A different side of Thornberry

Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon isn’t known for snarkiness — unlike, say, Democratic U.S. Rep. Barney Frank or U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

But he unveiled a different side of himself Wednesday when commenting on the Changing of the Generals announcement at the White House. Stanley McChrystal is out and David Petraeus is in as commander of allied forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal got into serious trouble when he and his senior aides were quoted criticizing White House and Pentagon officials over their conduct of the war in Afghanistan. Vice President Biden was the target of some of the sarcastic comments from McChrystal’s staff.

“General McChrystal said some things he should not have said, and his staff engaged in immature banter — all in front of a (Rolling Stone) reporter,” Thornberry said in a statement. “It was poor judgment. There was never any indication of insubordination or of policy differences, however. Even the president admitted that.”

“So it came down to personalities and political embarrassment,” Thornberry said, adding this:

“If every person in government who has made fun of Vice President Joe Biden is forced to resign, there will be few people left.”

Bingo, congressman.

A victory not worth winning?

John Isner has just defeated Nicholas Mahut in the longest tennis match in the sport’s history.

Good for him — I think.

Isner, the American, defeated Mahut, of France, by a score of 70-68 in the fifth set. The match lasted more than 11 hours over three days. Usually these five-set matches end in tiebreakers. Not at Wimbledon, however.

So, now Isner goes on to the next round, but only if he can pull himself out of bed. Both men claimed utter and complete exhaustion. No kidding?

Allow me to make a couple of predictions:

— Inser and Mahut are going to become best friends for the rest of their lives.

— Sports historians will link them forever, the way they did Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

I was telling friends and colleagues Wednesday that I would hate to be the guy who actually won the match. Isner won’t have anything left for the next match. Mahut, however, can take as long as he needs to sleep it off.


Words to live by

This might be my all-time favorite roadside marquee message. It’s at Southwest Church of Christ, at 45th and Cornell in Amarillo.

It reads:

Honk if you love Jesus, text while driving if you want to meet him.

I added the emphasis on the words “text while driving,” for reasons I hope you’ll understand.

Way to go!

Beware of roadside distractions

I had a horrifying thought this morning as I was driving north along a major west Amarillo thoroughfare en route to work: My effort to read the other side of a marquee as I was traveling along the street could have resulted in a tragic accident.

It was early this morning. I noticed the sign, then realized that the rest of the message was on the other side of the marquee. I turned my head to read the “punchline” on the other side. I was distracted for, oh, about three seconds. I was traveling about 35 or 40 mph, which means I traveled quite distance in a short period of time.

Given that traffic was very light at 6:30 a.m., I had no particular worry at that moment of hitting a car in front of me.

But what about the morning rush hour, when the street is clogged with northbound traffic? Or how about the evening rush hour, when the southbound lanes are full of vehicles? What if someone cranes his or her neck to read the sign, as I did this morning? You’ve taken your eyes off the street, and the traffic, for a moment. Then a critter — or, heaven forbid, a child — darts out into the street. The driver in front of you slams on the brakes. You hit the car and, thus, you are liable for the wreck.

I enjoy reading clever signs as much as the next guy. I also fear auto accidents.

Therefore, I plan to take more care to keep my attention focused on the road.

And business owners perhaps ought to rethink the wisdom of putting two-sided marquee messages out there to tempt motorists into taking their eyes off the street in front of them.

Republican Madden backs Democrat White

The cat’s out of the bag downstate, with reporting today in the Houston Chronicle that Wales Madden Jr. is crossing the partisan divide to support Democrat Bill White’s candidacy for Texas governor.

Madden is a longtime Republican stalwart who supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in the GOP primary. Hutchison lost and now Madden is backing White, a mountain-climbing pal who has worked with Madden on nuclear issues relating to the Pantex arms assembly and storage plant in Carson County.

Madden has been a longtime lawyer and businessman in Amarillo. He’s a big hitter in this part of the state and he joins a number of other Republicans who are crossing over to support White’s challenge of GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

The question of the day, though, is this: Will this support among the movers and shakers translate to actual votes among Republicans in November?


John Glenn: still a legend

I just watched John Glenn being interviewed on TV and have concluded the following: This man still could suit up and fly into space.

The former astronaut/senator argues that President Obama shouldn’t discontinue the shuttle program. Keep it flying, he says, because it’s basically going to cost the U.S. as much to use Russian space vehicles to fly men and women to the International Space Station as it would to use our own space ships.

Glenn flew twice into space, once in 1962 and again in 1998. The 36-year gap between space flights is — by far — the longest such span in U.S. or Russian space travel history. When the shuttle Discovery lifted off in 1998, the space flight communicator announced to the world that “we have liftoff of the shuttle Discovery, with six astronaut heroes — and one American legend.”

Oh, my. I get goose bumps whenever I think of that moment.

I, too, remember when my mom and I would awaken early on many mornings and wait for the Mercury and then the Gemini flights to take off from Florida. Glenn’s first flight was postponed several times before finally taking off on that measly three-orbit fling around the planet.

Today, the senator/spaceman proved once again that he has as much mental acuity as he’s ever had. He’s sharp, knowledgeable and speaks with tremendous credibility.

John Glenn’s a legend, all right. And he’s still my hero.


To debate or not debate

It’s a bit mind-blowing to think that Gov. Rick Perry might not debate his opponent for the governor’s office, Bill White, during this campaign.

But I’m hearing such nonsense downstate.

