Tag Archives: Obama administration

Let’s call it ‘Environmental Destruction Agency’

Scott Pruitt long has been known as a friend of the oil industry. He denies the existence of climate change. Pruitt is no friend of the environment.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He puts this guy, the former Oklahoma attorney general, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the EPA boss is showing his chops, as if there was any doubt. He is revoking protection of an Alaska salmon fishery, one of the most valuable in the world. He has met with a mining company executive who wants to start mining within the bounds of that fishery.

I hereby propose we rename the EPA. Let’s call it the Environmental Destruction Agency. Shall we?

The Bristol Bay Watershed was placed under federal protection by the Obama administration, which concluded that any mining or other industrial activity would destroy the fish habitat that is so valuable to fishing interests, sportsmen and women and consumers who enjoy the taste of salmon.

Barack Obama leaves office. Donald Trump takes over. Then the new president installs this guy Pruitt, who has met with Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, a mining outfit that wants to work within the watershed.

Pruitt continues to play footsie with interests that have little interest in environmental protection.

I’m quite sure Collier never would admit to wanting to destroy the fishery or the watershed. The Obama administration took three years of review to decide to set the watershed aside. It determined that any mining within the watershed would destroy permanently a resource upon which so many people rely.

Pruitt, though, appears to have decided that protecting the watershed isn’t in the national interest.

How about changing the name of the EPA to the Environmental Destruction Agency?

Sad.

Sessions needs to talk once more to Senate Judiciary panel

That’s it? The U.S. attorney general won’t have to testify any more to the Senate Judiciary Committee?

That’s the decision of Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who said he has no plans to call AG Jeff Sessions back to Capitol Hill to explain himself.

It seems to me that the attorney general has some serious ‘splainin to do.

He told Judiciary Committee members during his confirmation hearing that he didn’t have any meetings with Russian government officials. Then, later, he thought differently about it said, yep, he did talk to the Russian ambassador to the United States.

This ought to be fleshed out a little bit.

What did he discuss? Did he talk to him about big things, such as, oh, whether the Russians were trying to influence the presidential election? Or how about whether the incoming Donald J. Trump administration would take back the sanctions that the Obama administration had leveled against the Russians for — that’s right — trying to influence the election.

Or … maybe it was just a casual conversation. “How’s the weather in Moscow in these days, Mr. Ambassador?”

Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the Judiciary panel members, wants Sessions to come back to The Hill to testify.

I think he should, too. Chairman Grassley surely cannot believe he’s heard all there is to hear from the attorney general.

Someone’s actually listening in Trump administration

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions did the right thing today: He has recused himself from any investigations involving the president of the United States and the Russian government.

As the late, great New York Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen would say: How ’bout that!

Sessions has come under withering attack over whether the Justice Department should be involved in these probes about whether the president and the Russian government had any improper or illegal contact during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The AG clearly was not the right man to lead such a probe. He’s a friend and close political ally of Donald J. Trump; he served on the president’s national security team during the campaign; he nominated him at the GOP convention this past summer.

No one could — or should — trust this AG to perform the kind of investigation that these questions about Trump require. He has backed out, to which I say: Good for you, Mr. Attorney General.

“I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign,” Sessions said at a hastily called press conference today.

Please note that he said he has “recused myself.” Is that good enough? I hope it is. I hope his recusal means that he won’t have any communication — not even in private — with the career prosecutors who might be working on this case … for the time being.

A better solution to this conflict of interest issue would be for the Justice Department to hand this matter over to an independent counsel, someone with zero ties to the administration. Congressional Democrats want that to happen; so, too, do a number of key congressional Republicans, which gives this notion some staying power.

It cannot be disputed with any degree of seriousness that the Russians sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Trump has sought to disparage and discredit our intelligence community by saying it is wrong to draw that conclusion. His reaction has been disgraceful and disrespectful in the extreme.

The Kremlin denies any such wrongdoing. Show of hands: Who believes anything that comes out of the Kremlin? Me, neither.

The question many of us have is whether the Trump campaign team communicated with Russians before Trump took power, seeking to apply some leverage in lessening the sanctions that the Obama administration had placed on Russia over its interference with our electoral process.

I believe in my heart that such action could be defined as, let’s see, treasonous. We need to know what the top man — that would be Donald Trump — knew, when he knew it and whether he was a party to any of it.

‘Town hall meetings are great … ‘

I want to discuss a brief, concise and pithy message that popped into my Twitter feed this morning.

It comes from my state senator, Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican. It says: “Town Hall meetings are a great way to report to and interact with the public we serve. I’ve had 374. At least 37 planned for Q3 2017.”

Bear with me as I parse this statement for just a moment.

Town hall meetings have become something of a story in the past few days as members of Congress have taken their post-Presidents Day break, returned home — in many instances — to meet with their bosses.

They’ve discovered that the folks back home are none too happy with them. They don’t want their “employees,” those members of Congress, to mess with the Affordable Care Act.

Some members of Congress — such as Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon — have decided to skip the town hall meetings altogether.

