Sanders’s WH legacy? The destruction of the press office

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving the White House with a remarkably dubious legacy. She has played a major role in destroying the office she is about to vacate: the office of White House press secretary.

Sanders has quit conducting press briefings. She no longer stands before the press corps and answers questions. No doubt some of those questions are aggressive, even hostile. The media have been declared “the enemy of the people” by Sanders’s boss, Donald Trump.

Sanders’s then had to face that group and attempt to convey presidential policy. She did a lousy job of lying on behalf of the president. For that matter, Sanders can be “credited” with being “transparent,” if you want to call it that. She lied quite openly, even in the face of evidence that contradicted her directly.

Sure, she got beat up. Then again, so did a lot of press secretaries over many previous administrations. I wrote a blog post earlier today about one of her predecessors, George E. Christian, who served as press secretary during President Johnson’s second term. The press savaged Christian, too, over the conduct of the Vietnam War. Did that man shirk his duty? Did he ever stop delivering regular press briefings? No. He answered the call.

Sanders chickened out.

Now she’s about to be gone. Who will the president appoint to succeed this individual? My hope would be someone who would have the fortitude and the character to do his or her job, which is report the truth to the media, which then would report it all the public.

I have little faith that Donald Trump will do the right thing.

Yes, indeed … the questions for Dad keep mounting

Once in a while it hits me: I’ve now been alive longer without my dad than with. Because he died in 2001. The more time that passes … the more questions I wish I could ask him.

The quote I posted at the top of this item belongs to Brian Stelter, CNN’s media critic and host of the network’s “Reliable Sources” program. He put this message out via Twitter.

I happen to relate quite directly to what Stelter has noted. I have been alive longer without my own father than I was with him among us. Dad died in 1980. His death came as a stunner to me and the rest of my family.

Dad was just 59 years of age. I was 30 when he died. I will turn 70 near the end of this year. The idea that I have lived 10-plus years longer than Dad did is enough of a mind-blower all by itself.

Dad has crossed my mind every single day since he left us. So has Mom, who died just a little more than four years after Dad.

But as Stelter noted, the more time goes by the more questions have entered my mind. They deal largely with the way Dad lived his life. They pertain to some of the mistakes I saw him make. They tug at my emotions occasionally, eliciting feelings associated with opportunities lost. Hey, I could have asked him so many of those questions, forced him to answer. Perhaps they could have assuaged some of the mystery that surrounded him.

It’s not that Dad was a mysterious man. He was in many ways an open book. He was a bit of a showman. Dad enjoyed making people laugh. He could tell a joke with as much flair and panache as anyone I’ve ever known. However, perhaps he intended for that showmanship to overshadow some unknowable emotional discomfort. So I guess the book wasn’t open as widely as it could have been. Thus, the questions I have harbored for many years are coming forward on this Father’s Day.

I miss my father. This day doesn’t sadden me. It does, just as it does for Brian Stelter, fill me with a strange desire for answers to questions that have lingered for most of my life.

Mueller did not ‘clear’ POTUS of obstruction … honest, he didn’t!

Donald J. Trump’s delusion continues to take my breath away.

He said yet again in that remarkable interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that special counsel Robert Mueller cleared him of colluding with Russians during the 2016 campaign and of obstructing justice.

Hold on! Mr. President, I heard Mueller’s comments. I have read his report. I’ve followed the news.

How can I say this more clearly: Mueller did not “clear” the president of any charges that he obstructed justice. Mueller said with crystal clarity that had he found no evidence of obstruction that he would have “said so.”

He didn’t. He did not absolve Trump of obstructing justice. He said he could not issue an indictment because of Department of Justice rules that say a “sitting president” cannot be indicted.

Is that an “exoneration”? No. It isn’t. It leaves the door wide open for Congress to do whatever it deems necessary to repair the damage done by Trump’s repeated efforts to obstruct the investigation into the Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

And yet …

Trump said repeatedly to Stephanopoulos that Mueller cleared him of collusion and obstruction.

This guy is making me want to scream at the top of my lungs!

But the news actually gets worse. Trump has a path toward winning the public relations battle with those of us who dispute his “exoneration” assertion. He has this enormous platform he can use to keep telling falsehoods that somehow become part of the narrative.

I continue believe the man is delusional in the extreme.

And he’s dangerous.

Time of My Life, Part 36: Recalling a long-distance relationship

A Father’s Day Facebook post reminded me today of someone with whom I was acquainted while I worked as a journalist, but he was someone whose hand I never shook. Indeed, our paths never crossed.

Still, I considered him a valuable source.

He was the late George E. Christian Jr., who in the late 1960s became noted as White House press secretary during the tenure of President Lyndon Johnson.

Christian’s son, Brian, posted a Father’s Day greeting to his late dad today and it brought back a memory I had about my own long-distance relationship with George Christian.

I’ll be candid about one matter: I do not recall how Christian’s name and phone number ended up in my Rolodex. My file did have that information. There were occasions during my years in Beaumont and later in Amarillo — when I was editing opinion pages at newspapers in both communities — when I needed some “deep background” information political matters in Austin.

