Poll reveals steep hill for Davis

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is thinking about a statewide campaign for public office. She might want to think again about running for governor.

A Public Policy Polling survey released the other day indicates she’d lose big to Gov. Rick Perry if the governor decides to seek re-election. The PPP poll — which usually leans Democratic — says Perry would defeat Davis by 14 percentage points.

But I’ve already gone on record as predicting that Perry won’t run for re-election. I’m still thinking he’s going to bow out and concentrate on building a 2016 campaign for (gulp!) president of the United States.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott, another Republican, is waiting in the gubernatorial wings and he, too, will be difficult to beat, even for a Democrat who won a lot of fans over her anti-abortion bill filibuster in the Texas Senate.

Many dreamers are hoping for a time when Texas becomes politically competitive. I’m one of them. But the PPP poll indicates that time hasn’t yet arrived.


For once, ex-rep. West is correct

It pains me deeply to say this, but a former U.S. representative who I grew to loathe during his single term in office is correct to blast Lady Gaga’s recent rendition of the National Anthem.

Gaga substituted the phrase “home of the brave” with “home of the gays.” That drew intense fire from former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who called her improvisation “reprehensible.”


Gotta say it: West is right.

Gaga has been a gay-rights activist at least for as long as she’s been in the public eye. I do not begrudge her activism in that regard. Everyone ought to have a cause, and Gaga has chosen to take up the cudgel for the plight of gay people. At some level, I share her concern that gays are treated shabbily by society.

But … there are some things one mustn’t mess with and where I come from the “Star Spangled Banner” is one of those things that must remain true.

West said this on his Facebook page: “Having served in the US Army for 22 years alongside some very brave men and women, I find Lady Gaga’s defiling of our National Anthem reprehensible.” Gaga’s rendition was delivered this past week at a gay pride rally in New York City.

I don’t recall hearing about it when it happened. But it does frost me terribly when I hear of someone twisting lyrics whose meaning borders on sacred to many millions of Americans. I consider the National Anthem to be in that category of lyric.

I don’t care in this instance one bit about the nobility of one’s cause. Leave the “Star Spangled Banner” lyrics alone.

Egypt hits reset button on ‘Arab spring’

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Mohamed Morsy’s election as president of Egypt supposed to signal a new day in that Arab nation?

Apparently not. The crowds poured into the streets just as they did two-plus years ago and now Morsy is out, just as Hosni Mubarak was ousted after his 30-year rule as president.


Remember the Arab Spring? It was meant to bring a new era of freedom and liberty to a region ruled by ham-fisted dictators. It’s been, shall we say, a mixed blessing.

Libya is more or less free. Same with Tunisia. Syria is in the middle of a bloody civil war. Egypt, the largest Arab country of them all, now is being riven by more tumult, uncertainty and possible bloodshed as it makes the transition once again to another government.

Morsy was thought to be able to share power with his foes. He didn’t. This member of the Muslim Brotherhood consolidate his own grip on power and that apparently infuriated the reformers.

Here we go once again. The world is holding its breath.

I’m hoping Egyptians get it right this time.

Is this challenger credible? We’ll see


Elaine Hays, an Amarillo businesswoman, has decided that 20 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives is enough, so she’s running to replace Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, in the People’s House.


I don’t know Hays. I understand she had about 75 people attending her campaign kickoff announcement at the Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo.

She talks about the nation being $16 trillion in debt and I suppose she’s blaming Thornberry for that huge debt load.

What’s most interesting to me is that she has been endorsed by newly elected Texas State Board of Education member Marty Rowley, a fellow Republican who attended Hays’ event at the Ambassador. I would have thought Rowley would be in Thornberry’s camp.


I’m hoping someone along the way asks Hays this simple, direct question: Will you pledge to serve only two, maybe three, terms in office and will you leave office after that time?

Thornberry keeps getting hammered — unfairly, in my view — by those who think he’s reneged on a term-limits pledge. He never promised to serve the number of terms prescribed in the Contract With America, which Thornberry endorsed when he ran for his first term in the House in 1994. He’s voted for the constitutional amendment every time it’s come up; the amendment simply has failed to gather the required number of votes needed to send it to the states for ratification.

