Tag Archives: US Constitution

No ‘retribution,’ Mr. President; it’s not possible

How many times does one have to tell you, Mr. President, that you are not a monarch, or a dictator? You cannot bring “retribution” against a comedy show made famous by its parodies of powerful people.

But there you go again, threatening “Saturday Night Live” because it decided to spoof you yet again.

“SNL” trotted Alec Baldwin out to do that hilarious send-up of you and you just cannot stand being ridiculed. C’mon, Mr. President! Get a grip.

The comedy show has been doing this to presidents since 1975, when Chevy Chase poked fun at President Ford. It hasn’t stopped. They’ve all gotten the treatment. Not a single predecessor of yours has threatened “SNL” with any kind of political or legal payback.

And do I need to remind you once more, Mr. President, about that First Amendment matter? You truly need to read it, try to understand what it protects. It guarantees the right to worship as we please; it protects the press from government intervention; it says we can protest the government. It also says we can criticize the government without facing “retribution” from the government we are criticizing.

Your tweet about “SNL” was typically idiotic. As a reminder, you wrote:

Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

Total Republican hit jobs? They “get away” with it the way “SNL” poked fun at Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama. Those Democrats didn’t bitch constantly about “SNL.” For that matter, neither did the Republican presidents who had to take the heat, too.

I am tiring of repeating myself, Mr. President. Still, it bears repeating that you need to understand that positions of power invite this kind of treatment from the entertainment industry and the media. You are the most powerful man in the country, Mr. President.

You can act like it simply by stopping these mindless, brainless and feckless threats against a TV comedy show.

‘Checks and balances’ principle gets new life

I do not believe it is an overstatement to presume that those of us who watched acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s skewering on Capitol Hill has provides us with a harbinger of what Donald Trump can expect for the next two years.

Whitaker spent most of the day today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, which was conducting an “oversight hearing” on the Department of Justice. He got pounded. He stonewalled the committee in return. It was an angry day of recrimination.

Whitaker is leaving the Justice Department soon. William Barr will be confirmed soon as the next attorney general. Whitaker was hardly an inspired choice to fill in for Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired a few weeks ago because the former AG recused himself from anything to do with “The Russia Thing.”

Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, their caucus has assumed committee chairmanships. I believe that Democrats, who became fed up with Republican resistance to asking difficult questions of the Trump administration, are seeking to release some of that pent-up anger. We saw it on full display today as Whitaker appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I also want to propose that this is not a bad thing. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress a measure of power that is equal to the presidency; throw in the federal courts and you have three equally powerful government branches.

Democrats challenged Whitaker; Republicans on the Judiciary panel challenged Democrats, who pushed back hard on the “points of order” that their GOP “friends” were asserting.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch today as Whitaker and Judiciary panel Democrats clashed openly. We might as well get used to it, though, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, once the special counsel finishes his probe of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, there likely is going to be even more rhetorical grenades being tossed.

It won’t be pretty. Then again, representative democracy is a damn ugly form of government. However, as the great Winston Churchill noted, it’s far better than any other governmental system devised.

They call it ‘executive time’?

Axios is reporting that Donald Trump spends a lot of what is being called “executive time,” meaning time off the clock, in the White House residence, doing something I presume other than reading briefing papers and intelligence reports.

This really isn’t a huge deal to me. I’ve noted already many times that I don’t even mind the president playing a lot of golf. What irks me about all that golf time is that this president promised he wouldn’t do it . . . and then he reneged on that promise!

Presidents are never off the clock. They’re only a radio message or phone call away from being summoned to respond to a national emergency; by that I mean a real emergency, not a phony one such as what Trump says is occurring on our southern border.

As for the executive time business, I  wish Trump would spend more time studying how to be president. He ought to learn about what the U.S. Constitution lays out in terms of executive power, and how the framers established Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. He doesn’t seem to know any of that.

