‘Sh**hole’ is back in the news

Words have this way of lasting forever. They become engraved indelibly on the public record. They enter what is called the “public domain.”

So it is with “sh**hole,” a term Donald J. Trump allegedly blurted out during a private White House meeting to describe African nations along with Haiti and El Salvador in our hemisphere.

Oh, but who comes a callin’ on the White House today? The president of one of those “sh**hole” countries, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

I’ll give President Buhari a measure of credit for declining to answer directly whether the issue of “sh**hole” came up during private meetings with the U.S. president.

Buhari told reporters he didn’t bring it up with the president. “I’m not sure about, you know, the validity of whether that allegation against the president is true or not,” Buhari said to reporters in Trump’s presence. “So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

Well, I happen to believe the president said it. So do other Americans who (a) heard him say it or (b) know those who were in the room and heard him say it.

Trump said today he would like to visit Nigeria, of which he said: “And in certain ways, I hear, from the standpoint of the beauty of a country, there’s no country more beautiful.”

Even for a “sh**hole,” Mr. President?

Now the Trumpsters are angry? At Wolf’s insults?

I have stated my piece about comedian Michelle Wolf’s hideous performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Her comments were not funny; they were tasteless; they were vulgar. I switched the channel after watching it for about 10 minutes the other evening.

OK, now for the critics of Wolf’s monologue.

Most of them are conservatives and archconservatives who for whatever reason seem all too willing to give Donald John Trump a pass for his own version of humorless tastelessness and vulgarity.

Yes, these folks need to look inward as well as at their guy, the president of the United States. They need to understand that what’s unacceptable for one individual should be equally unacceptable for a critic of that individual.

Wolf’s comments were in reality no worse than many of the things that have poured forth from the president’s mouth.

High Plains Blogger was critical of Trump when he:

  • Made fun of a reporter with a serious physical disability.
  • Referred to certain female celebrities as “fat pigs.”
  • Denigrated the sacrifice of a Gold Star Family because of their Muslim faith.
  • Suggested that Sen. John McCain was a Vietnam War hero “only because he was captured” by the North Vietnamese. “I like those who aren’t captured. OK?” Trump said.
  • Poked fun at the physical appearance of several of his Republican primary opponents in 2016.

On and on it goes. I just want to make the point that I am proud to exempt High Plains Blogger from the List of Hypocrites who are newly offended by the joke spewage of a comedian while looking the other way when such nastiness comes from the president of the United States.

There. I’m out.

Peace Prize? Stop already!

Now it’s South Korean President Moon Jae-in who’s climbed aboard a bandwagon that needs to be put back in the barn.

Moon says Donald J. Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Why? His pressure on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has brought the former Little Rocket Man to his senses.

Hold on a minute! Let’s revisit another premature Peace Prize recipient.

The Trumpsters out there who read this blog will love the example. I offer former President Barack Obama for them … and the rest of you.

The Nobel committee awarded the then-brand new U.S. president the Peace Prize in 2009 even though he had just assumed his high office. The committee gave him the award on the promise that he would bring world peace.

To be totally candid, it didn’t work out that way. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued. Other conflicts broke out in Syria and Yemen. Tensions built between Israel and Iran.

To his credit, President Obama recognized the awkwardness of the award timing when he accepted it.

I say this as a staunch admirer of Barack Obama, who I consider to be among the top tier of U.S. presidents.

As for the current president, my feelings about him are, um, radically different. I want to be fair, though, in hoping that his efforts to bring North and South Korea together do produce tangible benefit for the rest of the world.

Only then should this talk about a Peace Prize proceed.

Dr. Jackson no longer the White House doc

When it rains, it … um … pours all over Dr. Ronny Jackson.

The one-time nominee to become secretary of veterans affairs now no longer is the White House physician. Jackson pulled out of the VA job over allegations that he over-prescribed medication, promoted a hostile workplace and drank on the job.

The allegations infuriated Donald J. Trump.

Now he has a new White House doctor. Sean Conley, a Navy officer, is now looking after the president’s health.

As for Dr. Jackson’s future, let’s just say he’s now tarred with the allegations that came from several sources from within the military. It got nasty as the questions kept piling up around the Navy rear admiral. His conduct was called into serious question.

He reportedly is a fine physician, having examined Presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama in addition to Donald Trump. He just was considered unqualified because he never had led an organization as huge as the VA.

Then came the questions about his conduct.

His backing out of his job as White House sawbones does bring to mind a question: Was there actual substance to the allegations that scuttled Dr. Jackson’s nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs?

What might happen if POTUS wins the Prize?

