Chaos continues at White House

Donald J. Trump keeps saying all is well at the White House.

Well, it isn’t. Not by a long shot.

The president was going to meet this past week with Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who reportedly said some things about the president’s fitness for his job as commander in chief.

Then the meeting was postponed. The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee got in the way.

Now we hear that Trump might postpone the Rosenstein meeting yet again, waiting for the Kavanaugh matter to run its course.

Trump and Rosenstein have reportedly spoken by phone. That’s good. At least they’re talking to each other, although none of us knows what they might have said to each other.

I am just amazed one more time with the chaos that continues to grip the White House, the West Wing, the Oval Office, staffing at many levels. Even more amazing is the president’s continuing denials that chaos rules within the Trump administration.

I happen to hope that Trump leaves Rosenstein alone, keeps him on the job, allows him to supervise the investigation into the “Russia Thing” being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

You may choose to believe or disbelieve this, but I actually want this investigation to conclude.

We’re sitting out these important decisions

What do you know about that? I have known for a long time that Amarillo, Texas, where I used to live wasn’t the only city that produced pitiful municipal voter turnouts.

I have bitched about it for a couple of decades, trying — using my forum as editorial page editor of the local newspaper — to reverse that trend. It fell on blind eyes.

Hey, it could get worse. Amarillo could be as non-involved in this most important civic act as Dallas, just down the highway from where my wife and I now reside.

An analysis in the Dallas Morning News tells me that Dallas delivers the worst municipal voter turnout among the nation’s largest cities. How do Dallas residents do? Six percent of them vote on average for election of the mayor and city council members. Six percent!

I’ll take some pride in revealing that my hometown, Portland, Ore., votes on average at a 59 percent clip in municipal elections.

Dang, man! Why can’t we get more of us to the polls at these local elections, the elections that determine who runs local government, the level of government that has the most direct impact on our lives?

It’s not as though Texas doesn’t do what it can to make it easy for us to vote. We can vote early. The state opens up many venues for Texans to cast their ballots early. Still, I have laughed virtually out loud over many years when I hear local election officials brag about the large number of early ballots being cast … as if that means a greater voter turnout. It usually means nothing of the sort. It only means that more people are voting early, period.

As Michael Lindenberger writes in the Dallas Morning News:

Some studies have even suggested that voting makes citizens healthier, and not just because they can influence health policy. Voting itself, as proof of civic engagement, boosts one’s health, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin.

More than that, even, a city that relies on only a tiny fraction of its residents to vote leaves our leaders operating on such pencil-thin support it’s a wonder they are able to be effective at all. 

Take Mayor Mike Rawlings. He was elected for his second term in 2015 on a huge margin, but with just a bit over 30,000 votes. That’s in America’s ninth-largest city, anchor to the fourth-largest urban area in the nation.

That’s ridiculous. A second term for 30,000 votes and change? What happened to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters?

This guy is speaking my language. It’s ridiculous, indeed!

I have tried to point out over many years that sitting out these important local elections leaves important public policy decisions up to the guy next door, or the dude down the street, someone who might — or might not — share your view of how your community should be governed.

Time to change this dismal voter participation

I applaud the Morning News for bringing this issue to the fore.

Will it matter? Will it bring more voters to the polls next spring when we elect our municipal officials in Texas? Probably not, but man, it needs to be said over and over again.

Trump, Kim ‘fell in love’? Weird, man!

I know he was uttering a figure of speech.

I know he didn’t mean it literally as he spoke those words.

I know this isn’t even anything approaching a real “romance,” let alone a “bromance.”

Still, for the president of the United States to say that he and North Korea’s ruthless, murderous, ham-fisted dictator “fell in love” after a series of angry tweets, public statements and threats sounds, well, more than a bit bizarre.

Donald Trump fired up a West Virginia campaign rally crowd with this riff: “He wrote me beautiful letters and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

He referred, of course, to North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, with whom he has had — shall we say — a most unusual man-to-man relationship.

Trump has referred to Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” but also has called him a “smart cookie.” I don’t know precisely what Kim has said about Trump, but I guess he has written some kind and likely quite flattering words to him in those “beautiful” and “great letters.”

I believe I am now officially creeped out.

How would ‘Justice’ Kavanaugh handle this?

Brett Kavanaugh’s future as a possible U.S. Supreme Court justice is in doubt. However, his nomination to the court is far from a dead duck.

The FBI is conducting an investigation into at least two of the accusations that Kavanaugh assaulted women sexually many years ago. The U.S. Senate will then get to vote on whether to confirm him.

