RNC marginalizes itself with boycott vote

The Republican National Committee has just voted to marginalize its standing with the broad swath of Americans who will have a say in electing the next president of the United States.

The RNC voted to exclude CNN and NBC News from any 2016 presidential primary debates.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/08/16/rnc-to-consider-excluding-cnn-nbc-from-2016-presidential-debates/

I’m a bit unsure as to how that will work. I suppose if either CNN and NBC proposes to host a debate, none of the candidates will show up. Perhaps the RNC will set up a debate and invite the other networks — CBS, ABC and Fox — to take part.

Whatever the case, the RNC has failed to grasp the difference between news and entertainment.

At issue are a couple of proposed projects involving Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2016. CNN is planning to air a film on the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state; NBC is hoping to produce a four-part miniseries on HRC. The GOP says the networks are trying to influence voters by portraying Clinton allegedly in a positive light.

Well, no one knows yet how the networks are going to portray her. Nor has anyone grasped publicly the difference — in NBC’s case — the difference between the news operation and the network’s entertainment division. NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd has tried to explain that the entertainment is independent from news and neither has any say in what the other does.

That doesn’t matter, according to the RNC. I suppose the GOP would be just fine with all of this if the networks were planning to broadcast hatchet jobs on Hillary. A “fair and balanced” portrayal of a major American public figure, though, isn’t good enough.

Airline merger equals campaign issue

If I understand Tom Pauken correctly, the fact that the state’s attorney general actually supports the federal government’s decision to fight a proposed airline merger makes the AG’s position a non-starter.

Why? Because the AG has been fighting the feds for years and the state simply cannot possibly be on the same side as the enemy — no matter the merits of the case.

Ah … Texas politics. Nothing like it.

Pauken is running for the Republican nomination for Texas governor against AG Greg Abbott, who says he fears a proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways would result in fare increases and reduced service to rural areas.

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/08/15/pauken-attacks-abbott-opposing-airline-merger/

The feds say the same thing about the proposed merger. Thus, Abbott and the U.S. Justice Department are on the same page on this very specific issue. Abbott and/or his staff of lawyers presumably have analyzed the specifics of the case and determined that, by golly, maybe the feds have a point.

Isn’t that what lawyers do? Pauken, himself a lawyer as well as a former Texas Republican Party chairman, ought to understand that principle.

Instead, he seems to be suggesting that Abbott — who is fighting on behalf those who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act — simply must remain opposed to President Obama, Eric Holder and the federal government because they’re just so darn unpopular in Texas.

This is where every single policy statement becomes a campaign issue.

Ain’t Texas politics grand?

Why not visit Panhandle, Sen. Cruz?

It just occurred to me today, after commenting on Sen. Ted Cruz’s schedule of town hall meetings, that he’s not coming to the core of his support in Texas.

I’m talking about the Panhandle.

Cruz’s itinerary will keep him down state during his meet-and-greet tour. He’ll be talking to politically friendly audiences.

If that’s going to be his modus operandi during the congressional break, then he needs to come to where his support is really — as in really, really — strong. The Panhandle is known to be a hotbed of tea party support for any statewide candidate. Cruz has taken the next important step and actually won a statewide office.

As the junior Republican U.S. senator, he’s made a big name for himself talking tough about shutting down the government and questioning the commitment of real-life Vietnam War heroes, such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to our national defense. I feel compelled to insert at this point that Cruz has never worn his country’s uniform, let alone in battle — as Kerry and Hagel have done.

So, what say you, Sen. Cruz? Can’t you find some time in your busy schedule to drop in on, say, Amarillo, for some flesh-pressing with those who just think you’re the bee’s knees?

If you come this way, I might even find time to attend your session and when you open the floor up to questions, I might even challenge you to explain why you believe shutting down the federal government is good for the country.

Barbara Bush the Younger ‘endorses’ HRC

Well, that’s a shocker.

Barbara Bush, one of former President George W. Bush’s twin daughters, has declared that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is “unbelievably qualified” to be president of the United States.

Who knew the Bush family had a closet Democrat in its midst?

http://www.today.com/news/bush-daughter-hillary-clinton-should-run-president-6C10928933

Barbara, 31, hopes Clinton runs for the White House in 2016. She did stop short of saying HRC would get her vote were she to take the plunge.

It’s interesting in the extreme, though, to hear the daughter of such a prominent Republican make a glowing statement about a prominent Democrat. That sets up the potential for an interesting tussle within the GOP, which already is turning on itself over disagreements on immigration reform, spending cuts, and a possible government shutdown as it relates to the future of “Obamacare.”

George W. Bush has stayed out of the fray. Good move, Mr. President. Now one of his daughters seems to be taking baby steps back into it with her comments about a possible Democratic presidential candidate who, without doubt, is one of the sworn enemies of the tea party movement within the GOP.