It’s actually kind of fun to consider what might happen if Donald John Trump wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

He’s being talked up by his political base of supporters as a Nobel Prize candidate if North and South Korea are able to forge a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War — and, oh yes, de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

My hunch is twofold. If he wins the prize, there will be end to the braggadocio that comes from the president of the United States. He’ll be more than delighted to crow until he runs out of breath about how he was the only president to accomplish it.

The second hunch is even more annoying if you can believe it.

Suppose he is nominated for the Peace Prize, but gets beat out by someone else. Maybe someone other than Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner can forge a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Maybe someone will persuade Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

If the president is nominated, but doesn’t actually win the prize, the winner had better really and truly be the hands-down individual or group that deserves it.

If not, then we’re going to hear the Mother of All Twitter Tirades from Trump bitching about the political correctness that went into the selection. I mean, he did all that work to bring peace to Korea, even resorting to the Little Rocket Man epithet he hurled at Kim Jong Un from the United Nations lectern.

It might not get that far. The upcoming Trump-Kim summit might not produce anything. It might be a bust. I hope it works out for both nations. The bluster and bombast frighten me and I want it to end.

If the summit can bring an end to the nastiness, then perhaps the president will deserve a nomination. But … oh, brother. What would happen were he to win it or get passed over?

Let’s all stand by and hope for the best, whatever that might be.

Happy Trails, Part 97: Dreading the goodbye

This retirement journey upon which my wife and I have embarked is on the cusp of bringing a major change in our lives.

We are set to relocate to a community in the greater Dallas area. We’re less than two weeks from our shove-off date.

I’m going to be candid. This impending move fills me with a bit of dread. I don’t dread the move. I dread saying goodbye to a community I have grown to love.

As I write this post, we are awaiting a possibly severe thunderstorm. Yes, I love the weather in the Texas Panhandle. I love the changing seasons. I love the summer heat, the spring blooms, the fall colors (yes, our foliage can get quite pretty in the autumn) and I enjoy the winter snowfall (unless it falls in blizzard fashion, which it has done during our 23 years living here).

Mostly, I am going to dread saying goodbye to the friends we acquired along the way. We have many of them. My wife and I both worked fulfilling jobs in Amarillo. One job occupied the vast bulk of my working life here, and that job — as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News — enabled me to cross paths with some of the most interesting, influential and engaging individuals throughout the Panhandle.

I developed good professional relationships with many of them and some of those relationships turned into personal friendships. I had to take care to avoid letting those friendships interfere with the craft I pursued in Amarillo for nearly 18 years.

The dread comes in saying goodbye to those folks. I cannot possibly do so in person. Perhaps I can do it here. Many of them read this blog. They well might see this post and respond.

The vast bulk of my Texas Panhandle memories are good. They fill me with warmth and a touch of wistfulness as my wife and I prepare to head on down the road to Fairview.

I say all this with a certain caveat. We won’t sever our Amarillo ties completely. We have family here. We intend to return frequently — if only for short bursts of time — to see them.

Over time, our visits likely will diminish.

Yep, it’s the goodbyes that are the toughest of all.

We left Oregon in 1984 for Beaumont, Texas. When I departed the newspaper in Oregon City, the publisher gave me one of those coffee table books full of pictures of Texas. My colleagues at the paper wrote lovely messages to my wife and me. It brought me to tears.

We departed Beaumont in 1995 for the Panhandle. That day was even tougher. My colleagues at the paper also wrote goodbye wishes in a book and then played “Amarillo By Morning” that rang throughout the newsroom. I cried like a baby as I walked to my car.

My resignation from the Globe-News was, um, more sudden. I didn’t get a chance to bid adieu in the moment to my colleagues. Perhaps this will suffice.

Meanwhile, we are awaiting our shove-off date with tremendous excitement at what — and who — await us at the other end of our journey.

Wolf controversy overshadows media’s good work

It’s a shame that a foul-mouthed comedian’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner has overshadowed much of what the crowd was there to do.

They came to honor those who work in the media, who cover the news and report to the public the happenings of the federal government, its elected officials and appointed staff.

The media are not, in the words of Donald J. Trump — who skipped the dinner for the second consecutive year — the “enemy of the American people.” Far from it. They are the protectors of transparency, accountability and government integrity.

Many media outlets were honored. CNN, for example, received a high honor for its work reporting on the dossier that emerged revealing potential connections between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government operatives seeking to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

The correspondents dinner focus should be on those individuals and organizations. Instead, we’re arguing from coast to coast over whether comedian Michelle Wolf crossed the line of decency in her scathing criticism of the president and his senior staff members.

For the record … she did.

The media, though, are doing the job the U.S. Constitution empowers them to do — without government interference, bullying, intimidation or threats.

I hope to be done with the Michelle Wolf travesty.

The media that are reporting on the presidency and the rest of the government will continue to earn my undying pride and praise when they do well.

