Jeb calls for a return to ‘civility’ in political life … yes!

Jeb Bush has been in the fight for a long time. The former two-term Florida governor has had his share of wins and losses.

On Presidents Day, the Republican offered a wish for the country: a return to a more civil tone as politicians argue over policy matters.

Hmm. Yeah. Don’t you wish? I certainly do.

Bush, who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary contest, laments the hostile tone we’re hearing these days from the president and others in the arena.

He noted something interesting about his late father, the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: George H.W. Bush, he said, could have claimed credit when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Instead, he stepped back and let the German people celebrate the accomplishment, he said of his father.

Try for just a moment to imagine how the 45th POTUS would handle such a monumental event. Imagine Donald Trump “stepping back” and letting “the German people celebrate the accomplishment.”

It wouldn’t happen, any more than one can expect a return to political civility for as long as Donald Trump is in the arena.

Still, Jeb Bush’s call is worth noting. It’s also worth wishing it can come true.

Real ‘friendships’ are rarest of relationships

PORTLAND, Ore. — Admit it. We all toss the word “friend” around too loosely, in a manner the way use the word “hero.” I have sought to forgo calling someone a “hero” merely because he is good at, say, an athletic endeavor. The real heroes are those who risk their lives to save others.

Friends also are a rare commodity.

A visit this morning with a gentleman I’ve known since the spring of 1962 reminded me graphically of how I have fallen into the “friend trap” by referring to too many acquaintances as friends.

They aren’t. Friends, that is. Not like the relationship I’ve had with the longest-tenured friend in my lifetime.

We go back 58 years together. We met in junior high school. My parents had moved us all from our home in Northeast Portland to what was then the ‘burbs in Parkrose; the city long ago swallowed Parkrose up through annexation.

But as I sat in his mother’s living room this morning, reminiscing with him, his mother and his older brother about the paths our lives have taken, I was filled with the realization that I need to get over the habit of bestowing “friendship” on others who haven’t earned the place in my heart.

Oh, sure, one social medium — Facebook — has allowed us to become “friends” with others. To be honest, I have sough to differentiate Facebook “friends” from the real thing. The only problem I face now, though, is that I refer to the “real thing” as friends when in fact they don’t rise to that level.

My friend and I hooked up immediately when we made each other’s acquaintance in our junior high school home run. We remained friends through the rest of junior high and then into high school. We shared plenty of laughs together, got into plenty of mischief together, shared some down times and heartbreak as well.

But we stuck it out. We hung in there. He remains a friend in the truest sense of the word. I was fortunate, as well, later in the day to hook up with a couple my wife and I have known for nearly 45 years. They, too, qualify as the real thing. We also have been through much together and through it all we remain as close to them as anyone can possibly be.

I just felt compelled today to express my belief that a true-blue friend is a rare find indeed. I am blessed to have found these folks, and yes, a few others, along the way.

Do you really want this, Democratic contenders?

All of the nine (or so) Democrats remaining in the hunt for the party’s presidential nomination say they want to be the person at the top of the heap.

But … do they?

It’s been fascinating in the extreme to listen to those in the the back-of-the-pack or the middle-of-the-pack crowd go after the front runners as they climb over each other in the race to curry voters’ favor.

We had Joe Biden standing as the prohibitive front runner for most of 2019. Then came the impeachment hearings and the Senate trial. Not only did Democratic opponents go hammer and tong at Biden, but then we had the congressional Republicans take up arms against him. They accused him, baselessly in my view, of being corrupt.

Biden has faded. Now it’s Bernie Sanders’ turn. Democrats are going after him for being a socialist, for advocating policies that will bankrupt the nation. Bernie is still standing relatively tall.

Oh, but Elizabeth Warren has gotten her share of brickbats from her Democratic foes, again largely on the same basis as the anti-Sanders attacks.

Pete Buttigieg has drawn his share of Democratic ire. He’s too green. He hasn’t developed a sufficient body of government experience.

