Tag Archives: GOP

Same song, second verse in Senate District 31

Kel Seliger is running as a conservative West Texan.

He’s trying to avoid being outflanked on his right by a former foe who’s returning for yet another run at the veteran Texas state senator. Seliger also faces another interesting opponent … who hails from Seliger’s own end of the sprawling Senate district.

It’s the same song, second verse for Seliger. This time, though, he is making it crystal clear that he considers himself to be as conservative as his opponents.

I’ve known Seliger for as long as I have lived in Amarillo. That would be 23-plus years. He was the city’s mayor when I assumed my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. He did a sound, solid — if not spectacular — job as mayor. Then he left office, was a civilian for a time and then he ran for the Senate after the late Teel Bivins was tapped in 2004 by President Bush to become the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

What I find so fascinating about Seliger’s latest re-election bid are the visuals he is employing in his TV ads. One of them shows Seliger driving away in his pickup truck with two stickers in the rear window: “NRA” and one that declares Seliger to be “100 percent pro-life.”

He’s kind of in our face regarding his conservatism, yes?

Mike Canon is one of Seliger’s foes. Canon ran against Seliger in 2014. He contended four years ago that Seliger wasn’t conservative enough. Canon is a favorite of the Texas version of the TEA Party. He speaks in platitudes and cliches. He did it in 2014 and is doing so again this time.

Seliger isn’t responding to Canon directly. Instead he merely is reminding us of his commitment to the Second Amendment, his opposition to abortion and his insistence that local control of school money is more important than ceding that control to the state.

Again … conservative principles.

Oh, but now we have Victor Leal of Amarillo in the hunt. Leal also is running as a conservative. Leal runs a popular Amarillo restaurant. He once served as Muleshoe mayor and in 2010 ran for the Texas House District 87 seat vacated by David Swinford; Leal lost to Four Price.

What makes me scratch my head is whether Leal is running merely to muddy this race up a bit. I once asked him whether he intended to win. He said yes, absolutely. He’s in it to win it.

But here we are. Three men are running as conservatives. Two of them say the incumbent isn’t conservative enough. The incumbent says he is, even though he makes no secret of his disdain for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Senate and who also is running as a “principled conservative.”

It’s going to get really crowded on the right-wing fringe, as Canon and Leal keep pushing Seliger in that direction.

My own sense is that Sen. Seliger need not prove a thing. He is the real thing and he does represent Texas Senate District 31 well enough to merit re-election.

Yes, he is a conservative. He just chooses to speak in detail about the legislative process and stays away from TEA Party demagoguery.

Candidacy still a head-scratcher

Drew Brassfield’s candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives is still causing some curiosity in my noggin.

He’s currently the Fritch city manager. He is seeking the Republican Party primary nomination to Texas House District 87, which currently is held by another Republican, Four Price of Amarillo.

I have raised the question about potential ethical concerns if in the event hell does freeze over and Brassfield actually defeats Price in the GOP primary next month.

One specific concern comes to mind. It involves campaign contributions from potential vendors who might want to do business with the city of Fritch.

Consider this hypothetical matter: The city wants to build some new structures, say, at a municipal park. It puts the project out for bid. Contractors submit bids to do the work. One of them decides to make a significant contribution to the city manager’s political fund. Is the contractor then eliminated from consideration because of the bid? If so, does the city deny someone a chance to present the most cost-effective bid possible? If not, then what kind of pressure does the city manager face in determining which contractor gets the job?

This presents in my mind one of the difficulties that occur when a current government administrator seeks election to another public office. That’s also why Texas ethics rules and provisions ought to frown on this mixing of public responsibilities.

I don’t expect this matter to get in anyone’s way after the March 6 primary election. I fully expect Rep. Price to be nominated by voters in his party for another term, which means election to another two years, given the absence of any Democrats on the ballot.

The issue, though, still needs to be considered to avoid venturing too far into the proverbial sticky wicket.

