Tag Archives: US Constitution

Mr. Sam knew his place

BONHAM, Texas — The plaque pictured here offers an important civics lesson. It tells of the late Sam Rayburn’s role as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and also as a rank-and-file member of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The great Mr. Sam said he didn’t work “under” eight presidents, but that he worked “with” them. Listen up! Pay attention!

Too many presidents over many decades have fancied themselves as bigger than their office, occupying an office bigger and more powerful and meaningful than the other two co-equal branches of government.

Yes, Donald Trump, I refer to you as well.

Rayburn served in the House with eight presidents, the first of whom was Woodrow Wilson; the last of them was John F. Kennedy. Rayburn died in November 1961.

He was the Man of the House, even when he wasn’t pounding the gavel as its speaker.

I came back to the Rayburn Library and Museum today to show my visiting brother-in-law — who is quite a student of history — this place my wife (his sister) and I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I didn’t see the plaque on our first visit. I feel compelled to offer these few words as a tribute to the understanding that Speaker Rayburn had about Congress and its role as a partner in the making of laws that govern all Americans. He was a student of government and knew he was duty bound to work within the system, reaching across the partisan divide, to find common ground in search of the common good.

There is a huge lesson that needs to be learned in the present day. Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, declared in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair the things that he said were ailing the country. Uh, Mr. President, good government is most definitely a team sport, requiring all branches of government — even the judiciary — to play a role in the crafting and interpretation of law.

Sam Rayburn knew what has been lost on occasion in the present day. Legislators dig in against the president, who digs in against the men and women who serve in Congress. Nothing gets done. They all seek to declare political victory, when in reality they all fail.

Given that we have only one president at a time, the onus for failure — at least in my mind — falls on the doofus in the White House at the moment.

I cannot stop thinking at this moment how the great Sam Rayburn would react to the bullying and showboating he would witness from down the street at the White House.

My guess? He wouldn’t stand for it.

In defense of outspoken critics of U.S. policy

You want a cynical view of politics, of government, of the world and those who take a different view of issues than many “mainstream” Americans?

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

The president’s plea — which was heeded — to keep two freshman congresswomen from entering Israel personifies the cynicism that has infected his own notions and the thoughts of those who comprise his political “base.”

Trump says that Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan “hate America.” He says they “hate Jews,” and they “hate Israel.” They happen to be Muslim Americans. Omar emigrated to this country from Somalia when she was 12; Tlaib is a native-born American. Omar was naturalized; Tlaib is as American as I am, or is as American as Donald Trump.

They are outspoken in their world view. They are entitled under the U.S. Constitution they took an oath to defend upon taking office in Congress to speak their minds. They have every right to criticize U.S. government policy. Does that make them “haters” of the country? Of course not!

What’s more, let’s ponder this notion. Why would anyone who “hates” the United States run for a federal office and then take an oath that requires them to protect and defend the nation and the Constitution against those who would do us all harm?

We hear this canard constantly, starting with Donald Trump. It filters down to this core of supporters, who continue to harp on this idiotic notion that Reps. Omar, Tlaib and others of their ilk “hate” the country they were duly elected to serve.

Voltaire once said that while he opposes what one might say, he defends their right to say it.

So it should be with members of Congress who might speak intemperately at times. If that’s how they choose to express themselves, they have every right under our Constitution to have their voices heard.

Stop shifting the blame, Mr. POTUS

For crying out loud, Mr. President. You deliver a decent talk this morning about the need to condemn “white supremacy” and to battle the scourge of hate across the land.

Then you put something like this out there. The Twitter message blames the media, “fake news,” for contributing “greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.”

C’mon! Knock it the hell off, Mr. President!

The media have reported your words, your fiery rhetoric, your declarations that “Mexicans bring crime” to the United States, your insistence on banning entry into the country from residents of certain Muslim countries, your declaration that Africa and parts of Latin America comprise “sh**hole” countries.

Are you saying the media should ignore these things? That the media shouldn’t do its job and report on what flies out of your mouth, or circulates through the Twitterverse?

Mr. President, you do not appreciate a single thing about what makes America great. One symbol of our nation’s greatness, sir, is the existence of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees a free press should be free of government interference or coercion or, dare I say it … bullying from the president of the United States.

2nd Amendment serves as barrier to ‘slippery slope’

Now that we’re talking once again openly and relatively urgently — once again! — about gun control legislation, I want to offer an argument that I believe doesn’t get as much attention as it should.

Nearly 30 people are dead after massacres in El Paso and Dayton. Donald Trump has called for “urgent action” to stem gun violence. The nation once again is horrified at the actions of two individuals motivated apparently by vastly different reasons, but whose actions have brought untold misery and heartache to us all.

