Tag Archives: US Senate

Sen. Corker is going out with a splash

Bob Corker isn’t going to leave the U.S. Senate quietly. He won’t skulk off into the night when his public service career comes to an end.

Oh, no. The Tennessee Republican who announced his intention to retire after the 2018 midterm election is going to make sure he puts his “mark” squarely on Donald J. Trump’s backside.

Corker is now in the midst of a Twitter fight with the president. He has many more friends on Capitol Hill than Trump can claim. One of them happens to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is standing by his Senate colleague.

McConnell calls Corker a valuable member of the Republican Senate Caucus. And when he’s asked directly whether he agrees with Corker’s recent criticism of Trump, McConnell does a version of the Texas two-step. He doesn’t answer the question directly, which is a sort of code for “Yes, I agree with my friend.”

Feud heats up

The long-term impact of Corker’s feud with Trump has yet to be known. The president has tweeted already that he intends to oppose anything that Corker supports. Do we take Trump at his word? And do we now expect Corker to oppose anything that Trump puts forth?

Corker isn’t the longest-serving U.S. senator by a long shot. In this particular climate on Capitol Hill, though, he has emerged as a thoughtful and wise voice of reason. With the rhetoric heating up and with the president seemingly at odds with virtually all so-called “establishment Republicans,” this feud with Corker is taking on some added relevance.

Sen. Corker is a lame duck. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a lame member of the U.S. Senate. He’s already declared that Trump “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to be president. He has said that members of the president’s Cabinet at keeping the nation “separated from chaos.”

It’s gone downhill from there in rapid fashion.

Trump keeps demonstrating the truthfulness of Corker’s analysis.

There goes the Trump-Corker ‘friendship’

This is just a hunch, but I’m almost willing to bet that Donald J. Trump can kiss goodbye Sen. Bob Corker’s support for any major legislation the president manages to present to Congress.

These two men, both Republicans, once were thought to be potential ticket mates in the 2016 presidential election. Trump then went with Mike Pence. Corker, from Tennessee, returned to the U.S. Senate after the election.

Something strange happened. Corker began speaking his mind and from his heart about the kind president Trump has become. He believes Trump “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence to lead.

It’s getting personal

It gets worse. Corker announced his retirement from the Senate after the 2018 election, then launched another salvo at Trump, saying that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly are saving the nation “from chaos” that Trump threatens to create at every turn.

Trump now has taken to Twitter — imagine that! — to say Corker lacks “guts.” Corker isn’t lying down for it; he’s firing back.

Yep, here we go again. The president of the United States/commander in chief/leader of the free world is blasting a governmental colleague for, um, speaking from his heart.

I need to point out that Sen. Corker is no back-bench nobody. He’s a smart and thoughtful lawmaker who happens to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So help me, Donald John Trump cannot take it. His skin is paper thin. His blood reaches a full boil quickly and with virtually no effort from the person who criticizes him.

Spare me the crap about Trump “being quick to respond to criticism.” Presidents sign on to the job understanding that they’ll develop critics. It goes with the territory. It’s an unwritten part of the presidential job description.

I would suggest that Trump read up on that kind of thing. Except he doesn’t need to study anything. Why? Because he’s a “very smart person” who surrounds himself “with the best people.”

Simply … sad.

Retirement liberates GOP senator

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is a free man these days.

The Tennessee Republican has announced his impending retirement from the Senate — and is now free to speak his mind.

Take, for example, his statement this week about three of Donald Trump’s key advisers and how they manage to save the United States from the “chaos” created by the president.

He spoke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly. These men, said Corker, are managing to maintain some semblance of order.

Corker speaks out

Corker didn’t wait to announce his retirement before speaking candidly about Trump. After the president’s hideous reaction to the Charlottesville riot — including the “many sides are responsible” comment — Corker said the president “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to lead the nation.

Now this latest critique in which he said, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Oh, and of course we now have Tillerson reportedly firing off an enraged comment in a meeting that he believes the president is a “moron.” It’s also been reported that Tillerson attached a descriptive and profane adjective in front of “moron.” He has not denied saying it.

There you have it. A president with no prior government or public service experience of any kind is now leading the world’s greatest nation. Except that he’s incapable of exhibiting the temperament he needs to avoid the “chaos” that he invites whenever and wherever possible.

