Arnie is gone; long live The King

arnie

Sitting on my desk at home is a golf program.

It contains a couple of signatures. One of them belongs to Jim Dent, a pretty good journeyman golfer known in his day as a big hitter off the tee.

The other signature belongs to The King of golf, Arnold Daniel Palmer.

Arnie died today at the age of 87. Man, I am sad tonight.

Here’s my Arnie story that I want to share in remembrance of one of my favorite all-time athletes, who ranks with Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali and Mario Andretti as sporting icons I used to root for over many years.

I traveled to Orlando, Fla., in October 1981. My late aunt and uncle — Tom and Verna Kanelis — lived there at the time. Tom was an avid golfer and I played a couple rounds of golf with him while visiting them in central Florida.

One evening, he asked me if I wanted to see the World Team Championship at the Walt Disney World. “Arnold Palmer is going to be there,” he said. “Are you kidding? Absolutely!” I answered.

We drove to the Disney resort the next day. Tom had gotten a couple of tickets to watch the first round of golf.

We went to the practice tee where — son of a gun! — there was Arnie hitting practice shots on the driving range alongside Jim Dent.

I asked Dent to sign my program after he was done hitting some tee shots. He did so with a smile and was a terrific gentleman. Then we waited for Palmer.

Arnie finished hitting his practice balls and walked off the tee to a small gaggle of fans.

You hear about superstars who are aloof. Some of them refuse to sign autographs. Arnie was neither. He was friendly, engaging and as he signed his name to the documents thrust toward him, he took a moment to talk to us individually.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” I recall him asking me. “Have fun out there,” he said. I recall telling him I planned to walk the course among the fans accompanying him and his playing partner, Larry Nelson. “Have a great time,” he said.

OK. My story isn’t unique. It’s like perhaps thousands of stories that other golf fans — and Arnie fans — can tell. I want to share it here as my way of conveying that this guy was the real deal.

He truly was golf’s greatest ambassador. He was an everyman who happened to play a hell of a great game of golf.

Another great golfer, Jack Nicklaus, said this: “At this point I don’t know what happened, and I suppose it is not important what happened. What is important is that we just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports.”

There you have it.

Rest in peace, Arnie. You surely gave this fan one of the great thrills of his life.

Now … the case for Hillary Clinton

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I have spent a good deal of time and energy — not to mention gobbling up cyberspace — on this blog trashing Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

You can look all of it up on http://highplainsblogger.com/ … if you’re so inclined. It’s all there.

I want to spend a bit of time here talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Is she a fault-free choice for president? No. She has her flaws. They’ve been chronicled ad infinitum — if not ad nauseam — for, oh, three decades or so. Would I have preferred someone else? Yeah. I was hoping Vice President Joe Biden would take the leap.

Clinton, though, presents a dramatically better choice for voters than Trump. Yes, despite the flaws, the blemishes, the inauthentic reputation, Clinton is the better candidate for president between the two major-party nominees.

She has experience in government at many levels.

Clinton served several terms as Arkansas’ first lady. She then became the nation’s first lady in 1993. New York voters elected her to the Senate in 2000, where she served for eight years. Clinton then ran for president in 2008; she lost the primary fight to Sen. Barack Obama, who then appointed her secretary of state.

Clinton has a demonstrated commitment to children’s well-being.

One of Clinton’s early government mentors was Marian Wright Edelman, who ran the Children’s Defense Fund. She learned there about the plight of children not just in America, but around the world. She lobbied hard for legislation aimed at preventing the exploitation of children.

Hillary used her first lady office as a bully pulpit.

The year was 1995. Clinton traveled to China to attend an international conference on women. It was there that she declared in front of the world — in a country that had imposed a harsh restriction on the number of children women could bring into the world — that women’s rights were a cause for human rights. She elevated the issue of women’s rights to the international stage.

Clinton knows how to legislate.

