Why can’t POTUS speak with this kind of clarity?

John Kelly works for a guy who seems genetically incapable of speaking with moral certitude and clarity.

When the president speaks about slain soldiers “knowing what they were getting into … but I guess it still hurts,” he comes off sounding like a heartless buffoon.

When the White House chief of staff offers the same explanation over what his “best friend” told him after his son was killed in Afghanistan, he sounds dignified, heartfelt and sincere.

Donald J. Trump has opened the door yet again to a pointless and needless controversy. This time it centers on how the president sought to console a grieving widow whose husband died in a firefight in Niger several days ago.

The president might have been motivated to do the right thing. Perhaps he intended to sound compassionate. My reading of what’s been reported about what he told Myeshia Johnson, whose husband Sgt. La David Johnson, died in Niger, tells me the president just isn’t good at fulfilling that role.

And yet, Gen. Kelly manages to sound the right tone, despite his criticism of Rep. Frederica Wilson, who reported the content of the president’s phone conversation with Mrs. Johnson.


Sexual harassment hits all communities

Sexual harassment is in the air. Maybe it’s in the water.

A one-time major-league Hollywood mogul’s career has been destroyed by allegations of his untoward behavior against women.

A “Me Too” movement has emerged, with women coming forward to reveal their own exposure to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Now a school district at the very top of the Texas Panhandle is dealing with a potentially burgeoning controversy involving sexual harassment. Two top Perryton Independent School District administrators — Superintendent Robert Hall and Assistant Superintendent Keith Langfitt — have resigned. Both men had been accused of sexual harassment. They both were on paid administrative leave.

I am going to take a leap here and suggest that their resignations likely mean there had to be merit to the allegations that had been leveled against them.

The details of the complaints remain sketchy. I hope the school district will reveal the nature of the allegations leveled against these two men. I am not suggesting that Perryton ISD officials reveal the names of the victims of the activity that’s being alleged.

The community, though, would be well-served if it learns about what was going on in secret in a publicly funded institution that has such a direct impact on the lives of taxpayers — and their children.

For ‘W’ to speak out, you know it’s bad

Two former presidents of the United States have spoken out about the state of contemporary politics.

Both men’s comments were thinly veiled broadsides fired at Donald John Trump, the guy who succeeded one of them. You would expect such criticism of a Republican president to come from Democratic former President Barack H. Obama, who today campaigned on behalf of fellow Democratic candidates.

It’s the criticism that came from a Republican ex-president, George W. Bush, that deserves a brief comment here.

President Bush has been mostly quiet since leaving the White House in January 2009. Today he broke his silence in dramatic fashion.

Speaking at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York, the former president said this, according to the Washington Post:

* “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

* “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”

* “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”

* “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”

* “Bullying and prejudice in our public life … provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”

* “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.”

Read the Post article here.

Can there be any question about whom the former president is referring? Can you possibly mistake the references to anyone other than Donald J. Trump?

President Bush spoke out forcefully during his time in the White House against bigotry and hatred. For example, he sought to declare that our war against international radical Islamic terrorists is not a war against Islam.

That is not the message we’re getting from the current president and the 43rd president of the United States is correct to bring these issues to our attention.

Welcome back to the political stage, Mr. President.

It all starts at the top

I happen to admire John Kelly greatly. The White House chief of staff is a man of tremendous honor who has served his country — our country — with distinction and valor.

The retired Marine Corps general has given too much. His son died on an Afghanistan battlefield, which hands him the title of Gold Star father. Gen. Kelly spoke with great eloquence today in talking about a phone call that Donald Trump made to the widow of a soldier who was killed in an ambush in Niger. He praised the president and expressed “shock” and “heartbreak” that a member of Congress would discuss publicly the content of that phone call.

I want to disagree with great respect to Gen. Kelly on a particular point, however. The president of the United States — Kelly’s boss — is the man who made this a public issue. It was Trump who stated that previous presidents didn’t generally call the loved ones who died in battle.

So, we can debate whether Rep. Frederica Wilson spoke out of turn. We can argue over the propriety of her to interject herself into this highly sensitive and emotional issue.

