Top cops bristle at POTUS’s call for rough treatment

I haven’t talked to Amarillo Police Chief Ed Drain about this subject, but my hunch is that he likely has joined other chiefs of police in their opposition to a law enforcement policy pronouncement by the president of the United States.

Donald John Trump Sr. has suggested that police officers need not worry about being “too nice” with individuals they arrest. Police have been fighting a serious public-relations battle in recent years caused by the actions of some officers who’ve been accused of brutality against the citizens they are sworn to “protect and serve.”

That doesn’t bother Trump, or so it would seem. His remarks in New York this past week suggest that it’s OK with him if cops decide to rough criminal suspects up. Police chiefs sought to put immediate distance between themselves and the president.

As the Washington Post reported: “Some police leaders worried that three sentences uttered by the president during a Long Island, N.Y., speech could upend nearly three decades of fence-mending since the 1991 Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King ushered in an era of distrust of police.

“’It’s the wrong message,’ Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP while speaking of the trust-building work that departments have undertaken since King’s beating. ‘The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force.’”

Let’s circle back to Amarillo’s police department for a moment. Drain took command of the department a few months ago and immediately announced plans to reactivate the PD’s community policing policy, which encourages greater interpersonal contact between officers and the communities they patrol.

That kind of policy doesn’t lend itself to the sort of rough-stuff rhetoric the president espoused.

I’m going to stick with the cops on this one. They have a tough enough fight on their hands trying to maintain the trust of the communities they serve. The president’s message — if acted upon — makes the police mission virtually impossible.

Listen to this senator

This video lasts 4 minutes and 34 seconds. It is part of a speech that U.S. Sen. John McCain delivered in the midst of an impassioned debate on the Senate floor about whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

McCain came back to Capitol Hill to cast a decisive vote against repeal and replacement of the ACA, effectively killing the Republican effort to affect one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

McCain’s speech, though, deals mostly with the political process that has rendered the Senate virtually impotent. The body has become infected with a win-at-any-cost mentality that McCain says strips the Senate of the title of being “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

McCain — who’s battling brain cancer — took responsibility for being part of the problem. He would go on later to call for a return to “regular order.” He wants the Senate — and I presume the House of Representatives, too — to return to process that encourages compromise and cooperation among lawmakers of both political parties.

It’s not that way now. The word “compromise” has become an epithet. Sen. McCain is right to call for a return to the old way of doing things on Capitol Hill. It’s the only way out of the morass that has engulfed the nation’s legislative branch of government.

Listen to this snippet. It speaks volumes about a brave and heroic American. Our political system needs many more just like him.

Hold on, Rep. Waters!

Donald John Trump Sr. isn’t the only American politician who needs to bind up his hands to keep him from abusing his Twitter account.

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters? I’m talking about you!

The California Democrat is one of the president’s most vocal and consistent critics. She fired off a tweet that said Vice President Pence already is planning his inauguration in anticipation of Trump’s impeachment and conviction of assorted “high crimes and misdemeanors.” She said former White House press flack Sean Spicer and ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus will “lead the transition.”

Read my lips here: I take a back seat to no one in my disdain for this president and the way he has conducted himself. But impeachment is not even close to occurring.

Waters has been around Capitol Hill for a long time. I am going to presume she does an adequate job representing her California congressional district, given that she’s been re-elected numerous times since her first election to Congress in 1990.

She tends to make a national name for herself, though, by popping off during heated political debates. It’s getting pretty damn hot in Washington these days, as I believe we all can attest.

Waters isn’t the first anti-Trumpkin to talk openly about impeachment. Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Green of Texas has filed articles of impeachment, but it isn’t going anywhere — at least not yet.

But this business of using Twitter as a platform to make these kinds goofy political pronouncements is beginning to annoy many of us. You may count me as among the annoyed.

Wondering if POTUS consults with predecessors

It’s been said that former presidents of the United States comprise the most exclusive club in the world.

Only these individuals know with any sort of certainty what the current president is facing. Only they know the struggles he endures.

At this moment, the nation has five men who belong to that club: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama. I believe five is the most we’ve ever had at one time.

We’ve been down to zero. I believe the last time it occurred was when Lyndon Johnson died in January 1973, making the president at the time, Richard Nixon, something of a “political orphan.” He had no one with whom he could consult.

So, with that bit of backdrop, my thoughts turn to the current president and whether he is imbued with the inclination to ask any of his predecessors for advice, counsel or support.

I think I know the answer to that. Donald John Trump Sr. campaigned for the office declaring himself a “smart person” who would be surrounded by the “best people.” He told us he knows “more about ISIS than the generals … believe me.” He said repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act would be “easy.” Trump kept boasting over and over about how his business acumen made him so rich. Trump said he had the “best mind,” and he seeks advice from within his own noggin, that he didn’t need anyone else.

Each of the men who served before him, though, bring certain knowledge and expertise about the myriad world problems confronting the president.

President Carter knows a thing or three about achieving peace in the Middle East; oh, wait, Trump has his 30-something son-in-law working on that one. President G.H.W. Bush has experience negotiating with Russians; oh never mind, Trump is tight with the Russians. President Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to produce a balanced federal budget; Trump and congressional Democrats hate each other’s guts. President G.W. Bush rallied the nation in the weeks after 9/11; Trump detests Bush 43’s decision to go to war in Iraq. President Obama fought tooth and nail against Republicans seeking to block everything he did, but he still managed to enact the Affordable Care Act; Trump has failed on that “easy” effort.

Donald Trump certainly could use some counsel from any or all of the men who came before him.

Every indication I’ve seen — admittedly from a distance — tells me the president actually believes what he boasted. That he’s the smartest man ever to hold the office.

If only he was smart enough to realize he isn’t.

But, Secretary Perry, are transgender warriors less brave?

Rick Perry says he is in total support of Donald John Trump’s decision to bar transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces.

Of course he is. He’s part of the Trump team now. The president forgave Perry for labeling Trump a “cancer on conservativism.” His reward was to appoint him secretary of energy.

Perry, though, weighed in on the president’s tweet that became a major policy reversal. Trump declared: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

The president, though, didn’t talk to all of the generals. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford declared that all personnel would be treated with “respect,” and that no policy changes would be enacted until the order came from the defense secretary. It’s that thing called “chain of command” that has given Gen. Dunford pause.

As for Perry’s support of Trump’s decision, he said the government shouldn’t have to pay for surgeries in which personnel change their sexual identity. Reporters reminded him that studies showed the cost of such procedures amounts to about 10 percent of the money the government pays to provide medicine that cures erectile dysfunction.

Perry’s response? “I don’t check out the cost of Viagra.” Yuk, yuk …

Neither the president or his energy secretary, though, have yet to produce any evidence that transgender military personnel are less capable than any other of their comrades in arms. Nor have they have provided proof that they are less patriotic, less loyal or that they don’t love their country as much as anyone.

The president has used Twitter to make a policy pronouncement without considering for a moment what it means. I would have expected better from the secretary of energy — himself an Air Force veteran — if not the know-nothing commander in chief.

What about the ‘idiot in chief,’ Gen. Kelly?

The new White House chief of staff is being described as someone who won’t “suffer idiots.”

No surprise there. John Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general. He’s been tested in combat during his 45 years in uniform. He has suffered grievous tragedy with the loss of his son who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Until this week, he led the Department of Homeland Security. Then the president of the United States asked him to take over as White House chief of staff.

Those who know Gen. Kelly say he brooks no foolishness.

That brings us to the fundamental point. The most successful White House chiefs of staff control virtually every word that flows from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In this age of social media, that should include the Twitter network operated by Donald John Trump.

Is the new chief of staff going to demand from the president that he — as in Kelly — has complete control? Will the chief be able to screen the tweets the president decides to fire off? Will he have veto power over the idiocy that occasionally flies into cyber space?

According to The Washington Post: “He knows how to do this: with common sense and good leadership,” said Kelly’s longtime friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer frank opinions. “He won’t suffer idiots and fools.”

Idiots and fools, eh?

The idiot in chief also is the fool in chief. They are the same man, who was elected president of the United States in a campaign that defied virtually every single bit of conventional wisdom known to politics.

He vowed to become “more presidential” once he took office. Trump has veered precisely into the opposite direction, as he has become less presidential.

It now falls on the new White House chief of staff to rein in The Boss. I’m unsure how Gen. Kelly is going to harness the most ignorant man ever to hold the highest office in the land.

It’s been said that former chief of staff Reince Priebus’s tenure is the shortest in U.S. history. If the new guy doesn’t get some guarantees from the president that he’ll actually get to take charge of the staff, Priebus’s record may be smashed in a matter of days.

More frequent mowing? It’s a start, City Hall

Amarillo City Councilman Eddy Sauer posted an encouraging message on Facebook, which reads in part:

At Tuesday’s Council meeting we signed an agreement with TXDOT to increase mowings and weed control on I-40 and I-27. Improving curb appeal is a huge priority for me and the Council. While I’d like to take the credit, this is the result of hard work by city staff and our local TXDOT engineers and coordinators. I am very pleased and proud of how hard our staff is working to embrace the new council’s vision of moving our city forward. We are truly blessed and will continue to work hard to fulfill the commitments we’ve made to our residents. 

It’s a start, councilman.

The city is setting aside some additional money to cover the cost of the increased mowing. But to those who have expressed concern about the appearance of the interstate thoroughfares coursing through the city — such as yours truly — there remains a good bit more work to do.

Mayor Ginger Nelson laid out a detailed platform that included a highway beautification plank in it. I believe she intends to follow through on that pledge.

There ought to be a strategy laid out that enables the city and the state to team up on a landscaping program that dresses up the I-40/27 interchange. I recall when the Texas highway department rebuilt the interchange, flipping the east-west bound lanes with the north-south lanes. It was a huge undertaking. The state decorated the overpasses with colors that mirrored Palo Duro Canyon’s walls.

Then it let the ground under the interchange to become choked by weeds.

I applaud the City Council’s decision to run the mowers more frequently along the interstate rights-of-way. There’s more to do.

It’s you, Mr. President, not your chief of staff

The critiques are pouring in on the White House in the wake of the ouster of Reince Priebus as chief of staff.

Donald John Trump shoved Priebus out the door this week and hired Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as the new chief.

But those critiques seem to be conveying the same message: The White House failure to function as a “fine-tuned machine” — which is how Trump once described his administration — belongs solely to the president, not the chief of staff.

It’s Trump’s tweets. It’s his capriciousness. It’s his ignorance of government and how it works. It’s the presence of unqualified family members in the innermost circle of key advisers. It’s that maniac communications director — Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci — who reports directly to the president.

Because the president doesn’t know how to assemble a competent governing team, his chief of staff has fallen on the proverbial grenade.

His new chief of staff, Kelly, comes from an entirely different mold. He is a career Marine Corps officer; a retired four-star general; a war hero; a Gold Star father who lost a son in combat. He’s a kick-ass military man.

My latest Question of the Day is simply this: Is the president going to let Gen. Kelly run the White House and control the message the way it’s supposed to be done, the way many effective chiefs of staff have done?

I don’t know what John Kelly is doing this weekend as he prepares to assume this new gig, but I would hope he’d be on the phone with some preceding chiefs of staff and asking them for pointers on how he ought to proceed in this atmosphere of chaos and confusion.

The source of that chaos? He sits on the Oval Office.

Bathroom Bill is a huge error

I am going to stand foursquare, solidly behind my former colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who has written a profoundly reasonable rebuke of Senate Bill 3, which the Texas Senate approved on a partisan vote.

SB 3 is the so-called Bathroom Bill. As Beilue notes, it is rooted in unfounded fear. Read Beilue’s column in the Amarillo Globe-News here.

I’m not an “embarrassed conservative” who voted twice for Ronald Reagan, as Beilue describes himself. I am an unapologetic progressive who is horrified that state government would waste its time — and my money — on this discriminatory legislation.

The bill would require transgender individuals to use public restrooms that comport with the gender assigned on their birth certificate. That’s right. A burly dude who once was a woman has to use the women’s room; a hot babe who came into this world as a boy has to use the men’s room.

How in the name of all that is reasonable does one enforce such a law? Who is going to check to see if a woman has all her appropriate body parts? Who’ll do the same thing to a man?

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Senate, keeps yapping about protecting women from sexual assault in the restroom. The police report zero incidents of such crimes occurring; senior police officials oppose SB 3.

So does House Speaker Joe Straus, whose chamber gets this bill next. What is the House going to do with this monstrosity? That remains the Question of the Day.

All 31 Texas senators voted on SB 3. Twenty-one of them approved it. I don’t yet know this with absolute certainty, but I’m sure that means state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo joined his GOP brethren in approving this hideous legislation.

And that, dear reader, provides me with one of my greatest disappointments, that Sen. Seliger would sign on to this travesty.

I do share Beilue’s concern, though, about the fate of “sane, reasonable” conservatism. It has been trampled to death by far-right fear mongers.

Yep, Mitch, it’s time to ‘move on’

Mitch McConnell sounds like a man who has cried “Uncle!” in his long-running effort to toss out a law that is linked to a man he once vowed he would make a “one-term president.”

The U.S. Senate majority leader didn’t succeed in limiting former President Obama to a single term; nor did he succeed in repealing his signature piece of domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

It’s time to “move on,” he said this week after the latest — and most dramatic — failure to repeal the ACA.

Yes, Mr. Leader, it is time. Sure, you now have a chance to tinker with the ACA, to improve it. The Senate’s top Republican can work with Democrats — for a change! — in finding some common ground.

But the task of legislating, which McConnell knows as well as any one in the Senate, involves lots of complicated things. It involves building and rebuilding relationships with your colleagues from the “other party.” It means you have to deal with myriad crises that crop up around the world without a moment’s notice; and brother, we have a lot of ’em, right, Mitch?

It also means that the leader also has constituents back home in Kentucky who need matters dealt with that concern only them and only their state. I am going to presume that McConnell has a Senate staff that is tasked with tending to those needs on his behalf.

The Battle of the Affordable Care Act is over, Mitch. You lost. The other side held together.

The Senate can fix what’s wrong with the ACA, keep its name, and deal forthrightly with a heaping plate of issues that need its attention.

Oh, yes. We also have that “Russia Thing” that needs our attention.