Trump’s fans applaud him for “telling it like it is.” Now such much-needed candor and honesty are coming from the mouths of the president’s “allies.”

Retirement can be a liberating experience … don’t you think?

Republicans join Democrats in disarray

Republicans and Democrats have plenty of things of common. Both parties say they love America; they both say they want what’s best for the country … and they both are in a state of utter confusion and chaos.

Democratic disarray became evident when Hillary Rodham Clinton lost a presidential race in 2016 that she should have won handily. The party is still trying to find its footing moving toward the 2020 presidential campaign.

Now, though, the Republicans have exhibited signs of political schizophrenia. Down yonder in Alabama, the GOP this week nominated a true-blue lunatic as their candidate for the U.S. Senate; GOP nominee Roy Moore is poised to likely win the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, when he became U.S. attorney general.

Get a load of this: GOP primary voters picked Moore over Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to serve in the seat and who had been endorsed by Donald J. Trump, the nation’s Republican in chief.

I know that “lunatic” is a strong term to hang on a politician, but I think Moore fits the bill — politically speaking, of course. He served as ‘Bama’s Supreme Court chief justice but got into trouble twice with the state’s judicial ethics agency, first for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments display from public property and then for encouraging county clerks to disobey federal law after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.

Just the other day he pulled a pistol out of his pocket — in front of a large political rally crowd — to show his support for the Second Amendment and he has said that “homosexual activity” should be deemed an illegal act.

As my dear late Mom would say, the guy is “nuttier than a fruitcake.” 

Moore’s nomination is giving Republican Party establishment types all sorts of heartburn, headaches, apoplexy … not to mention paroxysms of panic.

The president says he’ll campaign all-out for Moore’s election. I am wondering if that means he’ll forgo statements such as when he showed up in Alabama this past week and said he “might have made a mistake” by endorsing Sen. Strange.

Make ‘homosexual activity illegal’? How?

The man whom Alabama Republican primary voters have nominated for the U.S. Senate is truly a frightening individual.

He is Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Just the other day he talked at a campaign rally about his support of the Second Amendment — and then pulled a pistol out of his pocket to prove his point.

That’s not the particular point of this blog post, however.

This one-time jurist believes that “homosexual activity” should be made illegal. I’ll take a leap here and presume he believes that gay couples must not be permitted to engage in any form of intimacy.

I’m now wondering: How does one enforce such a law?

It reminds of me a terrible “anti-sodomy law” that once was on the books in Texas. That law gave license, as I read it, for law enforcement officials to raid people’s bedrooms to enforce the prohibition against intimacy involving gay men. It’s no longer on the books.

So, what is Roy Moore suggesting? That law enforcement authorities barge into people’s homes to make sure they’re not engaging in “homosexual activity”?

This is the fellow who was stripped of his judgeship for (a) refusing to remove a Ten Commandments display from public property and (b) encouraged county clerks in Alabama to ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that required the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Now Alabama’s Republican voters have just nominated someone who believes that gay people cannot engage in certain “activities.”

Alabama is a deeply Republican state. This fellow stands a good chance of being elected to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Senate after Jeff Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

If it comes to pass, I believe Capitol Hill is going to become a significantly loonier place.

Scary, man. Scary.

Who needs that CBO ‘score’ on health care bill, right, GOP?

The Republican rush to repeal the Affordable Care Act might proceed without a key element that GOP congressmen and women would need to make this critical judgment.

The Congressional Budget Office won’t be able to provide its full analysis of the impact the replacement legislation will have on the future of Americans’ health care insurance.

You see, Congress is facing a Sept. 30 deadline to get this deal done with a simple majority of 50 Senate votes. After that date, the rule rolls back to a 60-vote supermajority requirement. So, there you have it: Senate Republicans don’t want to wait for a “score” that they usually rely on to help them decide matters of this importance.

As Politico reports: The Congressional Budget Office will only have a bare-bones assessment of the latest GOP bill ready before Sept. 30, the deadline for Senate Republicans to pass health care legislation on a party-line vote.

Is it any wonder, then, that some Senate Republican leaders — such as John McCain of Arizona — are critical of the process that is rushing this vote forward?

