Put ’em on the record!

The vote on whether to approve a debt-ceiling agreement hammered out by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is going to be an eye-opener, indeed.

We’ll all get to see who among our House members wants to maintain our nation’s “full faith and credit” and which of them is willing to risk sending our nation into default … the result of which would be catastrophic.

I do not use the “c-word” lightly, or cavalierly. Retirement accounts would vanish, interest rates would skyrocket, millions of Americans would lose their jobs.

In other words, the sky would collapse … figuratively, of course.

The fellow who represents my interests is a Republican named Keith Self. He’s a former Collin County judge. He also is a MAGA-leaning, election-denying conspiracist who — I predict — is likely to say “no” to the deal that Biden and McCarthy hammered out.

Why? Because it doesn’t cut enough discretionary spending. Never mind that the president’s proposal cuts the deficit, reduces the national debt, maintains our military strength, keeps faith with climate change actions, raises taxes on the super-rich and seeks to maintain job growth.

There will be a lot of House members on both fringes of the big divide who will vote “no” on this deal.

I look forward to taking names and, to borrow a phrase, kicking some serious booty.


Nation learns hard lesson

Farmersville, Texas, was the site this week of a display that meant a great deal to this blogger, as it reminded me of how much our great nation has grown into a “more perfect Union.”

Wreaths Across America is a national organization dedicated to honoring Americans who have fallen in battle. The group lays wreaths on veterans’ graves each year and the Farmersville group is as active any community’s organization involved in this noble effort.

I covered this event the other day working for the Farmersville Times, which is my part-time gig these days.

But here’s the deal. The exhibit, featuring a 48-foot trailer full of artifacts honoring those fallen heroes, this week contained a special exhibit honoring those of us who served in Vietnam during a troubling era in American history.

The organizers know that I had served for a time in Vietnam. They took my picture, gave me a “welcome home” pin, asked me to sign a white board inside the trailer, provided me with a ballcap honoring Wreaths Across America. They thanked me repeatedly for my service during the Vietnam War.

I received a commemorative coin that says: Our Nation’s blood and treasure from a generation ago deserves the Nation’s thanks and gratitude, something they did not receive when they came home from Vietnam!

That is true. We weren’t welcomed home with parades and salutes. Indeed, during that time, too many Americans who opposed the war considered the men and women who served to be complicit in a policy they found objectionable.

They blamed us for decisions made in Washington, D.C. They did not understand that those who served were carrying out orders handed down to them. They were lawful orders and failure to obey them was punishable under military law.

It is remarkable, therefore, to see the evolution our nation has gone through as we have worked our way past those divisions.

I was not a combat soldier. I did not receive direct threats against me when I came home. I was never spat on or called dirty names. But I know others who did suffer the indignities of a nation that — in the moment — did not know any better.

We have grown from that terrible time. We are a better place today simply by honoring the individuals who suit up to defend our beloved nation against those who would do us harm.

I was delighted to receive a heartfelt “welcome home.”


Biden: big winner on debt deal

I have been reluctant to dish out much praise for the negotiations that produced an increase in the national debt ceiling.

Until now.

I am going to offer a brief word of praise to the Negotiator in Chief, President Joe Biden. The president faced down the MAGA cult among Republicans in Congress and emerged as the big winner in this negotiation that extends the debt ceiling for another two years.

Joe Biden has spent his entire public service career learning how to negotiate with his “friends” in the other party. Thirty-six years in the U.S. Senate, eight years as vice president and now as the head of state/government/commander in chief, he has shown his mettle once again.

I long have understood that good government requires compromise on both sides. President Biden knows it, too. He practices it. He has fine-tuned his compromise skills and he brought them to bear as he haggled with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over a deal that certainly doesn’t please everyone.

You know the saying about the “perfect being the enemy of the good.” The “good” in this case avoids a catastrophe in case the nation were to default on its debt. Perfection for the MAGA gang on the right or the liberal/progressives was out of reach.

Joe Biden knows it. So does Kevin McCarthy.

It just appears to me that President Biden’s skill has won the day.


Believe in the system

James Comey has come out of a form of hiding by writing a book of fiction and today was on the air promoting that book.

I want to discuss briefly, though, something that the former FBI director told an MSNBC interviewer about the lengthy, complicated and elaborate examination of allegations leveled against Donald J. Trump.

Comey said today that he believes in the system that is seeking the truth behind the insurrection of 1/6 and on the issue of those classified documents that Trump took with him to Florida when he left office.

The 1/6 insurrection might — or might not — result in a criminal indictment against Trump, according to Comey, who then added that he would accept a “no indictment” decision. Why? Because it’s his belief in the system.

I happen to agree with Comey’s belief in the system that is at work. I have stated already on this blog that if special counsel Jack Smith’s team cannot produce enough evidence to indict Trump on the insurrection — and it is a complicated case, to be sure — then we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that the ex-POTUS won’t be charged.

