Robby Mook: campaign loser lands on his feet

I occasionally become amazed at how failed political operatives have this way of continuing to land on their feet.

They lose national elections and yet the TV news networks — cable and broadcast — seek them out for their “expert analysis” on all things political.

Robby Mook is the latest such example of that.

It puzzles me a bit.

Mook managed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Clinton was the prohibitive favorite to win that election. Every pundit from coast to coast to coast said she’d clobber Donald J. Trump. Some of them predicted a landslide … for Hillary!

Well, it didn’t happen. She lost, albeit narrowly. Sure, she won the popular vote and finished ahead of Trump by about 2 percentage points, which is about where the polls had pegged it.

However, the campaign missed a number of key strategic opportunities in critical Rust Belt states. Trump captured those traditional Democratic strongholds.

Who’s to blame for all of that? You’ve got to lay it squarely in the lap of the campaign manager. Mook called the shots. He ran the show. He was supposed to ensure his candidate won. It was his job to make sure Hillary spent her time where it counted the most.

He blew it, bigly.

How does this guy hold up as an expert?

Oh, wait! He’s “telegenic.” That’s got to be it.

Puppy Tales, Part 32

My wife and I have discovered yet another fascinating trait about Toby the Puppy.

He is a discerning television watcher.

Here’s what I mean.

Toby likes to play “fetch” while we’re watching TV in the evening. We toss the toy, the puppy fetches it from across the room and brings it back. He’ll do this repeatedly. Then he lies down, usually on his mother’s lap.

We watch some more TV quietly while Toby relaxes for a bit, catching his breath.

Then it happens. The moment — the instant — the TV goes to commercial, Toby jumps to the floor, grabs his fetch toy and wants us to toss it some more.

Then we resume our game. It goes on and on and on.

Until the next time he takes a breather. Then the commercial.

And off we go — again!

Hunters seek to blame ‘illegals’ for their own blunder

I can hear the chants now: only in Texas would this happen.

Maybe, maybe not. Anyhow, here’s the crux of it.

Two hunters — Michael Bryant and Walker Daughetry — have been charged with discharging deadly weapons illegally. They accidentally shot each other while on a hunting excursion in Presidio County along the Rio Grande River.

But wait! The shooting took place in early January. When they called for help, they then blamed the incident on “illegal aliens” they said were crossing the border.

It turns out they lied to investigators. There were no “illegal aliens.” They had discharged their weapons “in the direction of others,” meaning each other, which is a third-degree felony.

It gets even better than that.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, the loudmouth advocate for building a wall along our state’s border with Mexico, posted the bogus story on his Facebook page. Miller — who had been considered for a spot in Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet — said the incident proves the need to build the wall, per the president’s persistent mantra.

Well, the truth has come out. The hunters made it up. They were too embarrassed to tell authorities what really happened.

Miller’s Facebook post has since disappeared. The two men face some jail time if they’re convicted.

Is this what one would call “fake news”?

‘Mad Dog’ emerges as reasonable, sane adviser

Let me see a show of hands. Who among you ever thought that a man with a nickname “Mad Dog” would emerge as a reasoned, thoughtful and nuanced secretary of defense?

Well, me neither.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis has emerged as just that person. I want to sing the praises of the defense secretary, who over the weekend had the courage to speak reasonably — and in direct contradiction — to a reckless declaration that the president of the United States had made.

Mattis made a quick trip to Iraq and proclaimed that the United States will not seize Iraqi oil. Donald J. Trump famously said he intended to do that very thing if he were elected president. The idea, Trump said, was to deprive the Islamic State of the revenue it gleans from oil to fund its terrorist activities.

Gen. Mattis said, um, no … we aren’t going to do that.

Mattis is becoming arguably my favorite Cabinet official in the Trump administration. Heaven knows that there aren’t many of them for which I would express such admiration.

It is reasonable to wonder if Mattis is going to last for the duration of Trump’s term. Trump is known to be an impulsive, not terribly thoughtful individual. He says things that pop into his noggin without ever considering the consequences of what he says.

Seizing the Iraqi oil fields was one of those ill-considered statements. Ain’t no way we can do that cleanly and without shedding a lot of American blood.

Mattis, career military man that he is, understands a lot more about such matters than the commander in chief. I am delighted, too, that he is expressing himself with the confidence that those general’s stars have given him.

Thank you for your service, Gen. Mad Dog. Keep up the good work … if the president will allow it.

Trump tells another whopper — about Sweden!

It appears that every public appearance by Donald J. Trump produces a signature line, one that provokes astonishment and disbelief.

The other day he held that wild-and-woolly press conference in which he declared he scored the greatest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. It was false.

