Tag Archives: Mac Thornberry

Do not nominate this carpetbagger for a congressional seat

I am about to stick my nose into a political race that, for all intents, is no longer my business, given that I do not live in that congressional district, but here goes anyway.

Thirteenth Congressional District Republicans need to avoid nominating a carpetbagger for the seat being vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon.

The carpetbagger to whom I refer is Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former physician to Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

He claims a West Texas heritage. He was born in Levelland, just west of Lubbock. Levelland also happens to sit within the 11th Congressional District. Jackson, a retired Navy admiral, has never lived within the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from the Texas Panhandle to the outskirts of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He doesn’t know the district, he doesn’t grasp the district’s unique issues.

He rose to notoriety when Trump nominated him to become veterans affairs secretary. The problem, though, was that Dr. Jackson faced accusations of falsifying prescriptions, of abusing his staff and of drinking too much on the job. He was unqualified for the VA post. He withdrew his name from consideration. The president went with someone else and the Department of Veterans Affairs is running just fine.

So what in the world of soft landings is Admiral/Dr. Jackson seeking to do now? He wants to serve in Congress. Why, though, pick this particular seat? I guess it’s because the 13th District is as reliably Republican as any of the 435 House seats.

But Jackson isn’t the guy to succeed Thornberry. Indeed, the GOP field is full of candidates who actually live in the Texas Panhandle and who actually understand the issues of constituents’ concern.

Ronny Jackson? Don’t let him get away with the charade he is playing.

Dr. Carpetbagger set to seek 13th Congressional District seat

What do you know about this?

A fellow who hasn’t lived anywhere near the 13th Congressional District for many years has decided to run for the House of Representatives seat being vacated by an incumbent who’s been there since 1995.

This Republican candidate, though, does have some name recognition. He is Ronny Jackson, a now-retired U.S. Navy physician who once served as personal doctor to two presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Jackson wants to succeed Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.

Dr. Jackson is a native of Levelland. However, he has been serving his country for more than two decades in the Navy. He also got tapped by Donald Trump to become veterans secretary. His nomination derailed, though, amid controversy arising from the absence of any administrative experience, not to mention allegations that he abused his staff, overprescribed drugs and drank too much while on the job as the president’s doctor. Jackson pulled out.

So now he wants to serve in Congress.

Jackson joins a crowded GOP field, with 13 other candidates running in the Republican Party. I am left to wonder whether this guy is going to parlay his name ID into a congressional job, representing a congressional district about which he likely knows next to nothing.

What fascinates me is that while he does have West Texas roots, Levelland is in the 11th Congressional District. Has the good doctor ever lived anywhere near the district he now wants to represent? Has he ever attended a grange hall meeting in Claude, or Fritch, or Dumas, or Memphis? What does this fellow know about farm policy, or water conservation, or any of the issues unique to communities such as Amarillo, or Wichita Falls?

The 13th District is spread out a long way, from the Panhandle toward the Metroplex. It is as reliably Republican as any congressional district in this nation. With apologies to my good friend Greg Sagan, who’s running as a Democrat again this year for the seat, it isn’t likely to flip to the other party in 2020.

However, the district’s constituents need to representation from someone who at least knows the issues that are unique to the sprawling region.

Dr. Jackson looks like a carpetbagger to me.

Will ‘Texodus’ cause loss of clout in Congress? Uhh, yes, it will

A headline in the Texas Tribune asks a question that borders on the preposterous.

“As experienced Texan congressmen retire, will the states’ sway in Congress decline?”

I have the answer: Yes. It will decline.

Both congressional chambers rely heavily on seniority. The more senior the members of the House and Senate, the more powerful committee assignments they get. They ascend to chairmanships or, if they’re in the House, they sit as “ranking members” of the minority party; a ranking member is deemed to be the senior member of the party that doesn’t control the chairmanship.

My former congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, is retiring at the end of next year; he won’t seek re-election to his umpteenth term in the House. He serves as ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, a panel he chaired until Democrats took control of the House after the 2018 election.

Congressional power ebbs and flows. Texans who worry about such things need not fret over Texas’s loss of clout in the House. Indeed, if the state is turning into more of a “swing state,” Texas Democrats might find themselves elevated to positions of power formerly occupied by their Republican colleagues.

For the time being, though, the retirements of six Texas members of Congress does create a dwindling clout for the state on Capitol Hill.

However, it is likely far from a terminal ailment.

‘Inappropriate’ but not ‘impeachable’?

I long have thought that Mac Thornberry was a smart man, even though I have harbored some deep personal — and largely private — objections to many of the public policy positions he has taken.

However, the Clarendon, Texas, Republican member of Congress has, um, inflicted some damage to my longstanding view of his intelligence.

Thornberry went on national TV Sunday and said that it is “inappropriate” for a president to “ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,” But … then he said it is not “impeachable.”

Allow me to split a hair or two here.

