Jeb gets conflicting advice

Jeb Bush’s mother doesn’t want him to run for president.

Jeb’s father reportedly is all in favor of his running.

Who between them has the former Florida governor’s ear? Well, Jeb Bush says he’s “thinking about” running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

I guess that settles it. Dad’s preference wins out.

Or does it?

Jeb Bush’s dad, of course, is the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. “Mom” is none other than the strong-willed Barbara Bush, who’s known to speak her mind with great candor.

Mrs. Bush said a few months ago that the country has seen “too many Bushes” in the White House, meaning her husband and her eldest son, George W. Bush, who served two terms as the 43rd president of the United States.

I’m a bit intrigued, however, at the thought of another Bush presidential campaign against someone named “Clinton,” who in this instance is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of the man who beat George H.W. Bush in the 1992 campaign and who has served as a U.S. senator from New York and as secretary of state in the administration of Barack Obama, against whom she ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Jeb Bush’s governorship is generally thought to have been a successful one. He’s an articulate advocate for more, shall we say, moderate views within the Republican Party.

Were he to ask my opinion, I’d encourage him to run. He seems to have the fire in his gut and he certainly has the experience.

Yes, I know that the Bush brand — even within the Republican Party — isn’t a plus for Jeb. Other possible Republican contenders aren’t exactly extolling the virtues of George W.’s presidency. That’s a problem for the younger brother.

Still, Jeb Bush must weigh the conflicting advice of two quite admirable people: his parents.

Good luck deciding this one, Gov. Bush.

Presidential election change at hand?

The passage of time tends to make me reflect on some long-held positions, reconsider them and possibly look for avenues of change.

That seems to be happening with my long-standing support of the Electoral College system of electing presidents. Momentum for a change seems to be building, according to The Hill newspaper.

The Hill reports that 11 states have enacted legislation ending the winner-take-all provision for doling out electoral votes.

Proponents of the change say that the 2020 presidential election might be the first to pick a president that relies on the popular vote rather than the current method.

This is a huge deal. I’m still officially undecided on whether I want it to change, but I am ready to keep an open mind on it.

The Hill reports: “Criticism of the current Electoral College system stems from its ‘winner-take-all’ approach, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that particular state. Winner-take-all systems generally mean presidential candidates ignore the states they know will go red or blue and focus their campaign efforts on battleground states instead.”

If a candidate wins a state, he or she wins all of that state’s electoral votes. Texas boasts 38 such votes. It’s a big prize. However, given that the state is so reliably Republican, candidates in recent years rarely have ventured here to compete for our state’s electoral votes. They concentrate instead — almost exclusively — on the “swing states,” such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. As The Hill reports: “In the 2012 presidential election, for example, two-thirds of campaign funding went to four states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Aside from other events in handful of states, the majority of the country was ignored.”

I can recall a trip my wife and I made to Greece in November 2000. I was attending a series of meetings sponsored by the Greek press ministry. That year’s U.S. presidential election was not yet decided. Vice President Al Gore won more votes than Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the candidates were fighting over a recount of ballots in Florida. The winner of that battle would win the presidency.

The question kept coming at me from my Greek hosts, who are quite sophisticated about these matters, given that their country gave birth to democratic government as we’ve come to know it: How is it that someone can get more votes than the other guy and still lose an election? I had difficulty explaining how the Electoral College system works. Frankly, the more I tried to explain it, the less I began to believe in it.

Well, Bush won the battle with a razor-thin Supreme Court decision over Florida’s ballots and became president despite losing the popular vote.

Now the tide to fundamentally reform the presidential election process may be turning in favor of those who want to change it.

Something tells me this discussion is just now picking up steam.

Abbas finally sees light on Holocaust

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said what most of the rest of the world already knows: The Holocaust committed against Jews in Europe was a dastardly act by the 20th century’s most despicable tyrant.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Abbas made the statement the other day after spending a lifetime denying the Holocaust even occurred.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s angry with Abbas for agreeing to a “unity government” that includes the infamous Hamas terror organization, isn’t so sure Abbas’s statement is a sincere belief on his part. He thinks Abbas is trying to make nice because of the agreement with Hamas.

Whatever his motive, Abbas is right to acknowledge what he calls the “most heinous crime of modern history.”

It would be worth the Palestinian president’s time to tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, near Jerusalem. There he will see exhibits depicting in graphic detail what Adolf Hitler and his Nazi murderers did to an estimated 6 million European Jews before and during World War II. He will see evidence of the death camps, the testimonies of survivors, the videos of the corpses discovered by Allied troops who liberated Europe from the Nazis.

Abbas’s statement runs counter to what many Arab leaders have said about the Holocaust. They have denied it or have downplayed its significance to those who fled to Israel after World War II.

He now ought to sit down with other Arab leaders and persuade them of what he has come to understand about the Holocaust.

Is it windier and dryer than ever?

A particular sentiment seems to be creeping into more Texas Panhandle residents’ conversation.

