Tag Archives: Washington Post

R.I.P., Dr. Krauthammer

It didn’t take long after all.

Charles Krauthammer, the noted newspaper columnist and commentator for Fox News, announced on June 8 that he only had “weeks to live” after receiving a grim prognosis on his valiant battle against cancer.

Today, Fox announced that Krauthammer lost his fight. He died at age 68 of abdominal cancer. I am saddened in the extreme to hear this news.

Dr. Krauthammer was a Renaissance man in the purest sense. He obtained a medical degree from Harvard University and was a practicing psychiatrist when he decided to enter politics. He went to work in the Carter administration, where he wrote speeches for Vice President Walter Mondale.

Then he gravitated toward journalism. His ideology drifted to the right and he became one of the nation’s premier conservative columnists. He wrote with precision and clarity. Dr. Krauthammer signed on with The Washington Post — and then was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the commentary he wrote for the newspaper.

I was proud to run his column in the Amarillo Globe-News for all the years I worked at the newspaper. I’ve noted already that although I didn’t subscribe to his world view, I recognize great writing and clear thinking when I see it. Dr. Krauthammer provided both with his commentary — and I always enjoyed reading his work, thinking often at the time, “Damn! I wish I could write like that.”

American journalism has lost a significant voice. Charles Krauthammer was one of the great ones.

Happy Watergate Day, everyone

June 17, 1972 has gone down as the day when a presidency started to unravel, except that virtually no one on that very day predicted it would happen.

It started out as a “third-rate burglary.” Some men got caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and hotel complex in Washington, D.C.

They rifled through some files. They left. A security guard discovered the break-in and reported it to the cops.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A couple of reporters for the Washington Post — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — covered the event as a police beat story. Then a few tips began trickling in. The reporters then began to piece together some hints that the story was a lot bigger than a run-of-the-mill “cop shop” tale.

It turned out to be the biggest political story of the past century. President Nixon sought to cover it up. He told federal authorities to shut down the investigation. Thus, the cover-up swallowed this event whole. Revelations about the cover-up prompted the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to approve articles of impeachment; a select Senate committee had hearings as well.

It ended with the president’s resignation.

The scandal also produced a suffix that results in adding the word “gate” to every controversy — large and small — that bubbles up in the halls of power. To me, as I’ve noted before, “Watergate” stands alone. The current president recently used the term “Spygate” to describe the alleged espionage of his campaign by the FBI in 2016. Fiddlesticks! There was no spying on the Donald Trump campaign. There damn sure was no “Spygate” occurrence.

Watergate also signaled the rise of gumshoe journalism. Bernstein and Woodward would be honored by their peers for the work they did to expose the enormous level of corruption they discovered. They helped energize a crop of journalism students and young reporters who sought to serve their own communities.

The reporters who covered the Watergate scandal did their job. They held the government accountable. They revealed the truth to a public that demanded it of the media and the government.

At many levels, the Watergate scandal illustrated a dark time in our nation’s political history. It also instigated the media shining a bright light down the halls of power.

I am proud of the role the media played in revealing the truth behind the scandal that toppled a president. Yes, it produced a “long national nightmare,” as the new president, Gerald R. Ford, told us.

We awoke from it and the nation emerged stronger as a result.

Krauthammer: ‘My fight is over’

Charles Krauthammer could have forged a stellar career in medicine after graduating from Harvard Medical School. He became a psychiatrist.

Then he went into public service, joining the Carter administration and serving as a policy adviser and speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale.

Eventually, Dr. Krauthammer gravitated rightward. He became a columnist, a pundit — and a sharp one at that.

Fox News Channel came along and hired Krauthammer as a contributor to the network, where he burnished his conservative commentary skills and where he became a stalwart of the network’s array of commentators.

Today, this brilliant essayist and pundit has announced that his doctors have given him only “weeks to live.” Krauthammer’s cancer has returned. The prognosis is as grim as it gets.

Allow me this moment to express my profound sadness at what is likely to transpire.

Back when I was working for a living as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, Krauthammer emerged as one of my favorite columnists, whose work we published regularly.

He is a brilliant essayist. He writes with precision and is concise in stating whatever view he wants to project.

Did I agree with him? No, but that’s not the point. One need not agree with someone to appreciate and admire his or her work. I admire Krauthammer’s brilliant mind and appreciate the courage with which he speaks. He speaks without outward rancor. He doesn’t “scream” his rhetoric while presenting his view of how the world should turn.

Here is Krauthammer’s note announcing his prognosis, published in the Washington Post, where he worked as a columnist since 1984.

Krauthammer says goodbye

This news saddens me terribly.

***

You are welcome to take a look at something I wrote in October 2009 about Charles Krauthammer. My thoughts about were as strong then as they are today.

A word or two dispelling a rumor

The man can turn a phrase.

 

 

So … POTUS has this to say on this day

A brief reminder of the kind of man who occupies the presidency is in order.

It comes from Philip Rucker, a stellar reporter for the Washington Post, who posted this item on Twitter:

Just observing that this is the morning of Barbara Bush’s funeral in Houston and the official presidential messages so far are about “flunkies,” “drunk/drugged up losers” and “the horrible Witch Hunt.”

