Tag Archives: Democrats

So much for the Democratic ‘tide’ forming in Georgia

Jon Ossoff got thumped. Karen Handel is the new congresswoman from Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

It was supposed to be a potential sign of a Democratic Party “wave” that could sweep the minority party back into control of the House of Representatives.

One little thing happened, though. Democrats fielded a candidate with an eligibility problem. He doesn’t live in the district. 

Ossoff lives about six miles outside the district; he’s sharing a residence with his fiancée. Ossoff said he grew up in the district, he knows it well and the fact that he didn’t abide by the electoral rules didn’t matter. Well, actually, young man — it does matter. A lot.

As for Handel, she tied Ossoff at the hip to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose name has become a four-letter word among Republican political operatives.

Did I want Ossoff to win? Sure. I’ve said that already. I did express some concern earlier about this residency issue and how it might nip him in the backside. It did.

The Sixth District is a reliably Republican one. It’s former representative, Dr. Tom Price, now serves as health and human services secretary. Donald J. Trump carried the district by a percentage point in 2016, while Price was being re-elected by double digits.

If Democrats have any hope of peeling off GOP districts in the future, my suggestion is to find better-quality candidates to carry the message forward.

They can start by ensuring their candidates actually live in the district they seek to represent.

Wake up, Congress, to greater civility

Ted Cruz believes this past week’s shooting at a baseball practice that wounded several of his fellow Republicans should be a “wake up call” for members of Congress.

The Texas U.S. senator is right, of course. He almost seems to state the obvious, that the tenor and tone of current political discussion has been filled with too much poison.

Five people were hurt in Alexandria, Va., while practicing for Congress’ annual charity baseball game. The shooter was angry at Donald J. Trump and, apparently, at GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded by a rifle shot from the gunman. Scalise’s condition is improving and for that we all are grateful.

The gunman died in a shootout with police.

“We may disagree on whether the federal government should have a simple flat tax or a massively confiscatory federal income tax, but those differences should not lead to demonization, vilification and personal attacks,” Cruz said in remarks to supporters.

But that’s what we’ve been hearing. It goes back many years. It’s been a bipartisan mantra. Democrats and Republicans point at each other across the aisle on Capitol Hill and question each other’s motives for whatever it is they seek to accomplish.

Politics used to be a noble calling. That’s not the case these days. It has become a contact sport. Some suggest politics has turned into a blood sport.

The dips*** shooter in Alexandria exemplified the danger of letting our emotions get the better of us.

Divine intervention in Georgia?

We’re going to know soon who will win the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Democrat Jon Ossoff reportedly won a significant majority of the ballots that were cast early. Republican Karen Handel is hoping for a big turnout today to win the seat once occupied by Tom Price, who’s now secretary of health and human services.

Then the rain came. Lots of rain. I watched video of the torrent. It looked, dare I say it, downright biblical in the volume. Flooding occurred. Cars were stranded.

If the turnout is depressed today because of the rain that inundated suburban Atlanta, are to presume something special is occurring?

Might someone out there suggest out loud that God wanted Ossoff to win this seat?

Just askin’, man.

There goes ‘unity’

That was a brief respite from the calls for “unity” in the wake of that terrible shooting in Alexandria, Va.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sat together and pledged to put bitterness aside. They sought to honor wounded colleague Steve Scalise, the GOP House whip.

Democrats and Republicans prayed together after their charity baseball game Thursday. They hugged each other. Democrats won the game and then gave the trophy to Scalise, who is recovering from his serious gunshot wound.

All is good, yes? Hardly.

Now comes the Republican in Chief, Donald J. Trump, who launched a Twitter tirade. He wonders why Hillary Clinton isn’t being investigated; he calls special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president’s connection with Russian government officials a “witch hunt.” Indeed, he calls it the worst witch hunt in American political history.

And to think he did that while calling for “unity” in a recorded message delivered before the start of the charity baseball game.

Wishing for days of ‘pork barrel’ bickering

My late mother had a retort when I would say, “Mom, I’ve been thinking.”

“Oh, beginner’s luck?” she would ask … rhetorically.

I’ve had a rash of beginner’s luck lately. I’ve been thinking about the good ol’ days of politics in Washington, D.C., when we used to single out politicians who had this habit of being champions for “pork barrel spending projects,” or those projects that benefit a specific area.

