Ga. governor candidate ends bid, but doesn’t ‘concede’

Stacey Abrams’s decision to end her bid to become Georgia’s next governor concluded with one of the more, um, interesting non-concession speeches in modern political history.

The Democratic candidate said this week she is ending her campaign to defeat Republican Gov.-elect Brian Kemp, but that she will continue to fight his election in the courts.

I have to agree with the defeated candidate. She deserves the right to have he court system determine whether there was sufficient voter suppression hanky-panky to affect the outcome of the bitterly fought campaign for Georgia governor.

Kemp had served as Georgia’s secretary of state until he resigned the office after the midterm election. I found the timing of his resignation to be, shall we say, a bit dubious.

There were questions raised about the manner in which Kemp managed the voter registration process leading up to the election, such as his decision to essentially disqualify thousands of voters, most of whom happened to be African-American — the same ethnicity as his Democratic opponent, Abrams.

Kemp, quite naturally, denied any wrongdoing, saying he was following the law.

However, the idea that the secretary of state who administers a state election system running for governor of that state does raise conflict of interest questions.

So, Abrams is done running for governor this time around. I suspect we might see her again in the future, given that she lost this race by the narrowest of margins. Her hope was that the final ballots being counted would bring Kemp’s total to below the 50-percent plus one vote margin needed for outright victory, forcing a runoff election between them.

It wasn’t to be.

So now she is seeking legal recourse, which is her right.

Let’s allow the court system to decide this matter once and for all.

 

Hell freezes over: POTUS expresses ‘regret’

I guess hell has frozen over, finally.

Donald J. Trump says he “regrets” not attending a Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery. He stayed at the White House during the day. He had no public events. His schedule was clear.

The president did manage to fire off nine tweets during the day.

Yet he now expresses a bit of regret over his no-show at Arlington.

He made the admission to Fox News’s Chris Wallace, to whom he said “in retrospect” he made a bad call on a day set aside to honor the nation’s veterans.

It’s an unusual step for a president who says he never apologizes. He has said he hasn’t ever sought forgiveness. Donald Trump doesn’t look back on his deeds or statements. Introspection isn’t included in the Trumpian vocabulary, according to the president.

What do we make of this semi-contrition?

I don’t know. It might signal an awakening by this president. Or, it might just be a touch of pandering.

I’ll reserve any final determination for later. In the meantime, I’ll hope for the best — but prepare for the worst.

What happened to bipartisanship, Mr. Majority Leader?

Hey, hold on a minute. Maybe for two or three.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to work toward a more “bipartisan” atmosphere in the Senate. So, what does Mr. Bipartisan do? He blocked a “bipartisan” bill that seeks to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from the whims and foolish acts of a president under siege.

McConnell said the bill is not necessary. Why? Because he takes Donald Trump at his word that the president won’t fire Mueller, who’s up to his eyeballs investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Yes, McConnell believes the president. He takes him at his word. He says that, by golly, if the president pledges something that he’s true to his word.

Is the majority leader serious? Has he swilled one mouthful too many of the Trump Kool-Aid?

Well, it appears that not all GOP senators are on board. Lame-duck Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has promised to block every judicial appointment that comes to the Senate for as long as he continues to serve in that congressional chamber.

McConnell’s pledge to seek a more bipartisan approach — which seemed hollow when he made it — now has been exposed as just another political platitude.

Imagine that.

Time for Saudi sanctions, Mr. President

OK, Mr. President, you’ve got a problem.

Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the brutal assassination of a Saudi-born journalist in Istanbul, Turkey. But wait! Now the CIA has determined that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

What are you going to do about it, Mr. President?

You see, the United States has some skin in this game. Khashoggi was a journalist employed by the Washington Post. He was a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the newspaper and, indeed, his final essay called for greater tolerance of political dissent in Saudi Arabia. The crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, took umbrage at Khashoggi’s view.

So he had him killed. Maybe he even ordered the reported dismembering of Khashoggi, torturing him while he was still alive, screaming for his life.

How in the world do we let this pass, Mr. President?

I wish I could presume you’ll accept the CIA assessment. I mean, you had to be dragged kicking and screaming to endorse the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia attacked our electoral system in 2016.

But the CIA now is being run by one of your appointees. Gina Haspel is a career spook. She is a first-rate spymaster. Her agency also is among the best intelligence outfits in the world. But you know that already. Right?

You need to set aside that top-dollar arms deal the Saudis want done. Those high-performance jet fighters the Saudis ordered ought to be put back in the hangar.

