Tag Archives: US Senate

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.

Beto feels the heat from those who want him to drop out

Beto O’Rourke is getting a lot of unsolicited advice these days.

Such as what came from the Houston Chronicle over the weekend. The Chronicle, which endorsed his candidacy for the U.S. Senate over Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, has urged O’Rourke to drop out of the Democratic race for president and to run for the Senate seat now occupied by GOP incumbent John Cornyn.

Read the editorial here.

O’Rourke is polling in the single digits. He was thought to be a strong favorite in Texas among the still-large field of Democratic primary candidates for POTUS; he isn’t polling all that strongly in his home state.

So, should O’Rourke bail on the race for the White House? I’ll offer this view.

He lost by a thin margin against Cruz in 2018, filling Texas Democrats’ hearts with hope that the state might actually elect a Democrat to statewide office for the first time in more than two decades. Cruz has parlayed his near-miss into a presidential campaign that started with a lot of buzz, but which has floundered.

Does he shuck that bid and take on Cornyn? Well, he would need some assurance that he could actually win the Senate seat Cornyn has occupied since 2003.

Were the former El Paso congressman lose a second consecutive U.S. Senate race, I believe that might doom any statewide office aspirations that O’Rourke might harbor.

Two straight losses would be tough to overcome.

I have no advice to give the young man. He’s getting a lot of it from people who are more in the know than little ol’ me. I am just concerned that the magic that Beto found in his first run for the U.S. Senate might be a bit more elusive to find were he to make another run for another Senate seat.

Good luck, Beto. Do what you think is best.

Obstructing justice is an impeachable offense … isn’t it?

Robert S. Mueller III filed a lengthy report that concludes among other things that the president of the United States obstructed justice regarding the lengthy investigation into the Russia Thing.

If a president can be impeached for obstruction of justice in 1998, why is it different in 2019? That’s the quandary with which I am wrestling at this moment.

House Republicans declared in 1998 that a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, should be impeached because he obstructed justice while former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr looked into that sexual relationship with the White House intern. Oh, and he committed perjury while talking to a federal grand jury.

Two strikes against Clinton were enough for the GOP to launch an impeachment proceeding against a Democratic president. The impeachment succeeded, but then the Senate trial produced an acquittal on all the counts.

Therein lies the conundrum that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing. The House has the goods to impeach Donald Trump. Mueller’s report cited at least 10 instances where the president sought to obstruct justice. He said it again in testimony before two congressional committees in July. Why didn’t he file a formal complaint? Mueller said the Office of Legal Counsel policy prohibits him from indicting a “sitting president.”

I happen to stand with Pelosi’s decision to go slow on impeachment. She doesn’t want to proceed with impeaching Trump if there is no appetite among Republicans in the Senate to convict him of a complaint brought to them by the House.

I say all this, though, while scratching my noggin. If obstructing justice was enough to impeach a president 21 years ago, why is this instance so radically different that congressional Republicans cannot do so again now?

I think I know the answer. Congressional Republicans are playing politics with a growing constitutional crisis.

U.S. Senate race suddenly becomes quite the attraction

Well now. A serious legislative big hitter has just entered the contest for U.S. Senate. He hails from just down the road from my wife and me in Dallas.

Royce West, who’s served in the Texas Senate since 1993, wants to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. So he’s in.

Suddenly this contest has become a top-tier event, in my view.

West is one of the state’s leading legislative Democrats. He brings serious gravitas to the debate that will unfold over time.

Sure, first things first. West has to win the party’s nomination next spring. Democrats already have a crowded field in that primary. West’s entry only clutters it up, except that West has considerable standing among his legislative colleagues — on both sides of the aisle — not to mention a reputation as a serious and thoughtful individual.

West is a lawyer. No surprise there. As one of his legislative colleagues noted, he brings “a big voice and a big presence” to the contest. Big presence, indeed, given that West is, shall we say, an imposing physical specimen. He also brings considerable knowledge of the state.

Let me stipulate that I’ve known John Cornyn for a long time. He and I have a strictly professional relationship. I have considered it to be a good one at that. I got to know when he ran for Texas attorney general prior to his moving to the Senate. I like him personally, but am baffled — along with many other Americans — by his silence concerning Donald Trump’s behavior and the potential revelations concerning impeachable offenses.

How might this Senate race get even crazier? Consider this: Beto O’Rourke, who lost by just a little bit to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, is flailing in his effort to run for president; he might decide to bail on the White House bid and make another run at the Senate seat occupied by John Cornyn.

