Tag Archives: 2018 election

Comey joins the partisan political fray

Oh, my. There’s something vaguely weird about a former FBI director becoming a partisan warrior on the eve of this year’s midterm congressional election.

James Comey, whom Donald J. Trump fired as FBI boss in May 2017, now says the following: “All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall,” he wrote. “Policy differences don’t matter right now. History has its eyes on us.”

A part of me wants to embrace Comey’s view. However, I wish the embattled former FBI director would have stayed clear of direct partisan battling.

It’s widely known that Comey is a longtime Republican. He said he didn’t vote in the 2016 election, preferring to maintain some semblance of objectivity as he did his job as leader of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency.

Now, though, all bets are off.

Comey already is an inviting target among conservative mainstream media and die-hard Donald Trump loyalists. They have hurled a barrage of insults and accusations at Comey in the wake of his memoir in which he declares that Trump is “morally unfit” to serve as president of the United States.

So, get ready for the bombardment to resume. It won’t be pretty.

Do the people deserve to be heard this time?

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had this to say in February 2016 as it regarded President Barack Obama’s desire to nominate someone to replace the U.S. Supreme Court Justice  Antonin Scalia: The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.

Hmm. What do you think of that?

Here we are, in June 2018. The Supreme Court has just been opened up yet again. Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement. Sen. McConnell said he intends to push for a Senate vote by this fall.

Hey! Wait a minute!

We have an election coming up. One-third of the Senate, which must confirm the next appointee, is on the ballot. It could swing from narrow Republican control to Democratic control after the November midterm election.

Don’t the “American people” have the right to be heard in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice? Don’t they, Mr. Leader?

That was his bogus rationale in blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination from President Obama in 2016. The president had a year left in his tenure. We had a presidential election coming up later that year. McConnell said “no way” on the nomination. He blocked it. He obstructed the president. He then — in a shameful display of a lack of self-awareness — accused Democrats of “playing politics” when they insisted that the Senate hold confirmation hearings and then vote on Garland’s nomination.

If anyone “played politics” with that nomination, it was Mitch McConnell!

Now, the leader wants to fast-track the latest Supreme Court nomination on the eve of an equally important election that could determine the ideological and partisan balance in the body that must confirm this nomination.

Does this election count as much as the 2016 presidential election? Aren’t U.S. senators members of a “co-equal branch of government”? Or is the majority leader going to play politics yet again by ramrodding this nomination through — before the people have the chance to have their voices heard?

Empower Texans: Are you out there?

Some of us who watch Texas politics are acutely aware of the state’s right-wing activism, particularly embodied by a group called Empower Texans.

These folks got seriously involved earlier this year in Texas Panhandle Republican Party primary politics. They sought to oust state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo from the GOP primary. They came up short, as Seliger was able to win his party’s nomination without a runoff against two fringe challengers. They also drew a bead on state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican, in his race for re-election. Price thumped his challenger.

OK. What’s next for Empower Texans, an Austin-based political action committee that sought to Republicans in disparate regions around the state how to vote?

Are these zealots going to get involved in some of these statewide races? Are they going to pump big money into the candidates of their choice?

I’m wondering at this moment if Empower Texans is more interested in “purifying” the Texas Republican Party than in advancing the party’s long-standing death grip on the state’s political infrastructure.

Empower Texans didn’t do too well in the GOP primary. Part of me wouldn’t mind if Empower Texans decides to lay low during the general election.

Another part of me wishes it gets involved and exposes to Texas voters yet again in the same year how narrow-minded they want their party to remain.

It’s official: Hell has frozen over

I know I have said this before, so forgive me for repeating myself.

Except this time I am sure of what I am about to say: It’s official. Hell has frozen over. Completely.

How do I know that? Because one of the deans of conservative commentary, George Will — a man who for years was associated with the Republican Party — is urging voters to cast their ballots for (gulp!) Democrats.

Will leads his latest column this way: Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

Not long ago, Will decided to leave the Republican Party. He is now an “independent” voter. He was a Fox News contributor. Since leaving the GOP, he has gravitated toward other broadcast and cable news networks, where he also contributes to their commentary.

