Bin Laden mission needed time

By John Kanelis /

Americans are going to be marking a date over the weekend that should fill them with justifiable pride in the capabilities of our military special forces.

It was on May 1, 2011 that Navy SEALs and CIA commandos raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attack that had occurred a decade earlier.

Ten years have passed since that raid.

I want to talk briefly here about something that flew out of Donald Trump’s mouth not long after Army Special Forces killed the Islamic State leader on Trump’s watch.

The then-president suggested out loud that the bin Laden raid should have occurred far earlier than it did. Trump was crowing about the success his team had in finding Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and dispatching him. Why couldn’t the Special Forces Command do the same with bin Laden, Trump said.

The military commander of that mission was Admiral William McRaven, himself a SEAL and head of the Special Ops Command. It took McRaven’s team time to assemble and analyze all the intelligence it had collected on bin Laden’s location. Indeed, as President Obama said at the time, he wasn’t absolutely sure that bin Laden would be in the compound once the SEALs and the CIA spooks arrived. It was a gamble … but it paid off!

Thus, for Trump to denigrate the great work that anti-terrorism experts from the Bush and Obama administrations did to locate and to ascertain with some degree of certainty that their findings were correct simply went beyond the pale.

I am going to celebrate the victory our forces scored when they eliminated Osama bin Laden. No amount of cheap second-guessing ever would denigrate the courage of the commander in chief to issue the order and the extraordinary skill of the men who executed it.

Bin Laden raid, plus 10

By John Kanelis /

My goodness, has it really been 10 years since our special operations guys killed the world’s most wanted man and most despicable terrorist?

Yep. Time does fly.

Oh, how I remember where I was when the world heard the news about the death of Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind and al-Qaeda leader.

We were in our Amarillo, Texas, living room that night watching a bit of prime-time TV. Then we got word of a pending announcement from the White House. Hmm. I thought, “Hey, this is Sunday. What in the world are they going to announce on a Sunday night?” Then it dawned on me. I turned to my wife and I said, “I think they got bin Laden!”

It had been nearly a decade since the 9/11 attack. Three jetliners flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth airplane crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought with the terrorists. That day is seared in our national memory. I can barely watch to this day the footage of the WTC towers burning and then collapsing.

As for bin Laden’s death and the skill of the Navy SEALs, the CIA commandos and the Army Delta Force pilots that night remain equally seared in my memory.

I recall vividly the sight of President Obama striding to the podium that evening to deliver the news and to assure the world that the fight against those who followed bin Laden’s perversion will continue. The president told us later in a “60 Minutes” interview that the first person he called once he knew our forces had cleared Pakistani airspace was President Bush, on whose watch the 9/11 attack occurred. Obama gave appropriate credit to the diligence of our anti-terror network that had worked since the attack and eventually found bin Laden.

Although bin Laden is dead, the network he led is still alive, although it has been significantly downgraded in the years since our special forces killed bin Laden. The fight has gone on since that raid, beyond the Obama administration. Indeed, the Trump administration also had a hand in wiping out the terrorists’ high command when it sent forces in to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.

The fight must go on, even as the Biden administration prepares to remove the last of our troops from Afghanistan, where they were dispatched immediately after the 9/11 attacks to take down the Taliban government that gave bin Laden’s goons the safe harbor from which they plotted their attack against us.

I want to mark this date, though, as one that demonstrates the enormous skill of our military and intelligence forces who — when given the order to do the seemingly impossible — answered the call.

Masks looking ‘normal’

By John Kanelis /

This isn’t an original thought from me, but I want to share it anyway.

It’s that I am feeling kinda/sorta “normal” wearing my mask when I venture out there, mingling with total strangers.

Example: My wife and I went to the grocery store this morning. We drove to the store. Parked the truck. Reached instinctively for the masks. Slipped the thing on over my puss. We walked in. Did our shopping and returned home.

No problem.

Indeed, the sight of masks on virtually everyone’s faces also is looking normal. Those who walk around without facial covering — which is allowed these days — well, they look a bit, um, abnormal.

You know what? I am going to quit referring to this mask-wearing stage as the “new normal.” It’s looking quite normal to me.

Time of My Life, Part 57: Back to the future?

By John Kanelis /

Election Day always was a big event for those of us who covered politics, policy and sought to keep government accountable for their actions on behalf of the public.

At newspapers where I worked in Oregon and in the Golden Triangle and the Texas Panhandle, they would roll out pizzas for reporters and editors working diligently to collect election returns and prepare them for delivery to our readers.

Well, I get to rejoin the fun again this weekend … albeit in quite a different capacity.

I am no longer employed by newspapers. I work as a freelancer for a weekly newspaper in Collin County, Texas. The folks for whom I work asked me to cover three contests in Farmersville, which is where I work mostly; it’s about seven miles east of where I live in Princeton.

