Trump turns to another of the ‘best people’

Is this the best that the president of the United States can do?

He has hired U.S. ambassador to Germany, a fellow named Richard Grenell, to take charge of the nation’s intelligence network. Have I mentioned that Grenell has zero experience at intelligence-gathering at any level and that he will be named “acting” director of national intelligence? Well, I just did.

This is a monumentally stupid appointment.

Grenell wouldn’t face Senate confirmation were he to remain on “acting” status. He reportedly has said that Donald Trump will select a permanent DNI soon. I am not holding my breath in anticipation of that appointment coming.

The preposterous nature of this appointment is made clear by Trump’s insistence that they’re pounding down the door of the White House, that he seemingly has to fight off the hordes of qualified applicants seeking to work in his administration. That he would make such an idiotic assertion is laughable in the extreme.

Grenell has no business running the nation’s vast intelligence network. That is a job that requires skill and knowledge. It requires a keen understanding of the crises that confront our agencies at every turn. It demands that the DNI be able to give unvarnished assessments of national security threats to the Big Man in the Oval Office … and it demands that the president be willing to accept what the DNI tells him!

Does any of that sound like the manner in which the current president operates? Of course not!

Yep, Trump has turned our politics on its ear

To my mind, the most glaring example of just how much our political world has been turned upside down occurred in the wake of a noted Republican U.S. senator’s vote to convict Donald Trump of abuse of power.

Think of it more a moment.

Mitt Romney, a Republican’s Republican — the party’s presidential nominee in 2012 — was the lone GOP senator to break ranks with the party by deciding to convict Trump of an impeachable offense during the Senate impeachment trial.

The reaction to Romney’s courageous stand? It was to vilify him by Republicans who are standing foursquare behind the man I consider to be the Republican In Name Only in chief. Yes, Donald Trump is the RINO in chief. He’s a man with no history of backing GOP policies prior to running for president as a Republican in 2016.

The president who never sought a public office prior to seeking the presidency four years ago has clamped a stranglehold on the party. Meanwhile, an actual Republican — such as Mitt Romney — is being pounded, pummeled and pilloried because he was voting his conscience.

The head of the Conservative Political Action Conference told Romney to stay away. Others on the right wing said Romney could place himself in physical danger were he to attend the CPAC event.

Trump, who embodies the phony Republican, has become the real thing in the eyes of those who are beholden to him. Yes, the man with no ideological or moral grounding except to policies that benefit him personally has become the epitome of a political party with which he has no history.


RINO in chief is angering real Republicans … finally?

Donald John Trump is the quintessential Republican In Name Only.

Of that there ought to be little discussion. He is the RINO in chief of the party under whose banner he ran for president in 2016.

Now some of the actual Republicans within the GOP are urging the current president to leave his mitts off of William Barr’s Department of Justice apparatus.

Is the RINO in chief going to listen? Will he cease denigrating the Justice Department professional prosecutors? Will he let the AG do his job, which is to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official — contrary to what Trump has said, declaring himself to be the nation’s top cop. No. He won’t do any of it. Not ever.

One of those actual Republicans, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said this: “The president does have a tendency to lash out and I think in this case he would be well advised to try to temper that.”

No kidding, senator? Cornyn has just “advised” him to do what he suggests.

As for Barr, he has disappointed me terribly. I had high hope that he’d take his post as AG and restore its integrity, which had been sullied by the incessant berating of former AG Jeff Sessions by the RINO in chief. After all, he had served as attorney general near the end of President Bush 41’s term in office. He brought experience running the DOJ the right way.

It hasn’t happened. The RINO in chief is worsening the Barr era at Justice by tweeting constantly about pending criminal cases. Barr reportedly is threatening to quit; other media reports say he isn’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile, the DOJ career prosecutors and their legal staffs are being whipsawed and buggy-whipped by the turmoil.

I am wondering at this moment: How in the world does the attorney general actually stomach all this tempest if he is serious about the expression of angst over Trump’s Twitter tirades?

Just wondering: Would a Bloomberg nominee release his taxes?

Let’s play a game of “what if?” for just a moment.

What if somehow Michael Bloomberg manages to win the Democratic Party presidential nomination? What if he gets the call to run against Donald John Trump, the self-proclaimed “very stable genius” and the current president of the United States?

Trump at first promised to release his taxes per the custom set beginning with the 1976 election. Then he has backed away. He is fighting efforts to obtain those records.

What if Bloomberg gets the nomination and then releases everything, per what previous nominees of both major parties have done … until Trump came along?