Now, to be clear, that doesn’t in any way suggest that Trump will walk away from the classified documents probe. Comey said today what others have been saying for some time, that the documents case is the stronger one that Smith is finishing.

We also have the Fulton County, Ga., probe into election interference and the indictment already delivered by the Manhattan, N.Y., grand jury involving the hush money payment to an adult film performer who says she and Trump had a fling in 2006, but that Trump paid her 130 grand to keep quiet … about an event he denies ever occurred! Go figure.

I am not going to join the conspiracy chorus that suggests only an indictment would satisfy them. Do I think Trump should be prosecuted for the insurrection I believe he instigated? Yes!

However, the probe is being handled by seasoned, experienced and hard-bitten pros. It’s their call exclusively. Therefore, I will place my trust in them to come to a just conclusion … even if I disagree with their findings.


Patrick and Hancock: men in the hot seat

Dan Patrick and Kelly Hancock are the top two officers in the Texas Senate and they both likely face the tasks of their political careers later this summer.

The Senate is going to convene a special session to begin a trial to determine whether Attorney General Ken Paxton should be tossed out of office after being impeached by the House this past week.

Patrick is the state’s lieutenant governor and he presides over the Senate. Hancock represents Senate District 9 in Fort Worth and is the Senate president pro tem. They’re Nos. 1 and 2.

Hancock prides himself on being a strong fiscal “small-government” conservative.” Patrick, well, considers himself to be a fire-breathing social conservative.

According to a political science professor at the University of Houston, Brandon Rottinghaus — an acknowledged expert on Texas government and politics — said in an email that he “isn’t sure exactly how they’ll do it or if they will share duties. But Patrick will decide all of the process/procedural questions.”

I am suspicious of Patrick, given what I know of him and his reputation for hyper-partisanship. He already has declared his support for Paxton, who stands accused of committing a series of serious ethical violations and is under criminal indictment for securities fraud. The House’s overwhelming vote to impeach the attorney general is a clear signal — at least it is to me — that many Republicans in government are fed up with Paxton’s behavior.

How this trial proceeds will depend on the manner that Patrick answers those “procedural questions” mentioned by Rottinghaus.

I hope he walks the straight and narrow path and disallows any bias to creep into these critical decisions.


Impeachment reveals GOP fissures

Talk about divisions within a political party, let alone between that party and the other major governing organization.

Texas political observers were treated this past weekend to an up-close and personal look at how sharply divided the Texas Republican Party has become. A significant majority of GOP members in the Texas Legislature voted to impeach Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton on an array of ethical and criminal allegations.

Now comes the fight of Paxton’s political life as he now must stand trial in the GOP-dominated Texas Senate.

When will that trial occur? Beats the cornbread stuffing out of me!

The impeachment vote in the Texas House, frankly, astonished me. I was expecting a closer vote than what came out. The final tally was 121-23, meaning that most House Republicans voted to impeach Paxton. The Texas Tribune reported: About 70% of House Republicans voted Saturday to impeach — 60 of the 85 Republicans in the 150-seat chamber. That included a coalition of center-right and conservative Republicans who defied their party’s far right and heeded the call to protect the state from a public official who had abused his office and power for personal gain.

Ken Paxton impeachment fight exposes deep fissures among Texas Republicans | The Texas Tribune

What does one draw from this stunning outcome? My take is that the Texas Republicans who occupy public office in the Legislature are weary of Paxton’s long list of legal skirmishes, either with the authorities who are probing his conduct or with Paxton seeking to raise hell with Democrats in high places.

The attorney general has done little more during his more than two terms in office than make a spectacle of himself. Thus, we might be witnessing serious fissures within the Texas Republican Party.

Gov. Greg Abbott, another Republican (of course!), needs to call the Texas Senate back to work in advance of the trial that will commence in that legislative chamber. One of the senators who will report for duty is Angela Paxton, the attorney general’s wife. Your blogger (me!) has called already for Sen. Paxton to recuse herself. I hope she heeds my unsolicited advice.

None of that will lessen the divide that will play out as the Senate hears evidence gathered by House Republican investigators into the slew of allegations that have piled up around the attorney general.

As a Texan who is not affiliated with the Republican Party, I am watching all this with a healthy dose of bemusement.

It makes me wonder out loud if Republicans in this state are as incompetent at governing as their national colleagues who gathered at the start of the year and burned through 15 ballots just to elect a speaker of the House.


Prepare for ‘firsts’ posts

Spoiler alert: Your friendly blogger — that’s me — is likely to subject readers to a series of blog posts commemorating a series of “firsts” that my family and I will endure during the coming year.

My precious bride, Kathy Anne, passed away in February. I have spoken already on this blog about the “firsts” that will arrive during the course of the year.

