Category Archives: national news

Graham: New AG ‘comfortable’ with Russia probe

Lindsey “The Lap Dog” Graham, a South Carolina Republican U.S. senator who once dared to challenge Donald Trump’s competence and moral standing, now says the president’s new attorney general is comfortable with an investigation under way into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives in 2016.

OK, then. How in the world are we supposed to believe that.

Acting AG Matthew Whitaker is on record calling special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “fraud.” Trump appointed him as acting attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions solely because Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter.

Now the senator wants us to believe (a) that Whitaker is OK with Mueller’s probe and (b) the president won’t order Whitaker to give Mueller the axe.

I don’t believe the first thing. The second matter, whether Trump will commit a supremely foolish act, is anyone’s guess. No one can predict what the president will do, not even Sen. Graham.

Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department fills me with dread. I fear the president will move to coerce Whitaker into forcing Mueller out. I also fear that Whitaker will do the president’s bidding. The result of all this will produce the mother of constitutional crises; believe me when I say that I do not want that to happen.

Moreover, given Sen. Graham’s dramatic change of heart regarding the president, I am disinclined to believe anything he says as well. Back when he was running against Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, he spoke candidly about Trump’s credentials for the nation’s top job — or, more to the point, the absence of credentials.

Then Trump vanquished him. He got elected president. Now the senator has been slobbering all over Trump’s shoes, seeking to please him, possibly because he wants to become attorney general.

Is the senator to be believed now? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Russia drama continues to play out.

I’ll just implore the powers that be — one more time! — to let Robert Mueller do his job. Let him finish his work.

This is what heroes look like

Take a good look at this picture, which appeared on social media this afternoon.

It is a picture of firemen trying to grab a couple of winks. They’re dog tired. Exhausted. Whipped. They are covered in dirt and soot.

These are just a few of the heroes fighting those fires in California. They are among the men and women who get paid to do things some of us might have fantasized about when we were kids, but who found other ways to earn a living when we grew up.

These individuals chose to pursue careers dedicated to public service. They are performing that service at the highest levels imaginable as I write these words.

Other firefighters from around the country are rushing to their side to give them relief, to lend their own expertise, skill and courage in helping quell the flames that have killed dozens of victims, decimated thousands of acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes, ruined countless lives.

These heroes are trying to catch their breath before heading back into the hell on Earth that awaits them.

Godspeed to them all.

Trump goes nuts again!

I am running out of ways to express my dismay, disgust and disbelief at what I keep reading about the president’s Twitter tantrums.

Donald J. Trump launched another one, going after special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators. He says they have gone “absolutely nuts.” He says Mueller, a former FBI director, is burden by a loads of conflicts of interest. He declares — falsely, if you’ll excuse me — that Mueller worked for President Obama for eight years; he worked for Obama for a couple of years after the new president asked him to stay on after President Bush (who hired him) left office in 2009.

It looks for all the world to me like classic “projection.” The president, not Mueller, has gone “absolutely nuts.”

Mueller is trying to finish his probe into “the Russia thing.” He has sent some of his lawyers home. Word is out that he and his team are drafting their final report. He has proceeded quietly, never saying a word publicly about what he knows, or where he has come up empty.

Meanwhile, the president continues to blast away with idiotic Twitter messages. He seeks to undermine an ongoing federal investigation. He disparages the Justice Department, the FBI, you name it.

Meanwhile, rather than focusing intently on preparing for the next Congress taking office in January — a body that will look quite different from the current Congress — Trump is busying himself with these goofy Twitter tirades.

The president needs to prepare a legislative agenda that should be considered by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats. He needs to study the piles of reports his staff (presumably) has prepared for him. Oh, I forgot: He doesn’t read reports, being blessed — as he has said — with a brilliant mind.

OK. Let’s all get ready for the second half of the president’s term. If you thought the first half’s ride was bumpy, it will look like a journey across placid waters compared to what lies ahead.

McConnell wants what? Bipartisanship? For real?

I gave myself one of those proverbial forehead slaps when I heard this tidbit: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants there to be more “bipartisanship” in the next Congress.

Huh? He said what? This comes in the form of an op-ed column from the obstructionist in chief on Capitol Hill?

It took my breath away.

This is the fellow who said in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Uh, huh. He said that. The 2012 presidential election, of course, dashed Leader McConnell’s dream. President Obama won re-election.

Then came the congressional Republican caucuses singular effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They staged countless votes in the Senate and the House. They came up short. Who led the charge? Mitch did, that’s who.