Will dislikes Donald J. Trump. His description of “Republican misrule in Washington” is a direct condemnation of the leadership provided by the president.

Read Will’s column here.

Will wants voters to cast their ballots for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election. He wants congressional power to swing back to Democrats, hoping that they can act as a bulwark against the “carnage” that Trump has created in Washington.

Will writes: In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him.

Granted, the idea of a Democratically controlled Capitol Hill doesn’t thrill the columnist. He refers to that possibility this way: A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate’s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House.

Still, the very idea that George Will, of all people, would advocate such a rebellion means only one thing: Hell has frozen over.

O’Rourke winning money battle against Cruz

Beto O’Rourke appears to be winning one aspect of the upcoming electoral fight against an incumbent U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

It’s the fight for campaign cash.

Will it translate to victory in the bigger, more important battle — the one for actual votes this fall? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that Cruz, the Republican incumbent, is going to declare that he has raised less than half of what O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, has raised in the first quarter of 2018.

I won’t spend a lot of time analyzing the battle for cash. Here, though, is a thought that came to me from a retired journalist friend of ours who offered this tidbit during our recent visit to the Golden Triangle.

O’Rourke’s goal has to be to cut his expected losses in rural Texas while maintaining his expected hefty margins in urban Texas.

The Cruz Missile has already put the warning out to his GOP faithful that the “far left” is energized against him — and against Donald Trump, whom the far left hates with a passion, according to Cruz.

Our friend, who’s watched a lot of election cycles in Texas over the span of many decades, believes that O’Rourke — a congressman from El Paso — needs to continue plowing the rural field in the hunt for votes. That seems to explain why O’Rourke has spent so much time in places such as Pampa, Canyon, Amarillo and throughout the reliably Republican Texas Panhandle.

In a certain fashion, if that is the strategy that O’Rourke is employing in Texas, it seems to mirror the national Democratic strategy that enabled Barack Obama to win two presidential elections and for Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by 3 million ballots while losing the Electoral College to Trump. If you look at the county-by-county breakdown nationally, you see that Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all won vast expanses of rural America; Democrats, though, harvested tremendous numbers of votes in urban America.

One can boil that down to a Texas strategy, too, I reckon, given this state’s huge urban centers in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thus, it becomes imperative for O’Rourke to somehow cut deeply enough into the losses he can expect in the Piney Woods, the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and the Permian Basin to give him some breathing space as he shores up the support he can expect in Big City Texas.

I do hope the young man spends his campaign cash wisely.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

Is this the year to give campaign cash?

I have had an active interest in politics for 50 years.

It probably began the moment I shook U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s hand late one night in the parking lot of a trendy Chinese restaurant just before the 1968 Oregon Democratic Party presidential election.

I wasn’t old enough to vote that year. My first vote came four years later when I cast my first presidential ballot for Sen. George McGovern.

In those five decades, though, I’ve never given money to a political candidate. Not for president. Or U.S. Senate. Or House of Reps. Or governor. Or any other state or local office.

My career path precluded that level of political activity. As a journalist in Oregon and then in Texas, I simply could not in good conscience support a candidate with money.

I never took the oath of political abstinence that many in my craft have pursued. I always voted. Many other reporters and editors have vowed never to cast a vote for a candidate in an effort to maintain some level of objectivity when covering these politicians … or commenting on them.

I’ve long understood that voting is a private matter. We cast our ballots in secret. We are not obligated to divulge for whom we’ve voted.

I departed full-time journalism in August 2012, which means I got to vote in another presidential election that year. I did so again in 2016. In between, I voted in the 2014 midterm election and have voted already in the 2018 primary; I intend fully to cast a ballot this year in the fall election.

I am facing a bit of a quandary. There are some political candidates I like — a lot! Whether I prefer them over their opponents enough to give them money remains an open question.

One disclosure I need to make: One 2018 candidate for public office, the U.S. House, is a close personal friend, a man for whom I have the highest regard. If anyone is going to get some of my dough, he is likely to be the one.

About the closest I’ve come to donating to politicians is at tax-filing time; I routinely dedicate a portion of my tax returns to public campaign financing, which I support in the strongest terms possible.

