Stand tall, David Frum

David Frum has emerged as my newest favorite conservative thinker/writer/pundit/analyst.

I actually have become enamored over the years with a number of such folks: William F. Buckley, William Safire, Peggy Noonan, George F. Will, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Jennifer Rubin all come to mind. They are great thinkers, solid in their beliefs, but not crazy.

Now we have David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He’s also a persistent critic of Donald J. Trump, who’s come along to become president of the United States. He has been astonished — along with many of his fellow Americans — at how wholly unprepared Trump is to serve as president and commander in chief.

The president said in an interview with Reuters that the office to which was elected is tougher than he thought it would be.

Who knew?

Frum’s response — delivered in a series of tweets — is utterly classic.

Here it is.


President redefines ‘populism’

I would venture a guess that if one were to ask Donald J. Trump to define “populism” off the cuff that he would say something like: It’s the philosophy on which I campaigned successfully for the presidency of the United States.

Translation: He likely doesn’t understand a philosophy aimed at taking power away from big corporations and the rich folks who run them.

This billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity campaigned as a populist, declaring his intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and “work for you, the people.” He would surround himself with the “best people” to run the government and would “drain the swam” of the corporate corruption he said has infected American politics since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

He is governing, though, as anything but a populist.

The president did sign the executive order that took the United States out of TPP. NAFTA? Well, in the span of just a few days he said he would consider pulling out; then he said he wouldn’t after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada; then he said he would like to “renegotiate” the treaty. The “best people” surrounding him include a healthy cadre of executives from Goldman Sachs, the big-time investment outfit he criticized freely during the campaign. The “swamp”? It’s still full of muck.

I want to focus for a moment on NAFTA. Free trade is an example of orthodox Republican philosophy with which I agree. I dislike artificial barriers, such as import taxes and tariffs, that inhibit trade, particularly among bordering nations. NAFTA’s intent is to open markets throughout three major nations: the United States, Canada and Mexico. Is it perfect? No. Is it as flawed and “disastrous” as the president has contended? No to that, too.

It has fostered a freer flow of goods across the borders of all three nations and has been a significant net plus for their economies.

I am heartened to sense the president is beginning to understand that campaign rhetoric often must differ with the way one actually governs.

NAFTA is not the bogeyman that Trump called it while winning the presidency.

As for whether he can govern as the populist he portrayed himself as being, I only can point to the weekend lifestyle he still enjoys as he jets off to Mar-a-Lago, his glitzy, glamorous and posh resort in southern Florida.

His attachment to all the decadence associated with it suggests to me that the president is a populist in name only. Hey, maybe we can create a new acronym: PINO.

Our attention span has its limitation

If Donald John Trump has succeeded at anything during his first 100 days as president of the United States, he has managed to wrench Americans’ attention away from some previously grievous international crises.

We’ve instead been fixated on the chaos that reins inside the White House, on the president’s continually clumsy statements about “major, major” conflicts with North Korea and other matters.

But just for the sake of remembering some of the issues that riveted our attention, if only for a brief period, let’s review them:

* Boko Haram. Do you remember when the Nigerian terrorists kidnapped those hundreds of women and girls, holding them somewhere deep in the forest? First lady Michelle Obama made it a serious public cause as she sought to rally international indignation over the hideous treatment.

* Under-age refugees. In 2015, the United States became a magnet for thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing repression in Central America. They came all the way through Mexico and entered this country illegally. We were outraged that so many of these children were being allowed to pass through Mexico; we wondered whether the Mexican government cared to stop the kids from entering the United States. There were calls to round them up and send them back.

* Haiti earthquake relief. The most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere was shattered in 2010 by a killer earthquake. The death toll reached into the hundreds of thousands. The world was stricken with horror and grief. President Obama dispatched his two immediate predecessors — Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush — to lead a task force to raise money for Haiti. Then word came back from the island nation that the money wasn’t being spent on restoration, that it was being siphoned off by corrupt government officials.

