Mrs. Carter walked rare path

Much has been stated and written in recent days about how Rosalynn Carter “redefined” the role of first lady.

How she offered policy advice to her husband, President Jimmy Carter. How she kept an active office in the East Wing of the White House. How she was never afraid to tell the president where he messed up.

Was her role unprecedented? Not really.

Plenty of first ladies who followed her into the White House have demonstrated the same level of political moxie. Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton come to mind. Remember how Mrs. Clinton went immediately from being first lady to the U.S. Senate, where she served from 2001 until Barack Obama tapped her to become secretary of state in 2009.

Prior to Rosalynn Carter, though, two first ladies stand out as being more than just White House window dressing.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one. She sat at President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s right hand during his three terms in office; yes, FDR was elected four times as POTUS, but he died only a month into his fourth term. She clearly offered policy advice and later would become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Kennedy administration.

Another first lady? Edith Wilson. She married President Woodrow Wilson in 1915 after his first wife died. In 1919, President Wilson suffered a severe stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform his presidential duties. Edith Wilson took over many of his responsibilities, screening his visitors, correspondence, and documents.

Mrs. Wilson served as a shadow president, conducting matters of statecraft even though her husband remained alive, but unable to do his job.

I don’t recall a time during the Carter administration, which ran from 1977 until 1981, when Mrs. Carter’s policies actually were seen as dominant. Media reporting on her role as a key adviser, if memory serves, was fairly discreet, although it clearly was reported to the public that Rosalynn Carter played a role in shaping many of her husband’s policy decisions.

Of course, that role bent some D.C. noses out of shape. Some “traditionalists” seemed to believe that first ladies needed only to plan White House meals and organize events such as the annual Easter egg hunt.

The way I saw it then was: Any president needs an adviser who can tell him the unvarnished truth and speak candidly when he messes up. That President Carter was married to that individual only made her role more effective.

Rosalynn Carter was an extraordinary woman who carved out a special place in our nation’s glorious presidential history.

She is at peace now. God bless her.

Don’t ignore Ukraine … OK?

Pssst … here’s a secret. OK, it’s not really a secret but it just seems like one.

It is that while the world worries how the Israel-Hamas war plays out, another conflict continues to rage on and on and on.

In February 2022, Russian troops, tanks and artillery invaded Ukraine in an attempt to take over a sovereign nation. The Russians were met with ferocious resistance aided by the steadfast support of the United States, NATO and the European Union.

Ukrainian forces have beaten back the invaders. U.S. aid continues to pour into Ukraine, despite resistance to that aid from the MAGA caucus within the congressional Republican conference.

We cannot predict when this war will end. It has become a stalemate, according to sources in the field. Still, the Ukrainian resistance to the supposedly vaunted Russian military machine has been awe-inspiring. The world has witnessed that Russia in fact is a third- or fourth-rate conventional military power. Yes, the Russians have those nuclear weapons. However, they dare not deploy them!

It appears difficult at times for the world to concentrate on multiple crises as they are erupting in real time. The Israeli offensive against Hamas is the real thing and it requires the world’s attention.

So, though, does the Ukrainian effort to defend its sovereignty against a foreign aggressor. Vladimir Putin has delusions of grandeur that he sought to play out against a sovereign nation; he concocted bogus threats against Russia from a country that posed no threat at all. Putin’s adventurism is delivering a heavy price that the Kremlin appears unable to pay.

President Biden’s steadfast resistance to Putin’s aggression has brought NATO and EU together to stand firm against Russia.

Let us not forget what’s at stake in Ukraine. It is the future of a democratic republic that is fighting for its survival.

Hamas wants extension … to what end?

Did I hear it correctly, that the terrorist organization Hamas is willing to extend the four-day cease-fire in the war it started with Israel?

Well, before we embrace this as a show of compassion for the hostages Hamas is releasing, I want to caution y’all about why Hamas might be willing to extend the cease-fire.

It well might be only to reorganize its command and control network, which the Israeli Defense Forces have disrupted since mounting its counteroffensive after the Oct. 7 rocket fusillade that Hamas launched into Israeli cities.