These days, worries about pork barrel spending has given way to rank ideology, where one side calls the other side “evil.” Liberals think conservatives have evil intent; the feeling is quite mutual coming from the other side.

Frankly, I prefer the old days when politicians used to bitch at each other because of all the money they funneled to their states and/or their congressional districts.

The former Republican U.S. senator from Texas, the loquacious Phil Gramm, used to boast about all the “pork” he brought home. “I’ve carried so much pork back to Texas,” he would say, “I think I’m coming down with trichinosis.”

Gramm, though, was a piker compared to some of his Senate colleagues. The late Democrat from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, was known as the king of pork barrel spending. He would attach riders onto amendments to bills that had dough for this or that federal project. As a result, Byrd’s name is on more buildings and bridges in West Virginia than one can possibly imagine.

However, is pork barrel spending a bad thing?

Look at it this way: Politicians do what their constituents want them to do. That’s the nature of politics in a representative democracy, as near as I can tell. We elect pols to represent our interests. If it means carving out a few bucks for this project or that back home, well, then that’s what we send them off to do for us.

These days we hear from rigid ideologues in the U.S. Senate and House. Texas’ two senators — Republicans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn — offer prime examples. One won’t likely accuse Cruz especially of being loaded down with pork; he’s too busy promoting rigid conservative ideology to worry about rebuilding highways and bridges back home in Texas; Cornyn, too, has this leadership role among Republicans in which he seeks to elect more of them to the Senate.

The House features much the same sort of ideology. My congressman, Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, once criticized President Obama for considering air strikes against Syria; then he praised Donald J. Trump for doing that very thing. Thornberry isn’t the least bit interested in pork barrel spending, which seems to fit the desires of his constituents; if they insisted on him bringing home more money to the 13th Congressional District, my hunch is that he’d do their bidding.

Where am I going with this?

I guess I’m trying to suggest two things.

One, I long for a return to the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s maxim that “all politics is local.” Why not argue the merits of this or that spending program and whether our member of Congress — in the House or Senate — is doing what we want him or her to do on our behalf?

Two, let’s quit the purely ideological battles and demonization of each other just because they happen to be of a different stripe. From where I sit, I still consider good government to be a team sport where each team respects the other side.

Residency becomes an election issue

Jon Ossoff ought to know better than to be caught in the residency whipsaw affecting his candidacy for a seat in the U.S. Congress.

The young man, though, is facing an issue that under normal circumstances wouldn’t matter to anyone outside the district he wants to represent. These aren’t normal.

Ossoff is a Democrat running to succeed former Rep. Tom Price, who quit to become secretary of health and human services. Democrats think they have a shot at capturing a seat held for decades by Republicans. Democrats also believe they have momentum on their side as both parties prepare for the 2018 mid-term congressional elections.

So who’s the leading candidate in the special election set for today? A young man who doesn’t live in the Sixth Congressional District.

Good grief, dude!

Yep, it’s an issue

The 30-year-old Ossoff says it isn’t an issue. Why? Because he said he “grew up in the district” and plans to move back after his girlfriend — with whom he is living outside of the Sixth District — completes her medical school education.

C’mon! Either you live there or you don’t.

The law requires candidates for Congress to live within the corporate boundaries of the congressional district. It’s true at the state level as well.

Residency issues have entangled candidates of all stripes for as long as we can remember. Many of us in Amarillo recall when a local businessman sought the Republican nomination for a seat some years ago in the Texas Legislature. He established a residence in Potter County, even though he had lived for many years in neighboring Randall County; Potter County is part of the legislative district, Randall County is not. Questions arose about whether the gentleman actually was living in his Potter County house or whether he was going “home” at night to his digs in Randall County.

These residency issues would seem to be simple to resolve.

You live where you intend to run — or you don’t.

As for the special election that’s occurring today, it well might be decided if Ossoff wins an outright majority against the crowded field of Democrats and Republicans. If he doesn’t and faces a runoff against the No. 2 candidate, look for the GOP to make a serious issue of his residency.

Didn’t they impeach a president for doing this?

President Bill Clinton took an oath to obey all the laws of the land. He then became entangled in an investigation that turned up an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern. He was summoned to testify to a federal grand jury about that relationship, he swore to tell the truth and then, um, fibbed about it.

