. I just felt like I let everybody down. I was really good at my job. It was my third deployment. And the Taliban wasn't supposed to get me, and they did. And I was angry at that fact. But I was also embarrassed and upset.

But then I finally called, talked them a little bit on my birthday. That's the person that woke me up from my medical sedation because I was actually awake until the operating table on the 10th. And the doctor said, "I don't know how you're still awake. You need to go to sleep." So 14 hours of surgery, nine doctors, and seven nurses worked on me. Two doctors actually -- or, two nurses pumped air in my lung for two hours straight -- or, I mean, nine hours straight to keep me alive. Thirty blood transfusions.

But, yeah, I made it to the hospital on the 17th and went to immediate surgery. My wife, the very first thing she had to do was sign a paper. She was in charge of my medical care. So she had to sign a paper to cut off two more inches of my right leg because my sutures ripped open. I was bleeding out. Like, he's going to die if we don't take him to surgery. You're in charge now. She's just like, oh, just pull the plug. And I was like, what?

No, it's a joke, obviously.

No, no, no. But, yeah, so then the 18th, she came me into Walter Reed, which is a wonderful facilitate. And I didn't think I had much self-worth. And I said, "Look, there's no reason for you to put yourself through this, financially. Anything we have is yours." Not that I have a lot. You know, I was a staff sergeant in 82nd Airborne Division. Very proud paratrooper. And I said, "The house, the money, the cars, it's all yours. Anything I make -- you know, keep the same bank numbers. You can have the account numbers, and it's yours. And you can go." And she's like, that's not how this works at all. I'm going to be with you.

And, you know, between her and my little girl, the support of my family -- of course my parents and everybody. But my little girl who looks up to me, who I thought was going to be scared. You know, her dad now, no arms, no legs. He has tubes out of every limb. Pick lines out of his neck. Stuff all over my chest, like little monitors. And I thought, boy, she's going to be just so scared of this monster. And she came in. It turns out, when you have no arms and leg, you're really short now, and you have a hairy chest, you're the world's best teddy bear. She's just playing with me. Squeezing my nose. My wife is like, oh, look at them play. And I'm like, get her off my nose. I'm trying to swing --

But, yeah, once my wife was going to stay with me and my daughter was going to look up to me and I was going to be the dad I was expected to be, I just went full force in recovery.

Bluetooth Legs

TRAVIS: And I'm very thankful for Walter Reed. The technology out there -- you know, I walk. Wherever I go, I walk. I drive a truck. I mean, with my feet, prosthetics, I'm actually so stubborn. I didn't get hand controls put in my truck, and I drive with my feet

GLENN: Well you don't have any hands, so...

TRAVIS: Yeah, it's true.

GLENN: Do the thing with your hand where you can --

TRAVIS: Absolutely. I can do this all day. It doesn't even hurt. No, it doesn't hurt.

GLENN: Yeah. So he can turn his hand all the way around. So when you're steering, you --

TRAVIS: Well, I'm locked on a try pin (phonetic), which is like a suicide knob here, here, and here. I just rock around with it. I have pump systems. So I hit a button and it will do left turn, right turn, horn, kind of everything. My legs are Bluetooth, so they have a driving mode in them. So I use a remote. Lock it in. And it locks at a 25-degree angle. And I just press down on the gas and the break, and I drive a truck.

GLENN: Your legs are Bluetooth?

TRAVIS: They have Bluetooth connectivity. They don't play music or anything.

GLENN: What exactly does the Bluetooth technology do?

TRAVIS: Well, it locks it to modes.

GLENN: So if I had my iPad, I could make you dance or something, just as a joke.

TRAVIS: Depends on what song you put on. I dance -- but, no, they come with their own remote. They're waterproof. They're microprocessors. Every time I'm standing and I move, over 300 adjustments get made every second to make sure that they work out. They take away 30 percent of muscle needed to walk. I mean, they don't walk for you, but they help out when it kicks back.

PAT: Wow.

GLENN: Wow. So this technology -- you see people who have lost their limbs, you would have been in a wheelchair for the rest of your life ten years ago?

TRAVIS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I've had a lot of Vietnam vets. Which I'm very thankful for the vets. And I had a lot of people from the Vietnam era say, boy, we just didn't see people come back like you. It's too bad that you had to come back this way. And I said, "Well, think about the battlefield medicine that's come so far that guys that wouldn't have made it home in that war came back in this war."

GLENN: Well, I mean, honestly --

PAT: That was one of the things they said during the Bush administration, against the war. Look at all these guys that were coming back maimed. Well, but they're alive. I mean, you'd rather be alive, right? At this point.

TRAVIS: Absolutely.

I had the opportunity -- the documentary we had. We had the GI Film Festival winner. Tough as They Come. I wrote the book because of the documentary doing so well. But in it, I mean, I just -- I get asked, you know, would you do this all over again? Serve in the military? I would. I would. I had a bad day of the work. Case of the Mondays. I wouldn't get blown up again. You guys are lovely, but if I could be there any second, I still would be there. But through this process, this ketamine coma which is revolutionary, having no more pain, I don't take any medication. And --

Phantom Pain

GLENN: Explain -- because phantom pain is wild. Phantom pain makes you feel like you still have hands and legs, but you don't. And then --

TRAVIS: Yeah, it's painful too.

GLENN: And it's painful because it feels like people are stabbing you or they're on fire.

TRAVIS: Yeah, they were worried that I was going to actually get too immune to the -- I was getting so immune to the drugs and everything, the Oxis and what not. Dilaudids. And they were like, he's just going to OD, and it's not going to be his fault. He's just getting too immune. So they had three different case studies. And I signed a paper. Like, yeah, let's try this. Yeah, let's try that. And finally, they said, well, we have this ketamine coma. It's been done one other time in the US.

GLENN: What is it?

TRAVIS: They do a mathematical equation for how big you are. They give you so much ketamine per hour.

GLENN: What's ketamine? I don't know.

TRAVIS: Actually they call it Special K on the streets.

JEFFY: It's a tranquilizer.

TRAVIS: It's a tranquilizer.

STU: Leave it to Jeffy to know.

GLENN: No, seriously, so they gave you a horse tranquilizer.

TRAVIS: They did. And they gave me 600 milligrams an hour for five days straight, and I was knocked out. And when I woke up, it's such a hallucinogen, anything that was on TV, I was in. So Seinfeld, Kramer from Seinfeld hung out for three hours one day. Just talked with me.

GLENN: That sounds like --

JEFFY: Is that a problem?

TRAVIS: No, not anymore. I mean, we just hung out, you know. Hey, what's up? And then there was also like Ghengis Khan. Somebody was watching something on the history channel. And Ghengis Khan and me were fighting. Arrows flying. Zipping through.

JEFFY: Wow.

STU: You fought on Ghengis Khan's side?

TRAVIS: I mean, I didn't choose sides.

STU: Wow.

GLENN: You just happened to find yourself on that side.

TRAVIS: Come on. It's cool. It's part of my story.

