All posts by kanelis2012

Obama vs. Trump: Why not debate, gentlemen?

I watched Donald Trump’s interview this morning with “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd and came away with a couple of observations I want to make here.

One is that I was glad to see the president sit down and be grilled hard by a member of a media organization he has demonized as a purveyor of “fake news.” Trump was mostly civil to Todd, who pushed the president hard on several key points. I was waiting for an explosion; it didn’t detonate.

Second, I was struck by the president’s continuing obsession with the record left behind by his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump kept insisting that the economy he inherited was on the brink of collapse, that the economy now is the “best” in U.S. history and, of course, he takes all the credit for an economic expansion he said was made possible only by his election to the presidency.

I tossed around in my head a notion I want to reveal here: Why not ask these two men to discuss that economic miracle together, in a debate, if you want to call it that?

I know it won’t happen. Presidents don’t debate their predecessors. Under what used to be normal circumstances, the current president takes office and assumes command, looking forward at all times, rarely looking backward, always thinking about what he intend to do to move the nation to the next step, past the next hurdle or barrier.

Not so with Trump. He is fixated on President Obama’s legacy, which to my way of thinking is a whole lot better than the one Trump characterizes.

So why not sit down across a table and talk to each other about how they view the economy — and perhaps a few other issues as well? Health care seems like a topic for discussion, along with, oh, relations with our allies, our ongoing war against terror and the nuclear threats posed by North Korea and Iran. Hey, maybe Trump can be forced to defend the ridiculous assertion that the special forces who killed Osama bin Laden should have acted sooner than they did; I would pay money to hear him mount that defense.

Trump is obsessed with comparing the presidency to the office that Obama left. He dare not compare himself to Obama the man, if you know what I am saying.

Barack Obama inherited an economy in free fall. It had actually collapsed by the time he took office. He along with Congress enacted some emergency measures that he hoped would stop the downward spiral. They worked. The economy then entered a job growth streak that hasn’t let up. Yet it is Donald Trump who takes the credit for the expansion that’s still under way.

If only we could actually hear these men explain to us their version of history. One of them, Obama, would do so in a measured, nuanced and elegant manner. The other, Trump, would resort to his version of the English language.

I wish it would happen. All I am left to do is sigh.

Hoping Joe Biden hangs tough

I am going to make it clear: I do not want Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy to wither and die because he said he was able to work with senators with whom he had serious disagreements.

The former vice president had the bad form to hold up a couple of raging racists — Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia — as examples of the men with whom he could do political business.

The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has gone ballistic, savaging Biden over those remarks. Many of those progressives happen to be fellow Democratic candidates for president.

The former VP will have a chance to stand with those critics next week at the first set of Democratic presidential debates. How should he handle the criticism that is sure to fly at him? Maybe he can express regret over the examples he cited. Perhaps an apology is in order. However, he also should emphasize that the art of legislating, which is what he did for more than three decades as a senator, often requires lawmakers to cross the ideological divide to get things done.

And yes, sometimes that involves working with despicable characters.

Stand firm, Vice President Biden. I’m not sure you’ll have my vote when the Democratic primary field rolls into Texas. I just want the man to explain to laymen like me how effective governance works.

Sportsmanship is alive and well in St. Louis

Sportsmanship lives. It flourishes in the hearts of baseball fans who flocked to a ballpark to cheer for a man who no longer plays for their home team, but who has conducted himself with grace and dignity throughout his magnificent Major League Baseball career.

Albert Pujols spent the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame-quality career playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Then the prospect of bigger money came calling and he ended up signing a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Angels. A different city, team and a different league.

There were reportedly some hard feelings when Pujols left St. Louis, where he had been compared to the late Stan “The Man” Musial, the greatest Cardinal of them all.

Pujols’s stellar career is winding down. He is approaching 40 years of age. The Angels came to St. Louis to play the Cardinals in a three-game set at Busch Stadium.

How did the Cardinals fans greet Albert Pujols when he stepped into the batter’s box for the first time Friday night? With a two-minute standing ovation.

Then just this afternoon, Pujols cracked career home run No. 646 into the left field seats. The fans reaction? They stood and cheered … again! They kept cheering after Pujols entered the dugout. They stood longer and cheered some more, forcing Pujols to come back onto the field, tip his cap to the fans, who responded with even louder cheers.

This is what sportsmanship looks like. This is how players with class treat their fans with class and how fans respond with class when the player comes back wearing an “enemy” uniform.

We hear a lot of about boo birds pouring catcalls onto the field at players who burn their bridges when they depart their teams for greener and more lucrative pastures.

I am heartened to realize that surely isn’t always the case.

Well done, Albert Pujols and well done, also, St. Louis Cardinals fans.

