Stay away, Mr. President

Donald J. Trump will get criticized if he doesn’t attend former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral.

He’ll get criticized if he shows up in Houston this weekend.

For what it’s worth — and it’s not much, I’ll concede — I want to counsel the president to stay away.

Look at it this way: Mrs. Bush made no bones about her dislike and disgust at Trump. She didn’t like the way he treated women. She damn sure didn’t like the way he treated her two sons — Jeb, who ran against Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, and George W., who drew Trump’s ire over the Iraq War.

Trump has said the correct things about Mrs. Bush. I watched him read his statement and was struck yet again by the feeling in my gut that he didn’t really feel it.

First lady Melania Trump is going to attend, which is customary for first ladies; they usually attend funerals for their predecessors. Michelle Obama attended the funeral for Nancy Reagan, for example.

Donald Trump is facing a couple of difficult choices here. He need not accompany his wife to the funeral of a woman who couldn’t stand him.

He’s already spoken of Barbara Bush’s toughness. There you have it.

Stay away, Mr. President. Let the first lady represent the government.

***

Here is what I wrote about whether Barack Obama should have attended Mrs. Reagan’s funeral.

Should POTUS attend ex-FLOTUS’s funeral?

Former Rep. Stockman convicted … who’s next?

Steve Stockman served two highly undistinguished non-consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He was a top-drawer goofball who was elected the first time in 1994 because he happened to be a Republican in the year of the GOP sweep of Congress.

He returned to Congress in 2013 and then ran for another office after serving another chaotic term in the House.

He’s now likely is headed to prison after being convicted on 23 counts that he spent charitable donations fraudulently for personal gain.

An editorial in the Beaumont Enterprise offered a pithy commentary on Stockman’s conviction, and then concluded with this passage:

” … Just because you like a candidate for one or two positions doesn’t mean he is responsible and trustworthy. Anyone can make wild claims on the campaign trail, but it takes a serious grownup to deliver once in office. When an imposter occasionally slips through, he will be exposed eventually.”

Read the complete editorial here.

I am struck by a peculiar connection in that final paragraph I can read into the troubles of a contemporary politician.

I suppose you could replace the name “Stockman” with “Trump” and reach the same conclusion.

Donald J. Trump parlayed a few policy statements — immigration, making America “great again,” to name just two — that caught the imagination of enough voters to win the Electoral College in 2016.

Yes, he made “wild claims on the campaign trail.” The president is an “imposter” who “slipped through” to win the highest office in the land.

But will he “be exposed eventually”?

My heart hopes that he will.

Hannity fluffs a basic tenet

Sean Hannity’s backside is in a bit of a sling for a reason that could have been dodged with a simple declaration. It would have been a painless admission.

The Fox News commentator was revealed this week to be a “secret client” of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, the guy who’s been involved up to his armpits in a sleazy tryst that the president allegedly had with Stormy Daniels, a porn star.

The conflict? Well, Hannity has spent a lot of air time on TV and the radio defending Cohen and Donald Trump.

And … he never disclosed that he had a professional relationship with Cohen. He never told his viewers of his clear conflict of interest. Hannity never thought it was necessary to put his defense of Cohen and the president in anything resembling a proper context.

I get that Hannity isn’t a trained journalist. He does participate in a form of opinion broadcast journalism with his nightly TV commentary show and his syndicated radio show. Thus, Hannity should be forced to operate under the rules of conduct that journalists are obligated to follow when they report or comment on the news of the day.

A simple declaration at the front end of every broadcast that features a defense of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump would be a simple task to perform.

One more thing: To its great discredit, the Fox News Channel says it stands by Hannity. The network that actually does employ legitimate broadcast journalists doesn’t see where its right-wing superstar has gone wrong.

Shameful.

NASA boss lacks scientific credentials?

I am going to hand it to Donald J. Trump.

The president has a knack of selecting the most unusual individuals for key government posts. He told us while running for the office that he would be an “unconventional” president.

Get a load of this: The president’s selection to lead NASA has no science backgound. Jim Bridenstine is a Republican member of Congress. He once flew jets in the Navy and also ran an air and space museum in Tulsa, Okla.

That’s it. He’s a lawmaker and is the first member of Congress to be nominated for this key scientific post.