GLENN: All right. So then you were hallucinating for how many days?

TRAVIS: About four days, it was real heavy. The last one I had at 10 days, where I thought someone was stealing my little girl, like taking her across the field. And I was yelling at 3:00 in the morning. "I'm going to get you. Give my kid back here. My daughter." And there's more things I said, but we can't because we're on TV or radio. But I was echoing through the hallway. But it was such a great thing that five months after that, six months into my recovery, I quit taking all medication. And the pain is gone.

Everybody asks me, like, how is the VA care? VA has been great to me. But I don't go.

PAT: Wow.

GLENN: Only the phantom pain is gone?

TRAVIS: All my pain. I don't have any.

GLENN: You don't feel any pain?

TRAVIS: No pain.

GLENN: But if I punched you in the face, you would feel that?

TRAVIS: I mean, possibly.

STU: He's very weak.

GLENN: I'm not going to try. I'm not aggressive really by nature.

TRAVIS: As the book states, I'm tough as they come, so I'm not so sure if that's going to hurt.

A Recalibrated Warrior

You know, it just really came down to a choice. I told my wife to leave me. She didn't. It came down to, if I was going to get better. I was going to feed myself. I was going to do things. My recovery, I want people to know, I'm not a victim, nor am I a sob story. Please do not label me as a wounded warrior. I cannot stand the term wounded. I'm not wounded. I have scars. They're pretty awesome. But, you know, in the book, I state I'm a recalibrated warrior, if anything. But I just like to be called Travis. I take my daughter to school every morning. I take my wife on dates. We go out and get ice cream. And I'm the one driving. I'm the one unbuckling her from her car seat and putting her in the car seat. And what a great day we live in where I can do this stuff.

And I'm so thankful. So, you know, I'm fortunate with what I'm doing. I got the podium to stand and tell people, like, don't sob. Don't feel bad for me. And let's keep pushing forward in life.

(BREAK)

"My Body Overheats"

PAT: So, Travis, you have both legs. Prosthetic. And then the arm on the left side. Why not the prosthetic on the right side too?

TRAVIS: I used to be a magician. I made it disappear.

PAT: Wow. That's impressive.

TRAVIS: No. My body actually overheats. Because when you lose your arms and legs, your heart when it beats, it pushes the blood normally to your fingers and toes. Mine goes to my residual limbs. So it comes back warmer. So my body overheats that way. When you release heat from your body as head, hands, and feet, missing four of the five, so my head always sweats. And, you know, I had a liner that would go on here. It would just kind of sweat off throughout the day eventually and fall off. And real rigid and hard. And then one more thing is your skin is porous. Even though you got pants on, when the wind blows, you can feel it. Well, mine, I have three layers. So a third of my body is capped off. So it just made more sense not to wear it. And it makes it more comfortable when I don't wear it.

PAT: Oh, you do have it? You just don't wear it?

TRAVIS: Oh, I have it. I use it for extreme sports or whatever, if you want to call it. Or adaptive action activity. Whatever. I go snowboarding. I wear it for that.

GLENN: You go snowboarding?

TRAVIS: Well, I go falling down a hill usually. But I pick myself back up. I go downhill mountain biking. I went out in Colorado. I was on a four-wheel bike.

GLENN: Okay. Shut up. Seriously. Seriously, don't you feel like a slug? Here's a guy with no arms and no legs, yeah, I go mountain biking, and I go snow skiing. I barely get out of bed in the morning.

STU: I complain. We don't have an elevator. We only have stairs to go up to the second floor.

GLENN: And everybody in this building complains.

STU: Oh, yeah. All the time.

TRAVIS: Like really?

GLENN: So it's really uncomfortable being in a room with a guy with no arms and legs who is in better shape than I am too.

TRAVIS: Don't say that.

GLENN: Yeah, I actually -- I don't remember what I was watching, but I watched something where somebody had lost their ability to walk, and it was about their treatment and everything else. And how they did that. And it took them a year and a half to learn how to walk again and really get back to somewhat normal. And I thought to myself, "I don't think I'm that dedicated." I don't know if -- I don't know -- and you wouldn't know until you get there. Were you at all worried -- did you have a time where you were like, just, I'm not going to do it.

The Mental Game

TRAVIS: You know, it wasn't that. It was more -- the mental game was the worst part for me. The physical was easy. I used to be 6 foot 3. 250 pounds. Work out all the time. The military obviously was strenuous. And I was part of the 82nd Airborne Division. So, you know, best of the best, literally. If anyone has any rebuttals on that, please don't write in because there's no reason to. You're wrong.

So the physical wasn't the hard part. It wasn't the working hard that was going to get me. It was the mental part of, how can I still be a dad? How can I take care of my family? Can my wife ever really still love me? And am I going to be a burden? And once she didn't leave my side, she's like, no, we're going to get through this. I mean, my wife sat by my bedside 20 hours a day when I was in a coma. And she knew I was going to wake up.

GLENN: You're a damn handsome man. Maybe that's what it was. You're just a damn handsome man.

TRAVIS: Actually, at that time I wasn't. Oh, I went from 250 to 140. I lost 110 pounds in seven days.

GLENN: Wow. But how much of that was your arms and legs?

TRAVIS: Well, no, I was pretty small too. But a lot of it was that. But I got pretty small too. Lost a lot of weight. And then, don't worry though, Philly cheesesteaks, got me right back where I needed to be. I might not be the same 250, but, boy, am I there -- no.

STU: Philly cheesesteaks are essentially medicine.

TRAVIS: Oh, easily.

GLENN: It really is.

STU: It's almost antibiotics.

GLENN: We haven't talked about how this happened to you.

How It Happened

TRAVIS: Oh, absolutely. So April 10th, I was walking along. On patrol. Normal day in Afghanistan. Third deployment. I actually had orders to take me somewhere else, to Fort Hood, and I didn't want to go. So I cancelled those to go on this deployment. And I told my sergeant major, I'm 82nd. Like, do I have to really go? And he said, no, no, you're a paratrooper. We can keep you here. After that though, you might have to go somewhere else. I said, if they pull me again, I'll go.

GLENN: Do you regret that?

TRAVIS: I don't. No, I can't -- I can't justify one bad day at work, one unfortunate mishap to, you know, look at my whole military career.

GLENN: That is pretty amazing -- I mean, I've had bad days at work.

TRAVIS: Well, a case of the Mondays, you know.

GLENN: I keep my arms and legs. It's different -- it's an amazing attitude you have. Anyway...

TRAVIS: So we're walking along. Everything is going great. All this is at TravisMills.org. Like the trailer and the documentary and everything is there and the book. And what we offer.