It is that the wind and the dirt that is blowing through the air is “the worst I’ve ever seen” in the Panhandle.

I heard it yet again this morning at church from a 60-something friend who’s lived here all her life. Others have made similar statements to me for the past several weeks as the wind just won’t relent.

Here and there folks are suggesting the wind that’s howling and the dirt that’s filling the air remind them of the bad old Dust Bowl days.

I won’t go that far. First of all, the Dust Bowl occurred 70-plus years ago. Second of all, the footage I’ve seen of events such as Black Sunday defy description.

Setting all that aside for a moment, let’s just consider that we’re likely in for a prolonged dry spell. Weather forecasters aren’t giving us much reason to believe a radical change in the weather is coming soon.

We’re in the grip of a drought that’s entering its fourth year. We had a slight break in 2012 from the lack of rainfall. So far this year, our precipitation level is about a third of what it’s supposed to be. Our winter snowfall was a good bit below normal. Lake levels are receding, streams are dry and grass used to feed our cattle is hard to find. Thus, ranchers are selling their cattle under weight because they cannot afford the high cost of grain to keep them fed.

It’s a mess out there.

What’s the lesson here? Two things come to mind.

First, we need to stop worrying about the wind, suck on some throat lozenges and perhaps say a prayer for more rain. Does prayer work? Well, someone has to prove to me it doesn’t. Absent that proof, I’ll keep asking for some divine intervention.

Second, cities need to start talking more proactively about water conservation. Amarillo is beginning such a conversation, but officials are saying mandatory restrictions aren’t yet on the table. I’m not so sure that’s necessarily a wise course to take in light of this drought. City Hall needs to start talking loudly and often about the need to conserve water and it ought to prepare immediately to enact a mandatory plan if we don’t get relief in, say, the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, batten everything down, folks.

Why not let AG defend you, governor?

State Rep. Joe Deshotel wants to know: Why is Gov. Rick Perry hiring a private lawyer at $450 per hour to defend him in a possible court case when the state attorney general, a pal of his, is available?

And why should Texas taxpayers pay for the private lawyer?

Why, indeed, to both questions, governor?

Deshotel is a Port Arthur Democrat — and a lawyer himself. He’s posed the question as a grand jury investigates whether Perry acted improperly in vetoing $7.5 million for the Travis County district attorney’s office and then promised to restore the money if the DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, resigned. Lehmberg had been ticketed for drunken driving this past April. She also runs the office that is charged with investigating state officials’ conduct.

Oh, and she’s also a Democrat. Perry, of course, is a Republican. Coincidence? Probably not.

Deshotel has sent Attorney General Greg Abbott a four-page letter inquiring about this matter. “What authority, if any, can the attorney general authorize hiring private counsel for the governor?” Deshotel asks. “If authority to hire private counsel exists, how would the attorney general authorize payment for such private counsel?”

One of the AG’s duties as set forth in the Texas Constitution is to defend state officials who get themselves into potential legal trouble. Perry might find himself in that position if a Travis County jury indicts him. But he’s gone outside the state legal system to hire David Botsford to represent him. He’s also paying him with state money.

There’s the rub, according to Deshotel.

Let’s get the answer.

NBA team owner in serious trouble

Someone will have to explain this one to me … slowly.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly is overheard telling his girlfriend that she shouldn’t hang around with African-Americans and that she shouldn’t bring them to watch a sport dominated by, um, African-Americans. Sterling’s girlfriend also is of mixed-race heritage: half Latina, half (yep!) African-American.

Did I mention he owns a National Basketball Association team and employs African-American athletes? Oh, and it’s coached by an African-American gentleman who used to play a pretty good game of basketball himself.

I used the term “allegedly” because it hasn’t yet been determined that the man’s voice actually is that of Sterling. I’ll bet that it is. I’ll also bet that the owner actually said what’s reported he said and that a pending NBA investigation is going to result in some serious sanctions against this guy.

What a weird and astonishing story.

The Clippers are involved the NBA’s playoff season now. Their coach, Doc Rivers, said today he had a team meeting over what’s been reported and added that the Clippers remained focused on their attempt to win the NBA championship. Everyone on the team is upset at what they heard, Rivers said, but he added that the athletes are solidly committed to their mission as a team. Good for them.

As for Sterling, his rant is as hideous as it gets. The link attached to this blog reports on what he said … allegedly. I’ll let his words speak for themselves.

Sterling no doubt will say — once the NBA determines it’s his voice — that his remarks were taken “out of context,” or that he’s been “misunderstood,” or that he’s “not a racist.”

I heard the context. I understand completely what he said. And racists usually are those who deny it in the first place.

Grimm faces grim future

Normally, the indictment of a formerly obscure member of Congress from New York wouldn’t cause much of a ripple out here in Flyover Country. Honest.

Michael Grimm, a Republican, isn’t just any obscure lawmaker. He’s one who was overheard and watched via YouTube threatening to throw a reporter “off the (bleeping) balcony” of the U.S. Capitol Building Rotunda for asking him a question about the allegation that has resulted in the indictment.

