Declare war against ISIS?


Donald J. Trump has this annoying habit of talking past whatever point he’s trying to sell.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly last night he’d be willing to consider asking Congress for a declaration of war against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations.

I’ve talked already about that in this blog. It’s not an altogether nutty idea, unlike so many of the things that fly out of Trump’s mouth.

Then he goes on.

Trump told O’Reilly that the United States is letting “tens of thousands” of terrorists into the country.

Really? Tens of bleeping thousands of ’em, Donald?

There you have it. The candidate of fear strikes again.

He tosses out statements with no basis in fact. There is not a single shred of evidence that “tens of thousands” of terrorists have taken up residents in the United States. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Border Patrol, state and local police agencies, Drug Enforcement Agency and the whole array of agencies charged with protecting us are rounding up bad guys every single day.

As for the war declaration, I don’t have a particular problem with that, either.

However, I see it more as a proactive approach to fighting terrorists rather than as a reactive one.

Will it ever occur? I doubt it, not even if Donald Trump were to (here comes that shudder again) become the next president.

GOP lawmaker: Wrong to block Garland


Dan Donovan’s opinion on a critical judicial appointment might matter if he actually were to play a tangible role in determining its outcome.

It’s too bad the thoughts of a back-bench Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives will be relegated to the back of the closet.

Donovan is a New York member of Congress who said it is wrong for the Republican Senate leadership to block the appointment of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. If Donovan were king of Capitol Hill, he’d let Garland have a hearing and a vote.

He’s right, of course. President Obama appointed Garland to the high court after the shocking death of conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year.

Within hours of Scalia’s death, though, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the president’s nominee wouldn’t get a hearing. The president’s pick would be tossed aside. Why? Barack Obama is a lame duck, said McConnell, and the appointment should come from the next president of the United States.

It’s an absolute crock of crap.

“I’ve never thought that was a good idea,” Donovan told reporters in Staten Island. “I’ve always thought that the Republicans were wrong, that they should see who the nominee was — actually, the president nominated Judge Garland — and judge him on his abilities, his jurisprudence.”

Gosh. Do you think?

The irony of McConnell’s refusal is too rich to dismiss. He accuses the president of playing politics by seeking to force the Senate to hold hearings and then a vote. The ironic part is that McConnell’s obstruction of this appointment is the classic example of “playing politics” with a key provision in the constitutional authority of the legislative and executive branches of government.

The only reason McConnell is blocking this appointment process from going ahead is because the appointment might change the balance of power on the court, which was a narrowly conservative panel with Scalia. Garland is more of a mainstream moderate judge who, I should note, won overwhelming Senate approval to the D.C. Circuit Court.

Who’s playing politics, Mr. Majority Leader?

One of McConnell’s fellow GOP lawmakers is making some sense. It’s a shame his voice won’t be heard at the other end of the Capitol Building.


Is this election going to set a low-turnout record?


Some months ago I mentioned to friends that I thought the 2016 election would produce a low-turnout result.

My friends laughed me out of the proverbial room. Why? They were certain that if the major-party presidential nominees were going to be Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump that they would energize their parties’ respective bases like no other candidate could do.

Well, here we are. Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee; Clinton hasn’t quite achieved presumptive status yet, but she’s going to be the Democratic nominee, just as she boasted the other day to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

What do I think now about the turnout?

It’s going to be low. How do I know that? I don’t know it.

But the talk all around Pundit World centers on the high negative feelings that both candidates engender among voters. Trump polls about 70 percent unfavorable; Clinton’s unfavorable rating sits at around 60 percent.

The previous low-turnout record belongs to President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who ran against each other in 1996. Clinton won re-election that year with just 49 percent of eligible Americans actually voting that year. Clinton, of course, didn’t collect a majority that year, winning a healthy plurality, just as he did four years earlier; third-party candidate Ross Perot sucked enough votes away to deny the president a majority.

I have to agree with those who say that Clinton and Trump both are deeply wounded frontrunners. Trump’s failings are too numerous to mention; at every level one can mention, Trump is the most unfit major-party candidate ever to seek the presidency. Clinton’s been scrutinized carefully for more than two decades and she continues to suffer from this perception that she’s shifty and untrustworthy.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say — either to me directly or to others — that they’re going to sit this one out. Republicans cannot vote for Clinton, even though they cannot stomach the idea of Trump carrying their party’s banner into battle.

Democrats aren’t going to walk the plank in favor of Trump.

Where do they turn? A third-party candidate still might emerge to capture the imagination of voters who are disgusted with the major parties’ selections.

If no one emerges, well, this election is looking as though it will set a dubious record for non-involvement.

Is that a mandate the winner will embrace?

Yep, this campaign is going to get real nasty


DailyKos is a lefty website dedicated to promoting liberal causes and candidates.

There you go. I’ve stipulated that I understand where this outfit’s bias lies.

