Let’s return some decorum to debate forum


This probably won’t happen, but I’ll ask anyway.

Is there a chance that the Republican Party primary joint appearance set for this week can restore some semblance of decorum?

Fox News Channel is welcoming the Top 10 GOP presidential contenders to a debate stage in Cleveland on Thursday.

I almost can see it now: The announcer will introduce each of them one at a time. They’ll walk out, wave to the cheering throngs they’ve recruited to come cheer their every word. They’ll mug and smile and act like they’ve just done the “red carpet walk” at the Oscars.

That’s more or less what occurred during the 2012 debate season. To be honest, it’s a major turnoff, just as it was in 2008 when Democrats and Republicans had the same show-biz element at their debates.

If I were King of the World, I wouldn’t even allow audiences to be present.

It would be just the journalist panel and the candidates. Ask them tough questions, force them to answer them — in detail. With no one else in the room, there’d be little opportunity for “sound bites,” no “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment — a la the Sens. Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle VP debate in 1988 — that draws hoots and hollers from the partisans.

I am a realist, though. I know that Fox and CNN — which is sponsoring the second GOP debate — are going to go for the gusto.

They want to gin up interest and I guess the best way to do that is bring as much entertainment value as possible into what should be a most serious event.

Too bad.

But, hey, I’ve made my pitch. So now I feel better.

Oh, boy … Trump heads into minefield

Imagine if you will Barack Obama saying something like this …

“Now that the United States has elected — and re-elected — an African-American as president of the United States, it will be difficult for voters to elect a white citizen to the highest office in the land.”

The reaction would be, um, probably hysterical.

Donald Trump now has introduced race into his campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination by declaring that Americans will have a tough time elected an African-American because the current president, Obama, has set the bar so low.


I am almost speechless.

He spoke this morning on ABC-TV’s “This Week” news-talk program, telling Jonathan Karl that President Obama’s performance in the White House makes it difficult for another African-American to win the presidency.

I believe Trump is suggesting that, based on one man’s performance as president, that others like him — you know, folks of the same race or ethnicity — are doomed to fail as well.

All I’m left to say is: My … goodness.

Why is Obama’s faith an issue?

“… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

— U.S. Constitution, Article VI

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got a question the other day about whether he thinks President Obama is a Christian.

His answer? “I presume he is … I’ve never asked him about it.” Then said he takes “the president at his word” that, yep, is he’s a Christian.

Walker wants to succeed Obama as president of the United States. He’s one of 17 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination; four Democrats are running, too.

I keep wondering, though, why this question keeps coming up about the current president’s faith.

Hasn’t he stated time and again that he believes Jesus Christ is his savior? Hasn’t he attended church services with his family? Hasn’t he made the declaration that he is a Christian?

The issue ought to be moot. The Constitution says we shouldn’t set a religious standard for candidates seeking any “office or public trust.”

Why can’t these individuals answer such ridiculous questions in a straight-forward matter? Perhaps something like this:

“Thank you for the question. Let me answer it in two parts.

“First, the president is a Christian. He’s stated his faith repeatedly since taking office and I believe him.

“Second, the question is not relevant to any discussion about those who hold public office or those who seek public office. The Constitution says there shall be ‘no religious test’ for candidates. I happen to support the Constitution of the United States, which is crystal clear on the place of religion in politics.”

I really don’t blame Walker for keeping this issue bubbling. The blame belongs to the media who keep raising it.

Enough already!

Listen carefully to the thumping: Biden might run once more

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Century Village Clubhouse on September 28, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. Biden continues to campaign across the country before the general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Put your head to the ground and listen intently.

Those of us who are interested in such things are beginning to hear the faint thumping of feet. They’re the soldiers, so to speak, who want to see one more prominent Democrat enter the 2016 presidential primary campaign.

That would be Vice President Joe Biden.

Before you dismiss it as so much mindless chatter, I’d like to remind you of a few things about the vice president.

* First, he’s not a young man. He’s 72 and will be 73 when the campaign gets revved up next year, the same age that President Reagan was when he was re-elected in 1984. Biden has always wanted to be president and this represents his last chance to go for the gusto.

* Second, he and the president, Barack Obama, have formed a remarkable relationship during their two terms together. Did you notice their embrace during the memorial service for the vice president’s son, Beau, who died a few weeks ago of brain cancer? Did you also notice the kiss-on-their-cheeks the men exchanged after that man-hug? Only true friends do that in public.

* Third, their relationship puts the president in a highly unusual bind. Then again, it’s been stated time and again that Barack Obama and the Clintons — Hillary and Bill — aren’t exactly close. Yes, the president has spoken highly of Hillary Clinton’s work as secretary of state and, yes again, President Clinton delivered that stirring 2012 oration in Charlotte, N.C., extolling the president’s signature domestic accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. But you get the feeling deep down there’s a reservoir of mistrust. Might that feeling get in the way of the president endorsing Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination?

* Fourth, the vice president — for all his well-known tendency to speak a little too freely and casually at times — is a foreign policy expert. He has built tremendous relationships with foreign dignitaries — from kings and queens on down to minister-level functionaries. He knows the ropes.