So, I’ll be the first to ask Ms. Hays: Will you hereby make that term-limits pledge and will you bow out of public office after six years?

JFK anniversary big event for many, not for all

I received a lesson the other day in generational differences as they relate to historic events.

It came from a young public television producer who wondered aloud whether people her age are going to “get” the significance of the upcoming 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s murder in Dallas.

It was on Nov. 22, 1963 that a gunman killed the president as his motorcade moved slowly through downtown Dallas. The event shattered the nation, if not the world. We went into mourning. As a young teenager at the time, I was certain that the Soviet Union (you remember them, right?) was responsible and was going to invade the United States at any minute.

Those of us who were old enough to remember that event were stricken deeply. We’ll look forward to a time later this year when we’ll stop to remember, recall and honor the memory of President Kennedy. We’ll also look back on what we felt when we heard the news none of us at the time ever thought we’d hear: The president is dead.

But not all Americans have that awareness, my young friend noted the other morning. She wasn’t yet born when JFK died. Her only exposure to that event is through high school and college textbooks, which she said devoted relatively little space to that event. Her high school teachers weren’t that interested in telling the whole story of JFK’s brief presidency or in sharing the grief that struck the nation.

Her recollection was that her history teachers said that Kennedy was killed and, well, that was it.

The remembrances coming later this year will have to take the views of young Americans into account. Dallas is planning a dignified memorial to commemorate that tragic moment. City officials no doubt will face many questions from younger residents there who weren’t around to feel the pain that their parents and grandparents felt at that time. Why is this such a big deal? What did John Kennedy mean to the nation? And tell us again: What precisely was Camelot?

I’ll be awaiting those remembrances. Television programming will devote many hours to that event, rehashing perhaps the debate that’s raged for five decades over whether the gunman – who himself was shot to death two days later – acted alone or was part of some grand conspiracy.

My hope is that the remembrance becomes relevant and memorable even to those who weren’t around to feel the pain in the moment.

Street work in dire straits

Tooling east along Seventh Avenue around noon today — between Georgia and Adams streets — a blocks-long Amarillo eyesore caught my attention.

It was the sight of the sidewalks along both sides of the street. They are in terrible shape.

Few intersections had “curb cuts” designed for wheelchair access. Long stretches of sidewalk are uneven, broken up, weed-infested.

As I approached the downtown district en route to making a right turn on Taylor Street, I noticed that the sidewalks didn’t improve the closer I got to Adams. They looked as shabby at Adams as they did farther west.

What does all this mean? Only that the city’s downtown refurbishing plan needs some work on the outskirts, those areas one sees when approaching downtown.

Most of that refurbishing needs to get started. I’ll concede as well that many areas in the heart of the downtown district are looking a lot better now than they were when we arrived here in early 1995. The Potter County Courthouse Square is beautiful. Polk Street is looking more spruced up. It’s encouraging to see after-hours activity downtown, although some of it admittedly results in some bad behavior at times.

I’m wondering today, though, when the city “parents” are going to start paying attention to at least one significant street coming into the downtown district.

I’ll be waiting — and watching — for some activity.



Perry to make plans known

I kind of knew it would happen this way, that Gov. Rick Perry would make his announcement regarding any future political plans while the Texas Legislature is meeting in special session.

It appears he’s going to do so in San Antonio next Monday.


I’m going way out on a limb here and will predict the governor will tell us he’s not going to run for another term as governor.

It would be his fourth term. He’s already served longer than anyone in Texas history. Attorney General Greg Abbott already is acting — and raising money — like the prohibitive frontrunner in the Republican primary, which is where Perry would run. Abbott and Perry are too close politically and maybe even personally for them to compete for the same job. I do not believe Abbott wants to be AG any longer and he aspires for something a little higher up on the political chain of command.

Perry also wants to run for president, or so some of us are being led to believe. Perhaps there’s something in him that wants to atone for the disastrous run for the GOP nomination in 2012. He wasn’t ready, as his debate performances illustrated so graphically.

By bowing out of the governor’s race now, he can spend the rest of his waking hours getting ready to run for president and hoping (at least he hopes) for a better showing than he did this past year.

The caveat I’ll offer for this prediction is this: I’m wrong more than I’m right and I once did swear off making political predictions.