To his credit, Grimm did apologize to the reporter and the two of them reportedly shared a meal later.

A grand jury has indicted Grimm — apparently in secret — over campaign law violations. He has denied any wrongdoing, naturally. His spokesman said he’ll be vindicated when all the facts come out.

This is a pretty big deal, politically.

Grimm already is facing a stout challenge in his congressional district, which includes Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. An indictment gives fodder to his foes to use against him and it could cost him — and the Republicans — a seat that analysts considered to be “leaning Republican.”

The GOP hopes to expand its numbers in the House and it hopes to gain control of the Senate. Indictments of incumbents don’t sit well with voters. That this incumbent is a Republican could turn a red seat blue in a heart beat.

I’d bet real money now that Rep. Grimm is wishing he could return to obscurity.

However, this is the price he must pay for having a big mouth and a hot temper.

Boehner showing other side

I’m beginning to think more kindly of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

The Ohio Republican has taken to criticizing members of his own party, particularly the more stubborn among them who refuse to move legislation forward for a number of reasons that might have little to do with the merits of whatever they’re considering.

Boehner recently mocked House Republicans for refusing to vote on immigration reform. He did so in a kind of a playful way, which reportedly did sit well with many GOP lawmakers.

Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was one of them not amused by the speaker’s tone. “I was disappointed with Speaker Boehner’s comments, and I think they will make it harder – not easier – to pass immigration reform,” Labrador said. “The vast majority of House Republicans are pro-immigration reform, and we have been working hard to achieve it.”

Boehner’s remarks were couched in a kind of silly tone in which he said of GOP members of Congress, “Ohhhh, this is too hard.”

Boehner, as near as I can tell, is one of those dreaded “establishment Republicans” who thinks government actually can do some good for Americans. He wants to move immigration reform forward but he’s been fighting tooth and nail with the tea party wing of his House caucus who just won’t budge. Some chatter in Washington is suggesting that Boehner may be growing so weary of the constant intra-party battle that he might surrender the speakership at the end of the year. Others say he’s committed to leading the House if members will allow it.

Whatever happens, the speaker is showing another — and I believe more likable — side of himself in this ongoing fight with the tea party wing of Congress.

GOP abandons wacky rancher

Cliven Bundy once was considered a darling among Republicans for his stance against the federal government.

Then the Nevada rancher made a truly reprehensible statement, which is that African-Americans would be better off as slaves than many of them are today as unemployed citizens.

Oops. There went the support from his one-time allies.

You see, the Republican Party is trying to remake its brand among ethnic and racial minorities. Many congressional Republicans have been vocally opposed to immigration reform. They’ve sought to make it more difficult for people to vote by requiring voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship at polling places. Some in Congress have said some mightily offensive things about the nation’s first African-American president.

The result has been that minorities — chiefly African-Americans and Hispanics — have been voting overwhelmingly for Democrats. Republicans are seeking to make inroads.

Then they lined up with Cliven Bundy, who’s been fighting with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over whether he should pay grazing fees for his cattle that are feeding on public land. The BLM wants him to pay; Bundy will have none of it, even if it means he’s breaking federal law.

Then this clown makes racist remarks about the so-called virtues of slavery.

Is it any wonder many in the GOP are abandoning this guy? U.S. Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., were among the first high-profile lawmakers to toss the guy over. Others have followed suit.

Republicans are learning a tough lesson here, which is to take great care in aligning themselves with gadflies while undergoing a political makeover.

Malaysians have lost world's trust

Is it me or has the Malaysian government lost the trust of a curious world that wants to know about the fate of that missing jetliner?

I’m beginning to disbelieve almost anything that government is saying about the what it thinks happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 after it took off March 8. It disappeared. It had been headed due north from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Searchers have been looking due south, in the Indian Ocean, off the Australia coast.

Through it all, the Malaysian government has made a mess of the information it is supposed to tell people about what might have happened to the Boeing 777 and the 230 people on board.

The search area has been shifted, expanded, shrunk and re-expanded. The families of those missing and presumed dead have been pushed through an emotional sausage grinder. The Malaysian government informed the family members via text message that their loved ones likely are dead. Some members of the transportation ministry have actually said they’re holding out hope they’ll find survivors, giving grieving family members reason to hold onto the faintest of hopes in a hopeless situation.

The search has become the costliest and most extensive aviation disaster operation in world history.

It’s understandable that the search is being done in a treacherous, deep and rarely navigated waters. Everyone should grasp the difficulty in finding wreckage 3 miles below the surface of some rough ocean water.

It’s just that the Malaysian government — which is supposed to have taken responsibility for telling the world all it knows about the tragedy — has seemed to incapable of sending out consistent information about what it knows and when it knew it.

Australian underwater search devices have been deployed. They’ve found nothing so far. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says his government won’t stop looking until teams find the wreckage and recover those flight recorder devices.

That should provide some tiny measure of comfort for family members waiting to know what happened to their loved ones. They don’t seem to be getting it from the Malaysians.