How will the tea party wing react to this virtual endorsement? Will it scold the former president for not “counseling” his daughter sufficiently enough? Might the tea party folks declare unofficial war on the Bush family for being so, so, so “establishment” in its Republican orthodoxy?

The big question might be, how will Democrats handle these glowing words if their party nominates Clinton to be their party’s standard-bearer in the summer of 2016?

My guess: very carefully.

Partisanship enters debate over crime

I got into an interesting rhetorical tug-of-war with a friend of mine this week.

It involved the sentencing of former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to 30 months in federal prison; Jackson’s wife got a one-year sentence in Club Fed. Jesse Jackson’s crime involved the theft of $750,000 from his campaign treasure chest.

My friend, a businessman in Amarillo — and a dedicated Republican — wanted to know if Democrats were still “proud” of their party now that one of their own had been sent up the proverbial river for committing a crime. I responded that the Republican Party has had its share of crooks; I cited former President Richard Nixon and former Vice President Spiro Agnew as examples. We went back and forth after that, but didn’t really settle anything.

He’s still an ardent Republican and I’m still an equally ardent Democrat. I believe we’re still friends; I’ll likely find out next time I visit his business establishment.

But the exchange brought to mind the cheapening of what’s happened to Jackson and other political leaders of either stripe — Democrat or Republican. It pains me when partisans try to hang the “all Democrats/Republicans are crooks” label on either party when someone gets convicted and sentenced for committing a crime.

I don’t give a damn about Jackson’s party affiliation, any more than I gave a damn that Nixon and Agnew were Republicans. Jackson was tried and convicted by the federal court. Nixon was nearly impeached by the House of Representatives and he quit to avoid a certain impeachment and conviction by the Senate; Agnew resigned after being indicted by the feds for taking bribes.

The system in all those cases worked irrespective of the political labels any of the principals wore at the time, and it usually works whenever any high-profile politician gets in trouble.

Talk to all Texans, Sen. Cruz

Something struck me as I looked at U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s planned series of town hall meetings across Texas.

He’s going to be speaking to groups friendly to his point of view.

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/08/15/ted-cruz-staging-events-across-texas/

Local Republican women’s groups are hosting him; same for local tea party organizations; an event in Dallas will be put on by the Heritage Foundation; he’ll be talking to a chamber of commerce audience too.

That’s all fine and good. I’m curious, though, as to whether the Republican junior senator from Texas is going to engage individuals in actual debate and discussion over differences they might have in public policy.

I’m going on out a limb here, but I’m quite sure liberal Democratic senators in, say, California or New York don’t spend much time talking to conservative audiences. So the query is posed to them as well.

Cruz was elected by a majority of Texans in 2012 to represent the entire state. I get that Texas leans hard right in its political view. All its statewide elected officials are Republicans; there’s not a Democrat to be found … or none on the horizon with a prayer of winning a statewide election. But not every Texan adheres to that world view. A few of us out here lean the other way and do not like the notion, for example, of shutting down the government in order to defund the Affordable Care Act – which Cruz is pushing.

Sen. Cruz also is thought to be considering a run for the presidency in 2016, a notion that was noticed by Tanene Allison, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party. “He’s not talking about the issues that matter most to Texans,” Allison told the Texas Tribune. “A movement to try to shut down the government is not on the top of the list of what most Texans want at the moment.”

A more productive town hall series would be to include constituents who aren’t particularly friendly to the fiery conservative. Maybe someone with a different point of view will sneak into one or more of these meetings and actually challenge him. Let’s hope so.

Feds block airline merger

The federal government’s intervention in the proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways leaves me a bit puzzled.

The link attached to this blog notes that the feds want to prevent further escalation of air fares, which they believe will occur with this merger; but previous mergers have had precisely that effect already.

http://news.yahoo.com/airline-mergers-already-led-higher-fares-040223675.html

Amarillo is served by American Airlines, which flies several times a day to and from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The city has skin in American’s future here, given that we once subsidized – through economic development money collected from sales tax revenue – jet service between AMA and DFW.

On one hand, I applaud the government for looking out for the flying public. On other hand, the feds seem a bit tardy in joining this fight, given the direction air fares already have gone during the past decade.

My wife and I have made something of a pact between us already that from here on, virtually all our future travel throughout North America will be aboard our shiny new travel vehicle. We plan to spend extensive time on the road from this day forward.

But we do have some overseas destinations on our agenda. We’ll make that decision when the time is right.

But the airlines that serve AMA need not look to us to spend much time sitting in cramped seats, with our knees tucked up under our chins – all the while having to pay extra for a bag of peanuts.

I reckon we’re not alone in our view of air travel these days. I also am presuming that the marketplace will determine whether we continue to pay through the nose for air travel.

Newt hates being negative?

Now I’ve heard just about everything there is to hear in contemporary American politics.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the one-time bomb-thrower in chief of the Republican, the one-man wrecking crew against all things Democratic, now says his party has gone too “negative” in its effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/14/20026954-gingrich-hope-key-to-progress-for-gop?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=4

I need to have my hearing checked?

