Christie’s 180 on Trump fascinates, confounds


Let’s see how this tracks.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Donald J. Trump is “unfit” to become president.

“We aren’t electing an entertainer in chief,” Christie famously said of his rival. We are electing a commander in chief, he added, and Trump didn’t measure up to the standards required to hold that all-important job.

Then he got beat in New Hampshire. Christie suspended his campaign and this week he tossed all those vibes about Trump out and said he is the “one man” who can lead America.

Politics does have this way of changing one’s stated position. Whether it changes one’s heart and soul, though, cannot be determined.

Check out the endorsement.

He said an interesting thing that deserves just a bit of parsing.

Christie — while making his announcement as well as over the course of the next day and a half — said Trump is the one candidate who will guarantee that “Hillary and Bill Clinton will not get within 10 miles of the White House.”

Hmmm. Think about that for a minute.

Would a President Trump — my hands still tremble when I type those two words next to each other — impose some kind of travel restriction on the former secretary of state? Would he restrict her movement through, say, an executive order?

It’s also interesting that he would include the 42nd president of the United States in that restriction. For crying out loud, governor! The man was elected twice to the very office you once sought.

Oh well, back to reality.

I guess Gov. Christie — who used to impress me as a man of principle and his own brand of panache — has performed the Big Daddy of Flip Flops in endorsing the man he once called “unfit” for the presidency.


Pastor speaks out about Trump


Max Lucado said the following when asked why he has chosen to speak ill of the leading Republican Party presidential candidate.

The pastor said: “In this case, it’s not so much a question about particular policies or strategies about government or even particular opinions. It’s a case of public derision of people. It’s belittling people publicly. It would be none of my business, I would have absolutely no right to speak up except that he repeatedly brandishes the Bible and calls himself a Christian.”

Bingo, preacher!

The San Antonio pastor has written a blistering critique of Donald J. Trump’s candidacy, telling folks that the leading GOP candidate lacks basic decency.

Trump’s  insults, name-calling, juvenile behavior and utter contempt for others’ sensitivity disqualifies him holding the highest office in the land, Lucado said.

Here is Lucado’s article.

Trump’s fans keep contending that their man “tells it like it is.” They admire his alleged contempt for “political correctness.” They say the political world needs to be shaken up and that, by golly, their guy is the one to do it.

Even if you take away Trump’s acknowledged extramarital affairs, the man is morally unfit for public office, let alone for the office he is seeking.

He denigrates others with cheap shots and snide remarks.

And all the while, he proclaims himself to be a “good Christian.”

Someone needs to guide Trump to the passage in Scripture that talks about the Golden Rule, the one that directs God’s children to treat others they way they would want to be treated.

He would find it in the Old Testament: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)

Basic decency, man.


Quandary awaits on Primary Election Day


I am confused about how I should vote on Texas Primary Election Day.

You know, of course, that I hate early voting. I prefer to wait until Election Day to cast my ballot. This year has proved that practice to be more essential than ever. The wackiness of the Republican primary contest has taken us to places never before seen.

But here’s my quandary.

Texas has an open primary system, meaning that voters aren’t “registered” with a political party. We go to the polling place and choose which primary we want to cast our vote. The polling judge will stamp our voting cards with “Republican” or “Democrat,” some of the time; occasionally they forget to do it.

Our polling place is at a local church. We’ll walk through the door and have to decide: Do I vote Democratic or do I vote Republican? (I won’t speak for my wife. She makes up her own mind on these things.)

My own presidential voting history is straightforward. I’ve voted in every election since 1972 and have voted Democratic every time. I flinched one year: 1976, in the race between President Ford and former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter; I ended up voting for Carter.

Primary elections in this part of Texas, though, limit one’s options. All the local activity is on the Republican side. We have some token Democrats running for statewide office, but in Randall County — the unofficial birthplace of modern Texas Republicanism — all the local offices are decided on the GOP side.

My problem is this: Do I want to vote in the Republican primary to cast a ballot for someone other than Donald J. Trump or Rafael Edward Cruz or do I lean toward my traditional roots and vote for either Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

I’ve declared already that my favorite presidential candidate — of the seven people running in either party — appears to be Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He’s a grownup, a mature public official with an actual record of accomplishment. He’s also got a beating heart that he reveals with great eloquence.

Hillary Clinton also is eminently qualified — on paper — to be the next commander in chief. She’s got a solid public service record. My problem with her? I just don’t trust her completely.

