Doing public business in private? A serious no-no

The presumed frontrunner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination next year now finds herself having to answer a serious question about ethical conduct.

Did former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton break government rules when she used her private email account to conduct affairs of the state?

She’s not the first public official to do something such as this. But her exclusive use of her private email account makes this matter unusual and worth scrutiny.

As the New York Times has reported: “Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.”

Further, the Times reported: “‘It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,’ said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.”

I do not recall a “nuclear winter” occurring, which makes this situation quite disturbing.

How much information that should have been available for public inspection was kept in the dark?

Let’s hear it, Mme. Secretary.


Gov. Walker goes to ‘war’ with unions

Now that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has all but announced his 2016 Republican primary presidential campaign, it is time to examine everything this man says in public.

Such as when he drew a shaky comparison between union protesters and Islamic State terrorists.

Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference this past week, Walker actually said his experience facing down tens of thousands of angry union members has prepared him to wage war against ISIL.

Union protesters equal monstrous terrorist cult. Get it? One is the same as the other.

Walker has sought to put a bit of distance between himself and those remarks. He told reporters after his CPAC speech, “There’s no comparison between the two, let me be perfectly clear. I’m just pointing out the closest thing I have to handling a difficult situation was the 100,000 protesters I had to deal with.”

Still, the critics make a point of wondering why he would make such a ghastly comparison in the first place.

I’ve covered my share of union disputes over the years, in Oregon reporting and commenting on teacher strikes and in Southeast Texas, where the union movement remains a significant political force. I get that union protesters can be a rowdy bunch, that they actually threaten people with physical harm, particularly those who cross picket lines.

However, whatever preparation a president has in fighting hideous terrorist groups such as ISIL and now, as we’ve learned, Boko Haram, shouldn’t have any relationship with how they handle union employees who have the right under our governing framework to seek “redress of grievances.”

As U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a friend of the union movement, said in a tweet: “If Scott Walker sees 100,000 teachers & firefighters as his enemies, maybe it’s time we take a closer look at his friends.”

Partisanship has no place in foreign policy

OK, one more attempt at making sense of this Bibi blowup and I’ll move on.

It’s being reported that about a quarter of congressional Democrats are going to stay away from the speech Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make before a joint session of Congress.

Democrats are angry that Republican Speaker John Boehner invited Bibi to speak without consulting with the White House. I get their anger. It is infuriating that Boehner would flout longstanding diplomatic protocol by inviting a foreign head of government in such a manner.

Netanyahu, in remarks today to a pro-Israel group, said he doesn’t want to become the object of partisan scorn in Washington. Indeed, such partisanship shouldn’t be an issue when we’re talking about foreign policy matters.

Who, though, turned it into a partisan event? I’ll go with Boehner, who stuck it in the president’s eye in the way he invited Netanyahu. The prime minister opposes negotiations to get Iran to stop its nuclear development program; he favors tougher sanctions on Iran now, along with Boehner and most Republicans; Obama opposes the sanctions; and the president is miffed over the invitation issue.

None of this means the United States and Israel are going to part company. Netanyahu will affirm the nations’ close ties Tuesday, just as he did today.

The partisan nature of the protest, though, smacks more of petulance than anything else.

I’ll say it again: Democrats should listen to Bibi in person and give him the respect that the leader of our nation’s strongest Middle East ally deserves.


Goofy Canyon statue makes SI news

Intriguing, to say the least.

Tex Randall, that gangly statue that looks as though it’s about to collapse onto U.S. Highway 60 in Canyon, has become the backdrop for a most interesting photo shoot.

A Sports Illustrated swimsuit model is seen perched on one of ol’ Tex’s boots.

What an, um, interesting location to shoot a swimsuit babe.

SI has made a serious name for itself with its annual Swimsuit Edition. Some mighty fascinating young women have graced the cover of the magazine known for its coverage of, well, sports. I think of Elle McPherson and Christy Brinkley immediately. I know other famous super models have sprung toward stardom after appearing on the SI swimsuit cover.

SI shot Tex’s boot as part of a Route 66 tour. As my friend Karen Welch noted in her article in the Amarillo Globe-News, U.S. 60 isn’t all that close to Route 66, which runs east-west through Amarillo. But I guess it was close enough to suit the editors at SI.

As Welch reported in the Globe-News: “The group made no guarantees any photo involving Tex Randall would make the print or digital editions.”

Hey, does it really matter? It’s good to know the editors at SI found something to accompany a photo of one of its models.

Meanwhile, keep standing tall, Tex.


Governing looks like the old way

So, this is what the new style of governing looks like on Capitol Hill.

