Category Archives: national news

Rep. Schock wishing for anonymity

Aaron Schock is one of those politicians few people ever hear of outside of the district he represents.

A lot more Americans know about him now, and for reasons he likely wishes didn’t exist.

The Illinois Republican congressman has made a name for himself by spending a lot of taxpayer money on private matters for himself and his staff.

The U.S. House Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint that Schock spent extravagantly while on an “official” trip to the United Kingdom. The expenses included stays at very expensive hotels, high-dollar meals and many other perks along the way. He allegedly used private aircraft in violation of House rules.

The latest is that Schock reportedly treated his staff to a $10,000-plus weekend in New York, with staffers performing next to zero official duties.

I know he isn’t the first politician to go for the gusto on the public dime. He won’t be the last, not by a long shot.

The fascination with this still-developing story, at least as far as I’m concerned, is how a no-name back-bench politician manages to place himself squarely in the public eye with apparently no outward sense of shame or embarrassment.

Is there a sense of entitlement at work here?

Rep. Lewis still stands tall

If I had to cast a vote for the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights icon, it would have to be — without question — a gentleman from Georgia, U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

This great man spoke over the weekend at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. He was among a large crowd of Americans marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers were attacked at that bridge by Alabama police officers.

Rep. Lewis was one of them. He was beaten within an inch of his life by policemen with clubs.

He was part of what was supposed to be a non-violent march in search of voting rights for all Americans, notably African-Americans.

Lewis spoke today, 50 years after that event, and presented himself as just one man who sought to bring justice for his fellow Americans.

He’s such a towering figure today that he totally belies his relatively short physical stature.

Lewis is the last known survivor of those who stood on the podium behind Martin Luther King Jr. during Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He was at the forefront — even at such a young age — of non-violent protest marches.

He was beaten, but never defeated. And then, when it came time for him to seek public office, he launched his effort to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he would help write the laws that affect all Americans.

I was proud for Rep. Lewis that he was able today to speak loudly and forcefully from the bridge where 50 years ago he was bloodied. This great man demonstrated the immense power of one’s principle and conviction.

There can be no greater testament to the cause for which this courageous man fought and bled.

Amazing turnaround on race

UPDATE: This just in … House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed late to commit to attending the Selma, Ala., rally commemorating the march that helped spark approval of the Voting Rights Act 50 years ago.


Virtually no Republican leaders will take part in ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Ala., civil rights march?

How can that be?

The Party of Abraham Lincoln needs to have representation at this event. Doesn’t it?

The march helped produce the Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat who pushed it through Congress with help from his Republican allies. Indeed, the Democratic Party — particularly in the South — was well-known to resist civil-rights legislation. LBJ was warned by his Southern Democratic friends that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act would cost the party dearly in terms of Southern support. It did.

Fifty years later, it’s now Republicans who are staying away from events to commemorate the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The GOP won’t be totally absent. An estimated 23 Republican members of the House and Senate will attend. Good for them.

Are the party leaders who should be there — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — all racists? I don’t believe that for a moment. One key GOP leader, though, really and truly needs to be there. That would be House Majority Whip Gary Scalise, who spoke to a David Duke-sponsored political event before being elected to the House; he’s since disavowed that appearance and has declared that he harbors no racial bias — but he needed to commit to this event.

The allegiances of the two major parties appear to have turned rather dramatically with regard to race relations.


DOJ to go after Democratic senator

Lets hand it to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It’s an equal-opportunity pursuer of corruption in government.

DOJ’s target is a Democratic senator from New Jersey, Bob Menendez, who’s been accuse of using his public office to enrich private donors.

Ouch … and double ouch!

The DOJ has been accused of being too partisan, whether it’s run by a Democrat or a Republican. The current Justice Department is under the purview of a Democratic administration, so it stands to reason that it would let allegations of misdeeds against a fellow Democrat to pass, right? Wrong!

As Politico reported: “A federal grand jury in New Jersey has for months been investigating Menendez’s interactions with Salomon Melgen, a close friend and financial backer of the senator, prompting Menendez to rack up hundreds of thousands in legal bills as the probe intensified. A New Jersey newspaper reported this week that several Menendez aides declined to answer questions before the grand jury, citing a constitutional privilege that covers the New Jersey Democrat and other lawmakers and staff.”

I’ve got to hand it to the Justice Department, not that I think necessarily that Menendez is guilty of anything. Heck, I live way out here in Flyover Country and I haven’t been following the Menendez case carefully.

My salute is to DOJ for going ahead with an investigation it could have swept away, citing “insufficient evidence” as a reason not to pursue a criminal probe.

Make no mistake, justice departments of both parties have used that dodge with particular effectiveness.

Not this one. Not this time.

“Let me be very clear, very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” Menendez said. “I am not going anywhere.”

We’ll see about that.

How about confirming new AG … now?

The delay over a confirmation vote on the new U.S. attorney general is beginning to confound me.

Loretta Lynch is an eminently qualified U.S. attorney from New York. She was nominated by President Obama to succeed Eric Holder at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 to recommend her confirmation, with three Republicans joining all nine Democrats on the panel to approve her confirmation.

But the full Senate has yet to schedule a confirmation vote.

All 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking him to schedule a vote so that Lynch presumably can get started on her new job.

The confounding part is the consequence of the delay.

