Rep. White: profile in cowardice

Texas state Rep. Molly White has conducted a shameful demonstration of cowardice.

The Belton Republican posted a message on her Facebook page for all Muslims gathering in Austin for Texas Muslim Capital Day to “pledge allegiance” to the United States and to renounce Islamic terrorism. The message provoked a strong counter protest against what otherwise have been another seemingly quiet demonstration of solidarity by one of the state’s many constituent groups.

And then she wasn’t even in the State Capitol to stand and speak for herself about why she chose to ignite the hateful counter demonstrations.

The counter protests revealed a quite ugly side of human nature. I won’t suggest for a minute it’s reserved for Texans only. Those who shouted epithets at their fellow Texans — the Muslims who were seeking only to have an audience with legislators — demonstrated pure hate.

Let’s understand something about people of all faiths.

No one faith is “evil.” It can be perverted, twisted and molded into something not recognizable by the authors of the holy book its followers read. That holds true for those who read the Old Testament, the New Testament or the Quran.

What the counter protesters revealed was pure ignorance by shouting down the Muslims gathered at the State Capitol. Their sole intent, as I understood it, was to assemble peaceably — a right that the Constitution of the United States grants them as citizens of this great country.

And where was the provocateur? She was back home in Belton.

What a disgrace.

Another hero leaves this world

Edward Saylor was a hero. The real thing.

He was one of just four survivors of one of the most daring military acts of all time. He took part in the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April, 1942.

Lt. Col. Saylor was 94 when he died this week at his home in Sumner, Wash.

There just are three men left who served on that mission. It was bold, brash and fraught with peril.

The Japanese had attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor just four months earlier. President Roosevelt and the Pentagon brass were reeling as the Japanese were marching through Asia and the Pacific. They needed to do something — anything — to rattle the enemy. So they came up with a plan.

Why not load some U.S. Army Air Corps B-25 bombers aboard an aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — strip them down to just the fuel and the bombs they need, teach the pilots how to launch a land-based bomber off a floating carrier deck and then have that squadron of planes drop its ordnance on targets in Japan? Lt. Col. James Doolittle would command the raid.

Edward Saylor served as a flight engineer-gunner aboard one of those planes.

He completed the mission at great risk, completed 28 more years in the Air Force before retiring and lived a long and happy life.

He received the Medal of Honor for his supreme bravery.

Sadly, he is just one more of a diminishing number of The Greatest Generation who went off to war to defeat tyranny. Of the 16 million or so men and women who served in World War II, fewer than 2 million are left. They are dying at a rapid rate daily.

Those of us who came up after them owe these men and women everything.

Rest in peace, Lt. Col. Saylor.

Thank you.


It's all Bibi's fault for U.S.-Israel misunderstanding

The relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a turn for the worse.

Why? Well, it turns out Bibi didn’t talk Barack to advise him of an invitation he got to speak to the U.S. Congress, courtesy of House Speaker John Boehner.

He owed the president a phone call, observers have said. He didn’t make the call and accepted the invitation. The White House is fuming. I cannot blame the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now it turns out the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer is saying it wasn’t his fault. He did everything by the book.

The invitation and its resulting tension between Obama and Netanyahu has become a major back story behind the out front story: the effort to impose sanctions on Iran while the U.S. and other powers are trying to negotiate a settlement that ends Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration opposes the sanctions — at this time. Boehner and Netanyahu want to impose them, so Boehner asked Bibi to make his case publicly before a joint congressional session next month.

Gosh, is it any wonder the Obama administration is torqued out of shape over this?

The speaker of the House has made a mess of this by sidestepping the White House. The Israeli prime minister has become an accomplice to this messiness by accepting an invitation that shouldn’t have come to him in the first place.

Mr. Boehner, we have only one president at a time. And it isn’t you.


Mitt won't run! Oh, darn

What? Mitt Romney has decided against running for president in 2016?

I’m crushed, I’ll tell ya. Crushed!

I was hoping against hope that Mitt would make a third go of it, trying to make up for the mistakes he made in the 2012 campaign. Believer as I am in redemption, Mitt was the perfect guy to try to right what he do so terribly wrong.

Now he tells supporters he wants to clear the decks for “new leadership,” that the Republican Party doesn’t want to hear from him in 2016.