OK, now it’s Michael Bloomberg’s turn. He is trying to “buy” the nomination. He is spending tens of millions of dollars of his own money to tell voters that he’s got the chops to do the job and — by the way — take down Donald John Trump.

It’s a nomination worth having for the moment. I am left to wonder though whether it will still be worth having when the Democratic contenders get done beating the stuffing out of whomever emerges from this donnybrook to go after the current president of the United States.

All I could do to resist starting an in-flight incident

OK, where do I begin in telling you this brief tale of what happens when your jetliner seatmate makes what you believe is an unreasonable request?

I’ll start with this …

I boarded an Alaska Air jet this morning in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for a four-hour flight to Portland. I had booked the flight via an online agency, which means I didn’t get to select my seat; the airline did it for me.

It was a middle seat. A gentleman sat on the aisle; a lady sat at the window. They were husband and wife. The seat between ’em was vacant; it belonged to me. So, I sat down. The lady said she preferred the window, her husband liked the aisle “and no one likes the middle seat.” We both chuckled.

We took off. Then the husband and wife began passing food back and forth in front of me. Sandwiches and chips went from set of hands to the other.

Then the lady leaned over and told me that I should be sure to keep my arm off her side of the arm rest that separated her seat from mine. Sure thing, ma’am. Will do.

Then I guess I let my arm drift just a smidgen over onto her side of the arm rest. She pushed my arm back. I glared momentarily at her.

Then came the best part. The jacket I was wearing had flopped over onto her side of the arm rest. The pocket contained a couple of small items that I guess she found annoying. Then she lifted my jacket and stuffed it on my side of the arm rest.

Hmm. I glared again at her. That’s when I realized I had to sit with my arms folded across my chest. I dare not rest them at my side out of “concern” they would cross into her space.

I turned to hubby, asked him if I could get up to stretch my legs. I went to the back of the aircraft, chatted up the flight attendants who were sitting in the galley. I told one of them about my annoying seat mate; she responded with the usual “We get that on occasion” replies.

I took off my jacket, put it in the overhead bin, sat back down and then sat quietly — which is what I normally do on commercial airliners — for the duration of the flight.

Am I wrong to think the lady was being a bit too bossy?

My only regret now as I settle in for the night is that I didn’t look for a chance to tell her that “We’ll get off this plane soon and you and I will never see each other ever again.” 

Newspaper gets it right with its non-endorsement

I questioned the New York Times’ decision to endorse two candidates for president in the Democratic Party primary.

Also, I cast aspersions on the Dallas Morning News’ decision to recommend two candidates for the U.S. Senate in Texas, also in the Democratic Party primary.

However, I see where the DMN is coming from in announcing Sunday that it will not endorse anyone in the race for president in 2020. Instead, the paper said it plans to focus on the issues that it deems important for voters to consider.

The paper is planning a series of articles titled “What’s at Stake 2020.” It will examine issues such as climate change, education reform, energy policy, war and peace, taxation, federal budgeting, defense policy … a whole host of issues that it believes should be the focus of the presidential campaign.

The paper didn’t say so, but my strong hunch is that the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News might have made a critical determination about the candidates seeking to win election. One is that the incumbent, Donald Trump, has not earned — nor will he ever earn — the paper’s endorsement based on his term in office. The other is none of the Democrats running to succeed him excite the paper enough to win its endorsement.

Near the end of its lengthy editorial, the paper appears to long for a return to civil discourse and declares that its turning to the issues is an avenue toward that noble goal. The Morning News cites President Lincoln’s second inaugural, given as the Civil War was drawing to a close. The president declared his intention to govern “with charity for all and malice toward none.” An assassin, tragically, prevented President Lincoln from fulfilling that noble pledge.

The paper says the election is bigger than Donald Trump or bigger than any of the men and women running to succeed him. It wants to turn its focus on the issues that matter, and away from the personalities who seek to outshout each other.

To that end, the Dallas Morning News has set a constructive path forward as we move more deeply into a contentious election year.

