Tag Archives: Congress

Why not invite Democrats to that bill-signing, Mr. President?

Donald John “The So-Called Unifier in Chief” Trump signed an important bill into law today.

It was the coronavirus pandemic emergency response bill approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress. The Senate approved it 96-0; the House approved it by a voice vote, thanks to some procedural maneuvering orchestrated by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But …

Pelosi or other Democrats were nowhere to be found in the Oval Office today as Trump signed the bill into law.

Hasn’t he promised to unify the country? Hasn’t he pledged to work with Democrats as well as Republicans to “make America great again”? I believe the fate of this bill, which Trump supported after at first opposing it (while blaming Democrats, naturally, for wanting to load it up with unnecessary provisions) depended on Democrats as well as Republicans.

Oh, but of course Trump is still enraged at Pelosi because the House speaker engineered the impeachment of the president. That’s his rationale, although he hasn’t said it directly.

This individual’s petulance makes me sick.

Absent an argument over the facts, then where do we stand?

Congressional Republicans have laid down their marker: They are not going to argue the facts surrounding the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

Congressional Democrats are arguing that the facts are beyond dispute. They are acknowledged as being true.

So what is left, then, for Congress to consider? I am left to conclude only that the facts as presented either are impeachable or they are not. That’s what I get from all of this.

I happen to believe that a president who invites foreign involvement in our election has committed an impeachable offense. It is an abuse of the immense power of his office. Trump allies, I am presuming, believe otherwise. If that is their belief, then why are we not hearing them argue that point?

Moreover, I also believe that obstruction of Congress also is an impeachable offense. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress all the authority it needs to conduct an investigation into executive branch behavior. When a president orders all key witnesses to ignore congressional subpoenas, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

What do congressional Republicans use to justify their resistance to these two articles of impeachment that are heading inexorably to a vote in the House Judiciary Committee and then to the full House of Representatives?

I am just a voter, a patriot and someone with a deep interest in our government. I believe the president has violated his oath of office. Believe me or not, but I am waiting to hear someone on the GOP side speak to the facts at hand.

That specific defense is not forthcoming, or so it appears as we hurtle toward impeachment.

So we’re left with one side arguing that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are impeachable offenses. The other side seems to believe they are not impeachable.

What is the rationale of those who cannot defend the indefensible?

Praising a system that allows bloggers to rant

I want to say a word of high praise to the greatest political system ever created. Yes, it’s a mess at times, but as Winston Churchill noted, it is far better than any other system ever conceived.

The United States is in the midst of an impeachment battle. The House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald John Trump Sr. It will be sloppy and messy, perhaps bloody in a political sense.

Through it all, this system of government of ours allows folks like me to continue to rant over the performance of the president, who I believe should be impeached. The House will do as I wish, albeit my journey to this point took me some time to get here.

I watched a clip of a young Illinois state senator speaking to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Barack Obama saluted a system of government that allowed dissent “without a sudden knock on our door.” Amen to that. The young senator would be elected to the U.S. Senate and then, four years later, would become the nation’s 44th president of the United States.

Donald Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people.” He couldn’t possibly be any more wrong. The Constitution protects the press against government coercion and interference. Yet the president sees the press only through the eyes of someone who lusts for positive coverage of his words and deeds, no matter what! It does not work that way, Mr. President. If this man had any understanding of what the nation’s founders intended when they established the First Amendment to the Constitution, he might comprehend the press’s role in ensuring the freedoms we all enjoy.

Accordingly, that role extends to folks like me. I no longer work full time for a formal media organization. I’m out here in Flyover Country sharing my views with the world through this blog. High Plains Blogger is my therapy, my release and my vehicle to vent my frustration with government. I also offer praise now and then.

As I continue to write critically of Congress, the president and even the courts, I do so with the knowledge that I can speak my mind freely without concern for the knock on the door that will not come.

Trump wants to “make American great again”? Hah! Our system of government crafted by those wise men at the founding of this nation ensured our ongoing greatness. It will last for as long as there is a United States of America.

Rick Perry leaves Cabinet under his own power; no small feat

I’ll acknowledge what you may already suspect: Rick Perry wasn’t my favorite Texas politician when he served as the state’s longest-ever tenured governor.

However, as secretary of energy, Rick Perry proved to be, well, a survivor in the sausage grinder that passes for Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

He’s about to leave office under his own power. He’s walking way because he chose to do so, not because Donald Trump kicked him out. Believe me, given the president’s record of booting top-level officials to the curb, that is no small feat.

How has he done as energy boss, running an agency he once targeted for elimination were he elected president in 2012 — and which he (in)famously forgot to mention when he sought to list the agencies he would eliminate? Not bad, but not great.

My biggest bone to pick with him is that he was virtually silent in pushing alternative energy development. That was not what occurred on his watch as Texas governor, when he presided over the state’s ascent to leading the nation in the development of wind energy. OK, so his governorship wasn’t a total loser.

His energy secretary tenure featured none of that kind of leadership, which I find a major disappointment.

However, he is able to walk away from the Cabinet without being forced out. That is a relatively important aspect of his departure from public office.