It wasn’t long after she became a U.S. senator that the nation was shaken to its core by the 9/11 attacks. Working with her New York colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer, Clinton was able to push through legislation that brought aid to victims of that terrible attack. Those victims included the first responders who suffered severe medical effects from the choking, toxic dust that enveloped New York City.

She developed alliances with Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain, with whom she served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Indeed, McCain became one of her closer friends in the Senate, although one is hard-pressed today to get McCain to acknowledge that friendship.

Clinton has been at the center of international crises.

Hillary Clinton never will be one to say she knows “more than the generals” about the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization. She’s been in the Situation Room, counseling with the national security team on how to fight the bad guys.

Her years at the State Department were not without some tragedy and mistakes. Nor were they lacking in success. She kept the channels of communication open between our nation and our allies. She helped strengthen alliances in the fight against radical Islamists. Clinton has been privy intense national security briefings and has been central to many key decisions — such as the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Hillary Clinton isn’t the perfect candidate for president.

However, given the major-party choices facing Americans in the next few weeks, she presents a clear choice.

Do we really want to entrust the nation’s future in someone whose only experience involves business dealings that themselves have been called into question?

I believe we need to consider the public service records of both these candidates. One of them has a lengthy — and largely successful — record of such service. The other has none.

Moderators should, uh, moderate

NBC NEWS - EVENTS -- Decision 2012 -- Pictured: Lester Holt -- (Photo by: Michele Leroy/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Call me an old-school fuddy-duddy.

Lester Holt of NBC News has a big task ahead of him Monday night. He gets to moderate the joint appearance between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

I liken his role to that of an athletic event referee. The best officiating jobs are done by those you don’t notice.

Accordingly, some of the chatter leading up to the event has been whether the moderator should correct candidates’ misstatements.

I’ve thought about this for about the past four years and I’ve concluded that Holt should not interfere. He should not interject himself into the storyline. He shouldn’t become part of the story … as CNN’s Candy Crowley did in 2012 when she corrected a statement that Mitt Romney made about whether President Obama had declared the fire fight at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya to be a terrorist attack.

That wasn’t Crowley’s job.

Her job then — and Holt’s will be Monday — was to ask questions of the candidates and to let them correct each other if and when the need arose.

If the moderators were to correct the candidates, then how do they determine which misstatements they let pass and which ones do they correct?

I prefer that they not make the call.

Of course, given the nature of social media these days, a non-call also would become “news.” Commentators no doubt would make them have to answer for their decision to let the candidates’ statements go unchallenged.

Sigh …

Still, my old-school tendency leads me to believe the moderator’s job isn’t to become a fact-checker. It is to be a referee. The best refs are those we don’t notice during a competitive event.

Sideshow dominates pre-appearance chatter

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Hillary Rodham Clinton has invited Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban to Monday night’s joint appearance with Donald J. Trump.

Is that a big deal? Apparently so.

Cuban happens to detest Trump. The feeling is mutual. Cuban is backing Clinton. Cuban is a successful businessman. He owns the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team, which happens to make a lot of money for the in-your-face, brash, loudmouthed owner.

What was Trump’s response? He reportedly considered inviting Gennifer Flowers. You remember her, right? She had an affair with Bill Clinton before Clinton became president in 1993.

Now we hear that Flowers isn’t coming to the joint appearance Monday night after all.

Oh, but Cuban will be there. Apparently his task — such as it is — will be to get under Trump’s skin just by being there on the front row, in plain sight for Trump to see.

But you know, there’s a part of me that wishes Flowers would attend this event. I almost can hear Trump make some catty reference to the former president’s misbehavior, which would give Hillary Clinton an opening to say something like:

“Perhaps I need to remind you that my husband and I worked out our difficulties and have remained in the same marriage — to each other — that we began more than 40 years ago. We still love each other very much.

“Now, tell us about your marital record, Donald.”

Looking ‘presidential’ doesn’t erase the record

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The Sunday-morning news talk show chatter is full of speculation about one of the major-party candidates for president of the United States.

