McConnell wants what? Bipartisanship? For real?

I gave myself one of those proverbial forehead slaps when I heard this tidbit: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants there to be more “bipartisanship” in the next Congress.

Huh? He said what? This comes in the form of an op-ed column from the obstructionist in chief on Capitol Hill?

It took my breath away.

This is the fellow who said in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Uh, huh. He said that. The 2012 presidential election, of course, dashed Leader McConnell’s dream. President Obama won re-election.

Then came the congressional Republican caucuses singular effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They staged countless votes in the Senate and the House. They came up short. Who led the charge? Mitch did, that’s who.

And then we had the obstruction to end all obstructions in early 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon on the court, died suddenly in Texas. Justice Scalia’s body had barely gotten cold when McConnell declared that President Obama would not get the chance to replace him.

Oh sure, the president can nominate someone, McConnell said, but Republicans were not going to move the nomination forward. Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland — a supremely qualified man — only to watch his nomination wither and die. We had a presidential election to conclude and McConnell banked on the hope that a Republican would be elected. His gamble paid off with Donald Trump’s election.

Now the majority leader wants a more bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

Pardon me while I bust out laughing.

The next Congress will be split. Democrats will control the House; Republicans will lead the Senate. Bipartisanship certainly is the preferred way to govern.

That such a call would come from the U.S. Senate’s leading obstructionist gives “gall” a bad name.

A deal to keep the Sod Poodles long term?

A friend of mine who responds regularly to my blog posts has pitched an interesting note of skepticism about the new baseball team that will start playing ball in downtown Amarillo next spring.

He wonders about the ownership of the Amarillo Sod Poodles and whether the owner — the Elmore Group — is devoted sufficiently to keeping the Class AA team in Amarillo over the long term.

My friend says if the team fails to fill a sufficient number of seats at the shiny new ballpark under construction across the street from City Hall, the Elmore Group is likely to look elsewhere to play hardball.

Interesting notion, don’t you think?

The Sod Poodles’ owner already has shown a willingness to move. After all, the Elmore Group relocated the San Antonio Missions from the Alamo City to the Panhandle. San Antonio is going to get a Class AAA team in exchange. But my friend does raise a valid question.

I’m wondering if there’s an option for the city to pursue that might get the Sod Poodles’ owners to committing to a lengthy stay in Amarillo. I am unaware of any such stipulation at the moment. Nor am I well-versed enough in how these kinds of arrangements are finalized.

I’ll just ask it here, using this forum to keep the discussion going.

I remain an unbridled optimist nevertheless about the prospect for the Sod Poodles’ success. They have a team already established; it’s just headquartered in another city at the moment. The new team has a name that, granted, will have to grow on us.

What we don’t have is a long-term commitment from the team owners to stay put.

Maybe the city can secure such a commitment, yes? Maybe? Perhaps?

Chaos set to explode at White House

Reince Priebus got the boot as White House chief of staff because, among other things, the staff was fighting openly among its members.

Donald Trump enlisted Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to right the ship. Kelly signed on as chief of staff, kicked out some of the troublemakers and settled into his new gig as the president’s keeper.

Then came the midterm election. It didn’t go quite so well for the president and the Republican Party. The battling within the White House resumed.

Kelly now is among those closest to the president who not only is involved in some of the rhetorical brawling, he might be on the short list of key staffers about to be shown the door.

His successor at Homeland Security, Kirjsten Nielsen, is thought to be on the bubble. Defense Secretary James Mattis, too. Same with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Media are reporting that press secretary Sarah Sanders might depart by the end of the year. Rumors also are flying about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s future.

Now we have first lady Melania Trump engineering the departure of national security adviser John Bolton’s top aide. Holy moly, man!

Have I mentioned that the president’s “fine-tuned machine” is in need of a serious lube job? There. I just did.

John Kelly pledged to stay through the 2020 election. It looks now as though that pledge won’t bear fruit. What do you suppose might be driving him away? Is it the president’s SNAFU over declining to visit the cemetery containing American servicemen who died in World War I? Is the ongoing chaos that keeps the White House in a state of constant upheaval?