My interest in politics only has grown over the past 50 years. Even though I haven’t yet emptied my wallet. This might be the year.

‘Rumor’ might shake it all up in D.C.

I always steered far away from reporting on “rumors” when I worked for a living as a print journalist.

The worst kind of rumors came from people with no direct knowledge of the tidbit they were passing on.

Still, this item is worth a brief note here. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, told a Nevada news station that House Speaker Paul Ryan is considering resigning his House seat and that the next speaker will be Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican lawmaker who was seriously wounded in a shooting involving GOP congressmen who were practicing for a charity baseball game.

Ryan’s office denies the speaker will quit. Which is what you expect them to say.

The Hill reported: Amodei, who is not a close ally of Ryan’s, emphasized that he was just repeating a rumor. But the on-the-record comments from a Republican lawmaker — and the suggestion that Ryan could resign before the midterms — made waves on Monday, briefly crashing the Nevada Newsmakers website.

Ryan might be looking ahead to those midterm elections across the country and the possibility that Democrats could reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives; that, of course, would hand the speakership over to a Democratic House member.

Might it be that Ryan wants out before the so-called “blue tide” washes him out of office?

Hey, it’s only a rumor. Then again …

Negativity sells … big time!

I have lamented the extreme and sometimes harsh negativity I’ve been seeing of late along the 2018 midterm election trail.

However, I am no Pollyanna on this stuff. I know how it works. I know that negativity is a big draw to voters looking for ways to help them make up their minds on who gets their vote.

Human beings are drawn to negativity. It’s like the car wreck you see on the side of the road as you drive by: You don’t want to look at it, but you crane your neck anyway.

So it is with negative political advertising. I’ve also noted how state Sen. Kel Seliger is seeking to stay positive as he campaigns for re-election to the Texas Senate. I do wish him well in that effort and I hope he succeeds.

Let’s get real for just a minute.

I have a quick anecdote from my career in print journalism.

It was fairly routine for me to run into someone who would say something like this: “Hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day.” I would respond, “And what was that?” The person would say, “Oh, let me think. Dang! I can’t remember what it was. I’ll remember and get back to you.”

However, if someone would say, “You know, I didn’t like what you wrote.” I would ask, “What was it about?” The person then could quote the editorial or column back to me virtually verbatim, picking apart every sentence or paragraph and telling me why I was all wet or that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

That is the truth. So help me.

Yes, negativity sells. The marketplace of ideas thrives on people’s dander getting riled up.

More money: Does it equal more votes?

Beto O’Rourke is raising more campaign money than Ted Cruz.

Yes, that is correct, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate is outraising the Republican incumbent … in heavily Republican Texas!

I know what many Texans are thinking about now: This means Beto is going to win the election this fall; Cruz is toast; he’s a goner; he’s done.

Not so fast, dear reader.

I’ll stipulate that I am no fan of The Cruz Missile. He has p***** me off plenty during his six years in the United States Senate. Cruz is the latest version of former Sen. Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Gramm and a TV camera.” Replace “Gramm” with “Cruz” and you get the same punchline.

As the Tribune has reported: Over the first 45 days of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million — almost three times more than Cruz’s $800,000. 

Hurray for O’Rourke, right?

The Tribune also notes: While this is a sign of momentum for O’Rourke, it’s worth considering that this race, in a state as big and expensive as Texas, could cost into the tens of millions. Moreover, Cruz is likely to have a deep well of super PAC money to help him in the fall, while O’Rourke early on in his campaign pledged to not accept corporate political action committee money.

Hey, I want O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, to win this fall as much the next guy.

It’s good to remember that Texas Republicans are a dedicated bunch. They go to the mat for their candidates no matter what.

It is true that O’Rourke has spent a lot of time at town halls, talking to folks at plant gates, grange halls, saddle and tack shops, shopping malls — you name it — he still is campaigning in a state that hasn’t elected any Democrat to statewide office for two decades. He also has familiarized himself with the expansive landscape of the Texas Panhandle, which is Ground Zero of the Texas Republican political movement.

Now that I think about it, this might be the year for that lengthy streak to come to an end.

Maybe. Perhaps.