Category Archives: national news

Kansas turning blue? Maybe

Albert Hunt probably wants this to happen, given his political leanings.

The veteran political journalist is suggesting that Kansas — one of the country’s most dependably Republican states — might elect its first Democratic U.S. senator since 1932.

And you know what? It’s more than just remotely possible.

Pat Roberts is a veteran Republican senator who now is in the fight of his life. The Democrat who had been slated to run against him dropped out of the race. His name will remain on the Kansas ballot, for now; the decision is under appeal.

Roberts now faces a well-funded, popular independent, Greg Orman, a businessman who says he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and for Mitt Romney in 2012.

As Hunt notes in his article for Bloomberg View, Roberts was beaten up badly in a Republican primary by an opponent who made Roberts’s residency an issue. Roberts didn’t help himself during the primary campaign when he let slip that “home” is Washington, D.C., and not Kansas.

Some polls suggest Orman is leading the two-man race for the Senate.

Even though Orman is a registered independent, he’s getting plenty of help from Democrats who want him to caucus with them if he gets elected.

What does this mean for an expected Republican takeover of the Senate? It means if Kansas, of all places, elects someone other than a Republican, then a GOP takeover might not be nearly as inevitable as a lot of folks are predicting.


When did ISIL become such a threat?

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant dominated the Sunday talk shows.

Why not? ISIL has been on everyone’s mind these days.

Whether it’s ISIL or ISIS — po-tay -to, po-tah-to … whatever — the group has burst into our national consciousness in a way not seen since, oh, al-Qaeda did on Sept. 11, 2001.

I’m left with this question: How does a terror organization operate under our noses and under our radar for as long as ISIL apparently has without there being some kind of forewarning?

I am quite sure I’m missing something here, but I pose the question because ISIL now has become the stuff of presidential addresses to the nation.

President Obama is going to speak to us Wednesday night and will detail a strategy for how he intends to destroy the terror organization. In a Meet the Press interview broadcast today, the president also said he will offer details on the specific threat he believes ISIL poses to Americans.

We’ve been operating in an ISIL-free environment ever since the war on terror began immediately after the 9/11 attacks. How can that have happened.

ISIL didn’t just emerge from a genie bottle overnight. It’s well-funded, well-organized, media-savvy and dedicated to the proposition that it intends to bring harm to Americans. No group just pops up from under the rocks without anyone knowing of its existence.

The same might be said of al-Qaeda. Yes, U.S. intelligence officials reportedly knew about that group before the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was responsible for the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000. It was known to have been involved in a bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993. President Clinton sought to kill Osama bin Laden but failed.

Did John Q. Public know about al-Qaeda then?

No. It took that horrific attack on New York and Washington to make us aware of who these monsters are what they are capable of doing.

Now it’s ISIL, the latest national threat. It’s good that ISIL is on our radar. It’s even better that it’s on the commander in chief’s radar.

I hope now that at his next news conference, someone in the White House press corps will ask: Mr. President, when did we know about ISIL and why are we only now getting revved up to fight this monstrous mob of murderers?


Obama seeks to thread dangerous needle

Talk about a much-anticipated speech.

President Obama is going to speak Wednesday about his planned strategy for “degrading, defeating and destroying” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In that speech, the president is going to lay out a plan that will preclude American “boots on the ground.” What he will need to explain — and he’ll need to use his tremendous rhetorical skill to do so — is how this nation is going to defeat ISIL’s efforts to overthrow the government in Syria without aligning ourselves with the government that we also hate.

The president offered a hint of that strategy this morning in an interview broadcast on Meet the Press. He talked to new MTP moderator Chuck Todd about working with “moderate opposition forces” that also are fighting the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. ISIL is the new enemy on the battlefield in Syria, he said, and the United States will deploy its enormous air power to hit ISIL’s whenever and wherever we find it.

This, I submit, is where the equation gets very tricky.

Assad’s regime is as hated as any in the Middle East. He, too, is a monster who needs to go. ISIL, though, is an even worse monster. Do we take sides in this struggle, wishing for one enemy force to defeat another enemy force?

Obama said the aim ought to be to help those so-called moderates in Syria — with help from other Sunni Arab states in the region. He mentioned Saudi Arabia and Jordan, two nations that have received significant U.S. military support over the years.

It’s time, Obama said, for those nations to deploy the assets we’ve provided for them in the fight against ISIL.

The president took a lot of heat when he said recently that “we don’t have a strategy yet” in dealing with ISIL. The critics who pounded Obama over that statement forget the “yet” part of that statement.

It appears a strategy is forthcoming. I’ll wait with interest for what the president has to say.

I will be particularly interested in hearing how he plans to keep fighting Bashar al-Assad while destroying the dictator’s No. 1 enemy.


Raw politics? Are you kidding, Mr. Speaker?

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has exhibited a stunning lack of self-awareness.

He calls President Barack Obama’s decision to delay any action on immigration reform until after the mid-term election an exercise in “raw politics.” You see, the president wants to give some cover to Senate Democrats who might be in trouble if the president went ahead with his planned use of executive authority to move some immigration changes forward without congressional approval.