So I was walking along. And we came to a short haul. We had the minesweeper out front. And Brandon, he's the private. One of my soldiers. He swept the ground, up and down. Not once, but twice. The minesweeper didn't go off. Didn't -- nothing. Didn't alarm us. I said, okay. Cool. Took my backpack off. My backpack was about 80 to 100 pounds on any given day. I set it on the ground in front of me on this mound. And when the backpack hit the ground, I mean, the bomb went off. The IED explosive went off. Immediately ripped off my right arm, right leg. Disintegrated. Never found. Left leg was there with a couple of pieces of muscle and tendon, but hanging down. So like my foot was by my thigh. And my left hand was still there, wrist blown out, pinkie and ring finger mangled up real bad. But my thumb, index and middle were still there. So I reached out to my trucker mic after I rolled over. I hit the ground real hard, my left side of my face. I rolled over. And I looked at the damage of my myself. I said, hey, six. This is four. I just hit a bomb. I need your medic with mine as soon as you can get over here. My medic ran up to me. I said, hey, save my guys. Get away from me. Like, leave me alone. He's like, let me do my job. I said, look, you can't save this. I've seen a lot of guys go for a lot less.

And as sad as that sounds, it's just the truth. I wasn't suicidal. I didn't want to die that day. But I just figured if my guys had injuries that were lesser and they could be saved, instead of bleeding out because they're working on me because I was the most catastrophic, then let them go work on them.

And my medic said some choice words, and he said, "Let me do my job." And my platoon sergeant, my medic put on tourniquets. Within 20 seconds, locked off the arteries. And that's where Vietnam has changed. Vietnam had that quick clot, that sear your arteries and try to sear your blood in. Where tourniquets, you can put them on for up to 12 hours, and no damage will happen. But it just turned it right off, just turned the blood right off. Then I looked up on the helicopter. On the helicopter, I yelled at the flight crew a little bit because they weren't taking care of my guys. Because one of my guys was yelling out in some real bad pain. He had every right. Lost his right testicle. And I don't say that as a joke. I tell you that because he actually came home, got married, and had a kid, and named a kid after me, which was pretty impressive.

STU: Wow.

PAT: Yeah.

TRAVIS: Either way, we made it to the operating table.

GLENN: You're worried about somebody else's pain on the helicopter. And I would imagine you were blinding pain.

TRAVIS: I wasn't. I wasn't in a lot of pain. I think that the shock or adrenaline kicked in. I was probably supposed to be knocked out, but I didn't. I stayed calm. I really sat there and thought, "You know what whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I can't change the outcome of this. The only thing I can affect is my attitude." And that happened on Valentine's Day in 2010. I was on a mission that was supposed to go six hours and ended up getting two grenade kills. Long firefight. Long drawn out day. Ended up being like a 28, 36-hour day, something like that.

By the end of the day, when we were coming back, our truck broke down. We had to wait on the side of the road. Get attacked, what not. At the moment, you kind of broke down, and you laugh or cry. I started laughing. And I said, "You know, the only thing I can affect is my attitude in this situation," and I've had that mentality ever since 2010 on that deployment. And I kind of kept that. So when I was laying on the ground, I thought, you know, the one thing I'm not going to do is go out like Saving Private Ryan, when the medic starts yelling for his mom. My guys are not going to see me afraid. I wasn't afraid of anything anyway. And I wanted them to remember me like, wow, he -- at least how he went out, he was like, "Hey, we'll see you guys. Thanks for everything. Keep fighting." And then going. It was a pride thing, I think.

Where Was God?

GLENN: How much does faith play a role? Or did faith play a role in this whole attitude and everything else?

TRAVIS: It did. It did. And also, it was kind of like, I'm not in charge. You know, I'm not driving the ship. It's just whatever happens happens. Now, when I made it to the hospital, I was angry. I got to Walter Reed. I didn't know why this happened. I pay made my taxes. I take care of my family. I have a wonderful little girl. You know, my life was going very well. I was going to come back as a recruiter. Become an officer. Finish my 20 years. Twenty-five years. Whatever it was going to take in the military and have a good life as a high school teacher and a football coach. And my sister-in-law brought a plaque, and it said, don't be afraid for your Lord God walks beside you. And I'm paraphrasing. I'm just trying to not take too long. And I got angry. I said, Mom, turn that over. I don't want to read that. It was the only thing I could read. I was laying in the hospital bed, looking over at the window sill. And my mom said, "I'm not turning that over. Knock that off." And it was a real question for me -- and that's just -- and hopefully that's not too brutally honest.

GLENN: Yeah. Where was God?

TRAVIS: Where was God? I actually asked, what, did he take a smoke break? I know it's not nice, and I get that. But I just want to be as true to the story.

GLENN: I don't think he smokes.

TRAVIS: No, I don't think so either.

GLENN: I can imagine him out in the front stoop because he can't smoke in the mansion because of the laws and everything else.

TRAVIS: That's why I said, did he take a smoke break? Did he turn around, then, oh, crap, now let's save him, after I just let this happen. My mom said, don't -- knock that off, Travis.

It took about two weeks. But then you have to realize, it's not -- you can't just be a believer when everything is going your way, when you're paying your taxes, and you have your house, and your life is going good. It's just, there's a mission, there's a plan out there. The only thing I can affect and the situation I got blown up and the situation I'm in today is my attitude toward everything. I can't affect the situation where I will it to be better. So people like, did you ever think, what if you didn't do this? I said, I could what if it all day, but what's the point in that? I can dwell in the past, or I can reminisce it. Hey, I had 25 years with my arms and legs. It was great. But I don't dwell on it. I mean, I drive my kid to school. You know, the first thing that happed this morning, my little girl FaceTimed me. Hey, Daddy, you're coming home today. I'm so excited. And that's truly just amazing. And I live in a world where I can do that.

"Shut Up, Slugs!"

GLENN: Do you ever -- you know, you listen -- I don't know if you listen to the show. Do you listen to our show?

TRAVIS: Every chance I get, to be honest with you. I travel a lot.

GLENN: Yeah. He has no idea who we are.

TRAVIS: That's not true.

GLENN: So -- so if you listen to us and you -- and you walk around -- do you ever just -- you're in the supermarket and you hear someone whining about their day or anything, do you just look at slugs like me and say, "Shut up?"

TRAVIS: So I really don't. Because you know, until you're facing my situation, you have your own problems. So in the author's note in the book, it actually -- before it was all finished, I said, "Look, I really want this to say this, exactly, and I won't sign off on the book to be done until this is done." And Random House was great. Don't get me wrong. They weren't like giving me any flak for it.

The first thing it states, if you served, thank you for your service. I did not serve any more. I didn't fight any harder or any longer. I had one bad day at work. I did the same thing as everybody else that raised their right hand and took an oath. Just I took the oath twice. I reenlisted already once at this time in my career.

The next thing I tell people, I do not consider my problems any more than anybody else's. We all have our own things. So I know people see me. And, yes, visually, I look different. Physically, I have a few limitations. Not much. But a few. But I don't know what everybody is going through. I'm not sure that there's going on in your life. I don't know what people in my crowd, when I speak throughout the nation, what's going on in their life. But I tell them, we're all on the same playing field. And hopefully with the things I talk about, goal setting, motivation, the health care, I talk about the technologies that are out there, and my perspective on life and how I get through it, it has somehow positively affected that and changed their outlook on life.

