This petition is, um … tempting

I don’t sign petitions. A career in journalism precluded me from signing political documents that put my name into the public domain as a supporter or a foe of this or that politician or cause.

A petition, though, is making the rounds and it is providing a temptation I have to struggle to overcome.

It demands that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott remove five Texas Tech University System regents for their no-confidence vote against Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The targets of the petition are Rick Francis, Ronnie Hammonds, Christopher Huckabee, Mickey Long and John Steinmetz. These are the five individuals whose no-confidence declaration essentially forced Duncan to announce his retirement effective Aug. 31.

As others have noted, Duncan is a serious Boy Scout who toiled for years in a profession known to produce more villains than heroes. He served in the Texas Legislature before becoming chancellor four years ago; he also worked as chief of staff for Sen. John Montford, another legislator of renown who became a Tech chancellor.

If there is a blemish on Duncan’s exemplary public service record, then someone will have to ask him to show to us, because no one has found one.

The planned Tech college of veterinary medicine appears to be at or near the center of this tempest. Tech wants to build a vet school in Amarillo, but is getting serious pushback from Texas A&M University, whose chancellor, John Sharp, has been leading the fight against Tech’s vet school plans. A&M operates the state’s only veterinary medicine school and doesn’t want Tech to meddle in what had been A&M’s exclusive educational domain.

So now Bob Duncan has been caught in that undertow. Shameful, I’m tellin’ ya.

Meanwhile, I am hereby renewing my demand for the regents who want Duncan out to explain in detail why they cast their vote to boot out the Boy Scout.

Wyoming: stranger political climate than Texas?

CASPER, Wyo. — I love this state. It’s spacious, gorgeous and virtually uninhabited.

It’s the 10th-largest state in the union in terms of area; but it ranks No. 50 in terms of population, with about 580,000 residents scattered across 97,000 square miles.

It also has a single U.S. House of Representatives member representing it, along with two U.S. senators, Republicans John Barrasso and Mike Enzi.

And what about that member of Congress? She is Liz Cheney, who happens to be the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Here’s where the strangeness of Wyoming politics comes into play. Our friend Tom — a longtime journalist of some standing here — was showing us around Casper and he told me that Wyoming isn’t too keen on carpetbaggers, the politician who barely knows a region he or she wants to represent in government.

Why, then, did Wyoming elect Liz Cheney, who grew up in Washington, D.C., while her dad was serving in the Defense Department, Congress and as President Ford’s chief of staff before being elected VP in 2000?

Tom’s answer: “Because she has an ‘R’ next to her name and her dad happens to be the former vice president of the United States.”

I don’t have a particular problem with carpetbaggers. Indeed, my first political hero — the late Robert F. Kennedy — carried that title when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 1964. So did Hillary Rodham Clinton when she ran for RFK’s old seat in 2000 after serving eight years as first lady of the United States. Indeed, Mitt Romney — the former Massachusetts governor — is facing down the carpetbagger demon as he runs for the Senate in Utah.

I do find it cool, too, that a U.S. House member can represent the same constituency as two U.S. senators. Indeed, senators tend at times to lord it over House members that they represent entire states while their House colleagues have to settle for representing a measly House district.

Not so in Wyoming, where equality between the “upper” and “lower” congressional chambers is alive and well.

Where are the wind turbines?

CASPER, Wyo. — We drove 275 or so miles today from suburban Denver to this central Wyoming community and didn’t see something I thought I’d see during our entire journey here.

Wind turbines. They were, um, nowhere man!

The terrain was perfect for them. Rolling hills. The atmosphere was, too. We ran into occasionally stiff wind almost throughout our drive.

But … we saw not a single turbine spinning in the wind during our lengthy drive, producing electricity to be shipped elsewhere or to be consumed by the locals.

I want to offer this only for observational purposes. I have no particular answer as to why much of northern Colorado or western or central Wyoming haven’t seemed to have invested in this form of alternative energy.

Now, you may spare me the notion that Wyoming digs a lot of coal out of the ground or pumps oil and natural gas. Texas also has a lot of fossil fuel, albeit no coal. Still, Texas extracts plenty of petroleum and natural gas out of the ground. It also has invested heavily in wind energy, dating back to the George W. Bush and Rick Perry governorships.

