Those polls are all over the place

Beto O’Rourke leads Ted Cruz by 2 points in one poll.

Oh, but in another one Cruz leads O’Rourke by 9 points.

Who do you believe? Who do you want to believe? Me? I’ll go with the first one, because that’s what I want to happen on Election Day. I want O’Rourke, the Democrat who’s challenging the Republican Cruz for the U.S. Senate seat that Cruz now occupies.

The Ipsos poll done for Reuters puts O’Rourke ahead by a margin that makes the race a dead heat. It was an online poll of “likely voters.” The Quinnipiac poll was done over the phone; it shows Cruz with a fairly comfortable margin as the campaign heads toward its conclusion.

I know this much — which, admittedly isn’t all that much: O’Rourke making this race such a tight contest is news in and of itself.

Cruz represents Texas in the U.S. Senate. Texas is one of the most Republican states in America. He isn’t exactly a warm-and-fuzzy kind of guy. Cruz is a darling of the TEA Party wing of the GOP, the one that opposed Barack Obama’s presidential agenda every step of the way. He once led a phony filibuster in an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The idea that O’Rourke would make this a close contest boggles the mind of a lot of observers.

I believe O’Rourke still has a steep hill to climb if he hopes to knock Cruz off his Senate seat. The state still loves its Republican officeholders. No … matter … what!

However, just as Donald Trump proved every political “expert” wrong by being elected president in 2016, there remains a good bit of hope that Beto O’Rourke can upset the political gods yet again in Texas. That’s my hope anyway.

Glad to witness change of season

AMARILLO, Texas — It’s not every year you get to watch the seasons change right on cue.

That’s going to happen for us while we visit Amarillo for the next few days.

The first day of autumn on Friday is going to feel like … the first day of autumn!

That’s according to the TV meteorologists who spend a lot time on the air telling us about what the weather will bring us. Yes, there are times when the TV weather talking heads annoy me by breaking in with “news” to tell us that there’s nothing to worry about when a rainstorm cuts loose over the Panhandle.

But that’s another story. Perhaps. On another day.

Today, though, the weather guys and gals are telling us that an actual autumn cold front is going to blow in over Amarillo during the night. Put on a sweater in the morning, they say. Prepare to get wet, too, they add.

OK on all of that.

I’m just amazed that the calendar that says the seasons are going to change coincides with what Mother Nature has in mind.

Who’da thunk it?

GOP ‘heroes’ nowhere to be seen or heard

Carl Bernstein, the legendary journalist who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, recently said the real “heroes” who brought about the end of the Richard Nixon presidency were Republicans who told the president that his impeachment in the House of Representatives was a certainty.

And so was his conviction in a Senate trial.

Sen. Barry Goldwater led a GOP team of lawmakers to the White House to tell the president his Senate support had all but vanished and that Goldwater was not among those who would vote to acquit him.

Nixon resigned on Aug. 9. 1974.

I mention this because there appears to be no sign of any Republican “heroism” developing as the walls close in around Donald J. Trump, the current Republican who happens to be president of the United States. The GOP is holding firm in both the House and the Senate — with a few exception — in its support of Trump against the special counsel’s examination into what I like calling “The Russia Thing.”

Might there be some heroes emerge if the counsel, Robert Mueller, produces incontrovertible proof of, say, obstruction of justice, or of conspiracy to collude with Russians who attacked our electoral system, or of violations of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution that bans presidents from accepting gifts from foreign kings and potentates?

I cannot predict the future any more than meteorologists can predict with absolute clarity what the weather will do the next day.

Why the absence of any GOP heroes? President Nixon never grabbed the party by the throat in the early 1970s. Sure, he won re-election in 1972 in a historic landslide. However, the party didn’t exactly belong to him. Fast-forward to the present day and we find that Donald Trump has managed — through an astonishing display of intimidation and innuendo — to capture the heart and soul of a party with which he had only a passing acquaintance prior to becoming a politician, which was when he announced his presidential candidacy.