You see, Hamas is about as trustworthy as the nastiest murderers who ever have lived.

I get that I and most of the world are way on the outside trying to peer into the inner workings of this shadowy group. I also know that Israeli intelligence officials — among the best in the world — likely know what Hamas is up to as it sues for an extension of the cease-fire.

I am left only to hope that Mossad — the Israeli spy network — knows what gives with Hamas’s efforts to keep the Israelis’ bombardment at bay. If it’s for real, that it only intends to release more hostages during the cease-fire, then I’m all in.

I fear that Hamas very well might have more sinister motives in mind. If the Israelis discover that Hamas merely is buying time to reorganize and re-form its command and control apparatus, then they must resume their offensive with full force.

Waiting for political mojo

Political junkies such as me usually start getting excited about pending presidential campaigns at this time of the year.

We’re on the cusp of welcoming a presidential election season. This should be an invigorating time. Candidates are supposed to be tossing out ideas, principles, policy pronouncements.

What are we getting on the eve of the 2024 presidential election? Hmm. Let’s see: We have an incumbent president seeking re-election with poll numbers reportedly in the crapper; I want the incumbent, Joe Biden, to be re-elected. His leading challenger?

Oh, brother. It’s the guy he defeated in the 2020 election, who then refused to acknowledge that he lost, stormed out of D.C. prior to Biden’s inaugural. Then came the investigations into his theft of classified documents, his role in the assault on our government, his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, his business dealings in New York City.

Good grief, man.

Normally, I would be gnashing at the prospect of two candidates getting ready to square off.

Not this year. The prospect of an incumbent president facing a known and demonstrable fraud in the upcoming election sickens me to my core. Why? President Biden is well past his prime and I acknowledge it. The moron who stands poised to be nominated by the Republican Party, though, is nothing more than a dispsh** with bad hair. He has no ideas, no moral compass, no guiding philosophy.

But, by God, he has that cult following consisting of election deniers and morons who believe that it’s time to “make America great again,” ignoring the obvious fact that this nation remains the greatest nation on Earth.

Sigh … maybe my political mojo will get juiced up in time to give a damn. My fear, though, is that it won’t.

Creationism isn’t science

The numbskulls who occupy most of the 15 seats on the Texas Board of Education need to have their heads examined.

The move is afoot to require public school teachers in Texas to teach creationism alongside evolution, believing that both notions are scientific theories that need to be treated equally.

Forgive me for what I am about to say, yet again. Creationism is not a scientific theory. It is an article of religious faith that belongs in church Sunday school classrooms, not in public schools.

I have long grown weary of the idiocy promoted by right-wingers that creationism — the biblical tale that Earth came to be in six calendar days while God took the seventh day to rest from all his hard work — is as valid a theory as evolution. It isn’t!

The biblical version of Earth’s creation has no relationship with established empirical evidence that it took our planet millions of years to evolve into what it is today. And that human beings also evolved over millions of years into what we have become today.

For the SBOE to believe Texas public educators should teach them both in our classrooms is idiotic beyond all measure.

Abbott devoted to single issue?

Well … what do you think of this, which is that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed the re-election of 59 state lawmakers — all of whom have supported his school voucher idea?

Me? I think it stinks. Why? Because legislating on behalf of a state as large, diverse and demanding as this one ought to require a comprehensive approach to governing. Abbott doesn’t see it that way, I guess.

He wants to plunder public education funds, siphon them off to private schools and, in my view, deplete our state’s public schools of the resources they need to provide our children a quality education.

If you don’t see it his way, according to the governor, why, you just don’t deserve to be re-elected to the Texas Legislature.

What a pile of dog-dookie!

Hamas: still untrustworthy

Try as I am to keep my emotions in check over the release of hostages by the Hamas terrorists, it is good to remember one thing about this group of monsters.

It is that they are monsters, they have no regard for human life and even less regard for the existence of Israel.

The hostage exchanges are certainly welcome news for the families of those who have been held captive by the killers. I join them in rejoicing the return of their loved ones. Of particular joy must the family of the Israeli who was thought to have died at the hands of Hamas, only to be released very much alive.