It posted a picture of Melania Trump, wife of the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump. Mrs. Trump is wearing a thong, she’s toting a pistol and is standing on the wing of her hubby’s airplane.

The picture is, shall we say, not very dignified.

Take a gander here:

Is this what’s happening in this presidential campaign? We’re now going to be seeing more pictures of Melania Trump — a former model and beauty queen — posing in such a provocative manner?

Here’s the fascinating element of this picture: Trumpkins are giving Melania a pass. Imagine if, say, Michelle Obama were photographed in this manner. What might their response be to that?

True, liberals are using these kinds of images to suggest that Mrs. Trump’s history would stain her activities as first lady if she and her husband move into the White House.

I should point out that the picture was taken some years ago, I guess when Melania Trump was still earning an income striking these kinds of poses.

Her husband is making Hillary Clinton’s husband, the former president of the United States, an issue in his campaign. It might follow, then, that turnabout is fair play and that Melania’s past is fair game as well.

Sure, the former president got impeached because he lied about an affair he had with a White House intern. Does that worsen his wife’s credentials as a potential president.

My wish is for the candidates and their supporters to keep the spouses out of the argument.

If that wish isn’t to be granted, then I fear we’re going to see more pictures of Melania Trump striking poses not usually identified with first ladies.


U.S., Vietnam enter new partnership


Who would have thought that two nations that killed thousands upon thousands of the others’ citizens could reach this point?

The United States has lifted its 50-year-long arms embargo against Vietnam.

My initial reaction: Wow!

President Obama went to Hanoi over the weekend and announced the lifting of the embargo. He’s thinking strategically, of course. Vietnam has grown quite concerned about China’s increasing aggressiveness in Southeast Asia. For that matter, U.S. officials are concerned as well.

So, the arms embargo will enable U.S. manufacturers to sell weapons to Vietnam, giving that country some needed assistance in case China decides to take its aggressiveness to another, more dangerous level.

Forty-one years ago, North Vietnamese tanks and other armored vehicles rolled into Saigon, stormed the presidential palace in what was then South Vietnam. Troops struck the South Vietnamese flag and ran up the communist flag in its place.

The war ended right then.

However, it has continued to simmer at some level in the hearts of many Americans.

Frankly, I am one who is glad to see this relationship take the next logical step. We’ve already restored diplomatic relations with our former enemy; that rapprochement took 20 years since the end of the shooting.

The president has opened the door to Cuba, another nation with which we had zero relations for more than five decades. You’d have thought, listening to critics of that deal, that Obama had signed a pact with Satan himself.

However, we never went to all-out war with the Cubans. We did go to war with the Vietnamese and it cost both nations dearly.

Does this shore up our alliance structure in a part of the world that President Obama has placed greater emphasis? One can hope so.

It also sends a clear message to China, with which Vietnam also has gone to war in recent years.

It’s far better to have the Vietnamese on our side in this dicey world of geopolitical maneuvering.


Obama lacks GOP go-to pal in Congress


Valerie Jarrett gave a stellar defense Sunday night of her boss and long-time friend President Barack Obama.

Her appearance on “60 Minutes” was notable in her defense as well of her role — in addition to senior adviser — as friend, confidante and her easy access to the Leader of the Free World.

But she pushed back when CBS News correspondent Nora O’Donnell asked her about the president’s continuing prickly relationship with congressional Republicans. She said Obama has done all he could do to reach out.

O’Donnell, though, asked — but did get an answer — about the lack of a leading Republican in either the Senate or the House to whom the president could turn to fight for his legislative agenda.

It brought to mind the kind of relationship that previous presidents have cultivated with members of the “loyal opposition.” President Lyndon Baines Johnson could turn to GOP Sen. Everett Dirksen in a pinch; President Ronald Reagan had a fabulous after-hours friendship with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill; GOP President George W. Bush relied on help from Sen. Ted Kennedy to push through education reform.

Barack Obama doesn’t seem to have that kind of personal friendship with members of the other side. He relies on his own instincts, his own circle of friends — such as Jarrett — and the vice president, Joe Biden, who to this day retains close friendships with Senate Republicans.

It’s that lack of kinship that has troubled many of us who want the president to succeed. I recall having this discussion once with retired Amarillo College president Paul Matney, who lamented that Obama had not developed the legislative know-how that LBJ brought to the presidency.

LBJ had served as Senate majority leader before his one-time foe John F. Kennedy asked him to be his running mate in 1960. Ol’ Lyndon knew how the Senate worked and he was able to parlay that knowledge — along with tremendous national good will after JFK’s assassination in 1963 — into landmark legislation.

Barack Obama has been forced to struggle, to battle relentlessly, to get anything past a Republican-led Congress intent on blocking every major initiative he has sought.

The reasons behind the ultra-fierce resistance will be debated long after President Obama leaves office.

He seems, though, to have lacked one essential ingredient to move his agenda forward: a good friend and dependable ally on the other side of the aisle who could run interference for him.


