Lindsey Graham to go after his ‘good friend’ Joe Biden

For as long as I can remember I have looked askance when I hear politicians refer to their adversaries across the partisan divide as their “good friends.”

The once-famous “friendship” between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Democratic Sen. and Vice President Joseph Biden only reaffirms my skepticism about personal relationships among politicians.

I’ve seen that famous viral video of Sen. Graham tearing up as he describes Biden, saying that if you “can’t like Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem.” He speaks of his enduring friendship with Biden, his politeness and his graciousness.

Well, these days Graham is singing a different tune about his one-time friend. He says now he intends to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, once the Senate impeachment trial of Donald John Trump concludes.

Graham chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and I guess he wants to find corruption involving the Biden men, about Hunter’s employment by the Ukraine energy company and Joe Biden’s involvement … whatever it entails.

The former VP has said he doesn’t understand what has gotten into his pal Graham. He says he thought their friendship was thick.

I guess not.

This so-called “friendship” is proving to be as flimsy and see-through as any policy pronouncement that flies out of the mouth of, say, Donald John Trump.

Trump is still a ‘phony’ and a ‘fraud’

I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney in 2012 when he ran for president against Barack H. Obama. I felt at the time — and I do at this moment — that the incumbent president was better for this country than his Republican opponent.

But then Mitt had to make a speech in 2016 that spoke for many millions of his fellow Americans. Here it is …

He called the then-prospective GOP nominee a “phony” and a “fraud.” He was right then. He would be right today — were he to muster the nerve to say it about the fraudulent politician who went on to be elected president of the United States.

I just want to share this video once again to offer a glimmer of hope that now Sen. Romney, of Utah, will muster up some guts to break ranks with his Republican Senate colleagues.

Sen. Romney says he wants former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the ongoing Senate trial of Donald John Trump. Bolton heard Trump’s infamous phone call to Ukraine’s president in which he asked the foreign government for a political favor. Bolton reportedly was alarmed at what he heard.

The House has impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump’s legal team has begun its defense of the president. No one in the Senate or the House who purports to support Trump has stood up for the man’s character.

Sen. Romney damn sure isn’t.

The speech attached to this blog post speaks volumes — and it speaks them loudly — to the essence of the man who sought the presidency in 2016 and who has abused the power of his office ever since he swore an oath to defend the Constitution.

Hello, City Hall relocation? Where will it be?

AMARILLO, Texas — This just in!

A panel assigned to study potential expansion and improvements to Amarillo’s Civic Center plans to present a $319 million bond issue election proposal to the City Council.

The proposal calls for expanding the convention space at the Civic Center, adding 75,000 of exhibit space. It also calls for a new arena seating 10,100 spectators, which is not quite twice the size of the Cal Farley Coliseum inside the Civic Center. The proposal also calls for renovation of the Santa Fe Railroad Depot next to the Civic Center and the addition of a parking garage.

Then we get to the City Hall relocation. The proposal that is attached to this blog post doesn’t mention a specific site where the new complex will be relocated.

I have thought for some time that the city needs to disclose to the public where it intends to place its new City Hall prior to submitting it to a public vote. Residents need to know for what they would be dedicating their number.

A friend of mine — who also serves as an occasional snitch on Amarillo-related matters — told me this week he thought the city would disclose the location of the new City Hall soon. I told him it had better come clean.

I remain generally in support of what the city wants to do. An expanded Civic Center would appease some concerns of critics of downtown revitalization. They have said the Civic Center should be Priority No. 1. It now appears headed to the front shelf, along with the coliseum complex and the railroad depot on the east side of the Civic Center complex.

I cannot overstate, though, the importance of disclosing in detail where the city wants to relocate City Hall. Voters are going to receive a request to shell out a lot of money. The city has pledged transparency at all levels. If I were King of the World, I would mandate a full disclosure on which existing downtown structure would house the place where residents do their business with city.

Check out the proposal here.

The artist renderings deliver a spectacular view of what the city has in mind regarding the Civic Center and the Santa Fe Depot.

What about the new City Hall?

Russia, Ukraine … which one attacked us in 2016?

Donald John Trump’s defense team today introduced, albeit gently, the notion that Ukraine might have joined its mortal enemy Russia in attacking our 2016 presidential election.

Trump is on trial for his job in the U.S. Senate. The House of Reps’ managers gave it their best shot in their opening argument. Now it’s Trump’s turn.

So what did the legal eagles representing the current president offer? They suggested that Ukraine might have attacked the U.S. election in 2016. But wait!

Russia and Ukraine are at war. Russia re-annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine. Russia-backed rebels are fighting Ukraine government forces. Thousands of people have been killed.