And then we had the obstruction to end all obstructions in early 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon on the court, died suddenly in Texas. Justice Scalia’s body had barely gotten cold when McConnell declared that President Obama would not get the chance to replace him.

Oh sure, the president can nominate someone, McConnell said, but Republicans were not going to move the nomination forward. Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland — a supremely qualified man — only to watch his nomination wither and die. We had a presidential election to conclude and McConnell banked on the hope that a Republican would be elected. His gamble paid off with Donald Trump’s election.

Now the majority leader wants a more bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

Pardon me while I bust out laughing.

The next Congress will be split. Democrats will control the House; Republicans will lead the Senate. Bipartisanship certainly is the preferred way to govern.

That such a call would come from the U.S. Senate’s leading obstructionist gives “gall” a bad name.

Chaos set to explode at White House

Reince Priebus got the boot as White House chief of staff because, among other things, the staff was fighting openly among its members.

Donald Trump enlisted Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to right the ship. Kelly signed on as chief of staff, kicked out some of the troublemakers and settled into his new gig as the president’s keeper.

Then came the midterm election. It didn’t go quite so well for the president and the Republican Party. The battling within the White House resumed.

Kelly now is among those closest to the president who not only is involved in some of the rhetorical brawling, he might be on the short list of key staffers about to be shown the door.

His successor at Homeland Security, Kirjsten Nielsen, is thought to be on the bubble. Defense Secretary James Mattis, too. Same with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Media are reporting that press secretary Sarah Sanders might depart by the end of the year. Rumors also are flying about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s future.

Now we have first lady Melania Trump engineering the departure of national security adviser John Bolton’s top aide. Holy moly, man!

Have I mentioned that the president’s “fine-tuned machine” is in need of a serious lube job? There. I just did.

John Kelly pledged to stay through the 2020 election. It looks now as though that pledge won’t bear fruit. What do you suppose might be driving him away? Is it the president’s SNAFU over declining to visit the cemetery containing American servicemen who died in World War I? Is the ongoing chaos that keeps the White House in a state of constant upheaval?

Whatever it is. Whatever is troubling the entire staff is likely to bring another wave of resignations/dismissals.

Get the grease gun for that White House machine.

An ‘SNL’ joke makes this young man a star

I didn’t know Dan Crenshaw from the man in the moon … until someone made a tasteless joke at Crenshaw’s expense on “Saturday Night Live.”

Then the young man became all the rage, the talk of the nation.

It turns out he is a newly elected Republican congressman from Houston. He’s also a former Navy SEAL who suffered a grievous injury fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. He lost an eye. The sight in his other eye is flawed. He has trouble keeping his balance and, as the Texas Tribune reports, he “misses” handshakes on occasion.

As the Tribune reported: Weirdly, his election wasn’t the biggest news in Crenshaw’s life last week. That came during the first minutes of Nov. 4 on the “Weekend Update” portion of “Saturday Night Live,” when cast member Pete Davidson, who gave a riff on the midterms, presented a photo of Crenshaw, eye patch on.

“You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit-man in a porno movie,” the comedian joked. “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.”

Rep.-elect Crenshaw, though, is a terrific sport. When cast member Pete Davidson made fun of his injury on “SNL,” many around the nation took offense. “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels invited Crenshaw on the show. Crenshaw at first balked, then he went on and returned the barbs to Davidson.

The congressman-to-be has become a political star as a result.

The Tribune published a lengthy feature about Crenshaw. Read it here.

I find this fellow’s story to be quite compelling and worthy of attention, even without his star turn on “SNL.”

He fought through a difficult Republican primary to be nominated, then knocked off a Democratic incumbent to win a seat in Congress representing his native Houston. He also is part of a congressional freshman class that includes 15 veterans, which I believe gives the next Congress valuable insight into the myriad issues — and problems — that our returning servicemen and women are facing.

I like this fellow’s story. I grieve for his terrible injury, but am proud of the way he handled himself in light of the flurry of controversy that swirled after the “SNL” joke went viral.

I wish him well as he takes on his new job representing his congressional district.

And, welcome home, young man.

Return the press pass to CNN’s White House reporter

I’ll concede that Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is a show-off who brims with misplaced self-importance.

He also is a journalist who works for a legitimate news-gathering organization — who has been singled out unfairly by the president of the United States.

The White House yanked Acosta’s press credentials. Why? It said initially he put his hands on a young intern who sought to grab a microphone out of Acosta’s hands while he was asking the president a question.