House Republicans were so outraged they impeached him for it, put him on trial in the Senate, where he eventually was acquitted.

All of that over a sex scandal. Sheesh!

Now a sitting U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has allegedly been caught in a much more serious lie of his own.

He took an oath to tell the truth to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings. He told senators he never had any conversations with Russian government officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Now comes reporting from “enemy of the people” media outlets that, yep, the AG did talk to the Russians.

Should he stay or should he go? Congressional Democrats want Sessions to quit. I won’t go that far just yet.

I do, though, believe the questions surrounding Sessions’s relationship with Donald J. Trump — they’re close friends and even closer political allies — disqualifies him from the get-go from pursuing any kind of unbiased, impartial and thorough investigation into the president’s relationship with Russia.

Some top Democrats want him out. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What’s interesting to me and others is that a number of key Republicans have joined their Democratic “friends” in seeking Sessions’s recusal from any potential investigation.

The president, quite naturally, is going to label the reporting of Sessions’s contacts with the Russians as “fake news.” He’ll debunk reporters for the Washington Post and New York Times — who have been leading the media probe — as “dishonest” purveyors of fiction.

As one who once toiled the craft of journalism, although surely not at this level, I take great personal offense to Trump’s penchant for counterattack. Rather than reacting seriously and with measured calm, the nation’s head of state goes off on these rants about the media’s so-called status at the people’s “enemy.”

The attorney general has no business investigating whether the president had any kind of improper relationship with Russian government officials prior to his taking office. Whether he should remain on the job, well, that will have to be determined quickly.

I know that the law is designed to presume someone’s innocence. The world of politics, though, is a different animal altogether. In that world, the presumption often infers guilt and the accused must prove his or her innocence.

It might not always be fair. It’s just the way it is.

No ‘dissing the president,’ members of Congress

In the interest of fairness and magnanimity, I am offering a word of caution to congressional Democrats who will be listening this week to the Republican president of the United States.

Put your handheld telecommunications devices away. Stick ’em in your pocket. Leave ’em with aides. Don’t be texting on them, or tweeting during the time Donald John Trump is at the podium telling you about his “historic landslide election victory” over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Eight years ago I posted a blog item on members of Congress dissing then-President Barack Hussein Obama during his speech to Congress. It was the first such speech to lawmakers during his presidency. Trump is making his first such speech this week.

Here is what I wrote in February 2009

Respect compels all members to listen to the president. Sure, they’ll get his remarks in advance … at least that’s been the custom. Then again, this president seems to delight in defying custom and tradition. Maybe he’ll surprise everyone.

Whatever.

I hate watching members of Congress looking down at those damn smart phones, I-pads, BlackBerrys — whatever the hell they carry around — while the leader of the free world is talking to them.

Look at this way: One individual is elected nationally; two if you count the vice president, who’ll be sitting behind the president next to the speaker of the House. The rest of those pols are elected either from one of 50 states or from one of 435 congressional districts.

Listen up when the president is talking to you. Sit up straight and pay attention. Oh, and Democrats, no shouts of “You lie!” either. Your Republican colleague who did that to President Obama during one of his speeches should have been slapped in the puss.

Afterward? Sure, all bets are off. Have at it.

Political leanings turned upside-down

I am listening to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters rail, rant and ramble about a dastardly human being, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The California Democrat — so help me — is sounding like a 1950s Republican! She is not alone among congressional Democrats who are calling Putin a war criminal, a monster and no friend of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, we have the nation’s leading Republican — the president-elect — continuing to bite his tongue as it regards Putin. Donald J. Trump just won’t — or cannot — bring himself to say what Democrats are saying. Which is that Putin is a seriously bad guy.

What’s going on here?

Republicans traditionally have hated the Russians, especially when they were governed by the communists who created the Soviet Union. Indeed, Putin is a creature of the monstrous Soviet era, the KGB, the notorious and ruthless spy agency he once ran.

These days, though, we’re mired in debate over what role the Russians played in influencing our 2016 presidential election. Democrats are enraged. Republicans, well, are not … generally.

Sure, some GOP senators have spoken out against the Russians. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are three harsh critics of Putin and they all have openly challenged Trump’s relationship with him and the rest of the Russian government.

