Cruz heads for trouble within GOP?

Ted Cruz might turn into my favorite U.S. senator, not because I agree with him on policy — because I disagree with virtually every policy statement that comes out of his mouth — but because he’s providing such tremendous back-story theater on Capitol Hill.

As the link here notes, Cruz did not endorse Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s facing a tea party challenger in next year’s GOP primary. Cruz himself is a tea party darling.

I’m wondering: What if McConnell wins re-election next year in Kentucky and returns to run the Republican caucus in 2015? What’s he got up his sleeve for Cruz, the guy who so far has shunned him and talked out loud about how the establishment Republicans might need to get their clocks cleaned by the insurgent wing of the party.

I see some back-bench committee assignments awaiting the junior senator from Texas. But not to fear for Ted Cruz. He’ll find a way to have his voice heard above the din. He’s gotten pretty good at it so far in his brief time in the Senate.

He did manage to knock Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst off in the Texas GOP primary last spring before plowing over Democrat Paul Sadler in the general election. He sees his monstrous primary upset as his mandate to act unruly in the clubby Senate environment.

The link attached here also notes that Sen. John Cornyn of Texas faces re-election next year and there are rumblings he, too, might face a tea party challenge from within the Republican Party.

I’ll be waiting to see whether Cruz endorses his pal Cornyn.  

Hiroshima gets personal with me

Allow me this bit of personal reflection on what arguably may be the most globally significant event of the 20th century.

President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of a very large bomb on a Japanese city 68 years ago this week. It was on Aug. 6, 1945 that a long-range B-29 bomber nicknamed the “Enola Gay” took off from a small Pacific island and headed for Japan. The Enola Gay, named after the mother of the plane’s pilot, Col. Paul Tibbitts, dropped a single bomb on Hiroshima. It killed tens of thousands of people instantly. It sent a clear message to the Japanese Empire: We’ve got this great weapon and we aren’t afraid to use it.

The president ordered another atomic bomb mission three days later. It caused similar devastation damage to Nagasaki, Japan. Five days after that, the Japanese surrendered. And on Sept. 2, 1945, U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur — who commanded all Allied forces in the Pacific — accepted the signed documents in Tokyo Harbor that ended World War II.


Why am I so interested in all of this? Why the personal stake?

My late father was serving in the U.S. Navy at that very moment in history. Pete Kanelis was a boatswain’s mate stationed in the Philippines. I do not know precisely what he would have done when the inevitable invasion of Japan would occur, but he would have been a part of what virtually everyone in America believed would be the bloodiest battle imaginable to secure a final victory.

Dad had been through hell already in another combat theater, in the Mediterranean Sea. He had taken part in three invasions: North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He had endured during one stretch 105 consecutive days of aerial bombardment from German and Italian aircraft. When they sounded general quarters aboard ship, Dad would strap himself into a 3-inch/50-calibre gun. Dad recorded at least one kill firing that weapon, a German JU-88 medium-range bomber he shot out of the sky.

Dad’s luck ran out, though, when an Italian dive bomber sank his ship. Dad dived into the drink, where he treaded water before a British destroyer picked him up.

After that, Dad came back to the States for a time, and then was deployed to the Pacific Theater.

He didn’t talk too much about those experiences. He would respond when I asked him but he didn’t volunteer this history of himself.

The tide of battle had turned in the Pacific by the time Dad got there. It was just a matter of time before our forces would win that war. But the president, brand new in the office after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt in April 1945, learned of this frightening way to end the war more quickly. The atomic bomb had been exploded successfully in July 1945 near Las Cruces, N.M. The brass presented the president with the option of dropping one of those bombs on the Japanese.

Truman’s decision — based on what he knew at the time — was the right one. Second-guessers have questioned the wisdom of that decision, but they — unlike the president and his national security team at the time — have the wisdom of hindsight. Truman knew he had to something to end the bloodshed and in his mind, this terrible weapon was the best option available to him.

The Japanese knew immediately after the two weapons fell on them that their effort was doomed. So, rather than risking perhaps millions of Japanese and American lives in a futile fight, they surrendered.

One of those American victims could well have been my father. Thus, you see why I am grateful for President Truman’s courage.

The president well could have saved my father’s life and, as they say, allowed me to be here today to write about it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Perry in deep hole for 2016

Rick Perry needs to get his act together in a big hurry if he’s entertaining the idea of running for president once more in 2016.

The Republican Texas governor is lagging far behind former first lady/Sen./Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a possible matchup for the next presidential election.

Clinton trounces Perry by significant double-digit margins, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll. The closest Republicans are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who trail Clinton by 6 and 8 points, respectively, in the poll.