However, as is his habit, the president chose to make this an issue in the first place because of his own untrue statements regarding how his immediate predecessors performed the heart-wrenching task of serving as commander in chief.

Gold Star controversy boils up again

Donald J. Trump has a consistent problem with Gold Star families, indeed he seems to have similar problems with men and women who’ve served in combat.

Do you recall in the summer of 2016 how he told the parents of a young American killed in Iraq that they “had no right” to criticize Trump over his views of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East? The parents happen to be Muslim, as was their son, an officer in the U.S. Army.

He once said that Sen. John McCain was a “war hero” only because he was captured by the North Vietnamese after his jet fighter was shot down. “I like people who aren’t captured, OK?” he said.

Trump contended falsely that previous presidents didn’t call the families of warriors slain in battle.

Now he’s reportedly told the wife of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger, that Sgt. Johnson “knew what he was getting into, but it still hurts.” The president has bristled at a congresswoman who said she heard Trump say it.

Do you see a pattern here?

I just cannot fathom what prevents the president from saying simply this: Please know that our nation grieves with you. We feel deeply for the pain you are suffering and we appreciate beyond measure the sacrifice your son/daughter has made in defense of the nation.

He cannot do that. He apparently is not wired with the empathy or compassion gene. Trump turns everything back to himself. He makes himself the story, either by design or by clumsy incompetence.

We are witnessing yet another manifestation of this man’s unfitness for the job to which he was elected.

Presidents are expected to deliver words of comfort. They are expected to serve as nation’s consoler in chief. Americans expect this — among other things —  from their head of state.

Donald Trump keeps failing to deliver.


Happy Trails, Part 49

PORTLAND, Ore. — Our retirement journey has brought us to where our lives together began nearly 47 years ago.

It was a rocky landing, though. It had nothing to do with my wife and me, or our relationship per se.

It had to do with an RV park where had reserved space.

We had intended to stay at an RV location in Vancouver, Wash., across the mighty Columbia River from Portland, where I was born and where I spent the first 34 years of my life.

I called ahead from Eugene, where we spent the previous night. We made the reservation. The young woman told us all she had left were “back-in” sites. Fine. Let’s reserve it, I said. She told me the space was “tight, but no one has any trouble” backing in.

All righty. We arrived at the RV park. We paid for our reservation. e drove our truck and our RV to the site. Tight fit? Uh, yeah. It was. It was so damn tight, we couldn’t get the RV/truck assembly positioned correctly to back it in. The spaces were packed like sardines.

I am not yet an expert at backing in our fifth wheel, but I am not a complete novice/dunderhead, either. I couldn’t get it to fit. A young man who works part time at the RV park took the wheel of our pickup. He couldn’t get it right, either. He had to leave to pick up his girlfriend.

My wife and I looked at each other. Then she spoke words of wisdom: Did we want to stay there or try to find another location … somewhere? We went to the office and read the riot act to the young lady, the one who told me “no one has any trouble” maneuvering their RV into these back-in sites.

The lady made an offer. “We can reserve a spot for you at a sister site in Portland, Oregon.” She called ahead. They had pull-through sites available. We could get in for the cost of our stay at the Vancouver RV park.

Deal! Done! Let’s do it.

So, we did. The Portland site was just a few minutes away.

The lesson? It came from my wife: Never again are we going to reserve a back-in site at a private RV park. State parks are OK. We’ve discovered that the Texas state park system, for example, has ample space for back-in sites.

The journey now can continue.

He said it, she said it; who’s telling the truth?

Wouldn’t you know it …

There’s no record of a conversation that Donald Trump had with the widow of a soldier killed in action in Niger. Another party to the conversation, a Florida congresswoman, has accused the president of being insensitive while talking to the wife of the fallen soldier.

It’s become a classic he said/she said standoff.

Who’s lying here?

In one corner we have the president, Donald John Trump Sr., a man known to fib, lie, prevaricate at a moment’s notice. He blurts things out without attribution, documentation or evidence.

In the other corner we have U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who contends she was in on the phone call between Trump and Myeshia Johnson, the wife of slain soldier Sgt. David Johnson. Trump reportedly said that Sgt. Johnson, one of four Special Forces soldiers ambushed by terrorists in Niger, “knew what he signed up for … but it still hurts.”

