Oh, Mr. POTUS, you’re breaking another promise

Oh, c’mon Mr. President. You once said you would release your tax returns. You promised us while campaigning for the presidency.

Then you back away from that promise. Oh, and then you said again you would do so.

What’s the deal, then, with this lawsuit you’ve filed against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has subpoenaed your tax returns to help him solve a criminal investigation he’s been seeking to clear up?

Vance wants those returns to ascertain whether you committed a campaign law violation in paying off the stripper with whom (she says) you had a fling in a hotel room back in 2006. I get that you deny it happened, yet you paid her that $130,000 sum to keep her quiet.

I am just one American who wants to know why you paid her the money. I also want to know whether you broke any laws in paying it.

The DA wants to know, too. He’s within his rights to subpoena those returns.

So, knock off with the lawsuit, Mr. President.

Inquiring minds want to know the truth about your finances. They deserve to know it as well.

Are some offenses beyond forgiving?

REGINA, Saskatchewan — The word in Canada is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blew it when he appeared in what has been called “brownface” back when he was a much younger man.

You’ve seen the pictures. He is posing with others while wearing what looks like some sort of Arabic costume. He is slathered in dark skin makeup. He’s got a big ol’ grin on his face. The picture just surfaced, but it has taken Canada by storm.

This story is giving me fits as I watch it unfold.

Trudeau, who is facing a tough re-election fight, has offered a full-throated apology. There was none of that “if I offended anyone” non-apology crap you hear from politicians on occasion. The man said he is sorry. He is ashamed of himself. He is ashamed of his conduct. He said he meant no racist intent when he did it.

Has the public accepted the apology? Hardly. I have watched the news and heard from Canadians — particularly those of color — say, in effect, that what Trudeau did in the 1980s is unforgivable. No apology is good enough. No expression of contrition is sufficient.

Is it fair to condemn someone for appearing at a party dressed in such a manner? Is it fair to hold a 47-year-old accountable for his actions as a much younger individual? I truly am torn by this.

Is this different than a similar scandal involving Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who had a picture taken of himself in black face standing alongside someone wearing what looks like a Ku Klux Klan outfit? Yes. It is. Moreover, Northam’s apology did not seem to go quite as far in its sincerity that Trudeau’s has gone.

You may spare me any epithets you might hurl at me for being sympathetic to a racist politician. I do not believe Prime Minister Trudeau fits that bill. I do believe the young man made a serious mistake that has seen the light of day.

He also has delivered what sounds to my ears like a sincere apology.

The issue now lies in the hands of Canada’s voters.

Good luck, neighbors. I’m glad I do not have to make that decision. We’ve got our own political weirdness.

Rain threatens region still recovering from earlier deluge

REGINA, Saskatchewan — My worry index is off the charts today as I listen to reports of extreme rain and flooding in a part of the world I know pretty well.

My wife and I are away at the moment, vacationing in Canada, but CTV News is all over the story: Rain is inundating the Golden Triangle region of Texas, that southeastern corner of the state that barely two years ago was blasted by the unspeakable wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

I am not going to make this a political blog, other than take note that climatologists have said all along that we can expect this kind of extreme weather as we cope with and combat the effects of climate change. It ain’t a hoax, folks. It’s real and it is affecting lives daily.

The Gulf Coast storm is another example of it.

However, my concern turns now to my friends who live there, folks we got to know during nearly 11 years living in Beaumont. We return when we can. When we do we see the destructive marks that Harvey left behind when the storm blasted ashore in 2017.

My heart breaks for them all. We send them our love and our hope that they find the strength to persevere.

Trump turns a ‘zero’ into a ‘hero’

Donald Trump’s unique ability is on display once again.

The president of the United States has this way – at least in my own biased way – of turning political zeroes into heroes.

Take the case of John Bolton, the former national security adviser who quit or was fired because of disagreements with the president.
Bolton is not shy in the least about expressing his views on worldly matters. I guess he got into trouble with the president because he gave Trump advice he didn’t want to hear.

Bolton has said in recent days that he didn’t think the president should meet with the Afghan terrorists known as the Taliban at Camp David on the eve of the 9/11 terrorist attack commemoration because it would, in Bolton’s eyes, dishonor the memory of the victims we lost on that terrible day.

Trump didn’t want to hear it. He also didn’t want to hear a lot of things that Bolton had to say.

So now Bolton is gone. The president has appointed another individual to offer him “advice” on how to protect the nation against our enemies. I doubt he’ll listen to the new man any more than he listened to the three previous national security advisers; I’ll pass on judging his relationship with the first guy, Michael Flynn, because he was gone after just 24 days in office.