Then he jetted off to Melbourne, Fla., for a campaign-style rally. He baited his worshipers with more promises to end “radical Islamic terrorism.” Then he singled out Sweden — Sweden! — as a place that had been victimized by terrorists.

“You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden, who would believe this?” Trump bellowed during his rally.

The remark provoked astonished expressions from the Swedes. What? Huh? Terrorist attack? Where? By whom?

Of course, there was no such terror attack in Sweden. Trump made it up. He improvised yet another riff that produced — once again — the kind of thoughtless, careless and reckless rhetoric from the commander in chief.

Each time he does this, the president undermines the nation’s standing, let alone the standing of the high and (formerly) dignified office he occupies.

And what about our relationship with Sweden, a nation that has been famously neutral in world conflicts, but which remains an important ally of ours? Do the Swedes trust the U.S. president? Can they trust him to speak with clarity and precision?

For that matter, can we Americans trust the president?

Let’s hope the new security adviser stands test of time

I am more than likely able to stipulate that H.R. McMaster wasn’t privy to any conversations between Donald J. Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials prior to the president taking office.

That is one of many positive aspects of the president’s choice today of McMaster to become the new national security adviser.

McMaster is the second Army lieutenant general to take this post, succeeding retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who Trump dismissed a week ago for a whole host of reasons — some of which are likely to be fodder for ongoing investigations.

McMaster’s appointment is drawing high praise from Republicans interested in national security and defense. At first blush, Gen. McMaster looks like a great choice.

Even Trump critics are pleased. One of them, Sen. John McCain, lavished praise on the president and his national security adviser. “He is a man of genuine intellect, character and ability. I give President Trump great credit for this decision,” said McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of McMaster.

As with all of Trump’s selections, though, one must ask: Will the president rely on this man’s experience, intelligence and savvy as he presents reports on threats to our national security?

McMaster has been tested in combat, leading a cavalry regiment during the Iraq War. He was a critic of U.S. policy in the Vietnam War. His credentials as a national security expert are unquestioned.

Many of us, though, have questioned whether the president has politicized the National Security Council by placing senior political strategist Steve Bannon on the principals committee.

The national security adviser must have unfettered access to the president and must be able to deliver the truth to the commander in chief when it’s required. My hope is that Gen. McMaster will have the access he needs and my expectation would be that this no-nonsense military man demanded it of the boss before he agreed to serve.

If the president committed full access to the new man, great.

If he keeps his pledge, that’s even better.

Democrats to grass roots: Cool it with the ‘I-word’ talk

The “I-word” might be gaining some traction among rank-and-file Americans who profess worry — even fear — of Donald J. Trump.

Democratic Party officials are issuing a wise word of caution. Avoid the rush toward an impeachment of the president of the United States.

I happen to agree with the Democratic Party elders/wise folks.

Impeachment is a serious matter. It’s only occurred twice in the 228-year history of the Republic. The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, came within a single vote in the Senate of being tossed out; the 42nd president, Bill Clinton, was acquitted by healthier margins on all three counts heard during his Senate trial. A third president, Richard Nixon, was on the verge of being impeached before he resigned in disgrace in 1974.

Trump has stirred plenty of enmity during his single month in office. To suggest that he ought to be impeached is at best far too premature an act to even consider; at worst, well, it might be a fool’s errand.

As Politico reports: “’We need to assemble all of the facts, and right now there are a lot of questions about the president’s personal, financial and political ties with the Russian government before the election, but also whether there were any assurances made,’ said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. ‘Before you can use the ‘I’ word, you really need to collect all the facts.’

“’The ‘I’ word we should be focused on,’ added Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘is ‘investigations.'”

I happen to share the concerns of many of my fellow Americans about the questions that are looming large over the Trump administration. So soon after the president’s inauguration, Americans would be wise to give the guy some time to clear out some of the wreckage he has brought upon himself and his administration.

I want to offer a slightly conciliatory word here. Trump became president with zero experience in government. He hadn’t spent a single moment of his life in public service until he placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office of the presidency.

It might be too much to ask that a zillionaire businessman/TV celebrity could know all the nuance and complexity of forming a government as massive as the one he now commands.

He has made some remarkable missteps in just a few weeks on the job. He has said some amazingly stupid things and made some ridiculous gestures. Are any of them impeachable? No.

But he’s got this personal enrichment matter he must clear up. That “emoluments clause” that bars presidents from profiting from relationships with foreign governments is pretty clear. The president hasn’t done nearly enough to clear himself of that mess.

He had better get busy.

The fired-up grass roots Americans who are hell bent on impeaching the president had best listen to the political elders who know about these matters.

