Name tags: cure for embarrassment

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thank goodness for name tags.

They saved my backside while my wife and I attended my 50-year high school reunion. I had feared walking into a roomful of individuals I hadn’t seen in a few decades. I was prepared to deal with the consequences that time has brought to human beings over a 50-year span of time.

I did discover a couple of things about my classmates. One is that a surprising number of them remain quite recognizable. Another is that they — and I, for that matter — are pretty good at shooting quick-hit glances at name tags before greeting each other.

I found myself relying somewhat on name tags — which contained pictures from our 1967 Parkrose High School yearbook.

The event was far more enjoyable than I expected, which demonstrated the wisdom of setting the bar low and then being pleasantly surprised at the positive result.

I made up a throwaway line for those who wondered where I live these days. “I live in Amarillo, Texas,” I would say, “but my wife and I came all the way here for this reunion — and just to see you.”

Here, though, is my major takeaway from the 50-year reunion. It is that I am giving some preliminary thought to attending the 60-year event when it rolls around.

One of the women of my class, Karen is her name, mentioned attending No. 60, presuming she’s still alive. Indeed, time has that way of reminding us of our mortality.

If I am still on this side of the grass in 2027 and am in reasonably good health — and still have my wits — I’ll likely be there.

It is weird in the extreme to have these thoughts after how I felt coming out of the previous reunion two decades ago.

I’ll have to remind the event planners, however, to be sure to print the name tags. We’ll need ’em even more the next time.

Is there a West Texas primary donnybrook in the making?

That old trick knee of mine is flaring up again.

It’s throbbing so much that I am beginning to think that West Texas Republican voters are facing the prospect of a serious donnybrook in the race for the state Senate District seat now held by Amarillo businessman Kel Seliger.

My critics are all too willing to remind me that the trick knee isn’t nearly as reliable as I’ve suggested it is. But that’s all right. It’s telling me that Seliger is going to have to fend off some serious criticism from two GOP primary foes. The criticism well might center on the senator’s decision against endorsing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s own re-election bid in 2018.

I have read Sen. Seliger’s comments on this decision. He said he’ll “support” Patrick — I presume with his vote. He just won’t declare his endorsement out loud in public, for the record.

Seliger’s decision drew a hair-trigger response from Amarillo restauranteur Victor Leal, who suggested that Seliger is turning his back on the Senate’s presiding officer. I am guessing that Leal is going to endorse Patrick, one of the Texas GOP’s more vivid ideologues. Seliger isn’t wired the same way, and my hunch is that his own legislative temperament — which differs greatly from Patrick — has compelled him to withhold his active endorsement of the lieutenant governor.

The third Senate District 31 Republican candidate, former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, likely will seek to gain some political leverage, too. He’s a TEA Party kind of guy, which also runs anathema to Seliger’s more measured and studied approach to legislating.

Seliger has told local media that he expects a tough fight. I will presume he’ll prepare for one as well. It is my hope that he preps for a bruising campaign and gets ready to rumble with Leal and Canon.

Leal is a known quantity in the northern half of the Panhandle; Canon’s base is in the Permian Basin. Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, has managed to make his presence felt down yonder in the southern part of the sprawling district.

I’ve already revealed my bias in this race; I want Sen. Seliger to win the nomination, which in this district is tantamount to election.

The only bit of advice I can give Seliger — based on my trick knee — is to get his opposition research ready and to respond quickly and forcefully to the attacks that are sure to come his direction.

Maybe we can get to the bottom of Cruz-JFK ‘conspiracy’

One of the potential benefits of declassifying thousands of documents relating to President Kennedy’s assassination involves one of the many lies spouted by Donald John Trump during the 2016 Republican Party presidential primary.

You see, the man who would become president spewed out this hideous assertion that the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — one of Trump’s primary opponents — might have had some kind of nefarious relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, the guy who shot JFK to death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Trump said he read somewhere that Rafael Cruz met with Oswald prior to the murder, implying that the elder Cruz had might have been somehow, in some fashion complicit in the assassination.

The nonsensical implication has been widely debunked, but it gained a bit of traction among the more avid corps of Trumpkins who stand by their man — no matter what.

I’m not clear as to whether the president will release all the documents. My preference would be for him to do so. The public is ready to know the whole truth behind the hideous crime.

I also want to expose the president as the habitual liar and character assassin many of us already believe him to be.

Stop cheapening Gold Star sacrifices

It never should have gotten to this point.

The president of the United States gets asked a question from a reporter about his silence over the deaths of four U.S. Army personnel in an ambush in Niger.

He answers with a false recitation of what he understood was presidential policy regarding the deaths of service personnel in the line of duty.

Then he is overheard — allegedly — telling the wife of one of the slain soldiers that he “new what he was getting into … but I guess it still hurts.”

Then come the insults between Donald John Trump and Florida Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who blabbed about what she overheard the president say. Trump has been working his Twitter fingers overtime in hurling insults; Wilson has responded.

And then came John Kelly, the retired Marine general and himself a Gold Star father to defend the president and to express “shock” that Rep. Wilson would reveal what she heard.