So that brings this criticism from the speaker that the president is playing a political game.

Wow! Boehner takes my breath away.

Has anyone reminded him lately why he is suing the president over his alleged misuse of executive authority regarding the Affordable Care Act?

I do believe that, ladies and gents, is an exercise in “raw politics.”

The only reason Boehner is planning to sue is to appease his GOP base, which wants Obama to drawn and quartered — politically, of course — over changes he’s instituted through the use of constitutional executive authority.

For the speaker to say now that Obama is playing politics with the immigration delay is downright laughable.

Yes, he’s playing politics with this delay. It’s disappointing that the president is not going forward as he pledged to do. But he also understands the importance — as he sees it — in protecting the Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate.

I guess it would be better if someone other than Mr. Frivolous Lawsuit would have shot off his mouth.



Clinton's going to run, period

One of my many pet peeves is when folks try to read the mind of public figures.

Therefore, I am going to get angry at myself for what I’m about to write: I believe Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to run for president in 2016 and that the only decision left is to decide the best time to announce her intentions.

Clinton is in Mexico City, as is Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., another possible candidate for president.

The former U.S. senator/secretary of state/first lady said she’ll decide by early next year whether she’ll seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Sure thing, senator/Mme. Secretary. My trick knee is throbbing a good bit right about now and it’s telling me she’s told her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that she wants to run for the office he once held. She has sworn him to secrecy and if the 42nd president has a brain in his head — and I believe he does — he’ll keep quiet about it.

If I were a bettor, I’d bet all HRC has to decide now is when to announce it. Indeed, you can parse her language just a little bit to conclude that’s the decision left to make. She’s spoken hypothetically about a presidential run; she’s been mildly critical of President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine; she said in Mexico City that her background gives her “unique” qualifications to be president.

I’m still baffled, of course, over why she’d want to run for the White House, given the intensely harsh, personal and in some case unfair criticism she’s received over many years. You can bet the mortgage the critics will be out in force when she makes her intentions known.

Is it blind ambition or a sense of public obligation that drives her? Perhaps it’s both. We’ll be able to make that determination for ourselves in due time.


Rivers was funny, but …

Heresy alert: I’m about to say something that isn’t gushing with praise for the late comedian Joan Rivers.

Rivers could be funny at times. She made fun of herself and her obsession with plastic surgery. She lampooned people mercilessly, a la Don Rickles. She was known to be generous with her time and her show biz wisdom, which she reportedly shared with up-and-coming performers.

But for the life of me I am having difficulty understanding all the adulation that’s being heaped on her in the wake of her death.

She was 81. Rivers had some throat surgery performed and went into cardiac arrest, or so I understand. She was put on life support, then sent home from ICU. And then she died.

I’m said she’s gone. I’m sorry for her daughter and I am sorry for those who idolized her.

But I’m not going to lament the passing of a “comedic legend” or a “genius.” I don’t consider her a particularly innovative comic talent.

Robin Williams? Now there was a genius of the first order.

Well, I’ll get through all these tributes that the broadcast and cable networks are going to air on television. They’ll be heartfelt, I’m sure.

For my money, though, show business still has many more comic geniuses who are still among us.

As for Rivers’s standing among female comedic geniuses, well I’ll just say she will remain a distant second to Carol Burnett.

Rest in peace, Joan Rivers.

The harder they fall

Move over, John Edwards. You’ve just gotten some company in the Recent Political Star Hall of Shame.

Edwards, the one-time Democratic nominee for vice president and U.S. senator from North Carolina, once was thought to be a can’t-miss presidential aspirant. Then he messed around with a woman who was not his wife, fathered a daughter with his paramour, and promptly faded from public view.

Now it’s the former Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, who’s been shamed, along with his wife, Maureen. The two of them now are convicted felons, guilty of political corruption for accepting gifts in exchange for political favors.

If this isn’t one of the weirder political trials of the past 40 or 50 years …

The McDonnells ended up being shamed for their bizarre marriage, not to mention Maureen’s supposed infatuation with the guy who was giving them gifts.

Their marriage now appears broken. They were convicted of most of the counts brought against them.

Bob McDonnell was thought to be a near-certain candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He is “telegenic,” articulate, supposedly on the right side of the issues to suit the GOP base. He had it all.

A jury now has decided he wanted more in the form of gifts, payola, the kind of stuff that constitutes official corruption.

It’s a sickening case.

Some commentators were saying today that the former first couple of Virginia thought they could rely on the state’s fairly genteel political atmosphere to escape conviction. Turns out the jurors were repulsed.

Another political career has just been tossed into the trash bin.

I expect there’ll be others along the way.


How do you 'manage' these monsters?

Barack Obama is mistaken if he thinks the Islamic State and the Levant can be reduced to a “manageable problem.”

Yet that’s what the president of the United States said today in a news conference at the start of a NATO meeting in Estonia.

Uh, Mr. President? ISIL needs to be destroyed. Wiped out. Eliminated. Obliterated. Exterminated.

I’m sure I can find some more active verbs here, but you get the point.