Bloomberg is reportedly the world’s ninth richest person. Trump reportedly is worth, well, a whole lot less than Bloomberg.

Why hasn’t Trump done what he promised to do initially and then reneged on the promise? I have a number of theories.

One is that he ain’t nearly as wealthy as he claims to be. Another is that he doesn’t give hardly anything to charity. Still another is that he has business dealings in Russia that far exceed what he’s admitted to already. A fourth might be that he has paid damn little in taxes. May I try a fifth notion? It could be that he has done a whole bunch of shady deals that could be revealed in a full public scrutiny of his taxes.

Bloomberg is far from a sure thing in the still-developing Democratic primary contest. He’s getting beaten up by his primary rivals, not to mention Trump, who’s already hung a disparaging nickname on the former New York City mayor.

If he gets the party nomination, my hope is that he releases his taxes, as other nominees have done. It won’t shame Trump into doing the right thing. However, it would stand in stark relief against the game of fiscal hide-and-seek that Trump is playing.

Voters then can make their own judgment on who appears to be keeping some important information from public view.

Recycling … yeah, it feels more like ‘home’

I have just returned home to North Texas after visiting what is arguably the recycling capital of the known universe … the Pacific Northwest.

I stayed three nights with my sis and her husband just north of Vancouver, Wash., but was able to travel during the day across the river to Portland where I visited with friends.

So, what’s the point here? Everywhere I went in Washington and then in Oregon I found evidence of that region’s environmental awareness. I found recycling bins next to trash bins. You put your cans and plastic bottles into the bins full of such material; you tossed the trash into the other bin.

I stopped to purchase something at a grocery store in North Portland, where — I understand — they no longer send groceries home with you in plastic bags. Oh, no. Now they “sell” you paper bags at a nickel apiece if you put your goods into them; in that moment, I chose not to carry my two small items out of the store with no bag.

Furthermore, I am proud these days to be living in a Collin County community, Princeton, where we recycle our household material in addition to sending trash off to the dump.

It makes me proud because, to be blunt and candid, I was quite unproud of Amarillo, where we lived for 23 years before moving to Princeton, which didn’t encourage its residents to recycle certain products. It sends everything to the dump. That’s not good, folks.

So, I have returned home after another brief visit to the region of my birth. I am proud to be a son of the Northwest, of Portland. Why? Because of that region’s enhanced environmental awareness. I now am proud to be living in a place that is exhibiting a growing environmental awareness.

It’s strange that my new home is feeling more like my old home.

POTUS goes to war with justice system

Donald John Trump has gone on the warpath.

His latest weapon of choice is the presidential pardon power, which he invoked this week by commuting the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Yep, the president calls a phone call that the governor made a “perfect call,” just as he described the phone call that got him impeached for abuse of power.

All Blagojevich did was offer a vacant U.S. Senate seat for money to the highest bidder. Where I come from, that personifies political corruption at its lowest. According to Trump, the call was perfect.

Actually, it was perfectly reprehensible, disgusting, corrupt.

So now he gets to walk out of prison. Blagojevich called himself a “political prisoner.” He was nothing of the kind. The former governor, a Democrat, conducted a slimy political shakedown in which he got caught. Period. End of story.

Except that it isn’t. He gets to walk away.


What a wild emotional ride

I suppose one could say it’s one thing to experience profound sadness and great joy alternately, but it’s something quite different when you experience them both simultaneously.

Well, I am here to tell you that the latter emotional experience took over the past couple of days.

We gathered in Portland, Ore., to bury a beloved member of our family. Jim Phillips was laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery after a remarkable service at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. They played “Taps” at the cemetery; we watched a military honor guard march with intense precision; we watched as well the folding of the Stars and Stripes that shrouded his casket and the presentation of the flag to Uncle Jim’s wife.

I joined other members of my family who had the high honor of being pallbearers for Uncle Jim. Two of Uncle Jim’s grandsons joined his son and three of his nephews in accompanying him to his eternal rest.

Now, I know that these experiences are far from unique. Other families endure grief and pain when a loved one dies. They also remember the good times with joy and laughter. We had plenty of that as well.

What I found remarkable, speaking only for myself, is the emotional intermingling of the pain and the  joy … at the same moment! Yes, I am certain that at several occasions during this time of fellowship and family togetherness that I could feel the pain and laughter competing for my heart’s attention.

Those two unique emotions need not have competed. I found that my ticker has ample room for all of it at once. I felt joyful and sad, happy and mournful. It occurred without a single bit of emotional stress.