Will the Republican, Donald J. Trump, look “presidential” when he faces Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in their first joint appearance Monday night?

Looking “presidential,” I feel compelled to add, does not erase the record of profoundly non-presidential moments in the campaign to date.

The endless list of insults does not vanish simply because the deliverer of those insults looks presidential.

The hideous mocking of a disabled reporter? The bizarre back-and-forth with Marco Rubio that centered on the candidates’ manhood during a Republican primary debate? Trump’s awful response to a journalist’s question about how he treats women? His stream-of-consciousness policy changes on immigration?

Whether the GOP nominee “looks presidential” during this highly anticipated event with the Democratic nominee will not wipe away the lengthy demonstrations to the to the contrary.

Nation faces its own past

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“A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws, and corrects them.”

Former President George W. Bush, in remarks dedicating the Museum of African-American History

Indeed, they dedicated a museum this weekend that pays tribute to the contributions African-Americans gave to this country’s rich history and culture.

It also revisits the grim aspects of that experience. Slavery, life under Jim Crow laws, the street battles that ensued as the civil rights movement gained traction.

It was a bipartisan affair this weekend, with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on hand to welcome the opening of this exhibit.

I wanted to share the quote from President Bush and put it in another context.

My wife and I returned recently from two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands. It was in Germany where I saw how another great nation treats a grim portion of its otherwise glorious past.

Nuremberg became the site where Nazi Germany’s high command was put on trial for committing the most hideous crimes against humanity one ever could imagine. The Germans have erected a museum there to remember that dark chapter. They do not honor it. They don’t celebrate it. They put it out there for all the world to see.

That’s how they remind the world — and themselves — that they cannot allow the persecution, intimidation and murder of their fellow citizens simply because of their religious faith. That, of course, is what happened in Europe prior to and during the Second World War.

The African-American museum that’s now open in Washington, of course, also honors the extraordinary contributions that African-Americans have given to this nation. It also remembers the terrible times brought on by the enslavement of human beings and the struggles they endured as they fought for the equality the nation’s founders had declared had been granted to them by their “Creator.”

President Bush is right. Great nations do not sweep their darker chapters away. They don’t ignore them. They don’t wish them away.

They stare those chapters down and declare never again will we allow ourselves to repeat these tragic mistakes.

Civility, good will come back to life

bush-and-michelle

Take a good look at this picture.

It is fast becoming my favorite image from this year’s election campaign.

You know who they are: former President George W. Bush and first lady Michelle Obama. They were attending the dedication today of the African-American museum in Washington, D.C., an exhibit that tells the comprehensive story of the African-American experience in this nation.

Presidents Obama was the keynote speaker today and he took time to heap plenty of praise on the work that President Bush (whose wife, Laura, also attended the ceremony) did to make this important exhibit a reality.

There’s something quite gratifying in seeing this image, of Michelle Obama embracing her husband’s immediate predecessor as president.

It’s also interesting — to me, at least — that the image was snapped by David Hume Kennerly, who happened to be the official White House photographer during President Ford’s administration. You see, Gerald Ford served at a time when Republicans and Democrats fairly routinely worked together to solve national problems.

We’ll soon relegate this image to the back of our memories as we proceed toward the end of this contentious election campaign.

I thought I’d share it here just as a reminder that civility, good will and good manners occasionally present themselves.

What if roles were reversed?

clinton and trump

Do you want a good idea of the lunacy attached to this year’s presidential election campaign?

Try this on for size.

It’s making the rounds on social media, but I’ll share it here.

Just suppose Hillary Rodham Clinton was mother to five children from three husbands. Suppose, also, that she had cheated on two of her husbands and then bragged about it. What do you suppose would be the reaction from conservatives?

They’d be outraged. They’d vilify the Democratic nominee for flouting the very “family values” to which conservatives adhere.

