Listen carefully to the thumping: Biden might run once more

BOCA RATON, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the Century Village Clubhouse on September 28, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. Biden continues to campaign across the country before the general election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Put your head to the ground and listen intently.

Those of us who are interested in such things are beginning to hear the faint thumping of feet. They’re the soldiers, so to speak, who want to see one more prominent Democrat enter the 2016 presidential primary campaign.

That would be Vice President Joe Biden.

Before you dismiss it as so much mindless chatter, I’d like to remind you of a few things about the vice president.

* First, he’s not a young man. He’s 72 and will be 73 when the campaign gets revved up next year, the same age that President Reagan was when he was re-elected in 1984. Biden has always wanted to be president and this represents his last chance to go for the gusto.

* Second, he and the president, Barack Obama, have formed a remarkable relationship during their two terms together. Did you notice their embrace during the memorial service for the vice president’s son, Beau, who died a few weeks ago of brain cancer? Did you also notice the kiss-on-their-cheeks the men exchanged after that man-hug? Only true friends do that in public.

* Third, their relationship puts the president in a highly unusual bind. Then again, it’s been stated time and again that Barack Obama and the Clintons — Hillary and Bill — aren’t exactly close. Yes, the president has spoken highly of Hillary Clinton’s work as secretary of state and, yes again, President Clinton delivered that stirring 2012 oration in Charlotte, N.C., extolling the president’s signature domestic accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. But you get the feeling deep down there’s a reservoir of mistrust. Might that feeling get in the way of the president endorsing Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination?

* Fourth, the vice president — for all his well-known tendency to speak a little too freely and casually at times — is a foreign policy expert. He has built tremendous relationships with foreign dignitaries — from kings and queens on down to minister-level functionaries. He knows the ropes.

* Fifth, Joe Biden also has great friendships with many members of Congress — in both chambers and on both sides of the political divide. Those lawmakers with whom he has these friendships is dwindling, as many of them are retiring and are being replaced by whippersnappers with zero institutional knowledge of the relationships built between Congress and the White House. Thirty-six years in the U.S. Senate bought the vice president a lot of clout in the upper congressional chamber.

Maureen Dowd of the New York Times recounts a moment near the end of Beau Biden’s life that perhaps speaks to the urges that might be pushing the vice president toward one more effort to reach the brass ring.

I, of course, have no knowledge of what the vice president will do. Others are reporting that his team is “ramping up” its activities with the hope of launching a presidential campaign.

But from my perch out here in Flyover Country — where a Biden candidacy wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed — I think I would enjoy seeing this man mix it up with his party’s presumed 2016 frontrunner and the three men seeking to have their voices heard.

Run, Joe, run!

Nature’s law is relentless and without remorse

Cecil the Lion’s death has touched off an avalanche of anger at the man who shot the famed Zimbabwe beast, and the guides who lured Cecil from his protected haven to a free-fire zone where he was killed by the American “hunter.”

Now some of the attention has turned to another beast, Jericho, believed to be Cecil’s brother, and what might happen to Jericho and the pride of lionesses and cubs he is protecting.

Let’s not worry too much about Jericho and the rest of the pride, shall we?

The laws of nature are going to take over no matter what we humans may think, do or want to do to save these magnificent beasts.

Jericho now appears to be the protector of the pride. Lion “society” consists of a brutal and fundamental truth: It becomes a fight for survival.

The pride that Jericho apparently inherited well might become a target for other male lions roaming the plains in search of a pride to conquer. They may seek to encroach on Jericho’s turf, seeking to take over the pride. Fights to the death may ensue. Jericho might not be able to fend off a challenge, if it comes. If that’s the case, he’ll be banished by his conquerors.

What happens next is a part of lions’ societal network that few of us want to discuss.

Male lions will not tolerate the presence of cubs brought into this world by the rival they’ve just eliminated. The lionesses caring for the cubs aren’t ready to mate. The conquering male lions then seek to rid the lionesses of the one obstacle preventing them from mating with them: the cubs.

They will kill the cubs.

It’s brutal, but it’s also part of nature’s irrefutable law.

Cecil met his demise likely at the hands of poachers. The law will take care of them in due course.

As for the family he left behind, well, there’s nothing anyone can — or should — do to save them.

Should an indicted state AG still serve?

Regarding the upcoming indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, reportedly on at least two felony counts of securities fraud, some critics are going to question whether he should continue serving in the office he occupies.

At first blush, my reaction might be for him to step aside.

Then again, I want to be fair. Paxton, a Republican, is entitled to a presumption of innocence. He’s going to be accused formally, it appears, of  third- and first-degree felony counts. He’s admitted to the third-degree accusation that he steered investment clients to a friend of his without notifying the state. The other charge involves an investment company with which he was involved.