While the rest of the nation mourns the death and honors the glorious life of one of its most beloved public figures, Donald J. Trump resorts to his usual array of cyber-bullying, insults and petulance.

Disgraceful.

Trump vs. Bezos, er … Amazon

Gosh, do you suppose just possibly the president of the United States is angry with Amazon.com because its owner, a guy named Jeff Bezos, happens to also own one of the nation’s leading newspapers — which has written deemed to be critical articles of the same president?

Let’s try to assess the real reason for Donald J. Trump’s anger.

He contends that Amazon is undercutting the U.S. Postal Service. He’s been tweeting his brains out over Amazon. It’s been Amazon this and Amazon that. He’s been browbeating and berating the company via Twitter.

I have to wonder out loud: Why hasn’t he gone after Facebook with equal ferocity, given that medium’s relationship with a company, Cambridge Analytica, that used Facebook customers’ individual data for political purposes — which allegedly sought to benefit the Trump presidential campaign?

Not a peep from POTUS on that one.

Amazon? That’s a different story.

Bezos’s newspaper, The Washigton Post, has been dogged in its reporting of matters affecting, let’s see, “the Russia thing,” Trump finances, the Cabinet shuffle, the chaos and confusion within the West Wing, Jared Kushner’s role as a Middle East peace broker … that kind of thing.

Trump keeps yapping that The Post is reporting “fake news,” which in itself is the height of irony, given that the president is the “purveyor in chief” of fake news. But … I digress.

Trump’s so-called anger with Amazon looks to be nothing more than a case of cyberbullying by the leader of the free world against an Internet mogul who moonlights as the owner of a first-class newspaper that doesn’t slobber all over the president to his liking.

‘The Post’ reminds one of how it used to be

I saw “The Post.” This won’t be a review of the film, except that I simply want to say it was gripping to the maximum degree.

It reminds me of how it used to be in daily print journalism.

I had some trepidation about seeing it. Some of my fellow travelers in the journalism craft had expressed dismay at seeing the film and lamenting what has become of a proud profession. I had a glint of fear that I might share their gloom. I mean, look at what has happened to newspapers all across the nation. They’re shrinking and withering before our eyes as publishers grapple against forces that are overwhelming them: the Internet, the plethora of “news” sources, cable television.

That fear never hit me. Instead, I reveled in the story it told and rejoiced in the victory that The Washington Post scored in the effort to censor it, preventing the government from invoking a prior restraint on a free and unfettered press.

“The Post” tells the story of the paper’s effort to publish the Pentagon Papers, a report written during the Vietnam War. The Papers told of the deception perpetrated on the public by several presidential administrations: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Officials all told of supposed “progress” in the fight against the communists in Vietnam. They lied to the nation. The Pentagon Papers revealed the lie.

The New York Times obtained the papers from Daniel Ellsberg. It got the story out first, then the Nixon administration persuaded a judge to prohibit further publication of the Papers, citing national security concerns.

Post editor Ben Bradlee didn’t see it that way. He eventually guaranteed publisher Katherine Graham that no American fighting man would be harmed if the Post published the rest of the damning document.

The matter ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which then ruled 6-3 against the Nixon administration — and in favor of the First Amendment guarantee of a free press.

The film tells that story in gripping fashion.

In a larger sense, though, the film reminds us of the value of press freedom and the good that the freedom brings to a public that needs to know the truth about the government that works for us.

It also reminds us of journalism’s value to a nation that promotes liberty. Indeed, given the current climate and the fomenting of hatred against the press that’s coming from the current presidential administration, “The Post” comes across as profoundly topical and relevant.

I cheered during the film when Graham gave the go-ahead to publish the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post. The sight of presses turning over brought a lump to my throat.

I worked proudly in that craft for nearly 37 years. I never had the opportunity to cover a story of the magnitude of the Pentagon Papers. I did, though, have my share of thrills about getting a story into print and feeling the impact of that story on the community our newspaper served. I would derive the same satisfaction as I gravitated to opinion journalism and wrote editorials or signed columns that challenged the sources of power in our community.

“The Post,” therefore, didn’t sadden me.

It made me proud to have taken the career path I chose.

Heroism thrust unto young man in Texas

Oh, man. It is so hard to find anything at all positive to say about the horrific tragedy that unfolded Sunday in a tiny town just east of San Antonio.

I am going to try to say something good.

It involves a young man who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. He is Johnnie Landendorff, a lanky young man who was having breakfast Sunday morning and was planning to visit his girlfriend. Then he walked out of a diner and started driving. He approached First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Then he noticed a man dressed in black trading gunshots with someone else.

The fellow who was shooting back at the gunman approached Langendorff. They had never met. They took off in Langendorff’s pickup and chased the lunatic for several miles, at speeds believed to be around 95 mph. Langendorf called the police and gave them directions on his location and of the vehicle he was chasing.

The gunman’s SUV crashed eventually. The shooter was dead inside the vehicle when the police arrived.