I’ll honor his decision. My trick knee tells me Ann Romney had a lot to say about it. She had said “no way” to a third run for the White House many months ago. I didn’t think Mitt could persuade her to change her mind. Hey, they’ve been married a while and I’m sure Mitt knows how hard it is to change his wife’s mind once she makes a declarative public statement.

A Romney candidacy would have set up a bruising battle among the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party, pitting him against, say, Jeb Bush and maybe John Kasich in the fight to win over the more reasonable GOP faithful.

Bush is more likely now to run with Mitt out of the way, so it’ll be Jeb vs. The TEA Party wing of the GOP, which at the moment seems to comprise a much larger number of combatants.

Oh well. Thanks for teasing us, Mitt.


'Terrorist' requires a nuanced definition? No

The Taliban is a terrorist organization.

That’s my view and I’m sticking to it — no matter how finely the White House press flack tries to parse the definition of the term “terrorist.”

Press secretary Josh Earnest sought Thursday to say that the Taliban carries out “acts that are akin to terrorism,” but stopped short of calling the brutal killers and kidnappers “terrorists.” He said the Taliban falls into a “different category.”

I guess Earnest, speaking on behalf of the president, is saying the Obama administration believes it’s OK to negotiate with the Taliban, whereas the White House refuses to negotiate with, say, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Hezbollah or Hamas.

I’m beginning to sense that the famed nuanced foreign policy apparatus that the Obama White House is conducting might be getting a little too cute.

The Taliban are taking credit almost weekly for attacks against civilians in Afghanistan. They’ve brought considerable havoc as well to innocent victims in neighboring Pakistan. Good grief! The Taliban send in suicide bombers, they set off explosive on roadways traveled by villagers going to market, they kidnap and disfigure girls and young women who have the gall to stand up for their rights.

You’re more than welcome to correct me on any of this, but doesn’t any of that fit the classic description of a terrorist organization?

Yep. That’s the Taliban.


Brain injuries deserve attention, too

It’s fascinating to me to watch the media get all exercised and worked up over deflated footballs and whether one of the Super Bowl teams cheated its way into the big game.

Meantime, another actual crisis is festering and no one talks publicly about with the same fervor we’ve heard in recent days about “Deflate-gate.”

I’m talking about traumatic brain injuries. Concussions. Football-induced dementia.

I want to mention it because Frontline, the acclaimed PBS documentary series, recently rebroadcast its special on this matter. It has gotten next to zero attention, as sports media — and even mainstream news talk shows — have fixated on whether the New England Patriots purposely deflated footballs in their AFC championship rout over the Indianapolis Colts.

“League of Denial” chronicles what some have said has been the National Football League’s complicity in some of the brain injuries players have suffered. Indeed, some current and former NFL stars — former quarterback Brett Favre comes to mind — have declared they won’t let their sons play football for as long as they can control their sons’ activities. Why? The sport is too dangerous, they say.

The Frontline special can be watched online. It’s worth seeing over and over.

Perhaps it will awaken us to a real scandal about the health and welfare of professional athletes who take a beating that no human body can withstand.

Deflated footballs? I couldn’t possibly care less.


Why ask for a specific pledge from Muslims?

Molly White has just taken her seat in the Texas House of Representatives and already she’s making noise.

That’s all it is, apparently, from the Republican lawmaker, who wants participants of a Muslim Day event in Austin to declare publicly their allegiance to the United States of America.

I’m still not sure what this is all about, other than to try to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment in Texas — as if it needs stirring up among many Texans.

White posted something on her Facebook page about a Dallas court adhering to — are you ready? — Sharia law, rather than being loyal to the U.S. Constitution, which I’m pretty sure is a secular document.

This is the kind of scare-tactic nonsense we likely can expect to hear from the people’s House, the lower chamber of the Texas Legislature.

White left a note in her Austin office and said she’s asked Muslim leaders to “renounce radical Islam.” Someone needs to tell Rep. White that Muslims in this country and all around the world have been doing precisely that, especially in the wake of the Paris shooting massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As religious scholar Reza Aslan has noted, if you haven’t heard the outcry, you “aren’t paying attention.”