I ask about these events because there was well-meaning rhetoric from people in high places that the world must not forget these crises. They dominated news cycles for weeks on end. The world must keep them in its sights. It must be relentless in its pursuit to repair the damage done at all levels.

Then the world forgot about them.

These crises have been replaced by many others since then. The Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea’s saber-rattling, the Islamic State.

The presidential election occurred just a few months ago. Now we’re focusing on just how the new president intends to get his administration in order. If he’s able.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian women are still held captive, the children are still imperiled in Central America and Haiti remains a shattered nation.

We say we still care about these matters. Do we care enough?

President still in campaign mode … get over it, you won!

Donald J. Trump jetted off today to the National Rifle Association annual convention and then commenced to boast about something that is patently obvious.

He won the 2016 presidential election!

Yes, the president won. He captured more Electoral College votes than his opponent, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He won more than the majority he needed to become president. The president won those formerly Democratic-leaning states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa. We get it, Mr. President. Honest, we do.

Indeed, your audience in Atlanta damn sure knew you won. Most of those in the room voted for you, more than likely.

When is this guy going to cast his gaze exclusively forward? When will he stop reliving, in the words of the Bruce Springsteen song, the “glory days”?

We’re about to welcome the 100th day of the Trump administration. We haven’t yet seen a major legislative triumph logged by the president. He’s signed a mountain of executive orders, which he is entitled to do.

It’s time nevertheless to look ahead, perhaps to the next 100 days and beyond.

But today, he spent a lot of time telling the NRA audience what it already knew.

Perhaps, though, the NRA crowd forgot — if only for a moment — that the president promised to do a lot of things in those first 100 days. He said he would make a lot of things happen: NAFTA repeal, Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement, tax reform, final approval to build that “big, beautiful wall.” How’d he do? Not well.

If the president is going to look back on his election victory, then perhaps he ought to tell us some of the rest of the recent past, which isn’t quite so glorious.

So, enough of restating the obvious, Mr. President. Where do we go from here?

‘Ayatollah of Alabama’ seeks U.S. Senate seat

This ought to be fun to watch, even if it’s occurring way over yonder in Alabama.

The state has a vacant U.S. Senate seat, now that Jeff Sessions is serving as attorney general of the United States. That means the state has to conduct a special election to fill the seat.

A fellow named Roy Moore has just entered the contest.

Moore is the suspended Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who got himself into a jam because he told county clerks in his state that they didn’t have to abide by federal law and approve marriage licenses for gay couples.

Oops. Can’t do that!

Now he wants to run for the Senate. Why does this matter to people outside of Alabama? Well, if this guy is elected it means he’ll take part in making law for the rest of us. That includes those of us in the Texas Panhandle.

Moore is a fiery conservative. He once refused to remove a Ten Commandments tablet from the court grounds in Montgomery, Ala. He disagreed with decisions that the tablet violated the First Amendment rule prohibiting government sanctioning of religion.

“My position has always been God first, family, then country,” the Republican Moore said while announcing his candidacy for the Senate. OK, he’s a man of deep faith. I understand it. I have faith in God, too.

The Southern Poverty Law Center — which routinely battles with the judge over his rulings — calls Moore the “Ayatollah of Alabama.”

However, here’s the kicker: The oath he would take as a senator is a good bit like the one he took as a judge; it commits him to be faithful to the laws of the land, the U.S. Constitution, which — if you’ll pardon the pun — is the Bible of secular documents.

All I can assure anyone, though, is that the special election in Alabama is bound to be a hoot.

We’re about to see how it will affect the rest of the country.

That’s the way to sound ‘presidential,’ Mr. President

So … this is how Donald J. Trump plans to sound “presidential.”

The president flew today to Atlanta to speak to the National Rifle Association’s national convention.

He stood behind the podium and told the conventioneers about how he intends to fight for their rights as gun owners.

