Yet another tragedy falls victim to politics

Donald Trump’s incessant use of Twitter could enable him to use the social medium to comfort and console families suffering from unspeakable grief.

Yes, the president did offer his “thoughts and prayers” to families and other loved ones in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre on Valentine’s Day.

Then he followed up with a tweet over the weekend that reveals, in my mind, the kind of person Trump really is.

He blamed the FBI for failing to respond to tips about the alleged shooter because the agency was “too busy” investigating the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian hackers who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

There you have it. When the president is handed an opportunity to criticize law enforcement, by golly he jumps all over it — even when the criticism is juxtaposed with a nation’s grief over another spasm of gun violence.

The president has drawn criticism from politicians of both parties over this response. Will it sink in? Will he heed what members of his own party are saying? Hah! Hardly.

Does this man have any sense of decency? Any sense of shame? Any sense of compassion or empathy? I concluded long ago the answer is an unequivocal “no!”

Sickening.

OK, Sen. Cornyn, let’s start by talking about guns

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn wants to “talk about gun policy.”

The Texas Republican has accepted a challenge by a California Democrat with whom he serves in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, to start some discussion about what to do to prevent future slaughters such as the one that occurred on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla.

Now, is this the start of a move toward legislating a solution to gun violence? I am not yet holding my breath.

Seventeen people died in the carnage. High school students who survived the slaughter have risen up to issue direct threats to politicians who block efforts to legislate a remedy.

As the Texas Tribune has reported: At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, brought the issue to the fore.

“Let’s take some action,” she said. “We cannot see this continue on.”

She then mentioned two areas where compromise might be reached. The first was a “Fix NICS” bill Cornyn sponsored last fall that would hold government agencies accountable for uploading relevant information to the federal background check system.

The second was related to bump stocks, which are legal firearm enhancements that allow shooters to operate firearms as if they were automatic weapons. Several Texans said last fall that they would consider banning bump stocks after the devices were found on the guns of the man who shot dozens on the Las Vegas strip. No law has since passed.

“Nobody likes these devices. You can’t have automatic weapons on the streets,” Feinstein said. “It’s easy to fix. Why don’t we do it?”

Cornyn hasn’t been much of a friend to those who oppose the gun lobby. However, there might be the tiniest of cracks beginning to appear in the armor that has surrounded politicians who resist any effort to legislate some remedies to the type of carnage that erupted once again.

It would be a near miracle if Sen. Cornyn would help widen that crack and start to deliver some sensible legislation that doesn’t destroy the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

But, you know … stranger occurrences and alliances have taken shape atop Capitol Hill.

Is this massacre spawning a political movement?

Are my ears deceiving me or am I hearing the rumblings of an extraordinary political movement born of yet another national tragedy?

A gunman opened fire this past week in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. It was yet another in a lengthy — and likely growing — list of public school massacres.

In previous such tragedies — such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, to cite just two — politicians called for action to curb gun violence. Then, to the never-ending shame of those in power, nothing got done. The gun lobby — led by the National Rifle Association — bullied Congress, threatening to beat politicians at the next election if they tinkered with any notion of legislating possible remedies to the epidemic of gun violence.

This time, in the wake of the Parkland massacre, we’re hearing something quite different. High school students, some of whom already are of voting age, are speaking with remarkable eloquence about their belief in the need for legislative remedies.

They speak of their own tragic loss, the deaths of their dearest friends, of the “heroes” who died while trying to save the lives of others. They are warning politicians — Democrats and Republicans — that if they don’t act now, that these young people will take political matters in their own hands.

They are speaking about their electoral power, how they, too, can threaten politicians who don’t stand up to the gun lobby. The picture attached to this post is of high schooler Emma Gonzalez, who called out Donald Trump on the issue of gun control.

It’s still quite early in the aftermath of this latest monstrous act. Still, I cannot get past the gnawing in my gut that we might be witnessing the birth of a political movement conceived by the next — and perhaps greatest — generation of Americans.

Trump keeps firing at the wrong targets

Donald Trump launched yet another Twitter tirade this weekend.

He went after Democrats, the media (including CNN in particular), President Obama and — this is extraordinary — his national security adviser and the FBI. The reason for the tirade? Russian meddling in our most recent presidential election.

Who did the president leave out of his barrage of criticism? Let me think. Oh, yes! The Russians!

Trump didn’t tweet a single word about the Russian meddling. He didn’t convey a single tiny bit of anger — let alone profound outrage — that the Russians launched an attack on our electoral system. He didn’t say anything about whether he would take measures to punish the Russians for their meddling and their attempt to sway the results in his favor.