Because I don’t predict these matters any longer, I am left just to wonder whether there might be a hero or three out there among the Republicans who serve in Congress. What might it take to shake them loose from the death grip that Donald Trump has on them?

Puppy Tales, Part 57: Who needs travel training?

I laughed out loud when I heard this tidbit from a pet-training expert.

He talked about a dog he had given to a couple that was looking for a dog to replace their previous “baby” that had died. The training expert talked about how he gets dogs accustomed to travel by letting them sleep in their kennels prior to sending them to their new “pet parents.”

Why did I laugh? Toby the Puppy was born to travel. He remains in constant travel mode. There was no need — none at all, zero, zilch — to “train” Toby how to travel.

He’s a natural at it. I long thought my mother-in-law was the world’s greatest road warrior. She surrendered her unofficial “crown” the moment Toby the Puppy joined our family.

We ask him: Do you want to go for a ride? His response is that he whirls around like he Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. Yep, he’s ready for a ride. He stays ready. He was born ready.

When we travel with our fifth wheel, Toby is good to go the moment he settles into his bed, which my wife and I place on the console between the two front seats. He might circle once or twice before settling down for his road-trip nap.

Did we have to “train” our puppy to do this? Hah! Hardly. He puts his mother and me to shame with his travel endurance. It comes naturally.

Mueller probe should keep going

Congressional Republicans keep saying special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Russia collusion matter has gone on too long. It has run its course, they say. It’s time to wrap it up.

Allow me this respectful dissent. No, it hasn’t gone on too long. It’s not yet time to call it good. Mueller is getting closer to the end. To that we all can agree.

Mueller’s investigation has scored some key victories already. He has obtained guilty pleas from principals involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. It’s not a “witch hunt,” which Trump has alleged far too often and with far too much emotion.

I, too, want this probe to end. I simply want it to end on Mueller’s terms. The Justice Department appointed him special counsel amid near-universal praise. Democrats and Republicans alike cheered his selection by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

What has changed since that appointment? The way I see, the change occurred when Mueller rolled up guilty pleas and, in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, conviction on eight felony counts; plus, Manafort has pleaded guilty to two more allegations and has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team.

So now the GOP wants the investigation to end?

C’mon, ladies and gentlemen. You cheered this man’s selection. Let him finish his job.

Age-old dilemma plays out to this day

Politicians have been waging this struggle probably since the beginning of politics as we’ve come to know it.

Do we treat politicians on our side with the same critical look as we do those on other side of the political divide?

Probably not.

I wrote about this dilemma in July 2014. I want to share it again.

Do we ignore our guys’ missteps?

I’ll admit to my own bias on this regard. I figure it’s a natural reaction. It’s likely better, though, for us to react more vigorously when our guys mess up than when those on the other side do. Don’t we expect our guys to behave properly at all times? We ought to demand it of them and when they fail to deliver we should drop-kick them squarely in the backside.

Sadly, we don’t.

Look around us at this moment. The president keeps demonstrating his crassness. Those in his own party dismiss the criticism. Those in the other party become apoplectic. Shouldn’t the president’s fellow Republicans be as outraged as Democrats? Just wondering, man.

Pondering whether journalism ethics apply to bloggers

A longtime friend of mine — and a former journalism colleague — posted an item on social media I feel like sharing here.

Because of journalism ethics, I can’t like candidate pages. Even though I might like the candidate.

My friend still writes for a major West Coast daily newspaper. He is a freelance columnist, meaning he isn’t on the newspaper’s payroll; he is self-employed, but he gets paid by the media outlet for his commentary.

It brings to mind a question I’ve had regarding my own status, as a former journalist who writes a blog that concentrates on politics and public policy … along with the occasional slice of life entry.

I, too, do not “like” political candidates’ pages. Yes, I do talk about candidates, whether I support them or oppose them. The blog allows me to lay out my own bias for the world to see and to make judgments about whether my bias comports with their own.