Mothers’ Day came and went and I didn’t post anything specific about that. But there will be more of them to come. First Fourth of July (which KA loved to celebrate), first Fathers’ Day (which she honored my role in becoming a dad), first wedding anniversary, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas (when she became the equivalent of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil decorating for the holiday).

I am just advising you of what’s to come. I have to make note of these events. It’s part of my journey out of the darkness. Be patient. I hope you glean something constructive and affirming from them.


Life’s blessings recalled on this holiday

My life has been blessed beyond measure in more ways than I dare list.

I married the girl of my dreams at a tender age; I am fond of saying, “I hit it out of the park on the first pitch.” We brought two sons into this world and they have grown into caring, productive, well-educated and industrious men. I managed to pursue a journalism career that gave me modest success, a nice living and enabled me to see and do things and meet people that not everyone is able to do.

I graduated from high school in 1967, aka the Summer of Love. The Vietnam War was raging at its bloody worst. Uncle Sam summoned me to that conflict in the spring of 1969 … which brings me to another of my life’s many blessings.

To the best of my knowledge, no one in my high school class fell on the battlefield during that war. Many of us did our duty there. We came back and we pursued out lives.

Accordingly, I lost only one fellow soldier during my time in-country. He and I were assigned to the same Army aviation battalion; he served in a Huey helicopter company next to the OV-1 Mohawk fixed-wing company where I served. He died while flying on a troop-lift mission into a hot landing zone.

Therefore, I have been spared much of the war-related grief that many people of my age have suffered over the years.

It doesn’t lessen, though, the honor I bestow on those who have fallen in defense of our great nation. My late father, a World War II combat veteran, taught me the lessons of patriotism and what it means to serve your country with honor.

The men and women who have fallen fit the description of hero at any level one can imagine. I honor them on this — and every — Memorial Day.

In fact, their heroism, as I see it, has contributed to the many blessings I have enjoyed.


Trouble with that ‘d’ word

I never in a million years envisioned having trouble with a certain word after losing someone so dear to me.

But I am … having trouble saying a certain word out loud when I discuss the loss of Kathy Anne to cancer. I won’t even write it. Not here on the blog. Nowhere, man!

You know the word. The word and its variations all start with the letter “d.”

Maybe this isn’t new to anyone who has undergone this level of loss, followed by grief and mourning. You know about which I am writing this brief post.

When I was writing for newspapers for all those decades, I was told by my editors to use the “d” word when describing someone who has left this Earth. No “passing away” allowed when writing hard copy for news stories or even for opinion pieces. Can’t have euphemisms, editors would tell me. Got it!

That’s all changed for me now. I am in control of this blog and I am the boss of what appears on it. Therefore, as I comment on Kathy Anne’s life with me and my family, I will refrain — for the foreseeable future and maybe even beyond — from using that word. We spent 52 years together. Her illness was brief, but so very savage.

I am acutely aware of the finality of what has transpired. I just am not ready to say or write the word or words that tell me what I already know.

I believe you will understand. Maybe even cut me a bit of slack.


Recuse yourself, Sen. Paxton

Of the 31 individuals serving in the Texas Senate, the hottest seat in the place happens to be the one occupied by the spouse of a man about to stand trial for an array of alleged criminal acts.

Sen. Angela Paxton, a McKinney Republican, is married to Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom the House impeached Saturday in a stunningly overwhelming vote of 121-25.

AG Paxton has been accused of bribery, securities fraud, doing political favors for friends, malfeasance, obstruction of justice … and even a charge related to an alleged extramarital affair!

Angela Paxton ought to recuse herself from any vote she would be asked to cast on determining whether her husband stays in office.

My reasoning is a bit complicated, but I’ll try to explain.

Two-thirds of Texas senators need to vote to convict the AG. Republicans occupy 19 seats; Democrats sit in 12 of them. Paxton’s recusal gives the GOP an 18-12 majority, meaning that just eight Republicans need to cast votes to convict Paxton for him to be shown the door and thus, be barred from ever holding another public office.

Here’s where it gets mighty complicated. Ken Paxton is, in effect, a criminal defendant. How does he go home to his wife every day and not talk about how his day is going? How does he avoid talking about the case presented by the House impeachment managers? How does he, thus, avoid talking to a potential juror who will decide his political fate?

That would be, um, jury tampering … yes?

My thought? It’s too big a temptation to avoid. Therefore, Sen. Paxton needs to pull herself out of the jury pool and let her colleagues make this decision.

We witnessed a stunning bit of theater this weekend in Austin. Republicans in the Legislature have led the charge to bring impeachment proceedings forward. The House’s shattering vote to impeach the attorney general gives me reason to believe the Senate is capable of following suit.

Sen. Paxton’s recusal would lower the Senate bar just a bit, but it would be enough to give AG Paxton reason to sweat bullets.

The old Chinese proverb has never been truer … that we truly are “living in interesting times.”