George Christian retired from the White House grind in 1969 after serving as press secretary since 1966. The end of LBJ’s presidency was plagued with lots of bad news emanating from the Vietnam War. Christian suffered plenty of wounds himself battling a skeptical White House press corps.

However, after leaving public life, he did not lose his affinity for reporters and editors. He ran a public relations firm in Austin that often put him in contact with some of his old nemeses. I wasn’t one of them. I was just an opinion journalist who at times needed some “expert” advice on what was happening in Austin.

There were times — I lost count of the number of them — when I would call George Christian. We would chat about this or that. I would ask him about the flow of laws being written in the Legislature. I would inquire about how he envisioned the progress of legislative initiatives.

George Christian always was willing to tell me his thoughts, or to refer me to someone who had more detailed answers to the questions I would ask. Most amazingly, he never seemed to tire of talking on the phone with someone he had never met face to face.

He was courteous, kind, professional and as near as I can tell, always truthful.

I don’t have many regrets about the career that ended in August 2012. One of them stands out. I regret never shaking George Christian’s hand and telling him how much I appreciated the knowledge he was willing to share with me.

Flag-burning ban … it’s back!

I am both not surprised but still amazed that this issue keeps coming back. Donald J. “Panderer in Chief” Trump says he is “all in” on a proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit flag-burning as a form of political protest.

Oh, boy. Here we go. Again!

Trump put a Twitter message out this weekend that said he supports a “strong BAN on burning our American flag. A no brainer.”

He is backing a proposed amendment pushed by Republican U.S. Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Where can I possibly begin on this matter? Let me try this gambit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly already that flag-burning to make a political statement is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of free political speech. Even high court judicial conservatives, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, have upheld the principle of keeping the First Amendment unfettered. According to the Washington Post, Scalia once said he’d prefer to jail “every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag. But I am not king.” He has joined SCOTUS majorities in upholding the action as a form of political speech.

I am one who cherishes what the flag symbolizes, which is the right to make an a** of oneself, which is what flag-burning does to anyone who burns a flag as a form of criticism of government policy. I have maintained for as long as I can remember that such an act does not win converts to a point of view. It only enrages Americans who — such as myself — who have gone to war under that flag and who love their country … even with its warts.

Banning the act of flag-burning doesn’t do a damn thing but please those who somehow equate a piece of cloth with the doctrine it represents. The flag is merely a symbol of something greater, which is individual liberty — which includes the rights of citizens to act stupidly.

But the president of the United States doesn’t see it that way. He chooses to hug the flag to make some kind of goofy showbiz point.

Vet school set to become a reality for the Panhandle

I want to offer some hand claps to Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle for a signature they have obtained from Gov. Greg Abbott.

The governor has signed legislation that grants state money to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. It will be the second such institution in Texas. It will be operated by Texas Tech University and it will be located wholly in Amarillo, which lobbied furiously for the funds to build this much-needed project.

I had the pleasure of visiting with former Texas Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan not long before he got the bum’s rush by the Tech board of regents. Duncan came to Amarillo to make the case for the vet school and to tell the community that the state needed the second such program. Texas A&M University operates the long-standing school of veterinary medicine and had resisted Tech’s efforts to gain legislative approval for the new school.

This is a big deal, man! I am delighted that the region’s legislative delegation — state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Reps. John Smithee and Four Price, all Amarillo Republicans — flexed its collective muscle to ensure this legislative victory.

It also is heartening that Texas Tech, despite Duncan’s ouster as chancellor, managed to maintain its own momentum with a new chancellor, Tedd Mitchell, at the helm.

The Amarillo campus will enable Panhandle veterinary students to stay closer to home to get their education. One can hope, too, that they will remain at home to pursue their careers as doctors of veterinary medicine.

I had my share of anxious moments while living in the Panhandle and even after moving away. But then Amarillo’s economic development gurus lined up behind the project; so did the City Council; civic and business leaders ponied up serious money to help lighten the public burden.

I understand the vet school will open for class in a couple of years. Students will receive a first-class education that will pave the way for first-class careers.

It is nice to see the Texas Panhandle, which occasionally gets the short shrift from those in power way down yonder in Austin, score a major victory.

My congressman wants to know what matters to me? Here goes!

U.S. Rep. Van Taylor has asked his constituents directly to answer the question: What issues matter the most to you?

He lists border security, health care, the economy, education, other. I’ll stick with “other” for the time being.

I want my congressman, a new guy on Capitol Hill, to look critically at the conduct of the president of the United States. I want him to assess whether it’s all right for a president to say he’ll “look at” information that might come to him from a foreign power that has negative “research” material on a political opponent.

I want Rep. Taylor to stop cowering under the shadow of Donald Trump. I want him to show some courage in standing up to him.

Donald Trump is encouraging his staff to ignore the law. He is flouting legal authority. He is seeking to usurp congressional powers away from the legislative branch of government that is trying to perform its oversight responsibility as it is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution. 

I want my congressman, a Republican from Plano, to look the president in the eye and tell Trump that he must not get away these efforts to hold himself above the rule of law.