It’s a bit of a pattern. The next veterans affairs secretary is slated to be Dr. Ronny Jackson, who’s never run a government agency of any size, let alone one as huge as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump nominated renowned brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Bridenstine is now going to administer the agency with the mission of space exploration. The NASA administrator post generally has gone to people from inside the agency or those with vast military experience.

Bridenstine is a politician who has stated doubts about climate change, which NASA has researched extensively for decades.

The U.S. Senate will  vote later this week on Bridenstine’s nomination. He’ll likely get confirmed.

As Vox.com has reported: But it was never clear if Bridenstine could clear the 50 Senate votes needed to nab the job. He faced unanimous opposition from Democrats and from a few within his own party. Notably, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was worried about giving the job to a politician.

NASA is “the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics,” Rubio said in September, echoing the same concerns as his Florida colleague Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee. “I just think it could be devastating for the space program,” Rubio said.

My hope is that he doesn’t run into the ground an agency that is supposed to reach for the stars … and beyond.

Stand firm, Mme. U.N. Ambassador

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has laid down an important marker to Donald J. Trump.

Do not diss me in public; do not subject me to public humiliation; I will not take it quietly.

Haley, one of the few grownups in the Trump administration’s inner circle, spoke out recently in which she suggested the United States would impose additional sanctions on Russia as punishment for its complicity in the gassing of Syrian civilians.

Then she got her humiliation handed to her by Lawrence Kudlow, the president’s newly appointed national economics adviser. Kudlow suggested that Haley got “ahead of the curve” and might have suffered from some “confusion” over a policy that had been changed without her knowledge.

That is not tolerable to Haley. Nor should it be.

She has referred to Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election an “act of warfare.” She has clashed with other senior Trump Cabinet officials. She has stood her ground.

But now she has drawn her own “red line,” letting the president know that she won’t stand for being called out in the manner she was by Kudlow.

I happen to be in Haley’s corner on this matter.

As this nation’s ambassador to the United Nations, she needs to be kept in the loop at all times on all policies being pondered by the Policy Maker in Chief … the president. Then again, the president needs to show at the very least a sliver of discipline as he blunders through this and/or that crisis, or makes this and/or that policy pronouncement.

Whenever he tweets a policy statement, only to take some or all of it back, the president puts the precious few grownups he has brought on board in a serious diplomatic pickle. Heaven knows that the president has brought damn few competent individuals on board.

One of them, Nikki Haley, deserved far better than she got.

POTUS’s memory fails him?

Donald J. Trump boasts among other things about his steel-trap memory. It’s the “best,” isn’t that right, Mr. President?

Well, the president put out a tweet today saying that — despite what he said on national TV a year ago — he didn’t fire FBI Director James Comey over the “Russia thing.”

Ohhh, no! His firing of Comey had to do with the Hillary Clinton email matter and the way the FBI was handling it — or so he says at this moment.

Hold on! He told NBC News’s Lester Holt a year ago that he canned Comey because of the investigation he was leading into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

And don’t you remember what Trump told Russian government visitors to the White House? He said he fired Comey because he is a “nut job” and because he wanted to take pressure off from the Russia probe.

In some circles that could be construed as an obstruction of justice. Hmm. Who knows? Maybe the special counsel appointed to examine the “Russia thing” will make that determination. Or … maybe not!

But the president’s penchant for tweeting these issues gives many of us pause to wonder: Does he know what he’s talking about?

And is the president’s memory all that he cracks it up to be?

They need to make a film about this one

Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger landed an airplane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of passengers aboard the USAir jetliner.

They made a movie about it, casting Tom Hanks in the role of “Sulley.”

They need to make another film about a heroic pilot. Her name is Tammie Jo Shults, who this week saved the lives of more than 100 passengers when a Southwest Airlines jetliner — bound from New York to Dallas — she was flying suffered a grievous engine failure.

The engine exploded, sending shrapnel into the fuselage. It knocked a window out, nearly pulling a passenger out of the aircraft, which was at 33,000 feet when the incident occurred. The passenger suffered mortal wounds from the incident.

Shults’s reaction, though, has been hailed as nothing short of heroic. She quickly took the plane into a descent. The plane’s oxygen masks were deployed. Shults’s cool, calm and measured demeanor as she radioed to the nearest aircraft tower of her emergency has been recorded and noted.

According to NBC News:

“We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit,” she’s heard calmly telling air traffic controllers in audio transmissions after reporting the aircraft’s engine failure.

“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults then requests.