The Saudis are bad actors at many levels. Sure, they’re our “allies” in the effort to corral the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are brutal, though, in their handling of political dissent, as Jamal Khashoggi’s hideous fate would attest.

The CIA says the crown prince is involved. You, sir, need to act.

Trump-Pence 2020 in possible doubt?

It’s not unheard of, but in recent years it’s a rare occurrence when a president of the United States jettisons a vice president and runs with a new running mate while seeking re-election.

Newsweek magazine is reporting that Donald Trump’s key advisers are floating the notion of replacing Vice President Mike Pence with U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

Why? Because the vice president was highly critical of that hideous “Access Hollywood” tape in which the future president disclosed how he could grab women by their genitals. Pence, a devout Christian, reportedly was incensed over what he heard … and Trump hasn’t forgiven Pence for the apparent “disloyalty,” according to Newsweek.

I am not going to dictate what I think Trump should do. That’s his call. Frankly, the vice president’s future is of little interest to me, other than whether he would ascend to the presidency if — dare I suggest it — that Trump doesn’t finish his term.

The most recent president to switch VPs was Gerald R. Ford, who kicked Vice President Nelson Rockefeller — who was appointed to the office — to the curb. President Ford selected Sen. Bob Dole as his 1976 running mate. The president lost his bid for election to the office to which he was appointed to Jimmy Carter.

Newsweek reportsThe president could be considering new strategies for his next campaign after Republicans were dealt major blows in last week’s midterm elections. Democrats picked up at least 36 seats to retake the House and prevented Republicans from further bolstering their lead in the Senate. This was an election Trump had turned into a referendum on his first two years in office.

Indeed, as I watched the returns roll in, it appears to many of us that Trump lost that “referendum” … bigly, if you know what I mean.

Does he toss the vice president overboard in some sort of hail-Mary effort to save his presidency? Not a damn thing would surprise me.

Senate GOP to Trump: Find a new AG … quickly!

It seems that the Senate Republican caucus — which heretofore in the era of Donald Trump had been a routinely spineless group — apparently has stiffened its backbone a bit.

This is good news … if the stiffening continues.

GOP senators are urging the president to find a permanent attorney general nominee in short order. They apparently are unhappy with the controversy that has erupted over the president’s choice of Matthew Whitaker to be acting AG after Jeff Sessions got fired a week ago.

Whitaker was elevated from the No. 3 post at the Justice Department, hurdling over the No. 2 man, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who’s heading special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government operatives.

There’s a problem, however. Whitaker hasn’t been approved by the Senate; what’s more, he’s been openly critical of the Mueller probe, calling it a “witch hunt” and a “fishing expedition.”

Senators seem intent on ensuring that Mueller is allowed to complete his task. They don’t place much stock in Whitaker’s promise to ensure the completion of the Russia investigation by Mueller.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, is among the leaders pushing for a quick AG nomination. He doesn’t believe Whitaker should be the acting attorney general for very long.

I happen to concur with all of that. I also am heartened by the seeming newfound courage being exhibited by a few Senate Republicans. Granted, they aren’t likely to lock arms with their Democratic “friends” and colleagues in the Senate, but they just might be moving closer to their friends across the aisle than they were before.

Matthew Whitaker shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Mueller investigation. If he had any sense of propriety, he would recuse himself from the Mueller matter … even if it angers the president, just as Sessions did when he bowed out of the Russia probe.

Why the heavy security for DOE boss?

Betsy DeVos is getting a lot of security from the U.S. Marshals Office.

She’s the secretary of education. Yet her security detail is running up a significant tab, nearly $20 million through September 2019.

I can understand such heavy security for, oh, the Drug Enforcement Agency boss, or the secretary of state, or the secretary of defense, the CIA director, the FBI director, the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United Nations ambassador … and oh yes, the president and vice president of the United States of America.

But the education secretary? The individual charged with administering our nation’s public school systems?

DeVos has been heckled by protestors. The Justice Department ordered the protection after such heckling.

But, man, that’s a lot of money to spend guarding the nation’s public school boss. I would like to know what, precisely, we’re paying for.

Justice delivered to two of humanity’s monsters

Some events in world history make me question my opposition to capital punishment. Two individuals who took part in one of the 20th century’s most grievous crimes against humanity provide the latest test to my commitment.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea — the last known survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia — have been given life sentences for their role in the genocide that killed roughly 2 million Cambodians in the 1970s under the despotic rule of the regime led by the late Pol Pot.

These individuals are old now. They likely will die soon in prison. When they do they should both rot in hell right along with Pol Pot and the other monsters who committed those atrocities against Cambodians.