Perry’s poll standing? He falls 16 points behind Clinton.

I am well aware that this is early in the cycle for the next presidential campaign. Clinton hasn’t even declared her intentions, although the smart money says she’s going to run once she catches her breath from all the globetrotting she did as secretary of state. HRC set some kind of travel record for number of countries visited and miles flown during her four years as the nation’s top diplomat.

Were she to run, my hunch is that she’ll be virtually unstoppable. That is the calculation anyone who challenges her will have to make — especially if they cannot improve on double-digit polling deficits.

Global war on terror far from over

The standing down today of 21 U.S. embassies around the world because of so-called terrorist “chatter” has opened up a bit of a debate over whether President Obama said the “global war on terror is over.”

It also illustrates how headlines can be, well, a bit misleading.

The headline on this link illustrates the point.

It tells of speech Obama made in May in which he declared a significant change in U.S. strategy in fighting international terrorists. He vowed to end drone strikes, restated his intention to close the U.S. terrorist prison in Guantanamo, Cuba and declared that the global war as we’ve known it since 9/11 has come to an end.

But as I read the story contained in the attached link, I read that the president declared his intention to keep looking for bad guys, to keep searching for their hiding places and to kill or capture them whenever possible.

Yet, the president’s many critics in the conservative mainstream media keep harping on half-truths and keep trying to put words in his mouth in the wake of the embassy stand-down.

I’m pretty sure we’re going to remain at war with international terrorist organizations throughout the remainder of Barack Obama’s time in office and we’re going to keep fighting that war well into the next administration’s tenure in the White House. Heck, we might still be fighting them for the rest of all of our lives.

Our strategies do change, though, as circumstances warrant. That’s what I’m hearing the president say about the global war on terror.

Jobs are up; jobless rate down … still no love

The U.S. Labor Department today reported 162,000 jobs were added to the nation’s payrolls in July, while the jobless rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest in nearly five years.

But still, despite that, the news is being received with a shrug and a “so what?” even from those who detest President Obama and his economic policies.

It honestly puzzles me. Then again, I don’t get paid to analyze this data. I’m watching all this unfold from the peanut gallery, like most Americans – and that includes the TV talk show chatterboxes who purport to be the know-it-alls of everything that’s supposed to matter.

This administration took office with the nation in free fall. We were losing – depending on who’s counting – 700,000 to 800,000 jobs each month. Banks were crashing. Housing markets all across the country were cratering. A member of my family – a well-educated architect – personified the agony of what happened when he lost his job as the housing market disintegrated all along the West Coast.

What’s happened since then? The government added rules that added accountability to lenders who were loaning money to people who couldn’t repay their loans. Rules for banks were tightened. The government pumped money into state and local economies – such as Texas and Amarillo, where officials were more than happy to take it. Jobs have been added at a slow, but reasonably steady rate.

Is the economy growing fast enough? No. Considering where we were at the start of 2009 and where we’ve gone since then, though, I’d rate the policies a success.

Yes, some individuals disagree with that. Let ‘em disagree. I’ll stand by what I’ve witnessed from the cheap seats.

Oh, and my family member who lost job in 2009? He’s back to work … as an architect.

Snowden to get released from airport custody

Edward Snowden, the man on the lam from U.S. officials for leaking national security information to the world, is making a break for “freedom” from Russian airport arrest.

The Russians have given Snowden temporary asylum, which has angered U.S. officials deeply. Snowden had been holed up in a Moscow airport transit lounge since fleeing there from Hong Kong several weeks ago.

I can hear President Obama’s critics now: BHO is a feckless president; he’s getting pushed around by Russian President/strongman Vladimir Putin; we need to do something, anything, to punish the Russians.

What, precisely, is the United States supposed to do to Putin and the Russian? Bomb them? Invade? Slap an embargo on them?

Barack Obama is not without some options. The first one is to get on the phone, call his pal Vlad and tell him how angry he is. I’ll bet real money that Putin, the former KGB spook, won’t budge. He doesn’t frighten easily.

I also believe the president should cancel his upcoming summit with Putin in Russia. The two men will nothing else to discuss than what to do about Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked the secrets.

Perhaps the president should remind Putin what he said just a few weeks ago, that Putin didn’t want to do anything to upset his American “partners.” Well, he’s just done it.

Westboro loons at it again

The haters who comprise the Westboro Baptist “Church” are planning some kind of demonstration in my old haunts along the Gulf Coast.

A young soldier from Southeast Texas, Anthony Maddox, will be buried Saturday, but the Westboro fruitcakes plan to stage some kind of a prayer vigil or worship service at the same time.

