Tag Archives: PBS

Sen. Cruz: 2020 election a ‘toss-up’

So now it’s U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz weighing in on Donald J. Trump’s re-election chances. Has the Cruz Missile discovered something the rest of us don’t know? No. But he’s blathering anyway.

Cruz appeared on PBS’s “Firing Line” and told the host, Margaret Hoover, that the president “absolutely” could lose his re-election bid. Well, duh! Do ya think?

Cruz also said he doesn’t believe Democrats will nominate a centrist, such as, say, former Vice President Joe Biden. They will nominate a lefty in the mold of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris or Sen. Bernie Sanders. He said the far left of the party is calling the shots and will turn away from a candidate deemed to be too, oh, “moderate.”

He also believes the left is so enraged at Trump’s presidency that they’ll turn out in staggering numbers.

None of this is really a big-time flash. Cruz well might be correct that Trump’s chances are a big dicey at the moment. However, we’re talking about the here and now. The future could reveal something quite different.

It pains me terribly to acknowledge this, but Donald Trump was considered a joke when he announced his candidacy prior to the 2016 Republican primary season. Then he knocked off all those challengers one by one; Sen. Cruz was one of them.

Then he got nominated and ran against Hillary Rodham Clinton, a candidate perceived to be infinitely more qualified. Then all hell broke loose. Hillary lost to The Donald.

Ted Cruz’s prognostication today, therefore, means next to nothing.

Still, it is a bit scintillating to ponder that a former Trump antagonist who’s turned into one of the president’s most ardent allies would consider the POTUS to be in some jeopardy.

If only …

Remembering a thrilling era of adventure

My sappiness came through once again this evening.

I just watched a PBS broadcast, the third part of a series called “Chasing the Moon.” It told the story of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the lunar surface, an event that occurred 50 years ago this month.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped off a space ship onto the moon’s surface and took what Armstrong called “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

My eyes got wet. I swallowed hard. I found myself smiling at the TV as I relived the images we had seen a half-century ago.

I remembered how I felt at the time in the summer of 1969. I felt proud. I was thrilled that we had kept President Kennedy’s pledge to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. The president didn’t live to see it happen, but the program proceeded even after the young president’s shocking death.

I do wish we could regain that spirit of adventure. I fear we have lost it forever. Indeed, as the PBS program noted, interest in the moon missions began to dissipate almost immediately after Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins finished their final parade in the final foreign capital. They were treated as the heroes they were.

Then the money dried up. Sure, we conducted a few more missions, including that harrowing Apollo 13 mission that came too close to tragedy.

Maybe that thrill will come back to us if and when we prepare to launch humans to Mars.

Watching the PBS broadcast tonight, though, reminded me of how I used to swell with pride at our technological know-how and the courage of the individuals we would hurtle into outer space.

I am hoping to feel it again.

Time of My Life, Part 35: This was one memorable encounter

News of the Beaumont Enterprise building heading to the “For Sale” block brings back a flood of memories of great times there and many memorable encounters I experienced while toiling in the Golden Triangle of Texas.

I want to share one of them here. It takes a bit to explain, so bear with me.

I was walking across the newsroom one day, heading for the third-floor elevator. I noticed a gentleman standing next to desk occupied by our newsroom secretary, the legendary Marie Richard, who was on the phone at that moment. I walked past the gentleman, then did a bit of a double-take.

I stood by the elevator, pushed the call button and waited. I then leaned around the corner, got Marie’s attention and whispered — apparently in a “stage whisper” sort of voice — “Is that Jim Lehrer?”, the longtime co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS.

Marie shrugged silently, but then the man standing at her desk said, “Yes. It is.”

Oh, brother. I was, um, a bit embarrassed. I walked to Marie’s desk, extended my hand and introduced myself to one of the great broadcast journalists of his era.

Lehrer then began to tell me why he was standing in the Beaumont Enterprise newsroom. He needed to go the newspaper library, he said, to do research on a book he was writing about when he lived for a time in Beaumont as a youngster.

We walked back to the library and spent the better part of the next hour or so talking about this and/or that. I learned that Lehrer attended middle school and then French High School in Beaumont, that his father drove a bus (either Greyhound or Trailways, I cannot remember) and that Beaumont was one of many stops the Lehrer family made when young Jim was coming of age.

We hit it off well … I believe.

He wrote the book. I believe it was a memoir titled “A Bus of My Own,” published in 1992.

Lehrer returned the next year to be the keynote speaker at the Press Club of Southeast Texas annual luncheon. We shook hands at that event, too.

And, yes. Jim Lehrer remembered this chump editorialist who embarrassed himself at the elevator.

Fourth of July celebration to ‘star’ Donald Trump? Really?

This can’t be happening, but I guess it is. When I first saw reports of this upcoming event celebrating the nation’s independence, I thought it might be a phony, made-up gossip item concocted by some Internet troll.

