Tag Archives: World Trade Center

No shortage of commentary grist

I can peg the day when it all began.

It was a Tuesday. Sept. 11, 2001. A colleague popped his head into my office that morning and asked, “Did you hear? Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Centers.” I asked, “Was the weather bad?” He said no; the weather was beautiful. “What kind of moron would do that?” I asked. I turned on the TV — and then watched the second jetliner crash into the other WTC tower.

The horror began.

It hasn’t let up. That was the day that as an opinion journalist — an editor and an editorial writer — that I’ve never had to struggle to find topics on which to comment.

More than one person has asked me about how I am able to write so frequently on varying subjects. I don’t really have a good answer. The only thing I can trace it to occurred on 9/11.

That singular event granted editorial writers such as yours truly with a sort of professional “dream scenario.”

It goes like this: My task for many years after that horrifying event was to decide which subjects I could set aside for another day. The opposite of that option is struggling to find subjects to write about to fill a gaping space on the editorial page.

Those opportunities seem — mysteriously, I should add — to have mushroomed into many other facets of commentary. In the weeks and immediately after 9/11, as the United States prepared to retaliate and as we searched our national soul for what happened on that terrible day, we were consumed by the act and our national response to it.

I stayed at my daily print journalism post for another 11 years after that day. Then my career at the Amarillo Globe-News ended. I have continued my passion for commentary damn near daily since I walked away from a rewarding and moderately successful career.

And in this strange and unexplainable way, I have maintained the pace that was set on 9/11. A day does not arrive that fails to produce something on which to comment. Yes, this blog has spent a lot of energy commenting on matters relating to the presidency of Donald Trump. I am able to look elsewhere, too.

Such as right now, commenting on the environment that produces such a rich harvest of topics on which to pontificate.

It’s great to be alive in this day and time! Yes?

A second ‘Day of Infamy’ still burns

Sixteen years ago our world changed.

Americans started the day, Sept. 11, 2001, like any other day. Then the news came bursting forth from New York City and from Washington, D.C.

Jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The images still burn seemingly as brightly as the flames that burst from the Twin Towers.

Then came news that the Pentagon had been hit by yet another jetliner. That image isn’t recorded. But the crash hit at the heart of our vast military complex.

We would learn later that morning of a fourth jetliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Passengers sought to wrest control of the aircraft from more terrorists. A struggle forced the plane to plunge into the ground.

I was at work that morning at the Amarillo Globe-News. My colleague came in, stuck his head in the door and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in New York?” I responded, “What?” He said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

My next response was another question: “What’s the weather like?” My colleague said it was gorgeous. I blurted out a profanity while wondering out loud, “What kind of bleeping idiot would crash an airplane into the World Trade Center?”

I turned on my TV. I watched the tower burn. Then I watched, right along with the rest of the nation, the second plane crash into the second tower.

That … was no accident.

And, thus, our world was shattered into a million pieces. Three thousand lives were lost. The families and other loved ones of those who died were shattered permanently. There never will be repair coming for them.

As for the nation, I am not sure we’ll recover fully, either. We would go to war in Afghanistan. Later we would take the fight into Iraq. We are now waging a war without a foreseeable end against terrorists who claim to be acting on behalf of fellow Muslims. They are murderers; they are not religious zealots, let alone leaders.

President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii not quite 60 years earlier a “date which will live … in infamy.” It has done exactly as FDR predicted.

The other day of infamy that we’ve all shortened into “9/11” will share forever that frightening distinction.

The enemy is different than those who bombed our ships and planes. Today’s enemy does not represent a sovereign nation. It represents a profoundly perverted ideology. It is more cunning, more elusive than those we defeated so many decades ago.

This fight will require maximum perseverance.

When did ‘fake news’ become what it’s become?

Once upon a lifetime or two ago, back before the Internet or even before the rise of some of current contemporary politicians, I used to think of “fake news” as something that bears little resemblance to what it means today.

That was before we even coined the term “fake news” as it has come to be known these days.