Stay tuned, folks.

Biden gets beaten up for … knowing how to legislate?

I am trying to come to grips with what Joe Biden said and how his comments are being received by some elements within the Democratic Party.

Let’s see … the former vice president said he was able during his Senate days and during his time as VP to work in a “civil” manner with people with whom he disagreed. He said that included segregationists within the Senate ranks, including Democrats such as James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia and Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Why, that is just terrible, according to some progressives. They cannot understand how Biden — one of the huge number of Democrats running for president — can work with anyone who holds such despicable views.

They are demanding an apology from the former VP. Biden is having none of it. Nor should he.

The former vice president spent 30-plus years in the Senate. He learned the ropes of the body. He learned how to legislate, which required him — if he was to be an effective legislator — to work with all elements within the Senate. That included individuals who hold some nasty views.

As for whether it reveals a side of Biden that disqualifies him to be president, that he is a closet racist — which some of the critics have implied — I guess I feel the need to provide a two-word rejoinder.

Barack Obama.

Biden served as vice president for two terms alongside the nation’s first African-American president. It has been reported that the two men formed a friendship that is so tight and firm that the former president has referred to himself and his family as becoming “honorary Bidens.”

So, let’s stop with the nonsensical criticism of a career politician who merely was making a point about the need to work with all politicians of all factions — even those with despicable views.

It’s called legislating.

Dial it back, Mme. Speaker

Surely the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives knows with whom she is dealing. Surely she knows that the president of the United States possesses a hair-trigger temper that ignites a mouth that speaks without filter.

Yet there she is, telling House colleagues she doesn’t want to impeach the president; she wants to see him sent to prison.

Ayye! How about dialing it back, Nancy Pelosi?

Donald Trump well might be goading the House to impeach him. He also knows what many of us know already, that the Republicans who run the Senate aren’t going to convict him. He’ll then be able to use a House impeachment against Democrats and pave the way toward a possible — if not probable — re-election in November 2020.

Pelosi is known to possess a first-class political mind; her political instincts are believed to be unparalleled. Thus, I am surprised to hear her say what she said, that her goal is to put the president of the United States in prison.

It’s one thing to comprehend the steep hill that awaits a potential impeachment vote in the House. It’s quite another to say she wants to toss the president behind bars.

I agree with the speaker’s reluctance — if only for now — to launch impeachment proceedings against the president. I only wish she would keep the “prison” thoughts to herself.

Speaker Pelosi is sure to launch the president into a hysterical response that only will serve to make us all just shake our heads in utter disbelief.

Impeachment is all about politics

Elizabeth Warren actually has said with a straight face and in an earnest-sounding voice that impeaching Donald J. Trump is not about politics, but is about “the Constitution.”

Baloney!

It’s all about politics and for Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, one of 23 Democrats running for president in 2020 to say otherwise is, shall we say, empty rhetoric.

That is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is correct in digging in on the issue of impeaching Trump.

At least until the House and Senate finish their tedious work in determining whether to proceed.

Impeaching a president is all about removing that individual from office. The House would draft articles of impeachment; its Judiciary Committee would recommend whether to impeach; if it votes “yes,” then the full House votes on whether to file the complaint.

If the House votes to impeach, then the Senate puts the president on trial. Here is where the bar gets high; senators need a two-thirds vote to convict. Senate Republicans occupy 52 seats in the 100-member body. Is there a realistic chance that a dozen or so GOP senators are going to vote to kick Donald Trump out of office?

That is the calculation that keeps Pelosi from pulling the impeachment trigger in the House.

Thus, it’s all about politics. Sen. Warren.

To be sure, I happen to agree that Trump has committed a crime. I believe he has obstructed justice. I also believe former special counsel Robert Mueller was hamstrung by Justice Department policy prohibiting an indictment of a sitting president.

Republicans continue to stand with a president who has committed the very “crime” that drove GOP lawmakers to stampede toward impeaching a Democratic president two decades ago.

Pelosi knows the steep hill she faces if the House were to proceed with an impeachment.

So, let’s quit the high-minded rhetoric about the Constitution. Impeaching a president is the epitome of political action. If the House is going to impeach the fraud masquerading as the president of the United States, it had better do it right.

Or else … the pols don’t want to consider what will happen if they get it wrong.