I don’t know whether local politics keeps the wind farms from springing up along this vast landscape. I will concede as well that the Colorado-Wyoming countryside is quite gorgeous.

Still, Wyoming is as politically conservative as the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains of Texas. Maybe more so.

Texas is full of these clean-energy devices. Why not Wyoming? Or Colorado?

Feeling an enhanced sense of outrage over this crime

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — I am nearly overcome with a level of outrage over a crime that all by itself should elicit this kind of response.

But we’ve been parked in our RV just outside of Denver and the local news media are reporting a hideous crime involving a man accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters.

Chris Watts reportedly has confessed to killing his wife Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child; he also allegedly strangled his two daughters.

We’ll be leaving this community very soon, heading north and eventually west. However, the images we’ve watched the past two days on Denver-area news TV of the beautiful victims and the man accused of killing them are going to stay with me for a long time.

Forensic psychologists already have begun dissecting Chris Watts’s body language as he has told the media and police to find his then-missing wife and children. They noted the way he stood, arms crossed, with no apparent outward emotion. The observation reminds me of how the Union County, S.C., sheriff began to suspect Susan Smith was culpable in that heinous murder of her two sons when they drowned in a car that had been pushed into the water. Smith “cried” but didn’t shed a tear.

So it is with Chris Watts.

The crime occurred in Frederick, which is northeast of Denver in Weld County. The media here are all over the story. I am getting the strong sense watching the reporters and anchors talking to viewers about what they know so far that they, too, are moved beyond measure while trying to understand how such a crime could occur.

I pray that justice will be delivered hard to the individual responsible for this dastardly deed.

How will history judge this presidency?

We’re not yet halfway through Donald J. Trump’s term as president and already I feel compelled to wonder about a critically important historical element.

How in the name of presidential history are historians going to assess the time that Trump served as president of the United States.

Whether this man finishes his term and — God forbid! — wins re-election to a second term in 2020, I feel confident in asserting that historians must toss out all the standard metrics in assessing Trump’s impact on the nation.

He has managed in just less than two years to enrage our allies, give comfort to some of our adversaries, insult politicians around the world and in this country, use Twitter as his primary vehicle to convey U.S. government policy, launch a worldwide trade war, bust the federal budget with a tax cut, enable hate groups to feel more emboldened than they have in decades.

How will historians judge this individual’s presidency?

He took office after campaigning on a pledge (mostly unspoken but understood all the same) to throw out the standard playbook. I would rate that as the campaign pledge to which he has been most faithful.

Accordingly, those who make their living writing tomes and white papers analyzing the historical significance of major political figures will have to toss their own standard operating procedures into the crapper.

There will be plenty of caveats to attach to this guy’s presidency. There will be the nature of his razor-thin victory — which he keeps describing as “historic” and “record-breaking”; there will be the special counsel investigation and whatever findings it produces regarding collusion and obstruction of justice; there will be the extraordinary number of key Trump aides and Cabinet officers who’ve either been indicted, fired or resigned under pressure.

Just as President Bill Clinton’s obituary will include the term “impeachment,” I feel that Donald Trump’s obit will have some mention of all the ethical and potentially legal troubles that have followed him into the White House.

I’m left to wonder, too: Who will portray Donald Trump when they make a movie about this guy’s presidency?

Presidential historians are going to earn their grant money — bigly — when they sit down to write the book on the 45th president.

Facts are facts, period, Mr. Mayor … really!

Rudy Giuliani seems to have swilled Kellyanne Conway’s potion that allows for the belief in “alternative facts.”

Conway is the White House senior policy adviser to coined the “alternative facts” gem while responding to questions about then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s various assertions about this and that.

Now we have Donald Trump’s current personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo that “nowadays … facts are the eyes of the beholder.”

Whoa! Hold on, Mr. Mayor.

From where I come from, facts are facts. There can be disputing the nature of facts. You either tell the truth or you lie.

Giuliani was responding to questions from Cuomo about the president’s harsh words about another former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Giuliani made the “eye of the beholder” crack, to which Cuomo reminded him that there’s no such qualifier involved with “facts.”

