‘Repeal/replace’ becomes repeal and … whatever

My head keeps spinning. Why? I cannot keep up with Donald John Trump’s ever-changing strategy — such as it is.

The president has promised, guaranteed, signed in blood an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it immediately with an alternative. The House of Representatives approved such a plan; the president high-fived the GOP leadership at a Rose Garden ceremony.

Then came the Senate’s version. The Senate GOP came up with a plan that looks a lot like the House version, which Trump then called “mean.” The Senate Republican leadership couldn’t find 50 votes to approve it. So it postponed a vote until they can get there.

OK, do you follow me? Here’s more. Today the president said it’s OK to just repeal the ACA and worry later — maybe much later — about a replacement.

Hey, wait! What about that promise/pledge to do it all at once? What happened to the president’s commitment to keep health insurance for every American? It’s gone, man!

Oh, yes. There’s also that other tweet that came out Thursday morning, the one that ridiculed a TV news anchor in personal and vulgar terms. Republicans are now fleeing from the president’s policy statements regarding health care repeal/replacement largely as a result.

The president’s overall campaign pledge to “make America great again” now appears also to be dead on arrival. This is not a sign of greatness, Mr. President. You are demonstrating weakness.

Here’s an idea: How about reforming the existing law, the ACA, by tweaking the things you dislike? The Congressional Budget Office has “scored” the Senate GOP plan with a grim projection that 22 million Americans will lose their health insurance.

We’ve got a health insurance law on the books already. Make that one better. You can do this, Mr. President. It will take some help from Democrats, who say they’re ready and willing to compromise.

That is how you legislate.

Golden Rule, Mr. President?

One of the aspects of this latest feud that’s erupted between Donald J. Trump and the media involves its timing.

The president decided to go after MSBNC morning talk-show host Mika Brzezinski with a hideous tweet about her supposedly “bleeding from a face lift” while she and fiancé and fellow co-host Joe Scarborough sought to visit Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

The president is angry over “negative coverage” delivered by the MSNBC hosts. So he decided to make it personal.

Let’s consider a fairly underreported aspect of this spate uncivility. It comes just after the death of Brzezinski’s father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Carter from 1977 until 1981. The elder Brzezinski, who died on May 26,  was an avid anti-communist; he fled his native Poland, which would be taken over by the communist government that followed orders set down by the Soviet Union. Zbig, as he was known to his friends, became a naturalized American and then became one of the nation’s foremost experts on the Soviet Union. He was a great man who, quite obviously was revered by his family, including his daughter Mika.

Why couldn’t the president have honored Mika Brzezinski’s grief? Why did he feel compelled to launch that Twitter tirade while she is still hurting?

Oh, I almost forgot. That would require a sense of human decency, which the president seems to lack.

I am reminded of a New Testament passage. It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, referring to the Golden Rule. The New Living Translation instructs us as Jesus Christ taught: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

How might the president have felt had someone attacked him so directly — and so personally — so soon after the death of a loved one?

I’m guessing he’d get real angry … real fast.

POTUS meddling with media?

Try for a moment to process what MSBNC “Morning Joe” co-hosts — Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough — said today about their relationship with the president of the United States.

According to Scarborough, Donald J. Trump’s White House called Scarborough and asked him to apologize for the “negative coverage” he and Brzezinski have done on the president. In return, again according to Scarborough, the president would call his good friend who runs the National Enquirer and spike a story that the publication is going to run about Scarborough and Brzezinski.

See the story here.

So, if I have this right — and if Scarborough is telling the truth — the president of the United States is now taking time away from matters of state to engage even further in a petty and petulant quarrel with the media over “negative coverage.”

Are there any more examples needed to demonstrate that Donald J. Trump is categorically unfit to hold the office of president?

Hell freezes over: Fox News anchor defends Obama

When a TV anchor for Fox News Channel — the outfit formerly known for its “fair and balanced” mantra — comes to President Barack Obama’s defense, well, then you’ve got my attention.

