Radio blowhard goes beyond the pale

Mike Malloy offers incontrovertible proof that radio talk show hosts should be taken for what they are: blowhards and gasbags.

Malloy is a liberal blowhard based out of Atlanta who recently offered a view that suggests he would favor actually killing at least one member of the U.S. Senate.

By “killing,” I mean exactly that. Kill them dead.

He was commenting on a conservative talk show hosts view that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had stabbed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the back during Cruz’s pseudo-filibuster recently. Malloy suggested that he’d “provide the butcher knife.”

Was it rhetorical excess? In the extreme, if that’s all he meant it to be. Some folks have construed it to mean that he actually wants to kill Cruz.

I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say that this kind of idiotic rhetoric must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

Israeli PM takes dimmer view of Iran

I totally understand Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mistrust of Iran.

He is bringing that message this week to the United Nations General Assembly and warns the United States not to trust Iran’s new president, who says he wants to make peace with the rest of the world.

President Obama placed a historic phone call last week to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the first president-to-president contact between the nations in 34 years. Obama said a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is possible. I hope he’s right, quite obviously.

Netanyahu isn’t so sure. And why should he trust a thing that comes out of the Iranian president’s mouth?

Rouhani succeeded a man who vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the planet. Indeed, that’s been the stated goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran since its founding in 1979.

I’ve had the pleasure of touring Israel. I spent five weeks there in the spring of 2009 and witnessed up close the proximity between Israel and nations with which it has gone to war several times since Israel’s founding in 1948. The Israelis live in a constant state of heightened vigilance.

Iran doesn’t border Israel, but it is close enough to launch missiles westward and into Israeli cities. That is the concern Israel maintains to this very moment and it is the concern that Netanyahu intends to relay to the world community when he speaks to the U.N. General Assembly.

No, he doesn’t trust Iran’s newfound conciliatory posture. The task at hand is for the world to extract from Iran’s president ironclad assurances that he means what he says.

Change of fortune for this Oregon football fan

I want to change gears for just a moment and talk a little college football.

If you’ve grown up in a state where college football once became a punch line, then you can be forgiven if you want to gloat a little over the past several seasons.

The University of Oregon and Oregon State University — the state’s two Division I football schools — have produced some pretty good teams in the past decade-plus. The Oregon Ducks currently stand as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation behind Alabama. Oregon State’s Beavers lost their first game of the year, but since have reeled off three straight wins.

The Ducks have two stern tests coming up. They’re both on the road. One is in Seattle against the Washington Huskies. The other is in Palo Alto, Calif., against Stanford. Yes, they’ll have their final game of the year, against Oregon State, in the annual “Civil War” contest. But the UW and Stanford games loom as the big hurdles to the Ducks finding their way into the college football championship game.

Why is this important to me? I grew up in Oregon. I didn’t attend either school. I enrolled at Portland State University, but I have followed the Beavers and Ducks through mostly dismal seasons during my years in Oregon. Their nadir occurred in 1983 when the Ducks and Beavers played to a 0-0 tie in the rain and mud.

We left Oregon in 1984, but my keen interest has remained.

I’ve suffered with both programs through miserable seasons. This year — and many recent seasons before this year — have been quite different.

Take the Ducks’ rivalry with Washington, one of the oldest in the nation. The Huskies used to beat up badly on the Ducks. UO fans hated the Huskies. The rivalry meant much more to Duck fans than it did to Huskies fans. The tables have turned. The Huskies hate the Ducks. Why? Because the Ducks have been putting some serious whuppins on the Huskies.

Cry me a river, Huskies.

Oregon is 4-0. The Ducks have won every game by more than 40 points. I am acutely aware that they cannot possibly play the entire year in such grand fashion. The Beavers, too, are playing well enough to deserve this native Oregonian’s good wishes … and I hope Coach Mike Riley stays put and does not succumb to the temptation to head south to coach another hated rival, the University of Spoiled Children, er, Southern California.

Winning can be addictive. I’ve caught the bug. Don’t cure me … ever.

Sen. Davis almost comes clean on ’14 plans

Evan Smith gave it the old college try as he tried to wheedle a statement from state Sen. Wendy Davis about whether she is running for Texas governor.

The Fort Worth Democrat didn’t take the bait at the TribFest, saying only that she plans to make her announcement on Thursday.

Still, it is interesting to see the interest beginning to swirl about Davis’s plans.

She took the state — and the nation — by storm when she filibustered an anti-abortion bill into temporary oblivion during the first special session of the Texas Legislature earlier this summer. She gabbed for 13 hours until the clock ran out. Gov. Rick Perry called legislators back into another special session and Republicans managed to get the bill approved.

Davis’s star, though, still shines brightly. National Democrats have collected lots of money for her campaign. She’s actually beginning to energize a moribund state Democratic Party, which has been pounded senseless for the past two decades. Democrats won their latest statewide race in Texas in 1994. It’s been slim pickings ever since.