* Fifth, Joe Biden also has great friendships with many members of Congress — in both chambers and on both sides of the political divide. Those lawmakers with whom he has these friendships is dwindling, as many of them are retiring and are being replaced by whippersnappers with zero institutional knowledge of the relationships built between Congress and the White House. Thirty-six years in the U.S. Senate bought the vice president a lot of clout in the upper congressional chamber.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times recounts a moment near the end of Beau Biden’s life that perhaps speaks to the urges that might be pushing the vice president toward one more effort to reach the brass ring.


I, of course, have no knowledge of what the vice president will do. Others are reporting that his team is “ramping up” its activities with the hope of launching a presidential campaign.

But from my perch out here in Flyover Country — where a Biden candidacy wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed — I think I would enjoy seeing this man mix it up with his party’s presumed 2016 frontrunner and the three men seeking to have their voices heard.

Run, Joe, run!

Nature’s law is relentless and without remorse

Cecil the Lion’s death has touched off an avalanche of anger at the man who shot the famed Zimbabwe beast, and the guides who lured Cecil from his protected haven to a free-fire zone where he was killed by the American “hunter.”

Now some of the attention has turned to another beast, Jericho, believed to be Cecil’s brother, and what might happen to Jericho and the pride of lionesses and cubs he is protecting.

Let’s not worry too much about Jericho and the rest of the pride, shall we?

The laws of nature are going to take over no matter what we humans may think, do or want to do to save these magnificent beasts.


Jericho now appears to be the protector of the pride. Lion “society” consists of a brutal and fundamental truth: It becomes a fight for survival.

The pride that Jericho apparently inherited well might become a target for other male lions roaming the plains in search of a pride to conquer. They may seek to encroach on Jericho’s turf, seeking to take over the pride. Fights to the death may ensue. Jericho might not be able to fend off a challenge, if it comes. If that’s the case, he’ll be banished by his conquerors.

What happens next is a part of lions’ societal network that few of us want to discuss.

Male lions will not tolerate the presence of cubs brought into this world by the rival they’ve just eliminated. The lionesses caring for the cubs aren’t ready to mate. The conquering male lions then seek to rid the lionesses of the one obstacle preventing them from mating with them: the cubs.

They will kill the cubs.

It’s brutal, but it’s also part of nature’s irrefutable law.

Cecil met his demise likely at the hands of poachers. The law will take care of them in due course.

As for the family he left behind, well, there’s nothing anyone can — or should — do to save them.

Should an indicted state AG still serve?

Regarding the upcoming indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, reportedly on at least two felony counts of securities fraud, some critics are going to question whether he should continue serving in the office he occupies.


At first blush, my reaction might be for him to step aside.

Then again, I want to be fair. Paxton, a Republican, is entitled to a presumption of innocence. He’s going to be accused formally, it appears, of  third- and first-degree felony counts. He’s admitted to the third-degree accusation that he steered investment clients to a friend of his without notifying the state. The other charge involves an investment company with which he was involved.

A grand jury in Collin County, north of Dallas — which Paxton represented while he served in the Texas Legislature — is set to unseal its indictment Monday in McKinney, according to sources in the know.

It’s all pretty serious stuff, given that Paxton is the state’s leading lawyer and its chief law enforcer.

You just don’t expect the attorney general of your state to be so tainted.

That doesn’t mean he cannot do his job.

The burden of proving his guilt will rest with the state. Until that guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the man who’s accused of the crime is presumed innocent.

Let the man serve if he’s able, even though he’ll likely have his hands full trying to defend himself.

Planned Parenthood video is grim; agency needs to survive

I’ll admit that the video showing the discussion of fetal tissue removal is grim in the extreme.

The video, shot surreptitiously in Colorado, is now being used to bludgeon Planned Parenthood over its head. Republicans in Congress want to defund the agency and are threatening to shut down the government this fall if a budget comes forward with money to help fund the agency.

Let us hold on a minute … or maybe two or three. I know my views on this subject are going to anger folks.


Mention the very words “Planned Parenthood” in places such as, say, the Texas Panhandle and individuals go apoplectic.

The agency “murders babies,” people say. Its leadership should be arrested, tried and convicted for crimes against the unborn, they contend.

The video that’s now becoming part of the GOP presidential field talking point agenda shows something that no one wants to see and/or hear; count me as one who dislikes hearing the audio. However, what’s transpiring in the video is legal. It’s also a tiny, infinitesimal part of Planned Parenthood’s larger mission — which is to provide medical counseling and advice for women. The advice covers far more than just terminating pregnancies. It involves screenings to protect against cancer or STDs and counseling for women who are considering an abortion.

None of this matters, though, to those who wish to use the video to make political hay.

Abortion remains — without question, in my view — the single most divisive domestic policy issue in the United States. However, as some prominent politicians have noted in the past, the aim ought to be to keep it legal, but make it as rare as humanly possible.

And do we need to use this video as a cudgel to batter the entire federal government? In my mind, the answer should be a clear-cut “no!”

I wish I’d never seen the video that’s become all the rage — and I mean “rage” in the pejorative sense. People are angry at its contents. I am disturbed by them, too.

However, let’s put this into some context and try to examine whether it represents all of Planned Parenthood’s mission.