The term “inappropriate” doesn’t necessarily equal “illegal.” However, presidents can be impeached for “inappropriate” behavior. I happen to believe, though, that Donald Trump broke the law when he sought foreign government help in investigating a political rival, Joe Biden.

I’ll stipulate that I am not a lawyer. Thornberry did earn a law degree from the University of Texas; he has called himself a “recovering lawyer.” However, I have read the Constitution, as I am sure has Thornberry. I interpret the Constitution as declaring that presidents cannot solicit foreign governments for political help. Donald Trump did that very thing in that infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

So, has the president abused the power of his office? Did he commit an actual crime? I believe he has done both things. Abusing of power is impeachable; violating the law, not to mention his oath of office, certainly is impeachable.

That makes it far worse than “inappropriate,” as Thornberry has described it.

My disappointment in Thornberry is palpable. He was my congressman for more than 20 years when my wife and I lived in Amarillo. He took office the same week I arrived in Amarillo to begin my tenure as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. I had a good professional relationship with him and his staff.

He has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020. What he does after he leaves office is a mystery to me. I wish him well. I only wish he would interpret Donald Trump’s egregious misbehavior differently than what he has expressed.

It’s clearly possible, as Thornberry has demonstrated, that people can reach vastly different conclusions while witnessing the same act. Rep. Thornberry has determined that Trump’s actions were “inappropriate,” but not “impeachable.” I believe Trump broke the law and, therefore, earned an early exit from the White House.

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.

In defense of a congressman’s non-commitment

Mac Thornberry is now officially a lame-duck member of Congress, given his announcement today that he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to another term representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

I have plenty of issues with Thornberry and his tenure as a member of Congress. However, I feel compelled to defend him on a point for which he was pilloried and pounded over many years since taking office.

Mac Thornberry did not, despite claims to the contrary, ever make a personal pledge to limit the number of terms he would serve in the House of Representatives.

He ran in 1994 for the House under the Contract With America banner waved at the front of the Republican ranks by future Speaker Newt Gingrich. The CWA contained among other items a provision to limit House members to three terms. The idea was to serve six years and then bow out, turning the seat over to new faces, with new ideas.

The term limits provision needs a constitutional amendment. The House has not referred an amendment to the states for their ratification. Thornberry, though, has voted in favor of every proposed amendment whenever it has come to a vote of the full of House.

Thornberry never made a personal pledge. Indeed, he has been elected and re-elected 13 times to the 13th District seat. He ascended to Republican leadership over the course of his tenure, being awarded the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.

I just feel the need to defend Thornberry against false accusations that he reneged on his pledge to limit the amount of time he would serve in Congress. Thornberry knew better than to make a pledge he well might be unable or unwilling to keep, such as former Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington state, who defeated the late Tom Foley in that landmark 1994 CWA election. Nethercutt pledged to limit his terms, then changed his mind … and eventually faced the wrath of his constituents for reneging on his promise.

Mac Thornberry doesn’t adhere to my own world view of how government should work. Indeed, I happen to oppose congressional term limits, believing that elections by themselves serve the purpose of limiting the terms of congressmen and women who do a bad job. That’s not the point here.

He didn’t deserve the pounding he took from within the 13th Congressional District for allegedly taking back a campaign promise … that he never made.

Texas’ GOP congressional ‘dean’ calls it a career … wow!

I didn’t exactly call it, but I did wonder out loud about two months ago if U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry had all the fun he could stand in Congress.

Well, today the Clarendon Republican announced he is bowing out after 25 years in Congress. He’s calling it a career and will not seek re-election next year.

Before our Democratic friends get all lathered up over this news, I need to remind everyone that the 13th Congressional District is as Republican-leaning as any in the country. Donald Trump won the 13th in 2016 with 80 percent of the vote; Thornberry won re-election in 2018 with 82 percent. Thornberry has breezed back into office every two years since 1994 without breaking a sweat.

The 13th isn’t likely to flip from “red” to “blue” just because a Republican officeholder has called it quits.

I cannot begin to know why Thornberry has decided to bail. I have a theory or two that I shall share.

First, he doesn’t like governing from a minority position. Democrats took control of the House in 2018. Nancy Pelosi became speaker for her second tour as the Lady of the House. Meanwhile, Thornberry lost his coveted Armed Services Committee chairmanship as a result. Republican caucus rules also will require Thornberry to step down as ranking member on Armed Services at the end of the current term.

Second, I also wonder if Thornberry is going to get caught up in the sausage grinder that is churning at this moment over whether to impeach Donald Trump. Thornberry more than likely will stand behind, beside and with the president as he fights allegations that he compromised national security by seeking foreign government help in winning re-election in 2020. It won’t cost him much support among rank-and-file voters at home, but he is sure to face plenty of heat were he to vote against impeachment.