Local law enforcement officials now seem to believe the gunman took his own life, either as the vehicle was fleeing the scene or after he crashed. The fellow who joined Langendorff in the pursuit reportedly hit the gunman with a gunshot during the fire fight outside the church. As the Washington Post reported: “The gentleman that was with me got out, rested his rifle on my hood and kept it aimed at him, telling him to get out, get out. There was no movement, there was none of that. I just know his brake lights were going on and off, so he might have been unconscious from the crash or something like that, I’m not sure,” he said.

None of this is likely to give comfort to the families and loved ones of the 26 people who died — or the estimated 20 others who were wounded — in the carnage. However, it is entirely possible that Langendorff and other fellow likely prevented even more heartache with their actions.

It’s been said that heroes usually don’t seek to act out their deeds, that circumstances often are thrust upon them. Such was the case with two Texas men.

I don’t feel like offering any glowing praise in this moment of profound national grief and mourning. I’ll just say simply that we should thank God Almighty that these men had the presence of mind to do what they did.

Hoping for a lengthy stay for Tillerson

I’m allowed to eat a bit of crow, aren’t I?

I was one of those who was skeptical about Rex Tillerson’s appointment as secretary of state in the Trump administration. In recent days and weeks, though, I’ve become a believer in the former ExxonMobil mogul’s ability to do the job and to speak for the United States of America.

There’s reporting that Tillerson might not be long for Donald Trump’s administration. He might not stay on the job for a year. He might bail early.

I hope he stays on. I hope he can find a way to work with that clown wagon known as the Trump administration.

My fear is that the clock has begun ticking on Secretary Tillerson’s tenure.

The president might have started the moment he heard Tillerson tell Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president speaks for himself.” The context of that response, though, is most telling.

Wallace asked Tillerson about the Charlottesville riot and the nation’s mood in the wake of the violence that erupted. Tillerson said the world understands the State Department’s commitment to human rights.

Wallace then asked about whether the president concurs. That’s when Tillerson responded with the “speaks for himself” comment.

To my ears, it sounded as though the secretary was putting some distance between the department he runs and the man to whom Tillerson reports — the president.

As the Washington Post reported: “And some who have recently seen Tillerson say the former ExxonMobil chief executive — unaccustomed to taking orders from a superior, let alone one as capricious as Trump — also seems to be ready to end his State Department tenure. He has grumbled privately to (White House chief of staff John) Kelly about Trump’s recent controversies, said two people familiar with their relationship.”

Damn!

Tillerson exhibited some much-needed sanity, maturity and intelligence in that moment. The nation needs more of it.

Standing with this Vietnam vet

I’m with John Ackert.

The Tallahassee, Fla., resident has been told he must remove an American flag from his mailbox. The edict has come from the homeowners association to which he belongs. The HOA has rules that prohibit member homeowners from decorating their mailboxes — even with patriotic colors.

What a stupid rule!

Ackert served in Vietnam. He had been drafted, but then joined the Navy, where he made it a career of military service. Ackert retired with the rank of lieutenant commander.

I get that the HOA has rules its members must follow. But this one? This rule about donning red, white and blue colors on a mailbox? I believe that’s a bit too strict.

According to The Washington Post: “Recently, he said, the homeowners association wrote to him, saying the flag mailbox violated the community covenant and had to go. If he did nothing, the letter said, the HOA would fine him and could ultimately place a lien on his home.”

Place a lien on his home? Are you bleeping kidding me?

Read more of the Post story here.

The HOA has clammed up, saying that it is talking with Ackert and that it wouldn’t comment specifically on the dispute until after it is resolved.

Here’s a thought. How about waiving that stupid rule and let people decorate their mailboxes as they see fit, providing they don’t do so with images some would find offensive; you know, nude pictures and that kind of thing?

But decking out a mailbox with colors depicting Old Glory? Please!

Stand tall, Lt. Cmdr. Ackert!

Trump channeling Nixon?

The Washington media chatterers keep making comparisons between Donald John Trump and Richard Milhous Nixon.

They note certain symmetry between the two presidents of the United States. President Nixon became involved in covering up the Watergate break-in just days after it occurred. How do we know that? It was all tape-recorded. Trump, meanwhile, is now being accused of covering up his own involvement with Russians who reportedly meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

The difference between the men’s conduct, though, is stark in one important aspect. Nixon got into trouble near the end of his first term; he would be re-elected in a landslide in 1972, and then the crap really hit the fan. Trump has been president only for a few months; he still has years to go before the end of his current term — and the crap is beginning to hit the fan already.

I am not going to predict that Trump’s presidency will end the way Nixon’s did. The lies, dissembling, the switching of stories, the dramatic and drastic personnel changes at the highest levels of executive governance all are beginning to alarm many of us.

John Kelly stepped with both feet into this maelstrom when he became the new White House chief of staff this week. He scored a big victory in his first hours on the job by getting communications director Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci booted out of the White House. Whether that initial move portends better days, weeks and months ahead at the White House remains a gaping, open question.

The Nixon comparisons only are going to mount with every revelation that is revealed. As Ruth Marcus notes in her Washington Post column, the White House is imploding.

It’s almost impossible for me to grasp the notion that all of this is happening at the very beginning of Donald Trump’s term as president. What in the world lies ahead?