A grand jury in Collin County, north of Dallas — which Paxton represented while he served in the Texas Legislature — is set to unseal its indictment Monday in McKinney, according to sources in the know.

It’s all pretty serious stuff, given that Paxton is the state’s leading lawyer and its chief law enforcer.

You just don’t expect the attorney general of your state to be so tainted.

That doesn’t mean he cannot do his job.

The burden of proving his guilt will rest with the state. Until that guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the man who’s accused of the crime is presumed innocent.

Let the man serve if he’s able, even though he’ll likely have his hands full trying to defend himself.

Planned Parenthood video is grim; agency needs to survive

I’ll admit that the video showing the discussion of fetal tissue removal is grim in the extreme.

The video, shot surreptitiously in Colorado, is now being used to bludgeon Planned Parenthood over its head. Republicans in Congress want to defund the agency and are threatening to shut down the government this fall if a budget comes forward with money to help fund the agency.

Let us hold on a minute … or maybe two or three. I know my views on this subject are going to anger folks.

Mention the very words “Planned Parenthood” in places such as, say, the Texas Panhandle and individuals go apoplectic.

The agency “murders babies,” people say. Its leadership should be arrested, tried and convicted for crimes against the unborn, they contend.

The video that’s now becoming part of the GOP presidential field talking point agenda shows something that no one wants to see and/or hear; count me as one who dislikes hearing the audio. However, what’s transpiring in the video is legal. It’s also a tiny, infinitesimal part of Planned Parenthood’s larger mission — which is to provide medical counseling and advice for women. The advice covers far more than just terminating pregnancies. It involves screenings to protect against cancer or STDs and counseling for women who are considering an abortion.

None of this matters, though, to those who wish to use the video to make political hay.

Abortion remains — without question, in my view — the single most divisive domestic policy issue in the United States. However, as some prominent politicians have noted in the past, the aim ought to be to keep it legal, but make it as rare as humanly possible.

And do we need to use this video as a cudgel to batter the entire federal government? In my mind, the answer should be a clear-cut “no!”

I wish I’d never seen the video that’s become all the rage — and I mean “rage” in the pejorative sense. People are angry at its contents. I am disturbed by them, too.

However, let’s put this into some context and try to examine whether it represents all of Planned Parenthood’s mission.

Texas AG faces big legal fight

Well, isn’t this just like a punch in the chops?

A Collin County grand jury reportedly has indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on securities fraud charges … which Paxton actually admitted to while he was running for the statewide office he now holds.

The indictment will be unsealed in McKinney, Texas, the Collin County seat.

The indictment involves an allegation — if you can even call it that, given Paxton’s admission — that he rustled up some investment clients for a friend without filing the proper paperwork with the state; that’s a third-degree felony. But it gets even more hairy. Reports have surfaced that the grand jury also will indict him on a first-degree felony accusation of securities fraud involving a company with which Paxton was involved, and which has been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The (Texas) Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else,” special prosecutor Kent Schaffer. “It’s turned into something different than when they started.”

The Texas Rangers are the elite investigative arm of the Texas Department of Public Safety. In other words, thee folks are good at what they do.

I feel the need to point out a couple of key political points, given that I’m quite sure someone is going to label it a “political witch hunt.”

One, the Collin County district attorney recused himself from the case; so a special prosecutor was brought in.

Two, a judge from Tarrant County, about 40 miles east of McKinney, is going to hear the case.

Officials have made a concerted effort to remove any taint of bias from this investigation, given that Paxton represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before he was elected to the state’s top law enforcement office.

Oh, and what about the grand jury itself? Is it populated with folks who have an axe to grind against Paxton? Remember when the Travis County grand jury indicted then-Gov. Rick Perry? The governor accused the panel impaneled in heavily Democratic Travis County of playing politics, given that Perry is a Republican and the person he was accused of bullying is a Democratic district attorney.

Is Collin County a Democratic bastion that could find grand jurors ready to send the Republican AG up the river?

Consider this little item: Collin County voted nearly 2-to-1 for GOP nominee Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. It’s fair to presume, therefore, that the grand jury pool likely leans more toward the attorney general’s party than in the other direction. If it doesn’t, I’m quite sure we’ll hear about it.

This is possibly shaping up as a difficult time for the Texas attorney general.

Pulling for Gov. Perry to make the debate stage

Go, Rick, go!

I want to see former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the Fox News Channel Republican presidential debate stage next week.

His poll numbers are pretty anemic. Fox says only the Top 10 contenders will take part in the joint appearance.

Perry is on the bubble.

C’mon, Rick. Say something really provocative to boost those poll numbers!

In truth, my desire is to see if Perry can redeem himself from the 2012 debate debacle in which he said “Oops” upon forgetting the third of three federal agencies he’d cut if he were elected president. The moment produced arguably the most talked-about sound bite of the 2012 GOP primary campaign.