So it was this week with Julie Banderas, who scolded Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel’s feeble attempt at defending Donald J. Trump’s vulgar tweet about another news talk show host, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski.

Banderas noted that Obama’s critics called him all sorts of names, heaped all sorts of unfair and inaccurate criticism on him. She told McDaniel that the former president responded with dignity and decorum. He chose not to fire off angry tweets in the wee hours of some morning to answer his critics.

Banderas said: “People used to call him a Muslim. People used to call him under-qualified, a sellout to America, a hater of Israel. I mean they called him every name in the book, but you didn’t see him lash out.”

Here is the Fox interview

“Today, the president acted like a human, and he pushed back,” McDaniel told Banderas.

Sorry, Mme. Chairwoman. A “human” doesn’t have to resort to such degrading personal attacks to make whatever point he sought to make. Someone will have to inform me on precisely what the president’s point actually was.

He tweeted something about Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a facelift.” He called her “Crazy Mika.” He attacked yet another female in public life, using language not fit for a junior high school playground, let alone from the commander in chief and head of state of the world’s greatest nation.

Chairwoman McDaniel’s use of the word “human” also should include the word “decency.” If the president had a hint of human decency buried somewhere in his DNA he would have refrained from attacking another human in such a personal and undignified manner.

Julie Banderas was absolutely correct to call the president out for his latest moronic Twitter tirade.

Police risk their lives daily … if not hourly

I had a chance this week to renew an acquaintance with a member of Amarillo’s police department. He’s now a captain, but when I first met him more then a decade ago he was employed as an officer on bike patrol. He rode a bicycle around high-crime neighborhoods as part of the city ‘s community policing effort.

I won’t tell you his name, because he doesn’t know I’m writing this blog.

The young man had some nice things to say to me about the work I did back in The Day, when I wrote for the Amarillo Globe-News.

But I want to take a moment here to restate what I’ve noted already, which is that police officers have no greater fan or friend than yours truly.

My very first full-time reporting job was back in Oregon, at the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, which was a small-town afternoon daily newspaper that published five issues each week, Monday through Friday. I would start my day before the sun rose visiting police department dispatchers, collecting information about the calls that came over the past 24 hours. I would look for possible news stories to report on for that day’s paper.

I developed good relationships over the years with cops, with chiefs of police, county sheriffs and dispatchers. I came to understand early about the dangers these folks face every time they report for work. One sheriff scolded me once for writing the words “routine traffic stop,” and he informed me that “there ain’t no such thing as a ‘routine stop.'” I got it.

Did I encounter some bad actors along the way? You bet. One sheriff’s deputy in Oregon City was caught stealing drugs from the evidence property room. A sheriff I knew — also in Oregon City — got entangled in a controversy involving arms deals in southern Africa. One officer in Amarillo detested me because I wrote editorials critical of the police association’s efforts to get a dramatic increase in pay.

But the vast majority of officers and their bosses did their jobs well, with dedication and with honor.

I was given a bit of an up-close look at police operations as a member of the Citizens Police Academy. I had written a column that was mildly critical of something I witnessed involving a police officer. The young captain I saw this week reminded me of that column and of the time we first met while I was attending those academy classes. One of the senior officers at APD read my column, then called me out, telling me in effect that I needed to get a more detailed look at police work. He invited to apply for the Citizens Police Academy; I did and got accepted.

Yes, I read news stories about police officers acting unprofessionally. I understand fully the anger among some communities about cops who harass citizens needlessly, or who demonstrate racial or ethnic bias against citizens. Many of these incidents end tragically and I generally am sympathetic with those who call for reforms within various departments.

However, my support for police remains resolute. My admiration for those who do their jobs well is as strong as ever. I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of knowing many of them over many years in journalism and, yes, I understand the inherent tension between cops and the media.