Whatever it is. Whatever is troubling the entire staff is likely to bring another wave of resignations/dismissals.

Get the grease gun for that White House machine.

POTUS lashes out, blames Secret Service for WWI no-show

I will not spend a lot of space, time and energy on this one.

Donald J. Trump is now griping that the Secret Service prevented him Saturday from attending an event in France commemorating the 100th anniversary since the end of World War I. It was raining and according to the president, the Secret Service determined it was too risky to fly a helicopter from Paris to the cemetery event.

The cemetery is where American servicemen are buried. It is hallowed ground. It is sacred to the Marine Corps, which engaged in the Battle of Belleau Wood.

The president is the commander in chief. The Secret Service works for him, not the other way around. Trump said he sought to drive to the cemetery, but the Secret Service said “no.” Too much traffic. Too many hassles along the way, Trump said in a tweet.

I state once again, POTUS is the boss. He’s the man. If he truly wanted to be there, he could have been driven there. He didn’t want to go. He embarrassed himself, the presidency and the country he was elected to lead .

Again!

There. I’m done with this one. Time to move on.

Sod Poodles name will catch on eventually … honest, it will

I am quite sure the Amarillo minor-league baseball community is trying to digest the name of the city’s new team.

The team ownership announced that the Class AA team will be called the Sod Poodles, which reportedly is an old-fashioned term meant to describe prairie dogs. Whatever they say, I guess I’ll have to go along with it.

As dubious as I am of the alleged origin of Sod Poodles, I do like the name.

It grew on me quickly. My first reaction to the name that appeared on the list of “finalists” under consideration was pure,, unadulterated hatred. However, my conversion from name hater to name lover was rapid.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Then I heard about the ownership’s logic in selecting this group of names. They sought quirky names. They want the community to talk about them. They want the rest of the Texas League to talk about them, too.

From what I hear, Amarillo’s baseball fans are talking all right. It isn’t all goodness and light. There’s some grumbling from what I have heard.

Hey, pay attention. These kinds of reactions have this way of passing. I know how it goes. I’ve lived through some of this already.

My hometown of Portland, Ore., was awarded a National Basketball Association franchise. The team began play in the fall of 1970. They had to come up with a name. I was finishing my hitch in the Army and I submitted the name Lumberjacks to the powers that be. Hey, Portland is at the hub of the nation’s timber industry. Therefore, Lumberjacks made perfect sense.

The team owners didn’t think so. Neither did the rest of the community. They came up with Trail Blazers as the name for the new NBA team. You could hear the shrieks up and down the Pacific Coast.

Then it dawned on a lot of us: Trail Blazers pays tribute to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, who “blazed the trail” in the early 19th century from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, trekking along the Columbia River to their destination. The team name honors the exploits of Lewis & Clark. It’s perfect!

I believe Sod Poodles will become part of Amarillo’s identity. Eventually.

It might take some time, but I am keeper of the faith in good things happening for the city I used to call home.

Vets could bring a return to congressional collegiality

I long have lamented and bemoaned the lack of collegiality in the halls of Congress. Political adversaries become “enemies.” They drift farther and father apart, separated by a deepening chasm between them.

There might be a return to what we think of as “collegiality” and “comity” in the halls of power on Capitol Hill.

It might rest with a large and hopefully growing class of military veterans seeking to serve the public in a political capacity.

They have shared experiences. They know the pain of loss of comrades in battle. They endure similar stresses associated with their time in battle.

I posted earlier today a blog item about U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a wounded Navy SEAL who is among 15 veterans elected to Congress in this past week’s midterm election. Crenshaw is a Republican from Houston. I don’t know the partisan composition of the congressional freshman class of veterans. It doesn’t matter. My hunch is that they are going to find plenty of commonality once they settle into their new jobs and get acquainted with each other’s history.