He wants to come home. I guess he wants to do something else. Maybe spend “more time with the family.” I don’t know.

There might be some questions to answer, though, as his name has gotten entangled in that Ukraine matter involving his soon-to-be former political benefactor, Donald Trump … the man he once described as a “cancer on conservatism.”

Keep your phone close by, Mr. Secretary. Congress might be on the other end of a call.

‘Jury tampering’ mixes with political necessity

I have laid out already the notion that the president of the United States, while launching a charm offensive with potential U.S. Senate trial “jurors,” might have committed an act of jury tampering.

However, I also am enough of a realist to understand that presidents who seek to govern effectively need to talk to legislators about the enactment of bills that become the law of the land.

Thus, Donald Trump is facing a serious governance quandary as he awaits the near-certain impeachment of him by the U.S. House of Representatives. The House then would hand it off to the Senate, which will put the president on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Trump met with GOP senators this week to talk about the impeachment trial that is sure to occur. What did he discuss? Did he seek to persuade them to stand by him? That sounds like jury tampering to me.

However, what about their legislative initiative? Or the president’s legislative agenda? Or the agendas awaiting action by Republicans and, oh yes, Democrats in the Senate?

Were the president to invite senators to the White House to discuss those issues — and stay far away from the impeachment trial that will be looming soon in the Senate — well, that would be OK with me.

That, of course, requires that the president understand how government works and how he must be able to compartmentalize the issues that lay before him. President Clinton was able to do that when the House impeached him in 1998. This president is consumed by the impeachment battle and it is getting in the way of him doing the job to which he was elected.

Sigh …

Impeachment inquiry confirms many of our worst fears about POTUS

As I watch the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry drama unfold, I am drawn back to what many of us said about this man when he declared his presidential candidacy.

We said he was unfit for office. We wondered how in the name of political sanity could this guy ever get elected to anything, let alone to the presidency of the United States. We feared the worst about this guy’s instincts.

I do not relish watching this drama play itself out, let alone delivering evidence that our worst fears are being revealed to all the world.

Yes, I am acutely aware that not everyone shares the view of many of us. Many other Americans are lining up behind this guy. They are attacking the process that has produced the impeachment inquiry. They question the motives, even the patriotism and love of country of many of Donald Trump’s critics.

But at the base of all this drama we are left with wondering about the core values of the man who scored arguably the most remarkable political fluke in U.S. history by being elected to the only public office he ever sought.

He brought not one single moment of public service to the 2016 presidential campaign. He crafted his entire adult life around one goal: self-enrichment. He worried exclusively about his own fortune. He didn’t know a thing about the complexities of governing, let alone how the nation’s government was constructed.

Now we are in the midst of an inquiry to determine whether he should be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” What lies at the base of those crimes? Complete ignorance, or perhaps willful flouting, of what the Constitution prohibits.

It doesn’t allow a president to solicit foreign governments for political favors. That is what has been alleged against Donald Trump. Nor does it allow a president to profit from his public office. That allegation hasn’t been made formally, but it well might be in the offing once the House completes its impeachment inquiry.

This all arcs back in my mind to the very questions that so many millions of us had from the very beginning of this man’s candidacy for America’s highest and most exalted public office.

Donald John Trump had no business being elected to this office. Yet he was elected. He had some unforeseen help, to be sure. We now are watching the drama resulting from that election play out before our eyes.

It isn’t pretty. However, none of us should turn away. We need to stay alert and engaged while awaiting the final curtain.

And yes, many of us saw this drama coming.

Friendships honored along with a political icon

They buried a political icon today. I hope they did not bury the spirit of bipartisan friendships that this iconic figure embodied.

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democratic member of Congress, died the other day of myriad medical complications. He served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and became a leader in the debate over whether to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Cummings was a champion in the first degree. He fought for civil rights and also fought for civil political discourse.

As I listened to the tributes that poured in from across the political spectrum, I was struck by how much attention was paid to the honors paid by Republicans who served with Chairman Cummings. Given the nastiness that has poisoned the atmosphere in Washington over the course of time, it is instructive that so many Republicans would hail their personal affection and professional respect for this fierce Democratic politician.

One of them is Mark Meadows, a North Carolina GOP leader in the U.S. House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce conservative. Yet he and Cummings were proud of their friendship. Meadows spoke of his love for his colleague while Cummings was lying in state on Capitol Hill — the first African-American politician to be accorded that honor. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wrote a moving op-ed for the Washington Post that spoke of the Republican’s affection and respect for Cummings.

Indeed, the ranks of strange political bedfellows is long. Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, were famous for their friendship. Yes, there are many such relationships. Yet they flourish outside of the public eye.

When a politician of Cummings’ stature passes from the scene, it enables the nation to witness how these supposedly unlikely friendships have flourished even in the climate that can destroy them.

Elijah Cummings’ death saddens me. I am heartened, though, to see these exhibitions of love and respect that are coming from those with whom this good man had many fierce political battles.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that collegiality and political comity isn’t dead.