My professional experience with police in my chosen career has loaded with many pleasant memories of what I’ve witnessed. They have earned my undying respect.

Travel ban now in effect: Do you feel safe now?

Donald J. Trump’s travel ban is back in force now, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court struck down previous lower-court rulings that set aside the ban, giving the president a limited victory in his campaign against Muslims around the world.

The president hails it as a way to make Americans safe from international terrorists. The ban affects those seeking to come to the United States from six Muslim-majority nations. If they do come here from any of those six nations, they must have some tangible, identifiable connection to this country: a relative, enrollment at a U.S. college or university.

He has vowed to protect us from those who seek to do us harm. The president asserted during the 2016 campaign that potential terrorists were “pouring into” our country and that, by golly, he intended to stop it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I’ll feel one bit safer down the road when the travel ban becomes fully implemented.

This ban doesn’t account for the home-grown terrorists who have brought misery to fellow Americans. It doesn’t deal at all with the terrorists, or terror groups, opening fire in crowded movie theaters, in nightclubs, at a U.S. Army post, in a Charleston, S.C., church.

We all remember 9/11. We recall the hideous nature of that dastardly act. We scorned the terrorists as cowardly bastards. We have gone to war against them.

Have we been hit by terrorists in an attack even remotely similar since that terrible day? No. Our national security apparatus, though, has stopped many attempts during the past 16 years.

It’s the so-called “lone wolf” terrorist who is so very difficult to detect in advance of their act.

In my view, a travel ban cannot stop someone from sneaking into this country from, say, Sweden or France, or Brazil or Russia who then would commit an act of terror.

Time to say it again: Trump is unfit for the presidency

I feel compelled to share a blog I wrote slightly more than two years ago.

I posted it immediately after Donald John Trump declared his candidacy for president of the United States.

It posits the notion that Trump was unfit for the office he sought.

Here it is:

The impossible has happened … now what?

OK, I couldn’t actually believe that Trump announced. I couldn’t believe he would be nominated by the Republican Party. Nor could I believe, once nominated, that he could be elected president.

Silly me. I was so very wrong on his nomination and then his election.

Events of the past 24 hours, though, have affirmed my initial thought about Donald Trump’s fitness for the very first public office he ever sought. He is not fit for the job. He is unfit to be the nation’s leader. He has no understanding of the dignity that the presidency requires of the people who hold the office.

He has tweeted something hideous about a TV news talk show host. It’s only the latest example of this individual’s view of (a) women, (b) the media and (c) the presidency itself.

The public record is full of statements from Trump that denigrate women. He fat-shames them, which perhaps is about the most ironic aspect of this man’s utter lack of self-awareness, if you get my drift.

He has declared the media to be the “enemy of the American people.” He cannot stand criticism, which I have noted many times already in this forum is part of the job of being president. His predecessors all have taken their share of criticism from the media; most of them have reacted well, others, well, not so well. But the media do their job, which is to hold public officials accountable for their statements and actions. That is most essential when it regards the nation’s head of state.

Finally, Trump’s constant berating of critics via Twitter demonstrates as clearly as is humanly possible that he doesn’t appreciate the office he occupies. He denigrates the presidency. He vows to “make America great again,” but his social media petulance weakens this already-great country.

I admit readily to being wrong about how this guy ever got elected president. I take small comfort only knowing that almost everyone in America got it wrong, too.

However, I stand foursquare behind the view that this clown is unfit for the presidency. Donald Trump shames this nation’s greatest office, even if he is without any capacity for personal shame.

Twitter insult might doom health care overhaul

Donald J. Trump’s latest Twitter tantrum bodes potentially disastrous for a legislative goal he and congressional Republicans have established.

They want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. A U.S. Senate bill is hanging by a thread. Senators postponed their vote on it until after the Fourth of July recess.