Thornberry is meeting instead with local business leaders, trying to assess the impact of federal regulations on their businesses. One of those leaders told me this week the discussion dealt with the difficulty of the rules handed down by the Obama administration and that Thornberry has given them assurances that he would work to loosen government’s regulatory reins.

Thornberry’s Amarillo meeting was a friendly event. I know … it’s shocking, shocking.

It’s fair to wonder if state Sen. Seliger would believe so strongly in the value of town hall meetings if he were forced to face down the beast that’s been awakened by the Republican-controlled Congress’s desire to repeal something that folks need.

Yes, Kel, these events “are a great to  way interact with the people we serve,” which brings me to another critical point.

These government officials do work for us, you and me. Whether we cast our votes for them or for someone else, they answer to us. We pay their salaries, provide them with their staff, pay for their public transportation, their stationery, their telecommunications devices; I almost wrote “typewriters,” then remembered that we don’t use typewriters any longer.

To that end, it is important to remind these individuals of that indisputable, irrefutable fact. The crowds at these town meetings across the land — in “red” and “blue” congressional districts alike — are doing that very thing. Good for them!

Resigned, fired; tomato, tom-ah-to

The “resignation” of national security adviser Michael Flynn has taken a curious turn.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today that Donald J. Trump’s trust in Flynn had been waning. Therefore, when questions arose about Flynn’s supposed conversations with Russian government officials, the decline in the president’s trust in Flynn accelerated.

Spicer said the president asked for and received Flynn’s resignation.

Asked for and received …

That tells me Flynn essentially was canned, booted, tossed, fired from his job.

Why be coy about this? Does the president not want to force Flynn to put “fired from national security adviser post” on his resume, as if a future employer won’t know the circumstances of his departure from a job he held for less than a month?

It’s a rhetorical game they play at this level of government.

Whatever the case, this matter isn’t over. We still have some questions to resolve.

Did Flynn tell the president about the conversations with the Russians as he was having them? Did the president dispatch Flynn to talk to the Russians about those pesky sanctions the Obama administration had imposed? Did the ex-adviser lie to the vice president? Did the VP know about the lie and did he inform the president — at the time?

OK, so the president sought Flynn’s resignation. I am going to presume there was an “or else” attached to the request.

Trading with the enemy: Trump steps on his own toes

cuba-trump

Reports that Donald J. Trump did business with the hated communists in Cuba seems aimed directly at one of the last curiosities of this presidential campaign.

The Republican nominee for president has been winning over those staunch GOP conservatives who just can’t cotton to the idea of letting the Cuban commies off the hook for their repression.

Yet now come these reports that Trump’s business enterprises traded with the Cubans long before the Obama administration decided to lift the decades-old economic embargo against the government run by Fidel Castro.

How does that play with the staunchly anti-communist Cuban-American community in, say, Florida … where Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton are fighting furiously for the state’s 29 electoral votes?

One would think it wouldn’t play well at all.

One would think …

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/report-that-donald-trump-did-business-in-cuba-ups-the-ante-in-florida/ar-BBwSAK9?li=BBnb7Kz

According to the New York Times: “The question of whether Mr. Trump sought business opportunities in Fidel Castro’s Cuba is explosive not only because of how loathed the Castro government is among Cuban-Americans in the Miami area, but also because Mr. Trump has taken such a hard line against the Obama administration’s policy of normalizing relations with the island nation.

“As far back as 1999, in public at least, Mr. Trump called efforts to restore relations with Cuba ‘pure lunacy.’”

Pure lunacy? Reports suggest, though, that Trump spent $68,000 on a business trip to Cuba to explore business opportunities.

Trump, quite naturally, denies that the trip had anything to do with business development. Sure thing, dude. He’s also denied a lot of things despite being seen and heard — on the record — saying the very things he denies saying.“

Will this enrage Florida’s still-potent Cuban-American political community enough to turn them against Trump?

“This adds to the long list of actions and statements that raise doubts about his temperament and qualification to be president and commander in chief,” Clinton said Thursday.

If it’s lunacy to trade with the Cuban commies, then only a lunatic would do so. Is that a correct assumption, Donald Trump?

It’s just about the ‘worst case’ regarding those e-mails

hillary-emails

The worst case hasn’t yet arrived with regard to the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy.

However, it’s a lot closer than the presumed Democratic Party presidential frontrunner would like.

I won’t yet call this matter a “scandal.” It would elevate to that level if we found out that the classified e-mails that went out on the former secretary of state’s personal server got into the wrong hands.

The Obama administration today revealed that 22 e-mail messages that went through Clinton’s server have been labeled “top secret.” Clinton had said she didn’t knowingly send out sensitive material on the server.

The administration now says it won’t release the e-mails to the public because — that’s right — they are top secret!

We won’t be allowed to see what’s in them, which is just fine by me.

Most troubling, though, is that the e-mail messages very well could have gotten into the hands of those seeking to do serious harm to this nation.

We’ll need to know the truth about how those messages traveled through cyberspace containing the highly sensitive national security information.