He said, this, too: “It could be Pocahontas. Remember that. And she is not big on the NRA, that I can tell you.”

Who is “Pocahontas” and in what context was he making that reference?

It happens to be a duly elected U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has said over the years that she has a bit of Native American heritage. Trump has challenged Warren’s assertion and has chosen to ridicule her Native American claim by referring to her as Pocahontas.

She also might run for president in 2020. Thus, he is warning the NRA that she favors stricter controls on guns, which the NRA of course opposes.

Presidents usually don’t stoop to the kind of goofy name-calling we keep hearing from the guy who occupies that post.

Still, he keeps telling us of his intention to be more “presidential.”

I’m still waiting, Mr. President.

RIP, Racehorse Haynes

I just heard that one of the more fascinating characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has passed away.

Richard “Racehorse” Haynes died early today. He was 90.

Man, I’ve got a short story I want to tell. So I believe I will.

Many years ago, when I was living and working in Beaumont, Texas, I walked down the street from the Beaumont Enterprise — where I worked as editorial page editor — to the Jefferson County Courthouse.

I approached the front door and waved at a fellow I knew, a local lawyer named Gilbert Adams, who motioned for me to approach. I did and at that, Adams introduced me to Racehorse Haynes, who standing next to Adams puffing on a pipe. “Hey, Race,” Adams said, “I want you to meet this fellow.” We shook hands and Adams then informed Haynes that I was editor of the local newspaper.

So help, as God is my witness, when Haynes heard that that I was a member of the media, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. We stood there for seemingly hours. I barely got a word in edge-wise. Haynes regaled me with his tales of his relationships with the media; he managed to tell me why he was in Beaumont in the first place, which was to assist Adams on a case that Adams was working on.

I ended up having to break off the visit. I am pretty sure it would have gone on until the next great flood.

Two things stood out about Haynes, whose reputation as one of the nation’s top criminal defense lawyers was well-known; I certainly knew of him. I knew that he was from Houston and that he had defended some very high-profile defendants.

The first thing I recalled at the time was how grandfatherly he appeared. He was not a physically imposing man. He was dressed in a plain dark suit and he looked like, well, anything but a flamboyant barrister.

The second thing, of course, was how he garrulous he was with a media guy. His status as a “famed” lawyer didn’t seem to impede his willingness to talk about anything with yours truly.

We said goodbye and went our separate ways.

Years later, I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. Then I learned of Haynes’ connection to the Texas Panhandle. It was where a Tarrant County judge had moved the trial of one Cullen Davis, the Fort Worth millionaire who was accused of murdering the live-in boyfriend of his estranged wife and his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Davis was thought at the time to be the richest man ever accused of a capital crime in the United States.

A Potter County jury acquitted Davis, whose lead counsel in that trial was Racehorse Haynes.

So, one of the nation’s more notable lawyers has passed from the scene. I just felt compelled to tell you my Racehorse Haynes Story.

May you rest in peace … “Race.”

‘I thought it would be easier’

If anyone wondered whether Donald J. Trump was equipped to assume the role of president of the United States, an interview just published has removed all doubt.

The president told Reuters News Agency that he thought being the head of state and government of the world’s greatest nation would be “easier” than what he did beforehand.

Really, Mr. President? You believed that presiding over the multi-headed monster called the federal government would be easier than snapping your fingers while running a company?

The president’s 100th day in office is at hand and we’ve gotten a most revealing look at how little this person knew about the office he sought. It’s been reported — and repeated — that the presidency was the first public office to which Trump ever aspired. His whole life has been centered on one thing: self-enrichment. Public service is an entirely different critter.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

Well, Mr. President, get used to it. The work won’t get any easier.

Trump laments difficulty

One of Trump’s predecessors, John F. Kennedy, once reportedly complained about the difficulty of getting things done. JFK thought he could just pick up the phone, issue an order and then he would get the desired result immediately and without question.