Read the Politico story here.

The ACA is Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement. Republicans want to wipe it out, toss it aside. They aren’t interested in repairing it, improving it, making it work better for Americans.

In normal times, the complete CBO analysis was thought to be the standard for lawmakers to follow. The CBO is known to be a completely non-partisan, unbiased source to determine the financial impact of legislation. Its previous analyses of efforts to repeal and replace the ACA have told us that 20 million Americans would lose health insurance under terms of the replacement legislation. Are ACA repeal/replace proponents afraid of what the CBO is going to tell us about what they’ve got in mind this time around?

This latest health care insurance bill comes from Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky already opposes it. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is teetering against it. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is said to be leaning toward a “no” vote. McCain already is on record opposing this fast-track process.

Is this what we’re getting? Half-baked decision-making based on matters that have little to do with the facts?

Hoping that Hillary calls it a career

Hillary Rodham Clinton is beginning to resurface.

Her book is out, the one that “explains” why she lost a presidential election she should have won. I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read “What Happened.” I have every intention of doing so. I’m curious as to what this candidate who should have been elected in 2016 says about her stunning election loss.

I’ll simply fall back to a position I took not long after Donald J. Trump got elected president of the United States.

My hope for the Democratic Party is that they find a fresh face, a novice to the national political stage, a rookie to run against whomever the Republicans nominate for president in 2020.

It shouldn’t be Hillary Clinton. And if the Republican Party honchos were to ask for my opinion, I’d say they shouldn’t renominate the incumbent president. Hey, I just told ’em that very thing. Imagine that!

Hillary will lay a lot of blame on FBI Director James Comey and his strange reopening of the e-mail probe late in the campaign. She’ll blame the Russians for hacking into our electoral system. She will blame the media for the way they covered her campaign. Sure, she also is going to take a lot of the blame herself.

From where I sit out here in Flyover Country, it’s that last element that deserves the bulk of the cause for her stunning loss.

Clinton was a lousy candidate. She spent too much time down the stretch in states she had no prayer of winning and too little time in those battleground states that flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to backing Trump.

Yes, I also believe in that malady called Clinton Fatigue. We had two terms of her husband, President Bill Clinton; and along the way, we got a big dose of first lady Hillary Clinton, too. Do you recall when candidate Bill told us in 1992 if we elect him, we’d get her as well in a sort of two-for-one deal?

She ran for the U.S. Senate in 2000 as she and her husband were to leave the White House and she served her new home state of New York with competence and some level of distinction.

She challenged Sen. Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination and took him to the wire. The new president’s payback was to appoint her secretary of state, a post she held for Obama’s first term.

Clinton won the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination believing the election was hers for the taking. She wasn’t alone. I was among the millions of pseudo-experts who thought she’d win in a record-setting landslide. I’ve been eating crow ever since.

Her time has come and gone. She’s yesterday’s heroine.

I do not want her to run again. She had my support once already. I’m not sure I can back her a second time.

Her book is likely to produce some interesting reading. That is it. However, the future of her political party, I believe, belongs to someone who’s going to emerge from nowhere.

A moment of civility and honor

I feel the need to share this video before it recedes too far into the nation’s political background.

U.S. Sen. John McCain pays tribute in this brief video to his longtime friend and colleague, Vice President Joe Biden.

Why show this clip here? Today?

These are seriously contentious times. The vice president was about to leave office after nearly four decades serving in the Senate and as the nation’s No. 2 elected official. Sen. McCain acknowledges that he and Biden didn’t always agree on public policy. They argued, sometimes vigorously.

But it serves us all well to know that men who were political opponents could remain friends, a sentiment that McCain expresses with stunning eloquence in his Senate floor speech.

He was among many senators who rose to pay tribute to Biden as the VP prepared to leave public life.

It remains my hope — to which I’ll cling stubbornly — that we can find a way back to a more genteel era on Capitol Hill. Some of the current cast of characters in the spotlight today make it difficult to imagine such a return occurring any time soon — if ever!

I will admit to getting pretty damn worked up myself over the conduct of many of those characters. I’ve said some harsh things in this blog. I won’t retract them, but I’ll seek to do a better job moving ahead at maintaining a more civil tone, even though I sit way out here in the proverbial peanut gallery, far from where the action is.