I believe in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I have read it zillions of times. Although I believe it is worded awkwardly and can be interpreted in any number of ways, it does say that the right to bear arms is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens.

Does that constitutional guarantee act as a barrier against what some might call a “slippery slope” argument opposing efforts to “register” firearms owners? I believe it does.

I’ve heard a bit of social media chatter about how gun registration necessarily leads to “confiscation” of firearms. I want to shoot that argument down — pun very much intended.

The Second Amendment’s language, in my view, prohibits confiscation. Thus, to allow the government to confiscate firearms would require repealing or amending the Second Amendment. Does anyone with half a brain believe that is going to happen, even in the wake of this deadly back-to-back outburst over the weekend? Of course they do not.

Therefore, I maintain my belief that there are legislative remedies available to help stem this epidemic of gun violence. Universal background checks is a start. There might be a registration component to consider as well.

As for the “slippery slope,” the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment acts as an impenetrable barrier to prevent us from sliding too far down that slope. It doesn’t preclude wise men and women in government from doing what they can to legislate a cure for the scourge that is killing too many innocent people.

Federal bench: to date the silent issue of 2020 campaign

Let’s see, we’ve had two rounds of Democratic Party presidential primary debates, with 20 candidates beating the hell out of each other over a number of issues and, yes, drawing some blood from the Republican president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

I’m waiting, though, for discussion about what the Democrats plan to do about one of the serious consequences of the 2020 election: appointing judges to federal benches all over the nation.

This is where we learn about how “elections have consequences.”

Barely halfway through the president’s term in office, he has been able to seat two new justices to the nation’s highest court. Trump has solidified — so far — the court’s conservative majority. He replaced one conservative icon, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, with another reliable conservative jurist, Neil Gorsuch; he put another conservative on the court, Brett Kavanaugh, to succeed moderate/swing justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired.

He’s already sprinkled his brand of judicial conservatism — however he defines it — on federal courts across the nation.

Count me as a voter who does not want to see the federal bench populated by right-wing zealots shrouded in black robes. Trump has promised to carry through with that threat/promise, in so many words.

I am waiting for Democrats to speak openly about the judicial appointment issue as they talk to and about each other during the primary campaign. I want some assurance that they will look for men and women of impeccable integrity, who have no personal “history” to which they must answer and who understand fully how to interpret the U.S. Constitution without putting a rigid right-wing spin on what they think the framers intended when they wrote the document more than two centuries ago.

States that have long-term governors understand the importance of these appointments. Rick Perry served as Texas governor longer than anyone else in state history and he appointed more judges to state courts than anyone else as well. Gov. Perry’s legacy will stand with those appointments, for better or worse, even as they stand for election and re-election in the years to come.

For the federal bench, though, the stakes are even more profound. These judges are appointed to serve for as long as they live, if they choose to do so. Federal judges are the living, breathing embodiment of how consequential presidential elections can become.

Let’s be sure to air these issues out with clarity and conviction.

No, Article II doesn’t let POTUS do whatever he wants

Oh, Mr. President …

If you would take a few minutes from your incredibly busy day tweeting out insults and stupid policy pronouncements to actually read the U.S. Constitution, you would understand something quite basic about the nation’s founding document.

Article II lays out the powers inherent in the presidency. Article I, though, speaks to the powers of Congress. You’ll note that Congress’s power allows the legislative government branch to act as a deterrent against the executive branch reaching beyond its grasp.

That means, Mr. President, that Article II does not give the president unlimited, unbridled, unfettered, unrestricted power to do whatever the hell he or she wants.

Let’s not forget, Mr. President, that we have the courts that stand as a watchdog against any abuses that either the president or Congress might seek to foist on the citizens. Their power is outlined in the Constitution, too, Mr. President. It’s in Article III.

Oh, and then you said you “never talk about it”? Well, duh! What did you just do by even mentioning this fabrication? You, um, talked about it!

You see, Mr. President, it is that kind of ignorant idiocy that gives millions of Americans such as me all this angst when we ponder this question: How in the name of rational governing policy did you get elected to this office in the first place?

This will come as no surprise to you, if you ever get to see this post, but your idiotic lies about the Constitution and other matters about which you know nothing are among the many reasons I want you removed from the office.

No problem with ‘In God We Trust’

If you think your friendly blogger — that would be me — is a godless heathen who stands with left-wing causes of all stripes, then I want you to ponder this.

I have no problem at all with public schools displaying the phrase “In God We Trust,” which is going to occur in South Dakota beginning with the upcoming school year.