Not all in GOP are buying into Nunes memo

I am happy to acknowledge that the Republican Party’s ranks of power players aren’t singing off the same hymnal page as it regards Russian interference in our electoral process.

Donald John Trump and many of his GOP “friends” in Congress have released a memo that accuses the FBI of bias in its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., isn’t one of them.

He has released a blistering statement telling Trump that the memo is doing “Putin’s job for him.”

McCain’s statement, issued prior to the release of the memo from the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican members, said, in part: “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy,” McCain said. “Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro and beyond.”

According to the Huffington Post: McCain said Russia’s interference has, at best, sown political discord and succeeded in “dividing us from each other.” Attacking the intelligence community is not how to fix the discord, he said.

I am acutely aware of Sen. McCain’s longstanding antipathy toward Donald J. Trump. The then-GOP presidential candidate disparaged McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War. The men haven’t made peace yet.

That doesn’t diminish the importance of what McCain is saying about the release of the memo, written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. The intelligence community opposed its release, as did the FBI leadership.

McCain wrote further: “The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s,” McCain added. “The American people deserve to know all the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the lens of politics and manufacturing political sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

This is not how you protect the interests of the people you were elected to govern, Mr. President.

‘Big-city liberals’ do what, Lt. Gov. Patrick?

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been running a TV ad that makes an accusation that offends me to my core.

The Republican is running for re-election and he is proclaiming how tough he is on illegal immigration. Then he declares: “Big-city liberals favor open borders.”

To which I say, “Huh? What? Are you serious?” Well, sure he’s serious. Because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

You see, what Patrick is saying suggests that “big-city liberals” want no controls on immigration. That they want to allow everyone into this country, regardless of their standing. They “welcome” illegal immigrants who might have criminal intent.

That is the rhetoric of a blatant demagogue.

I am no “big-city” liberal. I live in a moderately sized city in the Texas Panhandle, where most of my neighbors are likely to vote for Patrick later this year.

I also believe in stricter enforcement of our immigration policies. I am willing to pay for more Border Patrol personnel, for more electronic security/surveillance equipment.

However, I part company with Patrick and others on construction of a wall across our southern border. Furthermore, I am pretty damn sure that my own beliefs don’t make me someone who favors “open borders.” My strong hunch, too, is that other liberals would object to the “open borders” canard that comes from the lieutenant governor’s mouth.

Cyber security remains a (pipe) dream

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has issued a dire warning, which is that it is a near certainty that Russia is going to try meddling in our 2018 midterm election.

Yep, just like they did in the 2016 presidential election, the event that the president of the United States — Donald John Trump Sr. — keeps denying publicly.

Mr. President, please talk to the CIA boss. He knows more about this stuff than you do.

However, I keep circling back to an initiative that was launched in 2011 in Congress. It was designed to improve cyber security and was to be led by my own member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry.

House Speaker John Boehner appointed Thornberry to lead a select committee to iron out the wrinkles in our nation’s cyber security system. It’s interesting to me that this was a GOP-only panel, comprising just Republican members of the House. I guess Thornberry and Boehner didn’t think there were any Democrats who could contribute to what ought to be a bipartisan/non-partisan concern.

Thornberry said in a statement after the panel’s work was done:

Cyber is deeply ingrained in virtually every facet of our lives.  We are very dependent upon it, which means that we are very vulnerable to disruptions and attacks.  Cyber threats pose a significant risk to our national security as well as to our economy and jobs.

At least 85 percent of what must be protected is owned and operated by the private sector.  Government must tread carefully in this area or risk damaging one of our greatest strengths — dynamic, innovate companies and businesses that are the key to our economy and to cybersecurity advances.

A “significant threat to our national security.” Yep, Rep. Thornberry, that is so very correct.

That threat presented itself in the 2016 election. There remain myriad questions about whether the Donald Trump campaign played a role in that threat. We’ll know the answer in due course, once the special counsel, Robert Mueller, finishes his work.