Of course, the political ramifications of this revelation ramp up the stakes for Monday’s Iowa caucuses, where Clinton is locked in a tight battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is running a distant third, but suddenly he emerges as a potential spoiler.

Clinton is beginning to suffer from some trust issues with voters. The administration’s acknowledgment that the e-mails carried top secret information into potentially unsecured locations out there into the Internet universe could do serious harm to a candidacy once seen as unstoppable.

 

Will the VP stay with the fight once he leaves office?

Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

President Obama made a stirring choice Tuesday night.

He turned to Vice President Joe Biden and declared that he would be “in charge of mission control” while leading a concerted effort to rid the world of cancer. The vice president will be the point man to find a cure for the dreaded disease.

It was a poignant moment for one major reason: Joe Biden’s son, Beau, died this past year of brain cancer; the younger Biden’s death resonated around the world as we watched the vice president and his family grieve openly — but with dignity and grace.

So it makes sense for the president to put him in charge of such a noble effort.

However …

Barack Obama’s got just about one year left as president; Biden’s time as vice president expires at the same time.

Will this team of researchers find a cure between now and then? Probably not.

So, will the vice president remain as head of the team once the Obama administration leaves office? My hope is that whoever becomes the next president — Democrat or Republican — will ask Biden to remain on the job for as long as he is able.

Joe Biden can become a serious force of nature in the effort to raise money to conduct the research needed to find this cure. Granted, it’s not as if health institutions, think tanks, research hospitals and universities haven’t done a lot already to find a cure.

Having the vice president of the United States take the point on that effort shouldn’t end once he hands his office keys to whoever succeeds him.

Too early to judge Iran nuke deal

Listen to the mainstream media on both ends — conservative and liberal — and the Iran nuclear deal is either the precursor to World War III or the agreement that will bring a comprehensive peace to a region that’s never known it.

Fox News this morning was having its usual fun blasting the “liberal mainstream media” for gushing all over the deal that seeks to block Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon. The caption on the screen as the “Fox and Friends” talking heads were blathering on noted “liberal bias” in the media’s coverage of the agreement. That stuff just slays me, given that Fox never recognizes its own conservative bias.

Whatever.

I’m not going to draw any firm conclusions about the deal just yet.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/obama-team-split-over-next-steps-with-iran-120130.html?hp=lc1_4

I remain cautiously hopeful that the deal will produce the desired result. One of the Obama administration talking points is that it “blocks all pathways” for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Israeli officials — led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — say it’s dangerous in the extreme, as it doesn’t prevent Iran from making mischief in the Middle East.

The economic sanctions? They’ll be lifted over time, giving Iran needed money to rebuild its shattered economy — which was made that way by the sanctions.

What if Iran cheats? What if the Iranians don’t do what they say? The sanctions return.

Is the deal perfect? No. Is it the disaster that congressional Republicans predict it will become? No.

The mainstream media — all of it all along the political spectrum — need to take a breath and listen intently to the debate that’s about to unfold.

Assuming, of course, that the debate isn’t overtaken by hysterical politicians.

 

Cruz to county clerks: Sure, go ahead, break the law

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is running hard for president of the United States and he’s now taking every opportunity to have his voice heard.

Let’s take the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage across the nation.

What’s the junior Republican Texas senator’s take on it: It ought to be OK for county clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples if it violates their religious beliefs.

Let’s hold on here, young man.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/27/cruz-clerks-should-be-able-opt-out-gay-marriage-li/

County clerks in Texas take an oath to uphold the law. It doesn’t offer any qualifiers, that they can opt out of fulfilling that oath if their religious faith stands in the way.

Texas county clerks do have an option if they simply cannot authorize a marriage license to a gay couple. They can resign their public office. Indeed, when New Mexico legalized gay marriage this past year, the Roosevelt County clerk did exactly that; she quit rather than do something with which her religious faith did not believe.

“Ours is a country that was built by men and women fleeing religious oppression,” Cruz said in an interview with The Texas Tribune, “and you look at the foundation of this country — it was to seek out a new land where anyone of us could worship the Lord God Almighty with all of our hearts, minds and souls, without government getting in the way.”

Without government getting in the way? My goodness, senator. We all are able to do all those things. We can go to church, to synagogue, to the mosque — anywhere we wish — and pray to whichever deity in which we believe. The Supreme Court decision handed down this week say not a single word about any of that.

It merely affirms that the 14th Amendment guarantees all U.S. citizens the right to “equal protection” under the law. Thus, they are entitled to marry whomever they wish.

I have no clue what the state’s county clerks are going to do, which of them will adhere to the law and which of them will declare that they just cannot in good conscience issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Those who refuse will be breaking the law they took an oath to uphold.

It’s interesting to me that Sen. Cruz keeps tossing the word “lawless” around to describe the Supreme Court, the Obama administration — and virtually anyone who disagrees with his world view.

Yet, he’s seeking a way for county clerks to evade the law. That’s my definition of “lawlessness.”