The captain of the ship did her job flawlessly.

Her training as a Navy pilot stood her in great stead as she took the plane to a safe landing, saving many more lives. I’ll add, too, that only about 6 percent of U.S. commercial airline pilots are female.

The investigation will go forward. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will get to the bottom of the what went wrong and presumably recommended ways to prevent this kind of event from recurring.

After all that is done — and I know I’m not the first person to offer this view — they need to make a movie about this amazing feat.

Do not resign, Mme. Mayor

I cannot believe I read this item, but I’ll comment on it anyhow.

An Amarillo resident has presented a petition with signatures on it calling for Mayor Ginger Nelson to resign. She wants the mayor to quit. Why? Because the mayor imposed some rules of behavior during City Council meetings.

No applause allowed, according to the mayor.

So, for that this individual wants Nelson to quit.

Oh, my. Give me a break … please!

I’m just a single constituent. So, little ol’ me will just say it out loud: Do not quit, Mme. Mayor.

Nelson said she won’t resign. Fine. Stay the course. Ride this tiny tempest out.

I am believing that Nelson overreacted when she booted a gentleman out of a council meeting the other evening. The fellow was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor offense.

“I’m going to do the job that I was elected to do. And there were thousands of people who had a chance between three candidates to choose and I was elected. I feel the burden of doing that and I want to do that job the best I possibly can,” said Nelson.

There. That’s good enough for me.

She’s got a lot more work to do. It’s a lot more important than keeping order in City Council meetings.

Stay the course, Mayor Nelson.

Gangs are for cowards

I just stumbled on a quote attributed to a most unlikely source.

It comes from the late Mickey Mantle, the one-time New York Yankee slugger and athletic descendant of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

The quote attributed to The Mick is this: A team is where a boy can prove his courage on his own. A gang is where a coward goes to hide.

Interesting, yes? Of course it is.

Mantle wasn’t known as a philosopher. He was a plain-spoken kid from Oklahoma who could hit baseballs farther than anyone, run faster than anyone, field his position better than anyone. He was the real deal, the total package.

Mickey was my favorite baseball player as I was growing up. I cheered for him when he did well, and slumped a bit when he got hurt … which was entirely too often during his Hall of Fame career.

These few words, though, ring so true to me.

I’ve heard for longer than I care to admit that the gang culture becomes “family” to young men and women who have no real family at home. They run into the embrace of others who adopt them as one of their own.

But then these “family members” subject them to initiation rites. They haze them. They threaten them if they don’t do what they’re told.

I am left to wonder whether it’s more courageous to refuse to do what they are ordered to do than to follow orders blindly. Courage would lead them to defy those who profess to adopt them as family. Cowardice leads them to a path of mindless compliance.

Mickey Mantle was known as a “great teammate.” He treated all the players on his New York Yankees team the same, whether they were all-stars — as he was — or end-of-the-bench substitutes who saw little, if any, playing time.

Mickey Mantle must have known more than many of us give him credit for knowing about the courage of belonging to a team and the cowardice of adhering to gang life.

Who in the world knew?

‘I don’t get confused’

Chaos, anyone?

Yep, the Donald John Trump White House is showing its chaotic side once again.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said out loud that the United States is planning to impose stronger sanctions against Russia as punishment for its complicity in the recent gas attack on Syrian civilians.

Not so fast, said the new national economics adviser, Lawrence Kudlow, who walked Haley’s comments back for her. According to the New York Times: “She got ahead of the curve,” Mr. Kudlow said. “She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.”

Told Dana Perino of Fox News, “I don’t get confused.”

There you have it. More chaos within what the president has called a “fine-tuned machine.”

Kudlow apologized to Haley for his remarks. I presume Ambassador Haley accepted his apology. Kudlow then said the policy had changed but no one apparently bothered to tell the U.N. ambassador.

As the Times reported: “As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy,” Mr. Kudlow added. “The policy was changed and she wasn’t told about it, so she was in a box.”

Good grief, man! Nikki Haley has been talking tough about the Russians while the president keeps giving them a pass. Yes, the president ordered those air strikes against the Syrians — and I applaud him for that. He’s also beginning to speak with increasing harshness about Russian policy objectives.

He needs to walk the walk. Economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin and his henchman is one way to demonstrate that the president means what he says.

As for undercutting the nation’s U.N. ambassador, the White House needs to speak with a single voice.