If someone were to present an item as “news,” but it turns out to be false, you’d just call it what it was: a fabrication, a prevarication, a lie. Thanks, though, to an adroit politician — who hates to be called one, even though that is what he is — many of us toss the term “fake news” around recklessly. If it’s negative, it’s “fake.” Even if it tells the truth, it’s “fake” in the eyes of those aligned with the target of such truth-telling.

Donald John Trump, the nation’s 45th president, has now turned the term into something of a rallying cry for the shrinking — but still substantial — base of Americans who still believe what he says.

The president’s standing among Americans is around 38 percent — give or take a point or two — who think he’s doing a good job. The rest of us, um, think a lot less of him. The Trumpkins of this nation glom onto the “fake news” mantra to discredit any news report seen as critical of their guy.

They don’t get the irony, though, of what they say about the media. If you want any clearer example of what I used to think of as “fake news,” you need look no further than the man who’s made it the rallying cry it has become.

Donald Trump is the king of fake news. Call him King Donald the Faker. To wit:

He perpetrated the lie that Barack Obama was constitutionally unqualified to hold the office of president; he cited a phony instance of “thousands of Muslims cheering” the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11; he said President Obama bugged his campaign office after the election; he said “millions of illegal immigrants” voted for Hillary Clinton and gave her the 3 million popular vote plurality she scored over Trump, despite losing the Electoral College vote; he implied there might be White House recordings of conversations he had with fired FBI Director James Comey.

What, I ask, do all these instances have in common? They’re all demonstrably false. They’re lies. They are made up events.

They are “fake news”!

Still, the president gets away with it in the minds of those who stand by their man.

I get that Donald Trump changed the rules of politics when he ran for and won the presidency in 2016. Brother, do I ever get it.

What continues to boggle my mind, though, is the very idea that this guy gets away with hanging the “fake news” label on media and news reports while being cheered on by those who ignore his own tawdry record of dishing out lies.

Trump keeps taking narcissism to new levels

My trusty American Heritage dictionary defines “narcissism” this way: An excessive love or admiration for oneself.

Do you think Donald J. Trump fits the bill?

Consider what he told The Associated Press in a rambling interview that seems to make zero sense when you read the transcript.

One of the things he mentioned was how the TV news/talk show ratings would zoom upward whenever he appeared on them. He said they were the “best since 9/11.”

Let that sink for a moment or two. The president of the United States somehow sought to equate the soaring ratings he brought to TV news shows to their coverage of one of the worst days in the history of the Republic.

Nearly 3,000 people died when the Twin Towers collapsed in Lower Manhattan, N.Y. More victims died at the Pentagon. Even more perished in that Pennsylvania field after passengers battled valiantly against terrorists aboard a doomed jetliner.

And yet …

The president manages to meld that terrible, horrifying tragedy with his TV ratings?

Trump is redefining narcissism. Indeed, they need to put his picture next to the dictionary definition of the word.

Even the fact checkers have become suspect


I’m puzzled about fact checkers.

These are the folks and organizations that check the accuracy of declarations that politicians make.

They were at it again after Donald J. Trump’s fiery immigration speech. They sought to parse many of Trump’s contentions about illegal immigration.

Why the puzzlement?


Well, many observers contend the fact checkers are as biased as the politicians, or the “liberal media,” or the print and broadcast pundits.

Hillary Clinton’s speeches get examined, too. The fact checkers “check the facts” relating to her declarations. She once proclaimed that she worked well across the aisle with Republicans to approve legislation that benefited the country. A fact checker determined that Clinton clearly overstated her bipartisan approach to legislating. Biased?

Trump’s “facts” get “checked” constantly. Indeed, there’s so much to verify, given the Republican presidential nominee’s penchant for saying that are demonstrably untrue. My favorite untruth is Trump’s assertion that he witnessed “thousands” of Muslims cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center. It didn’t happen, man.

I’m still trying to process this fact checking thing, though, to determine if the fact checkers are looking for holes in candidates’ statements because they disagree in principle with the politician they’re examining.

The ranks of the totally trustworthy are shrinking all around us.

Media simply ‘afflicting the comfortable’


Journalism has its share of clichés that seek to define its mission.

One of them is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

It doesn’t betray a bias, per se. It simply defines one of the tenets that drives journalists to do their job with thoroughness, while being fair to those they are examining.