Should we go to war, as in a ground war, with troops, tanks and trucks? No. Air power, and lots of it, is needed here. We have it. We should use it.

ISIL has shown that it cannot be “managed.” It cannot be contained and made insignificant. It is a well-funded, well-armed, sophisticated, media savvy organization that must be dealt with in the harshest manner possible — with extreme prejudice.

I get why the president won’t commit to a ground war in Syria and/or Iraq to fight these monsters. We’ve installed a government in Iraq that now must defend itself. As for Syria, fighting ISIL house to house would in effect put us shoulder to shoulder with troops loyal to another bad seed, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator who’s gassed his own people.

The president’s rhetoric, though, today took a startling turn toward the bland.

He’d declared the U.S. intention to destroy ISIL after it beheaded Stephen Sotloff. Today, he talked of reducing ISIL to a manageable size.

Destruction, Mr. President, is the only option.

Speed trap needs to be probed


That was a bit startling.

I saw the headline about a speed trap town being investigated and the thought came immediately to mind: Estelline, as in the small town just west of Childress, Texas.

I opened the link and saw that the town under investigation happens to be in Florida.

An allegation has been made that Waldo, Fla., is using speeding tickets to fatten its coffers. The city allegedly is trying to turn a profit on the backs of unsuspecting motorists.

Is this news? Really?

Maybe it is if Waldo’s city fathers and mothers can be convicted of doing what’s been alleged. Other towns all across the country have carried this reputation. I’ve always thought that nabbing motorists who don’t obey speed laws was one way the towns paid the bill. It’s a “revenue stream,” yes?

Let’s turn back to the other town, the one in Texas, that has a bit of reputation as a speed trap.

Flash back to early January 1995. I had just left Beaumont in my 1987 Honda Civic that was packed to the max with my possessions. I was driving northwest toward Amarillo to start my job at the Amarillo Globe-News. I spent the night in Fort Worth with friends — a lovely couple my wife and I have known for many years — before heading toward the High Plains.

I’ll never forget the words of advice from my friend, Tommy. “Be careful as you drive up toward Amarillo,” he said, “and be especially careful when you drive through Estelline. It’s a speed trap, man. They’ll get ya.” Tommy had spent some of his growing-up years in Amarillo, so he knows a bit about driving along U.S. 287 through the Panhandle.

He warned me. Message received.

But Estelline’s reputation remains intact.

As for Waldo, AAA — the motoring public’s watchdog organization — declares that the town is enough of a speed trap that it’s warning motorists with billboards. “AAA named the tiny town between Jacksonville and Gainesville one of only two ‘traffic traps’ nationwide and even placed an attention-getting billboard outside the limits of the town to warn drivers to slow down before entering,” according to The Associated Press.

Estelline “boasted” a similar billboard until about a year ago. Some disgruntled motorist apparently got popped by the city’s police officer — hey, the town has fewer than 200 residents — so the individual posted a billboard proclaiming the town to be a speed trap.

I’m not actually buying into the speed trap label that’s hung on Estelline all these years. I’m merely reporting what I’ve been told and what I’ve heard countless people in the Panhandle say to others when giving driving instructions between Amarillo and the Metroplex.

“Be sure to obey the speed limit signs as you approach these small towns,” the message goes, “and be really careful when you drive through Estelline.”

It’s tough having to live down an unflattering reputation.



Another beheading, more calls for 'action'

Another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, reportedly has been murdered by ISIL.

Good God in heaven! This tragedy defies any civilized human being’s emotional tolerance. What should be our response? What must the United States do to punish these monstrous murderers?

I submit we must do what we’ve been seeking to do for weeks: Bomb them into oblivion.

The outcry from U.S. politicians is understandable and quite predictable. The chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Republican Ed Royce of California and Democrat Eliot Engel of New York, respectively — say President Obama must take immediate action. He must do something more than what he’s been doing.

I keep circling back to the key question: To what end do we ratchet up our response to these monsters?

If we’re talking about sending troops into battle in Syria and back into Iraq, my strong sense is that the country has zero appetite for more warfare. If we’re thinking about boosting our aerial campaign, well, I’m all for that.

Everyone on Planet Earth now understands that ISIL — the Islamic State and The Levant — has redefined barbarism. No one wants them to continue operating.

In our rage over what’s reportedly happened to another U.S. journalist, let us be mindful of at least two key elements.

One, the administration is hitting ISIL hard already in Iraq and there are increasing reports of a stepped-up aerial assault against the monsters in Syria. I’m quite sure an expanded air campaign is about to commence.

Two, ISIL is fighting another enemy of the United States, forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. It’s that dual-enemy threat that presents a seriously complicated task facing the United States of America. Destroying ISIL is in our best interest, but we must be mindful of who precisely benefits directly from ISIL’s elimination in Syria. I’m not saying in the least we should go easy in ISIL simply because Assad stands to gain. I’m merely saying that our rage over Sotloff’s gruesome death should not overtake rational thinking in preparing the right kind of response to this despicable act.

Keep bombing, Mr. President. If they respond with more heinous acts, bomb them some more.