The president-elect? He’s keeping quiet.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, the traditional enemy of Russia. Democrats used to be accused of being squishy-soft on the Russians.

Talk about a reversal of roles.

Barack Obama will deserve a high presidential ranking

This is it, dear reader. The hand-off from one president to another is upon us. With that, I believe it is time to assess the performance of the guy who’s leaving office and perhaps try to compare what I believe he accomplished to what was projected of him when he took office.

Bear in mind, bias is implicit in everything anyone says … particularly when it regards political matters. I have my bias, you have yours. Some of our bias might mesh. Much of it might not.

How has Barack Obama done as the 44th president of the United States of America? I’ll give him a B-plus, which is a pretty damn good grade, given what he faced eight years ago.

Let’s start with the economy. We were shedding three-quarters of a million jobs each month when the president was sworn in. What did he do? He got his then-Democratic Party majority in both congressional chambers to enact a sweeping stimulus package. It pumped a lot of money into the economy. It helped bail out major industries, such as the folks who make motor vehicles. Banks were failing. The failures tapered off and then ceased.

Was this a bipartisan effort? Hardly. Republicans declared their intention to block everything he tried. The economy would collapse even faster, they said. The stock market, which had cratered, would implode. What happened? The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tripled since then.

Job losses? They disappeared, too. In the eight years of the Obama presidency, the nation has added 11 million or so non-farm-payroll jobs. Unemployment that peaked at 10 percent shortly after Obama took office, now stands at 4.7 percent.

Has the recovery been even? Has it been felt across the spectrum? Not entirely. It is that unevenness that sparked the populist movement led in large part by none other than the master of decadence Donald J. Trump, who parlayed people’s fear into a winning presidential campaign strategy.

All in all? We’re in far better shape today than we were when Barack Obama took office.

National security anyone?

OK, let’s try these facts.

A SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011; we haven’t been victimized by a terrorist attack in the past eight years; we have killed thousands of terrorists around the world as our global war has continued; Obama and his diplomatic team negotiated a deal to prevent Iran from developing an nuclear weapon.

Yes, North Korea continues to pose threats. The president erred in saying he would act militarily if Syria crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons and then failed to act on his threat. We did a poor job of managing the Arab Spring that erupted in Libya and eliminated Moammar Gadhafi.

Immigration reform remains in the distance. Barack Obama has been all-time champion of deportation of illegal immigrants, despite complaints from his foes that he is soft on that issue. And, of course, I believe he is correct to suggest that building a wall is contrary to “who we are as Americans.”

In an area related to national security, I would like to point out that we’ve all but eliminated our dependence on fossil produced in the Middle East. I don’t want to overstate the president’s role here, as much of that is due to private industry initiative. Federal tax breaks, though, have made alternative energy production more feasible, which has reduced our dependence on fossil fuels.

Domestic issues?

Obama’s foes said he would launch raids on Americans’ homes, seeking to take away our guns. It hasn’t happened. There was never any realistic threat that it would.

The president did a 180 on gay marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court — citing the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

And, oh yes, the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance to 20 million citizens who couldn’t afford it otherwise. The ACA is in jeopardy as GOP members of Congress want to repeal it. They don’t have a replacement bill lined up. Obama has said he’d support any improvement to the ACA that would come forth. Is it perfect? No. The president admitted this past weekend that he and his team fluffed the launch of healthcare.gov, which was a huge error.

Barack Obama didn’t bridge the racial divide that splits Americans. The first African-American president perhaps misjudged the national mood; maybe he was too hopeful.

However, that this brilliant man was elected president in the first place in 2008 with substantial majorities in both the popular and Electoral College votes — and then re-elected — tells me that we’ve come a long way from the time when even his candidacy would have been considered unthinkable.

I’m proud to have been in his corner for the past eight years. I haven’t agreed with every single decision he has made … just the vast majority of them. He has made me proud, too, at the way he has conducted himself and the way his family has adjusted to living in that bubble known as the White House.

Millions of Americans will wish him well as he and his beautiful family depart on Friday.

As for the future, well … we cannot predict it with any more certainty than many Americans did when Barack Obama took the stage. Let’s just hope for the best.