As USA Today reported: Whether intended in humor or not, the former New York mayor’s remark feeds into a perception among critics that the Trump administration often rejects objective facts and tries to confuse the public about what is true. 

Trump’s rejection of facts dates back at least to his refusal to accept that former President Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen despite being presented with conclusive evidence.

If all this idiocy didn’t involve the very credibility of our head of state, I would be laughing my behind off.

I’m not laughing now … any more than I laughed at Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” nonsense.

POTUS seeks to taint a criminal proceeding

Imagine the President’s former campaign chairman is on trial for various felonies. Imagine the jury is in middle of deliberations. Imagine the President publicly calls the case unfair & praises the defendant There was a time when that kind of thing was considered inappropriate

— Jake Tapper, CNN news anchor

Jake Tapper’s tweet — posted above — actually understates how one should consider a president who seeks to prejudice a jury that is considering whether to convict or acquit someone of a major felony.

It is far worse than “inappropriate” for a president to rail against a trial involving a former top campaign official. I would call it something more akin to reprehensible, contemptible, disgraceful.

Yet this president sees nothing at all wrong with saying that a trial involving his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is “unfair” and that the court is trying to railroad him. He tells us that Manafort is an upstanding individual and a “good man.”

Manafort’s fate now is in the jury’s hands. He was indicted and brought to trial on charges involving tax evasion and money laundering. He faces a possible life term in prison. Manafort’s indictment was brought by the grand jury that received a complaint from special counsel Robert Mueller.

The prosecution presented witnesses. Manafort’s defense team was allowed to cross examine them, which did with vigor.

Normal presidential protocol would dictate that a president keeps his trap shut on a criminal proceeding. This one now is headed for a verdict. Yet Donald Trump keeps yapping, he keeps seeking to influence the outcome from the peanut gallery.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe we shouldn’t be appalled. I mean, this kind of ignorant approach to what I would call a form of jury tampering is part and parcel of Trump’s utter lack of understanding of presidential protocol, let alone of judicial conduct.

This individual, the president, is completely out of control.

Happy Trails, Part 120: Lawyers sing universal song

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Our retirement journey brought us to this suburban Denver community, and an RV park where we’ve spent the past couple of nights.

We watch TV on our trips across the country. We scan in available channels and then, lo and behold, we get treated to an endless barrage of ads from personal injury lawyers looking for more clients to represent.

They all say the same thing: Hire me and I’ll get you lots of money. They talk about so-and-so getting hurt in a car wreck; he or she suffered a serious injury; the lawyer fought the client and raked in a six-figure amount.

I kind of hoping we had left that kind of incessant advertising when we started this trip. Silly me. It ain’t going to happen.

We’ll head for Casper, Wyo., next. We’ll get set up. We’ll scan in the channels there. No doubt we’ll hear that Casper has a “Strong Arm” lawyer who’ll say the same thing the Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver “Strong Arm(s)” have said as well.

There’s no escape! None! Help me!

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

Trump — naturally! — blames others for parade cancellation

Donald J. Trump’s penchant for passing the responsibility buck remains intact.

The president wanted to stage a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue ostensibly to honor veterans on the 100th anniversary of signing the armistice that ended the War to End All Wars.

Then the cost of the parade came in. He estimated the cost initially at $12 million. But wait! The cost escalated to an estimated $92 million. Trump called it off, suggesting he might try again next year. Phooey!

Who’s to blame? Trump lays it at the feet of Washington, D.C. officials who — one can only surmise — comprise Democrats intending to stick it to the Republican president.

As The Hill reported: “The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th,” Trump wrote.

“Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he added. “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”

Or, how about this, Mr. President? How about putting some of that money into helping veterans who need primary medical care, or who might need counseling to deal with the symptoms of PTSD? Or, maybe you could suggest spending more to combat the alarming rates of suicide among veterans returning from combat duty in Afghanistan, Iraq or other trouble spots where we’ve send our men and women into harm’s way.

What’s more, the president can stop laying blame on others and accept the reality that just maybe he low-balled the cost at the outset, not having an idea what such an ostentatious demonstration of military might would cost.

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