I suspect we haven’t heard the last of John Bolton.

Hey, don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t think much of Bolton’s appointment when Trump made it. I think even less, though, of the man who selected him.

So, keep talking, John Bolton.

Living a childhood dream

REGINA, Saskatchewan — Every kid has a fantasy. I had my share.

I wanted to play professional baseball; the problem was I wasn’t good enough, nor was I willing to work to become good enough. That was my main fantasy.

Another one was popped up in grade school when we were studying the provinces of Canada. Saskatchewan was my favorite province. Why? Well, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and the name sounded cool.

I wanted to go there.

Well, my fantasy is being lived out. We are here, in the provincial capital city of Regina.

My first choice was to spend the night in Moose Jaw, about 50 or so miles west of here. Why Moose Jaw? Because I also loved the sound of the name of that city. What kid doesn’t want to spend some time in Moose Jaw, you know?

We decided to travel a bit farther and we ended up in Regina.

OK, this is silly stuff. I am aware of that. However, our retirement journey has taken us to many exciting places as we travel around North America with our RV in tow behind our pickup. Indeed, our married life of more than 48 years has taken us all over the world.

It’s just that these childhood fantasies don’t always come true. Most of mine did not bear fruit.

This one did.

Saskatchewan is just as I learned about it as an elementary school student. It has its rolling plains, but as we got past Moose Jaw and rolled into Regina, we noticed the land got utterly flat, kind of like the Texas Panhandle Caprock with which we became so familiar.

And, oh yes, the sky here is big, just as it is in Texas!

So, our journey continues. The road is wide open and it is waiting for my wife and me … along with Toby the Puppy.

RIP, Cokie Roberts

Blogger’s Note: This item was posted originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Cokie Roberts was born to do what she did.

She hailed from New Orleans, La. Her dad was a legendary congressman. Hale Boggs, though, disappeared somewhere near the North Pole in 1972 when his plane vanished; his body never was found. Hale Boggs’s wife, Lindy, succeeded him in the House of Representatives and she, too, forged a successful career in public service.

And then there was Cokie, a child of Washington who became a legendary journalist whose voice became well-known to listeners of National Public Radio and then – along with her face – to viewers of ABC News.

Cokie Roberts died this week at age 75, reportedly of complications from breast cancer, the disease that struck her many years ago.

Many of us, me included, had no idea she had relapsed. Or that she had suffered from any “complications.” I thought she was in remission.

Now she is gone. Her voice is stilled.

At the risk of sounding like some kind of chump frontrunner, I want to share a brief Cokie Roberts story that I hope distills just a bit of the type of individual she was.

I attended the 1992 Republican National presidential nomination convention in Houston. The Astrodome, where the RNC held its convention, was crawling with journalists. There were titans like Roberts and, well, not so titanic figures such as myself. I was working for the Beaumont Enterprise at the time and given that Beaumont sits only about 85 miles east of Houston, my bosses sent me down the highway to cover it.

I happened one afternoon to be waiting to enter the Astrodome when the convention staff shut the doors. As I recall it, Vice President Dan Quayle was entering the building and staff shut down entry to allow the VP free and easy access to his seat in the giant hall.

I looked to my right and there was Cokie Roberts standing next to me. She didn’t grumble. She did complain. We exchanged shrugs and we had some small-talk chat while we waited for the doors to reopen.

This is worth mentioning, I believe, because Cokie Roberts didn’t seem outwardly to think of herself as better than anyone else. She was caught in the crush of journalists and waited just as patiently as the rest of us.

Her commentary and analysis were always incisive and insightful. She knew her way around Washington, having grown up there and being exposed to the movers and shakers of public policy.

Cokie Roberts shoved her way into a world populated almost exclusively by men. She made her mark. Her voice became an important one. Her NPR listeners could depend on her insight on Monday mornings when she would offer her look at the week ahead in politics and public policy.

As NPR reported: In a 2017 interview with Kentucky Educational Television, Roberts reflected on her long career. “It is such a privilege – you have a front seat to history,” she said. “You do get used to it and you shouldn’t, because it is a very special thing to be able to be in the room … when all kinds of special things are happening.”

I am going to miss her wisdom and her honest reporting.

Social media climbing all over POTUS … and rightfully so!

Donald Trump’s crass response to the death of legendary journalist Cokie Roberts has turned into a social media feeding frenzy.

Twitter, for instance, is awash in criticism of the president for his statement that Roberts “was never really nice to me … but I respect her as a professional.”

You see, this response and its seemingly callous nature plays right into the president’s playbook. Much of the country is now talking about him and not necessarily about the accomplishments of the journalist who gave so much of her professional life to furthering the cause of the craft she pursued with dignity and honor.