Sen. Klobuchar needs to tread carefully

I happen to agree with Meghan McCain, the outspoken daughter of an outspoken late U.S. senator.

Meghan McCain is asking U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, to stop using her father, John McCain, as a political prop.

Klobuchar recently has told of how she sat next to Sen. McCain while Donald Trump was delivering his inaugural speech. She mentioned that Sen. McCain kept saying the names of infamous dictators.

As MSN.com noted: “The arc that we are on, this arc of justice, started the day after that dark inauguration,” Klobuchar said. “The day when I sat on that stage between Bernie (Sanders) and John McCain and John McCain kept reciting to me the names of dictators during that speech, because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation. He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us.”

Sen. Klobuchar intended to honor the memory of Sen. McCain. I am pretty certain that in Meghan McCain’s mind, she has given Donald Trump grist to fire at the memory of the late senator, who the president already has said — since the senator’s death in August 2018 — he has “never liked.”

Trump hasn’t been bashful about criticizing Sen. McCain, even in death. That criticism continues to rankle Meghan McCain, who has been not bashful at all in expressing her disdain for the president or her undying love and admiration for her late father.

Meghan McCain said via Twitter: “On behalf of the entire McCain family (Senator Klobuchar), please be respectful to all of us and leave my father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics.”

OK, so Meghan McCain hasn’t mentioned the president’s penchant for petulant patter, even toward her beloved father. There should be little doubt that she doesn’t want to hear Donald Trump insult her father any longer.

The president has said quite enough already about a man — John McCain — whose legacy of public service will last far longer than anything Donald Trump will ever do for as long as he is an active politician.

Rep. Amash ‘outs’ himself; calls for Trump to be impeached

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash stands atop the back bench of the House of Representatives as a lone Republican voice.

The GOP lawmaker from Michigan has become the first in his political party to say that Donald Trump, the nation’s Republican president, has committed an impeachable offense . . . or three.

Will this relatively unknown legislator be the first of other Republicans to declare they are fed up with the president’s conduct, his disregard for the rule of law, his ignorance about checks and balances, his hideous conduct?

I have no idea.

It does fascinate me that this libertarian-leaning lawmaker who reportedly is at odds often with his party’s congressional leadership would be the first to say what many on the far left of the Democratic Party are saying: that Trump should be impeached immediately.

Of course, Amash used Twitter to make his views known. It does annoy me that so many people in public office are using that particular medium to make these grand pronouncements . . . but that’s a topic for another blog entry.

One lone voice in a particular party doesn’t signal a political tsunami in the making. After all, the House is just the accusatory chamber. The Senate, which still is run by the GOP, has to provide a two-thirds vote to convict a president of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see this Senate with its current partisan makeup following the trail that would be blazed in the House of Representatives.

Which makes all this talk a waste of time.

Sen. Romney stands on principle in voting ‘no’ on judge

I know that a single U.S. Senate vote does not signal a trend, but I have to be heartened by a principled “no” vote cast by Utah’s freshman Republican senator, Mitt Romney.

The former GOP presidential nominee was the lone Republican to vote against the nomination of Beaumont lawyer Michael Truncale to be a U.S. district judge. Truncale won confirmation by a narrow 49-46 vote to take a seat on the bench representing East Texas.

Why the “no” vote from Romney? Because Truncale describe President Obama in 2011 as an “un-American imposter,” which quite naturally was seen by many as a play into the “birther” lie that plagued Obama during much of his presidency; you know, what he was born in Kenya and, thus, was ineligible to run for, let alone serve as, president of the United States.

“He said some things disparaging of President (Barack) Obama and having been the Republican nominee in 2012, I couldn’t sign onto that for a district judge,” Romney told CNN.

Romney has demonstrated that he won’t be Donald Trump’s “yes man” on all matters that come before the Senate.

Truncale received a grilling from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats about the remark and he answered that “it is possible” he was expressing frustration over what he called Obama’s lack of “overt patriotism.”

Yeah, sure thing, bub. Suppose he was merely popping off at that false assumption. Doesn’t that, therefore, speak to the man’s judicial temperament, or the lack thereof?

Romney famously said during the 2012 Al Smith Memorial Dinner in New York that he and President Obama — who were locked in a fierce battle for the White House at the time — did not harbor personal “ill will” toward each other despite their widely divergent world views.

Sen. Romney’s “no” vote against Michael Truncale keeps faith with that declaration.