However, I do believe it’s fair to wonder: With all the work that Rep. Thornberry’s committee did to improve cybersecurity, did it do enough to protect our electoral system from the hanky-panky that came from this country’s preeminent foreign adversary?

I do not believe it did.

Voting early … under duress

I’ve stated over the years my distaste for voting early. I prefer the ritual of voting on Election Day. It’s a matter of seeking to protect myself against any of my candidates doing something that would make me regret casting my ballot for them.

Here comes the punch line: I am likely going to have vote prior to the March 6 primary election.

It’s not because I want to do so. It’s because my wife and I plan to be out of town that day. Our granddaughter’s birthday will require us to be away from our polling place on Election Day. Thus, I’ll be voting “absentee,” which is what they used to call it long before states made “early voting” so fashionable.

I remain opposed to voting early when I know I will be home on the day we go to the polls.

My opposition is as strong as ever.

Now the quandary: Which primary do I choose? In Texas we have what’s called an “open primary” system. We don’t walk into a polling place registered to vote in one party’s primary; we make that decision when we get there. The election judge then might stamp our voting card with the name of whichever primary we choose to cast our ballot.

Since my wife and I are registered to vote in Randall County, it’s a foregone conclusion that the local races will feature zero Democrats. In these mid-term elections, I often find myself voting in the GOP primary because that’s where my vote counts for county race and state legislative contests. I am occasionally inclined to look past the national races — U.S. House and Senate — while preferring to decide for whom to vote in the general election in November.

So, this year I likely will get to break with personal tradition.

Trump brings out worst in allies and foes

I have reached a regrettable conclusion about the state of political play in the Texas Panhandle.

It is that I cannot discuss politics where it involves specifically the policies promoted by the president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

More specifically, I cannot talk openly about my own feelings about the president, who I consider to be wholly unfit to hold the office he has occupied for the past year and six days.

I had an exchange this week with a good friend, someone I have known for the entire 23 years I have lived and worked in Amarillo. He is an elected official. He is as fine a public servant as I’ve ever met in my professional life.

My friend is a dedicated Republican. He’s a fierce partisan. He also has a good heart and is dedicated to serving the people who have elected him to public office.

We were chatting the other day when Trump’s name came up. My friend initiated the discussion. I grimaced noticeably. He knows my political leanings, which run counter to the prevailing view of the Texas Panhandle’s half-million or so residents. The residents of the 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle voted overwhelmingly for Trump over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 election.

My friend began talking about the “deep state,” and about how “corrupt” the FBI has been and how Trump is the “right man for these times.” I told my pal that I didn’t want to get into it with him at that moment. I sought to tell him that I detest the president’s policies. He said, “You’re a smart man. You’re smart enough to know what I’m talking about.”

And as he kept heaping faint praise on me about my intelligence, I could see that he, too, was getting worked up over my intense loathing of the president. He was pursing his lips and his eyes narrowed into a bit of a squint.

I then managed to change the subject. We moved on to the next topic. Our friendship is intact. I breathed a sigh of relief.

This is what has happened in the Era of Trump. Friends on opposing sides of the Great Divide no longer can talk about politics without getting worked up, getting angry at the other guy.

It occurs me: This is precisely how Donald Trump is governing. He is dividing Americans. His pledge to “unify the country” is the stuff of a flim-flam artist.

I guess I should thank the president for affirming my point about his unfitness for the job to which he was elected.

I should. But I won’t.

Mueller: still trustworthy

Robert Mueller must have grown a second head.

He must also have been seized by demons, or brainwashed by enemy terrorists.

The special counsel whose appointment by the Department of Justice drew bipartisan praise has become the bogeyman that congressional Republicans have feared.

Thankfully, not all GOP congressional members have bought into the fear being fanned by those on the far right wing of their party. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, says Mueller should be trusted to do the right thing as he continues his probe into allegations that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 election outcome.