The tweet storm came in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians for their role in the meddling. National security adviser H.R. McMaster said the indictments provide “incontrovertible proof” that the Russians did what the intelligence experts say they did. The FBI got pounded because it is spending “too much time” on Russia and too little time following up leads such as those it got about the Parkland, Fla., shooter. CNN got trashed because it reported on the indictments. Barack Obama got pounded because the meddling occurred while he was president. Democrats in general were pounded because, as Trump has asserted, they have cooked up this “Russia thing” because they lost a presidential election they were supposed to win.

The president of the United States once again has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand his fundamental duty, which is to protect our nation against our adversaries.

What is up with this man? I’m beginning to believe he has a serious man-crush on Vladimir Putin, the Russian president/strongman/former KGB boss.

That man-crush is allowing Putin to laugh out loud inside the Kremlin walls at the president of the United States, who promised to “make America great again.” He has succeeded in making America an international punch line.

Empower Texans, or empower the powerful?

Mailboxes all across the Texas Panhandle are filling up with campaign flyers.

They promote candidates endorsed by some outfit out of Austin called Empower Texans. This PAC represents the far right wing of the Republican Party and it might not surprise anyone reading this blog that it is unloading its heavy fire on three Panhandle legislative incumbents who — and this is so very rich — aren’t conservative enough to suit Empower Texas.

My buddy Jon Mark Beilue has written a fabulous essay for the Amarillo Globe-News that peels the hide off of Empower Texas.

Read it here.

This group baffles me. It has targeted state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who’s been in the Senate since 2004. Why try to take down the former Amarillo mayor? He isn’t fond of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the brains and the bankroll behind Empower Texans. He also is a strong proponent of local control which, according to Beilue, runs counter to Empower Texans’ desire to draw power to Austin.

Seliger also isn’t nuts about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, even though he supports much of Patrick’s legislative agenda.

Empower Texans has endorsed former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, the TEA Party golden boy who speaks in right wing talking points and cliches. Much of the PAC’s money comes from Midland-area oil and natural gas interests.

This group also dislikes state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican. By almost anyone’s estimation — whether they’re Republican and Democrat — Price has emerged as one of the House’s rising stars. He might become the next speaker of the House when the 2019 Legislature convenes. Empower Texans has tagged Price as a legislator who allegedly “favors” late-term abortions — despite his rock-solid pro-life voting position.

Empower Texans has endorsed Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield over Price. Here’s a tip for Empower Texans to ponder: Take a look at the Texas Constitution and find the passage that prohibits officials from holding two public offices at the same time. Then it ought to ask Brassfield if he intends to keep his job at Fritch City Hall in the longest-shot chance he gets elected to the House. Brassfield is playing coy on that matter, declining to say whether he’ll quit his day job to go to the Legislature next January.

The Panhandle is being invaded by interests with no particular interest in this region’s representation. Empower Texans seeks to call the legislative shots from somewhere else and is looking for stooges to do its bidding.

Panhandle Republican primary voters need to take heed if they intend to vote for their interests or the interests of a PAC whose leadership doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about this part of Texas.

Beilue quotes someone with extensive knowledge of Panhandle politics:

“It’s intellectually dishonest,” said Sylvia Nugent, a veteran Republican campaign manager and strategist. “I don’t mind a bloody race when you stick to the issues, but they throw a lot of money into intimidating and discrediting a person. They don’t want independent effective members of the legislature. They want sheep.

“I think eventually people will figure them out. They want Neville Chamberlains, people who will appease them. We need to have more Winston Churchills.”

The “Winston Churchills” are in office already, standing for the Texas Panhandle.

Melania must bear the burden of Donald

I am feeling mildly — but not totally — sorry for first lady Melania Trump.

She tweeted a message this weekend asking Americans to put forward a “random act of kindness.” Her intention was to call attention to Random Act of Kindness Day.

You would have thought she had just asked us all to eat our puppies for dinner. The Twitterverse exploded with recriminations against the first lady, but more notably as well against her husband, the president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

The tweets lambasted the president for his own bullying instincts and how he uses social media to insult, berate and condemn others.

It reminds me of when Mrs. Trump announced as her major goal as first lady would be to end cyber bullying. The response, as expected, was the same as this random act of kindness message. Many Americans — yours truly included — are appalled that Donald Trump uses Twitter to bully his opponents. We called on the first lady to look first toward her husband’s conduct.

Now she is facing this latest tempest.

I don’t feel totally sorry for Melania Trump. She was an adult when she married a twice-married man. She had to know what she was getting when she and Donald tied the knot. She surely knew about his behavior, his previous transgressions, his admitted philandering.

