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Waiting for outrage from White House

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Donald J. Trump to say what needs to be said about Russian meddling in our nation’s electoral process.

The president should declare his outrage and must insist that we take measures to ensure that this kind of political aggression from a foreign adversary never happens again.

He won’t say it. Of that I am increasingly certain.

What’s more, his refusal to declare such outrage makes me question whether this man actually places protecting the nation he governs above all else.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for their role in interfering in our 2016 presidential election. The 37-page indictment does not alleged “collusion” from the Trump campaign; nor does it say that the Russian interference determined the outcome.

That was the focus of the president’s initial response. He said the indictments vindicate his campaign. He declared there was “no collusion!” yet again.

Meanwhile, national security adviser H.R. McMaster says the indictment provides “incontrovertible proof” that the Russians launched a campaign against our electoral system. They committed an act of aggression. They sought to sow discord and discontent among Americans. They succeeded!

Where in the world is the outrage from the man at the top? When is he ever going to declare virtual war against foreign powers who think they can mess with our political system?

The president took an oath to defend the United States. He swore to place our national interests above all else. Indeed, he campaigned on a pledge to “put America first.”

The president’s continuing refusal to state his intention to end this kind of meddling is a fundamental violation of that oath.


Church-state argument will never end … never!

When will we ever stop debating the issue of teaching religiously based doctrine in our public classrooms?

I know the answer to that one. Never! It’s going to go on for as long as human beings interact with each other.

I wrote a blog item four years ago, about the time the statewide election campaign was ramping up. Here’s what it said:

Church and state do need separation

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is seeking re-election this year. He’s already demonstrated his desire to discriminate against transgendered people by insisting on a “Bathroom Bill” that requires people to use public restrooms that comport with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. He says “big-city liberals” favor “open borders” that allow criminals to flood into the state and the nation.

Four years ago he pitched the notion of requiring public school teachers to instruct their students on the biblical theory of “creationism.” I might be willing to bet real American money that he brings it up again this year.

I feel the need to stipulate once again that although the U.S. Constitution does not contain the words “church and state separation,” it is clearly implied in the First Amendment. The Amarillo Globe-News editorial page continues to insist that the absence of such a reference makes it OK to teach religious doctrine in public schools.

Read my lips: The founding fathers created a secular government. The First Amendment is as crystal clear as it can be: Congress shall make no law establishing a state religion. Right there is your church-state separation clause.

We are one month into a new election year. The discussion no doubt will rage once again about creationism and whether it belongs in a public school classroom.

It does not!

POTUS now pledges to talk … under oath!

I cannot keep up with Donald John Trump’s change of heart and mind.

He said this past summer that he’d be willing “100 percent” to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller about the “Russia thing” that has consumed the president’s attention.

Then he called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” a hoax, a product of “fake news” and of Democrats who were upset at losing the 2016 presidential election.

Furthermore, he said he didn’t see a need to talk to the special counsel, given that there was “absolutely no collusion” with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Now … he is singing another tune. Today, the president said he would testify “under oath” if need be to Mueller and his team of legal eagles. He told reporters he would cooperate fully with Mueller’s team.

My head is spinning.

I certainly welcome the president’s latest declaration. If he is as innocent of wrongdoing as he says he is, then he would have no worried talking to Mueller, who clearly has a lot of questions to ask Trump.

Why did he fire FBI director James Comey? Did he pressure him to go easy on other close White House aides and advisers? Why didn’t he order his campaign team to tell the FBI that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton they wanted to share with his campaign?

Those are just for starters?

If the president is going to maintain his pledge to talk to Mueller, my guess is that he’ll need to carve out a lot of time. The special counsel has a mountain of evidence to pore through and an equally high mountain of questions to get resolved.

But if the president is clean, there should be no problem.

I just can’t stop wondering if he is going to change his mind yet again and deliver a stiff-arm to the special counsel. Hey, the president is known to do such a thing.

This is not how to govern, Congress

What a way to govern … not!

Congress is fighting over how to pay for immigration measures. It cannot settle a dispute over whether to pay for construction of a wall along our nation’s southern border or whether to extend protection for those U.S. residents who were brought here when they were children as their parents sneaked into the country illegally.

The consequence of this dispute?

The government might shut down — if only partially — in the next 24 hours.

Republicans who run both congressional chambers are scrambling to find yet another stop-gap solution that will delay the next shutdown threat for a couple of weeks.

Oh, and then we have the president of the United States. Donald J. Trump reportedly is a non-player in the negotiation over how to find a longer-term solution to this problem. Media reports say that Trump is making zero phone calls to congressional leaders, suggesting he’s leaving it exclusively up to lawmakers to find an answer.

Even congressional Republicans are complaining about the lack of a “reliable partner” in the White House.