The Greatest Generation returned home from World War II and the men who served in the fight against tyranny developed amazing friendships when they found themselves serving under the same Capitol Dome.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii became lifelong friends with Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas; they both suffered grievous injuries in Italy near the end of the war, went to rehab together and developed a friendship that lasted until Inouye’s death. There were so many others. Fellow aviators, Democratic Sen. George McGovern and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater became friends for life, as did Sens. McGovern and Dole.

The Korean War produced its own crop of veterans who entered political life together.

Then there is the Vietnam War generation, which also featured lasting friendships that transcended partisan politics. GOP Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. John Kerry worked together to help restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel both represented their native Nebraska in the Senate, serving briefly together on Capitol Hill. Former Vietnam prisoners of war found commonality: Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Rep. Sam Johnson, Sen. McCain — all Republicans — were among that particular clique of lawmakers with a special bond.

The latest class of vets joins a cadre of veterans already serving in Congress. Democratic Sen. (and double amputee) Tammie Duckworth is among the most notable.

There always is much more to life than politics. My hope now is that the new crop of vets find a way to lead the way back toward a more civil era in Congress. I pray they can find a way to bridge the chasm that divides men and women of good will.

I am filled with a new sense of hope that these individuals with common life experience can cleanse the air of the toxicity that has poisoned it in Washington.

An ‘SNL’ joke makes this young man a star

I didn’t know Dan Crenshaw from the man in the moon … until someone made a tasteless joke at Crenshaw’s expense on “Saturday Night Live.”

Then the young man became all the rage, the talk of the nation.

It turns out he is a newly elected Republican congressman from Houston. He’s also a former Navy SEAL who suffered a grievous injury fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. He lost an eye. The sight in his other eye is flawed. He has trouble keeping his balance and, as the Texas Tribune reports, he “misses” handshakes on occasion.

As the Tribune reported: Weirdly, his election wasn’t the biggest news in Crenshaw’s life last week. That came during the first minutes of Nov. 4 on the “Weekend Update” portion of “Saturday Night Live,” when cast member Pete Davidson, who gave a riff on the midterms, presented a photo of Crenshaw, eye patch on.

“You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit-man in a porno movie,” the comedian joked. “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.”

Rep.-elect Crenshaw, though, is a terrific sport. When cast member Pete Davidson made fun of his injury on “SNL,” many around the nation took offense. “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels invited Crenshaw on the show. Crenshaw at first balked, then he went on and returned the barbs to Davidson.

The congressman-to-be has become a political star as a result.

The Tribune published a lengthy feature about Crenshaw. Read it here.

I find this fellow’s story to be quite compelling and worthy of attention, even without his star turn on “SNL.”

He fought through a difficult Republican primary to be nominated, then knocked off a Democratic incumbent to win a seat in Congress representing his native Houston. He also is part of a congressional freshman class that includes 15 veterans, which I believe gives the next Congress valuable insight into the myriad issues — and problems — that our returning servicemen and women are facing.

I like this fellow’s story. I grieve for his terrible injury, but am proud of the way he handled himself in light of the flurry of controversy that swirled after the “SNL” joke went viral.

I wish him well as he takes on his new job representing his congressional district.

And, welcome home, young man.

SBOE inches toward a coming to its senses

It’s difficult for me to refer to the Texas State Board of Education as a 15-member gang of nincompoops. The SBOE, though, is showing troubling signs of seriously dunce-like behavior.

It had decided to remove two pioneer women from public school curricula: Helen Keller, a disability rights advocate and (get a load of this!) Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nation’s first female ever nominated for president by a major political party.

Then the board thought better of it. It restored Keller to the state’s third-grade history curriculum.

Clinton’s restoration isn’t yet final; the SBOE will decide the issue on Friday. I do hope the SBOE makes the right call.

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I don’t understand what the SBOE — an elected board of partisan politicians who set academic curriculum standards for the state’s public schools — is thinking.