Their advice? Cool it.

Right-winger draws rebuke from conservatives … good!

It turns out that political conservatives have their limits on the level of provocation they are willing to tolerate.

My spirits are lifted when I read such things.

Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing provocateur, has been disinvited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting after drawing a sharp rebuke from other conservatives.

Yiannopoulos, who is openly gay, recently stated that younger gay men would benefit from a relationship with — ugh! — older men. Oh, but he has condemned pedophilia and, I guess, he has tried to legitimize his hideous views by telling of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

He’s also written extensively against homosexuality. Go figure.

Right-wing bloggers, pundits and consultants are outraged that CPAC would invited this guy to speak in the first place.

According to The Hill: “Conservative blogger Erick Erickson on Monday slammed the ACU’s decision to include Yiannopoulos among their speakers, casting the move as more of a publicity stunt than a contribution to conservative dialogue.”

I am heartened to learn that conservatives have their limits on the level of bile and vitriol they would tolerate. Let’s flash back, oh, about two decades or so.

Conservatives were none too shy about defaming President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, by suggesting they were complicit in what they said were the murders of their political opponents. None other than the late preacher/demagogue/”Rev.” Jerry Falwell actually produced a video, “The Clinton Chronicles,” that suggested the Clintons were responsible for the suicide death of their longtime friend Vincent Foster.

I don’t recall hearing much protest then from the right about that shameful act of defamation.

That was then. Today is a new day, I reckon.

Milo Yiannopoulos is getting the scorn he deserves from his so-called political brethren.

As conservative consultant Matt Mackowiak said of CPAC’s decision to disinvite Yiannopoulos: This is not a hard call.

Hollywood creates fascinating juxtaposition

Hollywood gets panned and pounded for the occasional liberties it takes with historical events.

But consider this for a moment.

Today is the 55th anniversary of a space flight in which the late John Glenn, a young Marine Corps test pilot, orbited the Earth three times. It would be the first of his two flights into space; the second one occurred in 1998, when Sen. Glenn was 77 years of age.

But get this: February also is Black History Month and Hollywood has managed to merge an important aspect of Glenn’s first flight with another. Glenn owed his flight’s success to the genius of a group of African-American women who relatively few Americans knew about until the release of the acclaimed film “Hidden Figures.”

Think of it. Glenn’s historic flight now can be celebrated as a key event to salute African-Americans. What’s more, that it occurred on Feb. 20, 1962 puts it in the middle of the month we set aside to commemorate the contributions of black Americans to the development of this great nation.

“Hidden Figures” tells the story of three young African-American women — two mathameticians and an engineer — who, with their team of fellow geniuses, worked with NASA to calculate the math associated with space flight.

The contributions of these women were kept under wraps at the time. It was the early 1960s and America was in the throes of the civil-rights movement. The country was unable — or unwilling — to accept the contributions these women gave to this great adventure known as the “space race.”

The film has put an entirely different spin on the “race” aspect of the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.

I am one who is thrilled to meld these two events — Black History Month and the flight of our first space orbital mission — into one.

Well done, Hollywood.

Trump’s ‘fine-tuned machine’ needs help

I found myself somewhat amazed as I read a story in the Sunday New York Times about Donald J. Trump’s apparent inability to get his administration fully staffed.

The article talked about Trump’s insistence on loyalty. Those who say negative things about The Boss are fired; those who fall into that category are disregarded as potential new hires.

I totally understand the president’s desire to have loyal team members on board. The head of our government is entitled to insist that his lieutenants follow the policies set at the top.

Still, Trump crowed this past week about the “fine-tuned machine” that is his presidential administration. Except that he hasn’t hired a whole lot of assistant secretaries or deputy secretaries to assist his Cabinet picks.

But here is where the amazement kicks in.

Loyalty hasn’t been Trump’s No. 1 requirement in filling at least two Cabinet places.

Can you say “Ben Carson” and “Rick Perry”?

Carson is the housing secretary who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary. He and Trump clashed openly at times on the campaign trail and on debate stages across the country. I recall Dr. Carson saying some pretty harsh things about the president-to-be as his own campaign went down in flames.

But then there’s former Texas Gov. Perry, another former GOP foe. It was Gov. Perry who called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” He’s now slated to become secretary of energy.

The Times reports, though, that Trump or his senior advisers are nixing appointments because of what individuals have said about the president. Meanwhile, all these posts remain vacant, their offices are dark and top-level administration officials are being denied the kind of help they need in carrying out Trump administration policies — whatever the hell they are.

I love this passage from the Times story: “It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary, much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama’s administration.”

This is a “fine-tuned machine”? It needs a healthy dose of WD-40.

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