President Kennedy, who entered public life in Congress also as the son of immense privilege, learned quite rapidly that government doesn’t function that way.

Donald Trump must learn that lesson, too, if he has a prayer of succeeding at the job he now occupies.

I’ve said often that 400 grand — which is the salary the president earns — isn’t enough. For the current president, that salary is walking-around money; he isn’t taking a salary and is pledging it to charity. Good for him.

That doesn’t minimize the enormous difficulty of transitioning from a life of glitz and glamor to one dedicated to serving other human beings. Yes, Mr. President, you have laid claim to the toughest job on Planet Earth.

This is something that — in a still-imperfect world — you should have understood the moment you declared your intention to seek it.

‘Major, major conflict’ possible with North Korea? Oh, brother

Presidents of the United States of America usually don’t say things such as what came out of Donald J. Trump’s mouth today.

The president told Reuters News Agency that there is a possibility of a “major, major conflict” with North Korea, “absolutely.”

Whoa, Mr. President!

He said he prefers a diplomatic solution to North Korean dictator/madman Kim Jong Un’s desire to become a nuclear power. Good. So does the rest of the civilized world.

What is the president trying to do? Is he trying to goad Kim Jong Un into doing something extremely foolish? Is he trying to provoke the dictator to send missiles into South Korea, where roughly 30,000 American troops are stationed as part of a defense garrison?

Presidents must be required to be circumspect. They must not be seen as provoking enemy states to act with extreme violence.

Donald J. Trump doesn’t understand any of it. He has made a dangerous, reckless statement.

I am now going to hold my breath.

Blogging … it’s what I do

I recently noted that High Plains Blogger had posted its 7,000th item. I thought it was a big enough deal to mention it in a tweet.

This post will be the 7,010th item when I publish it.

That brings me to my point: Why do I keep doing this? The answer is simple: It’s what I do.

Retirement has given me lots of time to share some opinions on this or that public policy, the president of the United States. The blog covers national, international, state and local matters. It’s a big world out there and it is my aim to weigh in as often as humanly possible on whatever issue moves me.

At this moment, I am moved to comment on blogging and my unabashed love affair with what I am doing these days.

I’ll stipulate that my wife and I have plenty to keep us busy around the house. We’re setting the stage a little bit at a time each day for a major change in our life together. It will involve relocation. We have a lot of things to do to get ready for this change. We have a lot of issues to settle and decisions to make. We’ll make them in due course.

In the meantime, I intend to keep writing this blog.

You see, I spent the a significant majority of my journalism career crafting opinion essays. Whether they were editorials that spoke for whatever newspaper where I worked, or signed columns that spoke for myself — or the occasional op-ed essay that required some original reporting — I wrote them with varying degrees of joy.

There was a catch. I didn’t always agree with the editorials I wrote on behalf of the newspaper. Here’s a little something you need to know that goes with the job of writing editorials: When you work for someone else, you don’t always get to speak for yourself; if your boss tells you to write an editorial with which you disagree, well, I relented and did what I was instructed to do.

I recall when I interviewed in late 1994 for the job of Amarillo Globe-News editorial page editor that I told the publisher at the time there were three lines I wouldn’t cross, three issues I couldn’t go against my deeply held views. He hired me anyway. Fortunately, he never sought to force me to cross any of those lines. Nor did the fellow who succeeded him.

At the three newspapers where I wrote full time, I was able to write columns that enabled me to speak with my own voice. I reported to several editors and publishers, all of whom allowed me that opportunity — and I was grateful for that freedom.

Blogging, though, is an entirely different matter. I answer only to my own conscience, my heart, my own world view.

Now that I am retired, I have granted myself the freedom to say whatever the heck I choose to say. I strive to be reasonable. Yes, High Plains Blogger has its critics as well as its fans, which is no different than it was during the years I worked for The Man.

More than 7,000 posts after this blog came into being, I am no mood — nor do I have any inclination — to slow down.

It’s what I do.