Recalling the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s one-time campaign battle cry, I’ll continue to “keep hope alive” that decorum will return to the political debate.

Sen. McCain — the Vietnam War hero and a ferocious advocate for his own public policy views — offers us an example of what we need in the halls of power.

Impeachment? Not so fast, folks

Social media are chattering and clattering like a newspaper newsroom full of typewriters on deadline. Those of you who are old enough to remember actual typewriters will understand the analogy.

But the social media are abuzz with viral statements, requests and demands that Donald John Trump Sr. gets impeached.

Let’s hold that thought. At least for a while, OK?

The president of the United States is demonstrating plenty of disturbing behavior. He holds those rallies in which he ad-libs his way into nonsensical rants. Then he reads reasonably crafted speeches, looking for all the world as if he’s been asked to eat every bite of the squishy spinach on his plate. The next day he tears into the media, members of Congress and virtually every political foe who’s lined up against him.

Serious-minded folks like former head spook James Clapper say they doubt Trump’s “fitness” for his job. He’s acting like a maniac. Sounding like a blithering, blathering fruitcake.

Does any of this behavior rise to the level of an impeachable offense? No. Not as I understand what’s written into the U.S. Constitution.

Article II, Section 4 spells out the specifics of a presidential impeachment. It calls for such an action in the event of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives must bring formal charges against the president. Then the Senate conducts a trial; to convict a president and toss him out of office requires a two-thirds vote by senators.

Has the 45th president committed any sort of “high crime and misdemeanor”? No. Indeed, there is an open debate on just when we’ll know of any potential charges being brought. Many of us have our opinion on whether there should be charges brought. To date, we have none. We don’t even have any compelling evidence to suggest that there will be charges brought.

What about the president’s behavior? My reading of the Constitution suggests that loopy conduct does not, by itself, constitute an impeachable offense. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Donald Trump’s behavior on speech podiums is weird in the extreme.

I’ve never heard a more inarticulate president than the one we’ve got now. Never have I seen someone trash tradition in the manner that he does. Given an opportunity to heal a nation divided by myriad issues of many stripes, Donald Trump does precisely the opposite. He lashes out. He hurls insults at his foes. He cannot even bring himself to offer a word of good wishes to one of his critics — Sen. John McCain — who is in the midst of a life-and-death struggle against cancer.

Trump disgraces his office almost daily. I’d say he disgraces himself, but he seems to lack the capacity to look inward.

Is any of this impeachable? No.

None of it will stop the social media chatter. I just think it’s important to put some of this hysteria into some perspective.

Meantime, let’s wait for the special counsel looking at “The Russia Thing” to do his job.

Will POTUS continue his search for peace and harmony?

The president of the United States sought to lay out a new strategy for fighting the Afghan War.

He began his speech Monday night, though, with what I perceived in the moment to be a curious diversion from the topic at hand. He spoke about peace, harmony, understanding and love. He said he wants our brave warriors fighting overseas to return to a country in which all citizens feel equally loved by their fellow Americans.

I thought it was an interesting — and welcome — appeal in the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., riot that was ignited by hate groups marching and counter protesters clashing with them.

So here’s where I’m heading with this: Is the president going to continue that theme tonight when he steps in front of cheering throngs in Phoenix, Ariz.? It’s billed as a campaign rally. You know how those involving Donald Trump usually turnout, yes? They get raucous. The president flies “off script.” He starts hurling insults around. The crowd cheers. The president basks in the adulation he hears in the throaty yells.

Trump is going to a state represented in the U.S. Senate by two Republicans — John McCain and Jeff Flake — who’ve been openly critical of him. Trump has responded with insults he has hurled back at them. Sen. Flake is facing a GOP primary challenge and the president has taken the highly unusual step of appearing to back his opponent.

The nation is in the middle of an intense discussion about race relations in light of what happened in Charlottesville. Will the president respond in a positive way to that discussion, or will he pour fuel onto that wildfire with more of his intemperate rhetoric?

My hope is that he’ll listen to the calmer angels that might be trying to be heard above the din. My fear is that he’ll ignore them and go with the shouters.