Category Archives: political news

What has happened to those ‘mainstream Republicans’?

As I watch congressional Republicans and other GOP members around the country seek to defend Donald Trump against the impeachable offenses that have been alleged against him, I am struck by a curious notion.

What in the world has happened to supposed adherents to a political philosophy/ideology that seems so terribly at odds with what has become the centerpiece of the impeachment effort against the president?

Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a “favor, though.” He wanted Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, before getting a White House meeting. He also held up military assistance appropriated by Congress for Ukraine to use against Russian-backed aggressors in Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are our allies. The Russians are not. And yet, Trump sought to pursue a posture that would benefit the Russians. What in the world … ? Moreover, by seeking dirt on a potential foe from a foreign government, the president of the United States is seeking another government to help him win another election.

Mainstream Republicans used to take great umbrage at any sort of softening of U.S. policy regarding the Russians and their ideological forebears, the communists who formed the Soviet Union after World War I. These days, we have an ostensibly Republican president currying favor with and kowtowing to Russian strongmen and oligarchs. Indeed, the Ukrainian initiative — the withholding of arms to fight Russian-backed rebels — looks for all the world to be yet another example of Trump licking the jackboots of the Russian thugs who run that once-great superpower.

All the while, Republicans in the House and Senate do or say virtually nothing that the president can interpret as stern criticism of this hideous policy. They remain complicit in the president’s violation of the oath he took to defend and protect the Constitution. They look and sound ready to stand by their man even as he continues the hijacking of their once-great political party, twisting and turning into something unrecognizable from the days when the GOP stood for national strength and resolve against an enemy of this nation.

I’ve said repeatedly that Donald Trump has disgraced the nation with his conduct. So, too, have his political allies who once stood strongly in favor of the very values that the president is flouting.

They’re now calling this fellow a spy? What the … ?

What in the name of military valor am I missing here?

A decorated U.S. Army officer, a refugee from the Soviet Union, a Purple Heart recipient and a true-blue American patriot, is now being challenged by Donald Trump’s supporters on the right and far right, being called a “spy” and a “traitor.”

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is talking to congressional committees about what he heard in real time when Donald Trump spoke on the phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and then sounded alarm bells in the moment about what he heard come from the president’s mouth.

Vindman reportedly heard Trump ask Zelinskiy for a political favor. He heard the president reportedly withhold military aid until the Ukrainians delivered on the favor.

And for speaking out in closed session to congressional inquisitors, the president’s friends on Fox News and other conservative media — as well as politicians — are calling Vindman dirty names that impugn his loyalty to the country he has served with valor.

I do not understand this misplaced loyalty. I do not comprehend how one can demean, denigrate and disparage a proven battlefield hero in this fashion.

However, it is happening.

Actually, I suppose I can understand it. The reaction appears to be a product of the cult of personality that has consumed the once-great Republican Party.

Reprehensible.

Bonnen won’t face prosecution; just let him go away

The Brazoria County, Texas, district attorney won’t prosecute Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen for any felony charges stemming from a rotten deal he cut with a right-wing provocateur.

That is just as well. Bonnen has announced his intention to step down after the 2020 election; he won’t seek re-election to another term in the Texas House of Representatives. I hope he just disappears from public view. He doesn’t need any jail time.

DA Jeri Yenne called Bonnen’s conduct “repugnant,” but not criminal.

What did he do? He met with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan this past June and gave up the names of 10 fellow Republican legislators that Sullivan’s group could target in the 2020 election. Sullivan recorded the meeting he had with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. Bonnen denied stabbing the lawmakers in the back, then Sullivan released the recording and, well, proved Bonnen to be a liar as well as a back-stabber.

The district attorney where Bonnen represented in the Legislature had considered prosecuting the speaker on campaign finance charges, but then decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation.

That is just as well. Bonnen disgraced himself nicely by consorting with Sullivan and Empower Texans, an outfit that many of us detest. They are a rigid, right-wing organization that seeks to undermine mainstream Republican politicians in Texas.

My hope is that Bonnen doesn’t inflict any more damage on his fellow legislators before he leaves office prior to the start of the 2021 Legislature.

I just want him to go away. Goodbye, Mr. Speaker … and don’t let the door hit you in your backside.

Speaker lost the trust of the entire legislative chamber

When you ascend to the role of speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, you preside over a body of disparate political views. Republicans and Democrats seek to work together — most of the time — for the common good. They need a speaker they can trust to say and do the right thing at all times, in public and in private.