Nazi references beyond the pale


“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear that, honest.”

So said former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld. What drew that hideous description? Donald J. Trump’s proposal to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and deport them to their country of origin.

Weld, though, just isn’t any former politician. He is about to become a vice-presidential candidate seeking election on a Libertarian Party ticket led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Weld’s reference is to Adolf Hitler’s persecution of Jews in Europe.

I’ve already lamented the careless references to Hitler and to the atrocities he committed prior to and during World War II.

This is another such reference.

I’ve already noted in this blog that I am giving the first hint of consideration to a third-party ticket when I get ready to vote for president this fall.

What’s more, I happen to think highly of Gov. Weld, the former Republican governor of the Bay State — and of Gov. Johnson, another Republican.

I do not wish to hear more of these Hitler references, though, when discussing Trump’s moronic idea of rounding up every illegal immigrant and booting them out of the country.

It’s unrealistic, cruel, and un-American.

The idiocy of this idea can produce plenty of arguments against without referencing Hitler.



Here comes the gun-rights demagoguery

Some of the weapons collected in Wednesday's Los Angeles Gun Buyback event are showcased Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 during a news conference at the LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office says the weapons collected Wednesday included 901 handguns, 698 rifles, 363 shotguns and 75 assault weapons. The buyback is usually held in May but was moved up in response to the Dec. 14 massacre of students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The National Rifle Association, to no one’s surprise, gave its blessing to the presidential candidacy of presumed Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

And also, again to no one’s surprise, Trump stood at the podium at the NRA meeting to condemn likely Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton’s view on gun violence.

He did so with his customary panache, meaning his customary hyperbole and outright lies.

Trump said Clinton wants to rescind the Second Amendment. He said she wants to “disarm American women.” He said he intends to rescind “gun-free zones” at local schools.

Trump’s answer to gun violence? Put more guns out there.

I’ve been going through the public record of Clinton’s statements on gun violence and, for the life of me, I cannot find a single statement that could be interpreted remotely as an effort to repeal the Second Amendment. It’s not there.

She’s talked about regulating the purchase of firearms. She joins other Americans in condemning the hideous increase in gun violence across the nation.

Does she intend to propose a rescinding of the Second Amendment? Does she really intend to disarm Americans?

Hell no!

That won’t deter Trump and continuing his demagogic tirades.

Let’s all get ready for more of the same.


Another terrorist leader reduced to powder


Well, here we go again.

Another terrorist leader has been turned into dust. A U.S. drone strike hit Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour just inside the Pakistan border with Afghanistan.

Boom! He’s gone.

Intelligence and military leaders in the Pentagon and at CIA call Mansour’s death the most important since the SEALs took out Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

What does it mean in the grand scheme?

It means the Taliban — the cabal that the White House continues to say is not a terrorist organization — needs to find a new leader.

Mansour had been called one of the major obstacles to trying to persuade the Taliban to join in negotiations to achieve something akin to peace in Afghanistan.

“Peace is what we want. Mansour was a threat to that effort,” Secretary of State John Kerry said. “He also was directly opposed to peace negotiations and to the reconciliation process. It is time for Afghans to stop fighting and to start building a real future together.”

The strike illustrates once again that intelligence-gathering remains critical to the hunting down of these terrorist monsters.

Now … let’s go after the rest of them.


Ex-felons have rights, too


Some of the talk along the presidential campaign trail has turned to felons.

Do those who have been convicted of felonies deserve the right to vote? Sure they do … under certain conditions.

It’s becoming a bit of a sore point among many who think that felons must not have their rights of citizenship restored. If they’ve done something egregiously wrong, why, let them pay for the rest of their lives. That’s the mantra.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently granted ex-felons the right to vote in that state, much to the consternation of conservatives who argue that, by golly, McAuliffe is a friend and political ally of Democratic nominee-to-be Hillary Rodham Clinton. So, naturally he’d want to grant ex-felons the right to vote.

Former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz of Texas actually said that those who commit crimes are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. Let’s not paint with too broad a brush, Sen. Cruz.

Texas — of all places! — allows former felons to vote.

Check this out from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office:

If a felon completes all the terms of his or her release from prison — and that includes fulfilling all the parole requirements — then he or she is eligible to register to vote. The restoration of these rights do not extend to those wanting to run for political office.

Honestly, I fail to see why this is a big deal.

A left-leaning website chides the National Rifle Association for opposing the rights of ex-felons to vote while at the same time pushing for the rights of ex-felons to own firearms.

I won’t wade into that snake pit here. Maybe later.

However, the idea behind incarcerating people convicted of committing serious crimes is to force them to “repay their debt to society.” Once they complete a prison sentence and once they complete the terms of their parole — if they’re let out of The Joint early — then they have paid their debt in full. That’s how the judicial system sees it.

This clearly is a state-by-state issue. It need not enter the federal realm.

I’ve been critical in the past of many Texas laws and those who make them here. On this one, though, the Lone Star State got it right.


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