I’m not sure Davis is going to break the Democrat’s losing streak.

She certainly is going to brighten the political landscape Thursday when she announces her race for Texas governor.

Debt ceiling: non-negotiable

Former President Bill Clinton is an expert on dealing with Republican members of Congress.

That’s if you consider today’s crop of Republican lawmakers in the same league as those with whom the 42nd president dealt. Still, Clinton offers some sound advice to the 44th president, Barack Obama: Don’t negotiate on whether to raise the debt ceiling. It must be done, Clinton said, and the nation must avoid defaulting on its financial obligations, no matter what.

The federal government appears headed for a shutdown on Tuesday. Miracles do happen. Don’t count on one to save this train wreck. Mark it down: A shutdown is going to cost the Republicans — perhaps dearly — in the 2014 midterm elections.

The bigger battle awaits. On Oct. 17, the United States’s ability to borrow money to pay its obligations runs out unless the Congress increases the amount of money it can borrow. Republicans are playing hardball over that as well.

Bill Clinton told ABC News this morning that his own negotiations with congressional Republican leaders were “very minor.” The government shut down in the mid-1990s and voters reacted angrily to the GOP’s tactics. “We didn’t give away the store and they didn’t ask us to give away the store,” Clinton told ABC’s George Stephanopoulous. True enough, but the Republicans then were a more reasonable bunch than those with whom Barack Obama is dealing.

Of course, Clinton’s problems with the GOP congressional leadership didn’t end when the government re-started. He ended up getting impeached by the House — and acquitted in the Senate.

If you look only at Clinton’s dealings with the House GOP on budget matters, though, you have to conclude that he had it right and congressional Republicans had it very wrong.

Today’s GOP leadership needs to wise up to the calamity that’s about to occur if they force the government to default on its debts.

Don’t take the money, lawmakers

I have just one wish if and when the U.S. government shuts down on Tuesday, which most experts believe is a near-certainty.

It is that members of Congress forgo their salary for every day the government doesn’t function fully.

By that I mean all 535 members of both legislative chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

They’re playing chicken with each other over the Affordable Care Act, which also is scheduled to kick in on Tuesday. The tea party cabal of the Republican Party wants to defund the ACA. It is pushing a funding bill that strips money from the act, which the Congress already has enacted and the Supreme Court already has affirmed. Failure to approve a funding bill that includes that provision puts the entire government in jeopardy.

The Senate will have none of what the House tea party wing wants. Neither will President Obama.

I consider the righties within the House GOP ranks to be the major culprits, but I don’t want just them to skip their salaries. I also am angry with all of them for taking us to this brink yet again.

Realistically, I understand that lawmakers aren’t likely to give up their salary, which amounts to about $175,000 annually, plus a few perks and benefits, such as first-class public transportation. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the ringleaders of the defund ACA movement says he won’t give up his money.


My own feeling is that if lawmakers don’t want the government to work for us, they shouldn’t allow it to pay their salaries.

Dip into your piggy banks, lawmakers.

A few words about presidential prerogative

I have posted a blog that calls attention to the results of the 2012 presidential election.

The Affordable Care Act was the unwritten issue on the ballot, along with President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama was re-elected. Romney sought to make the ACA an issue in the election. He failed.

The earlier blog note drew some attention from a friend who said we should honor the views of the 435 House of Reps members, most of whom ran on the issue of smaller government. I took issue with my friend.

I have long believed in presidential prerogative. We elect only one individual at-large in this country: the president. The vice president is elected too, of course, but that person’s fortunes depend on the person at the top of the ticket. Presidents occasionally make decisions with which I disagree, such as appointments to the Supreme Court. But that’s their call, given that voters elect them knowing what they’re getting. If a president tilts to the left, we can expect liberal judges; if they tilt to the right, we expect conservative judges. The majority speaks and the president is able to pick qualified individuals with whom he feels comfortable.

Thus, given that President Obama was re-elected it is my view that we need to take a different approach to settling this ACA debate. How about, as another friend suggested, tinker with the law, amend it, fix what’s wrong with it — as Congress did with Medicare — and make it better?

It makes no sense for Congress to seek to defund a law that it approved in 2010. The Supreme Court received a challenge to the law’s constitutionality; it chose to hear the case and then it ruled, narrowly, that the law meets constitutional muster. The ACA stands.

Of course, some ACA foes in Congress had the nerve to suggest that a slim majority of non-elected judges didn’t actually mean the law is constitutional. They forgot that the Constitution gives the court to make those rulings and doesn’t stipulate that it must be any margin greater than a simple majority.

So, now that the law still stands, the president has the authority to implement it. Yes, the Constitution also grants Congress the right to pull money from the law. However, I get back to my original point: The 2012 presidential election seemed to have settled the Affordable Care Act debate when Barack Obama got more votes than Mitt Romney and was allowed to remain president of the United States.

As the saying goes: Elections have consequences.