Trump torpedoes GOP strategy

I’m trying to imagine Lyndon Johnson leaving a matter such as this to Capitol Hill. The late former president came to the presidency after a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. President Kennedy plucked him from his Senate majority leader post to run with him as vice president in 1960. LBJ never lost his congressional connections.

Trump, though, has none of that kind of history. Zero, man!

Effective governance is supposed to comprise a partnership between the legislative and executive branches of government. It’s not happening these days.

Republicans are barely talking to Democrats in Congress, and vice versa. The president, meanwhile, is maintaining a position that I suppose he might say is “above the fray.”

As a result, Congress might stumble and bumble its way to another short-term Band-Aid repair, only to wait for the next deadline to approach before we face yet another government shutdown threat.

How about trying this: Work together for a change in the hunt for common ground. Fund the government, repair the problem — and stop threatening to shut down a government that is supposed to serve all Americans all the time.


No armchair diagnoses, please

You may count me as one who takes a dim view of those who think they can diagnose medical matters from a distance.

There’s a good bit of that going around these days as it relates to the behavior of the president of the United States, one Donald John Trump Sr.

Yes, he’s acting squirrely. And yes, he tweets messages that sound as if they come from a junior high schooler. He goads a dictator with nuclear bombs. He insults media representatives, politicians and a particular book author … not to mention at least one key former White House aide.

Does any of this mean the man is certifiably crazy? Is he nuts? Is he unfit mentally to be commander in chief?

I am not qualified to answer any of that. Neither are the “experts” who keep insisting the president needs to be kicked out of office on the basis of someone’s long-distance assessment of Trump’s mental fitness.

They don’t know of which they speak.

More than 50 years ago the nation had this same discussion about the late Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran for president in 1964 against President Johnson. Goldwater was deemed to be nuttier than a fruitcake because he talked openly about going to war with the Soviet Union, the world’s other great nuclear power at the time.

Someone wrote a book about Sen. Goldwater and put in writing what many were saying out loud. Goldwater sued the author for libel and won. Then came something called the “Goldwater Rule,” which disallows people from issuing medical diagnoses without examining the person about whom they are talking.

I believe we should keep that in mind as we discuss Donald Trump’s conduct of the high office he occupies.

There might be political reasons to remove this guy. They haven’t emerged; perhaps they never will emerge. Medical assessments are best left to those who get close enough to the subject to offer them.

The rest of us are just firing pot shots from the peanut gallery.

Lt. Gov. Patrick earns this ‘honor’

Texas Monthly has named Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as its recipient of the Bum Steer of the Year Award.

Good call, Texas Monthly.

The magazine bestowed the “honor” on Patrick because of a monstrosity called Senate Bill 6, aka the Bathroom Bill.

TM notes that Patrick was hellbent to get this bill passed out of both legislative chambers in 2017. Except that he ran into a small — no, major — obstacle: House Speaker Joe Straus, a fellow Republican, was having none of it.

Straus, according to TM, said the Legislature had many more important issues to ponder than to decide whether to require people to use restroom facilities in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificates.

SB 6 was designed to discriminate against transgender individuals. Speaker Straus said “no can do.” He didn’t want the House to follow the Senate’s lead. He blocked SB 6 in the Legislature’s regular session and then followed suit during the special session that Gov. Greg Abbott called.

Texas Monthly called the Bathroom Bill effort “a master class in waste.”

Thanks, of course, to the efforts of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Yep, he’s the Bum Steer of the Year.

Be true to your commitment on Mueller, Mr. POTUS

I do want to believe the president of the United States.

Donald Trump said today he is not considering whether to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. A reporter asked the president directly today and he answered it directly.

That’s a good thing.

Except …

The president has a habit of changing his mind on a whim. He can turn on a dime, in an instant. He can switch gears, slam his thoughts into reverse and do precisely the opposite of what he had said earlier.

Conservatives are ganging up on Mueller over a couple of prosecutors on his staff who had exchanged emails expressing a distinct bias toward Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Mueller fired them both.

Mueller is leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives who — according to intelligence analysts — hacked into our electoral process and meddled in Trump’s election as president.

The attacks against Mueller are mounting. Conservatives believe he’s too cozy with the fired FBI director, James Comey. They also believe he’s too anti-Trump to conduct an impartial and fair investigation into the collusion matter.

Trump calls the probe a “witch hunt” and says there’s “no collusion.” Fine, then let the investigation run its course.

The president is now on record saying he has no plans to fire Mueller. He isn’t considering it — he said.

I need to remind others, though, that politicians quite regularly say they “have no plans” to run for another office, but then do so anyway. The “have no plans” dodge protects them in the moment; it doesn’t address what might happen in the next day, or week, or month.