Then again, maybe he is spending his executive time actually reading. Do you think? Nahhh! If he was doing it we certainly would know about it. He’d be firing off Twitter messages informing us of all the brainy work he is doing behind the scenes.

See the Axios story here.

Axios suggests he spends a lot of time each day reading newspapers and watching TV before he heads to the Oval Office, or the Cabinet Room, or the Situation Room to do the things that presidents do.

Still, the Axios story does reaffirm what many of us have noted all along, that we have elected a bizarre, unconventional and, um, “unpresidented” fellow as head of state, commander in chief and chief executive.

It’s all kinda weird.

Study the Bible in church, not public schools

Hold on a second! Donald J. Trump now says he supports the notion of allowing public school students to study the Bible. He endorses the idea of students learning about the history of the Judeo-Christian holy book.

Let’s put the brakes on that one.

The founders created a secular document to govern the United States of America. The very first clause in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes a rule that Congress “shall make no law” that creates a state religion.

Legal scholars and courts have interpreted that to mean that government agencies — and that includes public schools — must avoid traveling down the slipperiest of slopes by allowing religious study in tax-supported schools.

So what is the president trying to do? My best guess is that he believes that the U.S. Supreme Court — which includes two justices he has appointed — would rule in favor of Bible study in public schools if the issue ever to reach the highest court on appeal.

Trump wrote this on Twitter: Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Legislators in six states are proposing Bible study in public schools. I guess it’s some sort of move to return “prayer in school,” which the Supreme Court rule in the early 1960s violates the First Amendment’s implied separation of church and state.

There’s a place for everything in this world of ours. I believe firmly that the place to study the Bible is in a house of worship. We should make our public schools the place where students can learn about math, science, civics, humanities, theater . . . and the whole host of curricula that teach them about their earthly world.

I’ll just offer this notion as well: If we are going to study the Bible in public school, do we then allow the study of works read by our non-Judeo Christian citizens?

That’s what I mean by the “slipperiest of slopes.”

Speaker demonstrates the ‘co-equal branch’ clause

Hello, Mr. President.

I know you thought you could just crash the House Party by declaring your intention to deliver the State of the Union speech next week in front of a joint congressional session.

Except for this little item: The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has exercised precisely the clause in the U.S. Constitution that sets forth “co-equal” governmental power. She won’t allow the House to vote on a resolution that would invite you to speak to a joint session.

So, the way I see it, you’re outta luck, sir.

The speaker will let you make your SOTU speech on one condition, that you allow the government to reopen. I believe she feels more deeply about the families affected by the partial government shutdown than you do, Mr. President. She wants their pay restored. She doesn’t want them working for free, as you have ordered many thousands of them to do.

Hey, not everyone in America is as filthy rich as you are, Mr. President. They cannot afford to miss paychecks. They have mortgages to pay, credit cards to pay; they have to pay for school tuition, groceries, child care. You know, those things many of us face on a regular basis.

I hate to tell you this — no, actually I love saying it — but the speaker knows a lot more about the limits of executive power than you do. She is exercising the power she has as a legislative leader.

If you intend to give your SOTU speech on Jan. 29 and the government is still partially shuttered, you’ll have to do so elsewhere. How about sitting behind your desk in the Oval Office?

The founders had it right when they created these co-equal branches of government. Their intent was to protect us from dictatorial executives.

They made a good call, don’t you think, Mr. President?

National emergency draws bipartisan criticism

Donald Trump might declare a national emergency.

His rationale is to spend $5 billion to build The Wall on our border with Mexico. The president cannot get Congress to approve it. So he has shut down part of the government. Now he’s considering whether to invoke some form of executive authority that a number of constitutional scholars believe is illegal.

OK, then. What happens now?

Congressional Democrats — no surprise there — are sounding the alarm. You can’t do that, Mr. President, they say. We’re going to sue. This is a reach way beyond the presidential grasp, they contend.