Suppose, then, he becomes Justice Brett Kavanaugh. What happens when the court gets a case involving the constitutionality, say, of a court ruling involving a case involving sexual assault?

Might that happen? Well, it damn sure could. Given all the attendant publicity that has erupted around Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation process, I doubt seriously anyone down the road is going to forget what we’ve heard about what allegedly occurred when Kavanaugh was a high school student. That he allegedly pinned a young woman to a bed, sought to disrobe her, sought to have his way with her sexually.

How does a Supreme Court justice with that kind of accusation hanging over his head rule on a future case involving a similar circumstance?

Trying to shake the blues

I must admit to feeling a bit melancholy these past few days.

Perhaps you know why. My mother-in-law passed away nearly a week ago. I wrote about her just the other day. We laid her to rest Friday in a cemetery near us in Collin County, just a few minutes north of us.

This kind of emotional response is to be expected. It’s happened to be many times before at the loss of loved ones: my parents, my grandmothers and one of my grandfathers (the fourth grandparent died when I was an infant), several of my beloved aunts and uncles.

As we have done in the past, we likely are going to seek to cure this feeling of loss by sharing memories of my mother-in-law.

She lived for 93 years. She was a big part of our life for more than 20 years, notably with her retirement in 1997 at the age of 72. We moved her from Oregon to Amarillo, Texas in May 1997; she lived with my wife and me in our newly built house for about 11 years. It was the right decision for us and for her at the time.

Time, though, took its toll on her. We eventually move her into a residence set aside for the elderly. Then she needed assisted living. Finally, she moved to a nursing home, which is where she died.

I am feeling a bit blue at this moment. Yes, I’ll get over it. So will my wife and my sons, both of whom have many grand memories of Grandma upon which they will be able to draw.

I have them, too. So does my wife.

I am left merely to acknowledge what we all know to be the obvious, which is that death is part of life.

Trump’s amorality on full display

Donald J. Trump has earned the title of Most Amoral President in U.S. History.

It is with that dubious distinction that I find it amazing, astonishing and altogether outrageous that this president can speak to any issue involving sex, sexual assault or sexual harassment.

It’s all on the front burner these days as the U.S. Senate considers whether to confirm a Trump nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is under some intense scrutiny these days as he seeks confirmation to the highest court after at least three women have accused him of assaulting them sexually.

I am left to wonder: What has become of our moral compass?

An admitted sexual assailant was elected president in 2016; he once bragged about grabbing women by their “pu***” because his “celebrity status” allowed him to get away with it. He acknowledged walking in on half-dressed women during his days as proprietor of a beauty pageant.

Now he has nominated someone to the high court who stands accused of attacking a woman when they were both teenagers. Judge Kavanaugh has denied the accusation in the most fervent manner possible. The FBI is now looking into the pending accusations before the Senate will consider voting on whether to confirm him.

I keep circling back to the president. He has attacked the credibility of one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, much as he has done with the many women who have accused him of groping them. He stands foursquare with men who have faced credible charges by women who accuse them of sexual misbehavior; he is doing so yet again with Judge Kavanaugh.

And then we have the likes of the Rev. Franklin Graham, one of Trump’s more ardent evangelical supporters, saying something truly astonishing, that what Kavanaugh allegedly did to Christine Blasey Ford doesn’t really matter because they were teenagers at the time.

What in the name of sexual assault is Rev. Graham talking about?

I’ve long thought of the Republican Party as an organization that stood tall and firm on the side of moral rectitude. Yet, Republican No. 1, the president of the United States, assumed office after blazing a career-long trail of sexual misconduct.

Dear reader, we have entered a strange new world. Man, oh man. I need to find a way out of here.

Go for it, Jerry Hodge, in your effort to oust regents chair!

I hereby endorse former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge’s effort to oust the chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents, Rick Francis.

Hodge is steamed over the way the Tech board treated former Chancellor Bob Duncan. I am, too. Angry, that is. Duncan got the shaft, the bum’s rush and was shown the door after what well might have been an illegal meeting of the Tech regents.

Regents took what was called an “informal vote” in executive sessions to deliver a no-confidence decision against Duncan, who then announced his “retirement” from a post he had held for the past six years.

State law prohibits governing bodies from voting in private, but the Tech regents did so anyway. Thus, we might have a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Law.

Hodge also is miffed that Francis might have sought to undermine Tech’s decision to build a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which has drawn full-throated support from the Amarillo City Council, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation and a number of corporate donors who have pledged money to help finance the project.