But, no, I don't get upset when people complain about things. I mean, if I see someone park in a handicap spot that's not handicap, I'm kind of like, oh, come on. But, you know, maybe they have something going on that day that I don't know about. Ingrown toenail or something. Whatever.

PAT: Oh, my gosh. You use handicap parking, as well as you get around? Can you believe this guy.

JEFFY: I know.

GLENN: You have motorized legs. We actually have to work on yours.

PAT: That's unbelievable.

GLENN: Crazy.

TRAVIS: I told my wife, she stayed for the -- like VIP parking. Travis, I got to go to the store. Come on.

I don't want to go to the store. She goes, oh, no. You're going to go. I want --

GLENN: Just sit in the car. Just sit in the car.

TRAVIS: VIP status.

GLENN: That's right.

TRAVIS: No, I'm not -- I do listen to the show. I just didn't want to tell you guys I can do it every day. I'm on the plane quite a bit.

PAT: Uh-huh.

GLENN: Yeah.

JEFFY: Of course.

GLENN: So are we. We're on a plane.

TRAVIS: I saw that. That's what happened last time you were out saving -- either way. Either way.

GLENN: We're here every damn day listening to this show.

TRAVIS: Okay. Thanks for your guys' time.

GLENN: You have Bluetooth legs. Let's work it out so you can listen to the show no matter where you are.

TRAVIS: Yeah.

JEFFY: Right?

STU: So going around the country, doing really stupid stuff like this, but also really important things with the foundation.

Giving Back

TRAVIS: Crazy things like this. The foundation. We started a 501(c)(3). I wanted to give back in some way, and we were going to send care packages overseas. And it just turned into --

GLENN: What are you doing now? What does it do?

TRAVIS: Well, I was able to learn how to kayak, canoe, boat, swim, fish, tube, everything.

GLENN: Shut up.

TRAVIS: And I thought -- well, this is part of the story. I thought, you know, we could really do this in a camp form up in Maine where we're going to live. And we did two proof of concepts where we brought up previously wounded soldiers and their families, and we showed them how to kayak, how to canoe, how to go out and do things and not live life on the sidelines. Be an active member in society. And most importantly, an active member in their family instead of --

GLENN: Really important for people in the service. You know, this happens to me. I mean, I'm not an active person. But almost everybody I know in the military. They're so active. They were so into sports. I mean, physical people. You lose that ability, and it -- it just eats at you.

TRAVIS: And I can talk someone through hitting a softball. Like my little girl, I can tell her how to hit a softball. I can tell her how to play volleyball. But I can't physically do it. Now, kayaking with the family, I can do. Downhill mountain biking, I can do. Going out fishing, I can do. Tubing, I go tubing all the time all summer. My little girl and me, we hop on. Got a tritoon with a big motor. So it goes fast, even though it's a pontoon.

So we did one proof of concept. It was four families came up. Then we did another one. The next year was six families. It was such a great, you know, feedback that we thought, we can do this and raise the money. And it turned from three to 5,000 a year overseas packages to $2.7 million project. We're not done with our funding. But we've raised about a million dollars this past year. And we're going forward. I will let everybody know. I don't pay the board. Myself included. I'm the president. I don't pay myself. And I will never pay -- I will never pay the board. If they want a paycheck, they can go somewhere else. And they know that. And they're okay with it. Well, they're happy about it because this is all about giving back.

So Everything can be found at TravisMills.org. I also have to let you know, just on a side note, my friend Reese, who is my best friend and business partner, he wanted to be here today. Loves your show. You met him. They're having a baby -- they're having a baby right now as we speak.

STU: Oh, wow.

TRAVIS: They are. Katie and Reese. So say a prayer for them.

GLENN: Actually, she's having it. He's just there.

TRAVIS: That's what I tell people. A guy says, yeah, we had a baby. I said, actually what happened was, she had the baby, and I got blamed for everything. A lot of things, she said I didn't even do. At that point in time, you don't rebuttal. You're like, you're right. I'm so sorry.

GLENN: The name of the book is Tough As It Comes. The website is TravisMills.org?

TRAVIS: TravisMills.org. Send me an email. Check out my LinkedIn. Please -- the best thing people can do to help me out if they want to help me out is just get involved with the website and see where that leads you. Because, hey, Kourtney Kardashian was beating me on the best-sellers list. If you think that's wrong, help me out. But either way. I just appreciate your time. Thank you so much for having me.

GLENN: You're great. You're really, truly inspirational and great. Thank you very much.

TRAVIS: Thank you.

Ryan: Kanye West and the Great Society

Graphic by Alexander Somoskey.

Donald Trump has been name-dropped by nearly every major rapper of the last 30 years, starting with a reference by Beastie Boys on their iconic album Paul's Boutique, the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop.

He's been mentioned by Jay Z. Ludacris. Young Thug. Nelly. Kendrick Lamar. Juicy J. Rick Ross. Eminem. Big Sean. A Tribe Called Quest. Scarface. Lil Wayne. The Coup. Master P. Ice Cube. Mos Def. Raekwon, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and various other Wu-Tang Clan affiliates. R. Kelly. Pete Rock. Nas. E-40.

And don't forget this surreal moment in our nation's history.

Then-candidate Trump on SNL ... dancing to a Drake parody.(Screenshot from YouTube)

When Bun B referred to Trump on the Chopped-n-Screwed anthem "Pocket Full of Stones," he was keeping with a tradition of rappers admiring Trump. This only changed a few years ago.

But then there's Kanye West, who proudly donned the red MAGA hat after discovering Candace Owens and being called "a jackass" by our nation's first black President. Then Kanye was hugging President Trump in the Oval Office? While wearing a Make America Great Again hat, supposed symbol of white supremacy, Nazism, hate, evil?

(Screenshot from YouTube)

People flipped. Everyone did. Longtime critics suddenly — and bizarrely — embraced Kanye as an ally, while longtime defenders disowned him, abandoned him like nail clippings, often mocking his struggles with mental illness and labeling him, if you can believe it, a white supremacist.

Then, in a moment that changed music history, Kanye released the single "Ye vs. the People."

Ye vs. the People (starring TI as the People) www.youtube.com

In it, he challenges what he sees as the unspoken rule that black Americans have to vote Democrat. He had hinted at the idea on his track "Black Skinhead," from the hauntingly gorgeous album Yeezus, but now he was addressing it head-on, with the passion of a man going to Confession for the first time in a decade.

Why should black folks have to abide by any set of cultural or political or artistic guidelines to begin with? And, he argues, the pressure to adhere to this longheld framework is itself undergirded by a subtle and cleverly masked racism, imposed by a group of people who portray themselves as the champions of race and enemies of white supremacy and destroyers of dumb yokel rednecks with their Rebel flags and monster trucks and fully-automatic AR-15 assault weapons. All of which, it turns out, is some next-level projection.

Kanye also confronts the presence of these expectations and stereotypes in hip-hop. The idea that rappers must invoke a negative persona in order to succeed. And the moment they deviate from that image they are rebuked or ignored, even though the persona is damaging to the black community as a whole. Which is especially ironic given that the people who voice the most outrage tend to be highly privileged, supposedly progressive white folks who love to rant about white privilege and black oppression.