Stop already!

The Gold Star families who are caught in the middle of this petulant p****** match deserve better than to be used as political footballs. They deserve only to grieve in private. They deserve to be honored for their sacrifice. They deserve only to be comforted and saluted.

It’s not turning out that way. It has become a political sideshow featuring — for crying out loud! — the commander in chief, a member of Congress, the White House chief of staff.

Who started this ridiculous exchange? I’ll put the blame on the president. He couldn’t simply say in response to that initial question that he’ll call the families soon and leave it at that. No-o-o-o. He had to misstate what has been common practice by three of his predecessors.

Then for him to denigrate a member of Congress — a friend of the grieving family at the center of this ridiculous exchange — goes beyond the pale. He calls her a “wacky Democrat.”

I’ll harken back to the statement of retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who said this politicization denigrates the service of the fallen soldiers and dishonors the grief their loves are enduring.

Oh, the shame of it all.

By all means, release those JFK files

Donald Trump plans — at this moment — to allow the release of files relating to one of the 20th century’s most hideous crimes: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I hope the president does it. He left himself an out, though, suggesting he might not do so if intelligence agencies determine that it’s too sensitive to national security to release them at this time.

Why do I want the files released? I hope — but don’t necessarily expect — the files to put to rest the ridiculous conspiracy theories that have kicked around since that terrible day in November 1963.

I happen to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I do not believe there was a second gunman; nor do I believe that anyone conspired with Oswald to kill the nation’s president.

Release those files

Will the release of those files kill forever those theories? Oh, probably not. We might be listening to cockamamie theories/baloney for as long as we exist as a nation. As Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia, noted today, we’re still debating the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, who was killed at Ford Theater in April 1865.

It’s been 54 years since Oswald killed the president and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally. Thousands of pages of valuable information has been kept under lock and key. They’re supposed to be opened to the public next week.

I hope the president follows through, with the expectation that we can push this terrible event a little farther toward the rear of the shelf.

Reunion No. 50: much better, thank you

PORTLAND, Ore. — I owe one of my sons a debt of thanks for steering me this direction, at this time, to attend a particular event.

I have regaled (or bored) you already with my tale of woe regarding my 30-year high school reunion. I had some serious trepidation about coming to the 50-year event. My son talked me into going.

I’m glad he did.

Yes, the event exceeded my expectation. Who knew? Perhaps it was because I set the bar so low that it was next to impossible to not clear it with ease. It was quite  unlike No. 30, for which I set an impossibly high bar; there was no way to meet the expectation I had set for that one.

And wouldn’t you know it, as I gravitated around the room schmoozing, back-slapping the guys, hugging the girls and getting caught up, I heard from three — maybe four — of my Parkrose High School classmates that they thought No. 30 was a downer, too.

Imagine that, will ya?

My son had advised me that this one would be better because his mother — my wife — would be there with me. She had a good time, too. She met some of my classmates, a couple of whom shared stories about me back in The Day that bore a semblance of truth, although one of my old runnin’ buddies seemed to embellish his recollection more than just a little.

My best friend from high school, Dennis — along with his wife, Linda — attended the event, which all by itself made it worth the trip from Texas. Dennis’s friendship is the longest sustained relationship I have with anyone on Earth who is not a member of my family; we go back 55 years, to the seventh grade.

My biggest takeaway is this: The 110 or so classmates who attended seemed to go out of their way to circulate and to talk to those they might not have known all that well in the old days. My comfort level was enhanced many times over what I felt two decades ago when I ventured here from Portland to attend the high school reunion I swore would be the last one I’d ever attend.

Silly me. I must have forgotten how time has this way of making most of us grow up.

I am glad I came.

Imagine seeing Trump with his five living predecessors

Try as hard as I do, I cannot wrap my arms around a certain scenario involving Donald J. Trump and five of the men who preceded him as president of the United States.

History has provided opportunities for the living for presidents to gather along with the current POTUS. They have appeared at ribbon-cuttings, at funerals, at various and sundry public functions.

Try to imagine Trump sharing a stage with Presidents Carter, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama. Imagine these men all setting aside the humiliating insults that Trump has hurled at them collectively and individually. Let’s not forget the insults and name-calling he has hurled at the wife of one of those men, referring to the 2016 Democratic nominee as “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

Of all of the former presidents I could imagine possibly showing up at a Trump event I can think only of President Carter taking that leap. I guess it’s because of the former president’s deep Christian faith and the grace he embodies even where it involves those who have sought to humiliate him.

I won’t bet the farm, though, on President Carter doing it.

Still, the current president has demonstrated a seemingly limitless capacity to re-litigate the 2016 election. He keeps seeking to rub in the faces of his political foes the fact that he won an election. C’mon, Mr. President! We get it, dude!

His defamation of President Obama sticks in the craw of millions of Americans. He perpetuated the lie that Obama was born abroad and was somehow unqualified to serve as president.

The idiotic insults he hurled at President George W. Bush and his family members cannot possibly have gone down well with the 43rd president.