I am home now. My heart still hurts at the loss, but my heart also is full of joy at the celebration of a great man’s full life. He was the embodiment of human exuberance.

That is what I choose to remember … even while I wrestle with my grief.

Just go ahead and quit, Mr. AG

The word is out via the Washington Post that Attorney General William Barr is so fed up with Donald Trump that he is considering taking a hike from his post.

He is tired of POTUS’s tweets about current cases and is tired of Trump’s attempts to undermine the legal pros who work for Barr at the Department of Justice. Or so it is being reported.

The quit-now chorus is growing in Washington, for those reasons and for others relating to the work he has done as attorney general, namely his seeming loyalty first to the president and his apparent rejection of the oath he took to defend and protect the Constitution.

I am generally in the latter camp. I am greatly disappointed in the job Barr has done. He has acted far more like Donald Trump’s personal lawyer than a man who took a sacred oath to protect the nation’s governing document.

However, if he wants to quit and cite the president’s interference, well, that’s fine with me, too.

William Barr would be entitled to use whatever reason he chooses to use. Indeed, the apparent burgeoning tension between the president and the AG would seem to be reason enough for Barr to call it quits on the guy Trump reportedly wanted to be his “Roy Cohn.”

And, just who was Cohn? He was the infamous attorney who stood up for the equally infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy who launched the anti-commie tirade in the early 1950s. Cohn ended up getting disgraced and disbarred over the manner in which he conducted himself while McCarthy sought to ferret out communist infiltrators in our federal government.

In any event, William Barr likely needs to go. Count me as one American who’s all-in on the attorney general hitting the road.

Jeb calls for a return to ‘civility’ in political life … yes!

Jeb Bush has been in the fight for a long time. The former two-term Florida governor has had his share of wins and losses.

On Presidents Day, the Republican offered a wish for the country: a return to a more civil tone as politicians argue over policy matters.

Hmm. Yeah. Don’t you wish? I certainly do.

Bush, who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary contest, laments the hostile tone we’re hearing these days from the president and others in the arena.

He noted something interesting about his late father, the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: George H.W. Bush, he said, could have claimed credit when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Instead, he stepped back and let the German people celebrate the accomplishment, he said of his father.

Try for just a moment to imagine how the 45th POTUS would handle such a monumental event. Imagine Donald Trump “stepping back” and letting “the German people celebrate the accomplishment.”

It wouldn’t happen, any more than one can expect a return to political civility for as long as Donald Trump is in the arena.

Still, Jeb Bush’s call is worth noting. It’s also worth wishing it can come true.

Real ‘friendships’ are rarest of relationships

PORTLAND, Ore. — Admit it. We all toss the word “friend” around too loosely, in a manner the way use the word “hero.” I have sought to forgo calling someone a “hero” merely because he is good at, say, an athletic endeavor. The real heroes are those who risk their lives to save others.

Friends also are a rare commodity.

A visit this morning with a gentleman I’ve known since the spring of 1962 reminded me graphically of how I have fallen into the “friend trap” by referring to too many acquaintances as friends.

They aren’t. Friends, that is. Not like the relationship I’ve had with the longest-tenured friend in my lifetime.

We go back 58 years together. We met in junior high school. My parents had moved us all from our home in Northeast Portland to what was then the ‘burbs in Parkrose; the city long ago swallowed Parkrose up through annexation.

But as I sat in his mother’s living room this morning, reminiscing with him, his mother and his older brother about the paths our lives have taken, I was filled with the realization that I need to get over the habit of bestowing “friendship” on others who haven’t earned the place in my heart.

Oh, sure, one social medium — Facebook — has allowed us to become “friends” with others. To be honest, I have sough to differentiate Facebook “friends” from the real thing. The only problem I face now, though, is that I refer to the “real thing” as friends when in fact they don’t rise to that level.

My friend and I hooked up immediately when we made each other’s acquaintance in our junior high school home run. We remained friends through the rest of junior high and then into high school. We shared plenty of laughs together, got into plenty of mischief together, shared some down times and heartbreak as well.

But we stuck it out. We hung in there. He remains a friend in the truest sense of the word. I was fortunate, as well, later in the day to hook up with a couple my wife and I have known for nearly 45 years. They, too, qualify as the real thing. We also have been through much together and through it all we remain as close to them as anyone can possibly be.

I just felt compelled today to express my belief that a true-blue friend is a rare find indeed. I am blessed to have found these folks, and yes, a few others, along the way.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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