Preparing for a sad, but also joyful, duty

I am preparing at this moment to take a four-hour ride from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Portland, Ore., where I will participate in what can be best described as a cycle of life ritual.

I will bid farewell to my beloved uncle, Jim Phillips. I will be there along with his wife, his children, many of his grandchildren, one of my sisters and virtually all of my cousins on my mother’s side of my boisterous family.

It will sadden me to say goodbye. It also will enable us to rejoice in the full and fruitful life he had over the span of his 93 years on this good Earth. We will gather to remember the richness that Uncle Jim brought to us. I trust we all will in our own way pledge to cling to those memories as we move on through the rest of our lives. Those thoughts will not sadden me. They will make me smile.

These events are part of what all families must endure. Indeed, as I am now well into that stage of my own life, having just turned 70 a little while back, my sisters, along with my wife and sons, realize as I do that the clock is ticking for all of us. The number of our family elders with whom we grew up is diminishing  far too rapidly.

However, it is the inevitable march of time over which no one has any control.

It’s been said many times by many people perhaps over many adult beverages that “Not a single one of us gets outta here alive.”

So it goes … and so it will be.

Ready for the best season of the year

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

You hear it on occasion: This is my favorite time of the year. My favorite season of the year. Most folks I know keep saying it’s the autumn.

Why? They’ve been through a grueling, boiling-hot summer. The cooler temperatures are a welcome respite from the heat.

That’s not for me. My favorite time of the year is about to arrive. I love the spring. In Texas, spring produces an unusual and often unpredictable series of events.

We have spent 36 winters in Texas. We came initially to the Golden Triangle on the Gulf Coast. Winter in Southeast Texas occasionally was, well, rather un-winterlike. We spent our first Christmas in Beaumont — in 1984 — lounging around in shorts and t-shirts.

Nearly 11 years later we gravitated to the opposite end of the state, settling for 23 years in the Panhandle. The winter there was, shall I say, more like winter in most regions of the world. It got cold … damn cold at times! We had winters with heavy blankets of snow. We also had one hideously dry winter that didn’t produce a single drop of precipitation.

We have moved to the Metroplex. This is our second winter here. It’s been a bit chilly, although not as cold as it often gets up yonder on the Caprock.

Spring is about to arrive. The grass will snap out of its dormancy. The leaves will produce buds. It’s a time of renewal. A time of rebirth. A time that will give way to the fruits and flowers of the season.

Spring in the Panhandle occasionally produces some explosive weather. The wind howls. The storm clouds swirl. It rains hard, man. It would hail on us.

The Metroplex occasionally produces that kind of frightening weather. However, I look forward yet again to the time of year when we spring forward and emerge from our winter doldrum.

It’s my favorite time.

Is there an option for states to take the lead on climate change?

If Congress and the president aren’t going to take a serious interest in climate change, isn’t there a place for states such as Texas to take the lead on what I and others believe is an existential threat to the nation?

I get that Texas’s Legislature isn’t exactly a haven for environmental activism, given its strong Republican majority in both legislative chambers. However, the state does possess the world’s 11th or 12th largest economy; its carbon footprint continues to be bigger than it should be.

Yes, some of the Democratic candidates for president keep talking about the need to tackle climate change head-on. They profess concern for the dire peril that Earth faces if we don’t do all that we can as human beings to curb the human impact on the changing climate.

The current president, of course, remains ignorant about that danger posed by deforestation, carbon emissions and the warming of our atmosphere. Given that he has no interest in science or any other fields of study dedicated to this condition, I cannot possibly expect Donald Trump to take the necessary lead as the nation’s president.

Texas, though, faces an existential threat all by itself. Our state’s coastline is receding every year a little at a time. The tides are rising as well, largely because of melting ocean ice at both of our poles.

Texas and other states — especially those states with political leadership that takes this threat seriously — can do what they can individually or perhaps in conjunction with each other to wrestle with this burgeoning environmental crisis.