Dennis Bonnen for now is the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He won’t be for long. He announced today he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to his House seat. Why? Because he lost the trust of the entire body over which he presided for a single term.

How did he lose that trust? By talking in nasty terms about some of his Republican colleagues in a surreptitious meeting with a right-wing zealot after expressing confidence in them publicly.

The zealot, Empower Texans boss Michael Quinn Sullivan, recorded the meeting. He released the recording the other day, revealing Bonnen to be underhanded, duplicitous and treacherous. Bonnen gave Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators that Sullivan’s right-wing organization could target in the next election.

About 30 GOP legislators called for Bonnen’s resignation. He delivered the next best thing: an announcement he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Bonnen needed the trust of his Republican colleagues to be an effective speaker of the House. His Democratic colleagues have remained largely silent since details of this scandal surfaced. Why should they say a word when the GOP speaker was setting himself on fire?

Trust is a requirement for effective legislative leadership. Previous speakers of both parties had it. Republicans Joe Straus and Tom Craddick had it; so did Democrats Pete Laney and Gib Lewis. They managed to run the House effectively while working with governors and lieutenant governors of opposing parties. Of the men I mentioned, I happen to know Pete Laney, a man who operated on the notion that he would “let the will of the House” determine how legislation gets enacted.

Trust is essential. Bonnen had it when his House colleagues elected him speaker. He lost it when he conspired with the Empower Texans zealot to cut the throats of his colleagues.

He had to go. I wish there was a way for the Legislature to accept his resignation now while it is in recess. The Texas Constitution doesn’t allow that. Fine. Bonnen now just needs to do as little as possible for the time he has left as speaker of the House.

Just stay out of the way, Mr. Speaker, and leave the heavy lifting to the committee chairs who I am going to presume still have their colleagues’ trust.

You are untrustworthy.

How does a rookie congresswoman’s endorsement matter so much?

For the life of me I cannot come to grips with the notion that a presidential endorsement from a freshman member of Congress is somehow seen by many on the left as a “game changer” in the 2020 race for president of the United States.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont who’s running in the Democratic primary.

Sigh …

Why does this matter at all?

The young woman known as AOC became a media star the moment she took office at the beginning of the year. She beat a longtime Democratic congressional heavyweight, Joseph Crowley, in the 2018 primary and then cruised to election in the heavily Democratic congressional district. She took office and immediately could be seen on damn near every media outlet in the country; even on Fox News, which has covered her every utterance, using it as fodder for its on-air critics of the self-proclaimed socialist.

I don’t have any particular animosity toward AOC, other than she has embraced a celebrity status that she hasn’t yet earned. Nor do I particularly care that she endorsed Sanders, the one-note samba candidate who peppers every response to every question with some reference to “income inequality.”

I actually want AOC to become a consequential public official. She has potential, but she hasn’t realized any of it just yet. The fact is that AOC needs a lot more congressional seasoning before I start to take anything she says with any sort of seriousness.

Maybe she’ll acquire the wisdom and seasoning she needs. Maybe she’ll emerge as a legislative champion, someone who puts her name on landmark bills that become the law of the land. Just maybe she will be able to present herself as one of the wise women of the U.S. House of Representatives.

At this moment, she is just another loudmouth rookie legislator who has managed to elbow her way to the center of the political stage. Trust me on this, too: She is far from being the only grandstander among the current crop of freshman congressmen and women, which is why I don’t take any of the others as seriously as I might when they obtain the wisdom I believe they will have earned.

So, she endorses Bernie Sanders for president? Pfftt.

Well now … that was some KAG rally in Big D

To my friends and assorted loved ones who expressed concern that I was plunging into the belly of the beast by attending a Donald Trump re-election rally, I have good news.

I survived. Intact. No one laid a hand on me. No one got angry. I stayed for as long as I wanted to stay and left on my terms.

There. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I want to offer a word or two about what I saw at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas this afternoon and evening.

I saw a huge crowd of Trump fanatics — the vast majority of whom (close to 90 percent, I am guessing) — wearing Donald Trump gear. MAGA hats. Shirts with assorted sayings and slogans; some of them were profane and expressed a good bit of anger.

I met a very nice couple from Rockwall, who drove all the way into Dallas to see their man, the president. I confided in them while we waited outside that “I am not a Trump supporter. I am here as an observer.” OK, I didn’t tell them the whole truth, that I was there as a fervent anti-Trump voter and that I intend to keep skewering Trump whenever possible. They promised to read my blog on the subject and I hope they don’t hate me too much.