Recalling a great Republican governor

I mentioned the late Tom McCall in a recent blog post, citing him as the type of Republican politician I admired. The more I think about it the more I feel compelled to elaborate on the great man.

McCall was born in Massachusetts but moved to Oregon as a youngster. He divided his time between the coasts. Even as he grew into adulthood, McCall never seemed to lose his New England accent.

McCall got his degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and reported for newspapers in Idaho and then Oregon before entering politics.

Oregon voters elected him to two terms as governor in 1966 and then in 1970. Then he had to bow out because of term limits.

I want to mention McCall because of the makeup and tenor that we hear from today’s Republican Party. McCall was not a doctrinaire Republican politician. I don’t recall him adhering to rigid ideology, other, I suppose, than being tight with public money.

He developed many friends in both political parties. He remember him as being affable and easygoing. I never met the man, as my journalism career began the year after he left office in January 1975.

But in 1971, McCall blurted out something to a CBS News reporter that has become legendary in Oregon. He told the reporter that visitors were welcome to “Come visit us again and again. This is a state of excitement. But for heaven’s sake, don’t come here to live.”

Now, I cannot prove this, but my hunch all along was that when Gov. McCall made that statement in 1971, he did so to lure more residents to the state. His seeming snobbishness ignited the boom that continues to this day.

Many folks around the country — particularly in California — took McCall’s statement seriously, that he really didn’t want people to move into Oregon. I have asked for decades: What politician worth a damn is going to tell people to stay away and, thus, deprive his state government of vital tax revenue?

That isn’t my favorite anecdote about Gov. McCall, though. The topper occurred the previous year, in 1970, when he essentially legalized marijuana for a day when tens of thousands of young people gathered in rural Clackamas County for an event called “Vortex: A Biodegradable Festival of Life.” They played rock music and, shall we say, enjoyed each other’s company while the American Legion was meeting in Portland for its annual convention.

The Vietnam War was still raging and those students had been killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio. McCall thought when decided to have a state-sponsored rock festival that he had “committed political suicide.” His aim was to avoid a clash between anti-war protesters and the Legion convention attendees.

As the saying goes: mission accomplished. And, yes, McCall was re-elected in 1970 with 56 percent of the vote.

Imagine for a moment a Republican politician — or a Democrat, for that matter — doing something so audacious today.

‘AOC’ now becomes a political brand? Who knew?

I never really saw this one coming. I still find it strange.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become known the way JFK, LBJ, RFK, MLK have become known. Yep, she’s now referred to by her initials.

Here’s what I do not quite get: She is a freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives, coming from New York City. She knocked off a long-time member of the House, Joseph Crowley, to become the Democratic Party nominee in 2018; given the district’s strong Democratic leanings, her election was a shoo-in later that year.

She has become a ubiquitous presence throughout the media. Newspapers give her plenty of space on their pages; cable and broadcast TV news outlets rush to get her to appear on their programs; I guess Fox News is the exception, given that the network doesn’t much cotton to her political leaning, nor does she to Fox’s leaning.

I’ll acknowledge, too, that this blog now refers to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez occasionally as “AOC.” Why? It’s easier for my rickety old fingers to type her initials than her entire name.

Man, the political calculus has changed. There once was a time when politicians needed years worth of seasoning to attain this kind of star status. By that I refer to the use of initials to ID them.

I get that there’s a certain form of musicality to the sound of some initials as you say them. The examples I cited at the top of this blog post symbolize to what I am referring. I suppose “AOC” does as well.

It’s not that necessarily believe Ocasio-Cortez is always wrong when she makes her public pronouncements. I just want her to grow a little bit more into the job she won before she becomes such a media force of nature.

Call me old-school. Or fuddy-duddy. Maybe even a grumpy old man.

I don’t care. I just prefer politicians to earn their way into this form of colloquial status.

Immigration debate produces another villain

I already have called into question whether immigrant detainees are being held in “concentration camps,” as alleged by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives.

But then a Justice Department lawyer told a federal appeals court judge that children being held in these detention centers don’t necessarily need toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and blankets to be “safe and sanitary.”

The government sought to argue before a three-judge panel — part of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — that it shouldn’t be required to provide those necessities to children who are kept in these centers along the southern border.

The idiocy came from DOJ lawyer Sarah Fabian. Her comments drew a sharp rebuke from Judge A. Wallace Tashima, who said, “To me it’s more like it’s within everybody’s common understanding: If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary.”

The government is in court appealing a 2017 ruling that declared that migrants were being kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions along the border.

And this is the defense that the Department of Justice sought to mount, that these essential personal hygiene elements aren’t part of maintaining “safe and sanitary” conditions?


I stand by my questioning of the “concentration camp” description. I also want to condemn in the strongest terms possible the idiotic notion put forth that these migrants do not need to be clean while they are being held in these detention centers.

We are talking here about children, for God’s sake!