Do I “like” pols’ pages on Facebook? Should I continue to avoid doing so? My gut tells me that even though I no longer work for anyone but myself, I shall eschew such statements. It’s not that I want to disguise my political leanings; those who read this blog know where I stand.

It’s just that old habits hang on. I damn sure didn’t “like” these candidates while I was working for a living. I’m just not ready to start doing so now.

Wait for FBI probe: What’s wrong with that?

Christine Ford has leveled a serious accusation against Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to join the U.S. Supreme Court.

She intends to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but wants the FBI to conduct a thorough investigation before she talks about her allegation: that Kavanaugh assaulted her sexually when they were teenagers.

The FBI can pull together all the evidence it needs to presumably determine whether Ford’s allegation holds up. Or it could come up empty. Or it could produce a result with no definitive answer.

Ford is asking that the FBI do its investigation before she talks.

If it delays Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, so be it. If his confirmation — should it occur — come until after the court convenes its next judicial term, so be that, too.

The allegation is profoundly serious. Kavanaugh has denied categorically what the accuser has alleged. He is entitled to mount a vigorous defense. Ford, too, is entitled to get a fair and complete hearing of the allegation she has leveled against a man who wants to join the U.S. Supreme Court.

‘Sad’ to watch POTUS trash the AG

Donald J. Trump continues to concoct reasons for why he believes Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a bad choice from the beginning.

He interviewed badly with the U.S. Senate; he couldn’t answer easy questions; he was “mixed up and confused.”

What absolute crap! The reason the president is miffed at the AG can be summed up in a single word: recusal.

Sessions recognized what Trump didn’t see coming: The AG’s role in Trump’s presidential campaign precluded him from being able to investigate matters involving the Russian government’s effort to influence the 2016 election outcome. He did what Justice Department policy and rules require: he recused himself from all things dealing with Russia.

And the president didn’t see that coming? He didn’t anticipate any kind of conflict of interest?

Because of his own ignorance of government ethics, Trump is now tell media outlets that he now doesn’t “have an attorney general.” He calls it “so sad.”

Go ahead, Mr. President. Fire the attorney general. Understand, though, that the AG — whether it’s Sessions or someone else — doesn’t work for the president. He works for the rest of us out here. He works also for those of us who didn’t support Trump’s effort to become president.

The attorney general shouldn’t do the president’s bidding because of some effort to protect the president’s political future.

If you’re looking for a “sad” circumstance regarding Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, it is because the AG did something correct and proper and that action — all by itself — has aroused Donald Trump’s rage.

Willie gets flak for backing Beto? Shocking!

Willie Nelson wants to play a free concert to gin up support for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.

And to think that some Texans — maybe many of them — are upset that the Red-Headed Stranger would be backing O’Rourke in his bid to defeat Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in the upcoming midterm election.

Shocking, I tell ya. Simply shocking that Nelson would back a Democrat.

Who did these critics suspect Nelson would back. Is he going to go with Cruz, the stuffed-shirt conservative? Hardly.

This backlash against Willie Nelson’s support for O’Rourke is hilarious to me. Nelson has made no secret of his support for progressive politicians and policies during his many years as a top-tier entertainer and occasional political activist.

Sure, he hails from Abbott, a Central Texas town full of God-fearing political conservatives. Does that mean ol’ Willie is going to follow along? Of course it doesn’t mean that at all.

Nelson appeared on “The View” talk show this week. “I love flak,” he said. “We’re not happy ’til they’re not happy.”

“Everybody has an opinion,” he added added. “Everybody has a right to an opinion. I think I have one too.”

So, let the man sing and play that old guitar — the one that looks as though it’s been run over by a diesel tractor — on behalf of Beto O’Rourke.

His fans ought to give their protest over Nelson’s support of Beto a rest. What in the name of country croonin’ did they expect?

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