Eric Holder remains on the job. It’s not that I think he’s done a poor job as attorney general. Senate Republicans cannot stand the guy. He’s angered them time and again over policy disagreements. The GOP caucus doesn’t want him on the job any longer.

So, why not schedule a vote for Lynch — who still enjoys some Republican support — so she can replace the despised Eric Holder?

Is it because getting Holder out of office robs Republicans of a target at whom they can take potshots?

Hey, I’m just askin’.

Schedule a Senate vote, Mr. Majority Leader.


Nothing is secret, Mme. Secretary

Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a public figure for more than three decades, going back to when she was first lady of Arkansas.

She ought to know a fundamental truth about public notoriety: Almost nothing is secret.

But as The Hill notes in the attached report, Clinton has a penchant for secrecy that is driving her supporters to the point of insanity.

The recent email flap is a case in point.

She used her private email account to conduct affairs of the State Department, which she led during the first term of the Obama administration. She likely didn’t break the law. Previous secretaries of state have done the same thing. So have governors, senators, county commissioners — you name it — of both major parties.

The rules have changed since Clinton left the State Department.

Still, Clinton and her team seem to have mishandled the uproar over the revelation about the use of the private account. It’s causing grief among those who want her to run for president in 2016. An announcement is expected within the next month or so.

I happen to dislike the idea of public officials using personal email or other personal media accounts to do public business. Politicians of all stripes talk about the need for “transparency.” Only the most sensitive national security matters should be kept from public view.

Clinton now has asked the State Department to release her emails to an inquiring public, which by the way includes members of the House Select Benghazi Committee that no doubt is looking for that “smoking gun” to shoot holes in her probable presidential campaign.

Whatever. The former secretary/U.S. senator/U.S. first lady knows better than most the price people for seeking to serve the public.

As the cliché reminds us: No good deed goes unpunished.


Good doctor snaps out of it

No one ever should question Ben Carson’s smarts as a neurosurgeon.

He’s one of the best ever, in the world. But the good doctor stepped in it big time during a CNN interview and has actually apologized for some remarks he made about homosexuality and how he thought people “become” gay.

Dr. Carson told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that one needs to look at the prison population to understand that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. He said prisoners have begun their sentences as straight but come out as gay.

Sexual orientation? The doctor called it a “choice.”

He’s taken it back. Carson, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, still doesn’t believe marriage equality, preferring to support civil unions for gay couples. But he’s said he’s sorry for the offense he caused by using the prisoners-choose-to-be-gay example.

“I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation,” he said on Facebook. “I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”

Apology accepted, Dr. Carson. Now, let’s stick to the issues that we can control. Sexual orientation isn’t one of them.


Benghazi returns to center stage

I got a bit ahead of myself with an earlier blog post about Hillary Clinton’s email tempest.

The supposition was that she was in trouble again, but the difficulty didn’t have anything to do with Benghazi.


The House Benghazi Committee — that’s what I’ll call it — is going to subpoena the former secretary of state’s email messages to determine what she said at the time of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

This ties into the email problem because Clinton used her personal email account to communicate official State Department business. The Benghazi panel, which already has traipsed all over the issue of the consulate fire fight and what the State Department knew about it, wants to see the emails to determine, I suppose, if there’s any “smoking gun” with which to blast away at the presumed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.

I am concerned about the use of a private email account to conduct public business. The Benghazi matter? Not so much. Yes, the deaths of those people were tragic beyond measure. But I do not believe Secretary Clinton purposely misled Americans about the attack, nor do I believe there’s been an orchestrated cover-up by the State Department or the White House.

However, by golly, we’re going to revisit the Benghazi attack once again because of questions about whether Secretary Clinton hid pertinent information — whatever it might have been — from the public she was serving.

HRC looking suddenly vulnerable

What’s the opposite of “invincible”?

Is it, say, “vincible”?

Suddenly and with little warning, the chatterers of Washington and in some key political hot spots are starting to wonder aloud whether the once seemingly invincible Hillary Rodham Clinton might actually not run for president of the United States next year.

I believe a Clinton pullout from the White House contest remains the longest of long shots. She’s invested a lot of her time, money, effort and political capital in getting support on board to bail now.

But oh, man, there’s trouble out there. It has nothing to do, really, with Benghazi.

It has to do with her use of email technology and whether she might have kept the public’s business hidden from public view.

Politico is reporting that Democratic strategists aren’t yet considering the idea of Clinton dropping out of the race: “What if The Unthinkable did happen and she actually dropped out? What would be the Democrats’ response? ‘Panic,’ says Democratic consultant Chris Lapetina.”

Some questions have emerged of late about whether the then-secretary of state broke federal rules by communicating exclusively with her private email account. The way I see the trouble is that using private channels leaves open the possibility that she conducted non-classified public business in private. More murkiness has emerged as well, with some Clinton supporters suggesting that the rules weren’t put in place until after she left the State Department.

Clinton’s advisers have said she broke no laws and followed the “spirit and letter” of the rules governing such communication.

Suddenly, though, the smooth sailing Clinton has enjoyed so far has given way to some choppy waters. Have the waves built enough to capsize the Good Ship Hillary? Not yet, but factions on the Democratic Party’s left and most certainly those on the right and far right aren’t about to throw her many life lines.

Democratic Party “panic” needs to give way to some planning in the event that The Unthinkable actually occurs.