Tag Archives: Congress

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.

Wyoming: where few folks live, where U.S. rep wields huge clout

RAWLINS, Wyo. — This is a charming town in the south-central region of a sprawling state. It sits somewhere between two fictitious towns to which I refer when I’m trying to illustrate sparse population: Resume Speed, Wyo., and Bumfu*, Egypt.

Here’s the deal with Rawlins, and with Wyoming: The state shares the rare distinction of having three statewide representatives in Congress; by that I mean two U.S. senators and one U.S. House of Representatives member. The other states are North and South Dakota, Alaska and Montana.

But let’s talk about Wyoming.

Its lone U.S. rep is a young woman named Liz Cheney. You might have heard of her. Her parents are Dick and Lynn Cheney. Dad Cheney has considerable political credential: former vice president, former secretary of defense, former congressman — from Wyoming, no less, former White House chief of staff. The dude’s been around, you know?

He passed his political interest on to his daughter, Liz, who recently moved to Wyoming so she could run for Congress from the state that ranks No. 10 in geographical area among all 50 states.

She faced down carpetbagger accusations, given that she grew up Back East, while Dad was serving as congressman, defense secretary during the Bush 41 administration and WH chief of staff for President Ford.

I don’t know how well Liz Cheney has acquainted herself with Wyoming’s unique issues. The state has a couple of impressive national parks, it is teeming with spectacular beauty; they mine a lot of coal in Wyoming; driving across the magnificent landscape one sees a lot of wind farms as well. They all require federal attention.

Given that Rep. Cheney represents the same constituencies as Sens. John Barraso and Mike Enzi, Wyoming gets a three-fer in political clout. Cheney is not bashful, either, about wielding her power, as the second-term House member already is chairing the House Republican Caucus.

Oh, and gerrymandering, the task that allows state legislators to carve up their states according to population trends? Not an issue in Wyoming. No such thing as “gerrymandered congressional districts” here.

There might come a day when the state gets a second House member. For now, all the state’s 580,000 residents should appreciate having a U.S. representative who answers to them.

Mr. Sam knew his place

BONHAM, Texas — The plaque pictured here offers an important civics lesson. It tells of the late Sam Rayburn’s role as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and also as a rank-and-file member of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The great Mr. Sam said he didn’t work “under” eight presidents, but that he worked “with” them. Listen up! Pay attention!

Too many presidents over many decades have fancied themselves as bigger than their office, occupying an office bigger and more powerful and meaningful than the other two co-equal branches of government.

Yes, Donald Trump, I refer to you as well.

Rayburn served in the House with eight presidents, the first of whom was Woodrow Wilson; the last of them was John F. Kennedy. Rayburn died in November 1961.

He was the Man of the House, even when he wasn’t pounding the gavel as its speaker.

I came back to the Rayburn Library and Museum today to show my visiting brother-in-law — who is quite a student of history — this place my wife (his sister) and I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I didn’t see the plaque on our first visit. I feel compelled to offer these few words as a tribute to the understanding that Speaker Rayburn had about Congress and its role as a partner in the making of laws that govern all Americans. He was a student of government and knew he was duty bound to work within the system, reaching across the partisan divide, to find common ground in search of the common good.

There is a huge lesson that needs to be learned in the present day. Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, declared in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair the things that he said were ailing the country. Uh, Mr. President, good government is most definitely a team sport, requiring all branches of government — even the judiciary — to play a role in the crafting and interpretation of law.

Sam Rayburn knew what has been lost on occasion in the present day. Legislators dig in against the president, who digs in against the men and women who serve in Congress. Nothing gets done. They all seek to declare political victory, when in reality they all fail.

Given that we have only one president at a time, the onus for failure — at least in my mind — falls on the doofus in the White House at the moment.

I cannot stop thinking at this moment how the great Sam Rayburn would react to the bullying and showboating he would witness from down the street at the White House.

My guess? He wouldn’t stand for it.

From our heartbreak, seeing signs of hope

Our hearts are broken across the land as we ponder what happened within hours of each other in two communities, in El Paso and Dayton.

Moronic madmen opened fire on innocent victims. Twenty-two of them died in El Paso, nine in Dayton; dozens more were injured. Police arrested a young man in El Paso and will charge him with multiple counts of capital murder; the cops gunned down the Dayton killer.

We grieve as a nation.

There might be a glimmer of hope arising from our sorrow. How does it present itself?