Is it better if I rap about crack? 'Cause it's cultural?
Or how about I'ma shoot you? or f**k your b***h?
Or how about all this Gucci, 'cause I'm f****n' rich?

Best of all, Kanye has answers. And they differ from the erudite solutions offered by, say, A Tribe Called Quest, who, like Kanye, have modeled a healthy, positive image of blackness for the black community.

A central theme within "Ye vs. The People" is empathy as power, rebellion, freedom.

Make America Great Again had a negative perception
I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction
Added empathy, care and love and affection
And y'all simply questionin' my methods.

This concept is an extension of the powerful devotion to positive energy that Kanye adopted around that time, a purview he has cultivated into a wild new form of electronic gospel.

But his personal transformation was tough.

That [MAGA] hat stayed in my closet like 'bout a year and a half
Then one day I was like, "F**k it, I'ma do me"
I was in the sunken place and then I found the new me.

This is a struggle that many Americans undergo. Researchers call it the spiral of silence. The idea that the news media and social media present biased opinions as though they are fact, and when the message conflicts with a person's opinions or values, they feel isolated, alone.

Kanye and T.I. during the making of "Ye vs. the People"(Screenshot from YouTube)

As Kanye raps in "Ye vs. the People"

A lot of people agree with me but they're too scared to speak up.

Because we have an incredible ability to sense public opinion. So when we suspect that we hold a belief that rails against acceptable thought, we tend to keep quiet about it. That silence makes the opinion seem even more taboo, resulting in a more widespread silence.

In reality, many of these supposedly taboo opinions are not only popular, they are normal and practical and logical. Healthy, even. And the real danger is in demonizing them. But too many people are afraid they'll be ostracized for expressing their beliefs.

Like how — despite what we've been led to believe — most Americans cannot stand political correctness.

But the small minority of people who champion it are powerful and loud. They're like that cardboard city in North Korea, just visible enough from the border to make it seem like a thriving community. They're the Wicked Witch of the West, or Iago from Othello, or Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants.

So far, they have been successful. Although "success" by their metric is anarchic and primal, all destruction and loudness and people nervous to speak their mind. And the cost of rebellion can be devastating.

By the time Kanye West wrote "Yay versus the People," he had gotten sick of this power dynamic. So he broke the spiral of silence."

*

In the words of German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Whoever has language has the world."

Humans alone have it.

But in order for us to know freedom in our world, our language has to be public, shared, active. Because each of us thrives constantly with language, a stream of it always in our mind. Aristotle defined "thought" as the infinite dialogue between the soul and itself. Conversation is the exchange of thought between people. When we converse, we simultaneously release our infinite dialogue and accept the other person's. By speaking, we shape the world and free ourselves.

*

Another way to say it is that Donald Trump might have inspired the song that could very well signify the end of Hip-Hop, which is not only the most popular genre of our zeitgeist, it's the most popular, and successful, form of music in American history, which is the most important era of musical history.

If the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and Drake literally outpaces the Beatles, then, well, you get the point God forgive me. And Kanye is bigger than Drake. So who better to have the final word on the capacities of Hip-Hop than Kanye West?

Nobody.

Every genre must come to a close. There's a reason why people aren't eagerly awaiting the next great disco album, or flocking to arenas to hear the newest bluegrass superstar, or asking to get their hair done like the latest syringe-armed guitarist of Guns N Roses.

(Screenshot from Instagram)

The great era of Rock 'N' Roll ended roughly about the time Radiohead traded their guitars and drums for synthesizers and sequencers, not long after Kurt Cobain took an insane amount of heroin and cradled a shotgun in his guesthouse, only to be discovered several days later by an electrician. Even worse, Nickelback soiled Cobain's legacy with godawful anthems, and who have their own weird and contradictory and hilarious connection to President Trump.

These days, Rock N' Roll lives mostly via nostalgia, as evinced by the explosion of cover bands. Notice how you don't see any hip-hop cover bands. You will, someday. But, for now, Hip-Hop reigns supreme. And Kanye is the King.

The brilliant Nina Simone once told a reporter that "An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times."

Because music accords itself to the gravity and creative truth of the era. And currently we entrust hip-hop with this complicated maneuver.

But the past year, Kanye has been crafting a new sound through his Sunday services, weekly jam sessions with acoustic musicians and a choir and everyone dressed in white, praying through song, herding us into a better place, looking above for guidance. If it's anything like his track "Ultralight Beam," it will bring calm to our divided culture.

Mark my words: The resultant album will usher in an entirely new era, a magical flash in human history.

So far, hip-hop has been the defiant child of R&B and Electronica, the grandchild of Spoken Word and Steve Reich Minimalism, with tinges of Punk. Not for much longer. Kanye will see to that. And, weirdly, President Trump has helped inspire this transformation.

Meaning, Donald Trump will have had a hand in reinventing music as a whole, in spreading a movement of positive reformation. Love him or hate him, it does not matter. What other politician can make that claim?

There's an optimism to this that Dave Chappelle captured in his now-infamous Saturday Night Live monologue, just days after Trump was elected, asking Americans to at least give the man a chance. And again in his special "Equanimity," when he said

I swear no matter how bad it gets, you're my countrymen, and I know for a fact that I'm determined to work shit out with y'all.

In a moment of now-tired irony, the usual suspects heaped a barrage of hate at Chappelle for these remarks. But their outrage does not matter, in the grand scheme of things. Because it is an incredible time to be alive. It's beautiful. We should never forget that, no matter how petty or outrageous daily life gets.

At the moment, we are a country that is — everywhere, secretly — hurting. But we are Americans. Together. This is America. And, every day, God delights in our greatness and our empathy and our endless gift for love. So open your heart and listen. Say what you need to say.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

Ryan: Michael Bennet, Little League

Photo by Sean Ryan

Every day, life getting shorter. Every day, life going faster. Every day, like a roller coaster. These were the kinds of things that Michael Bennet was saying.

Michael Bennet, God bless him, he seemed like a decent lad. All week he had his family there. He said his campaign was their family vacation. He had had prostate cancer but would you believe he survived?

"Life is getting shorter," he said. "Every day."

Photo by Sean Ryan

He was well spoken. Dry. Talked with an air of consultation. Like you were in his office, and he had things to tell you.

Like a Little League coach who could actually be a coach someday.

*

I would encounter Bennet again the next day, at the Iowa State Fair.

Having just seen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at a small Baptist church, we ventured to the fair to see Bernie Sanders' riot of a Sunday speech. Bennet was on before him, so I got there early, and I paced off to get a restroom break. The media center is in the basement of the administration building, right by the Political Soapbox stage.

For whatever reason, the first-floor men's restroom has giant windows along the wall, and you can see right out onto the walkway that wraps around the building. I did not realize that this was the path that the candidates take to get to the stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And, this far into the 2020 presidential election, they never went many places alone. They had a press swarm and their wives and maybe an old friend who relocated here when the hurricane sank his house.