Committee targets Tech chairman

Will the campaign succeed? That remains a wide-open question. The committee that Hodge leads wants Gov. Greg Abbott to take action. Count me as one who doubts the governor will jump to the committee’s cadence.

Still, as a Texas resident with strong sentimental attachments to Amarillo, the Panhandle and a deep and abiding respect for the long public service career of the former Texas Tech chancellor, I want to endorse Jerry Hodge’s effort to raise as much of a ruckus as he can.

Jeff Flake: profile in courage

Jeff Flake’s demonstration of political courage almost made me rethink my long-standing opposition to term limits for members of Congress.

I’ll reiterate: almost.

Flake is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that on Friday recommended the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the Supreme Court. Flake is not running for re-election this year. Thus, his lame-duck status has enabled him to grow a pair of, um, stones that he otherwise likely wouldn’t have grown.

You see, Flake — after announcing his decision to support Kavanaugh’s nomination — came back to the committee hearing room and asked that the Senate delay a full confirmation vote for a week to allow the FBI to do an additional investigation into some serious allegations leveled against Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her. They were teenagers when the even allegedly occurred. She presented a compelling case against Kavanaugh. Ford persuaded me that her allegation is credible enough to disqualify Kavanaugh from obtaining this lifetime judicial appointment.

Flake was cornered in a Capitol Building elevator by two women — sexual assault survivors, apparently — who demanded that he “listen” to the concerns of other victims.

Flake responded by making his request of the Senate. The Senate agreed. The president then called on the FBI to conduct a limited probe into the allegations. It should take about a week or so to complete.

I applaud Sen. Flake for his political courage, although the courage is watered down a bit by the fact that he isn’t facing Arizona voters this fall. He is free, therefore, to speak from his heart. He did so.

If only other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives could demonstrate such guts when they have to face the voters as they seek re-election.

Having said all that, I remain committed to the notion that voters in each state and House district have it within their power to boot out scoundrels at election time.

Flake, though, must have emerged as a GOP hero in this ongoing — and terribly frustrating — political battle of wills.

‘Look at me when I talk to you!’

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake got a first-hand lesson today on the value of “constituent service.”

He walked into an elevator and was accosted by two women who just couldn’t understand why the Arizona Republican would support the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They pleaded with Flake to stand up for the victims of sexual assault, which Kavanaugh has been accused of committing by Christine Blasey Ford.

Flake then came back to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room and, prior to voting “yes” on recommending Kavanaugh’s confirmation by the entire Senate, asked for a one-week delay on the full Senate vote, pending the outcome of an FBI investigation into the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh.

Now, I don’t know if the women who scolded Flake were actual Arizona constituents; they likely weren’t.

But … the point is that these women had something important to say to the lame-duck Republican senator and one of them implored Flake to “Look at me when I talk to you!”

Flake did look at her and he seemingly listened to what she had to say.

The Senate has agreed to hold off for a week before voting on whether to confirm Kavanaugh’s nomination. Donald Trump has issued an order to the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into the specific allegations leveled against the man he wants to seat on the nation’s highest court.

This is representative democracy at work!

Judge shows his partisan streak

I now believe that if Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be disqualified from serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, he demonstrated that reason with his impassioned denial of the accusation of a sexual assault.

He came off as a partisan. Kavanaugh managed to blame the assault on his character on those who were angry that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election and “left-wing” political activists who oppose him for his judicial philosophy.

I am scratching my head and am trying to remember when I’ve ever heard a Supreme Court nominee resort to that kind of attack.

Robert Bork didn’t assert partisan angst in 1987; Clarence Thomas didn’t blame Democrats for the troubles he encountered in 1991. The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination and barely approved Thomas’s selection to the high court.

Brett Kavanaugh, though, has just revealed his deep bias against Democrats and political progressive who, in his mind, are out to destroy his nomination to the nation’s highest court.

I already have stated my belief in the accusation brought by Christine Blasey Ford who contends that Kavanaugh assaulted her sexually when they were teenagers. But when Kavanaugh sat down in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his anger was palpable, as was his deep bias against those with political views that differ from his own.

Yes, I intended to keep an open mind with regard to Brett Kavanaugh. For the longest time I was able to meet that standard.

My formerly open mind has closed. I have heard enough, from Christine Ford and from Judge Kavanaugh. Moreover, I have seen enough from Kavanaugh to believe that he cannot interpret the U.S. Constitution dispassionately without regard to political motivations of those who might present cases before the Supreme Court.

Weird.