The Muslim Day is organized as an effort to have the Texas Islamic community meet with legislators. What in the world is so scary about that?

Rep. White needs to take a chill pill and let her fellow Texans speak to their representatives about issues that are important to them.


Michelle's just the latest to flout Saudi tradition

Laura Bush did it. So did Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Same with Angela Merkel.

What did a former U.S. first lady, two former secretaries of state and the chancellor of Germany do? They appeared in public in Saudi Arabia — without covering their hair, as prescribed by Muslim tradition in the Sunni nation.

The current first lady, Michelle Obama, thus is the just the latest woman to flout the custom demanded of Saudi women.

It’s interesting at a couple of levels that the media would make any kind of mention of Mrs. Obama’s decision to go scarf-less in public.

No. 1, she is hardly the first foreign dignitary to be photographed doing this.

No. 2, and perhaps more importantly, is that she was virtually ignored while she stood in a greeting line alongside her husband — Barack H. Obama, president of the United States of America.

The dignitaries walked along the greeting line, shook hands with Mr. Obama but didn’t shake Mrs. Obama’s hand. What’s up with that?

Actually, I know. Saudis disrespect women whenever and wherever possible. That, too, is part of their custom. Women aren’t able to drive motor vehicles legally, for example. It should come as no surprise, then, that the potentates or whoever those gentlemen were greeting the president would ignore his wife.

To whatever extent she intended, Michelle Obama did a nice job of standing tall and proud for women in the country that played host to her briefly — and, in fact, for oppressed women all around the world. So did those who preceded her.

Well done, ladies.


Palin's non-speech sours GOP base

Can it really be that the hard right wing of the Republican Party has come to its senses regarding a former half-term Alaska governor who for the past half-dozen years or so has been its darling?

Sarah Palin stood before the Iowa Freedom Summit and delivered what can only be described as a rhetorical goulash of blather.

It didn’t play well in Peoria, let alone in GOP strategists’ living rooms.

Her TelePrompter, loaded with prepared remarks, went pffftt. Left to her devices, Palin stammered her way through a bizarre litany of nonsensical sentences.

As the Washington Post described it: “Her address was a 31 1/2-minute roller coaster ride of cliches, non sequiturs and warmed-over grievances. One line that stood out: ‘GOP leaders, by the way, you know, ‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then The Man can’t ride ya.’”


The Post reports that the critiques from those who heard Palin were harsh and unforgiving.

Darn! I was hoping she’d make a go of it, that her “serious” consideration of a White House campaign in 2016 would turn into the real thing.

Silly me. I guess I had forgotten — if only for a moment or two — about how miserable a campaigner she turned out to be when Sen. John McCain selected her as his vice-presidential running mate in the 2008 White House campaign. Or that she’d gotten twisted up in that goofy reality TV show. Or that she’s making a lot of money as a Fox News “contributor”; her precise contribution to Fox remains something of a mystery.

I suppose there’s some other stuff to mention, but I’ll just let it lie.

With that, I’ll bid adieu to Sarah Palin. It was nice while it lasted.


Wow! Ted Cruz praises Michelle Obama!

Times like these call for special attention.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TEA Party Nation, has actually said something complimentary about the first lady of the United States of America.

Cruz wrote on his Facebook page that Michelle Obama has stood up for the rights of women around the world by declining to wear a scarf covering her head while visiting Saudi Arabia.

You go, Ted!

He wrote: “Kudos to First Lady Michelle Obama for standing up for women worldwide and refusing to wear a Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done.”

Cruz, who’s actually from Texas (of course) isn’t likely to say nice things — ever — about the first lady or her husband. He’s entertaining a possible — if not probable — run for the presidency in 2016. He’s no doubt storing up plenty of negative things to say about the past eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Just for grins and giggles, though, I am curious to know the reason Michelle Obama didn’t wear the scarf in a country where Islamic tradition plays such a huge role in people’s lives. My own hunch is that the Sharia mandate is for Muslim women and since Michelle Obama is not a Muslim, she and other women in the presidential party were exempt from the rule.

Still, it’s good to hear Sen. Cruz acknowledge the guts it took for the first lady to do such a thing in Saudi Arabia. Imagine what he and other critics on the right would have said had she shown up with her hair covered.