It might be occurring on the twin-track debate that has commenced.

We’re talking simultaneously about measures we might be able to enact to tighten control of gun purchasing and ownership. No, I’m not talking about watering down the Second Amendment. I stand with those who support the amendment’s guarantee that our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

There must be a legislative remedy that withstands constitutional scrutiny. Congress hasn’t acted on it. It refuses. Donald Trump won’t take up that cudgel. The gun lobby continues to throw around its weight in the halls of power.

I am not going to join those who want Congress to return immediately from its recess to enact such legislation. Lawmakers will return and then they get to work. I want them to listen to their constituents’ concerns.

Indeed, just this morning, my congressman, freshman Republican Van Taylor, was visiting with constituents here in Princeton, where I am absolutely certain he heard from those who are concerned about the gun violence that keeps erupting around the country. He needs to keep his ears open as he travels through the Third Congressional District of Texas during his time away from Capitol Hill.

The second track is equally important. It deals with the hateful rhetoric we are hearing from politicians, namely from the top! Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric must end. He won’t acknowledge the role his statements have played in the spasm of violence. The El Paso shooter apparently acted out of hatred for Mexican immigrants. Much of a screed published just minutes before he opened fire at the Wal-Mart complex mirrors the rhetoric that Donald Trump has bellowed at campaign rallies since before he became president.

We must continue to have this debate, too, even as we enter a presidential election year.

Many of us had hoped that the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre would engender a long-standing debate. Many of those students became articulate spokesmen and women for the cause of gun reform. Their voices have faded into the background.

Now comes the latest chorus. The debate runs along dual tracks: gun violence and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

I want the debate to continue for as long as it takes, even as we seek to mend our broken hearts.

Speaker Rayburn’s credo: Just tell the truth

BONHAM, Texas — The text below the picture posted with this blog item offers a fundamental and irrefutable truth about those who serve in public office.

It is simply to tell the truth at all times. “You don’t have to remember what you said,” the text tells us.

Who said it? The late great U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, arguably Bonham’s favorite son.

He was known simply as Mr. Sam. He mentored many huge Texas political icons, men he taught the lessons of legislating and leadership. He was known to be a plain speaker, a man of enormous integrity. Mr. Sam did not enrich himself at the public trough.

I came to his library and museum today. My wife and I took a tour of the simple but still elegant exhibit and learned a little more about this legendary political figure.

I was struck by the text I cited at the beginning of this blog post because — and you likely know where this is going — of the conduct we have seen exhibited by the current president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

I have no idea how Speaker Rayburn would react to the incessant, relentless and unceasing lies that pour forth from Donald Trump. I only can presume to believe that he would be appalled, aghast and astonished at what would he hear.

The library and museum speak silently but eloquently to the kind of man Rayburn was. He represented his North Texas congressional district with honor, as he did the House of Representatives as the Man of the House.

Sam Rayburn’s honor, to my mind, was built on his effort to speak honestly and truthfully. It is a lesson that is lost totally on too many politicians who have come along after him.

That means you, too, Donald John Trump.

POTUS: Do as I say, not as I have done … for decades!

Oh, Mr. President, you just cannot stop tripping over yourself.

Your statement issued over the weekend that The Squad shouldn’t criticize the presidency, the nation, its policies flies directly in the face of your own personal history.

You tell the four Democratic congresswomen with whom you have been feuding that they need to quell their criticism. They shouldn’t speak ill of the government, you say. They shouldn’t speak out against our nation’s policies. You tell them, essentially, to keep their mouths shut.

Then you say they owe you, the nation and the rest of Americans and apology for all those criticisms they have leveled.

Are you serious, Mr. President?

What in the world did you do for decades? You did precisely the very thing you accuse Reps. Alyanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of doing?

Many of us remember the epithets you hurled at President Obama, at Hillary and Bill Clinton, various local officials at several levels of government. You have called previous presidents “stupid.” You have slung intensely personal insults at presidents and senior Cabinet officials.

Hey, Mr. President, I am just one of your constituents out here, but I think I speak for others who wonder the same thing. You, sir, lack the moral standing to instruct anyone else on how to conduct themselves as it regards those in power.

You have spent a lifetime leveling intense — and often deeply personal — criticism of others.

Now you expect four freshmen members of Congress to clam up just because you tell them to do so?

You cannot possibly be serious.