Everyone says Perry is better prepared this time. He’s gotten plenty of rest. He’s boned up on the issues. He’s healthy.

But the GOP faithful doesn’t seem to love him as much as it did four years ago.

It’s not that I actually support Gov. Perry. It’s just that I believe in redemption.

He’s got the chance to redeem himself — but he’s got to show up on that debate stage in Cleveland.

CECIL Act? Come on, senator

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s staff must have worked into the wee hours to come up with an appropriate acronym to identify some legislation that reacts to the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe.

It’s called — get ready for this, as it’s a mouthful — the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act.

The legislation is named in memory of Cecil the Lion, the beast that was killed by American dentist Walter Palmer, who paid 50 grand to hunt the lion that had become a favorite of tourists to the national park in Zimbabwe where he lived.

Palmer’s deed has caused significant outrage around the world. Cecil was a beloved animal. What’s worse, though, is that Palmer’s outfitters lured the animal out of the park — where hunting is prohibited — and into a free-fire zone, where Palmer shot Cecil with a crossbow. It gets even more grim. Cecil didn’t die right away. Palmer and his guides looked for hours to find him; then they shot him with a gun, skinned him and beheaded him.

By my definition of the word, this looks like poaching to me.

Back to the New Jersey Democrat’s legislation. It’s a ridiculous use of Congress’s time.

Menendez is upset about Cecil’s death. I am, too. However, I almost always am leery of legislation enacted in a fit of rage over a single act by an irresponsible hunter.

Palmer faces possible extradition to Zimbabwe, where he could be prosecuted for poaching.

The real bad guys in this episode, though, are the guides who went to great lengths to lure the great cat from the national park to a location where he could be shot to death.

If they are as experienced as we’ve all been led to believe they were, they knew what they were doing and they knew where they were. They knew Cecil was protected as long as he remained inside the national park boundary.

Congress need not get involved here. It has many other issues with which it should concern itself.

Lawmakers right to grill DPS head over Bland arrest

Texas legislators are putting the head of the state’s police agency on the hot seat.

He needs to stay there until he can offer some remedy for an incident that resulted in the tragic death of a young woman who was arrested for a traffic violation.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw came under fire this week in a Texas House committee hearing over the arrest of Sandra Bland by a DPS trooper; Bland later died in a Waller County jail after apparently hanging herself in her cell.

“I know the death happened in the jail, but the catalyst for the death clearly happened at the traffic stop,” state Rep. Jonathan Strickland, R-Bedford said.

The catalyst was a confrontation between Bland and Trooper Brian Encinia, who pulled Bland over after she failed to signal before making a turn in her vehicle. He asked her to extinguish her cigarette.Then matters got ugly.

Bland sassed the officer, who then became agitated. Bland then became angry. Encinia got even angrier. The trooper then pulled his Taser out and threatened to “light you up” with the device.

Bland and Encinia exchanged more heated insults. She exited the vehicle and was taken to jail.

And for what? Because she didn’t use her turn signal.

Strickland also wondered aloud why the trooper is still on the job, to which McCraw answered that the agency has a process that he intends to follow before deciding how to handle Encinia’s future with DPS.

The incident, which has drawn international attention, needs a thorough examination. McCraw has promised to provide one.

One avenue that needs exploring is how a trooper — who is supposedly trained to de-escalate tension with the public — actually took it in the opposite — and tragically wrong direction.

They may be right


Someone once told me years ago that the Bard of Baltimore, Henry Louis Mencken, used to end arguments by telling the other person, “You may be right.”

Then, I suppose, he and his foe would go on to something else.

Well, in this new age of social media, I think I’ve discovered a 21st-century version of that old dodge.

Every now and then — and it’s becoming quite a frequent occurrence these days — I get into these snits with Facebook “friends,” and actual friends with whom I have a relationship on the social medium.

I like using Facebook — along with Twitter, Google and LinkedIn — to share my blog posts. Some folks like getting these musings on Facebook. Others, I reckon, do not, to which I only would say: Don’t read ’em.

But the individuals with whom I argue on Facebook sometimes get pretty relentless in their attacks. They cling stubbornly to the idea that they must have the last word. I don’t mind ceding that honor to these folks. I generally don’t have the time, not to mention the patience or the intestinal fortitude, to keep going back and forth on a topic.

Quite often, we end up talking past each other, with the point of the initial post getting lost when folks take the discussion down some blind alley.

So, when that happens and I grow tired of engaging individuals on endless — and seemingly pointless — discussions, I simply hit the “Like” button on my Facebook news feed.

Look, I know I’m not going to change their minds. They won’t change mine.

What, then, is the point of continuing?

When I get tired of the back-and-forth, I’ll tell my “friend”/friend/foe that I “Like” what they’ve said.

Then I’ll move on.

Mr. Mencken, wherever you are, I hope to have made you proud.