This paranoia among some in the GOP suggests that Mueller isn’t the “friendly” party they envisioned when the DOJ appointed him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, given his role in the Trump campaign and its transition into the presidency. The task of finding a special counsel fell to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who selected Mueller, a former FBI director with impeccable credentials.

Don’t you remember the high praise that poured forth from both sides of the political divide? I damn sure remember it. I joined in that praise, given Mueller’s reputation for meticulous preparation and deliberate purpose.

Even the subject of his probe — Donald J. Trump — is alternately combative and cooperative as it regards Mueller. At this moment, allegedly, the president is willing to talk “under oath” to the special counsel if he gets asked to be questioned. I hope the president doesn’t turn combative again.

As for Mueller’s reputation, I believe it should remain intact. He’s still the same man that Justice Department officials selected for this important and complex job.

So … let the man do his job.

Hold the applause and the back-slapping, Congress

I swear I could hear — even way out here in Flyover Country — the sounds of cheers, backslapping and high-fiving on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Senate this morning approved a measure that funds the government all … the … way until Feb. 8.

Great, huh? Well, not even close.

The House of Representatives now gets this measure. House members will follow suit. Then it will head to the White House, where Donald John “Dealmaker in Chief” Trump will sign it into law.

What got the deal done? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow debate on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals status in exchange for reopening the federal government that had been shuttered since midnight Friday.

Oh, brother. What a sham!

The president said in September he wanted to disband DACA, but gave Congress until March to find a legislative solution. Congress didn’t get there. Then came the government shutdown game of chicken.

Neither side blinked when the money ran out. The government closed its doors. The blame game commenced.

Now we have Senate Republicans crowing that they got Democrats to accept most of their demands.

To what end? We have yet another temporary repair. Then we get to have another face-off — maybe, perhaps, possibly — on Feb. 8.

DACA screams loudly for a resolution. It involves the status of U.S. residents who came here illegally when they were brought here — as children — by their parents or legal guardians. These young men and women do not deserve to be shipped back to the country of their origin, countries they do not know; they grew up as Americans.

The Trump re-election campaign poisoned the discussion over the weekend by releasing a TV ad that declares Democrats would be culpable if an illegal immigrant commits murder, saying that Democrats would have blood on their hands.

So, here we stand. We’re likely to get the government reopened. DACA will return to the bargaining table. Senators and House members are proud of themselves because they worked hard all weekend to find a solution.

However, it’s another short-term fix.

We need something that we can call the “law of the land.” We need to end this gamesmanship. We need a government that works.

When we arrive at that point, then we can break out the bubbly.

Geniuses surrender to idiots

Bill Cassidy has produced — to my mind — the most memorable quote from the current government shutdown/game of chicken.

The nation, said the Louisiana Republican U.S. senator over the weekend, was “founded by geniuses but is being governed by idiots.”

You go, Sen. Cassidy!

Sen. Cassidy faces his critics

Yes, the idiots have taken over. The men and women who comprise the Congress, along with the individual who sits in the White House, cannot govern the greatest nation on Earth.

Oh, no! They are bound up in a fight over a spending bill. They cannot settle their disagreements over how to control illegal immigration. The people caught in the grip of this government sausage grinder happen to be individuals who were brought here as children when their parents sneaked into the country illegally.

Republican hard liners cannot find it in what passes for their heart to extend protections for those so-called “Dreamers.” These folks were raised in the United States; this is the only country they know. But the GOP “base” wants to send them back to their country of origin?

What the hell … ?

As a result, the government is now officially paralyzed.

The idiot in chief — the president — can’t decide whether to approve an extension of those protections. He is getting pressure from his GOP base.

I continue to believe that this is the Trump Shutdown. He is joined by the idiots in Congress. I won’t assign all the blame to just one party. There’s plenty of blame to go along.

However, we have just a single president. He is The Man. He has an entire nation as his constituency. Not all of us approve of the way he is running the government; indeed, more of us voted for the other major-party candidate than for the guy who actually won.

Where in the world are the geniuses?