Here we are, yapping and yammering about Donald Trump. I admit to being part of the crowd that is disgusted beyond measure at this man’s continuing lack of empathy.

Astonishing.

There you go, Mr. POTUS, thinking of yourself

When an iconic figure in journalism passes on, it usually is expected that men and women in high places say something gracious and laudatory about the legacy of that iconic individual.

Legendary broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts died Tuesday of complications from breast cancer. She fought the disease hard and with maximum courage for many years. Her 75-year-old body gave out.

Barack Obama and George W. Bush offered high praise for her work. Obama referred to her blazing trails for fellow female journalists; Bush called her reporting “tough” but “fair.”

Donald Trump’s response? “She never treated me nicely,” he said, adding that she was a “professional” and he said he wanted to “wish her family well.”

So, there you go. The president thought of himself before offering a tepid platitude.

That’s always how it goes with this guy.

Two GOP ‘allies’ now at each other’s throats

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and right-wing activist Michael Quinn Sullivan are having a major spat these days.

They’re blaming each other for “destroying” the Republican Party.

Hmm. Which one is guilty as charged? Well, I’ll and cast my lot with the lieutenant governor, who has taken on the National Rifle Association in seeking increased background checks on firearm purchases. Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, opposes Patrick’s position on gun control.

Thus, I am siding with Patrick.

The gun argument is just part of it. Patrick is angry with Sullivan’s role in the matter involving Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and former Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock.

Sullivan says he has recordings of Bonnen offering him the names of 10 House Republicans that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election in exchange for press credentials on the House floor. Bonnen denies it all. Sullivan isn’t releasing the full recorded conversation.

Patrick is siding with Bonnen.

The fight is on.

Both men say the other guy is hurting the Republican Party. Frankly, I don’t care much about the future of GOP, although I would prefer to see a more reasonable party than the one that has emerged in Texas. Patrick is part of the right-wing emergence of the GOP.

As for Sullivan, he and Patrick have been allies in the past.

Now, though, they are fighting over gun control and that weird conversation that allegedly occurred between Sullivan and Bonnen.

The two men have been sparring via Twitter. I would prefer they speak to each other face to face, man to man, fruitcake to fruitcake. Instead, they choose the social medium to fire insults at each other. Childish? Yes! Effective? Not really.

I detest both men. Of the two, though, I detest Sullivan more. Empower Texans has gotten involved too deeply in local politics, seeking to influence local political races, seeking to seat men and women who ascribe to the political action committee’s far-right-wing agenda. They went after two friends of mine in the Texas Panhandle in 2018: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo, two mainstream Republicans and two damn fine legislators who represent the Texas Panhandle with honor and distinction.

They seek to handpick local representatives who put Empower Texans’ needs above those of their constituents back home. That entire strategy is offensive to the max.

But … keep fighting Lt. Gov. Patrick and Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Wondering about bilingual signage

MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — It was somewhere east of Kamloops, British Columbia, when I noticed them: Highway signs began appearing with text written in English and French.

West of there it was all English.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in Canada. I went to British Columbia briefly in 1980 and made the acquaintance of some rough-and-tumble loggers who greeted me as I sought to learn about the circumstances of my father’s death in a boating accident.

I noticed then that the signage was in two languages. The loggers didn’t like it. Indeed, they didn’t think much of their countrymen and women of French ancestry … and they made their feelings clear.

But I digress.

On this journey through the western half of Canada, my wife and I took note of the appearance of the twin-language signage.

They don’t bother me in the least. Then again, I am just a visitor from the States. However, this linguistic oddity does make me wonder: When do you suppose some of our states are going to enact laws requiring twin-language highway signs. You know what I mean: signs in English and in Spanish.

Texas, where my family and I have lived for 35 years, contains a heavily Latino minority. Latinos comprise the second largest ethnic group in the state — and their percentage is overtaking the Anglo majority.

I don’t know when Texas will become a Latino-majority state. I do believe it will occur eventually, likely after I have checked out permanently.

Does this mean the state, along with other states around the country — particularly those that border Mexico — will be forced to follow the trail blazed in Canada, which decided some time back to accommodate its French-speaking minority?

It makes perfect sense to me.

I am aware that such a thing, were it to become a reality, likely won’t go over well with many Americans. Some of us think English should be the nation’s “official language.” I disagree with that notion.

However, as I have noted already, I likely won’t be around to engage in that brouhaha were it to erupt.

It could be worse, you know. A decade ago I spent a month in Israel, where I noticed that in the much of that country the highway signage was in English, Hebrew … and Arabic. 

That’s an eyeful, man!