The Farmersville City Council has one contested race on the ballot; the Farmersville Independent School District features three contested races this year. Most of the interest in the community, though, likely rests with the Farmersville ISD’s decision to ask residents to pay for a $65 million bond issue to upgrade all of the campuses in the district. The election will occur on Saturday.

The bond issue would do a number of things for FISD. It would double the high school capacity from 600 to 1,200 students; it would add classrooms to the junior high and intermediate school and would provide upgrades to Tatum Elementary School. FISD officials have noted that they do not think they got greedy with their request, but merely are seeking to keep pace with the enormous growth that’s occurring in the district.

Yeah, it’s a big deal. I’ll let you in on a secret: I want the bond issue to pass, although I pledge to cover the story straight down the middle when I report it for the Farmersville Times. My blog entitles me to speak my mind. So I just did.

This is fun stuff, man. I do enjoy covering local elections at any level. I have gotten to know the community where I work on a part-time basis. I have become acquainted with business owners, residents and elected officials at City Hall and at the school district. I have sought to build their trust in me to be fair and accurate.

I won’t be eating any pizza on Election Night. That’s all right. Just getting back into the election-coverage game is good enough for me.

Biden honors Carter

By John Kanelis /

President Biden ventured today to Georgia to do two things.

He sought to tout the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office. Biden also paid a visit to one of his first political heroes, Jimmy Carter, the nation’s 39th president.

President and Mrs. Biden visited former President and Mrs. Carter at their home in Plains, Ga.

He said something, though, that I want to echo. “He showed us throughout his entire life what it means to be a public servant,” Biden said of Carter.

President Carter is 96 years of age now. His health keeps him home most of the time. He and his wife of 70-plus years, Rosalynn, have dedicated their lives to advancing the work of the Carter Center in Atlanta and, of course, in the former president’s efforts to build homes for Americans in need for Habitat for Humanity.

Biden was a young U.S. senator in 1976 when he endorsed the former Georgia governor’s bid for the presidency. That endorsement forged a friendship that has lasted all these decades.

At so many levels, President Carter has shown us how to serve others. The former president doesn’t appear intent on forging his own historical niche, but his commitment to serving others is worthy of high honor.

Biden faces steep hill

By John Kanelis /

President Biden wants to go big.

Republicans in Congress want to go … nowhere.

Who wins this argument? I’ll go with President Joe Biden every time I get the chance.

Biden spoke to the nation Wednesday night in tones that were alternately vociferous and reassuring. He whispered at times and all but shouted at other times during his hour-plus long speech to a joint session of Congress.

In a certain sense he was preaching to the proverbial choir when we tuned in to watch President Biden. I’ll declare flat out that I want him to succeed. I endorse the essence of his policy platform, which is that he wants to bring government back from the shadows and into the lives of those who need help.

I concede that President Biden is proposing an expensive set of plans to restore this nation’s role as the world leader. Biden and Congress already have agreed to spend $1.9 trillion in COVID relief funds to help Americans harmed in some manner by the pandemic. There is more spending on tap.

However, the intent of that spending is to help all Americans. Yet the president continues to run face-first into resistance from Republicans in Congress who keep insisting that the nation cannot afford to do damn near anything. Joe Biden is having none of that. He tells us that doing nothing is “not an option.”

Here, though, might be the greatest dichotomy between what GOP politicians are doing and what the public favors. Public opinion surveys tell us that American citizens — such as yours truly — favor what Biden wants to do. The GOP pols? They are on the wrong side of public opinion and quite probably on the wrong side of history as they continue to dig in against the president’s agenda.

Are those politicians smarter than the rest of us? Do they know something we don’t know or understand? Hell … no! They do not!

They work for us. Not the other way around!

I wish I could report that government works again now that we have a president who understands how to govern. Good government remains a team sport that requires the executive and legislative branches to put the country first.

One of them — the exec branch — has done so. We’re still waiting on legislators to do their job.

America’s Mayor falls hard

By John Kanelis /

The shocking decline in stature of the man once known as America’s Mayor has my head spinning to this day.

Rudy Giuliani once stood tall as a hard-charging federal prosecutor in New York City, then as that city’s mayor, then as a Republican primary presidential candidate.

Time magazine named Giuliani as its Person of the Year in 2001 because of the stout leadership and compassion he exhibited as his city sought to recover from the 9/11 terror attacks.

What the hell happened to this fellow?

FBI agents raided his office and his residence this week looking for evidence in a long-standing investigation by the Southern District of New York into whether he violated lobbying laws while working on behalf of Ukraine. He has tied himself tightly to Donald J. Trump, becoming the ex-president’s personal lawyer and chief apologist.

Giuliani’s conduct during Trump’s two impeachment trials and all the period between them and throughout much of Trump’s term in office has been mind-boggling in the extreme.