Oh, but wait! Congressional Republicans are sounding a note of wariness as well. None other than U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the former chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee — and a committed Republican — says declaring an emergency and deploying military personnel to build The Wall is not in keeping with the Pentagon’s mission.

Other congressional GOP members want the shutdown to end. They want to reopen the government and they want to then resume negotiations to seek a solution to this border security matter.

The U.S. Constitution gives government funding responsibility to Congress. The president does have executive authority, to be sure. However, it remains an open question whether he can re-direct funds appropriated for defense needs to build The Wall that the president believes is a response to threats to our national security.

Except that there is no national threat occurring on our southern border.

Yes, we need to curb illegal immigration. The number of illegal immigrants crossing the border has decreased over many years. The president would have us believe that criminals are “pouring” into the country. They are posing an immediate threat to our national well-being, he says.

It’s a fantasy. Donald Trump is trying to keep a campaign promise he never should have made in the first place, but he did. Now he’s on the hook. He believes he needs to keep it.

I almost forgot! The most significant part of that pledge to build The Wall was that Mexico was going to pay for it. Mexico won’t pay, but Trump then declared in his 10-minute Oval Office talk Tuesday night that a new trade deal with Mexico is going to pay for The Wall. He didn’t say how that would happen. Hey, who needs details?

Donald Trump is flirting with an actual crisis of an entirely different kind if he declares that national emergency.

Hoping decency and reason prevail with Tarrant GOP

Shahid Shafi is a dedicated, committed Republican. He serves as vice chairman of the Tarrant County Republican Party Committee. He believes in small government, lower taxes and, oh yes, border security.

Oh, but that’s not good enough for some within the Tarrant County GOP membership. They want him removed from his VP post because — get ready for it — he’s a Muslim.

They’re going to vote Thursday night on whether Dr. Shafi — a trauma surgeon and Southlake City Council member — gets the boot. This is a ridiculous, bigoted and shameful action that the Tarrant County GOP is considering.

It has drawn scorn and criticism from Republicans around the state. The critics call it what it is: an act of blind bigotry.

Tarrant County vote set

Those who want Shafi out contend that Islamic beliefs run counter to constitutional principles and that his faith doesn’t represent “most” Tarrant County Republican members. Shafi denies the allegation about Islamic tenets being in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. As for whether his faith represents most local GOP members’ own religious views: so what?

I keep returning to the argument that the United States of America was founded as a secular state. The founders proclaimed that there shall be no law passed that specifies a state religion. The upshot is all U.S. citizens are free to worship — or not worship — as they see fit.

It is my sincere and fervent hope that the Tarrant County bigots/Islamophobes get slapped down in their effort to remove Shalif from his post as party vice chair.

If the one-time Party of Lincoln purports to be a “big tent” operation, here is a local chapter’s chance to prove it.

Wondering if term limits will return to debate stage

With all the hoo-hah in Washington about the battle of ideologies — conservative vs. liberal — I am wondering about the fate of the debate over term limits.

In 1994, Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, campaigned successfully on the Contract With America platform that included a silly proposition: to limit the terms of members of Congress.

Voters seemed to buy into the notion that we ought to place mandatory limits on the time House members and senators can serve. After all, we limit the president to two elected terms, thanks to the 22nd Amendment. Why not demand the same thing of Congress members?

Well, the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. It requires an amendment to the Constitution. Referring an amendment to the states for their ratification requires a two-thirds vote in both congressional chambers. Term limits proposals haven’t made the grade.

Term limits is primarily a Republican-led initiative. Democrats have dug in against the idea, saying correctly that “we already have term limits. We call them ‘elections.'”

I don’t favor mandatory limits. Indeed, there has been a significant churn of House members and senators already without the mandated limits. The new Congress comprises roughly a membership that includes roughly 25 percent of first-time officeholders. That ain’t bad, man!