It’s the decision to remove Clinton from study in our public classrooms that baffles me in the extreme. She is a contemporary figure who’s still active in the nation’s political discourse.

It looks as though the SBOE is going to restore the former first lady, former U.S. senator, former secretary of state and former 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee to our public school textbooks.

As the Texas Tribune reports: In response to a motion by board member Erika Beltran, D-Fort Worth, to reinsert Clinton into the standards, fellow board member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, referenced “tons of public comment” that he’d received before Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t agree, obviously, with her politics,” Rowley said. “I just think she qualifies as significant.”

Do ya think?

Someone’s politics shouldn’t matter one damn bit when determining one’s significance to state or national history. I’m sure Rowley knows that. And, yeah, she “qualifies as significant.”

Indeed, Clinton and Keller both are hugely significant historical figures. So help me, I don’t understand why the SBOE considered dropping them in the first place.

It now appears the SBOE has come to its senses. I also want to offer a good word to Marty Rowley for responding to the “tons of public comment” that stood up for Hillary Clinton’s role as a historic American public figure.

Will the new speaker be a bulwark?

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen appears set to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Angleton Republican says he has the votes to win the job when the Legislature convenes in January. I’m glad for him. I am not yet willing to say I’m glad for the state, given that I know nothing about him other than what I’ve read in recent days.

My favorite speaker candidate, Republican Four Price of Amarillo, bowed out of the race; three other GOP hopefuls did the same.

They left the field open to Bonnen.

Bonnen has the votes

I have a request of the presumptive speaker: Will you act as a bulwark against some of the Texas Senate’s more reckless impulses, the way the current speaker, Joe Straus, did in 2017?

I hope he does. Indeed, I understand that Bonnen has a bipartisan streak he might be willing to exhibit. One way is to select Democrats to chair House committees.

Bonnen is making some noise that he might stand tall against the likes of, say, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the leader of the Senate. The men have had an occasionally testy relationship. That suits me fine, given my distaste for some of the stunts that Patrick has tried to pull on the Legislature and, therefore, on Texans.

The most notorious stunt, of course, was the 2017 Bathroom Bill that the Senate shoved through at Patrick’s insistence. It got to the House during a special session in the summer of 2017. Speaker Straus dug in. He ensured the death of the bill that would have required individuals to use public rest rooms in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificate.

The Bathroom Bill intended to discriminate against transgendered people. Straus was having none of it.

Bonnen says he is an ally of the lame-duck speaker. I hope he remains faithful to Straus’s policy in running the House of Representatives.

The early indications about a Dennis Bonnen speakership look promising.

Don’t let me down — please! — Rep. Bonnen.

Trump goes ballistic … to what end?

I have to ask: Has the president of the United States lost what passes for his mind?

Donald Trump cannot contain his anger over the recount in Florida’s race for the U.S. Senate. Rick Scott, the Republican governor who is running for the Senate, clings to a narrow lead over the incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Trump has joined the fight. He now says the recount should stop. He is accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” an election. Gov. Scott, too, is challenging Sen. Nelson directly.

I am in the camp of those who want to ensure that every vote gets counted.

What is so damn troubling is that neither man has a shred of evidence to prove anything improper, let alone illegal, in the vote count.

There appears to be plenty of incompetence, particularly in Broward County, which has a sordid history of election SNAFUs. Corruption? Fraud? Thievery? Where is the evidence?

Trump has managed with his hideous interference is undermine the integrity of our electoral system. He has cast doubt on the motives of those who are trying to sort through this mess.

The president needs to shut his pie hole! He needs to back off. He needs to let the Florida authorities slog through this effort without hectoring and haranguing from the president.

As for Gov. Scott, he also needs to stop flinging accusations around recklessly. He has no evidence, either, of “corrupt liberals” seeking to destroy the integrity of the system.

I’ll concede readily that Florida is exhibiting a jaw-dropping level of incompetence. I am not willing to buy into the idiocy being bandied about by Republicans — led by the president of the United States himself — that there’s an election robbery under way.

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