Trump’s overblown insults at Bill Clinton — not to mention his wife — have been shameful in the extreme.

The only thing that has kept Trump, in my view, from tossing barbs at Bush 41 has been the former president’s health … although I would put nothing past Trump if he chose to offer a snarky comment about the 90-something former commander in chief.

The presidency occasionally offers these individuals opportunities to gather for ceremonial functions. I encourage you to picture any or all of them agreeing to speak publicly about the clown in chief who occupies this venerated office.

‘Atmospheric river’? Huh? Eh?

PORTLAND. Ore. — We are being swept up in something I never knew existed.

The TV weathermen and women here are referring to something called an “atmospheric river.” You might ask, “What the bleep is that?”

I have deduced it describes a long band of rain clouds that is tracking over a region. We are RV-parked along the Columbia River in Portland. It’s been raining like the dickens almost since the day of our arrival. Weather conditions are producing more of it, which is welcome around here, given the Eagle Creek fire that incinerated much of the forest land around the Columbia Gorge.

But I am amused/bemused at this new meteorological term of art: atmospheric river.

The last time I heard weather people glom on to a particular term I guess was that “polar vortex.” I laughed when I heard that one.

Whenever I hear the term “vortex,” I flash back to 1970. They had a music festival here then. It took place at McIver State Park near Estacada, which is southeast of Portland in the foothills of the Cascade Range. I recall it was meant to protest the Vietnam War.

They called it “Vortex.” The most interesting part of it was how then-Gov. Tom McCall decriminalized marijuana use during the run of the festival. I believe the late governor wanted to give those rascally kids a pass on getting stoned while they “protested” whatever it was they were protesting. No need to hassle them and assign lots of cops to round ’em up, McCall thought.

Just so you know: I didn’t attend Vortex.

I digress.

“Atmospheric river” is a descriptive term used to define a lot of rain. That “river” has become a rapids.

And aren’t you just relieved that climate change is just a giant, cooked-up “hoax”?

Seliger won’t ‘endorse’ Lt. Gov. Patrick; imagine that

I just know in my bones that I am not the only observer who saw this one coming.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has decided he won’t endorse fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in 2018. Seliger said he won’t endorse anyone else; he said he intends to “support” Patrick — whatever the hell that means.

He just won’t “endorse” him, preferring to concentrate on his own re-election bid for the Senate District 31 seat he’s held since 2004.

Not a single aspect of this surprises me.

Seliger hasn’t been one of Patrick’s guys in the Senate. Sure, he’s backed much of Patrick’s agenda during the 2017 legislative session. He bolted on a couple of key issues:  a bill that restricts local property tax increases and a bill that sought to subsidize the cost of private schools.

Patrick announced that 19 of 20 state GOP senators were endorsing his re-election. Seliger’s name was absent from the list of Republican lawmakers. Is the Amarillo Republican worried? Hardly.

Seliger faces stern test for re-election

Indeed, Seliger already is getting set for a rough-and-tumble GOP primary battle in Senate District 31. Seliger will run against former Midland Mayor Mike Canon — who lost to Seliger in 2014 — and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal.

I’ll stipulate once again that I want Seliger to be renominated. I also will stipulate that I am no fan of Lt. Gov. Patrick, who I consider to be a ideological blowhard. Seliger is not. He is a serious legislative technician who I believe works hard at understanding the issues pertinent to the vast Senate district he represents.

I am going to presume that Seliger understands that he works for West Texas voters, not the guy who presides over the Texas Senate.

Hillary didn’t want to attend inaugural? No kiddin’!

Hillary Rodham Clinton has revealed to the BBC what many of us already suspected, if not knew: She didn’t want to attend the inaugural of Donald John Trump.

As The Hill reported: “I really tried to get out of going,” Clinton said in an appearance on BBC One’s “The Graham Norton Show.” “We thought ‘OK, maybe others aren’t going.’ “

Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee who lost to Trump in 2016, told BBC she sought out the family of President Bush 43; they would attend. She sought advice from President and Mrs. Carter; they were going, too. President and Mrs. Obama, of course, had to be there. President and Mrs. Bush 41 couldn’t attend because of the former president’s poor health.

In many ways I can understand Hillary’s reluctance. Trump had insulted her for months prior to Election Day. He didn’t just dispute policy differences with his opponent. Trump chose to belittle her just as he did his Republican primary opponents prior to winning the GOP nomination; some of those GOP foes chose to boycott the party’s nominating convention. I didn’t blame them, either.

According to BBC: Clinton also said she wanted Trump to “rise to the occasion of being our president” during his inaugural address, but said “that didn’t happen” because of Trump’s “dark, divisive speech.”

Yes, it was dark. It was angry. The new president didn’t strike any kind of unifying tone. He spoke only to the base of voters who carried him to victory. He didn’t speak to the rest of us, seeking to tell us he would do all he could be president of all Americans.

I’m glad Hillary accompanied her husband, the former president, to the inaugural. However, if she’d have stayed away, I surely would have accepted that decision, too.