Voters have decided: ‘Obamacare’ should stay

It occurs to me that congressional Republicans’ attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act flies directly against the prevailing political winds that blew fairly strongly nearly a year ago.

That was when President Barack Obama won re-election to a second term in the White House after fending off a relentless campaign against the ACA by the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney.

Thus, the ACA was on the ballot in 2012. It arguably was Romney’s signature issue in his campaign against the president.

How did it turn out?

* Barack Obama won re-election with 332 electoral votes; Romney captured 206.

* Obama’s popular vote totaled 65,915,257 votes; Romney garnered 60,932,235 votes. That’s a margin of nearly 5 million ballots.

* The president failed to carry only two states that he won in 2008, North Carolina and Indiana. The rest of them remained in his camp.

I’ll certainly concede that the president’s electoral vote margin and his popular vote margin both were less than when he was elected to his first term in 2008. For that I blame the economy, which was in free fall when Obama took office and didn’t turn around quickly enough to suit many Americans. It has turned, though, thanks in part to some aggressive efforts from the Obama economics team to jump-start it.

All of this occurred after Romney kept pledging to repeal the ACA on his first day in office. Didn’t the former Massachusetts governor say he’d issue an executive order suspending “Obamacare” right after he took office this past January? Didn’t he make that firm pledge repeatedly along the campaign trail?

Well, it didn’t work out for him.

Yes, some have said Romney wasn’t the best messenger to deliver that pledge for Republicans, given that he signed a similar law that guaranteed health insurance for residents of the state he governed.

The larger point, however, is that American voters had a chance to send the president packing this past November but chose to keep him on the job. His legislative accomplishment remains the Affordable Care Act and the voters, with their ballots, have affirmed a law that is just about to take effect.

Matt Labrum, high school coach of the year

I hereby nominate Matt Labrum as U.S. high school football coach of the year.

Labrum’s team hasn’t won more games than any other team. It hasn’t piled up more points or done anything extraordinary on the field. No. Labrum has earned high praise for something he did for his players because of some off-the-field behavior that Labrum deemed inappropriate.

He suspended his team until they had earned the right to take the field for homecoming week.

Labrum coaches the varsity team at Roosevelt High School in Union, Utah. The players had been showing poor attitudes, a poor work ethic and many of the players had gotten entangled in allegations of cyber-bullying of other young people.

Labrum’s response? He suspended the entire team. He told them in the locker room. The players reportedly left the locker room in tears. Their lives were “shattered,” their dreams dashed.

Too bad for that, Labrum said. He looked at the response as an affirmation of the tough love he was administering. “We looked at it as a chance to say, ‘Hey, we need to focus on some other things that are more important than winning a football game,'” Labrum told the Deseret News. “We got an emotional response from the boys. I think it really meant something to them, which was nice to see that it does mean something. There was none of them that fought us on it.”

Here’s what I think ought to happen: Every coach in America, in every sport at any level of competition should rip a page out of Matt Labrum’s “playbook” that deals with how to handle athletes who misbehave. I realize it’s too much to ask those who coach professional athletes to do this, but those who coach “student-athletes” have a model to emulate.

If there was an award for coaches who enact this kind of action against their own team, then it ought to have Matt Labrum’s name on it.

He’s my choice for U.S. high school football coach of the year.

U.S.-Iran breakthrough, or breakdown?

President Obama made a historic phone call today.

He telephoned Hasan Rouhani, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two men chatted for about 15 minutes, after which President Obama informed the world that he believes a deal to derail any Iranian effort to build a nuclear weapon could be struck.

Some folks are hailing the phone call as a thawing of a 34-year-old freeze between the two nations. The last phone call between U.S. and Iranian heads of state occurred in 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. It all went to hell later that year when Iranian “students” stormed our embassy in Tehran and held Americans hostage for 444 days.

Rouhani is sounding as though he wants to normalize relations with the United States and rejoin the world community. He’s launched something of a charm offensive of late, talking to a U.S. news network and speaking calmly at the United Nations. I am not totally comfortable plunging ahead with such an effort. I hope Barack Obama retains a degree of skepticism and moves very carefully.

We need to remember that for decades Iran has declared virtual war against the “Great Satan,” meaning the United States. It has declared its intention to wipe Israel off the face of the planet. It has supplied arms and other know-how to international terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida. It arms the Syrian dictator in his war against rebels. It has cozied up to Hezbollah and Hamas, two sworn enemies of Israel. The incendiary statements of Rouhani’s immediate predecessor as president also should not be dismissed and tossed aside.

A single phone call shouldn’t signal a “thaw.” It well might mean that it’s time to turn the temperature up just a bit to begin the thawing of relations.

But just as the late President Ronald Reagan said of Soviet strongman Mikhail Gorbachev, “Trust, but verify,” it is good to seek multiple verifications of any statement that comes from an Iranian president that might signal a new era in relations between two longtime enemies.

Here’s hoping today’s phone call has opened the door to that new era.