But you see, there’s no record of the conversation. We’re left with the words of two individuals — president and the congresswoman — with apparently little regard for each other.

We haven’t yet heard from Myeshia Johnson, who could clear this matter up with corroboration for either Trump or Wilson.

Short of that: polygraphs anyone?

Trump trips over himself again

What is it about Donald Trump that prevents him from doing something quietly, gracefully, with empathy and compassion?

He’s walked into yet another controversy, this time over a phone call he made to the wife of a fallen U.S. Army soldier who was among four soldiers killed in Niger.

A Florida congresswoman, Democrat Frederica Wilson, said the president told Myeshia Johnson that her husband, Sgt. David Johnson, “knew what he was getting into.” He added that “it still hurts.”

He said, she said

Trump, quite naturally, has denied saying what Wilson alleges he said. Rep. Wilson said she was overheard the conversation between the president and Mrs. Johnson and is standing by her comment.

I won’t pass any judgment on who’s right, except to note yet again that Trump has shown quite a propensity for prevarication. I have no knowledge of Rep. Wilson’s reputation for veracity.

I guess my point here is that Trump simply is not wired to perform simple — but admittedly tough — tasks without somehow calling attention to himself. It’s always “lights, camera, action!” with this guy.

He said previous presidents didn’t call the loved ones of fallen warriors. Aides to Presidents Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama have denied vehemently what Trump has suggested.

And so … the chaos continues.


Happy Trails, Part 48

Not quite four years ago I wrote a blog post worrying about the potential advent of in-flight cell phone use.

As far as I know, the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t allowed passengers to gab out loud at 35,000 feet into their cell phones.

Which brings me to this point: My wife and I are planning to spend the vast bulk of our retirement years tethered to terra firma traveling in our RV across North America.

Air travel has become difficult enough as it is. We have been fortunate and blessed enough to be able to travel by air over the years since 9/11: Greece, Scandinavia, Israel, Germany, The Netherlands, Belize, Hawaii.

Almost all of those flights have been pleasant. The one that will stand out for the rest of my life was the flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport while sitting across an aisle from a toddler who screamed at the top of his lungs for 10 whole hours.

I cannot fathom for a single instant how I might have reacted had I been forced to listen to some yahoo blabbing on his cell phone for that entire time, too.

I trust the FAA will keep its wits and never in a zillion years allow such in-flight idiocy to occur.

I do know that my wife and I plan to continue our travel aboard our pickup and fifth wheel RV. There will be no such nonsense to endure while tooling along our nation’s highways and byways.

Please, please, FAA: no cellphones in flight


Drug czar nominee bails out of Trump’s team

Don’t you just love it when the media reveal potential corruption in government at the highest levels?

Consider what happened to U.S. Rep. Tom Marino.

He was supposed to become Donald J. Trump’s “drug czar,” the director of drug policy. Then came “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post to reveal to the nation that Marino sought to enact legislation that crippled the nation’s fight against opioid abuse.

If you’ll allow me to once again borrow a phrase from former GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry: Oops!

The former Texas governor and current energy secretary made that statement famous when he couldn’t name the third federal agency he would dissolve.

Look for a new drug czar

Now comes this latest bit of embarrassment for the president, who nominated Rep. Marino to lead an effort after he sought to torpedo the nation’s effort to combat drug abuse.

My question for the president’s team is this: Is anyone in the White House personnel office vetting these candidates for important public policy positions?

It appears that no one in Trump’s White House team is capable of doing just a bit of homework on the people they seek to install in these posts. Marino’s public record as a Pennsylvania congressman is known to anyone who takes the time to look at it.

As Politico reports: Marino had faced growing resistance to his nomination since this past weekend, when a report by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post detailed how he championed legislation that makes it essentially impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to freeze suspicious narcotics shipments from drug distribution companies, according to officials at the DEA and Justice Department.

The 2016 law, signed by former President Barack Obama and unanimously approved by Congress, overturned longstanding DEA policy and established a much higher bar before the agency could take some actions to halt suspicious shipments.

The task now for the president is clear: Find a drug czar nominee who operates far from the political circus in Washington; find someone with a demonstrated commitment to battling the nation’s drug crisis.

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