Ricks on McMaster: Quit and save your reputation

Thomas E. Ricks has written one of the more astonishing political columns I’ve seen in a good while.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, writing in Politico, says that national security adviser H.R. McMaster should resign his post to salvage his stellar reputation as a military thinker and strategist.
McMaster is on active duty in the U.S. Army. He’s a lieutenant general known for his intellect, integrity and courage. He wrote a book, “Dereliction of Duty,” that provides a scathing critique of how the chain of command prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Here is a snippet from Ricks’ essay in Politico: “McMaster probably thinks that by staying at his post, rather than resigning in disgust, he is doing his duty. Specifically, he may think that if stepped down, he might well be succeeded by an alt-right ally of White House adviser Steve Bannon. As I said, I used to believe that too.

“But I have watched and waited, and I donā€™t see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster. In fact, nothing seems to change Trump. He continues to stumble through his foreign policyā€”embracing autocrats, alienating allies and embarrassing Americans who understand that NATO has helped keep peace in Europe for more than 65 years.”

Ricks’ concern about an Army officer he has known for 20 years is that he now works for someone who knows nothing about government and seems to have no interest in learning the ins and outs of governing the greatest nation on Earth.

Yet the general has to provide political cover for a president who, in Ricks’ view, doesn’t deserve to hold the office he now occupies.


As Ricks writes: “The saving grace of Donald Trump as president is his incompetence. He knows almost nothing of how the federal government works. He seems to have been repeatedly surprised by the checks and balances written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. And he seems uninterested in learning.”

Ricks’ essay is a beaut. I am quite sure that Gen. McMaster has read it. Whether he takes it to heart — and acts on it — of course only he can answer.

Arguments produce ‘out-of-body experience’

I am going to admit to having something akin to an out-of-body experience, thanks to this blog.

High Plains Blogger posts get distributed along several social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook are the most reliable of them.
I write these posts, then they are shared automatically through these and other social media.

What happens next produces the out-of-body feeling.

I have quite a few Facebook “friends.” Many of them are actual friends or, to be more precise, personal acquaintances with whom I have good relations. Some of them are close friends, some are members of my family. My longest-tenured friend goes back with me to the seventh grade in junior high school. Still others are just folks who are hooked up on Facebook with people I might know.

It’s a big networking deal, you know?

Quite often I will post something on Facebook that draws a sharp response. Someone then will read that response and then fire back at the individual who wrote the initial reaction.Ā Person No. 1 fires back at No. 2. Then the back-and-forth commences.

I stay away from the fray most of the time. I will decline to say I stay “above” it all, because that sounds too self-serving.

I do enjoy the repartee, although I regret that at times the jousting gets too personal. Some folks hurl insults at each other. Even a few of them resort to profanity, which I personally dislike intensely. I don’t like cursing in public, although I’ll drop an occasional “hell” or “damn” in my blog.

The jousting is quite fun to watch. My own philosophy is that I like putting the thoughts out there … and then watching the fur and the fecal matter fly. I don’t have the stomach, the perseverance — or the time — to participate in long-running contests to see who gets the last word.

I leave all of that to others … most of the time.

Have at it, dear reader.

Open meeting violation? Let’s be careful, council members

Texas has a fairly concise and well-defined law governing open meetings of government bodies. It doesn’t take a great deal insider knowledge to understand the basics.

One of the tenets of the Open Meetings Act is that a quorum — meaning a majority — of a governing body cannot meet without posting it in advance.

Three members of the Amarillo City Council met recently in an informational setting with the Amarillo Economic Development Corp. Since there’s only five council members, a gang of three comprises a majority.

Did they make any decisions? Did they cast votes? Did they discuss city business among themselves? Did they — in the strictest sense — break the law? Probably no on allĀ counts.

I long have chided county commissioners, for example, for sitting at the same table at luncheons. I recall one time spotting three members of the Randall County Commissioners Court at a social event somewhere and admonishing them — in jest — against passing any tax increases while they were breaking bread together.


I also am acutely aware of how governing bodies can skirt the Open MeetingsĀ Act through what’s called a “rolling quorum.” The presiding officer, say, a mayor, can meet with one council member at a time privately to reach a consensus on a particular issue. Nothing in the law prevents such a series of meetings from occurring. It’s legal, although it’s not always the correct way to conduct the public’s business.

The three council members in question — Howard Smith, Eddy Sauer and Freda Powell — all are smart and astute enough to avoid falling into the trap of talking about city business without first notifying the public.

The council, whose five members all are newbies, are set to complete training on the Open Meetings Act. I trust they’ll be brought up to speed.

I’ve noted already that the Texas law is quite clear. In the future, perhaps all members of the council need to be mindful that the community is watching.