We all remember these clowns. They hail from Topeka, Kan. Their “church” members show up at funerals for warriors who’ve fallen in combat. Their protests are aimed, supposedly, at U.S. policy toward gays. Suffice to say that this “church” feels strongly that homosexuality is a sin that must be condemned at every turn. These folks protest against gay rights at funerals, causing disruptions, showing utter contempt for the pain of family members and generally making a profound spectacle of themselves. I should add that the sexual orientation of the warrior being interred is not a consideration.

These “church” members have shown their faces in the Panhandle on several occasions since the war against terror commenced after the 9/11 attacks.

What’s happened at Panhandle services, though, has been quite gratifying. Biker clubs show up to form a perimeter around the church service, keeping the Westboro “church” members at bay.

My hope is that similar steps will occur in the Beaumont area this weekend when the good folks there lay Anthony Maddox to rest.

God bless that young man’s soul.

Christie vs. Paul

Chris Christie scored a technical knockout in his brief putdown contest with Rand Paul.

For my money, the two Republicans offered a sneak peek into what may lie ahead for the 2016 Republican presidential primary battle.

Christie is the governor of New Jersey; Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.

Paul cried “Uncle!” recently after Christie fired back at Paul, who had criticized Christie because he was insufficiently conservative on fiscal matters. Paul jabbed at Christie for insisting that Congress should have acted with more dispatch in sending money to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy battered the Garden State.

Christie’s retort was classic, noting that Kentucky gets back more per capita than it sends the federal government, while New Jersey receives a fraction of every dollar it sends to the nation’s capital.

I’m guessing that Christie, a member of the “Establishment Wing” of the party, and Paul, a champion of the tea party wing, will make a fine mano a mano tandem if they both seek their party’s presidential nomination three years.

My money, though, is on Christie, the man with the keen intellect and sharper tongue.



Texas GOP goes off the rails

A Texas Republican lawmaker thinks state Sen. Wendy Davis should pay for one of three special sessions of the Texas Legislature?

Insanity has gripped this guy by the throat.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat, should reimburse the state for the cost of the special sessions because she led a Democratic filibuster of an anti-abortion bill that was approved during the second special legislative session.

“I am upset at the cost,” Capriglione said. “I think we need to remember why we are having this extra special session. One state senator, in an effort to capture national attention, forced this special session. I firmly believe that Sen. Wendy Davis should reimburse the taxpayers for the entire cost of the second special session. I am sure that she has raised enough money at her Washington, D.C., fundraiser to cover the cost.”

The special session cost the state about $2.4 million.

OK, then how about putting the Republican legislative caucus on the hook for the cost of the third special session after those folks killed a transportation funding bill that Gov. Rick Perry – another Republican – keeps insisting the state needs? Maybe the GOP caucus could pay for all the special sessions after insisting that the Legislature approve the restrictive anti-abortion bill that ignited the partisan firestorm in the first place?

Capriglione is proud that he isn’t accepting the $150 per diem payment for the special session. He purports to be a “fiscal conservative.” He also must not need the money.

Some legislators’ penchant for grandstanding knows no bounds.

Foes ignore Obama successes

The link attached to the blog attacks Fox News Channel for virtually ignoring some positive economic news.

I get that FNC – particularly the hosts of the “Fox and Friends” morning talk show – often ignore good economic news when it speaks to the success of President Obama’s economic policy.

However, such reaction is not really unique to this president and his foes. Other media outlets have done so over many decades of reporting. Left-leaning MSNBC wasn’t too keen on reporting successes during the George W. Bush administration – although looking back on it now it’s difficult to recall any specifics.

And Fox’s ignoring of this data mirrors Obama’s political foes on the right who’ve done the same thing. Any tick in the wrong direction and those critics are all over the president with loud and forceful critiques. Any movement in the right direction you get … well, silence. Yes, it cuts both ways.

What makes the Media Matters tattling on Fox so troublesome, though, is that the network calls itself “fair and balanced.” I keep scratching my head over that self-description. It’s neither fair or balanced. Is MSNBC fair and balanced? Well, no, but that network doesn’t trumpet itself so loudly as possessing either characteristic. To be sure, Media Matters is clearly a left-leaning watchdog organization.

CNN is another whipping child for political conservatives. CNN’s “sin,” according to the mainstream conservative media, is that the network doesn’t shill for the right wing the way Fox does. Instead, it reports the news with, shall we say, fairness and balance. It also offers a wide range of ideological punditry – with the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rich Lowry on the right and Paul Begala and Donna Brazile on the left.

My only advice to Fox and its supporters is this: The network should stop using the false “fair and balanced” public relations ploy. Using such language to describe itself only exposes FNC to critics who can see through the network’s thinly veiled ideology.

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