Why, then, aren’t political conservatives as outraged that the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has produced five children with three wives, cheated openly on two of them and then boasted about it in public?

Gosh. There’s that terrible “double standard” so prevalent these days.

Trump keeps assailing Hillary Clinton’s husband because of his own alleged indiscretions — and the Clinton haters cheer him on while ignoring the amazing irony in Donald Trump’s attempt to grasp some kind of moral high ground.

Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation?

Someone has to explain to me how this guy gets away with this astonishing hypocrisy.

Has Cruz self-inflicted a mortal political wound?

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Ted Cruz’s presidential ambitions have been mortally wounded.

That’s the view of Texas Monthly blogger Erica Grieder, who thinks the Texas Republican’s endorsement of GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has done far more harm than good — for Cruz.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/ted-cruz-caves/

Cruz had, since the GOP convention, stood on the principle that Trump is not to be trusted, that he’s “amoral,” that he’s a narcissist, that he is a “serial philanderer,” that he is a “con man.”

Now he’s acceptable to Cruz.

But …

Is he acceptable to Cruz’s substantial conservative base of voters who still cannot stomach Donald Trump even though their guy — Cruz — now seems to find the nominee worthy of his endorsement?

Grieder notes that Cruz wants to be president. He ran hard for the GOP nomination. He developed a substantial following among the GOP’s more conservative base of voters. He told GOP convention attendees to “vote your conscience” this fall. Now he’s tell them to vote for Trump.

Mixed message? Do you think?

As Grieder writes: “First, both of the reasons Cruz gave for his decision, in a statement he posted on Facebook Friday afternoon—that he signed a pledge and that Hillary Clinton is unacceptable—are demonstrably ridiculous. Even if you agree that Clinton is more ‘unacceptable’ than Trump, and that a pledge made to the Republican National Committee should take precedence over one’s oath of office and one’s repeated promises to work for the 27 million people of Texas, it remains the case that Cruz signed the pledge last year and could have known, months ago, that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.”

Cruz figured to have a potentially stout Republican challenge when he runs for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2018. Now, with his endorsement of Trump — who once stood for everything that Cruz detested — the challenge well might come from the TEA party wing of the GOP.

These are the folks who now feel betrayed by their one-time golden boy, Sen. Cruz.

If Ted Cruz cannot survive a challenge to his Senate seat in two years, well … the presidency is certain to vanish before the senator’s eyes.

Puppy Tales, Part 27

puppy

I’ve declared already my belief that we need to dump the term “pet owner” in favor of “pet parent.”

Toby the Puppy isn’t just our dog. He’s our baby. He’s our “good boy.”

He also isn’t just a possession. He’s a member of the family.

You have known this already, through the posts I’ve put out detailing our life with Toby, whom we acquired two years ago this month.

He joined our family in a most unexpected fashion. But it was no time at all before he captured our hearts. In fact, it well might have been love at first sight — for him as well as for us.

My wife and I have been married for 45 years. For most of that time we’ve had cats in our family. I can count precisely two dogs joining our family during that time. We had one in Portland for a brief period; after we moved to Beaumont, another pooch showed up one very hot, humid day in our garage. We had neither of those two dogs for very long.

All the while, we remained a cat family.

Toby joined us while we still had two kitties. They were getting older. Socks died suddenly in November 2014; we lost Mittens just this past February.

Neither of them were possessions, either. They were our babies every bit as much as Toby has been.

When we traveled two Germany and The Netherlands earlier this month, we took Toby to a pet spa, where he was treated well, spoiled and pampered.

We missed him terribly while we were away.

One does not miss something you “own.” Did I miss our car, or our pickup or our recreational vehicle? Did I miss the house we’ve called home in Amarillo for nearly 20 years? Not for one second.

Toby the Puppy? We missed him.

That convinced me beyond all reasonable doubt that one is not a pet owner. One is a pet parent — especially when the pet is as lovable as those who have come into our lives over the years.

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