There were t-shirts with the message: Trump Supporter, I Won’t Apologize For It.” When have you seen a political supporter offer up that qualifier? Anyone? Oh, and there was this gem: “Fu** Your Feelings.” I didn’t have the courage to ask if those wearing that article of clothing were among Trump’s evangelical base of supporters.

The crowd outside was remarkable in its ethnic/racial makeup. It was not as lily white as I expected. I saw several African-American men wearing “Blacks for Trump” attire.

Then there was the shirt that said “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” Actually, that one made me want to hurl, given that the shirt contained the name of Jesus Christ and arguably the most anti-Christian man ever elected to the presidency. Enough of that.

I stood in a line that stretched more than a mile and a half. We snaked our way around several barriers outside the AAC, then walked up the steps and into the building. The U.S. Secret Service did a remarkably thorough but quick inspection of everyone entering the arena.

I found a seat way up high.

Then out came the president of the United States, applauding along with the cheering crowd. I never can tell why he claps so much when he enters a room. Is he cheering those who are clapping for him … or is he just so damn proud of himself that he cannot resist giving himself an ovation?

Whatever.

He launched into the same tired tirade I’ve been hearing since he took office. Democrats are the enemy. So are the media. Everyone opposed to Trump and the Republican Party want “open borders,” they want to “take away your rights,” they favor “socialism” over capitalism, they hate the United States, and on and on.

Admission time: I didn’t stay for Trump’s entire tirade. I heard all I could stand and left.

My final takeaway from this Trump “Keep America Great” rally is this: The enthusiasm of the 16,000 or so in the arena and in line waiting to get into the AAC is as fervent as anything I have ever seen at events such as this. I will give Trump credit for that much; his base of support is seemingly unshakable.

Which makes me wonder yet again: Are these Trump loyalists so blinded by their fealty to this man that they can overlook the crimes he has committed? Or are they — and there’s no pleasant way to say this — just plain ignorant?

This impeachment thing appears to be growing more tentacles

As I seek to follow the ongoing impeachment crisis threatening the presidency of Donald Trump, I am getting a sense that the story is getting bigger than many Americans would prefer.

Just three weeks ago we learned about a phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodormyr Zellenskiy in which he sought a favor from Ukraine in exchange for releasing money to help Ukrainians fight Russian aggressors.

The phone call prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry. The thought as I understood at the time was that the House would move rapidly toward an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving. It would be a narrowly focused matter: whether the president violated his oath by seeking foreign government help in his re-election and seeking foreign help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential foe in the 2020 presidential election.

Now it seems as if this story is getting many more tentacles.

Trump appeared to suggest that the vice president, Mike Pence, had conversations with Ukrainians as well; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at first denied knowledge of the Trump-Zellenskiy phone conversation, then acknowledged he was “on the call”; questions have now arisen about Turkey and whether the president’s decision to abandon our allies in Kurdistan in the fight against ISIS is somehow related to a Trump Towers deal in Istanbul.

My head is spinning, man.

Does all of this come together quickly? Can there be an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving? Can the Senate commence a trial and make a decision by, say, spring 2020? Is all of this getting so muddy that we won’t have a resolution until after the 2020 presidential election?

As if it needed to get more complicated. The juxtaposition of a re-election fight and an impeachment muddies matters beyond anything the nation has experienced. President Clinton was a lame-duck second-term president when the House impeached him in 1998; President Nixon was in the same boat when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment in 1974. Neither man faced re-election.

This whole scenario is vastly different. Moreover, it keeps growing in its complexity as more Cabinet officials get sucked into the debate over what they knew and when they knew it.

I need something to settle my nerves.

I also want this saga to end — either through impeachment and Senate conviction, or at the ballot box — with Donald Trump vacating the Oval Office for a final time.

Just think … they impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex!

If there is a hint of reflection among congressional Republicans who are resisting calls to impeach Donald J. Trump on allegations that he is endangering national security, they need to ponder what their political forebears did 20 years ago.

President Bill Clinton in 1998 became the subject of a special prosecutor’s probe into a real estate deal in Arkansas, where Clinton served as governor before he was elected president in 1992. The investigation broadened way beyond its initial mandate.

Prosecutor Kenneth Starr then started sniffing out reports of a relationship Clinton had with a White House intern. He summoned the president to testify before a federal grand jury about that relationship. Clinton took an oath to “tell nothing but the truth.” He didn’t uphold that oath. He committed an act of perjury because, apparently, he was too embarrassed to reveal what went on with him and the intern.