Thornberry has been an astute political observer for a long time. He once told before it actually happened that he suspected former House Speaker John Boehner would step aside over the fatigue he was suffering while fighting with the TEA Party element within the House GOP caucus. Boehner did and cited that very thing in his announcement that he was leaving public service.

This is a big deal for the 13th Congressional District. Thornberry becomes the sixth Texas GOP House member to announce his retirement. The others came as a surprise. This one, not so much, as the Texas Tribune has reported.

I’ve known Thornberry pretty well for the past quarter-century. I’ve joked with him over that time that we kind of “grew up together,” given that I started my job in January 1995 at the Amarillo Globe-News the same week he took office as congressman.

I’ve gnashed my teeth at times over some of his decisions. He knows my political leanings. I hope he also knows I have a deep reservoir of respect and affection for him personally.

Mac Thornberry has made a huge decision in the wake of a raucous political climate.

Is a GOP retirement announcement coming from the Panhandle?

The Texas Tribune published a story on Nov. 28, 2018 that speculated about the possibility of several retirement announcements coming from Texas’s substantial Republican congressional majority.

One section of the story said this: ” … many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021.”

Thornberry no longer is chairman of the panel. He currently serves as ranking GOP member, which gives him some clout on the panel. Still, it’s not the same as chairing it.

I want to defend my former congressman on one point. He campaigned for the office in 1994 while supporting the Contract With America, which contained a provision that called for limiting the number of terms House members could serve. Thornberry never said he would impose a personal limit on the terms he would serve representing the 13th Congressional District.

He has voted in favor of constitutional amendments in the House; the amendment proposals always have failed.

Twenty-four years later, Thornberry has emerged as one of Texas’s senior congressional lawmakers.

I, too, wonder whether he might pack it in after this term. I’ve speculated on it publicly in this blog.

I don’t talk to Thornberry these days, although I still believe we have a good personal relationship. I rarely have supported personally his policy pronouncements during his years in the House. I’ll admit, though, that my position as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News required me to write public statements in support of Thornberry against my personal beliefs; hey, it’s part of the job of writing for someone else.

The way I look at it, a Mac Thornberry retirement likely wouldn’t result in the 13th District flipping to a Democrat. The GOP majority in the Texas Legislature has created a rock-solid Republican district that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Metroplex.

If there’s a retirement announcement coming from Mac Thornberry, you can consider me as someone who won’t be surprised.

Is it Rep. Thornberry’s turn to announce retirement?

About a half-dozen Republican congressmen and women have announced their intention to leave Congress at the end of their current term.

Some of those GOP lawmakers serve in reliably Republican congressional districts, so their re-election chances really are not in jeopardy.

My thoughts now turn to the man who was my congressman during my many years living in Amarillo, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon.

Is it fair to ask whether he’s going to bail at the end of this term?

Hey, I just did. So there you have it.

Thornberry took office the same week I reported for duty at the Amarillo Globe-News. That was in early January 1995. I have kidded him over the years that we kind of “grew up together.” He served on Rep. Larry Combest’s staff before defeating incumbent Rep. Bill Sarpalius in that landmark Contract With America election in 1994 that saw Republicans take control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

He ascended a couple of terms ago to the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. Then Democrats took back control of the House in 2018, relegating Thornberry to the role of “ranking member.”

He’s been in the House now for 24 years. I have disagreed frequently with his policy decisions or the votes he has cast. I say that while acknowledging that I like him personally. We had a good professional relationship and I always thought I worked well with his staff.

However, many Republicans in the House are finding it difficult to legislate in this Age of Trump. The president is untrustworthy and I am left to wonder whether his capriciousness wears thin even on those legislators who have supported him and his agenda.

That well could be you, Mac Thornberry.

If Thornberry decides he has had enough, I certainly would understand. Rest assured, too, that Thornberry is one of those politicians who represents a rock-solid Republican congressional district. The 13th Congressional District isn’t going to turn Democratic.

I don’t live in the 13th any longer, but it’s difficult to turn away from a politician with whom I share some history.

SCOTUS says POTUS can use defense funds to build The Wall

This judicial ruling might raise a hackle or two among some congressional Republicans. I now will explain.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 4 that it’s all right to spend Defense Department funds to build The Wall along our southern border, giving Donald Trump a victory in his ongoing fight with those who oppose The Wall.

Why the GOP objection? Get a load of this: When he was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Mac Thornberry — my former congressman — criticized openly any effort to redirect appropriated Defense money to build The Wall. Thornberry said wall construction is not part of the military’s mission. He opposed any effort to turn our troops into construction workers.

A lower court had said any such move would violate federal law.

I happen to agree with the lower court.

Congress appropriates Defense Department funds to pay for military missions. Trump has said the immigration “crisis” on our southern border is a national security matter. Thus, he is willing to divert those funds to build The Wall he believes is necessary to curb illegal immigration.

I am wondering how Thornberry, who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas, is going to respond to the high court’s ruling that pokes the former committee chairman in the eye.