An alleged Ukrainian attack on our election, of course, is a Russian propaganda talking point, which Republicans in the Senate and House have been parroting. Moreover, U.S. intelligence experts have concluded unanimously that Russia acted alone in attacking our system in 2016, even though Donald Trump keeps denying their findings and disparaging their expertise.

I have to ask: Does it make any semblance of sense for Ukraine and Russia to — and pardon the expression — “collude” to interfere together to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election?

My head is spinning.

This is no way for a ‘diplomat’ to conduct himself

Imagine a secretary of state working for, say, Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Clinton, or George H.W. Bush doing the things that Mike Pompeo reportedly did to a National Public Radio reporter.

Mary Louise Kelly sought to get Pompeo to explain why he didn’t defend former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after Donald Trump ordered her fired. He said he has “defended everyone” in the State Department. Kelly persisted, asking him to explain when he has said anything in defense of Yovanovitch. Pompeo stuck to his previous answer.

Then, according to Kelly, he summoned her into his office and launched into an f-bomb-laced tirade against her, told her to find Ukraine on a plain map, with no countries identified … which she did.

Then he issued a statement blasting NPR and the so-called “fake news” media.

Imagine that kind of thing coming from, oh, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright or, for that matter, Rex Tillerson … Trump’s initial secretary of state.

Pompeo serves as the nation’s top diplomat, a post that by definition operates on a formula of dignity and decorum.

This man is behaving instead just like the crass individual who at this moment is masquerading as the nation’s current president.

Should Democratic candidates recuse themselves?

My quest for fairness compels me to wonder aloud: Given that this blog — published by me — has insisted that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unfit to sit as a “juror” in the trial of Donald John Trump, might there be a case to be made against the four Democratic senators who are running for president?

McConnell has said he won’t be an “impartial” juror, even though he took an oath to deliver impartial justice in the Senate impeachment trial of the current president of the United States.

What about the individuals who are running for their party’s nomination to oppose Trump in the November election? Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennett have made up their minds on how they intend to vote when they get the order to cast their vote. They will vote to convict Trump. Period.

I can think of a few other Republicans as well who’ve said they have made up their minds, that they don’t need no witness testimony or evidentiary documents. Lindsey Graham? Ted Cruz? John Kennedy? Give me a break.

However, this pre-judging disease spreads across the aisle.

The four Democrats have staked out their views already. Sure, they insist on witnesses and documents. It remains to be seen whether they’ll get ’em. It’s beginning to look to me as though the fix is in. Republicans who comprise most of the 100 Senate seats aren’t likely to admit witnesses, even though they have plenty to offer.

The four contenders for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, though, need to think long and hard whether they are any more qualified to serve with impartiality than the Senate majority leader who’s admitted he will do nothing of the sort.

Hey, fair is fair … right?

What gives with the Herring building?

AMARILLO, Texas — I hear things all the time. Friends and acquaintances who know what I used to do for a living whisper things to me in the hope they get my attention.

Well … I heard something about the Herring Hotel that I want to discuss briefly here. I cannot go into much detail, because I don’t know too many details about it. However, I trust the source of what I heard.

My friend informed that the Herring Hotel — on the northern edge of downtown Amarillo — is likely to be purchased by a hotel/apartment developer who wants to convert the long-abandoned hotel into a mixed-use structure. The developer supposedly plans to purchase it from Bob Goodrich, the owner of the property who’s been looking for many years for someone to repurpose the building once known as the place to go, the place to be and the place to be seen. 

I have written previously on this blog about my hope that the Herring Hotel could find new life. I have known Goodrich for many years. He is not an investor, or a developer. He does have a background in urban planning. He bought the Herring many years ago and has been paying the property taxes annually on the structure.

Am I certain of what I heard? I cannot commit to a willingness to betting my life and all my worldly possessions on it. However, I did get it confirmed the next day by someone else who said he has heard the same thing. What gives this tidbit its legs is that the individuals with whom I have discussed it have little to do with each other.

And so it goes. Or so I hope it goes.

Dershowitz needs to explain his change of mind on abuse of power

Alan Dershowitz has been recruited by Donald John Trump to join his defense team that will fight to stave off the current president’s potential conviction and removal from office.

The U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump on two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. To my mind, the House impeachment managers have made the case. He abused his power by asking Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 presidential election and obstructed justice by blocking all White House officials from answering congressional subpoenas.

The president’s team will seek to rebut them.

Dershowitz, though, is going to argue — as I understand it — that the impeachment articles somehow violate constitutional precepts, that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.

I hate to disagree with an esteemed law professor emeritus at Harvard University … but I think I will.