Congressional Republicans decided to launch an “impeachment inquiry” into that matter. They then impeached the president ostensibly for committing a felony: that would be perjury.

However, the complete impeachment context has to include sex. The House impeached Clinton because he had a sexual relationship with a young woman working in the White House.

The Senate acquitted Clinton in the trial it held.

Here we are, two decades later.

Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry of his own. The allegations are no longer really allegations. Trump has said it out loud, that he has sought help from Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. He doubled down after that by saying China should do the same thing.

What’s more, Trump withheld arms shipments to Ukraine until it agreed to aid in his re-election effort. Those shipments include weapons Ukraine wants to deploy against Russian troops who have invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine is an ally. Russia is an adversary. Hmm. Can you say, “national security threat”?

Republicans in the House and Senate so far have been far too reluctant to climb aboard the impeachment hay wagon. These folks, I need to remind everyone, belong to the same political party of those who were so very quick to impeach an earlier president for lying to a grand jury.

What in the name of constitutional defense is more critical: a president’s personal misbehavior or a president who violates his oath to adhere to the nation’s governing framework?

Get ready for the filthiest campaign in history

I am trying like the dickens to wrap my noggin around an impossible prospect.

That is, I am seeking to comprehend the level of filth that will sully the next campaign for the presidency of the United States. We are getting a whiff of the stench that already is filling the air around the 2020 campaign.

Donald J. Trump’s re-election campaign is getting set to run TV ads on the Fox News Channel that seek to tie Joe Biden, a potential 2020 opponent, to phony allegations of corruption involving the former VP and his son, Hunter, in business dealings in Ukraine.

Think about that for a moment. When have we seen an incumbent president seek to influence a primary outcome in the other political party? I am trying to remember. The closest parallel I can find is 1972, when Republicans sought to surreptitiously undermine Democratic frontrunner Edmund Muskie of Maine while greasing the skids for Democrats to nominate George McGovern of South Dakota. The difference between then and now is that President Nixon’s re-election team did it all under the table … not out front and in plain view of the entire world! The strategy worked: Nixon won re-election in a historic landslide, then got into serious trouble with that thing called “Watergate.”

Meanwhile, the current president is facing the real prospect of being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives over his admission that he is asking for foreign government help in his re-election effort, not to mention help in digging up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.

My fellow Americans, welcome to the new age of American politics, where the president of the United States openly violates his oath of office and then seeks to smear a potential campaign opponent with the hope that the opposing party will nominate someone else.

I hope we all have the stomach for what we are about to witness.

MAGA rally on tap in Dallas … dare I see what it’s all about?

I have just committed — more or less — to doing something I hope I am able to withstand physically, let alone emotionally.

Donald J. Trump is coming to Dallas in a couple of weeks. He is going to stage a “MAGA Rally” at the American Airlines Center  in downtown Dallas. I presume the place will be full.

I just obtained a ticket from the Trump campaign’s official website. Ticket is sitting on my desk at home. I am looking at it as I type this brief message.

A part of me wants to go. In fact, most of me wants to see this spectacle for myself, to get a ringside seat for this stream-of-consciousness litany of insult and innuendo that is sure to pour fourth from the president’s pie hole.

A much smaller part of me wonders: Are you out of your fu***** mind?

Actually, no. I am of sound mind. My belief is that in order to understand a little better this individual’s appeal to a substantial — but shrinking — part of the American electorate I need to see one of these events up close.

I once took a friendly wager from the late mayor of Beaumont, Texas, Maury Meyers, to watch Rush Limbaugh on TV and listen to his radio broadcast over a span of time before making any snap judgement on his message. I accepted Meyers’ challenge.

Then I determined after about two weeks watching Limbaugh that the blowhard was worse than I thought. I wrote a column about my experience watching the right-wing gas bag and determined that Limbaugh was the Willard Scott of political commentary.

Except that Willard Scott, formerly the “Today” show weatherman, “makes me laugh” while Limbaugh “makes me sick.”

I fear I am going to get physically ill standing among the thousands of Trump supporters, cheering his mindlessness, whoopin’ and hollerin’ when he tosses out lie after lie.

At this moment, though, I am committed to attending this MAGA rally. Perhaps if I see, hear and feel the emotion boiling up inside the arena, I’ll be better prepared to say what I know already.

Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency of the United States.