Turns out it’s real. Donald Trump appears intent on making the annual national Fourth of July celebration — which historically has been a non-partisan/non-political event — into something akin to a political rally.

The Washington Post reports that the president is moving ahead with plans to move the fireworks display from the National Mall to West Potomac Park. Then there’s this: He wants to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

According to Mother Jones: The traditional event has been staged for more than 50 years, and has long included fireworks on the mall organized by the National Park Service, as well as a concert near the Capitol featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and a lineup of major musical stars.

The national event has been televised for many of those years by PBS.

That isn’t apparently going to happen this year. Trump appears intent on inserting himself into the celebration. Only the Good Lord Almighty knows what the president is going to say when he takes the stage in front of President Lincoln’s statue.

I get that Trump is a proud American. However, to use the high profile of his office to promote himself — which appears to be a high probability — at an event choreographed to honor the nation is a reprehensible act of partisan politics.

Trump reportedly got the idea at a Bastille Day celebration in Paris. He wanted to stage a huge military parade in Washington, D.C., to commemorate Veterans Day, but that idea has been put off for at least a year; its cost is, um, prohibitive.

The Interior Department calls the Fourth of July event a “Salute to America.” Does anyone really believe, though, that this president is going to allow such a salute to occur without taking credit for his effort to “make America great again”?

Neither do I.

As the Post reports: The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition.

Good grief!

Biden should channel G.W. Bush?

Mark Shields is well-known to watchers of PBS’s “NewsHour” as a regular commentator and pundit who, along with his pal David Brooks, regularly assesses the week’s political goings-on.

Shields had some good advice for Vice President Joe Biden: Don’t talk too much when trying to explain yourself over questions regarding how you “invade others’ space” by getting too touch-feely.

Biden entered the 2020 presidential race amid questions and complaints from those who said he was a bit too, um, ebullient in his treatment of them.

Even now, the former VP tends to over-talk himself while explaining his actions. Shields had a reasonable option for Biden to consider: Model your response after former President George W. Bush’s manner in dealing with some of his own past behavior.

Shields noted (and it’s in the video attached to this blog post) that when Bush ran for president in 2000, he was dogged by questions from the media about his drunk driving arrest, how he drank too much alcohol and about how he found religion and sobriety at the age of 40.

Bush developed a pat answer, Shields said, which was: “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.” 

Shields said that the future president recited that mantra with such regularity and frequency that reporters got tired of asking him about it. The issue effectively faded away during the course of the 2000 campaign.

Good advice to follow? Oh, sure . . . but only if the media still lack the staying power to keep harping on an issue that can be explained in a single sentence or two.

Beginning a new gig

I am proud to announce that I am starting with yet another blank slate. So . . . I believe I will announce it.

Beginning next week I will be given the opportunity to share some thoughts, musings (some might call it spewage) with readers of a website associated with a university in Commerce, Texas.

Texas A&M University/Commerce operates a public radio station on its campus. KETR-FM is its call sign. The station’s website is going to include an essay from yours truly. It will be the first of what I hope is many such essays.

KETR news director Mark Haslett, a friend of mine from Amarillo who moved to Commerce some years ago, is giving me considerable latitude to write about whatever moves me in the moment.

This is an exciting new opportunity for me. You see, even though I have retired from full-time journalism, I continue to have this itch to string sentences together. I cannot stop commenting on issues of the day and the individuals who give them life.

So that’s what I will do for KETR-FM.

This isn’t my first post-newspaper gig. I wrote for a time for Panhandle PBS, contributing features for its website; Panhandle PBS is associated with Amarillo College and is the public TV station that serves the Texas Panhandle. Then along came KFDA NewsChannel 10 in Amarillo, which offered me an opportunity initially to write features about issues that had been previously reported; they called it “Whatever Happened To . . . ”

Both of those gigs ended after a time, giving more opportunities to concentrate on this blog, which I have enjoyed writing for about a decade.

Now comes this latest venture.

Given that my wife and I have now settled in Princeton, we live in an area covered by KETR-FM. My goal over time is to learn enough about this part of Collin County to contribute essays on local happenings, growth trends, possible problem areas associated with the growth that is accelerating rapidly in this part of the Metroplex.

Until then I have been given plenty of room to roam. So, I’ll take my friend Mark Haslett up on his offer.

Here we go.

Mr. Rogers ought to show the GOP the way

A lawyer, Chris Perri, has written a fascinating essay for the Texas Tribune that pays a wonderful tribute to the late Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister who became a public television superstar.

According to Perri, Mr. Rogers was a lifelong Republican, a fact that surprised the author of the essay. Why the surprise?

Perri writes: Because the values he was espousing – of compassion, human dignity, radical acceptance, emotional health and funding for public broadcasting – struck me as, well, liberal. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s because I identify as progressive and share these values. But these aren’t Republican or Democrat but American values.