With the president, we need to be mindful of his ability to change his mind in the next, oh, 30 seconds.

Blog produces yet another snit

I love writing this blog.

People ask me constantly about why I do it. They ask about the reaction to High Plains Blogger’s political tilt. I tell ’em “It’s what I like to do and the negative reaction doesn’t bother me.”

Most of the time, that is.

I got into a snit recently with someone I don’t know. I am not even sure how he glommed onto High Plains Blogger. But he did. Maybe you can call this guy a “troll.”

This fellow lives on the East Coast. He opposes my view of Donald J. Trump. He doesn’t like my constant criticism of the president of the United States.

He recently challenged a commentary I posted about Trump. I’m trying to remember the specifics of the post that got this guy’s dander up.

But he responded via Facebook to something I wrote and included in one of his responses something about banning the Muslim religion in the United States of America. I thought, “Oh man!” Then I replied, “Sure thing. Then let’s just repeal the First Amendment,” the one that guarantees — among other things — the free exercise of religion in this country.

He wrote back that we can outlaw activities that promote terrorism. He believes Islam promotes such activity. I reminded him that we’re at war already with “religious perverts.”

My critic was having none of it.

It went back and forth a bit longer.

Then he called me “stupid” and an “idiot.” Right after that he said that reading the blog was a “waste of my time.” Isn’t that interesting? I think it is.

I mentioned to my wife that this guy doesn’t want to waste his time reading the blog, but that he keeps doing it anyway. Her response? “That’s what trolls do.” Bingo!

I don’t get too many of these kinds of responses. Most critics manage to craft intellectual arguments against whatever I write. I’m fine with that. I’ve chosen over time to avoid engaging them in back-and-forth exchanges. Candidly, I don’t have the patience to spend too much time trying to finish an argument. Some critics of this blog, however, seem to have a limitless amount of (a) time on their hands or (b) intestinal fortitude. Go for it, folks!

The blog will continue for as long as I have enough of my marbles to string cogent sentences together. I welcome the criticism.

As for the guy I don’t know … bless his heart.

Will this Senate race really become a contest?

My wife and I sat across a restaurant dinner table recently with friends in Colorado when the question came from one of them.

“Do you think Ted Cruz is going to get beat next year by that guy from El Paso?” our friend asked.

I had to answer honestly. “No. I don’t think it’s going to happen,” I said.

Cruz is the first-term Republican U.S. senator I have labeled as the Cruz Missile. The guy from El Paso is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives named Beto O’Rourke.

Both are young men. Both are dynamic in their respective ways. Cruz, though, holds all the cards in this year’s election cycle. Why? The answer is clear cut: He is a Republican running for re-election in what clearly is among the most Republican-friendly states in the United States of America.

O’Rourke is seeking to mine what Democrats believe is the changing demographic makeup of Texas. They are hoping that with more Latino residents who tend to vote for Democrats that O’Rourke will be able to knock Cruz out of the Senate.

I am no fan of Ted Cruz. He has shown himself to be a blowhard and showboat since taking office in 2013.

I believe I am a realist, though, in trying to assess the political landscape in Texas.

Voters here seem obsessed with voting for Republicans. I see no change in the state’s GOP-leaning pattern in 2018. It seems the only thing that can derail a Cruz re-election would be a scandal of monumental proportions.

I don’t see it happening.

Beto O’Rourke might be the perfect candidate for the U.S. Senate. Except that he’s running in Texas, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. The losing streak isn’t about to end.


How do we stop these ‘lone wolves’?

The immigrant from Uzbekistan who drove a rented truck into the New York City crowd this week illustrates the extreme difficulty in fighting this war on international terrorism.

How does the United States prevent a lone wolf who enters this country legally — even if he’s been through “extreme vetting” — from committing the act of terror we saw in New York?

Donald Trump says the nation is going to end the visa lottery program that enabled the suspect to enter the country in 2010. Of course, as is the president’s tendency, he has politicized the issue by blaming Democrats for their so-called lax immigration policy; he ignores the fact that the law under question was signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

My point on this matter is that lone wolf attacks are going to occur despite our best and most diligent efforts to root out evil doers before they commit their terrible act.

I say this also as someone who supports the president’s desire to implement an “extreme vetting” policy for those seeking to come to this country.

But let us not forget, too, that homegrown Americans are capable of committing infamous and dastardly acts. The Las Vegas massacre this summer; the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre; the Charleston, S.C., church slaughter? All of those evil men were native-born, corn-fed Americans; they only represent a fraction of the carnage committed by American-born terrorists.

The Uzbek suspect came here under an existing policy. There reportedly was no sign that he harbored pro-Islamic State sympathies. He became radicalized while living among Americans.

Then he took out his rage. This is why the war against international terrorism is so damn difficult to wage.