I was rushing. Panicking, really. Because I heard all the commotion. But nature abides by its own pace. And as I shuffled to the sink to wash my hands, my pants fell all the way down. I was exposed. Out in the open and in such desperation, you clobber yourself outside of time. It was all slo-mo with the Chopped-n-screwed voices as I scrambled to lift my trousers and audibly gasped the words, "Well just no." At that exact moment, that "accidental Renaissance" painting occurred as I locked eyes with Michael Bennet, slowly maneuvering the walkway.

These sorts of things happened, didn't they? There you were in a restroom, at an NFL game or a concert or maybe a bar, and you see someone you work with, or someone from church or school, and you lock eyes for a moment in confusion then revert to cave talk and shrug and get on with what you were doing. But it's weird when only one of you is actively part of the etiquette and allowances of a restroom and one of you is held to a higher standard, for the sake of common decency. Now let's say that you, the restroom occupant, happen to be credentialed press, and the outsider, Michael Bennet, happens to be a candidate for president of America.

Once the herd passed by behind him, I laughed a bit, quietly, because life could be very funny.

*

Onstage, Bennet, a senator from Colorado, gave the performance of a cake falling into a pool. Like he had been ghost-busted. Like he had spent the last two months learning the Fortnite dance moves and now that he had mastered them, suddenly Fortnite was for losers, and Fortnite dances, well, they were even worse.

The Political Soapbox is great because every candidate has 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes were theirs. Most of the time, they got romantic like a Backstreet Boy singing up toward an open window. Occasionally, they lost it. Bennet did neither. He belly-flopped into hay bales.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Remember that the growing crowd had the dangerous feel of a natural disaster. And it was gaspingly warm that day. So neither the crowd nor the environment were ready to give Bennet a freebie.

He gave a ravishing speech, full of neat invective. Then looked up and realized he still had 14 minutes on the clock. Oof. That was most of it, and he'd already done the Floss and the Robot and the Electro Shuffle, and honestly his shoulder was a little stiff from all that dance practice. So he opened the floor for questions.

Now, that was not the greatest idea. For one, this was not the type of place for such a thing. They called it a soapbox because you were meant to live out the phrase "on a soapbox" by ranting and fist-pounding and all other theatrics.

The Bernie Sanders supporters hadn't arrived en masse yet, so most of the people around the stage were clad in Trump gear. And they all had their hands up ready to ask him questions. Well, firebombs, really, masked as interrogative statements. Bennet shouted without breathing, then said, "I want to find a non-male person who has a question."

This did not sit well with the males who did not like the trend of personalizing all things, cautious gendering, and the sudden change of direction so that now they had to just listen.

Most people did not care.

"I do not support Bernie's plan," Bennet shouted. But would you believe the Bernie supporters had literally just arrived, you could smell their hair dye.

They jeered, then acted exactly — and I mean exactly — like the Trump supporters.

"I would rather support free pre-school than free college," he shouted. "Many people talk about... " but the jeering was too powerful. And the Bernie supporters had likely just had quinoa açaí bowls at their pre-Bernie brunch, so they were unstoppable. Well God bless the man for scratching "Give Presidency a Try" off his bucket list. Because at least he had a bucket list.

What did they have? Student debt and a restraining order? They being the growing factions of Bernie and Trump supporters in the audience. You could not see any pavement. It was just people and faces like the Mediterranean in the evening, all the way to the towering walls of the Grandstand.

Looking out at all that chaos, all that latent disaster, Bennet must have felt a deep stirring.

The night before, Slipknot headlined at the Grand Stand, a sold-out show. Rollicking and bursting and howling. How many drumbeats could drummer Jay Weinberg get per minute? At one point, vocalist Corey Taylor unleashed a demonic bellow, then adjusted his mask and looked out to all those people, those devoted fans, because many of them had Slipknot tattoos, and maybe he, like Bennet, indulged a moment for himself, a personalization of the grand setting, then shrieked, then persuaded the audience to lift their hands into the air, maybe toward a constellation of their choosing, and extend their middle finger like it was an egg landing on a pillow, which symbolizes the human condition.




New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

President Trump couldn't personally make it to Houston for the 3rd Democratic Debate, so he paid $7,500 for a single-engine Cessna to fly in circles over Texas Southern University campus while pulling a banner that said, "Socialism will kill Houston's economy! Vote Trump 2020!"

For four hours, it chugged around up there. You could hear it everywhere. It was the soundtrack of the night.

You can just imagine Trump's face as he had the banner-plane idea. You can hear him putting in the order. You can see his list of demands. And at the very top, "I WANT THE LOUDEST PLANE YOU CAN FIND!!!"

*

Was that Bret Baier in the aisle, adjusting his reading glasses and thumbing at the strap of his comically small backpack as he crossed the blue-carpeted gymnasium? He looked like the human version of Wisconsin. He was saying something but all you could hear was the plane overhead.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Bret Baier, the stoic host of "Special Report with Bret Baier" on Fox News and the network's chief political anchor. He's underrated, if you ask me. Legacy. Old-school. He just delivers the news, which is what most people want. He talks the way anchors used to talk, with the American accent unique to news anchors even though he was born in New Jersey and raised in Georgia.

I had spent the last year-and-a-half on a series of in-depth profiles on some of the major countercultural figures of our time. People like Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Carol Swain. So my first impulse was to rush over to Baier and profile the guy. Nobody else would, after all. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's. But they ought to. The man has a hell of a story.
He joined Fox News a year-and-a-half after it was founded, as the southeast correspondent in Atlanta. A few years later, on a Tuesday in September, nineteen terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and crashed into America.

When the first plane hit, Fox producers told Baier to just get in his car and drive to New York City. They needed back-up reporters for the next day. When the second plane crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., they said, "Step on it, Baier."

He and his producer were an hour outside Atlanta when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. Still a good 8 hours away, but closer to D.C. than to New York City. So they re-routed to Arlington, Virginia, as fast as they could. Past a blur of fields full of indifferent cows. Past houses full of people who could hardly talk, people who couldn't describe what they were seeing and hearing, all the smoke and the blood and the office-supply confetti. Past towns that barely moved, gas stations with nobody in them, people sunken into a far-away stare.

Yet there was the sun, with only a few bangles of cloud every so often. America had been paralyzed but the earth kept trucking along, quiet and unbothered. It must have felt strange for Baier, to speed down empty highways — toward literal death and chaos — under a perfect sky, below cascading light and color.

Nature doesn't care if we make it out alive.

*

That day, Baier reported live from a Citgo station across the street from the Pentagon, rubble in heaps of flame behind him. It was like he'd fallen onto a different planet and was reporting back to home.

The next day arrived and it was so quiet everywhere. Nobody knew a damn thing. We could not believe our eyes. We all turned to reporters and anchors for answers. Most often, they blurted out whatever they could.

Something about Bret Baier gave audiences a much-needed boost. Reliable, sturdy. Like he said what had to be said and not a word extra.