Thus, a group of journalists sat before Donald J. Trump on Tuesday and grilled the presumptive Republican presidential nomination on donations he said he made to veterans organizations.

Trump’s response was to throw a tantrum.


The issue at hand dealt with whether Trump actually donated the amount of money he said he had donated to veterans organizations.

Washington Post reporters had detected a discrepancy in what Trump had said, that the money went to the organizations many months after he said he made the donation. So, media representatives questioned him about that discrepancy, only to have Trump respond with another round of name-calling and insults.

Trump seems to demonstrate a casual disregard for the facts. He said after the 9/11 attacks that he witnessed “thousands and thousands of Muslims” cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

He didn’t witness anything of the sort.

Some pundits have accused Trump of being a “pathological liar,” defining it as a case in which the candidate tells a lie knowing it to be a lie and understanding full well that others who hear it also know it to be a lie.

It’s the media’s responsibility to ensure that candidates be held accountable for statements they make.

That’s what happened at the news conference Tuesday as the media grilled the candidate on what he said he’d done on behalf of veterans organizations.

Sure, they have “afflicted the comfortable.” It’s their job.


No, Ivanka … Dad hasn’t ‘elevated’ the debate


Ivanka Trump’s love for her father is a beautiful thing to see.

Most of the time.

It becomes a bit less beautiful when she says things about the “contribution” dear ol’ Dad has made to the level of discourse in this year’s campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Donald J. Trump — Ivanka’s father — has “elevated (the debate) — he’s created dialogue around issues. It’s a powerful thing,” she said.


I don’t believe that’s the case.

Trump has come under intense criticism from leaders in both major political parties for, let’s see, doing the precise opposite of what Ivanka Trump says he has done.

He has lowered the level of discourse. He has taken it to depths not seen in at least two generations.

Daddy Trump’s insults of other candidates have topped the charts.

He has ridiculed other candidates’ physical appearance, their eating habits, their level of “energy.” He has hurtful things about a journalist’s physical disability. Trump has said amazingly crass things about the alleged reasons another journalist asked him tough and pointed questions at a televised debate.

Ivanka Trump also disregards the lies Trump has told all along the way as he moves closer to becoming the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

One stands out: Donald Trump said he watched “thousands of Muslims” cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. He’s also said the Mexican government is sending rapists, drug dealers and murderers to commit mayhem and misery on this side of the countries’ common border.

This is how his daughter — by all accounts an accomplished young woman — describes as “elevating” the level of discourse during the campaign for president.

She said her father is “honest.” He says what’s on his mind at the moment, Ivanka said.

There’s something to be said — although I don’t know what that would be — for that brand of “honesty.” Let us not, though, suggest that it elevates the quality of what has passed so far for political debate.



No, Mr. Trump, ‘Islam’ doesn’t hate us


Islam hates America?

That’s what Republican Party presidential campaign frontrunner Donald J. Trump has asserted in his latest broadside against nearly 2 billion of the world’s residents.

No sir. You are wrong!

Trump’s assertion goes far afield from what we know.

It is that a radical portion of the Islamic religion has perverted the doctrine espoused by a great religion. They are not true Muslims. They are cultists. They are murderers. They are religious perverts.

The men who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon on 9/11 were not God-fearing Muslims. They were murderers, pure and simple.

Sure, these individuals hate Americans. They also hate Europeans. Moreover, they also hate fellow Muslims.

Let us realize that the largest number of casualties who’ve been injured and killed by terror attacks around the world are Muslims.

Trump’s false assertion became a brief talking point tonight at the Republican debate in Miami. Sen. Marco Rubio challenged Trump by suggesting that the reality TV celebrity is wrong to suggest that hatred for America is somehow codified in the Quran.

It’s not.

Donald Trump cannot be allowed to get away with this continued fear- and hate-mongering along the presidential campaign trail.


Is this the year the U.S. gets hit?


Well before the sun set on Sept. 11, 2001, defense analysts and terror experts were almost unanimous in their assessment of our nation’s future.

If was not a matter of “if” we would be hit again, but “when.”

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, that he believes this is the year it will happen.