Now he is being investigated by a Justice Department agency, which brings me to the most vivid irony of all. Giuliani earned his stripes while heading the Southern District of New York … which now is hot on a trail that many observers believe will lead to an indictment of the one-time America’s Mayor.

Nut jobs winning the gun debate

By John Kanelis /

Well, I’ll be deep fried and dipped in corn meal.

The nut job cabal within the Texas Legislature appears to be winning the debate over whether to allow Texans to pack heat without requiring a state-issued permit to do so.

What in the world is happening to us? Do we really believe — as most Republicans in the Legislature believe — that more guns on the streets make us safer? Eek, man!

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who once expressed concern about such a notion, now appears set to push it through. He needs 18 state senators to get it to the floor for consideration and, presumably, enactment. Eighteen Republicans are serving in the Texas Senate. One of them, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, had balked at endorsing the permit-less carry bill. Not to worry, though, Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio might be the 18th senator to sign on to the bill and send it to the floor.

So help me, this notion gives me the heebie-jeebies. I was not a fan of concealed carry legislation when it was enacted in the 1990s. I have grown to accept it as sufficient.

Constitutional carry bill advancing in Texas Senate, Dan Patrick says | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports on potential changes to the bill that make it palatable to law enforcement, which so far has stood against its enactment:

Count me as one Texan who remains unconvinced this is a good idea.

Will Cruz return to old form?

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

By John Kanelis /

In the highly unlikely event that Donald J. Trump decides to try once again to be elected president of the United States in 2024, I am left to wonder about how a potential foe might react to the idea of running — once more — against The Donald.

Sen. Ted Cruz wants to become president. The Texas Republican made an effort toward that end in 2016. Along the way he and the eventual GOP nominee Trump clashed repeatedly and harshly.

You remember — yes? — how Cruz of Texas referred to Trump as a “sniveling coward.” A “narcissist the likes of which we’ve never seen.” A “pathological liar.” How he was “amoral” and “unfit” for the office he sought. How about the lies that Trump spread about Cruz’s father allegedly being involved in President Kennedy’s murder? Or that ghastly Twitter image of Heidi Cruz, the wife of the senator? Let’s not forget Trump’s attempt at reviving the birther issue with Cruz, given that he was born in Canada to a woman who is a U.S. citizen, thus giving the youngster instant citizenship in the country he sought to govern as president.

Hey, that was good stuff, man! Then Trump got nominated. Then he got elected!

Cruz managed at that point to remake himself, turning from being one of Trump’s harshest critics to becoming a suck-up par excellence. 

Trump has some serious obstacles standing in front of him were he to actually want to run for POTUS again. Hmm. What might they be? Maybe an indictment or two from prosecutors examining whether he violated campaign finance laws by paying the porn star some hush money regarding a tryst that Trump said didn’t occur. Or there might be an indictment involving his coercing and bullying Georgia election officials into trying to “find” enough votes to turn the state from a Biden win to a Trump victory.

Waiting in the wings are the likes of the Cruz Missile. How in the world does Cruz campaign for president against the former president who alternately vilified and then idolized?

The drama is likely to drive me nuts. Bring it!

Government no longer ‘the problem’?

By John Kanelis /

President Ronald W. Reagan stood on the Capitol steps on Jan. 20, 1981 and declared that “government is the problem.”

President Joseph R. Biden stood inside the House chamber on Wednesday night and said, well, something quite different, that government can repair what ails many Americans.

So it is that the “era of big government” is returning to the forefront of American life. I have slightly mixed feelings about that, although I do endorse much of what President Biden wants to bring to the lives of Americans ravaged by a global pandemic and the economic hardship that accompanied it.

I endorse Biden’s call for comprehensive immigration reform. I believe the government needs to make permanent the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program — which lends a hand to those who were brought here illegally as children by their parents.

The nation’s infrastructure as Biden has defined it needs government help. I endorse the president’s plan to tax the wealthiest Americans more to pay for much of his big agenda.

Free community college for every student? Hmm. Not sure about that one.

Climate change poses an existential threat to our national security and, yes, government has a role to play in stemming the impact of the change on our fragile planet.

Joe Biden’s speech Wednesday night wasn’t a stemwinder. It didn’t move Americans to jump into the fight fully. It was, however, far from the dark, forbidding speech that Donald J. Trump gave at his inaugural in 2017.

Although, I do want to say that Biden’s speech did contain at least one reference that might stand the test of time, which is that the Jan. 6 insurrection was the worst such act “since the Civil War.”

President Biden has laid out an aggressive government agenda. He said that inaction is not an option, that Congress must seize the moment and act on behalf of an entire generation.

Oh, I am certain that the Republicans who occupy a hefty minority in both congressional chambers will dig in on their opposition to anything that comes from the Democratic administration. It is their modus operandi.

I stand, though, as one American patriot who welcomes the return of our federal government as a last resort to helping Americans who continue to suffer from a killer virus.