Gingrich is now trying to be the paragon of positive thinking in his party. Imagine that.

My favorite Gingrich tactic came to light in the early 1990s when, while building what would become the House Republican majority, once counseled his congressional colleagues to adopt a glossary of terms to demonize his Democratic opponents. Among them was this notion that Republicans had to label Democrats, get ready for this one, as the “enemy of normal Americans.”

Remember how he tore after then-House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas for his ethical lapses? Turned out that Wright was dirty and he resigned from the House, but he did so after being bloodied badly by Gingrich’s relentless attack.

Gingrich’s scorched-Earth strategy succeeded in 1994, as the GOP captured both houses of Congress in one of the party’s more stunning mid-term successes. He then sought to give first-term President Clinton the dickens masterminding the infamous government shutdown. That didn’t work out too well for Gingrich, as his party got clobbered in the 1996 and 1998 elections. He eventually quit the House a broken political leader.

Gingrich has become the poster boy for those who know to acquire the power to govern, but who don’t know how to actually govern.

So here he is today, giving advice to his Republican progeny on how to woo disaffected voters.

Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker.

Kerry to get Nobel Peace Prize?

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have commenced peace talks in secret.

If the talks prove successful and the ancient enemies — the Israelis and the Palestinians — actually forge a working peace agreement, I have a candidate for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize: Secretary of State John Kerry.

http://news.yahoo.com/israelis-palestinians-kick-off-peace-talks-182226376.html

Kerry managed to persuade the two sides to restart talks that would seek a so-called “two-state solution” to the longstanding conflict. The Palestinians want an independent state next to Israel. The Israelis are now talking about that outcome being acceptable — under certain conditions. One of them would be that the Palestinians would stop shelling Israeli homes. The two sides have until October to seal the deal.

Meanwhile, Kerry and the Israelis will need to hammer out some solution to the continuing construction of settlements in territory that Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Palestinians say the settlements are a barrier to a peace agreement; the Israelis say they are necessary to keep the Palestinians at bay.

I’m not an expert on Israeli-Palestinian relations, but I have seen up close just how precarious the situation is within Israel. I’ve visited cities — such as Sderot and Ashkelon — that have been shelled by Palestinians living in Gaza I understand the Israelis’ fear of continuing attacks on civilians. I’ve been able to peer into Gaza from just outside the region’s border with Israel.

Gaza is governed by Hamas, the infamous terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Whatever comes out of these peace talks, there must be some accounting for how to handle Hamas and to reel in the terrorists who continue to rein violence down on Israel.

Secretary Kerry has many decades of international experience under his belt. He knows the players on both sides personally. The civilized world, therefore, should be pulling for a successful resolution to these talks. Peace must come to the Holy Land.

If it does, John Kerry should start working on his Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Euro recession over? Tell that to Greeks

This just in: The recession in the European Union is over.

But if you’re a citizen of those countries hit hardest by the financial crisis, you’re pain hasn’t yet let up.

http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/world/article/Eurozone-recession-end-is-cold-comfort-for-Greece-4731488.php

I get that the Germans, French and even the Italians are faring better these days. Their economies grew for the second quarter in a row, prompting EU economists to declare the recession to be over.

The story in Greece and Spain, for example, is quite different.

Let’s look at Greece, my ancestral home that became an international laughingstock when the financial crisis nearly took it down.

The Greek economy is still in the tank, down about 24 percent since 2008; just in the past year alone, it shrank 4 percent. Unemployment is about 25 percent, nearly as bad as Spain, which has Europe’s worst unemployment rate. Barry Bosworth of the Brookings Institution describes the Greek economic condition as far worse than a recession. “It goes way beyond anything that looks like a recession,” he said. “It’s absolutely appropriate to refer to Greece as in a depression.”

***

This characterization hurts me at a personal level.

I’ve visited Greece three times: twice with my wife in 2000 and 2001, and again by myself in 2003. It’s a magical place. My three visits there came as the country was preparing to play host to the 2004 Summer Olympics. They cleaned up Athens, scrubbed the graffiti off building walls and highway overpasses, built a sparkling new airport, constructed a state-of-the-art subway system and, in general, presented themselves as more than ready to host such a magnificent worldwide event.

But they did it on borrowed money. They went into hock up to their armpits … and then the bills came due.

I’m not sure the Euro recession is as “gone” as the EU folks say it is. Another hiccup in Greece, or Spain, or Portugal – where the recession/depression is lingering – could send the continent into another tailspin.

I keep thinking of when I walked to the top of the Acropolis in 2000 and stood in front of the Parthenon. My thoughts were of enormous pride that my ancestors were able to build such structures and were able to produce great genius.

If only they could revive that brilliance and find a way out of the economic mess that is largely of their own making.

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