The Islamic State, he said, is going to continue to hit Europe and well might plan a coordinated attack on our shores.

When will it occur? The general didn’t say. He cannot know.

In reality, though, he didn’t provide a serious scoop on what’s been understood since the terror attacks of 9/11.

That attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was so daring, so audacious, so brilliantly executed that it prompted President Bush and his national security team to create an entirely new Cabinet agency assigned to protect us. The Department of Homeland Security has been on the job ever since.

Now, the question always has been: Will this country be able to protect itself forever against the next terror attack? There can be zero guarantee against another attack that could rival the horror that al-Qaida brought to our shores on the beautiful Tuesday morning in New York and Washington.

But then again, had we been fully alert to the dangers that always have lurked, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so totally shocked at what transpired that day.

The Bush administration — once it gathered itself after the horror of that day — managed to keep us safe for the remainder of its time in office. The Obama administration has kept up the fight and has continued to keep the terrorists at bay.

But Gen. Stewart’s prediction of another terror attack — this time by the Islamic State — shouldn’t be seen as a big-time news flash.

Al-Qaida managed to get our guard up. Our task always has been to ensure we stay on the highest alert possible.

The enemy, though, is as cunning as they come. Many of us will not be surprised when they strike again.


So very wrong about Campaign ’16 . . . so far


I’ve said it more times than I can remember, which is that I’m wrong far more frequently than I am right.

My political prognostication skill has been exposed for what it is: shaky . . . at best.

Thus, I am prepared to acknowledge how wrong I’ve been about the current campaign for the presidency. My wrongness tracks along both parties’ trails.

First, the Republicans.

Donald J. Trump’s candidacy has withstood the candidate’s own serious shortcomings as a presidential aspirant, let alone his actual ability to govern.

Never in a zillion years did I think he’d still be in this campaign — let alone leading the GOP gaggle of candidates — after the countless insults he has hurled along the way.

Sen. John McCain’s valor during the Vietnam War doesn’t make him a hero? The ridiculous back/forth with broadcast journalist Megyn Kelly during the first presidential debate? His assertion that he’ll build a wall along our southern border and force Mexico to pay for it? His revealing Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number? His proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States? His assertion that he witnessed “thousands of Muslims cheering” the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11?

OK, I’ve left some of ’em out.

Despite all that, this guy continues to lead the pack.

Anger among GOP voters? That’s what is moving this man forward? If that is the case, then the Republican Party “base” is lost its sanity.

During President Obama’s State of the Union speech, I tried to imagine Donald Trump standing at that lectern offering high-minded, soaring rhetoric designed to lay the groundwork for how he intends to govern. Imagine him as well standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol next January offering his inaugural speech to the nation as its 45th president.

All I hear coming from this guy are blustering, blistering insults.

Is that really what we want in the next president of the United States? Our head of state? Our commander in chief?

Now for the Democrats.

I once thought Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nomination was a shoo-in. She had it locked up. Nothing, or no one, would derail the Hillary Express on its way to the nomination and to the White House.

Then came Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist with a campaign theme that has resonated with his party’s base. Break up the big banks, de-fang the Wall Street power brokers, spread the wealth around, lift up everyone’s wages and reduce the income gap between the very rich and the rest of the country.

Republicans have made a lot of hay over Benghazi, which has become a form of political shorthand that means: Clinton lied about what she knew about the attack on the U.S. consulate in that Libyan city. There’s a congressional select committee that’s still looking for something to torpedo Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Sanders — the independent U.S. senator from Vermont — is drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds. He’s ahead by a good bit in New Hampshire, the site of the nation’s first primary vote and is now virtually tied with Clinton in Iowa, which is about to kick off the voting with its caucuses.

Do I believe Hillary Clinton will be denied the nomination? No. But it sure ain’t the coronation I thought it would be when this campaign began.

Let me add, too, that I do not believe Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. I have some faith — although it’s been hammered — that the Republican Party brass comprises reasonable, intelligent and sane men and women who understand the consequences of nominating someone whose main skill lies in his ability to insult anyone who disagrees with him.

I don’t like acknowledging how wrong I have been.

Still, I feel better now for saying so out loud.