Now it’s Trump’s turn to turn the page

The nation is still reeling — more or less — from comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

She belittled in a vulgar fashion the looks of the White House press secretary, using language I won’t use on this blog.

Wolf has gotten her share of criticism, which I believe is deserved.

There is another side to this matter. It involves the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

Wolf supporters say Trump is equally guilty of flinging insults, of denigrating people’s appearance or their physical disability. He uses highly intemperate language when he tweets statements at all hours of the day and night.

I’ll ask this of the president: Why don’t you, sir, start speaking with a lot more dignity and decorum when you criticize those who oppose you?

Trump gave Wolf ammunition she thought she could use against him when she took the podium the correspondents dinner. Just maybe the president could “disarm” his critics just a bit by adopting a more civilized — and, um, presidential — manner of speaking to the issues of the day.

OK. Having said that, I am acutely aware that none of this is likely to occur. Donald J. Trump is not wired to behave in a presidential manner.

I just had to put it on the record.

Water fuels the region, state economy

It’s been said for more than a century that the Spindletop oil boom in the Golden Triangle fueled the Texas economy. Pattillo Higgins’s gusher signaled a boom that knew no equal at the time.

That was then and there … way down yonder. Way up on the High Plains, water has been the fuel that runs the economic engine. On two, maybe three levels at that.

It irrigates our crops, giving farmers commodities to harvest and to feed the cattle that graze on the ranch land. It also quenches the thirst of we human beings who live here. And, yes, it provides recreational opportunities at places like, oh, Lake Meredith.

The lake’s national recreation area has recovered quite nicely from the bad ol’ days when the lake levels dropped to around 26 feet. Lake Meredith now stands at about 75 feet, attracting boaters, campers, fishermen and women, hikers, bikers, horseback riders.

Man, life is good at Lake Meredith these days.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reports: For the sixth consecutive year, the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area saw an increase in total visitor spending, job creation and economic output. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of people coming to the park and the amount of water in the lake, said Paul Jones, chief park ranger.

Last year, 1.329 million people came to the lake to boat or fish or camp, according to a new report from the National Park Service. Jones, who has worked at Lake Meredith for 20 years, said, “back in the ’80s, it was rockin’.” He said it was common for 1.5 million visitors to trek to the lake annually.

Then the drought started, water levels dropped and crowds dried up.

The water has returned. So have the crowds. This spells good fortune for the Texas Panhandle.

Where did the water originate? We had a wetter-than-normal year in 2017, despite the dryness of the fourth quarter of the year. The front of the year produced enough precipitation upriver along the Canadian River to allow release of water from Ute Lake Dam, N.M., which then flowed into Lake Meredith.

To be honest, the shocking receding of water levels in 2011 gave me pause to wonder if the lake ever could recover. Silly me. My concern was misplaced.

One more thing: The value of water to our region’s economy — from agricultural, human consumption and recreational aspects — should tell us all that we need to protect it, guard it, cherish it for future generations to enjoy … and survive.

Wolf crossed an important line of criticism

I’ll admit readily that I did not know who Michelle Wolf was … until Saturday night.

The comedian took the podium at the White House Correspondents Dinner and proceeded to offend a lot of Americans with her crude, profane and tasteless remarks.

I am one of those who found her to be (a) not funny and (b) oblivious to the bounds of good taste.

I addressed the unfunniness of her shtick with a blog post I published last night. I got some pushback from my social media network of friends who think Wolf merely dished out a sample of what has come from Donald J. Trump since the moment he entered the 2016 presidential campaign.

With that, I want to address briefly the serious line that Wolf crossed with her comments at the correspondents dinner.

She went where serious comics shouldn’t go. She criticized the appearance, for example, the appearance of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had the intestinal fortitude to sit through the entire evening of inappropriate ridicule.

Wolf also was shockingly profane, dropping at least one F-bomb that I heard (before I changed the channel). She also used a term to describe the female anatomy that used to be forbidden on national TV; see the late comic George Carlin’s legendary routine on “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television.”

The pushback from my social media network misses, in my view, another fundamental point. It is the tendency to go low when others go low. Why in the world couldn’t Michelle Wolf stay somewhere near the high road in criticizing presidential policies? She didn’t. She decided instead to slither straight into the gutter where Trump and many of his cronies continue to wallow.

Wolf’s comments told me plenty about her and not a damn thing new about the objects of her scorn.

Am I a “suck up” to Trump, as one of my social media friends suggests of those who are critical of Michelle Wolf’s routine? Not for an instant. I am not defending the president’s policies, or the lies that his allies tell on his behalf.

I will, however, stand behind my own view that there really are certain boundaries one shouldn’t cross when delivering political criticism. Sure, Donald Trump crosses them all the time. That doesn’t give anyone license to respond in kind.

I guess now, though, we’ll get to watch Michelle Wolf bask in her 15 minutes of fame.