The Legislature there approved the bill, which Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law.

OK, let’s visit the First Amendment for a moment. It declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … “

So, does plastering the phrase that appears on our national currency on school walls constitute the establishment of religion? It does not! Supporters of the motto placement say they want it to promote patriotism, to which I say, “Whatever.”

Quite unsurprisingly, certain groups contend that putting “In God We Trust” on public school walls sends a message to children that we are governed by a theocracy. Really! That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which calls it a “stealth” campaign to inject religion into state law.

Come on! Let’s get a grip here!

The motto suggests we should put our trust in God. It does not instruct anyone to do so. And what is so wrong with invoking “God”? Some non-Christian groups appear to be objecting to the reference to the deity. Well, God listens to people of all faiths, at least that is the way I always have considered the Almighty’s power.

And in the event that a public school student should wonder out loud in the classroom about the tenets of the nation’s founding, it falls on the teacher to teach the student accurately about what the nation’s founders intended.

They created a secular state. From where I sit, the U.S. Constitution is a rock-solid document that affirms what the founders intended.

Trump should ‘apologize,’ not his critics

Donald John Trump is at it again.

The president let a political rally crowd shout “Send her back!” when he invoked the name of a progressive congresswoman who he attacked via Twitter.

Then he said he disagreed with the chant of his avid/rabid followers.

Oh, and then he said he agreed with them.

Now he is calling on the congresswoman and her three ultra-liberal colleagues to “apologize” to the nation for the “horrible things” they have said about the country and, oh yes, about his policies.

Apologize? Really, Mr. President?

I need to remind him of something he should already know. The nation was founded by a gang of dissenters who resisted Great Britain’s tax policies and its repression. The United States of America was created and the founding document guaranteed its citizens the right to criticize the government.

He keeps doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on this ridiculous feud with U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alyanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. He said they should return to “where they came from.” Hah! Three of them were born in the United States; the fourth is a Somali refugee who earned her citizenship.

They all know about the Constitution. They all are practicing their rights that the document guarantees them.

Now the head of state said they should apologize?

Get real. The president should apologize to the nation over his absolute and astonishing ignorance of what the Constitution allows and what it guarantees.

Dissent, protest … so very American

Donald Trump is accusing four freshman members of Congress of “hating” the United States, of “hating” Israel and of speaking ill of the country they purport to love.

They need to go back to where they come from, says the president of the United States. If they don’t like it here, they are “free to leave,” he says.

Oh, my. I am going to respond this way: Shouldn’t Donald Trump, while running for the presidency in 2016, followed such advice when he was trashing the policies of the man he sought to succeed?

The president has declared rhetorical war against Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez. They’re all Democrats, all women of color, all U.S. citizens. They’ve been vocal in their criticism of Trump and his policies.

The president has launched a frontal attack on all of them.

But to my point: Donald Trump called our political leadership “stupid” while running for president in 2016. He lambasted our national trade policies, our national defense policies, our economic policies. Beginning in 2011, he became a chief proponent of the lie that President Obama was not constitutionally qualified to serve in the White House, referring to phony allegations that Obama was born in Africa. He questioned Obama’s academic credentials, even suggesting that Obama never even attended Harvard University, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review.

Did anyone ever suggest that Donald Trump should “go back to where he came from,” or from where his mother emigrated?

No. Nor should they.

Trump was entitled under the rights granted by our Constitution to criticize the government, even if he was incorrect in his criticism. The four women he is challenging today are equally qualified to criticize government policies.

The president’s utter and unmistakable lack of self-awareness is on full display as he criticizes four duly elected members of Congress for doing the very thing he did while he ran for the only public office he ever has sought.

Amazing.

Trump digs in against accusation of racism

“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.”

There you have it. That’s the view of the president of the United States of those who have the temerity to criticize government policy, who seek radical change, who believe the government needs to do a better job for all Americans.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his racist Twitter rant against four congresswoman who have been highly critical of the government.

They are Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanne Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. What do these women have in common? They are women “of color.” That’s it. Oh, they also are all U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in this country; the fourth congresswoman, Omar, is a naturalized citizen.

Trump said they all could return to where they came from and fix the problems there. That, I submit, is one more testament to the stupidity that the president exhibits with shocking regularity.

I’ll make one final point: This nation was founded by dissenters. Its very first constitutional amendment speaks directly to the rights of citizens to seek “redress” from their government.

Trump doesn’t get that. He needs to read the U.S. Constitution. He needs to come to grips with its meaning and the philosophy that led to its ratification as the governing framework for this great nation.