Here we go again, another sexual assault allegation against POTUS

Oh, brother. It never seems to stop.

I believe the number of women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault has risen to 15. The latest accusation comes from a journalist who said the future president of the United States attacked her in 1995 in a dressing room.

The woman’s name is E. Jean Carroll, who was writing for Elle magazine at the time. Trump was married to the second of his three wives when the incident allegedly occurred.

Trump, quite naturally, denies the event occurred. He denies even meeting Carroll. Except that the accuser has produced a picture showing her with her husband at the time meeting Trump and his then-wife, Ivana, around 1987.

I must point out that Carroll is a Democrat. She voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She has given money to Emily’s List, a group formed to promote female candidates for public office.

Still, this accusation is troubling in the extreme. What I find so amazing about it is that Carroll’s story mirrors what Trump said in 2006, that he was able to grab women by their genitals because of his “celebrity” status. Yep, the infamous “Access Hollywood” recording lays out what Trump has acknowledged being able to do.

Now we have a woman who has come forward. She says Trump actually raped her. And, oh yes, she still has the clothing she was wearing at the time of the alleged attack … and she says she’s never washed it!

Well now. Where do you suppose this story might go?

GOP has gone mad in the state of my birth

Oregon Republicans used to comprise a sane lot of politicians, folks who actually knew how to govern and they did it well.

The late Gov. Tom McCall, a Republican, is a legendary figure in Oregon. So is the late Sen. Mark Hatfield, another GOP stalwart. Oregon had a Republican secretary of state, Clay Myers, who was known to work well with Democrats.

These days the Republican Party in Oregon — the state where I was born and spent the first 34 years of my life — has gone bonkers.

They comprise 12 members of the Oregon Senate. The rest of the 30-member body comprises Democrats. The Oregon Senate needs 20 members present, a quorum, to do business.

The state’s Republican Senate caucus dislikes a cap-and-trade bill — an environmentally friendly bill that aims to cut carbon emissions — that they all have disappeared. They aren’t reporting for work. The Senate can’t do any business.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has dispatched the state police to look for the missing senators. She wants to round up enough of them to force the Senate to vote on the emissions bill.

Here is where it gets really weird, man. At least one GOP senator, Brian Boquist, is threatening to kill any trooper who seeks to take him into custody to bring him back to work.

As CNN reported on what Boquist told a Portland TV station: “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.” Yep. There’s an implied threat of violence there, right? Of course there is!

I began my journalism career in Oregon in 1976. I didn’t get to cover the Legislature in those days, although I certainly reported on the impact of legislation on the community I served as a reporter and later an editor. Nothing like this ever occurred.

Then again, that was a time when Republicans and Democrats actually worked together in state government and actually got things done for the benefit of those of us they served.

Here come the questions about the canceled strike

The questions have started coming forth about Donald Trump’s statement that he called off a planned strike against Iran after hearing about the potential for civilian casualties.

Hmm. Let me see how this played out.

The president assigned the Pentagon to draft a strike plan against the Iranians after the Iranians shot down an unarmed drone over international waters.

The brass followed the orders and then got the planes, ships and personnel ready to launch the strike.

Then the president decided to inquire about potential loss of life just as the planes were about to take flight? Is that right?

What kind of military planning didn’t divulge that information from the very beginning? Thus, we now have suspicion over what the president told NBC News’s Chuck Todd, that he was “cocked and loaded” to deliver punishment to Iran, but only found out at the last minute to cancel the strike because it would have been a “disproportionate” response?

This is the kind of suspicion that haunts Donald Trump. He seems unable or unwilling to execute a plan the way it should be done. He wants us to believe that the Pentagon’s military planners didn’t tell him from the outset about the casualties that would be inflicted by such a strike?


Wanting to believe POTUS on canceled strike, but then …

I truly want to believe Donald Trump’s statement that he called off a strike against Iran because it wasn’t “proportionate.”

I want to believe that he asked about the potential for civilian casualties and then decided the strike was too heavy a punishment against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran had shot down a drone aircraft over international waters. The Iranians allege the craft, which was unarmed, was flying in its territorial air space.

Trump then sought to retaliate for the shooting down of a U.S. military asset. He said our forces were “cocked and loaded.” He said he was set to send the craft against the Iranian targets, but then he thought differently about it.

The brass told him there would be civilian casualties, possibly 150 people, Trump said.

So he backed off.

Do I believe him? Do I take him at his word, that he’s telling us the truth? Hah! How is that even possible, given this individual’s penchant for prevarication?

I am left to presume the president is giving it to us straight, absent any public rebuke from the military brass that took part in developing the response.

I stand at the moment highly relieved that the president didn’t heed the advice from the uber-hawks among his national security team who argued for a military strike that might have produced a seriously dangerous response from a seriously rogue nation.