Taylor succeeded a legendary figure in Congress. Former Rep. Sam Johnson, also a Republican, had been to hell and back as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. He was held captive for more than six years.

Rep. Taylor also is a veteran and I honor his service as a Marine infantry officer during the Iraq War.

So, his reticence so far to criticize the president cannot be a product of fear. It comes from some other source that I cannot identify.

Whatever it is, I want Rep. Taylor to toss it aside and stand up for what is right and stand against a president who has disgraced his office and — as many of us have concluded in recent days — is putting this country’s democratic electoral process in dire danger.

Thanks for asking for my opinion, Rep. Taylor.

How must governments define ‘personnel’ matters?

I won’t take credit for this idea. It comes from a reader of this blog and a frequent critic of local government in Amarillo, Texas.

My friend wonders whether the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees should examine carefully its policy of declining to comment on “personnel matters” when the matter involves an elected member of the governing board.

The Parents for Transparency Coalition is seeking answers from the school board on an array of issues. The coalition believes the board and senior administration are too opaque in their conduct of public business.

I need to revisit the resignation of the Amarillo High volleyball coach. Kori Clements resigned her post after asserting that a parent had interfered with her coaching decisions. The parent allegedly was a member of the school board. Renee McCown, the now former trustee, resigned. Still, the board has declined to comment on the matter, citing the “personnel” policy as prohibiting them from making any public comment.

I’ll ask the question: Is a school trustee “employed” by the district? Does the trustee’s reticence and the board’s reluctance to comment fall under that personnel-related policy? I tend to view the elected trustee as someone who is distinctly different from the paid administrators, faculty and staff.

I agree with my friend, who said: Someone needs to mount a legal challenge to determine whether a board member is “personnel” and the state press association needs to lobby for changes in the way public personnel are protected under the sunshine laws.

Therein might lie the Parents for Transparency Coalition’s opening to seek — and hopefully get — more transparency from its local public school district.

That’s a pretty good starting point.

Yes, Sen. Cornyn, we need a law

I believe I will disagree with John Cornyn, the senior Republican U.S. senator from Texas.

He said the nation doesn’t need a law that requires political candidates to report foreign interference in our elections to the FBI. Cornyn said it should be understood that politicians should report foreign interference to authorities. Cornyn said he would do so if such an attack occurred in an election in which he would be involved. Good for him. I’m glad he would do the right thing.

However, we have a president of the United States who now admits to flouting normal procedure at every turn. Donald Trump told ABC News that if a foreign country — such as “Norway,” as Trump said — had information a political opponent, he would “look at it.”

The Senate sought to enact legislation that would have required candidates to report such interference to authorities, but it was blocked by freshman Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Cornyn doesn’t see a problem with Blackburn blocking the bill. According to the Texas Tribune: “The simple answer is call the FBI and let them investigate it,” Cornyn said. “We don’t need to pass a law to do that.”

In a perfect political world, by all means you don’t need such a law. However, this old world of ours is far from perfect, as the election of Donald Trump has demonstrated with remarkable clarity. Trump has denied any Russian interference in the 2016 election. Now he says he would allow it in future elections and he “might” notify the FBI.

Cornyn says we don’t need a law to prevent such a thing?

I believe we do need a law, Sen. Cornyn.

Happy Trails, Part 160: Reaping benefit of ‘choices’

As you know by now our retirement journey has taken us from Amarillo to Princeton in Texas. Our No. 1 priority is to be near our granddaughter. Mission accomplished on that matter.

A lesser priority in my own mind was to be nearer to what one of my sons refers to as “choices.” That is, to be able to partake of entertainment offerings without having to drive great distances to enjoy them.

One of those “choices” presented himself Friday night. Sir Paul McCartney took the stage at a concert venue about 50 miles west of us. So, my other son was able to get a couple of tickets and he invited dear ol’ Dad to join him way up yonder in the nosebleed section of Globe Life Park in Arlington.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me on this point: My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful life in Amarillo, Texas, which was our home for 23 years. We lived there nearly half our married life together. We had a wonderful house built and we made it our home. We enjoyed making it look pretty and presentable.

We also learned a fact of life about living in West Texas: If you need to see anything you need to get in your car and drive … a long way! It’s not that Amarillo and its immediate surroundings aren’t without their charms. Let’s get real. You can grow tired of seeing the same attractions over and over. To be candid, we did tire of it.

Now, though, we have settled into new digs just northeast of Dallas. Therefore, when I had the chance to drive about an hour west to Fort Worth’s front porch to see a top-drawer entertainment act — such as Sir Paul McCartney — why, I jumped at it!

Bear in mind, Sir Paul once belonged to a band, The Beatles, that helped raise me. I do not say that out of any ill will toward my parents or other elder members of my family. He and his mates crafted music that I enjoy to this very day. And I will do so until, well, I am no longer listening to any music … if you get my drift.

We now have “choices.” I intend to partake of more of them as they present themselves. Yes, indeed. Life is good. Especially since I no longer have to drive all day to enjoy them.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

%d bloggers like this: