Our door is open, Gov. Palin

It’s interesting to me that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has decided to skip a visit to the Panhandle on her “Going Rogue” book tour.

If anyplace in America can claim to be Palin Country, it comprises the 26 counties of the Panhandle. But Sarah Barracuda isn’t coming here.

Man, she’d get a great welcome here.

She’s been signing thousands of copies of her “Going Rogue” memoir on her travels through the country. It was reported that Palin was skipping the major media market cities and concentrating on middle America communities. She’ll be in the Dallas suburb of Plano later this week, where she’s expected to get a hero’s welcome.

Do I need to remind the former governor that the 2008 Republican presidential ticket, led by Sen. John McCain, polled about 80 percent in the Panhandle in last year’s election? Of course not. The one-time GOP vice presidential candidate knows it, or at least she should know it.

And if she is willing, I’d be glad to visit with her, to interview her on the record about her world view. Her critics contend that “Going Rogue” is long on payback, but short on substance. I’d like to find out for myself just how she believes the nation can fix what ails it.

We’re out here, governor, right smack in the Middle America you say you love so much. Come see us. I’ll bet you’ll sell a lot more books.

Tiger pays the price of fame

I know exactly what would happen if I cracked up my car at 2 in the morning outside my little ol’ house in southwest Amarillo: The EMTs would come, patch me up a little bit, take me to the hospital, release me to the care of my wife — and no one other than my loved ones and me would give a rip.

Not so with Tiger Woods. He is paying the price of the fame he has accrued by being the greatest golfer in the universe this side of Jack Nicklaus.

He banged up his car in front of his zillion-dollar house; reports said at first he was in “serious condition”; we learned later he was treated and released. Now there are reports about an affair, which Woods denies.

He says the matter is private and he wants it “to stay that way.” I don’t blame him..

But this is what happens in this celebrity-crazed society. The media glom onto stories like this because some people actually care about these things.

You’ve heard it said that “Nothing good happens after midnight”? That’s especially true if you’re the most famous athlete on the planet.

Heads need to roll

Everyone in Washington is aghast that two party crashers elbowed their way this week into the White House state dinner.

Even more astonishing would be if someone isn’t canned — or perhaps prosecuted — over this monumental mess-up.

Tariq and Michaele Salahi weren’t invited to the state dinner, which President and Mrs. Obama hosted for the prime minister of India and his wife. But they got in. The word now is that a Secret Service employee let them enter without asking them for proper identification.

The Salahis apparently are reality-TV stars. So, perhaps this was a plot line that they would develop on their show — although I don’t know who’s watching it.

This is far worse than the Balloon Boy episode involving the parents who staged the fake drama a few weeks ago involving their son’s purported flight in a balloon over Colorado.

No, this one would could have turned out badly if the Salahis intended to do harm to someone — such as the president of the United States of America.

I don’t want to hear about the Secret Service employee being put on “administrative leave.” The Secret Service, the arm of the Treasury Department with duties that include protecting the Leader of the Free World, needs to get to the bottom of this matter in a New York minute and fire the individual who let the party crashers into a state dinner. And if there are grounds for a criminal prosecution, then pursue that option, too.

Get it done!

It was 20 years ago today

I cannot believe it’s been 20 years.

Two decades ago, I ate one of the more memorable Thanksgiving dinners of my life. It wasn’t that the food was all that great. It wasn’t. It was the place. And it was the big-hearted spirit of the people serving it that made it so special.

In November 1989, some journalist colleagues and I boarded vehicles in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for what would be a grueling daylong road trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was Thanksgiving Day. We were touring Southeast Asia on a factfinding trip that began in Bangkok, Thailand; it took us to Hanoi, then to Ho Chi Minh City, then to Phnom Penh and then back to Ho Chi Minh City (which used to be called Saigon). It was thrilling beyond belief to be there at that time.

Cambodia had just come out of a decade-long war with Vietnam, which had invaded Cambodia to rid that nation of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge butchers who eradicated a fourth of that country’s population. Cambodia’s infrastructure had been destroyed during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror — and the war that followed — and we were among the first foreigners to see it up close.

That Thanksgiving morning, we headed back to Saigon. Our caravan stopped at the Mekong River, where we rode a rickety raft/ferry across — along with villagers traveling with goats and pigs. I actually feared the ferry would capsize and that headlines around the world would announce the deaths of this traveling group of Americans. It didn’t, so our trip continued.

We eventually crossed the Cambodia-Vietnam border after a considerable delay.

We arrived that evening in Ho Chi Minh City, and checked into our hotel.

And then we gathered for dinner.

The hotel staff had prepared a Thanksgiving meal for their American visitors, knowing that we were celebrating this uniquely American holiday. It consisted of what my dear friend — and former Amarillo resident — Tommy Denton describes to this day as “road kill duck,” mashed potatoes, peas (that had a kind of rubbery texture), and a kind of cobbler for dessert.

It wasn’t a gourmet meal. But we all were moved by the wonderful intentions of our hosts. The United States didn’t yet have diplomatic relations with Vietnam; that would come years later. But our hosts rolled out the red carpet for us and showed us an amazing bit of sensitivity and compassion, serving up a meal to mark a holiday that only we celebrate.

My personal journey to Vietnam would reach its climax a couple of days later, when Tommy and I ventured to Da Nang, where we each re-traced paths we had traveled two decades earlier as young soldiers.

But that particular Thanksgiving holiday, half a world away from my wife and sons, remains one of the highlights of my life.

The people who served us that meal have my everlasting gratitude.

Why, I never …


Check out the link here. It’s from the Los Angeles Times. It goes to a column that recounts the story of the screaming boy, who along with his mother was kicked off a Southwest Airlines plane as it departed Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

You’ll recall the story, right? The tot wouldn’t stop screaming, as in really screaming. The flight crew tried to quiet the boy down. Alas, it was to no avail. Attendants then ushered the two of them — mom and son — off the plane to a rousing ovation from relieved passengers.

But the writer of the essay in today’s LA Times just had to say something unkind about Amarillo.

The La La Land snob …

Dobbs for president? Please, no!

Say it ain’t so, Lou.

The word now is that Lou Dobbs, the former CNN loudmouth — and native of Childress — is pondering a run for president in 2012. That’s president of the United States of America.

Hoo … boy.

It’s one thing for someone with lots of opinions to bloviate on the air about what’s wrong (in his view) with the country. It’s quite another for that someone to translate all that hot air into solid policy and then demonstrate actual leadership.

Dobbs quit his CNN anchor job recently. His announcement was a surprise. But it apparently was welcomed warmly by Hispanic groups that had grown weary of Dobbs’ incessant haranguing over illegal immigration. The guy had gone through a remarkable transformation — from fairly non-descript business reporter to snarling pundit. He thus joined the ranks of Olbmermann, O’Reilly, Hannity, Maddow, Beck and heaven knows who else out there shilling for whatever cause gets their dander up.

But this guy wants to take it a step further … maybe.

I can hear it now. “Well, Ronald Reagan was a B actor before he entered public office,” some will say. Sure enough. But he did serve two successful terms as governor of California before running for the White House in 1980. And The Gipper’s presidency turned out just fine.

Dobbs doesn’t have that kind of credibility.

I hope the ex-Panhandle resident thinks better of it all.

F-100 jet to ‘land’ at memorial

The Texas Panhandle War Memorial is getting a valuable addition early in the coming year.

It will be a refurbished F-100 fighter. It will be mounted on the memorial grounds, next to the Randall County Courthouse Annex at Georgia Street and the Canyon E-Way.

This is a big deal. Indeed, Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell — himself a pilot — could hardly contain his enthusiasm this past week as the plane was getting ready for its move from English Field to a spot near Tradewind Airport, where it will be prepared for installation at the memorial. The move took place this past weekend, with officials having to take great care to ensure the plane made it safely on its arduous trip along Loop 335.

The war memorial only recently has been added to the signage on Interstate 27, enticing motorists to pull off the highway to visit the site that honors those who have fallen in all our nation’s armed conflicts dating back to the Spanish-American War. It contains stone tablets with brief narratives of the conflicts along with lists of those who have died in defense of the country.

Soon, a jet fighter will be part of the exhibit.

I’m just as qualified as she is

Here’s the question of the day as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin conducts her book tour: Is Palin qualified to be president of the United States?

The question was put today on a news talk TV show to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, one of the Republican Party’s brighter bulbs. “Well, she’s constitutionally qualified,” Barbour said.

That’s it? That’s how you answer a straightforward question about someone being touted as her party’s possible standard bearer/savior in 2012?

Well, I’m “constitutionally qualified” to serve as president, too. I was born in the United States. I’ve never been convicted of a felony. I’ve been married to the same woman for 38 years. I have reared two fine sons. I pay my taxes on time. But I’ll never be president.

I think the former governor’s many fans — and she has a lot of them right here in the Panhandle — need to come up with something better than her being qualified under the rules set by the U.S. Constitution.

I’ll welcome any recommendations on her real qualifications.

Here’s what you call a terrorist

I was talking to Rep. Mac Thornberry the other day about the decision to try Khalid Sheik Muhammad in New York City on charges that he masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The Clarendon Republican lawmaker then threw me a bit of a curve. He referred to Muhammad as “KSM.”

Since that conversation, I’ve heard other officials and even a few commentators use the term.

I don’t get the initials being used to refer to this guy. Customarily, we Americans refer to folks in such a manner who have a considerably higher standing than a man who reportedly has confessed to killing thousands of innocent people. You know who I’m talking about: JFK, LBJ, FDR, TR, RFK. These are presidents or, in RFK’s case, someone who was running for the office. They’re generally iconic political figures. We often use nicknames — some flattering, some not — such as Honest Abe, Tricky Dick, Condi, Ronnie, Dubya, Goodhair, Ike, or Give ‘Em Hell Harry while referring to our leaders.

But I truly prefer to save the initials and informal monickers either for American leaders or public figures, or those for whom we have something other than utter loathing and contempt.

To the right of Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s conservative credentials are unquestioned. He’s now lent them to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her bid to unseat her fellow Republican, Gov. Rick Perry.

Cheney came to Texas this week to endorse Hutchison, buttressing her own reportedly shaky standing with the base of her party.

It now becomes clear that Perry is going to have to get to the right of Hutchison and Cheney, although it stretches the imagination to figure out how he does that.

The governor already has raised the secession issue with angry Texans. How does he get to the right of his wink-and-nod over the notion that Texans could get mad enough to want to leave the Union? Surely he wouldn’t actually advocate such a thing — would he?

Meanwhile, Hutchison — who doesn’t enjoy the full-fledged trust of many hardened Panhandle Republicans — has enlisted an important ally. Dick Cheney has become the poster boy for the conservative movement.

All this seems to mean that the fight for the hearts and minds of Texas Republicans is going to be fought on the far right fringe of the party, which is beginning to look as though it is gobbling up more and more of the GOP pie.