Yet right now Republican leaders aren’t upholding these shared American values. When we see children ripped from their parents at the border, refugees fleeing violence shut out of our country and corporations being awarded more rights than human beings, it’s hard to believe that the Republican Party of today is upholding our values. Mr. Rogers would have been appalled by the developmental trauma inflicted on children by many of these extreme policies.

How about that?

Might there be a lesson to be handed down here? Of course there is.

Rogers has been highlighted in a documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that’s drawing some good critical reviews.

Rogers, who played host on the PBS series “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood,” was the paragon of kindness, compassion and understanding.

Perri makes no bones about his partisan leanings. He once ran as a Democrat for a congressional seat. He lost. The bigger issue is the surprise he learned about an iconic figure’s background.

As Perri has noted, Fred Rogers’s views don’t belong to liberals or Democrats or anyone of a particular political stripe. They are quintessentially American.

I hope today’s Republican Party will start paying attention and toss aside the ongoing rage coming from the mouth of the Republican in Chief who happens to be the president of the United States.

Take a look at Chris Perri’s essay here.

I hope you, too, will learn something. I sure did.

Recalling a great discussion among friends

This video is among my all-time favorite public television news broadcasts. It features a PBS NewsHour discussion with the late U.S. Sens. George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

A liberal (McGovern) and a conservative (Goldwater) talked political differences between them and sought to put the 1988 presidential campaign into some sort of civil and proper perspective.

The moderator was Jim Lehrer, a fellow whose acquaintance I made while I was working in Beaumont many years ago. More on that perhaps at another time.

What Sens. McGovern and Goldwater sought to do in this discussion is delineate the differences between their respective philosophies. What is so remarkable is how much common ground these two old men had found and how they believed they found it when they served together in the U.S. Senate.

How did they manage such commonality? Well, they didn’t talk about it in their PBS interview, but I have a theory.

Their common respect was forged in their common history and their shared sacrifice during a time of dire peril for the United States.

McGovern and Goldwater served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. They both served heroically during that conflict. They brought their commonality together when they ended up in the Senate together. McGovern represented South Dakota, Goldwater represented Arizona.

They were far from the only two men of disparate philosophies to forge friendships in the Congress during their time together. I think often of how Sen. Bob Dole developed a unbreakable bond with Sen. Daniel Inouye; Dole is a Kansas conservative, Inouye was a Hawaii liberal. They, too, became brothers in arms in World War II, both suffering grievous battlefield injuries and going through rehab together. Their common suffering became their bond and it overrode whatever political differences they had while serving in the Senate.

Vietnam produced similar friendships that transcended partisan politics. I’ll cite two examples: Sens. John McCain and John Kerry both served with valor and distinction during the Vietnam War. McCain is a Republican; Kerry is a Democrat. They both worked in tandem to allow the United States and Vietnam to establish diplomatic ties long after the end of that terrible and divisive conflict.

These men all knew the meaning of sacrifice for the sake of the country they all loved.

As George McGovern told Barry Goldwater during that 15-minute PBS discussion, they have much more in common now than they did in the old days. Yes, but the common experience they brought with them to their shared public service taught them to respect the other’s point of view, that the “enemy” didn’t sit in the same legislative chamber.

No plans to ID the latest shooting suspect

David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative columnists.

He writes for the New York Times and is a regular weekly contributor to PBS’s “NewsHour” and can be heard on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” evening news broadcast.

He said something today on NPR I want to endorse in a full-throated fashion. Brooks said in a discussion with E.J. Dionne, the Washington Post columnist, that he dislikes it when the media identify individuals suspected of mass shootings.

I agree. Wholeheartedly.

Thus, I won’t identify the young man arrested today after the Santa Fe High School massacre near Galveston. I didn’t ID the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter, or the Parkland, Fla., gunman, or the Las Vegas sniper, or the Orland, Fla., terrorist. And on and on …

Brooks’s rationale for asking that the media not ID these individuals is that he believes giving these individuals publicity emboldens future madmen from committing copy cat crimes.

Bingo, Mr. Brooks!

I’m in your corner.

Yes, I have posted the names of some of history’s more notorious assassins: Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray. Of those three, only Sirhan is still living. I see these individuals in a bit of a different light than the mass murderers who commit the heinous crimes that have become all too common place in contemporary society.

I accept fully David Brooks’s reason for seeking to refuse to give these alleged losers any more publicity than they deserve.

Which is none. Zero. Zip.

Did POTUS really say this … and what does he mean?

Donald J. Trump played host to members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams.

He said this, referring to the Paralympians, according to PBS: During an event with Team USA Olympians and Paralympians at the White House, President Trump said, “What happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me. And I watched — it’s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.”

A “little tough to watch too much”? He said that, adding that he “watched as much as I could”?

I am not going to read the president’s mind on this. I merely sit out here in Flyover Country, reading statements that come from this guy. I am left to wonder if I am able to interpret correctly his statements.

My interpretation here is that he had difficulty watching athletes with impairments that might sideline them. If that’s the case, then how can the president actually say such a thing to athletes who have excelled beyond measure?