I watch the incident live as it happened. Then I saw it again, and again. He didn’t do anything of the sort. Now the White House is yammering a different line, that Acosta was too persistent in his questioning.

Give me a break!

The White House, let alone the president of the United States, cannot put government pressure on a media organization by this kind of bullying. That’s what they’re doing in the White House. They are trying to bully and intimidate the media, which seek to get answers on all manner of government policy.

CNN has sued the White House, protesting the decision to rescind the reporter’s press pass.

Acosta is known as an aggressive reporter. He is far from the first or even the worst. Do you remember how Sam Donaldson would tangle with President Reagan? Or how about when Dan Rather would get under President Nixon’s thin skin? Did either of those presidents yank their press credentials? No. They sucked it up. They answered their questions and let the reporters and their employers chronicle their answers.

Trump talks like some kind of tough guy. He isn’t. He demonstrates profound weakness by banishing an aggressive reporter, whose job is to ask difficult questions.

The president’s job requires him to provide answers.

POTUS’s patriotism at issue?

I guess I’m missing something here.

Barack Obama’s critics were hair-trigger quick to criticize the president as “unpatriotic,” concocting all kinds of reasons to lay that unfair criticism on him.

So, his successor, Donald J. Trump, goes to Europe to commemorate the 100th year since the end of World War I. What does he (not) do? He declines to attend a ceremony at an American cemetery outside of Paris, citing inclement weather; dozens of other heads of state attended the ceremony.

The president then attends another ceremony the next day before coming home.

Then he declines to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, the day the government recognizes as Veterans Day. Neither did the vice president.

And yet … the critics who blasted President Obama continually over his alleged lack of love of country have been quiet about Donald Trump’s absence at two places honoring our fallen warriors.

Hmm. Hypocrisy, anyone?

POTUS keeps failing his task to be consoler in chief

“We have the best firefighters and first responders in the country working in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. We’re putting everything we’ve got into the fight against these fires and this request ensures communities on the front lines get additional federal aid.” 

So said California Gov. Jerry Brown as he and his state government seek ways to quell the blazes that have destroyed towns, killed dozens of Californians and terrorized the residents of the nation’s most populous state.

Meanwhile, the president of the United States, whose duties include standing behind those fellow Americans who put themselves in harm’s way and to support those who are suffering, continues to rant and rail against what he calls “forest mismanagement.”

Declaring a disaster

Donald Trump did soften his tone somewhat over the weekend. He signed a federal emergency relief order and disaster declaration that expedites aid to the stricken communities and he offered blessings to those who have suffered.

That all came after a storm of tweets and other public statements that criticized state forest management practices, which the president has blamed for the fires that are the deadliest in California history.

Fire departments from all over the country — including from throughout Texas — have dispatched personnel to California to give aid to their fellow firefighters. The fire service is a tight-knit community of men and women who always seek to have the backs of their brothers and sisters in harm’s way.

That sense of camaraderie should extend to the highest levels of government. It is missing in action. The president, who should have put the concerns of the victims and the firefighters who are risking their lives, first in his public response. He didn’t. He chose instead to level unfounded criticism.

Shameful.

POTUS undermines, denigrates our electoral system

They’re still counting ballots in Florida, where election controversy seems endemic in a system that needs fixing.

But sitting on the sidelines is a guy named Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, who is heckling state and local officials, accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” an election, suggesting widespread “fraud” where none exists and in general exacerbating an already-tense and contentious election.

Trump is doing a supreme disservice to the cause of free and fair elections, which are a hallmark of the nation he was elected to lead.

How about comparing this president’s conduct with another president who, as he was preparing to leave office, stood by silently while officials in the same state of Florida grappled with another — even more significant — electoral controversy.

Vice President Al Gore wanted to succeed President Clinton in 2000. He and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush fought hammer-and-tong for the presidency. It came down to Florida. The race was razor thin. Whoever won the state’s electoral votes would be elected president.

They launched a recount. Bush’s margin of victory narrowed to 537 votes out of more than 5 million ballots cast. Then the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. It ordered the count stopped. Bush won the state’s electoral votes. He took the oath of office in January 2001.

President Clinton stayed quiet through it all. When he was asked about the controversy, the president said he preferred not to get involved. The U.S. Constitution did its job without presidential hectoring, haranguing and harassment.

Yep, there’s a lesson to be learned about a previous president’s conduct during a seriously contentious time. The lesson will be lost on Donald John Trump.

Sad.