Fox kept him in D.C., indefinitely. A friend helped him find an apartment. He never went back to Atlanta. Two weeks later, Fox News appointed him Pentagon correspondent, a position that saw him travel the world, including 13 trips to Afghanistan and 12 to Iraq.

Halfway through George W. Bush's second term, Baier became Fox News' White House correspondent.

Then, a year before he would earn his current position as anchor, Baier became a father. His son was born with holes in his heart — five congenital heart defects. Twelve days later, the boy underwent open-heart surgery. Baier and his wife waited in tiled rooms drenched with flowers and ESPN and drab ultraviolet light, surrounded by machines full of beeps and whirring and beeps and whirring.

Baier's son has since undergone two additional open-heart surgeries, nine angioplasties, and one stomach operation. In an interview with Parents Magazine, Baier said that his son's health problems have "given me perspective about my job, going through policy and politics in Washington, D.C., to see the bigger picture."

*Part of the reason I couldn't tell whether or not it was Baier is he's usually up on the main stage. For the 2012 election, he moderated five Republican debates, and co-anchored FNC's America's Election HQ alongside Megyn Kelly.

The 2016 election would propel him into a much larger role. He anchored three Republican debates, but this time he had to handle Donald Trump.

Baier knew Trump personally, from before the election. They'd played golf together. He described Trump as "a nice guy outside of his TV persona" and never thought Trump would actually make a run for the Presidency. Onstage, Trump was much different. And Baier had been tasked with maintaining control.

A devout Roman Catholic, he appreciates a nice glass of wine and a fine cut of steak. He likes a good joke, too. In January, 2019, Baier signed a multi-year deal with Fox News to continue "Special Report." A few weeks later, he and his family went to Montana for a ski trip. The weekend was wonderful. But they had to get back to New York because Baier was scheduled to appear on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that Tuesday.

Imagine him, again in a car hurtling toward a fateful destination. How he squinted through the frost-pocked windshield and gripped the steering wheel. As he guided the white SUV along the two-lane road to the airport. The land looked haunted, barren, lifeless. Everywhere, the world was frozen white. Snow and ice blanketing the fields, gauze over the sky.

At some anonymous intersection, Baier pumped the brakes, but the tires hit an ice patch, and the SUV spun loose. An oncoming car slammed into the driver's side, launching the vehicle into an embankment, wedged on its side. A man named Zach stopped his pickup truck and helped the family crawl free, and the Montana Highway Patrol rushed them to the hospital.

"Don't take anything for granted," Baier tweeted later. "Every day is a blessing and family is everything. It's always good to remind yourself of that before something does it for you."

Before every debate that he moderates, Baier spends 10 minutes alone, praying.

*

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2011 revealed that Fox News was actually right. That the Obama Administration really did hate them. And had intentionally excluded them from a press pool two years earlier. Then laughed about it.

The documents unearthed snarky emails between various high-ranking aides in the Obama Administration. In one, the Deputy White House communications director bemoaned Baier's reporting on the bias. "I'm putting some dead fish in the [Fox News] cubby — just cause Bret Baier is a lunatic." That same day, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest bragged in an email that "we've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews."

The Trump administration pulled a similar stunt in July, 2018 by banning a CNN reporter from the press pool. Trump and Fox News had developed a beneficial relationship by then. And CNN was a lifelong competitor, a public enemy.
That night, Baier delivered an official statement, "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better. As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access."

Fox News rebuked Trump in solidarity with CNN. It was a heartening gesture between two seeming enemies. Fox News were standing up for truth, defending journalism, rejecting tyranny even though the ban would have benefitted them as a company.

Who knows how many books and dissertations and articles have been written about Fox News, usually in relation to bias, usually with a scathing tone. The conclusions differ wildly, yet each one claims certitude.

Generally, academics and journalists have taken a doomsday tone when talking about Fox News. Accusations of evil, fear-mongering, bigotry, hatred, misinformation, propaganda, racism, homophobia, and so on.

Despite these outcries, Fox News has consistently held its spot as the most-watched network in the country. Imagine how that makes its critics feel.

In an August 3, 2018 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Baier said, "the biggest problem is that the people who are most critical of Fox are usually people who have not watched Fox News."

Fox News is composed of two distinct departments. Punditry and straight news. Or "opinion news" and "descriptive news." Consistently, surveys of the public rate Fox News as both the least- and most-biased news network.
Last year, a survey found Fox News to be the second most-trusted television news brand in the country, after the BBC.

In a separate study, Democrats rated its bias score at (negative) -87, while Republicans placed it at (positive) +3. Which is like if, at a football game, one referee said "Touchdown," while the other referee said "Turnover, leading to Touchdown for the Defense." It can't be both, can it?

Public opinion may not be the best metric for understanding Fox News, especially in 2019.

Quantitative studies have offered clearer conclusions. In 2016, a content analysis used crowdsourcing and machine learning to examine over 800,000 news stories published over a year by 15 major outlets, from the New York Times to Fox News. They wanted to chart media bias.

What they discovered is that news outlets are far more similar than we believe. Much of the perceived bias is a matter of separating "opinion news" from "descriptive news." For conservatives, it's punditry. For those on the left, it's op-eds and long form investigative pieces, although the left tends to insist that they're not biased, that they are instead just more apt to tell the truth, even though research has disproven this belief.

The researchers found a much larger bias-divide in opinion news, whereas descriptive news was practically neutral. One of the researchers described Fox News' descriptive news as "guided by similar news values as more traditional, legacy media."

University of California Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild wrote that "Fox News stands next to industry, state government, church, and the regular media as an extra pillar of political culture all its own."

Say what you want about Fox News, they play a crucial role in the so-called mainstream media. And, despite what Fox News will lead you to believe, they are definitely part of the mainstream. And they are by no means the innocent victim. And certainly not powerless. And they have all kinds of problems that I will not defend. But we'll talk about that in a later installment, the one about Kamala Harris at a gun control rally, advocating for propaganda.

*

After two months of political events, I suspected that different news networks have their own signifiers, like the distinct stripes and markings on various spiders.

Wall Street Journal reporters tended to carry old-timey notepads and interview any bystander they could find. Breitbart usually only sent one person, and he wandered around with his iPhone, recording every single thing. Politico, prim-suited men who could just as easily work on the stock market.

Most of the reporters dressed like that, in stagey business attire. Prim for a high school job fair. Meanwhile, the photographers, mostly men, looked like professional paintball players. The camera crews and technical staff were the only ones decked in tattoos and wearing sandals and generally not caring about the chaos all around them. On-camera talent were covered in makeup and shrink-wrapped into dresses or suits with chip-clips along the spine.

The Washington Post sent the classiest and most bored-looking people I have ever encountered. They never looked at their laptops as their fingers chopped at the keys, and you assumed they were pretending until you read their stories online. You could spot ABC because their camera crew wore faded red ABC hats. Associated Press looked like they had just come back from a battlefield assignment in Syria, and never donned the same press credentials as everyone else, preferring a tattered AP lanyard. And you always knew when someone was with the New York Times because they announced it to the entire room.