So what does the president do? He fires off a vulgar, insulting tweet this morning about two MSBNC talk show hosts, ratcheting up his idiotic war against the media. The tweet makes some bizarre reference to Mika Brzezinski “bleeding badly from a facelift.” He refers to her as “Crazy Mika” and her co-host Joe Scarborough as “Psycho Joe.”

Republicans upon whom the president depends to help him approve this ACA repeal/replace idea now are running like thieves away from Trump.

It’s fair to wonder: Is the president’s lack of discipline, decorum and dignity going to cost him a victory that — frankly, it must be said — was tenuous?

This is no way at all at how you govern.

Memo to Melania: Rein in your husband

Dear Melania …

I hope you don’t object to my addressing you by your first name. I mean no disrespect. To my point …

I greeted your call for an end to cyber bullying with a bit of skepticism. My first reaction, along with that of millions of other Americans, was that you need to start at home in that noble effort.

You need to curtail your husband’s use of Twitter, I suggested, as a weapon to bludgeon foes and assorted critics.

Later I posted a blog entry extolling the virtue of your effort. You are right to use your high profile as first lady of the United States to end this scourge of Internet bullying. I applauded you then and I applaud you now.

However, your husband is at it again. I’m sure you’ve heard about that ghastly tweet he posted this morning about Mika Brzezinski, about how she was “bleeding from a facelift.” He called her “Crazy Mika.” Then he aimed his Twitter barrel at Joe Scarborough, her MSNBC morning talk show co-host, calling him “Psycho Joe.”

Just as a reminder, here is what he wrote: “I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came …” Trump tweeted before adding “to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

The recriminations are going to come quickly over a period of time, Melania. Your husband’s fellow Republicans are incensed. Some of them are as incensed as the rest of us who didn’t vote for your husband.

I am reminded of the question leveled at the reviled late U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who in the 1950s said there were communists employed at the State Department. “Have you left no sense of decency?” came the question from U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch to Sen. McCarthy during one of those infamous Senate hearings.

It’s time to ask the same thing of your husband. I never thought I’d wonder this about the president of the United States: Has he no sense of decency, or decorum? Does he disrespect the high office he holds so much that he stoops to the level of juvenile petulance to communicate in such a crude, hostile and undignified manner?

I guess, Melania, we’re back to where we began. Isn’t it time you reined in that husband of yours before you launch your campaign against cyber bullying?

POTUS has sunk yet again to another new low

Donald John (Internet Bully in Chief) Trump has done it yet again.

He has demonstrated that there is no bottom to the level of crassness he is able and quite willing to exhibit on social media.

The president of the United States of America has decided to engage in a vile insult campaign against a member of the media, this time suggesting this individual was “bleeding from a facelift.”

The target is Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the MSNBC morning talk show “Morning Joe.” What did Trump say about this women, whose father, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, recently died? He called her “Crazy Mika” and said she and her co-host, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, wanted to spend some time at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. “She was bleeding badly from a facelift. I said no,” Trump said this morning on Twitter.

Read the NY Times story here.

According to the Times: The graphic nature of the president’s suggestion that Ms. Brzezinski had undergone plastic surgery was met with immediate criticism on social media. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote on Twitter, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.” And a spokesman for NBC News, Mark Kornblau, wrote on Twitter: “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘It is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’”

I am running out of ways to express my revulsion over the president’s conduct. His “war” against the media rages on.

This individual was elected to the nation’s highest office. It demands respect from those of us who revere what it stands for. It also would seemingly demand respect from those who occupy it. That the current White House resident, the commander in chief of our armed forces, our head of state and government would resort to this kind of ghastly insult campaign denigrates the office to a whole new level.

Now, I fully expect some criticism of this blog post from those out there who are going to change the subject by suggesting that other presidents have acted badly while holding this office. Spare me the diversionary tactic. This has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with the here and now — and the individual who was elected to be our national ambassador on the world stage.

If only I could expect that there is nothing more hideous that the president can do. Sadly, I now fully expect him to go even lower.

Let’s all just wait for it.