Republicans control both legislative houses. The Senate wants to move away from the stalemate over funding the Department of Homeland Security; it wants to vote on a “clean” funding bill that doesn’t contain measures to strip out President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The House of Representatives — led by its TEA party coalition — wants to stick it to Obama.

Neither side can persuade the other chamber that their way is the right way.

We’re stuck.

Ain’t governing fun?

House Speaker John Boehner is having a difficult time corralling the rebels in his GOP caucus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done a better job of taking control of the Senate.

DHS has enough money to function until Friday. Then lawmakers either (a) vote on yet another short-term deal or (b) vote on a “clean” bill that might just anger the House TEA party rabble rousers enough to try to oust Boehner as speaker.

Meanwhile, the agency charged with protecting our borders from oh, you know, drug smugglers and terrorists is being kicked around like an unwanted critter.

This isn’t the way it was supposed to work when Republicans took control of government’s legislative branch.

Sure thing, we ‘hold ‘em up’

This blog post is taking an unusual turn. It’s something I haven’t done before, but I’ll give it a shot today.

I wrote a letter to the editor to the director of commentary at the Amarillo Globe-News, in response to an earlier letter the paper published. I don’t know if the paper is going to publish my response. So … I’ll give you a preview of what I wrote.

It’s worthy of a response because it seems to cast in a negative light something quite positive that occurs in Amarillo every summer, during the run of the outdoor musical “Texas.”

The gentleman who wrote the letter has written to the paper many times. He did so while I served as editorial page editor, before they changed the job title to what it is now and “restructured” me out of my post.

He sought to compare Amarillo to Corpus Christi. He thinks Corpus Christi does a good job promoting itself and said the Coastal Bend city doesn’t need to “kidnap” motorists to “get them to slow down.” I took respectful umbrage at that statement, because I think it miscasts what actually happens. Here’s how I explain it in my responding letter:

“Floyd Galegar’s letter to the editor (Feb. 26) seeks to point out that Amarillo isn’t Corpus Christi. Despite the obvious differences between the communities that everyone gets, Galegar inferred something in his letter that needs clarification. 

“He stated that Corpus Christi doesn’t need to ‘kidnap tourists to stay in their city.’ He refers to a program I’ve been involved in for many years as a member of the Rotary Club of Amarillo. 

“Yes, the Rotary Club ‘kidnaps’ motorists traveling through the city on I-40 every spring and summer; we call it our “Hold-Up Program,” and we’ve doing it for decades. We do so as a public relations campaign to promote the city’s friendliness.

“We work with the Amarillo Police Department at the Texas Travel Information Building on the east side of the city. We identify a couple driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates. With the officer on hand, we extend an invitation. It goes like this: Would you like to spend the night in Amarillo free of charge at one of our hotels, enjoy a nice dinner at one of our restaurants – also free – and then spend an evening in Palo Duro Canyon’s Pioneer Amphitheater to watch a performance of an acclaimed outdoor musical, ‘Texas’?

“Visitors often need to be persuaded that this is no gimmick. Once we persuade them, our guests are treated to an evening of fellowship with a Rotary Club member and his or her spouse.

“We ask only thing of our guests: When you get home, say something nice about your visit to Amarillo. Having participated in several of these “hold-ups,” I can tell you our guests are more than happy to oblige. They tell us repeatedly their Amarillo experience is something they never will forget and they appreciate the hospitality more than they can express.

“That, as they say, is the rest of the story.”

I still hope the paper publishes my letter. If not, well, here it is. If it does, you read it here first.






WSJ gives congressional GOP a swift kick

When the men and women who run Capitol Hill — the Republicans — lose The Wall Street Journal, then they’ve lost their most critical media ally.

I’m not suggesting the WSJ has abandoned the GOP majority, but the paper’s conservative editorial page — one of the best opinion pages in the country — turns on you, then you’d better pay attention.

I’ve long admired the WSJ editorial writers for the way they express themselves. I disagree with the paper’s editorial policy, but few editorial pages say it better than the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ editors are angry at what they’re calling the GOP “Cliff Marchers,” the faction of Republicans who are intent on making some political point than in any actually governing.

As Politico reports about the WSJ’s scolding: “House Republicans refuse to fund (Department of Homeland Security) without forcing the president to dismantle the changes (in Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration), while Senate Republicans do not believe they can win the standoff. The Senate voted last week to fund the department through the end of the fiscal year without altering the president’s immigration orders, but the House has not yet agreed to take up the bill.”

The WSJ writes: “Republicans need to do some soul searching about the purpose of a Congressional majority, including whether they even want it.”

The Journal argues that Congress should go fund DHS and move on to bigger issues, such as the budget. The paper believes the president’s immigration order — in which he delays deportation of millions of undocumented residents — will be settled by the courts.

It’s good advice. Are you listening, GOP members of Congress? Get busy and start governing.