Moreover, Dershowitz said precisely the opposite in 1998 when the House was impeaching President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two years ago, Dershowitz said an abuse of power was impeachable, but now he says it isn’t? What’s changed between then and now?

We all know the answer. Nothing has changed!

It’s too bad senators are required to sit there silently in the Senate chamber. None of them is allowed to object to what they might hear.

Indeed, I would find it highly objectionable for esteemed professor Dershowitz to say out loud that a president cannot be impeached for abusing the power of his office when, truth be told, he most certainly can.

I am so-o-o-o-o looking forward to hearing how Donald Trump’s team seeks to defend him.

Planning to listen intently to POTUS’s defense

Now that the Democratic impeachment managers are getting set to wrap up their arguments to toss Donald John Trump out of office, I want to declare my sincere intention for the next phase of this historic event.

The current president’s defense team is going to take the U.S. Senate floor Saturday to begin its effort to persuade senators that they should acquit Trump of the allegations that have been leveled by the House of Representatives.

I want to listen to every bit of it live, in real time, to the extent that I can. My wife and I are otherwise busy the next couple of days, but my intention is to devote as much time as I can to hearing how Trump’s defense team plans to defend this guy.

The House impeached Trump on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, stemming from that infamous July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukraine for political help, asking the Ukrainians to help him cheat his way to re-election later this year. He wanted them to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and withheld duly appropriated military aid to Ukraine.

The House managers have made a compelling case that Trump put his personal political interest over the interests of the nation and then blocked Congress’s efforts to get to the heart of the matter.

How are Trump’s team planning to defend him?

I am going to wait with bated breath for someone — anyone! — on Trump’s team to say the following: Donald John Trump never would do the things he has been accused of doing.

I am going to wait for them to defend the president’s character. I want to know if they dare say such a thing about a president who they likely know did what has been alleged in the articles of impeachment. If such a defense is not forthcoming, then what is the Trump team’s next available option?

Will they continue to attack the motives of those who want him removed from office? Will they insist that the Trump foes are so filled with hate of the man that they are willing to subject the country to the sickening drama that is unfolding? Will they keep insisting that Trump was looking to root out corruption, even though the managers have proven that the president exhibited zero interest in Ukraine’s government until after Joe Biden decided to run for president?

I do not shy away from my own bias. However, I am ready to hear Donald John Trump’s team make their case. I am even more ready to hear someone on that team stand up for the president’s character, proving to us that this man never would put his personal political benefit above the oath he took to defend the Constitution.

I’m all ears.

Taking stock of a city’s changing face

AMARILLO, Texas — I thoroughly enjoy returning to this city, where my wife and I lived for more than two decades.

We arrived here in early 1995 and found a city with a boarded-up downtown, buildings were empty, there was little life to be found. The community had allowed its retail activity to vacate the downtown district to malls large, medium and small to points hither and yon.

We returned here on our latest visit to find — as we have noticed on previous visits to the Texas Panhandle — a city that is bearing a decreasing resemblance to the community my wife and I discovered when he first set foot on the Caprock.

Yes, much work remains to be done. The Barfield Building — the once-rotting hulk of a structure at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Polk Street — is still under reconstruction. I hear the building will open this spring as a boutique hotel. All I was able to notice today were all the windows that had been re-paned and the construction crews scurrying around the grounds.

All along Polk Street — the city’s one-time main drag — I noticed storefronts that once stared at the street blankly that are alive with activity.

We had lunch at a new pub downtown, next to an after-hours spot that had relocated from across the street. Meanwhile, the former site of the after-hours joint is being remade into something else.

To be sure, I did notice a blemish or two in downtown Amarillo. The Family Support Services building on Polk has been destroyed by fire. The city has cordoned off the entire block.

The Globe-News building on the outskirts of downtown sits blank, vacated. The sight of that structure now devoid of life breaks my heart, as I spent nearly 18 mostly enjoyable years there pursuing my craft as the G-N’s editorial page editor.

On the north edge of downtown sits the Herring Hotel. It is still vacant. I cannot yet confirm this report, but I’ll offer it anyway: I have heard from two sources that the Herring might be given new life — possibly soon — with the purchase of the building by a hotel developer. This isn’t the first time I have seen this sort of glimmer from the once-glorious structure. Let us hope that it comes to pass and that the buyer — if the deal is consummated — is the real thing.

I remain hopeful that Amarillo’s future will continue to brighten as it keeps working to restore the heart of the city.

I don’t believe I am overstating what my wife and I saw when we first arrived. We saw a city with a downtown that need a sort of urban renewal life support. What we have seen on our most recent visit is a downtown district that is breathing on its own.

It makes me so very happy.