Trump to Sen. Graham: ‘I am the boss’

It took me a moment or two to digest the quote I read about what Donald Trump reportedly said to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican U.S. senator who transformed himself from a severe Trump critic to one of the president’s most ardent sycophants.

Graham is angry over the president’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and his abandoning of our Kurdish allies who have fought with us in the war against the Islamic State.

The Associated Press said that Trump told Graham, “I am the boss.”

The boss? Of what? Of whom?

Trump is the “boss” of the executive branch of the federal government. He has no authority over the legislative branch, of which Graham is one of 535 House and Senate members. The Constitution grants Congress “co-equal” power with the executive branch.

Graham, despite his disappointing fealty to Trump, does recognize that South Carolina’s voters sent him to the Senate to do their bidding and to stand up for himself when the need arises. He doesn’t work for Trump. He doesn’t have to do a single thing the president might demand of him.

As an MSNBC blogger, Steve Benen, reported: “With all due respect for the president, I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security,” Graham said. “I will not be quiet. I will do everything I can to help the president get to a good spot, but if we do not leave some residual forces behind to partner with the Kurds, ISIS will come back, it will put our nation at risk, we will have been seen as dishonorable in the eyes of all future allies.”

So, there you have it. Sen. Graham is beginning to show a bit of the spine he exhibited while campaigning against Donald Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. I hope it continues to stiffen … although I am inclined to doubt that it will.

Oh, the conundrum facing this friend of two possible candidates

Mac Thornberry’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election to the 13th Congressional District seat he has held since 1995 presents a potential quandary for me.

I want to emphasize the potential part of that issue, because I do not yet know how this whole story is going to play out.

It involves a possible successor to the veteran Clarendon, Texas, Republican lawmaker.

OK, for starters, I’ll go with what I have heard, which is that a good friend of mine, Greg Sagan, has declared his intention to run as a Democrat once again for the seat that Thornberry will vacate next year. Sagan lost to Thornberry in 2018, which is no surprise, given the 13th District’s strong Republican leaning.

I couldn’t vote in that race, as I no longer live in Amarillo. Were I able to vote, I would have cast my ballot for my friend Greg Sagan. He is smart, articulate, ideologically progressive. He’s also a fellow Vietnam War veteran; so, he’s a kind of a “brother” to me, as Vietnam vets would understand.

He’ll run again in 2020. I hate saying this out loud, but his chances of prevailing in a district drawn to benefit Republicans seems almost as distant as they were when he challenged a veteran incumbent.

Which brings me to a still-hypothetical scenario. That involves a possible/potential Republican who might decide he wants a crack at the congressional seat. This fellow also is a friend of mine.

I refer to state Rep. Four Price, also of Amarillo.

I don’t know this as fact, but I am willing to bet real American money that some movers and shakers within the Panhandle Republican network have already broached the subject to Price, who has become something of a star in the Texas Legislature.

Price’s name was kicked around as a possible speaker after former Speaker Joe Straus left the Legislature prior to the 2019 session. He has earned his spurs as a champion for mental health reform.

So, what kind of congressman would Four Price make? He would be effective. He would learn the ropes quickly. Furthermore, he would be eminently electable, given his solid Republican credentials as a candidate in a solid Republican congressional district.

However, I wouldn’t dare make an endorsement in a contest involving Greg Sagan and Four Price. I would be terribly conflicted.

I am virtually certain Sagan will run. I don’t know what Four Price’s plans include. Nonetheless, Mac Thornberry’s pending departure opens the door wide for an intelligent, thoughtful conservative Republican to run as a successor to a congressional veteran.

Man, I detest quandaries … even if they aren’t yet developed fully.

You mustn’t threaten The Whistleblower, Mr. POTUS

Donald Trump wants to meet the individual who filed that whistleblower report alleging that the president violated his oath of office by soliciting help from a foreign government in (a) getting him re-elected and (b) digging up dirt on a potential 2020 presidential campaign rival.

That ain’t how it works, Mr. President.

He said the individual faces “big consequences” if he or she doesn’t meet with the president. What in the world does that mean?

The law creating the whistleblower system of accountability is design to protect these individuals from reprisal, even from the president. It does not require public officials fingered by the whistleblower to “face his accuser.” It’s a unique law that protects those who reveal wrongdoing within our government.

This individual has alleged that the president compromised our national security by soliciting foreign government campaign assistance. The whistleblower also alleges that Trump withheld support for Ukraine until it produces the goods on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Ukraine, I hasten to add, is in the middle of a fight with Russian aggressors and has sought anti-tank weaponry supplied by the United States.

This whistleblower has performed a supreme act of public service. He or she isn’t a “rotten snitch,” as Fox commentator Geraldo Rivera has said. This person is likely to testify soon before the House Intelligence Committee; the panel needs to protect this person and is working to ensure that his or her safety is guaranteed.

So, the president is flying off the rails once again as Congress goes about doing its due diligence in preparing for likely impeachment proceedings against him.

Buckle down and suck it up, Mr. President. You are entitled to defend yourself, but do so honorably, not with threats against someone who is risking everything by coming forward.