And Fox News? At democratic events, they usually hid. But not that day, in Houston, as Bret Baier walked up the aisle to a table a couple rows in front of me.

Most people arrived in the Media Filing Center several hours before the debate. Fox News got there just slightly after that, as everyone was wiggling in their seats and connecting their laptops to a shared outlet.

There were seven or so in the pack of Fox News, all grinning. They all had white to-go sacks from Chick-fil-A. And the room got quieter, so Trump's plane got louder. It was a double trolling event.

As host of the debate, ABC would be providing dinner. This information was included in the credentials email that all of us had received. So nobody else had brought food with them. No need.

Even better, I was familiar enough with that part of Houston to know that there was not a Chick-fil-A anywhere close to us. Who knew where they'd gotten that Chick-fil-A, but odds are it wasn't warm. Who knew if there was even any food in the bags.

They had brought Chick-fil-A into a building full of national media during the third Democratic Presidential debate. The 2020 election was already full of outrage about plenty of things, and one of them was Chick-fil-A. To some folks, the red chicken logo might as well have been a swastika. That very week LGBT activists had vehemently — cartoonishly — protested the opening of several Chick-fil-A's throughout North America. Chicken sandwiches had become yet another flag on the tug-of-war rope in the Culture War of our country.

To be clear, the political left was anti-Chicken and the political right was pro-Chicken. The media tended to lean anti-Chicken, and frequently wrote about anti-Chicken causes, often scolding pro-Chicken voices, or ignoring the struggles of the pro-Chicken community only to deny any opinion on Chicken at all. That was the cowardly part, of you ask me, the pretending like they weren't activists.

The Democratic candidates definitely leaned anti-Chicken. Sometimes they took it so far that it upset moderate anti-Chicken advocates. Because was it really so bad to eat Chicken? Couldn't you be anti-Chicken but also enjoy Chicken occasionally? Why did everything have to be either "all Chicken all the time unless you hate freedom" or "no chicken ever unless you support hate"?

The fight had spread everywhere. Airports, stadiums, malls, campuses. All had served as battlegrounds for the anti-Chicken versus the pro-Chicken.

The previous President was anti-Chicken. In fact, he may well have enflamed the entire movement. During his tenure, there were nationwide protests that saw pro-Chicken advocates angrily and proudly eating Chicken while anti-Chicken advocates protested outside and occasionally engaged in homosexual affection, which was being threatened by Chicken, according to them.

Every time the pro-Chicken folks bit into a Chicken sandwich, it was like they were gnawing away at the anti-Chicken people themselves. Degrading their identity. Because, for them, it was about the identity.

But the current President, unabashedly proud of his pro-Chicken stance, once served Chicken at the White House to some winning sports team, and the anti-Chicken activists saw it as proof that Chicken and hate go together. And maybe Chicken would even lead to the impeachment of the President they hate, which would mean the Vice President would become the President, but he's one of the most pro-Chicken people in America, so they'd have to impeach him, too. And the Supreme Court, it was overrun with pro-Chicken types.

This election, the Democratic front-runners competed for the bolder plan. They would end Chicken in America once and for all. They would obliterate our evil President and his Chicken Supremacy. Their stump speeches relied on harsh criticisms of pro-Chicken voters, who pretended to find the whole anti-Chicken movement amusing but were secretly enraged by it. In fact, they were certain that the anti-Chicken movement had been systematically silencing them for years, and that they had to fight for their Chicken in order to keep everything that they valued, even all the not-Chicken.

The media and the democrats and Hollywood and academia — all hated the Chicken, because they hated the pro-Chicken people. If they had their way, no more Chicken, ever again. And no more pro-Chicken deplorables. And tonight the anti-Chicken politico-culture complex would prove it, with long rants which get confirmed by glowing articles, calculated takedowns about the merits of anti-Chicken and the evils of pro-Chicken.

Yet here was Fox News, with actual Chicken. And they were smiling. Maybe in part because the police who were guarding us all tended to be pro-Chicken. And this was Texas, after all, an incredibly pro-Chicken state. But there were 49 other states and 14 territories, and all of them were fighting for or against Chicken.

Some experts even said we were on the cusp of a Civil War.


New installments to this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. For live updates, check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

We've heard the catchphrase "follow the money" so often that it's nearly a joke. It gained added attention in the 1976 movie All the President's Men, which follows the story of the two journalists who uncovered Watergate. "Follow the money," their source told them, "and you'll find corruption."

Problem is, corrupters hide their bad behavior remarkably well. They are masters of disguise. But if you look closely enough, you can spot the seams splitting in their choreographed routine.

One technique that magicians use for psychological misdirection is called the false solution. The goal is to distract the audience, to make them believe that they know what's really happening. All the while, the machinations of the actual trick are happening right in front of them, because "implanting an unlikely and unfamiliar idea in the mind can prevent participants from finding a more obvious one."

Billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

I want to tell you a story of tremendous corruption, masked cleverly, using many of the same techniques that magicians have used for centuries. Only it's not a rabbit disappearing into a hat or a coin vanishing behind an ear. It's billions of dollars. Lost. Gone.

And the people responsible are the same people who have been so monstrously worked up about Trump's impeachment. The same people screaming about Trump's malfeasance with Ukraine are actually the ones misbehaving in Ukraine.

It's essentially an elevated, highly organized form of projection. Only instead of one person lashing out at the world, it's an entire political party, right up to the top. The very top. Barack Obama. It's right there on video.

Or how about the audio recording we uncovered, with Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine, openly admitting a connection between the DNC and Ukraine?

So far, the story told by the Democrats and the media has been about Trump and Ukraine. Every so often, you hear mention of Joe Biden's dubious history with the war-torn country.

We were the first to talk about Joe Biden's connections to Ukraine back in April, with our candidate profile on Biden.

It turns out, the whole debacle was much worse than we thought. It stretched further than Uncle Joe. What we found out is that the DNC was working with the Ukrainian government.

This isn't a conspiracy theory. And we have the documents to prove it.

Read on to discover everything you need for a 30-second elevator pitch that you can give to your friend and say, "Look, here's what you need to know. Here's what's really going on."

If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail.

Last night, in Ukraine: The Democrats' Russia I revealed the elaborate misdirection taking place.

I said it last night and I'll say it again: If Trump is guilty, he should go to jail. If anyone is guilty, they should go to jail. Because this is too important to the Republic.

Watch the hands, follow the money.

Here are the documents, video, and audio that we found in our reporting. This is the hard evidence that will help you explain this unbelievable situation to other people.



  • June 2016 State Department memos detailing contacts between George Soros' office and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.




As you can see, we did a lot of research on this, and we've done our best to condense it for you. It still requires you to do your own homework, but there's a tremendous freedom to that.

You are seeking the truth.

You are bucking the mainstream media. You are rejecting them. And you are seeking truth. Because they abandoned truth a long time ago and they certainly aren't interested in recovering it now.