I just can’t help myself.

Bin Laden’s ghost looms over meeting

The headline on NBC.com mentions that the war against al-Qaida will be at the forefront of a meeting Tuesday between the 43rd and 44th presidents of the United States.

George W. Bush and Barack Obama do share a common goal: to wipe the terrorist organization off the face of the planet.


President Bush’s remarks this morning on CNN suggest to me that he is far more willing to give his successor credit in that effort than many of Bush’s fellow Republicans. He talked of Obama’s handling of the Edward Snowden matter, and the leaks associated with the former National Security Agency contract employee. They relate directly and indirectly to the ongoing anti-terror war and whether the nation is protecting civil liberties in that endeavor.

Yes, al-Qaida does loom large over this meeting, which will occur in Tanzania, where Obama is concluding a three-nation tour of Africa and Bush is visiting on a humanitarian visit.

Although I have been an Obama cheerleader in the successful effort in May 2011 to kill Osama bin Laden – and give the president great credit in making that difficult call – I also must give great credit to the Bush national security team for the arduous work it did in gathering intelligence on bin Laden and then handing that knowledge over to the new team that took over in January 2009.

Did the Bush team conduct a flawless search? Well, no. It had bin Laden in its sights in Tora Bora, Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, but the terrorist got away. But it does no good to wonder what might have happened had some other administration been on call during that manhunt. The fact remains that the Bush administration was on duty and no amount of second-guessing would have changed the outcome.

And for his part, Barack Obama’s strategy of using drone strikes has drawn criticism from his left flank. That strategy, too, has produced some “collateral damage” in the form of civilian deaths. They also have killed many top al-Qaida leaders, decimating the top of the terrorist organization’s chain of command.

Bin Laden is dead. No matter what critics have said since then, al-Qaida’s effectiveness appears to have been diminished significantly since the nation went to war against that group of monsters.

These men – George Bush and Barack Obama – have a shared legacy that they will carry with them well past the time they both had to make the toughest calls imaginable.

Maybe one day, when they’re both a lot older, they’ll look back together and ruminate about all the things they’d have done differently.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the room when that conversation takes place.

Snowden wants to go where?

Edward Snowden now has reportedly sought asylum in the former Evil Empire, the one-time communist menace, the enemy of the Free World … and of free expression.

He wants to live in Russia. The irony is getting even richer with this guy.


Russian President Vladmir Putin reportedly has agreed in principle to asylum for Snowden — the former National Security Agency contract worker who spilled the beans to the world about some sensitive information pertaining to our security. But Putin has put a caveat on it: Snowden can stay only if he ceases attempts to damage Russia’s new “partners” in the United States.

How do you like that?

I guess Snowden, who’s been on the lam since fleeing Hong Kong about two weeks ago, gave up on asylum in Ecuador, which also is no champion of free speech and expression.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, another Internet outfit that relishes releasing sensitive material, said the U.S. revocation of Snowden’s passport is a “disgrace.” No it’s not. It merely represents the U.S. effort to bring this guy into a courtroom, where he could be tried for espionage, which the federal government has charged.

It is amazing to me, though, that Snowden would seek asylum in a country that still punishes people far more severely than the United States does for doing what Snowden is alleged to have done.

This story has a long way to go before it plays itself out.

Stay tuned.

Heroes have given their all for others

Nineteen heroes died Sunday in a wildfire near Prescott, Ariz.

These individuals are the real thing. Not the make-believe “heroes” we concoct out of sports figures or even out of film and TV characters.

They are the folks who put their lives on the line every time the bell goes off.


The firefighters were members of an elite team called Hot Shots and were battling a wildfire in the town of Yarnell, near Prescott. Reports indicate that the fire swept out of control rapidly and overcame the firefighters in what’s been called the worst firefighting tragedy since 9/11.

It was during that horrific event nearly a dozen years ago when the world watched firefighters running into — not away from — the inferno at the Twin Towers. It was that event that cemented in our minds the meaning of the word “hero” and educated many of us never to hang that label on those who don’t deserve the honor.

The 19 firefighters who perished over the weekend in Arizona are heroes forever.

God bless them … and all of those public safety personnel who answer the call to duty on our behalf.