Sure, there are deep-rooted incumbents from both parties who make legislating their life’s calling. However, I only can refer back to their constituents: If these lawmakers are doing a poor job, their constituents have it within their power to boot them out; if the constituents are happy with their lawmakers’ performance, they are entitled to keep them on the job.

Of course, we don’t hear much from the nation’s Republican in Chief, the president of the United States, about term limits. He’s too busy “making America great again” and fighting for The Wall. He can’t be bothered with anything as mundane and pedestrian as establishing limits for the amount of time lawmakers can serve.

But where are the GOP fire starters? Have they lost their interest? Or their nerve?

I’m fine with the idea remaining dormant. Just wondering whether it’s died a much-needed death.

Trump demonstrates his unfitness yet again

As if we needed more examples from Donald Trump that illustrate his complete unfitness for the job he occupies . . . he offers up two more sparkling examples.

First, he declares that he might declare a “national emergency” to start construction on The Wall he wants to run along our southern border.

How does that work? The president signs an executive order and then re-distributes money intended for the Pentagon to build The Wall. The notion of declaring a national emergency based on “security” grounds raises the issue of its very legality.

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to appropriate money. It allocates money to specific agencies for specific uses. A president who declares a national emergency appears to circumvent the Constitution. It well could be an illegal act.

Second, the president sat in that meeting room with Cabinet officials and defended the Soviet Union’s act of outright and naked aggression in 1979 when it invaded Afghanistan. His basis? Trump echoed the Kremlin pretext at the time that “terrorists” allegedly were attacking Soviet citizens across the border.

That is a blatant and disgraceful rewriting of history. The USSR invaded Afghanistan for the purpose of installing a friendly government in Kabul. It killed millions of Afghan citizens, forced millions more to flee, while suffering tens of thousands of battlefield casualties on its own.

For this president to say these things in the span of just a couple of days provided a breathtaking and astounding display of ignorance, arrogance and delusion.

I repeat what I’ve said all along: This individual is unfit at any level to occupy the office to which he was elected.

My fellow Americans, those of you who voted for this individual . . . you have made a terrible mistake.

Get ready for the thundering herd . . . of candidates

Lawrence O’Donnell, a noted MSNBC commentator, believes the upcoming campaign for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination is going to be a very crowded affair.

He believes the number of candidates will “start with the number two,” meaning that he expects more than 20 politicians to seek the nomination in hopes of running against Donald J. Trump.

On almost any level, this is an astounding story if it develops as O’Donnell believes it will. We might have an incumbent seeking re-election. Incumbency is supposed to build in a lot of advantages: platform, visibility, name ID, the perks of power.

Incumbent presidents often seek re-election miles ahead of any challenger.

Not this time. Not this president.

In 2016, we had 17 Republicans declare for their party’s nomination at the start of the primary season. Trump knocked them one by one over the course of the GOP primary campaign. He won the nomination on the first ballot and then, well, the rest is history. Meanwhile, Democrats fielded four candidates at the start of their season. Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged as the nominee. Again, you know it turned out for her.

That number seemed high at the time, although we had no incumbent running in 2016. President Obama had to bow out, according to the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The expected massive field of Democrats well might not even be the biggest story of the 2020 campaign. I am wondering — although not predicting — whether the president is going to receive a primary challenge from, oh, as many as two or three Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee might be in the mix. Same for Ohio Gov. John Kasich — my favorite Republican from the 2016 campaign. Then there might be Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

History shows that incumbents who receive primary challenges often do not fare well when the smoke clears and they have to run against the other party’s nominee in the fall. Just consider what happened to President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush when they ran and lost in 1976, 1980 and 1992 respectively.

So, the new year begins with two Democrats already getting set to launch their campaigns. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro are planning to form exploratory committees as precursors to their candidacies. There will be many more to come.

Oh, and then we have the Robert Mueller investigation and whether his final report might inflict more political damage to an already wounded incumbent.

I am so looking forward to this new year.