Perry’s aides are being somewhat cagey about whether the Republican governor will appear with his Democratic challenger before the Nov. 2 election. It’s causing some folks to wonder if Perry is looking for a reason not to debate White.

I cannot believe that.

The governor acquitted himself quite nicely while debating a formidable primary opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who he trounced in the GOP primary in March. As for White, he is emerging as a competitive Democrat in this Republican-heavy state. The latest Rasmussen poll has Perry up by 8 points, 48-40 percent. But this is still just June. The election is a long way off — and much can change in either direction between now and November.

One of the game-changers might be a debate, or a series of debates. Perry can put White with a sparkling televised performance. Then again, White could flatten Perry just as easily.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s the uncertainty that’s giving the governor some pause, if that’s indeed the case.

The two men need to face each other on statewide TV, and not just a single time, either.

A series of join appearances would serve Texas voters well.

Come on, governor. Sign on.

Lost in translation

So … just how intense are feelings these days along the Gulf Coast?

Consider this sequence of events:

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, a native of Sweden, declared that he feels badly for the “small people” affected by the catastrophic oil spill. The reaction was immediate — and very angry.

My question is this: How come? Svanberg’s native language clearly isn’t English and he likely isn’t well-schooled in American idiom. He well could have meant to say “the little guy,” which in this country means something far different than “small people.”

Gulf Coast residents who are devastated by the spill’s effects all but called Svanberg out back to duke it out. One guy went on TV to declare that “small people kicked (the British) butts” during the War of 1812.

Oh my. Everyone understands the anguish. But let’s take a deep breath here.

The BP chairman’s statement clearly got lost in the translation, so to speak.

The late — and insanely rich socialite — Leona Helmsley, who once said that only “little people pay taxes,” knew better than to say something so crass. English, after all, was her first language.

I’m not so sure that Carl-Henric Svanberg is guilty of such arrogance.

And the hits keep on coming

We pay the president 400 grand a year, let him and his family live in a nice house for four — or maybe eight — years, give him access to the best possible public transportation and supply him with a staff that opens doors, answers his phone and serves him meals.

And it’s still not enough to compensate him for the job we ask him to do.

President Obama went on TV last night and, to my ears, said a whole lot of the right things, in the right tone and with the right inflection in his voice. But today he’s getting hammered by those in the opposing party.

The guy can’t buy a break.

He vowed to make BP pay for the cost of cleaning up the hideous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; he has ordered the establishment of an escrow account, to be administered by a third party (BP agreed today to place $20 billion into the account); he has pledged to devote every asset at his command to fight the spill; he made a pitch for alternative energy research and development to wean us of our addiction to oil; he has sought the deployment of National Guard and reserve troops to aid in the cleanup; he has vowed to make the Gulf Coast whole; he has told families and business owners that he will be by their side “for as long as it takes” to repair the damage done by the oil spill; he invoked his faith in God to see us through this crisis and urged all Americans to rely on their own faith and to pray for those who fighting so hard to fix what is wrong.

But he’s getting hammered by those, such as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, for “holding the Gulf hostage” to cap and trade legislation. The first words in Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s response were “It is deeply frustrating that neither BP nor federal regulators had the plans in place to prevent and respond quickly to this tragedy.” Well, no kidding, senator. Weren’t you on duty as well as the president? Where is the shared responsibility here? We do have “co-equal branches of government,” correct?

I give the president credit for speaking out and for giving assurances to those who are suffering the most that he intends to throw the full weight of the government behind this effort.

Yes, this is a crisis of monumental proportions. It’s only the latest in a string of crises that the administration has dealt with since taking office.

A friend at church told me the other day that although he isn’t “much of a fan of Obama,” he’s “beginning to feel sorry for him.”

These are times, no doubt, when even the stoutest of men and women must wonder: Why did I ever seek this job in the first place?

I’m thinking President Obama is asking himself that very question.

Big 12 lives on

I’m a bit bummed out today after learning that the University of Texas has decided against joining the Pac 10.

The Big 12 has been given new life. This morning it remains unclear what Texas Tech is going to do, although it now seems a good bet that Tech regents will vote to stay in the Big 12 along with Texas … and Oklahoma … and Oklahoma State. I don’t know yet what the Aggies will do. The Southeastern Conference courted Texas A&M quite vigorously, but was told that the Aggies are staying put.

Why am I bummed? Well, I’m a Pac 10 guy, having grown up in Oregon and watching the Ducks and Oregon State play football since I was a kid. I hate Southern Cal intensely, mostly because the Trojans beat up on the Ducks and Beavers with regularity for too many years. Now, though, the tide has turned and both Oregon teams have exacted a good bit of revenge.

I would have enjoyed seeing a super-duper Pac 10, with eastern and western divisions. The idea was to have the traditional Pac 10 schools comprise the western half, with Arizona and Arizona State joining the eastern division along with Colorado, UT, A&M, Tech, OU and Okla State.

But alas, it’s not to be. UT has played the system well, getting a huge boost in TV revenue, and permission to form its own TV sports network, something the Pac 10 apparently was unwilling to allow.

It’s not as though UT is hurting for money. The school routinely vies with A&M and Harvard as the most richly endowed school — in the world! But it’s clearly true that you cannot have too much money when there’s more out there.

Many fans of the Big 12 are happy at today’s news. This Pac 10 fan isn’t so cheery.

Oh well. What could have been …

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