Pol Pot was captured in the late 1990s and died in custody.

I have had the distinct honor of twice visiting the site of the Khmer Rouge’s unspeakable brutality. The killing field at Choeung Ek and a prison camp at Tuol Sleng will last forever as the Khmer Rouge’s legacy of murder, misery and mayhem. The monsters tortured and killed the intelligentsia of their country at Tuol Sleng — once the site of a school — and then buried their remains at places around the country such as Choeung Ek.

They sought to create a totally agrarian society. Learned professionals had no place in that society. Neither, shockingly, did their children.

In 1989 and again in 2004 I was privileged to see first-hand those sites. The sight of them and then hearing the testimony of those who survived that dark time filled me with immense grief, touched with a tinge of guilt. The Cambodians have built a memorial at the site and filled a “stupa” at Choeung Ek with skulls excavated from the mass graves that were discovered by Vietnamese troops during their years-long occupation of Cambodia, which ended in 1989, about a month before I arrived there with a group of journalists.

In 1989, after touring the killing field burial site, and after hearing from a woman who survived the mayhem that “If the Khmer Rouge return, we all will be soldiers” who will fight them to the death, I boarded a bus, waiting to depart.

I broke down and cried.

Justice has been delivered to two of the monsters who brought such heartache to a beautiful land. May they live the rest of their lives on Earth in abject misery.

Good riddance, straight-ticket voting

My hatred of straight-ticket voting has been chronicled numerous times on this blog and even during the time I worked for a living.

It is one of the curses that have infected Texas government. It’ll be gone before the 2020 presidential election, thanks to a repeal enacted by the Texas Legislature.

According to the Texas Tribune, the demise of straight-ticket voting didn’t happen soon enough to save the careers of dedicated public servants.

The Tribune singled out what happened to Harris County Judge Ed Emmitt, whose leadership helped Harris County recover from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Emmitt, a moderate Republican, drew bipartisan praise for his post-Harvey work. He lost re-election this past week, though, to a political novice, 27-year-old Democratic challenger Lina Hidalgo, who the Tribune reports had never attended a Commissioners Court meeting before defeating the incumbent judge.

She benefited from straight-ticket voting, along with other Democrats appearing on down-ballot races in the midterm election.

This is precisely why I detest the practice of allowing voters to punch the straight-party slot on the ballot. Too many politicians who should be elected or re-elected are bounced out simply because of party loyalty.

The major beneficiary of this travesty in Texas in recent years have been GOP politicians, with worthy Democrats falling victim to voters’ polling place laziness.

That’s going to change in 2020. The demise of straight-ticket voting at the very least will force voters to look at each race on the ballot and make their choices individually. My hope, but not necessarily my expectation, would be that voters would consider their choice before making it.

Most states disallow straight-ticket voting. Texas, therefore, is joining a long list of states that have thought better about allowing voters to go just with the party without considering the merits of an individual candidate — whose performance or philosophy might not adhere strictly to a political party’s platform.

The end of straight-ticket voting, in my view, is a win for the cause of good government.

Finally!

CNN, Acosta score a win for the First Amendment

I am wondering now if Donald Trump’s “enemies of the people” list has just grown by one member.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee to the federal bench, has ruled that the White House must restore CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials.

The president ordered Acosta’s credentials yanked after he and the correspondent got into another public tussle at a press conference the day after the midterm election. It isn’t the first time Trump and Acosta have jousted.

Let me be clear on one thing. I detest the idea of a reporter becoming part of the story. That simply is not right. Acosta has this annoying way of thrusting himself onto the stage when reporting the news. For his part, though, the president reacts hideously when confronted with reporters who ask him tough questions.

The crux of the judge’s ruling seems to center on the stated reasons the White House yanked Acosta’s credentials. It changed its story, but the final version of the White House’s rationale is insufficient to merit such a drastic move, according to Judge Kelly.

This is a victory on behalf of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the one that guarantees “freedom of the press” from government interference. And, yes, given the political nature of judicial appointments, I find it fascinating that a Trump-nominated judge would rule against this particular president who’s made such a hash of his dispute with the media.

If only now we can get back to some form of what’s called in Congress “regular order.” That means reporters ask questions, the person who gets the questions answers them, and the reporters move on to the next question. This White House vs. The Media idiocy has to stop. How about it stopping right now?

As for the judge ruling against the president who nominated him, it validates the notion that lifetime appointments have this liberating effect on those who have the authority to rule from the federal bench.