I’m torn. I’m literally undecided on which way to turn when my wife and I walk into the polling place on Tuesday.

My wife wishes we could vote in both primaries; just pick the best candidate either party has to offer — and then decide between whoever wins their parties’ nominations in the fall.

She’s just as torn as I am on what to do next week.

It’s decision time. I might just have to pray about it.

I’m unlikely, though, to say openly who gets my vote. It will become apparent as we move closer toward the general election. Of course, you are free to believe whatever you wish.

Once more about the call center …


It remains my hope that the Amarillo Police Department, the fire department and medical emergency services officials will spell out in detail what problems existed with the way the city’s central dispatch center was doing its job.

Interim City Manager Terry Childers’ 911 call the other day has resulted in changes to the way the call center works. The city now has assigned police officers and firefighters to work inside the call center alongside the personnel who answer calls requesting help.

Childers said the dispatcher with whom he spoke when he reported the “theft” of a briefcase at a local hotel was “uncourteous.” I’m not sure about that. I’ve listened to the recording and the dispatcher sounded cool, calm and professional.

But the changes brought immediately after the interim manager’s experience seem to suggest that something was wrong with the call center.

If so, what in the world was wrong? Can’t we get an accounting from the folks who run our police, fire and medical emergency departments on those problems? How systemic were they? Did calls go unanswered? Did anyone die as a result?

And if there were problems all along, why didn’t the city act before now?

Meanwhile, we’re left to wonder how it was that a senior city administrator would get so upset with an emergency dispatcher who he said didn’t respond appropriately — on a call involving a missing briefcase!

Some details would be welcome.


GOP frontrunner getting softened up for Democrats?


Donald J. Trump is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

I’ll concede that much.

It’s interesting, though, to listen to other Republicans tear into him. It makes me wonder — not that I’m predicting it, given the wackiness of this campaign — whether the intraparty opponents will soften him up for the Democratic candidate who might face him this fall.

Marco Rubio blasts Trump for hiring illegal immigrants to build his hotels. He calls Trump a “con man.”

Ted Cruz accuses Trump of hiring foreign workers over American workers to work in his “world-class companies.”

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney challenges Trump to release his tax returns.

Lindsey Graham says his party has gone “bats*** crazy” by backing Trump.

It reminds me a bit of the 1988 Democratic primary campaign when Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee introduced the “Willie Horton” issue to voters, reminding them of how Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis signed off on a furlough for a prison inmate who then went on a crime rampage. Republicans seized on that theme and beat Dukakis senseless with it during the fall campaign that year.

And so it goes.

Nothing about this campaign makes conventional sense.

It might be that all this piling on only will strengthen the Republican frontrunner.

It’s making me crazy, y’all.


Campaign hits fever pitch … so very early


As we political junkies seek to make sense of that Republican presidential debate bloodbath, I’m trying to grasp the feverishness with which the media are covering this event and its immediate aftermath.

All the mainstream cable news network political reporters are frothing at the mouth over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald J. Trump.

They’re trying to determine how U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio can ride whatever momentum he gained from the Houston dog-and-pony show with his four GOP debate mates.

Some of them were actually aghast at how Trump and Christie “tag teamed” their attacks on Rubio. Indeed, I was utterly flabbergasted as I listened to Trump ridicule Rubio in such a juvenile manner. Listen to this Republican presidential campaign frontrunner try to string sentences together.

Trump is so astonishingly inarticulate that it utterly boggles my mind how in the world we’ve come to this point in this presidential nominating process.

Others were wondering: Whatever happened to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who figures to do well in the Texas primary coming up Tuesday?

Oh yeah, no one’s talking  today about Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Dr. Ben Carson.

I guess my wonderment lies in how it’s gotten to this pitch so early in what I thought was supposed to be a marathon.

Is this what we’re going to get from now until the nominating conventions adjourn this summer? Or will this white-hot coverage continue until the election this November?

Man, oh man. I don’t know if I have the stamina to keep up with it. I might have tune this out — if only long enough to catch my breath.

And hold on to my sanity.


Changes come to 911 call center


Amarillo put a lot of effort — and money — into modernizing and streamlining its emergency services response center.

City officials touted it as more efficient and customer-friendly. The city remodeled and outfitted an existing downtown office complex and then launched the center that combines police, fire and medical services calls.