This world of ours would be a much better place without Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for years now. Hamas ignited the war with Israel on Oct. 7 with its fusillade of rocket fire and mortars … launched specifically against civilian targets.

Israel responded with maximum force. Yes, the loss of Palestinian life has been tragic. But … that a devastating consequence of war. The Israelis contend they are working to avoid civilian casualties … and I believe them!

They also intend to rid this planet of Hamas, which is hiding behind innocent civilians, which the terrorists’ MO. How in the world do the Israelis accomplish that mission without inflicting unintended collateral casualties? Answer? They cannot.

The fighting will resume shortly, I am going to presume. There will be more destruction and death. Meanwhile, I intend to say my prayers that ask God Almighty to help send the Hamas terrorists one unmistakable message.

If you keep fighting, you are going to die!

Impeachment talk = nonsense

All this blather and bloviating about impeaching President Biden is likely to send me to the nut house.

Congressional Republicans keep saying they have “evidence” of corruption involving Joe Biden when he served as vice president from 2009 until 2017. Where, though, is it? It’s hiding somewhere, right? Hell, I have no idea.

They want to impeach the president on specious allegations that he benefited somehow from his son’s employment with oil companies abroad. Hunter Biden himself is under investigation and has been indicted on a firearms violation.

These Republicans, led by the MAGA morons on the far right, are scouring the landscape for any evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors” they can hang on the president.

Frankly, this nonsense has gotten way out of hand, out of control and shown that Republicans in Congress are out of their ever-lovin’ minds.

They smell blood in the proverbial water, though, with the president’s poll numbers slipping and Donald J. Trump reportedly ahead on matchups against the president in 2024.

It is energizing the MAGA base. Indeed, the MAGA cultists want to do all they can to divert attention from the real crimes their guy —  Trump — will face criminal trials soon.

Why object to ‘happy holiday’?

Quiz time, y’all: Who among us really objects to retail employees wishing their customers a “happy holiday” rather than “Merry Christmas”?

At the risk of generalizing, I submit that those who object are either: close-minded, ignorant of those around them, also ignorant of the “religious liberty” clause in the Constitution, just plain bigoted.

I never, ever have objected to receiving a “happy holidays” wish from a retailer. I also am a Christian who celebrates Christmas fully, relishing the commercial aspect as well as the religious significance of the holiday.

I also recognize that my religious orientation is far from the only one being observed by my neighbors, or even my friends. I live in a community with a significant Muslim population. I see women with hijabs on their heads daily; I also presume the men who accompany them also are of the Muslim faith.

Why wish someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t observe the holiday? A “happy holiday” would suffice. Why, they likely would smile back and wish the same for the retail employee.

Donald Trump once stupidly asserted that if he were elected POTUS that he would “make” businesses wish customers a “Merry Christmas.” Of course, the president has no authority to issue such an order. But … it played well among the MAGA base that helped elect their moronic leader to office in 2016.

The simple act of wishing people a happy holiday is a recognition of the pluralistic society in which we live. It should offend no one — not a single patriotic American — even a little bit to hear it.

I submit the pluralism plays a huge part in “making America great.”

No ‘war on Christmas’

Bill O’Reilly is still off the air, which makes me happy in that I won’t have to listen to the blowhard lament the so-called Liberal Media War on Christmas.

The war has never existed. It never will. O’Reilly used his Fox Propaganda Network platform to declare regularly that the media sought to rid society of Christmas references, apparently because the media comprise — in O’Reilly’s view — godless heathens who dismiss the religious significance of the holiday.

That ain’t true. Neither is the media’s war on the holiday true.

The only “enemy” of the spirit of Christmas lies within the corporate executives of the companies that profit from all the gift-buying that occurs between the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day.

And do you remember when Donald Trump declared his intention in 2016 to make businesses wish customers a Merry Christmas? That was a singularly stupid proclamation, given that a president has no legal authority to issue such an order.

So, the Christmas buying season is upon us. Millions of Americans will put up their Christmas trees, decorate their homes with Santa, Rudolph, Mrs. Claus, elves and, yes, Nativity Scenes to commemorate the holiday.

There will be no war on Christmas!