It would take a miracle, I suppose, but I am going to hope that Texas legislators can appreciate the impact they could have on national policy if they were to take the lead on dealing head-on with this national emergency.

Trump is correct: It is ‘legal’ for him to interfere with DOJ … but it’s not right!

Here’s a flash for you: Donald John Trump happens to be correct in saying that his meddling in U.S. Department of Justice criminal matters is “legal.”

It doesn’t make it right. However, what Trump is doing with his meddlesome tweets about DOJ cases and his undermining of the attorney general’s authority on certain matters doesn’t break any laws.

So, this president now freed of the threat of impeachment — at least for now — has embarked on a new campaign of heightened abuses of the office he still occupies.

Trump fired off a Twitter message that disparaged a sentence recommendation for his old pal Roger Stone, whom a jury convicted of multiple felonies. Attorney General William Barr then responded by reducing the recommendations. The line prosecutors who authored the initial request quit in protest.

Barr then told ABC News that Trump should stop tweeting about these matters, saying it makes it “impossible” for him to do his job.

Trump has kept tweeting messages. Barr is thought to be angry about it. Trump then said what he’s doing is “legal.” Yes. It is legal.

It is wrong, nonetheless. It is wrong for Trump to throw his weight around in this blatant manner. It is wrong to interfere with the attorney general’s duties. It is wrong to meddle in the nuts and bolts of sentencing, which is handled in this case by a federal judge … who also has drawn brickbats hurled at her by the president. Whatever happened to the “independent” federal judiciary? Trump is undermining that independence, too!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing in real time a president who is seeking to reconfigure the relationship between his office and the rule of law.

I am frightened at what we are seeing.

Are we heading for a repeat of the great electoral fluke of 2016?

It pains me to the depths of my gut to acknowledge this, but my fear is growing that Americans are going to get Donald John Trump for another four years as president of the United States.

Yes, it looks to me at this moment that the Democratic Party is quite capable of squandering a golden opportunity to restore the presidency, to return it to a level of respectability and reverence that has been dismantled during the Trump Era.

That once-monstrous field of contenders has been culled to a more reasonable size. Who, though, is left standing? Who are the top contenders?

A zillionaire. A couple of “progressives,” including a “democratic socialist.” A former vice president who cannot stop tripping over his own tongue. A one-time mayor of a smallish Midwest city. A sitting U.S. senator who is trying to appeal to the center-left of her party. Another zillionaire who rose to prominence by funding an effort to impeach Donald Trump.

Joe Biden once was thought to be the unstoppable Democrat. At this moment his campaign is imploding. His so-called “firewall” in South Carolina is showing severe fracturing as African-American voters are now looking for an alternative to Barack Obama’s wing man.

Nominating a far-left socialist is the death knell for sure, in my view.

What is most maddening is that Donald Trump has spoon-fed the opposition all kinds of electoral grist to use against him. The House of Representatives impeached him; the Senate acquitted him, but the impeachment still stands.

Trump has angered millions of Americans with his hideous pronouncements, his foul mouth, his trashing of allies, his incoherent campaign-rally riffs, his pandering to religious groups with whom he has no actual alliance, his disparaging of the nation’s top military minds, his standing with hostile strongmen, his denigration of our intelligence analysts.

Oh, and then there’s the lying. It’s incessant. He cannot tell the truth about anything at any level. He gets caught lying and his political base blows it off.

On and on it goes.

Still, this most astonishing politician — the president — very well might win re-election because he is somehow, amazingly able to claim credit for an economic recovery that he inherited from his immediate predecessor.

This clown never should have gotten elected in the first place. He squeaked in by the narrowest of margins, losing the actual vote by nearly 3 million ballots but winning just enough Electoral College votes to win the election. I do not dismiss that he won according to the rules spelled out by the U.S. Constitution, a document of which he has zero understanding.

The 2016 election stands in my mind as the greatest political fluke in U.S. history. If he wins again in November, then we will have committed the next greatest fluke in history.

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