By virtue of her husband’s stunning victory in the 2016 presidential election, Melania Trump has assumed a role for which she might not have expected to assume.

Thus, I feel mildly sympathetic toward her as she seeks to convey a positive message.

If only her husband would follow his wife’s sound advice.

‘Fake news’ gets more Trump scorn

I have become immune to the outrage of Donald Trump’s Twitter fetish, so I won’t gripe that the president is tweeting his outrage yet again.

However, his continuing outrage at what he keeps calling the “fake media” is outrageous in the extreme.

The president went after the media’s coverage of Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian companies over their alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

C’mon, Mr. President! They’re doing their job. The media are part of the very system to which you belong!

They have a responsibility to report on what the special counsel is doing to discover all the facts surrounding the election, the Russian interference in our electoral process and whether there was any “collusion” between the Russians and the president’s campaign.

As for Trump’s criticism of the media reporting of the indictments, I hasten to add that the media have reported quite clearly that the indictments do not suggest there was collusion. To that end, the media have treated the president fairly — which means they have passed the second test of good journalism.

The first test is accuracy. On this matter, the media have done well, too.

So, Mr. President, shut up with the “fake news” mantra.

Teachers have become ‘first responders’

When we think of “first responders,” our thoughts turn normally to police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

The tragedy that erupted this week in Parkland, Fla., however, has offered a grim new reality. First responders quite often — too damn often! — are people who aren’t trained to fulfill that role. School teachers have taken on that role whenever madmen open fire in classrooms, or in hallways.

A beloved football coach gave his life on Valentine’s Day when he shielded students from the shooter who opened fire at the Parkland high school. He was one of three educators who died while performing acts of heroism.

And yet, they were among many teachers who answered the call when the shooting began.

This is not what educators sign on to do when they take these jobs. They are committed to teaching young people, educating them and preparing them for their journey into adulthood.

The Parkland tragedy, along with the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, or the Columbine tragedy in 1999 remind us that danger lurks in places where — in a better world — we shouldn’t expect to find it.

I’ve often expressed my admiration for the first responders, the folks trained to do those tasks. I also have offered by salute to educators committed to shaping young people’s lives and the commitment they demonstrate each day in the classroom.

We must rue the era that has dawned on us that teachers, too, are able to perform acts of heroism. It is, I fear, a tragic sign of our time.

Meanwhile, that jetliner is still missing

Tragedy takes many forms, so many of them in fact that it seems easy to forget one tragedy when another one shakes us to our core.

Just as it is said that “Francisco Franco is still dead,” the Boeing 777 jetliner that disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing is still missing.

The Malaysian Air jet took off and then vanished. No trace of the jet with its 239 people on board has been found. It occurred on March 8, 2014. That’s damn near four years ago!

I remain baffled in the extreme that a monstrous aircraft can just vanish as this one did. I also remain convinced it’s at the bottom of some large body of water, likely the Indian Ocean.

No conspiracy theories, please

I’ve never bought into the conspiracy theories that sprung up as the search began growing in futility.

As we seek to send our love and sympathy to all the loved ones of the victims who died in Parkland, or in Sutherland Springs, Texas, or Orlando, or Las Vegas, let us also offer some prayers to those who still do not know with absolute certainty the fate of those aboard MH 370.

This mystery still needs to be solved.

No need for FBI boss to resign

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is understandably enraged.

I cannot blame the Republican politician for his anger that the FBI failed to act on multiple tips it had on the young man charged with murdering 17 people in Parkland, Fla. on Valentine’s Day.

However, he needs to dial his rage back just a notch, maybe two. He has called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign because of his agency’s failure to respond to the tips it received.

Wray does not need to quit. Why? His agency is being undermined at virtually every turn by none other than the president of the United States. The very last thing the FBI needs is for its director to quit, to create yet another leadership vacuum at a time when the nation’s law enforcement/intelligence community is under attack.

What is most troubling to me is that these attacks are coming from within our borders. Donald Trump seeks to undermine the FBI’s credibility by lambasting its leadership; meantime, congressional Republicans have joined that chorus as well, by blasting the FBI over alleged bias in its probe into Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election.

I, too, am angry that the FBI didn’t act when it received credible tips that the Parkland shooting suspect had plans to become a “professional” assassin. The FBI didn’t connect the dots. It didn’t do its job.

Is that Christopher Wray’s fault? Should he take the fall now while his agency already is reeling from attacks launched by — of all people — the nation’s president?

Absolutely not! Let the man get to work repairing the breakdown that resulted in such tragedy.