Then the city’s interim city manager, Terry Childers, placed a call to the center the other day to report a stolen brief case from the hotel where he was staying after returning to Amarillo on a flight from Dallas. The dispatcher responded according to a set protocol that requires her to ask a set of questions. Childers became agitated and told the dispatcher that she didn’t “know who she is dealing with”; he made that assertion even after introducing himself to the dispatcher as the city manager, which the dispatcher seemed to understand clearly.

The city has initiated some changes in the dispatch center operations. It now assigns police officers and firefighters to help oversee phone center operations. It’s no longer a civilian-only operation.

This is all fine.

But I’m wondering: Was there a serious concern among the community about response times? Has the problem — if one existed — been festering since the call center opened? Or are these changes the result of a single phone call by one highly placed individual?

I’ve listened to the audio recording of Childers’ phone call. To my ears, it sounded as though the dispatcher acted with cool professionalism. I understand that the police did arrive in a timely fashion, although I’m not sure that the cops “shut down” the hotel to search for Childers’ missing brief case, as Childers had demanded.

I hope for all the world that we aren’t witnessing an abuse of authority.

Perhaps the city should conduct a thorough public airing of the complaints and concerns that allegedly have arisen from the new dispatch center. Is there a record of gripes from citizens? If there is, do those complaints rise to a level that compels a change in the way the city responds to these emergencies?

Let’s hear it. All of it.


Still prefer a debate without crowd noise

GOP debate

The GOP Five are still debating on that Houston stage as I write this.

I am taking a moment to lament the circus atmosphere that these joint appearances have taken on.

Hillary and Bernie play for the same applause lines as Democrats.

Tonight, the Republican presidential candidates are engaging in a multi-pronged insult exchange aimed at bringing out the loudest cheers, hoots, shouts possible.

I wish we could return to the way it was done when these televised presidential debates first came into being.

In 1960, two men — U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon — talked to each other about the issues of the day. A moderator sat in front of them. There was no crowd noise.

The upshot of it? We remember the substance of the debates those two men had. We also remember some of the “optics,” such as at the first debate when Sen. Kennedy appeared robust and Vice President Nixon appeared to have pulled himself out of a sick bed.

The crowd noise is a distraction and it provokes the kinds of exchanges we’re hearing tonight.


Honeymoon might be over


Amarillo’s honeymoon with its interim city manager might have hit a rocky stretch of road.

City Manager Terry Childers placed a call to the city’s central dispatch center to report an alleged theft of his briefcase. The dispatcher who took the call sought to follow a protocol that all dispatchers are required to follow. She asked Childers a series of questions: phone number, location, etc. The city manager, though, became agitated at having to answer those questions and demanded that the city send several police officers immediately to the hotel from where he was calling.

The recorded conversation is contained in the link attached to this blog post.

Perhaps the most troubling element of the conversation that Childers had with the dispatcher was when he told her “I don’t think you’re aware of who you’re dealing with.” The inference clearly was, “I am the city manager and you will do what I demand … or else.”

The dispatcher told Childers she would send someone as soon as possible. Childers said that wasn’t good enough and he said he intended to “shut down” the hotel and search it from top to bottom until he found his briefcase.

I guess my question is this: Would any “ordinary citizen” be allowed to make such demands on public emergency services personnel?

I think not.

As I listened to the recording, the dispatcher appeared to be doing her job by the book.

I am willing to give both sides the benefit of the doubt, but I do believe some explanation is in order.


Political bloodbath on tap?


Five men are set to stand on a debate stage tonight in Houston.

Two of them are likely to unsheathe the long knives to use on each other.

A third man, the frontrunner, also is going to be a target.

Candidates No. 4 and 5?  I just hope they get to get a word in edge-wise.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio want to elbow each other out of the way to become the Republican Party “establishment” alternative to Donald J. Trump. For Cruz, the Houston debate has been called his “last stand,” or kind of an Alamo reference.

Rubio faces other obstacles, with polls showing him trailing Trump in his home state of Florida.

I continue to root for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s the fourth-place candidate — but the one who exhibits the most executive and legislative government experience. He’s a grownup, but in this election cycle, political adulthood isn’t seen as a plus. Too bad.

The fifth man on the stage? I sense that this likely will be Dr. Ben Carson’s last bow on the national political stage.

So, let’s watch the debate tonight and see how much “blood” gets spilled.

My sense is that it’s going to be a serious spectator-friendly event.